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  • Writer's pictureJenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea

Current Trends - Happy Employees, Happier Clients - Episode 146

Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode today! This will be dropping the day after Memorial Day holiday – so I hope you had a wonderful and safe weekend. Today’s episode is a “current trends” topic where we talk about things going on currently that is relevant and pertinent to my estate and elder law world, and/or maybe things I’ve seen on the news or stumbled across on social media that are also relevant to my estate/elder law world. Well, on today’s “current trends” episode, we’re going to chat about something that has been repeatedly been sort of, in a nice way, thrown in my face over-and-over-and-over by current and even past employees. I’ve heard so much how “different” my law firm is as an employe – in a good way – and because I feel so strongly that happy employees directly correlates to happier clients – I wanted to talk about that today.

So may be a little bit more personal about me, the law firm that I own was formerly owned by someone else. Shortly after undergrad, I started at this law firm, and it was owned at the time by the founder. Fast forward time, I went to law school, passed the Bar Exam, and ultimately my husband, who is also an attorney, and I purchased the law firm. Therefore, if you think about it, the law firm has been my entire professional existence — when I was in high school and through college, I worked at a lot of retail places. Though, the law firm is all I’ve ever known, from a professional standpoint!


The entire time that I not only was an employee, but now, as an owner, the firm had, and continues to have, a great culture and amazing work life balance. That’s a pretty foreign concept in the legal space, honestly. So I have had employees tell me about past employers … and working them to death (like way more than 40 hours h and/or had a very toxic culture and atmosphere. That’s not my law firm. Under my watch, it never will be.


It takes work though. You can’t expect a business with a great culture and great work-life balance to succeed and withstand the temptations to not honor those things without intention, strategy, and work honestly. So, whether you are a professional, and want to know a little bit about what’s going on with my firm and business; whether you are a prospect or current client of my law, firm, and also want to know a little bit about what’s going on; whether you own your own business, and want to know what other business owners are doing, to attract, and maintain good employees; or whether you are, just someone out there that may need to know that there are businesses out there, that care so much about their employees as humans; thus episode is for you.


I’m going to talk about a few different things that I have done recently and intentionally with my team. Up first is that I transitioned about a quarter of my team to a four day work week. Though, this was extended to every single team member. Interestingly, I feel like there’s a lot of conversations around the four-day work week, you probably know that. Well, it was probably about 4 to 6 months ago. I’ve sent a team wide email and basically gave them the following prompt: if there were no restrictions, and no wrong answers, what would be your dream work week?


My team currently is about 20 individuals. Some stated that there biggest desire would be flexibility, some stated that their biggest desire would be to stay at a traditional five day, eight hour work week, and some stated that their desire would be to shift to a four day work week. now, as the owner of the business, it’s also my responsibility to not only do what’s good for employees, but at the end of the day, what is absolutely best for the business and the clients. I latched on to the individuals comments that wanted to do a four day work week, and I immediately thought of the possibility of being able to offer evening appointments to clients. That’s a huge request, a common request from prospects and clients that are very much still in their working years.


Fast forward to today, I have like I said, about a quarter of my team on a four-day work week and essentially their week is two 12 hour days and two eight hour days. So, on the  two 12 hour days they are able to see clients after hours, which massively benefits, the firm and clients, right? Though, it massively benefits them as well. They have shared with me that they are able to do, you know, doctors, appointments, dentist, appointments, getting their haircut, going to the grocery, etc. on their day off during the traditional work week what that allows them to do is reserve their PTO time truly for Vacations, sick time, etc. rather than spending it on going to appointments, for example. Such a win, win!


Another thing that we recently shifted internally, along the same lines, as what I was just talking about with PTO, is that we shifted our PTO tracking from instead of days, or half days, to hours. So, if someone does have say a doctors appointment or any kind of appointment really and they just need an hour or two off, then that’s all they have to take off. They don’t need to take a half day or a full day. I actually interestingly heavily considered implementing an unlimited PTO policy. I have a few friends and the tech space that work for companies that have unlimited PTO. I actually have a couple current employees that at a prior employer also had unlimited PTO. Well, unanimously, they all had negative things to say. If I had to boil most of their comments down, people rarely felt like they could truly just take whatever time off they want, or need ever. Rather, having a very set number of days, or in like my office number of hours, it held them accountable to actually use them rather than lose them.


Something else we somewhat implemented was a team-wide bonus program. Now, I was really excited about this. At the end of the day, it’s a business right? As the owner of the business, we have to bring in money — otherwise, who is going to pay the employees and their benefits? I wanted to develop a way to fuel their drive to help the business succeed, but also do so in a way that required them to work together and not point fingers at any other department. I won’t get into the specific details, but it’s essentially all or nothing. Every week, there are four numbers that the team must hit. If we hit all four numbers, money goes into a bonus bucket and every quarter, whatever is in the bonus bucket gets distributed equally between all team members. What has happened is if It’s looking like one department may not hit their numbers, the whole team rallies to lift them up and help them meet it. It’s not only great motivation (who doesn’t like more money?), but every week during our team meeting, we run through the numbers, identify if we’ve hit it, if so, celebrate it, and if not, we talk about what we can do to hit it the next week or weeks.


The last thing that I wanted to talk about is doing quarterly team retreats. Every time I say, team retreat, I laugh a little, because I think people think of trust falls, Kumbaya, etc. Our team retreats involve working on our communication with each other, and with clients and with professionals, working on office processes and systems, and looking to see if we need to revise anything to better operate, and to better serve our clients, and it’s also a nice forum for every single team member to be in the same room, talk about their kids and sports and more personal things. Every single time, I’m so thankful we create that space in our calendar and in our crazy world to all be together and work on things.


Well, the team retreats are normally heavily focused on the firm, processes and systems, the team, roles and responsibilities, etc. I do try to slide in some more, I don’t know, more personal things as well. So I wanted to share something that I did at one of the last retreats that I just found on the Internet, but it was called Rose, bud, thorn, exercise. Basically, I had every single team member complete a form that allowed them to share a rose, a bud, and a thorn. Now, the rose was supposed to be something that they recently, celebrated, achieved, etc. whether professional or personal. The Bud part of the form was supposed to be some thing that they’re really excited to embark on, implement, do, etc. again, regardless of whether it was professional or personal finally, the thorn part of the form was supposed to be something that is not working well, a hurdle, something that was in the way of achieving something again, whether professional or personal.


I had everyone fill one out and give it back to me by the end of the week. I think this is where the rubber meets the road. Not only did I sit there and read every single persons, but I calendared time I think not the following week, but maybe two weeks after to very intentionally and personally respond to every single person. It was amazing. The things I learned, the things I discovered, the things that I latched onto and could help them with, etc. I don’t think it would’ve been a fruitful exercise if there wasn’t that subsequent follow up. It was amazing. Highly recommend.

You know, are there things that I have done and I have implemented beyond what I’ve shared on this episode? For sure. Without a doubt. I’m sure I’m forgetting about things, but I struggle with thinking that my offices culture is unique since like I mentioned earlier, this is all I’ve ever known. I’m so thankful that in my early 20s I stumbled into this law firm. Fast forward time, I never left and now on the place. It’s funny how life works! About a year ago, we created core values, which are how this firm lives, breeds, feels, etc. At the end of the day, we can always stand on the core values to guide us. Well, one of our core values is approachable professionalism how we define that is: we don’t take ourselves very seriously, but as ruthless advocates, we take what we do very seriously.


Initially, when I started thinking about doing this episode, I was like why would my listeners care about this? About how I so firmly believe that happy employees translates to happier clients. I think the approachable professionalism core value really exhibits the feel, the vibe of my firm. Oftentimes, there is laughter coming from the conference room with clients, there is celebrating and laughing coming from offices of team members and at team meetings. Simultaneously, we can easily button up, get serious, and produce amazing work for clients (which allows the clients to walk away with a great service and feeling good!). When team members are unhappy or overworked or carrying too much stress, I believe that clients and other professionals can feel that and phone calls and emails, and can see that and work with maybe mistakes and typos. Clients, other professionals, and even our coworkers deserve better than that.


Alright, I’ll get off my soapbox now, my friends. So, let’s wrap this episode up, shall we? Next week, we’re back to the “celebrity estate planning” type of episode – and during those types of episodes, we dive into a celebrity or “big name” person that has passed away and how their estate looked from an estate planning perspective. Next week’s episode is about the famous singer, Amy Winehouse So tune in to that next week, Legal Tea Listeners, talk to you then and stay well!





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