Law firm culture: Accept, adapt ... or move on

Lawyers working in an environment that is a bad cultural fit have two options – they can accept the culture and do their best to adapt to it – or they can move on.

 

(This is part four of a four-part article, based on a presentation by Susan Lintonsmith.  For the complete article, click on the link below.)

 

“If you try to fight an established workplace culture, you will never win,” said Lintonsmith.  “Listen and learn, so that you can use the culture to your advantage.  Network, build relationships and ask questions about how things are done. Find a mentor.  Ask for help.  Never gossip or complain about the existing culture.”

 

An established culture, often found in mature organizations, is harder to change than a weak culture, often found in younger organizations.

 

“The existing culture is created by and important to leadership,” said Lintonsmith.  “It is more enduring than you are.  Intentional, strategic cultural changes can take up to 15 years to execute.  Before the culture will change, you will be seen as a ‘bad fit’ and replaced.  So if you want to stay and succeed, adapt your attitude.  You cannot control the wind, but you can adjust your sails to work with the prevailing wind.”

 

One difficult cultural challenge takes place when one law firm acquires or is acquired by another – an increasingly common situation in the past year.  “The dominant culture is usually the culture of the acquirer,” said Lintonsmith.  “Do not fight it.  Things may be chaotic for a while but, by listening and learning, you can adapt.”

Every law firm or legal department is different – with its own rules, individuals and challenges.  Success and satisfaction with your work rests on your ability to understand – and then navigate – the unique workplace culture.

Law firm culture:  Understand before joining; embrace to succeed

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