Lowest Common Denominator: People
A law firm–any law firm–is made up of one common denominator: people. Policies and procedures in your law firm may be different than other firms, as may be the practice areas, but every law firm is utterly reliant on the productivity of its people.
However, when we talk about productivity in law firms, we think about factors like effective communication, advertisement and use of available resources. Rarely do we spend time thinking or analyzing this concept with the people and personalities that make up your law firm. Nevertheless, it is people that determine whether or not any given law firm will be productive. Personalities, private lives, relationships and interactions in the office–all these can make or break a work environment and determine whether or not an employee will be productive each day.
So what can you do about these variables of personalities and human experiences that flow in and out of your law firm? It would be impossible to discuss or account for all the variations and intricacies of human personalities and emotions, but a simple thing you can do is understand some basic essentials of human nature that will reduce law firm drama and boost harmony and productivity.
The first step to understanding people is to be aware that we all have “soft spots” or vulnerabilities. Our personalities are largely constructed by our vulnerabilities and around how we try to protect and defend them. Being able to recognize each individual’s vulnerability and respond to it accordingly is the first step in building a safer and more productive working environment.
Actions and Reactions
Vulnerabilities result from life-long scars that never truly heal. Once you have recognized the vulnerabilities that a person carries with them, you can become aware of the triggers that cause them to pull up their defenses. A glib statement or passing remark, made however unintentionally, may be all it takes for a person to fly into a rage, burst into tears or storm out of the room. Be aware of people’s weak spots and their triggers so that you can be more sensitive moving forward and avoid productivity-halting behavior.
Creating a Safe Space
Once you have recognized and comprehended that each person carries “soft spots,” as well as what those spots are and how they are triggered and defended, you can begin to construct a unique rapport with each individual that builds a sense of safety around that person. This can be as simple as using different tones or vocabulary when handling a situation or giving a person his or her space. The only way to successfully manage people and their unique personalities is to understand your own actions and reactions, empathize with theirs, and to be prepared to adjust your treatment of people based on their unique needs. Once a sense of rapport and emotional safety in the workplace is established, the focus can be on productivity rather than office gossip and dissension.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h