What Women-Owned Firms Do Differently

Women-owned firms are modernizing office culture to better align with their needs and values. Citing an ABA study on the differences in levels of career satisfaction between men and women lawyers, this Law Practice Today article outlines common actions taken by women who started their own firms. 

What are women lawyers doing differently when they design their own workplace? These firms are:

  • Prioritizing collaboration and cooperative teamwork. According to the article these women leaders also “pay more attention to the well-being and development of their subordinates.”
  • Creating cultures conducive to the demands of women’s personal lives. By offering perks including flextime, relaxed dress codes and family-friendly work environments these firms are actively supporting employees establishing work-life balance.  
  • Being more selective with their clients. Women-owned firms are valuing more than profitability so they can focus on clients they want to work with, and work their team is well-positioned to handle. (As we counsel clients, sometimes the best thing for client and team satisfaction is to say no.)

In addition to culture differences, women-owned firms often apply creative structure and compensation systems to focus on achieving goals or meeting targets as opposed to hours. Examples cited include a firm that offers women the opportunity to on-ramp back into practicing as 1099 contractors at an hourly rate; and a firm offering associates creative bonus options – once they generate enough revenue to cover their own overhead, they can earn a bonus or opt to take time off and make less in bonus.

What this means for you: Starting your own firm isn’t for everyone; as the article points out, there are considerable risks and challenges. The good news: You certainly don’t need to go Jerry McGuire to adopt versions of these themes into your work life. Think about your own needs and values, and how they mesh with firm culture. What aligns and what areas come up short? Where can you get creative and flexible – on a client team, in a practice area?

For example, try setting time boundaries for replying to non-urgent communication for a trial period, then evaluate how it affects your work-life balance. Start your experiment with a note to your colleagues and clients that for the next few weeks, you will not be available to respond to non-urgent emails on nights or weekends, but you will reply expeditiously during business hours. Provide a guaranteed way for them to reach you when necessary (cell, text, et cetera). Manage expectations, try it out and see if this tweak improves your quality of life.

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