Often times, to promote involvement and the sharing of ideas, we gather as a group over a lunch outside of the office when we talk about some of our cases. That does not mean the employees are making the decisions or that I necessarily rely upon their advice or thoughts in making the decision. However, I find it to be a very useful exercise to help make the employee feel appreciated and a part of the team. And more often than not, I learn a few things from listening, or hear a good point or idea that I did not think of myself.
Above all, though, I have found through experience that the most important part about trying to establish an environment where everyone feels special and meaningful is by trying to instill confidence in each employee. It helps to give them decisions to make. If you are in litigation, that could be as simple as letting someone handle the settlement negotiations or discovery dispute in a smaller case, or at the very least asking them for an opinion as it pertains to a certain issue or matter related to the case. It also is important, I have found, to let each person's own individuality be accepted and fostered at the firm, which will foster confidence.
While I devote resources and energy to trying to create this atmosphere, it is risky business. I know full well that somebody could snatch up your homegrown talent with promises of higher compensation packages, attractions, benefits and otherwise supposed greener pastures. Take, for example, the Yankees. That is what they have been doing for years. But without risk there is no reward. The hope is that the time, devotion and commitment yields a sense of teamwork and a "we are in it together" mentality that is uncommon in many workplaces.
For me, the first time I truly felt special and not expendable was when I started my own law firm. Certainly, for others, that feeling comes at different times and for different reasons. Individually, we have to find our own way to that path. It does not matter what you end up doing that makes you feel irreplaceable, or how you end up getting there. It simply matters that you get there. As young lawyers, we still have plenty of time to feel it, but the sooner, the better.
A few days after the CLE I attended where I dropped my business card into the empty fishbowl, I got a call from the sponsor of the event congratulating me on winning the iTunes gift card. It was completely expected, because I was the only one who put the card in the tank.
I thought it was really silly that not a single other young lawyer dropped his or her business card into the fishbowl. It took minimal effort on my part to do so, and was as close to a guaranteed victory as there is in life. Yet nobody else took advantage of these favorable percentages.
I became a shingle hanger at a moment in time when my alternative was to stay on the path that left me feeling expendable and unexceptional. Had I not dropped my business card in the tank some four years ago, I do not know if I would still be a lawyer today. Now, I simply love being a lawyer and I feel everything that I need to feel in order to be committed to the practice in a way you have to be in order to be successful.
As young lawyers, it is important to know when it is time to drop your card in the fishbowl, even if nobody else is doing it. Position yourself so that the odds are in your favor, and have confidence in your decision to try and achieve meaning and a direction for your career that you, and you alone, dictate.
If you are like me, you might like the music that you get to choose to play more than the music you have been listening to on the station you refuse to change.
David Koller is the founder of Koller Law, where his primary practice areas consist of employment litigation and counseling and commercial litigation. He can be reached at 215-545-8917, email@example.com, or through his website, www.kollerlawfirm.com.