For legal professionals, accountability calls for an even higher level of responsibility and willingness to own up to one’s own actions. Accountability is built through culture, which is built through the strategic actions of every member of the firm. If you’re seeking to influence change at your firm, use the following strategies to help shift your own mindset toward accountability and inspire others to do the same.
How to set a higher tone of accountability
“Accountability and firm culture are inextricably intertwined, you are accountable for living up to your values.” The culture of a firm will play a big part in determining how accountability is defined and enacted. Some values are set by managing members of the firm, others are set through the standard you set individually as you interact with others, as well as when completing your tasks. Wherever your position lands, here are some ways to set a higher standard of accountability within your firm:
Define your expectations
Setting a standard on how to clearly communicate expectations on the deliverables of every project can save your firm time and improve the efficiency of everyone’s work. Whether the project is large or small, what is expected in the end should be communicated in the beginning. If your firm doesn’t have a standard template for handling complex projects, implement one. Individuals can’t be held accountable to unclear expectations, so set the tone and lead by example.
Build team trust
As you have set your tone for project expectations, trust should become a component of firm culture as well. Being able to trust the team you work with is invaluable for legal professionals. Trust is supremely built on company culture, which takes strategic and intentional focus. Suggest team-building exercises and activities that nurture trust, ask everyone to join in reading material as a team, and foster an environment that accepts mistakes as a part of the job while focusing on future improvements.
Give consistent and clear feedback and welcome feedback in return
Implement an objective feedback process to keep expectations high and improve the quality of work overall. Feedback should be provided whether the comment is positive or negative, not just when there is a problem. Create a channel for feedback that keeps communication lines open for critique, praise, and overall improvement. Feedback only sent one way may not encourage employees to be as upfront as they could be. Make it clear that you are open to feedback about yourself, too, and be receptive to both positive and negative critiques. Create a way to track feedback and any goals you can set to make sure that you’re using this data to your advantage.
Why build better accountability in your firm?
Accountability, as it relates to security, is all about implementing a data governance model that keeps critical information safe while empowering individuals to consider the firm’s security in all that they do. Using software to support your efforts can help your firm maintain the necessary level of compliance to keep your clients protected. The model you choose should largely be chosen based on the type of data your firm collects and specify the process of collections, storage, and access permissions. There’s also the need to assign a data steward for added accountability in your data governance plan and implement firm-wide training on best practices and what to watch out for.
Better team collaboration
Accountability is also about being able to own your share of the work and present it with confidence to the team. This starts with being assigned tasks that showcase your strengths and helps you to improve on your weaknesses gradually. Harvard Law reports that there is a “demand for lawyers who are not only technical experts in their own particular domain but also lawyers who can collaborate with others throughout the firm, and often around the world, to solve multifaceted problems.” This trickles down to everyone in the firm, with legal tech tools as the go-to support system for firms seeking improved team collaboration strategies.
Solid change management
Your firm should be supported by a sound change management plan, no matter its size. Having a contingency plan for any scenario can save you from moments where you’re flailing around in a sea of to-dos with no direction or strategy. Whether it’s planning for a pandemic, or losing a critical employee, accountability in change management keeps things from coming to a halt when change occurs. While your legal tech tools can be a major source of support for change management, your policy should be all about managing the human side of managing change.
As you inject these tools into your firm, remember that raising the bar of accountability starts with the individual. Focus on the immediate ways that you can work on accountability and test out some of these strategies to see what works best for your team. Remember, your tech tools are your go-to for keeping your team accountable, responsible, cohesive, and collaborative.