Leadership and Legal Services: Running an Employment Law Firm

This month, Laura Noble and executive coach, Karen Tax, explore what what leadership looks like in an employment law firm.

When she passed the North Carolina Bar exam in 2008, Laura Noble had no intention of starting her own employment law firm. Having left the workforce to raise three children, Laura returned to a job market that was unwilling to employ her. Seven years as a full-time mother did not serve her legal career’s cohesive narrative, creating what other firms perceived as a gap in her resume.

Without viable job prospects, Laura made the decision to establish her own firm in a practice that intersected her passion for civil rights and her desire to make a positive impact on people who were facing mistreatment in their own workplace. However, as the firm continued to grow, it became apparent that leadership was just as much a part of Laura’s job as legal services. Struggling to establish the traditional power dynamics of a law firm, Laura reached out to Karen to assist in developing a unique approach to leadership that fit the firm.

Karen Tax is an executive coach and business culture consultant, and she is author of the Passion, Authenticity & Leadership @ WORKbook.

Defining Leadership

Traditionally speaking, a leader is someone who creates an organization and garners followers. Whether it be a business, religious institution, or other group, this structure allows people to come in, perform the duties allocated to them, and leave at the end of a workday, congregation, or other gathering. This type of leadership typically results in a rigid power structure in which power, influence, and decision-making is compressed into the hands of a select few.

True leadership, as Karen describes, is creating “A purpose that is greater than one individual, which allows people to come together, overcome obstacles, and serve a need in the marketplace that is profitable.” By basing your organization on a collective identity and goal, you can tap into positive energy such as passion and enthusiasm, rather than negative sources of productivity like stress and fear. If people connect to the purpose of the organization, they will find motivation to perform their responsibilities in a way that makes them feel fulfilled rather than drained. Moreover, you open your organization up to diversity when you invite multiple perspectives that align with a mutual objective.

Legal Services and Work Life Balance

Legal services have historically been an industry wrought with unhealthy work life balance. As the managing partner of an employment law firm, Laura notes that her work as a plaintiff employment law attorney won’t make a difference if her own office isn’t a healthy place to work. Therefore, part of Laura’s goal as a leader is to create a firm that exemplifies the type of workplace that she seeks for her clients.

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