A healthy working culture in the legal sector? Just ask Gunnercooke
Long hours, constant stress, outdated operating models focused on hyper-competitive billing, lack of teamwork, toxic internal politics and poor management: the legal sector is far from top of the list when it comes to modern working practices and fostering a healthy culture. So, when lawyers Sarah Goulbourne and Darryl Cooke decided to launch a firm back in 2010, they had two unyielding beliefs: customer needs had to sit squarely at the heart of the business and the working culture had to be one where lawyers could use the best of their legal abilities in a way that motivated them and did not sacrifice their personal life.
Eight years later this approach has paid off. Not only has the firm welcomed some 30 new partners each year (40 in 2018) but it has seen revenue increase by 20% in the past 12 months. And to top it all, it has walked off with two awards at the Business Culture Awards 2019, including the overall Business Culture Achievement Gold Award.
The Business Culture Awards, for which The People Space is the media partner, celebrates organisations that set up their employees to succeed and who recognise how their people’s employment experience is fundamental to business performance.
Your culture is the unique DNA of your business, giving you a sustainable competitive advantage in our volatile, ambiguous and fast-moving world
“Great culture is the Holy Grail of business because competitors can copy our products or imitate our services, even ape our strategy, but our culture cannot be replicated,” says Tim Pointer, founder of the Business Culture Awards. “Your culture is the unique DNA of your business, giving you a sustainable competitive advantage in our volatile, ambiguous and fast-moving world.”
With its flat hierarchy, transparent fixed-fee operating model, a rule that every lawyer must have at least 10,000 hours in practice, and a flexible approach to work, London and Manchester-based Gunnercooke has challenged the traditional law firm approach. All partners have a direct financial benefit from their work, retaining 70% of fees generated from a client fee. This enables them to have more control over their own income, develop business acumen and be in a better position to understand the commercial needs of clients.
Partners are encouraged to work flexibly from any location that benefits their clients or themselves. A bespoke online platform enables them to collaborate with each other securely while internal social network Yammer is also used to facilitate communication.
According to Gunnercooke, it is also the only legal firm in the UK to actively use the Net Promoter Score system as a key indicator of performance, something the Business Culture Awards judges identified as helping to transform the way of working. This, together with a strong focus on corporate social responsibility, helped it to win the Business Culture Innovation Award category as well as taking the overall Gold award. According to the HR practitioner judging panel, the firm is “revolutionising the legal industry, with great results and an impressive approach”. The judges also liked the way it introduced technology to support its objectives.
As the firm itself says, when lawyers are happy, healthy and have control over their workload, they offer a better level of service. It sounds obvious, but in a sector where employees have been hospitalised for exhaustion and where one in four junior lawyers suffer extreme stress at work (Junior Lawyers Division), a positive, healthy working culture is still too often lacking. Congratulations to Gunnercooke for being one legal firm taking active steps to change this.
FULL LIST OF BUSINESS CULTURE AWARDS 2019 WINNERS
Business Culture Achievement Award: Gold Award Sponsored by Culture IQ
Business Culture Achievement Award: Large Business
Winner: Odeon Cinemas Group
Highly Commended: Lloyds Banking Group
Business Culture Achievement Award: Medium Business
Winner: Dr Martens
Highly Commended: Volkswagen Group
Business Culture Achievement Award: Small Business
Highly Commended: Real Fundraising
Business Culture Achievement Award: Public/Not-For-Profit
Winner: Home Office
Highly Commended: London South Bank University + JCA Global
Business Culture Transformation Award Sponsored by KellyOCG
Highly Commended: Innocent drinks
Business Culture Innovation Award
Highly Commended: TIPi Group
Business Culture International Award
Winner: Standard Chartered + Cirrus
Highly Commended: Barclays Internal Audit
Business Culture Champion Award Sponsored by Starboard
Winner: Craig Joseph & Becky Hunt, IntY
Highly Commended: James Devine, Medway NHS Foundation Trust
Business Culture Learning Award
Winner: John West Foods
Highly Commended: Jaguar Land Rover + T-three
Business Culture Diversity & Inclusion Award
Winner: Harvey Nash
Highly Commended: Capgemini UK
Business Culture Technology & Analytics Award
Winner: Southern Company
Highly Commended: Thomson Reuters
Business Culture Consultancy Award
Highly Commended: Corporate Punk
Business Culture Next Generation Award
Winner: Drive Forward Foundation
Highly Commended: Post Office
Business Culture Corporate Social Responsibility Award
Winner: Patron Capital
Highly Commended: Sky Betting & Gaming
Business Culture Employer Brand & Values Award
Highly Commended: Wiser
Business Culture Team Award Sponsored by Aegis
Winner: Sky Sales Operations (Value Retention) + Tao Leadership
Highly Commended: Kellogg