Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Respect, difficult chats, and other elements of an award-winning firm culture

In the realm of law firms, prioritising the cultivation of a positive and award-winning work culture is paramount. Leaders at Hazelbrook Legal not only recognise the importance of this but also actively express and advocate for strategies to achieve it.

user iconGrace Robbie 14 May 2024 Big Law
expand image

Hugh Griffin is the co-founder and managing partner of Hazelbrook Legal, which won the Boutique Diversity Firm of the Year category at the 2023 Women in Law Awards. He is also the recipient of the Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year award for corporate partner and financial services partner in 2022. Lucy Adamson is a partner at the firm and was a finalist for the Partner of the Year award for financial services in 2023.

Speaking on a recent episode of The Boutique Lawyer Show, the pair delved into the vital significance of cultivating a positive work culture and shared effective strategies for achieving this.

Griffin emphasised that establishing a winning culture hinges on leaders’ understanding that it doesn’t originate from employees; instead, it begins at the top echelons of leadership.


“It has to be modelled from the top, and I think it’s only natural that culture drives from the top and what’s acceptable,” Griffin stated.

He expressed the pivotal role of leadership in shaping organisational culture, highlighting that leaders set the tone for acceptable behaviour.

Griffin said: “What’s not acceptable is set from the top. And I’m not talking about obvious stuff. It’s about the more subtle subtleties of what sort of behaviour is OK. What sort of behaviour is not OK, even to the extent of if you are dealing with opposing counsel on a matter, how polite and respectful are you?”

Griffin underscored that leaders lay the groundwork for a culture of collaboration and integrity by embodying and promoting professional respect.

However, he emphasised how “there are not enough” leaders in the legal sphere who prioritise teaching their lawyers the significance of exhibiting respectful behaviour – a crucial aspect as the rest of the team often follows suit based on these cues.

“As a leader at a firm, you’re not displaying that, then the rest of the team are seeing that, and they’re taking learning from that and applying it, and it starts to infect other things that you do,” Griffin said.

Griffin also highlighted the need for great caution in understanding that cultivating a positive culture is not a one-time action but an ongoing process requiring continuous management and supervision.

“But the other thing about the culture piece is that there is no set and forget it. It can’t just be. We have a great culture. I’ll say we have a great culture, and I’ll just let it tick along.

“I’ll tell everyone I want it to be a great culture, and we’ll talk about it to the team, and we’ll tell the market. That isn’t effective. It requires constant management, and it requires, at times, very difficult discussions,” he said.

Despite the inherently adversarial nature of the legal profession, Griffin observes a hesitancy among lawyers in engaging in challenging conversations regarding work culture. This reluctance can lead to significant issues if these discussions are avoided, as it may imply tolerance for inconsistent behaviour.

“So if you’re not willing to have a difficult discussion with someone, then it means that behaviour that might be inconsistent with your culture won’t be challenged or called out. And if you’re not able to call it out or not willing to, as a firm leader, then your culture will just drift off to somewhere you didn’t intend it to go,” Griffin said.

Drawing from her experience in global and smaller law firms, Adamson highlighted the importance of fostering an award-winning culture in all workspaces.

She underscored this by advocating leaders invest time and effort into developing junior colleagues, recognising the significance of a positive work environment in nurturing talent and fostering growth.

“I’ve always, in my career, been heavily involved with working with teams of young lawyers, and for me, it’s really important, especially in 2024, it’s really important that you are engaged.

“If you are working with junior lawyers who are learning, you need to be engaged with their thoughts and their needs and what they want to do. For me, that always spoke to me in my career anyway,” Adamson said.

Adamson also emphasised the importance of maintaining strong relationships with colleagues, even amid the pressure and demands of the legal profession. She highlighted that setting aside time for communication and fostering these relationships can contribute significantly to creating an award-winning culture.

“No matter how busy it is, my experience is [that] the busier we get, the more we have to focus on making sure our team is OK and making sure they’re managing and coping with stress.

“Sometimes you have to, regardless of deadlines, you have to take time out and have conversations to help people go in the right way, making sure they feel supported [and], for me, that’s one of the most important parts of my job, and it’s one of the parts of my job that I love the most,” Adamson said.