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Humans come first, profits come second

Creating an environment where health and happiness is paramount leads to better productivity and success, according to one boutique firm principal.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Rankin Business Lawyers founder and principal Rob Roy Rankin said happy lawyers work more efficiently because they have great mental health, and as a result, his boutique’s bottom line as a percentage of revenue is at least as healthy as the best performing firms.

“Being a virtual workplace, we don’t attract many of the expenses incurred by traditional firms, for example, accommodation rental and fit-out, IT infrastructure, reception. And employee turnover is very low,” he explained.

“We use these savings to offer great remuneration and fund our many employee-focused programs, like health and wellbeing.”

SME firms need to “get serious about eradicating toxic workplaces”, he argued, as lawyers – despite the pressure and expectations – deserve a fair work/life balance and strong mental health.

Some of the ways he suggested – based on Rankin’s experience – that boutique and SMEs can put humans first is to have flexible, mobile and autonomous work environments, have profit sharing for all staff, avoid hierarchies, foster a sense of belonging, invest in cloud-based IT and implement wellbeing programs that specifically tailor to staff members.

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“It’s not good enough, our industry has very high rates of mental illness and high rates of suicide. We’re conscious that we’re not just providing a fun and exciting workplace, we could be saving lives,” he noted.

“For those ‘financially focused’ firms, it will significantly improve their staff retention, reduce sick days and create an effective working culture.”

The argument is true for larger firms as well, he mused, but said that with entrenched remuneration arrangements it may be difficult to convince equity partners to change the status quo.

For smaller and boutique firms, however, a stringent focus on employee experience is paramount, he argued, as in order to compete for the best talent, they will need to offer greater flexibility, improved profit-sharing and a culture which puts the lawyers ahead of profits.

“We all hear these terrible stories concerning firms. Lawyers acting in aberrant and self-harming ways, it can’t continue,” he said.

“We hope that one day mental illness statistics in the legal industry are below the average rate in the population, not well above, and that lawyer suicide rates are zero. But this will only happen when the legal industry wakes up.”

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is a senior writer for Lawyers Weekly and Wellness Daily at Momentum Media.

Jerome is an admitted solicitor in New South Wales and, prior to joining the team in early 2018, he worked in both commercial and governmental legal roles and has worked as a public speaker and consultant to law firms, universities and high schools across the country and internationally. He is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines self-help book series and is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Western Australia.

Jerome graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Social Inquiry).

You can email Jerome at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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