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How to manage poor workplace culture

Written by: Wendy Lloyd-Goodwin, Life Science Law
Published on: 6 Oct 2022

 

office stress

How to manage poor workplace culture

By Wendy Lloyd-Goodwin

According to a report by workplace reporting platform Culture Shift, the legal sector is one of the worst across the board for workplace culture. The survey of over 1,000 employees found that compared to other sectors, the legal sector saw more employees leaving their jobs and saying that a negative culture had damaged their mental health.

As a lawyer who has worked both in-house and in private practice, I’ve experienced first hand the high levels of pressure present across the sector. Clients are demanding, in private practice, solicitors need to win business and please the client. In-house, the legal team are always under pressure to avoid being seen as the showstopper, which often leads to solicitors agreeing to tight turnaround times. That together with the pressure on meeting billing targets, or objectives leads to high stress levels and in turn lower productivity as solicitors do not know where to focus their efforts first. Everything is urgent! 

How to manage high pressure environments in the workplace

Managing client expectations is key in such high-pressure environments and a skill I have learnt over the years. Often unrealistic deadlines are provided by business stakeholders, particularly where it is perceived that legal frameworks are slow and will take a long time to turn around. If a short deadline is not given it is often perceived that it will take even longer for the stakeholders piece of work to be done, but instead this has the reverse effect. 

Managing client expectations means being human, afterall, there are only so many hours in a day, there is only a finite amount of legal resource, and the mental wellbeing of the employee/ consultant needs to be recognised, as well as ensuring a good quality work output. Building personal relationships with the client/stakeholder is key in this scenario. It’s all about building trust and if you give a timeline by which you can do something, make sure you stick to it! 

We have all previously worked in-house and some in traditional law firms where we have experienced a ‘bad culture’ due to the workload demands and time recording/target fees which must be met, with managers and stakeholders who forget we are all human, there are only so many hours a day, and that people do not respond well to pressure and fear of failure.  

At Life Science Law, we have demanding clients, who all have deadlines and targets to hit, and the reason they come to us, is to ensure those deadlines are met in a compliant manner.  We do this in part, by ensuring we allocate work to consultants with the right level of legal and industry experience to work on the project, whilst placing the utmost importance on fostering a culture where the mental well-being of our consultants is central to the way in which we work. 

We ensure workload is delegated in accordance with not only experience, but also capacity, to ensure work/life balance is taken into account and realistic deadlines are set, which we then agree with the client, which in turn means we have both happy clients, and a happy team.  

We all work better when we can plan our workload, manage client expectations and know the manager will support us when work becomes overwhelming, or timelines need to change.

Having a nice working environment brings out the best in everyone. 

*Wendy Lloyd-Goodwin is a solicitor with more than 20 years of professional experience in the life sciences sector and Founder of Life Science Law, a disruptive company providing leading legal and compliance advice for businesses on pharmaceuticals, consumer wellbeing products, medical devices and cannabinoids. 

 

In Association with Life Science Law