An innovative culture: Reflections 10 years on
Mon May 30th 2022
On the tenth anniversary of Berry Simons commencing operations, the founders reflect on the firm's unique practice model - and the doubters who said it wouldn't work.
April 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of the founding of Berry Simons and, for founding partners Simon Berry and Sue Simons, the milestone has been a time for reflection on how far the firm has come – and how ‘counter-cultural’ its founding really was.
When they opened their doors in 2012, Simon and Sue had a vision: they would shrug off the traditional law-practice model of focusing, almost obsessively, on budgets and billing. Looking around the industry, they could see how much the conventional structure encouraged internal competition, polarisation and a back-biting culture that often made for an unpleasant work environment.
“We agreed from the outset that in our practice, budgets would be secondary to culture. We tipped the traditional model on its head to focus on quality – the calibre of the product – rather than quantity – the amount of billable time,” says Simon.
He and Sue worked with an industrial psychologist to establish a set of Core Operating Principles that enshrined the values of technical excellence, the highest ethical standards, and aiming at all times to ‘delight the client’. If the team consistently delivered exceptional legal and strategic work, the reasoning went, commercial success would follow.
In the Core Operating Principles, the first three bullet points under the heading 'Firm Culture' say:
- Professional territorialism will be swiftly confronted.
- Only those performance tracking and/or measurement initiatives which encourage technical excellence, creativity and self-responsibility will be implemented.
- Partners and staff will be expected to plan health and wellness initiatives and co-ordinate these with their legal work timetable.
When they presented their proposal to law management consultant John Clark, he was sceptical, going so far as to call it ‘woolly-headed thinking’.
Nevertheless, the founders pursued their innovative quality-first model. Ten years later, Berry Simons is a highly productive, successful law firm of 13 legal staff, including new ‘homegrown’ partner Kate Storer, and three support staff. The whole team works collaboratively, without internal competition, to deliver consistently impeccable work.
When asked to reconsider his advice ten years on, John Clark acknowledges that Berry Simons has achieved a remarkable legal practice model.
“The partners have built a culture that is truly distinctive, without compromising the level of quality that makes Berry Simons a top firm,” he says.
Says Simon, “I’m very proud of what we’ve built at Berry Simons – a great culture, excellent work and an amazing team.”
Sue agrees. “I’m looking forward to the next decade of ‘delighting the client’ and continuing to enjoy the development with our very special team.”
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