Building Stock Legal has been one of the most joyful experiences of my life, second only to my three amazing little humans. It’s challenged me in ways that I never imagined. True to the saying, it’s been the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. There are days where I feel like I could slay dragons, and there are days where I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on how to make six figures driving for Uber instead . . . #truth.
All that to say, I love what I do in a way that still surprises me. I take growing a firm very seriously. I am intentional and strategic in what we are building, and my intention and strategy is to build something that does not currently exist. That means fighting an uphill battle every day, even with those who are philosophically aligned with me. To do the things that our clients are asking for, instead of what we think they need. To charge for our services in the way clients want to pay. To meet everyone where they are instead of where we are. To speak plain English to clients. To empower our clients with information about their legal issue, and then trust them to make an informed decision. That’s why I love it: It’s a challenge, and it forces me to rise to the occasion every day. No two days look alike. I channel my creativity into building something that is meaningful to me, our team and our clients.
The stakes are high in our profession, and because of the widely adopted approach/coping mechanisms of that, there is so much negativity and toxicity in the practice of law, from the environment that lawyers work in, to the types of work we do. By nature, a lawyer’s work is confrontational. We are tasked with zealously advocating for our clients. Our job is to win. We have to be strategic and detailed oriented, and clients expect perfection. It’s what they pay us for. Because of that expectation, when lawyers are learning from partners at a firm, those partners expect perfection. Mistakes are not allowed. Mistakes hurt clients, lose clients, create malpractice liability, cost the firm revenue, etc. We are taught that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. We should win at all costs.
I’m building a firm where we change those widely adopted approaches/coping mechanisms. Stock Legal’s values include kindness, compassion, vulnerability, innovation and transparency. There is a different way to practice law, and when we build a culture that fosters that, everyone wins. The lawyers, our staff, their families, and all of that is infused into how we work with clients. At the end of the day, we all want to know that someone’s “got you,” “has your back,” and is fighting for your best interest. Authentically. We do that at Stock Legal, because we genuinely care about our clients and each other, and want our clients and our team to thrive and grow.
Firm-building looks like this for me: Grow a portfolio of clients because I have the ability to provide sophisticated legal services at a price small to mid-sized businesses can afford. End up with more work than I know what to do with. Reactively hire. Eventually . . . trust the work is coming, and then finally, strategically hire. Intentionally start building departments within the firm to respond to client needs. Build strong relationships with our clients, lawyers, the team. Clearly identify our core mission, vision, values. Encourage the existing lawyers to develop their own client portfolio. Train the team in the “Stock Legal Way.” Build a non-traditional partnership path as our lawyers start to develop their own client portfolios. Realize that relationships are hard sometimes without all the right tools and with past trauma from other law firm experiences.
Enter Moksha . . . We started working with Moksha in the Spring of 2022. Stock Legal was growing, but hiring the right people was a challenge. Some of the lawyers were overworked. Some were underworked. Clients were demanding. Our internal relationships were straining. I felt that we needed tools and connection after surviving the pandemic period where we were physically disconnected. I was looking for mindfulness amongst the team. Conscious communication. Intentionality in relationship building. De-escalation skills. And Moksha delivered.
Working with Moksha looked like this for us: One-on-one conversations with every single member of the team, which lasted anywhere from 1-2 hours (there were no “canned” questions). Each conversation was intentional, with the purpose to ensure that every team member was heard. From those interviews came clear 360-degree feedback to the leadership team. That feedback was discussed individually, in groups, and there was thoughtful individual coaching. We were taught techniques to calm our nervous systems prior to and during conversations to ensure that crucial conversations did not escalate. We processed issues together in a way that led to solutions instead of more conflict/repressed anger/resentment. And we did it with kindness, compassion, and even some humor!
All of this culminated with a retreat, where many of the skills that we had worked on with the leadership team were taught to all of the Stock Legal employees. We learned how to approach each of the Stock Legal team members, everyone’s communication preference, what they value, and spent time hearing and understanding each other. We responded to all of the feedback (which was kept 100% anonymous), and that feedback allowed us to implement processes, procedures and programs that the team wanted, but was not ready to ask for directly. In addition to that, we were able to really connect with each other on a deep, authentic and vulnerable level, and left with a newfound love and respect for each other. Those communication skills permeate and improve all of our relationships.
The best way to sum up feedback from a bunch of lawyers is to say this - We are all very excited to have Moksha back in the office soon to reinforce these skills! And yes, this time is all non-billable so you know it was meaningful and important to the team!
As for me, I see this as an important step forward, not only helping me grow as a leader, but also in building and solidifying our culture. That culture encompasses not only how we serve our clients, but also how we come together as a team to build something unique and meaningful that serves the greater good. As we pour into our clients and help them grow and scale from a solid legal platform, they rise up . . .
A rising tide lifts all boats.
How to Build a Law Firm? Start with Culture, Revisit Culture, Reinforce Culture, Talk about Culture, Team Build around CulturePosted on August 11, 2022 by Sara K. Stock
Sara’s dynamic practice focuses on general corporate work for small to medium sized businesses and commercial real estate transactions. Sara advises her clients in all aspects of the business lifecycle including entity formation, financing, contractual arrangements, corporate governance, general business matters, and mergers and acquisitions. Sara also assists clients in acquiring, divesting, leasing, financing, and developing commercial real estate. Sara’s joint MBA and law degree uniquely position her to provide the highest quality legal advice seasoned with a solid understanding of her clients’ business objectives. Sara left an equity position at a large St. Louis law firm to form Stock Legal, because she felt she could better serve her target clients – small to medium sized businesses – from a small to medium sized law firm. Sara is passionate about these types of clients because they surround her in her personal life. Sara’s mom and dad ran the family trucking company from their home while Sara was a child, and Sara’s dad and brother continue to run this successful business today. Sara has also helped build businesses (with other partners) and acted as a fractional COO. Sara is active in the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section, where she co-chair’s the Emerging Companies Sub-Committee. Additionally, Sara sits on the YWCA Board of Directors and the St. Louis University School of Law Business, Entrepreneurship, and Tax Law Advisory Board. In the past, Sara has sat on CREW’s Board of Directors, chaired CREW’s Sponsorship Committee and Ambassador Committee, and assisted in planning the CREW golf tournament benefiting women’s support and community services. Sara is also an active member of ACG St. Louis, and sits on the advisory board for a number of institutions, including banking organizations and local companies.