Responsibility: Owning the Results

We started Thompson Burton to build a better law firm by creating a premium environment for everyone involved.  This environment is one that challenges everyone to grow both professionally and personally. We firmly believe that when people are treated with respect and given the autonomy to perform, the results can be significant.

In the beginning, we’ve defined our approach as “redefining the art of law.”  This statement originates from a belief that information by itself is a commodity.  The best way for lawyers to compete in this environment is by diving deep into complicated matters, providing specialized advice with full understanding of the nuances.  We’re not interested in commodity work, which leads us to our first core value: Responsibility.

In order to be successful when dealing with clients in complex situations, lawyers need to gain trust.  And there can be no trust without responsibility.

Here’s how we define responsibility:

“We accept responsibility, always. We own the results, good and bad.”

When Walt Burton and I founded the firm, we placed a high value on responsibility.  First, we had to be able to accept responsibility for our own decisions as we were building the firm.  Second, we wanted to send a signal to everyone that it’s ok to own the results, even when those results are poor.  When we accept responsibility as professionals, we put ourselves in an optimal position to learn.

Here a few of the ways that we encourage include personal responsibility:

  • The TB Challenge. Staff are encouraged to pursue a 90-day activity that stretches their limits. Challenges are reviewed and approved by our committee and range anywhere from academic achievements to fitness goals. For Jackie Dusek, the challenge was learning advanced German. For Alex Fischer and Justin Campbell, their challenge involved fitness. The important part of the challenge is the participants owned the results, good and bad.
  • Thompson Burton operates as a Results Only Work Environment (“ROWE”).  With ROWE, everyone at the office is given the freedom, flexibility and tools to get their work done however they prefer.  We have partners that work at the office three days a week, and it’s never been an issue.  When given autonomy, lawyers are happier and, in our view, more productive.  But it’s understood that in this environment of autonomy, we all are willing to accept responsibility for our results, whether they be good or bad.
  • Transparent Compensation. The compensation plan at our firm is transparent.  Our partners all have the same deal.  In our view, when compensation is subjective, the people setting the rules tend to look out for their own interests ahead of the people they’re supposed to be serving.  It breeds resentment and distrust, two toxic ingredients that can kill any organization.  The tradeoff of this kind of program: Lawyers own the result.  If an attorney has a bad month, there’s no way to blame someone else for their lack of production…the pressure rests exclusively on the attorney.  This is another example of accepting responsibility.

Responsibility is the cornerstone of success. I’m proud to work with a group of good attorneys. I’m more proud to work with a group of good people committed to shared success and responsibility to one another.

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