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The people-centric workplace in an increasingly connected world


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The people-centric workplace in an increasingly connected world

Baker McKenzie

23rd March 2023


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While tempting to envision, the law firm of the future will not be populated by highly intelligent, unemotional, artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots that render automated legal output based on massive databases of knowledge and repositories of precedent.  To me, the sustainability of law firms resides in the humanity they represent.

If I were to crystal-ball gaze, law firms will be home to a new breed of lawyers that have adapted to operate in a connected world. These lawyers will be innovators, oozing passion, dynamism, enthusiasm and authenticity, not afraid to cultivate friendships and camaraderie in business partnerships, exploring ways to do things differently, finding practical, innovative solutions for clients, always considering the social impact of their actions and contributions, and exercising humanity in the course of their practice as lawyers.


This people-centric approach applies as much to leaders as to employees. In a survey of HR leaders by Gartner Inc. in March 2022, 90% of respondents believed that a focus on the human aspects of leadership was a requirement for employee satisfaction and business success. Gartner noted that three traits were identified as necessary for transformative leadership - authenticity, empathy and adaptability. The survey revealed that organisations with human leaders experienced less turnover and higher engagement in their teams. The crisp proposition is that business leadership’s main priority is to focus on its people, detaching from the outcomes and avoiding short term approaches to profit maximisation that fail to acknowledge its people as core to more sustainable outcomes. 

Simply put, human connection is essential in creating high-performing teams. The sense of belonging that comes from real connection is a vital part of creating an inclusive employee experience. When employees feel safe and comfortable, they are able to bring their whole selves to the workplace. Such employees are more productive, produce higher quality, more creative work and are less likely to leave. To hone in on our people-centric approach, we created a compact for our employees, which outlines our focus on deeper connections at work, home and in the community, the implementation of radical workplace flexibility, a focus on personal growth and the holistic wellbeing of our employees, and a sense of connectedness and shared purpose across all our teams.


This inclusive approach also makes good business sense. A recent survey by Gallup found that a focus on employee engagement and inclusiveness resulted in an average 58% increase in net profit. By creating a culture that genuinely values people, organisations make themselves a better place to work, and more financially successful in the process. Not only increased revenue, but improved performance comes when you have a great employee experience, where everybody feels like they belong and can bring all of their strengths to work. Our aim, therefore, is to celebrate our differences and find innovation and collaboration in diversity.

Likewise, employees want to know they are working in a role that provides not only personal meaning and connection, but that the business is fulfilling its responsibilities to other employees, society and the environment. They are increasingly demanding that their employer's activities match their own personal ideals. This extends to clients, shareholders, investors and other stakeholders, who want the organisations they work with to take a stance on important issues such as racism, sexual harassment, unemployment and inequality.

Law firms, like all other businesses, are looking at ways to attract and retain diverse and sought-after talent by redefining policies that are based on the overriding vison of creating happy and fun work environments, underpinned by lived values and enabled through transparent, respectful, diverse and inclusive, connected, solutions-driven and collaborative cultures. And while collaborating with artificial intelligence tools has become an integral part of the work we do in providing innovative solutions for our clients, it is the strength of our human connection that will allow us to unleash our full potential.

Baker McKenzie in South Africa is recruiting legal graduates for its internship programme. If this new type of lawyer sounds like you, apply here: Candidate Attorney 2025 | Other | Baker McKenzie


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