When we created Smith + Malek, we wanted to provide a space for people to feel included, challenged, and rewarded for their hard work immediately instead of sometime down the road when they would ascend to the coveted title of “Partner.”
Striving to make partner in a traditional law firm has disadvantages that negatively affect all employees, but especially women and parents. To make partner, one typically has to work after hours and/or weekends, compete with other attorneys they work with, and sacrifice time with others in order to be more productive for the firm.
From day one, Smith + Malek has operated with a unique business model in the legal profession – one that rewards collaboration while also providing space for a personal life. Here are the ways we operate differently, and the difference it makes to our employees and clients.
Fostering Team-Based Work Culture
Beyond the coveted title of Partner, attorneys are traditionally incentivized to work around the clock because of compensation. It’s also one of the biggest reasons employees experience burnout; they are the only person working a case and may feel obligated to sideline their personal lives as a result.
To combat this destructive way of working, Smith + Malek asks – make that insists – its attorneys work collaboratively. Together, we aim at firm goals and celebrate success and growth together, instead of elbowing each other out of the way for limited partner titles.
This paves the way for more open communication amongst colleagues and contributes to a more collaborative and positive environment at our firm. When asked about this new take on a business model, co-founder Peter Smith said, “When you work with other people, you can bounce ideas off of them, which allows you to build a support system and allows you to focus on what you’re doing.”
Making Mentorship Central to the Mission
Prior to founding Smith + Malek, Peter felt siloed at work. He was disincentivized to share knowledge with his fellow attorneys, in part because of internal competition for partner, but also because of things like earning origination fees and feeling pressured to stack up billable hours.
In co-founding Smith + Malek with Luke, Peter wanted to prioritize opportunities for personal and professional growth. This value is seen in a few different ways across our firm, including the absence of origination fees, the absence of a partner track, and a formal mentoring program that allows attorneys with longer career tenure to work alongside attorneys who recently passed the bar.
Take Rob Luce, for example, an attorney with four decades of experience who works with our healthcare practice team. We asked him to join Smith + Malek because of the deep knowledge he could contribute and, as he shared in the Washington State Bar Association’s NWSidebar, Rob finds it invigorating to share knowledge and expertise within our firm’s distinctive team-based work environment.
Removing barriers to on-the-job learning and pairing up attorneys who come to work armed with their own knowledge, experience, and perspectives makes for a firm that is constantly improving our capabilities to serve clients.
Speaking of Growth
To provide space for our attorneys to grow vibrant, successful careers in tandem with their families, we also offer four months of paid leave with the arrival of a child and give all of our attorneys the agency to work a flexible schedule.
As co-owner Tara Malek explained on Wealthy Woman Lawyer, “We’re not going to punish the person or have a culture of shame – which is what it really is – for someone who has family obligations outside of work that they need to attend to.”
Family obligations – be it nursing a baby, leaving work to pick up kids from daycare, or taking care of elderly parents – shouldn’t be something that stands in the way of a career trajectory. We trust our employees to make decisions that move us toward our firm’s goals and offer schedule flexibility for all attorneys. Growing alongside our talented and brilliant team members, no matter where they are in life’s journey, is one way we make good on our mission to make tomorrow better.
P.S. We are pleased to introduce a few new attorneys in our Boise office. Last month, we welcomed Kolby Reddish to the team, and we’re celebrating Chris Kmoch and Lauren Smyser passing the bar! Learn more about the people at Smith + Malek here.