Reflecting on Eight Years of Building a Law Firm that Does it Differently

Apr 26, 2023 | Business

Smith + Malek was born in 2015 after I knew that my founding partner, Peter Smith IV, and I were in alignment to make the world a better place by introducing a law firm that does things differently. With co-owner Tara Malek, we fight for justice while revolutionizing traditional law firm practices. We attribute the success of Smith + Malek to forward-thinking actions that positively impact our clients, team members, and communities across Idaho and Washington. 

Team Work

We know that to be a force of justice for the world, we would need to build a team that feels valued, seen, and supported by leadership; one way to accomplish that goal is to prioritize team members’ well-being. Building an equitable workplace and culture can be a challenge for any business, but law firms face particular challenges that we pushed against from the onset.

Ditching the Partner Track, Introducing a Profit-Sharing Model 

To “earn” partnership, attorneys typically must meet revenue and billable hour goals, even if that means creating a competitive culture of overwork. These stringent goals make it difficult for employees, especially women and parents, who are often not able to meet these requirements while balancing home life. The partner track may also hurt the client, since attorneys deprioritize collaborating with colleagues and lose the opportunity to provide holistic solutions for their clients’ needs.

In addition, reports show that the track is getting longer at many firms. Since 2012, the time required for an entry-level associate to become a partner has increased by 136%. As a result, the law industry is leaving behind young talent, working parents, and women. 

To foster a supportive environment where top talent can trust, learn and openly communicate with each other we; eliminated the partner track, introduced a profit-sharing model, eliminated origination bonuses, and implemented benefits that support new and established parents. 

Institute Family Friendly Benefits that Support Working Parents.

Ditching the partner track, which disproportionately hurts women and parents, has paid off in dividends. In a profession where only 23% of equity partners in the U.S. are women, Smith + Malek proudly boasts that the majority of our practice leads are female, and many have young children. 

We are also proud to offer benefits that extend past state requirements like 16 weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents in our firm, whether they are attorneys or staff members, including parents of adopted children. Parents can bring their children to work as needed with our flexible bring-your-baby-to-work policy and can split their time between in-person and remote work to better accommodate their family needs.

To be a force for good in the world, it’s critical to treat everyone on the team with respect and grace. We actively exercise our mission every day, and by its very nature, accept that change helps us grow. Looking forward, I anticipate that Smith + Malek will continue to demonstrate leadership through its workplace innovation and, through our client work, a more just society.