What's peace, love and understanding got to do with a commercial law firm? PDT Solicitors advises

In the arena of professional services much has been written about the culture of the company and what, if anything, it is or should be. When I started thinking about the culture of PDT and how we should develop and change, I was reminded of the words of Nick Lowe's 70's song, 'What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?'. So what have peace, love and understanding got to do with a commercial law firm? More than you might think.

PDT was set up in the early '90s, specifically to operate as a commercial practice, at a time when in the region the notion of general practice firms still dominated. We have always considered ourselves unique and individual, operating what could loosely be described as a laissez-faire, very entrepreneurial approach to business. 20 years on, while this has been a hugely successful approach, we took the view following a move to a new office that we should start to ask questions about what the firm would look like in 10 years' time, and how and what we needed to do to change and grow it. We needed to look beyond what we said we did or were and think more about how we behaved and how we interacted with each other.

Rather than addressing this question solely at the senior management level on 'Awaydays', we wanted to include all staff members in the discussions. We asked everyone in the firm what they thought the PDT should look like and what the key things were about the firm which made it great, and, more importantly, what could make it better.

The response to these company-wide meetings was extraordinary and exciting and produced bundles of good ideas from forums and discussions. These considerations varied from key process improvements to the need to ensure that the toilet in the ladies' loo flushed! The idea was to set a vision for the firm which everyone would have a hand in shaping and developing. From these ideas, we set about the process of engaging everyone with our new vision and executing what we wanted to achieve. Again, everyone's response to this was remarkable and there emerged a tangible sense of excitement around the firm.

We developed core commitments which focused not just on providing a better service to clients and developing our sector specialisms, but which also stated a commitment to look after each other and value each person's contribution. We set up a monthly meeting for all staff to share information and successes and established a number of forums to feedback to the partnership group. We set up a Future Leaders programme as a forum to discuss and share ideas about how professional service firms will develop going forward. We revamped the tired and redundant annual appraisal system and implemented a company-wide profit sharing scheme. All of these are works in progress, but they remain exciting and live.

At this point, you're probably expecting me to tell you how this has impacted on work, profits and that grey alpha male preoccupation - the bottom line. While all of these have improved, this is not how we're measuring the success of what we are doing. The measure of success is the growing feeling in everyone at PDT of genuine involvement, huge engagement and a commitment to looking after each other and of being concerned for each other's success. The sense of being loved, valued and trusted are basic human feelings and are essential to any successful business. Which brings me back to the words of Nick Lowe's song: "what is so funny about peace, love and understanding?"

PDT Solicitors is a commercial law firm, specialising in corporate and commercial law, commercial real estate, pharmacy and healthcare, dispute resolution and employment law. PDT is known throughout the South East for its sector specialisms and expertise and have recently been voted the 3rd best UK law firm in the invoice finance sector, beating a number of large London based players. www.pdt.co.uk


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