I have been at rhw for seven years. Before starting my current role as Head of Business Development at rhw, I had worked at other Law Firms and also a variety of Commercial Property Firms in London.

During those years I encountered all sorts of work environments, from the very relaxed to the almost military in terms of discipline and expectations. Some were good and others absolutely appalling. On top of that I can recount endless stories about strange office cultures and on occasions highly questionable behaviour from senior members of staff towards others. You learn a lot from the experience.

We have all attended job interviews where the lines about ‘work/life balance’ and ‘friendly and relaxed culture’ have been trotted out by the interviewer, where the reality of the ‘work/life balance’ on the ground turns out to be 80% work and 20% life, on a good day! Some businesses are also guilty about talking about ‘wellness’ and ‘mental health’ issues whilst actually doing very little in terms of actions.

I want to avoid painting all legal entities with this particular brush, but Law Firms seem to be prone to breeding particularly regressive work environments. Yes, at rhw there are targets for fee earners and we run a highly commercial organisation, but we treat all staff members as human beings with their own issues, outside-work demands and varying emotional requirements rather than just a fee-earning unit sat amongst other fee-earning units.

We have recently launched a well-being programme that is making an immediate and big impact on the rhw office culture and involves support staff as well as fee earners. We intend to go much further with rolling out changes on this area which we believe will pay huge dividends in staff happiness, confidence, retention and actual productivity as sick days reduce and focus increases. You can read more about what we are doing in this blog update from rhw’s Sarah England – Live in the Now, Manage Simply, Live Happily for World Mental Health Day.

As well as the wellness programme the existing work culture at rhw is different to many other Solicitors. I have seen caustic ‘us and them’ cultures in other Firms I have worked at but apart from the occasional hiccup (hey, no one is perfect!), rhw manage to maintain and encourage an ‘all pushing in the same direction’ mentality which is cemented by regular staff events and drinks. The business objectives are shared by all and not just by the few. We offer training to all where there is a good business case and we encourage staff to suggest changes to day to day processes and overall business strategy.

rhw does not have a ‘start incredibly early’ and ‘work ridiculously late’ culture. Occasionally a client instruction means that there are short periods when people are in the office outside core hours but this is fairly rare. We believe strongly in the ‘work smarter not longer’ mentality and the quality of staff we employ means that there is the creative thinking, attitude and support in-house to achieve the results we want.

We know most employees are unlikely to be skipping their way into work in the morning but we are actively progressing towards a culture where staff wake up in the morning and think “Hey, work, that’s OK”.

I know a lot of this sounds like what management want to think is happening and not what staff find is the day to day reality but we do ask for feedback from staff and I truly think there is a ‘different and friendly’ inclusive office culture at rhw.

Want to know more or interested in the areas where we are recruiting? Check out our recruitment page for the areas in which we are looking to grow, or if you want to know more about why I think rhw is a great Law Firm to work for, drop me an email chris.hunter@rhw.co.uk or call me on 01483 302000.

Chris Hunter – Head of Business Development, rhw Solicitors LLP, Guildford, Surrey