How Euclid Law Created The Workplace Of The Future
By Oliver Bretz
It’s often said that entrepreneurship is born out of frustration.
For me, the pinnacle of that frustration came in late 2014. After 15 years as a partner in a global traditional law firm, I had had enough. The personal sacrifice, the interrupted weekends, the high churn rate and the never-ending pursuit of high billable hours had all taken its toll: it had destroyed who I was, it had affected my marriage, my relationship with my children and my mental health was on the edge. I had the impression that I, as an individual, no longer mattered.
Much like the peppered moth, scheduled for extinction if it didn’t change it’s colours, I intuitively knew that this way of working no longer worked for me, nor for clients nor for society at large. And so in 2015 out of a sense that it could be done so much better, Euclid Law, the first Next Generation Boutique focussed solely on competition law was born and, with it, a new ethos and an entirely new way of working.
People Before Profit
Driven by our belief that there are a lot of good lawyers out there but far fewer ‘great people’ to work with, my fellow founding partners and I started out by recruiting people who are very diverse but who share the same values. Diversity and shared values are not contradictory – it is what makes Euclid tick.
These values underpinned a new workplace culture in the legal industry; one that is open, approachable, collaborative, inclusive and places the wellbeing of lawyers and clients over billable hours.
We knew intuitively that strong inter-personal relations and communication foster innovation and value – both to the client and to staff. Now it was time to put that to the test. So we instituted weekly 360-degree meetings with everyone on the firm where there is a full, frank and open feedback system that is not constrained or censored by hierarchy.
Having experienced first hand the impact of working in a traditional legal pyramid structure, the physical and mental wellbeing of our team became a key priority.
We largely did away with evening and weekend working (the norm in traditional law firms) by planning more effectively and re-allocating work where possible, thereby enabling staff to pursue their own interest and goals. Family rights and responsibilities were also prioritised, to the extent where the partners took a conscious decision that profit and family are not incompatible but sometimes, just sometimes, family is more important than profit.
Euclid also retains a psychologist on a permanent basis to help the partners and staff members to deal with any issues that arise and to become aware of their own biases and unconscious patterns of behaviour in the team.
Getting Our Hands Dirty
Instead of having multiple offices filled with people who do not share our vision and values, we focus on a ‘quality over quantity’ approach by recruiting select senior competition law experts who not only share our vision, ambition and drive to serve clients the way we do, but who also embrace our non-hierarchical approach.
An anomaly in the law sector, this approach means the partners lead from the front. We ‘get our hands dirty’ and do the work, supported by a small team of experienced paralegals. Our more advanced use of technology enables us to work leaner, smarter and more cost-effectively.
In my previous life I was often concerned that the Partner profits would look unconscionable to the average teacher or nurse. At Euclid the partners are much more aware of their role in society and do not reap massive salaries at the expense of junior lawyers churning the hours in the hope of progressing up to partner level one day. We do not believe that the pyramid is a healthy model.
Our unique business model goes against a very old and traditional institution, but this model is core to our value system of good old-fashioned quality before profit and growth.
Five years down the line, I can proudly say we have created the workplace culture that the other founding partners and I envisioned, and it shows in the strength, efficiency and resilience of our team.
Today, Euclid Law has two offices (London and Brussels) and a lean but diverse team of nine staff of seven nationalities who are able to work across eight languages, including four highly experienced partners who lead the Firm from the ‘shop floor’ – there are no ivory towers.
Client Focussed, Client Inclusive
Euclid’s progressive and inclusive way of working extends to the law firms we partner with. As a competition law specialist, Euclid Law does not compete with traditional referring or partner law firms. Based on our motto of being ‘built in’ rather than ‘bolt on’, we collaborate in a way that is best for all stakeholders and puts the client’s interest centre stage.
Which brings me to the most important person in our alternative way of working: the client…
Many large law firms talk about listening to the client and providing a tailored service. At Euclid, we see the client as part of the team and we will look after the client’s interests, including on cost management. This approach encourages clients to contribute their knowledge and expertise, which in turn assists our team in delivering the best outcome at the lowest possible cost. If we believe that an aspect of the work is better done by the client, we simply say so – and give the client a choice. We see the client relationship as being about trust and choice over time – many of our relationships are very long-term, which is the way we want it to be.
Euclid’s approach also differs in how we deliver the advice. In the competition law environment, too often the advice is “you can’t do that”. This needs to change and that change requires thought-leadership that is innovative, flexible and market leading. Having to operate ‘out of the box’ has challenged the partners to find solutions that are ‘built-in’ not ‘bolt on’ – the type of long-lasting, structural solutions that do not typically emanate from a pyramid structure of junior lawyers but that require careful thought by experienced lawyers.
Celebrating The Unorthodox
As we celebrate five years of Euclid Law in 2020 and if I reflect on our journey so far, it gives me great pleasure to say that Euclid has become a leading competition law firm by pioneering this unorthodox way of working and staying true to our values of improving the experience for clients, for staff and for society as a whole.
We don’t have gold doorknobs or bloated teams to impress, but we consistently deliver what we set out to do in early 2015: to provide market-leading thought leadership and advice that is always in the client’s best interests. That’s what makes us tick.
More on Euclid’s #5YearEvolution here: https://euclid-law.eu/5-year-anniversary-intuitive/