A Law Firm as a B Corporation?

By James Forrest

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to a Harvard Law School student regarding our status as a B Corporation.  This student reached out to me in connection with writing a paper for the student’s course, Understanding Law Firms as Businesses. My interview with the student was followed in short order by receiving a nice note last week from our certifying agency, B Lab, congratulating Forrest Firm on its one-year anniversary as a B Corporation.  With all of that going on, I thought this would be an appropriate time to reflect on why we took these initial steps to be certified as a B Corporation and provide an update on how the last year has gone at a high level.

I tell people regularly that the B-corp certification “packages” nicely, in a succinct way, a lot of the things that we were already doing as a firm a year ago.  We are extremely client focused – making sure clients are not surprised by legal bills, while at the same time being qualitatively excellent, responsive and accessible.  In essence, treating clients the way we ourselves would want to be treated as clients.

We are also deeply committed to creating work environments for attorneys and support staff that are healthy and sustainable.  Our dual focus on leading compensation, packaged with a “work from anywhere” environment for attorneys is celebrated greatly internally.  Lastly, we are committed to giving back to the communities around us with our time, talents and resources in a regular and systematic way.  A B Corporation certification offered the perfect complement to our mission, making us a firm not simply focused on revenue and growth (like most businesses), but also and equally as focused on its clients, its own people and its surrounding communities.  Overall, it gives us a rallying point, and I know that our people are proud to work here.

As an update over the last year, our “others first” commitment has turned out to actually be good for business (I’m actually not surprised, but it has been really cool and affirming to see)!  We recently eclipsed 1,000 clients engaged since the firm’s inception.  Additionally, we’ve seen an influx of top-tier talent.  We’ve had previous firm owners, partner-level attorneys, associate level attorneys, support staff, all join Forrest Firm from across the state looking for something different.

We’ve opened new offices in the Triad and Wilmington, with Greensboro and Charlotte soon to follow.  Overall we believe the market (i.e., clients and attorneys) is reacting very positively to a new way of looking at the corporate legal market.    We’ve also given away more of our time, talents and energy to pro bono and volunteerism than ever before and we’ve got even bigger goals on that front as we move forward!

While it’s a little early to judge the long-term effects of becoming a B Corporation, all of the signs are good for the Forrest Firm as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of taking this big step. We were just the second law firm in North Carolina to sign on with B Lab, and we are the largest firm in the state committed to operating with commitments to client service, attorney and staff well-being, and benefitting the public, all while maintaining our own profitability goals. It’s a tall order, but with the right vision in place, and perhaps more importantly, with the right team working toward these goals in a unified fashion, we can do great things.