The Benchmark: Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus Putting People First Into Practice

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Jess Sweere, Amber Bagley, Missy Duke, Donna Galchus, Cindy Kolb, Steve Bingham, Rick Roderick of Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus.

The law firm of Cross Gunter Witherspoon & Galchus focuses on places to work with most of its clientele. It guides businesses and employers through the legal labyrinths of workplace issues such as union matters, discrimination, compensation and immigration status.

Recognizing that they should practice what they regularly preach and defend, the offices of CGWG decided a decade ago that their workplace culture needed to be different and reflect their values. “We found,” says attorney and managing director Richard Roderick, “that the same things we believe in here in our firm are the kind of things we’re advising our clients on as far as having good employer relations go.”

The changes made at the three branches – in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Springdale –transformed CGWG into looking nothing like the stereotype of your typical law firm.

One of the first differences one notices is the team attitude, shown even in the way the office is physically organized. “It’s not like someone works off in their cubicle or their office and nobody ever sees them,” says Roderick. “I can walk through many a law firm and all you see are closed doors.

“You can walk through our office right now, and it would be rare for you to see a closed door. That’s just our culture.”

Roderick also emphasizes that “the team” includes all staffers — attorneys, paralegals and directors. “We stop and talk to one another,” Roderick says. “If there’s a problem in one area because someone is gone for the day, someone else is always close by who’s going to cover for them. Everybody knows that.”

CGWG also does things differently in the way it makes money — a sensitive issue at most law firms — with billing practices that charge clients not always by the hour, but by using a team approach to the job so clients aren’t totally dependent on the availability of one lawyer.

“Younger attorneys, more inexperienced attorneys are supposed to live in the library and crank those hours out, stay up all night,” says Roderick. “We’ve been down that road before over the course of our evolution. We’ve gotten away from that. We recognize that it’s important to have a work-life balance.”

Perhaps the most novel way Cross Gunter employees and associates conduct their business is by not being tied down to a Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. work schedule.

Employees are offered a flexible schedule, meaning they can work 10-hour days for four days and then enjoy a three-day weekend. And the time they come into the office doesn’t have to be locked in either.

“If it’s more convenient for somebody, to come on in at nine o’clock, then we’ll work with them and try to allow them to work later in the day. We adapt,” says Roderick.

Roderick says it all goes back to the firm’s objectives being accomplished by a team effort. “We really let the employees tell us how they thought they might make it work,” he says.



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