Family-like environment keeps staff upbeat, helps clients

In a practice area that is often emotionally charged, nurturing an office culture with a strong sense of camaraderie is essential to keeping staff spirited and on top of their game, Toronto-area family lawyer Lisa Gelman tells Lawyers Weekly.

Gelman, principal and owner of Gelman & Associates, oversees 12 other lawyers at her firm in six offices in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Although maintaining a strong team spirit might seem challenging — particularly when the firm embraces diversity, with people of varying ages, ethnicities and personalities — Gelman says she sees the firm as a family that works and plays together, even while its members help clients whose own families are in crisis.

“We celebrate everyone’s birthdays and work anniversaries,” Gelman explains. “We all bring our eccentric, different personalities, and we can poke gentle fun at each other and have a good time.”

As an example, Gelman says 18 members of the firm, including support staff, recently spent a few days in New York City.

“It was just to have a fun weekend away,” Gelman says. “We want people to enjoy working here because they’re spending most of their lives at our firm.”

Gelman tells Lawyers Weekly that she has been deliberate about developing the kind of atmosphere where employees can dress ‘business casual’ and they are able to talk openly about their personal lives if they wish. At the same time, she says, they present themselves professionally.

“Clients don’t see the whimsical interactions we have behind the scenes,” she explains.

“But I think they do feel our passion and energy.”

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