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Portrait of a Brand Culture: Part I

I am a huge proponent of a strong brand – or company — culture. Believe in the company culture, and it makes coming into work worthwhile. When a company doesn’t espouse a clear brand culture, or touts one without conviction, oftentimes you foster a workforce who is alienated from management, feels uninspired, and who might be killing time before jumping to a more desirable job. And who wants to work for a company where all the cool, motivated people have jumped ship and no one’s left except people who don’t care enough about themselves to want better?

An excellent example of a BBR client who has successfully established a strong brand culture is Laborde & Neuner, a defense-based law firm in the heart of the Oil Center, where the vibe and collective energy of the organization is palpable as soon as you interact with any of the firm’s attorneys.

It lies at the heart of everything they do, from how they interact with one another and their clients to how they spend free time away from the firm. It shows how brand culture, when done well, can differentiate a company from competitors who offer the same services, have comparative experience or the same level of professional success.

The easiest way to establish and promote brand culture is to have top management initiate and embrace a philosophy, making it an organic process where the company follows the principles of its natural leader(s).

Frank Neuner’s resume reads like a superhero’s within the legal profession. He’s won innumerable awards from community and legal associations for his passionate efforts in protective reformation and advocacy for the poor and indigent. It is widely acknowledged that Mr. Neuner’s dedication to serving community has affected the scope of pro bono work offered throughout the state. He’s been honored for his tireless efforts to assist the legal community displaced from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. He serves and has served, at the local, state and national levels, on the boards of many institutions. And as managing partner of Laborde & Neuner, Mr. Neuner continues to actively practice litigation, and was named one of the Top Lawyers in Admiralty and Maritime Law by a Baton Rouge publication. I don’t know when this man sleeps.

This is Laborde & Neuner’s mission:

Laborde & Neuner is committed to always providing the best in legal defense and counsel to our clients, while upholding the highest standards in ethics and professionalism. We build professional relationships based on integrity, while serving our clients with the best legal representation and advice possible.

A translation of their mission statement into Laborde & Neuner’s brand culture of altruism might be:

“Dedicated to helping people.”

Mr. Neuner is not the sole example of the altruistic spirit at the firm. Read through the professional profiles of any of the firm members, whether partner or associate, and it reads like a “Who’s Who” of community organizations and professional associations. Ducks Unlimited, the705, Louisiana Association of Defense Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana and Habitat for Humanity are just some of the organizations that benefit from the enthusiastic advocacy of Team Laborde & Neuner. In their most recent campaign for United Way, the firm logged 100% participation from its members. The Laborde & Neuner attorneys are entrenched in initiatives to preserve, educate, assist, build, develop or improve their profession and our community.

As a corporate entity, Laborde & Neuner embraces its brand culture by integrating volunteerism as part of its billable workday. The pro bono cases undertaken by firm attorneys are given the same weight in priority and attention as any paying client’s.

This fiscal sacrifice – or commitment – is the ultimate follow-through in support of its brand culture. It enables employees to collectively accept and convey that culture in their business and professional relationships.

While the Laborde & Neuner attorneys rarely refer to their own accomplishments, it’s the complete opposite whenever they refer to a colleague. The associates’ admiration for their mentoring partners is expressive: Their litigation prowess, their reputation within the legal field, their depth of knowledge and experience, their dedication to their clients – the praise is frequent and genuine. The affection and respect the partners convey about the intellect, skills and work ethics of the younger associates seems that of proud parents. It’s a professional love-fest.

It makes me want to shake my bickering children, and send them off on elementary school internships to Laborde & Neuner so the lil’ buggers can adopt the cohesive camaraderie of the firm. And it’s not that the attorneys don’t have in-office arguments. We’re talking about top-notch litigators here, not saints. But it’s different when disagreements occur amongst colleagues who respect one another. You argue ferociously, you leave and cool-off, then you move on.

Because ultimately, it’s understood that everyone is arguing with the same intention: to serve people (those in the firm or their clients) in the best way possible, even if opinions toward achieving that goal are different.

It’s always nice to encounter a company with a culture so dedicated to helping others AND whose employees are also humble and charming. In spite of being lawyers! (wink, wink)

Read Portrait of a Brand Culture: Part II