We speak to Vicki Scruggs, COO of the Nashville-based, midsize law firm Bone McAllester Norton, about how the firm's culture helped during the pandemic
Law. Life. Passion. is the tagline for the Nashville-based, midsize law firm Bone McAllester Norton. And these three words pretty much capture the 45-lawyer firm and its culture, often easily distinguishing it from its competitors.
Vicki Scruggs, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, has been at the firm since it was founded in the early 2000s and says it was the firm’s founder and Chairman, Charles W. Bone, who added the word life to the tagline. “He is known to be one of these passionate people about everything — clients, work, family, and friends — and placed life in the middle of the tagline on purpose,” Scruggs says, adding that Bone believed that life outside of work was important. Indeed, he was an avid runner, Scruggs notes, and he felt that having these passions were equally critical to the legal work.
In fact, passion, as the third word in the tagline, captures the humanity of the firm’s lawyers and staff. The word’s double-meaning demonstrates that everyone at the firm is passionate about their clients and work, as well as their activities outside of work. For example, one lawyer at the firm, a fitness trainer and ironman finisher, started the Capitol Steps Workout, which has grown to more than 200 people running the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol every week, Scruggs says.
In addition to prioritizing life and passions outside of work, Bone Law (as the firm is known) is known for differentiating itself in other ways. Transparency and diversity and inclusion (D&I) are key values and part of the firm’s DNA. For example, to promote transparency, financial statements are shared with every single attorney at every level, explains Scruggs, who as COO, is responsible for IT, finance, marketing, real estate, and HR functions.
On the D&I front, one of the firm’s founding members, Stacey Garrett Koju, is an African American woman and serves as chair of the firm’s board of directors. In addition, 20% of the firm’s members are from diverse backgrounds.
Continuous adjustment during pandemic
The firm’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been pretty smooth, given the unexpected nature of the pandemic’s onset. To demonstrate the firm’s commitment to its clients, several corporate and labor and employment lawyers at the firm spent two to three days gaining expertise on the new CARES Act when it was passed. As a result, the firm was able to offer webinars to 300 clients on the legislation and the associated Payment Protection Program the week after it passed.
Scruggs and her team used this opportunity to pivot and find new ways to reach clients, embracing webinar digital platforms for seamless communication and working with the marketing team to pull together invitations for clients and other last-minute materials. Since then, the firm has continued to offer webinars as a key client engagement tool.
In addition, the firm has thrived in its response to COVID-19 under Scruggs’ leadership of the back-office functions. Within the same week as the shutdown orders, an EF4 tornado hit the Nashville area, leaving a member of the firm’s staff homeless. Scruggs, on her way home from a two-week vacation, enlisted her team and jumped into action, procuring a hotel room for the employee, developing coronavirus response policies, and deploying desktop computers to the firm’s paralegal, legal assistant, and back-office staff. In a short time, the entire firm was able to work from home.
Key real estate and IT projects within Bone Law also have been reprioritized as the result of the pandemic. Scruggs worked closely with Charles Robert Bone, the firm’s President and Chief Executive Officer, in changing direction and deciding to build out two new floors in the firm’s current building by the end of the year, rather than relocate to a new building. In addition, the firm has rearranged its IT projects to prioritize a cloud-based network and workflow solutions to enable efficiencies in the lawyers’ ability to work remotely.
To retain its tight-knit culture during the period of remote work, Bone Law has continued to connect via video platforms for employee meetings, client engagement, and informal happy hours. Further, now that the firm has been working from home for almost four months, leadership has normalized remote work as part of the firm’s value on work-life integration.
Indeed, it will allow the continuation of what was already in the firm’s DNA — Law. Life. Passion.