The law firm of Bienvenu, Bonnecaze, Foco, Viator & Holinga landed the top-spot on the small and medium-sized company list. (Photo by Brian Baiamonte)
Bienvenu, Bonnecaze, Foco, Viator & Holinga is making a name for itself by taking a non-traditional approach to running a law firm.
Designing a new kind of work environment was top of mind for David Bienvenu, Dawn Bonnecaze, Phillip Foco, John Allain Viator and Lexi Holinga when they opened their law firm in 2011. The five partners were intent on creating a workplace culture that tossed out rigid processes and structures commonly found in larger firms.
“Coming from a big law firm culture, we had the benefit of being able to modify the organizational structure in a way that suited a smaller law firm,” says Bienvenu. “Our goal was never to become a large firm, but to be the best small- to medium-sized firm out there, and we knew that our culture would have a lot to do with our success.”
One of the first things the partners did was to eschew the traditional arrangement of lawyers working with specific legal assistants. Instead, they created a team of assistants whose roles are part paralegal, part secretary (thus, the in-house name “parataries”). Situated together in a central location in the firm’s expansive Bluebonnet Boulevard offices, the parataries rotate working with different lawyers, giving each one the chance to hone their skills on a range of cases and to work with different personalities. The process, says Holinga, equalizes the work load, and encourages the team to share best practices and function as a cohesive unit.
“It’s designed to instill collaboration,” says Holinga. “The parataries have team goals and everyone is on the same page about what the firm’s the current priorities are.”
The firm’s 12 lawyers and seven parataries work regularly with high-profile corporate clients on toxic tort, maritime and other cases that can demand lots of time and energy. To ensure the team is always eager to answer the bell, the firm’s founders decided it was wise to constantly toss in generous perks that demonstrate appreciation.
“We ask our team, ‘What can we do to make you more productive and comfortable, and make your workday less stressful?’ That’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good business,” says Bienvenu. “It’s important for us to give them a sense of ownership. Ownership over decision-making, and ownership over how they operate during the day.”
That means keeping the kitchen stocked with requested groceries and snacks, upgrading office equipment and technology on demand and giving employees the flexibility to fulfill family obligations during the workday, or to work from home when needed, without stress.
“We have a big group of people who have young kids, so we’re very family-oriented,” says Holinga. “We understand that people have demands on their lives other than work.”
Attorneys have access to high quality continuing legal education trips and are given generous cell phone plans. Compensation for all employees includes a profit-sharing plan, cost of living raises, a bonus system and flexible health care coverage. To make their jobs easier, employees have secure remote access to ensure they can answer demands after hours without having to come into the office.
The staff convenes for Halloween costume parties replete with enviable prizes, like the latest iPhone, and the firm holds an engaging Christmas party, which has included a bus trip to New Orleans for a food and drink tour and a visit to an escape room. Every year, the firm sends out a holiday card with everyone’s kids posing together on the front.
Holinga, who works closely with the parataries, often organizes incentives and rewards that have included onsite car washes and free orders from the accessory and clothing vendor, Stella & Dot. They’re also given access to any kind of training they believe will make them more productive. And, the official work week ends at 3 p.m. on Friday.
“We don’t want good employees for a year,” says Bienvenu. “We want them for a career.”
Bienvenu, Bonnecaze, Foco, Viator & Holinga
4210 Bluebonnet Blvd. • bblawla.com
Products and services: A full-service law firm established in Baton Rouge in 2011, dedicated to treating clients as partners, whether they be large corporations engaged in complex litigation or an individual seeking efficient, creative solutions for their legal needs. The firm’s attorneys offer expertise and experience across a wide range of service areas, from commercial litigation and business disputes to personal injury and workers’ compensation defense.
Total employees: 26
Standout bonus or benefit: Partners are eligible for customized time, compensation, profit sharing and benefit plans; legal assistants and paralegals are eligible for team-building quarterly incentive programs and performance-based bonuses; and associates are eligible for performance-based, uncapped bonuses, costs of living increases and profit sharing for new origination.
What employees love: Flexible paid time off and maternity leave, social events and holiday parties, team-building excursions and exercises, a stocked pond with unlimited fishing gear, and a stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks updated weekly and chosen by employees.
—Annie Ourso Landry