Rebel with a cause

A disruptor in the legal space, Quinn Ross leads a powerhouse firm built on innovation, communication, and kindness

Quinn Martin Ross, CEO of The Ross Firm Professional Corp., speaks to Canadian Lawyer about being named a Changemaker in the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers for 2022. With the twin goals of innovation and humanizing the practice of law, Ross is passionate about doing things differently.

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Stephanie: [00:00:24] Welcome to Canadian Lawyer TV. I'm Stephanie Matteis, and we're speaking with Quinn Ross, managing partner and CEO of the Ross Firm and recently named a changemaker in Canadian Lawyer's Top 25 most influential lawyers. Congratulations, Quinn, and thank you for being here. 

Quinn: [00:00:43] Hey, nice to see you. Thanks so much for having me. 

Stephanie: [00:00:46] What are your biggest issues with workplace culture, specifically in the legal profession? 

Quinn: [00:00:51] At its most fundamental, my biggest problem is that it hasn't changed in 200 years, that the model of treating young associates as grist for the mill and basically making it a badge of honor to grind ourselves to the nub has been the structure that we've built this entire profession on. In addition, we've taken the adversarial nature of litigation and in some instances the solicitor side of practice and made that a part of the structure of how we organize ourselves. Granted that the litigation is an adversarial process, but the practice of law doesn't need to be on a personal level. So, so qualities that shouldn't necessarily have been fostered and embellished have been fostered and embellished. And we've missed massive opportunities at at growth and development as a result. And law is naturally a very conservative profession when it comes to change. So these these mores have been built in and they've been very difficult to to unlearn, to change, to, to move away from. 

Stephanie: [00:02:00] Absolutely. And against that background, how are you doing things differently at the Ross firm? How have you changed? 

Quinn: [00:02:08] Well, I think we've attempted to move the entire structure from a culture of scarcity, culture of of limitations and and competition to a culture of abundance, a culture where each person is intrinsically motivated to bring as much of themselves as possible because that vulnerability and gift is protected and fostered and treated with compassion. And when we do that, we find a magnifying effect as opposed to everyone clambering over a pie. We seek to make the pie bigger. And it's worked. People are healthier. They're more engaged. It's easier for them to focus on what excites them intellectually. We've fostered development in sort of seeking out the passions of the individual and attempting to limit those things that they don't really find all that interesting or engaging. Generally, we we like doing the things we're good at and we don't like doing the things we're not good at. So why would we force people to do things they're not good at and expect for them to be good at them? It just doesn't make any sense. And it I mean, this is all a lot of people will say, well, these are truisms and it's facile and it's impossible because there's scout work in all things and there's there's things that none of us like doing that have to be done. And to no small measure, that's true. But if we really do focus at putting the right person in the right place and giving them all the tools to actualize, we have a completely different outcome than we when we say this is the job and these are the parts of the job and do it, sometimes you need to change the job because you're not going to change the person. And when you do that, not only are you honoring the value of that individual and not just treating them as a commodity to a bottom line, but you're being live to their strengths. And when you're live to someone's strengths, you'll find that their performance is pretty exceptional. 

Stephanie: [00:04:09] That's awesome. Now, if you can give us some details and highlight some of the changes over the last 12 to 18 months and how they've had an impact on business. 

Quinn: [00:04:18] Well, I mean, the easy one, the low hanging fruit, is that we've successfully migrated to a four day workweek. We are a full on four day workweek environment, the first firm in the country and perhaps North America to do it where we do not compress the number of hours in a week. People work for eight hour days. They're paid for five. The expectations are that that day that they're not working is as sacrosanct as a weekend day. Lawyers, obviously, all licensees have an obligation to their clients. We've got regulatory requirements. It doesn't matter what day of the week something comes in. If we are obliged professionally to undertake the work, we're going to undertake the work, whether it's a Thursday, a Saturday, a Sunday or whatever. But we've created this extra space and we've restructured ourselves to work within that environment so the clients don't experience any drop off and to the extent humanly possible, the licensees and the allied professionals truly do get to enjoy that day as a as a day off, a day to conduct the affairs of their life, a day to recharge, a day to refill the well. We found that when we combine that with this notion of the culture of abundance, we're not depleting them as much during the week and we're giving them the time they need to rebuild the stores. If you run the old model, then basically what you say is for 10 hours a day, we want you to come in here and grind it out. And for heaven's sakes, don't bring your real self to work. Leave that at home. That's your life. And never the twain shall meet with your employment. So come in, grind it out as a professional. And then 4 hours of Netflix, Haagen-Dazs and a little bit of red wine to cure you for Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. And we wonder why productivity drops as the week progresses. And we wonder why people are using sick days to just recover from the week that's presented to them over and over and over again. So by making these changes, by truly introducing the four day week and by truly supporting the individuals, the humans in their situations, because we're spending eight or 9 hours a day together four days a week, not a lot of other places, you're going to spend that kind of time if we don't treat them as a whole being and we don't take care of them, we can't rightly expect for everyone to perform at their best, to be happy, to want to stay where they are. 

Stephanie: [00:06:45] Yeah, absolutely. And I think your four day work week sounds amazing. And it's amazing also that you proved it can really work. But bringing you back to this most recent award, you were named a change maker. What does that mean to you? 

Quinn: [00:06:59] Well, I think it means the world to me. It means it's incredibly important for a couple of reasons. And I'll say, you know, everybody shows such great humility when they win these amazing awards. But I will say with all sincerity, if I was to look at myself five years ago and not even that long, I would not define myself as a change maker. I was always motivated. To find ways to make things work better, more easily and more logically. And when I was probably a young man, I would have thought it was because I was lazy and I wasn't good at certain things. And, you know, that might partially be true. I am motivated at making things easier for myself and for the people who I spend time with and the systems that I was confronted with as a young lawyer and in mid-career just did not fit those categories. They were hard, they were rigid. They were not live to the humanity. They denied the fact that life is messy, that there are complexities that arise, and they denied that we're all very, very different, even though we're all lawyers. So to to work on that in a way that that had an impact on on people who I work with immediately and in the larger profession is an unbelievable honor and to have it themed change making is beyond anything I could have ever hoped for. 

Stephanie: [00:08:28] And what is your future hold for you? Tell me about your vision moving forward. 

Quinn: [00:08:33] The future. The future is an amazing thing because we get to write it and again and then perhaps this is an oversimplification, but I think that there's so much low hanging fruit in the legal profession. We have resisted change for a couple of centuries. One of the things that I say and people who've heard it before were roll their eyes. If you were to go to a graveyard and dig up a lawyer who died 200 years ago and walk them into an office. Aside from the fact that there are female lawyers and computers, they'd feel pretty comfortable in most situations. I don't think that that's a hallmark of success for any profession, especially one as important to the living fabric of the social contract as the legal profession. So I think the future provides us all kinds of opportunity to acknowledge our role, to understand how the world has changed and to change along with it. I think we have a duty to get out behind from behind the mahogany lined offices and the and the vaulted ceilings and and large towers and make ourselves accessible to those people who need to to avail themselves of our service at its highest level. And for those people who simply need to consume our service at an enterprise level. And there's there's a lot we can do, and it isn't overly complex. So I think the future is bright for change in the legal profession. I think that there is an opportunity for us to get far closer to those we serve and to demystify it. Just like priests 400 years ago acknowledged that maybe Latin and the Bible wasn't the best way to make the Scriptures accessible to human beings. Not that I'm comparing us to religious scholars, but there is a disconnect created by the profession itself, and I think it's a somewhat self-serving disconnect, but it doesn't necessarily serve the people who are there to assist. And so breaking down those barriers, making connections again, humanizing the profession with not only those we work with, but those we work for. There's lots we can do. 

Stephanie: [00:10:43] Absolutely. And what about the vision for your firm specifically? Is there anything you wish to add about where the Ross firm is going? 

Quinn: [00:10:51] Yeah, I think I think we'll continue on the path. One thing that we're really focusing on right now is, is demystifying the file. So for the longest time, lawyers have believed that somehow each file was almost like a unicorn. It was so unique and mythical in its nature that it was impossible to quantify from a financial perspective, from a temporal perspective, from a resourcing perspective. And pretty much every other professional services organization throughout the industry outside of the legal space has acknowledged that no matter how complex something is, if you do it 1000 times, you should probably be able to understand it pretty well. So the work we're doing in our firm is really breaking down our processes within matters, within client files and understanding by using data acquired over dozens of years how each of these things generally shake out so that we can provide those people who are relying on us with a little bit more certainty, certainty of time, certainty of economy, certainty of outcome. And so, yeah, that's probably the near term work project management, resource allocation, transparency, something that's that's significantly lacking in our space. 

Stephanie: [00:12:03] Thanks so much, Quinn. It's been great hearing about the reasons behind the win and your plans for the future. Thanks for the insight. 

Quinn: [00:12:11] And thank you. It was a really interesting conversation. 

Stephanie: [00:12:13] I'm Stephanie Matteis and thank you for watching Canadian Lawyer TV.