Brown and Sterling staff members, pictured from left are: front - Tina Laguna, Tim Wagar, Larry Brown, Ruth Rogers, Dave Rinn and Jaime Cole; back - Lynn Busser, Sarah Evans, Trishia Porter, Chanda Nowbilski and Jessica Pereira. (Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo)

Little law firm earns big honors: Brown & Sterling named one of Washington’s Best Workplaces

  • Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:08pm
  • Business

One of Washington’s best workplaces, according to a list put out this summer by the Puget Sound Business Journal, is the small law firm of Brown and Sterling in Fall City. It’s an office with 11 staffers, total, including the founder Larry Brown, and it shares the honor with such big names as BECU, Evergreen Home Loans and the Zillow Group.

“I think we’re the only Valley business to receive the honor,” said Jaime Cole, an attorney with the firm for three years. “It’s something I’m pretty proud of, because it’s all based upon an independent survey of employees.”

After the firm was nominated, Cole explained, all of the employees were asked to take an anonymous survey about their work. The results of the survey, in addition to leading to the Washington’s Best Workplace honor, gave Cole, the project coordinator, a really strong sense of how the staff viewed the firm.

“One of the survey questions was ‘what word best describes your work environment?’” she said. “For us the word that was used most was ‘caring.’”

That means treating everyone, with all their different backgrounds, as individuals, Cole said.

“We’re always looking to improve not just the business, but how we interact with each other.”

It also means working with their strengths, as identified in a team-building exercise the staff did earlier this year.

“It was eye opening,” she recalled, particularly when a facilitator worked with the team to identify how each strength and personality could work with the others. “We’re always trying to do things that help us to work better as a team.”

Their location, in Fall City for the past 17 years, is somewhat remote, but also an asset for the company’s staff.

“A lot of us live out here — most of us — and one of the big pieces (of job satisfaction) is being able to live and work in the Valley,” she explained. “How do people enjoy coming to work every day?” is one of the survey questions.

The Journal also considered more objective measures of job satisfaction, too, including employee benefits

“We pay for health care premiums, and offer tuition reimbursement for employees… A lot of times smaller employers don’t provide those things,” she said.

As a small business doing business in the Valley, the company — which does have large Seattle-based firms as clients, too — is attuned to many of the same struggles as other businesses in the Valley. It’s one of the reasons Cole has enjoyed the community involvement portion of her work so much. She currently serves as vice chairperson of the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce Board, and calls the chamber “a valuable resource” for local businesses.

“It’s nice to be able to play that role in the community,” she added.

Learn more about Brown and Sterling at: https://brownsterling.com.

For the full list of Washington’s Best Workplaces, visit https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/feature/washingtons-best-workplaces-awards-employee-survey.html.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
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