Cranfill Sumner LLP: ‘Workspaces Change, Our Culture Stays the Same’

Cranfill Sumner
2024 Feature Nominations

When Senior Legal Administrative Assistant Charlotte Neville started with the firm that would later become Cranfill Sumner LLP in 1989, lawyers did dictation on cassette tapes. “I started as a word processor. Attorneys would come down to my office to give me their tapes to be typed. Then I’d have to bring the dictation back to their office to review. The attorney would then edit the documents with the dreaded red pencil and bring it back for edits,” recalled Neville.

Today, Neville, Senior Pa­ra­legal Saundra Stancil, Senior Paralegal Pam Yoder and attorney Jennifer Morris Jones work together as a team remotely and paperless, which, of course, was essential during the pandemic.

“Our workspaces change, but our level of service has remained,” said Jones. “Throughout Cranfill’s history, we have changed and evolved, but we’re still committed to our core values of teamwork, client service and reputation. We don’t just externally communicate our values; they’re built into our culture and our people actively live them out every day.”

Changed and Adapted

The firm celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022. It has grown from a small firm with one office in the building that is now home to Campbell Law School to more than 75 attorneys across offices in Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington. It handles a bevy of services from admiralty and maritime law to white collar, government investigations and special matters.

“We, as a firm, have changed and adapted how and where we work, whether that be in the office or from home, but our people continue to excel in client service, no matter the current workspace landscape,” said Jones. The firm’s Raleigh office on Wade Park Blvd. was renovated to include smaller offices to reflect the evolution and emphasis of the firm’s culture of teamwork, not the stereotypical hierarchy reflected in office size that is expected at a law firm. Its Wilmington office has also moved into a new office that was specifically designed for the firm’s needs.

“Our breakroom is an example of how things have changed – it was once a small room with a coffee pot to now an open, inviting space where everyone can relax and bond, even if for only a few minutes,” said Stancil. “It’s a place for celebrations and regular meals hosted by the firm, which definitely creates a strong culture of inclusion and togetherness. It reflects one of the main goals of leadership here – everyone is equal and respected, no matter if you’re an attorney or a support professional.”

As Yoder shared, “Since becoming a part of the Cranfill Sumner Team, I have learned first-hand that the professionalism is genuine, and the kindness of everyone here makes it such a great place to be. I am also happy to be part of a firm that not only has core values but strives to maintain those core values.”

“We invest in our people, staff and attorneys, because they are what makes this firm so great. We offer flexibility and support through programs such as our women’s initiative, our firm mentor and career development programs, and our diversity, inclusion and belongingness committee,” said Jones.

Changes in Tech

“Things have changed with technology, and the firm has adapted to the ever-changing legal world and our clients’ needs,” said Jones. “At the beginning of my practice, if you were not in office and you weren’t checking emails, you weren’t accessible. You were completely disconnected from the workplace. Now the thought of going more than a few minutes without checking emails is mind blowing.”

Neville, Stancil and Yoder agreed, saying innovation and efficiency are encouraged within teams.

“The door is always open for our team to suggest ways we can be more efficient. If it helps attorneys do their jobs, it’ll help us do our jobs and, as a team, we can better serve our clients,” said Stancil.

“The open-door policy also extends beyond efficiencies within individual teams,” said Jones. “We have a culture where anyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and help brainstorm ideas and strategies that take care of service for our client. The firm is absolutely receptive to building leaders and the best practitioners possible.”

Bob Friedman

Robert "Bob" Friedman is the publisher of Attorney at Law Magazine North Carolina Triangle. He contributes articles and interviews to each issue.

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