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These attorneys scaled their law firm to 60 employees by building a culture of collaboration—and learning

By Verne Harnish

Oliva Gibbs is a national law firm that serves companies active in the oil, gas, and mineral sectors. When the partners decided to grow the firm, one of the tools that they researched and ultimately decided to adopt was the Scaling Up platform. They were looking for a methodology that would align the entire team with the organization’s goals and have a big impact on the culture.  “It was very important for us to find a process that would engage everyone in the organization because everyone matters,” says Zachary Oliva, who co-founded the firm in 2013.  

In 2021, he and partner Bradley Gibbs connected with Scaling Up Certified Coach Rob Lynch. Lynch suggested they speak with some of his other clients using the platform before retaining him to get a solid understanding of what success with Scaling Up really entailed. “The common advice I heard was that ‘Scaling Up is great if you’re willing to really commit to it,” says Gibbs.

Oliva Gibbs decided to go all in on Scaling Up, recognizing that they would get out what they put in. 

“Leading with our core values and focusing on communication made these big changes easy for our firm to handle,” says Gibbs. The firm had already built a solid foundation, with attorneys working on projects across 13 different states and a strong reputation in the oil and gas industry.

Today, the law firm has 60 employees, including lawyers and business support team members across offices in Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. The firm’s attorneys are licensed in most oil-producing states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. It has doubled its revenue for the past two years. 

Here is how Oliva Gibbs scaled up.

Putting systems in place to attract and keep great people 

Scaling Up maintains that there are 4 Decisions (4Ds) every organization must get right to scale up successfully: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. Before Oliva Gibbs began implementing the platform, the partners worked with Lynch to determine which area to focus on.

They decided to start with People. “It was really important to us to build a culture that attracted the type of people that we thought necessary to achieve our goals,” says Gibbs. The partners used the Scaling Up process to make sure they had cast team members in the right roles and implemented processes to regularly evaluate performance and increase retention. “Our people are our greatest asset, and we work hard to get that part of the business right,” says Gibbs.

Gradually, the firm built up a strong and diverse team of energy attorneys, including former landmen, lawyers with previous in-house experience, and additional team members certified in oil, gas and mineral law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Prioritizing culture

For the partners of Oliva Gibbs, building a strong culture has been a foundation for growth.  The firm measures performance throughout the year and uses its Core Values and Core Purpose as metrics to keep the team aligned and help in the decision-making process.  “One of our Core Values is a culture of collaboration, and it’s humbling the extent to which our team lives that Core Value every day,” says Oliva.

The values and purpose at the heart of the firm also guide the hiring process. “We want people who aspire to achieve great things and who want to be the best at what they do,” says Gibbs.  

Freeing time for Strategy

To set a strategy for the firm, the team defined a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of becoming one of the top energy firms in the country.  “We really want to be the #1 or #2 choice for everything energy-related in every state where we have an office,” says Oliva. 

As part of their focus on growing the firm, they have also launched OG University. OG University is directly aligned with the firm’s Core Value of passion for learning, and is designed to ensure that each member of the team reaches or exceeds their professional goals. Another Scaling Up Certified Coach, Pamela Carrington, helped to build out the university curriculum.  

One key function of OG University, is to lay out a clear career path for new attorneys. “On day one, we want each new lawyer to know exactly what it takes to become a senior attorney or partner at the firm,” said Gibbs. “In many law firms, being invited into the partnership is ambiguous and we wanted to make the process transparent.”

Working “on” the business

Spending more time working on the business than in it can be a particularly challenging adjustment for law firm partners. Lynch recommended that instead of spending 99% of their time working in the business and 1% working on it, that they spend 80% working in the business and 20% on it. 

“To scale your law firm, you have to have time to think. You have to make time to plan, and you need time to look at how you are going to do things differently,” says Lynch. 

With the right systems and strategies in place, the firm has found it easier than ever to build its team.. “Oliva Gibbs tends to attract people who have a passion for learning and want to deliver an unparalleled client experience. Scaling Up provides us with the tools to work and communicate better as a team, and we are very excited about the future of this firm,” says Oliva.   

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.