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February 2, 2018

Are We a Law Firm or Just Some Attorneys Practicing Under One Roof? Finding Shared Purpose.

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Law firms are born out of sharing: sharing profits, risk, knowledge, expertise, and resources, all with the desire to achieve stability and, where sought, scalability. But one thing law firms tend to be short on sharing is a purpose. Too often, firms are not much more than a group of attorneys sharing office space, as opposed to an entity defined and designed to achieve planned outcomes and growth.

Law firms are born out of sharing: sharing profits, risk, knowledge, expertise, and resources, all with the desire to achieve stability and, where sought, scalability. But one thing law firms tend to be short on sharing is a purpose. Too often, firms are not much more than a group of attorneys sharing office space, as opposed to an entity defined and designed to achieve planned outcomes and growth.

Why is that important? It’s not if you want to maintain the status quo – and nothing is wrong with that if it’s working. But it is important if you want to improve your efforts to drive the firm’s strategy, direction and value in a focused, efficient and cohesive fashion. Having a shared purpose …

  1. Builds trust. Let’s face it: building trust is a (if not the) key component to building a successful practice. By having a shared purpose, you are letting clients and potential clients know who you are, what’s important to you and why you are here. Establishing that sort of identity facilitates trust, especially with those who relate to your shared purpose and, presumably, those are the types of clients with whom you want to work.
  2. Informs the values and mission of the firm. In establishing a shared purpose, you are, in essence, determining who the firm is and what it stands for. Through doing so, you will be more able to identify values and a mission that are authentic to and resonate with the firm and all of its members.
  3. Drives firm strategy and business development. A shared purpose serves as the guide to business strategy and business development. When you have a purpose, you know who you are and where you want to go. You just have to figure out how to get there. This enables you to more effectively develop business strategies and formulate the market positioning of the firm, which will result in focused and integrated marketing plans.
  4. Galvanizes employees and attracts talent. By giving attorneys and staff a common theme to believe in and rally around, not only is morale boosted, but goals and objectives become clear at all levels of the organization. In addition, this idea of a shared purpose has become something younger talent, particularly millennials, seeks from an employer.
  5. Aligns external communications with internal values and perspectives. With a shared purpose, your communications to the outside world, whether through your website, in-person meetings, employee communications, written correspondence, social media or other platforms, will be an authentic representation of who you are and will result in consistent and comprehensive messaging that will strengthen all business development efforts.
  6. Improves outcomes. Through having a shared purpose, all members know what they are working toward accomplishing. With this commonality come increased operational efficiencies, improved client interactions and more meaningful and integrated collaboration, resulting in better client experiences and results.

Having a shared purpose has been shown to drive results. In their Culture of Purpose study, consulting firm Deloitte determined that businesses with a strong sense of purpose had longer lasting relationships with clients and believed they would outperform their competition. In addition, a Harvard Business Review survey, The Business Case for Purpose, showed that purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees and loyal clients, and are better at innovation and transformational change, resulting in a distinct competitive advantage.

A law firm really can be greater than the sum of its parts. Yet, how do you have time to do the due diligence required for such an exploration? Simply put, you probably don’t. Not only that, you are probably too pickled in the day-to-day firm activities and operations to come up with the deep insights that this exercise requires. That old adage, “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” rings true here too. While I know I can’t be totally objective here, this is a time when you should seek out the assistance of a professional branding agency. A branding agency will not only help you find your shared purpose but will transform and extrapolate it into a branding and messaging hierarchy that clearly and succinctly identifies who you are and where you want to go in a way that distinguishes you from your competitors.

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