“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton (and countless others) had a point that rings true in all aspects of life, including business. If you don’t choose something to stand for in your law firm, you’ll go anywhere the wind blows.
Maybe you’re trying to attract the right clients, only to have to continuously turn away those that don’t fit. Or, maybe you’re trying to grow your team, but you can’t seem to find employees who share your same passion and ideas. We can almost guarantee this is because you haven’t solidified your vision, mission, or values.
Most small law firms lack written, clear, and useful missions, visions, and core values. Those that do have them often use them as additions to their business plan or throw them on a website page because they think they need one. If either of these sound familiar, you’re missing out on active tools for managing and growing your firm like law firm mission statements.
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What Are Law Firm Mission Statements?
Law firm mission statements simply answer the question, “Why does the law firm exist?” It’s your purpose in the present tense. It shouldn’t be clever or catchy, but instead accurately and concisely explain what you do and who you serve. Law firm mission statements:
· Guide your law firm forward. Goals are critical for growth. With a mission in place, it’s easy to create goals that align with it, pushing your firm forward.
· Help you develop strong strategies. Understanding what you do and who you serve helps you and your team create sound business and marketing strategies.
· Shape your firm’s culture. Clarifying your mission helps you attract the right employees to your team, shaping your firm’s culture. Plus, a mission gives your team something to aspire to, which is known to improve job satisfaction. Without law firm mission statements, your team doesn’t know what you stand for and might act counter to what you desire.
· Help you attract the right clients. Communicating your mission statement helps you attract the clients who will benefit the most from your services.
What Is a Law Firm Vision Statement?
In contrast to law firm mission statements, vision statements focus on a firm’s future. Instead of answering, “Why does my law firm exist?” your vision statement answers, “Where is my law firm going?” It’s your long-term firm goal. Vision statements:
· Act as your firm’s roadmap. Just as goals are important for your mission, they’re also important for your vision. Understanding where you want to go in the future will help you map out a plan for today, tomorrow, and 20 years from now.
· Guide your decision-making. With a clear vision, it’s easy to make business decisions based on what takes you closer to your end goal—instead of what pulls you away.
· Motivate your team. A vision helps your team understand what they’re helping to build. After all, you need your team’s help to make your vision a reality. When employees feel as if they’re a part of something bigger, they’re motivated to keep moving forward.
· Keep your firm’s fire lit. Running a business comes with many ups and downs. As you grow, there may be moments where your vision is the only thing you have to keep your fire burning.
Understanding Your Law Firm’s Core Values
Your law firm’s core values are the traits, qualities, and beliefs that help you live up to your firm’s mission and reach your future vision. Once clarified, your values should guide your law firm as it is now into the version of your ideal firm. Values lead your and your team’s actions and help you communicate how to best serve your clients.
The values you choose must point back to your business in a concrete way. They must have actual meaning, avoiding “table stakes values” or obvious values like work ethic and integrity. These values have nothing to do with your unique business and individual values.
Creating Effective Law Firm Vision and Mission Statements
Before you try to create a new mission and vision statement, you must have a foundation: core values. Define these first to effectively create a clear mission that helps you reach your vision. Choose no more than six or seven core values to keep things simple.
When you’re defining your firm’s core values, answer these questions:
· What do I want my law firm to stand for?
· What do I consider to be most important in my business?
· What do I believe in?
Your answers to these questions will give you a pretty good idea of where to start. Next, follow these simple steps:
1. Brainstorm. If you’re a solo attorney, do this step alone. If you have a team, involve two or three others you trust to help you. Start by writing down the values you want your firm to be known for. This list may be long, but that’s okay. Try to be as specific as possible, considering what you do, who you do it for and what matters most to them.
2. Narrow down your list. Take some time to narrow your list down to the values you feel are most important. If your list includes phrases, simplify them to one or two words.
Once you choose your values, put them front and center in your firm. Print them out and tape them to your wall. Write them on sticky notes all over your desk. Do what you have to do to familiarize yourself, and your team, with what matters most.
How to Create a Mission Statement
With your values in hand, it’s time to write your mission statement. Remember, your mission statement should be simple and inspiring, and it must align with your firm’s values.
1. Define what you do. What is your firm’s main purpose? What legal services do you deliver? For example, are you a personal injury attorney who delivers legal representation and guidance? Be as specific as possible.
2. Define how you do it. Next, define how you make it all happen. This is where your core values come into play. A personal injury attorney may deliver legal representation and guidance by always having a client’s best interests in mind. Or, they might do so with excellent client service and experience.
3. Define why you do it. Finally, define why you do what you do. What drives you forward? Why do you come to the office every day? In our personal injury example, our attorney might deliver legal services to ensure clients can heal and move forward in life.
Now, put it all together, and you’ll have a first draft mission statement to tweak and edit into something you love. If you can, try to craft your own law firm mission statements independent of getting inspiration from another firm.
We’re personal injury attorneys dedicated to keeping our client’s best interests in mind. We deliver experienced legal representation to accident victims so they can heal and move on.
How to Create a Vision Statement
If you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back. This process isn’t easy—but it is well worth the time you invest in it.
Now it’s time to tackle your vision statement. This one is often the most challenging of all.
A good vision statement is:
Your vision statement should also be short: two sentences at the max. Avoid generic statements; this needs to be specific to your firm. Start by simply envisioning your firm’s future by defining your big-picture goal. This isn’t something you want to accomplish in the next year or two. Thing bigger, much bigger.
Where will your firm take you in 20 or 30 years? What ideal future do you want to create for your firm and your clients?
Dedicate focused time to write down everything you want your firm to accomplish, paying close attention to those potentially terrifying future aspirations. Once you feel satisfied, narrow your list to one overarching goal that encompasses all of your aspirations.
Here are a few vision statement examples from some brands you may recognize:
· “To remain the most authentic, connected, and distinctive brand.” —Nike
· “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” —IKEA
· “To craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body and spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.” —Coca-Cola
How to Use Your Mission and Vision in Your Strategy
Everything—and we mean everything—you do in your firm comes back to your mission, vision, and values. Before you make a decision or build a new strategy, you must align it to your “why.”
· Before you move into a new practice area, does it fulfill your company’s mission?
· Before you respond to an angry client, does your response fit your core values?
· Before you choose to hire that new employee, is that person passionate about helping you fulfill your firm’s vision?
View everything through the lens of your mission, vision, and values to build a strategy that pushes your firm towards success.
From Lawyerist Labster Ben, considering law firm mission statements helped him with clarity across the board. “I made the hard choice to say goodbye to a team member who was not aligned with our values and to use our values in my hiring process which led to an amazing hire,” he said.
Fellow Labster Nicol echoed the importance of defining vision for a small law firm. She said, “Along with my new partner, we’ve added contractors and interns, and we want everyone to be on the same page. It was enlightening to work on vision planning with the team and see what feedback I received. Working with everyone on our values and our future was a big step.”
How to Communicate Your Mission and Vision With Your Team
We know it can be scary to bring up the idea of mission, vision, and values to your team. You may even fear they’ll simply roll their eyes and turn back to their work. Here’s the deal, though: you set the tone for the rest of your firm. If you place an emphasis on these aspects of your business, they’ll follow suit.
If you have a team, involve them in the process of defining your mission, vision, and values. You may be surprised at the ideas they come up with. Plus, they’ll feel more connected to your business by being a critical part of creating its foundation. Working together to create law firm mission statements makes them feel a part of where the firm is at now and where it’s headed in the future.
Make sure your mission, vision, and values are front and center within your firm. For example, post them in your office or start each quarterly meeting by discussing them. Each time a new employee joins your team, give them a copy of your mission and vision statements and core values. Use your values as the foundation of your employee reviews. When evaluating new business opportunities, ask first whether they fit your mission and vision. The more you incorporate your mission, vision, and values into your everyday, the more they will come shining in everything you do.
Build Your Firm’s Foundation Today for Success Tomorrow
Whether you’re a solo attorney or a small firm owner, taking the time to define your mission, vision, and values can seem overwhelming. It’s easy to give excuses as to why these things go on the back burner. But, without them, you’ll continue building a firm that may not fit your personal values and goals. As a result, you may find yourself stuck with a business you dread going to each day.
Start building your firm’s foundation today so you can reach success tomorrow. Take baby steps. Remember, it’s not about how fast you go, it’s about taking one step forward at a time.
Learn More About Building a Successful Law Firm. Download Chapter One of The Small Firm Roadmap Today.
Your mission, vision, and core values are just the beginning of setting your firm up for success. Our bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap will help you discover your next steps. Download the first chapter for free today.