Identify, articulate and differentiate purpose
A tool for decision making, client attraction and employee retention.
Our Co-Founder and CEO Adrian Peyer reflecting on “Sustainability Through Purpose”
This blog post is an abridged and edited version of the podcast interview with the same title, which can be found here.
One approach we usually take to identify and articulate the purpose of a law firm – we talk to employees on all levels. If you talk to 10 people and ask them about the purpose of the law firm they’re working for, you'll find that they usually have answers that go into the similar direction, but describe it differently. That can be partners, who have been with the firm for 20 years. Or you ask young associates why they joined and what they think is the purpose of the firm. You'll usually find that there is a culture in the firm, even if it's not written down or clearly articulated.
We play those answers back and work with the law firm to come up with a wording that captures what everyone wanted to say. The key is to keep it short and make it easy for individuals to align their own individual purpose with the overall message of the firm. This is hard, especially for lawyers who tend to want to caveat everything and explain it in great detail.
It's important to differentiate yourself from other law firms, and excellent client service is no longer enough to do that. Instead, focus on what makes your firm unique, and try to capture that in a simple message so that it almost gets to a mantra at the end of the day and people understand why you’re actually here.
It can be particularly challenging to create a message within law firms, because they are often partner-led and everyone has a say. However, it's important to come to a consensus and support the final decision in order to create a message that everyone supports. This can be difficult, especially because lawyers are often skilled at wordsmithing. In this case, it may be helpful to let the message sit for a week or two and ask people whether it resonates with them. This can help you tweak it, if necessary, but at the end of the day, it's not about wordsmithing every detail like a lawyer would do.
Once you have a defined purpose, you can use it as a guiding principle or "true north" to help you make decisions. For example, if your purpose is to create a better present and future, you can use that to guide your decision-making. So, if your law firm had to make a decision about how to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, you could use your purpose as a way to frame the discussion. Instead of asking whether you will lose business, you could ask whether your actions are aligned with your purpose of creating a better present and future.
Once you have a clear, defined purpose, it's important to focus on communication to your employees and clients. This will help them understand the guiding principles of your firm and what you are working towards. By making your purpose clear, you can provide direction and clarity for everyone in the firm, and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
Stay tuned: In our next blog, we will have a closer look at the timing: “Why now? Opportunities from client the and employee perspective.”