My old law firm held a retreat one year. The theme was “one-firm.” We even had tee shirts with the slogan on the back and firm name on the front. There was only one slight problem-The tee shirts told a lie. Our firm was a bunch of very talented lawyers operating independently from one another.

I was always fond of saying just suppose as a way of prompting thought of what we could become as attorneys, individuals and in terms of firm development. Here is the just suppose I thought we could become in my old law firm that would make it more like the slogan on the tee shirts.

Just suppose, your law firm’s purpose was: 

To enable our clients to achieve their business objectives and to provide maximum opportunities for our lawyers and staff to achieve their career dreams and goals.

Just suppose your standards (core values) included:

  • Our firm put clients and the firm ahead of our own personal interests.
  • Each lawyer is expected to invest a minimum of 2500 hours in billable and non-billable (investment) activities unless he or she is a part of the firm’s flex-time policy.
  • We will recruit lawyers and staff who have a burning desire to be the best they can be and we will invest in, energize and inspire them and provide them with the tools to be successful.
  • We will seek clients who have interesting work, significant needs for outside legal services and who can afford to pay for the services of our firm.
  • We will provide extraordinary service to our clients, working together as a team and supporting each other whenever possible.
  • We will seek to be the most innovative law firm to more effectively serve our clients.
  • Finally, if we are able to accomplish the above, in doing so we will build economic stability and profitability.

Just suppose your firm made decisions and judged conduct and performance on the basis of the purpose and standards/core values. In other words, just suppose these were not just hollow words and your lawyers and staff walked the walk each and every day and when it came time to make decisions on compensation, bonuses, and promotion.

I believe the key to success in any organization is to have a clearly stated purpose and set of core values and expectations that then become the basis for decisions and actions.

I read some time ago:

When clarity exists, everyone knows the guiding principles and the core competencies that most directly contribute to organizational and individual vitality and success.

You could build a strong firm around the concepts, have a heck of a lot of fun working together and build a sense of community that I feel is lacking in many firms now.

I believe to be successful, you must be willing to look inward and figure out what is important to you. So, at the risk of being too touchy-feely, I want to share some thoughts on that.

Six years ago, March 3, 2006 (it seems like yesterday) I spoke to the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) as part of a program titled: Crossroads: Mapping Out the Rest of Your Career. My presentation was titled: Strategy for Your Career and Life. I also wrote an article Strategy for Career and Life that was published in the Texas State Bar magazine.

You can actually watch the presentation in several video clips I have posted to YouTube.

Your vision is what you want to accomplish in your career and life. Your purpose is why you want to accomplish it. Your core values are how you want to live. Mapping out the rest of your career requires you to know:

  • Where you are now
  • Where you want to go
  • What route (based on your values) will be the best one to get you there

What does discovering your values have to do with becoming a successful lawyer? Simply stated, you can be outwardly successful without focusing on your values, but you cannot be inwardly fulfilled. The key is to dig deep and discover what matters most to you. Doing so will enable you to make the commitment and maintain the discipline you need to achieve your life and career purposes.

How can you discover your values? Think about what you want others to say about you, including your family, best clients, colleagues, support staff, and adversaries. How do you want to be remembered? What qualities do you admire in others that you want to cultivate in yourself? What brings meaning to your life? If someone were to take something or someone away from you, what would you grieve for the most? Think about the times when you’re in the zone. What do you do for its own sake? Your answers will help you to determine what you value most in your life.

Sir Laurens van der Post, a naturalist and author, may have said it best:

There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness, but we use the term as if it were the ultimate in human striving. What gives far more comfort to the soul … is something greater than happiness or unhappiness and that is meaning. Meaning transfigures all.

P.S. You likely noticed there was a stage with a podium in the background. I was one of several speakers that day. Each of the other speakers stood behind the podium and put PowerPoint slides on a screen. I stood on the floor and presented with no slides or notes. That was actually a scary experience. In order to feel more secure, I gave my outline to a couple of participants and told them that if I missed something on it to raise their hand and ask a question.



Is your law firm all you want it to be? Have you thought about what you want your firm to be?

Alone Businessman.jpgWhen I practiced law I wanted my law firm to be like this:

  • Puts its clients first and focuses on providing extraordinary service to those clients. The firm has client and industry based teams.
  • Lawyers put the firm ahead of the individual lawyers. That means teamwork is rewarded more than individual successes. There are no “silos” in my dream firm.
  • Hires new lawyers based in part on their “emotional intelligence” and whether they fit the firm’s culture.
  • Consists of partners and associates who are never content with where they are in their career and are always striving to become better lawyers.
  • Partners and associates know what is expected of them.
  • Lives and rewards the culture described above and as a result partners, associates and staff are well compensated and excited to be a part of the firm.

As Dorothy said to Toto in The Wizard of Oz: “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I’ve got a feeling it would have been hard to find my dream firm. I hope I am wrong.

If this is your firm, I am sorry I never had the chance to work with you. What do you think it would be like practicing law in a firm like this one?