My Shingle

Mission Possible

by Carolyn Elefant on February 8, 2006 · 8 comments

in Business Plans, Law Practice Management

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Allison Shields has a great article about the importance of mission statements in the February 2006 issue of GP Solo.  Allison explains why you should have a mission statement and sets out steps on how to write one.  She adds that everything you do in your practice must be based on and measured against the mission statement.

For me, the mission statement is not just a proclamation to the public of who you are.  More importantly, the mission statement is a beacon, the light that guides you through the dark spots, the dull work, the annoying clients, the nasty judges and other hazards of the practice of law that might make you want to hang up your shingle.  The day I opened my law firm, I was determined to provide high quality legal services at reasonable rates to give all clients, deep pocket or not, a competitive alternative and in so doing, improve the quality of the legal profession.  I know that if I leave the law or put myself out of business by handling too many pro bono matters that a real alternative to the $600/hour biglaw firms will disappear and the needs of some clients will go unmet.  May not be the flashiest mission but it’s worked for me for thirteen years.

Meanwhile readers, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to define your mission!

  • http://www.marcusletter.com Bruce W. Marcus

    Every firm should havve a clear view of where it’s going, and even a mission statement. The problem comes when they try to foist the statement on the public. Your mission statement is internal. To the client, it’s an irrelevant promise. Forgive me, but see the following article..
    SITTING HIGH ON THE HORSE
    A Sober View of the Mission Statement
    By Bruce W. Marcus
    Let’s cast a cool eye on the mission statement. That’s the one that tells the world what the firm’s role in life is.
    What’s wrong with that? Why not tell the business world, and particularly your clients and prospective clients, that you have a purpose beyond simply doing what they think they’re paying you to do?
    Nothing’s wrong with the mission statement, if it clarifies an aim and a purpose that’s rooted in reality. And certainly, mission statements used internally to let the firm’s people know what the firm stands for can be valuable.
    The problem is that most mission statements tend to be banners, flaunted to the outside world, painted in bright colors, designed to attract attention, but rooted in no known reality.
    Let’s go back to first principles. What a firm is really saying is, “These are our firm objectives. We state them so that you understand how our firm can serve your firm.”
    Essentially, this makes sense. Professional firms have nothing to sell but services, and nothing to project their abilities with but service concepts. If you can’t say, “We do better audits,” or “We do better briefs.” You somehow have to persuade clients and prospects that you’re more dedicated to serving their needs than are your competitors.
    One way to do this is to state your own firm objectives. “Our goal is to serve our clients in the best context and performance of our profession.”
    But somewhere along the line, this statement of objectives took a wrong turn. In the attempts we all seem to make at self-glorification, the objectives became a mission (who’s got the white horse and shield concession?), and the statement of objectives became a mission statement. And writing them in annual reports, press releases, brochures, and so forth gave a lot of people a warm glow.
    Sorry to cast a shadow on warm glows, but self serving is self serving, and that’s what mission statements tend to be. “Our mission is to ascend Mt. Everest.” Good. Don’t wake me when you leave in the morning, unless it’s to tell me what you’re going to do to solve my problems.
    Now if your mission is to solve my problems, that can be a different story. But not necessarily a better one. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t solve every problem. One of the things we really have learned in marketing professional services is that we sell better when we address specific problems, and then show how we can solve them. Unfortunately, mission statements tend to be too broad to cover that.
    The warm feeling engendered by the mission statement writer tends to stay with the author and the subject, and rarely transmits itself to the object — the client and prospective client.
    Bruce W. Marcus is a Connecticut-based consultant in marketing and strategic planning for professional firms, the editor of THE MARCUS LETTER ON PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING, (www.marcusletter.com) and the co-author of CLIENT AT THE CORE (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) . His Email address is marcus@marcusletter.com. This article is reprinkted from The Marcus Letter (www.marcusletter.com).

  • http://www.marcusletter.com Bruce W. Marcus

    Every firm should havve a clear view of where it’s going, and even a mission statement. The problem comes when they try to foist the statement on the public. Your mission statement is internal. To the client, it’s an irrelevant promise. Forgive me, but see the following article..
    SITTING HIGH ON THE HORSE
    A Sober View of the Mission Statement
    By Bruce W. Marcus
    Let’s cast a cool eye on the mission statement. That’s the one that tells the world what the firm’s role in life is.
    What’s wrong with that? Why not tell the business world, and particularly your clients and prospective clients, that you have a purpose beyond simply doing what they think they’re paying you to do?
    Nothing’s wrong with the mission statement, if it clarifies an aim and a purpose that’s rooted in reality. And certainly, mission statements used internally to let the firm’s people know what the firm stands for can be valuable.
    The problem is that most mission statements tend to be banners, flaunted to the outside world, painted in bright colors, designed to attract attention, but rooted in no known reality.
    Let’s go back to first principles. What a firm is really saying is, “These are our firm objectives. We state them so that you understand how our firm can serve your firm.”
    Essentially, this makes sense. Professional firms have nothing to sell but services, and nothing to project their abilities with but service concepts. If you can’t say, “We do better audits,” or “We do better briefs.” You somehow have to persuade clients and prospects that you’re more dedicated to serving their needs than are your competitors.
    One way to do this is to state your own firm objectives. “Our goal is to serve our clients in the best context and performance of our profession.”
    But somewhere along the line, this statement of objectives took a wrong turn. In the attempts we all seem to make at self-glorification, the objectives became a mission (who’s got the white horse and shield concession?), and the statement of objectives became a mission statement. And writing them in annual reports, press releases, brochures, and so forth gave a lot of people a warm glow.
    Sorry to cast a shadow on warm glows, but self serving is self serving, and that’s what mission statements tend to be. “Our mission is to ascend Mt. Everest.” Good. Don’t wake me when you leave in the morning, unless it’s to tell me what you’re going to do to solve my problems.
    Now if your mission is to solve my problems, that can be a different story. But not necessarily a better one. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t solve every problem. One of the things we really have learned in marketing professional services is that we sell better when we address specific problems, and then show how we can solve them. Unfortunately, mission statements tend to be too broad to cover that.
    The warm feeling engendered by the mission statement writer tends to stay with the author and the subject, and rarely transmits itself to the object — the client and prospective client.
    Bruce W. Marcus is a Connecticut-based consultant in marketing and strategic planning for professional firms, the editor of THE MARCUS LETTER ON PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MARKETING, (www.marcusletter.com) and the co-author of CLIENT AT THE CORE (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) . His Email address is marcus@marcusletter.com. This article is reprinkted from The Marcus Letter (www.marcusletter.com).

  • http://www.LegalEaseConsulting.com Allison Shields

    Carolyn-
    Thanks for the link to my blog. I love your take on the mission statement being the light that guides you through the dark spots.
    Despite the previous comment, I think mission statements, if crafted and implemented correctly, can and should inspire both the firm and its clients. As I indicated in my post, the mission statement needs to be specific and identify the problems the firm is solving for its clients.
    I agree that no one person (or one firm) can solve every problem, which is exactly why the firm must, for its own sake as well as its clients’ sake, get clear about who it is serving, why, and how.
    Allison

  • http://www.LegalEaseConsulting.com Allison Shields

    Carolyn-
    Thanks for the link to my blog. I love your take on the mission statement being the light that guides you through the dark spots.
    Despite the previous comment, I think mission statements, if crafted and implemented correctly, can and should inspire both the firm and its clients. As I indicated in my post, the mission statement needs to be specific and identify the problems the firm is solving for its clients.
    I agree that no one person (or one firm) can solve every problem, which is exactly why the firm must, for its own sake as well as its clients’ sake, get clear about who it is serving, why, and how.
    Allison

  • http://temp.starklawlibrary.org/blog/archive/2006_02.html#004967 Stark County Law Library Blog

    “Mission Possible”

    Posted by Carolyn Elefant: ?Allison Shields has a great article about the importance of mission statements in the February 2006

  • http://temp.starklawlibrary.org/blog/archive/2006_02.html#004967 Stark County Law Library Blog

    “Mission Possible”

    Posted by Carolyn Elefant: ?Allison Shields has a great article about the importance of mission statements in the February 2006

  • Benjamin kenyanya

    MISSION STATEMENTS ARE SIDE MIRRORS;
    A Mission statement can only aid a competent strategic manager to reach his destination safely. All the driving and contolling of the vehicle still lies with the driver. Therefore, whether sounding excellent or not, the mission statements are only a coo. Food has to be brought to the table for the stakeholders to acknowledge.
    At the annual reports the truth should be said.A PROMISE can be made to market the organization, but how much has been achieved and where the organization wants to be should be key reminders to the public of why this organization is in business.
    Delivery of value should be the target of the policy makers in any organization.This should be stipulated in the organization’s mission statement so as to win support from the public.Otherwise, you would have lost if you consider it woodwinking.

  • Benjamin kenyanya

    MISSION STATEMENTS ARE SIDE MIRRORS;
    A Mission statement can only aid a competent strategic manager to reach his destination safely. All the driving and contolling of the vehicle still lies with the driver. Therefore, whether sounding excellent or not, the mission statements are only a coo. Food has to be brought to the table for the stakeholders to acknowledge.
    At the annual reports the truth should be said.A PROMISE can be made to market the organization, but how much has been achieved and where the organization wants to be should be key reminders to the public of why this organization is in business.
    Delivery of value should be the target of the policy makers in any organization.This should be stipulated in the organization’s mission statement so as to win support from the public.Otherwise, you would have lost if you consider it woodwinking.

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