There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing. –James Kouzes and Barry Posner


If conditions were always ideal, if the road ahead was completely predictable, leading would be a piece of cake.

But we all know things are never perfect. Every organization needs that individual (or team) who has a crystal clear idea of what it will take to navigate the turns and detours, and engineer an ultimately successful journey.

This kind of leadership isn’t about politics. Or charisma. And the well-run law firm doesn’t leave it to chance. A few basic questions form cornerstones for critical decision making – by an individual leader, as well as a governing body.

Are the firm’s make-up, market position, operational capabilities and profitability consistent with what success will require? Or are changes necessary?  And if so, how will this be accomplished?

Answer these questions, and you have the guidelines for where the owners of a firm want it to go.

A well-articulated vision is the compass for growth, resource allocation and investments in the future.

Real law firm leaders take steps to insure all strategic initiatives align with the shared aspirations of the law firm’s owners. In so doing, the firm’s vision becomes clear.

Forming the Law Firm Vision

Establishing a law firm’s vision is largely a matter of discovering the collective ambitions of the firm’s owners. The effort is a discovery process, seeking the common threads of values and aspirations.

This discovery may be structured around a formal planning process, or be informally executed through semi-formal individual and group conversations. The law firm executive who has limited experience with this process is well served in seeking additional perspective and support for the effort.

Articulating the Vision

Once the vision discovery process is complete, the next step is to describe it in a way that drives consistent action.

The vision must be articulated in a way that it inspires practical application across the firm. A well-communicated vision will not only be understood; it is a definitive call-to-action. And, it will inspire all members to greater levels of participation and commitment.

Reinforcing the Vision

Once communicated, for a vision to be effective it must be reinforced. It should be the frequent topic of the leader’s narrative, and the fabric of all internal communication.

The vision should be the basis for decision-making, and at the heart of all visible and material actions the firm takes. Budgetary, hiring, expansion, investment and client decisions should be openly anchored in and aligned with the firm’s vision.

Frequent communication regarding success (and disappointments) in the firm’s pursuit of its vision is essential. Transparency will further strengthen the vision, and improve future decision-making.

Is your firm’s vision inspiring the decisions you make, and the directions you take?