To what degree do you and your partners share aspirations? The answer may, more than anything else, be an indicator of your future.

Few would deny that the legal market is increasingly complex and competitive. Many suggest the model for success is changing.

But whether you are one of two or three partners launching a boutique, one of a thousand or more in a Big Law venue, or anywhere in between, there is perhaps no greater predictor of stability and sustained success than the degree to which the partners in the venture share aspirations.

Aspirations can cover an array of topics; but these are the very few things that are of utmost importance — to an individual, and to a partnership. A breakdown of categories might include:

  • Profitability
  • Social contribution
  • Reputation
  • Type of work
  • Types of clients
  • Work / Life balance
  • Culture
  • Values
  • Legacy

In an ideal world I guess all lawyers would aspire to:

  • make a lot of money
  • have a positive social impact
  • have a great reputation
  • enjoy the benefits of perfect work / life balance
  • go to work each day in an environment that most would call pleasant
  • and leave a mark on the next generation

You might reorder, add to or eliminate items on the list; but the issue is that one must make choices as to what is most important.

The more diverse the list of things of utmost importance, the more the fabric of the partnership is at risk.

The real-world difficulty is that commitments in any one area are likely to run counter to the priorities and values represented by another. Investments in one priority will, by necessity, deprive other areas of resources.

There is immeasurable leverage and minimal conflict when everyone on a team is seeking to build and accomplish the same thing. This is a basic truth of organizations — whether you are talking about the 2015, World Cup winning, USA Women’s team . . . or your law firm.

Certainly there are policies, procedures and tactics that play an important role in efficient and successful operations. And it is a given that you must assemble a team capable of delivering excellent work.

But when it comes to long term stability and success, the most important question may be — to what degree do you and your partners share a common set of basic aspirations?