Why do law firms have value statements emblazoned on their websites?
To tick the box?
To run with the pack?
To differentiate their service offering?
To inspire their employees?
To WOW their clients? or
To lend a degree of authenticity to the client experience?
It may be conjecture, but I would wager that the ‘invention’ of value statements is a modern phenomenon and has probably been driven by the me too approach of larger law practices mirroring their corporate client cohort: “If a Plc client has a value statement then we should have one.”
Historically, I doubt if there was any need to have a value statement. For heaven’s sake we are talking about one of the most esteemed professions in the world. If a client went to see a solicitor they wouldn’t expect to read about what they stood for.
You buy Heinz Ketchup because it is Heinz Ketchup. You wouldn’t expect to see a whole heap of value statements about Heinz to convince you to buy. The brand speaks for itself. But, no doubt, because of the explosion of law firms, it is no longer enough for the profession label to market a practice. If anything, and as counter-intuitive as it may seem, it is a handicap.
If firms are going to use such words as “excellence” and “innovation” then they are setting the bar incredibly high – perhaps too high.
If they were truly innovative the profession would not look like a homogeneous lump. You would be able to single out firms who had rocked the house or designed a method of service delivery that was radically thrilling.
As to excellence, if that were to mean something (and not just feel like limp lettuce!) then firms would need to back up the rhetoric with some hard deliverables and be prepared to admit when they were average, mediocre or poor and not stand behind their prolix retainer letters.
And more than that, if a firm was truly excellent then they would put their money where their mouth was and not argue the toss if a client took issue with a contravention of this or any other value statement.
If firms want to really get to the core of this then far better that they involve all the staff who not just buy into the vision but are proud to be associated with a firm whose values are meaningful and which they have had a hand in crafting. They should practically fall in love with them.
Of course no Senior or Managing Partner is going to fully buy into the values thing unless: a) they can see the ROI and b) they fundamentally believe them, and can walk the talk. A classic mantra is respect for our people, but the truth of the matter is not everyone is created equal and sometimes a tough call needs to be made around a rain-maker who doesn’t fit the firm ethos and values. But are they asked to leave. No. The billing takes priority and the character issue takes a back seat. This simply doesn’t cut the mustard. The values have to be deeply inculcated and those in control need to apply a uniform approach across the firm so that each person is treated the same.
Message #1 is make sure that if you are going to create a set of values that they are believable. In the not too distant future, it will be the values that will drive service delivery and will be an important part of how clients make their decision on buying legal services providing of course that firms deliver every single day on them.
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