I spoke at a law firm away day this week, where they shared their mission, vision and values with every member of staff. The contrast between what they were doing and what most law firms do was striking.

What are the most popular law firm values? You’d be surprised. Actually, you wouldn’t be. Having analysed the values of the top 100 UK law firms, the most common values are, in descending order:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Integrity
  3. Respect
  4. Excellence
  5. Commitment
  6. Quality

Those that know me know that my proposition to law firms is that 90% of what they do is the same as their peers - 10% (at most) is distinctive.

With values like those above, firms simply highlight their 90%. They’re telling the world that they’re exactly the same as everyone else. Why would you want to do that?

So you employ people who have integrity, are committed, deliver quality and are respectful. So what? You should. So does everyone else (or at least they say they do).

Contrast this with the law firm who’s away day I attended. They have four values:

  1. Be responsible
  2. Shape the future
  3. Stay passionate
  4. Grow together

Each of these is supported by three or four statements that explain the sorts of behaviours and actions that demonstrate the value.

More than this, every person in the organisation had contributed to the values, based on their experience of what they see and feel working within the business.

So when they were discussed at the away day, the values felt authentic and real and there was automatic buy-in to what the firm wanted to achieve.

Imagine you’re a potential client. Would you rather work with someone who talks about teamwork, integrity and respect, or someone who talks about shaping the future and growing together? Or as a potential employee - who would you rather work for? I know which firm I’d throw my lot in with.

Now for the hard part - making it real...