It’s December. The time you stop and wonder where the year went. I’ve been fortunate to have been extremely busy this year, but that is not an excuse to lose sight of my long-term goals. With winter just around the corner, now is the opportunity to refocus on priorities and develop a plan for the coming year. To me, planning must always begin with a discussion about vision.
Vision is one of those lofty words that can be off putting to some, but that should not diminish its importance. Vision is really about knowing who you are and what you want to be. I co-hosted a panel sponsored by the Center for Competitive Management earlier this month where I described vision as a practice group’s “WHY.” Another way to think about it is, “What does success look like?”
Regardless of how you ask the question, developing a short, concise statement of what you aspire to be is an essential component of a successful practice group plan. To ignore vision is to ignore defining what you are trying to accomplish. Equally important, from the perspective of building a strong practice group, a clear vision provides other benefits:
1) A vision provides your practice group with an identity. This aids in decision making about work that should or shouldn’t be done. It also drives decisions about the people side of the practice.
2) Discussions about vision offer an opportunity to emotionally engage members of the practice group. How often have you sat in practice group meetings, where colleagues eat their lunch, nod in the appropriate places and then go back to work without truly participating in the discussion? Meetings focused around vision offer an opportunity to engage your group. The point is not so much the words you end up using as it is the process of keeping your purpose at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
3) Vision guides planning. Once you have a clear vision, planning is easier. It also gives you a framework for ensuring your plans stay on track.
To be sure, law firms as a whole need to focus on vision. If your firm has a defined vision statement, then that should be the starting point for your practice group discussion. That said, even with firms that do have a vision statement, many attorneys are not aware of it or have not been part of the discussion to create it. Bringing vision to the practice group level offers multiple benefits in engaging attorneys. It’s a leadership opportunity.