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Finding Your Corporate & Personal Values

All products and companies need a brand, and all individuals need a personal brand. It greatly influences the consumer’s buying decision, and allows for the crafting of the all-important sales narrative.

Let me illustrate. I only buy Dawn dishwashing detergent. Why? First, it doesn’t smell gross. And it works. But most importantly, I buy it because it is the detergent of choice for washing oil-soaked birds after spills and other chemical disasters. I feel bad about oily birds. I would rather that they live. So I buy Dawn, and a tiny part of me feels good whenever I wash dishes, which I hate doing.

Lawyers and firms also need personal brands and sales narratives. They help target your client development efforts, and ensure you recruit and retain employees that share your values.

I hope integrity is also your strongest value.

The process varies slightly for firms vs. solo practitioners, but the elements are the same. Brainstorm your corporate values. Be brutally honest. You may all want to call your firm a green organization, but if lights in unused conference rooms stay on and the compost and recycling bins in the kitchen and commons rooms are a jumbled mess, you are not a green firm.

For firms, your values may include:

  • diversity,

  • a mentorship and sponsorship program,

  • pro bono or community involvement,

  • professional development,

  • part-time and flex-time options,

  • sabbaticals,

  • inclusivity in making decisions about the firm’s direction,

  • humor and collegiality,

  • workplace privacy,

  • the bottom line,

  • a strict partnership path,

  • etc.

None of these values carry judgment. Name as many differentiators as you can. Try to develop a global, realistic view of your firm.

For individuals, look first at your personal values, because they are influencing the way you practice and present to clients, whether you know it or not. Are you passionate about civil rights, education, the environment, gun rights, the wage gap? Is it about getting the answer first, or taking more time to ensure it’s right? You may value a blurred line between home and work, or adhere strictly to an “all business” mindset at the office. How much of your personality do you bring to the office and client exchanges? Usually, these personal and professional values will match with those of your clients.

Now that you have an idea of you and your firm’s brand, the watchword is “show, don’t tell.”

Craft a narrative highlighting the values that are most attractive to your client. Using the client personas in my last post, we know that Shaun possesses a clear commitment to diversity and social justice. He would likely appreciate a firm that cares about these issues, too. As a lawyer, he would also appreciate a commitment to pro bono work, though working in-house he may not be able to put in a lot of hours himself. So if you are bidding for more work or cross-selling, enter a discussion of recent pro bono cases and outcomes. Prepare supplemental marketing materials for him highlighting your firm’s pro bono and non-profit work. Let the answer to “What have you been working on?” focus on this work, both yours and your team’s, rather than strictly billable work.

What did your client learn? You and your firm have a commitment to social justice, offer the same level of care to high-paying and pro bono clients alike, and employ a robust roster of attorneys with strong character and community values. In my next post, I'll discuss how to use your personal or corporate values to create a compelling narrative. Stay tuned.


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