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Mission, Vision and Values: Do I Need All Three?

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of developing a unified vision for helping a law firm to achieve accelerated and profitable growth. A lawyer from London who read the article asked:  

“What is the difference between vision, mission and values, what does each component do and why do you need all of them?”  

The terms mission, vision and values have become over used words and often are confused with old fashioned strategic planning retreats where hours and even days are spent wordsmithing a mission statement that is never looked at again. Many times the words are interchanged causing more confusion over the benefit for creating a mission, vision and value statement.

The Following provides a brief overview of Mission, Vision and Values and why you need all three:


Mission: Mission or purpose is the reason for the firm’s existence. It answers the question, why do we exist? Another way to look at mission is to ask, what would happen to your clients, employees and referral sources if your firm disappeared?

Why do we need a mission? Mission is your raison d’etre, your “reason for being” and is what keeps the excitement and motivation in your work. Knowing the “why” behind the “what” is how you create focus, alignment and commitment in your organization.

We all want to be part of something that makes a difference and is deeper than making a profit. A strong “reason for being” is what allows you to achieve what others might view as impossible. It is what motivates every person in your firm  to achieve extraordinary results.

Similar to successful and extraordinary individuals, successful businesses also have a clearly defined mission statement. For example, Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Googles mission statement is at the core for every strategy the company implements. Founded in 1998, Google is currently one of the most recognized and successful brands in the world. This success is directly related to the firm’s relentless efforts to fulfill its mission statement. 

Your mission statement will help your organization to attract the right clients, the right lawyers and employees and help you to make decisions that are in alignment with your core purpose.Your mission will keep your law firm focused on “why it exists” and provide inspiration, direction and motivation to pursue goals when inevitable obstacles get in the way.

Vision: Vision is a clear image of your desired future. Think Martin Luther King and his “I have a dream” speech. It is a picture of the future you seek to create. A statement of your vision shows everyone in your firm where you want to go and what you will be like when you get there. Vision answers the question, what is the final result we want?

Why do we need vision? Vision paints a picture of what everyone agrees the firm will look like in the future. It gives shape and direction to the firm’s future and helps people set goals and prioritize strategies for moving the firm  closer to its desired results.

A familiar example is Henry Ford’s vision to democratize the automobile. Ford wanted to build a motor car for the masses that everyone could afford. Imagine the power of this vision during the early 1900’s when the primary means of transportation was a horse and buggy. Ford could not have achieved his vision alone. He needed to communicate it in a way that would mobilize and inspire others to be part of his vision. 

Once you are clear on what your vision is, then you can make your vision a reality by focusing your plan on the strategies that are in alignment with the result you want to achieve.  

Values: Values describe how we intend to operate, on a day-by day basis, as we pursue our vision. Values are best expressed in terms of behavior and are the guiding principles by which an organization operates. What do we do when nobody’s watching?

Why do we need to define values? Unlike a vision which can change, values never change and are the “rudder of the ship” helping a law firm to make decisions and behave in a manner that is in alignment with what the firm stands for. Core values guide a law firm’s actions, they form the basis for every decision the firm makes. 

Imagine how different our economic situation would be if individuals, mortgage companies and banks clarified and upheld the values that were most important. An overzealous vision without knowing and living defined values can create catastrophic outcomes similar to Enron, Bernie Madoff, AIG and former Morgan Stanley executives jailed for stock loan fraud, etc. It is interesting to note that Enron did have a set of values, including communication, respect, integrity and excellence.  The problem was they were simply superficial words that had no meaning because they were not deeply engrained by its leaders. 

In Summary, Mission is our “reason for being” and answers the question, why do we exist? Vision answers the question, what do we want to achieve? Values answer the question, what do we stand for?

Knowing what your vision, mission and values are will lay the groundwork for achieving extraordinary results.

I have been helping lawyers and law firms to achieve extraordinary results by facilitating partner retreats and law firm strategic planning retreats for the last 15 years. Please contact me if you have questions or would like more information on how to create your firm’s vision and mission.


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