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AUTEUR : Steven De Keyser

DATE : 20 août 2018

Why it is important for lawyers to (let) know why they do what they do (*)

What – How – Why ?
The summer is a good time to reflect. Usually we reflect with law firms and legal departments about their future and how to best realize it.
Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” inspired me to share a few more fundamental considerations about what makes law firms and legal departments successful, but equally individual lawyers.
Simon explains in his book that successful organizations and business leaders start with answering the question why they are doing what they do.
Why they do things gets answered  before they answer the question how they will do it and what they will do.  Not that the “what” and “how” would not be important, but the “why” needs to be answered first.
He demonstrates that firms and organizations with no clear vision on why they do what they do risk losing out in a competitive environment. He explains why the answer on the question why is not only important for organizations, but also for each one personally. He does this by analyzing for example the success of Apple or the downfall of companies like Dell, their leaders and their customers.
However what he demonstrates in his book on the critical importance of the why question, is – according to us – also very relevant for anyone active in the legal sector.
So what does this Why question mean ?
Let me explain this through what the Why question means to myself and our consulting firm, Bignon De Keyser.
There are three fundamental questions that we wish to answer for myself and Bignon De Keyser. Why do we exist ? How do we do what we do ? What is it that we do ? These three questions are equally valid for any lawyer or law firm.
We all tend to answer first the question What we do.
At Bignon De Keyser we provide consulting services to law firms and legal departments, we help lawyers law firms and legal departments to become better and more effective at that they do.  In a law firm one will explain the different offerings that once has, whether the firm covers all areas of law or only certain niches,… The what question is very relevant, but does not necessarily differentiate firms from other firms.
To differentiate we secondly tend to focus on the How question.
At Bignon De Keyser, we explain that all of our consultants have extensive and hands-on experience in law firms and legal departments as partners or senior executives. We explain that we have our specific methodology and one of the most powerful databases on law firms in Europe allowing us to benchmark. At a law firm one will stress the pragmatic approach of the lawyers or the value added services. One may focus on the teamwork and high degree of reactivity.
Of course the answer to the What and How question, will allow clients to make certain choices, but in many cases it still does allow clients to make an easy choice between different suppliers.
Simon Sinek demonstrates in his book that by answering only the What and How question, law firms will be pushed in a price driven competition with other firms. Such competition often does not allow to build long term loyal relationships. It puts pressure on both the law firm and its clients.
This is where he demonstrates that answering the Why question before the What and How question can make a real difference.
Before I explain this further, let me share with you what the answer to the Why question may look like for myself and Bignon De Keyser.
Why am I doing what I do at Bignon De Keyser ?

To inspire and help

lawyers, legal departments and law firms

discover and realize

their potential,

leading to

the fulfillment of their aspirations.

It is our desire to help lawyers get the most out of their careers, to help legal departments and law firms to be best in class that drives us. It is inspiring lawyers, law firms and legal departments to reflect on their aspirations and allowing them to successfully realize them.
The short Why phrase does not yet say precisely What we do and How we do it, but it is the driver that makes us do what we do and how we do it. It explains why we are passionate about what we do and why we want to do this. It is our vision about how we can contribute to the legal industry. It explains all of our initiatives and actions. Most important of all, it allows our potential clients to identify with us or not.
It helps clients and myself decide where it makes sense to work together. When people wish to be inspired and helped to realize their potential, leading to the fulfillment of their aspirations, there will be a fit and we can be off to a successful journey together. We will ensure that how we do things and what we do always remains aligned with this vision.
So why are you doing what you do ?
No doubt you have explained what you do and where you may be different from your competitors. You will have done that with great detail and explained it with a lot of conviction to potential clients and new hires. However, Simon Sinek explains very well in his book how limiting oneself to the how and what will force you in more opportunistic relations with clients and people. It will work as long as you are willing to offer something extra. Law firms call this often the “added value” of their services.
But try to answer the question why you as individual lawyer do what you do ? Ask why your law firm is doing what it is doing ? You will find answers to this question by looking back at your career so far, at the realizations of your firm so far. By taking the time and energy to articulate the answer to the Why question, you will provide your firm and yourself with a stable and clear path allowing you to communicate clearly about you and your firm. It will allow you to focus on your priorities and stay in harmony with your vision. It will make you and your firm authentic and attractive because of what you are and not simply because you are less expensive or offering more added value services. If you are an I phone or Mac user, you will exactly know what I mean.
If these few words have inspired you, I would really like to encourage you to read Simon Sinek’s book on “Start with Why” or if you are not so much into reading books, feel free to give me a call and we can have a chat about what answering the question Why can do to your business and your life as a lawyer or the leader of a law firm or legal department.


Steven De Keyser
+32 494 57 15 05
(*) Simon Senek, Start with why (how great leaders inspire everyone to take action) www.startwithwhy.com