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I walk in, and I’m not sure whether I’m in the right place. I look straight ahead, and there’s a room filled with kids playing on a great big, colorful, climbing gym. One kid zooms down the slide so fast I wonder whether she might smack into the glass wall that separates her from the lobby I just entered. Off to my right is another glass wall lining a room filled with older kids playing on computers. I can hear the hum of bing, bong, and zap sounds coming through the glass. The little kids are ecstatic; the older kids are focused hard on their computer screens, and their fingers are flying on joysticks and keyboards.
I walk over to the young woman standing to greet me, and behind the play areas, I can see a couple of glass conference rooms filled with parents and—I guess—lawyers: two parents and two lawyers in each room. I can just make out spreadsheets on the walls next to them displayed on giant computer monitors. They look focused like the older kids. Music is playing in the lobby, and the place is abuzz with energy. I’m surprised to confirm that I have, in fact, made it to the law firm I was planning to visit.
Moments later, I’m taken to a private room down the hall and the case coordinator, dressed in a polo shirt and khaki pants, explains the place to me. The kids, I am told, are the children of the parents working out their arrangements in the glass room. The firm had figured out that having the kids around helps the parents reach better agreements with less animosity. It even helps the non-parents coming in for a divorce to behave better in their negotiations. The glass rooms are all about making sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing so there are fewer secrets and less anxiety.
The law firm knew what it needed to build
The firm built an entire office complex, housing lawyers for both the husband and the wife, that facilitated settlement of disputes. They had become famous for quick solutions, happy clients, and very reasonable fees. No one can figure out why things go so well in their cases. Is it the facility? The lawyers? The philosophy? It doesn’t hurt that they have child and financial specialists on the team, and they even have a kitchen serving up snacks, kids’ meals, and food for the parents and lawyers when negotiations drag on longer than expected. Of course, the meetings don’t usually drag on for long. They’re planned to be short so that the families can stay fresh and avoid emotional exhaustion. Everybody needs to be fresh and energized to work on such important matters.
So where is this law firm? As far as I know, it doesn’t exist in the real world. It only exists in my imagination. I dreamed it up to illustrate the possibilities you create when you follow the advice of Ari Weinzweig, the co-founder and CEO of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Here’s how to create your law firm vision
Weinzweig has written an excellent article, “Creating a Company Vision,” for Inc. It’s well worth a read. It provides step-by-step instructions for creating a vision of your firm’s future. Read it, please.
My question for you is this: Will your law firm be like all the rest, or will you build something new, something different, and something better? If you can see it, you can plan it, and then you can create it. Please read Weinzweig’s piece and put it to work in your practice.