Defining your ‘Why?’ in Business and Law

Last month I took a leap of faith from a large, well established and respected law firm to a small, energetic boutique that was opening an office in my town. In between the hustle of changing offices, I was afforded a rare opportunity for some down time to look at myself and my practice beyond client needs, file demands and limitation dates. Questions of self-doubt started to dog me. Anxiety about financial insecurity, workflow and resources kept me awake at night. At least once after giving my resignation I asked myself “what have I done?”

And then Simon Kent – the leader of my firm and my new mentor in law and business (please don’t tell him that) – sent me an email telling me that he’s coming to Kelowna for a visit and that he wants me to watch this video: Simon Sinek – How Great Leader’s Inspire Action. I was instructed to think about the underlying message of the video and to ask myself “what’s our why?”

At the outset of his presentation, Sinek states that “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” At first this seems like a simple enough question – Why do you do it?We work to make an income, to support our families, to pay our mortgage, to donate to charity, to take vacations and to go out for dinner from time to time. I practice law to provide for a good quality of life.

But surely this can’t be the answer. No one would buy from me over other service providers because I want a good life. And this answer also seems to minimize the importance of what I do for my clients, my community and my own identity. Cue Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend“. No thanks… I’d rather not.

And so, one night in late December, Simon Kent and I sat in a local pub and we talked about Kent Employment Law’s ‘Why’. We know what we do (we provide employment law services), we know how we do it (by being engaged, client focused and by advocating for sustainable employment practices), by why do we do it? What’s our purpose? What’s our cause? What’s our belief? The answer is more elusive than it initially appears.


Law firms are just as guilty (and perhaps even more guilty) than other industries for taking action without asking ‘why’. The complacent, conservative and entitled legal industry often treats clients as an afterthought. Just think of the typical late-night TV commercial: “Have you been injured in a motor vehicle accident? Our team of professionals has the experience to get you the compensation you deserve! Give us a call, we get results!” Thanks, but I’ll pass with that kind of uninspiring message.

After musing over the question of ‘why’ for a few more days, I went back and watched the video again, and again, and again. In it, Sinek uses a few examples in getting to ‘why’. With Apple Computers, he characterizes their ‘why’ as:

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. (Why)

The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. (How)

We just happen to make great computers. (What)”

When speaking of Martin Luther King, Sinek said the following about the ‘why’ behind that great man:

“He went around telling what he believed. I believe… I believe… I believe… he told people. And people who believed what he believed, took his cause and made it their own. […] How many showed up for him at that mall in Washington? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed…

Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world, those that were made by a higher authority and those that were made by man, and not until all the laws that were made by man are consistent with the laws of a higher authority, will we live in a just world.”

And so, thinking about these examples, I asked myself what Apple Computers and Dr. Martin Luther King have in common. In both cases, the ‘why’ came down to foundational beliefs. It’s no more complicated than that.

Again,  what’s Kent Employment Law’s ‘why’? What’s my ‘why’? And then it dawned on me and any anxiety, insecurity  and self-doubt I felt weighing on my shoulders disappeared:

At Kent Employment Law, we promote sustainable employment relationships. We believe that these relationships are mutually beneficial to employers and employees alike and are founded on a relationship of trust and respect.

We just happen to be great lawyers.

If you or your company believes what we believe, we’d love to work with you.

David M. Brown
Kent Employment Law
Twitter: @davidmjbrown

One thought on “Defining your ‘Why?’ in Business and Law

  1. Why you do what you do really matters and having been a Simon Sinek follower for a few years now, I often find myself reflecting on that question. I wish you every success David!


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