What's Your Next Move? How & Why Lawyers Should Develop Strategic Plans
Updated: Apr 16
During this unprecedented time in our country and with the resulting changes in our schedules and our work, perhaps you have taken the time to assess or re-assess what you are doing and how you are doing it. If you haven’t, then now is certainly a good time. Before you can accurately and effectively make that assessment and certainly before any changes, you need to have a good grip on what you are doing, or better yet, what you should be doing. A strategic plan is what you need – for yourself and your firm. Preparing an updated strategic plan is easy, and it will make all of your decisions going forward easier.
Your strategic plan will (and should) inform every decision you make. Most importantly, it will guide you through those difficult and challenging days, such as those we’ve recently encountered. Hopefully, you have the basis of it floating around in your head, but you should formulate your thoughts in writing. The time invested in developing a strategic plan now will save you time and money in the long run.
Here are the steps to developing your strategic plan:
Establish a mission statement.
What is the purpose of your firm? What do you want to do? Making money should not be part of your mission statement. Effectively following your mission statement should generate revenue and a profit, but that is not your mission. If making money is your sole focus, you won’t—at least not for long.
Following is an example of a simple law firm mission statement: “To render efficient and reasonably-priced legal services to people with whom I enjoy working.”
As you create your plan, you can explore each adjective, further define the types of legal services you provide or may plan to provide, and specify the people for whom you will provide them.
Define your core values.
What are your core values? Why do they matter to you? When it comes to hiring staff and other lawyers, articulating (at least for yourself) those core values will be of great benefit. While it isn’t necessary to communicate these values to potential hires, you should look for them in new team members. If your teammates do not value, understand, or respect your core values, trouble is around the bend. For example, do you value pro bono work? If you do but your teammates don’t feel the same way, dealing with those clients may drive them nuts.
Conduct a SWOT analysis.
To think strategically and plan accordingly, conducting a SWOT analysis is beneficial. A SWOT analysis involves assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Chances are you are good at what you enjoy and vice versa. There are a variety of assessments which can help you determine your strengths.[i] Your strengths are not what types of legal work you do but how you do them. Thinking more broadly than just what type of work you currently do will illustrate opportunities.
Why identify them? So that you can find some way to make up for them or avoid them. For example, you may need to hire team members with strengths which compliment yours. Or, perhaps you should consider developing strategic alliances or partnerships with other firms, attorneys, consultants, or advisors who can help make up for those weaknesses.
What opportunities exist for you? What opportunities could become a niche for you? These could be opportunities for everyone. But if everyone is pursuing them, are they really opportunities? Unique opportunities are more fruitful. Focus on those that are consistent with your strengths, mission statement, and core values.
Who else is pursuing the same opportunities? What else threatens your success? It doesn’t have to be a competitor. It could be a change in the economy or some segment of it. Or, it could be some factor or condition involving you individually.
Once you have identified your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, the remainder of your strategic plan should more easily fall into place.
Set your goals.
You should set measurable, quantifiable goals for your practice. They could be measured in countless ways such as clients, cases, or dollars. You should set goals for different time periods, e.g. six months, one year, three years, five years. Interim goals should lead to ultimate goals. Your overall goals should be in your strategic plan.
Your strategic plan should identify the tasks necessary to accomplish your goals. In other words, if you follow through on your tasks, your goals should be more easily accomplished. Tasks are action items or to-do lists entries with verbs. For example:
Schedule five speaking engagements this year
Conduct 10 more prospective client conferences this month
Schedule five networking lunches per month.
Each goal should have its own tasks which—if done successfully—should result in accomplishing that goal.
Draft the plan.
Now that you have established your mission statement, defined your core values, outlined a SWOT analysis, set your goals, and identified tasks to reach them, put all of it in a document. When you are faced with a decision, refer to your strategic plan. Does this further my goals? Does this help me accomplish a task? Your tasks should work their way into your to-do lists. You have to-do lists, right? A topic for another day…
Once your strategic plan is completed, use it! Refer to it when you are faced with a decision. Keep track of your accomplished tasks. Refine your plan as circumstances dictate. Let it be your map and your guide to a more successful, efficient, and rewarding future.
A strategic plan which you create and use will make accomplishing your goals much easier. If you or your law firm needs help developing a strategic plan, our strategic planning consultants can help you develop a custom strategic plan, so that your organization can accomplish its goals and aspirations.
Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0, http://www.gallup.com/press/176429/strengthsfinder.aspx.