Strategic Plans—Helping Lawyers & Law Firms Find Their Way
Plans are most effective when they start from an honest assessment of the firm or group or individual’s current situation. Effective plans are based on competitive intelligence gathered during interviews or conversations with partners, associates, staff, clients, competitors, and business leaders. Further intelligence is also gained through secondary and on-line research. These assessments and competitive intelligence gathering exercises can be rigorous and thorough or quick and just in time, depending on the circumstances. To map the correct route, you must start where you are and you must clearly identify where you want to go, as well as identify the obstacles you’ll face along the way.
A well-designed plan should leave no doubt about the destination. It should describe why and how and who and when, as well as where. Some of the best plans are very short, and highly actionable, with clear assignments of responsibility and accurate timelines.
The corporate section of a very large firm wanted to explore whether it was time for them to consider a strategic plan. Allowing every partner free rein had been a successful strategy for many years, and they wondered whether a more organized approach would yield benefits and whether partners had the appetite for more leadership. I interviewed several partners in advance of the retreat in order to better understand their positions and opinions, prepared a list of topics to cover based on those conversations, and developed a set of meeting guidelines to help everyone understand the behaviors that were desirable and those that would be unproductive. During the retreat discussions, I helped keep the group together, bringing them back to the core agenda when they strayed, while allowing partners to express their thoughts fully enough to feel that they had been heard. In the end, the group made significant progress and, post-retreat, continues to move forward under the leadership of a steering group. Without having taken time to create buy-in from all partners, the nascent planning process might have been derailed.
In early 2006, I guided a small firm through a strategic planning process after conducting client, prospect, and referral source and competitor interviews. After guided discussions, the firm developed a strategic plan that included a list of clients and prospect to cultivate and types of work to avoid, as well as an outline of the key strengths of each attorney. We went on to develop management policies and procedures to ensure the continued success of the firm. As the managing partner said at the conclusion of our meetings, “you made it possible for us to have life-altering conversations.” No one could have touched me more—this is work worth doing.
Other examples of my strategic planning and facilitation work include:
Presentations on Strategic Planning: