- Creating and executing a strategic plan requires structure and deliberate action, and a critical piece is often missing.
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Over a decade ago we wrote our first book together, The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice, published by the ABA. Our book included a section on strategic planning. This topic is one of the most important for a firm looking to position itself for a bright future, yet few firms spend the time and energy to formally, much less regularly, engage in the strategic planning process. Indeed, there is a profound irony that many lawyers will say they are too busy on the treadmill of today to find time to plan for the future of their practice or firm.
Creating and executing a strategic plan requires structure and deliberate action, and a critical piece is often missing: an unwavering commitment in words, action and resources (i.e., money and people) from firm leadership to make it happen. Bigger firms will need to put in place and empower a designated group or committee that has the authority to create an agenda for change. In smaller firms, the process will require the collaboration of firm owners and possibly some senior staff.
Regardless of their size, we encourage all firms to take time for strategic planning and not be stopped or bogged down by overcomplicating the process itself. The result of the process will provide direction to the firm that will help it navigate to a preferred future.
When creating a plan, there are five principal questions to consider, at both the overall organizational level and within each practice group or department.
Which brings us to the most important part of the process: Don’t let your plans sit on the shelf or in a drawer. Good plans with realistic goals should excite and challenge firm owners and participants. If not, revisit your goals. A good plan should successfully compete with the strong compulsion of most lawyers to service clients and complete billable work.
Don’t forget your personal plan. Strategic plans aren’t just for firms. A personal strategic plan will help you to focus on your longer-term personal goals, and the structure and deliberate action imposed by a formal plan can help you attain those goals. You can create a personal strategic plan by asking yourself personalized versions of the preceding five questions.
You can determine your future, or you can sit back and let others create it for you. Most people will want to envision and create their own future rather than let someone else dictate it for them. Take responsibility for your future and the future of your firm and create personal and firm strategic plans to make those futures happen.