February 17, 2017 Dialogue

Implementing a Strategic Plan for Your LRIS

By Carole Conn

Strategic Planning, Brainstorming, and Check List to Set Goals

For both short term and long term success of your LRIS, developing a road map or strategic plan that blends the vision for your program with timed objectives can be a critically useful tool to define the direction of your LRIS. A strategic plan can help enhance your credibility with your internal constituencies, such as your executive director and governing committee, and allow you to readily communicate why certain activities make sense. Staff (small or large) may also derive a benefit and find their work to be more rewarding from contributing to a common plan that, ideally, they would have played a part in formulating.

But who has time to develop a plan? The good news is that you already think up and implement various plans all the time. Maybe you try a new marketing approach, make changes to your website, or create a new component for your program. The difference is that with a document that articulates the various objectives in service of a broader vision, a more integrated whole emerges that can be readily pointed to and articulated to others. No doubt, defining annual, three-year, and even five-year goals will take some time and brainstorming, but the focus it can provide is a just reward.

At the center of any strategic plan is budget. It will inform the amount of paid marketing that may be possible, the number of staff available to answer the phones, the purchase of new technology, and so on. And as we know, budgets are educated guesses as to how the year will go, and often, if your program has implemented percentage fees, larger revenues come in over 2-3 year cycles. A strategic plan will need to stay fluid and adjust course, because events can occur financially or otherwise that can prevent or delay certain activities. And the objectives must be realistic and measurable for the time period. For example, it is unrealistic to increase call volume or internet traffic by 10% in one year, but over a 5-year time horizon, this may not be unrealistic at 2% each year, assuming budgets for marketing initiatives can also stay apace.

Following is a checklist of considerations and processes that can help you get started.

 

Brainstorming Checklist

 

  • Assess your program’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to unearth the picture of what could/should be different and help create your vision for your program. Is your current level of customer service a strength or needing improvement? Is it a strength that you don’t arrange appointments for clients or a weakness? Etc.

 

  • Assess statistical trends in your program and in the legal industry so you know where you are and where you want to go:
    • Trend analysis for calls, referrals, open cases, fees
    • Analyze referral source statistics to know what outreach is working and what is not, and also what is important for the public service mission
    • Ratio of regular fee referrals vs. modest means:  Is it changing or staying the same?
    • Statistics for particular areas of law:  Family law, employment law, others?

     

  • Create the vision for your program
    • This requires having one foot in the present and “visualizing” the future
    • Growing your LRIS is usually the vision of most programs, but by how much, in what time period, and in what way? By number of clients served? By type of client served? By number of good tort cases? Maybe a combination of these?
    • Elevating your program’s visibility in the community to attract as many potential clients with legal matters ripe for representation is one overarching vision applicable to all LRIS programs.

     

  • Categorize like ideas and activities under their topic areas
    •  Marketing, website, social media, staffing, community partnerships, events, etc.

     

  • Calculate the estimated budget required for objectives annually, monthly

 

  • Measure results every month or quarter to determine any necessary adjustments
    • Number of calls—increasing, decreasing, higher quality legal issues coming through the line?
    • Increase or decrease in top 5 referral sources
    • Increase or decrease in number of open cases
    • Web/Google analytics
    • Changes in area of practice referral results
    • Changes in percentage of regular fee vs. reduced fee referrals
    • Other?

Carole Conn

LRIS Director of Public Service Programs, The Bar Association of San Francisco

Carole Conn is LRIS Director of Public Service Programs at The Bar Association of San Francisco.