When I first talk with law firms, I often hear that the firm has a strategic marketing plan, it just isn’t written down. Rather it’s in the head of the managing partner, or president, or chairman, or whomever. In my humble opinion there really isn’t a meaningful plan, if the partners….and associates and, yes, even the staff… don’t know what it is. How can there be a workable plan if the majority of the people contributing to the law firm’s success don’t know about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not generally in favor of an elaborate process to develop a strategic plan. I have witnessed firms doing so, and not only was it usually a wasted effort, it can be costly in terms of productive (as in billable) hours lost. Generally, it becomes a huge navel staring process, that generally produces paper and nothing else. I have found that too many lawyers either hate the idea of this type of planning or fall in love with the process itself, but then fail to implement the “great” ideas they came up with. So again, wasted effort.
But, there may be a way. Tom Collins of morepartnerincome.com has a post I missed a couple of weeks ago that I think makes a lot of sense. First, he tells us about a survey conducted by his company that found that 84% of the surveyed law firms did not have a written strategic plan. Then, he has a suggestion on how to come up with a plan in a way that I think will work for a lot of firms.
He suggests that the firm circulate a questionnaire to all partners (N.B. don’t become frustrated over the fact that 20%-40% won’t bother to answer), and ask that they independently fill it out. Questions might include (add or subtract questions to fit your firm):
*What do you perceive as the firm’s strategic plan?
*What do you think the firm’s goals and objectives should be for the next year? 3 years? 5 years?
*What are the firm’s top 3 strengths? Top 3 weaknesses?
*What are the main threats to the firm’s future? What are main opportunities that would benefit the firm?
*Identify any current or future trends that will/could impact the firm.
*Rate the firm as Good/Average/Bad in the following areas:
oClient Relationships
oMarketing (Business Development)
oPersonnel policies and procedures
oFinancial performance
oAdmin. and management practices
oProfessional development
*How could the firm improve in each of the six areas above?
Finally, compile the answers and share them (without attribution) with the partners, and schedule a meeting/retreat to discuss the responses; and write down what comes out of the meeting. Share that with everyone in the firm, including the file clerk.
Now that was easier wasn’t it? At least it’s a start.