Law firm strategic plans typically fall short for one of two reasons. They are either too visionary—filled with great ideas on what they want to accomplish without specific actions that will move them from now to next. Or, they are too tactical—comprised of checklists of things to do without a clear understanding of why and what will be different if they successfully complete the list.
Plans designed to create true strategic growth – meaning consistent and profitable revenue over the long term – must be both visionary and actionable. Achieving both requires a roadmap that links action to vision with tangible strategies anchored around three drivers of law firm profitability:
- Sound business hygiene to maximize revenue in the door. Think of this as the firm’s revenue experience.
- Standards and behaviors to attract and maintain loyal, high-value client relationships. Think of this as the firm’s client experience.
- An investment in building a culture of collaboration where the best talent wants to come to work each day. Think of this as the firm’s talent experience.
Explicitly organizing around these three profitability drivers improves the ability to execute the plan and accelerate results. Here is a framework to get started:
Articulate Your Why
Successful firm leaders recognize the importance of a clear vision to articulate both where the firm is going and why it is going there. Visions are aspirational by design because they need to inspire a desire for action.
The best vision statements clarify what success looks like by defining who the firm wants to be and why the people essential to the success of the firm will be better when the firm succeeds in its strategic growth efforts.
Yet don’t mistake a vision statement for simply being words on a page. Think of this part of the strategic plan as a charter that serves two important purposes:
- As a communication tool to energize and maintain momentum for doing the work necessary to achieve the goals.
- As a decision-making guide when changes occur that make people question whether the plan is on track.
Map the Path Forward
When there is a clear vision of what success looks like, firms can assess their current situation and define objective steps needed to move to the desired state. An effective “growth map” serves as a scorecard built around the principles of the economics of mutuality so short-term gains or interests aren’t prioritized over true strategic growth.
- Defining the specific operational and financial shifts that need to be made to achieve the desired bottom-line results that will benefit your equity holders.
- Understanding the firm’s ideal mix of clients and executing tactics that will create a balance between core, strategic, and investment clients.
- Setting clear metrics tied to the benefits for those who are needed to execute the plan will set implementation up for success.
This part of strategic planning puts substance behind the firm’s vision and provides structure for building out the action plan.
Use Horizon Planning to Maintain Momentum
The third key to successful strategic planning is knowing what you are going to do in what order. This helps put the plan into action and provides checkpoints at quarterly and annual intervals to adapt and refine the plan as needed.
A three-year strategic plan should include quarterly goals for the first year and annual goals for the second and third years. This will help maintain momentum, particularly in the critical first year. It will also identify what’s working and challenges early on so efforts can be accelerated or refined as needed.
When firms engage in strategic planning with an open-minded willingness to assess strengths, identify blind spots, understand their purpose, and focus on the economics of mutuality, a strategic plan is far more likely to succeed.