This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring how law firms can set themselves up for success when making the decision to grow through merger, firm acquisition, or lateral hire.
Once a newly combined firm has mastered a common mindset and articulated the message that communicate who they are to their target audience, it’s time to get practical about how to make your shared vision real to clients and colleagues.
Mastering the method is the third step in this important process. And, as we noted in our previous posts, when your method emerges as a result of thoughtful reflection on why you are doing what you’re doing and how you will communicate it, you will have a much greater chance of meeting your goals.
To move from ideas to action, three guiding questions can help take you to the next step.
What commitments will we make individually to execute our plan?
Many activities might show up on this list but choosing target markets that are the best fit for the new firm is an important step. Work against the impulse to “cast a wide net” and instead articulate what an ideal client or target market would look like. Targets for the new firm may look very different from the targets the two former firms pursued before the merger, and that’s okay.
Targets might be defined by industry (industry vertical in which prospects do business), buyer type (client type, size, geography of prospects), or situation (circumstance that the organization or individual is in that your firm could help with). The more specific lawyers can be about the prospects they want to pursue, the more likely they will be to create messaging that resonates with that audience and leads to signing new business.
Once they have identified these target markets, lawyers can zero in on the specific people who should be on their contact list. This includes the prospects themselves, of course, but also “allies” who might serve as a source of referrals and “connectors” who might be able to make introductions and generate leads. Lawyers don’t need to have 200 people on their contact list to bring in new business. Effective lists are shorter but populated by carefully selected people.
How will we execute on specific opportunities?
Lawyers who show up to a prospective client meeting or networking event with only a vague idea of landing new clients or making connections are often disappointed by the results of these interactions. Hope by itself is not a strategy for predictable business development results. Preparation, planning, and strategy are crucial to converting business development activities into new business. These things take time and should happen well in advance of the meeting — not in the elevator on the way up. Here is the Core Four rubric — including important prompts to aid preparation and increase the likelihood of success:
Objectives — What objectives am I trying to accomplish through this interaction?
Key Messages — What are the key messages I will convey in this interaction?
Questions — What questions will I ask in order to learn desired information in this interaction?
Outcomes and Definitive Next Steps — What are the best, likely, and worst-case outcomes of this interaction? In each case, what Definitive Next Step will I take in order to sustain momentum in the relationship?
How will we measure success?
Measuring and managing success using defined metrics will also help when it comes time to evaluate whether the newly formed firm is succeeding at what it set out to do. Have you achieved your shared vision? Why or why not?
Beyond revenue in the door, firms often struggle to define the right metrics to measure and to establish effective approaches for managing them. Below are some practical ways to get started:
1 – Use client feedback to establish both the metrics you will measure and a baseline for evaluating.
2 – In addition to revenue, identify three to five metrics that can be measured consistently by executive teams, practice and industry teams, and individual attorneys. Common metrics to start with include:
- Activities completed
- Opportunities identified
- Net Promoter scores
3 – Establish an operating rhythm that enables continuous improvement of things that work and fast failure on things that don’t. Consider using 90-day plans that provide enough time to develop a cadence and gain traction but are short enough to allow you to modify as needed. This will help you pinpoint critical success factors by considering whether you:
- Did what you said you would do and if not, why not? This will help uncover constraints or resistance.
- Did what you said you would do, and it worked? This will help you think about how to scale best practices.
- Did what was required but it didn’t work? This will help you narrow down whether the activity itself was the wrong activity or if more training/resources help is needed to do it right.
The work to assess your progress is not a one-time activity. Lawyers and leaders must continue to interpret metrics and feedback to determine whether their strategies are working and how they might need to change. This is especially true in the context of a newly merged firm.