The Bar News

Best Practice: Law firm strategic or long-range plans - Why does a small firm need one?

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I have a small firm in Indianapolis. I am the only attorney in the firm and I have three staff members. I have been in practice for 30 years. I have been reading your posts on strategic planning. Why do I need one for a small practice such as mine?

A. A strategic or long range plan serves as the roadmap for your practice. When you go on vacation do you head out without a map, plan or your GPS. Probably not. The same should be true for your practice. A plan defines who you are, where the firm should be heading, and how you get there. It helps focus you as well as your staff and improves productivity, accountability, and alignment with your goals. It identifies what work your firm does (or sometimes more importantly) what it does not do. In essence it outlines what services your are selling, to who, and where. Your plan then lists out the steps you should be taking to move to your desired future.

I have seen solo practitioners time after time reach their 60s and realize that if they had it all to do over again they would do things differently. Often they have completely failed to put in place solid succession strategy and realize no value for their sweat equity when they retire. A plan or roadmap can help direct your efforts over the years.

The important thing is to it keep your plan simple and update it often. Ten pages or less - in outline form. I have seen excellent one page plans. When circumstances change - change it. Review it every month.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC, (www.olmsteadassoc.com) is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at jolmstead@olmsteadassoc.com.

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Chris Bonjean
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