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Best Practice Tips: Strategic Planning Retreat—Need for Specific Action Plans

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. Our firm is an eight-attorney firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. We have been together for 14 years. There are four partners and four associates in the firm. Over the years we have traditionally had a year-end attorney planning retreat with limited success. This year we have decided that we want to dedicate the entire time to developing a strategic plan for the firm. What can we do to ensure that our strategic plan leads to actual implementation?

A. Implementation should be planned during the retreat and should be part of the strategic plan itself. One of the biggest problems that firms have with strategic planning retreats is that the actual plans end up on the shelf and there is no accountability for implementation.

Be sure you come away from the retreat with a strategic plan that includes an action-plan section with directions for follow-up on every action item. Specific strategic plan action items should be broken down into specific tasks. It is critical to have specific task assignments and target dates for reporting. These assignments should be documented in the action-plan section and in the retreat minutes or notes. In addition, a system of post-retreat follow-up meetings to measure progress is suggested to maintain the momentum achieved at the retreat.

Many firms benefit by incorporating specific strategic planning action items on a firm master calendar as well as individual calendars and quarterly reviews.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC, ( is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics and author of The Lawyers Guide to Succession Planning published by the ABA. 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

Posted on December 19, 2018 by Rhys Saunders
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