In my experience law firms have more success with tactical approaches to their strategic planning. The two essential drivers that control the implementation of any law firm strategic plan include the age demographics of the partners and the firm's existing economic realities. Once developed, these priorities serve as the initial starting point for meaningful progress. For example, in a recent engagement the principal motivator was the age of the senior partners and the fact that they were all committed to preparing the next level of firm leadership. The vision was simply to ready the firm for a second generation. In this case, the firm implemented the following items:
- Succession plan for the existing partners within 3 years of retirement
- Practice development plans for junior partners
- Revision the operating agreement
- Amend the partner compensation system to include a client net income (objective) component
- Create and implement partnership admission criteria
- Create and implement incentive compensation plans for non-partners
- Create and implement an attorney evaluation system
- Create and implement an attorney practice planning systems
- Enhance firm management reporting to track timekeeper and client profitability
- Develop a strategy for targeting specific types of lateral hires with specific size limitations
- Create an underlying financial model to ensure that the firm's financial goals were met
As one might imagine, there are a number of other items that would be included in a textbook strategic plan and typically be included in any planning document. As these additional items would not be recognized as present priorities by firm leadership, implementation would likely not happen and they may actually serve as a distraction.
The more relevant a plan is to the consensus priorities, the more likely it is that the partners will engage.
When you or your firm is ready to step away from the day to day aspects of managing a law practice or a firm, and take a longer term approach, a strategic plan is appropriate. Strategic planning efforts are most effective when a deliberate process oriented approach is used.