A practice plan can best be described as a process that results in a set of priorities for an individual lawyer's practice. An attorney's practice plan is prepared to be congruent with the law firm's priorities. It is a process that helps ensure that the individual lawyer and the firm are working toward the same goals.
Specifically, a practice plan allocates time and creates priorities as appropriate to and for billable work, marketing, new practice area development, skill development, bar, professional and civic activities, training and development of junior lawyers, recruiting and administrative responsibilities.
By having the firm and the individual to plan together, measurable results can be produced. It helps a firm to determine sooner rather than later if a young attorney is going to work out. It also helps to identify performance issues before they become severe and it helps more senior attorneys and partners set priorities that keep them successful.
To ensure that this process does not turn in to a document preparation exercise, it is accompanied with a quarterly follow up process. Plans that are on-line utilizing SharePoint or similar application are even more effective.
Lastly, all of these individual plans feed in to the firm's plan.
Philosophy and the Why
In our experience, the practice planning process does not improve the performance of those who are ill-suited to their role or the firm’s practice. In other words, the process will not turn a C lawyer into an A lawyer. What we have experienced, however, is that a properly executed practice planning process retains top performers, promotes stability among good performers, and identifies those better suited for other roles or practices.
For these reasons, we encourage that law firm management establish and communicate the value of practice planning as a means of developing talented and motivated lawyers.