The Advantage of Strategic Planning
Strategic planning provides a framework for making choices about how a business allocates its resources to grow stronger. For law firms, the most important resources are time and money. Whether the economy is growing or shrinking, time and money are never abundant enough, and making choices about how resources are allocated has important implications for every firm's practice and partners. Focusing precious resources on your most important priorities is the overarching benefit of successful strategic planning.
Many law firms who choose to undertake strategic planning turn to us for the depth and breadth of our legal industry expertise, our extensive planning experience, and our reputation for helping firms earn their partners' buy-in and commitment to achieving the plans we help them create.
When you engage us for growth planning, you are choosing highly experienced and creative partners, all of whom have served in top leadership positions in leading law firms and law departments. Our depth of knowledge, our insight into the legal marketplace, our extensive relationships throughout the legal industry, and our successful track record of helping law firms devise strategic growth plans focused on market-leading opportunities and tailored to their aspirations are among the benefits of working with us.
In our strategic planning engagements, we begin by designing and then facilitating a process by which our clients build and articulate a shared vision of their firm's future. This shared vision expresses what the firm's partners aspire to build together for the firm's practice. A well-conceived vision speaks to the position that the firm would like to occupy in its markets and articulates the firm's distinctive competitive advantage. It also drives the development of the firm's goals and the allocation of the firm's resources to achieve them.
In practice, the vision guides the day-to-day and the long-term decisions the firm and its partners make and the actions they take to build the firm's practice. These decisions and actions determine how they will use their principal resources—time and money—and, at the same time, communicate effectively to the marketplace, both to clients and to talent, why they should choose the firm.
Successful strategic planning requires buy-in from the firm's partners. As we help our clients formulate their vision and the ensuing plan, we facilitate and manage a process of strategic thinking and analysis that fosters buy-in. We guide strategic thinking and decision-making into an actionable plan with clear steps for implementation.
We have helped our clients create comprehensive plans for growth from the ground up as well as re-tool existing plans. We work with firms to develop plans at the firm-wide, department, practice group, industry, and office level. We recognize that not all firms aspire to be big in size or vast in footprint, but all want to grow better by strengthening their culture and financial performance. Depending on our client's needs, their planning process may include one or more of the following objectives:
- articulating a vision for the future;
- improving financial performance;
- strengthening culture;
- planning for leadership succession;
- recruiting, retaining, and managing top talent;
- developing merger and acquisition strategies;
- aligning geographic footprint, practice group strengths, industry penetration, pricing, branding, positioning, and internal and external communications with strategy;
- developing win-win pricing strategies; and
- building and communicating distinctive competitive advantages.
While we believe that some key steps are essential to all successful strategic plans, we don't take a one-size-fits-all approach to planning. Because buy-in from partners is critical to the success of a firm's plan, we work to create plans that partners will embrace and that they will help one another achieve. Accordingly, we tailor our process to maximize partners' commitment to a shared vision, and carefully consider each firm's unique blend of culture and expectations. Firms can expect our strategic growth planning process to include these key elements:
- Creating a working group. We work with the firm to identify and designate a planning team with which we can work throughout the process.
- Collecting relevant data. We provide firms with a "Background Information Request," a list describing the information that we will need to review and analyze.
- Preparing customized guide and interviewing partners. We work with the firm to identify a group of partners we then interview to determine the issues that should be addressed in the planning. This group often includes the formal and informal leadership of the firm. We use a tailored interview guide that we prepare with the firm's input.
- Working interactively with planning team. The interviews are followed by several sessions with the planning team. (The specific number of sessions is determined by the firm's needs). During the first of these we report the principal insights we gained from the partner interviews. We also facilitate a discussion on the competitive environment in which the firm operates and help the group pinpoint the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges that influence the firm's opportunities for success.
- Developing a vision statement. In our next session, we lead the planning team in developing the vision statement: the partners' shared view of what they aspire to build together for the firm's practice.
- Developing goals and strategies. In subsequent sessions, we use the vision statement to drive the development of goals and strategies and of specific actions to support them. The result is a working version of the firm's strategic plan.
- Aligning resources and establishing responsibilities and deadlines. We analyze the working plan with the firm's planning group to ensure that it contains all of the elements that are necessary to achieve the firm's vision. We adjust the plan as needed, create a timeline, and allocate responsibilities for each aspect of the plan.
- Building internal consensus. We roll out the working plan to the firm's partners for comment and then revise the plan as needed for its launch.
- Communicating regularly with leadership. Throughout the planning process, we provide interim reports to the firm's management and partners as desired.
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