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How to Write A Winning Strategic Plan

  • August 15, 2019

In the current marketplace, two things loom on the horizon that can directly affect your law firm.

The first is the B-word. Brexit.

Now, I appreciate there’s not much anyone can do about the effect it will have just yet. However, the second trend is something you can address.

And that’s the fact that in a skills short legal arena, competition in the marketplace is fierce as law firms position themselves to attract the top legal talent.

To ensure you are ahead of the pack, you need to consider a strategic plan.

If you have not already got one, it’s crucial to get one in place quickly. If you have a plan but it was developed some time ago and you don’t refer to it – check to see if it’s still fit for purpose and if not, update it.

What Is a Strategic Plan?

All law firms, from the smallest family-run business to a multinational organisation, need an effective strategic plan to help drive business.

A strategic plan is a working document that allows you to put in place a plan to move from where you are now to where you want to be. Sometimes referred to as ‘Escape and Arrival’, it lays out the law firm’s ambitions against specific timelines.

A good plan utilises milestones along the way to enable your legal team to celebrate progress as you move along, boosting morale and keeping you on track.

According to a report in Harvard Business Review, many strategic plans fail due to various reasons including lack of rational goals, refusal to adapt, poor communication and more.

So, when compiling your strategic plan, keep it real. Make it fit for purpose and set realistic goals and deadlines.

And remember, it’s not set in stone – if something isn’t working in your document – change it.

Define Your Goals

Start your plan by outlining your vision: Where are you now? Where do you want to be in the future?

  • Consider your firm’s ethos, ethics, reputation and aspirations; these form part of your employer brand and help you differentiate your law firm from the competition. The key points need to be tied into your strategy to give weight to the plan and ensure you are aligned to company beliefs.
  • Factor in how you plan to move the firm along to achieve these goals, how you will implement ideas and be able to ensure time, finances and resources are effectively utilised to achieve goals.
  • Think about problems that may hold you back. How will you tackle any that arise?
  • Is it possible that you may need to consider a relaunch, additional staff or even a change of location?
  • I recommend you keep your objectives aspirational but achievable. Setting unrealistic expectations will only serve to demoralise you and undermine your plans.
  • While it’s beneficial to have a timescale for your ultimate goals, its equally crucial to check in regularly, celebrating those milestones achievements along the way. More on this later.
  • Finally, be clear on who is leading the project and who is responsible for different areas of development. A positive and reliable team is needed to drive the plan to fruition, so choose wisely.

Conduct an Internal Audit

A good place to start your plan is with an internal audit. It will allow you to assess the current state of play. It should include a review of the systems you have in place and their effectiveness, the skills and current knowledge of your employees, and the procedures you currently use.

What works, and what could you improve?

Do your teams work coherently across your law firm, and understand how they fit into the ‘bigger picture’? Are their skills being fully utilised?

Are your systems out of date and do you need to upgrade? A reliable and secure network will allow your employees to access information quickly to leapfrog competitors.

Are procedures time saving and coherent, or could things be done better?

Would you benefit from additional team members bringing new skills and experience?

Check Out the Marketplace

An external audit gives you powerful knowledge of current trends in the legal market and how competitors are faring.

Legal journals, law-related books, news and industry blogs will provide intelligence on development across the legal world and ensure you stay up to speed.

Consider a survey of your current clients. Asking for suggestions for improvement could provide you with a plethora of information that could inspire future goals.

Additionally, if your survey results are complimentary this will bolster your morale – and you could use the accolades for promotion on your website!

Communicate Your Intentions

The strategic plan is not a dusty document to be kept in the boardroom for only senior leaders to view. It’s for everyone to understand and pull together to achieve.

So, always remember to communicate your ideas to your staff – from Partners to secretaries.

Respect your employees by keeping them up to date and ensuring transparency across your law firm.

Additionally, when employees know what is happening in the firm and where its future goals are, it will increase confidence and security, enabling them to engage with the plan.

And engaged colleagues are happier and more productive. So, it’s a win-win situation.

Create a Great Company Culture

Company culture is a buzzword at the moment. It defines the environment in which employees work and incorporates everything from your company ethics to diversity.

As specialist recruiters, here at Clayton Legal we are finding that the demand is now for more than a good salary and benefits package. The move is towards a focus on the culture of a company.

It’s therefore important to assess your company culture in order to ensure you can attract the top talent to your law firm.

So, examine your ethics, values and attitude to inclusivity and diversity and if they need improving, add them into your strategic plan.

Celebrate Milestones

It’s very easy to get caught up in the long-term goals of your law firm. But setting a distant goal may soon seem unachievable, and you may become despondent.

It’s much better to work on a 90-day plan. So, schedule in what you want to have achieved in three months and how you’re going to get there. This will inevitably involve some creativity and forward-thinking, but it will enable you to regularly review your achievements so far and create a plan for the next 90 days based on that data.

Make sure that you address pain points in the plan – ones that are causing current friction in the team or wider firm.

For example, is the processing of court documents taking longer than expected because of faulty or old IT equipment? If so, plan to have new upgraded software installed by date A, and staff trained up to use it by date B.

Celebrate the small milestones along the way. It will boost morale and encourage you and your legal team on to the next base.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to scale your law firm and achieve your goals, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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