Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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December 2018

Dec 19, 2018


Strategic Planning Retreat – Need for Specific Action Plans

Question: 

Our firm is an eight-attorney firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. We have been together for fourteen 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?

Response: 

Implementation should be planned in the retreat and the strategic plan itself. One of the biggest problems that firms have with strategic planning retreats and strategic plans is they 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  a specific plan for follow-up on every strategy/action plan item. Specific strategic plan action items should be broken down into specific tasks. It is critical that individual task assignments and target dates for reporting and completion be made explicit. These assignments should be documented in the strategic plan action plan section and in the retreat minutes or notes. In addition, a system of post retreat follow-up meetings to access progress is suggested to maintain the momentum achieved at the strategic planning retreat.

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

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

Dec 13, 2018


Law Firm Marketing – Using an Outside Public Relations Firm

Question: 

I am a partner in a three partner five attorney estate planning firm in Seattle. While we have a very active marketing program we would like to do more. We try to do two presentations at seminars/workshops a month. We have a first class website and a proactive SEO program as well as an aggressive social media campaign. The firm is listed in all of the key directories. Our attorneys are active in the legal and local community and are or have been chairpersons on bar association committees and have written extensively and been published. While many of our clients come to the firm via referral from referral sources and past clients, we are noticing that we are receiving much more business from the internet. Recently we have been discussing whether we should consider using a public relations firm. We would be grateful for any thoughts you may have.

Response: 

A public relations firm (or person) can be very helpful especially if your firm does not have a point person for marketing – a marketing coordinator, marketing director, etc. You have to decide how  you will use such a person and what role you would like them to play. I suggest that you avoid the larger firms and stick with a smaller firm – a three or four person firm – or better yet might be a solo practitioner or freelancer. You might use public relations professional in the following ways:

Several years ago I retained a public relations firm for two years on a ten hour a month retainer. A few of their accomplishments included:

Our firm found such services very helpful and from what we learned from them we now are able to handle many of these tasks ourselves.

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

Dec 06, 2018


Hiring an Associate Attorney as a Solo’s Exit Strategy

Question: 

I am a solo practitioner in Central Illinois. I have been in practice for 30+ years and I just turned sixty. I have two staff members and no other attorneys in the firm other than myself. I plan on working another five years and then I would like to gradually exit from my practice and then retire. I want to have a home for my clients and employees and I would prefer to be able to sell my interest to an associate attorney working for the firm. I think we have the work to justify hiring an associate and this is the route I would like to go. I have never had an associate so I am not sure what I should look for. Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

Response: 

I believe that an internal succession/exit strategy is your best option if you can find the right associate. Unlike years ago, there are many associates today that just want a job and work/life balance is more important than taking on an ownership role in a firm. They simply are not interested in the work, stress, and risk that it takes to own and manage a law firm. So it is important when searching for an associate that you really vet out this interest to insure that you are hiring someone that will be willing to buy out your interest when you retire and take over your practice.

I have worked with a lot of firms that think they have an exit plan via an associate only to be told no when approached with a proposal to acquire their practice.  When you interview candidates look into their history and their family history to see if you can find a hint of entrepreneurship. You may want to hire a more seasoned attorney that has a small practice that could expand his or her practice by becoming part of your practice. Hire someone that has an interest in the business of law as well as practicing law.

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

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