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May 16, 2012

Law Firm Business Plan Implementation and Accountability

Four years ago our 45 attorney firm developed and launched a strategic business plan. While we have implemented a few action items and achieved a few goals – overall our success has been dismal. What can we do to improve our success?
Many of our law firm clients tell us that they have problems with implementation and accountability. They debate the issues and develop elaborate strategic business plans but then have problems getting people to step up to the plate and help implement many of the tasks that have been identified. Often the problem with business or strategic plans is more the "who" than the "what." Getting partners to come forward and be willing to be held accountable for results is a major challenge – especially- in lone ranger firms where partners are not accountable to each other.

Often firms are strong on ideas but weak on implementation. Typically, there is lack of management and structure and a general lack of leadership and focus. Communication is generally poor. Partner compensation systems are often not defined nor tied to goal attainment or performance.

What makes strategic management projects so difficult is that they are often complex and results are not immediate and are often delayed into the future. It is extremely hard for a group of attorneys to focus on strategic long term projects when they are up to their elbows in daily crisis. Lawyers must learn how to effectively partition their routines to enable an appropriate focus on long term projects. Lawyers must learn to think differently. This will require changes in skills, behaviors and working relationships.

The primary problems facing law firms are accountability, implementation, follow-up, and a reluctance to explore new ways of delivering legal services. Partners must begin to raise their hands and sign up for special firm management projects and be accountable to other members of the firm.

Any good plan has an action item section with a timeline built into the plan with due dates and names of responsible parties next to each of the action items. Unless there is an action plan with consequences for non-compliance – there is little chance of success.

Also suggest that the firm discuss the issue of accountability in general. A group of lone rangers often have little chance of implementing firm level strategies.

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

Posted at 09:59 AM in Marketing, Strategy
Tags: law firm accountability, Law firm business plan, law firm strategic plan

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