There’s no denying that COVID-19 has completely shaken up the law firm landscape. Since the beginning of this crisis, law firm revenues have fallen 30%, greatly impacting profitability, partner profits, and overall, the ability to keep the lights on.
Those are scary statistics. And after Labor Day, Law Firm Leaders and Executive Committees across the country will meet to discuss exactly what needs to be done to keep their businesses running. They’ll realize that in these times, they need more than just great lawyering. They’ll realize they need a strategic business plan to succeed.
The whiteboard is clean right now. On January 1, 2021, firms will start from ground zero. Fall 2020 is the time to get a business plan in place to secure your spot as a winner in 2021.
What is a Strategic Business Plan?
A strategic business plan is a comprehensive outline of specific tactics to realize your firm’s goals. It has four key characteristics:
- It is strategic and it is in writing.
- It is actionable.
- It is accountable.
- It is measurable.
Getting through this crisis and beyond will require a well-balanced strategy by leaders and management to create systems and infrastructure now that will help you both survive and thrive into the future. Launching a successful strategy requires planning and executing specific tactics to realize your firm’s goals.
Your new whiteboard must address several crucial and specific elements that combine strategic research and business planning. Your business plan needs to cover the intersection of management, marketing, mergers, technology and client service.
The Foundation You Need for Success
A strategic business plan is extremely comprehensive and requires dedicated time to researching your needs and your goals in order to set yourself up effectively for the future. The research guides the foundation of the business plan, but there are specific questions you must answer to be successful. These are the answers you need to get from an effective research analysis:
- What is the reality of your current situation and position?
- What are your goals? You need to truly articulate these.
- What is your brand?
- What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats?
- How can you increase your competitive edge? This involves knowing your competition.
- How can you improve your client relations? And how can you integrate new elements of client service? A handshake needs to be replaced with a phone call and emails.
- What do your markets look like? Your prospects? Business development tactics?
- Do you have a plan for recruiting and/or mergers?
- Do you have a plan in place for leadership succession?
- Have you integrated technology into your business?
- How does your website look and perform?
- Have you performed an administrative and infrastructural analysis?
- What do your budgets look like? Do you know what line items are needed? Do you know how much to allocate? Do you know why and what to look for?
- What metrics should you track: daily, weekly, monthly?
- What is your timeline for completing these changes?
- What are your criteria for success?
This may sound like a lot, but every single one of these questions and answers are critical. Most of your goals will require strategic planning and on-going execution of activities and are not specific project or product related at this point in time. Therefore, most of the heavy lifting is upfront with research, getting to know you and building the infrastructure, planning and budgeting. In essence, your research objectives should answer all of the above questions and more. It truly involves starting from “ground zero.”
Structuring Your Strategic Business Plan
Mergers, Acquisitions and Recruiting: You need to be on the right side of the shake-out. Commit yourself to actively pursuing new business and staffing opportunities right now. In essence, you need to be a leader, or be a technician.
Branding, Marketing, Business Development and Lead Generation: It’s not just about posting a status update on Facebook and LinkedIn anymore. It takes sophisticated marketing plans to truly survive and thrive in a crisis. In the new virtual world your brand and knowledge of your brand will be everything.
Technology: Remote work will characterize the legal landscape for a while. How can you actively communicate with and listen to clients, virtual staff, prospects, other law firms and the courts? What systems do you need to put in place to make sure your connections are secure, and you can have seamless business continuity?
Client Service: You need to differentiate your delivery of client services in a virtual world, while still providing the same quality of care and service as always.
Market Analytics: You should obtain sophisticated data on your clients to know what they’re thinking, how you can help, and market data on what your competition is doing. You need to have these deep dive analytics right at your fingertips.
Website: In 2021, your website will be the most important tool in your toolbox. Is it currently set up for success? Does it achieve your firm’s goals? Your message? Does it promote your brand?
Compensation Planning: Thinner profit margins will require you to take a hard look at your compensation matrices. Do you feel that your current matrix effectively motivates your partners to bring in more business?
Based on my recent research, it is obvious to me that many of your competitors have already forfeited this fight. Now is your time to take the lead and take advantage of the competitive landscape. But doing this will require a mixture of management, marketing, mergers/recruiting, technology and client service… all of which should work in tandem to ensure that you thrive during the current situation and beyond.
I’m Here to Help You
I’m reaching out to offer a hand in helping, advising, and carrying some of the workload that comes with making the inevitable changes brought on by this crisis. I am a law firm consultant with over 25 years of experience in business planning, marketing, business development, website development, technology, coaching, succession planning, recruiting, and mergers. I work with small-to-midsized law firms to help them not only survive, but thrive, through the most volatile situations – including the current COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken up the legal landscape in significant ways. You may have noticed my placements and articles in The Maryland Daily Record. I offer a cost-effective service, with fees based on success and ROI results.
I value and respect your time, and all it will take is a quick phone call to see if there is a fit. You can contact me at 410-703-4993 to determine if I can work with your team to develop, create and implement a strategy that will push you through the current situation and into the future.