False Hope or Healthy Worry? Law Firms Rank Their Strategic Plans

Law firms are placing their bets. Larger firms are putting their resources into fewer initiatives than smaller firms, and have more confidence in their plans. But, the worry about strategic plans at smaller firms may be of the healthy variety. History shows us some of the most successful organizations in the world worry the most about their strategy—and especially its implementation.

Firms outside the largest 100 are more worried about their strategic plans than the largest 100 firms. The top 100 rank their confidence at 8.8 out of 10 with 10 being supremely confident. Firms outside the top 100 show a 7.6.

While confident—the large firms are concerned about accountability and pricing. These same firms want to boost talent development and business development. Large firm concern over accountability may in the end be a boost to success as accountability drives implementation. The large firms show a bias towards focusing on a more targeted group of markets and clients than their smaller brethren—which may seem counter intuitive but—shows the discipline associated with a well crafted strategic plan.

Smaller firms express concerns about their strategic plans being less robust—lacking a client voice and the analytical rigor which drives firms to prioritize one opportunity over another with conviction. In effect, the plan becomes hard to implement as designed or ends up with all opportunities being close to equal. At the same time, smaller firms are routing resources into capturing a wider group of clients and markets than the larger firms. We are also seeing renewed activity in lead generation, which is a much lower priority at larger firms. The majority of strategies outside the largest 100 are less focused.

Both sets of firms can learn from each other and improve their implementation and plans. Lessons from the most successful firms—small and large—include:

Focus:

More than 3 goals reduces any sense of priority—defeating the point of strategic planning.

Client Feedback:

Any firm who develops a strategic plan without client feedback takes on great risk by overlooking the best and lowest risk opportunities right in front of them—and missing the needs of the clients they already have.

Accountability:

Names, dates and how much—anything less is not measurable, and not enforceable, and can lead your firm astray.

Strategy is the new centerpiece for growth because the market itself offers very little. Law firms now have to outsmart each other. In a profession with enormous brainpower the battle for clients and share will go to those who can not only develop the right strategy but can develop the culture to make it happen. A good plan is proven to drive culture—as well as market gains. All the more reason to engage in some healthy worry to avoid basing your firm's future on false hope.

MBR

PS. BTI helps you sort healthy worry from false hope and assess your options to find the growth best suited to your firm: from least risk to highest return and anything in between. Contact me today as you look toward starting your firm's strategic planning in 2016.