Asked and Answered
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
I am a partner in a 5 attorney firm in downstate Illinois. We had a difficult year last year and are trying to plan 2010 and beyond. Do you have any thoughts as to what we should be thinking about?
As law firms begin to plan for 2010 and beyond we suggest the following key strategies:
- Develop an ongoing brainstorming program to facilitate the process of identifying new business opportunities. Incorporate client surveys into the process. Consider small client advisory boards and focus groups.
- Get that business/marketing plan that you have been talking about for years done for 2010.
- Focus - Focus - Focus your firm
Research indicates that three of the biggest challenges facing professionals today are: time pressures, financial pressures, and the struggle to maintain a healthy balance between work and home. Billable time, non-billable time or the firm's investment time, and personal time must be well managed, targeted and focused.
Today well-focused specialists are winning the marketplace wars. Trying to be all things to all people is not a good strategy. Such full-service strategies only lead to lack of identity and reputation. For most small firms it is not feasible to specialize in more than two or three core practice areas.
Based upon our experience from client engagements we have concluded that lack of focus and accountability is one of the major problems facing law firms. Often the problem is too many ideas, alternatives, and options. The result often is no action at all or actions that fail to distinguish firms from their competitors and provide them with a sustained competitive advantage. Ideas, recommendations, suggestions, etc. are of no value unless implemented. We suggest the following:
Recognize that unless your firm is a large firm - full-service may not be an appropriate strategy. Small firms should identify fewer areas of practice and specialize and aggressively market these areas.
- Limit your practice
- Consider industry niches.
- Identify three to five key goals and strategies for the year.
- Be selective in client acceptance
- Use your business/marketing plan as a tool to keep you on track.
- Create an environment in your firm for effectively getting decisions implemented.
- Increase your marketing investments.