I Don’t Want to Create a Business Plan!

I get it.  I really do.  They involve work and you’re busy.  And if you’re not trying to sell someone on why they should give you money to start or grow your law practice, why would you bother?

Because, my friends, every once in a while you should be selfish and do something for yourself.

client-meeting-cropped

Six Good Reasons Why Every Lawyer Can Benefit from a Business Plan

Everyone can benefit from the business planning process, especially startups.  But existing businesses need a vision too.  Creating a business plan will give you:

  • Clarity about what you want to do
  • Control over your own fate
  • A strategy for staying organized and on track
  • Accountability
  • A way to measure and monitor your progress
  • A path to help you move forward

For associates in law firms, creating an annual business plan is the only way to build a successful strategy for bringing in business – something all associates are expected to do sooner or later.

For partners, annual business planning is likely to be more about reflection: now that I’m an experienced lawyer with a book of business at XYZ Law Firm what do I want to do? If the answer is: make a lateral move, creating a business plan will likely be required.  If the answer is: something else entirely, then time spent reflecting and planning will help you ferret that out.

Why Lawyers Don’t Write Business Plans

Aside from the obvious excuse that creating a business plan is time consuming, you may also perceive it as too difficult.

But there is an even better reason not to write a business plan.  If you don’t put specific goals and objectives on paper you can’t fail.

Here’s What You’re Really Missing Out On

The problem with avoiding failure is that you also set yourself up not to succeed. And you miss out on the other benefits that go along with creating a business plan.

Create a Direction and Lower Your Stress

When you know what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there (the specific objectives included in your plan), it lowers your stress level. There is no more floundering or misdirection.  Having a plan means you’re back in control.

Doing What You Want to Do For People You Want to Work For Means Reduced Exposure to Liability and Ethics Complaints

There’s a huge difference between practicing door law because you’ve always done it versus purposefully choosing a niche.

The door law route exposes you to greater risk of malpractice claims and ethics complaints.  Keeping up with a few areas of law is hard enough.  Trying to keep up with five or ten is bordering on ridiculous.

Imagine instead that you are working in one area, or a handful of areas, that you know well or can master.  With a focus, you can target clients deliberately and work for a client base that you truly want to represent.

You’ll Also See Gains in Efficiency, Money, and Resources

You are a resource.  Your staff is a resource.  Spend your resources on meaningful, designed goals.  This is what creates efficiency.  And with efficiency you can’t help but save money.  Or at a minimum, experience a better return on your investment.  You know it, you can see it, you can measure it.

Business Plan Checklist and Resources

If I’ve convinced you, contact me.  I’m happy to send along my business plan checklist and a list of resources for creating a plan.  Do what you want to do.  I am.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

How to Succeed in Practice

Succeeding in practice requires momentum, courage, and hard work.  No one knows
that better than a solo practitioner or small firm lawyer.Motivation1

Whether you’re starting out, retooling, or want to make a change, consider this sage advice from Ann Guinn, one of the presenters at the Oregon State Bar Solo & Small Firm Conference.  She may just motivate you to get moving!

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

Postscript

For related content with a greater focus on the financial side of practice see this post on Storify.

 

Running a Successful Law Practice

What does it take to run a successful law practice?  Sound financial management?  A detailed marketing plan?  Absolutely!  And if you want tips in these or related areas, see the links at the end of this post.

But for the law school class of 2012, this may not be the first concern that comes to mind.  For many the real question is: “How do I stay out of trouble?”

The answer?  Get organized!  Establish effective office systems and learn the ins and outs of handling client funds, managing deadlines, and tracking conflicts:

For more tips, see these posts:

Financial Management

Marketing, Networking, and Client Relations

Organization

Staffing

Technology

Some Other Favorites

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

How to Write a Mission Statement in 30 Minutes or Less

Two years ago I spoke at the King County Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp.  It was a red-letter day because I had the great fortune to hear counselor and mediator Joe Shaub.  Joe had tons of great advice, not the least of which was this simple, but effective exercise for writing a professional mission statement in 30 minutes or less:

Part One (10 Minutes)

Rank the values listed below on a scale of 1 to 4:
1 not important, 2 important, 3 very important, 4 extremely important.

  • Achievement
  • Ambition
  • Adventure
  • Affection
  • Beauty
  • Broadmindedness
  • Cheerfulness
  • Cleanliness
  • Competence
  • Competitiveness
  • Comfortable Life
  • Cooperation
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Economic Security
  • Equality
  • Exciting Life
  • Fame
  • Family Happiness
  • Family Security
  • Forgiveness
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Helpfulness
  • Inner Harmony
  • Integrity
  • Involvement
  • Intellectual
  • Logic
  • Loving
  • Loyalty
  • Mature Love
  • National Security
  • Order
  • Peace
  • Personal Development
  • Pleasure
  • Polite
  • Power
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Responsible
  • Salvation
  • Self-Respect
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Part Two (5 Minutes)

Identify the values you ranked as very (3) or extremely (4) important.  Make a list of each (very important values grouped together; extremely important values grouped together).

Values ranked as 4 – Extremely Important:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

Values ranked as 3 – Very Important:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

Part Three (10 Minutes – Allow 2 Minutes Per Question)

Next, complete the following five statements.  Write down the first thought that comes to mind.

1.  What I always dreamed of being or doing was:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

2.  My three or more greatest gifts or talents are:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

3.  The things I feel quite passionate about are:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

4.  The most satisfying moment in my professional/educational life so far was when:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

5.  What made that moment personally satisfying to me was:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

Part Four (Allow 5 Minutes)

Using the answers from Part Three, complete the following sentence:

My mission is to apply my gifts (which are                                        ,                               , and                                                                )* in advancing that which I deeply value (                                                           ,                                               , and                                                    )** in the service of                                                                  .***

* See your answers to Part Three, item 2.

**See your answers to Part Three, item 3.

***Consider all the values you listed as extremely important from Part Two.  Also consider persons or groups you deeply desire to serve and/or causes or ideals you deeply wish to advance.

It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Lessons from Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp

Last week I spoke at the King County Bar Association Solo/Small Firm Success Strategies CLE.  I participated in the Basic Training/Bootcamp Track for newly admitted lawyers, and was fortunate enough to follow Joseph Shaub, a terrific speaker.  Joe’s presentation was peppered with great marketing tips which I’d like to share.

What Are You Good At?

Joe challenged the audience of newly admitted lawyers to come up with a marketing plan that suited their personality.  In Joe’s words:  Think about what you’re good at – everyone is good at something.  Are you a:

  • Writer?
  • Speaker?
  • Schmoozer?
  • One-on-one advisor?
  • Joiner of organizations?
  • Leader of organizations?

Find your strength – that is your marketing plan.  Do what you do well.   Find what is unique about you.   If you go outside your comfort zone, it won’t work.

How to Woo and Keep Clients

Joe also described David Maister’s four step process for wooing and keeping clients, which goes far beyond most lawyer’s perceptions of client service:

Court Clients

Tend to your clients needs.  Offer pleasant surroundings, greet clients warmly, and make clients comfortable.  Your office should be inviting and professional.  If you have a family law practice and your clients bring young children to appointments, have coloring books and other suitable toys on hand. 

Superplease

Clients should come away thrilled with your work.  Be prompt and responsive.  Take a personal interest in your clients.  Draft bills that are informative and justify the fees you are charging.  Remember – most clients don’t see any of the work you are doing.  Your bills should paint a clear picture. 

Nuture

Maintain a relationship with your clients after the work is done.  Make a call or drop clients a letter or e-mail nine to twelve months after the file is closed.  Ask how they are doing. 

Listen

Is there any greater gift?  Most clients just want to tell you their story.  Let them share it with you in their own words, without unnecessary interruption.  Also lend an ear to the market at large.  What are you hearing?  With the current economic crisis, many people have postponed filing for divorce – they simply can’t afford it.  Can you adjust your practice in some way to accommodate this reality?   

How to Create a Professional Mission Statement

Joe shared a 30 minute exercise for creating a mission statement, courtesy of Washington attorney Terry Leahy.  This is one of the easiest approaches I’ve ever seen to this potentially daunting task.  Here it is.

Part One (Ten Minutes)

Rank the values listed below on a scale of 1 to 4:  1 not important, 2 important, 3 very important, 4 extremely important.

Achievement, ambition, adventure, affection, beauty, broadmindedness, cheerfulness, cleanliness, competence, competitiveness, comfortable life, cooperation, courage, creativity, discipline, economic security, equality, exciting life, fame, family happiness, family security, forgiveness, freedom, friendship, happiness, health, helpfulness, inner harmony, integrity, involvement, intellectual, logic, loving, loyalty, mature love, national security, order, peace, personal development, pleasure, polite, power, recognition, religion, responsible, salvation, self-respect, wealth, and wisdom.

Part Two (Five Minutes)

Identify the values you ranked as very or extremely important.  Make a list of each (very important values grouped together; extremely important values grouped together).

Part Three (Ten Minutes – Allow Two Minutes Per Question)

Next, complete the following five statements.  Write down the first thought that comes to mind.

  1. What I always dreamed of being or doing was:
  2. My three or more greatest gifts or talents are:
  3. The things I feel quite passionate about are:
  4. The most satisfying moment in my professional/educational life so far was when:
  5. What made that moment personally satisfying to me was:

Part Four (Allow Five Minutes)

Using the answers from Part Three, complete the following sentence: 

My mission is to apply my gifts (which are                                        ,                               , and                                                                )* in advancing that which I deeply value (                                                           ,                                               , and                                                    )** in the service of                                                                  .***

* See your answers to Part Three, item 2.

**See your answers to Part Three, item 3.

***Consider all the values you listed as extremely important from Part Two.  Also consider persons or groups you deeply desire to serve and/or causes or ideals you deeply wish to advance.

In closing, Joe reminded the group to stay true to themselves and strive to develop a practice consistent with their personal values.  Good advice, I’d say! 

Copyright 2009 Beverly Michaelis