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Calling all lawyers: what do you want?

This is a joint post by Charles Kingsmill and Martina Weinberger.

“The law firms which plan well will inherit the future.”

That was one of our hypotheses when we started our research into Professional Services Firms and their approach to business planning and business development.

What we have discovered is that lawyers don’t want to plan, because they feel the process is faulty.

  • You don’t want to waste time on unnecessary bureaucracy, on templates that don’t get you anywhere.
  • You don’t want to have your partners judging you.
  • You don’t want to repeat the same empty phrases year after year.
  • You don’t just want to list things over which you have no or very little control.

And if the process is faulty, the plans that emerge are faulty too: vague statements of intent, long lists of intended actions, usually developed in isolation.

What if you started the planning process, not with a template, but by thinking about what you want?

When we listen to you, these are the things we hear you want:

  • I want to feel that I have a reliable stream of client work
  • I want clients to come to me, rather than the other way around
  • I want to work with clients I like, on enjoyable projects
  • I want to be the best lawyer I can be, solving interesting challenges
  • I want like-minded partners
  • I want all my colleagues to be pulling their weight
  • I want the firm to be a place I’m proud of
  • I want to see my children grow up

Some are more fundamental than others. And the priorities shift for each person we are talking to…

So what would a plan and a process need to look like, if they’re to give you what you want?

It would first and foremost help you get clear about what you want to focus on. “Strategy is sacrifice” as we say – you can’t do everything for everyone. Whilst you might keep on doing opportunistic work when it comes your way, you will not be able to build a reputation around just being “a lawyer”. And many unexciting lawyer LinkedIn profiles prove this.

So what will you focus on? What is your desirable goal? Your vision of what kind of lawyer you want to be? What would you be passionate enough about, so that any discipline required to achieve it does NOT feel like self-punishment?

Our hypothesis hasn’t changed. We still believe that a better approach to business planning and business development will reap substantial benefits. And indeed, we see those partners and firms that do step up are well-rewarded by the market.

Hence our summary for today: “Without a goal, discipline is nothing but self-punishment”.

Think about your goal. What do you want to be known for? What will be your focus?

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