Welcome to the fourth quarter! The year has flown by (again) and you are busily taking stock in the successes of your firm this year.  Perhaps you are counting new initiatives that launched, or practice successes. Hopefully you are considering what the new year holds, and how you will continue to advance your firm. Here are some points to ponder as you look ahead:

1. WHAT ONE SUCCESS MADE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON THE YEAR?
HOW CAN YOU LEVERAGE IT TO OTHER IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE?
There are many moving parts to change, including the necessary buy-in from stakeholders and the frequent and clear communication of the purpose and outcomes of the change. When you have a success story, pause and measure it. What worked and what could have been better? Now leverage that into the next change that is coming.

2. WHAT IS YOUR HUMAN CAPITAL STRATEGY?
It’s not a trick question! Maybe you don’t have one? Why not start now? Firms have long bought their human capital, and it doesn’t look like mergers and acquisitions are slowing down anytime soon. I believe this is a byproduct of our demographics, where senior attorneys in small firms have no exit strategy, so they become purchased human capital in another firm. Not a bad idea, and how sustainable is that strategy?  We have more of our workforce just starting out than we have experienced mid-career options, so what can you do to build your talent?

3. DOES YOUR COMPENSATION STRUCTURE ALIGN WITH YOUR STRATEGIC PLAN? YOUR CULTURE?
Law firms have grappled with this one as long as law has been a business. And it’s not going away anytime soon.  If you’ve decided to place emphasis on growing existing clients, do you have financial incentives for your lawyers to do so? If your emphasis is on building new business, how will you reward that? And, if you are shifting from one to the other, be mindful of the cultural impact (the values that are rewarded) on the whole firm, not only the lawyers who actively pursue the new goals.

4. WHAT DEFINES YOUR SERVICE MODEL?
Clients expect attention. They are measuring success in the needs that are met – both spoken and unspoken. I realize I’m speaking your language here – after all, aren’t you looking for the assistant or team member who anticipates the next move in a case, or the next step in a project? Understanding the business of your client (whether it’s personal or professional business) is a differentiator between trusted advisor and technical expert.  There is room for both ends of this spectrum, my point here is to clarify your firm, so you can promote your unique service model.

5. HOW WILL YOUR CULTURE CHANGE IN THE NEW YEAR?
The culmination of these questions above will likely impact your culture.  Remember that it’s not the values you espouse, it’s the ones that you reward, which define your culture. What values are rewarded right now? And, if you want to change that, what must happen to reward differently?

More questions than answers, which only accentuates the unique aspects of every law firm. Look inside your firm for the answers to the big questions in the industry – what will our next technological advance require of us? The culture is key to the rest. Good luck!

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