Recently, we wrote about the year-end questions your firm should be asking about its prior-year performance. Not only is that a good exercise for making sure your firm was the best it could be last year, but it’s also a great launching point for charting your firm’s roadmap for the new year.
So how should you begin the process of building that roadmap? How will you set the course for 2020 in a way that will help your firm thrive in the coming year?
Do something with all that data you collected
In the above-referenced article, we suggested that your firm publish client-satisfaction surveys in order to measure how happy your clients are with your services. Now that you’ve collected the data (and appointed a person or two to analyze it), it’s time to do something with the results.
First, it’s important to recognize what client-satisfaction surveys should not be used for. Specifically, they should not be used to deploy punitive measures against your staff.
While you may receive feedback regarding a few employees’ interactions with clients, the survey is best used to determine how the firm can improve its service to clients in the coming year. Thus, rather than “getting someone in trouble,” use the survey results to set overall guidelines for how all firm employees (and partners) are expected to treat clients going forward.
Consider a shake-up in management
One of the things your look-back analysis may have identified is a lack of leadership. This usually shows up in predictable ways, including declining practice areas, inability to recruit or retain high-quality attorneys and staff members, or a mass-exodus of clients. If your firm is plagued by any of these serious problems, it is probably time to consider appointing new leaders for the coming year.
Leadership comes in many forms. Some firms may need a complete overhaul of department heads. Other firms, however, will do themselves a big favor simply by appointing mid-level attorneys as mentors for newer attorneys and staff members. Be open to all possible solutions, remembering that the ultimate goal is not to stroke any one individual’s ego, but rather to grow the firm as a whole.
Personalize some HR functions
According to one law firm growth strategist, “Talent management is not about paperwork and your HR department. It’s about maximizing the value that your legal talent provides your clients and your firm.”
Think about that for a moment as your firm is setting strategies for 2020. Managing people requires much more than forms and compliance. While those things are important, the strongest firms are constantly developing attorneys and other staff members to not only be successful within the firm, but to lend true value to clients. There’s not a form in the world that can make that happen. That kind of learning comes from one-on-one interactions between old-guard employees and the newer people on your roster.
Change where change is needed
Technology is always advancing, younger generations are entering the workforce with new value systems, and the law itself is constantly in flux. If your firm isn’t prepared for all of these changes, it will fall behind those that are.
Even though it is easy to become mired in the day-to-day pressures of your firm’s practice, it’s a good idea to appoint “thought leaders” on different subjects. These people can be responsible for spotting trends and recommending how the firm responds to those trends going forward.
Think about the long game
While it’s all fine and good to prepare your firm’s strategy for 2020, law firms — like any business — should also be constantly thinking about long-term strategy.
Take, for example, the relationships between law firms and clients and how they are constantly evolving. While 20 years ago, strict billable-hour relationships may have been the norm, today more and more companies are bringing top lawyers in-house to avoid huge legal bills.
Moreover, any practicing attorney will tell you that there are years where some practices experience growth while others do not (a corporate transaction department may thrive, for example, while the litigation department suffers — and vise-versa).
Determining long term strategy is a perfect opportunity for senior attorneys to collaborate with junior lawyers. While the former have practiced long enough to see how things like changing economies change different practice areas, the younger generation is more likely to be well-versed in emerging technologies that impact the practice. Bringing these two groups together for long-term planning is a true best-of-both-worlds scenario for law firms.
What planning strategies does your firm employ each year? If you’re willing to share them, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section, below.