Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Question - Our firm has used individual and practice group plans for years now, but we are currently reviewing the format. Any suggestions?

Julie Savarino's Response - In my professional experience and opinion, the most important thing to consider is not the plan format, but the key strategic objectives of the firm and to create and use a format that can be tracked, updated, and reported upon over time. Also, one which firm leaders will substantively support and use.

Too many plans get drafted by lawyers because they are "required" but then are rarely reviewed or supported and most importantly have little to no tangible tie to on-going performance and compensation/bonus. Also, once drafted most plans simply "sit on a shelf". Too few are ever sorted and used to follow-up by practice or industry group (and lack of follow-up/implementation is the #1 greatest downfall for most lawyers' busdev intentions/efforts). The worst part about most plan formats is that the majority continue to ask/suggest that every lawyer should/needs to do/perform all sorts of non-billable tasks across all categories (which dilutes focus and causes mile wide inch deep efforts which are often ineffective).

The key components of any lawyer's business plan should include billable hour targets for all, but after that each lawyer's non-billable hour investment/contribution should ideally be tailored to their strengths, towards where they contribute most and key firm objectives. Non billable contributions can take many forms - from proven rainmakers continuing to do what they do best, to lawyers who help administer/run a practice, to those who create document banks and/or matter tracking methods, to those who help with lateral identification and acquisition, to those who oversee key administrative functions, to leaders/Board members, etc. The myriad of possible non-billable contributions/investments in any individual plan format should - ideally - be offered as a menu, while encouraging each to focus on the 1-3 non-billable areas where the lawyer believes/wants to contribute to the success of the firm beyond simply billing hours.

Taking on, leading and supporting an effective planning process that can be tracked, updated and reported upon is a great method for mar com/bus dev staff to help measurably drive firm revenue and growth. I think that taking the time to tailor a simple format and approach that will work for your firm is a very worthy endeavor.

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