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What Should Be Discussed at Your Strategic Planning Day?

Working on your business (strategic thinking) rather than in your business (technical work) is the #1 difference between great law firms and those that struggle.  You need to set aside a day to just think about where you’re going and how you’ll get there—this is the power of strategic planning for lawyers.  If you have no vision for your law firm, you’ll spend your career treading water.

The first step is scheduling one day every three months for quarterly strategic planning with your staff.  There’s no need to set an agenda—for now, just set aside 1 day over the next 3 months (and a total of 4 days over the next 12 months) for a strategic planning day, and you’ve already taken more action toward working on your business than 98% of your peers.

                                                    Defining ONE GOAL for your Rallying Cry

Okay, you’ve set aside a one day over the next 90 days for strategic planning with your staff, but what do you do at the meeting? The temptation is to throw a bunch of goals on your agenda, but if you’re focused on more than one thing, you’ll accomplish nothing.  Avoid a complicated agenda for your strategic planning day—seek to accomplish just a SINGLE GOAL (your “Rallying Cry”) over the next 90 days.

“The key is to rally the entire leadership team—and thus, everyone else in the organization—around a single purpose for a given period of time.”

Patrick Lencioni, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

Your first step for strategic planning is defining your Rallying Cry, or Thematic Goal, over the next 90 days.

                                              Step #1:  Thematic Goal (your “Rallying Cry”)

The thematic goal is not a number, and it is not even a specific measurable. The thematic goal is a general statement of a desired objective and does not live beyond a fixed time period (usually 90 days).

There can only be one thematic goal in a given period—something has to be most important.  A thematic goal provides a unifying sense of purpose that gets employees throughout your law firm rowing in the same direction.  The thematic goal should be unique for every 90 days.

“Every organization needs a top priority.  When a company is tempted—and most always are—to throw in one or two extra top priorities, they defeat the purpose of the thematic goal, which is to provide clarity around whatever is truly most important.”

Patrick Lencioni, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

Your thematic goal might be as simple as getting trial dates for your five biggest injury cases over the next 90 days.  This helps align your employees around a single goal and makes it crystal clear what is most important to your law firm.

                                                           Step #2:  Defining Objectives

The “Defining Objectives” are the specific tasks that must be done to accomplish your thematic goal.  If your thematic goal is getting trial dates for your top 5 injury cases, the defining objectives might be:

  • Complete depositions,
  • Draft expert responses,
  • File note of issue, and
  • Write to court to request a trial date.

With a list of defining objectives, your staff knows exactly what must be done to accomplish your thematic goal.  But you’re not done yet.

                                                                  Step #3:  Metrics

Next, you need to set dates by which a given activity (a/k/a/ “Defining Objectives”) will be accomplished.  The metrics are not always quantifiable numbers–often they are dates by which a given activity will be completed.

The Metrics for each of your Defining Objectives might be:

  • 30 days to complete depositions,
  • 45 days to serve expert responses,
  • 60 days to file note of issue,
  • 75 days to request a trial date from court, and
  • 90 days to have trial dates scheduled.

You’ve got specific tasks and deadlines for each task, but there’s just one more thing.

                                         Why Weekly Accountability Meetings are Crucial

You’ve wasted your time (and your staff’s time) if you spend time creating a thematic goal, defining objectives and metrics at your strategic planning day without reviewing your progress at least once a week.  The key to strategic planning are weekly staff meetings to review and discuss your progress with your staff.

The weekly staff meetings keep your staff focused on your Rallying Cry and it’s a good way to make sure you’re making progress with your Defining Objectives.  And just maybe by the end of the 90 days, you’ll have trial dates for your 5 biggest injury cases and you’ll be ready to tackle your next “Rallying Cry” at your next strategic planning day.

You’re on your way to thinking strategically about your law practice in a way that none of your peers have even thought of.





photo credit: Premier Christy Clark hosts Canada’s premiers at the Council of the Federation meetings in Vancouver via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.