You are consumed by the grind of the workday. With depositions, needy clients, and trials, you can’t find time to come up for air. You’re moving cases and paying bills, but are you getting ahead? Unless you take some time to plot your future, you’ll be in exactly the same place five years from now.
But where do you begin mapping out your strategic five-year plan? Block out an afternoon for 3 solid hours of uninterrupted thought about your future. No phone calls, emails or text messages–just you and a pad of paper. Describe in as much detail as possible what a great personal and professional life would look in in five years from today and be as specific as possible.
Establish Your Vision
What would your perfect law firm look like in the future? Begin by writing down the basics:
- # of Employees,
- # of Practice Areas,
- # of Active Cases and Trials every 12 months,
- What income do you desire?
This is the law firm you deeply desire, a/k/a, the law firm of your dreams. Creating a vision for the future of your law firm takes time–keep working on it until you have something that is perfect for you (Dream BIG!). Perhaps you want to transition from smaller injury cases to catastrophic cases. Write the vision for your practice in five years, i.e., 20 active lawsuits with a minimum case value for each case of $500k, and refer small cases to outside counsel based on a referral relationship.
The BIG QUESTION: Your Perfect Average Workday
Take the next step of creating a vision for your perfect workday. The Big Question you must ask: If there were no limitations, what would your perfect average day look like? Be as specific as possible.
- What would you spend the first half of your work day doing?
- What would you actually do at work?
- What are your clients like?
- What time will you leave the office?
- Will you work weekends?
Focus on creating a vision for your perfect workday that focuses on the highest and best use of your time. For most CEO/Entrepreneur lawyers, the highest and best use of your time is creating systems and policies for running your firm, i.e., policies for client communication, case management, quarterly strategic planning, etc.
“Nothing great is ever accomplished without first being preceded by a big vision.”
Brian P. Moran, The 12 Week Year
Begin by eliminating the busy stuff that wastes your time, i.e., eliminate unscheduled phone calls, have your secretary respond to your email and letters, and have your staff create the discovery demands and responses. Weeding out the “busy work” will allow you to focus on the work that constitutes the highest and best use of your time (Gary Keller’s book, “The One Thing”, is a must read).
Let Others Run Your Firm
Once you’ve eliminated the distractions, focus on spending at least half of your time thinking strategically about your firm’s systems and policies. Whenever a question or issue arises, ask yourself: How likely is it that you will need to answer the question again? If the question is likely to recur, create a system or policy for it. With systems in place, your staff won’t have to ask you what to do–your systems provide the answers for them and you won’t spend time answering the same questions.
Let’s say your paralegal is trying to finalize the terms of a personal injury settlement when the defense lawyer makes a new demand for confidentiality. Your paralegal doesn’t have to ask you what to do because you have a policy: “We NEVER agree to confidentiality”. Your paralegal tells the defense lawyer there is no settlement if he insists upon confidentiality and the defense lawyer quickly backs off. Problem solved…and you didn’t have to do a damn thing! This is the beauty of having systems that run your law practice.
Sharing Your Vision with Your Staff
It’s not enough to have a big vision for your law firm–you must print it out, share it with your team and keep it with you. Once you’ve created your vision, you must ask: Who have you shared your vision with? How often have you looked at your vision since you wrote it?
Make sure your staff knows your vision and create an action plan for achieving it. Put your vision on a whiteboard in your conference room and remind your staff about your vision at your weekly meetings. Sharing your vision creates alignment toward a common goal.
“Sharing your vision increases your commitment to it.”
Brian B. Moran, The 12 Week Year
Even better, laminate your vision on an index card, keep it with you in your wallet/purse and look at the vision card once a day. There is no better way of creating “top of mind” awareness of your vision.
Don’t Forget Your Staff’s Vision
Take some time to review the visions of your team members in individual one-on-one sessions. That’s right, your staff has visions for their professional and personal lives too. Begin by asking your staff to tell you about their biggest vision for their personal and professional lives–you might be surprised that they are very simple and attainable, i.e., home ownership.
Once you know the visions of your staff, help create a specific plan for the achievement of their dreams. You should hire a life coach/financial planner to meet with your team members for 30 minutes a month to discuss a plan for achieving their dream. Perhaps you set aside $500 from each settlement for a Dream Fund that can be allocated to help pay for your staff members’ dreams.
Your staff will appreciate that you’ve taken an interest in their dreams and want to help them achieve their dreams. The pursuit of dreams is what makes life worth living and when you help your team members progress toward the fulfillment of their dreams, they will walk through walls for you.
The Secret to a Lifetime of Happiness
Having a bigger car, yacht or house will only give you momentary happiness. If you want to be happy for a week, go on a cruise; if you want to be happy for a month, take a European vacation; if you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery. But if you want to be happy for a lifetime, craft a strategic five-year vision that focuses on helping others.
“The best visions balance your personal and professional lives.”
Brian P. Moran, The 12 Week Year
Create a five-year strategic vision that helps your staff, spouse or kids become a better version of themselves. Perhaps your receptionist wants to go back to school to become a paralegal, your son dreams of attending Harvard, or your wife wants to become a judge–whatever it is, put the focus on the five-year strategic visions of your family or team members and they will reward you with lifetime of happiness.