Making Rain: Looking ahead to 2018, back into your plan

stohler-making-rainAs the year ends, it might be time to look forward to 2018 and what you plan to do. Basing plans upon what you would use to measure success can be helpful. In other words, start backwards and list the two or three things that you would say describe a successful firm or a successful lawyer. It might be things like:

• Increased revenue.
• Working more efficiently.
• Delighting your clients.

If these things define success, then what do you need to do in 2018 to make these things happen?

Look inside and backwards

What have you done in the past and what can the future look like? You don’t have to invent something clever and new, just make it better. Amazon for example, did not invent online shopping. But, it did look at online shopping and ask, “How can we make this a better experience for the customer?” The company looked at the current state of the online shopping experience, start to finish, and thoughtfully put a strategy in place to make it better, easier, more convenient, and seamless for the customer. In short, Amazon went about the business of redefining the online shopping experience. How can you redefine the experience of buying legal services for your clients? And, if you do this, won’t that lead to accomplishing increased revenue, working more efficiently, and delighting your clients?

Map your time

Another way to back into your plan is to look at how you have been spending your time. Whatever you decide describes a successful firm should be where you are spending most, if not all, of your time. If you are not doing that, what is wrong? Look back over your year and how you and your firm work, then develop some strategies or plans around how you will stop doing the things that don’t align exactly with what success looks like. Get the stuff that doesn’t keep you focused on success off your list. Reduce the clutter, and spend your time wisely.

Where did you lose?

Look back over the past year and dig into those engagements that you didn’t get. Do you know why? If you don’t, ask the prospect for some feedback. Why did they pick another firm over yours? Once you have a pretty good idea, build a strategy around what you will try to do going forward to address the things you have identified. It might be better to stay out of the game until you are really prepared to compete in an area of law or industry. Trying to win business where it is a long shot, for whatever reason, is not a good use of your time. It would be better to use the time to do what you need to do to be competitive, then get in the game. Stay focused on where you know you can be successful.

How’s the journey?

If you want to improve client satisfaction and delight your clients, you have to understand what their experience with you looks like. Have you done the proverbial walk in their shoes? Have a look back to see what it took to get some of the work done for your clients. How could you have done it better or more efficiently? One of the best ways to do this is to get the client and the lawyers who worked on a case together in a room, and then discuss how it all played out. Revisit the journey. What would you and the client have done differently to make it a better experience? Once you have identified these improvements, then make it part of your strategy to implement the changes.

Next year will be no different from all the rest in terms of the interesting challenges and opportunities that present themselves. Knowing where you want to focus and the steps that you plan to take over the course of the year to compete more effectively will only help you maximize the opportunities and take care of the challenges as quickly as possible. Profitability and client satisfaction must be part of the equation. How you set your course to move forward can be driven by lessons learned from the past. So, it never hurts to take a look back before you boldly move forward into 2018.


Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at [email protected] or through Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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