Law Firm Imperatives: Case Preparation, Trial Strategy … and Strategic Planning

Law Firm Imperatives: Case Preparation, Trial Strategy … and Strategic Planning

James R. McCarthy, MS, CPC

Time to Read: 2 minutes

Lawyers must always prepare a case extensively. Learning how to perform competent case analysis and conduct adequate initial case preparation and planning is crucial. Doing these things in a comprehensive manner often is what separates the exceptional from the merely proficient in pretrial advocacy.

The strategy of a case is similarly crucial. The strategy is analogous to a highway system onto which all tactics merge on the way to a successful destination. Successfully plotting the route will permit an attorney to maintain an overall view of the case, much like viewing a road map from beginning to end.

Case Preparation and Trial Strategy are all about managing complexity and reducing the amount and impact of surprises through meticulous research, scenario formulation, and extensive planning, all focused on the desired end result, or big picture. Strategic Planning is also a process that involves looking at the big picture, envisioning a desired future, and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives by utilizing a sequence of steps to achieve them. Case preparation and trial strategy are about giving your firm the best chance to prevail in a given situation. Strategic Planning is about giving your firm the best chance to not only succeed, but to maintain preeminence over the long term.

In a white paper on Strategic Planning in Law Firms, ALM Legal Intelligence said “Corporations invest significant time and energy on strategic plans. They hire armies of analysts and consultants to develop their mid-to long-term strategies, benchmark their company against the competition, and check budgets against actuals to ensure the strategy is working and ROI is achieved. Law firms, on the other hand, devote much less effort to strategic planning as compared with their corporate clients. Historically, they have paid lip service to planning rituals, and tend to be more reactive than proactive in the way they conduct their business”.

In today’s increasingly dynamic, and competitive milieu, law firms and corporate law departments need an integrated strategic plan more than ever – but it has been estimated that just over half of law firms have an official strategic plan, or a written marketing plan, or have linked their professional practices and budgets to overall strategic plans.

In most law firms, practice areas and client ‘lists’ have grown up almost haphazardly as opportunities have presented themselves. No one in the firm really focuses on the overall strategy of the firm. This lack of a strategic focus can result in, among other issues: marketplace confusion; failure to cross-sell; internal frustration and low morale; loss of key staff, and ultimately, sub-par economic performance.

Savvy firms have learned that they must broaden their understanding of the difference between the practice of law and the business of law, if they are to improve their existing position and continue to achieve healthy gains in measures such as RPL; PPP; talent acquisition; profitability, and overall revenue growth. Said another way, law firms must take the same care, and make use of a methodical approach to the long-term business strategy for their firm, as they do while preparing important and complex cases. Doing poorly in an important case for a key client will have devastating effects for your firm. Having a poorly designed, inadequate, or incomplete strategy for your firm will be significantly more ruinous to your chances to survive and prosper.

Lawyers are well trained in the techniques and minutiae of Case Management. Indeed, it can be said that a case is largely won or lost based upon who does the most thorough preparation. In the competition between firms for growth, strategic planning – aka preparation – will be dispositive in determining which firms succeed and prosper, and those who fall by the wayside.

The legal profession is a complex one. As noted earlier, the environment within which law firms operate is competitive, concentrated, demanding – and ever changing. Firms of all sizes – from small to mid-size to very large – can be at a competitive disadvantage based on breadth and depth of specialties, client attrition (as expansion leaves them exposed to other firms in new locations) – and even price. Strategic Planning has been proven to be the one key differentiator that can help your firm stand out favorably in the competitive pack.

Does your strategic plan address how you will differentiate yourselves from your competition? How will you dominate in the geographic and practice areas that you choose to be in? How will you increase your payoffs with strong marketing efforts? How will you decrease your overall costs while increasing revenue per lawyer – or per client?

Strategy is the Sine Qua Non of success for firms of all sizes. The same attention to detail that is the hallmark of an excellent lawyer, or of an outstanding firm representing their clients, is the same attention to detail that must go into planning for the growth of the professional practice(s) and total business development. Just as sound case management is a key differentiator between the topmost firms and the rest, a great strategy is very often the deciding factor in determining who simply survives – or who truly thrives.

A solid strategic plan is a firm’s roadmap to success. If you want success in today’s world, you must employ strategic thinking and execution throughout your firm. Wolf Management Consultants can help you develop a robust strategy that should significantly increase your return on your people, ideas, clients, and capital.

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