In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York virtual office lawyer Joleena Louis shares the importance of a five-year plan, and why every single solo lawyer must have one.
Where is your firm going to be in five years? It’s a question one of my clients, the CEO of a successful startup, recently ask me. I was stunned and didn’t have a great answer. I have a solid plan for the next year, but I only have vague ideas beyond that. Nothing in writing. And I think that is a problem.
This got me thinking, are other solo lawyers in the same boat as me? I started asking around and the responses didn’t surprise me. Most of the solo lawyers I talked to said something along the lines of “I’m just trying to make it through this year.”
Apparently, this is not an unusual sentiment according to a survey by Staples, 63% of small businesses don’t have a five-year plan.
But why do you need to plan so far ahead? It’s simple – if you know where you want to be in five years, it’s easy to plan backwards and take small steps to reach your goals. And having a concrete plan and direction for your firm will help you make better decisions.
When developing my five-year plan, I took the same steps I used to make my strategy for the year.
Assess Where You Are
Take a long hard look at your practice. Then ask yourself, are you happy? Do you have the type of clients you want? Are you earning enough? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Write these things down.
After seeing your assessment on paper, it is easier to decide what areas need improvement. Making the task of laying out your five-year plan that much simpler.
Decide Where You Want to Be
Next, describe what you want your practice to look like. What would be different from now? For this part, I like to write a narrative, a few paragraphs describing my ideal workday like a story
For example, I’d like to hire a few employees for my practice (maybe a paralegal and an associate or two). This will allow me to spend more time working on my business instead of in it. Writing a story makes it easier to imagine, and helps me to decide what I want most for my firm.
Define Goals & Objectives
Next, make some goals that will get you from where you are to where you want to be. For example, I have a goal for the yearly revenue I want in five years, the type of client I want to work with, and the number of people I want to hire.
Now that I have strictly defined my goals, it will be easier for me to make decisions and dedicate work towards accomplishing those tasks specifically.
Make A Plan
Then, break down the steps you need to take to reach these goals. Break down what you need to do each year, each quarter, and each month to be where you want to be in five years. Review this plan quarterly to make sure you stay on track.
Planning is the easy part, execution is where it usually falls apart. I find it helpful to schedule time each quarter to review and revise my goals so I can stay on track.
Having a five-year plan will help you build your practice with focus instead of aimlessly rambling forward. The sooner you sit down and develop this plan, the sooner you will see the results.
Do you have a five-year plan for your solo practice? Let me know how you developed your plan in the comments below!