Planning for the upcoming year often starts in the final quarter of the year. Annual plans vary widely depending on the structure and scope of the firm, but there are some topics that appear in most effective strategic plans for law firms.
Finances & Operations
Every firm should evaluate their finances. This may include reviewing their current budget situation and any excess funds, as well as projecting the next year’s budget, assessing any tax questions that might be outstanding. If you’re a small or solo firm, are you squared away with your quarterly payments?
A brand new year is also when you can streamline your operational practices and procedures. Review your client intake forms, calendaring and bookkeeping processes, file maintenance practices, and any other routine office procedures.
Contracts & Vendors
Looking at budgets can give firms a jumping-off point for evaluating contracts and renewals.
Which vendors have you been using this year? Are they still your best option? Even if they are, it’s worth checking to see if you can get a better deal on your contracts — line items from software subscriptions to utility costs can often be negotiated. Also make sure to check if there are any new discounts available through your state bar association, especially for legal resources.
Firms should also identify their goals for the year. While the turbulent nature of a pandemic may make it difficult to set effective goals for the entire year, determining goals for the first quarter will give everyone benchmarks to start off the year with.
As part of discussions about goals, firms should also pinpoint longer term opportunities for growth. Are there CLE needs that could be met? Strategic partnerships that could be developed? Come up with a list of questions to explore as you plan your next year’s goals.
However, when considering growth, firms should also consider if there are areas for cutting back. In a recession, it’s important to maximize your budget, and strategically scaling back can help keep your firm financially sound.