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Business planning

Business planning is about developing strategies to achieve the goals of the practice. Doing this will help you use your time and resources more effectively.

Strategy is your long-term plan for the legal practice – developing the vision of the legal practice, establishing goals around creating and delivering client value and achieving the vision and goals.

A business plan is a short-term action plan; it sets out how you will achieve the strategy (goals) of the practice over a defined period of time using your time and resources effectively.   

The contents of a typical business plan are:

  • executive summary
  • business goals
  • management plan
  • market research and analysis
  • marketing plan
  • operational plan
  • financial plan
  • action plan

In order to prepare a business plan, the following steps are suggested:

1. Evaluate your business model.

Identify your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Established practices should consult partners and key staff for their assessment of the practice in terms of:

  • financial performance overall (and within practice areas if applicable)
  • income expectations over a fixed period
  • practice structure and type
  • particulars of key clients and referral sources
  • staffing numbers, skills and quality
  • work environment and facilities
  • competition
  • room for growth

This information can be used to identify expectations and set or revise achievable goals for the short-, medium- and long-term future of the practice.

2. Analyse the market.

Consolidation of relationships with existing clients and the acquisition of new clients require careful analysis of the market and its potential needs:

  • geographical boundaries defining the market
  • purchasing power and spending habits of target market
  • population trends (growth/decline)
  • economic trends in that area (market)
  • competitors in that area (market)

3. Create a mission statement.

This is a simple way to reiterate the key values and objectives of the practice. Best practice suggests that a mission statement should be no longer than five paragraphs and should be agreed to by the partnership and employees. It can also be used in marketing materials to demonstrate to clients the practice’s cohesion and commitment to success.

4. Establish planning schedules.

Establishing the firm’s objectives against a twelve-month schedule is an effective way to manage and monitor the progress of the practice. Devising strategies for achieving longer-term goals is simpler when those goals are broken down into annual or short-term growth targets.

This systematic approach should be applied to all business areas of your practice; including finance, human resources (HR), knowledge management and marketing.

The resulting business plan should be revisited and revised at regular intervals to meet the changing circumstances of your practice.

Frequently Asked Questions