Law firms face disruption on multiple fronts and they are struggling to get things done. Firm leaders must contend with the pandemic's health threat and the challenges of managing a remote workforce, as well as supply chain disruptions, demand shifts, resource constraints and more, all while devising critical plans for the road ahead. Combined with uncertainty about how long the pandemic will continue to disrupt daily life and the economy, firms are having trouble prioritizing their needs and adapting to the constantly shifting environment.
Here are actionable steps law firms should consider for getting things done in the current business climate. Using these best practices will increase the likelihood of completing your strategic initiatives in 2021.
Figure out what you need to focus on and develop a plan for getting it done:
- Identify priority projects for the next quarter;
- Ensure projects align with the broader organization's strategic plans;
- Sort those projects into individual workstreams with dedicated teams;
- Make actionable checklists for each project;
- Create project benchmarks and define key performance indicators (KPIs); and
- Establish a monthly/quarterly review cadence for the initiatives with the executive team. Review all major initiatives, progress to date and the current business environment. Reprioritize where appropriate.
Assign the Right People
Identify your dedicated team - with the appropriate combination of skillsets and personalities - to ensure that the project gets the attention it needs to be accomplished successfully, on time and on budget:
- Designate a specific person or team to be responsible for a project;
- Identify a senior-level champion for the project/initiative to help ensure firm-wide buy-in;
- Ensure that the team has productive group chemistry and the right combination of skillsets. At a minimum, you will need a big-picture visionary, a strategist to turn that vision into an action plan and a tactical executor;
- When building the team, look for high performers outside of your regular circles to spread the opportunity to more professionals and provide them with an opportunity to expand their skillsets;
- Be judicious about who is on the team. Keep only those who believe in the project and want it to succeed; and
- Be realistic about team members' workloads. Try to offload less important work that project members may be doing so they can dedicate more time to their assignments on the project.
Build a Bird's-Eye View
You will need a method of communicating all the projects happening throughout the firm to leadership and other parts of the organization. Getting a big-picture view also allows you to assess how peoples' time is being used, whether you are relying too heavily on a few professionals and if the organization is taking on more than it can handle.
- Track all of the various projects in your organization in a centralized location, using common metrics for monitoring success, with the help of dashboards to provide the big picture; and
- Ensure that all dashboards are easy to use and are fed by accurate, real-time data. However, do not rely solely on dashboards. Remain in regular communication with the project team who can provide more context to the data and share qualitative updates that are not as easily tracked.
Foster a "Fail Fast" Mindset
In the current environment, it is more important to act swiftly than to wait and strive for perfection. If you try to plan for every eventuality, you may be too slow to respond adequately to a crisis or seize a new opportunity:
- Do not wait for perfection - start executing. Encourage a "fail fast" organizational culture and not just for times of crisis;
- Assess the progress and value of all projects on an ongoing basis - at least monthly and, if feasible, bi-weekly;
- Determine if they are moving the needle for your business;
- Evaluate the progress of each project against predetermined KPIs and milestones. Is the project meeting those KPIs, and do they bring the expected return on investment (ROI)? ROI comes in many forms (e.g., revenue protection, revenue generation, increased profitability, cost avoidance, etc.), so define the ROI that you are aiming for to measure the project's success. Try to identify quick wins in the early stages; and
- Based on this evaluation of impact and ROI, determine whether projects need to be discontinued, reprioritized or require more investment and support.
Develop the Next Generation
Even in a crisis period, make sure that you are still taking steps to train people and provide them with new opportunities.
- As you address immediate needs, do not neglect your firm's future. Provide avenues for junior staff to get exposure to opportunities that further their growth;
- Include at least one junior person on every project team. Even if they are just involved in project management, expose them to strategic conversations that are beneficial for their development; and
- Teach them to be students - and, ultimately, champions - of the "fail fast" mindset that you are encouraging in the organization. The next generation of leaders will take up that mantle.
Related Read: Millennial Matters: Understanding Your Younger Attorneys
Whether you are trying to overcome financial challenges, capitalize on a new opportunity or adapt to shifting market conditions, how swiftly and effectively you act in the next few months could have significant implications for your firm's long-term success.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.