♫ All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you
Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
I was made for you…♫
Lyrics and music by Phillip John Hanseroth, recorded by Brandi Carlile.
The beginning of September is always the start of the new year for me. Perhaps it was so many years spent in school and the inevitable association with the start of the newly-minted school year. Perhaps it is coming back from a summer vacation refreshed and invigorated and with new energy for projects. Perhaps it is because I have been talking to many people who have plans for when they get back in September in terms of branding and setting a new strong strategic direction for their firm.
Either way, I believe that September is a wonderful time to refocus, regroup and decide the future direction of your practice. What changes would you like to see? Over time law firms can lose their focus on their core services – what do they do best. They can also lose touch with their core values and their strategic direction as they take on new files and clients that pull them in new directions. September is a perfect time to sit back with your colleagues and think about where the firm is going. Do you wish it to explore new opportunities? Or are you being pulled into areas that no longer represent the reasons you formed the firm in the first place? What is gnawing on you about the firm? What would you like to change from both a firm-wide and personal perspective? Start a list..and have your colleagues do the same – and arrange a time (on a weekend) to hone in on all this and come to a consensus on where all of you would like to go.
Come together and discuss the firm..its direction, focus, what makes it special and distinct – and what should be the future direction of the firm. What is your story? Have you been drawn away from the clients, activities and associations that drew all of you together in the first place? What is your marketing focus for the next while? What would you like to change regarding the management of the firm? What about technology? Have you fallen a bit behind in this area and need to incorporate plans for upgrades and new ways of doing things? Are there categories in the finance area that you would like to tighten up, such as the collection of old accounts receivable and the tightening up of credit extended to clients? How about looking at your budget and seeing if the expenses in the group “we have always been paying this” should be looked at again if for no other reason to see if there are other vendors who might be less-expensive?
Personally I think one of the important measures is whether you have remained a ‘client-focused firm’. My late colleague and friend Milt Zwicker’s acid test was whether what was done in the firm provided value to the clients – or not. If not he would change or modify the policy or procedure so that it benefitted clients as much as possible.
I think focusing on the story of the firm and how it carries you into the future is also important. This is the culture, the invisible bond that draws all of you together and forms the backbone of the belief system of the firm. Organizations can change their culture and focus, but the story is the glue that connects the past with the future and tells why you are where you are. It is important to connect with the story of the firm, since after all, the firm was made for you to be able to provide value and meaning to your clients.
-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.