On Change, Planning and Professional Practice

Death, taxes and change.

Reputedly, these are among life’s inevitabilities. And while there is probably very little we can do about death and taxes, change is something we truly can manage.

A central theme of many of my Practice Tips posts has been the importance of planning for law firms and other professional practices. By occasionally stepping back from the demands of our day-to-day dealings and deadlines, we can gain the benefit of a longer view, think about objectives, and develop strategies and routines to meet our short and longer term goals.

There will be many changes along the way, from the day we first hang a shingle, through to the maturity phase of our practices, and the ultimate decision that may come sooner – or later – than we think to wind down, transition to retirement, plan for succession or otherwise expand or contract our professional horizons.

Throughout our careers, there will probably be more than a few office addresses, important collaborators or partners, key clients, irreplaceable staff members, and memorable cases and projects  There will also be revolutions in technology, drastic changes to the substantive law, regular shifts in the economy and continuing evolution of our marketplace and our regulatory environment.

Not to mention, a few curveballs.

Things don’t generally remain static in professional practice. Opportunities, setbacks and new challenges will virtually always come our way.

There will be lessons learned and pages turned, if you will.

It would be naive to believe all of these changes can be planned for. Some changes will be thrown upon us, unexpected, sudden and even unwelcome. That’s life, I suppose.

Nonetheless, much of this inevitable change can be managed and directed, if not wholly controlled. And our professional paths and our career successes may well be defined by how we navigate these changes.

Obviously, the future can’t be fully predicted or controlled, but with careful planning, a professional  practice can definitely be guided in the right direction more often than not.

Begin by identifying objectives, challenges and issues. Get input from others. Be concrete about goals. Break objectives down into their  components and target small, readily achievable milestones. Speak regularly with your partners, associates, staff, accountants, life partners, practice management experts and any other trusted sounding boards. Make lists, check them twice. Always leave space in your calendar to regularly assess where you are and work on your practice and professional goaks.

The topics of discussion will likely change through the phases and life cycle of every practice, but once established, the habit and art of planning can be a majar contributor to handling change and moving our career arcs forward.


Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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