I hope you will be able to join me on June 13 for my second Lateral Link Rainmaker webinar. In this one, I will share with you how to prepare a business plan.

Several years ago I gave a presentation on career planning to over 200 associates in a large law firm. As I often do, I began by asking how many in the room had prepared a Personal Performance and Development Plan or Business Plan with written goals. Surprisingly only a handful had a prepared a plan.

I then asked how many had begun planning their summer vacations. Far more hands were raised. Many lawyers spend more time planning their vacations than they spend planning their careers.

Why should you have a plan? I believe when you prepare a plan with written goals, you will take control of your future. In addition, if your plan and written goals are focused on something you truly value, you will feel energized, committed, and disciplined to achieve them. Finally, having a plan enables you to best use your two most important resources: your time and your energy.

Not to plan is to risk what Yogi Berra once said:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to end up somewhere else.”

I learned early in my career that without a focus, I could easily get distracted. So, it was important to me, to not only know where I was going but also to have a map to show me if I was on course for my destination. If I had not identified what I wanted in my future and charted a written course, I would not have had the discipline to take the actions necessary to get there.

When I speak to lawyers on planning, I share ideas from the first three habits in Dr. Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Dr. Covey’s first three habits are:

  • Habit 1 — Be Proactive;
  • Habit 2 — Begin with the End in Mind;
  • Habit 3 — Put First Things First.

What do these habits mean to your law career? First, being proactive means that each of you is responsible for your own career. Where you go from here is up to you. Your firm can help, but you are the one who ultimately is responsible.

Beginning with the end in mind means you must have some idea of what you want to accomplish and what you want to become in the future. In planning your career, you must have a vision of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. For each of you this will be different and your ability to see the future will be different.

Putting first things first means establishing priorities. You can’t do it all. You have to make choices. A lawyer I coached several years ago decided her priorities were:
• Her family;
• Her church;
• Her health; and
• Her clients and law firm.

I recommend you prepare a list of 10 things you want to accomplish. Then, rank each
goal on your list and to identify the one goal which, if accomplished, would have the greatest impact on your career and life.

For each one, I suggest you answer why accomplishing it would be important to you. Without a good answer to the “why” question, you will not have the discipline or commitment to stay with it.

Your Business Plan will be of little value if it is not implemented. So how can you hold yourself accountable?

First, I suggest you break down your plan into 90-day goals. Make a list of what you want to do in the next 90 days.

Next, get a colleague in your firm or a friend and share your plans and 90-day goals with each other.

Finally, plan each week by listing what you plan to do, estimating how much time it will take and put it on your calendar.

There are 168 hours in a week.  If you sleep 56 hours and bill 40 hours a week and plan and use 10 non-billable hours a week for your own development and client development, that leaves you with 62 waking hours a week for personal time.

How well you plan and use the 10 non-billable hours will ultimately determine the quality of your career and how well you plan and use the 62 personal hours will determine the quality of your life.