If you have several million dollars in originations each year, you likely won’t need a business plan when you are seeking to change firms. (I suspect not many of those lawyers are regular readers of this blog, but…)

If you are like most other potential lateral partners, you want to able to demonstrate your potential. The first step in that effort is your business plan. You should prepare a business plan even if you are happy and content with your present firm. It will help you be more successful.

Why and how? In 2018, your time is really important, and for your own professional success and personal fulfillment, you should use your time wisely.

Preparing a business plan will help you prioritize how you spend your time, focus your attention on the important things and execute. With no plan, you will find it easy not to do anything other than the billable work that is on your desk.

If we worked together, you may recall I said that many lawyers spend more time planning a vacation than they spend planning their careers. Interestingly, the approach to planning can be similar.

What can we learn from our 30th Anniversary Trip to Ireland in 2000? (Can’t believe we are honing in on the big number 50 in two years.)

Start with Answering What and Why

Nancy, spent at least 20 hours planning this trip for us. She decided she wanted us to go to Ireland and she knew why.

Her family came to the United States from Ireland and she also knew she would enjoy the people, the scenery, the golf courses, the Irish beef cooked by French Chefs and the Irish Pubs serving Irish beer. So, she knew what and why. Then she planned where we would stay, where we would play golf and the itinerary for each day.

I like to say she did a top-down and bottom-up plan. Her top-down plan was looking at what she wanted us to do and where she wanted us to go. Her bottom-up plan looked at how many days we would spend and what we could do in that number of days. Then she had a plan for each day we were there.

When I practiced law, I prepared my business plan the same way and you should also.

I started with one major goal. My goal long ago was to become the “go to” lawyer for transportation construction contractors.

Why was that important to me?

First, I was far more comfortable knowing a lot about a little than I would have been knowing a little about a lot. I wanted to be a specialist and have a niche industry based practice.

I also wanted the recognition of being the “go to” lawyer for contractors. While I always had financial goals and wanted to earn a good living, the money really didn’t drive me. It was simply a way of keeping score.

My plan for each year had many, many action items. If did not reach my yearly financial goal, I knew I had come closer than I would have with no goal or if I had set a lower goal.

My bottom-up planning began with an estimate of how many non-billable hours I felt I could spend on client development. I usually planned to spend between 240-300 (20-25 a month). Then I outlined what would be the best use of those hours.

I have a short attention span. Knowing that caused me to break my action items down into smaller pieces. Each month I outlined the actions I wanted to accomplish that month and at the end of the month, I could track how I had done.

So, what do you want to achieve? Why is achieving it important to you? What is your plan to achieve it?