Saturday, September 18, 2010

Something Better than 5%

At their retreat, the partners were finishing a plan to address their projected five-year needs for office space, associates and staff. As they were about to reach a conclusion (as it applies here, a “conclusion” being whatever opinion you hold at the moment you get tired of thinking about something), one of the founding partners, mostly silent during this discussion, elbowed me and whispered, “Watch this.”

On the white board he drew a graph that, if it illustrated the growth in your 401(k), would make you giddy. “This,” he explained to his colleagues, “shows the success of our firm since we started.” He gave a two-minute synopsis of their revenue, client and attorney growth during the firm’s first decade, then finished by saying, “We have never had a year that is as bad as what you’re assuming each of the next five years is going to be. And we never will.”

Around the table, loud exhaling was accompanied by the reopening of ring binders, and the planning discussion resumed.

Regardless of their past successes, it’s hard for most people to picture a future that is much better than now. They’re willing to entertain predictions of modest improvement, but except for the most intrepid planners, a bold vision of the future is the present plus 5%.

If crafting a compelling vision for your law practice has you stymied, try this: Pick a year – five or ten years from now – and design a Martindale-Hubbell profile for yourself that would be consistent with a huge practice. Fill in the blanks: articles you will have had published, presentations you will have made, certifications, professional memberships, community involvement, honors and awards, and representative clients.

That can be a fun way to create a great vision for your practice. Once you have that blueprint in front of you, you may find that working toward your vision becomes pretty easy.

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