JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   I spoke at the The Oregon Minority Lawyers Association (OMLA) and the Multnomah Bar Association (MBA) Hanging Out Your Shingle yesterday with two successful Portland, Oregon solo practitioners, Ken Mitchell-Phillips of Mitchell Phillips Law PC and John Kodachi of John A. Kodachi, PC. Our panel was moderated by Anastasia Yu Meisner, Guyer Meisner, Attorneys, a small firm that has found its sucessful niche in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

We talked about the importance of planning – having a written business plan. Ken shared his great experience with having a written business plan and using it as a guide for staying focused. John stressed how difficult it is for new solo practitioners to juggle wearing different hats and maintaining focus. Both Ken and John keep the business coming in the door by having sound client development plans which include staying connected in their networks.

Have a plan and stay focused by using the plan. Fine tune where you are hoping to end up. Much like having a planned route and adjusting directions to take into account road construction and other barriers to getting to one’s destination on time and not frazzled.

In working with Oregon attorneys gearing up to go out on their own, I stress having a written business plan. It is a big effort to put together a business plan, but worth it. You don’t want to skimp on your business plan and just create some barely helpful document you put in a file and forget. Your business plan should include a Marketing Plan, Management Plan, and Financial Plan. Don’t just keep your plan in your head: write it down. Studies of Harvard School of Business grads have indicated that the focus is sharpened considerably by writing down the plan. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get derailed. For lawyers, trying to run their own firm, there is much coming – fast and frequent– that leads to derailment. I think the Pareto Rule: 80% of your result comes from 20% of your effort sums up things. One lawyer can become exhausted doing 80% of the things that only goes toward 20% of his result. You have to focus on the 20% effort going toward 80% of your result. Being efficient, is doing things right, being effective is doing the right things. Having that written business plan, as Ken shared, will keep you effective.

Can you create your own business plan? Yes. There are lots of resources for business plans. You need to address professional services issues that general retail businesses don’t. I personally think that the resources shared by Dan Pinnington, Director of Toronto’s PracticePRO, a part of LAWPRO, Ontario’s malpractice insurance carrier, are priceless! See PracticePRO for the practice aids for managing the finances of law practice including an excellent Business Plan template. Thanks, Dan and PracticePro.