Ghosts? Proper Business Procedures Ward Off Scary Occurrences

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According to a May 27 article by Debra Cassens Weiss in the ABA Journal, some people believe that a ghost is haunting a courthouse in New Mexico. Doors shutting of their own accord, a cold chill in the air, items dropping to the floor without cause, and sightings of a ghost donned in early 1900s attire are some of the strange happenings at the Alamogordo building.

It is not the only haunted courthouse, according to a companion article by Lee Rawles, who writes that many courthouses across the United States are inhabited by ghosts.

Do you believe in ghosts? Whether you do or don't, there are always plenty of reported mysterious, unexplained happenings.

One thing, though, that is certain: In the business of law, there isn't much that is unexplained. In other words, if you conduct your business as you should, you can count on certain outcomes.

Certainly, you can't predict the economy or the number or financial size of the clients you will attract. However, if you follow certain procedures, you can stem the effects of a bad economy, and you can attract and keep a reasonable number of clients. By following these procedures, you will set up the foundations for success and keep bad business ghosts at bay.

The main procedure is to establish a plan for your business. This is really a five-step process, which includes preparing to plan, identifying your goals, developing the marketing plan, creating a financial plan, and evaluating and revising the plan.

It is important to note that plans for the future do not always mean anticipating growth. In a stagnating economy, planning to stay at the present level of revenue, market share or practice size may be the most that a lawyer can expect.

Prepare to plan

This step involves having all key players agree to make and abide by the plan, determining logistics for planning sessions, and gathering historical information for analysis and realistic modifications.

Set goals

It is important to set goals for the future direction of the practice — and for the people within it — because only when you have established goals can you make plans for how to achieve them.

Before an initial business planning meeting, have firm member's complete questionnaires about personal, professional and firm goals. For the individual lawyer to wholeheartedly endorse the firm's goals, those goals also must support the individual's goals. It works both ways.

Revise or restate your goals as needed to make them sufficiently specific. When goals change, you need to revise your plan accordingly.

Create the marketing plan

The objective here is to assess your current situation and develop a strategy of targeted actions that will help meet the firm's goals for coming months and years.

Look at your particular set of goals and determine how the marketing plan can achieve them. For example, you want to attract a certain number and type of clients, shift the firm's practice area balance to respond to trends, project a different image to your market, or increase revenues by a certain volume.

Create the financial plan

The financial plan is the true guide to the success of a law practice. It is a roadmap for your firm's operation over the next six to 18 months. This is expressed in financial terms and reflects the implementation of the marketing plan created to achieve your goals.

The expression of financial terms is in the form of a cash flow statement. This includes a projection of revenue to be collected, a projection of expenses to be paid, and a summary of the two.

Evaluate and revisit the plan

The plan should be reviewed regularly. Results of your practice, such as collected revenue and accounts receivable, should be assessed periodically. The plan should be modified as circumstances change.

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