Creating a business plan for a small law practice

September 26th, 2012 by Briana Cummings

Erik Mazzone on Law Practice Matters suggests sticking to just a one- or two-page business plan, which can be created in a couple hours. No need to make it fancy. Just enough to allow you “to run through the most critical big picture questions without getting bogged down in details that are not mission critical on day 1.”

One-page business plans are readily available on the web. Things to include in your one-page business plan (/business pitch):

  • Your passion
  • Your mission
  • Opportunities — well-defined market or niche
  • Practice areas, broken down by the percentage of money you think you will earn from each — think about including a new 21st-century practice area
  • Potential clients — and, among those, your target clients
  • Goals — for the next 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months, and 10 years — Think about metrics such as # of clients or annual income
  • How you will make money — What you will charge and how you will get paid
  • Marketing – How will customers learn about your business? How will you get referrals?
  • Obstacles/challenges/threats you will need to confront

See examples of one-page business plans by Chris Guillebeau, who wrote a book on starting a micro-business, The $100 Startup.

Don’t get too carried away. A recent Harvard Business Review study (written up in New York Times bestseller Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck) of hundreds of successful entrepreneurs around the world found that about 70% did not start with a business plan:

Instead, their business journeys originated in . . . a place we call the Heart. They were conceived not with a document but with a feeling and doing for an authentic vision. Clarity of purpose and passion ruled the day with less time spent writing about an idea and more time spent just doing it.

The study authors explained that planning everything in advance is too complex; if you try to do it, you will probably get it all wrong. Better to “incorporate facts from real world testing” as you go along. As McDonald’s executive Mats Lederhausen says, think big, start small, then scale or fail fast.

William Hsu, co-founder and managing partner at start-up accelerator MuckerLab, and former executive at AT&T and eBay, echoes this advice: Rather than worry about a business plan, Hsu says, focus on your team and getting your product/service to market as quickly as you can.

Sources:

Anthony K. Tjan, “Great Businesses Don’t Start with a Plan,” Harvard Business Review Blog Network, May 16, 2012

Minda Zetlin, “Business Plans Are a Waste of Time. Here’s What to Do Instead,” Inc., Oct. 10, 2012

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