Any lawyer will tell you that the practice of law is a lot like a battle. You need to be strategic, you need to be prepared, and you need to be able to think on your feet. That’s why Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable,” is so applicable to the business decisions of law firms.
This quote is often used to illustrate the importance of flexible thinking in the face of change. In the legal profession, this quote takes on special significance. As businesses increasingly turn to law firms for advice on a wide range of issues, the need for flexible and adaptive planning has never been greater.
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.Dwight D. Eisenhower
What Goes into a Battle Plan?
A battle plan is a detailed map of how a commander intends to win a battle. It takes into account the terrain, the enemy’s position, and the resources at the commander’s disposal. In business, a battle plan is similarly designed to help an organization achieve its goals.
However, there are some key differences between business and military battle plans. First, business battle plans are not usually created with the intention of being carried out verbatim. Rather, they are designed to be adaptable and responsive to changes in the market or the business environment. Second, business battle plans typically involve a much longer time horizon than military ones. Whereas a military commander may be planning for a battle that will take place in the next few days or weeks, a business leader may be looking ahead several years.
When you’re running a law firm, there are a million things that can go wrong at any given moment. If you don’t have a plan in place for how to deal with those potential problems, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble. But if you take the time to sit down and map out a few different scenarios, you’ll be much better prepared to handle whatever comes your way.
Don’t Get Caught Off Guard
One of the most basic things that any good lawyer needs to do is anticipate the shifts in public policy that can come with the change of elected politicians. While the law itself may not change overnight, the way that it is interpreted and enforced can change dramatically.
Take for instance the change in cannabis law in the United States. For years, the federal government took a hard-line stance against the use of marijuana, but that changed when several states began to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes. The resulting patchwork of state and federal laws created a lot of confusion about what was legal and what wasn’t.
If you were running a law firm that dealt with cannabis law, you would need to have a plan in place for how to deal with the changing landscape. You might need to hire new lawyers with expertise in the field, or you might need to change your focus entirely.
Don’t Get Left Behind
Another area where law firms need to be prepared is in the area of technology. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, more and more businesses are turning to law firms for help in navigating the complex legal landscape.
If you’re not keeping up with the latest changes in technology, you’re going to get left behind. By the time you realize that you need to hire a new lawyer who specializes in tech law, your competitors may already be ahead of you.
The best way to avoid getting left behind is to have a plan in place for how to deal with rapidly changing technology.
Everything Changes and So Should You
You might be tempted to think that once you have a plan in place, you can just sit back and relax. Maybe it is your bread and butter to just do the same thing over and over again. Maybe you’ve become very successful by just being really good at one thing.
But the truth is, even the best-laid plans need to be revisited on a regular basis. As the world changes, so too will the legal landscape. What might have been a viable business model a few years ago may no longer be applicable in the future. Business models change, and Industries disappear. If you end up focused on a single industry that suddenly becomes obsolete, your whole business could crumble.
The key is to have a plan that is flexible enough to change with the times. You need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing legal landscape, or you’ll get left behind.
Nothing Ever Goes As Planned
When you are creating your plans, don’t get too caught up in the details. It’s important to have a general idea of what you want to achieve, but you also need to be flexible enough to change course if things don’t go as planned. That is what Eisenhower meant when he said that “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Don’t be afraid to scrap your plans and start over if you need to. The most important thing is that you are always moving forward.
No matter how well you plan, there will always be bumps in the road. The key is to have a plan that is flexible enough to change with the times. You need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing legal landscape, or you’ll get left behind.
The Bottom Line
No matter how well you plan, there will always be unforeseen obstacles and challenges. The key is to have a general framework in place that you can fall back on when things go wrong. By being prepared for the worst, you’ll be in a much better position to handle whatever comes your way. Because “plans are useless but planning is indispensable”.