What is a business plan? Generally, a business plan describes the business and details the past, present and future of the company. The plan is outlined in a document prepared by the firm's manager, a business consultant or an attorney writing coach.
A business plan should include the following components:
1. Executive summary
This is particularly helpful if your business plan is going to be designed for public consumption (lenders, etc.). The executive summary highlights the key points of your plan in one or two pages.
2. Business description
There are three aspects to your business description: what happened in the past, what is going on now, and what you aspire to do in the future. Write a factual description of your firm, its ownership and history. As for the future, write down your vision, your dream of what your business would be in the perfect world.
What will you be doing, who are your clients? What will make your business successful? What distinguishes you from all of the other lawyers? For guidance on defining your firm's core purpose and mission, see The Harvard Business Review's article titled "Building Your Company's Vision."
3. Management summary (if applicable)
Consider developing a management summary to provide background on management team members, their experiences and key accomplishments.
4. Products and services
Describe your practice areas and the specific products and related services that your business offers. Also include how your products and services stand out or can be differentiated from those offered by other firms.
5. Market analysis
Put together a summary of your typical clients within each practice area, and describe the competitive landscape, market size and expected growth of that market.
6. Marketing plan
How do you market yourself and your business? For example, how will you solicit referrals from other lawyers? Should you sign up for any lawyer referral services? How will you establish yourself in your community and make potential clients aware of you and the services you provide? Will you advertise? Will you have a website? Related to this is an analysis of what makes you unique, what you believe is your competitive advantage, and what the market is lacking (that you can provide).
7. Strategy and implementation
Describe how you will execute your plan and what steps you'll take to put it into action. This is also where you'll establish milestones and set deadlines for your goals.
8. Financial plan
Compile your key financial information, including revenue, cash flow, profits and expenses.
For more information on law office basics, check out OfficeKeeper, the Ohio State Bar Association's resource guide to opening, maintaining and closing a law office. It includes checklists, forms, references and links to websites and the new Model Rules.