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Offering Simple, Practical Information For Legal Departments

Why Most Legal Dept. Strategic Plans Fail (and Why Yours Won’t)

January 14 2021 by Jodie Baker

It’s a new year – even if it really doesn’t feel like it.

To be sure, the myriad challenges of 2020 persist, the pandemic chief among them. According to a December survey by Morrison & Foerster, only ~20% of Legal Departments have fully recovered from the effects of COVID-19. A majority – 53.75% – either remain in crisis mode or have only just begun their recoveries.

If you feel mired in Month 13 of a tough year, it’s easy to miss the fresh energy that traditionally fuels so many strategic plans and New Year’s resolutions. It’s tempting to wait or skip planning altogether.


A strategic plan is the best way to ensure your Legal Department is positioned to handle the evolving challenges of COVID-19 and be ready for what happens next. It’s hard to say when exactly the inflection point will occur, but according to the Morrison & Foerster survey, 74% of general counsel expect COVID-related work to decrease or remain the same over the next six months, while 64% expect non-COVID-related work to increase.

A smart plan will acknowledge these competing realities and arm you with the resources, infrastructure and initiatives you need to thrive in both. The plan is imperative, but we understand the present environment isn’t exactly conducive to focused forecasting. That’s why we’ve made it easy.

Simple plans are far more likely to actually get done, so we revamped the strategic planning process for the special circumstances – and special brand of stress – of the COVID era:

Eight straightforward steps. It’s intimidating to stare at a blank page.

Our model will guide you through the construction of a strategic plan, point by point, helping you incorporate not only your Legal Department’s wants and needs, but also those of your business clients and C-suite. 

No navel-gazing.

We also know lawyers don’t enjoy the more philosophical aspects of strategic planning, like visions and missions and statements of purpose. Our model focuses on action.

Acknowledge the abnormal.

We will help you think short-term and long-term so your Legal Department is positioned for the continued effects of the pandemic, the transition and what comes next.

We also provide a template for your plan that will fit on one page, so you can easily reference and execute it – then measure and report on your success.

Most Plans Fail – Yours Won’t

Writing for Forbes, leadership expert Greg Bustin outlined the reasons most strategic plans fail. Among them:

  • Belief that a budget is a plan;
  • Reluctance to address the big issues;
  • Getting too complicated.

The planning guidance we provide will shield you from these fates. Your one-page plan will provide priorities to drive a smarter legal budget – or help you make the best use of the financial resources authorized for 2021. Your plan will facilitate swift execution of your pandemic-related tasks, but it also will get you thinking beyond the vaccine. And your plan will fit on one page, forcing clarity and simplicity.

It’s time to take control of your 2021. Let’s get started.
Ready for a better 2021? Download our white paper and template, “Eight Steps to Your 2021 Legal Department Strategic Plan,” and get started today.

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