Strategic Planning

Robin Rolfe Resources provides custom strategic planning, organization and business development consulting to the legal community, including law firms, corporate law departments, and law-product vendors. We work in law firms in the USA and all over the world.  We also provide outsourced association management and administrative services to bar and law-related associations, law firm alliances and networks.  Please visit the associations management website for more info here.

RRR offers an authentic depth of knowledge and draws on years of relevant experience from our diverse and complementary backgrounds to understand the needs of each client. Our team brings broad understanding, unique skills and leading-edge ideas to every engagement.

Efficient In-house Service Structure

Problem: A Forbes Global 100 company, which grew exponentially through acquisitions, was organized as a holding company and five essentially independent business units. As part of its plan to transition into an operating company model with active corporate management over the businesses, it sought to consolidate some legal functions using a shared services model. We were retained by the general counsel and the global intellectual property counsel to assess the trademark function within and among the business units, benchmark the trademark management against several comparable companies and assist in maximizing effectiveness, efficiency, and cost and risk management.

Solution: The assignment was divided into two discrete projects so as not to influence the findings of either study. In one, we conducted an audit of the current trademark function by identifying approximately 80 employees involved in trademark work and interviewing the 32 individuals within the five segments, with responsibilities ranging from strategic management to data entry. We also examined operating procedures, management oversight, staffing and procedures among the segments.

In the second project, we conducted a benchmarking study through personal interviews of senior IP and trademark counsel at three comparable corporations in order to collect the same data as we collected from our client. In addition, data supporting “best practices” was compiled.

Upon completion of both reports, we prepared a comparison of our client’s trademark practices against the benchmarks and best practices in each area of examination. Based on the findings, six alternative operating structures were assessed for relative merits.

Result: The alternative structures were presented to the entire intellectual property leadership team and subsequently to the general counsel, who recommended an IP organization and management structure to the CEOs of the business units. Before the structure was implemented, a corporate decision was made to dissolve the conglomerate and break up the businesses into separate companies.

Client Satisfaction and Feedback

Problem: A well-established law firm had long held a leading position in its practice areas, but, over the years, competition had increased and it was not as dominant as it had been. The firm acknowledged that some business had slipped away and that it was not receiving the new business it once had been. The partners wanted to reverse the trend.

Solution: As part of the preparation for a business development and marketing plan, RRR recommended that the firm conduct a client satisfaction survey to determine if there were any problems with its services or client services and whether clients had any needs that the firm was not serving.

RRR conducted a telephone survey of 25 representative clients. Half-hour interviews were conducted, thus respecting clients’ schedules yet allowing them time to share their thoughts, and allowing RRR to follow up on answers and capture insights not available in initial responses. The findings were compiled and incorporated in a strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats (SWOT) analysis that became the basis for an action plan.

Result: The client satisfaction survey yielded data that provided a basis for both a client-relationship management program and a marketing plan. While the client interviews were conducted with an option for anonymity, the participation by identified clients was followed by personal calls to discuss any matters of concern and planned improvements and to thank them for participating. The effect of the calls was to further demonstrate the firm’s interest in addressing issues and to solidify personal relationships.

Benchmark and Best Practice

Problem: A Fortune 100 company wanted to compare its trademark management practices and procedures with those of other well-respected corporations. The company wanted to know whether there were any areas of operations, decision making, cost and risk management that could be handled more effectively.

Solution: RRR conducted a benchmarking survey and analysis that explored the full range of corporate trademark operations and responsibilities in considerable detail. We interviewed seven key members of the client’s trademark law group, including the department co-heads, to understand how the group was organized, managed and operated at all levels. We identified five comparable companies to benchmark their practices, interviewed the senior trademark counsel at each to determine their operations and prepared a report that assessed the various elements of each company’s trademark practice against our client’s.  In addition, we compiled existing research on best practices for in-house trademark operations.

Result: Our report allowed our client to review its processes, confirm many of its practices and adjust several others to improve efficiency.

Client Service Office

Problem: Enlargement of the EU and the continued expansion of global law firms indicated to a young and ambitious Eastern European regional firm that it had a limited window of time to solidify its advantageous “home turf” position, capturing work flowing from the U.S. and other industrialized countries. It needed a strategy and plan to build its reputation and distinguish itself from other firms.

Solution: One of the key objectives was for our client to demonstrate that it was not only substantively expert in the countries where it provided legal services but also that it could provide the level of service and responsiveness required by multinational clients. Since the client had opened an administrative office in Western Europe to secure services not always reliable in the local offices—such as electronic and telecommunications—the plan included developing and specifically promoting the Western European office as a client service office.

The client service office was equipped with modern electronic equipment, and the staff was completely fluent in English and understood Western business culture. In addition, the client service attorneys were able to efficiently communicate with the firm’s Eastern European offices, coordinate multi-jurisdiction cases, oversee newly instituted quality controls (which were also part of the strategic development plan), and to personally manage client relationships, administration and billing.

Result: Clients have responded positively to the client service office and value the option to work directly with a specific office. Feedback from clients indicates that the client service office is recognized as an effective bridge to Eastern Europe legal services, which has been reflected in new business. The client service office has also supported the marketing program and provided a platform for our client to distinguish itself from competitors.

Ancillary Business Differentiation

Problem: A law firm wanted to expand its practice into an ancillary business. The attorneys had particular subject-matter expertise and had developed a value-added product that could be delivered at a lower price and more quickly than the products on the market. Our client needed a way to enter the market and to present its product to target companies, even if they were clients of other law firms.

Solution: We collaborated with our client to create a profile of companies most likely to benefit from its product, and identified the in-house lawyers most likely to be decision makers or influencers. At the same time, we designed a survey to assess selling points and conducted telephone interviews with 15 primary sales targets. The findings were compiled, analyzed and reported to our client.

Result: The research allowed the firm’s marketing director to prepare a sales positionfor use in business and create marketing materials emphasizing the product attributes that would most influence a buying decision and, if they were not clients of the law firm, to segregate a decision on the purchasing the product from the selection of legal counsel.

Local Liason

Problem: A large regional firm with offices in more than 25 developing countries, but not the U.S., wanted to increase its U.S. business. Challenges included lack of differentiation among competitors, low expectations for services from the region and cultural differences.

Solution: We developed a cohesive U.S. business development plan that included (i) a program to have our client build strong personal relationships with U.S. clients and potential clients; (ii) a U.S. liaison office for real-time and local communications; (iii) a client services coordinator to simplify working with multiple offices; and (iv) an enhanced information program with an content-rich website and direct communications.

Result: Personal relationships with clients and prospective clients have overcome name recognition and pronunciation of unfamiliar names, as well as differentiation from other firms in the region. In addition, personalizing client relationships has encouraged clients to raise any specific issues or problems they encounter, and the immediate attention to resolving them has eliminated assumptions about poor work or responsiveness.

In at least two situations, personal visits with senior trademark counsel resulted in the transfer of entire regional trademark portfolios by two Fortune 100 companies. The liaison office has also enhanced client relationships. The expanded communications have made it easy to obtain information about developments in a region where accurate information has been historically difficult to determine. Our client is clearly differentiated from competitors in a variety of client centered, value-added services.

New Kid On The Block

Problem: A decade-old partnership, which had grown to be among the largest and most successful firms in its country, perceived that it continued to lose out on business to the old family law firms that built their practices when there were few competitors. The firm wanted to capture more of that business.

In evaluating our client’s competitive position, we determined that it needed to distinguish itself from several long-established firms that had been the leading practices in the region for many years. While our client had an excellent reputation and was highly regarded among its clients as service oriented and results driven, it also wanted to distinguish itself from the institutional old firms as a dynamic law partnership built by superior attorneys on merit and performance.

Solution: We conducted a market scan and with the findings concluded that there was a need to project an image that would capture attention and project a modern and dynamic image that communicated the firm’s experience and accomplishments. The plan included a revamping of materials and personal marketing strategies. Working with a designer, we assisted the firm in adopting a distinctive corporate identity, including a logo, stationery, brochure, firm profile and website. The content focused on demonstrating the firm’s creative problem-solving capabilities and case results, as well as its ability to handle ordinary matters with personal service and great efficiency. In addition, the process included increasing visibility and personal contacts to take advantage of the firm’s youthful, energetic and personable partners. Meetings and communications were supported by research that demonstrated the firm’s industry knowledge and familiarity with the lines of business and significant issues. The communications plan included regular discussions and an electronic newsletter advising of legal developments and trends and reinforcing the firm’s image of energy and initiative versus the passiveness of other firms.

Result: Each of the partners has now established their own business development plan and is leveraging the capabilities of a merit partnership both in marketing and in delivery of services. Similarly the new materials reflect the sophistication of the firm’s practice. The number of new requests for proposals suggests that companies needing representation are increasingly aware that there is another firm to be considered in their evaluation of outside counsel besides the few that have seem to have been around forever. The firm is seeing great success in converting such opportunities into business.

Succession Plan

Problem: The founder and principal of a small law firm boutique with a clientele of major companies and law firms wanted to plan for his eventual retirement. While merger with another small firm was an option, the boutique was much more profitable than most equal-sized firms. Acquisition by a larger firm risked the loss of the firm’s competitive advantage and control, as well as increasing the likelihood of conflicts that would result in a loss of business. Our client needed an exit strategy and succession plan.

Solution: RRR assisted by defining a process for explorating options and preparing a firm that described the business and the features that had made it successful. We also identified and contacted firms that could benefit from our client’s practice without harming it. We conducted preliminary discussions, several of which led to in-depth talks. At the same time, we created an internal succession proposal that provided for our client to prepare an associate or lateral to assume the practice. Ultimately, our client decided that an internal business succession was the better course.

Result: The orderly process allowed our client to rationally examine multiple courses of action, to clarify his objectives and priorities and to deal with the emotions of a life event. Transitioning management to a trusted and well-prepared colleague on a schedule allowed him to feel confident that his firm would be in good hands when he retired.

Leadership Transition

Problem: Our client, a first-generation founder-managed law firm, asked us to conduct an assessment that would guide the firm through at least the next 15 years. First, the firm wanted a complete human resources evaluation, assessing morale, personality mix, emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and management and leadership skills. Second, they asked us to conduct a structural/governance assessment of the current management structure and to identify alternative models—including other methods of compensation—and their relative benefits and disadvantages.

Solution: RRR conducted individual in-person interviews of every attorney (partners and associates) and senior non-attorney managers, as well as group interviews of paralegals and other staff. We assessed the strengths, conflict-resolution skills and communication style of all the attorneys and managers and delivered individual feedback to each participant on his/her results. We gathered information on the management structure and compensation of three comparable law firms and other benchmarks. We presented our results four months after the start of the project at a two-day, off-site partnership retreat. Our report comprised individual and department results; the findings from both the human resources and the structural/governance studies; and a plan to implement strategies for improving interactions and developing management and leadership skills.

To facilitate efficient participation and individual expression at the retreat, we used an audience response system (voting software) for anonymous voting and tabulation, which provided the additional benefit of demographic evaluation of any issue to identify potential areas of fissure within the partnership.

Result: While the firm had anticipated that it would not make any major changes in management until a later date, at the retreat the partners unanimously decided to adopt a new management structure and elected its new leadership. After the retreat, we presented a 100-page report summarizing the assessments, findings and results.

We followed up with the firm over the next 18 months regarding any emergent issues that required attention to solidify the firm’s new structure and management.

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