Smart Leaders Set Smart Visions

In the November/December 2018 issue of the ABA Law Practice magazine, I write about a key challenge facing law firm leaders — setting a strategic vision. Leading a business is a very different skill than managing a business. And leading a business through a major market disruption will challenge even the most seasoned business executive. It’s no surprise, then, that law firm leaders facing an unprecedented upheaval in the legal profession can feel rudderless, without much history or precedent to guide their actions. However, as I’ve shared countless times previously, the legal marketplace isn’t facing any challenge that other industry verticals haven’t faced. This means that lessons learned, as well as the tools and processes used, by leaders in other businesses can provide helpful guidance to law firm managing partners and chairs and executive committee members.

In the article I discuss the importance and mechanics of establishing a clear vision, one that balances the law firm’s skills and capabilities with market opportunities, incorporating finance and economics to ensure a profitable outcome. The most common question asked of me by readers on this topic is “What strategic planning approach do you recommend?” There are numerous approaches, many sharing common characteristics, but each with a particular flavor or emphasis. What has worked in my businesses in the past may not work for you today, but here are a few approaches worthy of mention.

  • Harvard professor Michael Porter developed an approach for understanding a competitive marketplace. Porter’s “Five Forces Framework“ incorporates in-depth analysis of the various players and influences in a market to find a competitive advantage.

  • Texas A&M professor Jay Barney offered a complementary “Resource-Based View“ to help leaders achieve a competitive advantage by developing superior capabilities or delivering services in a superior manner.

  • INSEAD Professors Kim and Mauborgne introduced “Blue Ocean Strategy,” a model focused on identifying or creating uncontested market spaces.

In the article, I share five critical steps for leaders to establish and embed a strategic vision, irrespective of a specific planning framework. You can access and read the full article here. I encourage you to then go on and read the other insightful articles on leadership topics by excellent contributors.

Timothy B. Corcoran is principal of Corcoran Consulting Group, with offices in New York and Sydney and a global client base. He’s a Trustee and Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, and was 2014 president of the Legal Marketing Association. A former CEO, Tim guides law firm and law department leaders through the profitable disruption of outdated business models. A sought-after speaker and writer, he also authors Corcoran’s Business of Law blog. Tim can be reached at and +1.609.557.7311.