One hundred years from now, scholars will write long treatises about the dumpster fire we call 2020. To say that we’re living through a bizarre era is an understatement at best, and one can only hope that with time and perspective, we’ll be better able to make sense of this the past year. At the very least, perhaps we’ll have learned something meaningful from the many mistakes we’ve made, both as individuals and as a society.

For the moment, however, we’re all just trying to make it through the day, and in our current atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, managing anything more complex than a teapot can sometimes seem like too much to ask. And yet leadership, professionalism, initiative and strategic thinking are still required – and are perhaps more crucial than ever.

The good news is, strategies that are good for your business can also make your business easier to navigate. Whether you’re an attorney, a paralegal, an eDiscovery expert, or a member of the increasingly diverse ranks of legal solutions providers, you can streamline your responsibilities and eliminate stressors by focusing on the activities that really drive value.

Refining your focus makes sense

As a first step, take a step back. Look at the complete scope of your business offerings, whether products or services, and rank them in order of performance. Then define your growth and operations strategy for 2021, with an emphasis on doing one thing or (at most) a few core things, really well.

Just as pruning a tomato plant will induce it to bear more fruit, eliminating extraneous activity will ultimately make your business more successful. Processes, workflows, technologies, and even whole service verticals should be refined and reimagined if they aren’t proving useful. Look at your revenues, your pipelines, and your potential market share, and then think carefully about what you can improve.

You’ll never know unless you ask

Strategic planning is always more valuable and better informed when it’s driven by actionable feedback, and any company can learn a great deal simply by starting a conversation with a client. Reach out to your clients and ask them what they think. Are your services meeting their expectations? What could you do better or differently to serve them better? What do they anticipate their needs and pain points will look like in the new year? 

A short call or video conference is best for these conversations, but you can also send out a simple survey via email. There are lots of ways of soliciting client feedback – regardless of the approach you choose, be sure to pay close attention, and translate your clients’ feelings into concrete activities and goals that will help you steer your business and measure the impact.

Key contributors gotta keep keepin’ on

If your role is hands-on, your input into the process of streamlining and optimizing is critical. Make sure you’re communicating about what works and what doesn’t, so that leadership can accurately identify and correct inefficiencies. Allocate a portion of your time and energy – even if it’s only an hour a week – to thinking about innovations and ways to enhance and/or drive value, or defining strategies to improve the processes and activities you control directly. Doing so will help you maintain your sense of empowerment and creative energy, and if you can connect with others to get feedback about your ideas, so much the better: collaboration and brainstorming are a powerful way to stave off cabin fever. 

That said, resist the temptation to suggest a new process, system, or technology simply because it’s currently trending. Remember, the goal is to make things simpler and more effective – if the platform or process doesn’t provide a measurable, meaningful opportunity to drive value, it’s probably not worth the time and effort that will be needed to achieve buy-in throughout the organization.

Most of all, just do your best

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said “Understand that failure is a process in life, that only in trying can you enrich yourself and have the possibility of moving forward.” It’s a crucial perspective we must all keep front of mind, especially when feelings of discouragement or hopelessness begin to arise. Leading is hard, even in the best of times. Managing complex operations with efficacy and a proactive mindset takes wisdom, forethought, tremendous attention to detail. If you’re trying to homeschool your kids at the same time, it just might take a miracle. So go easy on yourself if things don’t always go the way they should, and remember: even a small improvement is better than nothing, and more often than not, big changes are actually the culmination of many small efforts.

About the Author

Susan Ethridge is a writer, editor, and marketer with more than 15 years’ experience in the legal technology industry. A co-founder of OnCall Discovery, she writes blog posts and articles that explore the nuances of data and discovery management, legal marketing, and relationship nurturing.

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