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Preparing Your Law Firm For Battle During Covid-19

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We keep being told that Covid-19 is a “war” that the nation needs to win. You can decide for yourself if that is a metaphor stretch too far. Personally I’ll certainly agree with front line NHS staff being badged as heroes and when this is over I think we should give them all the medals and “ticker tape” parades we can think of.

Unfortunately the next battle ground is just starting – as the nation returns to some degree of normal operation, and the economy tries to restart, businesses (of every size and in every sector) are trying to work out what to do next. There are immediate concerns around social distancing, building screens, redesigning office spaces and longer term thoughts around cashflow, supply chains and redundancies.

How do you break that down? Where do you even start?

Well since we’re there already, lets borrow one last thought from the military - they are, let’s face it, an entire industry built around planning for unknowns and then executing complex and shifting plans. I’ll confess at this point that when I was much younger and fitter I got the “Sandhurst MBA” which at the time I thought was about running around with a massive bag on my back but, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see it was actually was about how to problem solve and then command people to achieve the solution.

When a general is commanding his Division he actually outsources the planning to two different teams, usually led by two different Colonels (for those of you who speak military; the SO1 J3 or COS and the SO1 J5 or CF&E). The two teams obviously interact and they report ultimately to the same person (the general) who is brought in for the big decisions but they act with a degree of independence. One team is looking at the immediate (usually the next 12 hours) and what instant actions we need to enact now. The other team is looking longer term (usually the next 3-6 months) and what is the overall intent and what effect do they want to achieve in the longer term. Both teams do “war gaming” where they think through the 2nd or 3rd degree effects of an action (other Sandhurst graduates will recognise the constant refrain of the instructors - “so what?”) and so they will often work through multiple plans before they finalise their course of action. Often, for short hand, people think of one team as operating the tactics of the day (e.g. we need to be in this valley, but should we be on this hill or that hill?) and the other team of dealing with the strategy of the whole endeavour (e.g. we need to protect this country, but should we guard this bridge or that tribe?).

So how can the SME business world borrow this problem solving framework?

  • Focus on your mission. It’s often counter-productive to get bogged down in the minutiae of the day; will it actually help you do what you need to do? Is there another way of getting to the same answer?
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by a long list of To-dos. Sub divide them between urgent and important.
  • Don’t think you have to do it all. Delegate some decisions to the rest of your team, use your accountant or lawyer to take somethings off your list like forecasting or managing employment law issues (e.g. furloughing or redundancies).
  • Scenario plan. If you do X what is the most likely response of your staff, your suppliers your customers? What is their worst case response? How can you plan for the former and mitigate the likelihood of the latter?
  • Remember the future. An immediate action now might actually be more costly in the longer term (e.g. closing an office that you’re going to need, or chasing a customer for a debt who then never buys from you again) and you need to balance the two.

Once this is all done you might well deserve a medal yourself….

We provide a range of strategic business support to its clients including mentoring business leader, creating business plans and cashflow forecasting. We introduce a focus, structure and discipline with clear direction and a number of strategic objectives and how to deliver on them. You and your business will know where you’re going and what you are working towards and importantly how your success will be measured.

Click here to find out more about our strategic advice to law firms.

Read our views of the impact of Covid-19 on law firms here.


For advice on preparing your business for survival, please get in touch with Tom Blandford on 07793 621951, email tom.blandford@armstrongwatson.co.uk or visit our dedicated Covid-19 business support page.

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