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After several years of ribbon cuttings, Littler Mendelson is putting the brakes on opening new offices. The firm’s new strategic plan reveals it instead will be focusing on “enhancing the value” of its existing 29 offices in 17 states. Meanwhile, Pillsbury Winthrop’s new three-year plan aims to close in on one of the goals in its last plan: moving into the top quarter of AmLaw 100 firms ranked by profitability. Such strategic plans are commonly used by firms, small and large alike, to provide a blueprint for growth and change. The plans serve as barometers for a firm’s lawyers and staff, as well as a marketing tool for potential merger partners and hires. But some law firm experts caution that sharing too much information about a strategic plan can backfire by allowing rivals to see — and exploit — a firm’s weaknesses. “I advise clients not to make their strategic plans public,” says Bobbie McMorrow of Santa Ynez, Calif.-based McMorrow Savarese Consulting. “Every plan has its strengths and weaknesses. If you say, ‘We’re going after IP litigation,’ your competitors in IP are going to know where those holes are and where to attack.” And if a firm fails to accomplish its goals, says Mozhgan Mizban, a consultant with the Zeughauser Group, that can be embarrassing as well when it comes to talking with merger partners or recruits. But Mizban acknowledges there are advantages to selectively sharing strategic information. “It’s a recruiting tool. It really articulates to laterals in this time of the unknown and confusion that management really knows what it’s doing.” Littler managing director Wendy Tice-Wallner agrees. “The ability of a law firm to articulate where it’s been, where it is, and where it is going is [crucial] to being able to attract laterals.” Clearly it’s a question of degree. Pillsbury chairwoman Mary Cranston says keeping strategic plan information completely quiet is unrealistic. “You certainly have to describe your strategic plan in order to recruit, so it’s not possible to hold it confidential,” Cranston says. Pillsbury completed its new three-year plan earlier this spring. “Active growth” is one of the firm’s continued priorities, says Cranston. “We would be willing to consider a merger. We’re looking at opportunities that enhance the strength of the practice.” Cranston says that adding clients and capability is more important than adding offices. The firm’s growth plans also include luring laterals at last year’s pace, she says. In 2003, the firm hired 38 partners, placing it at 11th on The American Lawyer‘s list of “top gainers” between October 2002 and October 2003. Pillsbury’s key priority is further developing its client team program, which organizes the firm’s resources around its top 100 clients. Cranston says the firm plans to broaden the program and make it more consistent across practice groups. McKinsey & Co. helped Pillsbury produce a strategic plan six years ago, when Cranston took over as chairwoman, and continues to advise the firm informally. The initial plan culminated in the former Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro merger with New York’s Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts in 2001. Cranston says the firm accomplished the goals outlined in the second three-year plan, which expired recently. “I think we did very well with it. The first goal was [developing] the client team. The second was growth in core areas — energy, technology, financial institutions, litigation — which we’ve done,” she says. The firm also established a “great place to work” initiative as part of the plan. And, she adds, “The last goal was to move toward first-quartile profitability. And we’ve made very significant strides.” In 2002, the firm’s profits per partner were $710,000, putting it at No. 52 on the AmLaw profits-per-partner list. Littler also worked with a consultant, Edge International, on its two- to three-year plan. Edge assisted a Littler committee of 12, including the firm’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Domingues and Chief Operating Officer Harry Lewis. After opening so many offices, Littler wants to consolidate its position. “We have the infrastructure and space to significantly increase our head count and increase revenues . . . without adding any additional overhead cost,” the plan says. The Littler plan includes aggressively expanding relationships with current clients and increasing the firm’s national visibility and branding. “It’s about more than putting an ad in Forbes magazine. It’s about getting your hands in the clay to actually form your image,” Tice-Wallner says. While both Cranston and Tice-Wallner shared information about their goals, they acknowledge they keep many details, particularly about how their firms go about achieving their goals, confidential. “The tactics,” Cranston says, “we are very proprietary about.” This article previously appeared in the American Lawyer Media newspaper The Recorder. Reporter Adrienne Sanders’ e-mail address is [email protected].

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