Byte of Prevention Blog

by Camille Stell |

Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Thinking

camille stellHave you attended a strategic planning session? Was it helpful? Did you leave with a plan? Are you working the plan?

I’ve participated in many such planning sessions with various law firms, practice groups in law firms or legal associations. Why do some of them work better than others?

Perhaps it’s partly driven by what happens during the vision stage – when we visualize our strategic session do we view it with excitement and thrill or as a task on a list that needs to be checked off?

Here are some tips for planning your next strategy session and making it a success.

Strategic Thinking vs. Planning

Do we really want to leave this session with 15 pages of notes that we condense into a plan? Or would we rather enter the session committed to clearing our calendar (and our heads) of outside thoughts and spending time focused on our firm or practice? I would vote for a time of focused thinking. Set your agenda, find a few articles that set the stage for the topics you want to cover, and share those items in advance.

Small Table Discussions

If you want to have more interaction among your attendees, set up round tables for discussion rather than a conference table. If you are at an off-site location, ask your hotel staff to set your room with crescent round tables. The table is ¾ filled so no one has their back to the speaker.  More tables provide more discussion and opportunity for speaking during breakouts rather than working from a board style room set up.


Think about bringing in an outside facilitator. Someone with fresh ideas who is good at managing group discussion will keep you on track. Have the facilitator assist in designing the breakout discussions and questions that will get each table talking.


Set a time limit on discussion and then call everyone’s attention back to the facilitator to debrief. Go around and have tables share highlights of their discussion. Use a white board to take notes. Following the meeting, take photos of the sheets with your camera phone and use the pics to transcribe notes.

Follow Up

Have your facilitator share ideas or suggestions for follow up. Create a master list of ideas, prioritize and then turn these ideas into goals or tasks on your business plan. Some ideas need more research, some ideas need money, some need implementation right away, while others should be trashed. Set a due date for each step which includes collecting notes from the group, setting the master list, prioritizing and identifying who handles the high priority items and implementation.


Strategic thinking is different from strategic planning. It’s a very useful exercise for almost every size law firm.  Set a date and happy thinking.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Schedule an appointment to have Camille facilitate your next law firm retreat. Contact Camille at 800.662.8843 or



About the Author

Camille Stell

Camille Stell is President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting and Services, offering succession planning, business development coaching, keynote presentations and more. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at or 800.662.8843.

Read More by Camille >

Related Posts