Have you met your goals for the year? How are you shaping your goals for the year ahead?
As 2021 comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back on the year and evaluate your law firm’s performance. What changes have been made, and where you can improve in the year to come? The new year is a good time for a fresh start, but if you wait until January 1, the year will have already started by the time you’re ready for action. Start planning now so that you’re ready to start the year stronger.
Start by writing down the accomplishments your firm has had this year. If you set goals at the beginning of last year, how many things did you accomplish? What are your big wins? Where have you seen the most improvement? Are there things you can learn from your successes and replicate them in the future?
While not as much fun as the high points, looking at what you failed to accomplish can be just as important, if not more so. What were some things you hoped to accomplish that you haven’t done yet? Is there still time in this year to get those checked off? What were things that didn’t go well for you and your team? What significant issues arose that you didn’t anticipate?
Identifying problems might not be as easy as identifying wins. For instance, if something went wrong, sometimes it’s hard to know the true cause, but doing a post-mortem on misses can help you identify better processes for the future. As part of that investigation, be sure to talk to your team to get their perspectives. It can be easy to misunderstand specific circumstances if you don’t have the whole story.
Digging Deeper: KPIs
After answering broader questions, you may want to take a deeper dive into each area of your firm. If you don’t have a set of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) already, you should think about how you’re measuring success in different key areas of your practice. What are the metrics that indicate success or failure in different areas of operation like client satisfaction, marketing, and other key functions?
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How many clients would recommend your firm to others? Are your clients satisfied?
- Are you retaining clients well? How many cases have you closed, and what is the value of those cases?
- How many of your clients have paid their bills on time and in full? This can be an indicator that you are communicating expectations and value to your clients, as well as that you have a smooth billing process with no wrinkles.
- What percentage of your work week can be listed as billable hours?
- Is your marketing department successful? Meaning, is the money you are spending on marketing earning you that much or more revenue? A few ways to measure this is looking at how many landing page conversions you’ve had, how your most recent newsletter campaigns have done, and how many marketing activities you did over the year.
- How many cases have you opened this year? How many new clients have you acquired?
Deciding how to measure these types of things (if you haven’t already), can help identify key areas of opportunity.
Planning Next Year’s Goals
After looking back on the year’s highs and lows, it’s time to make plans for 2022. Look at the lists you’ve made of your best and worst moments. One easy way to start is to assume that you want more of the things that gave you your highs and less of the lows.
Did you successfully implement a new piece of technology this past year? Then perhaps you want to plan to implement another one aimed at solving a different problem. Did you continually struggle to deliver paperwork on time, or get things filed without a ton of back and forth? That is certainly a problem you don’t want to struggle with all next year. As you craft your goals for the future, try to learn from your mistakes and struggles. Look at what tools or strategies would have helped your biggest pain point.
Another question to ask of your firm is, what do you think will be your biggest pain point next year? And what do you think will be your biggest win?
You might have heard of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound goals. Why does this matter? Because one easy mistake you can avoid is not setting goals that are too broad or too lofty to be realistic. Using a SMART goals framework ensures there’s a path to success for your firm’s goals.
For example, if you have a goal of being more efficient, this is hard to understand in specific terms, and less effective than giving a specific metric, and attaching a deadline to it. A SMART goal would be “increase efficiency by 30% by the end of the second quarter” and would come with a way to measure that change from beginning to end. This assumes a 30% increase is attainable and realistic, of course. (Lawyaw has helped legal companies achieve those kinds of results. See How an ALSP Smashed Efficiency Goals with Document Automation.)
Perhaps you would like to increase your billable hours and decrease your non-billable hours. That’s great. But by how much? You need a measurement to tell if you are being successful at completing your goal. That’s how you build SMART goals.
If you are focusing on marketing performance such as an email campaign, your SMART goal could be to increase the click-through rate by 15% by the end of the first quarter. That is specific and measurable. Is it attainable? Think about what you might need to do to get that 15% increase. Perhaps 10% would be a better goal. While 15% might be attainable if your marketing team works on it 24/7, that kind of effort isn’t realistic. Make sure your goals are SMART and realistic.
If you make a list of your pain points, you may want to prioritize them from most painful to mere annoyance. The ones at the top of the list should be solved for first. Or perhaps there are a handful of issues you want to solve in the next year, not just one. Pick the most important, the one that will bring the biggest benefit to your firm and assign a measurable and attainable goal to achieve in a set amount of time. What can you do in the first quarter? What can you do later in the year? Don’t try to do everything at once!
Where are you getting slowed down? Are there pain points in delivering services to your clients? Be tough with yourself, and honest. Are you encountering mistakes caused by copying and pasting? You don’t bill a client to fix typos that were your firm’s fault, so those are wasted hours. By solving this one pain point, you are not only improving your client experience, but also your efficiency. Problems that cause symptoms to arise in more than one area should probably be at the top of your list.
All Set for 2022
Of course, after you go through the process of creating goals for next year, you will want an action plan for how to achieve them. Solving problems in your law firm doesn’t just happen on its own. For help with figuring out how to achieve your goals for 2022, take a look at our article about Falling in Love with the Problem: A no-fail process for improving your law firm with technology. With the right goals in hand, you can get all of your team on the same page and revved up to achieve great things.
By Patrick Rodgers
VP, Marketing at Lawyaw