How to prioritize business goals as a lawyer

How to prioritize business goals as a lawyer

Productivity experts have observed that productivity boils down to determining how best to deal with all of the things you have to manage and learning how to focus. But first, you need to know what to focus on. Too often, lawyers fall into the trap of expending time and energy on the wrong things because they seem urgent or simply because something happens to be in front of them: the telephone rings, the e-mail arrives, or a colleague or staff member knocks on the door. The time has come for every lawyer to learn how to better prioritise their business goals.

Let us take things one step at a time.

Set SMART objectives

Not all goals are created equal—some are SMARTer than others. Lawyer goals need to be clear and measurable to be effective, which is why SMART goals for lawyers are so important. Whether regarding your career or any other area of your life, a SMART goal is:

  • Specific: if your goal is specific, you should be able to identify why you want to accomplish it, how you will accomplish it (that is, what resources you’ll need) and if there are any potential roadblocks that could challenge you.
  • Measurable: include a measure to enable organisations to monitor progress and to know when the objective has been achieved.
  • Achievable: design objectives to be challenging, but ensure that failure is not built into objectives. Objectives should be agreed upon by managers and employees to ensure commitment to them.
  • Relevant (or realistic): focus on outcomes rather than the means of achieving them.
  • Time-bound: set a time frame for each goal that you want to accomplish within. Set an honest, realistic deadline from the outset to boost your chances of success.

Set your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are the measures you choose to gauge your firm’s performance over time. These measures determine your progress in reaching strategic and financial goals, help you measure competitiveness, and more.

In your law firm strategy, decide which KPIs are best to track for your firm. Some examples of KPIs include:

  • Client satisfaction rating
  • Operating account balance
  • Amount of accounts receivable
  • Number of new clients
  • Number of new cases
  • Number of consults

Remember to choose KPIs that are directly related to your law firm’s goals. Start simple by gathering a few key metrics that are easy to track until you’re ready to analyze more. Finally, revisit your KPIs often. As your firm grows, your metrics will shift as your priorities change.

Focus on activities that bring the highest result

High-value activities are those that make the biggest impact, often while using the fewest resources. Many times, these are the same “important but not urgent” tasks that are ignored because you’re too wrapped up in the day-to-day work of the practice of putting out fires to make them a priority. Other times, you just don’t know how to identify which activities are of high value. 

Here are some questions to help you identify your high-value (and thus priority) activities or tasks: 

  • What is the purpose of this task? 
  • How important is this task for my practice or career?
  • How important is this task to my client? • Is this task related to one of my goals? How? 
  • Is this task directly related to my personal or firm values? 
  • How will I feel when this task is done?
  • What will be the result of this activity emotionally, productively, financially, or organizationally? 
  • What will the impact of this task be? • Is the impact short-term or long-term? • Is this a “need” or a “want”? 
  • Is this task more or less important than the other things I need to accomplish? 
  • How will my firm/practice/clients/employees be affected by this task or its outcome? 

Even the passion you have for the law isn’t enough to create a successful solo or small firm. To create a sustainable firm, you must strategize for both the present and the future. The key to successful lawyer goal-setting is to stay adaptable. Know why you want to pursue a goal, make it measurable, use tools to help you track your progress, and then watch and reassess as needed—based on your progress and what’s happening in the changing world around you. 

Make sure you are on the right path to success by consulting your professional legal coach to advise and support you. 

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How lawyers can improve client communication

How lawyers can improve client communication

For lawyers, good client communications can make or break your reputation. Whether you’re taking on a new client, emailing or calling someone with an update, or sending out a bill, every time you communicate with your client you shape their idea of what it’s like working with your firm, and a positive experience can mean the difference between a new business referral and a poor review online.

Recommendations and reviews are important, since, according to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, positive reviews or personal recommendations are the most important factors when considering the hireability of a lawyer. Below, there is some advice from your professional legal coach on how to improve your client communications. 

The main points

Communicate clearly, and often

Good client communication is about being proactive so that clients feel truly cared for and informed. Make a deliberate effort to ensure your client understands what’s going on, and you’ll avoid unnecessary communication breakdowns.

Wherever possible, avoid legal jargon in law firm client communication. Default to plain language instead, and leave an opening for your clients to ask questions about anything they don’t understand (a simple “please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions” at the end of a lengthy email will do).

Tip: make your clients feel truly informed and cared for by getting in the habit of answering your clients’ questions preemptively. After client calls or meetings, send a secure message that summarizes what was discussed and provides supplemental info for the next steps.

Always truly listen 

As a professional coach, I truly believe that good listening skills are crucial for effective legal communication. When clients are listened to, they feel understood and are more trusting of you. To connect with your clients and others and to have the experience you as an effective lawyer, polish your listening skills.

Since lawyers are smart, we often anticipate what is going to be said, and don’t feel the need to listen carefully. But when we really listen to a client, we can hear levels of communication that may deepen our understanding of the client’s problem. To improve on listening skills, attorneys should avoid interrupting or rehearsing answers while their client is talking and instead make sure they pay attention to non-verbal cues like emotions to best communicate with clients.

Communication throughout the whole client journey and keep it on the safe side

Your client begins their experience with you long before they sign their engagement agreement. Ensure your website and marketing materials are clear and engaging so that potential clients don’t get frustrated trying to find your contact information.

At the end of your client’s journey, add detailed notes so that your clients understand what they’re being billed for—especially if they haven’t worked with a lawyer before—and clearly illustrate services you’ve written off so that clients see the full extent of the value you’re providing, even if they’re not being charged for it.

Don’t forget to ask for feedback from your client throughout their time with your firm. 😉

Know when to automate communications (and when not to)

In today’s legal market, the skills lawyers need for effective client communication are adapting to the digital age. Automating tedious or repetitive processes can be a big win for law firms. However, when it comes to communication, it’s important to be thoughtful and ensure that automated communication is convenient for both you and your client. 

In general, simple and transactional communications are fine to automate, but more personal and specific communications are best left to humans. For example, lawyers can always set an automatic welcoming mail for their clients to set expectations and keep your client informed on how to access case information. However, if an anxious client calls or emails the office looking for reassurance or an update on their case, they need that empathetic, timely response that can help calm your client’s worries. 

The attorney-client relationship is something that the lawyer creates by managing every step of the client experience. As a general rule of thumb, put your client at the centre of everything, and you’ll be that much better positioned to communicate intentionally, provide great experiences throughout the whole experience, and build a strong reputation for your firm.

Clients have expectations and our job as a lawyer is to understand, manage, and respond in an appropriate and timely fashion to address them. It’s all about good communication. If you find that your skills as an attorney might benefit from a coaching program, do not hesitate to reach out to my professional coaching program. 

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5 ways to maintain your work-life balance as a lawyer

5 ways to maintain your work-life balance as a lawyer

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is important for all professionals, but for solo practitioners, it can be challenging. When you’re climbing the rungs of the legal ladder, figuring out how to have both a career in the legal business and a social life can be tricky. Over the years I have set myself small targets for professional and private equilibrium, and here I share some professional coach tips for success.

The following considerations are essential to assist you in meeting the expectations of your new role as an attorney while keeping a healthy balance outside of the office.

The main points

Set yourself limits for working hours

One of the greatest tips for a better work-life balance as an attorney is to keep track of the number of hours you spend working, such as My Hours or Clockify. You could consider how many hours you’re willing to work in a single day or week and stick to it. By asking yourself what amount of time you’d be happy to dedicate to work, you will know that anything above that will be detrimental to your personal life and happiness. 

Throughout your day, set aside adequate time to engage in leisure activities such as taking 5 minutes to walk outside. This will provide you with a much-needed break to minimise stress at work. Allocate these into your work schedule as you would other tasks and you may find this makes a noticeable impact on not only your stress levels, but your work-life balance and overall productivity. 

Prioritize your workload

Learning to prioritize your workload is key. Ask yourself whether you need to respond to, or action, a request straight away. If you have a long list of tasks, spend time establishing their order of importance. Which are urgent and which are neither urgent nor important?

Look for easy ways to implement time-saving tools for your office. One of the top reasons why people don’t take time for themselves is because they feel like they honestly don’t have it to take. One way to help you feel more comfortable taking time for yourself and your family is to use tools like legal document automation solutions or online firm management programs. Technology was designed to make your life easier. Explore some of the modern legal office software programs that are revolutionizing workflows for lawyers.

Choose carefully

As a whole, legal professionals are intelligent, ambitious, assertive, and creative types who understand the importance of working hard. They don’t sit around waiting for an opportunity to knock—they chase it. Many in the legal field strive to earn the best assignments and hustle to land the best cases. Most lawyers have a competitive streak.

Before accepting any role, ensure you research the firm thoroughly – consider everything that comes with the position. A specialist recruiter will also have a good understanding of the different cultures across firms and can be a useful source of guidance when choosing a firm that’s right for you.

Unplug for a Little While Each Day

Although many lawyers keep a traditional schedule, being your own boss gives you a degree of flexibility. When it comes to spending more time with your friends and family (or even participating in your favourite activities), take advantage of being the boss. Go to that book fair with your child; go with your spouse or friends for a long lunch. You can always work a little later in the day or even come in a little earlier the next day. Learning to embrace flexibility will help improve your work-life balance.

Here’s the key to making this work: you must actually treat those items as appointments. That’s not to say that you must be inflexible with your life. It’s more to make sure that you are taking time away from your work. Your mental health, your relationships, and your business are all worth it.

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

This malady is common among lawyers committed to becoming partners. They feel the need to be constantly available, throwing off work-life balance. Their concern was that by not being seen in the office, at all hours, they would miss out on opportunities to work on important cases. Ironically, their fear of not missing out at the office can often lead to them missing out on their personal lives. The constant need to stay on top of case developments and respond to clients’ calls and emails is exhausting. It can quickly destroy the balance between the office and your private life—especially when this is done after hours or on weekends.

In order to cope effectively, remember to set yourself boundaries when managing tasks. Whenever possible, ensure that you can delegate certain tasks to your juniors – allowing more time to focus on the key deliverables at hand. Becoming too involved is a common complaint with lawyers. Learning to let go of emotionally intense situations. Mentors can be a great sounding board to help put things into perspective. When constant work and business is ingrained in us, it can be hard to take time for ourselves. The day in the life of a lawyer can get stressful, but don’t give up. You can always reach out to a performance coach to get a better hold of legal practice and achieve all your goals.

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Have you ever in your legal business asked yourself why clients are not decisive from the start about what they want to do? Or why they do not provide you with the full and complete background story of their case, and then you end up blind-sighted? Or why they do not understand that the circumstances of their case evolve and there is no fixed solution from the beginning of their case up till the very end? Or why they agree on a strategy and fee with you, and then they change their mind? Or why they have the tendency to negotiate your fee? Or why they call you after business hours, even though you clarified that with them at least a couple of times? The list could go on… I am sure there are many versions of these complaints… 😊

During the personal growth workshops that I led for attorneys and in our one-on-one coaching sessions, we often looked at the relationship with the client, as an essential part of the performance of our legal business. Client relationship management is everything. It is a complex thing, and for now, I would like to refer to one particular aspect i.e. attracting the “right” legal business clients.

By “right” I do not mean that there is something wrong with the clients you already have. In fact, what I am pointing towards is that, if your complaints sound very similar to the above list, then you might want to stop and consider that it is not that they are not the right clients, but rather, that they’re probably not the “right” clients for you!

Now that gives you some power, to get off whatever you are on with your clients, clean up any mess, or unclear situations, and start taking some responsibility around who your clients are, whom you have taken on in your law firm, your portfolio. If you are a legal business owner or planning to become one, then you want to have a look at this now! Because who your clients are, speaks volumes of who you are as a lawyer!

Look, I spent the first ten years of my career thinking that if I work hard, do my part inside out, and do great work with everything I do, my clients are going to appreciate me. The result was lots of work for me, I kept myself and my colleagues to a very high standard, never satisfied with the accuracy of the legal drafting, the time put in, there was always more planning and organizing, more task management required, more checks. I would double-check my team’s work. Hell, even proofread their work! I ended up tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and stuck. No matter how much I try and work to make my work impeccable, in the end, the client is not going to appreciate it. They would change their mind, drop a project, after having worked for months on it, or after me and my team had spent a considerable amount of time to make it to a tight deadline. Which, in the end, was never going to happen. And so on… I felt stuck.

But I did not know any better, I was playing a small game. The game called “I win, if I do as the client wants, if I do it “right”.

So, I am challenging you to take a moment today and write down on a blank piece of paper who are your current clients? Who entered your portfolio in the past twelve months? Who got referred to you, by whom and why? Are they clients you couldn’t say “No” to because they’re a relative, or a friend, or some favour call? Or are they clients who have stuck with you for the longest period of time, people with a huge commitment in life, who always deliver on their side of the deal, who cherish and respect your private time, who are proud to be represented by you?

And, you know, you might not like it in the beginning, and it might be that you get a little confronted 😊 by this. By the fact that your current clients are the result of your action, or shall I say IN-action?! But at the end of the day, you and I know, that we are the only ones responsible for how our legal practice looks today. We created it!

And that is why I created the IO Masterminds platform. At IO Masterminds we Empower and Support Lawyers to Promote Themselves, Start or Grow Their Legal Business through Digital Legal Marketing. So that you can go from where you are today in your business, in your relationship with your clients, to where you want to be, Attracting More of the Clients You Want, Realizing an Abundance of Clients and Projects that are True to Who You are as a Lawyer, What You Stand For, and ultimately Be Successful in Your Legal Business.

I am curious about what you wrote down on that blank paper and what you discovered taking on my challenge. If you care to share, let’s get in touch! Also, if you want to know more about the IO Masterminds platform and what is possible for you and your legal business through Digital Legal Marketing, also get in touch! 😊