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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