How many people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions? The number is lower than you might think—just 8% of people are successful. New Year’s resolutions are hard to stick to, especially when you’re a busy lawyer.
However, sticking to a few realistic resolutions can make a big difference in your practice and your personal life. Taking care to set resolutions you’ll actually keep will help you achieve success over the course of the year.
Here are 12 realistic New Year’s resolutions for lawyers (that’s one a month!) to help you stay on top of your game.
1. Get organized
Start your new year off with a clean slate by tying up loose ends and getting organized. Review your open matters (you can do this easily in Clio with a Matters Report) and ask yourself these questions:
- Should any open matters be closed? If so, close them!
- Are any cases stalled? Make a plan to address the issue, if possible, or consider referring the case to another lawyer.
- Do any matters have outstanding balances? If so, start sending out invoices. Also, review our guide to year-end law firm financials to double check that all of your firm’s finances are in order for the new year.
2. Start accepting credit cards
Nearly 85% of solos and small firms haven’t set themselves up to accept online credit card payments. But, according to the 2017 Legal Trends Report, lawyers who accept credit cards get paid 39% faster than those who only accept payment by cheque.
Also, 28% of consumers surveyed said they wanted to pay law firms via credit card, and that this was a key factor for them when choosing a lawyer.
2018 is the year to stop dragging your feet and make a positive change for your firm’s cash flow. To get you started, here’s some information on choosing a credit card processor for your law firm.
3. Network more
The 2017 Legal Trends Report found that when looking for a lawyer, 62% of consumers seek referrals from friends or family, and 31% get a referral from another lawyer. In other words, you need to go to more networking events, both to meet other lawyers and to meet new clients.
These events don’t have to be boring either—legal technology conferences, social gatherings, and local industry meet-ups can be valuable (and fun!) to attend.
To connect with potential clients, consider networking events outside of your industry. Give talks at non-legal-specific events, get involved in your local community, and don’t forget to mention to new connections that you’re a lawyer available for hire.
Also, keep in mind that networking isn’t limited to in-person events. Network online by joining professional groups on LinkedIn, and starting conversations around legal hashtags on Twitter. Clio’s Advocates Community is also a great way to connect with other lawyers online.
Read this list of networking tips from Clio’s Lawyer in Residence, Joshua Lenon, to really jumpstart your networking efforts in 2018.
4. Put extra effort into client relationships
If your current clients like you, they’ll be much more likely to refer you to others, so if you want to grow your business, you need to focus on maintaining existing client relationships just as much as building new ones.
How can you go above and beyond for your clients? It’s easier than you might think: Reach out to give them an unprompted update once in a while to show you’re on top of things, for example. Here are five more simple ways to keep your clients happy.
5. Try out a mobile practice
You already check your email on your phone, so why not try managing more of your practice on the go? You’ll find increased flexibility in your schedule, and you’ll be able to turn bus rides and dentist office waiting times into pockets of productivity.
6. Revamp your online reputation
In the information age, your online reputation is key. You need to create a positive impression for prospective clients to help grow your business.
How do you create a strong online reputation? It starts with a structured online marketing plan. Invest some time in creating and implementing a solid marketing strategy, and start the year off by reviewing your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, and other social media properties to ensure you’re keeping up with the latest best practices.
7. Start measuring your progress
How well is your law firm really doing? To properly measure your success, you need to define key metrics and track them.
We’re not just talking about keeping tabs on the number of new clients you bring on each month either—you need to look at where your clients are coming from, and you need to track the return on investment of your marketing efforts.
More importantly, you need to keep an eye on how efficiently your firm is operating. For example, look at how many billable hours you’re logging as a percentage of your total workday, or at your utilization rate, as we call it in the Legal Trends Report.
You can do this with Clio—create a matter for non-billable/administrative work, and use a timer to keep track of time spent on these tasks, just as you would any other billable matter. Then, compare time spent on this matter with time spent on all other matters combined, and voila, there’s your utilization rate.
Compare your utilization rate to the average (which is just 29% according to our 2017 report) and look for ways to cut down on non-billable work, or consider alternatives to the billable hour, such as flat fees or contingency agreements.
8. Prepare for client intake before you meet your next client
If you have yet to set up an automated client intake system, 2018 is the year to do it.
A streamlined client intake system will save you time, plain and simple. More importantly, it will eliminate the added potential for human error that comes with manual data entry.
To get you started, here are 3 ways to automate your client intake process. Additionally, check out these 10 tips for improving client intake at your firm from Lexicata co-founder Aaron George to further optimize your process.
9. Take better care of yourself
Lawyering is inherently stressful, but if there’s one thing that’s more important than your career, it’s your health.
If you’ve been working long hours and neglecting self-care, use the new year as a turning point. Eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of yourself. Your career—and your personal life—will be better for it in the long run.
Beyond taking care of your body, you need to take care of your mental health. Jeena Cho, author of The Anxious Lawyer, has written plenty about the benefits of mindfulness. Try meditating, even for just a few minutes each day, to clear your mind and set yourself up for success at work.
10. Manage your time more wisely
As mentioned above, according to the 2017 Legal Trends Report, lawyers log just 2.3 billable hours per day, based on an eight-hour workday. That’s a paltry 29%.
In the new year, resolve to start managing your time better, so that you’re spending more time on billable work and less on administrative tasks. We’ve got a few time management tips for lawyers to start you off, but don’t try to do it all yourself—a robust practice management solution like Clio can help minimize time spent on non-billable work.
11. Attend events to invest in your firm’s future
Beyond just networking, attending legal industry events can leave you with a wealth of ideas to improve your practice and make your business more profitable. For example, the Clio Cloud Conference, features talks on the latest industry trends, best practices, and more to keep your firm on the cutting edge.
Case in point: Clio customer Chris Trebatoski has used his learnings from the conference to double his firm’s revenue over the years. (Get your passes for the 2018 Clio Cloud Conference here before prices go up in January)
If you’re not sure which event to go to this year, check out this list of tips for choosing the best legal technology conference to attend for your practice.
12. Bring technology into your practice
Technology is playing a bigger and bigger role for many practices. Legal tech is changing fast, so firms that have implemented technology already are reaping big rewards, and those that don’t risk being left behind.
Take one look at some of the amazing things Clio customers are doing with technology in their practices, and you’ll see what we mean.
Make 2018 the year to adopt technology in your practice. The first step is to start using practice management software, if you haven’t already. Then, keep an eye out for new tools that could help you become even more efficient and profitable. As a central platform for your practice, Clio integrates with over 70 leading apps so that your whole practice can run seamlessly from one place.
If you’re not sure where to start, read about how Patrick Palace and Jordan Couch successfully implement new technologies at Palace Law.
That’s it for now! We challenge you to try at least one of these New Year’s resolutions to better your firm. To a happy, healthy, and successful 2018!