When you run a small law firm, you may not have a flotilla of resources to command—but you still have lots of advantages. For starters, your practice can deliver exceptional, personalized service and respond more nimbly to changes.
As we approach the end of the year, it’s time to start thinking ahead to your goals for 2023. And to maximize your chances of success, it’s important to set goals that aren’t just right—they’re also right-sized for your practice.
Follow these expert tips to develop a growth strategy that works for your firm.
1. Choose goals based on data
If your firm is doing well, it can be tempting to adopt an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. That said, taking the time to dig into the numbers and see what’s working well at your firm—and what can be improved—will help you set clear, obtainable goals instead of trying to reach a peak defined by arbitrary percentages that aren’t relevant to your law firm.
Look at past Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess what’s going well and what needs to be tweaked. These KPIs can be related to anything from marketing to client acquisition or productivity and financial data.
Examples of KPIs that will help you map out your goals include:
- Number of new clients
- Cost of acquiring a new client
- Number of lawyers per client
- Average fees per client
- Number of billable hours
- Client retention rates
- Cost of marketing operations
- Marketing cost per client
- Cost of advertising
- Conversion rates for marketing and advertising
- Monthly expenses
The sky is the limit when looking for areas of your practice to improve.
2. Stay realistic about what your firm can achieve
We all want to achieve big things, and while it’s great to aim for the stars, maintaining a realistic vision of what you can accomplish (and what might be beyond your reach at the moment) is key to maximizing your potential. Setting realistic goals now will prepare you to tackle the bigger ones in the future.
Start by brainstorming a list of all the things you want your firm to accomplish in the coming months and years. Then, divide those goals into lists of short-term and long-term goals.
Your short-term goals should be clear, measurable objectives that you and your team can accomplish within a specific period of time. These will act as a foundation to build out your long-term goals.
- Increase billable hours by 15% this quarter
- Bring on a certain number of new clients
- Convert your legal practice management software to a cloud-based system
- Streamline your client intake process
- Hire new associates
- Improve billing and accounting procedures to increase efficiency
Long-term goals should be yearly or even multi-year plans—they’re the things you imagine when you think about your firm achieving success. It’s okay to have broader long-term goals because your short-term plans will help you to make them more specific and show you what it’s going to take to get there.
Examples of long-term goals:
- Open a larger office
- Expand your practice areas to cater to different types of clients
- Establish your partners as thought leaders in your practice areas
- Appoint new partners
3. Be specific about what you want to accomplish
With your primary ideas in place, it’s time to dig into the details. What are you hoping to achieve with each goal? Be specific about how you want to meet these goals.
If your focus is gaining more clients, outline a clear structure for improving your marketing and outreach efforts. If your goal is to increase profitability and improve your utilization rates, create a plan to track your firm’s productivity and make improvements where necessary.
If you don’t have the resources in-house to map out the specifics of how you will achieve these goals, it’s worth hiring an outside professional or using legal-specific software to help you along.
4. Communicate your goals clearly with your team
Now that you’ve locked in a clearly defined set of goals, it’s time to develop a winning strategy to achieve them. Sit down for a meeting with your team and outline what you think are the most critical, obtainable goals to pursue.
Make sure that everyone has a chance to offer their insights into what could help the team achieve these goals. Allowing everyone to speak will foster a sense of ownership over the firm’s future and the task at hand. You could even come away with new goals or ideas that hadn’t occurred to you before.
Once you’ve ironed out a strategy that you’re ready to move forward with, it’s critical to communicate the specifics of the plan to every employee. Your team will need regular, consistent communication from you or managing attorneys to ensure they’re meeting their benchmarks and goals without confusion or unnecessary errors.
5. Review and update your goals regularly
With your team executing their tasks and working to reach the goals you established, it can be easy to assume that things are going in the right direction and just let the process cruise along on autopilot until the tasks are complete.
The problem with this is that you won’t have a clear picture of any obstacles on the road to success.
Organize a short weekly meeting to touch base with your team and review their progress. A clear understanding of what’s happening will allow you to adjust what isn’t working and enhance what is. If there isn’t time for a discussion, request summary reports or block off time for a monthly meeting that includes the entire staff so you can keep up with any developments or issues that may arise.
6. Have a tracking system in place
Just as it’s essential for you to stay up-to-date with your employees’ progress, it’s also critical to have concrete, measurable data to assess in the future when outlining new goals and strategies. Deploy a tracking system to gather and analyze data when you need it.
A tracking system tailored to your goals will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening with your firm, and it will also save you and your team valuable time and energy that you can spend taking care of clients and making sure things are running smoothly.
Partner with CosmoLex and make 2023 the year of the small law firm
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to making plans and achieving success, but following these guidelines to define your goals for your small firm in 2023 will set you up for as much success as possible now and in the year ahead.
If you’ve got clear goals and plans to achieve them but need some help along the way, consider investing in CosmoLex’s legal practice management software—a fully integrated solution that will help you manage your practice, billing, and accounting all from the same platform.