Even for lawyers who have no wish to take it easier during the Summer, it is often the case that their clients make that decision for them. Most everybody goes on vacation, fewer business transactions occur. Whether you intentionally reduce your workload, or whether it’s reduced for you, the Summertime can be a welcome lull, after three consecutive quarters of grinding it out. Reentry into your normal workflow can be difficult. Reengaging projects unfinished by the end of this past Spring sounds like a slog. Sometimes, it helps to have a little push, to add some extra motivation to the mix. On that score, we offer five ways to get your juices flowing, to get you back into the swing of practice -- at least through the Columbus Day long weekend . . .
1. Check Up On Your Accounts Receivable
It’s likely that you did less work, and consequently billed less (and less often) over the Summer months. However, the primary question remains: Did you get paid? Or, did your clients also take a vacation from paying you? Now that Summer’s over, check in on your accounts receivable. As everybody else reengages their obligations, when the weather cools off, it’s the perfect time to send appropriate reminders about the invoices that have been left unpaid. If the response to your inquiries is positive, you may end up becoming flush with cash -- and, that will serve as a nice springboard for closing the books on 2015, and starting to think about what your law firm will look like in 2016.
2. Bull Market
The Fall is a good time to start planning for 2016. One of the things you’ll want to look at is your prevailing marketing posture. What are you doing now to promote your law firm? Has any part of your marketing platform grown stale? Do you need to adjust floundering campaigns? What important marketing trends do you expect will come to the fore in 2016, and how can you start thinking about taking advantage of them now? This Fall, revise your marketing plan. When the New Year rolls around, you’ll be ready to launch revamped marketing campaigns that will energize you, your clients and your referral base.
3. The Great Communicator
The pace of change respecting business technology is staggering, and that’s particularly true in the legal field, which is, in many ways, always catching up to the general business community. One of the major ways that technology continues to effect the client-lawyer relationship respects communication. Email is still the driver for the majority of business interactions; but, there are new, (more) effective collaborative solutions arising all the time. So, think about whether you’re communicating with your clients in the most efficient way possible. Can you offer your clients real-time interactions? Do you meet them on platforms they’re comfortable with? Do you offer communications options, rather than forcing your clients into funnels? Customer service involves a number of considerations; but, at its root is the question of whether you’re interacting with your clients in ways that are truly meaningful to them.
4. A Checklist Manifesto
The Fall is the perfect time to review your processes, before you commit to adapting them for 2016. In a very broad way, at first, you should ask yourself whether your systems work? Do your processes actually save you time? Do your associates and/or staffpersons believe in the processes you apply, and can they work within them effectively? Are there areas of your practice that are crying out for organization, for the development of workflows that have not yet been put into place? If you can automate processes, do so. If you can streamline existing processes, do that, too. Your law firm should run like a well-oiled machine, which will mean that you’re going to be more efficient, and reduce errors. That way, you can go back to being paid for what a lawyer is supposed to paid for: engaging the creative process.
5. Resetting the Edge
This sounds like a lot of work, I know. But, it’s important to remember that you’re not a machine. Just because the Summer’s over, it doesn’t mean that you can’t now take a break until next June. Reinvesting in your practice does not mean that you should begin by overwhelming yourself. Think about building mental health breaks into your schedule. Get up and walk around the office from time to time. Make the time to go for a run at lunch. Take at least one full day off each week. Lawyers can always be busy; and, the profession is a stressful one -- which makes it even more important that you give yourself an opportunity to recharge your batteries every so often.
Farmers regulate their work by the seasons. The rest of us to do it, too -- even if we’re not conscious that we’re doing so. However, if you can at least be thoughtful about achieving specific practice management goals during each quarter, you can make better use of the time you dedicate to the administration of your law firm.