Lawyers are often so busy, that holidays can come and go in a blur. In case you missed it, the New Year just rolled over. It’s 2016, and everybody is making New Year’s resolutions. Most of those resolutions relate back to trimming the fat: from diets, from budgets. Every lawyer’s hope is that his law firm will run leaner this year, than it did last year. Of course, real, significant change rarely comes without some kind of impetus; and, that’s why, even if the turn of the New Year is largely an artificial construct, it is good enough as a marker, to move on from what you did before, toward what you’re doing now.
The problem with most of our New Year’s resolutions is that they’re just too big. True change occurs in increments, as habits are developed, over time. If you really want to improve the way you manage your law firm this year, take small bites. Now, that’s good holidaytime advice if there ever was any.
If you don’t know where to get started, pick from our list of 12 reachable New Year’s resolutions for law firms, and make 2016 your best year yet!
- Require a second factor of authentication for access to all major law firm systems (email/calendar, case management, financial tools), in order to better secure your data. The most common ‘second factor’ is a code number sent via text to a phone. This works well because it’s unlikely that, in addition to discovering your system password, a hacker would also have access to your phone.
- Ditch the smartphone, and get a tablet. Tablets offer internet access when you need it, are portable (but not so portable that they fit in your pocket -- unless you have one of these), are easy to turn off and aren’t constantly buzzing, like a siren song for you to answer. Use your phone for what intended it was for: to make and take phone calls.
- Upgrade one of your outdated local software applications this year. You know the one I mean.
- Set one specific law firm marketing goal this quarter; then, check in, to see whether or not you achieved it. If you didn’t, consider what the reason for the failure was. Was the goal appropriate? Did you not give yourself enough time to fully commit to its accomplishment? Is it worth repeating the project, with better attributes?
- Think of the basic question you’ve entertained the most from your clients over the past year; then, write it down, and publish it to your blog. This is how clients who are not referred to you will find you online.
- Within the next quarter, set up one in-person meeting with an online contact. The best way to cement a business relationship remains face-to-face engagement, where you can make a visceral impression on your contact. There are local business associates you only talk to online; take it to the next level.
- Find your biggest annual expense from last year’s budget, and figure out whether there is a way to reduce that cost. Printing a lot? Maybe it’s time to get paperless. Low overhead is the key to happiness.
- How much time are you really saving, if you’re managing your own accounts? If you’re a solo or small firm lawyer without a bookkeeper, track how much time you spend managing your own finances over the next quarter. Multiply that number by your billable rate. Blanch. Then, outsource.
- When was the last time you got paid? It probably directly relates to when you last invoiced your clients. Select firm billing dates for each case type you process. Over the course of the next year, see whether and how regular billing results in regular payments.
- Take each of the people you directly supervise out for lunch in the next month. Law firms most often convert into slavish hierarchies; but, it is important to remember that, in the end, you’re all just individuals pulling toward team goals. Treat your staffpersons like persons, and everybody will work better, and harder, together.
- Staff meetings can be torturous affairs, and much of the time taken up in them is often the results of a lack of regular, effective communication. In the next quarter, demo an internal communications tool, like Slack or Yammer, and see whether a stronger current of conversation will reduce the number of staff meetings you hold and/or limit the amount of time you schedule them for.
- Lawyers are at their best when they’re doing the creative work that clients pay them for: devising clauses to cover complex issues, untangling thorny research questions, crafting compelling briefs. If you maintain support staff, you should know what you should delegate, and what you should keep on. Review the last ten cases in which you were active, to determine what particular work you delegated and what you retained. If you find that you’re performing too many administrative tasks, change your delegation process.
Over the next month, we’ll delve a little further into each of these categories (technology, marketing, financial management, staff management), to offer advice on building processes, that will reduce your frustration and increase your efficiency and spare time! So stay right here at www.abacusnext.com/blog to learn more.