Last week, Answering Legal’s Marketing Director Nick Werker sat down with Doug Brown, J.D., Chief Learning Officer at Summit Success International to discuss how planning can help you achieve more in your legal life. Planning is a part of running a law firm that, when seen from afar, seems obvious. Of course you should plan!
But of course, you don’t live life or run your law firm from afar. When you’re running from one client to the next, or from meeting to deposition to a courtroom, it can be difficult to see the big picture, and all too easy to become complacent or work too hard. By taking a step back and coming up with a plan, however, you can ensure that when you look back on your career in 20 years, you have no regrets.
If you’d like to check out the full presentation, you can watch the video below:
If you’re short on time or just want the quick hits, here are five key takeaways from last week’s webinar, “A 90 Day Plan To Crush Your Goals And Build A Better Legal Life”.
1- Focus on Your Values: Start With Why
Your values should be what guides your career and determines your goals. You should ask yourself: why are you in the job you have now? What experiences are you having and creating that make your job worthwhile? These are the kinds of questions that are all too easy to push to the back of your mind in your day-to-day experience. After all, there’s too much work to do, and not enough time to sit back and wonder why.
However, you’ll find that when you take the time to answer them, you can clearly see what it is you truly care about and want to get out of your legal life. Once you know what you want, you assess how you spend your time. You might find that though you think you value time with your family, for example, the way you spend your time says otherwise.
Doug suggests making a list of the things you want to focus on, whether that be time with your family, volunteer work, or even just making more money. Then, next to that same list, you should list the things you did in the last week or month that took up a lot of your time. Once the two lists are juxtaposed, it should be easy to see how your time might be better spent on the things you value.
2- Set SMARTER Goals
Once you’ve taken the time to assess your values, you can start to look ahead and set goals to get more out of your legal life.Your goals need to be the right kind of goals, to keep them from becoming little more than New Year’s resolutions you forget in a few months. Doug brings something from his time in business school to bear on this topic: SMARTER goals, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound, exciting, and rewarding.
Your goals should be specific and measurable because if they aren’t, you won’t be able to focus on them. If you want to take more vacation, for example, you should determine exactly how much more you want to make. They need to be reasonably achievable, otherwise you’re just going to fail.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time working on this, so you should make sure it will actually improve your legal life. Your goals should have deadlines, as it will be difficult to motivate yourself if you can just put it off till next year. Lastly, you should make sure you’re excited about your goals, and that you’ll get something out of it. That means you’re going to be motivated to stick to the plan you’ll come up with next.
3- Make A Concrete Plan So You Know Exactly What You Need
Sticking with that vacation time example, let’s say you decide you want to take double your normal month of vacation this year. That’s a good goal, because it’s specific and realistic, and one that should excite you. What’s next? You don’t want that vacation time to impact your firm’s performance, so you need to make up a month’s worth of billable hours elsewhere.
That means you need a plan to distribute those billable hours throughout the year, rather than just defaulting to working as much as possible. Let’s say that’s 140 hours total. Seems daunting! However, if it’s divided into 14 hours a month over all 12 months of a year, it seems much more attainable. This is the key to a good plan: a concrete, measurable timeline that allows you to monitor your progress. Without that, you might just panic and overwork yourself, or fall behind and never achieve your goal.
There’s more to coming up with a good plan, as well. For example, you need to be able to communicate your plan with your staff, in order to avoid complications or confusion. And, finally, when you achieve your goal, you should review your plan and assess what worked and didn’t work, as well as tie up any loose ends and determine if this is something that is worth doing again next year.
4- Quarterly Reviews Are Essential Entrepreneurial Tools
There are two parts of running a law firm: being a lawyer and being an entrepreneur. Your entrepreneurial half needs quarterly business reviews to stay on track and monitor the health of your business. To conduct a QBR, do a very granular check-in. Ask yourself: How much money did you make this quarter? Is it below expectations? Is your marketing strategy generating enough leads? Are you converting enough of them? How are your projects progressing? How are your systems and processes supporting you?
The answers to these questions are a bill of health for your business, and are how you can know where to refocus your efforts. If you didn’t make as much as you expected, and find that it’s because you’re not generating enough leads, then you know you need to work on your marketing strategy in the next quarter. If you find that you’re always looking for information that should be in your client management software but isn’t, then you need to focus on revamping your systems and processes and making them more efficient.
In addition, you need to assess the quarter in more general terms in order to make sure you’re on track. Make sure you’re progressing on your goals, and on track to achieve them. This is also an opportunity to figure out if your goals are still what you want, or if you need to shift focus. And you can look back on the last quarter and assess what went right, what went wrong, and how you can learn from that to improve moving forward.
5- There’s Delegating, And Then There’s Delegating Right
Doug’s final point was this: attorneys do too much and don’t delegate enough. If you’re not sure what tasks to delegate, our Marketing Director Nick had some advice that helped him, a self-confessed reformed control freak, learn what he should hand off to someone else. He made four lists: things he was good at, things he liked doing, things he was bad at, and things he hated doing. By delegating the last two, he saved himself a lot of time to spend doing the first two even better.
Here’s why you should delegate: you only ever have an illusion of control. If you do everything yourself, your day will be pure chaos as you jump from one task to the next, never feeling in control. The same goes for micromanaging staff; you won’t have time to do everything you need to do and stay on top of what your paralegal or receptionist is doing.
That’s where Answering Legal comes in. If you’ve got a paralegal answering the phones, you don’t have time to train them to do it right or monitor their calls to make sure they’re doing their best. Answering Legal can, however. We handle the training for you, and we monitor your phone answering to make sure it’s always up to the task.
Answering Legal And Summit Success Are Teaming Up To Help You
At the end of the hour, Nick and Doug revealed a special offer. Answering Legal is giving 400 free minutes of our specialty answering service to firms that sign up. When you sign up, you’ll get a free coaching call with Doug Brown to help you assess your legal life and set some goals for the next three quarters of this year and beyond.
If you want to set yourself up for success in the next year and beyond, you should take advantage of this offer. Summit Success will help you get on track and figure out what it is you want to get out of your legal career.
Once you have a plan, Answering Legal will help you find the time to refocus your life by taking care of your phone-answering needs. Our virtual receptionists can do everything from picking up any calls your staff might miss to conducting full legal intakes. That means you can focus on what matters most without sacrificing your firm’s performance or reputation.
Click here or call 631-400-1111 to sign up for our free trial.