The New Year brings fresh opportunity to make life-improving changes. That’s why people resolve to do something different or persevere on a project, whether that means promising to lose weight, quit smoking, or exercise more—the list goes on and on.
The idea of making a change for the better should not be limited to our personal lives; it should extend to our professional lives as well. As lawyers, we can get bogged down in the daily grind. That is why it is crucial to look at how we are running our practices and make resolutions to improve. The following 10 tips will get the year off to the right start:
- Take the time to organize – It is worth the time and effort it takes to look at your files and make sure they are organized. This will make life easier going forward. These days, many firms are going paperless. It may be time for you to consider making the leap, too. While going digital can be a time-consuming process, in the end, adopting a paperless system will make it easier to keep your work accessible and organized.
- Assess what doesn’t work and change it – Sometimes it’s best to take a few steps back and assess what is or isn’t working and make changes accordingly. For example, staff duties may need to be reassigned to ensure that everyone is working to their fullest and best potential. Perhaps policies need to be updated to improve efficiency. The New Year is an ideal time to implement changes.
- Review your billing and collecting practices – As lawyers, we are often so busy providing service to clients that we tend to ignore the business side of our practices. Clearly, if we don’t bill and collect for the great service we are providing, we are only cheating ourselves. Start the New Year with a promise that time will be entered daily, bills will go out monthly, retainers will be replenished, and collections will not wait until year-end.
- Renew and refresh your attitude – Counseling clients is a tireless job. However, it is important to remember that clients are the lifeblood of a lawyer’s work. Although we sometimes think we are doing clients a favor by providing service, in fact, clients are doing us a favor by hiring us. The New Year provides the perfect opportunity for us to readjust our thinking and commit to treating clients with the respect they deserve.
- Create and use a marketing plan – No matter how busy we are with our practices, we always need to bring in new business. Unfortunately, many of us take an ad hoc approach to marketing. It is important to realize that now—more than ever—lawyers need to market their practices, and the best way to do that is to develop a plan that will be followed consistently.
- Update web bio and social media presence – These days everyone uses online information to research prospective hires. This extends to prospective clients looking for legal representation. If your web bio and social media presence has not been updated in the last 5 years or does not exist at all, it’s time to update (or create) your online profiles.
- Pump up your staff – Refreshing your practice for the New Year cannot be accomplished unless your staff is on board. It is necessary to make them a part of the changes you want to make. Solicit their input about what they think needs to be changed. Minor adjustments can make a world of difference in terms of how they perceive the work and work environment.
- Learn to use the technology you have – We often purchase new technology but don’t spend time or energy learning how to use it. While it can be difficult and time consuming to get up to speed on the latest and greatest technology, in the long run, it can save valuable time.
- Spruce up your leadership skills – A lawyer’s work is stressful and deadline driven. However, a good leader appreciates his or her staff. Even in the toughest moments, we must remember that we hired our staff members for a reason. They are there to help us, and we need to treat them with respect and kindness even in challenging times.
- Take time to breathe – Along with treating our staff with respect, we also need to develop our own sense of self-respect. Although our work is demanding, we need to keep a healthy balance in life. Not only will this make us stronger, but it will make us better attorneys as well.
While the New Year is an opportune time to make changes both for ourselves and our careers, the tips above can improve our practices at any time. If nothing else, they will force us to assess what we are currently doing and try to do better.