As we turn the calendar from 2017 to 2018, we attorneys are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to strategize for how we are going to tackle the year to come.
There are any number of questions that can form the basis for a well-rounded annual self-reflection. Below are five of my favorites. I invite my readers to add your own in the comments section.
1) What types of cases have been profitable in 2017?
This isn’t just a question for the general practice attorney who handles a variety of matters spanning probate through DUI. Attorneys who practice exclusively family law or criminal law can consider this question as well. Is there a particular type of case within the discipline that consistently yields high realization rates? Conversely, is there a particular type of case within the discipline where you are writing off a good deal of time or where the amount of labor involved far outpaces the flat fee?
2) What types of cases have I enjoyed litigating in 2017?
This question is as important if not more important than the first question. What types of matters have you enjoyed handling? Conversely, what types of matters have left you fraught with anxiety about picking up the file? Within your existing practice model, how can you handle a larger volume of cases that you enjoy (and avoid those that give you misery)? Should you change your existing practice model so that a larger percentage of your time is devoted to cases that you enjoy?
3) What types of referral sources have been most impactful in 2017?
It’s gift basket season, when CPAs and realtors and other professionals destroy our waistlines with Harry & David moose munch and other sinful goodies as a thank you to us for referring business in 2017. Similarly, now is a good time to think about the referral sources who have kept your lights on the past year. Who are they? How can I express my gratitude to them? How can I find more similarly-situated referral sources? And remember: (i) the impact of a short handwritten thank you note; and, (ii) often the best way to show gratitude is to do well by the client who has been referred to you.
4) What types of marketing have brought the best return on investment in 2017?
Similar to the prior question, which of your marketing dollars have been best spent the past year? There are nearly unlimited ways to blow through a marketing budget but a finite number of dollars within that marketing budget. We are constantly approached by folks who promise search engine optimization through Internet advertising or a large number of eyes on a print advertisement. Additionally, if you have the opportunity to review metrics for your website, the slower holiday season is a good time to take a deep dive into how many unique visitors come to your website, how they arrive at your website, and how they engage with the different pages on your website.
5) What can I do to improve myself and my profession in 2018?
Ending on a bit of a maudlin note, I know. But how can you grow as a lawyer in 2018? Can you become more of an expert in a current practice area? Can you learn about a new practice area to complement and serve the needs of existing clients? How can you promote the legal practice and the community as a whole in 2018? Can you help younger attorneys by presenting at a CLE or participating in a mentor-mentee program? Can you lend a hand to attorneys in need through a lawyer assistance program? What types of programming does your local or state bar association sponsor for the community that would present you with the opportunity for meaningful participation?
Wishing each and every one of my readers (and editors) a merry, joyous, and meaningful holiday season. Cheers to 2018!