We’re a week into 2017 and you’re already regretting that new gym membership. Your plans for a “Drynuary” (that’s a booze-free January) probably won’t survive the weekend. And those thoughts about making your life more hygge-full? Forget them. (Please, let’s all forget hygge.)
Stop wasting your time on silly resolutions and unattainable life changes. Instead, let’s use this time to focus on things that really matter: making your practice better. Here are seven resolutions we think solo practitioners should adopt for 2017.
1. Really Think Through Your Brand
Forget mindfulness or adult coloring books. Make 2017 the Year of Branding. Your law firm brand is essential to your success, and we’re not just talking about being “a trusted family law practitioner.” Spend some time at the start of the year really thinking about your brand and how you can set yourself apart from the other lawyers in your practice and geographic area. Here’s a good place to start.
2. Stop Giving Your Money Away
It’s fine to round down a bill every once in a while or to offer a small discount on your work. But when you do it often, you’re giving your money away. And many lawyers do a lot of work for free. According to a recent survey by Clio, the case and practice management software company, attorneys don’t bill for 19 percent of their hours. That’s almost one fifth of all your work, given away for free! Resolve to reduce that this year.
3. Cut Loose the Deadbeats
Speaking of getting paid, make 2017 the year that you sever relationships with clients who are chronically behind on their bills. After all, sometimes having no client is better than having a bad client.
4. Conduct an Efficiency Audit
Tracking time is second nature to you. But how often do you actually look at how efficiently that time is spent? Are you devoting your energy to profit-making activities? Are administrative and house-keeping tasks taking up too much of your day? Set aside at least one day to fully log all your time, not just billable hours, then audit your day to find areas that could be improved.
5. Give Your Online Presence the Attention It Deserves
You have a website, sure, but has it been updated recently? What about your Twitter account? How engaged are you with your online reviews? With more and more legal consumers finding lawyers online, your internet presence isn’t something you can neglect.
6. Build Your Network
Working in a solo practice can be an isolating experience. So make sure you get out there and network this year. You might want to join a practice group in your state bar association, or start attending more CLEs, or simply going to industry events. Whatever it is, try to do it more often.
7. Block Out “No Work” Periods
If you find yourself answering calls during dinner or getting out of bed at night to shoot off an email, stop it. Unless there’s an emergency, keep the work confined to your work hours and don’t let the office overtake your life. One of the first steps to work-life balance, after all, is having a clear line between your work and your life.