7 Questions About 2017 and Your Law Firm
Well, we’re now a full week into December and 2018 is right around the corner. It’s this time of year that I start to notice a lot of retrospective content appearing in my news feeds. Practically every business with an audience starts telling us to look back at 2017 for one reason or another. Facebook puts together a short, animated collection of your year’s posts and business journals hand out advice on what to take away from the past eleven and a half months. Here’s my attempt at the same.
I encourage the attorneys I work with (and those I’d like to work with) to ask themselves a few year-end questions to help decide where and how to put their firm’s dollars to work. Be honest with yourself on these seven questions and you’ll find your law firm in a better position when January rolls around.
1. Did my revenue go up or down?
Sure, this is broad and subject to a thousand different factors, but think of it this way: Football coaches manage a team of players with different skills and weaknesses on the field each week, but they also look up at the scoreboard from time to time. As basic as this question sounds, it’s worth answering if for no other reason than to bring a moment of clarity to a complex business.
2. Did I open as many new cases as I want each month?
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you’re not keeping a close watch on your books each month throughout the year, it’s tough to spot trends or issues until it’s too late. Keeping a simple, monthly case count like this takes that big “2017” and breaks it into twelve, manageable chunks. Depending on your answer to question number 1, reviewing your monthly performance could reveal problems or advantages for your firm.
3. Am I getting the types of cases I want? If not, why?
This one is a bit of more … squishy. What I’m asking is, are you getting what you want out of your legal practice. The types of cases you desire will vary from person to person. But if your soul needs feeding and your caseload didn’t deliver this year, own up to it and make a plan for a change. In contrast, if your law firm’s budget is starving while your cup of clients runneth over, you’ve got a financial problem on your hands that needs solving in 2018.
4. Is my competition stealing my referrals online due to a better website or search presence?
Be careful with this one. “Better” is a subjective term, and what looks better or more impressive to you might not necessarily be more enticing to your prospective clients. That being said, if you know that you’re losing out on business that should be yours because of an online marketing deficiency, it’s definitely time to talk to a professional. Just beware, things aren’t always as they seem.
5. Do I need to re-evaluate my marketing strategy? Do I even have a strategy?
Bigger than you versus them, consider your approach to marketing your law firm this year. Some firms have this nailed-down and just need a little optimization from time to time. But if your law firm’s marketing strategy is really just a list of tactics, I’d encourage you to think about the bigger picture. One that includes your law firm’s brand, your online reputation, and your client experience. Defining things like these is one way to move your firm towards having a true strategy (as opposed to a plan.)
6. What is my plan for 2018? How am I going to stay competitive?
Speaking of plans, they’re valuable. At this point in the questionnaire, you’re probably seeing the patterns that will help define your law firm’s 2018 marketing plan. Keep things simple and actually document your plan. It’s an excellent way to increase accountability and help set achievable goals for your practice. FindLaw has, for several years now, offered no-obligation marketing planning tools for law firms. It’s never too late to start on this stuff, so have a conversation with us now and see what 2018 could bring.
7. Do I have revenue I need to invest to lower my taxable income?
I’ll admit, this one sounds a little like a sales pitch, but hear me out. With just a few weeks left on the 2017 books, it’s worth considering where your law firm’s finances should go. I’d argue that, for many lawyers, it makes sense to invest in yourself and your practice. Doing so could reduce your taxable income and send more money back to your business rather than off to the tax man.
Final Thoughts and a Pep Talk
Hopefully, by answering these questions above, you’ve gained some insight into the past year. If it’s been a great one, congratulations! I wish you more of the same success in 2018. If your firm didn’t have a banner year, don’t lose heart. With the right perspective, you’ll see the market is still very much in your favor. Consider these three numbers I share with my clients:
- 68% of legal search is non-branded.
So most legal consumers do not have any particular attorney or law firm in mind, nor did they receive a referral. These are clients you can win.
- 64% of legal consumers will only contact one attorney before making a hiring decision.
So make that contact happen. One of the easiest things you can do in 2018 is, commit to taking those all-important phone calls. For many of your callers, you literally are “the one.”
- 60% of internet search is now done on a mobile phone or tablet.
What I like about this number is just how close your prospects are to contacting you. In the old days, ads urged people to pick up the phone. From that perspective, we have it so much easier than our forebears. Let that lift your spirits this month.
Thanks for reading and my most sincere best wishes for your law firm in the coming year.