Attorney Tips for a Strong Start to the New Year
Late last month, my colleagues and I reached out to multiple attorneys here at FindLaw and across the U.S. asking, “What do attorneys do to prepare for a strong start to the new year?” Unsurprisingly, the responses varied based on each attorney’s experience and the nature of their law practice. Hopefully, you’ll find something that can work for you among these attorney tips for a strong start to the new year. (And of course, if you have a tip you’d like to share, leave a comment.)
Two of the most noteworthy tips we received had one thing in common: optimizing your practice. These stood out to me because, while optimizing is a positive outcome, it sometimes requires some tough decisions. For example,
“Here’s my answer to the question: (1) review budget, (2) remove dead-weight, (3) research market opportunities, (4) reallocate resources, (5) set targets, and (6) go after it.”
Aaron Paul Hartley, Hartley Law Office, LLC – Kettering, OH
Ally Marshall practiced family law for 11 years, 8 of those running her own small law firm. She had a little more to say on the subject of optimizing your existing caseload:
“Fire your worst client.* This is the single most helpful advice I have ever received from a fellow attorney. In family law, the area I practiced in, this is especially applicable. Your worst client may be the one that emails too frequently, doesn’t ever listen or follow your advice or one that takes up more of your time and energy than is reasonable. When you are a newer attorney or trying to make a go of running a practice, you may feel like you have to take every client that comes through the door. That isn’t a sustainable approach for your personal well-being or that of your practice.
Sometimes certain clients aren’t a good fit for us and the new year is a good time to evaluate whether they would be better off with a different attorney. It is challenging to advocate for a client who causes you unreasonable stress. Feel free to refer them to other colleagues that you think are more appropriately suited to their personality or their level of needed attention.
*Of course, this comes with a caveat. Make sure you consult your local rules of professional responsibility before you terminate any attorney-client relationship to ensure you are not violating any ethical obligations.”
– Ally Marshall, Senior Content Strategist, FindLaw – Eagan, MN
Jordan Schuetzle, no stranger to this blog, shared his two cents next.
“First, research and commit to investing in one new (trackable) marketing practice for the first two months of the year. Compare that to your existing practices and reallocate your marketing budget accordingly in March.
Second, dedicate the first 30 minutes of two days a week to improving your networking and marketing efforts. Write a blog for your site or a local publication, send personal notes, or research a potential prospective client or referral source and formulate a plan for how you’ll start to network with them. While you won’t see immediate returns, you’ll start 2018 off with the right habits that will come around in the second half.”
Jordan Schuetzle, J.D., Senior Product Innovation Manager, FindLaw – Eagan, MN
Our next piece of advice came courtesy of the Thomson Reuters Legal Community for Small Law Firms where a frequent contributor chimed in on time management, saying,
“I believe that an excellent timekeeping software is a gift. It allows the firm to capture all billable time. As a result, the hours spent reaching the yearly financial goals decrease. Therefore, the attorney has more time to network and do high-visible pro bono activities.”
Julita de Leon, Julita de Leon, PLLC – Charlotte Amaile, VI
George Khoury has practiced exclusively with solo plaintiffs’ side firms and even ran one himself for a time. He still currently practices part-time with another solo practitioner, focusing that limited time on civil rights matters. But despite his part-time status, he still knows there are a few end of year tasks that shouldn’t be avoided, especially for solos:
“Sending a late holiday/New Year email to former/favorite clients, colleagues, and friends, including your big successes from the last year, as well as any news updates about your practice (new attorney announcements, updates to practice areas, office location or phone number changes, updated website, etc.) Keep it friendly without any hint of a solicitation, and don’t forget an opt-out provision. I use Mailchimp. People don’t call during the holidays, but in early January, people are usually hot to act, so sending in early January can actually pay off and lead to more calls, even if it’s not a solicitation.
The other big one I try to do by the end of January is getting my business tax stuff in order for filing, and then also organize my tax folders (aka receipt/document shoe boxes) for the next year.”
George Khoury, Esq., Senior Writer, Legal Professional Blogs, FindLaw – San Francisco
Finally, Andrew Jarmuz, who ran a criminal law solo practice for five years, has found that other practitioners are a good source of marketing ideas and feedback:
“Offer to take an attorney from another firm out to coffee or lunch, whether he or she is a new or old acquaintance, to learn about their practice and to bounce ideas off of them regarding marketing or other topics. If they don’t practice in your field of expertise, they may have some ideas you haven’t thought of but could apply to your practice, and you may be top of mind for a referral when a potential client contacts them and needs the type of legal services you provide.”
Andrew Jarmuz, Attorney Editor, FindLaw – Eagan, MN
What’s your take? Do you have a plan for every January that never lets you down? Thinking of trying something new? Let us know in the comments and have a fruitful 2018 business year.