Best Practices

How to Set SMART Lawyer Goals for 2023

Hannah Bruno
Hannah Bruno
January 11, 2023

If you've ever taken a Business 101 class, completed a yearly employee evaluation, or read a self-help book, chances are you're familiar with the concept of setting SMART goals. The idea isn't revolutionary; however, it is a tried and true method of reaching success.

As we enter the new year, you probably have set your mind on how you can level up your firm from last year. In this article, we outline the step-by-step way you can incorporate the SMART formula into your goal-setting effort for 2023.

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Why is it important for lawyers to set goals?

In an increasingly competitive legal market, attorneys who are adaptable often are the ones who thrive. Setting clear, meaningful goals ensures that your team's work achieves meaningful, consistent results.

Having a clear, meaningful goal gives you a benchmark from which you can adapt and adjust to be as successful as possible. This blog will show you how to set SMART lawyer goals to take your professional development to the next level.

Defining SMART goals for lawyers

SMART is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART goals are easier to track, monitor, and assess—in the short and long term. Whether regarding your career or any other area of your life, a SMART goal is:

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Specific

When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn't a detailed list of how you're going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the 'w' questions:

Who: Consider who needs to be involved in achieving the goal

What: Think about what you are trying to accomplish, and don't be afraid to get very detailed.

When: Set a realistic time frame. We will expand on this further in this article's 'time-bound' section.

Where: Although this question may not apply to every situation, identify a location or an event here if it is relevant.

Which: Determine any related obstacles or requirements to decide whether your goal is realistic.

Why: What is the reason for the goal?

Measurable

What metrics will you use to determine if you meet the goal? Identifying metrics makes a goal more tangible because it provides a way to measure progress. If it's a project that will take a few months to complete, then set some milestones by considering specific tasks to accomplish.

Achievable

Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. In other words, it can stretch your abilities, but it should still remain possible. When you set an achievable goal, you may be able to identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to it.

Relevant

This focuses on how important a goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable, and may require developing new skills and changing attitudes. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not discouragement. Think about how to accomplish the goal and if you have the tools/skills needed. If you don't possess those tools/skills, consider what it would take to attain them.

Time-Bound

Anyone can set goals, but if it lacks realistic timing, chances are you're not going to succeed. Providing a target date for deliverables is imperative. Ask specific questions about the goal deadline and what can be accomplished within that period. If the goal will take three months to complete, it's helpful to define what should be achieved halfway through the process. Providing time constraints also creates a sense of urgency.

Tips for setting law firm goals

When it comes to writing SMART goals, it's crucial to ask yourself and other team members a lot of questions. The answers will help fine-tune your strategy, ensuring the goals are attainable. While you should be as realistic as possible, it's vital to approach writing SMART goals with a positive attitude. This doesn't have to be a daunting experience; in fact, it should leave you feeling prepared and ready to take action.

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Review the previous year's goals and performance

Law firms struggling to determine goals can use the previous year for guidance. Firms must assess the last year and its goals, evaluating what was accomplished and what wasn't.

Identifying failures may be difficult and stressful, but it's the most effective way to move forward. Failures provide insights into how to improve processes in the future. Law firms should get a wide range of opinions from everyone, not just partners or senior attorneys. Different perspectives can provide insights into the whole picture and what contributed to the failure in the first place.

Identify your biggest pain points

Identifying business problems is a big part of fostering more success within your firm..

In many instances, a problem with a business may not be readily apparent from the start. It is common for a problem to go unnoticed until it's been around long enough to cause some damage. Consequently, you and your staff may find yourselves scrambling to minimize the impact of the issue.

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To set your firm up for success, you can use the following steps to evaluate and determine the primary challenges that could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

  1. Don't be afraid to ask questions - If you want an answer, you must ask many questions. Asking yourself questions can help you identify problems and come up with possible solutions.
  2. Get to the root cause of the problem - Often, a series of issues could be linked to one central issue. This deeper issue must be approached strategically for the problem to be eliminated.
  3. Get some insight - It could be that a problem exists right under your nose, but you're not in any position to notice it. That's why it helps to get outside opinions. Talk to coworkers, customers, professionals in the same industry, and anyone else who might be able to find issues that you could be missing.
  4. Don't waste time - When it comes to identifying business problems, the worst thing you can do is let them sit. Crises tend to snowball if you let them, so you must be proactive.

Research modern solutions

Industries change rapidly, and the legal sector is no different. More firms are investing in strategic analysts to help them see what's coming around the bend. What better way to support that process than give them actionable insights into the current market?

Strategic Insights will allow you and your firm analysts to easily view and share results with data visualizations and interactive dashboards between teams to develop a holistic market view. Knowing where you stand in the market allows you to adapt messaging or investments to keep or expand your competitive advantage.

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Many times, software and applications, like Google, most social media accounts, and your website host, automatically provide easy-to-read analytics. Suppose you are using payment and billing software, like LawPay, or a law practice management tool, like MyCase. In that case, you probably already have critical data about your finances, staff productivity, and customer satisfaction at your fingertips.

LawPay's comprehensive reporting provides 100 percent payment deposits, complete transaction details, and real-time reporting for easy, accurate reconciliation. MyCase compiles a comprehensive overview of the history, progress, and status of every case you work on, allowing you to review up-to-the-minute analytics and prevent anything from falling through the cracks.

Adapting to changing market conditions means empowering yourself and your firm with knowledge of what lies ahead and the shifts needed to stay ahead of your competition.

Prioritize goals

Prioritizing goals involves identifying your objectives and organizing them according to their urgency, value, and importance. It's also important to allocate your resources, time, and effort where needed. The idea is to determine which tasks to focus on before moving on to other tasks which you might already be doing.

Create a milestone timeline

Defining and prioritizing your goals is an important step, but it's only half the battle. Once you get to work, you'll need to remain focused, diligent, and determined, so you don't accidentally drop the ball. Creating a schedule and detailed to-do lists can help you stay accountable here.

Measure goals and KPIs

Check in on your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and see how you're doing toward your goal. If the goal is a monthly goal, you should have daily or weekly check-ins to see progress. This helps you direct energy and change course if something you are doing isn't working and you aren't making progress. It's better to see this sooner than later while you can still adapt with enough time to succeed.

SMART lawyer goals examples

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Think about what KPIs are most important to your firm and you personally. SMART goals and KPIs are complementary because both measure, track, and account for lawyers' performance.

When creating a plan of action, remember to be as specific as possible. First, let's take a look at some examples of how NOT to write goals:

  • Increase how many people are reading the firm's email newsletter.
  • Spend more time on billable tasks each week
  • Make more money this year

Note how those examples lacked one or more aspects of the SMART formula. Some are missing a timeline, while others are just far too broad. Here are some examples you can use to get started, after which you can customize them according to your firm's needs:

Marketing KPI: Website Traffic Performance
SMART goal: To increase traffic to the firm's website by 15% by the end of Q2. Solution: Write one thought leadership blog or article monthly to share on your business and personal social media accounts and help generate leads.

Client-acquisition KPI: Number of retained clients
SMART goal: To increase each lawyer at the firm's number of repeat clients by 3% quarter over quarter. Solution: Gauge and address client satisfaction with a brief customer survey at the end of each case.

Financial KPI: Decrease the number of outstanding invoices
SMART goal: To see an overall decrease in unpaid invoices left at the end of each month by Q4. Solution: Invest in payment and billing software that will send automatic invoice reminders when payments are due.

These goals provide a clearer picture of how you can achieve them. By sticking to the SMART rules, you avoid frustration and uncertainty. This results in a higher chance of you sticking to the plan and reaching your short-term and long-term goals!

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Using SMART Goals for your success

Attorneys who adapt can thrive and create a better normal for the legal industry. A game plan gives you a benchmark to adapt and adjust to be as successful as possible. As we look forward to 2023, it's the ideal time to think about what you want—and how you plan to achieve it—in the coming year.

However you measure success, LawPay has the tools to help you achieve them. To better understand our online payments solution can specifically benefit your firm, schedule a demo!