Originally published in the American Bar Association's GPSolo eReport December 2018
December is the time of year where everything speeds up, and although we want to relax and enjoy the season, we also want to finish cases and projects and get ready for the new year ahead. Many of us will reflect on the year and think about what we have done right, what we need to work on next year, and the things we have no control over, such as a health problem or the death of a loved one that occurred during the year.
Many times, people are ready to close out the year and move on to the next with nary a thought about acknowledging what they did right this year and all the successes they enjoyed but might not remember. I suggest you make a quick list of wins for the year; it might be eye-opening. It’s best to really focus and appreciate ourselves for what we have done right before we move on to goal setting for the upcoming year.
Acknowledge Your Wins
What are your wins for 2018? What kind of year was it? Did you build your business in new ways? Did you shed old ideas in favor of new ways of doing things?
I am excited about 2018 because I made some significant improvements in the way I practice law at Bragg Law PC, all of which have made my work life so much easier. I added Lexicata, an intake process, to my Clio program, and I added LawPay. Clients can now submit forms with data on them, and they are auto-populated into my law practice management system. They can also pay me via credit card from their smartphones. I have upped my game in terms of the reviews I request and receive from clients as well as incentivized employees about the intake process. After acknowledging myself for these many improvements in this area of my life, I am now ready to set goals for next year.
After spending some time acknowledging yourself for what you have done right in 2018—not beating yourself up like so many will do—it is time to create your vision or update your vision before you set goals for the new year.
Create or Update Your Vision
Make sure you . have your "vision" in mind each year. Has it changed from the previous year? What do you want to bring with you, and what can be left behind?
Jack Canfield talks about this in Chapter 3 of his best-selling book The Success Principles:
Your vision is a detailed description of where you want to get to. It describes in detail what your destination looks like and feels like. To create a balanced and successful life, your vision needs to include the following seven areas: work and career, finances, recreation and free time, health and fitness, relationships, personal goals, and contribution to the larger community. At this stage of the journey, it is not necessary to know exactly how you are going to get there. All that is important is that you figure out where there is. If you get clear on the what, the how will be taken care of.
Part of knowing your vision for a law firm is as follows:
What is your firm’s Mission Statement?
Do you have a firm Business Plan?
Do you have a firm Marketing Plan?
If not, prepare them.
Look at them once a week to keep them fresh on your mind during the year.
And here’s another great tool to help you update your vision: Michael Hyatt’s LifeScore Assessment, an online survey that will help you identify where you stand based on ten domains of life: physical, vocational, avocational, emotional, financial, spiritual, parental, marital, social, and intellectual. (Thanks to Michael Hyatt for permission to use this material.)
Set Your Goals
Write your goals down! Written goals are a critical part of success in any endeavor.
I highly suggest instilling some “process” to our goal setting so we:
Begin each new year with the true sense of fulfillment that we have accomplished the bulk our goals from the previous year;
know that we have handled the adversity placed before us in the best and most positive way we could at the time; and
ensure that we are positioned for the next year with purpose and efficiency to be able to enjoy our daily lives, as well as make the world a better place by delivering the best legal services to our clients and getting them the optimal results.
Written goals remind your subconscious to help you achieve your desires. You may not look at them all year, but your subconscious will know and keep you on track. If, however, you do look at them regularly and focus your intention on them, it will become easier to accomplish them. Because as you know, what you focus on magnifies.
Goals need to be concrete and specific and have a definite beginning and end time for achievement. A nebulous goal that depends on outside factors other than your own actions is unlikely to be accomplished. And make sure each goal will stretch you. In fact, create a “breakthrough” goal. Is there something that has been hounding you for years, and if you could just accomplish it, your life would be so much easier? If so, just put it into words, focus on it, and see it manifest.
Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
I can think of a breakthrough goal that after all these years of practicing law I would love to master: to bill clients systematically and regularly on a monthly basis. I have always had a dislike of billing—can anyone relate? It is the hardest part of this job for me. This year, I have made some improvements in the billing and collection process, but it isn’t where I want it to be yet. Smaller bites at the apple are easier for clients to handle, and I am committed to streamlining this part of my practice in 2019 to make it less stressful.
Break your goals down into projects, and make them doable projects. Keep the schedule for achievement to a reasonable amount of time. Thirty days is a good guideline. Small successes along the way always make the journey better. Join legal organizations and be around people—accountability partners—who help you reach your goals.
How will you achieve the goals you set?
By having a set of affirmations that put them in focus and help create the mind-set you need to achieve your goals.
An affirmation is a powerful, positive statement that affirms your being in the state of having already accomplished the goal.
Use affirmations to:
Replace negative self-talk;Change your limiting beliefs;
Program your subconscious mind;Intensify the law of attraction;
Greatly accelerate your success.
Guidelines for creating an effective affirmation:
Start with the words “I AM”;
Use the present tense;
State it in the positive;
Keep it brief;
Include an action word ending with “ing”;
Include at least one dynamic emotion or feeling word;
Make affirmations for yourself, not others.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful tool to use in accelerating your progress on your goals.
The secret sauce for the year that you hopefully already know and incorporate into your life all day is gratitude. The conscious practice of gratitude in all forms will radically shift your life in positive ways.
And as you move through 2019 and engage in the marketing that solo and small firm attorneys must do, just remember:
Any form of self-improvement will create marketing opportunities;
Daily inspiration is vital to your success;
Find something that inspires you and participate fully in the process; and don’t forget that
Community service is a great way to network and charge your internal battery.
Have a great and prosperous 2019, my GPSolo eReport readers! It is an honor to be able to share my thoughts and ideas with you. Please contact me with any feedback. I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.