If 2024 goal setting isn’t your top priority right now, make sure to block some time in the next couple of weeks before holiday activities and last-minute travel plans consume your schedule.  Getting started doesn’t have to be a daunting process – it can be as easy as asking yourself and your team a few simple questions about where you are and where you want to be. Continue reading this guide to learn about goal setting for the next year to get the most out of your business, team, and yourself. 

2023 Analysis: How Did You Do?

Remember the goals you started off with at the start of the year? It's time to put them to the test and measure your business performance against them.

Start off by reviewing your goals from this year and noting your results to date. For example, maybe you wanted to increase client retention, improve collections, spend more time on billable work, or expand your network. Whatever your objective, put it on a whiteboard and document the results. You may not have measurable data for everything right away or might need to do some calculations – and that's okay. That’s why you need to start this exercise before the end of the year.

What About Missed Targets?

Nobody is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. If your analysis reveals areas that didn't meet your goal, try to identify why. Consider it a health checkup for your workflows. Talk to your team, record their perspectives, and design actionable solutions based on the findings. In some ways, tracking inefficiencies is more important than knowing the wins because it gives you the opportunity to get ahead of them and make improvements before they become a bigger roadblock for everyone and impact the business. 

What if I Didn't Start the Year With Any Goals?

You can always study existing data to analyze business performance. Generally, a law firm's performance can be summarized through financial analysis (e.g. revenue), client sentiment (e.g. retention and new clients), workforce satisfaction (e.g. work-life balance, turnover), and innovation (e.g. productivity tools). Based on your growth mandate, you can dig into different metrics, compile data, and analyze results. 

Planning for 2024

Working on 2024 goals should be much easier when you have an analysis of your 2023 performance. An easy way to start is by doing more things that give you wins. For example, if your firm's social media engagement is growing your client base, keep publishing the content that’s resonating with your audience. Or if client satisfaction improved after you started collecting electronic signatures, consider adopting other tools that make it easy for clients to work with you, like electronic payments.  

Beyond that, you want to fix the areas where you fell short of targets. Maybe your collections didn't improve at the rate you planned, or you had higher client turnover than anticipated. Investigate the problem carefully, understand what happened, try creating a variation on the goal based on feedback from your team, design a detailed action plan, and then try again next year. 

Think about the goals and objectives you want to carry on to next year and be realistic about them. Pro-tips: Don't overload your list, and don't be vague. It’s better to have a smaller number of goals you’ll really focus on during the year than to spread yourself too thin. And the more specific your goals are the better!

Whether you're a solo practitioner or working with a team, make this activity easy for everyone to follow and accomplish. Keep an eye on legal trends for 2024 as you build your strategic plan. Check out 2023's legal trends report to learn more about them.

Use the SMART goals framework (described below) to ensure you have a clear path to success. Prioritize areas impeding your growth and address issues blocking your team from achieving them.

How to be SMART About Your Goals

What is a SMART goal? It is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Why does this matter? It prevents you from setting goals that are too broad, lofty, or obscure. Using the SMART goals framework ensures there's a path to success. It allows you to track and assess the goal's progress through qualitative and quantifiable proof points.

Specific: What is your objective? What actions will drive progress?

Measurable: What metrics will tell you if you are succeeding? 

Achievable: How will you implement the goal? Your objective should be realistic, something achievable without completely overwhelming your day-to-day operations.

Relevant: Does the goal connect to your business needs? Why are you setting this goal?

Timely: What is the deadline for seeing the impact? 

Start Your Year With Confidence 

The start of a new year is a new opportunity. Get off on the right foot by building a plan that tells you how to grow your business constructively and prepares you to overcome rough patches. Don't be discouraged if you run into problems which you don't have answers to. Strategizing is an iterative process that you refine as you go along. During the process, you'll learn new things and understand your business workflows and client community better. Businesses start small and grow into successful companies by setting strategic goals.

If you run into roadblocks, reach out to trusted sources within your network or check out online groups of legal professionals, webinars, resources, etc. If you're interested in learning more about how to save time to optimize legal processes, increase profitability, or how other law firm's are growing their business, visit Clio Draft's resources page.

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