Be SMART about your law firm’s business goals

Where is your law practice going? Where do you want it to go?

Not many attorneys wish their careers to simply plod along. Most desire to grow their businesses — add clients, boost their revenues, perhaps take on a new partner, paralegal or assistant.

If growth is your ambition, you need to make a plan to achieve it. And that’s where setting up clear business goals is essential. The idea is to set goals that push you (and your colleagues) to grow. But those goals shouldn’t be so ambitious that they can’t be achieved. Instead of inspiring you, impossible goals can actually discourage you.

Article_010915_SMARTGoalsSo how do you establish goals that are aspirational but still achievable? One way: Be SMART about it.

You may have run across the SMART acronym before. It refers to a set of five criteria for establishing business goals. These criteria have been around since 1981 and are widely attributed to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives approach, in which businesses establish clearly defined and agreed-upon goals.

And you don’t have to be a big law firm to put them to work:

Specific. Don’t simply say, “I want to grow my firm.” You need to clearly specify the aspect of your firm you want to grow. That might be a practice area — a current one, or perhaps one you’d like to add. Or it may be more general growth. In that case, you need to define the metric. Is it revenue? Number of clients? Settlements? Leads?

Measurable. Once you have a metric, attach a number to it. A 1 percent year-over-year growth might be mathematically real, but it’s statistically irrelevant. Instead: How many clients do you want to add? How many leads?

Attainable. As you consider that number, keep in mind that it should be something that is doable. Make the goal worth working for, but don’t set yourself up for failure. A 40 percent increase in settlements, for instance, is a goal based on luck. Determine your firm’s actual strengths and weaknesses, then build goals around them. Don’t rely on hoping and wishing.

Relevant. Choose goals that will actually impact your business. For instance, you know that social media plays an important role in online marketing. But if your goal is to reach 2,000 Twitter followers by June, you need a business justification for that. Will it bring in more revenue for your law firm?

Timely. Set a target date in mind. Without one, you’ll have no urgency and motivation to work toward your goal.

Here’s an example of the SMART guidelines at work: “Increase the volume of SSDI clients we retain by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015 through targeted online advertising.” It’s specific in terms of the goal, the number increase, and the timeframe.

One final note: If you’re not a sole practitioner, make sure you share your goal with all your staffers, even those who aren’t attorneys. Getting everyone on the same page will help make your goals more achievable. It’s a smart move.

To help guide your goal setting and overall marketing strategy, download the free playbook Legal Marketing 101: A Guide for Small Law Firms.

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