What do you resolve to do in 2023? Many people set up New Year’s resolutions for themselves to establish better habits – such as getting more sleep, starting a gym membership or trying out a new hobby. But many people fail to remember their professional life when setting these goals.
January presents a fresh opportunity to reflect and refocus your firm in a positive direction. You can choose the start of the new year to introduce “healthy habits” into your practice.
When determining these healthy habits, make sure you are setting concrete goals to work on. Setting a goal such as, “be a better lawyer” doesn’t provide you with any specific action items. Consider this SMART rubric as you create goals for yourself and your firm:
- Specific: Ensure your goals are clear and well-defined
- Measurable: Set metrics so you know when you’ve achieved your goal
- Achievable: Consider whether this goal is possible. Can you realistically attain it?
- Relevant: Determine if this goal is important to your purpose
- Time-bound: Include a starting date and target date to generate urgency
An example of a SMART goal could be, “become more familiar with one new practice area in 2023”.
Whatever goals you choose, create an environment that gives you the best possible chance to achieve them. What can you do to increase your odds?
Invest in yourself
Growth in any new area is supplemented by growth in yourself. Time is a precious commodity for any lawyer, but make sure you set aside time to keep learning. Seek out legal-trends blogs, newsletters, webcasts, and conferences to ensure you never fall behind. The Thomson Reuters legal insights newsletter provides information on the latest legal answers, trends, expertise, and data, and has a searchable database of articles, case studies, white papers, and reports. Another area of opportunity to learn and grow is through networking. It can be easy to skip self-learning in a time-crunched environment, but by investing in yourself, you’re becoming a better lawyer for your clients and your firm.
Make better use of your time
Time. It’s primary in any discussion of how effective an attorney is. A study done by Statista Research Department in 2020 found these not-surprising data points:
- 75% of US attorneys spend 20 or more hours a week on non-client-facing billable work such as legal research or administrative work
- 20% spent 10 to 19 hours
- 5% spent 10 hours or less a week
How can you recapture more time in your week? Start by being your most efficient when doing research and administrative tasks. Use calendars and to-do lists, and say no to unproductive meetings. But the biggest time saver? Technology. It can help you automate tasks that traditionally take enormous amounts of time, while you remain confident you’ve done your work thoroughly.
In a recent Thomson Reuters study of more than 100 Westlaw Precision users, 97% reported the technology helped them get to important cases faster, while 90% of attorneys said they found cases they might not have otherwise found. Modern legal research tools can save time and increase the quality of your work.
Set better processes
How often does your day proceed as expected? If you’re like many lawyers, meetings (often called by others) can dictate how you spend your time. Or you dedicate two hours of your day to create a client contract but find yourself spending double that time running down rabbit holes. Once again, technology can be the answer. Using a previous document can be a good starting point if you’re drafting a contract or updating a form, but if that old form hasn’t been reviewed and updated in a while, you could be putting your client and your firm at risk. By using standard documents found within Practical Law, you’ll know that you’ve got an up-to-date document that has been created and managed by a team of attorney editors to take the guesswork out of your legwork. When these kinds of tasks become process-oriented, they can be done quickly and more accurately.
It’s more efficient, it’s more portable and it’s more environmentally friendly. Going digital these days means that you can work from wherever you are. You could be writing briefs from the couch. There’s no lugging books or files with you, and if you forgot a document at the office, you can pull it up online. This kind of flexibility means more opportunities to get things done on your terms. The challenge of working digitally is staying connected with colleagues and clients – you can’t easily pop down the hall to put your heads together on strategy. But chat and video technology make this workable – and for some, preferable.
Give gas to your goals
No technology or tool can determine your professional goals. That’s up to you. Thoughtful, SMART goals can help you achieve what you’re dreaming of. And creating the right environment can set you up for success. Use technology to stay focused and carve out time you didn’t have before.