We’ve talked about goals in the past. Whether they’re marketing goals or long-term goals, they’re important for a law practice. I believe that goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Or S.M.A.R.T., as Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness points out.

At our firm we recently revamped our monthly personal goals. When we first started, we had a monetary goal that we would bill for each month. That revenue came from cases where we, surprisingly, worked by the hour. Our system didn’t account for flat fee cases in that total. This became a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it made any flat fee cases we brought in beyond our goal icing on the cake. On the other hand, if we brought in a flat fee case and spent most of our time that month on the case, the billable numbers would be artificially skewed.

Now that my partner and I have other ventures, it’s also important to us that we spend enough time on the law firm instead of getting distracted by side projects. The side projects are more fun, but often less lucrative. And we want to make sure new ventures don’t suck out more time than we anticipated.

Enter the “billable hour” goal. As many in the legal industry are shying away from the billable hour, we are racing towards it head on. It doesn’t matter if we take a case on a flat fee, a contingency, or some other setup. We keep track of all the hours we spend working on cases, and set a goal for ourselves each month. This ensures we aren’t getting sidetracked, and evens out the disparity created by flat fee cases that often require more time.

By entering our time for every case, we will also be able to perform more specific audits on a quarterly or annual basis. How much time are we spending on DUIs? What about violent crimes or drug cases? Are we charging too much? Too little? How many hours do we end up putting into a trial? These are all questions we will want to know the answer to as the firm grows. This new system will help us review those metrics and get a better sense of how the firm is running.

Of course, this is not a new idea. It’s something a handful of people mentioned when we first opened the office. But, like many things, it was a solution we had to come to in our own time.