Resolutions are silly, but the end of the year is a better time than most to take stock of the past year and set goals for the coming year. After you balance your accounts for the year, set aside at least a few minutes to come up with some goals for 2014.

To get you started, here are a few suggestions:

Stop Taking Bad Clients

“Some of the best cases are the ones you never take.” — Randall Ryder

Some clients are quite literally more trouble than they are worth. In 2012, Randall put together a short list of red flags:

  • Asking for a discount
  • Excessive phone calls before signing a retainer
  • Armchair lawyering

No doubt you have learned more warning signs. It wouldn’t hurt to get together with your partners and staff, if you have them, to talk through the warning signs of a problem client every now and then, to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to client intake.

Figure Out Your Daily Revenue Target

A daily revenue target can be a powerful motivator. If nothing else, it is a useful way to track your success over time. Here is how to figure out what you need to make every day:

  1. Write down your target take-home salary.
  2. Add your total expenses, including employees, partners’ target salaries, etc.
  3. Divide by 242.1

The result is what your firm needs to bring in, on average, every business day. (You might as well also write down your weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets.)

Every morning, take a minute or two to ask yourself what you can do to meet that goal and prioritize your tasks accordingly. You will not meet it every day, but when you do, make a note of it. Each week, month, quarter, and year, try to reach your daily target at least as often as you did during the previous period.

Even better, build rewards into your income target. If your target includes a new gadget for you every quarter, you are more likely to keep it in mind throughout the year. Consider sharing your revenue target with your partners or staff, as well, so that everyone is working towards the same goal (and sharing the rewards).

Just remember that your daily goal is just a target. Not all of your work is profitable, but you still have to do it. In fact, some of the unprofitable work is the most important stuff you do.

Go Paperless

Paperless is not cutting-edge anymore. In fact, it isn’t even ahead of the curve. I went paperless in 2006, and I learned from lawyers who were paperless before that. Even many courts are paperless, now. If you aren’t paperless, that means the courts are more tech-savvy than you and your practice. It’s long past time to catch up.

There are a ton of paperless-office posts on Lawyerist that will help you get started. Here are some of the most-useful from the last year or so:

If there is not a scanner in your office, get one. Here are our picks for the best scanners for lawyers. And if you aren’t incorporating at least some paperless practices into your law practice, you are well behind the times, and falling further behind. Catch up.

Drink Better Coffee

If you drink coffee, resolve (this one is worth a resolution) to drink better coffee — or at least to serve better coffee to your visitors. We have had some debate on the relative merits of the french press and Aeropress, which are also convenient (especially the Aeropress) for making coffee at the office.

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Featured image: “New Years Eve 2011 London” by Sean MacEntee is licensed CC BY 2.0.

  1. There are roughly 252 business days in a year. If you give yourself two weeks of vacation, that works out to 242 business days. If you want more vacation, adjust this number accordingly. 


  1. Avatar Roy says:

    Another red flag is if you’re not the person’s first lawyer on the matter. Find out why the lawyer or the potential client was fired.

  2. Avatar Paul Spitz says:

    My goal is to get my first paying client. Just started my solo practice on December 9, and lost a week or so due to the holidays and moving.

    • Paul, be sure to treat those first clients like they are gold. Start your email “list” now while it is easy, and be sure to find some way to communicate (through multiple modalities) once every 6-8 weeks. If you practice multiple areas, do not be afraid to find ways to let your client’s know early on (after they have retained you and after you have had some time to earn their trust). Good luck!

    • Avatar Attorney John Kennedy says:

      Good Luck Paul! I started my own practice one year ago. First year under my belt and now looking at my Sophomore year. Sock away one-third of your gross income for taxes. Buy a scanner. Go paperless (as much as possible). Advertise (even a little bit). Talk to your local Bar Association president. Talk to everyone you know. Let them all know what you do and that you opened your own office. You will be amazed at the support you will get from other lawyers who have done the same thing. Stay positive. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Stay healthy. Start your web page (keep it simple for now). Finish what you start (hard to do with so many competing tasks). Open your operating account and an escrow account (check state bar rules on escrow accounting). Use an online fax service (I like hello fax). Blog is you have time. Start a Facebook page (controversial I know, but it got me a few leads). Sign up for the bar association’s referral service. Update all of your online information (very important). Make sure Google knows who you are and WHERE you are. Test google every so often to make sure people can find you. Start a Google plus page. Make sure you are listed in the telephone book (some people still use it) and it does not cost anything to be listed (at least Verizon gives you one free listing). Set goals, and the advice above to make a daily money target is great. Buy some billing software once you get that first paying client (or maybe sooner).

    • Avatar J. Flanders says:

      Paul: Congratulations. Have fun, have a plan, be the best lawyer you can be, be diligent – and, foremost, be patient. It will come if you have a strong marketing plan and you stick to it. Enjoy the ride.

  3. Great tips here to get people started on the “professional” new years goals. Next, of course, is implementing the required strategy to achieve said goals!

    I’ll give a big thumbs up to the coffee one….

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