Setting Goals For Your Solo Practice And Achieving Them

It’s very hard to power ahead when there is so much in the news today to distract us from our mission.  It is why I’m resurrecting this piece from an older newsletter.  It is timely and appropriate, especially when so many have to change the direction of their legal careers, and quite often not by choice.  But I know if concentrate on powering forward it is very difficult to waste energy looking backward.

The word ‘goal’ is often overused and generally misunderstood. So, let’s define goals in the context of what you are trying to achieve, moving forward in your legal career, quite possibly building a solo practice.

What is a goal? It is a specific measurable event that is realistically attainable within a defined period of time.

As a handy reminder you may have seen the acronym SMART. The SMART goal setting model is being used by technological innovators to child psychologists to sales motivators.

SMART stands for:

S       – Specific
M     – Measurable
A      – Attainable
R      – Realistic
T      – Timely

An example of a poorly defined goal is: I want to lose weight.

An example of a well defined goal is: I plan to lose 25 pounds by Labor Day, 2010. I have 25 weeks to lose one pound per week. I will go to the gym three times per week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I will replace my lunchtime burger and fries with a salad.

In order to be a SMART goal setter you recognize you have strong aspirations to achieve something which is important to you. It also means you have a willingness to invest the time and energy required to achieve both your short and long term goals. A SMART goal setter therefore relies on: DESIRE

D      – Drive
E      – Eagerness
S      – Spirit
I      – Incentive
R     – Resistance to distraction
E     – Energy

Research supports those who set effective goals tend to achieve higher levels of success than those who don’t. But, like anything, you need to learn how to set goals and follow through with your commitments.

Start by:

1. Selecting what you want to achieve: This can be anything from first starting your solo practice to pursuing your ideal client to earning gross sales of a specific number annually to changing your practice areas.

The more specific you are in your actual wording, the easier the goal will be to achieve.

For example: I want two DUI’s and three new divorce retainers each month for the next 12 months. The total new inflow of cash shall be $18,000 per month.

2.  Apply the five P’s of goal-setting:

a. Make it Personal – You can not control the actions of others, only the actions of yourself. Therefore, ‘I will pass out 300 business cards this month’ is not a personal goal because you cannot control what the recipients do with the cards while ‘I will collect 300 business cards this month, input the contact data and follow up on 6 per week for the next twelve months with at least one new business lunch per week’ is!
b. Make it Possible – Your goals should be something you can achieve in a relatively short period of time without a large sum of money (unless you have unlimited sums to work with.)
c. Make it Planned - Plan out how you are going to achieve your goals from start to finish. Working backwards is a very effective way of figuring out the steps and identifying potential obstacles.
d. Make it Present – Ask yourself, “what can I do TODAY to make it happen?”
e. Make it Positive – Effective goals must focus on what you want to achieve, not on what you don’t want to achieve.

4) Watch out for the 3 Ps of failure!

a. Procrastination – Don’t put things off until another day.
b. Pushback – Change is difficult. Be persistent and change those patterns which have held you back in the past.
c. Projection – Blaming failure on others or on particular circumstances will only hinder you efforts. You are in control of your law firm.

And remember:

Goals have to evolve with you. They should be neither absurdly out of reach nor easily within reach. In either case, your motivation will be stalled by the uselessness of your goals.

Keep your goals far enough away that you can someday reach them. David Niven, Ph.D.

Your goals for your solo practice may change with the ebb and flow of your life and your career. That’s perfectly OK. It is the practice of goal setting which should be unchanging.

Work with a five year plan of what you need to do and what you want to accomplish. Follow it even if you have to take some detours and you will end up where you want to be. Make your career plan an integral part of your life and you have a much greater chance of meeting with the success you set your sights on.

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2 comments on “Setting Goals For Your Solo Practice And Achieving Them

  • Great mnemonics. I usually find that the more specific you make the steps to achieving your goals, the more likely you are to succeed. Even for your example of, “I will go to the gym three times per week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” if you add on the phrase, “before work from 7-8am,” you’ll have a better chance of going. Otherwise, there’s the likelihood that you’ll keep putting it off throughout the day (after you finish this task or you’ve waited enough time after eating) until it’s time for bed and you decide to just go the next day.

    Some people work well with flexibility, though, so it’s always good to know your own strengths and weaknesses when setting goals.

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