The question is simple enough. A young lawyer plans to open his own law firm and wants to know what he should do first. In a Facebook group for lawyers, the answers randomly flow in—e.g., build a website, hire a paralegal, etc. It seems that everyone has a different point of view when it comes to setting priorities, but they are missing the most important thing the young lawyer should do: create a vision for their perfect law firm and life.
What matters is that you have a vision for the future. Envision a future where anything is possible—not only professionally, but personally, spiritually, health/fitness and financially. Write down your bigger future and share it with those who will hold you accountable. If you can’t articulate the dream, it won’t happen.
Step #1: Craft a Plan for Your Bigger Future
There is power in articulating your goals and sharing them. Visualize the potential to create something in the future. What do you want to accomplish in 5 years, 10 years? Don’t put your dreams too far out—5 to 10 years is far enough. What are the obstacles you can predict?
Then, put pen to paper—writing it down powerfully embeds it in your brain. Here are my dreams for a bigger future in 5-10 years.
- Expand law practice nationally
- Author of 5 best-selling books
- Nationally recognized speaker
- Best mastermind in the country for lawyers
- Expand the Dream Manager Program nationally among law firms
- Implement community marketing foundation, “Kingston Proud”
- Annual net income of $2.5 M
- E-commerce online program with annual revenue of $500k
- Create trust fund for kids
- Create charitable foundation to pay for a well in Africa
- Amazing marriage
- Speak German fluently
- Strong relationships with our 3 kids
- Spend winters in Florida
- Own Florida condo/home on the beach
- Maintain lifetime weight of 165 lbs.
- Sail world with Lisa on 50 foot catamaran
- Own oceanside villa in Croatia or Greece
- Learn to fly a helicopter
Step #2: The Set-Up Plan
A bigger future creates a desire and ambition. Make stuff happen now—don’t wait. Others will die in the next 5-10 years. Write down your set-up plan—this is your one-year plan for making your dreams come true. What is the foundation you need to set up first? With a foundation, it’s easier to get into action.
- Continue taking German classes or live for 3 months in Germany
- Couple’s retreat annually with Lisa
- Stay active in Weight Watchers and Strategic Coach
- Run marathon
- Hire full-time digital marketing specialist
- Hire litigation secretary and intake specialists
- Finish traumatic brain injury and spinal cord websites
- Hire associate attorney for non-medical malpractice cases
- Implement a digital marketing campaign for truck wrecks in NYS
- Engage Dan Ralphs to improve the Dream Manager Program
- Learn how to sail a catamaran
- Create Dream Fund/Bank account for purchase of catamaran
Find new ways of doing things that lawyers never think about. Every 90 days get together with your team and build a bigger future. The continual challenges are exciting and keep you alive. No coasting allowed. Share the plans for your bigger future with your leadership team at your monthly meetings.
“If every quarter you made incremental progress, you would have exponential results.”
Your biggest obstacle? Self-limiting beliefs, namely, “I am supposed to be this way, because that’s what others have told me.” Ignore the limitations imposed by others—they are not bold enough to dream. What are the relationships that must support your bigger future?
Step #3: The Law Firm Audit
Once you’ve documented your bigger personal future, let’s work on your law firm’s bigger future. What are the things you’re doing right now that are working really well? Write them down.
What’s Working for Your Law Firm
Here are a few things that are working for our firm:
- Random gifts for clients, e.g., 4th of July surprise gifts
- Daily written updates to our referral partners
- Phone calls to our clients on their birthday
- Quarterly strategic planning days
- Working outside the office to focus on a single case
What’s Not Working for Your Law Firm
Okay, but what’s not working right now? For us, we need improvement on several fronts:
- Lack of regular contact with our clients
- Working in the office leads to interruptions
- Need to document our intake process
- Lack of systematic onboarding process for new employees
What Can You Do to Improve Your Law Firm
Now, think of ways you can make improvements. For example:
- Distribute more copies of the client welcome package—both in physical and digital format
- Client access to case file thorough a client portal in our case management system
- Client appreciation party
- Schedule Focus Days in the calendar for specific projects
- Create an infographic showing the process for case evaluation and lawsuits
- Create videos explaining of our firm’s policies and procedures for our onboarding process
- Implement a time and attendance module for tracking the work of our team (e.g., PurelyHR)
- Create formal HR program
Step #4: What is Your Best Investment?
What’s worth investing in, both personally and professionally? My best investments:
Personal: Couple’s retreat with wife in Arizona, African safari with family, more one-on-one time with Lisa and the kids and weekly date nights with Lisa
Professional: Expanding the Mastermind Experience and hiring an intake specialist to fix our intake process
What can you do to make progress? Write them down and start checking them off.
Step #5: Measure Backwards
It’s important to celebrate the journey. Could you have envisioned this life 10 years ago? Take a moment to reflect back on the things you’ve accomplished. Don’t think of what you haven’t accomplished, but what you’ve done and how far you’ve come.
“Focus on progress, not on perfection and enjoy the journey.”
What have you done in the last 90 days? Here’s a sample:
Law Firm Management
- Implemented a wiki-style website for our firm’s policies and procedures (e.g., Fisherpedia.com)
- Hired intake specialist and summer intern
- Hired a fantastic litigation paralegal and secretary
- Implemented new case intake software, Lead Docket
Law Firm Marketing
- Launched brain and spinal cord injury website (SpinalCordandBrainInjury.org)
- Created truck wreck website
- Spoke for the NYS Bar Association and Ohio Association for Justice
- Resumed weekly meetings at Weight Watchers
- Daily accountability phone calls with my son, Tim
It’s tempting to focus on the things you don’t have, but there will always be a gap between where you are and your ideal vision. When you measure forward against the ideal, you will never get there, even when you achieve extraordinary things. Realize that you are in a better place than you could have dreamed possible.