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Ready, Set, Grow: Setting Goals for Lawyers to Achieve Success

From increasing revenue to enhancing legal knowledge, we'll show you how SMART goals are the key to success in the legal industry. Get ready to achieve your highest potential and reach unprecedented levels of growth!

18 min


Sep 1, 2023

The road to success for seasoned or aspiring lawyers is not always smooth. There might be some hiccups or stagnation that hinder personal growth, so lawyers need to set law firm goals to help them succeed in their legal career path. Goal setting can help lawyers stay focused, motivated, and accountable, increasing productivity and financial success. And the performance goals for attorneys need to be SMART. 

The SMART framework can help lawyers focus their efforts on what matters, avoid distractions, and stay on track toward achieving their goals. With the help of SMART goals, lawyers can break down their cases into manageable tasks, set achievable goals, and measure their progress.

In this article, we'll discuss:

  • What S.M.A.R.T. goals for lawyers are
  • Some examples of law firm goals you should consider for growth
  • How to set smart goals for lawyers
  • Why SMART goals are the key to advancing lawyers and law firms

What Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Lawyers?

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. SMART goals allow lawyers to develop a clear and concise plan for achieving success in any area of law. They provide a roadmap to success and serve as a benchmark for progress. 

SMART goals

S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

  • S - Specific: The goals should be clearly defined so everyone knows what's expected. Instead of a vague goal like "improve revenue," a specific goal would be "increase revenue from personal injury cases by 15% within the next six months."
  • M - Measurable: You should be able to track the goals' progress and determine their success. In the example above, a "15% increase in revenue from personal injury cases" can be counted as a success.
  • A - Achievable: The goals should be realistic and attainable with available resources, including time, money, and effort. A goal that is impossible to achieve will only lead to backtracks and failure.
  • R - Relevant: The goal should be closely aligned with the overall objectives of the lawyer. For instance, a goal to increase the number of pro bono cases taken may be relevant to the firm's mission and values.
  • T - Time-bound: The set smart lawyer goals should have a deadline to track progress and make adjustments. In the example above, the deadline is six months, which allows enough time to make progress but not so much time that progress is delayed.

Law Firm Goal Examples

With the help of SMART goals, lawyers can break down their cases into manageable tasks, set achievable deadlines, and measure their progress. Let's look at some examples of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals big or small law firms can consider for growth

1. Improve Billable Hours

One of the primary goals for any law firm is to increase its revenue, and one way to achieve this is by increasing billable hours. Thus, it is advisable to set both short-term and long-term goals to improve the firm's billable hours. Short-term goals may include creating an efficient time management system to reduce wasted hours. Long-term goals may include training attorneys to specialize in specific areas of law to increase productivity and efficiency. 

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Increase billable hours by 10% within the next quarter.
  • Measurable: Track hours worked on each client matter, compare to the previous quarter, and evaluate progress towards the 20% goal.
  • Achievable: Delegate non-billable tasks to support staff and identify new clients.
  • Relevant: Billable hours are a crucial factor in revenue and profitability.
  • Time-bound: The goal will be achieved within the next quarter.
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2. Enhance Legal Knowledge

A law firm's ability to provide top-notch legal services to its clients is directly reliant on the knowledge level and expertise of its attorneys. It is necessary to set goals to enhance legal knowledge for law firm attorneys. This can be achieved through attending seminars, workshops, and conferences, taking online courses, and reading legal publications. Participating in pro bono work is another way to enhance legal knowledge.

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Attend at least two legal seminars or workshops per month. 
  • Measurable: Track attendance and evaluate knowledge gained from each event. 
  • Achievable: Set realistic goals based on the budget and schedules. 
  • Relevant: Constant legal education ensures the firm stays competitive and provides the best service to clients. 
  • Time-bound: Attend two events per month, every month.
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3. Expand Professional Network

Lawyers work in relationships, and building an extensive professional network is a key to success for any law firm. Networking opportunities should not be limited to just other attorneys. Other professionals that a law firm should consider networking with include judges, court reporters, and paralegals.

networking for lawyers

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Attend one monthly networking event for the next six months.
  • Measurable: Keep track of the number of new connections made.
  • Achievable: Identify relevant events; take advantage of opportunities to attend virtually if necessary.
  • Relevant: A larger network of potential clients and a positive reputation are crucial for success.
  • Time-bound: Attend at least one monthly networking event for the next six months.
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4. Online Marketing Goals

A law firm should create online marketing goals to increase its visibility and attract new clients. This can be done through website redesign, regular and engaging content creation for law firms across all channels, and creating SEO-friendly content.

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Increase website traffic by 20% within the next quarter through targeted online marketing campaigns.
  • Measurable: Track website analytics and campaign results to assess progress.
  • Achievable: Identify marketing channels such as social media, Google Ads, and SEO to promote the website and allocate the marketing budget accordingly.
  • Relevant: A strong online presence can increase the law firm's visibility and attract new clients.
  • Time-bound: Increase website traffic by 20% within the next quarter.

5. Reputation Management

Reputation is everything in the legal industry, and a negative reputation can significantly impact your law firm's growth and success. Monitor online reviews, respond to feedback and complaints, increase client satisfaction, and build a positive reputation through community involvement and philanthropy to manage the firm's reputation effectively.

build your law firm reputation
Building a strong reputation is essential for attracting clients, building trust, and differentiating your firm from competitors

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Increase positive online reviews on Google by 25% within the next six months.
  • Measurable: Track the number of reviews and assess ratings and content.
  • Achievable: Implement a review collection strategy, engage with past clients for feedback, and respond to negative reviews promptly.
  • Relevant: Positive reviews can enhance the lawyer’s reputation and give prospective clients the confidence to work with them.
  • Time-bound: Increase the number of positive reviews on Google by 25% within the next six months.
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6. Increase the Number of New Cases

This is one of the main goals of any law firm or lawyer. To increase the number of new cases, you can consider strategies such as developing client referral programs, improving lead generation efforts, and targeting specific demographics through targeted marketing campaigns.

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Increase the number of new cases by 15% within the next quarter.
  • Measurable: Compare new cases to the previous quarter and track the source of the new clients.
  • Achievable: Review current marketing efforts, adjust strategy, and identify opportunities for referrals from past clients and other professionals.
  • Relevant: An increase in new cases can lead to more revenue and the law firm's growth.
  • Time-bound: Increase the number of new cases by 15% within the next quarter.

7. Hire More Legal Professionals

As the business grows, it becomes challenging for the current workforce to meet the increasing service demand. So, you need to hire more legal professionals to cater to the workload. You can partner with legal staffing agencies, leverage social media like LinkedIn to recruit top talent, and provide competitive compensation packages to hire these professionals.

smart goals for law firms
Timely hiring of additional legal professionals is crucial to effectively manage the growing demand for services

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Hire two personal injury lawyers within the next six months to support your law firm's growth.
  • Measurable: Track the hiring process and evaluate the candidates based on agreed-upon criteria.
  • Achievable: Review the current workflow, assess the need, and allocate budget and resources for hiring, including posting on job board sites and industry associations.
  • Relevant: Hiring more personal injury lawyers can help reduce workload and support expansion opportunities in your personal injury law firm.
  • Time-bound: Hire two personal injury lawyers within the next six months.

8. Expand Your Law Firm

Expansion is a natural goal for any growing law firm. While it may seem like law firms just need to open new offices in different locations, it could also involve merging with another firm or expanding into a new practice area.

Using the SMART model, the goal could look like this: 

  • Specific: Open a new office in Newark, New Jersey, within the next twelve months.
  • Measurable: Evaluate opportunities and analyze the feasibility of the new market.
  • Achievable: Assess financing options, allocate resources, and hire the necessary staff to support the new office.
  • Relevant: A office in Newark, New Jersey, can lead to new business opportunities and attract potential clients from that location.
  • Time-bound: Open a new office in Newark, New Jersey, within the next twelve months.
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9. Personal Career Growth Goals

Law firm growth is not limited to the firm's success; each attorney and staff member's personal career growth is also important. These may include offering professional development opportunities, creating a mentorship program, and offering career advancement opportunities.

Using the SMART model, these career goals could like this: 

  • Specific: Complete a specialized certification program within the next six months.
  • Measurable: Track progress and assess knowledge gained through modules and tests.
  • Achievable: Identify reputable certification programs, allocate necessary resources, and manage time effectively.
  • Relevant: A specialized certification can enhance lawyers’ legal knowledge and skills they can put into your law practice.
  • Time-bound: Complete a specialized certification program within the next six months.

How to Set Smart Goals for Lawyers

Lawyers are known for their analytical skills, attention to detail, and dedication to achieving their clients' objectives. However, the goals to achieve success must align with the objectives and practice area. This part of the article will explore the goal-setting process lawyers can take to implement SMART goals:

1. Set objectives: Objectives should be aligned with the mission and vision of the law firm. It should outline the desired outcome, be specific and measurable, and have a defined timeframe.

2. Identify the purpose of the goals: Lawyers should identify the reason for setting the goal. Is it to increase revenue, reduce expenses, increase client acquisition, or enhance productivity? This will help make the goals more specific for lawyers and determine if they are achievable.

3. Prioritize goals: Lawyers should prioritize their goals based on their importance and urgency. This will help them to stay focused on high-priority actions, reducing the chances of procrastination and distractions.

4. Set a realistic timeline: A timeline is crucial to achieving goals. Lawyers should set a realistic timeline for sufficient time to achieve the goal. Keep in mind that an unrealistic timeline can lead to stress and burnout.

5. Monitor progress: Lawyers should track their progress and results regularly. You can use legal practice management software to track the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your law firm marketing goals.

6. Review goals: Regular review and analysis of the firm performance metrics allow lawyers to re-evaluate and adjust as needed. It's important to identify what worked and what didn’t, make changes, and keep moving forward.

You can also download this guide for free. Access it anytime, anywhere. Download now and enhance your legal knowledge, expand your network, and increase your billable hours!

7. Celebrate milestones: When you celebrate successes, you create a positive atmosphere that motivates lawyers and fosters a sense of accomplishment. This can be done through verbal recognition, reward systems, or simple team activities. You can also share the milestones with clients on your website, through email, and social media channels.

From Goals to Growth: Why SMART Goals Are Key to Advancing Lawyers and Law Firms

If you hope to accomplish your professional goals through various law practice management for your growth, you must be willing to step outside your comfort zone. Goal setting is a good starting point for your journey to growth, and it has to be a SMART goal. It may be difficult to implement your goals using the examples of performance goals for lawyers, but the result is worth it. 

The good news is that you do not have to take on these new challenges alone. Instead, you can leverage the services of a law firm digital marketing agency like Grow Law Firm. This allows you to focus your time and effort on services related to your law firm. We specialize in helping law firms and individual attorneys achieve their growth objectives using well-established digital marketing best practices like law firm search engine optimization (SEO), web design, and PPC advertising.

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