This week in Things I Wish I Knew, attorney Joleena Louis reflects on exceeding her 2014 goals, and sets a much more ambitious plan to grow her solo law practice’s profits by 50% in 2015.
Happy New Year!
Like many of you, I’m sure, over the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting on what I accomplished in 2014, and what I’d like to accomplish in the New Year.
I thought I would share with you the results of 2014 and what I’m looking to accomplish in 2015. There is nothing like some public accountability for motivation!
I exceeded my 2014 goals.*
At the beginning of 2014 I set a profit goal for my law practice. Since the practice was still very new, it was the most important thing to me because I needed to quickly replace the income that I earned as an employee of a law firm.
By the end of last year, I had almost doubled my goal and I retained more cases than I thought I would at the outset of 2014.
Here’s the caveat (and reason for the asterisk at the end of the section heading). While it feels good to have exceeded this goal, I now realize that I had very low expectations for my first year in practice. I didn’t really know what to expect so it was difficult for me to determine what would be realistic.
I now have a much better idea for what’s possible in 2015, but I wonder if my numbers would have been even better if I had set a bigger goal for myself in 2014?
Two breakthroughs that I didn’t anticipate at the start of 2014.
1. I was able to afford an office upgrade.
When deciding between a virtual office rental and an actual office rental in a shared law office space, my preference was for the latter. I felt the value of surrounding myself with other solo attorneys every day would outweigh the additional cost.
For me, the calculated risk paid off. I have exchanged a lot of business with the colleagues in my law office suite, received some valuable advice and it has opened the door to many opportunities beyond client referrals.
I started 2014 out in a workstation using Law Firm Suites’ cost effective Start-Up Program. By the middle of 2014, I was able to leverage the contacts there to be able to afford my own private windowed office. So far, the investment in extra space and privacy contributed to the accelerated growth of my practice.
2. I didn’t expect this blog to be such an important part of my practice.
I had no idea that this blog series would be as well read as it has become. I have you to thank for that! Initially I thought that I would write this for just a few months. I never imagined I would still be writing at this point. This blog has become an important part of my practice. I have developed referral relationships with attorneys I have met through the blog, and it has helped my networking quite a bit as well. The best of what blogging is all about.
Here are my goals for 2015:
1. Increase my solo law practice’s profits by 50%.
This may seem ambitious, but I think that I spent a lot of 2014 trying to figure out how to run a law practice. Now that I have systems in place to do that more efficiently, I’m hoping that I can free up more time for business development.
2. Network more strategically.
By the end of 2014, my practice had grown significantly, and I had to be more selective about how I spent my marketing time (since I had much less of it). I began to analyze the return for my investment in time on all of my networking activities.
I learned that I was getting most of my referrals from other attorneys, particularly other matrimonial attorneys. But by comparison, the networking I was doing with non-attorneys, while personally rewarding, was not nearly as productive financially.
In 2015, to support my new profitability goal, I plan to network mostly with the types of professionals who produce the highest return on my investment in time.
3. Attract higher net worth clients.
In 2014, I discovered that the niche within family law that I enjoyed most was representing men in custody disputes. In fact, once I began focusing on that niche, my practice grew more rapidly.
The trouble with this practice area is that custody disputes can be lengthy and ongoing, and for the client, this can be expensive. Despite what this may say about our legal system, to engage in a custody dispute a client needs to have some financial means.
I have found that higher net worth clients tend to value the expertise that I have developed in this area the most, are willing to pay a premium for it. They also seem to deal with unexpected outcomes better (which happens frequently in family court).
Since I am still in the business of trading time for money, the higher rates I can command, the better it is for my business. Simple math really. In 2015, I will be spending some time adjusting my marketing to attract higher net worth clients.
4. Hire a paralegal.
By the end of 2014, I was buried in busy work that could have been be better completed by a paralegal. If I am going to meet my income goals for 2015, I will need to hire help. I’m not sure how I’m going to go about this, or how I am going to manage a staff member, but it’s something that I’m going to have to figure out soon.
5. Focus more on work/life balance.
2014 was a big “transition” year for me. I had a lot of uncertainty about whether I could make this practice successful, and whether I could do it fast enough so I didn’t go broke in the process. I think that as a profession, when there is uncertainty, we dig in and work harder. That was the case with me. As a result, my work/life balance suffered a bit. But now as my practice has become more stable, I am going to focus on carving out more time for my personal life.
My thoughts about 2015.
I’m very optimistic about the New Year. Now that I have a better idea of what it takes to run a law practice it will be easier to take my practice to the next level. I look forward to sharing the journey with you!
What are your goals for 2015? Share them with me in the comments below.
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.