Solo/Small Firm

Harness the Power of Goal Setting for Your Law Practice!

Decide what you will accomplish in 2020

By Martha M. Newman

The end of 2019 is imminent. As you think about the past year, which statement is true of you?

• “I set some great goals for my law practice this year. How I wish I had achieved them!”; or

• “What an outstanding year this has been! I achieved my most important goals!”

As we look ahead, the slate for 2020 is blank. The statement you make now is yours to create, and the choices you make will determine whether you are successful and satisfied or disappointed and regretful next December.

Establish Your Goals.
Schedule a time on your calendar this month to think about what you want to achieve in 2020, not only in your law practice but also in your personal life. Brainstorm your potential goals and make sure you align your goals with your values. If you decide gaining wealth is your primary goal, what impact will that have on your family and friends? If you decide to emphasize family, traveling, or hobby time, what impact will that have on your financial position when you retire?

Misalignment of values creates imbalance in our lives and makes success less attainable both personally and professionally.

Make Your Goals Smaller.
As Jack Canfield advised in his book The Success Principles, be willing to stretch beyond your comfort zone and think bigger. One caveat: Resist setting goals that are simply too big to achieve or cannot be accomplished because of work demands. Often lawyers look at the finish line without calculating the distance it takes to get there. We make expansive, overly ambitious goals that set us up for failure because the goals are unrealistic.

Divide your large goals into manageable tasks with the specific steps you need to accomplish them and create deadlines for each task that are realistic and attainable. Break your goals into quarterly, weekly, or even smaller time increments. As you achieve each goal, you’ll be fired up to reach the next one.

Make a Goals Plan.

1. Write down goals that are SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.

2. Decide on strategies and action steps to achieve them.

3. Break your overall plan into weekly steps and schedule time to work on them.

4. Stick to your plan without procrastinating.

5. Share your goals with someone you trust and ask that person to hold you accountable.

6. Evaluate your progress on a quarterly basis.

Why Put Your Goals in Writing?
In a renowned Harvard Business School study authored by Mark McCormack, newly graduated MBA students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The 3% of graduates who answered “yes” were earning 10 times as much 10 years later as the 97%who had answered “no.” Writing down your goals and prioritizing them will be a game changer for your law career.

Read Your Goals Repeatedly.
What is it about reading your goals daily and verbalizing them that makes it more likely you will achieve them? In part it is due to the mechanism inside our brains known as the reticular activating system, or RAS. As explained by Catherine Plano in a Flying Solo article, your RAS “[is] the automatic mechanism inside your brain that brings relevant information to your attention. It takes instructions from your conscious mind and sends them to your unconscious mind.”

Your RAS will be your partner in success if you say your goals out loud with emotional intensity every day. When you do, your brain becomes aware of the choices you must make to achieve your objectives. You begin noticing opportunities related to your goal that you overlooked before, just as you notice a certain kind of car on the road more once you have decided to buy one.

Act Now!
Make 2020 a year in which you identify your most important goals and achieve them on time. Create an ambitious goals plan and stick to it. If you are deliberate and relentless in the pursuit of your goals, next December you can say without regret, “I did it!” TBJ

Headshot of Martha NewmanMARTHA M. NEWMAN is a former oil and gas litigator and owner of Top Lawyer Coach. She has been awarded the Professional Certified Coach, or PCC, credential by the International Coach Federation in recognition of her coaching excellence. Newman specializes in lawyer coaching and consulting in the areas of law firm management, business development, leadership, time management, presentation skills, career advancement, and job interviewing. For more information, go to

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