Resolve to Beef up Your 2016 Resolutions

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It's that time of year: the beginning, when fresh starts are possible. But as an alternative to a multitude of resolutions — the sheer bulk of which may scare you off from fulfilling any single pledge—allow me to offer a half-year' worth divided into months, so that it will be easier to stick to the plan.

January: Re-create your financial plan

The natural tendency is for history to repeat itself, for the firm to continue along as it always has. But the act of planning can create new directions and effect substantial improvements in a firm's finances. Start with a revised cash flow statement: a three-page schematic that spells out exactly where and how the firm will spend its money over the next 12 months. One page should project the firm's revenue, another should project the expenses, and the last page should summarize the previous two.

February: Maintain a relevant website

Although preferences with respect to a website are subjective, there are several non-negotiable principles of web development that are critical to a successful site:

  • Establish an easily identifiable domain name, such as Don't get cute here; the goal, above all else, is to make it easier for prospective clients to remember your web and email addresses.
  • Don't include too many pictures, graphics or animation. Although graphics are necessary to some degree, too many graphics can make a website distracting and, worse, slow to load.
  • Create a logical and consistent structure to the site so that it is easy to move from section to section. A common toolbar at the left or top of the page that contains all the major links to the different sections in the site is helpful because it permits the visitor to jump immediately to unrelated sections of the website.
  • Develop content for the site internally. Hire professionals for the look, but not for the goods. Your website is the only means that visitors have to judge the competence of the firm. Lawyers within the firm understand the firm's philosophy and services best and will promote themselves better than an outside professional.

March: Beef up your social media efforts

There are some fundamental rules to maximizing your use of social media, which has become indispensable to your firm's outreach.

  • Incorporate social media into your daily professional routine. It's 2016 and its time to get with the times. Occasional posts are simply no longer timely enough.
  • Create blog topics that demonstrate thought leadership.
  • Constantly follow-up by responding to inquiries and incorporating posted material into articles, speeches, client updates, etc.
  • Don't give away the story on a blog or Facebook page. Suggest your firm's knowledge and capabilities, but don't fully display detailed information and allow your followers to make full use of it.
  • Make your tools interact with each other; don't build silos. Ensure that LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter content are consistent and feed into both blogs and your own biographical profile on the firm's website.
  • Make your blog attractive enough so that others will link to you organically for the value you provide, and register with blog directories and legal blog lists to increase your exposure to potential clients.

April: Create goals for improving client relations

Show not just your talents, but your dedication to your clients by doing the following:

  • Return phone calls promptly.
  • Make sure that staff members know the names of clients.
  • Make the client feel like part of the team.
  • Visit clients in person.
  • Advise clients about changes in the law that impact them.
  • Ask clients for feedback.

May: Evaluate your risk management

In this bottom-line world, you may on occasion feel foolish spending money on the intangible — until disaster strikes. Business and personal insurance programs must be carefully coordinated to transfer risk whenever possible or, if not, to manage and insure risk as necessary. Go down the list (this one is by no means complete): property and general liability insurance, cyber insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, errors and omissions insurance, employment practices liability insurance and auto insurance.

June: Improve your bottom line with thoughtful banking practices

Who knows when the market may pull another 2008 — and when you may need a little help weathering such a financial storm. One of the most significant bits of information with which a bank works in analyzing a loan request is your average daily balance. Thus, you want to maintain as high a number as possible.

This can be done either by keeping a large sum of money in the bank or by keeping limited funds in the account for a longer period of time. You can keep funds in the account longer by depositing revenue immediately upon receipt and spreading the payment of bills throughout the month. Do not pay your bills all at once, as that causes an exaggerated dip in your account balance. And don't wait until the end of the week to deposit checks. This rule of cash-flow management not only helps you maintain a high average daily balance but also prevents the possibility that the check will be worthless by the time you deposit it.

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