The fourth quarter is upon us and now is the time to work on business development and practice management initiatives that will help law firms finish the year strongly and set a solid foundation for growth in the new year.
Here is a list of ten Dos and Don’ts for the fourth quarter:
- Do Focus on your VIPs and recognizing them in a personalized way.
- Don’t mindlessly send out holiday cards that are going to look just like everyone else’s and arrive at the same time as theirs do.
Too many firms treat the holiday season as a chore rather than an opportunity to reach out to those individuals and organizations who have made a real contribution to their firm in the last year. Identifying your VIPs and treating them accordingly can make a big difference to your business.
- Do give VIPs personalized recognition that shows that you have been paying attention and valuing them.
- Don’t assume that the best VIP gifts are expensive. Personal almost always beats expensive.
Corporate America focuses on fiscal quarters, so the beginning of October is often a big deal. Same with the federal government, where October 1 is the beginning of their fiscal year. As a business consultant and coach to lawyers I know firsthand that too many law firms, however, fail to take any account of the beginning of the fourth quarter, especially as it relates to financial planning.
- Do start the budgeting process with an eye of finishing it well before the end of December. Use the budget as way to establish priorities for next year.
- Don’t plan to raise your client’s rates automatically beginning January 1. Your clients will remember, “Happy New Year! We’ve raised your rates” much more than the actual content of your bland holiday card.
- Do make prompt reporting of billable hours a higher priority during the fourth quarter. This is important year around, but is especially important in October and November.
- Don’t be surprised when billable hours for your firm decline after Thanksgiving. They do most of the time for most firms that charge by the hour. So don’t get all pouty; do something about. See the preceding item.
- Do tax planning for the firm as well as its partners. You have many more tax planning options between now and the end of the year than you do once the new year begins.
- Don’t drain all the money out of the firm in the form of partner compensation. A well-run business maintains a cash cushion. It doesn’t start every year if it’s the first day the business existed.
How about you?
What fourth-quarter initiatives do you have in the works for your law firm?