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The end of 2018 is nigh!

As your law firm prepares to close out 2018, successes, failures, and challenges in all, take some time to get your firm ready for the new year. Whether you’re doing some housekeeping, madly finishing goals, or coasting into 2019, there are many ways to improve your entry into a brand new year.

#1: Check for updated rules and statutes

Most state and local courts update rules, statutes, and forms no more than twice a year: on January 1 or July 1. As the first of the year approaches, legislatures will be finalizing plans for updated rules and will begin to post the upcoming changes to their websites.

Between now and the end of the year, make a point to check in on all local courts that your firm tends to file in, as well as the state court. If any updates will impact your team’s current processes, discuss how to integrate new requirements into your workflow.

#2: Look for planned eFiling launches

Across the country, new courts are coming online with eFiling every year. Sometimes these changes are announced in new rules and orders; other times it is a slow transition with voluntary eFiling getting introduced almost under the radar. What is your court doing about eFiling? And how can you maximize your eFiling endeavors?

In California, several counties will be mandating eFiling in one or more case types, including those that will mandate on January 2, 2019:

Whether you know of an impending transition or haven’t heard any firm dates yet, check in with your courts and figure out what your team needs to do to prepare for eFiling in your law office.

#3: Assess CLE accrual

Is 2019 your reporting year for mandatory continuing legal education? Check to see when your state bar requires you to confirm the CLE for the last period, and get your papers in order ahead of time.

Attorneys aren’t the only ones who can earn CLE. Paralegals who are trying to maintain certain memberships or certifications may also be required to take a certain number of CLE classes each year. See if multiple members of your team are short on credits and look for interesting association talks or courses that all could take together.

Short a credit? Check out our eFiling webinars to improve your skills while earning needed hours of MCLE.

#4: Check-in with your team

The end of the year is a universal time for reflection, so take time to connect with your team on how things are going. Even if annual reviews are already built into your schedule, initiating conversation on a more global level can bring to light new opportunities to improve your law firm, invest in your employees, and enhance collaboration and team efficiencies.

Maybe your team would benefit from a firm-wide brainstorming session. Or maybe your management team could create a survey to collect anonymous feedback on how employees feel the company is doing, where it could do better, and what they would like to see change in the new year.

#5: Review all vendors

The end of the year is a great time to take stock of all the external people you’re working with. Do you have contracts to review? Agreements to renew? Perhaps you are working with two vendors where one will suffice. Or maybe one company has updated their offerings and now provides you with more services to take advantage of.

Use these last few weeks to create an overview of your vendor partners and determine the best way to maximize working with each.

Read more about how to benefit by using fewer vendors more effectively.

#6: Clean out and scrub up

Inventory all business cards, fliers, and advertisements. Toss old pens and upgrade security, browsers, and software. Anywhere that there are long-relied upon systems and paraphernalia, so too are there opportunities to refresh and clean up. From analog to digital, what can be cleaned, spruced, or boosted around your office?

#7: Consider your marketing plan

How will your firm work to generate more business in the coming year? Dive deep into the successful and not-so-successful results of your firm’s marketing over the past year, and come up with specific learnings and the solutions you’ll apply in light of what you discovered.

Read more about the basics of marketing your law firm.

#8: Plan out conferences and events

Who doesn’t love a good conference? Network with friends and colleagues, listen to some great talks, and meet some awesome new vendors. *wink wink* See what your local paralegal or bar association has on the calendar so far, and check back throughout the beginning of the year to see what gets added.

Schedule some professionally beneficial fun and learning into your year from the start, and show your firm just how much everyone can benefit from mixing and mingling and listening.

Psst…One Legal Live 2019 is coming up soon. Stay tuned for dates and first opportunities to register!

#9: Evaluate internal organization and communication tools

How do employees in your firm communicate with each other? Is email the reigning tool? Or has your team upgraded to a messaging system such as Slack or Skype? Interconnectivity within the firm is important, and your communication methods should match the needs of your unique law office.

Take a look at how practices are working for your team, and consider some of the options out there and how an upgrade might impact collaboration in the coming year.

#10: Set goals for the year

Ah, the yearly goals. We all need them. And in the bright dawn hours of each year, everything appears blissfully possible. Use this time to consider the past year frankly while also giving you and your team achievable yet challenging goals to strive for.

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How is your law firm preparing to meet the new year? Share your top pre-2019 practices and processes in the comments.

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