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TO-DOs: Your December office checklist

Congratulations on making it through 2018! We hope it was a successful and satisfying year for you and your firm and that you take some time this month to celebrate your accomplishments. Of course, the work never stops, so here are some reminders for this month.

  1. Start thinking about the firm’s taxes. Are there any bills you can pay this year to offset any unexpected income or reduce tax liabilities? Consider paying them now; they have to be paid anyway.

  1. Evaluate your advertising dollars: Make a list of advertising expenses for the year and include everything from ads in magazines and newspapers, and online sources such as Google or Twitter ads. Next to each item, list the number of clients and/or business that was generated as a result. If you’re unable to calculate advertising’s effect then it’s probably time to implement a tracking system.

  1. Analyze billable hours and workloads: Review billable hours for the year and see who is under-performing and why. If, based on the billables, there isn’t enough work to justify the overhead, consider right-sizing or re-assigning workloads. Be sure to monitor any changes in the first 90 days of the year.

  1. Review your firm’s fees: If you’re going to raise the rates in 2019, it’s best to do it in January. So do your research now. Take a look at your fee structures. Are your rates realistic? Are they too low or too high? Assess your competition and see where your firm fits in.

  1. Accommodate work/life balance: Take a look at the firm’s PTO policy. Make sure that the PTO policy is sufficient to encourage time off for downtime and work/life balance. Happy, rested employees with recharged batteries will be productive employees.

  1. Reduce gift-giving stress: If your office observes Christmas, think about doing a secret Santa or some other limited gift exchange. This relieves the financial burden of multiple gift-giving in the office because everyone will buy for just one person. This practice also ensures that no one feels left out and no one feels obligated to buy gifts or is embarrassed when they receive gifts and don’t reciprocate. Be sure to set a limit—$25 seems reasonable.

  1. Manage your firm’s holiday party liability risks: Holiday and other office parties often include alcohol, and excessive alcohol consumption poses risks for employees. Send a notice to your employees, letting them know about your concerns for their safety and providing recommendations for safe behavior,

  1. Schedule your performance review: If, at the beginning of this year, you met with the lawyers and asked what their expectations were for 2018, then now is the time to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your performance. At the meeting, present a one-page summary, in bulleted form, of how each goal has been met and an overview of other achievements accomplished during that period. State everything in terms of facts, numbers, and days, providing a financial outcome wherever possible, and showing how your efforts affected the bottom line. At the end of the summary, state your raise expectation and back it up with the research on salaries you’ve gathered. If your raise was to be tied to performance then be specific about how your contributions have impacted the financial bottom line.

  1. Plan for a successful 2018: Even if you are not having a performance review, prepare a list of accomplishments from this year and think about goals for next year. First, celebrate the things you accomplished this year to get in the right mindset. Then, plant the seed in your mind and give yourself some time to mull over what you would like to accomplish next year. Be sure to consider what things you may need to say no to in order to accomplish those goals. Before year-end, put your new goals on paper, assign them a date, and keep it somewhere nearby to keep yourself working toward them.

  1. Start the New Year with a clean slate: Take advantage of downtime over the holidays to clean out your desk, filing cabinet, computer desktop, MyDocuments, Inbox, contacts, etc. Think how nice it will be to come back to a fresh, clean workspace and computer in the New Year, without that clutter weighing you down.

What tasks do you normally tackle at the end of the year? Share your strategies, tips, and stories with your colleagues and send your comments to

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