By Lauren Eagan

Goal setting is a very important part of running your law firm like a CEO, but many attorneys fail to set goals or take the necessary steps to achieve them. Sticking to your goals is hard. Just go into a gym in early January and then again in mid-February. You will see how quickly those New Year’s resolutions were forgotten and ignored.  The same thing can happen in your practice, unless you have a system designed to ensure you meet your business goals. In my practice,  I have created a three-tier system of goals and rewards designed to help me meet the milestones for my business.  I call this “TheStretchGoalSystem.”


A Stretch Goal is "an organizational goal with an objective probability of attainment that may be unknown but is seemingly impossible given current capabilities." In other words, a Stretch Goal is a goal that’s really,  really hard to achieve.  But by using a rewards system,  those impossible goals become realistic opportunities. 


Setting Your Goals

Using my three-tier system, you will set a Goal, a Stretch Goal, and a Super Stretch Goal. When setting your goal in each category, make sure to give yourself a deadline or a milestone that will show you whether or not you have achieved it.  That way,  you will know exactly when you will receive (or not receive) your reward. 


1. The Goal 

For the first tier,  I want you to set an achievable goal.  This will keep you on track with your business,  but it will also make you feel good when you achieve it.  When I first started my firm,  my goal was to spend less money than I earned in a given month. Although that goal was difficult, it was achievable and it gave me something to aim for.  

Under my three-tier plan,  you don’t get a reward for achievingTheGoal.  This one is supposed to be fairly easy to achieve, so it’s not too likely you’ll give up. However, if you’re worried you don’t have the resolve to meet your first-tier goal, assign yourself a small reward that will give you something to look forward to. 


2. The Stretch Goal 

As I explained earlier,  the Stretch Goal is a goal that is difficult to achieve.  Not impossible, but difficult. I started using the three-tier goal-setting plan during my second year of business,  and my Stretch Goal was to earn $10,000 more in profit(revenue minus expenses) than I had the previous year. This was a difficult goal for me, because I had hired a legal assistant, which doubled my expenses. Nonetheless, I decided it was possible, although improbable, that I could achieve this Stretch Goal. I want you to pick a goal that is similarly difficult, but not impossible, for you to achieve in your practice. 

This is where it gets fun with the rewards. For the Stretch Goal, I want you to choose a reward that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. It could be a special purchase, a vacation, or an activity you wouldn’t otherwise participate in. If you want to get really crazy, come up with a list and then narrow it down. You can reward yourself with other items on the list the next time you set your goals. My reward for meeting my Stretch Goal is to go on a winter vacation at a ski lodge in Vermont or New Hampshire for a long weekend.  I’ve never done this but always wanted to. 


3. The Super Stretch Goal 

The Super Stretch Goal is something that you believe to be practically impossible to achieve.  As in,  it is technically possible,  but there’s no way it will actually happen.  It should be much more difficult to achieve than the Stretch Goal. When setting the Super Stretch Goal, keep in mind that you should not feel disappointed in yourself if you don’t achieve it.  The purpose of it is to keep you looking forward,  and,  if you somehow manage to achieve it, to get an awesome, guilt-free reward. 

Now, I want you to come up with a reward that is as enticing as the goal is impossible. It still needs to be something you can physically do or afford once you have met your goal, but it should be really exciting.  I still drive the 2001 Honda Civic I got when I was 15. 

Since I figured my Honda would probably last another 5 to 10 years, thus failing to justify a new car purchase,  that became the reward for my Super Stretch Goal.  A brand spankin’ new car, guilt-free. I want you to come up with something you would never do or buy, but could if you met your goal. Go crazy and have fun with it! 

Even though you might not meet your Super Stretch Goal, having the carrot dangling in front of your nose works wonders.  It did for me,  andI just spend the last week car shopping. And if it hadn’t I would have survived and reset my goal for the following year. 

The purpose of theSuperStretch Goal is to help you stay focused on the larger,  long-term goals,  while giving you the motivation to meet them faster than you otherwise would. 


Now that you’ve learned about the three-tier goal-setting system, set your own goals, and start working to achieve them.  Knowing how close that reward is will keep you motivated to work hard and grow your business. Good luck, CEO!