HOW SUCCESS AND SERVICE GO HAND IN HAND
A lot of the people in the Law Firm Mentor community are person-to-person, B-to-C service providers who work with what I consider to be the disenfranchised or the less successful, less financially well-to-do members of our society.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about how to best serve that population while taking care of yourself, your family, and creating financial wealth. It’s almost like the idea of helping people who are poor is so foreign to the legal profession, where there’s an assumption that legal work automatically equals affluence, abundance, and financial success. (It’s not true, but that’s what the perception is.) So, the thought then becomes, if I go outside of “serving the rich”, I really can’t make money.
And I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not true. That’s one of the things I love to highlight when I tell my personal story of law firm success. My multi-million-dollar law firm serves the poorest segment of family law litigants in the state of New Jersey and across the country: people who are accused of child abuse and neglect.
I remember when I first started doing that work, people assumed that I did it through the public defender’s office, which I’ve never actually done. I’ve always sourced my own private clients and charged my full hourly rate for that work. The question then becomes: How did I make money with this? Because these aren’t people who can typically afford $500/hr, $300/hr, or whatever the rate may be. And my answer is this: People are motivated to find the money when they truly desire what it is you’re offering.
So, if you find yourself thinking “My clients can’t afford this”, realize it’s more of a mindset issue than a true reality. Even when you’re talking about people on Section Eight housing, welfare recipients, etc., they can be sold to. Yes, it is harder to sell to someone who, on the face of it, can’t afford to write you a check. But it’s not impossible.
So now that we’ve established that you CAN make money serving lower income clients, why do so many lawyers still resist the idea of charging those clients what they’re worth? What is so appealing about giving from an empty well? Usually, it boils down to the belief that pursuing wealth, abundance, and financial success is incompatible with someone who gives back to their communities.
So today, let’s talk about how to create a reality in which BOTH can be true.
3 KEYS TO SERVING FROM ABUNDANCE
If you want to serve a population of people who are less financially successful, there are three primary considerations you must keep in mind to get to a place of financial abundance.
1. You have to put your mask on first.
We have all heard the in-flight safety speech: If the cabin loses pressure, put your mask on first before helping someone else. Makes sense, right? You’re no good to anyone if you’re not breathing.
The same very much holds true in your business. You are not your best self if you are broke. There is an unfortunate deification that we have with poverty. There almost seems to be this mindset that says not only is it righteous to be poor, but it is negative and detrimental to be rich because then you can’t be a good person.
I’d like to encourage you to consider a different perspective. If you take care of yourself FIRST, if you take the necessary steps to build your own success, you will be in a better position to offer pro bono or low bono services, or to contribute a certain amount of your time to a lower-income echelon of the community.
Struggling, being in debt, wondering where your next meal is coming from is not going to benefit you when you’re trying to help someone else who is struggling. To help lift someone up, you have to have the resources to do so.
I had to do a lot of things to get myself to a place of consistent financial abundance. But I still got here because at some point, I decided to put my mask on first.
2. You are not obligated to give when you receive.
This premise was inspired by a recent conversation that I had with a lawyer, who was explaining to me that she’s a heartfelt individual who wants to give back to her community first and foremost, and maybe there will be a little left over for herself. She made herself a footnote in her own story. This is a highly successful, highly accomplished person who had to really work hard to get out of an impoverished environment and now feels that, well, God gave that to me, so now I owe it to someone else. Obligated to give, guilty to receive.
Here’s what I asked her: What about you? You’re the source through which that person is going to be benefited, and you really believe that you should not receive for yourself? Giving is a universal premise and receiving is a universal promise.
Stop and consider your motivations. Any form of mental or spiritual manipulation that keeps you in the bondage of staying poor is not going to help you be of the greatest service to the most people, right? I can do a heck of a lot more for people now that I can write a twenty-five thousand dollar check than I could when I was one step above food stamps and trying to take what little I had and give it to the person who is right at food stamps, right?
When we choose to give, let it be from a clean heart, not out of a sense of obligation. And let it be from a place of plenty, not to our own detriment.
3. You will need stellar systems in your business.
When you offer services at a lower price point, it will require more volume to meet your financial goals. The challenge there is that when you are creating more volume, you will need greater efficiency. If you don’t, the added client load will lead to chaos unless you have a highly systematized, well-functioning, well-oiled machine of a business. There’s a big difference between serving 10 people over a 40-hour workweek and serving 50 people over a 40-hour workweek. The more people you have to interact with, the more names you have to remember. The more spouses’ names you have to remember. The more children’s names you have to remember. The more legal issues you have to address. The more settlement demands you have to consider… the list goes on.
Efficiency here is key. That, and strong boundaries and clear expectations.
It is my sincerest hope that these three premises will enable you to realize your passion of giving back to your community, while also creating and growing a practice that serves you and the life you want and deserve – guilt-free!