When it comes to hiring for your law firm there are three elements you need to consider: when to hire, who to hire and how to hire. Today we are going to be looking at all three elements and some ways you can take the chaos out of the hiring process.
In this episode we discuss:
- Considering your business model before you hire.
- Knowing when it makes sense for your business to hire.
- Weighing monetizing versus convenience when making your hiring decision.
- How your mindset about money will dictate your level of comfort dealing with it.
- The importance of systems and having someone to run those systems.
- Removing yourself from the epicenter of your business.
- Optimizing the performance of key team members and empowering them.
- Knowing that bringing on a new hire takes an investment, an expense in training.
- Recognizing your zone of genius and spending your time there.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:00:01] Good morning, everybody. It is Allison Williams here. Your Law Firm Mentor. Today is a wonderful, bright Monday morning. And I hope you guys are all excited to start your week. I’m excited to start my week.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:00:11] And I decided that I would start my week by talking to you guys about one of my favorite topics, which is people. And people in law firms are the most important thing that we have to focus our attention on, whether those people include first ourselves and then others that are going to be helping us to do the work that we do. And then beyond that, of course, the people that we work with to source the business, our vendors and things like that. So we are bright and early here in the morning. I am looking off over to the right here to make sure that we are actually broadcasting because according to my wonderful Belive TV platform, we purportedly are broadcasting. But I don’t see myself and I don’t see you guys. But as you guys are coming in, if you are here, I’m going to make sure we are broadcasting. But as you are coming in, please do say hi. Let me know that you are out there. Let me know that you are hearing me. And by all means, if you have questions or comments on the content, I will be sharing with you today. Please, please do step in and post a comment. OK. So first thing is about hiring. I want to let you guys know that it’s going to be a part of the series. I going to be doing this Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:01:23] (Hi, Sylvia. Good to see you. Hi, Angela. Nice to see you also.) I’m glad you guys are actually seeing me and hearing me. And that’s great. So this series is going to be Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week. (Yes, Miss Theda I did bring my coffee, but it’s Bullet Coffee because I just started Keto like last week and six pounds in, down, I should say. I feel great. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday, this week, we’re going to be talking about hiring.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:01:49] We’re going to be talking about three critical areas in hiring. First we’re going to talk about when to hire. Then we are going to talk about who to hire. And then finally, we’re going to talk about how to hire. OK. So let’s jump right into topic number one, which is when to hire. So there’s a lot of things to consider with the topic of when to hire. And I feel particularly passionate about this because this was the one area of my business that I got control over. And then remarkably started to see an improvement in the business and not just in the business in terms of growing. Like I think most of us are here because we want to, on some level, grow. We either want to grow our time, grow our money, grow our quality of client, grow our enjoyment of the practice of law. So we don’t want more. Right? But beyond more, there is the general idea of having peace in the business. And I think a lot of us kind of assume that if the business is successful, that we’re going to have some degree of struggle and some degree of hustle. I think that’s kind of baked into the mindset of lawyers really from law school. But that doesn’t have to be the case. And, you know, I’m in a particularly tumultuous area of law. I practice family law and family law with a particular interest in child abuse and neglect cases.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:03:10] So it’s not uncommon that we get hired on a Monday and have trial on Tuesday. That is actually much more common than the opposite, which is get hired and have months to be able to prepare your case and ultimately present your case. So I know a lot about having friction around the practice and the assumption that it must be chaotic, it must be high stress, high deadline, high intensity practice. And so creating systems was really the only thing that made me able to get to the place where there was not constant chaos and I was worn out. But beyond getting to that place for myself, I then wanted to bring people into that because there’s only so many hours in a day. And a law firm is really nothing more than a body shop. Right? We’re just selling ourselves. I mean, that doesn’t sound too sexy or maybe it sounds too sexy, but we’re just selling ourselves. You’re selling yourself by the hour. And so if you don’t multiply the manner in which you can deliver that service, either by reducing the hours, but increasing the price by virtue of either a flat fee service or a higher hourly rate, then you’re not going to be able to grow your revenue without growing your hours of work. And so it’s important that when you choose people to bring into your business, that you are choosing the right type of people and that you know when to bring those people in.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:04:31] And I think a lot of law firms go off grid when they bring in people at the wrong time or they fail to bring in people at the right time. So we’re going to talk about the three keys that you need really to be able to choose the right time to hire and to hire wisely. So first critical step in choosing when to hire is to understand your business model. OK. And what I mean by your business model is that sounds like a complex phrase. That sounds like something you need to have an MBA to do. But it really isn’t, it really is thinking about how you want your business to be structured. Do you want to have you and three equal partners and you all are kind of in an eat what you kill arrangement where everybody’s doing their own thing and you just happen to be doing it together and marketing it together so you can kind of take advantage of economies of scale and save money. Or do you want to have a more pyramid type business model where you’ve got one owner slash partner at the top? And some people in the middle and some people at the bottom. And those people in the middle would typically be your senior associates. You’re non equity partners. And then at the very bottom, you’ve got your junior level associates, interns, paralegals, et cetera, producing revenue.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:05:46] Do you want to be a pure CEO where you are the one who is overseeing the people, managing the money and strategic planning for the business only, and everyone else is producing the revenue? So that still would be somewhat of that pyramid. But you at the top of the pyramid would not actually be doing the legal work. You would only be doing the oversight management work and leadership work and everybody else would be producing revenue. Or do you want to have a a combination of heavy at the top? Kind of an inverted pyramid, heavy at the top. Meaning you’ve got yourself and maybe one other partner or one other counsel or senior lawyer. And then you’ve got somebody at the bottom to support the two of you or the three of you or however many you have. However you want the business to look, there are metrics associated with those different choices. And I think where there’s often a disconnect, at least that was what I saw when I was being coached by lawyer coaches. And that was certainly something I saw when I when I started to work with business coaches that didn’t necessarily understand lawyers and law firms. Then what you started to see was that people would pick a model based on what they wanted, but they wouldn’t understand the metrics around it. So they end up either not having enough money because they would be planning for the traditional law firm structure.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:07:05] And by the way, the traditional law firm structure is the pyramid right at the top. You’ve got a partner, then you’ve got people in the middle, the senior associate slash mid-level attorney, and then you’ve got the people at the bottom, which tend to be your younger attorneys. When you have that model and you put that model into scale, that’s when you are able to see much more economies of scale. And depending on how you are structuring your prices and how you are structuring your business, you can take advantage of having more people at the top and fewer people in the middle, but most people at the bottom, kind of like an hourglass, because in that scenario, the people at the bottom are producing the revenue that’s going to go up to the people at the top. And the people in the middle are really self-sustaining. And all of the expenses are a small fraction of the total amount that you are able to produce in your law firm. But for smaller law firms, when you don’t have that economies of scale, when you only have so many dollars to go around, what has to happen is you either have to decide that your convenience is going to be more important than your money or your money is going to be more important than your convenience. If they are equally important to you, then you are probably going to have the healthiest business, meaning you’re going to have some degree of profitability and you’re going to have some degree of convenience baked in that costs money and you’re going to ultimately maximize both your time and your money.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:08:36] If you don’t think about these things in advance and you just go out and hire somebody because hey, I need a body and this is a seemingly good candidate, then what you’re ultimately missing out on is the metrics of those various different roles. So you need to be thinking out of every person in your law firm, every generating person, whether it’s an attorney, revenue producing person, I should say, whether it’s an attorney, a paralegal, you know, a legal assistant, whomever is billing or producing billable work, what would normally be considered billable work, even if you’re in a flat fee or even to some degree in a contingency based practice, you are ultimately going to have a stream of revenue attached to every billing person in the law firm. And that stream of revenue needs to be determined in advance. How much do we expect this person to bring into the business based on the work that they do and then, of that stream of revenue, a certain portion goes to the lawyer.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:09:33] So if you think about it, there are three primary expenses that you’re going to have in a law firm. You’re going to have compensation to the person doing the work. You’re going to have the overhead to do the work. And that’s the stuff of the files, right. The the ink, the paper, the machines, the licenses, all of the stuff of running the business. And then you’re going to have the profit. And you need to have profit, even if you’re not planning to take that profit and stick it in your pocket. You need to have profit in order to reinvest in the business and also to weather the economic storms of unexpected expenses, downturns and market. All of those things, that’s where your flex is. Your comfort goes into the profit area. So if you have those three primary areas and you keep hiring people at the top. Meaning you hire people with more experience, more ability to run files independently. You don’t have to directly manage them, well, every person in a business has to be managed, but you don’t have to directly supervise their lawyering, because they’re able to autonomously handle a file without committing a risk of malpractice. Those people cost more. So if you are looking at a business model, that is the traditional pyramid, which, by the way, is the most profitable model, it gives you as the owner the most money that may or may not be your goal. But just know that that is mathematically how that works. If that is your goal, then the more people you hire at the top, the more people you have to hire at the bottom in order to support those people at the top, or else the person at the top is going to take more of the revenue stream home for themselves because they are entitled to, they earn more of their production because they contribute more to it.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:11:11] Then you’re going to ultimately not have enough profit and not have enough for your overhead. So you’re going to run out of money. (Oh, my God. Elise Buie is here. OK. So Elise loves my red,today. Yes, I am a vision of red today. I was in a happy mood. So I put on my happy colors. Red is my happy color. So thank you for noting that Elise.) OK. So taking taking that into account, you have to decide in advance before you just start hiring people. Who is going to fill in your model? Right? So you can do this very simply. This does not have to be a Herculean task where you go pull out, you know, some Harvard MBA and say, all right, we need to figure out what our business model is going to be. This can literally be drawing stick figures on paper. Right? You can just say, I either want a triangle or I want an inverted triangle. I want my triangle to be heavy on the top, lower in the center and one or two at the bottom.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:12:11] Or I want an hourglass heavy at the top. Slim in the middle and heavy on the bottom. You know, a 1 to 1 ratio, a partner to associate so that ultimately there’s balance. Or you want to have a whole bunch of, you don’t want to have a triangle at all. You want to have a bunch of concentric circles running side by side, in which case everyone gets a cut of what they bring in. Everyone pays a portion of our overhead expenses and narry the two shall meet. OK. But it’s important to think about that before you start hiring people. So key strategy number two after another one. Number one, again is consider your business model. Number two is at the start of the hire. OK. You want to think about your goal? Is your goal to monetize or is your goal to secure convenience? And by the way, you need to have both in a functional business. If you have nothing but a high revenue producing business, i.e., we knock it out of the park, we generate a shit ton of money. You’re not going to have time to spend it. You’re not going to have time to enjoy it. And you’re not going to want to generate that money. You’re going to start to feel resentful about your business because there’s not enough convenience built into it. So I will tell you candidly, that was what I created when I first went into business.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:13:27] I left the law firm. I had 43 clients with me. I had a staff person that was going to come and ultimately she chickened out at the last minute. And then I’m off on my own with no staff and 43 clients to service and more clients being referred to me, because once I announced that everybody I was leaving, people started referring me clients out of a thank you. And by the way, for those of you that are in this community that have personally worked with me in New Jersey, thank you for supporting me when I started my journey. But I was overwhelmed and I was so afraid of not having enough. I had a very strong lack mindset that ultimately what I ended up doing was just working harder to produce as much as I could. I thought the goal of business was to make as much money as possible. That was in my head. So I was very good at that. You know, I never had any question of, you know, how much is going to come in. You know, when I started, we were probably averaging somewhere around 30 ish to 40 ish a month. And very quickly, by the end of our first year, I did just over six hundred at the end of my first full year in business.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:14:30] And so I knew that I was going to, you know, which averages over 50. And it was continuing upward. So I didn’t have the money issue. But I don’t say that, by the way, to boast. I thought that was if I could retrospectively go back and fix some things, I would fix producing that much that quickly because I didn’t have people to staff it. I was literally running myself into the ground. And we know that as a result of that, I ultimately, ultimately almost died. I almost died in an accident. So one of the things that was painful for me as I started this process of thinking about business was not giving myself enough convenience. OK, now when I say convenience, I don’t think of employees as convenience. It’s not like I say, wow, it’s so convenient that I can have a secretary. Right? But I’m using that word because I think that word will give you a polar opposite thought. And I want you to really think about the two as being to some degree diametrically opposed, even though they also are very much a part of the same continuum of necessity in the business. So we all know that we need money or business. Right? We all know that we need to be able to pay our bills, buy the things that are necessary to run the files. Right? Your in a law firm, you need to be able to print on paper. You need to have machines that are going to do printing for you.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:15:50] You need to have software licenses if you’re going to use software to facilitate getting the work done. You need to have the ability to communicate with your clients by e-mail or by phone or both. Right? So most of us kind of get that. But what a lot of us don’t get is the convenience factor. And when that comes in. We either get convenience over money too soon, i.e. we’re tired of working so hard. So we work harder to the point where we feel like we can’t work any harder. And then we go out and get an employee, whether we have properly monetized that person or not or whether we can actually afford that person or not. And then we have added to our stress, because now we’ve taken away the stress of having too much do. But we’ve added the stress of hustling to pay somebody. That is not a wise choice. On the flip side, you can do what I did, which is money, money, money, money, money. Great. We bring it all in. We stick it in the bank because we don’t have time to do anything. And by the way, if you have a lack mindset, making a lot of money is not going to take that away. So a lot of people say, oh, my God, you know, I just I just want to get to X dollars.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:16:55] If I could just get to X dollars, I’ll be OK. But the reality is, if you are fearful in your day to day experience of not having enough money, tripling the amount of money you make is not going to make that go away. I promise you. You could ask me, having gone through that experience. You can ask people that are millionaires. Right? Part of the reason why you have millionaires with tax issues or R&B stars or pop stars who all of a sudden have to file for bankruptcy. Is that your mindset around money is what is going to dictate your level of comfort around it. It is not what is going to ultimately take away the lack mindset. Sandra is the master of convenience, creating convenience for me. Yes Elise. Elise is actually, she’s mentioned Sandra before. Sandra is a key member on her team who I believe she’s an administrative assistant. Right? Or personal assistant, Elise? She’s described to her before as somebody who gets things done for her. And so she has that person to be the one who facilitates Elise being able to work more. And so I want you guys to think about that, actually, in terms of your law firm business. Right? When you are just starting out and I’m going to go to starting out then we’re going to talk about someone who’s in the four to five hundred thousand dollar range and then we go talk about the seven figure people, because there’s a lot of different business sizes and types in this group.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:18:20] When you are just starting out and it’s just you, that first hire is both about monetizing and convenience, but it’s much more about convenience. OK. The very, very first hire. The first time you say I’ve got to get somebody else to get something off my plate before, you know, before the wheels come off the bus. That is typically where we’re going to start when we start talking about the balancing of monetizing and convenience. OK. It’s almost impossible to think about your first hire as a way to get more money, because if you do, what’s going to happen is you’re not going to have the time. If you’re truly hiring that person when you are at capacity. Right? Most people will say, I don’t want to spend money unless I have to. So what ends up happening is when you are the person doing all the legal work and the person doing all the business work, the first hire that you make inherently is going to be convenient for you because that person is going to take away some of that responsibility. But if you are somebody that has a 9 to 5 work ethic and there are people that have that work ethic, I don’t have that work ethic. And I don’t think that’s wise for an entrepreneur. But there are business owners that have a 9 to 5 work ethic.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:19:35] If you are somebody that says, look, I got kids at home, I’m not going to stay here past five o’clock no matter what. I’ve got responsibilities in the morning. I’m not going to get here before 9:00. No matter what. And that’s how you choose to structure yourself. Then as soon as you bring somebody in, you can think about that person as somebody who’s going to add money or you can think about that person as somebody who’s going to add convenience, but the very first person is immediately going to have to add convenience to you because if they don’t, then you’re not going to make enough money during that nine to five period. In fact, recently I just posted about this. Not that long ago. The CLIO conference that everybody was talking about, and by the way, guys. We’re gonna have a special Facebook Live interview two weeks from this Wednesday. Where I’m going to bring in a series of people that went to that conference and we’re going to talk about how to use professional conferences, legal conferences to grow your business. OK. So you definitely want to tune in for that. There will be ads about that soon. We’re just wrapping up our final two guests and then we’ll start advertising that. But when we’re talking about that conference, one of the things that came up there, as people were kind of posting.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:20:42] Oh, I went here and I got this great information about it was this idea of I’m going to this conference and I’m going to get this value out of it and it’s going to come back and give me more in my business. And I think a lot of people were thinking of the more as being the ability to advance scale, however you want to characterize it. But, you know, the reality is creating efficiency is to some degree dependent on people. OK, because efficiency is what makes the systems in your business run. Somebody has to run the system, right. The systems create the order. The people systematize and the people then insist upon and create that order through using the systems. So when you bring somebody in, if you’re not concerned about how much they’re taking off of your plate, what’s ultimately going to happen is they come in and they do the work, but they’re not doing the most important work in the most important order and giving you the most economic value for that. And so what ends up happening is you bring in somebody, they take things off your plate, but they also put things on your plate, which is the management of that person. So you have to build that into your thoughts around how much convenience am I buying with this person. The other consideration is that a lot of people this is still at the beginning stages, right. At the starting point. At that starting point. You don’t yet have enough money to be able to convenience your way into the next stage.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:22:15] You have to anticipate that when you hire somebody, if you’re not concerned with the ROI and the monetization of that role at all. If it’s just about I’m tired and I don’t want to work anymore and you hire that person, then you have an expense. Right? Your employees should never be an expense. They should always be an investment. Every single person from the file clerk to the partners should be an investment. So when you bring somebody in, if you’re not monetizing their role and they’re just a convenience, they’re an expense. And there are times where you can say, I just would rather be more convenient than profitable. And we all do that, even if you don’t think about it that way. So think about the idea of ordering in fast food as opposed to getting up and going to the diner across the street from your office. You’re giving yourself the convenience of time, even though it will cost more to have somebody deliver you the food that you’re going to order. Because in this particular incident, it may even cost you the health depending on what you’re ordering, but it’s going to cost you something. But the cost is worth it for the convenience of not having to leave your office. It’s the same thing when you think about any aspect of hiring. The person that you’re bringing in ultimately is going to add some level of convenience. The question is how much are they going to take away in convenience because you’re going to have to manage them. And how much ultimately are you going to make from this person? Does it make economic sense for you to do that? Now, when you are in the mid-ranges, once you have at least a three to five hundred thousand dollar business, then when you are hiring, monetization versus convenience is more of a balance.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:23:53] OK, and the balance at this stage becomes do I make more money with this person or do I make more, or do I give myself more convenience? And when you ask yourself that question, the question should always be how much more do I want to grow? Right? You need to be able to think about the idea of growth when you are hiring. So every person that you’re hiring, you’re hiring for today, but you’re also hiring for the business you’re going to be three years from now, five years from now, ten years from now. Now, that doesn’t mean that the person that you are hiring, the individual, is going to be with you three, five, 10 years from now. Nowadays, we have a much more fluid workplace. People move around much more than they used to. And there is far less brand loyalty, if you will. Then there once was for a whole host of reasons that this, that’s a little beyond what we’re talking about today. But you really want to think about what do I want to create in my business and how is the person that I’m hiring today going to help me get to that next place. Some of that is just about the pure goals that you have today. And by the way, these goals may change, right?
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:25:02] Once upon a time, my goal was to have three to five lawyers in my business. Once I got to lawyer three, I wanted five to seven lawyers in my business. Once I got to lawyer seven, I wanted ten to twelve lawyers in my business. Right?
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:25:14] So we can always up-level our goals based on what we see, based on what we get comfortable with, based on what we desire to create. But when you are in any given moment hiring, you need to have a plan for what you’re creating. And if that plan is, I want more money in the business in the future, then you have to think about how much money you are willing to sacrifice today to have the convenience that you need today in order to grow to that next level. So that means that when you bring in somebody today, that person may be dollars and cents more expensive than the person that you might otherwise be able to hire. So you might hire somebody with eight years experience instead of three years experience. Right? You’re going to get more convenience out of an eight year lawyer, presumably, because that person will know more about how to practice, how to try cases, how to advise clients, how to bring clients in, if you’re going to have them in a consulting role. And that person is going to be able to do more than a lawyer with three years of experience. However, the convenience that you bought with that eight year attorney is going to cost you in money what you would not have paid for the three year attorney. OK, and if you are the only person that is available to train the lawyer that you hire, then you have to think about, this is also true of paralegals, by the way.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:26:36] Whoever you’re hiring is going to be billing work. If you’re going to be the person training, then the convenience factor has to be a net number. That means I might buy myself twenty five hours a week of producible revenue from this person or thirty five hours a week depending on how many hours you’re expecting them to work. I might be able to buy those hours, which is multiplied by their hourly rate and their collection rate, which gives me revenue. However, that number is going to be reduced by the extent to which I can do less billing because I now have to manage somebody and train someone and supervise someone. And every time that you hire the next person, you need to be thinking about how much time is going to be invested by either you or other members of your team to train that person. OK. You don’t start stacking bodies and think, OK, this person can bill 30 hours a week. Therefore, I have accumulated 30 hours a week. 30 hours a week is where you start but that number has to be reduced by the net difference of whoever is going to be taking time out of their ongoing active behavior to put into this person to train them.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:27:47] And then for the people at the top. Right, those seven figure businesses, once you are generally speaking seven figures, it might be a little bit more it might be a little bit less depending on how well run and how systematized your business is up to that point. The seven figure person is looking at money and convenience, but convenience equals money. OK? Once you have a seven figure business, convenience equals money. Now that means, every time that you hire somebody, you should be thinking about how much convenience they can add to the person next up the food chain. OK. So if you’re hiring a legal assistant, how much convenience can they add to your paralegal? If you’re hiring a paralegal, how much convenience can they add to your associate? If you’re hiring an associate how much convenience can they add to your senior associate? If you’re hiring a senior associate, how much convenience can they add to your partners. If you’re hiring a partner, how much convenience is going to add to you? OK. Now, obviously, you at the top of everything, you’re going to get the trickle down or I should say trickle up. You’re going to get the trickle up value of every person that you hire in the business. But the goal is to look at how you can monetize work upward.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:29:02] OK. That means from the bottom up, you want every person that comes into the business to create more billing opportunity or more collecting opportunity or more monetizing opportunity or more selling opportunity for people that are higher up the food chain. So that may very well mean that when you hire someone that that person isn’t going to be a biller. They’re not going to be directly working with clients, that they’re going to create economic space for others that are. So an example, if you decide to hire a file clerk, a file clerk will take time away from your paralegals who might be doing that work. Well, if your paralegals are doing filing work at let’s say you bill them out at two hundred dollars an hour and it takes them five hours a week on average to do filing, well you’ve bought yourself a thousand dollars per paralegal by virtue of having a filing clerk. OK, so the filing clerk is not billing someone for the time that they’re filing, but they are producing more time available for people at the top. So that means when you hire someone, you need to be thinking about how you can structure their role when you hire them, in order to get yourself more economic value for the person immediately above. Right? So you don’t want to be thinking about when I hire my file clerk, how can they help my partner? OK?
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:30:28] They should not be used for that in the short term. The reason why is because everything going from the bottom up makes sure that you are ultimately getting the most economic value out of every role that you have in the business. So if you hire a file clerk and you immediately give that person the task of, let’s say, organizing the email inbox of your partner. Well, that may or may not ultimately contribute to that person. But if you think about it, you’re missing all these opportunities between the file clerk and the partner to be able to get more economic value. So let’s say your file clerk organizes the inbox of your partner and then ultimately gives that person an extra two hours a week. If that person is being billed out at four hundred dollars an hour, that’s eight hundred dollars a week. So that’s a lot of economic value. But, if instead of starting with your partner, you had taken the file clerk and the file clerk had been given an extra two hours to your paralegal by virtue of giving that person the ability to not be filing. OK. And 200 dollars per paralegal hour times two hours is four hundred dollars. And then by virtue of the paralegal being able to build more hours, they are moving more cases more quickly for your associate.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:31:44] So your associate is now able to generate more hours. Let’s say that your associate now has been able to send five more e-mails as a result of not having the residual delay of having work done by the paralegal. Those five more e-mails work out to an extra hour of time for your associate. That’s an extra, let’s say three hundred dollars an hour. OK, so if you got an extra hour, that’s an extra $300. So you’ve made four hundred dollars at the paralegal level and three hundred dollars at the associate level. That’s seven hundred dollars. And let’s say by virtue of the associate being able to send five more e-mails, the cases are moving more quickly, which means that you now have a salesperson who now can spend more time getting more follow up because that person now has a need and is filling a need to be able to fill the funnel for the people on your team. That means more cases can come into the business because there’s now more capacity, because the cases are moving faster. And if they’re moving faster, at some point you’re going to have to hire another associate because you’re going to run out of capacity for the people that you have. So conceptually speaking, you have to make sure that the people at the bottom are adding levels of value one step up.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:32:58] Hi, Andrea. Great to see you. And thank you for your comments. Yes, a good paralegal is definitely valuable. And more time does equal more freedom plus more money. I love that. That is 1000 percent correct. OK, so now that we talked about each level. Right? The people at the bottom, the people in the center and the people at the top. The last key point, the last key strategy I want to talk about today in the area of when to hire is once you are staffed up, once you have the people that are doing the minimum basic skills in the role to make sure that the role is monetized. You next have to think where is your next need that can be monetized to advance the highest interest in the firm. OK. And by highest interest, I’m talking about you. At some point when you are thinking about feeding the business and staffing the business, what a lot of us do, is our business is our baby, right? It’s our creation. So we’re always looking for ways to feed it. We’re always looking for ways to take care of it. We’re always looking for ways to make it grow, to make it healthy, to make it top, to make it optimized. Hi Ticora. Very nice to see you. I’m glad this is getting your gears moving. I’m glad this is giving you food for thought.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:34:15] By the way, a lot of these topics that we’re covering, all that we’re covering on hiring in much greater detail is going to be in a formal process as well as taught to you at the Thrive Tribe Tactics program that we have coming up in January. I’m going to drop the link to that or anyone that’s interested in that program. It’s going to be all about people, issues and law firms and how to get our law firms more profitable and giving us more free time really through hiring and optimizing the performance of key team members. Some more about that again. The link is going to be in the comments. I will drop that there. That’s a key strategy, number three. We’ve already talked about number one, which is consider your business model before you hire. Strategy number two is making sure that you are considering monetizing versus convenience and incorporating that into the hiring decision. And then finally, you are last going to talk about in staffing up your business, thinking about how to get the most value for you as the owner. Wow. Regina is checking in all the way from Arizona. I’m glad you are up for this. By the way, for anybody that is not checking this out live, we will have a replay. This video and all the videos that I do on Facebook Live if you’re in the group, will remain in the group. You can always hashtag replay and check this out at any point in time. I’m sure I’ll do a watch party to show it again, because I do think this is a good value, that I think everyone needs to have if you own a business. So how to get your most value? As I said before, one of the things that I think we focus on a lot is we start kind of solving problems.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:35:51] That’s what lawyers do. Right? That’s what we are trained to do. And most of us became lawyers on some level because we like to analytically solve problems. We like to dig into the meat and potatoes of what’s going wrong. How do we fix it? How do we troubleshoot? How do we put a Band-Aid on? How do we create surgery for, how do we rip apart, put back together? That’s what we do. And so when you own a business, you get into the habit of doing that all the time. And there can be almost a looking at the forest from kind of a snapshot once every so often. But we’re always in the weeds and we’re always looking at the trees, the branches and the ducks. And that then becomes the way that we solve problems. Right? We say, oh, my God, there’s a fleck over here. There’s a leaf over here. There’s a branch over here. And we start almost in a scattered fashion going out and trying to solve the problems of tomorrow. The problem is you are at the center of your universe in everything that you do. And in particular in your business. And so if you don’t preserve yourself in the process, you don’t just get things like burn out. Like I think a lot of times there’s a lot of talk now, especially given the astronomical rates of lawyers that are suffering with depression and anxiety and mental health disorders and substance abuse. We look at ourselves and we now are talking about wellness, which I think is wonderful.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:37:17] We actually have some lawyers in the group that focus on wellness and meditation and healthy living for lawyers, which I think is very valuable. I don’t in anyway want to denigrate that. But before you even get to that stage, before you get to the burnout stage, there’s a problem that happens in business by virtue of you staying in your own little confined world. And that problem is that if you don’t make it worth your while to own that business, your business is going to stagnate. Let me say that again. If you don’t make it worth your while to own a business, your business is going to stagnate. There is absolutely no value for you as a business owner to own a job. If you want a job, you can make a shit ton more at your job working for someone else than you can working for yourself. If your business is nothing more than a job, that is what you have done, you have created the freedom of not having a boss and not having to answer to someone else and not having rules and not having structure imposed upon you. But you have also taken away the value of having a business. OK, because there’s more to having a business. There’s more to being at the epicenter of a law firm than simply having the freedom of not having a boss. If you don’t want a boss, that’s fine. Right? I was one of these people that I’ve always had a very strong personality and I’ve always been very productive as a lawyer.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:38:55] So for the most part, I’ve been very blessed to have found bosses that allow me to basically do what I wanted. Right? They gave me rules. They said, you know, Bill X hours, use these forms, not those forms. You know, make sure you tell the client X, Y and Z and there was oversight. But I’ve never felt unduly constrained or controlled in my workplace. And very much I appreciated that. But I very much also model that in my own law firm, I cannot stand micromanaging in my law firm. Whenever I sense that somebody has a tendency toward micromanaging, they get yanked by the net. And ultimately, we take a step back and say, hey, wait a minute, we don’t we don’t treat people that way. Not because it’s poor manners or inappropriate to treat people that way. But I truly don’t, I truly believe that people rise to the highest and best use of their talents when they have someone hovering over them and suppressing them. So as a business model, I’m very much about empowering people. Yes, giving them systems and structure, but making sure that they can be who they are and their best selves, that you can get the best out of them and they can enjoy their work experience. But I didn’t have bad bosses. That’s not what made me want to go out and get, you know, start my own law firm. And if that was what you were running away from as an individual when you decided to start your business, right?
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:40:14] I have some clients that very much, you know, I want a business that is not X, right? It’s not the oppression of workplace one. It’s not the billable hours of workplace, two. It’s not the condescending meetings that I had in workplace three. It’s not the low compensation I had a workplace four. I want all of these things that are not these other things, OK? And that’s a good starting place to get yourself thinking about what you want, but you really have to define what you want, not the epicenter or the opposite of what you want. You can’t create what you don’t want or the opposite of what you don’t want. You have to think about what you do want and then you have to create that. And so tying that back to this point, about making sure that you are optimizing yourself in the process of creating your business. If you at the epicenter of your business are not always thinking, how am I going to be able to be in my best self as I am doing the next thing, as we are moving into the next phase, as we are hiring the next person, then what tends to happen is being the problem solvers that we are. We solve all the problems instinctually, right? We solve the problem of somebody who’s upset. We got to answer an e-mail. Client wants to come in and have a meeting about their case.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:41:35] Strategy needs to be modified s we have to have meetings with attorneys. Paralegals need more training on how to prepare documents to make it easier for the attorneys. So all of those things, all of those problems are legitimate needs that your business has. But if you don’t solve them with the thought of how do I get to my best next self? What’s ultimately going to happen is the time and energy and investment that you make in solving all those other problems takes away from your zone of genius. Now every person, no matter how intelligent or unintelligent, beautiful or unattractive, capable or lacking in talent, a person is, everyone has a zone of genius at something, right? We all have heard the comparison joke about, you know, if you measure a giraffe on the standards of a fish, you know, the giraffe has no talent whatsoever, no ability to perform and vice versa. Right? So we know that to be true. I want you to think about your business as the ultimate manifestation of who you are. So if what you have created in your business is a place to practice law, a job, you have not given your business the lifeblood that it needs to be distinct from other businesses. You’ve made yourself a commodity. Right? Anyone can go get someone divorced in an uncontested divorce. That’s not what is making you special. Anyone can go flip through a plea and a misdemeanor charge where the disposition was that the client is going to allocute and plea to some offense and get probation.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:43:13] Right. Anyone can do that. Anyone with the knowledge know how. You in creating a business created more than knowledge know how. You created an extension of yourself, which means that yourself has to show up in the business in order to attract the people that are ultimately going to want to hire you. Now when I say attraction, I’m not talking necessarily about the law of attraction, so I don’t want people to start kind of getting eyes glazed over with the woo woo stuff. That’s not really where I’m going with this. But there is a very, very cluttered marketing field right now. Lawyers are advertising everywhere. We’re on social media. We are online. We’re in trade shows. We’re on billboards. We are now using the medium to a greater degree than ever before. And when you look at statistically how we use the medium, many of us not being marketers, we get a proliferation of information out there, in large part because marketers know that lawyers tend to have more money than most entrepreneurs, even smaller business law firms. And so we get targeted. And so when we start spending our money and putting messages out there, if you’re not certain about what it is that makes you unique, what makes you special as a law firm, then what’s going to ultimately happen is there may be some of your specialness that kind of spills out of you, but it’s not going to be, again, the focal point of your business. And I didn’t really realize this until someone asked me.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:44:44] I’d say probably about six months ago. I honestly realized this about six months ago. Someone asked me, do you miss being in a courtroom? Now, I am very blessed that coming up in literally three weeks from today, my senior associate, Victoria and I will be before the New Jersey Supreme Court. One of the arguments that I’ve been making essentially since the law changed in February 2013 about child abuse cases and how they are dispositioned. What is the outcome? I’ve been fighting about this now since they changed the law. We now have that issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court. So I’ll get the joy of being on my feet before the Supreme Court right alongside one of my longest employed associates who I’ve had the pleasure of growing and developing and helping to become her best self in the practice of law. But one of the things that I remembered when the topic came up, the question was, you know, do you miss being in a courtroom?
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:45:48] And the person kind of gave me some platitudes about my abilities in a courtroom. And I thought for a moment and I said, honestly, I miss it, but not the way that one might think. And what I meant by that was I understand intellectually that I’m good in a courtroom, that that’s where I have a particular talent. That’s where I spend a lot of my time focused. And so that’s where I enjoy being and that’s now where I spend or that was kind of where I was spending my time when I started to grow the business. But now I get to live through where my zone of genius is in having both the coaching business and the law firm. And I could not have had both if I had remained in a place in the law firm where I was in court all the time, because being in court all the time takes away from the time necessary for strategic thought and meetings with others and mentoring others and developing others. And I wanted to create more in the world through my law firm. I have a passion for the law that we practice and I wanted that to be impressed upon others. And so I knew that I could only do so much of that if I was at the epicenter of all of it. Right? I needed to create myself into a marketable thing. I needed to be a product and then I needed to sell my products. Right? And that creates more in the world than simply showing up and being the person on my feet with John Doe for his case. Once I realized that, then I realized that the more time and energy and effort that I spent in the energy of the thing that I was creating, the more I was going to be able to grow, and not grow because I was able to bill more hours and generate more dollars.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:47:38] I was able to grow because I could pull in more of the people necessary in order to bring my message to the people that needed it most. I was able to generate more, generate more life, more freedom, more money, more opportunity. And that proliferates. And so when you start to do that, then other people around you start to do that as well, because whether you are intentional about it or not, you are the leader as the owner of your law firm. So I want you to really think about when you are hiring the next person, kind of bringing this full center. For those of you that thought I was on a tangent, this actually had a purpose, I promise. When you think about hiring that next person, that next person needs to make you more of who you are. So with every person that you bring in from the receptionist to the file clerk to the legal assistant to the salesperson to the intake person to the marketing person to the associate, to the paralegal. Every person in the building has a function. But that function, every time that you choose to invest your dollars in a person who will invest their resources and their individualism in your business. You need to be thinking, how is this person going to enable me to do more of what I do? That is my zone of genius in the business.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:48:58] And that can be through something as innocuous as I hired a file clerk. And as a result of hiring a file clerk, my paralegals are going to have more free time to be able to generate more revenue, which means that my partners are going to have or my associates are going to have more ability to expand their pie, which means that as they are expanding their pie, they’re going to be touching more clients. I can now be investing in more clients. Right? The message that’s important to me now gets to be seen by, heard by, experience by more people. And in that way, I’m more of myself. All right. That might not be your why? As to when you hire. So think about what works for you. It could be when you hire a personal assistant, your personal assistant is going to give you more time away from things like taking your clothes to the dry cleaner, doing your grocery shopping, getting your car serviced. Those activities that are now going to add value and time and space to yourself can be time that you were sitting down in quiet contemplating thoughts over the strategy of your business for next year. The business plan that you have for next year, the goals that you have for next year, for the next three years or the next five years. Everything that you do today, every person that you bring into your space today has a purpose. And that purpose has to be tied to how you can be more of yourself through associating with others so that they can be more of themselves by associating with you.
Allison Williams, Law Firm Mentor: [00:50:31] That is the law of reciprocity and that ultimately is how everything will thrive in business. So I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. For those of you that hung out with me today. Thank you for catching me live. For those of you that are going to catch this on the replay, thank you as well. If you have any questions about this, by all means, please do drop them in the comments. I will be circling back on this live, so I’m happy to answer questions and tune in on Wednesday. Wednesday, we’re going to be covering our next topic in this series, which is who to hire. OK? And that’s going to be talking about things such as who’s next up, right? Should you get a paralegal or a legal assistant next? At what time? What type of attorney should you get? What level of development? There are some very critical data points, some KPIs, if you will, that will help you decide these things. And so I’m going to walk you through those on Wednesday and then again on Friday. We’re going to talk about how to hire that some of the process stuff that we cover in Systematize Your Law business. So, again, Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day.
How much do we expect this person to bring into the business based on the work that they do and then, of that stream of revenue, a certain portion goes to the lawyer. So if you think about it, there are three primary expenses that you’re going to have in a law firm. You’re going to have compensation to the person doing the work. You’re going to have the overhead to do the work. And that’s the stuff of the files, right. The the ink, the paper, the machines, the licenses, all of the stuff of running the business. And then you’re going to have the profit. And you need to have profit, even if you’re not planning to take that profit and stick it in your pocket. You need to have profit in order to reinvest in the business and also to weather the economic storms of unexpected expenses, downturns and market.
We either get convenience over money too soon, i.e. we’re tired of working so hard. So we work harder to the point where we feel like we can’t work any harder. And then we go out and get an employee, whether we have properly monetized that person or not or whether we can actually afford that person or not. And then we have added to our stress, because now we’ve taken away the stress of having too much do. But we’ve added the stress of hustling to pay somebody. That is not a wise choice.
But the goal is to look at how you can monetize work upward. OK. That means from the bottom up, you want every person that comes into the business to create more billing opportunity or more collecting opportunity or more monetizing opportunity or more selling opportunity for people that are higher up the food chain. So that may very well mean that when you hire someone that that person isn’t going to be a biller. They’re not going to be directly working with clients, that they’re going to create economic space for others that are.
Thrive Tribe Tactics January 2021: http://lawfirmmentor.net/thrive-tribe-tactics/
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Wall Township, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law. Ms. Williams is a member of the New Jersey Board on Attorney Certification (NJBAC) – Matrimonial Committee, a New Jersey Supreme Court committee that determines eligibility of candidates to be certified as a recognized practitioner in the field of matrimonial law.
Ms. Williams has been named a Rising Star Attorney by the New Jersey Super Lawyers franchise continuously from 2008 – 2013, and has been named a Super Lawyer by that organization for 2014 – 2019. In 2016, she was featured in the Super Lawyers publication (Williams v. The Rubber Stamp), she has been named one of the Top 50 Women Super Lawyers in New Jersey from 2017-2019 and in 2019, was voted in the Top 100 Super Lawyers in the State of New Jersey.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms.
She received her B.S., magna cum laude, and her M.S., summa cum laude, from Florida State University. She received her J.D., cum laude, from Syracuse University College of Law.