If you want to grow your law firm and be able to step away from it when you want or only handle the cases you want to handle then you need to change the way you think about your law firm. In today’s episode we are going to look at how to change your mindset about what your law firm has to be in order to allow it to transform into what you need it to be.
In this episode we discuss:
- Adjusting your belief system about who is supposed to do what in your law firm.
- Clients hiring you as the lawyer versus hiring the law firm.
- How your marketing message can be shifted to direct a client to a better or different option.
- How ego can drive how you decide to create and structure your business.
- How hiring additional attorneys can enhance your law firm’s skill set and strengths.
- Letting go of the fear of having another person do some of the work.
Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:26] All right. Hi, everyone. It is Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. And on this week’s episode of the podcast we’re going to be talking about, it must be me and other myths associated with owning a law firm. So this is one of my favorite topics because I see so many lawyers fall into the trap of believing that the only person who can do certain activity in their law firm is them. OK, and part of this comes from an ego state of believing that we are the best at what we do. And to some degree, we want to hold onto that belief, because when we are lawyering, we know that it is an adversarial system. Right. And so there are two combatants in that system. There’s our side and the other side. And if we’re not the best out of the two of us, we lose, our client loses. That’s not what we want. So we know that there is an intellectual basis for our establishing and maintaining the belief that we are the best at what we do.
Allison Williams: [00:01:27] But I want you to really contemplate this, OK? If we believe in our law firm, not just in the lawyering, but in everything in our law firm. The lawyering, the paralegals, the legal secretary responding, the receptionist, the ordering of supplies, the maintenance of infrastructure, all the things that go into a well-run law firm. If we believe that we are necessary for all of those things, we can only grow so much. Because there are only so many hours in the course of a day, so it’s really, really critically important that we start to take things off of our plate so that more work can be done than we could on our own accomplish. And intellectually, I think most lawyers get that. Most lawyers are not holding on to the idea that they have to be the one that changes out the toilet paper in the bathroom or that they have to be the one that orders the office supplies. I mean, there are some lawyers I know that are still ordering their own office supplies, but not that many. Most of us get early on. Yeah, I need someone to do that for me. The problem, however, is that even as we are assembling our resources of people and doing some of the more mundane activity, what we don’t like to do, what we really hold on to and the conceptualizing of what our business can become is the idea that it must be us. It must be us. That is Lawyering. And over the weekend, I had the pleasure of interacting with someone who raised the question. Rather, she held firmly to the belief and then she started to get attacked a little bit by others.
Allison Williams: [00:03:10] So I, I didn’t want to fall into that energy of lambasting this person. I really want this person to just see a different perspective. So sometimes softening your tone in that regard can really help let someone see a different perspective. But ultimately what she said was, you know, in the law, you are your reputation. People come from, for a specific lawyer. They do not come for a large company. And there was a law firm and I’m not going to use the name of the firm, but I’ll say it was Doe & Doe, for John Doe and Jane Doe, Doe & Doe. Someone said, you know, at Doe & Doe’s firm, people come there all the time looking for an attorney. They don’t come looking for Mr. or Mrs. Doe. Why do you believe that? You can’t have the same thing. And then came, you know, lawyers, we have we have this innate ability to intellectualize everything and to come up with a counterargument for everything, especially when we don’t want to see what is being said. But this person said, well, Doe & Doe is a large firm and people know the difference. So one of the things that I get a lot when people consult with my firm is I don’t want to feel like a member and I don’t want to be dumped in the corner and I don’t want to be working with John, and then all of a sudden Susie takes over my case. Right. I don’t want to feel like my representation is a commodity and that I am just being passed along to the ease of the business. I really want to have a relationship with my lawyer and that is what this particular lawyer said, you know, she was able to create for her clients when she went out on her own.
Allison Williams: [00:04:55] But even in that story, even in that description of her, her belief system about who is the one who has to do the legal work and how does that legal work out to be administered? Even in that story, there was a story. So I’m going to break that down a little bit and I’m going to just share with you something really, really quick, quick and simple that I gave her as a frame to to to kind of think through this. And then we’re going to talk about it a little bit more. So what she said, again, was about the fact that your reputation is yours, it’s unique to you as a lawyer, that it can’t be passed along to others, and that when people hire you, the lawyer, they are hiring you, not the law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:05:42] OK, what I said to her was this, I believe lawyer that you believe this, that people come for you, and I believe that many people do come to a law firm for you. But I also believe that because you believe this, that you structure your business in a certain way. You communicate about your law firm in a certain way. Your marketing messages are characterized in this certain way. You speak to your clients about their cases in a certain way. You hire people to facilitate work in your law firm with this certain way in mind. Listen, people want what they want, until you show them that there is something better for them to want. So here’s an example of that.
Allison Williams: [00:06:34] A man walks into a BMW dealership. He says, I want a turquoise BMW. The saleswoman says, great, let me show you a black BMW. We don’t have turquoise the man balks. And he leaves and he goes looking for his turquoise BMW somewhere else. Say man walks into a different BMW dealership. He says, I want a turquoise BMW. And the saleswoman says, great, let me get some more information from you about your needs and how you’re going to use the BMW. I’ll share with you some of the ideal features that we have for all of our BMW drivers that you’re going to need and that we can show you some options. Does that sound good? And he says, sure, right this way. And off they go. And they go into the sales woman’s office and she sits him down and she goes through a sales presentation. And that sales presentation is heavily ladened on getting to know him as a person. What does he want in a BMW? Is he high? Is he purchasing it for status or is he purchasing it for safety or is he purchasing it as a gift for a child? Does he have something in mind when he is thinking about the color of the BMW and what she learns is that he really wants a turquoise BMW because it’s distinct, it’s unique and it’s eclectic. Now, she never says a black BMW is better because that makes him wrong and people don’t like to be wrong.
Allison Williams: [00:08:14] People don’t like to feel like, they don’t like to feel like they’re being called out or they’re being isolated or that what they want is not right. So she never says a black BMW is better, but rather she repeatedly shows him how he can achieve what he really wants, which is distinct, unique and eclectic, and she shows him how he can get even more of that with a black BMW. Now, at no time did she tell him you can’t have turquoise at no time does she promote the black BMW. But he says he wants distinct, unique and eclectic, and she offers him distinct, unique and eclectic, and it just happens to be with a black BMW.
Allison Williams: [00:09:05] Now, at the end, she offers him what she recommends, having spent so much time with him, having given him a whole series of positive reinforcements of his decision to walk in, having had a pleasant conversation with him, made him feel happy about the choice that he made to come to this dealership. She recommends a black BMW. And by this time, you trust her. And he likes her and he respects her. And he buys the black BMW.
Allison Williams: [00:09:39] Now, if you believe you have to be the one personally servicing your clients because the client gets to choose, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with holding that belief system. In fact, you are perfectly correct that the client wants you. And by virtue of having that belief, when a client comes in and says he wants you, you are able to give them exactly what he wants. You’re creating the reality by believing what you believe. And if that belief serves you, then great. Hold on to it. No one should ever take away a belief if it is getting you what you want in the world.
Allison Williams: [00:10:24] Now, if you want to grow a multi-million dollar law firm that doesn’t require you, or rather that allows you to work on some cases and have other cases handled by others alongside you, so that you can grow the amount of revenue and profit that you create for yourself, then having the belief that the client comes for you, and if the client wants you, the client must have you. That belief is inherently constricting. That belief will not get you to that multi-million dollar law firm unless you are able to charge a thousand dollars or more for your service and you are willing to work two or three thousand hours a year on billable work alone. And you’re certain to collect ninety five to one hundred percent of what you bill. Even then, what you’re able to produce is going to be limited. But it could be limited to a multimillion dollar practice. Sounds pretty good, right? It does until you consider that most lawyers don’t want to work two thousand or three thousand billable hours a year because we all know whatever you’re billing, you got to work more hours than that because you can’t bill every single thing that you do all day.
Allison Williams: [00:11:42] Now, there are some lawyers that are served well by the belief that it must be that. If you believe it must be you, think about all the positive benefits. Your ego is stroked. You get to feel more intelligent and more capable and more knowledgeable than other lawyers. You get to feel like you’re valued by your client. You get to feel special. Other lawyers, however, who are just as capable, just as qualified, just as diligent, just as successful as you are, have chosen a different belief. And as with you, they are creating their reality. So lawyers that let go of that belief that they have to be the one when they say that’s a myth, I don’t have to be the one, I have to figure out a way to have a conversation with my client or my potential client so that he or she wants what they want, but ultimately are led to want something different, not because I told them they were wrong and wanting me, not because I told them I’m not as good as they think I am, not because I told them that they are making a mistake, but because I told them that they were absolutely right to entrust their case to me. They were absolutely right to desire me. But let me give them a little reframe that what they really want is not me.
Allison Williams: [00:13:15] They want what I can accomplish. And if ultimately I can get them what I can accomplish, at a different hourly rate, perhaps a better hourly rate, they were saving some money, or even if my partner or colleague or associate or counsel down the street, down the hall is better and has a comparable or even higher hourly rate. There is something that is going to better serve the client by working with them. And in that instance, they’ll get the best of both worlds. They’ll get my name on the letterhead, they’ll get my name as the owner of the company. They’ll get my reputation that is associated with, connected with, aligned with that person down the hall. That person down the hall is not simply someone on my payroll. That person down the hall is someone who believes what I believe, who fights like I fight, who negotiates like I negotiate and who has something else that I don’t have, or else I wouldn’t have been attracted to bring them into my business. So ultimately, the question that every lawyer has to make for him or herself is which belief is going to serve me?
Allison Williams: [00:14:34] Is it going to serve my interest to believe that I have to be the only one? Or in some ways it will serve your interest? Right. Because even though we can talk about the ego as a negative thing, there is something very powerful about having a strong sense of self and having a certain level of machismo that goes with believing that you are the best at something. That is certainly a characteristic that we see in some of the most powerful, capable, competent, successful lawyers in the world, but there’s also as much ego gratification available to you when you adopt a different belief.
Allison Williams: [00:15:14] Because if you are and I’m going to get real here, OK, if you are an ego driven person and status matters to you and by the way, if you’re one of those people, I’ll raise my hand. I’m one of those people. It’s not a bad thing. OK, don’t let people tell you that if you want nice things or if you value people in high positions or high status figures, that that’s a bad thing. It is not a bad thing. OK.
Allison Williams: [00:15:45] If you have a desire for something greater than yourself and you are driven toward that ego gratifying activity, that’s what makes brilliant trial lawyers. Right? I don’t know any of them that do it for their health or do it for… Some of them do it for the contribution, but right there, there’s also a very real ego component that goes along with it. So you have that desire to create. And as you create in your business and as you create in your profession, your ego is stroked. Ok. The ego stroking that comes from being the lawyer is a certain amount. It is a much bigger ego stroke to have a large entity of other people who are also exceptional, doing things alongside you, and only have that opportunity because you created what you created.
Allison Williams: [00:16:42] So if it is about the ego, the ego does not die when you decide that you’re not going to be the one in the trenches. The ego does not die because you decided I’m only going to take 10 cases instead of 50 cases. The ego does not die because you decided that your name is on the letterhead and therefore you have to be the one in the courtroom or you have to be the one taking the case before the media or you have to be the one negotiating the big deal.
Allison Williams: [00:17:18] Your ego becomes a different, healthier version when what you are creating in your business is not just about serving yourself, and it’s not just about serving an individual client through the activity of serving yourself, but rather when you step into not just more of your your legal success, but more of your legal success that also benefits other people. Because I want you to think about it this way, if you’re an exceptional lawyer on a scale from one to 10, you’re a nine and you serve your 50 clients in the course of a year. I want you to think about what happens when you have another lawyer working alongside you. Maybe that lawyer is an eight. Maybe your mind and your ego won’t allow you to hire someone who’s a 10. That’s its own problem. We won’t talk about that right now. I’m just going to play out the idea that you’re going to hire somebody who is good. Maybe that person is a seven and a half. Maybe they’re an eight. That person gets to help fifty people of his or her own. And then what happens?
Allison Williams: [00:18:30] Well, what happens is by virtue of you having created your law firm, you have not just helped 50 people, you’ve helped one hundred people. And the one hundred people, the half of that of that figure that worked with your associate. Those people got something better than they could have gotten down the street. OK, so there’s a whole lot of people that are in the legal marketplace that you’re not going to be able to help just because you are only one person. At some point you’re going to tap out. At some point you’re going to be on the verge of malpractice if you take another client in. So you’re not going to be able to help every person. Would it be better that that person who’s not being helped by you be helped by John Doe, the sleazy lawyer down the street, who is going to take their money, tell them stories, never return phone calls, come to court not prepared. Is that is that the better option for them? Or is the better option to walk them down the hallway and be served by somebody in your office? Certainly the person who working in your office is a better choice and not simply because you get paid for that particular choice. OK? They’re a better choice because they’re getting access, quote unquote, to you simply by virtue of being a client of your law firm. They get your name on the letterhead, they get your ethics, they get your compassion, they get your goals. They get all the things that make you who you are. They get an extension of that through a lawyer who presumably, if you hire them, also has all that he or she is. So that lawyer is going to be enhancing the life of the client, and so are you, by virtue of you creating the systems and the structure and the vision and the goals of your business.
Allison Williams: [00:20:23] So you’re already doing something more and you’re helping more people simply by virtue of being in business. Ok, forget the people that you’re helping that are on the front lines with you. Your staff, your staff is being helped from a very pure economic standpoint, but they also get to share in your vision. So they are also contributing to something bigger than themselves, bigger than just the paycheck.
Allison Williams: [00:20:47] And you’re a lawyer who’s representing all those clients that you are not able to get to, is doing something greater by participating and furthering your vision. But they are also helping those individual clients. So if your ego needs a stroke better than it be that stroke, then the stroke, that keeps you limited to only helping a cap on the number of people. Ok, the other thing to consider about this whole idea that it has to be me is the arrogance of you believing that you are the best, OK? And I say arrogance quite intentionally. For some of us, it is arrogance. For some of us, it’s not really arrogance. For some of us, it’s more of a safety mechanism, like we’re holding on to believe intellectually that we are the best. But if we actually sat down and listed all of our strengths and weaknesses juxtaposed to our most recent five adversaries, we can certainly find people who are better at what we do than we are. Even the most cocky of us can say, huh? Look at that Lawyering, down the hallway. He’s pretty amazing, right?
Allison Williams: [00:21:50] So that mindset, that idea of I am the best, it can live in you and you might be exceptional, but at the same time, there’s always going to be somebody who has something that you don’t have, whether it is that they are a better contract drafter or they catch more nuance in language or they are more thorough in their emails, or they enjoy spending time with clients at a deeper level than you do. Or they are more a magnetic personality so they tend to draw people in and generate more clients than you do, or they are a better oral arguer. So when they are on their feet, they’re eloquent. They use language in a way that you just don’t have readily available to you.
Allison Williams: [00:22:37] They’re more persuasive. If you take up all of the sum total of attributes of a lawyer, there may be on a scale from one to 10, some of us that are nines in all the categories. But I assure you, there’s someone out there that has a 10 in a category that you don’t. And so when you identify that as exceptional as you are, that there are people out there who are good but not as good as you are. One of the things that you are missing in saying that is that if there is anything that you are not perfect at, there is a person out there that is more perfect at it than you are. And that person, if that person did nothing other than come to your law firm and they are less than you and all those other areas. Let’s say there are six in all the other areas, except they are a 10 in this one area, that 10 skill can enhance your business. And by the way, oftentimes a person who has a 10 in one area has strengths in other areas that you might not be able to see because your mind is fixated on the idea that you are the best.
Allison Williams: [00:23:46] Right. Because we all see through the filter of our subconscious mind, we all have rose colored glasses to some degree. So when we’re looking out at the world and we are deciding what is it exactly that I am creating, who are the people that I’m bringing into my orbit? We see them a certain way based on who we are.
Allison Williams: [00:24:07] That is the reason why oftentimes people are bad at hiring because they are hiring through the lens of what they are, not the lens of what they want to be. And so when they look at other people, they see a person who is consistent with what they are, not a person who is consistent with what they want to be. So oftentimes they’re bringing in the wrong people. But it’s the same thing when you start thinking about staffing up your team in general and growing your law firm in general, all the different pieces of your law firm are in some way a reflection of who you are. You are, you are the supreme creator. And when you put the creative faculties of your mind and your energy and your efforts into assembling a team and growing a workforce so that you can have more of yourself reflected in the, in the public domain, you’re always going to encounter disbelief that you are better at something. And much more often than not, that is about safety rather than about truth, because we are all driven towards safety.
Allison Williams: [00:25:16] I talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on this show before, and it’s one of the the themes that we talk about a lot in Marketing For The Masters. This idea that if you look at the the traditional triangle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pretty close to the bottom, meaning right above basic survival, like air, food, water, all those, all those functions that we have to exist as a living organism, one step above that is safety. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:25:47] We have to be safe in our in our environment and safe in our environment isn’t just safe from physical threat. It’s also safety from threats that we perceive that are going to do us harm. So when we are looking at other people, when we’re looking at clients, we will often see harm, we will see risk of harm. We will see detriment. We will see shortcomings. That is the reason why in a never, it never ceases to amaze me the number of people that as soon as a client does anything that the lawyer doesn’t like, the client was rude on the phone with the secretary or the client didn’t turn in documents on time, or the client had the audacity to call at five oh five on a Friday. Right. All of those thoughts come up of, oh, my God, we’ve got to get away from this person. And we will oftentimes be filtering and evaluating through the lens of fear and the lens of self-protection, keeping ourselves safe and believing that people are a harm to us.
Allison Williams: [00:26:46] So when that, when that mechanism, that safety desire kicks in, it’s similar in our growing out of our law firm that we will oftentimes look at things outside of ourselves and say that over there, that person over there is a screw up, because my belief that there a screw up is going to keep me safe. I’m bringing them on board. It’s going to keep me safe from having that person come into my office. It’s going to keep me safe from making the mistake of adding that person to my team and then, God forbid, they do something that could ultimately harm my law firm. And there’s also something that I hear a lot with Law Firm Mentor, which is kind of the spiral downward. So you ask them, well, what if the person that you hired did something wrong? What would really what would happen? And the first step is, well, it would it would cause me stress. I would have to spend my time to fix it. I would drop the ball on something else. I would become a laughing stock of America. I would never have another client again. My reputation would implode. I would be disbarred. And they take it all the way to the extreme because at the end of the day, that’s really where their mind is, right?
Allison Williams: [00:27:54] They don’t necessarily intellectualize it until you push them a little bit. But when you ask them what is the fear of bringing in someone to do something that you do and to do it as well, if not better, where’s the fear there? What’s causing it? What most people will go to is I’m afraid of ultimately being a failure. And there are a whole host of reasons why that might be the case.
Allison Williams: [00:28:19] But if the fear of failure is what keeps you where you are right now, I want you to just give yourself the gift. And it is a gift. Give yourself the gift of contemplating that, perhaps not universally, but perhaps there could be more going on. And the filter that you’re using to look outside and see the danger is really just that, a filter. And it is just as possible that firms that started with one person, one lawyer and a dream and grew to meteoric size of a few hundred lawyers over multiple continents, that those law firms didn’t do what you are doing right now by going into retraction and seeing the fear, they saw a possibility that was rooted in the idea that they didn’t have to be the only ones and that there could be more in their orbit, more people doing what they’re doing just as good, if not better, who were going to make their life and their business much better. All right, everyone, thank you so much for tuning in this week to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. And I’m so happy we had the chance to talk about the number one myth of being a law firm owner, the myth that says it must be me.
Allison Williams: [00:29:39] So if you’re struggling with this idea that you have to be the only one in your law firm or that you have to be the best one in your law firm, that is an inherently constricting belief that is going to keep you small. And if you don’t want to, if you don’t want to stay small, if you want more for yourself, more for your life, more money, more free time, more enjoyment in the business of law, here at Law Firm Mentor, we can absolutely help you with that. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Everyone have a wonderful day!
Allison Williams: [00:30:22] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guest and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement free Facebook group. There you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms, meeting billable hours, enjoying the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firms and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day!
00:15:42 – About 50 Seconds
OK, what I said to her was this, I believe lawyer that you believe this, that people come for you, and I believe that many people do come to a law firm for you. But I also believe that because you believe this, that you structure your business in a certain way. You communicate about your law firm in a certain way. Your marketing messages are characterized in this certain way. You speak to your clients about their cases in a certain way. You hire people to facilitate work in your law firm with this certain way in mind. Listen, people want what they want, until you show them that there is something better for them to want. So here’s an example of that.
00:15:45 – About 57 Seconds
If you have a desire for something greater than yourself and you are driven toward that ego gratifying activity, that’s what makes brilliant trial lawyers. Right? I don’t know any of them that do it for their health or do it for… Some of them do it for the contribution, but right there, there’s also a very real ego component that goes along with it. So you have that desire to create. And as you create in your business and as you create in your profession, your ego is stroked. Ok. The ego stroking that comes from being the lawyer is a certain amount. It is a much bigger ego stroke to have a large entity of other people who are also exceptional, doing things alongside you, and only have that opportunity because you created what you created.
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.