In this episode, I share a conversation with an extraordinary guest, Joey Vitale. Joey is a trademark attorney, and he’s also known as the brand legitimizer for online entrepreneurs, emerging thought leaders and creators. His approach to systematize a law firm is unique and highly valuable to learn from. He successfully cut down the client work to five hours a month or less.
We cover several topics in this episode, including lawyer mental health, business systemization, and Joey’s great lessons along his journey from a litigating attorney to a business owner.
Tune in to find out!
In this episode we discuss:
- Taking time to think about and seek a vision for what type of lawyer you want to be.
- The need for setting specific goals and understanding what meeting them looks like.
- The value in systematizing and dialing in the focus on the type of work your firm does.
- Getting to the point of letting go of being involved in everything.
- The power of entrusting members of your team to take ownership of their work.
- Accepting the fact that mistakes will be made, and mistakes can be fixed.
- Learning to stay out of the way and allowing your team to function without you.
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: [00:00:24] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams your Law Firm Mentor and I have a very special guest for the podcast this week, I am so excited to be able to bring you this guest and not for the usual reasons. Right. So you guys know that I’m committed to bringing you guys content, providers, assistance, support in the area of building, growing and sustaining a thriving and hypergrowth law firm. However, there are times where someone approaches me and I either learn about their story or I learn something about what they’re doing in their law firm that’s just super sexy. So one time we had Elise Buie on, who is the host of the Maximum Mom podcast. She’s actually also a former client of Law Firm Mentor and she had such amazing things going on in her law firm that I had to share them. But this is a situation where it is not just the amazing things that this particular lawyer is doing in his law firm, but also the approach that he is bringing to systematizing a law firm that I think is really, really unique as well as really valuable for you guys to learn from. So I am super, super excited to introduce you to the one and only Joey Vitale. So Joey Vitale is a trademark attorney and he’s also known as the brand Legitimizer for online entrepreneurs, emerging thought leaders and of course, creators.
Allison Williams: [00:01:52] With his law firm and his courses, Joey helps online business owners call legal dibs on their brand name and signature methods so they never have to worry about losing their brand overnight. Joey has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and has spoken all over the country to help business owners stay safe and stay thriving. And in this particular episode, we went so far off the beaten path, we were actually scheduled to talk about how to cut your legal work down to five hours a month or less, which he has done successfully and is actually getting that number down even lower. But we covered a lot of topics that were really just not on the agenda. So this episode is particularly near and dear to my heart because we cover things such as lawyer mental health. We talk about systematizing like McDonald’s, we talk about the beaten path from litigation and some of those foibles of being a litigating attorney to being a business owner and some of those lessons he learned along the way. So there’s a lot here. This was a deep episode. It went longer than our usual, but because there was so much value here, I decided not to cut it, but to share it all with you. And I am so humbly blessed to share with you now, my discussion with Joey Vitale. Joey Vitale, welcome to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast.
Joey Vitale: [00:03:13] Allison, I am a longtime listener. Love this show, so I’m just honored to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Allison Williams: [00:03:20] Oh, God, I’m so honored that you listen to the show and I’m so excited to talk to you because we’re talking about one of my favorite topics today, which is actually live life as a lawyer, a.k.a. how to reduce your client work to under five hours and a month. That’s your claim to fame. Yeah.
Joey Vitale: [00:03:37] And it’s it’s getting less and less, which is crazy.
Allison Williams: [00:03:41] I think it’s crazy, but I think it’s fascinating. And I know a lot of people that listen to this podcast are very much about that. That’s a goal that they have and they just don’t know how to get there. So we’re actually going to dive into some of those strategies. But before we do, I want to learn a little bit more about you. So first, what is it that motivated you to start your own law firm?
Joey Vitale: [00:03:59] Man, that’s a really good question. I wish I had, like a cool movie where the reason for getting into all of this… The truth is that it wasn’t so much a love for the law as it was the hatred of concrete, which is my my family business. And I was like, I am not loading another truck with construction equipment. And so my dad, when I was in college, was like, Joey, there are a couple of safe options for you after you graduate. You can join the family concrete business. You can go to law school. And your older sister was already a doctor. So that check box has already been checked off. So I decided to go to law school. Everybody told me it was a great, easy next step and you could do whatever you want with a law degree. I quickly realized that unless you have a particular thing that you want to do with a law degree law school, it just kind of shepherds us all in litigation work because that seems to be where the jobs are. So I tried that. And after two years after law school, of trying my best to be a courtroom attorney, I had to confront the reality that it just wasn’t in my personality. And I was actually moving from St. Louis to Chicago during that move, was having a lot of trouble finding a job here in Chicago. I didn’t really have any connections here, again, first generation lawyer as well. So I don’t I don’t know any of the names of the law firms in town. And so I was fortunate enough to connect with some friends and mentors who were lawyers in more of the startup space. And before I made the move, they said, hey, if you’re still looking for work, maybe we can just give you some hours while you’re looking and you can do this kind of work from wherever. And and that gave me the confidence to go out on my own.
Allison Williams: [00:05:59] Wow. So the first thing I have to comment on is the idea that you are not made to be a courtroom attorney because you have this beatific smile. And I’m sorry for all of you that are listening to you, listening to this podcast, like on an Apple or Stich or Spotify or wherever. And we do not have the video production. So you don’t get to see the beautiful smile that I get to see. But it’s not just your smile. It’s also your personality. You have a very warm, inviting, likable, engaging personality, kind of like just burst off of the page on social media. I’m really shocked by the idea that you’re that you perceive yourself as not made for the courtroom.
Joey Vitale: [00:06:34] I. Well, that’s actually a really good insight because it took me a while to realize the, more of the inner workings of being at a law firm and all of the work that goes around the type of litigation work, and the ability to kind of see both sides, but really argue one. And being more serious and handling depositions and things like that, and we joked earlier about me going by Joey, but not Joseph, but I had partners at the firm that I was working at, kind of pull me aside and say, like, hey, you are going to go by Joe or Joseph in the courtroom. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:07:22] Oh, God. OK, so this is these are the toxic stories that lead people to want to start going around law firms, the kind of policing the person to the point where you don’t have an identity. You are just one of the drones in the suits as opposed to the full expression of who you are, which you get to be when you own your own law firm.
Joey Vitale: [00:07:40] Yeah. And so for a long time and again, I say this kind of jokingly now, but I thought I was like the ugly duckling lawyer for two years. I was like I. It takes a lot for me not to smile, and I kind of feel like I stick out at bar association functions and stuff like that, and at the same time, people who are in transactional law seem kind of bored, like boring and I didn’t know that this, like there were fun areas of the law and fun pockets of really cool lawyers doing things like that. And so I, I felt like I had to change my personality, get more serious, you know, have like a side hustle baby as a graphic designer or something, as an outlet. And yeah, I, I will say and I know that you also, I’m not the first kind of lawyer to do what I do, working with creative professionals and doing stuff online. I am so grateful for the attorneys who have come before me, who have carved a place for themselves. And work in these kinds of industries because I know I experienced it easier seeing that other attorneys were successful in this space. And it’s it’s really cool to see more and more young attorneys see this as an opportunity for them too.
Allison Williams: [00:08:58] Yeah, you know, I agree with that. And there’s something very,,, There’s something very fulfilling about kind of sharing your your tragedies and your your past traumas with other people so that they actually can escape that before they have to go through that process of being in a law firm, not fitting in, not feeling like this is where you should be, not finding your people and then feeling almost forced into either the golden handcuffs of, great, I’m miserable, but now I’m making a living that supports my family. I don’t have a way out or the flip side, which is you kind of move from place to place because you realize you don’t fit and you can’t assimilate enough to actually be successful where you are. Yeah.
Joey Vitale: [00:09:36] Yeah, it’s. It’s. I can’t I’m just really thankful that not only are there other attorneys out there that that I was like, oh, that’s kind of a cool way to do this. But it’s been it’s been a real, like, honor and sense of fulfillment to see that there are clients out there. And in my case, business owners that see what makes me different is a real strength.
Allison Williams: [00:10:06] Yeah. And, you know, I would imagine, though, that because you have, you’ve gone through this path, right? You you went from one part of the country to another. You went from being an employee to being a business owner, and you went from a a stiffer, stodgier area of the law, we’ll say to being your true self in the practice, that you’ve learned a lot along the way. So what are some of those those key pillars, those things that you took away from your journey that you would share with with an attorney who’s kind of struggling with that? How do I get to my my best place? How do I get to my ownership?
Joey Vitale: [00:10:38] Yeah, well, I I’m not sharing anything that you don’t already know, Allison, especially as a coach. But I think that not enough lawyers and people in general take the time to really think about. What is the vision that you want for yourself and for your business and putting aside things that other people are saying that they’re chasing after and I don’t want to say that it’s a bad thing to say I want a million dollar a year law firm, but let’s reverse engineer that number instead of just picking it because it sounds cool. And then chasing it.
Allison Williams: [00:11:18] Yeah, you’d be surprised how many lawyers I talk to that when I ask them, it’s always the first question. Any time that someone gets on the phone with either me or one of my growth strategists, I’ll say, what is it that you want for your law firm? Magic wand. Here it is. You get to have what you want. What do you want? They’ll say, Oh, I think I want a million dollars. And then and then when I start asking more questions, OK, is that a million for the company? Is that a million for you? Is that gross? Is that that is that net of expenses? Is that net with expenses? Like what is the actual number? And then it’s kind of like the blank stare, right. Oh, I was supposed to like dial this in? Well, here’s the thing. You know, a million dollars in revenue with one hundred thousand dollars in profit, it’s not the same as a million dollars cash in your bank quite clearly. Right. So. And what do you want it for? Right.
Allison Williams: [00:12:05] Like some people. I think so many lawyers, they want it because they want the security of not having to think about making money. They don’t actually want, you know. I will talk to some true capitalists sometimes that are like I want to I want to see the world on fire and have my private jet. But a lot of us, we want to have a safety net. We want to have a retirement account. We want to have health insurance for our families. We don’t want to have to struggle for dollars. And so that million dollars represents security in a way that a lot of us don’t really think about until it’s pointed out. And then when you start asking, well, OK, well, all right. I give you all the money in the world that you want. You don’t have that issue anymore. What do you want to do with it? And it’s like, I don’t know, I’d like to not work 60 hours a week. OK, what is not sixty is not sixty. Fifty. Is it forty. Is it ten. Is it three. Is it one? And then you see like what do you mean. I could, I could work like less than 40 hours a week. Is that, is that like a thing? Right.
Joey Vitale: [00:13:02] Yeah. It’s so, and it’s so interesting because I think so many people either they fall into a common natural trap of just picking these goals, that people are just kind of setting with egos, with not a lot of thought to it, or they’re choosing a goal and a vision that is very negative. Of like, I just wanted to avoid financial struggle. I want to be able to make just enough to put food on the table. And they’re like, oh, if I make a million dollars, then I can meet these bare minimum things that I want for myself and I, I. It can be a really hard exercise, and I’m always learning and rediscovering certain things that I thought that I would want, that I don’t want. My my wife and I. I don’t share this very often. So Allison’s getting special treatment. Like, we don’t, we don’t have kids. We don’t plan on ever having kids. And that took a while for us to be like, no, like that is a that is a plan of ours and that should be a part of what our long term goals are, because that means that we don’t necessarily have to reach for things or have certain goals that other people with children do.
Allison Williams: [00:14:17] So I’ve got, we got to, we’ve got to pause there. Right. So I have to ask this question of a man, because I’m always curious about this. Right. There is a lot of pressure on women to define themselves by association with their role. Right. So you have a different status when you’re a wife. You have a different status when you’re a mother. You have a different status when you have been married, when you’re divorced. So I’m curious, like for for you as a man, was there any pushback or any judgment that you faced when you decided, I don’t want to create the traditional way of family. My family is my wife and I, and we will be in our life the way that we desire. And it’s not going to have children. It’s not going to have the traditional forms of legacy. What was that like for you?
Joey Vitale: [00:14:58] You know, it’s interesting. We don’t. So I have a pretty big family. And I think one of the, one of the positives to that in my particular case is that I have enough siblings who are having kids. So the grandparent, like my parents, are happy about being grandkids. You know, they can say something to me, but then they quickly realize that they’ve already got a bunch of other options and and some, and I also know that some people who aren’t really a part of my family, but just kind of think of that as a default. The times when they say, well, you should really think about it, because I’ve never been happier than when I had so and so I know what they’re coming from a place of wanting what’s best for me, the people who are really close to both Kat and I. And again, I’m just I’m feeling like a really like a blanket around this conversation. So I love that I can just be be really transparent here. But for reasons that I have a feeling I’ll get into later in this episode, I’ve gone through quite a bit of anxiety experiences that were, that were pretty extreme at the time, and my wife is no stranger to issues like those either, and so there have been times when we’ve been a part of family and friends having complications with family or watch movies, and we just look at each other and be like. Our bodies cannot handle this.
Allison Williams: [00:16:29] Yeah, well, first of all, I want to just honor you for admitting that because I watched you, I kind of live on social media now because that’s where I meet a lot of my clients. And I saw a post the other day that really struck at the core where someone was saying that they hadn’t heard from a lawyer in a long time and they figured that that was as a result of covid. And then they later learned that this person kind of spiraled down and ultimately fell into a depression, developed an alcohol problem, started getting bar complaints. And then they were they were trying to save their career. And I think so many lawyers experienced some form of maladjustment. I mean, this this profession breeds maladjustment, by the way that we are treated in society, the way that we treat each other, almost by definition of what we are doing. And there is so much to be said for owning that. That’s a very real part of this, because if you don’t own it, you can’t do anything about it. And then we kind of push people into the dark shadows of having any type of mental health disruption. And then, you know, it’s so much harder to actually solve the problem. So just just acknowledging the fact that you have anxiety I think is huge.
Joey Vitale: [00:17:41] Yeah, it I. I think that lawyers have a particularly heavy burden that we have to carry. I think it’s it’s the case for, I think every business service provider, but particularly attorneys, we have to carry the stress of our clients on our shoulders. And and that was a big, that was a big thing. The more that I started to feel that weight as the owner of the business, but also the sole attorney at the time, at least, was. It’s it’s not… I realized it wasn’t good for me and ultimately wasn’t good for my clients, for me to be walking around most of the week, feeling that way myself, instead of having it more effectively handled by teams and processes.
Allison Williams: [00:18:39] Yeah, so let’s talk a little bit more about that, because you, of course, you started on your own, but now there’s many more of you who are some some some enneagram of you. Right. And you again, we went through this process where you learned a lot along the way. So in thinking about where you are now and the people that you’ve assembled around you now, how is your life now? Like we’re going to actually talk about kind of the how to get there. But also, I really want to jump ahead to the punch line, because that’s kind of how we roll. So, like, what is it like now that you have all of these people around you to share the weight of what was a really a crushing emotional burden of having your clients’ problems and their stress on your shoulders for you to absorb on their behalf?
Joey Vitale: [00:19:26] Yeah, it’s it I mean, it feels amazing. I think it feels amazing across the board because we really have built an assembly line around the kind of work that we do. So that sense of responsibility really is shared. And there’s not one person on my team who is particularly stressed. I think the what was probably one of my best hires or at least role fulfillments on the team is the person now who is closest to client communication. She has a background in psychology and she’s just a naturally very kind but level headed person. So. At least 10 times more so than me, she can receive feedback that’s constructive or frustrating or whatever and deal with it objectively without losing any sleep over that client not being totally satisfied.
Allison Williams: [00:20:29] Yeah, so you can put that in such a nice way that that constructive feedback. Let’s call it what it is. She can deal with the crazies. Right. She can deal with those that shows off grid because their email was at five o one instead of five o’clock and they’re like flipping out for no reason. And calling names.
Joey Vitale: [00:20:45] And she doesn’t even view it as craziness. She doesn’t even attach that emotional label to it, which is, I think, what makes it so effective for her to be in the role. Yeah.
Allison Williams: [00:20:57] Yeah, so what was that? So so what is her title? Is she like a client concierge? Is she a customer service?
Joey Vitale: [00:21:04] She’s got a couple of different roles. So her her biggest role in the team is our lead of fulfillment. So she we. We communicate with our clients solely through Practice Portal, and so inside that client portal, she is she has a team under her that is monitoring that to make sure that no messages get escaped. But she is, is reviewing all incoming messages and approving all messages before they get sent out.
Allison Williams: [00:21:36] Wow. So this sounds like factory like precision here.
Joey Vitale: [00:21:40] Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because before I started my own firm, I was trying to do the whole like, end of year, CLE marathon kind of sprint. And there was this one CLE that I’ll never forget about. But it was it was an attorney who talked about how he created a bankruptcy law firm because he came… Before he even went out and started the firm he came up with a process to kind of McDonalds systematize that process. And when I started my firm and I was helping business owners out. I don’t know what that system is yet, but if there is a way for us to find a way of helping clients, at scale, where there is a system and a process and then we can add like our core value flavoring on top of it. That’s what I want to do. And so I I hope that I’m keeping these stories as short as I can, but it took about a year after we launched our law firm to realize that if we focused on trademark applications. And created a volume firm around that, then we could get rid of things like contract review drafting and various LLC complications, which could really speed up and minimize issues with our client base.
Allison Williams: [00:23:12] Yeah, well, so here’s the thing. I love that you’re, that you have an angle that we need to keep it as short as possible. But here’s the thing. People learn from the lessons right? And the lessons that you’re sharing, I think, are the sexy stuff that really inspire people, because if you can tell the average law firm owner, hey, you can McDonalds systematize your business, they would look at you like you have two heads and they would say, no, I can’t do that in fill in the blank area of law. Right. That’s like an idiot, right? I’m the special snowflake. It doesn’t work for me. Right. And you saw a bankruptcy attorney and said, hey, I want to do this thing over here with trademarks. But if bankruptcy can do it, trademark law can do it, too. And you then said, I don’t see the way, but I know the way exists because I have a desire for it. So how do I get myself there? And then you started allowing your mind to see possibility.
Joey Vitale: [00:24:01] Yeah, I think and I will say, too, I think that it it takes some creativity and it takes some heart being in the right place. It took about a year of my firms, you know, bringing in clients. I didn’t do business law before I started. So I had mentors and stuff who were helping me. But I was very much learning on the fly. And after doing that work for about a year, I said, OK, out of all of the types of ways that I’m helping my clients right now. If I could Venn diagram this, what, what, what where is the overlap, where it’s something the clients really need, whether they don’t want or not, that’s really high value, that’s easy to systematize where we can do what we can to ensure a really great client experience around. And so at that point we were, and in terms of cash flow projections and things that could make it easier, because I know you’ve done with enough lawyers to know that the the fewer items that are on your McDonald’s menu, the easier it is to make those projections. Yeah, so now that we know on average when we get a new client, that means about two thousand dollars, it’s much easier to do the math. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:25:23] And the minutiae that for all of the lawyers out there that are like they hate me because I fill out the spreadsheets. I have a lot of clients that love me, but they hate me when they see me pull out the spreadsheet. (I’m sure.) I’m like five thousand things on your spreadsheet means cutting your time in half. (Yes.) And then when you cut your time in half, you can either double your business instantaneously because you have the same amount of time, but you’re doing twice the work. Or you can save the time and make the same amount of money and work half as much. Right. And so those economies of scale, like they really come when you start, like, living in the systems.
Joey Vitale: [00:25:57] Yeah, totally. It’s totally true. And I. Yeah. So it was about our second year that we made the switch from going more of like an everything but the kitchen sink business law firm to a trademark specific law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:26:14] Yeah. So let’s now talk a little bit about the fact that you are now at less than five hours a month of legal work. OK, so first, first let’s let’s draw the picture. First of all, how many people are in your law firm and how many lawyers are lawyering, in your law firm?
Joey Vitale: [00:26:29] Good question. So there’s about nine or ten of us total. None of them are full time. We’ve got three VAs overseas on an administrative basis, and then we have, like our leadership team is filled out so that I’m, I’m the visionary, the CEO of the firm, we’ve got a COO or integrator who’s underneath me, and then we have four different departments. And as of this quarter, I don’t lead any of the departments anymore.
Allison Williams: [00:27:10] Congratulations!
Joey Vitale: [00:27:12] So, yeah, to me, it’s a huge value for me is time freedom, not just because I want to be able to travel and take time off. And today I felt tired, so I took a nap for an hour and a half, like, that’s great. But it’s so much more to me than just like I value time because that gives me time back. I really do think that the. And I heard someone say this, especially in a law firm setting, the the more your law firm depends on you, the less your law firm is worth. Yeah.
Allison Williams: [00:27:50] Yeah, absolutely,
Joey Vitale: [00:27:51] And I have really taken that to heart because it’s it’s not just bragging rights about, oh, I only work this much for my business. It’s no, this is a really good sign that my business is in good shape. If I can if I can step away from it, if certain people in my team can step away from it for weeks at a time and everything is still running.
Allison Williams: [00:28:10] Yeah. And the interesting thing about that is that the fact that we talk about CEOs and when we talk about CEOs in the context of a law firm, I think a lot of lawyers think of that is I’m the head manager. They don’t they don’t really distinguish that. There’s a layer on top of being a manager, like a true CEO is not managing. A true CEO is leading. Yes. So they’re they’re process implementing. They’re, they’re visionary, they’re vision casting. They’re setting the tone for the business, for their verticals.
Joey Vitale: [00:28:41] I love that you’re saying this because I talked with my team this quarter, last quarter about this idea that I said, you guys, my my goal as being the visionary is to only be running the law firm three months into the future and beyond. You guys handle the day to day, you handle getting everything done that needs to get done this quarter and I’ll create what’s coming up next.
Allison Williams: [00:29:10] Yeah. So how did you get to the point where you could let go of being involved? Because there are so many lawyers that have this idea that, you know, as soon as I, the anal retentive control freak that I am, take my eyes off the ball and entrust someone else, even if I trained them, even if they have great credentials, even if they care about the business as much as I do, as soon as I let go and let them do something, they’re going to screw up my reputation. I’m going to get a grievance, know I’m not supervising appropriately. Like, how did you, how did you actually make that true severance and say, I’m just going to be a CEO?
Joey Vitale: [00:29:43] Yeah, the the truth is I had to experience it. So this goes back to the whole anxiety issues thing a little after I hit the year anniversary mark of starting the law firm, I had a pretty weird panic attack. I was sent to the E.R., they gave me medicine. I started having worse and worse panic attacks and I ended up being in the hospital for over two weeks.
Allison Williams: [00:30:15] Oh, wow.
Joey Vitale: [00:30:16] With zero heads up to myself, my family or my team. And I’m. I’ll dive into that for a second, because I think that that’s important. There were times while I was at the hospital when I would wake up with more clarity and energy than most of the time that I was there, and I would be aware enough to realize I was at the hospital, that my family who doesn’t live where I live, was in the room with me. So something must have been really serious. And I was just I was worried about what was happening with me, I was worried about what was happening with my family and then immediate was like, oh my gosh, I also have a business that I’m running, what’s going on? And. My my wife and my family just kept telling me, like, I don’t know how you found the people that you found, but they’re taking care of everything. And I learned a couple of things through that experience. I learned number one that trust really has to be just given not earned. I’m not I’m not saying everybody should just go run right now and give your team like your Social Security number. But I do think that our culture shifted fundamentally, once that happened, because there was this sense that they all stepped up, did what they had to do to take care of stuff and when. When you’re creating a culture where there is just a benefit of the doubt, until people give you a reason to question your trust, then I think it makes people want to step up even more.
Allison Williams: [00:32:02] Yeah. Oh, my God. This is such powerful stuff because this idea of letting you know that people don’t step up until you allow them to step up like I mean, your circumstance gave them the space to show you what they were made of.
Joey Vitale: [00:32:17] Yeah. There was someone who’s on my team now. She. She came to me highly recommended from somebody, and then as we were working together, I saw that she was having some issues as an assistant with some other colleagues and. Fast forward a couple of years, I recommend her to a lawyer friend of mine and they’re now working together and my my lawyer friend was like, how did you find her? She is incredible. And I was like, well. Honestly, you might not have been as pleased with her years ago, and it’s, I don’t want to say that I take credit for all the growth there, but it’s because of the foundation that was created at that point where we’re we’re co creating what her stepping up on my team means. And I don’t think that she got to experience that at many other places as a team member of another business.
Allison Williams: [00:33:26] Yeah, you know, that is so true because my firm has now eight attorneys. And one of the things that that we see is that sometimes there’s a misfit. There’s a good, talented person, but they don’t work well with one lawyer, but they work exceptionally well with someone else. Or I remember when when I first got myself out of doing legal work, I gave my my prized possession, if you will, my my right hand, my lead paralegal and one of the attorneys that came to work at my office, she’s like, well, she’s OK. And I said, well, there’s something wrong with you if you think that. She she walks on water. Right. So where’s the disconnect? And really, the difference is that people respond to energy. So with if energy says I trust you implicitly, go get it done. And if you don’t know how to get it done and you make a mistake, that’s OK, because I would have made the same mistake. I just would have done it at four hundred dollars an hour or five hundred dollars an hour. Six hundred dollars an hour. You did it at thirty dollars or forty dollars or fifty dollars an hour. So we’re all human. We all make mistakes. Go fix it and come back. And then that person rises up to another level. Yes, but when you have lawyers that clamp down and say, you know, I will only give you this one little discreet thing that is below your ability, below your skill set, below your intellect, and I will micromanage it and oversee it. And then when it’s perfect, I will eventually trust you to do it with a little bit less of my micromanaging. What that person does is that person becomes like a dull bleep, right? They can’t cut any more because you’ve taken away their edge. You’ve taken their necessity of thinking for themselves and their their ability to contribute. And nobody wants to live in a world where they’re not contributing. I don’t care what their job.
Joey Vitale: [00:35:09] I love I love the way you said that. And I’ll I’ll add to that. It’s what’s really interesting and I’ve learned about this in terms of leadership and performance, but it really applies here. Behind every complaint that you make, especially as a business owner. There is a benefit and a payoff to that complaint. And I see so many law firm owners, understandably complaining about it being hard to find good work these days and who can you trust and how can you trust these people? But if we’re really honest with ourselves. There is a good feeling around that complaint of. I am good, I trust myself, and whenever we give those kinds of complaints, it does boost our egos. And are we willing to let that go for the sake of the business being more effective,
Allison Williams: [00:36:12] If only we would let go of our egos? Yeah. And, you know, here’s kind of the paradox, right? Because you escaped litigation because it wasn’t for you. But the hardest thing that litigators have is the fact that our ego is necessary. And it’s a very critical piece of our being able to walk into a courtroom. I’m going to just put it out there with your dick on display, with your your bravado in the air and the I’m going to get what I want energy. Right. And you bring that because of your ego and the fact that you could get knocked down. Your ego says, well, I’m not going to get knocked down because I’m the best. Having that and then coming into your office and saying there’s no place for that here, that that place, that ego has to be put into a box until I need it for my litigation moment. But in this moment when I’m a leader, I have to be humble. I have to allow people to be their best selves. I have to not be the smartest one in the room. And those two energies are completely incompatible.
Joey Vitale: [00:37:10] Yeah. You know, I found that it. So I’m a philosophy undergraduate major, and one of the things that philosophy professors love to do is throw like they throw Plato at you and you fall in love with Plato and you’re like, this guy’s a genius. And then they throw the other guy at you who’s the opposite of Plato and you’re like, wait, he’s smart too. Who’s right? And so it’s a really cool exercise of like which arm of philosophy is your favorite? And one of my favorite philosophy groups, which is pretty interesting, too, because they were they really were formed. We’re here in the US, is this idea of pragmatism, and creating values that are flexible and in the moment that you can pivot to. And so that’s an interesting example as far as a litigation attorney, how can you value being effective and useful in whatever situation you’re in as the ultimate value? So if that if that means turning up the ego because that’s more effective for your client. Great. If that means turning up the servant leadership so that you’re more effective in your team. Awesome.
Allison Williams: [00:38:21] Yeah, well, I think that’s really goes back to what we started with, which is the idea of having those systems like those McDonald’s precise systems. Because if you don’t have the space to be able to practice, this is a muscle. A lot of us are on autopilot. And when you cram 80, 90 hours a week of work into a week onto a human, there’s no time for them to even think about pivoting their energies between what’s going to make the most effective in the moment. They’re like, I’m just going to be the best me and the best me might be the litigator or the best me might be the humble or whatever it is. But you don’t get to really think about strategically where am I going to put myself on this on this conundrum here? This is this long line. And so I think a lot of lawyers struggle with that because they don’t create the space that you were able to create in your business.
Joey Vitale: [00:39:10] Ok, and speaking of the space, let’s go there next, because I know that’s what you want to get to. Again, before I get there, I want to give everybody a little more context of why I made the decisions that I made going back to the panic attacks episode. Once I came back, I was in outpatient therapy and the doctors told me, Joey, we think you’re going to be fine. You’ve recovered really quickly, we’ve identified that most of the problem was you have this very rare reaction against medications like Xanax and others that we typically used to treat anxiety attacks. That’s why they were getting worse and worse. But nonetheless, you went through a very traumatic experience that’s going to take a while for your brain to rewire itself and for it not to get triggered by things. So we know that you run a business. Our prescription for you is to do what you can to build a stress free business. Especially around sleep and do what you can do so that you’re not thinking about this when you go to bed at night. Because I was tending to have kind of freak outs and flare ups around like nightmares that were really scary that I would think were real life kinds of thing. And so for for me, I was like that, that means that I have to get out of the client side more because, I don’t know about you, Allison, but it was really easy for me to stay up at night or to have weird dreams or just to be thinking about what a certain client said or what the status was on the file, or did I forget X, Y, Z. And so. So that was, that that was the reasoning why I eventually got down to to five hours or less of work a month.
Allison Williams: [00:41:08] Your doctor made you do it. I love it.
Joey Vitale: [00:41:10] Yeah. And and it was every quarter my team and I looked at, OK, we’ve narrowed down to trademarks. Clients are only communicating with us through this client portal. Do we think by the end of this quarter? Joey doesn’t have to be the one to ever log in to the client portal. And can we create a spreadsheet so that if if all of the searches and applications that have to be reviewed by an attorney at the time, I was the only attorney. I’ll review those separately without having to log in to anywhere. I’ll just have direct links so that I can just review and approve work that the team has done before it gets sent out. And if any clients are sending questions or bringing up concerns that my team doesn’t have an answer to, instead of saying, Joey there’s a question for you in the portal, they say, Joey, here’s the question. What’s the answer? So I was very much removed from the Facebook feed version of talking with clients. And. Maybe two or three quarters went by and then I realized, you know what, I can start to have my team of nonlawyers doing more of this work that I can then review, which will take time off. And then it got to a point where I was working maybe 20 hours or 10 hours a month of client work. And that’s when I had the idea of what if I got a part time attorney, who was in my space doing trademarks, was a couple of chapters behind me in terms of the business and client base that they wanted for themselves and saying, hey, I would love for you to join the team. I would love to give you coaching every month. You can hop on a coaching call with me and we’ll look at your business.
Joey Vitale: [00:43:09] And I’ll give you complete access to all of our processes and things, and you can steal whatever you want to help your clients. And I want you to be logging into this spreadsheet. Every morning for like 10 minutes a day and just reviewing the work so I don’t have to be doing the searches in the applications, I’ll still handle the questions. And so I found someone willing to do that. She’s incredible. And because there was value on both sides, you know, coaching can get expensive. So I said, I will offer all of this for you and I’ll pay you like four hundred dollars a month.
Allison Williams: [00:43:48] Wow.
Joey Vitale: [00:43:49] And on her side, it was four hundred dollars a month for like 10 hours a month, so she was like, yeah, sign me up and I can talk to you and I can bring difficult questions of my own clients. And so that started about a year ago. And then a month or two ago, we brought on our second part time attorney on a similar basis. Wow. So now we’re promoting the other part time attorney to handling the escalated questions more and then this other person is going to do this work. And so I’m saying this because I don’t know how much of this is totally switchable to a different practice area. But that was the thought process of, OK, once once we start to really get clear an outline and bullet point the different steps of the process that I’m involved in, how can we chip away at those and either elevate existing team members or bring other attorneys on at very, very part time levels and just get that ratio cranked up slowly over time?
Allison Williams: [00:44:49] Yeah. So when you ask the question about or when you make the statement, I’m not sure if this is applicable to other practice areas. You said that, but then you kind of gave a distilled version of the thought process, which really is applicable to other areas, which is decide what you want. Right. That’s always the first thing. So you wanted less time working on the client work and you wanted more time to be done, more of the legal work to be done by non lawyers, with the non legal work. Right. So so then there is the OK, I got the conception of what I want. How do I create that? And then you design a hypothesis. Right. And you try and test. It’s the same thing that we do. It’s everything that we do in business. Right. It’s it’s creating. Yeah. And it’s creating it in a way that serves us
Joey Vitale: [00:45:38] And very, very rarely. And I only say that. Maybe never. But I’ll be safer and say very rarely have has our firm ever made a mistake with the client that we weren’t able to recover from. I think that the truth is that, if, if you do make a mistake, if you own up to it. And you apologize and make it right and move forward with next steps, clients, in my experience, don’t care as much about the shock and awe package. They don’t care as much about it completely being smooth sailing. What they care about most is having a low effort experience. And if you can resolve mistakes that are made without putting a lot of work on their end to fix it, they don’t care that much.
Allison Williams: [00:46:39] Yeah, and, you know, for lawyers for our part of it, it really is having the faith that says, I know that right now I’m making mistakes. Right. Some of them don’t get caught. Some of them some of them are controlled around. So I’ll stay until 11, 12, one o’clock in the morning to make sure that I don’t make that mistake or that I fix that mistake. But I can have both the quality of life and a reasonable degree of error, because every business has a reasonable degree of error, whether you own that or not. There is some stuff under the hood of every business in America because there are humans in every business in America. And if you can accept that and just sit with the discomfort of it and allow yourself to reduce the risk by creating all of the efficiency that you can, you can have both a quality of life with the with the affluence and abundance that you want, as well as creating something where you are creating jobs for people that want to do the things that you don’t enjoy. There are people that love logging in and checking those applications. That’s there zen. That’s their that’s their sexy, intellectually stimulating thing. And you’re giving that to them. You’re not taking something away from yourself. You’re actually giving to another person.
Joey Vitale: [00:47:49] Yeah, I, I have learned that I’m a pretty like a motion forward person, and one time I was I was coached on some struggles that I was having about feeling like I was carrying too much because that was causing stress. And a takeaway that I got from that coaching is this idea of the ultimate. The ultimate goal of being, I’ll say it this way. The ultimate way of being successful and happy and effective is to care about everything and nothing at the same time.
Allison Williams: [00:48:42] Oh, my God, there’s brilliance in that.
Joey Vitale: [00:48:47] Right?
Allison Williams: [00:48:47] There’s such brilliance in that.
Joey Vitale: [00:48:49] And and how can you balance both? How can you both say, yeah, these are mistakes and we want to do what’s best for our clients and we’re getting better. And, no negative circumstances of the business are going to affect me because I know that eventually we’ll figure them out. It’ll be fine.
Allison Williams: [00:49:08] Yeah, well, that’s really the thought management and so much of managing anxiety is managing our thoughts. Right. Managing our thoughts about the future projected catastrophe that we don’t have in front of us, but that we are assuming is going to come from being less than perfect.
Joey Vitale: [00:49:25] Yeah. And, you know. One of the immediate goals once I started this idea of scaling and processes was what can I do to work less so the business is more effective and I can take more time off. That’s quickly blended into this next issue that our company is working on of, it not just me, but how can one of my big assistants take maternity leave and we know who fills into her role when she’s gone. And part of the reason why we brought on this second part time attorney was because when my other part time attorney understandably had to take time off for a while and I had to go back into that part of the business. There I was logging into the client portal and noticing things that weren’t really problems. But like I was noticing them and creating little wrinkles and random Slack messages that was throwing the rest of my team off saying, hey, can we fix this? No one responded to this person. And they were correcting me like Joey, like we already handled that, like whatever. And it it just goes back to like. What I’m now learning is I have to be able to benefit and have the payoff of designing a team that now works better when I’m not in the trenches.
Allison Williams: [00:51:02] This reminds me, I’m going to tell this quick little story and then we’re going to, we’re going to wrap for the day. So my office administrator was once my paralegal Jasmine. And Jasmine is kind of like the walks on water type human, right. So I remember one day I came into the office and like a client stopped by the office, like randomly on a Saturday. So the door bells were ringing and I’m like, who’s that? So I go and I’m in jeans and a T-shirt or whatever, and I greet the person and they’re like, oh, you own the firm. I was like, yeah, I do. I’m in jeans and a T-shirt because you’re not supposed to be here, but welcome. So they tell me what they need and I help them and then I send them on their way and they left some paperwork. So I messaged one of my attorneys and said, so-and-so dropped off some paperwork. I’m leaving it in this location, which then triggered the person to message me back and say, oh, my God, is the such and such there. And then so basically I then got involved with kind of what is the document? Where, did she include everything that she needed to. Making sure that the client had dropped off everything.
Allison Williams: [00:52:05] And then, of course, I am trying to be helpful. So I scan everything and I decide to email it to the attorney, which then sent the attorney into a tizzy of, oh, my God, the client didn’t drop off this. Now, meanwhile, we have a whole system for how clients give documents to our office. Our paralegal had already taken care of all these things. But because I, over here, I’m being helpful in giving out bits and pieces of information, I caused all of this toxic terror. The associate comes in over the weekend. She messages the paralegal. The paralegal’s been working. And I’m like, well, you know, we don’t put our staff to work on the weekend. That’s like a labor violation. So let’s stop it. And Jasmine was like, didn’t I tell you you’re not allowed to interact? It’s like, go sit down somewhere. And she literally told me, she’s like you are the problem. Just go sit down somewhere.
Joey Vitale: [00:52:53] I know. I mean, we talk about these goals that we have of wanting to, like, be on the beach and be on vacation, all of these things. But we have to enjoy while we’re there. I, I, I have. I’ve seen my dad. For a while, he wasn’t allowed to go on vacation with us. Just because he wouldn’t actually enjoy the time off. He would get super restless, he would make a bunch of calls, he would do whatever. And I think it’s… There’s a badge of honor that I think we’ve been conditioned to not want to take off.
Allison Williams: [00:53:26] Yeah, that’s one of the toxic terrors of this culture, right. Always be working is kind of the mantra. That’s where you get your value from. Yeah. (Yeah.) So we’re not going to do that because we have shared with everyone the secrets to only working five hours or less a month on legal work. And of course, I am so thrilled that I got to have this conversation with you, Joey. I was expecting a very short three question, very concise conversation, and it went in so many valuable places. I know our audience is going to love you as much as I do. So I first of all, I want to just thank you for being you. Thank you for sharing who you are with the world. I know our clients are going to get a lot of, a lot out of it, as will our audience. And, you know, you’re just such a golden asset.
Joey Vitale: [00:54:10] Thank you. Thank you, Allison. And actually, can can I ask for one more thing? Sure. For any for anybody who’s listening, whether this is your first episode or like me, you’ve listened to a bunch of webisodes before. If you have not left a review on this podcast yet, please go ahead and do so. I, I now know how much it means as somebody with a podcast to see those reviews come in. So it would really, really make Allison’s day if you left one for her.
Allison Williams: [00:54:38] Oh it would. And now Joey’s angling to get the golden gift that we send out to our podcast guests as of today. So thank you everyone for listening. Thank you Joey, for being who you are and being our wonderful guest today. And everyone, thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor everyone. Have a wonderful day.
Allison Williams: [00:55:16] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests 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, and join the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firm and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day.
Joey Vitale is a trademark attorney (also known as a “brand legitimizer”) for online entrepreneurs, emerging thought leaders, and course creators. With his law firm and his courses, Joey helps online business owners call legal dibs on their brand name and signature methods so they never have to worry about losing their brand overnight. Joey has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and has spoken all over the country to help business owners stay safe and thriving.
Company name: Indie Law
Phone number: +13143301470
Twitter Username: @joeycvitale
Instagram username: @joeycvitale
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, 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 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.
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00:27:27 (56 Seconds)
Joey Vitale: But it’s so much more to me than just like I value time because that gives me time back. I really do think that the. And I heard someone say this, especially in a law firm setting, the the more your law firm depends on you, the less your law firm is worth. Yeah.
Allison Williams: Yeah, absolutely,
Joey Vitale: And I have really taken that to heart because it’s it’s not just bragging rights about, oh, I only work this much for my business. It’s no, this is a really good sign that my business is in good shape. If I can if I can step away from it, if certain people in my team can step away from it for weeks at a time and everything is still running.
Allison Williams: Yeah. And the interesting thing about that is that the fact that we talk about CEOs and when we talk about CEOs in the context of a law firm, I think a lot of lawyers think of that is, I’m the head manager. They don’t, they don’t really distinguish that. There’s a layer on top of being a manager, like a true CEO is not managing. A true CEO is leading.