Is it October already? Seeing as the holidays are quickly approaching, it seemed appropriate to replay an episode from December 2020.
This episode is one that I think you're going to get plenty of value out of because even though the topic is sabbatical, and you may or may not have even thought about the possibility, let alone the desire of taking a sabbatical.
Freedom to be able to take a sabbatical implicates a lot of different moving pieces in a law firm. I want to go over some of the key things that you have to do in order to achieve that sabbatical so that whether you want to have one for yourself or not, you can step freely away from your business for an extended amount of time knowing that the business will still run without you.
In this episode we discuss:
- Contemplating the possibility of being able to take time away from your law firm.
- A list of specific things you absolutely need in place to be able to have your firm run without you and continue to generate income.
- Understanding your marketing approach and your client avatar.
- Having a successful intake process in place.
- The importance of having clearly defined roles for who does what.
- Managing money and reporting systems.
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, everyone, welcome to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, and I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. And today's episode is one that I think you're going to get a lot of value out of, because even though the topic is sabbatical and you may or may not have even thought about the possibility, let alone the desire of taking a sabbatical. If you have thought about your business as a business and you've started to conceptualize all the different things that you can do, owning a business instead of a practice instead of a job, then the freedom to be able to take a sabbatical implicates a lot of different moving pieces in a law firm. And I want to go over some of the key things that you have to do in order to achieve that sabbatical so that whether you want to have one for yourself or not, you can step freely away from your business for an extended amount of time knowing that the business will still run without you. So first, just a little context for this, I was I was playing on Facebook recently, that's kind of like the place that I oftentimes hang out because I'm often in our Facebook group community, the Law Firm Mentor Movement. And it wasn't in our community, but as I was going to our community, someone tagged me in a post and it was about taking a sabbatical.
Allison Williams: [00:01:45] And I thought that was interesting because, you know, even though I have a law firm now, a multimillion dollar law firm that only requires about five hours of my week to run it, normally people know that I love to work and I love to work so much that when I got my Law Firm to only requiring five hours of my week, I essentially said, OK, this is for the birds. I'm going crazy not having anything to do.
Allison Williams: [00:02:10] I started a whole separate business coaching lawyers on how to grow law firms. But at the time I, I kind of marveled at the idea that I really got my law firm to a place where I could, you know, where it could run without me. And I think that there is, from various different sources, I kind of came into that awareness that that was possible. I mean, certainly you have people telling you it's possible. And no matter what company you work with, no matter what adviser you have, a lot of people will be able to give you kind of tips... Tips and tricks of how to be able to go on sabbatical or take or even just take extended time off. Right. People have reasons to take time off, whether it's an illness in the family or it could be maternity leave or it could be an aging parent that you want to spend time with in their last years.
Allison Williams: [00:03:03] You know, whatever causes you to want to take time off, we all are human at some point. Life is going to require us to take time away from the daily grind. And so I personally have never chosen to take a sabbatical, but I've had the freedom to in many different ways and in fact have functionally been at my business, but completely unnecessary for an extended period of time. So I know what that is to create that. And there are a lot of pieces that go with it that people don't often contemplate. So in essence, the freedom to be able to take a sabbatical is something that I spoke about recently that I shared with a big group. And it was a very, very popular post. I mean, I want to say that, like within two or three hours I had like 50 likes on this very long comment that I left on social media.
Allison Williams: [00:03:55] So I thought, well, you know, one of the things that I'm always looking to do here at Law Firm Mentor, and particularly for the podcast, is to share with you guys the things that I know that you're not just interested in, but things that are going to give you real value that you can implement right away to start to see a transformation in the business of your law firm. So with that, I'm going to turn now and I'm going to share with you what I shared with the group about how to take a sabbatical without having to check into your law firm. So in essence, the punch line is where we start and then we take ourselves a step back and we actually go into the how to. OK, so in order to have a law firm that runs without you, completely without you, which is really what a sabbatical implies. Sabbatical implies you're going to be essentially out of work for whatever period of time. Now, I'm not talking about how you can hand off all your cases to someone else and go not practice.
Allison Williams: [00:04:56] I think most people can figure out how to do that. It basically means you just stop functionally operating. But that, of course, implies that you are independently wealthy or willing to reduce your income for the period of time that you're going to be away. So this is really not geared toward that. This is really geared toward the people that want to be earning an income, want to have the same, if not more income come into the business and essentially have the business continue as if the owner was not there over the period of time that the owner is not there. Ok, so what this means is, in essence, you have to have every division of your law firm operationalized without the owner's involvement.
Allison Williams: [00:05:42] Ok, so for those of you that have been listening to this for a period of time, I know some of you listen to me in the morning when you're getting ready and some of you listen in in the car, maybe some of you listen while you're working out if you can. I want you to stop, grab a pen and pad and get ready to take some notes, because this is, this episode is not high level strategy mindset. All of those things are necessary. We certainly talk about those things a lot here at Law Firm Mentor. But today is the specific things that you absolutely need and it is kind of a checklist for you.
Allison Williams: [00:06:14] Ok, so number one, you need to have leads and prospects for your law firm, generated through various marketing channels offline and online so that the right client avatar is drawn to your firm. And that also requires that your paid vendors are going to consistently report and distill information relative to your firm goals for lead generation to a designated team member. OK, so that was a very abbreviated statement, but there's a lot there. So this is in the area of marketing. You need to have leads and prospects for your firm generated from various marketing channels. OK, we've talked about this before.
Allison Williams: [00:06:55] You need to diversify your marketing to make sure that you're not reliant upon one source, because as we now know, life happens, algorithms change, people retire, move on, create new relationships. You don't ever want to be beholden to one form of marketing as you are building your business. So you want to have various channels and you want to have offline and online, which means even though we have moved a lot of things online, especially since covid-19 has ravaged the US, it is also very important to know that we are still a human society. We still interact with each other in human form. So even as we might be doing things online, people are still going to gather and assemble.
Allison Williams: [00:07:39] And you're going to want to have the option of being able to take advantage of some of those traditional forms of marketing, such as lawyer to lawyer networking, lawyer to business person networking, and other forms of lead generation.
Allison Williams: [00:07:56] Ok, you also want to have the right client avatar, right? Your marketing generating people to call your law firm is not valuable, if those people are not the people you want to work with, the people who are in need of your service, eligible for your service and able to afford your service. So you want to make sure that you get that ideal person into the frame of reference for every person who's doing marketing on behalf of your firm, whether it's a paid vendor, an attorney who works in your office, or a team member who works in your office or even you interpersonally networking. And then, of course, with paid vendors, you want to make sure that they are distilling information for you and reporting it. And one of the things that we cover at marketing for the Masters, which is one of our signature business retreats, is all about how to how to create a marketing plan that will drive consistent recurring revenue.
Allison Williams: [00:08:49] But one major piece of that is working with online vendors, and that really is knowing what questions to ask and knowing how to ensure that they're not talking to you about things that are categorically less important or unimportant relative to the things that really drive the revenue in your law firm. So in other words, one of the things I talk about a lot in Marketing For The Masters is how useless impressions are, right. Impressions are eyes on your marketing message. That is not the same as an actual lead, someone who needs your service. Right?
Allison Williams: [00:09:24] If I am driving past a billboard that is marketing real estate transactions and I am not in the market for real estate, I am not a lead. Right. I'm an impression because I have the opportunity to consume that message, but I didn't have the need for that service, so it was completely irrelevant for me. So you get a lot of marketers out there that will try to sell you based on the number of quote unquote impressions. They will get you in front of... Oh we can get you 10,000 impressions. Well, that doesn't really matter if nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine of them are people that don't need my service. So you really have to understand the lingo, if you will, of marketing in order to have substantive, important conversations.
Allison Williams: [00:10:07] But once you have those conversations, your marketing vendors really should be educating you. You should be in partnership with them so that as they are talking about what is happening on the back end of whatever portal, they are maintaining information in, whether it's Google analytics or or even a lot of them will have their own portals, their own dashboard for you. You want to make sure that you understand that information. So if not you as the owner, someone in your team needs to be receiving that information and making sure that you're holding your vendors accountable.
Allison Williams: [00:10:37] And all of this needs to be happening again without your involvement. So that's number one. And that's in the area of marketing. Now, the second is in the area of sales, OK? Now, sales in a law firm refers to intake and consultations, and one of the things that's really critical with intake and consultations is that you need to have your intake person, whether that person is an outside company or an individual that works in your law firm, that person needs to be trained and incentivized to schedule as many leads as possible. And of leads, of course, those are appropriate leads, right? They don't want... You don't want to just have them scheduling anybody. They need to schedule people that you want to and are able to convert. And at the consultation stage, second part of it you want to have you want to make sure that whomever is doing the consult, consults, converts, accepts funds and transfers the matter to your legal team.
Allison Williams: [00:11:39] Ok, so starting with intake, intake is a skill. OK, it is oftentimes a lower compensating, lower, lower loyalty position in a law firm. Oftentimes people do law firm intake when they want to get their foot in the door to work in a law firm when they are an aspiring law student. Many times it's the first job out of college or even somebody who's done phone sales in a previous life and is either not looking for the high powered career, but really wants a job that's steady and stable that they enjoy. Right, you can find people in all different walks of life, all different strata of life, but it tends to be a starter position, a younger person career position and a younger person, I don't necessarily mean age, even though it does correlate highly with age. It is more about younger to the career. And that could be like a stay at home mom that's returning to the workforce, you know, kind of new to the world of working for her for the first time in life, even though that person might be older. So the consultation, the part the intake stage is really about making sure that that person knows what to say, how to say it, and most importantly, how to listen for what is being said and how things are being said in the long term. OK, so intake is not a passive activity. It's not name, rank, serial number. It's not the customer service at the bank.
Allison Williams: [00:13:15] Ok, and I'm sure we all have had this experience. I liken it to customer service at the bank because I'm sure many of us either personally have had the experience or we certainly have heard the tales where you call the bank and you give a very concise, definitive statement of exactly what you need. And notwithstanding that your your initial conversation is completely disregarded as you are walked through the same name, rank and serial number type questions by the person who is handling the intake. That person asking those questions without any concern for what your answer is. And perhaps there are some concern because they may have you know, if the person says X, you know, go to the left screen, if the person says Y, go to the right screen. But they're following a process. Right. You don't want people calling your law firm to feel like they are being put through a customer service intake process. You want the person to feel like someone is genuinely interested in what they have to say, how they have to say it and is going to get them to the place of help. And at the consultation stage, you want to make sure that the person who is handling your consultations can do everything necessary to sell the service to your prospects and get those people on board onto your legal team's roster. Now, the onboarding process does not have to be handled by the consultation professional. Right. And I say consultation professional, because this role can be done by an attorney. It can be done by an attorney. It can be done by a series of people for purposes of this conversation. Just know that it needs to be someone other than the owner, because remember, our goal here is the owner to be able to go away. So we need to have someone other than the owner of the firm who's in that role to do the consultation.
Allison Williams: [00:15:03] But they need to consult. They need to convert. Maybe they need to have the prospect agreed to buy the service. They need to accept the funds and then they need to transfer the matter over to the legal team. It's important that all of those things happen and that transfer over to the legal team needs to be transferring all the information necessary for the legal team to start working on the matter. So that, your prospect, if that prospect is meeting with an attorney or a non-attorney who is not going to legally handle the case, maybe it's a partner of the firm who's going to hand it off to an associate. Or it could be a non-attorney who's not going to handle any legal aspect of the case. But whomever is going to take over the case, you don't want them starting at ground zero, where the person who just got all of that information out and shared it with the consulting professional now has to regurgitate all the information all over again when they start working with their attorney or paralegal or both. So you want to make sure that notes are taken, information is preserved, any important documents are collected, and all of that information is put into your system.
Allison Williams: [00:16:09] Ok, next up, step number three. OK, we just talked about marketing and sales. Step number three is that the new cases have to be input into your case management software and you need to have a designation of the assigned professional and the triggering of workflows. Ok, now workflows in this instance can be directed through your case management software or your practice management software. So if you have MyCase or Clio or Leap or Rocket Matter, all of these portals of information, capture and retention for law firms have some form of a system that you can design where as soon as one person does the first activity, they click done and then the next person gets that activity. Their, their next step in the process. So typically that's going back and forth between an attorney and a paralegal. Maybe the first four activities are the paralegal's activities. And then when he's done with those, he presses done with each of them. And then that triggers over to the attorney to start her work on the activity of managing the legal file, or it could be running simultaneously.
Allison Williams: [00:17:27] But the whole idea is that you want to have automaticity built into what is supposed to happen with a file, even if it is a file that you are coming into after someone else from another law firm has handled it. And even if it is a matter that is nearing the end stages of representation, like you could get retained right before trial or right before a major negotiation or right before a contract is finalized, even though a negotiation has already preceded that point.
Allison Williams: [00:17:53] Whatever is happening, you want to make sure that whomever is onboarding the client onto the software is going to have some process that starts automatically so that as soon as a new client becomes a client of your firm, work can start right away. Because when people make a big purchase and for most people, lawyers are considered a big purchase. They are a high ticket item. Most people are not used to going out and spending five, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars in one fell swoop to hire someone to assist them with a problem. So for that reason, you want the person as soon as they get into your air, as soon as they are in the ether of your law firm, you want them excited about solving the problem and you want them to dig right in. Right. They finally got that monkey off their back. They've got that stress that they're transferring over to you to handle their problem. You want to make sure that they get that feeling satiated because the longer it takes between when they spend the money and when they start working on whatever the problem is, whatever the solution is, the more likely they are to question having spent that amount of money on you in the first place. So you've got to get them started right away.
Allison Williams: [00:19:09] All right, next up, in order to have your sabbatical worthy law firm, the firm that you can step away from and not have to check in while you are away for whatever extended purpose is that you have to have attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants with well-defined rules and legal work being commenced with scheduled contact with the client. OK, so I just kind of talked a little bit about the importance of making sure that the client is starting to get satiated on their emotional relief of working with your firm right away. But here we're talking about having the attorneys, paralegal and legal assistants. Right up until now, we were really talking about your sales team, your intake and consultation professional and whomever is responsible for onboarding. Could be sales team, could be admin, doesn't really matter who is doing that work. But ultimately, now that the legal work is about to start, you want to have clearly defined roles as to who does what. And this is not just for clarity of what activity is supposed to happen when, which is very important for purposes of protecting your client's legal interests. But you also want to have it well defined so that you can monitor your profit center. Oftentimes in small law firms, and it happens in big law firms, too. I've worked in a variety of different law firm settings. I've worked in big law. I've worked in small law firms that are boutique and only handle one practice area.
Allison Williams: [00:20:37] And then I've worked in a general practice that is a more mid-sized practice. And I can tell you that both from my personal experience as well as that of my clients and the lawyers that I talk to all across the country that are inquiring about Law Firm Mentor services, we will often hear these themes about people doing work that's outside of their lane. OK, and by outside of their lane, I mean that many times we are now so automatic in the way that we do things that the lawyer could be typing his or her own letter. And then, could have software, where, only with a couple of clicks of a button, the letter is prepared, created as a PDF and transmitted by email to an adversary or court. Great, highly efficient. Problem is if you have paralegals who are doing anything with that legal work. And normally you have defined your paralegals as being the ones responsible or your legal assistants, frankly, being responsible for generating that work. To the extent that a lawyer does the work instead, the lawyer is being overcompensated for the activity and the paralegal is being underutilized for the activity. Double whammy in terms of profit. OK, your profit margin is going to be maximized when you have everyone working to the highest and best use of their skill set. So for paralegals, that means that they are doing billable activity that is administrative in nature.
Allison Williams: [00:22:11] That also touches upon the law for attorneys. That, of course, is work that only an attorney can do. That is legal advocacy that is advising clients, that is dispensing legal advice. Legal assistants are oftentimes the ones handling the administrative end of things. But whichever role we're talking about, it's really important that you define out all of those activities and that every person stays within their activities. And you really have to work with people, especially attorneys. I love us, but we are the worst offenders. You really have to work with people to make sure that they don't slip into the automaticity of simply getting it done, because that seems like the fastest, easiest way. Oftentimes very much on autopilot. People are just kind of in their zone, in their mind thinking about it that way. You want to make sure that they are not doing the work of someone who is further down the food chain who can do that work for them.
Allison Williams: [00:23:09] OK, next on our list of things you have to have in order to take a sabbatical is that you need your clients to have a highly structured communications process. And everyone in your law firm, you included, have to insist upon compliance with it so that your clients are not in a perpetual state of communication absent an emergency. So what does that mean? Well, one of the highest complaints that you're going to receive, one of the things that that clients and the public complain about with lawyers all the time is not returning phone calls or communicating enough. In fact, it is some well ingrained in the psyche of the American public. And I say to the American public, I know that we do have people that listen to Law Firm Mentor, to the to the Crushing Chaos podcast who are not in the U.S. And I also know that we have people who follow Law Firm Mentor online who are not in the U.S. But right now I'm just talking about the U.S. I would imagine it's something comparable in other places. I don't want to speak to that, but I'm going to guess that it probably is. But people complain about lawyers not responding fast enough. Now, I'm not talking about the absurdity of someone sending you an email at 7:00 in the morning and not getting a response until eight thirty in the morning and feeling aggrieved by that. We know that those people are out there. Those people, as unreasonable as they are, they are what they are. OK. In this moment, we're talking about people who legitimately have not heard from their lawyer for an extended period of time. They call on Monday. They have a matter that is coming to fruition on Friday and the lawyer doesn't call them back until late in the day on Thursday. If the lawyer calls back at all.
Allison Williams: [00:24:52] OK, and we know that a lot of times the reason why that is happening is because the lawyer is in a persistent state of trying to stamp out buyers by constantly responding to clients. Now, the goal is not to not respond to clients. The goal is to educate clients on a specific way in which they can reach you and the times when they're going to hear from you and creating that level of consistency for your clients and directing them to a process where they know when they're going to reach you and they know when they're going to reach out and they know what they can reach out about, disincentivizes the constant communication. And frankly, it is that I don't know when I'm going to hear from my lawyer energy, that causes people to call and call and call and call and call and email over and over and over again. If you want them to stop being so anxious. Some people are just highly anxious by nature. They're going to be that way regardless. But a lot of people, even highly anxious people, are responding to the loss of control that they feel in the circumstance. And unless you provide that consistency and reliability and validity to what is happening in their outer experience, the more their inner experience is going to feel tumultuous and they are typically going to respond by the types of things like calling and emailing in excess excessively.
Allison Williams: [00:26:23] So there are lots of different ways that you can streamline your communications. We've talked about this in other episodes of the podcast, but I want you to really think about creating a communications policy so that people know when they can reach you and being clear that that is the policy. But don't let somebody deviate from the policy because they're your favorite client or you like them or you're in the mood to, or it's a Tuesday, or you forgot to comply with your own policy because having the policy and not insisting upon it and it's conformity with the policy is just as bad as not having a policy at all. But in many ways it's worse because what it does is it educates people that you don't keep your own word regarding what your standards are. So your standards are fungible. So that means that they're free and welcome to violate your standards at any time. OK, so client communications, definitely a biggie. Definitely something you have to get dialed in when you are going to be away. Now, I want to speak to this very briefly. If you are a super solo, OK, and by super solo I mean, it's you and no other lawyers in your firm, it is going to be challenging for you to go away in most practice areas, most practice areas are going to need a lawyer who is available to not just respond to clients, but also move matters forward.
Allison Williams: [00:27:50] Because if you're going to be away for three months, six months, that length of time, something is likely to happen in the course of the case, in the course of representation, in the course of negotiation, in the course of litigation. So you really want to think about how you're going to stack up your legal work for the time that you walk away. Now, of course, here at Law Firm Mentor, we support that you never stop growing, but that's one of our key phrases. And so we are always looking for ways that our lawyers can be expanding, growing, stepping into a broader scope of assistance in the law firm and whether it's through a contract attorney or a full time hire being the only lawyer in your law firm places a disproportionate amount of responsibility on you. And that's one of the reasons why a lot of law firm owners can't see their way to grow because they feel stuck in the weeds. They feel very much dependent on the work that is being done. And there they are depended upon to get the work done. And because they don't see a way for them to stop themselves from being in everything, they ultimately can't move themselves to get that first hire.
Allison Williams: [00:29:07] Ok, so next stop, of all the things that you have in a law firm that have to be meticulously managed, we know that money is right out there at the top. Right. That's the thing that will get us disbarred if we screw it up or obviously more significantly with delay from our clients. But even screwing up money in a law firm, even if there's no malintent or intent to steal from a client, it does create a lot of stress, a lot of added, a lot of problems. So we want to make sure that we have systems in place to deal with our money, whether we are physically onsite in our law firm or not.
Allison Williams: [00:29:47] Ok, so in order to have that law firm that you can step away from for an extended period of time, you need to have your money meticulously managed with at least three layers of oversight. Now, that typically is the owner of the firm, a finance person of some sort and a manager of some sort.
Allison Williams: [00:30:10] Ok, the manager and the finance person can be the same person, but if you want to have three layers of oversight, then you need to have oversight by a bookkeeper or an accountant, someone outside the, you know, boots on the ground doing the daily work activity. Your bookkeeper needs to update TriNet financial transactions weekly. And your reporting needs to be done at least monthly, though any person that touches money in your firm ought to have the accessibility to go in and run a profit and loss statement, at least weekly. OK, now you might say weekly sounds like overkill, but the reason why I think weekly is so important is that it keeps you in the energy of moving forward. OK, so money shouldn't just be, especially if you are growing in the firm. OK, this is no less important if you are at a point where, our bills are our bills, our profits are our profits, and, yes, we want to grow, but that's not a conscious objective, right? But most of us, most of you that listen to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, have some desire for more in your law firm. And thus growth is something that you have to manage. So if you're thinking about growth from that perspective, the profit and loss statement gives you a lot of keys to look at things not only from a perspective of what do we have today, but it helps you looking at the trend when when throughout the course of a year do we tend to have more money coming in versus less? When do we have major expenses that are going to be incurred, like malpractise insurance that we may pay for once a year in one fell swoop or like holiday raises or bonuses?
Allison Williams: [00:31:56] Right. We just did an episode of a podcast about holiday raises and bonuses. Or holiday bonuses and other compensation, so you might want to take a listen to that if you haven't decided what you are doing with holiday compensation, but you want to have your eyes on the prize and you want to be looking forward at it. Now, if you are the owner of the firm and you're going to be away, that does not relieve you of the responsibility to still be looking at, quote unquote, your money in your law firm, and you can be looking at it by virtue of adding in team members that will look at it. So the office manager should be looking at it or the finance person if you have a full time finance person. Most firms that are smaller in size don't have a full time finance person. They might have a part time person or your part time person could also be a bookkeeper. Right. There's lots of different ways for those services to be delivered. Most firms that are under 15 lawyers are not going to have a CFO, an accountant, a bookkeeper and an onsite finance manager.
Allison Williams: [00:33:02] OK, but fully staffed up firms certainly have those things. Now, your finance team member needs to process payments, allocate payment information per client. So you always need to keep your client, you know their individual transaction roster accurate. And there needs to be someone monitoring the profit levels because profit is not just available for the enjoyment by the owner. It is also available for weathering storms, ups and downs, savings, retained earnings, etc.. Now your accounts payable are also systematized so that payments are made on a schedule and preferably that happens electronically. Nowadays, a lot of payments happen electronically. There are some people that still deal in the paper transactions, but most of them are electronic and that does make things easier when you are away, which I'm sure a lot of you have already started to experience. Just being away for one day out of the office. You can see by logging into your electronic accounts what's happening with your money. Your accounts receivable also need to be managed.
Allison Williams: [00:34:09] You need to have written plans for these agreements and in the event of default, someone needs to reach out to the person who has defaulted right away. So you don't want to wait a month to say, hey, you missed your payment plan payment. It was due twenty eight days ago. You want that person told immediately so that you can determine do we need to move forward with legal action because the person is truly in default? Or did they just fall a little behind and they're going to take care of it in a day or so? Your compensation systems, including bonuses and commission payments to lawyers and reimbursements. Anything that is cash equivalent or actual cash compensation to a member of your firm, whether it's attorney or not, the attorney needs to be scheduled and confirmed by this administration. And then, of course, you need to have your procedures in place for your trust accounting. And that needs to be overseen by a managing attorney, the office administrator and also preferably the bookkeeper. So there's going to be a person that's going to be overseeing the trust account. In some states, everything runs through the trust account. So any money that's taken in on behalf of a client, even if it is designed to be compensation for the lawyer, goes straight into trust and only is rolled out upon specific authorization or issuance of a bill. In other states, you are allowed to use your business account for all moneys. Only certain moneys have to go in trust.
Allison Williams: [00:35:38] It is only if it's a certain dollar amount or is going to generate a certain amount of interest or is specifically only to be the property of the client, like money from a real estate closing and things like that. But however you use your trust account in every jurisdiction, trust accounts have a series of rules that you have to be familiar with as the owner of a law firm. And you need to have someone who is responsible for overseeing any funds in and out of your trust account while you are away.
Allison Williams: [00:36:09] Ok, next up, and this is certainly not the last, but this is one of the most significant is, your office administration. OK, so someone needs to be administering your office to oversee all of these different systems while you are away. That includes your, the person overseeing your I.T., your facilities, your H.R. human resources functions, your marketing, the intake and consultations team and the legal team. OK, so there needs to be a certain level of quality assurance in any business, but in particular in a law firm, because if you fall below a certain level of care that could impugn the well-being of your clients, that could affect your reputation, and that could also affect any claims that a person would have against you because we are in a fiduciary relationship with our clients. The other consideration is that your office administration team has to establish and monitor the KPIs for each division head. So no matter the size of your law firm, you could have one, quote unquote, salesperson who handles both intake and consultations. That person then becomes the division head if you don't have anyone else in that division. But you need to have everyone who is in your law firm being held accountable to a certain standard. Those key performance indicators.
Allison Williams: [00:37:36] And those key performance indicators need to be something that the office administration team, the office administrator, the office manager, CFO, whomever it is, right. That doer person needs to make sure that everybody is being held to that standard, that KPI that is established for their role. OK. Now, last but not least, is that I want you to really embrace the idea of having all these pieces in your law firm, but the one thing that is the hardest thing for lawyers, that makes it the most challenging for us to step away from our law firms, is honestly just the trust that these things are going to happen as we have designed them without our being present. Now, I wish I had a magic bullet to tell you, here's what you need to do in order to trust the people that you've hired. Unfortunately, I don't have that magic bullet. It takes a lot of deep work and a lot of thought work to get us to a place where we understand at a conceptual level, here is how I can give my work to others and ensure that it is done.
Allison Williams: [00:38:46] And when we have those thoughts, when our mind goes to the place where we say, I don't know if I can, I don't know if this is something I want to do, I feel too anxious about leaving other people. Every time I leave other people, they screw things up. I want you to just remember that we speak life and people. The role that we have as the owner of a business is a critically important role. And if we adopt the mindset that nobody else can do it, that's exactly what we're going to find when we're trying to offload work in our law firm. All right. This has been an episode about taking a sabbatical. But even more than that, it's a law firm about it's a it's a law firm mantra, if you will, of how to step away from your business. And that's what we talked about in this episode of the podcast, which I hope gives you some insights into the various different pieces that you have to get lined up if you want to take some time away.
Allison Williams: [00:39:43] Now, if you personally are struggling with taking time away from your law firm and you really want to get to a place where you can even just take an extended vacation more than a week away, you have to get these things lined up. And there's a very specific way that you can do this that does not involve stress or agita. It involves directing your attention to different activity than those that you're currently doing. Because at the end of the day, we are the product of our choices. You don't like the result you have in your law firm, you can make a different choice and we can help you do that.
Allison Williams: [00:40:14] So if you'd like to reach out, we are going to include our scheduler in the comments for this particular episode. And you can always join the Law Firm Mentor closed Facebook group, which is our free community online, where we help lawyers all across the country to grow their revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. I'm Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Everyone have a wonderful day!
Allison Williams: [00:40:50] 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!
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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Now, if you personally are struggling with taking time away from your law firm and you really want to get to a place where you can even just take an extended vacation more than a week away, you have to get these things lined up. And there's a very specific way that you can do this that does not involve stress or agita. It involves directing your attention to different activity than those that you're currently doing. Because at the end of the day, we are the product of our choices. You don't like the result you have in your law firm, you can make a different choice and we can help you do that.