You heard it once, you heard it twice, you probably listen to it every day, you probably heard it again today:you need a coach.The truth is all business owner needs one and a law firm owner this applies to you. The good and bad news is that there are too many coaches out there preaching to know the path to your success, and if you don’t choose carefully, you may end up right where you started, minus several thousands of dollars.
Atty Allison Williams, the founder of Law Firm Mentor, joins us for a conversation to talk about the journey that took her from a start-up law firm to a multimillion business in under four years. And shares with us the secrets to growing her law firm exponentially and how she now helps other attorneys through coaching and mentoring achieve their full potential.
From the things Allison wished she would have known when she started her law firm to ways to reduce the complex process of building a marketing plan to a basic scientific method, this conversation will give you a fresh perspective on the role of a good mentor.
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Liel: [00:00:00] According to a study from Harvard Business Review, 84 percent of CEOs with mentors said mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes and become proficient in roles faster. I’m Liel Levy, co-founder of Nanato Media, and this is In Camera podcast where we’re always looking for inspirational individuals to learn from. Welcome to In Camera podcast, Private Legal Marketing Conversations, Grace. Welcome back. How are you today?
Grace: [00:00:54] Good. How are you, Liel?
Liel: [00:00:56] Great, Grace. Thank you very much for asking. I know, just like everyone has, every once in a while, you’re having some minor technical issues. So I really appreciate you’re going above and beyond in finding the way to make it to this conversation, Grace.
Grace: [00:01:11] Thank you. You know, we’re a software company, so we have ways around it.
Liel: [00:01:17] That’s actually true. It’s remarkable everything that you can do in order to hack your way into an Internet connection and be where you have to be. Right. Right. Excellent. Grace. So, Grace, we have a really, really interesting conversation lineup up for today with a very inspiring attorney. So why don’t you do the honors, as always, and introduce our next guest for today’s episode.
Grace: [00:01:43] Definitely super excited about it, everybody. So today we are joined by attorney Allison Williams for a conversation on the secrets to exponential growth for law firms. Allison, also known as the law firm Mentor, is the owner of two successful companies. She is the founder of Williams Law Group, a full-service family law firm where she is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a matrimonial law attorney, and is certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and Family Law. After taking Williams Law Group from startup to a multimillion-dollar business in three and a half years, she created a second business, law firm mentor where she provides business coaching services for solo and small law firm attorneys, helping them grow their revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Allison, welcome to In Camera podcast.
Liel: [00:02:38] Allison, welcome to In Camera podcast.
Liel: [00:02:41] How are you today?
Allison: [00:02:42] I am doing well and I am so excited to talk to you today about the subject, the subject of the hour, the marketing topic, which, of course, is one of my favorite topics to talk about when I talk about law firm business growth.
Liel: [00:02:55] Well, Allison, you’re in the right place, and we’ve been looking forward to this conversation for quite some time now. So we’re thrilled to finally have you here. And so, Allison, for some of our listeners that are hearing about you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit more about your journey in the legal industry?
Allison: [00:03:13] Sure. So I’m a licensed attorney. I’ve been licensed since 2003. So 18 years. Still shocking to even say that out loud. But, you know, I think I was a lot like a lot of lawyers. I went into my career expecting I was going to find a job, workfare until I died or retired or something else. And that didn’t exactly happen. I kind of moved around a little bit and then at some point in time decided I would start my own law firm. And by the time I started my own law firm, I had become what I would refer to as an unconscious confident and being able to market my services. So I had about a five hundred thousand dollar book of business to come with me. And I had forty-eight clients. Forty-three of them decided to come with me. And so I was kind of off and running and I thought, OK, great, I’ll just do what I do in this law firm on my own, in my own law firm. And it doesn’t work that way at all. Of course, there’s a lot of time that’s needed for hiring, firing, organizing, systematizing, instructing, etc. in a business. And I just honestly, the amount of time that it took and the energy that it took to be a new business owner and to practice at the level and volume that I did, it literally almost killed me. And when I say literally, I mean that I was driving home one night and after what had to have been my six or seven ninety hour work week, the exhaustion settled in while I was driving and I woke up very close to a guardrail.
Allison: [00:04:39] So luckily I did not actually hit the guardrail. I like to say that someone steered the wheel. I wasn’t but someone took the wheel and saved me. And that was kind of my aha moment that I could not do this on my own. So I went out and started investigating, ended up working with business coaches, and very quickly got myself and my business under control and started the personal growth journey that led me to create a multi-million dollar law firm in three and a half years. So through that experience, I fell in love with the coaching industry. For all that, it allowed me to become as a part of owning a business and being my full and fully express self through my business and ultimately decided that I wanted to help other lawyers to do the same thing. So in 2018 was born law firm Minter, which is my business coaching service dedicated to helping solo law and small law firm owners essentially do what I did, whether it’s to create a better business, a bigger business, more money, more time, more abundance, more enjoyment in the practice. But that’s really what we help people focus on.
Grace: [00:05:46] You were able to take your law firm from a startup to a multi-million-dollar revenue-generating firm in under four years. What was the key to making that happen in those four years? I mean, how did that happen? How did you do that?
Allison: [00:06:00] Yeah, so I get that question a lot. And what I hate to tell people is the lawyer’s answer right. Think it depends because it is very individualized to the specific lawyer who has a desire to grow what they need to do at any given point in time to get them from point A to point B. But if I were to kind of encapsulate it into a talking point, I would say that the first thing was to decide that that’s what I wanted. And that is actually probably the most challenging thing for lawyers to do, because the first thing that we do when we start thinking about what we want is all the things that we don’t want. Right. So we think, OK, great, I hated working for John Doe. So I want to have a law firm where I don’t have to work the way he made me work or I want to have, you know, I was only paid X dollars. I want to make more than X dollars. So that’s kind of the litmus test. Right. I need to at least be making X. So we really think about our life in terms of bettering the worst rather than bettering the best and just getting ourselves a step ahead. And the first thing that I decided was that I was either going to go big or I was going to go home.
Allison: [00:07:03] I didn’t want to have a little bit more than what I created. I wanted to have a lot more. And once I made that decision and then started aggressively pursuing that goal and by aggressively, I mean really focusing my intention on for however long it takes me to get there, I am going to be a zealot in the growth of my business. That means that is my priority. That’s where I spend my time, my energy, my effort. And I really just became a prolific student of everything that was necessary to be good in business the same way I had been a prolific student of everything it took for me to become one of the youngest certified attorneys in New Jersey and for me to develop an international speaking career. All of those things came from intention. So the intention is always where it starts. And then once you get that down on paper and codified into a life plan for yourself, then you have to be willing to do what it takes. And that’s probably the part where coaches were most helpful for me, because, you know, as with all people, we get tired.
Allison: [00:08:03] We don’t want to be bothered. We have patterns of the way that we do things. We have to break those patterns in order to be successful in a different way. And my way wasn’t working. My way was to work harder. And every time I did that, I got farther in life. But that only worked up to a certain point where you hit that diminishing returns, you know working harder almost killed me, quite literally. So I knew that working harder was not going to be the way anymore. And it now had to be being more strategic, different pricing structures, different people, assembly activity, getting the right people in the right places in the right way, compensating them in ways that was triggering for me because I didn’t have or at least I didn’t feel that I had. And then I didn’t realize that people were an investment rather than an expense in a business. So I had to shift a lot of the ways that I thought about people and activity. But really, it was kind of the combination of that kind of putting it in front of me, deciding, committing, and making sure that no matter what I did, everything that I had to do had to line up with that intentionality.
Liel: [00:09:02] I hear here a very, very big jump from overworking yourself to then understanding that you have to change the ways in which you’re doing things and starting working with coaches. And I think that one of the things that doesn’t tend to come naturally to people who are actually at that stage right now are trying to keep everything under control. Be very mindful of costs, not trying to do as much as they can maximize what they have in a very careful way so that they can try to continue progressing in the way that they were able to progress until that point, which that’s what they know. That’s what has worked for them. But what I encounter is that it’s very hard to make the jump from that to actually find a business coach and work with a business coach because it doesn’t come naturally to you. The idea that you were going to pick someone just to come and tell you what to do and who is that someone? If you have that mindset that you want to be very efficient with your cost controls, you don’t want to grow your team or something because of the expense that represents the whole idea of now paying someone to just telling you or allegedly guiding you on what to do. It can be a little bit unnatural. Would you agree?
Allison: [00:10:25] Yeah. So what I would say to that is that you’re absolutely right that a lot of people believe that what a coach is, is somebody to tell you what to do and that there’s kind of an industry now where you have a whole bunch of pop up lawyers that decided, oh, I can make more money by charging people to just tell them what I did and they can just copy and paste what I did. And I’ll be more successful that way. And what I always tell people is that somebody you know, the difference between kind of a what I would call is a heck of a coach versus an actual coach because a coach does not tell you what to do. Right. So nor do I simply ask questions by the process of coaching is really facilitating someone guiding themselves to ultimately achieve what they need to, because for most people, especially for lawyers, what they are lacking is not the answer that you can Google. Right. It’s not the how do I complete my marketing plan? How do I hire the next person? I can direct you to five thousand books on five thousand topics, all of which, if you read, absorbed, mastered, integrated into a process and consistently and without reservation, were to follow that you would be successful. It’s not that. It’s usually that we have a pattern of how we do things. That is our default. And when we are acting in our default, we are acting out a subconscious programming that tells us what we are ultimately able to achieve.
Allison: [00:11:48] So if I grew up believing my parents were six-figure earners and therefore I would be a six-figure earner, then the patterns that I create from my life are going to have me be a six-figure earner because I’ve already learned how to do those things. My instinct is oriented to those things. But if I wanted to be an eight-figure earner, say, and I had never learned how to do that, the patterns that got me to be a six-figure earner cannot just simply be copied and pasted multiple times to get you to eight figures because there are certain things that you do at the six-figure level that you don’t do at the eight-figure level. There are things that you do when you are trying to be a practitioner that you don’t do when you are trying to be a business owner. There are things that you do when you have a business that you want to remain in a certain place versus when you want to scale it. So you have to first, learn that there are fundamental differences between how you were being when you were at the place where you were versus how you were being when you were at the place where you are going. And most people are never going to expose themselves to that because they have the mistaken belief that all they’re looking for somebody to just tell them what to do.
Allison: [00:12:53] Right. So that’s the first part of it. Now, the second part of it that I will say is when you’re talking about changing your patterns and being more successful, you really have to change the entirety of what you’re doing, not just one or two little things. Right. So the one or two little tweaks will get you success, right? If I suddenly decided, hey, I’m going to hire somebody to do some of this work and I can go bill more hours or serve more people at five hundred dollars an hour, I will make more money, even though I have to pay someone for the things that they are now doing that will also make us more money. If I think about how much I have available and now if I add a salary, I’m losing money. That’s the first thought that most people think, right. I’m taking out of my pocket and giving it to someone else, then you probably wouldn’t hire. You would just say, I got to get more efficient. I got to work harder because I have more work to do. But when you shift and you start to say, ha, if I hire somebody and they do more work and I still have work to do for myself at a higher hourly rate, or if I change my pricing structure so that I can actually charge more for the same amount of work, I’ll have less work to do to make the same amount of money.
Allison: [00:14:03] I’ll have more time that I can now devote to something else. Your mindset now allows you to expand the pie, even though what you previously thought is an instinct said, hey, I’m going to lose money if I do it this way. And it really is those very, very small adjustments in your thinking that have to now just become the new way of thinking about everything. That is the most challenging part for us, because every time we learn a new skill until it works, we’re inclined to go back to the old skill. Right. So if somebody told me the way that you ride a bicycle is to have training wheels on the back and I ride successfully that way, that’s great. Then someone says, take those training wheels off. I say, OK, sure, I take the training wheels off. I put myself on the bike. I don’t learn how to balance. I fall over. I say, all right, I want my wheels back. This is not working because we don’t give it enough time. And so a lot of what coaching is is really facilitating pointing you in the direction of the way of thinking that’s going to lead you to the success that you desire. But then also being there when you start to fall so we can teach you how to balance yourself back up so that you don’t have those cataclysmic events that stop you from growing in the first place.
Liel: [00:15:15] So how did you find the right type of coach for you? Because obviously it almost sounds like whomever you partner with, whomever becomes that guide for you, he’s going to be a big influence in the final outcome of it all. So how was it? Was it easy? Did you find right away the right type of coach for you? Do you have to trial and error a few coaches?
Allison: [00:15:39] Yeah, so it was a little bit of both. So I will be honest. The first time, the first major aha moment that I have to do something dramatically different was when I almost died in the accident or in the near accident. So for me, that was kind of the smack across the head, hey, you have to go get some help. There’s no way to do anything else. So I literally just Googled and the first company I found, I said, all right, God gave me a solution. Google told me the other. So I would not advise that that be how you choose a coach. In fact, that’s not how most people hire me. But that was what I did in the moment because I was desperate. But what I would what I tell people and I started there and I kind of I flipped around and I got exposed to different people. And then at some point I was listening to I was actually on YouTube and I was kind of searching out this person’s name. And I say his name very fondly and with a great deal of love and respect. David Neagle and I search David’s name and found his material. And I just started listening to what he had to say. And what I found was that something sounded so bizarre that they had to be true. And I know that that sounds a little weird, but what I mean by that is I was listening to him and they were things that I hadn’t really thought about in the way he made me think about them.
Allison: [00:16:58] And I listened a few times and I said, yeah, you know, he’s right. Right. Just very, very simple things like, you know, in order for you to achieve different results, you have to take different actions. Yeah, that kind of makes sense. Right. And so those little things, those little nuggets of information made sense. And once I realized that they made sense, my next step was to say, OK, what is it about this person that’s drawing me and let me go investigate further? And then once I started investigating, I did what a lot of lawyers do. Right. It’s kind of absorbing the content marketing, listening to the videos, watching the trainings. Does the person sound knowledgeable? Have they done what I want to do? Have they gotten to a place where I want to go? Do they have a process for helping me to get to where I want to go? Not just they happen to get there themselves. They stumbled upon it, but they actually know how they got there so that they can see where I am on the path to where they’re going, and they can then direct me into what I need to do differently. Do they have a certain level of integrity and authenticity, which is important to me, because if I’m going to pay what most coaches charge tens of thousands of dollars in the course of a year for me to work with someone, am I going to be able to be turning over money, on the hope to win and a prayer? Or can I say I have a connection to this person because this person is my kind of people, right? They seem to be a good person. They want to help. They can answer my questions without defensiveness. They can listen to me. There’s a level of confidentiality so that you can be vulnerable and tell your stuff without having a fear that it’s going to end up all over the Internet. You know, there’s lots of different components to that. But really, when I knew that I had found a person that I could listen to and whose respect I had immediately and who I could give respect to immediately, that’s when I knew that the person would ultimately be able to help me. And from there, the question was just how? How are you going to help me? And you have a conversation and that person or a member of their team tells you this is what our process is. And if it sounds like it’s cogent. So I have both the feeling and the logic to support it, then the answer is yes.
Grace: [00:19:07] This kind of takes me back a little bit because you have a lot of really great tidbits and information and your journey was extensive. Now, if I’m thinking about back when you first sort of started and you mentioned that you kind of muddling through when you thought you would stay in one place for the rest of your life if you had to encapsulate some advice for someone in that position when they first started out. What advice do you wish someone had given you when you started your law firm?
Allison: [00:19:41] Oh, God, there’s so many of those pieces. Right. So the first thing that I would say, and this is probably counterintuitive, it probably is not the advice that most people get. Right. Most people give the advice of keep your expenses low and get your books under control. And those things are definitely things that you should think about at some point. But I would say the piece of advice that I really needed, the one that I didn’t have was to understand that every time I create something in the business, the goal should be to find someone other than me to do the work. And I know that that sounds very counterintuitive, because a lot of people, they start out, they don’t know where their clients are going to come from. They don’t know where the money is going to come from. But the highest and best use of your time is rarely doing the legal work, even if you are the most exceptional lawyer in the building, because when you own a business, you have so many responsibilities that you are taking on, not just because we’re a highly policed profession in law, but no matter what type of business you have right. You’re always going to have the responsibility for marketing, salespeople, systems, finance, and facilities in your business.
Allison: [00:20:53] Whether it’s virtual work, brick and mortar, it really doesn’t matter. So when you think about all that’s necessary and you are taking that on without a business degree or even if you have a business degree, you don’t actually have the practical experience yet. If you haven’t actually run a business before and you’re now going to have to learn and master all of these intricate moving pieces around the legal work, it is much easier for you to take the thing that you know, which is practicing and hire somebody who you can identify is able to practice than it is for you to go out and hire somebody to sell for you before you know how to sell yourself or hire somebody to market for you before you know how to market yourself or hire somebody to hire for you, before you know how to hire yourself. So the legal work is the piece that is the thing that you are selling in a law firm that you really have the most control over quality of and thus being able to find. Quality lawyers who are able to do legal work to get that off of your plate so that you can start learning and piecing together the other parts of it makes the most sense.
Allison: [00:21:56] And that was particularly true for me when I was already at, I had a very prestigious career when I went out into practice or out into business for myself. But even aside from that, you know, my ego was saying, no, no, no, there’s nobody as good as you. You’ve got to be the one. And then I realized, wait a minute, you know, I have livelihoods, right? My own included on the line here. How am I going to just throw that up in the air? Because my ego is holding on to the attachment of the idea of having people look at me as the source of their success rather than my associate or my contract attorney or my paralegal or whomever. So that would be the number one piece of advice I would tell people, because the faster you get into the habit of getting things off of your plate so that you can ultimately take the time needed to assemble the business, the more sound the business will be, the less risk you’ll have with grievances and malpractice, the greater service you can give to your clients and the faster your business can grow.
Liel: [00:22:53] That’s actually, I think, very, very good advice and something that I think sometimes it’s hard to execute. It’s very hard, particularly when you have things that you really enjoy. But they are actually detracting you from other more important activities that are necessary for you to continue on your path of growth. And I can totally relate to just wanting to hold to some aspects of the operation, for instance, in our agency, when I could very well be looking at finding out a partner to take over those things. So to free up my time and be able to dedicate to, I wouldn’t say necessarily more important, but more strategic activities. Right. And so I have one question that is about niching, Allison, because we know we hear a lot. It’s popular in our days to say, oh, you need to niche down in order to be super relevant for a particular demographic group. And so I think that most of people can understand fairly easily. But you see it from a different standpoint. Also, you say that niching down can also help you to scale. Can you explain a little bit of that thought process?
Allison: [00:24:02] Yeah. So when we talk about niching, I think a lot of people kind of have the question of where do I start, what’s small enough, what’s too small? And they kind of go into the mechanics of it, but just understanding it at a conceptual level, but I always tell people is you can either be a fish in the ocean or you can be the biggest fish in a very small pond. And if you think about it, the more space that you occupy, right. If you are one little-little piece of a marketplace and you are taking up more space in that marketplace than anyone else, because it’s all you talk about, it’s all you speak about is all that you write about. It’s what you become synonymous with. It becomes very easy for you to think of yourself as a river that has tributaries running off of it. So I’ll give myself as an example. So when I first started as a family law attorney, I was like all the family law attorneys, right. I did anything that affected a family in the court process. So I got divorced and I handled your domestic violence trial and I calculated your child support. And I modified your judgment after you were divorced. And I helped get your children out of foster care. And I did all these different things. And I was good as a lawyer, just like there were other very good lawyers. But if someone was comparing me to another lawyer, well, what do they have to compare? We don’t really keep stats perse on how many trials you win because trial practice and family law was really not something that was popular.
Allison: [00:25:29] It’s very hard to get to the point of a trial. So counting wins was really a matter of how old could you be. So say you actually got to the point of a trial? Well, that wasn’t going to be effective. But if we started looking at something more qualitative, like how many cases of this particular case do you handle versus another? Well, that’s actually something that’s a little bit easier to quantify. And then we started thinking about, well, wait a minute, if we don’t just have quantity, we can add quality to it. And you then become the master at one particular area, you can really start to expand. So when I’m niche down, I’m down to handle child abuse and neglect matters in court. That was what I was known for. And ninety-eight percent of people who are brought to court by the state of New Jersey are represented by the public defender’s office. The other two percent that was mine. Right? Very, very small pond. So I was the fish in the very, very small pond. And I then became very bombastic in speaking about it. So I blogged about it before blogging was a thing and I wrote articles about it. And I sent my articles out to other attorneys and said, hey, if you ever encounter this type of practice, this issue, I’m here to help. Just call me for free. Right. I just want to help your clients so you don’t have to hire me.
Allison: [00:26:41] You don’t have to send them to me. They send them to me anyway because they said, I don’t want to do this. I don’t understand this. You’re the expert at this. So that then became the way that I grew and I was growing within my own community, so people who were otherwise my family law adversaries could say, here’s a child abuse case, I don’t want to handle it, but I want to handle the divorce. And I can say, listen, give me your client for this type of case and I promise I will send them back to you. I’m not your competition, right. I’m your ally. And then I could actually promote to my adversaries. I will make you look better because you will outsource this one piece of information. And without charge, I will keep you informed about what’s going on. I will make sure that your client knows how exceptionally you’re handling their divorce, custody, domestic violence trial, etc.. So then you created goodwill, which meant any time there was a referral in any type of family law matter that a person can’t handle, they would remember that one time that I made them the rock star to their client. Right. So you generate that goodwill and then it expands. And then when I start to see I want more and the marketplace is really small, I expanded. So it went from being representing parents involved in the child welfare system to representing relatives who want to get children out of the child welfare system, to representing people before you get to the child welfare system, i.e. there’s an issue with your child. You think it’s child abuse, but you don’t want to involve the state to your spouse has involved the state and you’re being accused, but they have not yet gone to court. So you’re in limbo. How do we accelerate that process to what do we do now that you have an agency finding? Is that ministry, if you’re not in court, you just have a piece of paper that calls you a child abuser that your spouse or former spouse is using against you, what do we do with that? And all of a sudden the pie becomes very expansive, right. We can start to expand the opportunities in a lot of different directions and create a lot more for ourselves. And there’s no possible way we can handle all of the tens of thousands of people every year that are accused or thinking of bringing an accusation to a child welfare agency. But now we are synonymous with that. We weren’t when I was just representing that sliver of people who were actually in court process. But you have to first have the faith to say, I’ll be the master at this one very, very small thing. Right. I’ll get all of the attention, all of the time, all of the resources here. And then I will use that to grow in other areas. And those other areas will become evident to you when you become the master at the first area.
Liel: [00:29:14] Up to a certain extent, it sounds a little bit like a risky move. Is there enough in how what do you do until you actually become authoritative on that particular type of case or type of situation that you want to focus on? Right. And the other one, which is a little bit more high level, is how do you actually identify these opportunities? Because it almost sounds in your experience that you went after something that really nobody wanted to get their hands on. It was you and the state, apparently the only ones doing it. And so you basically went after something that the others did not want to bother with. So could that be the mindset with that? Can you see that translating in other practice areas as well outside of family law?
Allison: [00:29:59] So let me address your first point first, which is the idea of, you know, how do you know that there’s enough and is there risk associated with it? So here’s the thing. There is risk associated with every type of practice. The problem is that we get into a habit of thinking that because something is familiar to us, that it’s not risky. Right. It’s a lot riskier for me to be a generalist family law attorney, which means that I can attract any number of clients who can have mental health issues, who could accuse me of not communicating, who could file grievances against me. Family law is a riskier area of law than every other practice area for the number of grievances that are filed statistically, like, you know, I guess I could have said, well, since people find more grievances in family law against family law attorneys, I just won’t be a family law attorney because that’s risky. The reality is here, whenever you are choosing to do something, even when it is something that is small and in your view, something that has less opportunity, when there’s less opportunity, you have to make more of the opportunity that you have. There is more urgency associated with it. And the problem is that if you take a big area that has a lot of opportunity, you are a personal injury attorney. You can sue anyone for any type of injury at all, or you’re a criminal defense attorney.
Allison: [00:31:14] You can handle your low-level traffic offenses all the way up to your high-level murder convictions. If you’re just everything to everyone. Yes, you have a bigger pool of people to serve, but you have a much greater amount of competition within those pools. There’s actually a lot easier an opportunity to distinguish yourself when you are choosing something where very few people are playing in that pot. Now, when you go to the second part of your question, which is, you know, how do you know that it’s not too small or that? You’re choosing something that nobody else wants. I wouldn’t say that I chose something that nobody else wants, right. So the thing of it is that when I became a matrimonial attorney, I was with pretty established firms. A lot of them were had people that were speaking at our state bar conferences and they were very well-known attorneys. So I was handling your athlete divorce, your multimillion dollar divorce. And I was working with people that could afford our legal fees and also middle class people that struggled a little bit with fees. But for the most part, I had access to some of the most sophisticated issues in family law because of the firms that I worked at. So I didn’t really have a need necessarily to go over here. But my firm was not going to let me take a case for 50 dollars an hour, which is what the state would pay.
Allison: [00:32:34] So there were plenty of solo practitioners that would cut their teeth on taking representation of parents and child abuse cases. And they actually wanted that work. They just wanted it at fifty dollars an hour. So what I did is I created a market more than swim in a market where nobody wanted to be. The market that I created was private practice, family representation in child abuse cases at full-service cost. So if you think about it, I actually differentiated myself by being the most expensive in the market because people that were charging 50 dollars an hour were easier to afford and people would naturally want to go there. And I would say, do you want to use Honda or do you want the Lexus? And then I became the Lexus of child abuse and neglect representation. So part of it is also about the messaging, right? Wherever you’re going to play, you have to decide that you’re going to be the best at whatever it is. And yes, we have restrictions on what we can say in as lawyers. But I always made sure I knew what that sound was. And I always say just below the surface so that I didn’t get into the ethics problems. But I was always very clear, I’m going to come in early, I’m going to stay late. I’m going to work on my holidays to get your kid out of foster care.
Allison: [00:33:47] You don’t get that when you use Honda. You get that with the Lexus. So you’re going to pay for the Lexus service and you’re going to get the Lexus result. And that was ultimately what I delivered. But I knew I had to deliver that because I was charging more. And I knew that making a representation to someone that I was going to fight for them in something that was as intimate as any type of representation can be. You know, if I screwed up against mom and dad fighting the custody case. Yeah, Mom wanted every other weekend for dad. Dad got three days a week. Mom is upset about that. But the reality is, if I screw up against the state of New Jersey, your kid’s never coming home again. Those are some pretty high stakes. So I knew that I could not not deliver. And as a result, having that internal pressure of I have to be exceptional made me one charge more so that people recognized that they were paying for something that was elite and treat me as such, two work more and not necessarily work more hours, but work more in terms of the exceptionalism that was required for the role. And all of those things ultimately got me to a level of differentiation. Now, there are some lawyers that are honestly not going to want to work that hard. They’re going to say, look, I want the low hanging fruit.
Allison: [00:34:58] I’d rather just put my hang my shingle out and be able to say I handle these seven or eight different areas of law and whatever comes in, more will come in over time. And that’s where a lot of people start. But the thing of it is, is that when you decide in your business that you are going to be about the one thing and that becomes all that you talk about, all that you speak about, all that you put on your website, all that you put your energy behind, you can still take those other areas of law if you need to eat. So if a will walks in and you’re a criminal defense attorney, you don’t have to turn the will away until you get to the point where you have enough of what you want. But what you do have to do is be about something that people can believe in, because then when you start marketing that thing, people hear the message of why you’re doing what you’re doing, why it matters to you, why you’re the best one to serve them, and then you become synonymous and you don’t have to do it for a very long time to do this. You just have to be committed to it. And that is where the risk comes in. You have to believe in yourself. That’s a part of the process.
Grace: [00:36:00] That’s so important, right, believing in yourself? I mean, I think that’s a point that we forget sometimes even in the course of our careers and our lives as a whole. So you spoke a little bit about marketing plans and creating that consistent revenue idea. Right. So in your opinion, how could a small law firm create a marketing plan that does create consistent recurring revenue?
Allison: [00:36:25] Yeah, so that’s actually a lot easier than a lot of people would think that it is. So what I tell people about marketing plans and I love this topic because it’s one of the things that like if you can turn the light bulb on for somebody that might be contemplating going on on their own, they might actually hear this and say, I can do this now. It doesn’t seem so scary. But the big thing of it is, is that a marketing plan sounds like a big, scary, hairy, audacious goal. But it really is just a series of funnels and your funnel is the way through which you’re going to generate opportunity to sell to people. So if you think about having a funnel for maybe two or three different marketing types, marketing activities, and you give each of them a funnel, you’re going to track certain activity and you’re going to start with making some hypotheses around that activity in order to get to a place of consistency. So by way of example, you could have a funnel for your website. You could have a funnel for networking with other lawyers. You could have a funnel for your email newsletter. You could have a funnel for your social media. Right. And for each of them and social media, I would probably break that down by platform. So you would have a funnel for Facebook, a funnel for Instagram, LinkedIn and so forth. So each of those funnels is a process, is a mechanism through which you generate clients.
Allison: [00:37:45] So now you have to say, how many clients do I want to generate from each of these types of activities? And let’s say you want five clients from each of those different types of activities. Well, you have to know what a client is worth to you. Some people think about it in terms of the retainer. But really, if you’re charging past a retainer, then you have to think about the average cost or the average case value for each case you bring in. So if you bring in an average of ten thousand dollars for every case, you bring in five clients is fifty thousand dollars. So if you want a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar law firm, you need five funnels that will generate five clients each at ten thousand dollars each. Fifty thousand dollars per funnel, five funnels get you to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Pretty simple math. But then when you think about how you’re actually going to get to that five clients, the numbers become different as you move from the bottom of the funnel all the way up. So at the bottom of the funnel are the number of people that you sold. You need five people to actually become clients, but you’re actually going to start at the top of your funnel and at the top of the funnel, we have impressions and impressions are opportunities for people to see your marketing message. So we’re talking about your social media.
Allison: [00:38:57] Let’s say we’re talking about your Facebook page and you’re going to use that as one of your funnels. Well, your Facebook page has a certain number of people that are following you and that like your page. But not all of those people actually see your message because of the algorithm and the way that Facebook shows information to people. So there are ways that you can look on Facebook to see how many people actually saw every communication that you put out. So then the question becomes, of all those people that saw your message, that’s an opportunity. How many of those were actually leads for your business? That means how many people have to see the communication that I put on Facebook in order for a certain percentage of those people to actually require the need for whatever service I offer. So if I’m a criminal defense firm, how many people need a criminal defense lawyer when they see that message so that they would be a lead for my law firm? And that typically is where you’re going to have a very steep drop off. So you could have tens of thousands of people see a message. But let’s say only three percent of them at any given point in time are in the market for what it is that you’re selling. So then you’re going to see that you have a certain number of leads that come into that funnel through that particular marketing channel.
Allison: [00:40:10] Well, not every person that is a lead is viable for your law firm. So you might exclude of all the people that need a criminal defense attorney, you might only work with white-collar criminals or you might only work with drug offenses, or you might only work in certain counties, or you might only work with people that are accused of crimes that are either repeat offenders or first time offenders. Right. So you define who you want to work with. The leads are the people that need your service. The viable leads are the ones that you would actually be inclined to work with if they could afford your service today. So once you have your viable leads, those are your opportunities, your true opportunities in your law firm to be able to sell. So let’s say you have ten people a week that fit into the viable lead category and you need five clients. Well, you still have more math to do. OK, so one. You get your view, believe a certain percentage of those people have to schedule an appointment, so you want to be working on your intake process, how are you going to get people on the phones or on your calendar? Are you going to charge them? What are you going to say? What’s your qualification criteria? What are you asking them or saying to them on the phone? And then of those people that schedule an appointment, you want them to show up.
Allison: [00:41:19] And believe it or not, not everybody who schedules an appointment with a law firm is inclined to show up. So typically, you want people to pay a fee so they have some skin in the game that they actually show up, even if you give the feedback to them when they do show up. But you want to get something from them so that their time in exchange for your time with some economic value. So once you have your show up and let’s say your show up rate is going to be one hundred percent because you’re going to charge a fee and you’re going to make sure that people pay it before they get on your calendar, then you have a certain conversion rate of the number of people that will actually come in for an appointment. So if you have six people come in for an appointment and you need five clients, you’re going to have to be pretty good. You don’t have to be over 80 percent of those people are going to have to buy versus if you got 10 people scheduled and you only need five clients, then you can have a 50 percent conversion rate. So the more effective you are at actually selling to people when they come into your office, the fewer people you need to see in order to meet your financial goals. But you have to apply those numbers. You have to know how many impressions, how many of those impressions are going to be leads, how many of those leads are viable for your office, and then how many of those viable leads schedule an appointment, show up and will convert to a client.
Allison: [00:42:38] And you start with making hypotheses for each of the different types of funnels that you have. Now, I tell people when you’re new at this, you want to be tweaking and testing that funnel out every single month. So if we make a hypothesis in month one that we need to get in front of ten thousand people in order to get 15 people to be leads for our office, of which 10 are going to be viable. And then out of those ten, we want to get eight of them to schedule an appointment. All eight are going to show up and we need five of those people to become clients. That is our hypothesis of what our funnel is going to look like. If after a month we see we got in front of all the impressions that we needed. But let’s say only 10 of those people were actual leads and only five of those were viable. Well, now we have some tweaking to do on our funnel, right? So if we’re getting a lot of leads, but we’re not getting viable leads, are they not viable because our criteria are too stringent? Do we need to change what we’re saying in our marketing message so that the right people are hearing that the right people being our ideal client avatar, that that person is seeing the message and saying, yeah, that’s what I need.
Allison: [00:43:48] These are the people that can help me. Or is it something else? Are you maybe too broad in your region? You’re marketing to everyone in your state, but really you want people only in a certain geographical limit so you can start asking more intelligent questions when you actually create a funnel, but you’re going to create a funnel based on these hypotheses for every different type of marketing activity that you do in your office. And once you have that all dialed in, you’re then going to apply some numbers to it in terms of dollars and cents. So are we going to be spending our money on social media so that we can market? Are we going to be paying a search engine optimization company or a digital marketing company to run our website? Are we going to be investing and having meals or coffees with people in our networking activity or not? And then you start making some reasonable return on investment projections. So for every one hundred dollars that we spend networking, we generate at least two clients. A client is five thousand dollars. That’s ten thousand dollars made off of one hundred. And we just got a one hundred times return on investment. And you have to start thinking that way with everything and all of your funnels. But essentially you put that on paper and voila, you have a marketing plan.
Grace: [00:45:00] That’s fantastic. That really helped a lot because I know people struggle with creating a marketing plan and they do. A lot of people feel that it’s kind of beyond them, but there’s always a place to start. Right. So you kind of answered my question, my next question, but I kind of want a very specific idea from you on the answer for this one. Now, if a lawyer has limited resources, you know, all lawyers will say we have limited resources regardless. Right? So if you have limited resources for advertising and marketing, where should they invest it? Should they go through the same plan, the same idea, the same concept of what you just said? Or is there a different idea? Because I have no money.
Allison: [00:45:42] Yeah. So that plan that I just kind of laid out for you in very similar fashion works and should work no matter what your resources are, whether you have zero dollars or you have millions of dollars, you need to have an idea of how many people that you want to generate off of each activity so that you can start making some reasonable projections about your time and your money, but for lawyers that start off with no budget, and that’s most of us when we started our law firms. All right, we don’t have a budget for marketing. What I always tell you is that the best use of your time is to mass produce content because content is what is going to get you found and known and give you that level of expertise associated with whatever your area of practice is. So one of the easiest things to do and one of my favorite things to do is video. So I know a lot of people are skeptical about video. They’re like, I don’t want to be out on video. I don’t want to be seen. I’m not the most attractive person. My teeth aren’t straight. My hair is not the prettiest. Whatever our thoughts are about ourselves, we don’t want to do it. But here’s the easy thing. You can get tens of thousands of pieces of content when you create a few videos, and I’m going to tell you how. So if you create a short video, the most beautiful thing that you can do with a video is get it transcribed. OK, lots of services out there. Artificial intelligence, one of my personal favorites for 15 bucks a month, you can get an hour video for six bucks.
Allison: [00:47:04] Right. There’s a couple of different services that do that. There’s otter.ai, ther’s Sonix.ai. But these services will transcribe for you relatively quickly and very cheaply. And once you have your transcript, that transcript then becomes the goal that you can use in a lot of different places. So you can take that video. Let’s say it was a three-minute video. You can clip it into little sound bytes and you can start to pump it out into social media. You can put it in its whole or in different parts on your website. You can put it on your YouTube channel. You can start putting it into blogs on social media. You also have the transcripts of the transcript can then be repurposed in different ways. The transcript can become talking points that you can put into articles. It can go into your email newsletter. So every time you communicate with someone, you collect their email. That email then becomes a part of a list that you can use to promote the fact that your subject matter expertise in something you can start putting it out in different blogs that you write. Right. You can start being a guest blogger on other people’s websites. You can start hyperlinking, what you wrote or rather what you said that will now be transcribed and you can hyperlink that to other people’s websites. So you start them creating a massive digital imprint from one piece of content so that one three minute video will take you fifteen minutes to be able to slice and dice in different ways. But that slicing and dicing them gives you a prolific amount of content.
Allison: [00:48:31] And every time that you do that, you can mass produce. One video can give you ten or fifteen pieces of content. Well, if you think about it and you do five videos a week and they take three minutes each, that 15 minutes can easily turn into seventy five to eight pieces of content. Well, what you’re doing when you are getting yourself to the first page of Google, which is what everybody is marketing gold, is when you start talking to digital marketing companies is what you’re doing is you’re making yourself more popular. Right. A search engine is saying we recognize you as an authority on X, whatever the topic is. So if you’re a family law attorney, it’s family law, me or me, any one you’re in your geographical area is going to get a land on the people in the area. But you’re more likely to come up higher in that ranking if you’re somebody who has a lot of content that will draw a person back to that website, because then the search engine sees you more frequently. They ultimately rank you higher. And when you do this and you create this content consistently 15 minutes a week to create those five videos, you now start having a library of information that’s available. And every time somebody reaches out to you, whether they hire you or not, whether they schedule an appointment or not, you now have data that you can start sending to them, showing that you’re an expert in different practice areas or in different areas within your practice area. And it becomes very easy that way to start to build your domain authority and your popularity online.
Liel: [00:49:59] That’s great, right, Grace? How we love hearing about SEO and doing content and really putting commitment into that because we agree we’re one hundred percent of your mindset, Allison, here. And it really pays off. Right. But it does call for some persistence. It calls for dedication. I think going back to the example that you said, right, that you start you’re motivated, then you don’t have results right away and you want to just kind of drop off the activity. And certainly with anything that you’re aiming, particularly for organic growth, you definitely need time to do its part, its share. But with that said, I agree you do need to be revisiting constantly. What are the results that you getting in tweaking and trying to do things right and trying different things? It doesn’t mean that you need to every single time reinvent the entire process or what you’re doing is completely wrong. But there may be things that you could be improving. You could be trying out to see whether they generate more engagement or an increase in traffic or whatever your objective is that you’re looking for. So while it’s on as if this conversation hasn’t been already filled with a lot of actionable insights, we want to ask you if you could please list three actionable takeaways that our audience here that are trying to generate that same growth that you were able to generate for your own law firm and for your coaching business now as well can do to start getting things on that track to grow with exponential growth.
Allison: [00:51:37] Wow. OK, so this is kind of like the I guess the summation.
Liel: [00:51:44] Probably it is. That’s usually how we end up these conversations is because, you know, it’s very nice to hear and talk and have high level conversations about a lot of things. But we want to, at the end of it, bring it to actual actionable things that you can just stop listening and get working right away.
Allison: [00:52:03] Ok, so lots of different things here. If I had to pick three, I would say start with the end in mind, which is where we last discussed, video. OK, I’m a big proponent of video. If you want to do it yourself, use a cell phone. If you don’t want to do it yourself, use your Logitech camera on your zoom conference. If you don’t want to do it on Zoom, invest ninety nine dollars a month enjoying video Sociales dot net, which is a video blogging club where they will produce for you these very beautiful, very professionally looking videos. But you’ve got to get out there and do video. So that’s number one. Number two is create a marketing plan. And I know that I rattled off the how to because there’s a lot of steps to it, but they’re really very simple steps. Right? Identify where you’re going to be marketing. And then for each of the different places you’re going to market, those are your funnels. You want to create how many impressions you need to have in your funnel. You need to know how many of those are going to be leads. Plan, how many are going to be viable and then put some percentages on how many people will schedule appointments, show up and actually convert.
Allison: [00:53:06] And yes, it is guesswork until you have some data, but you have to get started. So as soon as you have one funnel, you can start creating and collecting data in that one funnel and then look at it every single month and see, did my hypothesis pan out. If it panned out? Great. See if it pans out the next time and the next time. If you need to make some changes and tweaks, do that. So that would be number two. And the number three is really the part that I think kind of just naturally came out of the start of the conversation, which is you have to believe in yourself. That is probably the most powerful thing for you to do. Any time that you have a desire for something, the ways and means for that, something to bring itself into fruition in your life is available. You just don’t see it right now. But know that if other people were able to get to where you want to go, that is a way for you to you just have to know that once you started and you commit to it, that the process will ultimately unfold, but you have to get started. That first step is so critical.
Liel: [00:54:02] It’s as basic as that. Right. What a great takeaway. Believe in yourself. I love it. Allison, thank you so much for sharing with us. So many insights and so many actual good takeaways here as to how to generate exponential growth for your law firm or whatever type of business you have. So thank you again for your time. And we hope to get you back soon here for another conversation, because there are certainly a lot we can be learning from.
Allison: [00:54:30] Thank you so much, both of you. I really enjoyed the conversation and I hope your audience gets a lot of value out of it.
Liel: [00:54:44] Grace, great conversation.
Grace: [00:54:46] That was pretty amazing.
Liel: [00:54:48] I love that. I mean, honestly, believe in yourself. I really mean it. I think it’s a great take away. Sometimes we get too engaged with the complexities of what the takeaways need to be technical staff secrets, the things that, you know, you came here for. But sometimes it’s just as simple as have trust in yourself. If others have. We’re able to do it. You’re also going to be able to do it right. And that’s such a simple thought, but such a powerful one. And I think if you tell that yourself every single day, you’re probably going to have a much happier and better life. Right. I think that’s one of the things that we probably should be hearing and telling ourselves more frequently. So. Before we even establish our takeaways, I’m going to say that’s going to be our takeaway number one. Can we agree to that.
Grace: [00:55:40] Yes. Because my mom told me growing up every single day of my life, dropping me off that I’m the best and she loves me and nobody’s better than me. So I think that’s a super important message to give to anybody out there, because I feel the same way and I do feel like I love myself. And it was helpful to have my mother tell me that every day. So if you’re able to tell yourself that every single day, I think that’s a very important takeaway. And I agree with you.
Liel: [00:56:09] So, Grace, that’s one. But I mean, this conversation was filled with a lot of very, very insightful things. Right. So I’m going to. I know. I mean, like just going here to all of the notes that you’ve made here, it’s like, wow. Right. But it is, isn’t it? Like, really, really detailed stuff here. And I mean, obviously, this is why Allison has managed to achieve everything that she has achieved. And I’m going to I’m going to say one here. And I wonder, what do you think about this one, Grace is when Allison said find something and then find someone that you can delegate to or something along those lines.
Grace: [00:56:52] Yeah. You know, many times I’ve tried to do that. That was such a powerful message that she gave, because it’s true. It helps with the work smarter, not harder, because that’s exactly what it is. You know, that you need to delegate. That’s what it amounts to. It’s hiring someone else that can do something that, you know, that is best utilized with someone else’s time rather than yours. So I agree with you. That’s a very powerful takeaway. And I think it’s super important for people to realize you’re not the only one that can do it. Let your ego go and hire someone else to do so that you can use your time for a higher and better use.
Liel: [00:57:32] Absolutely. I mean, that’s why so much effort and thought goes into hiring the right talent to come and join your team when you’ve done that, then you use this talent to help you take care of other things. It’s all about knowing when your job’s done with something and pass it on to somebody else so you can move on to the next thing. I think that’s very, very, very, very critical. So Grace, what takeaway do you have?
Grace: [00:58:04] So I have I think the final one for me would be make a fool change and not a partial change. And what’s funny is when she said that, it really like. Popped in my head, is that when they tell you that you go on a diet and you know, all these yo-yo dieting and this that the other that people are doing, they tell you that’s not going to work? Right. And it’s because you’re making small changes. You’re not making a full change in that. In this sense, you know, we’re talking about a lifestyle change and this is your business’s life, right? So you need to make a full change and you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. To me, that’s part of the making of food change. I agree with her wholeheartedly. You need to revamp what you’ve been doing because obviously it’s not working up to this point. So if you’re going to invest in yourself in time and efforts in hiring and doing all the things, creating a marketing plan, it needs to be go all the way or go big or go home, like she said. What do you think?
Liel: [00:59:07] Yeah, no, I totally agree. Absolutely. I mean, that constant reminder that you need to stick to things and not just try once. And if it doesn’t work, just OK, at least you tried that wasn’t the messaging or the mindset of this conversation. This conversation was about persistence, was about setting your mind to something and try to tweak things until you make it until you have what you want. Like compromise is not on the end result. You will have to find ways to make the process work for you until you get where you want to be. And I think that’s a valuable lesson as a whole. And again, as we’ve said something that we just need to constantly remind yourself for. But, you know, the understanding of that, how success looks like, what are your goals? What do you want to achieve? That clarity is critical, is essential. Otherwise, you’re walking on a path that really has no direction.
Grace: [01:00:15] I call it a continual improvement process.
Liel: [01:00:17] That’s right, Grace. Continual improvement process. Grace, that is our conversation for this week.
Grace: [01:00:27] That’s it.
Liel: [01:00:28] Good news is, yeah, that we will be back and we have another great conversation next week lined up. So I’m excited about it, Grace, and thank you and have a great rest of your day and see you back here.
Grace: [01:00:42] That’s right. Bye bye.
Liel: [01:00:46] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers, leave us a review, and send us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see you next week.
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