I hope you got a chance to read last week’s blog post, inspired by a desire to provide hope for the lawyers who are seriously depressed about the reality of the practice of law. I, too, found myself hopeless for a time in the early days of my practice. But, I got help and turned things around. You can too.
This post is about the first 6 months to a year of my law practice, what was so depressing and how I turned it around.
First and foremost, if you are truly suicidal, please reach out for help immediately. Here’s where you can find a local suicide hotline.
I wouldn’t say that I was actually suicidal in the early days of my law practice, but I was very concerned. Worried I had made a huge mistake, not just by opening my own law practice, but by going to law school in the first place.
It became even more clear to me that the traditional business model of the law practice owner was irrevocably broken.
Did I really go to law school, I wondered, just so I could churn people through a process of paperwork, signing legal documents, thinking everything had been handled (when truth is it wasn’t really) and trying to collect payment for something I didn’t even really believe in.
That couldn’t have been the case, but that’s what was happening in the early days of my law practice. It was painful. And scary.
I knew it wasn’t sustainable. Too many hours, not enough money, and quickly losing sight of the vision that had drawn me — the ability to truly help families.
Looking around at the other “successful” lawyers in the field of estate planning (my practice area when I left the big law firm and started my law practice), I didn’t see the kind of success I had been dreaming about.
I saw lawyers who were working 6-7 days a week, sometimes into the wee hours of the night, just to keep up with it all. One of the most successful women lawyers would even brag about her child sleeping in her office in a basket near her desk as she drafted estate plans at 2 in the morning.
Even the lawyers who were charging a hefty fee for their services and had clients lined up out the door didn’t seem happy to me.
They were constantly working. Starting every month over at zero. Not building a business they’d be able to sell one day. I knew and they knew, they’d have to work till they died. I don’t think I ever saw them take a vacation.
And, in more than one of the practices, they knew that the plans they were putting in place weren’t going to stay up-to-date throughout their clients’ lifetimes. They knew assets wouldn’t be owned in the right way when their clients’ died and that they’d have even more work coming to them from the plans they’d have to fix post mortem.
In fact, it was part of the business model.
Yuck. I went to law school to help people. To make a difference in their lives.
I started my law practice to give people the true peace of mind of knowing their loved ones would stay out of Court and have an easy time of things when the worst happened…
Instead, I was shuffling papers and giving people false security.
It was depressing. And I knew I had to do something about it quickly, or I was going to give up on the practice of law altogether.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Well, that’s exactly what happened for me. The teacher appeared and I found myself packing up my kids and husband to fly across the country and attend a meeting where I saw what the practice of law could be like.
I met lawyers who wanted to make a real difference in their clients’ lives, and in many cases, were already doing it successfully.
What I saw inspired me into action and I engaged a coach who helped me begin to implement what I saw there.
As a result, I became the best lawyer in town, not because of what I knew about the law, but because of how I learned to make a real difference in my clients’ lives.
I built my practice to provide the kind of service that made my heart sing. I knew that anyone engaging my services would have real peace of mind, know that their plan would work for life, their family would stay out of court, have someone (me) to turn to in times of trouble and that I would be helping families not just to pass on financial wealth, but also the kind of wealth that is most often lost when someone dies, the intangible wealth of values, insights, stories and experience.
Within the first year of my practice, I went from depressed, near hopeless and wondering if I would have to leave the law altogether to fund fulfillment to becoming the lawyer I always wanted to be.
The only problem was, I found myself not really able to explain what I did for people in a way that left them wanting it. In the 50% of the time I could engage a prospect who came into meet with me, I could only get them to say yes to a cheap, documents only plan.
And while that was (barely) supporting my firm, now that I knew what else was possible, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep doing it like that for long.
What I didn’t know is how I would make the shift if I couldn’t get clients to pay for the planning I knew was really worth it.
Today, I teach lawyers how to make that shift and almost universally they ask me how long it will take until the money starts coming in. I remember wondering the same thing myself.
Looking back now, I can say that it comes as soon as you are ready. Each and every time I have committed with 100% resolve to a course of action, every single resource I have needed has shown up for me, exactly when I needed it. And sometimes with zero awareness of where that would come from or how it would happen. But it did.
In next week’s blog post, I’ll share how and when the money started coming in, the first “problem” I solved that had the biggest impact and the bigger “problems” that arose once I solved the money problem.
In the meantime, I’ll remind you that I’m holding a webinar to outline the EXACT systems I used to create the kind of practice I could feel GOOD about, and go from struggling to easily bringing in over $1 million/year.