I am not going to sugarcoat this article and it may rub some people the wrong way. This is a topic that has the power to be life-changing and transformative to your life and your practice, but it depends on what you do with this information.
I recently had the pleasure of sharing the success story of estate planning attorney, Leigh Cowden, who finished up her first year of practice with close to $400,000 of revenue in her first year! While I was like a proud mama bear to share how much she had done in her first year and grown as a successful business owner of her own law practice, let me just say that it came as no surprise to me that upon sharing this story, there would be naysayers. Colleagues who would say things like how she must be over-charging her clients. Or, she must be doing other more profitable areas of law than just a Living Trust-centered estate planning practice. Leigh must not be telling the whole story, because there’s just no way that someone could do that. And, heck, some folks flat out said she must be lying!
The reason why I said that this comes as no surprise to me is because over my course of almost 20 years in this business, I can tell you from experience that I have seen what makes the difference between a successful estate planning attorney business owner and not. It is not about geographic location, education and credentials, staffing, or even the amount of revenue being generated. You could have a multi-million-dollar practice, but if it comes with being unable to keep staff, unethical or questionable business practices, or the attorney business owner burnt out, stressed and not happy, what exactly is the point?
The difference between the attorney business owners who are successful and those who are not is about mindset. Yes, I said mindset. Before you roll your eyes and close out your browser (and prove me right about this), hear me out.
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Psychologist Carol Dweck made popular this idea of growth versus fixed mindset in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A fixed mindset puts limitations on what is possible. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that talent, intelligence and other qualities are unchanging. By contrast, someone with a growth mindset believes that intelligence, talent and other results are possible. Often times those with a fixed mindset can be found with a bit of a victim mentality, as though they are being held back by their own circumstances and that the results they have are because of others around them or circumstances outside of their control. When you have this mentality, you give your power away, almost as to say that you have no means of controlling your outcome and are subject to the people and things around you. People with a growth mindset see their life and their practice filled with possibilities and opportunities. They are optimistic and they are willing to change and try new things.
Below are just a few examples of where I have seen some attorneys have a fixed mindset about their practice.
“That doesn’t work.”
One of the most common examples that we experience from attorney business owners of a fixed mindset is the ‘ole “That doesn’t work.” Perhaps they tried something (like seminar marketing) once or twice and they had terrible results and write it off as never working. Then they are shocked to find out how others are utilizing seminars in their practice. Just because something did not work for you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work at all. The truth is that the devil is in the details and there are plenty of colleagues to learn from who are utilizing all kinds of strategies in their practice successfully who can share the details about how to make it work for you. This is not to say that certain strategies may not be a fit for your geographic area or target market (an example would be trying to promote mid-week, midday seminar presentations to a younger working class of clients).
“There are no good workers anymore.”
I joke around with a lot of my attorney-clients who tell me that “Phil is lucky.” Phil has over six employees who have been with him for over 15 years (three of which have been with him for over 20 years). While I understand that the job market pool for employees may be larger in the Los Angeles area, I tease my attorney-clients and say, “Do you just think all the talented, loyal and skilled workers are in LA?” The truth is that Phil has learned to hire based on personality and skills and then spent a considerable amount of time mentoring and empowering his employees to learn to care about his business as much as he does. People feel a sense of independence but have been taught how to do their job so that they not only do it well, but they do it the way Phil wants it done. That way he does not need to micromanage or constantly be dragged into the day-to-day business. You can absolutely do the same and there are decent, hard-working individuals in your area available to work.
“People won’t pay that kind of money for my services.”
Another common fixed mindset that we see with some attorneys is a fundamental fear of charging a reasonable and substantiated fee for their services. They feel pressured by LegalZoom, the low-cost attorney who “dabbles” in estate planning, and the do-it-yourselfer who does not see the value of paying the going market rate for your services. We find that most attorneys are undercharging for their services as a result of these fears and pressures. The truth is that your services may not be for everyone and if you are closing 100% of the prospects you meet with, you are probably not charging enough. You are providing not only a binder of executed legal documents, but you are also counseling them utilizing your years’ of experience and expertise, and also taking on all of the liability that comes with being their attorney and ensuring that the plan you prepared was properly drafted and executed.
“My practice is different…”
Whenever we host our 2-day Ultimate Level event, there is always someone who will tell us how their practice is different and how the principles we are talking about do not apply to them. It is not to say that people don’t have different types of practices, ways of doing things, types of clientele, and so forth. I do realize that practices are different in lots of ways. However, there are some fundamental and universal laws to running a business. From the how-tos of generating business, building your team, delivering on the work, and managing your time, to scaling and creating a valuable business that you can sell someday. It is why I have seen attorneys with non-estate planning practices take our programs, which are geared towards the estate planning practitioner, and run with it and completely revitalize their practices. Leaning on the concept that your practice is “different” gives you a constant reason to justify why everything that you might try won’t work for you, so what’s the point of even trying to give it a shot.
“I’m the only one that can do this.”
In line with the idea that intelligence, talent and skills are innate, believing that only you—attorney business owner—are capable of doing any particular task is a fantastic way to hold back your practice. It limits you from ever being able to get the help you need to leverage your time so that you are doing the tasks that are truly the best and highest use of your time, talents, skills, education, and degrees. The truth is, you are one person, which means that you cannot possibly do everything. You must find a way to transfer your knowledge and skills down to another. Frankly, in the estate planning industry, it’s a must. The majority of estate planning attorneys are charging flat fees, which means that attorneys should be in revenue-producing meetings (engaging clients, signing with clients, etc.), and the rest of the tasks, as much as possible, can and should be delegated to another support staff team member in the firm.
Moving Towards a Growth Mindset
A powerful exercise we do at our Ultimate Level event, which I recommend you doing right now.
- First, grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.
- On one side, write down all your limiting beliefs. All the things that are holding you back. All the things that you have been saying about yourself, about your practice, about why you cannot seem to reach your goals.
- Now, on the other side, turn each limiting belief that you wrote down into a present-day, positive affirmation. If you wrote something like, “I don’t have time.” You could now write, “I can make the time and find a better way to structure my calendar.”
- Last, but not least, tear the sheet in half and throw out the garbage! Take the side with all of your limiting beliefs, what I also call “Head Trash”, and toss it. You’re now left with a wonderful list of empowering affirmations for you to work off of.
The process of changing your outlook and mindset will not be an instantaneous overnight experience. It is something that you will need to work on daily. How you show up at the office. How you show up in life. It must be a conscientious effort on your part, but you’re the leader and if you don’t believe that change and success are possible, how is anyone else in your firm supposed to believe it too?
With the new year and 2024 upon us, my question for you is… are you ready for change? Do you want a different result from what you’ve been getting this past year or perhaps the past several years? If you are interested in getting some new and better results, then it’s time that you considered doing things differently. This is where we can and will help you.
I leave you with this powerful quote worth considering…
There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference.
The little difference is attitude.
The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.
—W. Clement Stone, American Businessman and Philanthropist
THE ULTIMATE LEVEL—PRACTICE-BUILDING & MARKETING PROGRAM FOR ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEYS
Lawyers go to law school to become great lawyers and to practice law, but without any additional training or courses on business, those who are running their own practices need help in understanding how to make their law practice successful. From how to set up systems and processes around getting work out the door and communicating with staff, to how to properly staff, train and manage employees, and then, of course, you need a solid marketing strategy if you’re going to be able to hire the help that you need and have a lucrative practice. For years, we have been helping to bridge this gap and you can learn this too with our unique program called, “The Ultimate Level”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach at The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has assited numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. She is currently pursuing her MBA degree from Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.