Lawyerist: Can you give a brief description of your firm, its size, practice area, location, and a little bit of how you started it?
Nick: Sure. So, I have my own law firm in Bellevue, Washington. I’m the only attorney. We have one paralegal and I practice primarily in elder law. Think estate planning, probate trust administration, and estate litigation. I ended up with my own solo firm after working for my father’s firm for four years. And it was about the time my father was preparing to retire that I joined Lawyerist Lab where I worked on a business plan and developed processes to actually run my own firm instead of being an employee for someone else’s firm.
Wanting Defined Values in His Firm
Lawyerist: You mentioned that some of your challenges before joining Lab was to unlearn what you learned from your dad’s firm. What were those challenges, specifically?
Nick: A lot of things! One was having a business plan and a target customer in mind. My dad didn’t do much marketing other than the Yellow Pages. So, in Lab, I started thinking about how to have a brand identity, which is not something on my dad’s radar.
Also, I talked to another Labster at LabCon who really had his values down at his firm. And I had a light bulb moment—I needed to develop some values and a culture for my firm. I found little by little, the work I did on our vision and values seeps into the way I speak when I’m giving public talks or recording videos. I’ll reference our firm values and culture.
And that work is the key to everything we do now. That’s why I joined Lab in the first place—to get those fundamentals in place because I knew how to practice law, but not run a business.
Lawyerist: Speaking of—how did you find out about Lab in the first place?
Nick: It’s a long story, but I originally met Sam at a Washington State Bar Conference, then the rest of the crew at ClioCon one year. I almost joined another community, but that community felt one-dimensional and, honestly, like a community at all. A huge selling point for me was seeing the Lawyerist team out in the world. They felt very non-salesy. They’re real people who do real things. That was the community I was looking for.
Lawyerist: That’s so nice to hear! What else attracted you to Lab?
Nick: One of the biggest tensions working with my dad was modernizing our office. For example, I told him I want to be paperless. I don’t want to ever have paper. That’s not necessary to practice law. And he would have a lot of reasons why we couldn’t. I bought a very fast scanner, but I couldn’t get him to use it. I just couldn’t get him to use it.
And when I joined Lab, I thought: I’ve finally found a community where I don’t have to convince people modernizing is worth it. Lab was already a paperless-first community. Cloud-based first. That’s so important to me.
Lawyerist: How has the Lawyerist team help you strategize and implement over the years?
Nick: Having a community and Mastermind cohort to hold me accountable is great. Being able to work through modules together, check up on each other—really valuable.
Lawyerist: And you’ve been here here for a while—one of the veterans.
Nick: I started October 2018. Right! How would I ever leave?
Accomplishments in Lab
Lawyerist: What have been some of your accomplishments and milestones over the years?
Nick: I think it’s probably a series of little things, but a huge one is using a project management tool (Trello). To be able to visually see the next steps and deadlines in cases is crucial. And I have a personal account to keep track of my goals, too.
At this point, the practice is taking off to the point where I can show up every day, work in the practice without stressing out. I take home a decent paycheck and people are happy, but I still want to bigger things. That actually having goals and setting aside some time to work on the business.
Lawyerist: What features of Lab have you enjoyed the most?
Nick: Oh, I love LabCon. I miss in-person LabCon, but virtual has been a good substitute! I like that it’s not just a conference where you’re taking in knowledge. It’s actual work time.
And community events, too–Masterminds, group coaching calls. Those have been great. To be able to interact with coaches weekly, like Bernadette on Finances or Kelly on management or Laura on SEO.
Lawyerist: What are your future plans for your firm?
Nick: We’re working on growing. I unlocked this with Coach Stephanie the other day. Our business grow and not just by a little bit—but by a large bit. I’m working on the processes to get us there.
We’ve also been putting time in our website and we’re getting customers fast just from Google searches. The power of SEO!
Lawyerist: Do you have advice for someone just starting their own firm?
Nick: Great question. One thing to consider—the overhead monster. You have to keep your overhead super low. That’s true even when your firm takes off. You have to be brutal with those expenses.
Less is more in the beginning. Start as lean as possible. For example, do you even need an office? I mean, now people just do everything from home. So if you can eliminate all those startup costs, then you could launch your own firm with very little out-of-pocket.
What areas of your business are you looking to take to the next level?
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