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Episode 130: Scale Your Law Practice (To Maximize Your ROI)
Do you want to scale your law practice but aren’t quite sure how to get started?
Lawyers often talk about wanting to scale their law practices yet often don’t know how to best do it. And sometimes, we have different definitions around what it even means to scale.
Which is why, when I met Katie Lipp and she couldn’t stop talking about scaling, I knew I needed to get her onto the podcast.
Join me and Katie (fellow lawyer and coach) for an instructive conversation around how to scale your law practice.
Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Life and Law podcast. This is your host, Heather Moulder.
Today we have guest Katie Lipp, who is the founder of two businesses. One is a law firm, Lip Law, where she focuses on HR and business law for companies, executives, and education professionals in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
And her other company is a coaching practice for lawyers called Law Practice Queen. And that focus is on empowering, educating, and connecting female lawyers who want to grow their law practices with more clients and revenue. Welcome, Katie.
[00:01:26] Katie: Thanks, Heather. I really appreciate you having me.
[00:01:29] Heather: Well, I’m excited to have you on because when we first talked and remind me, I think we met on LinkedIn?
[00:01:37] Katie: Yes.
[00:01:37] Heather: Like a lot of my guests, I met you on LinkedIn. We got together on a coffee chat, got to know one another, and I was like…”You need to be on the podcast.”
So I think that’s how it happened. And I remember you talking about scaling and how you get really excited about it. And I was like…
- I don’t find a lot of people who get excited about it, especially lawyers.
- Lawyers aren’t typically good at that.
- And I don’t think I’ve had anybody on the show to talk about how to scale your law practice.
So, I was like “Oh, you’ve got to come on and talk about this topic!”
[00:02:11] Katie: Yes, let’s do the expansion thing. It’s fun.
[00:02:16] Heather: Okay, but before we get into the topic of the day, I’d love to start with you as a practicing lawyer.
Katie’s Story (And What You Can Learn From Her)
Heather: How long have you been practicing?
[00:02:25] Katie: 13 years.
[00:02:27] Heather: 13 years, okay. So what made you want to become a lawyer in the first place? Was this something you always wanted, or did you kind of get into it by happenstance – what is your story on that?
[00:02:38] Katie: It’s always like, a few different things.
The Typical Path of Choosing To Be A Lawyer
Okay. So I did my undergraduate in psych in psychology, and I was trying to decide, do I go into psych and get a PhD or do I go to law school? So PhD is five years, law school is three years. Point 1 for law school.
How many job opportunities would I have at the time? I was like, oh, I’ll have way more job opportunities as a lawyer.
And then I graduated in 2010, which as you know and probably many of your listeners know, was not a great time to be getting a job. I did get one which was good, but that ended up not being true. But of course, we don’t have a crystal ball.
I also went to law school to impress my parents, which was mission accomplished. They are so very impressed.
[00:03:28] Heather: That’s hilarious.
[00:03:29] Katie: I don’t recommend your career choice based on pleasing your parents. But that was definitely a reason. It was like I had to get a higher degree of some sort. And so it’s like, let’s make sure I do one of those things. And I think I ended up making it to the same destination because I do HR Law, which I wanted to do industrial organizational, or IO Psych, which is workplace psychology. So lots of similarities there.
Looking Backwards To See The Answers
So when you kind of piece together the steps of your life backwards, you’re like, oh, okay, I’m where I need to be right now, and that’s good. So I think we all get caught up a lot on am I doing the right thing? What should my next step be? We kind of do that double dutch move (to use a Jump Roping reference) where we can’t mess it up. It’s okay, take the pressure off.
Katie’s Lawyer Personality Traits
But I’m sure a lot of your listeners are like me. I am high anxiety perfectionistic type A, and as much as I try to relax and not be myself, it is kind of my natural proclivity.
I took a year off in between college and law school. My parents had a meltdown over that. They’re like, oh, that’s bad. And now everybody’s taking a gap year now, even after high school. So I think we’ve chilled out a little bit generationally. But yeah, I’m happy I went to law school. I enjoy being a lawyer. I like the chance to use my brain every day independently.
And I’m an introvert, so I love just working independently. That is a really great fit for me personally, and I like helping people. That’s a good feeling. So HR law, I get to go into a very sticky situation in the workplace and tell a company and advise them, like, here’s how you can terminate an employee who has a mental illness, or here’s how you can terminate someone who’s already made a claim against your company without getting sued. Those really difficult squishy terminations are kind of where I shine. I like the counseling aspect of it.
So if I didn’t go into law, I would have gone into psychology, and who knows what the future holds? But I don’t want any more school. I think I’m done with that.
The 3 Most Common Reasons Lawyers Go To Law School (& Why That Matters)
[00:06:01] Heather: Well, I find it interesting, though, because most people who go to law school either go one of three ways:
- By accident because they didn’t get a degree that they felt like they could get a job with. And so then, okay, well, I’ll just go to law school and figure it out from there.
- Because they’ve always wanted to do it, which was my case.
- Or because they almost felt like they had to for some reason, which sounds more like you – with the parental involvement, that kind of a thing.
And a lot of people – even those who go in thinking they always wanted it because a lot of people think they know what the practice of law is, and then they get into it and realize they didn’t really know what this was – they question it.
But there are a lot of people who go by accident or feel like they had to or were pushed into it and end up with wondering…
- Did I choose the right thing?
- Is this really right for me?
And they always have these questions, and I do think people tend to overthink it a little bit.
It’s interesting that you are one of those people and are like “If I look back, it actually makes sense. I’m where I need to be, and I’m enjoying it.”
And I actually think you can enjoy almost anything as long as you ensure that you are in the right cultural fit and that you are utilizing your strengths in a way that makes sense. And there’s a lot of different ways you can do that. Law happens to be one of them.
The Importance Of The Right Cultural Fit
[00:07:26] Katie: Yeah, totally. The cultural fit is everything.
I wouldn’t have had a great cultural fit in big law for the long haul. And so that’s why I got out of I would call it more like mid law, where I was at. Some people would call it a big firm. Everybody’s got a different definition, but I was in a bigger law firm as a partner with that competitive feeling of you’ve always got to do more, you always have to put your job first. And I was looking for some more balance. I wanted to work from home.
This was pre pandemic, and my goal at the time was to work from home one day a week wearing sweatpants, like not having to go into the office. I didn’t want to have to shower, or to put on makeup, or to have to put on heels, or to have to get in my car. I wanted to just roll up to my computer in sweatpants and get on calls with clients, which is what I do now. And that was a nice shift. So culturally, I just wasn’t in a place where I could do that. A lot of firms are more traditional. They want to see you.
But Sometimes It’s Not Just About Culture – It’s Also About You
And one of the interesting things I learned after getting out of that culture was a lot of the pressure that I thought was coming externally from my firm was actually coming from me internally. And I was like, what?
And so that was like a huge realization, like light bulb moment. And then you feel or I felt somewhat defeated because “Man, it’s in my head.”
But that being said, going back know, it needs to be a good cultural fit. I get this vibe from you, Heather, that you’re really optimistic. I’m definitely like a very glass half full type person. I’m like, I feel like I could put up with so much pain.
We have put up with a lot – and I’m not saying all the places I was at were bad because most of them are great. But there are some very unique things about the legal industry that you tell them to other people outside the industry and they’re like, that’s awful. You have to bill your time in six minute increments. Yeah, that’s how I get paid, unfortunately.
Why The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
[00:09:50] Heather: But there are benefits too, right?
My husband’s not a lawyer, and he does consulting work and consults for Fortune 100 companies. And the one thing I’ve noticed over the 20 plus years that he’s been doing this is, no matter what client he is currently contracting with, they have a plethora of meetings. They have very little actual time to do the work.
And it would drive me insane to work in a place like that. I could not do it. And I think lawyers need to understand that there are drawbacks and benefits to everything. When you get into the company culture, a lot of that is shuffling around papers and stroking people’s egos, the politics of it. We think law firms are political – and they are because anywhere that has people has politics. It is what it is but not to the same extent a lot of companies are.
The other thing I’ve noticed is the chain that things have to go up through and the approvals, and that nothing ever seems to get done. All I had to do was make a decision on X and ask one person, and usually they’d sign off if I had a good reason and then I could go forward. I was pretty much my own boss.
I told my clients what to do, and they actually listened and they would do it. And he tells them but they won’t listen. They hire him as a consultant specifically for his opinion on things, and yet they don’t follow it 90% of the time even when they know it’s best because they can’t convince all the powers that be. It is crazy.
I just had to say that because I think sometimes lawyers think it’s better elsewhere.
A Note About Being Positive (And Changing Your Mindset)
It’s funny you said I’m a very positive person, and you are too. I think a lot of it has to do with the choice you make about your outlook on “How do I make this work and how can I make this work better?” Your outlook really is a choice.
I have not always been a positive person. It took a while for me. I grew up as a very negative kid in many ways, and throughout my college and law school years, learned to change that. For any of you who are dealing with that and wish you could see the world more positively or you could perceive things that way, it’s definitely possible. And it starts with you acknowledging it’s possible so that you can then figure out how to make it work for you.
[00:12:22] Katie: Well, I will give your younger self a big hug. I won’t get too far afield, but there’s this really cool documentary called The Tools by Phil Stutz on Netflix. It has Jonah Hill in it where they talk about recognizing your shadow self. And usually it’s like a younger version of yourself.
I don’t want to get too far afield into the woo woo stuff, but when you said you haven’t always been that way, yeah, of course we’re evolving every day.
Some people will say people don’t change and you just are who you are at your core. And I don’t know if I buy that. I think we do.
We’re constantly evolving, maybe in a positive way, maybe in a negative way. But that’s why your podcast and podcasts like this are so important, because it exposes you to that positive energy. It exposes you to maybe a different way of looking at things than what your everyday might be.
Mindset Change Is Simple (But That Doesn’t Equate To Easy)
[00:13:34] Heather: Yeah, and I just want to make clear I get pushback about making this sound so simple. Yes, it is simple. But simple does not equate to easy. The idea is simple. It’s clear, it’s obvious. You have a choice.
The how do you do it? It’s not easy.
Change Through Habits & Letting Go
By changing long term habits, changing all kinds of things. And it’s interesting because it’s more than that. It’s letting go of what others think of you. We had a conversation before we hit record around – and this goes to something you said earlier, too, around the big law world and people’s billables plus how we tend to perceive the law firms in general (especially big law or larger law firms).
Whose Opinion Is Most Important To You?
It’s not just about breaking habits, but allowing yourself to get clear around who is most important to you and whose opinion is most important to you. Because all lawyers are high achievers and the vast majority of high achievers are type A personalities who tend to be very perfectionist. You said this earlier and we care a lot about what other people think of us. We care about our reputation. We care and so we strive to do what everybody else does. And oftentimes there are ridiculous standards.
You’ve got to get to a place where you accept that you’ve been doing that and you’re actually acknowledging you want to change that so that you can change it. And it’s really hard to let go though of those things. This is why coaches like you and me exist by the way, to help. And therapists. It depends on where you are, what you’re struggling with with who can help you most.
Why A Good Problem Is Still A Problem (The Excuses Lawyers Make)
But I mentioned before we hit record that I have a friend who’s logging insane hours and he makes the comment of “It’s a good problem to have.” No, it’s really not. If it’s a problem, it’s a problem.
And he has this typical outlook in big law where it’s “I have no choice, there’s just too much work and I’ve got to do it.” No, you don’t have to do it all. You can actually say no, you can turn down work. And frankly you probably should because the number of hours you’re logging, it’s not humanly possible to continue that for a long period of time.
I’ve known people to end up in the hospital because of that with heart issues and needing heart surgery and it actually is that severe.
I think it’s really important to point out all of these things that you’ve kind of like dabbled into but people need to be realistic about “What do I actually want and why am I on this path? And is this what I want?” If it’s not, just know you can change it.
And I loved what you said – that it wasn’t so much about the law firm but about you. This person I’m talking about would probably tell you it’s because of his clients, it’s because of the firm, it’s because of all these other things. No, it’s because he’s choosing to do too much work – he’s choosing to take it on. He’s not saying no and he can say no.
Taking Personal Accountability For Ourselves & Our Decisions
[00:16:48] Katie: Right? Yeah. I think it comes down to we haven’t been taught to take personal accountability for our life choices and what those consequences are and to own our power in those moments. And I think it’s sometimes our gut reaction is to blame others and to not take a hard look at ourselves, and to ask “What can I do to change this?”
And when you’re stuck in a pattern like, let’s say you’re in big law and you’re billing the 2500 hours a year and you’ve been doing it for ten years, that’s just your life. And you had a really good comment, it’s like you can make a change but it’s going to take hard work. It is a simple change but it’s going to take hard work and you parse those two concepts out and once somebody’s in a pattern of doing that for ten years, it’s easier for them to continue doing that than to make a change.
We don’t want to make changes. Changes are hard. Changes take work.
The Lie Your Brain Tells You About Change
[00:17:52] Heather: Well, here’s what’s interesting to me though. I think this is when I finally figured out because most people who’ve listened to my podcast for a while (and I don’t know if you know my story, most do) know that I did the thing everybody else did. I found myself burning out a couple of years in and questioning “Why did I ever want this and am I going to continue?” Ultimately I decided it was on me and I needed to change things.
But what I realized, and what I hope that anybody who’s in this place will hear on this, yes, it’s hard work to make a change but guess what?
It’s really flipping hard work to keep going on as you’ve been doing and to keep going on is going to not lead you to ultimate success (you know this). So why choose that piece of hard work and not try the other hard work that has the opportunity for lifting you out of it? Because either way is still hard, right?
[00:18:51] Katie: I haven’t actually read this book but I know it’s a really popular book for this concept of burning out and it’s called The Body Keeps Score.
Even without reading the book I think I have a sense of what it is about . Even when we haven’t cognitively or consciously realized that our lives are unsustainable in our careers with how much we’re working, our body will send signals to us.
And I think that when you get stuck in a pattern for so long you just accept substandard health as “This is just going to be my normal”. I would encourage all of your listeners to recognize what’s at stake from a long term strategy, right?
And that’s how you get yourself out of these patterns is through a long term sustainable strategy to make change and see a coach like Heather that you can help them make those changes. I think that’s a really positive thing to have as a lawyer because we are so focused on our work that it is very difficult to make the time to commit to making these changes and having somebody who’s done it before, who can help us through that, who can keep us accountable.
It’s critical to do because otherwise it’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns. We all do it. And that’s why these stories of law burnout are just so common because the industry is set up to people want to make a lot of money, right?
Katie’s Decision To Go Out On Her Own
[00:20:26] Heather: Okay, so you practiced in a bigger firm. You decided to go out on your own? When did you go out on your own?
[00:20:35] Katie: Four years ago. So in 2019, right before pandemic.
[00:20:40] Heather: So how was it kind of handling the pandemic in your infancy of your firm?
[00:20:47] Katie: Initially, I kind of had an “Oh no!” moment. How is this going to impact me? I feel like any business owner during that time was just kind of in this weird “Is this going to be bad or what’s going to happen?” And then we were presented with choices.
- Do you keep doing the same thing, or do you pivot?
- How do you pivot?
- What do you need to do to adapt to the new circumstances?
Having A Virtual Law Practice
And I’m an employment lawyer. I made the decision in 2019 to start a virtual law firm. And I work with a lot of tech companies, and I modeled my law firm after my tech clients that worked remotely, that just had everything set up in home offices. So we were ready from a system standpoint for the challenges of virtual work.
I knew a lot of colleagues that were not, and it was hard to see them go through that because it takes a lot to set up a virtual workplace. You can’t just snap your fingers and have it all set up, let alone during COVID when not a lot of people are working as much as they used to because they’re taking care of kids at home. Schools are closed. It was a mess.
But we were set up from a system standpoint, which was great.
Navigating A New Law Firm Through COVID
I do employment law, and it was one of our busiest years we’ve ever had.
I know you said the phrase that your friend said, which was “It’s good to be busy.” Well, it can be a little much sometimes. And I got burnt out on specific types of cases to where after the the pandemic ended, I’m like, I don’t want to see anything to do with vaccines. Like, we have been dealing with these regulations going up, down, sideways. Supreme Court here.
I felt like we were being yanked around a lot from a legal standpoint on…
- Here’s this new law.
- Okay, read the new law now.
- Tell clients about the new law.
- And then put out a blog post out about the new law.
- Social media.
And it was like trying to drink water through a fire hose. And it’s a really great place to be as a legal practitioner, to have established case law on the laws you’re telling your clients about.
None of this was like I mean, we had Title Seven, which covered the vaccine stuff, religious discrimination, that kind of thing. But I did not ever want to be a religious discrimination lawyer. I did not ever really want to advise my clients on how to fire people for not getting vaccinated. That was not something that I wanted to do. But it was kind of like a necessary evil at that time in my mind. But I’m so glad to have that behind us. From an employment loss standpoint, I’m glad that part is over.
When Katie Started Scaling Her Law Practice
We ramped up quite a bit during that time because we were so, so busy.
I added a new attorney in 2020. My husband was furloughed during that time, so he was actually watching my daughter, who was out of school and was four at the time. So, that was a blessing in disguise because he now works with me. He quit his full time job last year, and there’s no way that would have happened without the pandemic.
The pandemic was like our trial run for him helping me out. So now he quit his full time job with benefits last year. That was a huge thing that didn’t fully sink in at the time, and now it’s kind of sinking in, like, a year later. It’s like, oh, we did that. Okay.
[00:24:23] Heather: When I did that, it was hard. My husband was always contract, and every benefit of my family was through me. And leaving the law firm, life was hard, but it was the right decision. And there are options out there, don’t get me wrong. They’re not great, but there are options out there. It was worth it for us. So it is one of those things that you feel like you’re kind of like stepping off the cliff when you do it, right?
[00:24:54] Katie: Yes, for sure. I mean, he was at his company for 16 years, and it was without a doubt – we have no regrets. He has no regrets. It was a good decision. But at the same time, it is scary.
How To Scale Your Law Practice
Shifting Your Mindset For Ownership & Responsibility Of Others
And it’s that pressure of I’m the one that’s supporting three people now. And then also, when you run a business in the beginning you’re like “Oh, I’m supporting these employees. Oh, no!”
But now I’m like they’re supporting me. We’re all helping each other, and I feel like more so we’re supporting the clients.
But when I first started my law firm, I was very nervous about having people on payroll and all that kind of stuff. Now I’m like, it took me, like, two payrolls. I’m like, okay, we’re fine. We’ve got money in the bank. We’re good.
But it’s mindset shift.
[00:25:46] Heather: It is a mindset shift, and it’s a mindset shift that from what I’ve seen through my clients who do this, it takes little time, right? You’ve just got to step off that cliff and trust that it will be okay.
Scaling Your Law Firm Means Embracing Uncertainty
And what is interesting to me in helping lawyers do that is that we want to know every next step, right? We want to know what the path for the next 10 to 20 steps are.
The truth is, you barely know your next one. You don’t know all of them. And a lot of this is learn as you go, which scares the heck out of most lawyers because we have been trained to be super risk averse, and to plan for every contingency. But you just can’t.
It’s a mindset shift you have to make – to embrace – or you will not be successful. You will not actually take the risks you’re going to have to take and learn the lessons you’re going to have to learn.
And because some of the risks you’re going to take, you’re going to later figure out “No, that wasn’t the right thing but it was good for me because I learned this and now I can apply it moving forward.”
[00:26:46] Katie: Right.
[00:26:47] Heather: But it’s scary as all get-out.
[00:26:50] Katie: I I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of the Indiana Jones movies, but Raiders of the Lost Ark, there’s a part where he’s going across what looks like just empty black space. But then when he starts to step, he lands on steps.
That’s what I was picturing when I was launching my firm and as I was building everything. I was like, the path will appear – whether through divine intervention or I just have to keep the faith, right?
I don’t have to know every single step forward. I think I don’t necessarily gel with clients that need to know 10 billion steps ahead. Because I’m like, no, we don’t need to know that right now.
Want To Scale Your Law Practice? Take Imperfect Action.
And that’s why it can be difficult working with law firms and working with lawyers, because our brains do tend to work like that. But as long as you can explain “Look, here is the best use of your resources right now is through action.”
Instead of overthinking every single next step, it’s like:
- What’s our next action step?
- How are we going to actually get it done?
As opposed to avoiding any possible problem along the way. Because when you’re running a business, it doesn’t have to be perfect. And also when you’re running a law practice, it doesn’t have to be. That’s why it’s called practice.
How Best To Get Out Of Overthinking And Into Action
[00:28:18] Heather: That’s right. And as you said, we overthink everything. And the truth of the matter is, the longer you stay in your head the harder it’s going to be to figure out:
- What it is you really want to be doing.
- What the right next step is.
- Or where you’re going.
You do not get real clarity until you actually take some action. That’s what gives you the clarity. And I know one of my current Mastermind clients in my current Mastermind group has been like that has just been the biggest thing for me, Heather, that you’ve taught me.
Clarity is created through action.
And it’s up to me to take that first step. And it’s not like I have to take ten steps at once, either but just take the one step, learn from it, figure out what the next step is, and just keep going.
And the path changes over time, but you’re constantly going forward if you do.
[00:29:07] Katie: Absolutely.
How Katie Helps Women Scale
[00:29:10] Heather: So when did you start your coaching business and how did that come along?
[00:29:16] Katie: Yes, so I started it the same year as my law firm. So four years ago in 2019, and I used a business coach, my first quarter of operations.
How Coaching Helped Katie
Kara and I worked together, my first quarter of law firm operations. And then after that, I felt like I had a lot to say as far as how easy it is to run a law practice compared to working for somebody else in a law firm.
I felt like I thought it was going to be so much harder running a law firm, and it is not that hard in my personal experience. Again, everybody is going to have a different experience. But for me, I was like, wow, this is super easy compared to having to keep all these other people happy and fulfill their requirements.
The Freedom Through Having Your Own Firm
And one of the biggest things I realized was even though I was a top performer at my firm, I was still worried about getting fired because, again, I have anxiety. I have high performing perfectionistic anxiety, which is a blessing and a curse.
So it’s like you’re always worried about, okay, what am I doing wrong? You’re always kind of like trying to balance multiple plates and trying to keep people happy. And if you’re your own boss, it’s really liberating.
Of course, then you kind of swing to the other side and you’re like, whoa, I don’t have a boss. Oh, no, I need structure.
That’s why the coaching was really helpful to me. It helped me put some structures in place, helped me put some boundaries up. That benefited me.
Law Practice Queen
And then I started Law Practice Queen to help female lawyers get more clients. The thought behind it was throw the rope back to female lawyers that might want to consider starting their own firms.
And then even if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, of course. It just isn’t. And so you can also build up a book of business if you’re within a firm.
Rainmaking Equals Power & Sustainability
What I experienced was once you learn those rainmaking skills, you have more power in the legal industry. And once you have more power in the legal industry, you have more sustainability in your legal career, you have more options, and you can stay in it longer if you want.
And of course, a lot of women leave the legal industry because they have kids, family obligations, they burn out, what have you. And so I was like, if I can at least show people my journey and how I kind of made it more sustainable for me and then help them with a lot of what I do with Law Practice Queen is just telling people about my life.
Empowering Women To Scale
Like, hey, here’s what I did. I retired my husband. Isn’t that cool? Maybe you could do it too.
And the thing is, everybody has a different path. So that’s why coaching is great, because it’s like, you’re not telling them what to do. They’re coming to you with… I want more clients, I want to do this on social media. Can you help me with this branding part that you did on social media?
That’s something that I can help them with. And so most of what I do with law Practice Queen is I’ll do one on one coaching with female lawyers. I’ve also coached male lawyers, but primarily female lawyers, on how to:
- Get more clients for their law practice.
- Grow and scale their law practice.
- Brand themselves on social media.
Scale Your Law Practice Without Getting Caught Up In Vanity Metrics
A lot of people see what I’m doing on LinkedIn and they’re like, how’d you do that? I want those kinds of likes, those kinds of impressions.
And I’m like, well, vanity metrics, they’re super thrilling in the moment. They make us feel good. They give our brains just that rush of dopamine. But you can make a ton of money online and in your business without these vanity metrics, and they’re a little tricky.
Look, exposure is great, but it needs to be a sustainable business development plan focused on the right things.
Niching Down To Scale Your Law Practice
And I’m sure you work on this with your clients too, but one of the things I focus on people with is like, pick one client that you like to work with. Yes, just one, not 10 billion different types of things and tell everybody all the things.
When I first started marketing myself, I was like, I help tech companies with non competes, which is like super narrow – it’s super niche.
Yeah, but people have the attention span of a goldfish, so I can’t go to them and be like, I’m an employment and business lawyer, and I help companies and employees, and I also help teachers and blah, blah, blah.
Niching Benefit 1: Clarity
[00:33:58] Heather: You’re never going to get any business that way because you’re going to confuse them and they’re going to think, no, they don’t know my specialized thing that I need help with.
[00:34:07] Katie: We’re all selfish. We care about like, well, how can you help me? And that’s not a knock on anyone. That’s just how our brains work is. Like, we’re busy. We only have so many threats to assess in any given day.
[00:34:20] Heather: Here’s what I found, a couple of things that you mentioned that I want to highlight. So number one, I get this all the time too with my business clients, especially my litigators.
I can litigate anything. I’m a generalist. And I’m like, yeah, I don’t care. You’ve got to niche down.
And every one of them will fight with me tooth and nail. Then they’ll go off and they’ll try to do stuff on their own, and then they come back “Okay, you’re right. I don’t know who to talk to I don’t know what to talk about.”
You’ve got to narrow it down somehow just for your own sanity or you’re all over the place and you don’t know what to talk about on social media or in a speaking engagement or who to target or any of that stuff. So you want to narrow down.
Niching Benefit 2: Authority
And what I have specifically seen within my own business, but I’ve also seen this in other client’s business, when you get really narrow and you get really consistent, people start to see you as an expert and an authority.
You put out stuff enough, they start to see you as an authority and then they start to think, well, she can handle this, she can handle that too. It happens.
They don’t keep you in that box. Staying in that lane and in that box helps you get noticed and become an expert in their minds. But then all of a sudden other people will see you more broadly than what you’re even advertising. And I see this happen all the time.
So do not be afraid to niche down and be super narrow.
A Few Notes About Engagement On Social Media (Beware)
The other thing that I loved that you pointed out was the social media vanity metrics. It’s also going to very much depend on who your perfect client is, who you’re speaking to, because I have noted that certain types of people will follow you like crazy, will love everything you put out and yet will never like anything, will never say a word.
I know my clients are that way. They will reach out to me… “I’ve been listening to your podcast forever.” Have you ever given it a review? No.
“I’ve been following you on LinkedIn forever.” I have no clue who they are because they’ve never liked anything, they’ve never nothing with my content but yet they follow it and they love it.
And a lot of people are lurkers and you may have an audience of lurkers, you never know.
Engagement Can Be Misleading
The other thing is, when I first started doing a lot of social media, it worried me how many other coaches were getting massive engagement. But then my business coach at the time was like, well, look at who’s engaging. And so I did and I’m like, oh, they’re fellow coaches. These people would have 70, 80, 9o, even a thousand, some of them. And the vast majority of them would be coaches or people that they’re competing with that are always on social media, that are also trying to get their stuff gent up.
So they’re all like helping one another out, but they’re not the people they’re actually trying to sell to. Wow, I don’t know how helpful that really is.
Now, it can be helpful in the sense that if they’re connected to people that gets you in front of more people, right? And if they’re connected to the right people. So there is a little bit of strategy around that, but it made me feel a lot better. So I always tell my clients, don’t worry about the vanity stuff. And also it takes a while to build up.
Consistency Is Key
You’ve got to be very consistent over a very long period of time to get the type of followings for the ones that you’re seeing all the time that have massive engagement and followings.
[00:37:40] Katie: Yes, you had so many good points there. So to the vanity metrics. Yeah, people are drawn to this concept of overnight success, but that’s not how the clients that you serve, Heather, you serve lawyers, right? That’s like your bread and butter.
So for lawyers, you’re not just going to go on LinkedIn or wherever and just build up all these followers overnight. That just doesn’t happen.
Meteoric Rises Aren’t What They Seem To Be
And when you see someone have a meteoric rise, there’s a lot of work going on in the background that is invisible that we did not see to get them to where they need to go.
When Scaling Your Law Practice Through Use Of Social Media, Here’s What To Do
With social media, I always try to picture each person interacting with content as like an actual person in an audience, like in a room. And I try to picture myself as a if I’m talking in a conference room or whatever, I picture the people coming and seeing me as actual people.
And if I have ten people coming in and listening to what I have to say, that’s wonderful. And I think we have this incorrect view as a society that like, oh, you need X number of people to like a post before it means something.
I always thought if I impact one person with my content, that’s me. Kind of like I think there’s a concept in Judaism that follows that where it’s like, you just need to help one person. I’ve seen that before and maybe one of your listeners could help out with that reference, but it’s like helping the one to help us all type concept. That sounds kind of like it came from Star Wars, but I don’t know.
Why Scaling Your Law Practice Doesn’t Require You to Have A Huge Social Following
[00:39:34] Heather: The other thing I would say is you don’t need the biggest following ever to make good money and have good clients. You just need to have it get in front of enough of your perfect people. And that’s probably not that many, especially when it comes to lawyers, depending on your practice and who you target and whether you’re targeting businesses or individuals or whatever.
But I target individuals and law firms and I don’t need thousands of people to like my post, to have it get in front of the right people, be seen by the right people.
I get speaking engagements, people reach out to me all the time. And I’m not like the hugest social media. First off, I’m not on it as much as I could be. And that’s a choice.
You don’t have to do what everybody else is doing and you can be very successful.
So I wanted to get more into scaling with you, you must have scaled yourself quite a bit very quickly as you were growing. Tell me…
What do you mean by scaling?
[00:40:35] Katie: So scaling is to me, it means growing your business, whether you’re growing it revenue-wise or if you’re adding people to accommodate a higher amount of clients.
What I help people with is adding more clients to their practice. I’ll also help them add more revenue to their practice, and I’ll help them increase their exposure online. So you’re looking to amplify your message.
The whole idea behind Law Practice Queen is like, you’re crowning yourself. You are validating yourself. You’re establishing yourself as an authority, and you are basically proclaiming “I’m here, pay attention to what I have to say.”
So it’s a little bit of like, you’re kind of putting on that persona and stepping into your power. But when I say I scaled my practice, to me that means I added people. I think that’s what a lot of people focus on within the legal industry. Like, oh, how many lawyers do you have? We’re obsessed with firm size.
[00:41:41] Heather: Well, I think some of it though well, I know a lot of it, at least with the clients that I work with, is when they’re trying to really grow their firms or grow their practices, there’s only one of them, right?
And at some point, there’s only so much work they can take on. And so in order to get past a certain revenue goal, they’re going to have to scale from a personnel standpoint as well.
When You Scale Your Law Practice, You Will Have To Take Some Risks
There’s this moment where it’s like, well, it’s not big enough to really afford somebody, but I can’t grow past this unless I do.
[00:42:20] Katie: Right.
[00:42:21] Heather: So how do you deal with that problem when people are telling you about that I’m not making enough to hire somebody, but I can’t ever get to where I want to if I don’t?
[00:42:35] Katie: I’m definitely a fan of a big, strong push and be like, come on, you can do it.
And what I try to work with my clients on is, what do you want your days to look like? Get down to that daily level.
- Do you want to be going to court and doing the court thing?
- Do you want to be working with other employees?
Because a lot of practitioners just don’t want to add people to their practice. They’ve tried it, didn’t like it. Thanks, but no thanks.
I had one of my colleagues who I’m in a mastermind group with other female lawyers who was working every single weekend, late nights for years. And it’s like, life is too short if you don’t want to be doing that. Right? Life is too short to keep doing that.
Facing Your Fears About Scaling Your Law Practice
And it’s good to identify the fear with growing. Like, what are you worried will happen?
If you add someone, a lot of people think, well, it’s not going to be the same standard of care. I won’t be able to control what their work product is, all that. And at some point, you have to take the risk on someone and to just take the next best step, which is find the best person. You can train them up, let them go.
[00:43:57] Heather: That or you have to give up on getting past a certain level, because, again, one person can only do so much work. And even if you’re working most evenings and seven days a week, yeah, it’s.
[00:44:08] Katie: Just like you can keep working these insane hours. But if you want something to change, something’s got to change, right? And what you’re doing right now, it’s like, what’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Why Time Management Isn’t Likely Your Issue
It’s like there’s so much marketing directed at lawyers. It’s like time management and productivity.
I am here to tell all of you, you are great at managing your time. You went to law school and became a lawyer. You took the bar exam, which is timed. You’re productive.
Yeah, you can learn different tricks and stuff, but after a certain point, there’s 24 hours in a day. I’m not going to recommend you not sleep. Please sleep. Please, for the love of God, sleep.
[00:44:55] Heather: I would say, without a doubt, one of the things a lot of my clients come to me well, it depends on the client.
Prioritization & Choice Is The Answer
But the ones who come to me saying, I have no balance, they almost always say, I need to learn to manage my time better. I need to be more productive with my time. And 99.9% of the time, it has nothing to do with that.
It has to do with how they’re prioritizing their time, the choices they’re making, how they’re choosing to spend their time, whether or not they have boundaries, whether they’re saying no, when they should be. That’s the real issue.
You all if that’s your problem, it’s not a time management issue. And you’ve got to just acknowledge that so that you can finally move on and start figuring out, okay, well, where are my answers?
How To Get Started When You Need To Hire Help
What would you say when it comes to scaling?
Somebody knows that they’re growing their firm or they’re growing their practice. It’s getting to the point where they know they need more help. They need to scale.
What are your top tips? What are the steps that you would take somebody through when they’re at that point and they’re scared, but they’re willing to move forward with it?
Step 1: Identify Who.
[00:46:02] Katie: Yeah. I mean, you need to identify who are you hiring? Right.
If you’re adding someone, I think the place where a lot of people get stuck is, what am I going to add? What does that role look like?
Take pen to paper and write down all of the tasks that you don’t want to do that you would like someone else to do.
One of the coaches I mentioned earlier, Kara Alwell, she has a really good list, and I think it’s like the drain energized list in one of her workbooks. And basically the concept is you write down the things that drain you.
If you hate going to court and you’re like, I would love it if I never had to step into a courtroom ever again but you still have to have that litigation piece in your practice, you put the court stuff there in the drain.
And then energize – that column is like, what do you love to do? What gives you energy? Because if you’re doing stuff that’s draining you all day, that’s not sustainable, right?
You’re not going to feel awesome. You are going to probably leave the legal industry, which a lot of people do because they’re doing draining things all day that they hate. And they’re like, life is too short. I’m out. Bye.
I hate to see that after somebody just got their law degree. It’s like, oh, that’s so painful. But at the same time, maybe that path is meant to be for them. So, again, no judgment. Everybody has a different path.
But going back to your scaling question, so identifying what are the tasks you want someone else to do?
Step 2: Put Out A Job Post
Next, put together a posting, a job post. I think a lot of people are like, they also get stuck in, oh, I need an associate. I need an associate that can handle my stuff.
But have you put up a job posting yet? Because I have a group, law practice Queen Jobs, for female lawyers on LinkedIn. And it’s like, I can post the job in there for free. Just let me know.
And a lot of people get stuck at that moment. I’m a huge fan of maybe getting a recruiter involved if you don’t have the skills or the bandwidth to go out and find someone.
I’d have to fact check this percentage. But someone told me yesterday that the unemployment rate for attorneys right now is 2%. And so it is very difficult, let’s just say generally to find good talent right now in the current job market.
Hint: Get Help By Using Recruiters
I use a recruiter to staff positions because I’ve tried doing it doing it myself. And yeah, there’s no way.
Note About Not Always Starting With Hiring An Attorney
[00:48:45] Heather: I would also say I think a lot of times I see this with my clients, the first gut reaction is, oh, I have to have an attorney. And oftentimes when we list out and we do the same way, where you’re talking about it’s like, okay, what do you not like doing? Where do you need the most help? What do you need to offload the most?
And it almost always starts with a really great executive assistant or paralegal, because that’s what they need the most help with in their current practice.
But Then Be Ready To Hire An Attorney Soon Thereafter
Now, what I see is then once they onboard them, they very quickly need help with an attorney.
Because they realize. At least what I see with attorneys who are in this space, and this is mostly solo attorneys or very small firm attorneys that are really trying to grow a firm. They are doing so much stuff that they should not be doing that is not a lawyer’s job that they don’t need to be doing, that somebody else could be doing so much better for them that they are not capable of spending time on growth activities.
And so they’re not really growing as fast as they’d like. Once they get that off of their plate, they’re able to then focus on getting the actual legal work to come in, and they’re amazed at how quickly that can happen. And then they desperately do need associates, and you need to go out there and get help.
I agree. Don’t try to do it yourself unless you have an in somewhere. I do have a client who was able to get an associate pretty easily, but she had an in with some people that kind of gave her this reference.
Most attorneys I know need help from recruiters because otherwise it’s very hard. And frankly, it is a very time consuming thing to do. And they can do all the things you need them to do to check out their background, to make sure they have the experience, to do the pre interviews, to do all that stuff so that you can then just decide, okay, are you really a fit?
Yes, Getting Quality Support Can Be Hard (Don’t Let It Stop You)
[00:50:32] Katie: Yeah. I think the biggest challenge that I’ve seen with scaling overall for me, for any other attorney I’ve talked to, is the quality of the support that they’re getting, the quality of the hire, and having to deal with bringing someone on who is not a good fit. And having to end that relationship and go out and expend the resources to find someone new.
So not that having a recruiter. None of these solutions are a panacea for a perfect path forward. You’re always going to have people are going to leave your farm, right? They’re not going to stay with you for life. That’s just not how it works.
But you want to try to set yourself up for success.
That first hire tends to be a pretty difficult one for most people because they haven’t done it before. It’s unknown territory, and they’re scared of messing it up. But there’s a lot of options. Short of, like you said, hiring an associate attorney at 100 grand a year or more.
What About Using Contractors?
Having contractors is something.
[00:51:38] Heather: I was going to ask you about that.
[00:51:40] Katie: Yeah. I think it’s a matter of what are your needs and what’s your budget and what’s your personal preference and what’s your client base going to want.
Sometimes the 1099 that you can hire are working overseas. And with my client base here, everybody’s here in the US.
I have sent clients over to other firms that have that type of administrative setup, and I’ve not gotten the best feedback because they’re like, oh, the person didn’t speak English well, or I could tell that they were in a different country. And you have to know your client base and who is going to best support your client base.
So for me, my first hire was a paralegal. I had a full time paralegal for many years. But I’ve also done a contract worker for personal assistant type work and for help with social media work. I think it’s great to have contractors if you don’t need to control how they do the job with the contract help.
There’s a lot of benefit to entrepreneurs who are looking to not spend that much. The scope is defined.
It’s something that you don’t have the expertise on, someone else has the expertise on.
What About Hiring Contract Lawyers?
When it comes to hiring contract lawyers, I know a lot of people that do it. I haven’t tried it myself.
I wouldn’t be opposed to it. But I think the challenge is, what are your ethical obligations? Having a contract lawyer, I think you have to be very careful with conflicts checks and what firms are they working for besides your firm?
I mean, I’ve always felt much more comfortable having my lawyers under my control. I can control the brand message. I can control how they do the work. We’re all meaning together. I know them. I know what type of work product I get from them.
Scaling Your Law Firm Includes Limiting Your Focus
[00:53:47] Heather: Okay, so we’ve taken up a lot of your time.
Are there any other last quick tips that you would like to leave before we let you go when it comes to scaling a law practice?
[00:53:59] Katie: Yeah. So one of the things that came up earlier, I was just writing in my notebook on different things I could mention for your audience. There’s a really good book called Essentialism by Greg McCune. And that book, if you don’t have the time to read it, it’s totally fine.
The main take home point that I wanted to mention for your listeners is growth can be achieved not by taking on more, but by scaling back, by limiting your focus.
And this kind of concept came up when you were talking about Niching as well. But I think with business development, when most lawyers hear the word business development, they don’t exactly know what direction to go in, and they get mean.
I’m guilty of this think, you know, we get a bright, shiny idea, and we’re like, I’m going to go do this now. I’m going to start a YouTube channel, which great, if you want to start a YouTube channel, go start that channel. Like, I’m not discouraging you from that.
But you just need to understand what are you taking on and is it sustainable. And so the Essentialism book is great for the concept of if you’re going to take on business development activities, do one thing at a time.
If you’re going to write an article that’s great, write an article and finish the article before you go on to the next thing.
I think I see people with too many irons in the fire and they’re getting all these ideas they’re firing off in all these directions. And first of all, it’s not sustainable, and second of all, it’s not consistent, and it doesn’t show to your audience that you’re an expert in any one thing.
How Limiting What You Do Helps To Create A Consistent Brand
You’re just kind of like putting out all this random stuff. So really focusing on one thing at a time is a great idea for business development.
That was a game changer for me personally with Law Practice Queen because I had written a book. I started and stopped a podcast at one point because it was too much work for me at the time. And I was doing one on one coaching. I started group coaching. I was doing everything.
It’s just you need to really give yourself permission to stick to one thing and your path and to put up boundaries around that and then the other thing.
When it comes to Niching, I know we were talking about, you got to niche down. You got to niche down. What we’re talking about with Niching is not that you can’t take on other cases that come to you. You can take on whatever you want that comes in through your door. It’s your law practice.
But when you are marketing to a massive audience, you need to niche down so people can think about the fact that when someone is choosing to hire you for something, they need to see your brand message multiple times before they choose to work with you. It has to be repeated.
And in order for it to reach the person, it needs to be a consistent message of, I can help you, I can help you, I can help you. Here’s what I can help you with. It’s this thing. This is what I can help you with.
Because otherwise, if you’re saying all these different things, it just becomes noise and people tune it out. And so give yourself a fighting chance if you’re doing social media or if you’re sending a newsletter, if you’re writing articles, pick one thing at a time.
Pick one ideal client at a time to focus on, and you can always go broader, and you can always take the cases that come to you that are outside your practice area.
You can do whatever you want. Like, life is short, do the things we’re not saying. Don’t do other practice areas.
But if you’re a litigator and you say, well, I can do any type of litigation, okay, pick your favorite case. Pick your absolute favorite case and then talk about that favorite case until your face turns blue.
And then, guess what? You’re probably going to get more of that favorite type of case coming in the door until people know, hey, this is Heather. She does non compete law. Or this is Katie. She does employment law in create the brand building is creating an association between your name and what you do well.
[00:58:08] Heather: And that’ll never happen if you’re all over the place, because people just tune it out and won’t know who you’re even talking to. They will definitely think you’re not talking to them. Even if it’s the perfect client.
[00:58:20] Katie: Yeah, I mean, it could happen. It’s going to take longer. And I’m a fan of yeah, I know that.
Chances are it will take some time to build up your brand. It will take some time to build up your content, it will take some time to build up your client.
Sometimes, you know, you put these principles into motion and you’ll see some fast. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that you can be quickly blessed by the universe. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again.
How Putting Limits On Yourself & Niching Will Maximize Your ROI
And so with Heather’s tips, and then with my tips, it’s like you want a good amount of ROI return on investment coming out of your very limited time. So, yes, do yourself a favor and just limit it. Have your ideal client target that ideal client or that ideal case, and have fun with it. Take the pressure off.
[00:59:14] Heather: I’ll just say what you’re saying here to make this super clear: niche down in how you’re targeting and who you’re targeting, right? For a bit, be super specific in whatever it is you’re doing, and then also focus on one main thing or two little things that you’re doing.
You do not have to speak at ten different places in one year, along with writing for six different publications, along with networking at an event every week. You don’t need to be doing all that. And I see that and I see people doing that and they get no work because they don’t.
First off, if you’re networking, you’ve got to be following up. That’s like the biggest thing in networking. It’s not about going to the events, it’s about meeting the right people and then actually following up with them and creating a relationship. That’s how you get new business. You’re not going to do that if you’re doing all those things.
You won’t have time.
So narrow down not just who you’re targeting but also the how you’re targeting so that you’re not spreading yourself so thin. And you don’t look like you’re just, like, scattershot, as I think you said earlier, which a lot of my clients, when they first come to me, that’s what they’re doing. And that’s their big problem, right?
[01:00:22] Katie: Yeah. Make it easy. As much as possible.
[01:00:24] Heather: Make it easy. I’m a definite fan of ease.
Well, thank you so much for joining me on today’s show. I know listeners are going to get so much out of this, more than I even anticipated coming in, so that’s pretty awesome. Where can people find you?
[01:00:42] Katie: So I’m on LinkedIn, you can find me. My profile is Katie Lip. And it’s Lipp with two P’s. You can follow me there.
You can also find me on Instagram at Law practice Queen. Those are LinkedIn and Instagram are probably the two main places I hang out online.
[01:00:59] Heather: Okay, great everybody. I will have links to all of the places where you can connect with Katie in the Show Notes. Thank you so much.
[01:01:07] Katie: Thanks, Heather.
About Katie Lipp
Katie Lipp is a founder of 2 companies:
- Lipp Law, where she provides HR and employment law services to clients in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
- Law Practice Queen, through which she helps female lawyers grow their law practices and expand their social media presence.
Katie has been practicing employment law for 13 years, and runs Lipp Law and Law Practice Queen simultaneously.
Katie is an avid writer, and hosts quarterly virtual networking events for female lawyers.
Connect with and find Katie here: