July 4th, 2023
With Allison Williams, a remarkable entrepreneur who has founded not just one, but two thriving businesses. As the founder of Williams Law Group, a prestigious family law firm, she holds various certifications and fellowships, including being a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and being certified by both the New Jersey Supreme Court and National Board of Trial Advocacy in Family Law. Allison successfully grew Williams Law Group from a startup to a multi-million dollar business in just 3.5 years. Building on this success, she then launched Law Firm Mentor, which offers expert business coaching to solo and small law firm attorneys, helping them to increase revenue, reduce chaos, and grow their businesses.
Allison’s impressive accomplishments in business include winning the LawFirm500 award and being ranked 14th among the fastest-growing law firms in the country. She has also been recognized as a Stevie Award Finalist for Female Entrepreneur of the Year and as one of NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business. Additionally, she has been voted as one of New Jersey’s Best Lawyers for Families and as one of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in the state.
Aside from her work in law and business, Allison is an accomplished international speaker in the field of child abuse and neglect evidence and trial practice. She has even made appearances on the Katie Couric show and has contributed articles to the Huffington Post on issues related to child maltreatment. Her motto for Law Firm Mentor is #NeverStopGrowing, which speaks to her unwavering dedication to helping others achieve their goals and reach their full potential.
In this podcast, Allison opens up about the unique challenges of balancing the practice of law with the demands of running a successful business. We delve into the reasons why lawyers may be hesitant to seek out coaching, and explore the transformative power of the coaching industry. Our conversation also touches on the crucial role that discussions around mental health and sobriety play in the success of any business, regardless of its size.
Tune in to gain valuable insights and actionable takeaways from our engaging discussion with Allison.
Biggest takeaways (or quotes) you don’t want to miss:
- “You can have a B attorney who does A level work as a result of your system.”
- The double whammy of having to master the practice of law and then the business of law on top of it.
- The beautiful thing about the coaching industry is when you have someone who really cares about you and really can help facilitate your evolution is it shines a light on all that stuff.
- “Mental health is critical to quality leadership, no matter the size of business.”
“You have to grow yourself to become the leader of the entity you want to have, or else you’re just going to be the product of all of your bad habits.”-Allison Williams
Check out these highlights:
- 12:03 The painful myth in our society about lawyers…
- 26:39 What caused Allison to hire her own coach?
- 41:47 Why do lawyers struggle balancing several businesses?
- 49:54 Lawyers are damaged people. Here’s why.
- 58:37 Allison’s takeaways for the listeners.
How to get in touch with Allison:
On Social Media:
You can also learn more about Allison by visiting her website here.
Imperfect Show Notes
We are happy to offer these imperfect show notes to make this podcast more accessible to those who are hearing impaired or those who prefer reading over listening. While we would love to offer more polished show notes, we are currently offering an automated transcription (which likely includes errors, but hopefully will still deliver great value), below:
GGGB Intro 00:00
Coming up today on Guts, Grit and Great Business®…
Allison Williams 00:06
So for a lot of us, it’s very much driven by the idea that I was the underdog. And now I fight for the underdog, or I was the disadvantaged and now I fight for the disadvantaged. And so when you take that away and people don’t see the nexus of I am the Divine Creator, who created this ecosystem through which clients get that same amazing result, they don’t get that dopamine hit in the same way.
GGGB Intro 00:36
The adventure of entrepreneurship and building a life and business you love, preferably at the same time is not for the faint of heart. That’s why Heather Pearce Campbell is bringing you a dose of guts, grit and great business stories that will inspire and motivate you to create what you want in your business and life. Welcome to the Guts, Grit and Great Business® podcast where endurance is required. Now, here’s your host, The Legal Website Warrior®, Heather Pearce Campbell.
Heather Pearce Campbell 01:08
Alrighty, welcome. I am Heather Pearce Campbell, The Legal Website Warrior®. I’m an attorney and legal coach here in Seattle, Washington, serving online information entrepreneurs throughout the US and the world. Welcome to another episode of Guts, Grit and Great Business®. I am super excited to welcome a fellow attorney here today. Welcome to Allison Williams.
Allison Williams 01:32
Thank you so much for having me, Heather. I’m excited to be here with you.
Heather Pearce Campbell 01:36
I’m super excited to have you. You have a really interesting story. And I just really love the entrepreneurial side of your story and your journey and I’m excited to dig into that today. For those of you that don’t know Allison Williams, Allison Williams is the owner of not one, but two successful companies. She is 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 Matrimonial Law Attorney, and is certified by National Board of Trial Advocacy in Family Law. After taking Williams Law Group from start-up to a multi-million dollar business in 3.5 years, she created a second business, Law Firm Mentor, where she and her team provide business coaching services for Solo and Small Law Firm attorneys helping them grow their revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. This business was born out of her success in business, including winning the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, being named a Stevie Award Finalist for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and in 2018, being voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. The motto of Law Firm Mentor is #NeverStopGrowing! An international speaker in the field of child abuse and neglect evidence and trial practice, Ms. Williams has appeared on the Katie Couric show and has published articles in the Huffington Post addressing issues of child maltreatment. Since 2018, she has been selected among her peers as one of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in New Jersey, one of the Top 50 Women Super Lawyers in New Jersey, and has been voted by her clients as one of New Jersey’s Best Lawyers for Families. Quite the intro, it’s a multiple mouthfuls, Allison. So good to have you here. There’s obviously a lot that we can learn from you today. So I would love to know about I always love hearing about people’s roots and their start into the entrepreneur path. You want to tell us a little bit about the early part of your we’ll just call it your legal journey.
Allison Williams 04:13
Or so I would love to say that I went to law school because I wanted to change the world and be an agent for the good in life but honestly I went because I wanted power and money. That was where I was back then and fell into doing family law because I got an internship after my first year of law school working for a judge and it wasn’t a family law I got placed in into the family part. And so next thing, you know, my pathway just continued to intersect with family law. So, I became a family law attorney very quickly, got my roots in family law and happened to have a client walk into our office one day, I was the youngest associate in the family law department. So I was tasked with doing the work that nobody else wanted to do. And this woman was accused of child maltreatment. And through the process of having to defend her, I got to understand what she allegedly did wrong. And she just had a lot of tragic life circumstances. Husband committed suicide, daughter found him, son is very autistic and had a lot of issues, she became an alcoholic, one thing after another after another, and the state was tasked with not just protecting her children, but remediating her issues so that she could safely parent and I found that the system was horribly toxic and flawed, and they did not offer her help. They piled on a laundry list of things for her to do not with an idea of helping her but with an idea of having her fail, so they could take her children and have them adopted by someone else. And it really became my life’s work to defeat that system, I found that to be deplorable, I found it to be harmful to families. And I also found that it didn’t really honor the value that I have, which is that people are entitled to redemption. And people can make mistakes and still overcome those mistakes that they are committed to improving and evolving themselves as people. And so that’s kind of always been the thread that’s run through my ethos, became a business owner, very quickly, my business ran me over. Being good at law has nothing to do with being good in business, nothing at all. And I didn’t know that. So I did a lot of lawyering and thought, I’ll just do my lawyering under my own LLC instead of someone else’s, and worked harder and harder and harder. And after a series of 90 hour workweeks, I fell asleep driving and almost hit a guardrail. And that was kind of my aha moment that working harder is not working. I said this stuff is for the birds. I didn’t say stuff. But this is a PGA show. And they decided I would sell myself to the highest bidder and got a job offer as a partner at a large law firm. And on my way there, I pulled over on the side of the road, and I said, What am I doing? I put myself through all of this to start a business, why am I going to throw it away? Now, there’s got to be a way to make this work. And started working with business coaches, very quickly use my natural instinct of systematizing everything, and added it to what I learned in not only business coaching, but most importantly, mindset coaching, and ultimately was able to very quickly scale my business, like I said, multiple seven figures in three and a half years. And after a while I was bored. I had grown myself out of a job in my law firm. So I had a nice salary. And I had a comfortable existence. But I didn’t have the challenge of solving problems every day, which is really why I became a lawyer. So I launched law firm mentor in January of 2018. It is the reason why I decided to go into coaching. But I wanted to help lawyers that were very much like meat, they, they were committed to helping their clients. They wanted to have a good experience for clients, but they also wanted more for themselves. And they didn’t know that those two things could coexist. They always thought they had to be the sacrificial lamb. And I didn’t want that for me. And I didn’t want that for my fellow attorneys. And so launch law firm mentor, we’re now a multiple seven figure company and also three years. And now I run both of them in about 30 hours a week because I systematize everything. And that’s what I’ve committed to. I’m committed to crushing chaos in business and making more money. So every time something goes wrong, I think how can I crush the chaos in this? How can I systematize this into me not needing to be necessary for this role. And I have surrounded myself with some amazing people that helped me to do that. And we give our clients great service all across the country. We have clients now in 40 states. We have touched a total of 43 states, we’re gonna touch all 50 states at some point. We’re working on Hawaii as we speak so Hawaiian lawyers if you’re out there.
Heather Pearce Campbell 08:56
Why you’ve got to touch Hawaii. Yes, please.
Allison Williams 09:00
But yeah, that’s kind of me in a nutshell it was kind of finding my own way and then being the guiding light to help other people find their way through this this morass of being a business owner and honestly.
Heather Pearce Campbell 09:11
Yeah, well it is a morass. There’s a couple pieces that I really love about your story. One, I love you just being real with us like yeah, I wanted some power and money right and in the interesting thing about that, as I think so many people when it comes to like, talking about purpose in their work, think that oh, you have to start with some grand purpose is kind of what gets sold, right? Follow your purpose and the thing I loved actually, it wasn’t until after I launched this podcast Guts, Grit and Great Business, actually read Angela Duckworth book on grit. And the thing that’s so interesting about it pretty early in the book, she discloses how you actually don’t have to start work based on purpose. Most people end up attaching purpose to something that they’re already doing. It doesn’t. And I think so many people think like, Oh, I must be doing it wrong. If I don’t feel this really like deep sense of purpose about what I’m what I’m doing. And anyways, I just think it’s a really powerful reminder that you can choose something and begin the work. And the purpose will follow if you’re paying attention, right?
Allison Williams 10:21
Yeah, very much so. And, you know, I should probably put a little footnote in the story that I have definitely evolved out of the person.
Heather Pearce Campbell 10:30
So really clearly…
Allison Williams 10:32
Clearly way, there’s no way to practice family law, if your only concern is money, no, maybe easier ways to make money.
Heather Pearce Campbell 10:40
Well, this was gonna be my next point. For anybody who doesn’t live inside the legal system. There were two things that I was really clear on when I graduated law school, which is that I did not have thick enough skin for criminal law, or family law, those were the two areas where it was like a hell no, right? And so I have really tremendous respect for people that are able to work in those areas and do it in a way that is sustainable, right. And that allows you to be of service, but also not drive yourself into the ground. Because that is the piece that I have found with so many attorneys is they really do have a servant’s heart. And once they’re into the work, they’re just like other service providers, they can work themselves into a really non sustainable position that is also not paying very well.
Allison Williams 11:32
Yeah, well, I mean, the scary thing about that, that is so true. There’s a myth in our society that lawyers are money grubbing, you know, evil, hostile, angry, etc, right? And then there are all these social media memes that unfortunately, lawyers have to perpetuate, I’m not happy about that, tells the story that we’re all miserable. We’re all broke. You know, there’s no happiness in this whatsoever. And I’ll be honest with you, I was very much in a mixed bag. You know, I am an empath. And so one would ask, how is it possible for you to spin your life around that much trauma because I didn’t just, you know, family law is its own emotional morass on top of the strain and stress of litigation, but you know, family law that focuses on children custody, also a different problem. Because when you’re fighting for kids, there’s no replacement part, and little Johnny doesn’t go to mom, it’s not like we can go out and buy her a new one. And then you add it in fighting against the state of New Jersey, I lose against the state of New Jersey, someone’s never seen their kid again, they’re just not going to see their kid every other weekend. So there was definitely a lot of stress, I took a lot of it. Personally, I took a lot home with me at night. And it did at one point in time, it very much ran me into the ground, I became very severely depressed. I also am a recovering alcoholic, you know, so all of the isms that happen when people don’t take care of themselves and make themselves sacrificial lambs. I did that. And then I thought, Okay, now I’ve learned how to master the art of being a really great litigator and managing my emotions, managing my thoughts, so that I can be effective and not have it run me over. And then I became a business owner, and I rinsed and repeated that same cycle. So now instead of making my clients into my babies that I had to take care of, and it was my fault, if I lost, you’re my employees into my babies who were I needed to take care of them, and I needed to make sure that they were okay. And I had to unlearn that pattern in order to be effective as a business owner, whether it’s in a law firm or in my coaching business, or now in my third business, I also want a real estate company. You know, there’s never a time when you’re gonna outrun yourself, you’re gonna have to deal with your stuff, but your stuff is going to deal with you. And the beautiful thing about the coaching industry, when you have someone who really cares about you and really can help facilitate your evolution is it shines a light on all that stuff. So that when you are moving out into the world, whatever you’re creating, it’s with intentionality, right? You’re not just replicating the same pattern in a new space with a new energy and that’s what I think a lot of people don’t recognize about business growth, right. You have to grow yourself to become the leader of the entity you want to have or else, you’re just going to be the product of all of your bad habits will just be encapsulated in a business, rather than in a relationship or in a friendship or in your own financial ecosystem. And that was probably one of the greatest things I had to learn, that made me successful. But that’s where I think we are really fundamentally different than a lot of other coaching companies out there is that we focus on not just giving you the tools to build your business, but to build yourself as you are building your business so that the two are in harmony, and you create what you ultimately want in life.
Heather Pearce Campbell 15:02
It’s so important this piece that you talked about really like personal leadership, right, taking yourself to the next level versus just doing a tactic or strategy in your business or on your business. And I think you know, the challenge like truthfully, probably like other areas, but for lawyers in particular, you go to school to learn how to learn and how to analyze and how to do certain things. least for me, there was not one iota taught about how to be in the business of law. Correct, right?
Allison Williams 15:36
We’re not taught that at all.
Heather Pearce Campbell 15:37
No, no. And so it is a double whammy of having to go out and, you know, not only master the practice of law, but then the business of law on top of it. I’m really curious. And I love hearing, of course you are anybody that builds a successful business either has to be a systems person or have systems people in their business, right? At what point have you always been systems oriented? At what point did you recognize like, oh, my gosh, I have this skill or this power, I can apply systems to this thing and really grow it.
Allison Williams 16:10
Well, I mean, I will be candid, I will be very intentional and owning my genius here. That is something that I’ve always done. I’ve always instinctually done that even as a young associate. And I remember the very first time that I was hired into a law firm, like a sizable Law Firm, we I ended up being in the largest law firm in Monmouth County at the time. And it was a rapid growth law firm. So it almost doubled in size during the four years that I was there. So I can learn that spirit of growth from my mentor. But I remember when I came in the thought was okay, you are replacing associate went out on maternity leave, she was supposed to come back, she ultimately declined to come back. So now we have a replacement.
Heather Pearce Campbell 16:58
And that’s a whole nother cover, right?
Allison Williams 17:00
That is his own. Yeah, its own issue. But that person left, and then I was that person’s replacement. And then probably a week before I started, they said, Oh, by the way, Associate B has also given her notice, and she’s leaving. And I’m like, oh my god, okay. Don’t worry, we’re gonna hire someone soon. Well, if you know anything about even a mid sized law firm, right? As soon as you have two humans in a space, you have politics. So now you’ve got 100 people in a space, you’ve got a lot of politics. So it wasn’t as simple as we have the work, we can go hire someone, this department says no, no, it’s my turn, you got the last person. And so now I am doing the work qualitatively of two associates. And I remember, they were the partners in the firm, were actually they were very protective of me. And they said, Listen, you know, there’s a lot of work right now. But we’re all gonna struggle through until we get to higher, please let us know if you can’t handle it. Right? If there’s any volume of work if we ever get, if we have multitudes of tasks, and two or three of us are coming at you at once we have a system, but sometimes it breaks, let us know. And of course, I was like, I’m never going to tell my bosses, I’m not going to be able to get my work.
Heather Pearce Campbell 18:17
Done. You’re a female who does not write?
Allison Williams 18:21
Well. That was the one thing I will say is I did have the beauty of having three female bosses at the time that I came in. So I did from watching them believe them when they said I could say something, but I was concerned, right, I’ll say something and I’ll be judged less favorably. And I think, you know, your job as an associate is to make the partners lives better. So I wasn’t going to say something. But I very quickly had to learn, okay, for people who, you know, I got to understand the people, right? I got to have a system for recognizing when this person has to have their thing versus when I can push it a little bit. I have to have a system for how much work I can get done over what period of time so I developed a rhythm. What day am I going to come in? How many things can I get done over a period of time? How can I start block scheduling my time like I was doing all of those things back when I first started. And I remember it never was a challenge for me to meet billable hours even though the firm where I was they required 19 160 billable hours a year which works out to about a 161 and some change a month and people were like, Oh my God, when do you sleep? And I’m like, Guys, it’s not that hard. Like, you know, all you have to do is XYZ. And I remember at some point, it occurred to me that I was character illogically different when I was talking to the managing partner. And he said something he’s like, Well, we never worry about you meeting your billable hours. And I said, Well, do you worry about anybody else? He was like, Well, yeah, like…
Heather Pearce Campbell 19:50
For anybody that…
Allison Williams 19:52
we’re chasing, we’re chasing billable hours every month. And I was like, you have to chase people to meet billable hours. Why is this challenging? All you have to do is do the math divided by the number of days you’re working, blah, blah, blah. And I realized at that point that I was different. And then I started to see and hear other people kind of talking about work, and the way that work would stress them out, and the challenges that they had with getting their work done. And I never had that challenge, not because we’re couldn’t tax me sometimes, right? We’re all human. But I developed a system for everything, which is the reason why I could crank out 60 hours worth of billable work in 40 hours. Now, that sounds like I might be shaving your I don’t want to sound unethical, right? There are definitely ways that you can do that ethically. But it was a process, it was a process for me to learn. And I, I took that learning into everything that I did, right. So that was how I was able to, you know, Bill X number of hours when I went to my next law firm, and then by that time, I had a statewide reputation. So I was traveling a lot. Some of that time wasn’t compensable, I was speaking a lot that time wasn’t compensable that was building my brand that was building my reputation. All of that activity had to be systematized in order for me to make it all fit. And once I became a business owner, it seemed like it would be easy for me to systematize everything in my business. But the challenge was that by the time I left, it’s almost like hiring too late. Right? I left my law firm, very quickly realized I wasn’t going to have the bandwidth I thought I was my secretary said she was coming with me. And then she ultimately said, You work too hard. I don’t want to work as hard as it’s going to take for me to have to set up a law firm with you. I’ve done that before. I just don’t want that life. I said Go with God, I love you. And then I had to hire and then I had to fit hiring into my schedule. So I had to learn all these new skills while I was contemporaneously running a full fledged practice that frankly needed to associate to me, I honestly couldn’t have gotten through the work that I had on my plate as one human. And I was at that point when I left. So there was no way that I could when I was out there on my own. And I didn’t realize that until it was too late. And had that near death accident. So it takes a lot to kind of understand yourself. But knowing that that was something that I had a string for I was very easily able to digest audibly, clearly, concisely explain it to other people. And that was probably the greatest thing. Because that made creating law firm mentor, just kind of a natural another passing natural activity in life. It wasn’t, I didn’t have to have a long, hard business plan. I didn’t have to have a big talk with God about is this the right thing for me, it was the natural segue of my skills, my experience and all of the things I was naturally doing in the practice. And so I, I taught lawyers for years, how to handle child abuse cases, I taught them trial skill, I taught them evidence, this was the same thing except I was using my skill is having been a client of coaching to actually facilitate their learning instead of just giving them data and information. And I was doing that in a very systemic way. So that’s one of the things that we very much focus on here at law firm mentor, we teach people, everything needs a system, so that you preserve your energy, you reserve your time it’s replicable to the next person who comes in and you get a better result. That way, you get a better result for yourself, for your team, for your income for your lifestyle, everything runs better when it has a system and a systemic approach.
Heather Pearce Campbell 23:36
Totally. Well, there’s a couple pieces that I’m really curious about. One is, I want to hear more about what prompted you first of all, to go hire your own coat. Right? Because I think that’s a really pivotal point for a lot of people. And then to is there something that in your perspective, especially as you which I’m sure you do observe other business models, there’s something that makes the legal business model unique or more challenging. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Allison Williams 24:10
So the first thing, what caused me to hire my own coach was the fact that I almost died. Yeah, that was a terrifying moment for me. And more so than I think than just out I almost had an accident, right? It was the fact that I had gone through a very dark period of my life I had gotten on the other side of depression. I, at one point in time, had taken psychotropic medications prescribed by a psychiatrist. And I stupidly did the thing that they tell you not to do on the commercial. I said, Yeah, I don’t want to do this whole taking drugs thing anymore. I’m done. And I very quickly realized, yeah, that whole, if you stopped taking these drugs, without the advice of a doctor, you’ll become suicidal. Well, that’s true. So very quickly started realizing, you know, it’s almost like I was having a dual existence. And one side of my head, I was like, do harm to myself and the other side of my head, I was saying, What’s wrong with you? Why are you having these thoughts? So I broke through those thoughts. Ultimately, they waned and they went away. But I was still very, very depressed. And I remember when I got through that stage of life, and I had a wonderful therapist who helped me, I started to appreciate myself, I started to value my life. And when I would tell the tale about having been that depressed, that I actually wanted to in my life, it would cause me to become very emotional. So I finally had gotten to a place where I could look back on that stage of life and be grateful for it and say, you know, going through that made me a more empathetic person. It made me a better counselor, it made me see my clients with more authenticity. And now I’m in business, and I’m about to lose my life over something as stupid as working like a slave. Why am I doing that there is more than enough money in the bank. There are more than enough clients, I’m hemorrhaging clients. Why on earth am I choosing this? And I couldn’t figure out why. And when I had that near death accident, when I almost had that accident, that was kind of the AHA of I’ve got to figure this out, or it’s gonna kill me. And this is a stage in my life where I don’t want to die. I want to live. Yeah, so that was kind of a clear. Yeah, you need help, go find help. Right. Yeah, this? The second answer, though, the question that you asked me about kind of the business model is very interesting, because I think a lot of lawyers think special snowflake, right? A professional practice is not the same as a manufacturing plant. It’s not the same as a retail shop. And no, it is not the same. But it is not so different that you should think of it as different than a business. It still has parameters around KPIs, it still has communications processes, it still has marketing and sales and people and systems and finance is still a business. And you need someone who understands how it is different, right? There are certain things that we are not ethically authorized to do in the marketing of a law firm the way that you could market a widget factory. Yeah, there are some things that are different about people in terms of how people are not as fungible in a law firm or any type of professional practice as they might be. in a warehouse or, or a restaurant, because clients have an absolute right in most jurisdictions to choose counsel of their choosing. And so if our lawyer leaves your law firm, you’re not entitled to the clients the way that you’d be entitled to the property of your business otherwise, so there are nuances, right. And there are things that you have to protect yourself against, as being a lawyer who is in business with someone who’s going to have access to your clients, there are strategic ways that you can protect yourself here that you have to think about, that are not the same as in other businesses. But it is still a business, right? It still needs a marketing plan still needs a business plan still needs a sales process, like components, all the stuff. And we as lawyers have to recognize that if we don’t see it that way, if we don’t look at our practice, as a business, we’re not just missing opportunities to make more money, we are tethering ourselves to something that is a high stress, high deliverable process, that is probably never going to be enjoyable to the extent it could be. If you were to create a true business, something that runs without you, and it needs to run without you for the benefit of you for the benefit of your employees and for the benefit of your clients.
Heather Pearce Campbell 28:47
Yes, and I think that last point of creating something that runs without you is a particularly challenging piece for lawyers.
Heather Pearce Campbell 28:57
All right, let’s pause for a moment and hear from today’s sponsor. Are you an entrepreneur who is on track to make a million or more in revenue this year in your business? If so, your business is likely facing a host of legal issues that are right for support. And if you are like so many of my clients at this level, you are likely tired of taking unnecessary risks and a DIY approach to legal support in your business. You’re ready to tackle the mess of legal documents, six legal gaps that you have. You want to take care of your IP, your clients, your business, and avoid unnecessary conflict and risk in the process. If this is you, and beyond just being an entrepreneur, you are a catalyst and are committed to your mission and your impact in the world. I invite you to get in touch. You could be a fit for my catalyst club, a small business legal support program that I designed for my high level clients. Just like you, you can find out more at legalwebsite warrior.com. Just click on the Work with Me tab to learn more about the catalyst club and other ways that I support my clients, a fabulous group of world changing entrepreneurs, I might add, you’ve done the initial legwork in your business. And now you want to soar. And you know that you can only go as high and as far as your legal foundation lets you go. So get in touch today, hop over to legalwebsitewarrior.com, click on the Work with Me tab. And if you have any questions, get in touch through the Contact link on my site, I look forward to connecting it would be a joy to support you on your path.
Heather Pearce Campbell 30:47
Before I ask a question about that, I want to go back and visit first of all this topic of mental health, even substance abuse, just because I feel like it’s so important that we talk about it both from the standpoint of entrepreneurship, because statistically, entrepreneurs have a higher rate of all the things right depression, mental health issues, etc, than the just standard population. attorneys do too. Right. And so it’s almost like for those that live in the entrepreneurial and attorney space, it’s a bit like a double whammy. But I think it is just, it’s so underscores the importance of why we need to learn in a hurry, how to do business the right way, that becomes sustainable for us and for our clients. Because the impacts are just too great. The alternative is tremendous.
Allison Williams 31:41
I agree. And you know, the wonderful thing about this is, and I’ve had this conversation with people before, and they have always been kind of like nail biting my employment attorney has included, right? How can you talk to your team about that? Like, aren’t you concerned that they’re gonna see you as less of a leader? Or aren’t you concerned that they’re gonna have thoughts about, you know, am I is my job secure? And I tell people, you know, this was, well I literally hit 10 years in January of this year. Thank you, thank you, I threw myself a party.
Heather Pearce Campbell 32:16
So we have to celebrate?
Allison Williams 32:19
Yeah, I tell people I was like, it actually makes me better. Because when I start to see someone’s performance go down, my first thought is not, you know, how can I build more, get more get this person to build more hours? Or how can I run this person harder? Or what’s wrong?
Heather Pearce Campbell 32:33
Please, all the juice out of that lemon?
Allison Williams 32:36
Right? My thought is almost always is there something going on in the life of this human. And if this person is struggling in some way, I can have a humanistic conversation with them. And they know, they’re not going to be judged. You know, I can’t tell you the number of employees that I have helped get into the hands of a counselor, you know, I’ve had to deal with substance abuse in my law firm, right? These are human problems, they don’t make you less than, and the more you can share that with other professionals, the more you make it, okay for them to own when they’re not okay, which means they’re going to get help faster, the public is going to be helped better, because they’re going to have someone who’s looking out for themselves and making sure they’re okay before they’re interacting with your file. And you create a better business that way. Because in general, you want employees to be able to say, and if they have to run and hide and kind of wearing themselves down under the stress of being found out. Yeah, then you’re going to have a revolving door. And as a legal profession, we already have a higher rate of entrepreneurship, right, over half of the law firms in existence are solo law firms. So you know, we have to keep in mind we think about the big behemoth firm when we think about law firms. Right, we see it on La law, we say the sexy 50 Lawyer law firm, but the reality is, it’s mostly one or two lawyers in business together or on their own. And so when you think about that, there is a great benefit to our society of our normalizing the conversation about mental health so that we can be better not just for ourselves, but for our businesses and the clients that are going to be affected by what we have personally gone through.
Heather Pearce Campbell 34:26
Hmm, if people just hear the last three minutes of what you said, I think they’ve gotten a tremendous value from this conversation. I think, you know, the thing that’s so interesting about mental health, about substance abuse is that we have no problem treating a broken arm, right, or something that has this obvious need for treatment and improvement. And yet, you know, you look at those issues where people just tend to isolate and feel tremendous shame. And you’re absolutely right, they’re less likely to go get support, you know, as quickly as they might if, if we are just more open about the full human experience. And yesterday, this feels so appropriate, right, yesterday was World Mental Health Day. And it’s like, I see which, you know, again, if you want to talk silver linings of COVID, this whole intense period that people have been through, I think there’s a lot more discussion happening about like true impacts to mental health and what people are going through. And it’s important to continue that not just be a knee jerk reaction that then goes away. Right. And so yeah, I really appreciate you talking openly about that. Because I agree, it’s absolutely critical. And it’s critical to quality leadership, no matter the size of the business.
Allison Williams 35:43
I agree. And I’m happy that it came up. Once upon a time, I’d have these thoughts in my head of, do I want to share this? How do I want to share this, but now it just kind of it comes out whenever it comes out. And what’s really interesting is when I think about how people receive it, I remember once upon a time, I was terrified that a human being could find out that I was one of these defective humans that had problems. And it’s odd that I ended up working in child abuse and neglect law, because of course, a lot of my clients do have issues with mental health and substance abuse. But I can look at them, and I could see them as a whole human being, I could see them as needing help, I never could see that in myself, right, I had a much higher, harsher standard for myself. And a lot of lawyers are the same way. And so I remember when I first started to receive help, I went to the lawyer’s Assistance Program, there’s one in every state, across the union. And I was advised to go to AAA meetings, and I resisted and resisted and resisted, and finally I said, Okay, fine, I said, I would do this, I’ll do this. And the very first time I walked into a meeting, it happened to be that a lawyer that I knew, who she’s no longer practicing by that time, she had gone on to a career in health care. She was sitting there, and, and I remember, she saw me and I just like, my heart dropped, I was just immobilized with the, what if someone sees and now this person knows, and everyone’s gonna know, and, and there were all these feelings. And then I remember, I ended up seeing her at like a networking event, probably, probably two or three months later. And I didn’t go back to that particular meeting. By that time, I was I had called the people at the lawyer’s assistance program, I was like, I can’t do this. This is gonna ruin my career. And they’re like, Well, we have programs specific to lawyers that are just lawyers, you know, at least go to those. So I did that instead. But then I saw this person out. And she came up to me, and of course, I’m just like, No, just just forget it, you know? And she said to me, she’s like, it feels so great to see you here. And I was thinking, what does that mean? And she was like, you know, I felt so bad about myself when I started this. And to know that someone as amazing as you are here. It makes me feel okay. And I was like, huh, it wasn’t about me, after all, like so much of the stuff in our head, like we think it’s not about us. My favorite book is Don Miguel Ruiz is the Four Agreements, right? And it’s very much about like, don’t take things personally, because it’s not about you. And it wasn’t about me like me. In that moment, I got to be a catalyst for her improved self esteem. And that moment, even though in that stage of my life, I wasn’t able to receive that I still think back on that periodically, when I talk to my clients, or when I talk to prospects, or even when I just sometimes I’m on stage, and I’ll talk to people and it’ll come out and I’ll say, You know what, someone needed to hear that.
Heather Pearce Campbell 38:49
Told me it was a mass. Yes. Well, in this whole experience of talking about our struggles, I feel like you know, you use it, use the word like humanizes things or you’re able to see even your clients through a more human element. And it’s so important that we be able to do that and I think so long as we’re pretending and not that any of us are trying to pretend to be superhuman or like we’re not some back to, you know, whatever marital problems, parenting problems, whatever you name it, the moment that we begin to talk about things, and I learned this really early on in my journey to motherhood, I was one of those that had, you know, seven years, seven pregnancies, many miscarriages, lots of things going wrong with my body where I lost complete confidence in myself, my body, the process, like so many things, our medical system. And talking about it, I realized how many other women went through some element of that, or some piece of it or could relate. And it just became, I just realized, like, oh, we just need to be talking about it. It’s not comfortable. But we need to be doing it not only for ourselves, but the benefit of others, too. So yeah, I 100% agree. I would love to hear back to the piece of, you know, attorneys building a business that will eventually run without them. I think some attorneys can get help with systems, they can figure out, you know, certain things that they do on repeat inside of their business to improve the experience. I think that final piece, though, of removing themselves, is a real challenge, right? And I love that you’re sitting here now leading not just two, but now three businesses, because clearly, you know how to do this. Will you talk to us about one? Why is it so hard for attorneys to do that? Is it about finding somebody that replaces you that you feel like has the same judgment or the same approach to problem solving? What is it? Or is it really about, you know, this disconnect we have sometimes of really thinking about our practice, like a business.
Allison Williams 40:51
So I think there’s so much to that as to why we struggle, I think the biggest reason is that lawyers oftentimes, not universally, but oftentimes our identity is wrapped up in our work and the work but also in being needed. Right? It’s like the dopamine hit comes from, you know, the like, yeah, and the people that have the biggest egos are the ones that fare with it the most right? I am because I matter. And I matter because I lawyer, so therefore I am because I lawyer, so as soon as you stop lawyering, right? Because you’re reviewing the spreadsheets, you’re creating the hiring plan, you’re organizing the activity, or leadership, right? When you’re leading instead of lawyering and your identity is wrapped up in lawyering, you no longer feel a sense of yourself, you feel like, I don’t matter, or I don’t have value. And there’s a lot of people that have the story, that the only thing that’s valuable is the economically compensable valuable activity. So, for instance, you know, we pay in our society, we pay lawyers a lot more than we pay teachers. And so if you were to ask someone who is worth more to our economy, a lawyer or a teacher, most people would say a lawyer, right? Because there’s more dollars associated with it. But where did we get that association from? Right, depending on what the teacher is, you know, who the teacher is teaching, they are actually, depending on how the lawyer is lawyering, they could very well be responsible for far more economic activity, we see the link to be directly to the dollars paid for the labor. And since that’s our mindset, as soon as a lawyer is no longer deriving their income from their labor in the most direct sense of trading dollars for hours, they oftentimes can’t conceptualize their value, right, they got that message. Early on in childhood, they got it from the middle class lifestyle. And it’s a hard habit to break. So that’s kind of where it starts. But then the next challenge becomes the actual facility of doing the work and no longer doing the legal work. And that is not about who you choose as much as about how you orchestrate the activity. Because you can have what I would refer to as a B list attorney, right? And nobody likes to think of that everybody wants to be the A, especially if you’re a business owner, you tend to be driven, you tend to be competitive, you want the A for effort, all the stuff. But you can have a B attorney who does a quality work by virtue of your system.
Heather Pearce Campbell 43:27
And you have to say that louder for the people in the back.
Allison Williams 43:31
You can have a B attorney who does A level work as a result of your system. Yes. And you have to be able to believe that your clients will be just as well served if not better, by virtue of the below you’re doing a work through your system, then by virtue of you being the sacrificial lamb who’s doing work, you don’t want to do work, you’re not eloquent and to do work that you are ultimately not incentivized to do. So once you start to realize that what you then start to do is you don’t try to break the system all at once you don’t take yourself from lawyering 40 hours a week down to lowering 20 hours a week down to zero, right? What you tend to do is you start to take things off of your plate and put them on to the plates of others. And that requires a monetization of every activity as you do it. So when you learn that systematizing isn’t just finding an efficient way to do work, it’s finding an efficient way to make profit off of the work as the work is being done by others. Those elements have to be there, it has to be profitable, it has to be work that’s done at a compensable value, and it has to be work that’s done by others. And you put those three components into every piece of your business, and soon you are not needed for your business. Often, yeah, go ahead.
Heather Pearce Campbell 44:50
Well, I was gonna say I, but it’s really challenging for some lawyers to figure out how to make that monetizable. Right? How to put that puzzle piece together, I think, you know, especially depending on the way that they structure, their billings, the way that they unit I mean assign value to the services that they provide could take some creativity.
Allison Williams 45:12
Much less than you might think, actually, really? Yeah. And, you know, it’s interesting, I’ve actually sat in consultations with lawyers that are I don’t have the money to hire, but you’re telling me I need to hire in order to work less, but I want to work less than I can’t hire. And I’m like, well stop the loop for a minute. What are you charging? Okay, great. I want you to hire a paralegal. I want you to build them out at $150 an hour, how many hours a week? Are they gonna work? They’re gonna work 40 hours a week? Okay, great. Let’s have them work. And bill half of that time, okay. Not all of the time. Let’s just start with half the time. Okay, right. So they can start to see a little bit of a possibility there. And then you walk them down the loop, how many hours and how many dollars at what collection rate, right, that’s X dollars, they’re not going to be paid X dollars, they’re gonna be paid a fraction of X dollars. So before you hire them, you engineer the financial success. And then you start to think, well, how can I do that with other work? I’ve got some things on my plate that are failing, or some things that our marketing, and I’m not going to be billing a client by the hour for that activity. So how do I monetize it? Well, let’s assume what the economic cost is to the business of that person, let’s figure out what the profit is we want to make off of that person, how can we make that compensable? Well, that person can save you more time, so that you can build a time to pay, or they can save your paralegal more time, so that that person can ultimately produce more, because they’re doing less non billable work, there is always a way to monetize a role, you have to either get it directly through being paid for your time, or you going to indirectly by having someone else be paid for the time, that’s going to save that activity from the person who would be billing during that time period instead. And once you figure that out, you do that with every single role. Every role has an economic value, there is some quantifiable amount of economic value that the person can produce for a business. And you build it into a system whereby you take into account all the things that come with an employee time to train them, time to manage them time to oversee their activity, right? You build that into your model as you go. So that every time you’re hiring someone, they’re making more profit as you are working less. And that is how you ultimately grow yourself out of being a necessity in your business. So it doesn’t become like breaking the mold, right? Because I tell most lawyers, I want you to go from billing 80 hours a week to not filling it all. It’s so psychologically traumatizing, right? This becomes the subconscious mind is like, Holy S, what are we really.
Heather Pearce Campbell 47:43
Allison Williams 47:48
You don’t do that, right? You start to weave away the things that are least profitable, so that you have the most responsible, the most qualified, least expensive person doing the work in the business. And you do that over and over again, until ultimately, you’re out of a job.
Heather Pearce Campbell 48:07
Yes, I can see where transition wise that makes it much smoother than just making some massive leap. Because the thing I wondered is, you know, you were talking about this, this topic of like value creation and how as attorneys, we get so tied to that as part of our identity, right, the value that we’re creating for our clients that we’re getting paid directly for. And I also wondered, does it also have to do the struggle with kind of working your way out of a job with giving up the relationship with clients?
Allison Williams 48:38
It can for some people. I think it’s when you talk about the relationship. I think it’s giving up the role of Xavier the number of clients and number of lawyer clients that we have that very much see themselves as they went into law for some reason, right. And I hate to put it this way, but I tell people all the time lawyers are damaged people, right? You have to have a certain level of trauma, to choose a career where someone’s job is to disagree with you, and your open hand to hand combat, where the winner takes all and you’re going to be publicly humiliated. If you’re not the winner, there’s a certain status that signs up for.
Heather Pearce Campbell 49:20
When you put it away.
Allison Williams 49:24
You know, we sign up for it. But you know, whether you’re transactional or you’re a litigator, doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, you’re signing up for what is a very terse, challenging experience, right. And for a lot of us, as we go through the experience of learning how to lawyer, we arrive on the other side of okay, I’ve learned this lawyering thing. Now I have conquered whatever it was that I was trying to conquer by virtue of becoming a lawyer, right. So now I have value in society. And whereas I didn’t feel valuable before, now I make money, whereas I wasn’t making money before. Now I have a purpose, whereas I didn’t feel like I had a purpose before. So for a lot of us, it’s very much driven by the idea that I was the underdog. And now I fight for the underdog, or I was the disadvantaged, and now I fight for the disadvantaged. And so when you take that away, and people don’t see the nexus of I am the Divine Creator, who created this ecosystem through which clients get that same amazing result, they don’t get that dopamine hit in the same way, oftentimes, it does become the limiting belief that cycles then right back into nope, it has to be me, I have to be the one. I can’t possibly have someone else do this. My clients are not being well served. And they tell that story to themselves, because they can’t break the psychology of it.
Heather Pearce Campbell 50:46
Well, and the interesting thing when you put it that way, and it really makes sense to shift from that like aI centric approach or view to like, what outcome Am I creating for the client that can be delivered right by this group of people? Or my team or whatever? Seems so obvious, right? And yet I can see why that is a challenge. Do you think what came to mind when you’re talking about lawyers is that many service professionals and I know that there are folks that listen to this podcast, who may not be an attorney, but are a service professional, in some other field, I think that could have similar patterns, right? Whether it’s the medical field or the therapy field, or whatever being the fixer, because ultimately, we’re all here to solve some sort of problem for our client. Right?
Allison Williams 51:36
Yeah, it’s not a uniquely lawyer problem. A lot of us learn the story growing up, that our value comes in how we achieve academically, right? So in your profession, it’s not academic achievement anymore. It’s career achievement, but it’s very much about chasing the rainbow of the attaboys. And they add a girl. So the accolades, you start getting that over and over again, I matter because I got the award, I matter because people praise me, I matter because people see me as successful. And then you put yourself into another realm, you oftentimes will have a sense of loss. In fact, I remember when I stopped taking litigation cases, people would call the office all the time. And by this time, I had a statewide reputation and a very big name in what I do. And so when people would call the office, and I would, you know, I personally wasn’t answering the phone, but a staff member, a team member would say, Okay, so the way that we work is you’re going to meet with our Director of Client Services, and then she’s going to determine the right one for for your matter. The person would say, Well, I was referred to Allison, like, I want her as my attorney. And at some point, my team was coming to me and saying, Well, they really want you to think you could take this one or you know, she’s really insistent or whatever. And I said, No, don’t come to me with this person wants or this person has a has a really sexy case where this person was referred by this senator or this person is dating this athlete, or this person is X dollars, or I don’t care. Like I had to, like throw up the wall and say, it’s a non negotiable. And that was really hard because from an ego perspective, my ego was still being fed by they need me they need me they need me I matter. Yeah. And when I stopped energizing it like it takes a lot of probably deeper thought work than most of us can get into even in the in the span of this conversation. But when I stopped the patterning and the energizing of I must be needed. I noticed those calls stopped. We didn’t change anything in the marketing, right? We didn’t, we didn’t change anything and how we package the story. The story was still the same you call the office, you speak with our director. clients are going through this system go through our system. And she will determine who is the right team member to work with you, the right composite team of lawyer, paralegal and administrative assistant. And that is the process. But it stopped showing up when I stopped putting out the energy of I need to be needed. And once I realized the power of directing my thoughts toward the outcome that I wanted, which is my clients are better served by working with someone else, my clients are best served by having me as the, the architect of their legal matter by virtue of the systems that I created. Yeah. And then they have a general contractor who is their leading attorney, and then they have a subcontractor who is the Associate on the file. And then they have a series of professionals helping to build out the infrastructure, who are the paralegals in the administrative team, and so forth. Once I realized that I was still at cause, right, I still created the system. But I was no longer being selfish and saying, my ego needs to be needed, and therefore I will take myself in exhaustion to serve this person in a way I don’t want to, so that I can have that dopamine hit, even if they would be better served by someone else.
Heather Pearce Campbell 55:12
Yeah. Oh, that’s such a key point. And I just love really personally, the challenge thinking of it from a challenge perspective of taking the creativity, the problem solving skills that we have as attorneys, shifting that into how do you create a model that consistently creates this positive outcome? Right, rather than this focus on…
Allison Williams 55:37
More people that way.
Heather Pearce Campbell 55:38
Yeah, exactly. And you’ve created a model that you know, works and can repeat and provide consistent client experiences, which is ultimately what I think many of us want, right? So love that. I want to be respectful of your time, I realized we’ve run you up right to the top of the hour. Allison, I’ve loved this conversation and everything that you’ve shared with us. I think that there’s so much that service professionals can get from this that entrepreneurs can get from these heavy overlaps in those worlds. For folks that want to connect with you and learn more about your work about your coaching, where do you send them?
Allison Williams 56:16
Well, I tell people, all things law firm mentor can be found on our website, which is lawfirmmentor.net. And I also have a podcast, the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor Podcast and on the podcast, we feature guests, but it really is primarily me and you hear how we coach people. You hear what some of the tenets of success are and how we ultimately will help a law firm owner who owns a solo shop or even a small partnership to get to that next level without all the pain and agita that I had to experience getting there.
Heather Pearce Campbell 56:46
Yeah, I love it Crushing Chaos, be sure to pop over and check that out. Allison, we will share all your links, including to both your websites and your podcast on our show notes page. Those can be found at legalwebsitewarrior.com/podcast. Allison, any final thoughts you’d like to leave listeners with today?
Allison Williams 57:05
We have gone in so many different directions that I wasn’t expecting. I would just say, you know, there was a lot that came out in this episode. I think that Heather, you do such an excellent job of like pulling out of people kind of the story that I think a lot of people need to hear. So I hope that people got value out of this conversation, I’m sure that there will still be things that I don’t even remember saying that I will hear when I listened again. But to the extent that anybody has any thoughts about how to be well, in the business of being an entrepreneur, some of the things we talked about with mental health and sobriety, I think are really important to pay heed to.
Heather Pearce Campbell 57:47
Yeah, well, I really appreciate you for being so open with us. I have loved this conversation. I look forward to being in touch and we will wrap up here shortly but then stay on because you and I have got some connections for you. So thanks again to our listeners for being with us today. Huge thank you to Allison Williams. Really good to have you here.
GGGB Outro 58:06
Thank you for joining us today on the Guts, Grit and Great Business® podcast. We hope that we’ve added a little fuel to your tank, some coffee to your cup and pep in your step to keep you moving forward in your own great adventures. For key takeaways, links to any resources mentioned in today’s show and more, see the show notes which can be found at www.legalwebsitewarrior.com/podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and if you enjoyed today’s conversation, please give us some stars and a review on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast so others will find us too. Keep up the great work you are doing in the world and we’ll see you next week.