The Leaders in Law blog is dedicated to discussions with leading lawyers and legal thought leaders on topics including law firm management, legal developments, future of law, leadership in law firms, and the business of the practice of law. This week we are talking with Ally Lozano, award-winning attorney, best-selling author of the book Be the CEO of Your Law Firm: Gain Control, Turn a Profit, and Reclaim Your Life, and publisher of the Six Minute CEO Podcast. The podcast is devoted to helping lawyers make “small changes one billable increment at a time” to improve their businesses.
1. Ally, what inspired you to launch the “Six Minute CEO” podcast?
For years, I struggled with running my solo practice. I was always broke. I had no idea how to run a business. I didn’t even see my law firm as a business. However, when I lost everything in a hurricane at 7 months pregnant, I realized something had to change. I needed to treat my law firm like the business that it was, and I needed to become the CEO.
However, it was difficult for me to find resources on the “how” of running a legal business. I was completely overwhelmed by trying to figure it all out on my own.
I started to make small changes and within 3 months, I turned my law firm from earning almost nothing to earning 6 figures. I then started AMIGA Lawyers, the Association of Mother Immigration Attorneys, and I realized that so many other female solopreneurs were struggling the way I was. I decided to start teaching people what I was learning and what was working for me with the hopes that I could help them find the same success that I was experiencing.
Even though I blog weekly and have a bestselling book called Be the CEO of Your Law Firm: Gain Control, Turn a Profit, and Reclaim Your Life, I felt like busy lawyers needed bite-size, actionable information on how to run a better business. That led me to create the “Six Minute CEO” podcast.
People love that it is so short, upbeat, and to the point.
2. Before you started helping other attorneys, what kind of law did you practice? Do you maintain your law practice?
I still practice immigration law. It’s my full-time job. I now have a 7-figure solo practice.
I love to continue to make my law firm better and better for my clients and also so that I can teach what I have learned about running my legal business to other solo practitioners and small firms.
3. With more and more pressure on lawyers to be efficient, what do you recommend as initial few steps for lawyers to look at their law practice as a business?
The first step is to recognize that it is a business and that you have to treat it like one. So many lawyers say that they “hate the business side,” but it is necessary to have a thriving business so that you can do the work that you love.
From there, it takes a shift of mindset from seeing things as costs to seeing things as investments. You must get the right people in place to help you run a better business, especially if you don’t enjoy the business management side of it. For example, it’s critical to hire a bookkeeper instead of trying to do your books yourself. I thought that that “cost” would break me. But you can’t put a price on the stress and inefficiency that is caused by a lawyer wasting her time trying to be a bookkeeper. I found Bench, which is a virtual bookkeeping service, that is about $130 a month. This service changed my life. (I love them so much that I have partnered with them to help lawyers get a free month of bookkeeping and 20% off the first 6 months of service: http://mbsy.co/bench/33453532.)
You also need to get other services in place, such as a phone answering service and a case management system.
You cannot do it all yourself. Get the help that you need to support your legal business so that you can focus on what you do best—being a lawyer.
4. On your podcast, you mention you use flat fees and value billing. Can you explain why and the difference between those approaches?
One of the problems with flat fees is that people set them too low. The price does not reflect the time that it takes to prepare, submit, and complete a case, manage the client, and more. But even when the flat fee comes close to correctly reflecting the hours that a case takes, it goes back to the old-fashioned idea of trading hours for dollars. The hours for dollars model is also inefficient and holds you back from running the best law firm you can.
When I streamlined my entire firm and was able to offer my clients 1-week turnaround times on their cases, regular communication through weekly and monthly case updates, and excellent results, I realized that I was bringing incredible value to my clients but with less number of hours on my end. I decided that I would price my cases according to the value instead of breaking it down by the hour. It took a lot of hours (actually, an insane amount of hours) to make my law firm this organized so that way I could spend fewer hours on re-inventing the wheel in every single case. My clients are willing to pay more for this structure because they understand the value in it. They love seeing action being taken on their cases very quickly. In truth, it’s what all of our clients deserve.
5. Now for the $64,000 question – Will the billable hour ever die?
I sure hope so. It is an antiquated model that is an enemy of efficiency. It disincentivizes running a streamlined business. It caps creativity and a person’s earning potential.
I have transformed my life and practice by streamlining my law firm. My goal is to run my law firm like Starbucks with smooth processes, consistent client interactions, and reliable service and results. The billable hour would never allow for that.
6. What’s the Six Figure Solo Membership?
I struggled to make ends meet for years before learning how to run my law firm like a business. Then I created my all-new, more systematic approach that resulted in a six-figure income after only a few months! The joy I find in sharing these tools and insights with you now makes all those years of “figuring it out” worth it.
Each month, I host a high-energy power hour, that gets you 1 hour of CLE credit, a live “Ask Ally” Q&A coaching call where I answer questions about how to improve your business, as well as questions about how I run my business. I offer worksheets on how to take action on the lessons right now in your law firm, a private Facebook group, and more.
In Six Figure Solo membership, I share the strategies and methods that I have acquired to build my (now) seven-figure practice. Plus, you’ll have the encouragement of other like-minded female attorneys who are also ready to take their businesses to the next level.
- The 6 keys to running a successful practice
- Be the CEO of your law firm and shake off the associate mindset
- The right way to market your legal services
- Manage your finances fearlessly
- Become an HR Pro
- How to streamline and automate your firm so that you can have the life and law firm of your dreams
- And so much more!
7. If someone wants to know more about you and your Six Figure Solo Membership, where can they find you?
You can join Six Figure Solo on AllyLozano.com/Shop. You can get my weekly business tips delivered right to your inbox by signing up on AllyLozano.com. While you’re there, check out my blog and other resources. I love to support other lawyers, so connect with me on Instagram and Facebook @AllyLozanoEsq or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. What do you see as the future of law?
The future of law is in the hands of lawyers who can give their clients top-of-the-line customer service. Technology is no replacement for the care that clients need when they are going through scary, difficult times in their lives.
9. Who was your mentor?
AMIGA, or the Association of Mother Immigration Attorneys, is my mentor. AMIGA is comprised of women who are the best immigration lawyers in the country, and I have learned more from them than I could ever put into words. Every single day, they make me a better lawyer. They share their information generously. They have taught me and guided me and continue to do so daily.
10. What’s your favorite war story as a lawyer?
When I was a 3L, I met with an immigration lawyer for an informational interview. I was starting my post-law school job search and I was excited to meet with someone who was well-known in the local immigration law community. I handed him my resume and despite being in the top of my class, having prestigious immigration related experience (including a judicial internship), and being completely bilingual, he went on to tell me that I was never going to get a job as a lawyer and that I would be lucky to ever get a job answering phones and serving coffee to lawyers.
That experience could have broken me and I could have given up right then. However, I decided that I would not let one man’s incorrect opinion about me shape what I knew to be true about myself.
One of the reasons that I created AMIGA and teach everything that I do through AllyLozano.com is because I think that lawyers need to build one another up. Being a lawyer is hard enough, and then add to that running a business and being a parent and it can feel downright overwhelming. The last thing that we need is to tear one another down. The idea that we have to push other people down so that we can rise is nonsensical. We are all in this together. My goal is to help others find success in this journey of life, business, and law.
11. What do you think is important for law firm culture?
One of the keys to creating a successful law firm culture is to ensure that no one person is the keeper of information. Instead, have a training manual that tells you how to do every single thing in the office, step-by-step, and a case management system where all notes are kept, all calls are logged, and all in-office communications take place. This helps people be able to work at their highest levels both individually and as a team.
12. Any thoughts about effective leadership in law firms and law firm management?
When you are the head of your law firm, it is easy to take for granted the fact that people are following your lead when it comes to habits and behaviors. For example, if you are constantly venting about clients and talking bad about them to your staff, then your staff will begin to do the same. Customer service will suffer. Clients will not be as satisfied with your firm.
I had no idea how my own words and actions were shaping my team until we brought in our business manager and he made me see it and understand it. Having a great law firm starts with a great leader. When you are with your team, try to do better than your best every single day.
13. What’s your “one thing” that most drives your professional success?
I never, ever, ever want to be complacent or mediocre. I believe that this is my greatest motivator.
14. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started your career as a lawyer?
Just because the majority of lawyers run their law firms in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it is the only way. Find ways to make your law firm fit your life instead of living your entire life for your law firm. Your personal life is just as important as your professional life, and you can have the best of both if you think outside the box.
15. What are you reading right now?
High Performance Habits by Brendan Burchard
Klemchuk LLP is a litigation, intellectual property (IP) and transactional law firm, located in Dallas, TX. We offer comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution. Additional information about the IP firm and its IP attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.