Paige A. Greenlee founded Greenlee Law PLLC in 2014, after spending twelve years in private practice at both large...
Brittany J. Maxey founded Maxey Law Offices, PLLC in 2008. She is a patent attorney, registered to practice before...
Adriana Linares is a law practice consultant and legal technology coach. After several years at two of Florida’s largest...
There are so many unknowns when starting a new law practice – what should and shouldn’t new solos do when first striking out on their own? In this episode of New Solo, host Adriana Linares talks to solo/small lawyers Paige Greenlee and Brittany Maxey-Fisher about their career experiences. They discuss what led them to decide to go out on their own and what strategies they have used to grow their practices. They offer tips for solos on technology, practice management, networking, organic marketing, hiring, and more.
Paige A. Greenlee founded Greenlee Law PLLC in 2014, after spending twelve years in private practice at both large and mid-sized firms in Tampa.
Brittany J. Maxey founded Maxey Law Offices, PLLC in 2008.
Launching a Successful Practice: Tips from Pro Solo/Small Firm Lawyers
Intro: So you are an attorney and you have decided to go out on your own, now what? You need a plan and you are not alone. Join expert host Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune into the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm, here on Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: It’s time for another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I am Adriana Linares, a legal technology trainer and consultant. I help lawyers and law firms use technology better. Before we get started with our two fabulous guests today, I want to make sure and take a moment to thank our sponsors.
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All right. Hi Paige.
Paige A. Greenlee: Hi Adriana.
Adriana Linares: Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to talk to us today. Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?
Paige A. Greenlee: Sure. My name is Paige Greenlee. I am a commercial litigator, true solo in Tampa and I have been on my own for about four-and-a-half years.
Adriana Linares: And you are a very busy Board of Governor member for the Florida Bar, right? Tell us a little bit about your volunteer stuff, because that’s important and impressive.
Paige A. Greenlee: Well, thank you very much. It’s my privilege to get to represent the Thirteenth Circuit on the Florida Bar Board of Governors. I am also involved in the Solo & Small Firm Section of the Florida Bar and sit on its Executive Council as well as the Business Law Section of the Florida Bar and I sit on its Executive Council as well.
So I have been a Bar junky my whole life.
Adriana Linares: Right, in your spare time that’s the fun you have.
Paige A. Greenlee: Right, under my extracurriculars.
Adriana Linares: Right. Hi Brittany.
Brittany J. Maxey: Hi.
Adriana Linares: Thanks so much for joining us. I know you are a very busy attorney too. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Brittany J. Maxey: Thank you so much for having me. My name is Brittany Maxey-Fisher and I am a patent attorney located in the Tampa Bay area, with an office in Sarasota and St. Petersburg. I have had the firm for over 11 years now and I am really honored to get to practice intellectual property law.
Adriana Linares: That must be so interesting and exciting. That just sounds like such a cool field to me.
Brittany J. Maxey: It is, it’s a very cool field, and because it’s a federal area of law, I get to work with clients all over the United States and it’s ever-changing, so I am real honored to get to practice it.
Adriana Linares: Well, and Paige, not that corporate litigation isn’t exciting and sexy, because it is.
Paige A. Greenlee: I was going to say, she is not going to brag on herself, but she is a past President of, among other things, she is a past President of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers and Past Chair of the Diversity Committee of the Florida Bar, and I am sure I am leaving some things out, but she is also very involved in Bar activities in her spare time.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, right, in all your spare times. Well, the reason I asked the two of you to come and talk to us is because, again, this world is so small and so funny and I always say nobody listens to my podcast and I always get these notes and emails and Twitter, and in this case a message came in through LinkedIn from a gentleman named David, and out of respect for his privacy I won’t mention his last name, but I do want to say thank you David for the suggestion.
He had seen the two of you or heard the two of you speaking at the St. Pete County Bar on starting your own, launching your own successful practice and he put a note on LinkedIn that said these two ladies would make amazing guests on Adriana’s podcast. So I am assuming he listens to the podcast. Thank you David, you are the fourth listener. No, I am kidding. I appreciate the suggestion.
I had been thinking about Paige for a long time, because I see her at a lot of Bar events Paige and I just — I think, oh, I should get Paige on there, and it was just perfect synergy when I got that note. So here we are, and I thought I would start by just asking you, independently each of you, just to get us started really, when somebody says to you hey, will you do a talk on launching your own practice, how do you start a solo practice, what were the first two or three things that came to your mind as you jotted down bullet points on what your presentation would be like?
Let me start with Paige, just, oh, you have got to do this, this, and this, and then we will sort of expand from there, but what were the first couple of things that came to mind?
Paige A. Greenlee: Well, the number one thing that I always tell people, Brittany was one of my targets when I decided to start my own practice, was to interview as many people who have done it as you can to find out what works, what doesn’t work, what they wish they would have known when they started, because this isn’t something brand-new, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and reaching out to people who are similar to you, have similar personalities to find out what they wish they would have done differently, what they did that works really well was super helpful to me and I know it saved me a ton of time and money.
Adriana Linares: I think that’s great advice and I think it’s important to remind attorneys, whether they are new solos or big firm _____, you are not going to be the first lawyer to do this. The resources are available and definitely inside your network, whether it’s small or big, there are certainly people who can give you some advice and point you in the right direction.
Brittany, what did you think when you first got invited to do this talk?
Brittany J. Maxey: I totally agree with what Paige said. I think that a very important piece is to have almost your own personal board of directors. And so talking to people that have law firms, but then also opening up your mind to people that have successful businesses that are outside of the legal field, because every day I am learning something new.
And I think people, if you ask them for the help, they want to help, but most of the time people are a little bit nervous to say, oh, well, if I ask, then people may know that I don’t know exactly what I am doing, and I think that that’s the opposite. I think asking will get you a long way.
Adriana Linares: I totally agree with you. So Paige, when you decided to go solo, you were — I forget, you were at a bigger firm I think, but you weren’t at a mega firm, were you at like a boutique?
Paige A. Greenlee: I was when I finally made the decision to go solo, although I had been thinking about it for about four or five years leading up to then when I was at larger firms. I was at about a ten attorney firm, so in Tampa that’s pretty small.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. Well, no, it’s still a good-sized firm. So you decided to go out on your own and you said all right, well, I am going to get some advice, I am going to talk to some people, and then where did you start, and I really like to talk a lot about getting your house in order. So tell us a little bit about picking practice management. Did you go from being a PC at your firm to deciding to use a Mac when you went solo? What are a couple of the basic things you started with insofar as infrastructure?
Paige A. Greenlee: Well, technology was the number one thing that I focused on initially, because I had been a Mac user for years and every law firm that I had been with, their IT department would just kind of roll their eyes when I would say I can’t get into our system from the Mac, and they would say that’s because they are not meant to work with anything else. They do their own thing. It just was a constant source of frustration for me, because I really enjoyed working on the Mac and the PC that they would distribute at law firms was usually about 20 years old and weighed about 50 pounds. So when you traveled with it, it was a nightmare.
So in any event, I did a bunch of research just to make sure that what I thought was true was the case, which is that Macs work in law firms just as well as PCs, if not better, and I decided to go down the road of using Mac. There’s LISTSERV, it’s Mac In Law Offices. I don’t know if the conference came before the LISTSERV or the LISTSERV came before the conference, but I know I have seen you there Adriana over in Orlando every year. They have a Mac In Law Offices Conference, and so I started following and asking questions from folks on that. LISTSERV, got a lot of advice there and finally made the leap and decided I was going to be a Mac office. So I did that and got myself set up and going.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s a very good tip. If you are a listener who hasn’t yet discovered the Macs In Law Offices, it’s MILO for short, MILO, Macs In Law Offices. It’s a Google Group. If you just google it, you will find it, and it’s a great community of lawyers who are using Macs and solving problems when they come up, which are fewer and fewer every year, because a lot of platforms are pushing toward becoming device agnostic, so it’s becoming easier.
And so Brittany, tell us a little bit about your firm, you started as a solo, but you have grown your practice and that’s always impressive. And tell us a little bit about what you did to get started and then how you have — infrastructure-wise, were you — you are both Clio users, 11 years ago Clio wasn’t there when you started your practice. So how did you sort of shift and adopt technology as you aged and grew, and I don’t mean physically?
Brittany J. Maxey: Yeah. So being an IP and a patent attorney, it’s definitely a cutting edge area of law. So when we very first started we were using more of the actual software that was implemented on the actual computers and quite quickly I wanted to look into cloud, and at that point the Bars, besides New York, really hadn’t discussed the whole cloud storage, cloud using. So we were some of the first people to start using Clio, and I am really glad that I did, and I have been with them since 2010 now.
But for me, I am a very team-oriented person. I played sports my whole life and played softball at Ole Miss. So I knew I wanted to have a team. And I am also a scientist, so I am very data and process-oriented. So from the beginning I focused on, okay, how to get clients in the door and how to set up the processes so that we can have more of a team and it’s not just myself.
So those are some of the things that I definitely focused on from the beginning was the clients and the processes.
Paige A. Greenlee: You are very nerdy Brittany.
Brittany J. Maxey: Thank you.
Paige A. Greenlee: You are welcome.
Brittany J. Maxey: I take that as a compliment.
Adriana Linares: And let me ask you both, when you did this or thought about this, did you have outside IT people, did you get help making these decisions or did you really just use the power of your network and the Internet to figure out what you wanted, Brittany?
Brittany J. Maxey: So very early on I was working with a patent agent that was very good in the computer software realm and so he helped a ton and we always were trying to figure things out, and I am very much someone that likes to hire people that are experts in their industry, but he knew a lot about different programs and so he helped me a lot.
Adriana Linares: I think it’s really important to remind people that hiring experts is key when you can, and the reason I am asking this question is it’s hard sometimes, especially in maybe not the biggest metropolitan areas, to find IT people that can help law firms.
And so I guess Paige, I could pose the same question to you, but I think you pretty much told us that you used Internet research. Did you actually go to the MILO Conference?
Paige A. Greenlee: I have been several times, yes. I didn’t have the opportunity to go before I went on my own, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of any of that in advance of actually opening my own shop, but yes, I have been several times.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and that’s okay. And I think that’s another thing that’s important is there are some great legal specific technology conferences, whether they are local ones, like the one Paige, you just chaired the Solo & Small Firm Section Conference in January in Florida, and so if you get to looking around for where these conferences are, whether they are local or national; for us, we are lucky, because if we live in Florida, MILO has been coming to Orlando for a long time. I think those are really, really powerful places, important places to find a lot of those resources.
Before we move on to our next segment where I start asking you about marketing and how you showcase your businesses and get new clients, we are going to take a quick break and listen to a couple of messages from our sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: All right, we are back with Brittany Maxey-Fisher and Paige Greenlee, two attorneys in the Tampa area of Florida. We are just talking about launching practices and some infrastructure.
The next thing I was going to ask you is I want to ask you a quick question about Clio, not just necessarily because they are our sponsor, but a lot of lawyers use them, and I am curious if either of you as you got onto Clio and then grew your practice, whether that be by body count or just by client size, have you looked into any of the add-ons? Have you expanded the platform by using any other services and tools that help either you Brittany, create that teamwork environment or Paige, as a solo, just any other add-ons that have been helpful to you in managing your practice better?
Why don’t we start with Paige?
Paige A. Greenlee: I have used a few of the add-ons, it’s one of the things that I have been meaning to spend some time doing, because I know that they have a lot of opportunities to integrate with other platforms. But I do integrate with QuickBooks and also I use Tali.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. Oh, you do?
Paige A. Greenlee: I do.
Adriana Linares: Tell us about it. I love Tell Tali.
Paige A. Greenlee: I really like Tali and it’s getting better by the minute. I was one of the very first users I guess when they attended the Clio Conference, what was that, two-and-a-half years ago now or a year-and-a-half ago maybe, I signed up for it there and have had it since then.
For those of you who don’t know, Tali is voice recognition program, so that you can Tell Tali to open; now mine’s going to open as I am sitting here in my office, but to open — and you tell Alexa to open Tali and then you can record your time orally by dictating your time essentially, which is a really big time saver. I like to do it when I am trying to wrap things up at the end of the day, make sure you capture all your time for the day. It’s just a fantastic tool.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s awesome. So it works with Alexa and you basically say, Alexa, tell Tali to log 25 minutes, and she will say, to what project shall I log this, and then you would say to Marsh criminal matter, whatever you name it, and she goes okay, and what should it say, and then you give her the narrative and it captures it. It sends it from Tali into Clio, right?
Paige, do you have it set up that way?
Paige A. Greenlee: Right, yes.
Adriana Linares: And then once you are ready to send out your bills, you can open up the bill making tool of Clio; I am talking like a four-year-old, the bill maker and your entries are in there and you can edit them as you need, but at least it’s been captured, and it does a pretty good job of capturing your voice because this — all these robots, as I call them, are so good these days at voice to text.
Paige A. Greenlee: It really is. It’s a lot better now than it was when it first came out, although it’s been good from the beginning, but client names sometimes aren’t the most intuitive things for voice recognition software to pick up, but it’s gotten really good.
Adriana Linares: Right. And I have an attorney who names all their matters by a property address, all the matter numbers start with a number and it gets a little confused there sometimes. So think about, if you are going to use a tool like this, think about what you are going to name your client matters, that can matter.
Brittany, I am curious especially from your side with your IP practice, if any of the IP specific programs that you use or websites integrate with Clio?
Brittany J. Maxey: I don’t think that they have any IP specific that integrate. I have been looking at the new Clio Grow, which is the new intake system that they have done and we have been checking that out.
Adriana Linares: Oh, that’s great and that’s a perfect segue to what I was going to ask you about next. I know that one of the topics you discussed in the panel that the two of you did together was just marketing your firm, and Brittany, you said that you are very process-oriented, so I imagine that your client intake process is quite documented.
Brittany J. Maxey: Yes, it is, and I back into the numbers of what I am looking or what we need to make and then I know the average spend per matter, how I get to that actual spend. I know the conversion rate with how many prospective clients that I need to bring in the door that would then convert. And so, it’s definitely very process-oriented in order to make sure that we are breaking that — hitting that nut essentially every month.
Adriana Linares: How did you figure all this out from your law firm perspective? Did you just have some marketing background, and I don’t mean necessarily marketing, but you sound like a person who has gone to client development training from, there is a funnel and then there is conversion and I know — so did you learn all that just trial and error, did you spend some time — did you go to a conference, how did you figure all this out?
Brittany J. Maxey: So before I went to law school I was a paralegal and I had the opportunity to work in a large firm, medium, and a small. So I really on-the-job training just very much studied how they did things and I probably got behind the velvet curtain a little bit more than maybe other lawyers did because I was a paralegal.
And so knowing that that’s the way that other firms ran it, I just constantly tweaked basically my calculations in order to make sure that I knew what the conversion rate would be, because we really are the very tip of that funnel, all we do is intellectual property, so by the time someone gets to us, it’s a very, very finite thing that they are looking for. It’s not like it’s going to be — everybody does not need IP. So I knew that I needed to look at those conversion rates.
Now, on the flip side, everybody thinks they have IP, everybody thinks they have the next biggest invention, so our conversion rate is probably a little bit lower than a typical law firm.
Adriana Linares: By the way, I have some great ideas I need to talk to you about Brittany.
Brittany J. Maxey: I know somebody.
Adriana Linares: Paige, how about from your end?
Paige A. Greenlee: I don’t really have a very — I certainly don’t have anything as sophisticated as what Brittany has. I have learned a lot over the years in terms of what initially might sound good, how to ask the right questions and figure out whether it’s going to make sense in the long run, because I have learned that lesson kind of the hard way on a couple of occasions.
But I don’t have a very detailed process. I take the phone calls and emails and respond to them and see what works out, but I definitely kind of have a — mine’s more of a lick your finger and stick it in the air and see which way the wind is blowing kind of thing compared to what Brittany’s process is, but I think it’s just probably because of our different practice areas in some regards.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and there is nothing wrong with that, especially when you are a true solo or maybe every once in a while you do have some help. You tend to have a better idea of what’s running through your practice as opposed to when you have more attorneys or a couple of other stuff, it becomes a little bit harder so those processes have to be documented a little bit better.
I have to say Paige, I love that you as a solo, you have mentioned being active with Solo & Small Firm Conference, you go to MILO, you have been to Clio, I love that you take the time and spend the money, which I know can be expensive and especially if you are a solo, we all know we are not swimming in — swimming through oceans of dollars. Do you find that attending those conferences and being able to talk to vendors and talk to peers is really valuable?
Paige A. Greenlee: Yes, 100%, and I have people question me about this all the time, because they, especially with the Board of Governors, because it is such a significant and ongoing time and financial commitment that people say well — I have had a couple of friends ask me already, well, have you seen a return on investment on the Board of Governors, and my response to that is well, I have only been on it for like nine months at this point.
And I think that’s a misconception that people have is that you join or get involved in Bar activities and you get an immediate ROI on it, and I just don’t think that that’s ever going to be the case. I think that you have to put your time in and you make real relationships, just like you do with getting a business client in the door, that doesn’t usually happen in one meeting or your paths crossing one time.
But I definitely — I mean I have been involved since I was a young lawyer on the Young Lawyers Board of Governors and I know that that has — I have seen a return on investment on that, it just doesn’t happen immediately.
In terms of going to conferences, tech conferences and talking to vendors, absolutely, it’s helped me learn how to be more efficient with my practice and use technology to help myself. And initially I did not have an IT person at all. I now have someone on retainer, just because things have gotten more complicated. You are a lot more at risk with your data and your clients’ data and I feel like it’s necessary now to have someone.
But I initially tried to wear the IT person hat too and thought, this isn’t something — I am not an expert in this, I don’t have any background in this and I was trying to learn as much as I could, but I still think that’s important, even though I have an expert on retainer who does it for me.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. I love hearing that. How do you get most of your new clients, is it through word-of-mouth, like you are saying, relationship building, name recognition, or do you advertise?
Paige A. Greenlee: No, I don’t advertise at all. The only thing that I do that could possibly be construed as advertising, and I don’t think of it this way, is I do sponsor local Bar activities, because I think that that’s important when we have local or different Bar Associations have scholarship banquets and things like that, I will sponsor things, get my name out there, and on advertising materials for events like that, but I don’t do any other type of advertising.
Adriana Linares: So in that case it’s referrals from other lawyers that is the return on that investment?
Paige A. Greenlee: Yes, mostly other lawyers. I have had other clients obviously refer people to me, which is fantastic. I have some clients who are reluctant, repeat clients, not reluctant because of our relationship, but no one likes to be involved in litigation, that’s just the way that it’s worked out.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. That’s perfect. And then Brittany, from your very niche perspective, how do you get your clients?
Brittany J. Maxey: In the beginning we did advertise, we did some different advertising from a Google AdWords perspective; this was like 11 years ago. So it’s when that all was very, very new, but it seemed, and very similar to Paige, I am very niche and we don’t do any business law, we don’t do anything that’s outside of IP and I have purposely stayed with that and I don’t foresee us changing that and I have made that very clear.
So a lot of the relationships that I have built are with other attorneys or other professionals; accountants, bankers, engineers and it’s the name recognition and then tying that name to what we do.
We even work with other law firms that maybe they have got trademark copyright people, but they don’t have any patent attorneys, because in order to take the Patent Bar, you have to be a scientist or engineer. So I very much — people know that’s what we do and I know my lane and I stay in it.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. Well, before I ask you a few more questions about general practice management and you can give us some more tips and suggestions, we are going to take another short break and listen to some messages from our sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: All right, we are back and we are talking to Brittany Maxey-Fisher and Paige Greenlee, two attorneys in the Tampa area of Florida. Brittany has a nationwide practice as a patent lawyer and Paige has a more localized practice in Florida; I assume Paige, you have clients from all over the state.
I wanted to ask you both, give us your ideas, suggestions, maybe even, I learned this from this when it comes to hiring. So Paige, I know that you are a proud true solo, but every once in a while you have some staff, you get a paralegal or an assistant to help you, right now you are without one, so tell us a little bit about what you look for or why you might not necessarily need a full-time?
Paige A. Greenlee: Yeah, I definitely don’t need a full-time assistant, I think largely because of technology now. It’s just so much easier, you don’t really need a person doing a lot of the things that traditionally people did in law firms, legal assistants did in law firms. The last big firm that I left, we were actually four attorneys on one legal assistant, so that’s how much less they have to do because of technology.
But in any event, I don’t currently have anybody, but I have found that that’s not as overwhelming as you might think it would be because how much easier technology and the systems that I have in place work for me. I have from time to time when I have had a trial or something like that I have brought in a contract paralegal. I have also had some contract attorneys work for me.
But there’s just a lot of unique ways I guess now to fill any gaps or any needs that you may have at your firm for work. There’s a lot of people who want to work on a temp basis. There’s a lot of people who just want to work on a project-by-project basis. So that’s worked out very well for me, better even actually than having somebody, even a part-time, full-time employee, someone who came in five days a week month after month, which I did have for a period of time, just a 25 hour a week person. But having someone who is just willing and able to fill your needs when you need them is perfect, because then you are not paying someone when you don’t really need to have someone in the office.
Adriana Linares: How do you find those contract lawyers or paralegals?
Paige A. Greenlee: Through contacts. Whenever I need assistance, I am always pretty vocal about it when I go to different Bar functions, and almost inevitably someone will say, oh, I know so-and-so just had a baby, but she really wants to work part-time, but she needs flexibility and she can come into the office sometimes, but she would mostly like to work from home.
Or the same thing with a paralegal; I had a paralegal for a while who had retired from a big law firm, but she was kind of bored. She didn’t want any long-term commitment. She wanted the flexibility still to travel, but it worked out for me as long as I had discrete projects she could work on. She would come in and work for me and then it was just understood that whenever she wanted to travel, she was going to travel and that worked out well for both of us.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. So obviously really — your network is obviously really important to you and who you are able to reach out to and say, hey, I have this need, and I think that sort of circles back to the involvement you have had with your Bar Associations and groups which are voluntary and you don’t get paid for and I know that, especially with Florida Bar, you don’t get reimbursed a penny for any of your hotel and travel. So I guess when somebody says, man, do you find all that is worth it, your answer is hell yes it is because of reasons just like that.
Paige A. Greenlee: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think your network is so important and so many people do not put enough emphasis on that or don’t realize how advantageous it can be. They work and stay in their own little bubble and we can all help each other out a whole lot if we just communicate.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, it’s critical. And so Brittany, you are a little bit different because tell us how many attorneys and staff you have. You grew from a solo to?
Brittany J. Maxey: Right now we have 10.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome.
Brittany J. Maxey: We have 10, a total team of 10. We have two other IP attorneys other than myself and then we have got a couple patent agents that are more of counsel, like Paige was saying, if we need that work product done. Some of our — one of our patent agents is a chemical engineer, so it’s not every day that we are getting those kind of projects and it’s more on an as-needed basis, and I completely agree with what Paige said, I leverage the relationships as well.
And so my involvement with other organizations on a Florida Bar level and on a national level has definitely helped me meet some fabulous attorneys that I can turn to when we have that work product need.
Adriana Linares: I love that, and especially with a nationwide practice, I can only imagine that the need for that network is bigger and broader.
Tell me a little bit about when you have to hire staff or grow or shrink the firm just based on need, what do you look for as a very team-oriented attorney, do you do the hiring, do you have that part outsourced, do you look for somebody, do you give somebody a personality test before they come in, can they fit in with our totally awesome existing team?
Brittany J. Maxey: I do.
Adriana Linares: You do? I knew it.
Brittany J. Maxey: Culture is so big to me and some people are going to like me, some are not, which is okay, but it has to fit — the people have to fit in with the culture.
I expect the very best and I expect everybody to be a team player and that goes back to my sports background, and I have learned over the years that the HR issues, just trying to make someone into maybe what could be a good team player you think. Now I am firing fast. I go on my gut very much and I ask certain questions in the interview. I try to very much pay attention to the emotional intelligence of the people, especially with the scientists and engineers. We don’t all like to play on teams; in fact, most of us don’t, like we want to be just on our own in an office somewhere just pounding things out.
At my firm you have to be able to play on a team and you need to know your role and not worry about what everyone else is doing. So I do the hiring and I am extremely — it’s very important to me.
Adriana Linares: It should be, right? And then one more question to both of you. As hard as you work to build either your small firm or your solo practice, how do you measure success? How do you at the end of the day say whew, that was a long tough day, but it’s working, I am running a successful law practice.
Paige, how do you sit back and relax and have that thought?
Paige A. Greenlee: If someone has the answer to that question, I would love to hear it, because I am still trying to figure that out actually. I was laughing at myself over the weekend about that, because here I am four-and-a-half years into this and everybody kind of thinks — I think a lot of people anyways think that you go on your own because you want to take it easier or have a more flexible schedule, which to just some extent you do have a more flexible schedule, no one other than my clients are looking for me, and no one is coming down the hall wondering where I am if I am not in my chair at 8 o’clock in the morning five days a week.
But on the flip side, I work harder now than I did when I was at a big law firm. It’s a different kind of work and I don’t resent it as much as I did when I was working at a big law firm, I don’t resent it at all, because it’s my business, I am growing my business.
I try to make sure that I have some work-life balance, because that is obviously super important. There is days I don’t get to my desk till 9 o’clock because I am going to go for a run first thing in the morning, because I know if I don’t do it, then the day gets away from you. That’s one thing I have learned about the practice of law is you basically don’t have a lot of control. Once you hit the ground in the morning, you really don’t know where the day is going to take you from there.
But being on your own is certainly not for everyone, I tell people this all the time, because if you don’t like the business of practicing law and you don’t like having to worry about whether there is enough paper in your office or putting a binder together for a hearing, then you shouldn’t be thinking about opening your own law firm unless you are going to be able to hire a staff that’s going to keep all that going for you.
But right now, like I said, I am a true solo and I am doing all those things on my own, so my brain almost never stops thinking about this law firm and my clients.
Adriana Linares: I hear you. That’s for sure. And then Brittany, I am almost afraid to ask, because there is probably a spreadsheet and like confetti that falls out of your law firm ceilings when goals are met. But inspire us.
Brittany J. Maxey: I think the referrals from the other attorneys, the fact that they say the amazing things they say, that we do a really excellent job and we have got great clients as well that say just amazing things.
We were just voted Best Places to Work for Tampa Bay, that was a really big deal for me, because they have all your employees fill out a survey and there’s not very many law firms. And so the fact that we got that, that’s a big deal.
And so I take each referral very seriously and I tell our team, we have got those attorneys on our backs as well as the clients. We are basically holding up both of our reputations. And so that’s a big, big deal to me. So that’s how I judge the success.
Adriana Linares: That’s wonderful. Those are both really good stories.
Brittany J. Maxey: But I want the confetti out of the ceiling, I like that. I am trying to think of a contraption to make it happen.
Adriana Linares: Well, if anybody can build that contraption, I have a feeling it’s you and your network. And then maybe you could get a patent on it and every law firm could have success confetti falling out of the sky when something great happens.
Before I let each of you go, tell me, if you can think of it, the one or two things that you just wished someone had told you or you knew early on in starting your practices, Paige?
Paige A. Greenlee: How hard managing people is. I definitely have had my challenges in that regard. I had experienced that at large law firms as well, but when you are in charge of, as I just said, everything, and it includes managing the people, it’s just a really big challenge and it’s something they don’t teach you about in law school.
Brittany probably has a spreadsheet for this too, that’s something that she plugs it in, but I have not been able to find the right recipe to get the right people in the chairs and that presents its challenges on a permanent basis. Like I said, I have had some fantastic contract people who have worked for me.
But I think that and the fact that you do live with it 24/7/365 when you go out on your own, that’s something I wasn’t fully anticipating. I wasn’t expecting it to be as all-consuming as it is. That being said, I love it and I wouldn’t change anything about the decision that I made to go out on my own.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome. You know what I think it is, this is my perspective, when I worked at a couple of Florida’s big law firms, so 20 years ago my first job out of college was at a law firm, and I slowly moved up from being the trainer to being the manager of the training department. And here I was in my mid-20s managing people who were in their 40s and I just expected to not have to do a lot of people management, because I thought, well, surely, that’s a full-fledged adult who must know what to do and how to do it and I shouldn’t have to remind them that that’s not how you start an email to the partner.
And then I started my little company and I have never grown my company and people say all the time, Adriana, why don’t you hire more trainers, why don’t you grow LawTech Partners, and I say, I don’t want to — people, the people is the reason. The last thing I want to do is be chasing after employees and people and following up and losing my mind, because I think that everyone would have the same work ethic I have or do things the way I do.
So I think that’s a legit issue and concern, and you are right, if you can find the right mix or the right personality that fits in, it obviously makes that a lot easier. So I can completely commiserate with that part of the unknown, but of course it always can work out really well.
Paige A. Greenlee: No, I know, and that’s what — I keep thinking that that there is opportunities obviously to grow a firm, just like you could grow your business, it’s just once you get burned a couple of times, you get a little bit gun-shy I guess about it, and it’s even I think more when you have an issue with an employee and there is just you and that one other person in the office.
Adriana Linares: Right, like how do you call HR, you are like, oh, I am HR.
Paige A. Greenlee: Right, exactly.
Adriana Linares: Well, back to, it’s not worth the aggravation, I will just do it myself, work a little harder, automate as much as possible and really dig into the parts of your practice that you love.
And so Brittany, for you, what are a couple of things that you wish you didn’t have to learn on your own, maybe they were — something someone could have said to you or taught you?
Brittany J. Maxey: Yeah, for me, I think it would have been developing a good banking relationship with a smaller bank from the beginning. I don’t have — I didn’t really know any business owners and I don’t have any lawyers in my family, so I didn’t — I just opened up an account at like a big, big bank, and I think by going and getting a banking relationship, they can definitely help you with some of the things that you are going to need, some of the lines of credit and things you would need to be able to grow the business.
So I think that that was something that I always tell people, establish some sort of potentially local banking relationships, someone that believes in you and they will go to whoever they are working with and say, hey, look, this person has potential and I really believe in them.
And then always reaching down I think with a really strong hand, like Paige said, helping each other is a very big thing. I have made a ton of mistakes and I am never afraid to say, hey, I did these things and they didn’t work, so please let me help you not make those same mistakes.
And then third, I think working — listening to how other business owners, how they have grown their business, because sometimes as lawyers we get so honed into only hanging out with other lawyers, I have some fabulous relationships and mentors in other industries that have helped me tremendously see things in a different way.
Adriana Linares: That’s such good advice, and I think you are right, most lawyers are inside of a bubble and forget that you can learn and pick up good tips and sometimes those networking groups that have a mix of an accountant, a marketing person, I think those are really good networking groups for a lot of lawyers I have heard.
Brittany J. Maxey: I learn everyday from everybody that I can.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I think we all do, and that’s just some of the best advice we could ever give each other.
Well, it looks like we have run out of time, which is a bummer, because I certainly enjoy talking to the both of you. I am sure I will get to see you soon. But before I let you go, make sure everyone knows how they can find, friend, follow or just get a hold of you, if they want to thank you for taking your time and giving us such good advice. Brittany.
Brittany J. Maxey: Yes, the law firm is Maxey-Fisher, PLLC and it’s www.maxeyfisher.com. We do have a Twitter and I am on LinkedIn as well. It’s been a real pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Adriana Linares: Thanks Brittany. I am going to do everyone a favor though and spell your last name, because Maxey and Fisher could be spelled several different ways. It’s Maxey-Fisher. And you are not going to say this about yourself, but you alluded to it, so I understand from my dear friend John Stewart that you were a big deal at Ole Miss in your volleyball days.
Brittany J. Maxey: I was the first person they signed when softball came to the SEC, so it was cool.
Adriana Linares: That is cool. That’s awesome.
Paige, how can everybody find, friend, follow, or maybe even see pictures of Juno somewhere, that’s my dog voice.
Paige A. Greenlee: I am surprised she didn’t decide to make any noise; she is actually sitting in my office this afternoon because she had some surgery last week.
But yes, I am — my firm is Greenlee Law and the website is greenleelawtampa.com. And then my email address is [email protected]. I am on Facebook. I am on Twitter too, not as much, I am on Facebook a lot and that’s where you will get to see really adorable pictures of Juno.
Adriana Linares: Well again, I can’t thank you both enough so much. I mean really, I appreciate it.
Paige A. Greenlee: Thanks a lot to you. It was a lot of fun.
Adriana Linares: Thank you for listening to New Solo Podcast on Legal Talk Network. If you liked what you have heard today, I would love for you to subscribe, rate us and give us a good review on iTunes. We will see you next time.
And remember, you are not alone, you are New Solo.
Outro: Thanks for listening to New Solo with host Adriana Linares. Tune in again to learn more about how to successfully run your new practice, solo, here on Legal Talk Network.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
New Solo covers a diverse range of topics including transitioning from law firm to solo practice, law practice management, and more.
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