Kristin Rizzo is a mediator and workplace investigator at Rizzo Resolution. She is passionate about helping people and companies...
Adriana Linares is a law practice consultant and legal technology coach. After several years at two of Florida’s largest...
As lawyers gain more experience in the profession, some feel the desire to shift their practice into other areas of law or even to mediation, but career shifts are no small task! In this edition of New Solo, host Adriana Linares talks with Kristin Rizzo about her professional journey from litigator to mediator. They talk tips and tactics for pursuing new career goals and walk through the practical details of launching a new business. They also discuss some of the most helpful tech tools available for solo lawyers and mediators.
Kristin Rizzo is a mediator and workplace investigator at Rizzo Resolution.
Shifting to Neutral: Kristin Rizzo’s Journey From Litigation to Mediation
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: Hello and welcome to another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I am Adriana Linares. I am a legal technology trainer and consultant. I help lawyers and law firms use technology better.
In one of my very cool gigs that I have, and I don’t know if listeners have picked up on this. One of the things I do is I work for the San Diego County Bar Association, it’s a contracted gig so I still have my consulting business and I still help the Florida Bar but I am really lucky in that, I get to come out to San Diego one week out of every month. I’m what I call myself the Human Member Benefit where members get to come and meet with me at no charge to talk to me about technology and their practice management issues.
So I’m at the beautiful San Diego County Bar Association offices today and in a few minutes I’m going to talk with Kristin Rizzo, who is a past President of the SDCBA, very enthusiastic attorney involved very much in the community here.
But before we do that we are going to listen to a couple messages from some sponsors.
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Okay, let’s get started. Hi Kristin.
Kristin Rizzo: Hi Adriana.
Adriana Linares: Thanks for coming in today.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you for having me.
Adriana Linares: I’m excited to get to talk to you because not long after I started working for the San Diego County Bar you were starting your Rizzo Resolution. I said, oh, when you’re ready let me know, we’ll get you on New Solo to talk about what it’s like to start a mediation firm.
So before we just launch into that, tell us a little bit about your background.
Kristin Rizzo: Sure.
Adriana Linares: And who you are and where you practice and what you do, and the whole business.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you. I’m happy to. So, I’m Kristin Rizzo. I’ve been an attorney for a little over I think 13 years now. I’m a native of San Diego.
Adriana Linares: You are?
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Cool.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you. My father is an attorney, my brother is an attorney, so that definitely runs in the family. As you mentioned I’m the past President of the San Diego County Bar Association. Leadership and volunteer service to the legal community has been a passion of mine, as has been being an attorney and now I’m also a mediator.
So as an attorney, I went to the University of San Diego School of Law. I practice both Defense as well as Plaintiffs’ Law, mostly specializing in Labor and Employment Law and I’ll talk to you little bit about that as we talk about how I developed my career, and I worked in a larger law firm here in San Diego. I worked and opened my own law practice which I had for a number of years called Rizzo Law and then I transitioned that as I re-branded myself into a mediation firm where I also do impartial workplace investigations, and I opened up Rizzo Resolution in April of this year.
And so, now, I do all neutral work, mediation and workplace investigations and I’m also affiliated with a mediation company here in town called West Coast Resolution, and I’m excited to be here and talking to you all about how I did that.
Adriana Linares: Yes.
Kristin Rizzo: And it’s only been a little over six months since doing that, so I’m still learning. And as I talked to you about how I did that, how I rebranded and launched and all of that into the field of neutrality, I think it’s important for everybody to know that the launch into a neutral practice is really like any rebrand. It can span attorneys wanting to rebrand themselves into different practice areas, and so I think this will sort of be applicable across the board to any attorney, but I know a lot of people ask me about how I rebranded myself into a mediator.
Adriana Linares: And so why do you think that is, what’s the interest as far as from your experience and talking to people, what’s the interest in being a mediator versus a regular — I mean I don’t even know what to call you other than a — call it other than a regular lawyer?
Kristin Rizzo: Sure. Exactly, and people ask that all the time. I think because being an attorney, a litigator, a trial attorney, it’s hard work.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: It’s a dedicated practice to the service of individuals or companies or rights and it is significant and it’s hard, it’s intense, and I think a lot of attorneys do see sort of maybe the end of the rainbow in terms of mediation, but I will say I am working just as hard if not harder.
Adriana Linares: Right, this isn’t a walk in the park.
Kristin Rizzo: Definitely not.
Adriana Linares: It is a different park.
Kristin Rizzo: Exactly, exactly, it’s just a different park, but I love it. I’m very passionate about it and what I would say to anybody who wants to transition into this field of neutrality is it’s a wonderful transition. You have the opportunity to serve and assist not only individuals or companies, justice basically but you also get to assist your fellow attorneys, so your fellow colleagues —
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: — as they assist and help their clients.
Adriana Linares: It’s pretty unique.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, your clients basically become the attorneys.
Adriana Linares: Right.
Kristin Rizzo: And so that’s great, because after a number of years in service to attorneys through my leadership, the County Bar and other places, it’s wonderful to be able to sort of utilize those connections that I’ve had and transition that into a different level of connecting with the legal community.
Adriana Linares: You’re like a meta lawyer, you’re a lawyer for lawyers.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: A lawyer of lawyers, a lawyer among lawyers.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: So let’s back up just a little bit to give everyone an idea of just what the process was like. So many years ago you were at a large law firm and you went solo.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s right.
Adriana Linares: So you had a solo practice, Rizzo Law, here in San Diego, because you’re a San Diegoan to the hilt, and I don’t mean a lot of you, sort of we know when I’m in Florida, there’s very few of us, including myself, who are from Florida, there’s really no Floridians. We’re just people who moved there and I feel like in San Diego everyone I meet is not from here, except Renee, of course, also Renee Stackhouse is from San Diego.
Okay, so, you went solo and you had a successful solo practice for about ten years?
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, a little less than 10, about 8, I think. Yeah, so the transition into mediation was what I like to describe as sort of twofold, a macro approach and a micro approach. So I think maybe we’ll start out talking about the macro approach because people ask me all the time, how did I do this? Right?
Adriana Linares: How about before you tell us how, why?
Kristin Rizzo: Why? Yeah, oh, good question. The why is, it’s been something that I thought about for a very long time and I think it was because deep down even though it resonated with me obviously to be an attorney and an advocate, which is a big part, obviously of being in litigation and doing trial work and fighting for justice whether it was as a defense attorney which I did for a number of years or as a plaintiff’s attorney, it always resonated with me to be a conflict resolver.
And to help people try to resolve their disputes prior to the big fight, the big show, if you will, the trial or a conflict. And sometimes people do have to go to trial or they do have to litigate for a number of months or even years before they can resolve, but it always resonated with me to help people try to resolve.
And I also always seem to see the gray in disputes, who’s saying what, how they perceive things, people perceive things in their own different unique ways and that’s what makes individuals so fascinating.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: I do, like I said I do mostly Labor and Employment Law and it’s a lot of times about that. So I knew deep down even from law school I took negotiation classes and I took an extensive conflict resolution class early on in my legal career. I had a feeling I would like to transition there if I could.
Adriana Linares: So it’s always deep down in there?
Kristin Rizzo: I think so.
Adriana Linares: And weird side question, but do you have twins?
Kristin Rizzo: I have a three-year-old and a four-year-old.
Adriana Linares: Oh, okay, so almost twins, so.
Kristin Rizzo: Almost twins.
Adriana Linares: Almost twins.
Kristin Rizzo: Not quite.
Adriana Linares: Do you find yourself using those conflict and mediation skills with those kids?
Kristin Rizzo: Oh yes. They do more these days. I’ve been asked to do some high conflict personality mediation, so one, I think that sense for doing a lot of employment law, because there’s always just conflict with personality that, that comes from employment situations.
Adriana Linares: Yes.
Kristin Rizzo: And yes, my children, I see right now my older daughter, Lola, she’s always negotiating with me these days. I am like, please stop negotiating with me. So we’ll see where that leads in her life, and also family dynamics are the perfect place to learn conflict resolution.
Adriana Linares: Sure. When you start talking about personalities and people immediately made me think of kids and how —
Kristin Rizzo: Definitely.
Adriana Linares: You know how different they can be even when they’re related and trying to solve a problem there.
But, that does just give me an opportunity to ask you, as you were going through this transition and you turn to your husband and said, hey, I’m sure he was supportive.
Kristin Rizzo: Definitely.
Adriana Linares: But people always like hearing about that sort of the conversations you might have had and what were the risks, what was he worried about if anything, what were you worried about, or was it basically like, honey, I know you got this, whatever you want to do.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, all of the above, right? It’s an excellent question. He’s extremely supportive. So the latter is very true. He has always been supportive in my career, because one, going out as a solo attorney, first and foremost from a larger law firm, I was at Higgs Fletcher & Mack here in San Diego.
Adriana Linares: It’s a big firm in San Diego.
Kristin Rizzo: Right, when I first started out my career, that was a challenge in and of itself.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: I didn’t even know if I could make it as a solo plaintiff side attorney. He was supportive then when I did that and he’s supportive now when I jumped from that sort of pretty successful law practice to now doing mediation and impartial investigations and I’ve been asked even now, wow, why did you make the jump? You had that successful practice, and it was because I felt it, I knew it, I know it’s the right decision for me. He also has a very steady job. Let’s put it that way.
Adriana Linares: Okay, that’s helpful.
Kristin Rizzo: Right? He has that steady paycheck and so in our marriage and in our family that has always worked where I took like the big risks and I tend to sort of make the big reward and he has the very sort of steady job and like he has insurance coverage for our family, so that has always worked for us.
And so, yes, that’s very helpful. And also when I do my volunteer work, he also is supportive of that, and so, that being said, he’s across the world right now and I’m managing all the family stuff at home. So we have a great family dynamic and it’s a great marriage. So I’m very lucky to do this, that I can do that with that support.
Going back to your question about sort of family dynamics too though and conflict personalities, I always like to say it’s easier to resolve other people’s conflicts than one’s own; so just FYI on that, but anyway, yes.
Adriana Linares: And I definitely want to encourage listeners who might not have all that support and family and a network you can still do this.
Kristin Rizzo: Absolutely.
Adriana Linares: I always want to remind listeners and I am grateful that I often get LinkedIn messages or Twitter messages or you actually — I was just at the Clio conference and three people stopped me and said, hey, are you Adriana? I just wanted you to know I listen to your podcast. It’s so helpful.
So I try to be positive and say you don’t even need all that to be able to do what you’ve done to launch a solo practice, to transition, to rebrand you just have to do a few things — a few research items.
So before we move onto our next segment and talk about the micro side of things, let’s hear a couple messages from some sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: Okay, we are back. Kristin, before we move on, any other thoughts or ideas you want to make sure and sort of either some plurals you want to drop before we get into some details about how you launched?
Kristin Rizzo: Yes, so we talked about how I practice both sides of the law in terms of plaintiff and defense, and that helped me become a specialist in the practice area in terms of — for me it was Labor and Employment Law, but becoming a specialist in your practice area I think is key.
The second thing I did was I learned conflict resolution. I talked about how early on in my career I attended a class.
Adriana Linares: You went all in.
Kristin Rizzo: I did, I did. I went to another class as I was really thinking that I was going to make this transition. I attended the Strauss Institute at Pepperdine School of Law and that was an amazing program, then I even looked into how I could really get hands-on training with mediation, and I mediated nearly 30 cases pro bono.
Adriana Linares: No kidding.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, through very — there are many pro bono programs that you can look into. So even before I officially launched I had many mediations under my belt. I mediated through small clients, through the Superior Court in San Diego, through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, through Department of Fair Employment and Housing. So I had a ton of mediation experience even before I officially launched.
Adriana Linares: While you ran your solo practice?
Kristin Rizzo: I did, yeah.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, you’re superwoman.
Kristin Rizzo: Well, I don’t think so. I just think that I really got prepared and so what I wanted people to know about this is, the preparation process was through my whole career obviously becoming an expert, but the specific process took a couple of years, really specifically glimmering down.
Adriana Linares: So you did not rush this?
Kristin Rizzo: I did not. I really thought about it and I really tried to become a specialist both in practice area and then in mediation.
And then the last thing that I would say is I also had visibility in the community.
Adriana Linares: It’s so important.
Kristin Rizzo: Right, and so you know you said it that I was the President of the Bar Association, but that was also a huge part of my career, in that I was the President of the New Lawyers Division, I was the Section Chair of Labor and Employment for the County Bar, I also had other volunteer leadership opportunities through other associations through my law school et cetera.
And so I had a lot of people who knew me and I knew them and I had built connections and relationships, and it was after I felt like I had everything in place, the specialty for the practice area, the understanding of how to really be a mediator and the visibility that I felt like I sort of had my brand, if you will, and that I felt I had what I needed to then do the launch.
Adriana Linares: Wow, that’s a lot of back-end work that you did. Let me ask you —
Kristin Rizzo: I’m nothing but prepared people tell me.
Adriana Linares: Overachieving prepared attorneys are bound to be successful. Would you say you were obsessed with getting this done?
Kristin Rizzo: Oh obsessed, that is a very, very good word. As I say I like to be prepared. I don’t know that I’m always the smartest person in the room, but I do like to say that I try to be the most prepared. I try to read everything, I try to understand everything and that’s also a big part of being a mediator.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: And frankly a workplace investigator, I try to be prepared with what’s in front of me, and then the other thing that you had said before we went to break, was about if you don’t always have a support system, you don’t always need a support system. You know what I find makes you great at what you do; if you enjoy it and you have passion about it.
Adriana Linares: Yes, I agree.
Kristin Rizzo: And I have those things and that’s what’s going to make you great in something. And so, I always tell people, enjoy what you’re doing.
Adriana Linares: You have to.
Kristin Rizzo: If you don’t enjoy it try something else, right?
Adriana Linares: Look, I see this all the time with lawyers, and especially young lawyers. If you’re going to be a lawyer, pick an area of law that you can be passionate and obsessed over or you’re going to be miserable because it’s a hard job. No matter what type of lawyer practicing, where or what size firm, it can be hard; so best thing is to find an area that you can get obsessed about.
The reason I asked you that way is because Mark Britton who’s the former CEO of Avvo has joined the Clio Board and the Clio Conference was just here. So he gave a talk about leadership and being good leader and being an innovator and just sort of getting things done, but the first thing on his list was obsession, and he talked about how he was living in Italy with his family working for Expedia and had this idea for Avvo because his friends kept calling him and asking him and blah, blah, blah, but the point was he was obsessed with the idea and he couldn’t let it go until he built and launched and then look what he did with it.
Kristin Rizzo: Interesting.
Adriana Linares: So I love that. I think a lot of times we use the word “passionate” but I like “obsessed”.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s so interesting because words and word choices, it can be so interesting to talk about and sometimes words have a negative context and connotation but sometimes they don’t. So that’s funny.
Adriana Linares: Yeah — no, I like —
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you for that.
Adriana Linares: I like the positive twist on obsession.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, very cool.
Adriana Linares: There’s no police song here.
Kristin Rizzo: Right.
Adriana Linares: But, no, I like that and it’s obvious that you are passionate about it and I love talking to lawyers that I like that, like we said a minute ago. I mean, if you’re not, you’re just miserable.
Kristin Rizzo: Right.
Adriana Linares: So I do – every once in a while I’ll get in front of a group of young lawyers and just talking about what they should know as far as technology and practice management. I mean, I’m not a lawyer but what I do tell them is in my 20 years of doing this, I’ve seen a lot of really unhappy lawyers. So I’ll say, what’s your hobby? Well, somebody will say, well white water rafting, surfing. Well, let me tell you the white water rafting industry needs lawyers, surfing stores need lawyers, surf schools need lawyers, whatever it is that is your hobby if you can combine that with law or just an area that you really can obsess over, you’re going to be a happier lawyer.
Kristin Rizzo: No, that’s right, and the same thing with and you can do a lot of pro bono service, for example. You might not be able to make your monies doing white water rafting law, but you might have like one client, for example, or you might be able to do pro bono service for them and that could really turn into a passion or an obsession for you and I do talk to a lot of young lawyers about that.
Adriana Linares: Finding the joy, just whichever way. So, yeah, and I love that you encourage us to do pro bono work because I think even when — especially when you’re young lawyer, it’s hard to find that extra time but you used it really creatively. You said, well, I’m going to do this pro bono work for me, but also for them and got the right training that you really needed to successfully launch.
Kristin Rizzo: There’s a lot of training opportunities in pro bono work that people often don’t think about, especially if you are working in a larger law firm.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: It’s a good way to transition into something to and become a specialist, if you’re not always sort of allowed the time in your billable practice area but to think about it from a pro bono aspect.
Adriana Linares: The San Diego County Bar has a podcast that we produce in-house it’s called ‘Meet and Confer’ and we recently — I think our second interview was with two immigration lawyers. They were explaining that here in San Diego of course there is such a need for immigration help and that there are great pro bono opportunities that really, really teach you how to do the work and they encouraged listeners to not just run out and grab a pro bono immigration opportunity. It’s hard, you’ve got to do things right so you do it through an organization that teaches you all the laws and all the right ways to do that work. So that’s great, I love hearing.
Kristin Rizzo: I actually interned at Casa Cornelia in law school.
Adriana Linares: Oh, you did?
Kristin Rizzo: I had many different internships and externships in law school. It was a great opportunity to get experience while in law school and I always encourage law students to engage themselves in any opportunities. So, I think that’s helpful.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I love that. It is helpful, I just like to encourage people to really go after that even if it’s just an hour or two. So, let’s talk a little bit of the “how”. Okay. So we talked about the “why” and then a little bit of the “how” but you did a lot of research, you spent two years, what were the things you learned? How did you figure out marketing? What did you change in technology, because you ended up closing your practice, you closed the law firm.
Kristin Rizzo: Right, so the law firm, Rizzo Law, P.C. I ended up putting away. The advice I got was if you wanted to be a true neutral to be seen as a neutral in the community you best put away your litigation practice and that’s the advice I got, I received it, I really thought long and hard about it because I really did enjoy advocating, I really did like my practice but I felt committed to being in neutral and so I did close down Rizzo Law and I opened up Rizzo Resolution. It was a long hard decision, sometimes I even think about it now, but I’m happy that I did it. The first decision I made after I made that decision was whether I was going to affiliate or not with a mediation group, and so I did have some meetings with various mediation groups in San Diego and I decided like I said to join West Coast Resolution.
Thanks to West Coast for allowing me not only to mediate but to keep the impartial workplace investigation part of my practice and that’s what I have under Rizzo Resolution because that is a very steady stream of income.
One thing about being a mediator is — and I’m sure most people know and understand this. It’s very competitive, it’s really not only something that’s super-competitive.
Adriana Linares: No, don’t assume they do, like talk to us like we’re four years old —
Kristin Rizzo: Okay.
Adriana Linares: — and we don’t know that, so I want to back up and ask you a backup question. Why couldn’t you keep both?
Kristin Rizzo: So I don’t know if every mediation group would want that necessarily just in terms of the branding of different mediation groups and I don’t know if that would be prohibited necessarily but it was something that I had to go and make sure that the groups that I was talking to that that would be okay.
Adriana Linares: Okay.
Kristin Rizzo: Okay. Workplace investigations are impartial the way that I performed them, so that’s the way that I pitched it to the groups that I was meeting with.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. So you — and just help us understand the logistics. So with Rizzo Resolution and the investigation side work, that’s you billing the clients directly —
Kristin Rizzo: That’s correct.
Adriana Linares: And that’s your gig.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s correct.
Adriana Linares: And then if you get — is it like an assignment, a gig, what do you call it through the mediation group and then how does the pay structure work there?
Kristin Rizzo: Correct yeah – no, good question. So with mediations, they either can come in through me or through West Coast. I have — like I said, I’m affiliated through them so it’s an independent contractor relationship and I have my case manager over there, Kathy Priscilla is her name, she’s wonderful, she’s fantastic, she works with most of the mediators over there. I have a split arrangement; I’m not going to tell you what that is because it’s probably proprietary.
Adriana Linares: Sure, yeah, no, that’s okay.
Kristin Rizzo: But they take a percentage for the work that they perform, and Kathy and West Coast, they help me in terms of all the case management, scheduling, paperwork, rooms, I mediate over their advertising, helping me to schedule talks, print ads, various things. So that’s what they provide for me.
Adriana Linares: There are a lot of resources there that you get when you join a mediation group.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s right, and not everybody can, so it’s conversations you have to have with these groups. Are you competitive? Do they see you that way? Do you see them that way? Do you want to split your take? Do you have someone otherwise to do that work for you?
I did have an assistant with my old law firm. That relationship ended and so I was looking for that type of assistance. Some mediators don’t affiliate at all. They have their own company to do it. So it’s just a choice you have to make.
Adriana Linares: Okay. Well, that’s good, that’s helpful. And how much, is it 60/40 or a 30/90?
Kristin Rizzo: 30/70.
Adriana Linares: Oh my God. This time zone hopping really makes my brain — so is there —
Kristin Rizzo: Somewhere in that range.
Adriana Linares: Okay. So it’s not 50/50 or like 90/10?
Kristin Rizzo: No.
Adriana Linares: It’s definitely split and in a way that you choose.
Kristin Rizzo: It’s similar to a attorney contingency relationship I would say.
Adriana Linares: And you get to define that and —
Kristin Rizzo: Uh-huh, negotiable.
Adriana Linares: That’s very good.
Kristin Rizzo: So after I made that decision and I affiliated, then it turned to like the nuts and bolts of the launch and how I was going to do that. And so what I say is it was a multi-tiered marketing approach, and you will appreciate this Adriana from a — I took a personal approach and an electronic approach and a snail mail regular mail approach.
Adriana Linares: Always works.
Kristin Rizzo: So it’s sort of a three tier, and then somewhere in there was also the advertising approach, and it’s hard to pinpoint whether that’s electronic or regular mail, because it’s both in terms of what the legal organizations use in terms of their advertising. Yes, question?
Adriana Linares: Raised my hand, I had a question. So when we are talking about the launch, is it Rizzo Resolution that was launching, because somehow you already have this advertising and you have this package with the mediation group?
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, so it’s both. It was both. And it was a — we had to work it together, because West Coast was going to do some and then Rizzo Resolution was going to do some.
Adriana Linares: So you spent a lot of time really sort of honing that relationship.
Kristin Rizzo: That was months.
Adriana Linares: Refining it, making sure that everybody was going to be happy, everything.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s right.
Adriana Linares: There were no questions?
Kristin Rizzo: Well, like anything, there was an issue of course on the day of the launch, there was a tech issue, and it was like one of the legal organizations came out ahead of schedule with my ad, so we had to like get going quickly with the West Coast ad, you know, I mean like anything, but it worked out.
But yes, one thing that I say is, there was a consistent approach to the branding and that was because West Coast has their own look and then Rizzo Resolution obviously has their own look at separate logo and branding, but it was consistent.
Adriana Linares: So you worked together.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes, exactly.
Adriana Linares: So when you started — when you went out and like okay, Rizzo Resolution is the name of it, I need some colors, I need a logo, you worked with whoever your designers and said, I needed to look not the opposite of this.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s right. I actually used the same designer.
Adriana Linares: Okay, good.
Kristin Rizzo: You don’t have to, but that was — I elected to do so.
Adriana Linares: Smart.
Kristin Rizzo: Right. And so that really worked well. But yes, I picked a logo. I had my hand in designing it, maybe to your à la obsession. I had my hands in everything. So I picked and helped design my logo, my letterhead. I got thank you cards ready to go, a website obviously, a new website, all of that, right, so all of that was ready to go on launch day.
Adriana Linares: Excellent.
Kristin Rizzo: I think launch day was like April 2, such that it wasn’t April Fool’s Day.
Adriana Linares: Just move this one day.
Kristin Rizzo: Right, one day. Yeah, so we started obviously the personal approach, right? I mean you have to be present, you have to see people, you have to constantly remind people what you are doing now, that you are not Rizzo Law and that you are not litigation and that you are no longer doing plaintiff’s work or defense work.
I always say you have to have fun, be yourself, like we were just talking about. With your elevator pitch, I am a soft pitcher I like to say, but you have to constantly put yourself out there and tell people what you are doing now.
Adriana Linares: Are you finding even — so let’s see, it’s been five months or so, in your immediate community, is it — are we over the hump or are people still coming up to you five, six months later saying, what?
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Okay. So it’s going to take — it takes a while.
Kristin Rizzo: It takes a long while, because you have spent all this time being the attorney and representing — I mean I had my law firm for eight-ish years and then I was a defense attorney for five years before that, so yeah, I mean people know you as a straight attorney, doing one side or the other, or both, or whatever. So yeah, even in your immediate circles you have to tell people what you are doing.
But the launch itself has been very successful. I brand everywhere. I continue to push myself out there. I was just showing Adriana that my — even my phone cover has my logo on it. You can put your logo on anything; the World Wide Web is amazing.
Adriana Linares: It really is.
Kristin Rizzo: So I constantly look for places that I can put my logo or my brand somewhere. And speaking of that, on the electronic, right?
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s your area of expertise.
Adriana Linares: Well, and I love that, because I think the goal, and you tell me if I am wrong, your goal is to stay, as they call it in the marketing world, top of mind.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: So you have got pens, iPhone covers, sticky notes, whatever, and it’s there so that when somebody says oh, I think I need a mediator, you come top of mind.
Kristin Rizzo: That’s the hope.
Adriana Linares: That’s the hope, so you have got all your tchotchkes and people love tchotchkes and you just hand them out and here comes the work, you hope.
Kristin Rizzo: If only it were that easy, if only.
Adriana Linares: Tell me more.
Kristin Rizzo: Okay. So on the electronic, I developed a database of contacts and lucky for me my database of contacts is thousands of people, because I have just known a lot of people.
Adriana Linares: Because you have not sat in the corner office just practicing law. You have been out there, you have been an activist, you have been a member of the community, volunteer, you do pro bono work, you did the San Diego County Bar, trail of success and I just think it’s important to remind especially young lawyers who think that isn’t important, how important all that is. So you had this giant book of contacts that you were able to immediately launch and say hey, guess what and you are not a no name. They know the name when it comes across.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you. I appreciate that, yeah, but I did. And so West Coast and myself, we used that database. They launched big ads with that electronic database. I was able to forward that ad to my database. My new website, obviously I love it. I streamlined it so it had a lot less words than my prior website, a lot less of everything. I tried to really just keep it very streamlined in terms of my two practice areas; mediation and workplace investigation and what those mean, define it, keep it short, sweet, simple and easy read for people.
Adriana Linares: Now, you are Rizzo Resolution, just like it sounds?
Kristin Rizzo: Yes. I posted things on LinkedIn. I posted my launch on LinkedIn and Facebook. So we did a number of sort of electronic, sort of just blasts and advertising and things like that.
Adriana Linares: Oh yeah, your website looks so cool.
Kristin Rizzo: Oh, thank you.
Adriana Linares: I do like it a lot.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you, thank you. Obviously my logo is on there, my colors are similar. There is a little bit of like — a tiny bit of like interaction on there. But the things that I had sort of like on my old website, I decided not to have. Like I think I had a map on my old website and like I think people know these days how to map. So there were like certain things I discussed with my designers and web team to simplify.
And then the regular mail, and this is a tip that I will put out there because I thought this was really cool, I would love to hear your advice too Adriana, on what you think might be cool, but I had heard from other mediators that in the launch you should use regular mail and either write letters, type letters, handwrite cards to all the people in your database.
Well, I have thousands of people in my database and I am thinking how am I going to do that?
Adriana Linares: That sounds awful.
Kristin Rizzo: It sounds like a grind, right?
Adriana Linares: Right. No, it sounds like you have got to put those kids to work.
Kristin Rizzo: Right, mommy is launching.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, mommy is launching a Resolution.
Kristin Rizzo: But I had heard about it from so many mediators that this is what they did over the years and years was they sent out like letters and they handwrote them or they, whatever.
Adriana Linares: Please tell me you said I am going to try something different.
Kristin Rizzo: I did.
Adriana Linares: Okay. Thank you.
Kristin Rizzo: But I did think that this was a practice worth looking at to not just do advertising and not just do email, because we all know that we get thousands of emails.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, email is hard.
Kristin Rizzo: So I looked online and I thought what about doing a postcard, because we all know that we get tons of mail too and we are flipping through it and it goes in our trash can.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I read my mail over the trash can, especially during the holidays. Please don’t anyone send me a holiday card, literally open them over the garbage can and in they go.
Kristin Rizzo: Right, I mean you love the cute photos.
Adriana Linares: Totally love them.
Kristin Rizzo: So I do the same thing and I am thinking okay, so if they are going to spend 10 seconds, maybe —
Adriana Linares: It better be impactful.
Kristin Rizzo: It better be impactful. So I decided to do a postcard and I went online and there is tons of services online where you can design your own postcard and you can just upload your database of contacts and they self-address it and they can even stamp it.
So I had a number of postcards where I did it that way, where I had a message already typed in and it was just direct mail, I designed it with all my branding on it, and there was a service that also allowed me to direct mail it to myself and I handwrote a number of postcards as well.
Adriana Linares: Okay, that’s pretty neat. So you handpicked a handful — you handpicked a handful to handwrite.
Kristin Rizzo: I handpicked over a handful, like several hundred, but I didn’t have to handwrite thousands.
Adriana Linares: Can you name names, no, the companies, not who you wrote?
Kristin Rizzo: I think it was Postable.
Adriana Linares: Postable, okay.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah, and they were cheap and simple and straightforward and they were fine, and honestly, I had on — it just required Excel, so the Excel spreadsheet, it just uploaded, super easy.
Adriana Linares: I love that. Can I make it?
Kristin Rizzo: Can you name names?
Adriana Linares: I have used Vistaprint and I also use for handbags, not handbags, but like briefcases and really nice stuff, I go to Lands’ End Business for bags and t-shirts and stuff, but not necessarily in the mailing world.
Kristin Rizzo: No, that’s good too, because I have sent design shirts, pillows for my office, mugs; oh, I should have brought in my mug, mugs, everything, and that’s online too, and I just googled something.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I love that. So I use Lands’ End Business and once you get your logo up there once then — it’s probably a little more expensive than the things on Vistaprint, but I mean I like them all.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes, and I love them all.
Adriana Linares: I have used MOO Cards for Business Cards, they are so nice.
Kristin Rizzo: So my designer suggested MOO Cards.
Adriana Linares: He did, oh yeah, let me see.
Kristin Rizzo: And I get a lot of compliments on my cards.
Adriana Linares: Aren’t they so nice? I just made some new ones for my boyfriend and used it and had the edge lined with blue, you can have like the satiny paper and they are very, very affordable and they come fast.
Kristin Rizzo: My type is a little small. I am going to revise back, these were my first draft of cards
Adriana Linares: You will notice I had to put my readers on.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes, I know, that’s why I said that. But short of that, you can see like my —
Adriana Linares: I love your logo.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you.
Adriana Linares: I love your logo. The designer that you worked with?
Kristin Rizzo: Me and the designer came up with that.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, it’s good.
Kristin Rizzo: It actually has a meaning which is, it’s people coming together, like those are the heads.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I see that.
Kristin Rizzo: It’s like we are all coming together to figure out.
Adriana Linares: It’s a circle of trust and love.
Kristin Rizzo: Exactly.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. So everyone go visit Rizzo Resolution and look at the logo and leave a note on there for Kristin so that she knows you appreciated her information, not that we are done, because we are not, but I do have a question about your website that I appreciate and I just wanted to ask you if this is something normal in the mediation world or if you decided to do this because you know people get aggravated when they can’t go to a website and get pricing.
You have a whole — right under both your mediation and your workplace investigation, you put the rates. Was that something that is just normal or you said, I don’t want people coming to me without knowing already what I am going to charge or did — has anyone said to you, I can’t believe you put your rates on there, you are pretty much giving away the farm and undercutting the rest of us from a competitive environment, or just tell me, like I am curious why you decided to put rates on there, which like I said I appreciate?
Kristin Rizzo: Oh, thank you. No one has ever expressed an issue with it. The first question I get from potential clients are, what are your rates and are you available? So what are my rates, they are right on my website.
Adriana Linares: Perfect.
Kristin Rizzo: And something that I am working on right now with my designer is am I available. So I am working to get a calendar on my website.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. Great. Just to name names and not necessarily for you, but the one that I use is a service called vCita, and I freaking love it, because it’s $800 a year and through that service — first of all, there is —
Kristin Rizzo: I am writing it down by the way too. Is this for calendar?
Adriana Linares: It does. So first of all, it pops up on a website and it says, email us, contact us or schedule an appointment, and then it synchronizes to my; I use Gmail, so it synchronizes to Gmail, and I can also go in on the back end and say well, I only take mediations or for me, I only take consultations on Mondays and Fridays. So it just — it’s very sophisticated on the back end at how you can get your calendar to look.
Anyway, yeah, that’s the one I happen to use. A lot of people will use Appoint.ly. If you have Office 365, Bookings is part of the suite, where it looks at your Office and you don’t have to pay extra for it. So Office 365 offers Bookings, or maybe you pay a little bit, I am not sure, but it would be less than $800 a year.
But I do like vCita a lot, it even has a CRM in it so that I can — when someone comes through vCita, I can send them a document, send an email, I can follow up. They can pay through there. It uses the Stripe payment network. So that’s one I like, but there is plenty of others.
Kristin Rizzo: These are great tips.
Adriana Linares: I am here to help Kristin.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes, you are. Thank you to our Technology Office of the San Diego County Bar Association.
Adriana Linares: Yes, exactly.
Kristin Rizzo: No, that’s great. In fact — because I have Office and Outlook, but I was thinking about Gmail, because my husband, who is an engineer, but who helps me a lot, he was saying it might be better to use Gmail such that not everything on my current calendar shows.
Adriana Linares: Oh, right. Well, they don’t see anything other than your available times.
Kristin Rizzo: Okay.
Adriana Linares: So it doesn’t show —
Kristin Rizzo: Like everything else on my calendar?
Adriana Linares: You are interviewing for a podcast at 10 o’clock on Tuesday. It just — it’s the time that you choose and the times that you are free.
Kristin Rizzo: Okay, that you like block off for free.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and they all work like that, they are all — whatever service you decide to use, they all have that ability to obviously block your privates and — block your private parts.
Let’s take a quick break, listen to some messages from some sponsors and we will be right back.
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Adriana Linares: Okay, we are back. I am talking to Kristin Rizzo, San Diego attorney, who recently launched her mediation practice after having been a solo for about eight years and with a larger law firm before that. And we were talking about — we were just about to get into technology and infrastructure, one of my favorite topics. So you are a PC, not a Mac, not that it matters, so you are PC.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Do you have a laptop and a desktop or do you run around with one laptop?
Kristin Rizzo: I have a laptop and a docking station at my office and I love that.
Adriana Linares: Okay. What kind of laptop do you have?
Kristin Rizzo: It is — oh my gosh, I should totally know this, an HP.
Adriana Linares: Okay, great. And you have Office 365?
Kristin Rizzo: Uh-huh.
Adriana Linares: What other technologies do you use to support your practice, anything special?
Kristin Rizzo: No, I mean very little. For accounting I have QuickBooks and I do it all by myself.
Adriana Linares: Do you do your billing through QuickBooks too?
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Great. Good. And do you take payments through QuickBooks with the credit card or the bank transfer or do you expect checks?
Kristin Rizzo: I do mostly checks. I have done some bank transfer. I should do credit card.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, so all the statistics point to faster payment with a credit card option.
Kristin Rizzo: I am sure.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, flip that switch. So you don’t need any practice management program really because you are not billing by the minute. Do you miss that?
Kristin Rizzo: I do bill on the workplace investigations, but it’s not — I mean it’s not as much, because usually I am only servicing one or two clients at a time and it’s larger, sort of larger billing, and no, I do not miss that.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. It’s another one of those things, no lawyer has ever said boy, I miss billing my time by the tenth of the hour.
Kristin Rizzo: Right.
Adriana Linares: Okay, awesome. And then any other — how do you — are you a mobile lawyer, you have got your laptop, so do you feel comfortable sort of moving around — you have got to be, right, because you have to go to the mediations for the most part.
Kristin Rizzo: I am a mobile lawyer. I get all my emails to my phone. I mean it is password protected. I have all my stuff in the cloud. I carry my laptop pretty much everywhere; I didn’t bring it today and it’s funny, because I literally like looked right now when you asked what kind of laptop I have, I am like oh, and then I realized I didn’t have it. I love it. I carry it home every night with me. Yeah, I always have it with me.
I hardly even like write my signature anymore, because I have like my digital electronic signature, I PDF everything from Word. I mean it’s wonderful. It saves me so much time. Like you said, I don’t have an assistant anymore, except for my case manager through West Coast and it’s funny not having that, but I don’t need that assistance as much.
I am sure you could teach me so many more things and I should probably attend one of your classes.
Adriana Linares: Yes Kristin, I would love to see you in more sessions that we offer here at the San Diego County Bar.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Do you do any video mediation yet or have you?
Kristin Rizzo: Good question. I am trying to think have I ever done a video mediation. I have not done a video mediation. I have done video interviews through my workplace investigations and I have used Zoom.
Adriana Linares: Cool.
Kristin Rizzo: And I know — however I will say that a number of mediators that I know have done video mediations. What have you heard about video mediations? I think it’s on the rise.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I am glad you asked. I actually had a member make an appointment with me for one thing. She wanted to learn how to use the Breakout Rooms in Zoom. So Zoom, and I talk about Zoom a lot, I have it, I think it’s one of the most affordable, easiest video and phone conferencing; you don’t have to use it for video, you can also use it to just set up phone conferences.
So zoom.us, it starts at $15 a month. I mean it’s a joke, it’s so affordable. And what was interesting was she made an appointment with me — oh, by the way, I use vCita also on San Diego’s Law + Tech. So when members come to make an appointment through me, they are also using the same service I use in my private practice, vCita.
So she made an appointment, and of course I asked, give me a little idea of what it is you are looking to do, and she wrote specifically come in and learn how to use Zoom Breakout Rooms, and I got that message I was like, Zoom has Breakout Rooms.
Well, don’t think I didn’t seem like a genius on Breakout Rooms by the time she showed up, but the point is that when you go into the Settings, you can turn on Breakout Rooms, so that if there are six people meeting, you can click this one, click that one and go into a private separate Breakout Room.
Kristin Rizzo: That is so cool.
Adriana Linares: Yes.
Kristin Rizzo: Yeah. And that would be perfect for mediation obviously, because we are always in different rooms — I mean not always, but we are frequently in Breakout Rooms. So that’s really neat.
No, I definitely know there is a trend there. I heard — I know there is an attorney — I am sorry, there is a mediator affiliated through one of my groups that I belong to at Southern California Mediators Association that does almost exclusively sort of web-based electronic mediation, so interesting.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. Well, when you want to practice let me know because I am a pro now on Breakout Room.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes, you are.
Adriana Linares: What was really neat was that member came in and I am here enough to sort of every once in a while know other people, the members that are in the lounge, so when she came in I said to one of the other members I said, I think — can you help us with something, do you want to learn how Zoom works and do a Breakout session with us. So I just recruited another member and he set out here and she and I sat over there and we actually did a whole fake mediation and broke out into the rooms, and so it was very, very helpful.
Kristin Rizzo: Well, you know, I can totally see that, and I think your area obviously being a technology guru and I think attorneys, mediators, all of us, it’s something that we just can learn and continue to learn and develop in our practice area. We are lucky to have you here at the San Diego County Bar Association.
Adriana Linares: Oh, thanks. It’s my favorite gig.
Kristin Rizzo: Yay. And I just think it’s – as we — as attorneys and mediators, we continue to develop our practices and constantly learn and hone our skills, technology is just going to be — continuing to be something of use to us and that we are going to have to continue to push ourselves to learn.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and thankfully honestly, it’s getting easier and cheaper and it’s just not the same as it was when I was having conversations like this 12 years ago. I mean the technology is so easy and affordable and helpful.
I love talking to people like you, whether you are a lawyer or not, because you never stop learning, it’s totally your thing and you are just on the learning path forever.
What’s next for Rizzo Resolution?
Kristin Rizzo: Oh my gosh. So I mean clearly I have only been in this practice field now officially for six months or so, so I am lucky to see my practice area having launched well, knock on wood. I think everybody who has been an instrumental part of my success, you know who you are and —
Adriana Linares: You probably got a handwritten note.
Kristin Rizzo: You probably did get a handwritten note with the Rizzo Resolution logo on the front. No, thank you to everybody who has been really helpful to me and who has taught me and who has helped me get here.
I don’t know. Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean I know some things, obviously working on my website, getting that calendar up and running, West Coast Resolution has some things on for 2020, which is terrific, some speaking opportunities.
One thing that I was thinking about, and that’s why I love being here, is in addition to some writing opportunities, I am thinking about doing some video posts.
Adriana Linares: Oh wow.
Kristin Rizzo: Right? So one idea that I had in collaboration with a West Coast person was to do instead of sort of writing blogging was like almost video blog.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, the vlogging.
Kristin Rizzo: The vlogging, thank you.
Adriana Linares: That’s vlog, it’s hard to say.
Kristin Rizzo: And I think because people have limited time and we all know this and we are used to like getting through things really quickly. I always keep that in mind, because I have very limited time. I have my business with Rizzo Resolution, my affiliation with West Coast. I have two young children. I am here at the Bar Association doing all my volunteer work, amongst everything else that I do, and so I do keep that in mind that we all have limited time. So I was thinking about doing something like that.
I am speaking at a conference next month on a similar topic.
Adriana Linares: Excellent.
Kristin Rizzo: Just kind of trying to stay relevant, continue —
Adriana Linares: Yeah, aren’t we all?
Kristin Rizzo: Right, aren’t we all, but continue the learning as well, and this is a craft, just like all attorneys, we are practicing our skills and our craft so that we can better serve our clients, just like you in technology, and I just think continuing to teach myself and better my craft and skills so I can serve our community.
I don’t know, I look forward to some up-and-coming things. Maybe I will sit in on a class of yours.
Adriana Linares: I will expect you at some classes here Kristin.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you.
Adriana Linares: But you can always make an appointment with me on any of your other tech questions that you might have, but it sounds like you are doing pretty good, sounds like you are doing great.
If our listeners want to find, friend, follow you or contact you, how do they do that?
Kristin Rizzo: Well, like I said, I am on LinkedIn. My website has all my information, www.rizzoresolution.com. It’s Rizzo, and then resolution, singular, not plural, I get that a lot.
Adriana Linares: And not fancy with another z, just the good old-fashioned way?
Kristin Rizzo: Rizzo, and then Resolution, but you can connect with me on LinkedIn.
Adriana Linares: You have a Contact page on your website.
Kristin Rizzo: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Great.
Kristin Rizzo: Exactly. And then I also have a Twitter handle, so all of that you can connect with me. I have a Facebook, so if you find me there, it’s actually a personal Facebook, but you can find me there too.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming in today and talking to us about this. I know it’s a topic that interests a lot of attorneys. I appreciate your time.
Kristin Rizzo: Thanks for having me. It was really fun.
Adriana Linares: It was fun.
Kristin Rizzo: I encourage attorneys to become mediators if they want to and I am more than happy to talk to people about it.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. You are so generous. Thanks Kristin.
Kristin Rizzo: Thank you.
Adriana Linares: Thank you for listening to New Solo on Legal Talk Network. If you like what you have heard today, we would love for you to subscribe and give us a good review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. 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.
Philip Mauriello discusses his path to becoming a solo attorney.
Kristin Rizzo describes her journey from a large law firm to solo practice to mediation.
Daniel Whitehouse guides lawyers in the process of choosing secure, ethically compliant cloud services.
Marco Brown shares how to change your mindset, stop chasing money, and get paid for the great work you do.
Amanda Moore, CPA, shares tips on how to manage your practice’s finances and your bookkeeper as well as keeping yourself off the IRS’ radar.
Liz McCausland shares some of the professional and personal services she uses to improve both her work life and her personal life.