COVID-19 Resources for Lawyers
Featured Guest
Kelly Roberts

Kelly Roberts is a Sarasota-based bankruptcy and business attorney. Her practice includes representation of consumer bankruptcy debtors from North...

Your Host
Adriana Linares

Adriana Linares is a law practice consultant and legal technology coach. After several years at two of Florida’s largest...

Episode Notes

From client management to website development and networking, Florida bankruptcy lawyer Kelly Roberts has intel to share fresh from her own startup experience.

Roberts tells host Adriana Linares that she often gets calls from lawyers wanting to establish a bankruptcy practice like hers. Many times they have a practice launch approach that she believes is the opposite of what it takes to be successful as a solo.

But even Roberts is starting to experience growing pains so Linares offers advice on next steps for building a team while documenting processes and procedures before making a first support staff hire.

Kelly Roberts is a bankruptcy lawyer based in Florida.

Special thanks to our sponsors, ClioLawclerkROSS, and Alert Communications.

Transcript

New Solo

Getting Started Tips from a New Solo

10/01/2020

 

[Music]

 

Intro: So you’re an attorney and you’ve decided to go out on your own. Now what? You need a plan and you’re not alone. Join expert host, Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune in to the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm here on Legal Talk Network.

 

Adriana Linares: Hi, everyone! It’s time for another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I’m Adriana Linares. I’m your host. I’m a legal technology trainer and consultant. I love helping lawyers and law firms use technology better. Before we get started with my guest, Kelly Roberts today, we’re going to hear a couple messages from some sponsors.

 

ROSS Intelligence is the legal research platform that leverages AI to get to the heart of legal issues fast. Go to rossintelligence.com for a 14-day free trial.

 

Want to make sure and thank Alert Communications for sponsoring today’s episode. If any law firm is looking for call, intake, or retainer services that are available 24/7 365, call 866-827-5568.

 

Thanks for our sponsor, Clio and be sure to check out Clio’s Daily Matters podcast featuring valuable perspective on legal in the COVID-19 era. Listen to Daily Matters at clio.com/daily or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

 

LAWCLERK is where attorneys go to hire freelance lawyers. Visit lawclerk.legal to learn how to increase your productivity and your profits by working with talented freelance lawyers.

 

All right. Hey, Kelly.

 

Kelly Roberts: Hi!

 

Adriana Linares: It’s so nice to see you. Thanks for taking some time to come on and share some pearls with some listeners.

 

Kelly Roberts: Not at all. I am a total New Solo fan and so it definitely helps me get started. So I’m just paying it forward.

 

Adriana Linares: I love it. I’m so glad. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice and what goes on in Florida for you?

 

Kelly Roberts: I am a bankruptcy and small business attorney in here in Sarasota, Florida. I started my practice in Miami, so I like to think I’ve seen it all. I spent eight years there and my husband and I and our young daughter moved over to Sarasota in 2018. I run my practice by myself. I don’t have staff at this moment but I’m able to take a lot of the tips that I’ve learned from New Solo to kind of take the place of a staff member and it’s just really kind of helped me market myself and develop my practice so that it’s just benefited my practice a lot in how I’ve set it up.

 

Adriana Linares: Well, I’m excited for you to share some of those tips that you’ve learned and that you’ve experienced, but before we do that, I want to remind you of an email that you sent me. Let’s see, this would have been April 2019, about a year ago. You had listened to an episode that I did with Paige Greenlee and Brittany Maxey and you wrote: “I liked it a lot. The employee talk I can relate to. As much as I hate spending time away from lawyering with administrative work, I do look forward to substituting that time with training and supervising.”

 

So, I’m wondering, that was how you felt a year and a half ago and how long have you had your solo practice?

 

Kelly Roberts: It seems a lot longer but I started in March 2019 so that was right after.

 

Adriana Linares: And what’s funny is you said it is so important to find the right fit. So it sounds like back then, you were thinking about whether or not you were going to eventually hire someone to help you but I now have to be prepared to kiss a lot of frogs along the way. And then this is the real reason I wanted to read this because I think it’s so great and I want you tell me the story.

 

“I can see why my dad had the same assistant for 25 years and even bought her a car.”

 

So your dad was a lawyer too?

 

Kelly Roberts: Yes. He did family law in Arizona. He was born to be a solo. He had his own office. So when against his wishes, I went to law school, which he tried to dissuade me as much as possible and I’ll probably do the same thing to my daughter. I had the solo in me but when I worked in Miami, at the time that I went to work for my mentor, Jim Schwitalla, at the time, he had seven employees and as we went through, we saw that it wasn’t an efficient way to do things and that there were really only a few employees you could really trust. So we ended up whittling down to that essential crew, which — hi, Jim, but he’s got a great crew over there now.

 

(00:05:03)

 

But that’s such a process to really hire someone, train them, and then see if they’re going to work out because they have to be able to have the knowledge, they have to have the finesse with the clients and they have to be dedicated.

 

Adriana Linares: Right. So you decided, it sounds like from the beginning, you were weary about hiring staff and so you must have picked up some tips and so technology and figured out how to go, living a year out it now by yourself. So tell us, what are some of the tools you’ve used or the tips you’ve got or the things you’ve learned when you were launching only a year or so ago?

 

Kelly Roberts: In the beginning, I knew that if I wasn’t going to have staff that I would have to be really organized, which means with time management, there needs to be an hour of time a day set aside for those administrative tasks.

 

Adriana Linares: Do you calendar that like actually put on your calendar or do you just try to fit it in between stuff?

 

Kelly Roberts: I try to fit it in between things, but normally, that’s the first thing I do in the day is I go through and take care of quick books, do the mail, any checks, and that helps me put together my punch list for the day. I make myself little lists. I write them now. I’m all about lists and I keep everything organized and I’m not just saying this because they’re a sponsor but I did a lot of research when I was planning to get started about what technology would help me when I was on my own to help me with shortcuts, help me keep organized and really dovetail with the practice that I was in.

 

For me, I’m a bankruptcy attorney and I help with people who are getting started with their businesses. It’s easier with the clients who have an asset purchase or something like that where there is a timeline already in place or an expectation and they’re ready to move. But for me, Clio Grow has been really useful. I questioned the cost at the beginning when I was pricing out everything because you can get way overboard with this subscriptions and way overboard with the services, but I really did the research of what would fit with my practice. So a lot of my startup work as well as the bankruptcy work, you have a consultation and you may not hear from that client for six months. So I don’t want them in my client management system yet if I’m not retained and not paid and I don’t want to lose their information because of course, when they call in six months, they want you to have total recall of everything that you talked about.

 

Adriana Linares: I do that with my doctor. I’m like, “Wait, I was here two years ago. How do you not remember that?”

 

Kelly Roberts: So Clio Grow has allowed me to categorize where people are in the process. They allow you to create categories as well as there are some that are put in there as default as to made contact, consultation scheduled, pending engagement. I’ve put some other things like disappeared or needed to wait.

 

Adriana Linares: I have one called no-go like they just disappeared. So let me explain real quick in case listeners are familiar with the product that you’re talking about. So Clio is of course a sponsor and my personal favorite of all the practice management systems that exist but as I say, every time, Clio has great competitors. So whatever you use, make sure you’re using it all the way.

 

With Clio, there’s two products. One is called Clio Manage and the other’s called Clio Grow. So Manage has always been their flagship product which helps with practice management dates, deadlines, documents. It has the client portal, so that’s for actively working through a case. What you’re talking about is Clio Grow, which is their intake module, so to speak. And it’s typically where the PNC, the potential new client comes in and you log them in there. So that’s what you’re talking about. You’re saying whenever a potential new client comes in, you start the intake process inside Grow and then when they become a client eventually, you move them under the Manage side of Clio.

 

Kelly Roberts: Right. When they convert.

 

Adriana Linares: Perfect.

 

Kelly Roberts: So that’s allowed me to keep really organized, the quick intake is really easy so even if they’re coming to me from Yelp or AVO or something like that and I was able to integrate the contact form from Clio Grow into my website. So when someone contacts me on the website, it automatically puts together a quick intake on Clio Grow, which I can choose to ignore or add if it’s spam or something, which I usually don’t get. That’s the other thing. Don’t do your own website. There’re people that are very proficient at it and they’re not costly. Just make sure that if you are looking for someone who is going to do your website and you want it to be affordable that you do the research ahead of time to make sure that you know exactly what you want.

 

(00:10:13)

 

Tell them the colors. Give them examples of websites that you like. Have the pictures ready. Have your content ready.

 

Adriana Linares: Have the content ready. That’s key.

 

Kelly Roberts: Which takes forever. It was almost like a second job. I mean getting the lead time. That would be one of the tips for when you’re preparing to go out on your own. Decide what entity type you want. Get in touch with an accountant so that you can touch base with them and that way, if you get into trouble with your quick books early on, you have someone to tap for that.

 

Luckily, I’ve had some experience with quick books but I know from my business clients, sometimes the quick books are kind of a mess so not everybody that’s their stick so if it’s not your stick, just admit it and ask for help and budget for that. Talk to the accountant. Ask what their regular fees are and be honest with yourself about how much help you need. Do you need bookkeeping or you need help with your quarterlies or is it just tax help and make sure that you’re communicating with your accountant and giving them access to the quick books earlier before you are filing your taxes so that you make sure that you’re going to give them information in a way that’s going to make your taxes not $5,000 or $7,000 for your accountant to do.

 

Adriana Linares: Great. Have you done by any chance, I probably should have asked you this before but I have a feeling you have a good idea in your head, what your monthly spend is on subscriptions?

 

Kelly Roberts: I think I just ran this as far as — I mean, my —

 

Adriana Linares: Are you under $500?

 

Kelly Roberts: Yes. It’s hard for me to tell because a lot of — I’m also kind of a ChooseFI person as well. And that’s Choose Financial Independence, for people who don’t know. So when I got my office started, I do a lot of my subscriptions on an annual basis so I get the discount from paying them upfront and then I also use a rewards credit card to do all my annual subscriptions when I opened my firm and I was able to pay off the entire balance, my second month of practice. I was profitable month two, but I was able to go to Hawaii on the points.

 

Adriana Linares: Right. So it is a little hard to factor but you figure with all those perks, I think anyone who can run a business with their critical business services and I bet you’re not even out $500, I just used that kind of as the threshold, which I say this all the time, 12 years ago, 15 years ago when I was helping lawyers start law firms, this was a very different conversation.

 

So, no matter, I know you’re going to be under about $500 and that should give anyone hope that you can run a practice because for the average lawyer, that should be somewhere between 1 and 4 billable hours that’s helping you cover the cost of your subscription services.

 

One last question just about the basics before we take a quick break. You are in an office, so did you get office space rather than working from home? Or are you working from home? And this was before the madness of the COVID crisis started.

 

Kelly Roberts: I have everything set up cloud-based so I can practice anywhere. I found it necessary to get an office in pretty short order. I think that I had office space starting in May and I opened in March but I work in an office.

 

Adriana Linares: Okay. And I just think some people like an office, want an office, need an office, just find an office that provides you with the services or the parking or the amenities that you need and fits within your budget. But as a lot of us are now working from home, too, to be able to just pick up and go or work from Hawaii because you’ve set up your office in a way that allows you to do that is really smart.

 

Well, let’s take a quick break, pay some bills as they say, and we’ll be right back.

 

[Music]

 

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[Music]

 

(00:15:28)

 

Okay, we’re back. Oh hey, Kelly, wait. Before I ask you my next question, you didn’t tell me the story about your dad having bought his assistant a car.

 

Kelly Roberts: Oh, she deserved it too.

 

Adriana Linares: No, I love it.

 

Kelly Roberts: My dad is a complete character and very high maintenance and I think that anytime she thought of retiring or transitioning or doing something else, he just had to keep sweetening the pot. She moved farther away because her and her husband had found a house that I believe was out 45, an hour away from the office, so he was worried that she was going to not keep working. So he bought her a car and paid for her gas.

 

Adriana Linares: That’s hilarious. I will say, in all my years of working with lawyers, one of the things that I love the most about them is how truly loyal they are to their assistants that become family. I love that story, that’s great. I’m sure she appreciated it. Is he still practicing?

 

Kelly Roberts: No. He retired much to my mom’s dismay because now she has to deal with him all the time.

 

Adriana Linares: He’s at home all the time, right. All right, back to you. And wait, your husband’s a lawyer, too.

 

Kelly Roberts: Yes. We both make poor decisions.

 

Adriana Linares: Well, I don’t know about that. And he works for a bigger outfit, right?

 

Kelly Roberts: Yes, he was at a large law firm in Miami and now, he’s gone inhouse with a company and he loves it over there. It’s a back office all the way for them. He’s very much a risk-averse and not of the solo mentality so when I decided to go solo, there were a lot of questions and doubts and reservations —

 

Adriana Linares: So what lessons has he learned in the past year from you?

 

Kelly Roberts: I don’t know about lessons. This morning, we were talking about me going on the podcast and he was very nostalgic about the whole process, but when we were doing it, it was hard. It’s a transition like any other and I think that would be one of my tips is if you have a significant other or a husband or you live with family, prepare them for how dedicated — I mean, this is like having a baby. Your business is your baby so you’re going to have to divert a lot of attention, energy, focus away from your family in order to get the momentum together to make your firm, your practice successful.

 

So make sure that you’re preparing your family for that, but also calendar time to be appreciative. With my husband, I tried to put together some time where three hours, I will take care of our young, rabid racoon toddler and go spend time doing whatever it is that you want to do and I’ll take care of the house for a while. Don’t get so wrapped up in your practice that you forget why you’re doing it. You’re doing it to benefit your family and be able to have the balance and focus that you can’t do when you’re working for someone else. You’re being the master of your own destiny, but that destiny is intertwined with other people.

 

Adriana Linares: I think it’s something we forget a lot that when you’re a solo or a small firm, it’s a family business. Your family isn’t coming in to the office every day, but they are part of the business. It is and I think that’s a great reminder for everyone is that you have to include as much as possible, talk to and prepare them and then of course, always consider all the responsibilities that we all have that it is a family business and I think a lot of times, we just — doesn’t come across that way. You think you’re solo and an entrepreneur but listen to everything you just said. You just said that all this for my family and because of my family and thanks to his support, you weren’t sitting on the beach every day like you thought you were going to be when you’re launching your practice.

 

Kelly Roberts: He didn’t think that. I think that for him, he’s used to more institutional clients or larger clients so dealing with idea with small business owners, idea with people and financial distress, they’re individuals and for us, we had just moved here.

 

(00:20:07)

 

So I was a newbie in a new town and going out on my own and to him, that was very scary at the time. So I had to reassure him that I could make it work, but that’s hard to do. It’s like proving something exists that you can’t see.

 

Adriana Linares: That’s a good way to put it.

 

Kelly Roberts: With the practice, I finally just had to jump in and do it. I think that he would say now he did consent, but I think it was questionable whether he is —

 

[Laughter]

 

Kelly Roberts: And now, it’s turned out that I’m happy to be very successful and —

 

Adriana Linares: And very solo.

 

Kelly Roberts: And our success together, absolutely, I think he’s very happy that I did it now and maybe possibly thinking why I didn’t do it sooner, but it’s turned out well, but definitely your family members, getting your household budget in order, and making sure that being a solo in the very beginning doesn’t just mean being lean and mean in your office and your household. You have to support your family so before in preparation, you want to make sure that you’re looking at your expenses and that you’re consulting with your spouse or your family or significant other that how are you going to pay expenses and are you going to wow your waiting to become profitable, what are you going to do? Or do you need to build up savings in order to do that?

 

There’s a lot of planning that goes into place but it’s not just, “I’m going to get an office and hire paralegal and she’ll do all the work and I just have to find clients.” That’s not a great approach.

 

Adriana Linares: And so when you moved to Sarasota and law is your practice, you were new in town, so I want to ask you about your involvement with networking in the legal community because you helped organize the annual bankruptcy conference for the Florida Bar. You’re a member of the Florida Women Association of Lawyers and so, when you moved, how about telling us a little bit about just digging into the local community and getting those new clients. I mean, if you moved from Miami to Sarasota, you were starting from scratch, right? You didn’t bring clients with you. You had to start from scratch.

 

So, give us a couple tips on how you managed to do that.

 

Kelly Roberts: In Miami, I was very involved with the University of Miami. I’m an alumni of the law school there. I was heavily involved with the Bankruptcy Bar in the Southern District of Florida. So I had some practice on getting involved and knowing some people and I really just tapped my network in Miami to have them help introduce me to people in the area, which I have to tell you, it was kind of hit or miss. There were plenty of times that I was trying to network with people and you’re just sending that email and my husband says I have no fear of rejection or that I don’t handle it like other people.

 

Adriana Linares: Awesome. I consider that a compliment.

 

Kelly Roberts: So I’m just like, “You don’t know what you’re missing out on.” No, but I reached out. I got involved with Sarasota County Bar and I went to the Manatee Bar events as well as the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar and I was very observant and anyone that seems like a kindred spirit were kind of a fun female lawyer like me, I really reached out. In fact, a local attorney, Erin Itts, I remember I had lunch with her. I took her out to lunch and I told her, “Just you know, you’re part of my village now. You don’t know yet, but we’re great friends.”

 

Adriana Linares: I love that. I think that’s so important and you know, with so many new solos popping up now and I say that is if that’s new, they’re popping up all the time but now I think more than ever, that’s harder today. But what I want to remind people is that we’re a temporary world. We’re going to eventually get to go back to normal and I just want to remind lawyers and I think probably any business person needs to hear this. We hear this all the time. Networking is important. Get out on the community, get to know people. It’s really true that it really makes a difference when you do that.

 

Kelly Roberts: Absolutely. When you’re making referrals, I know for me, if I know the person and know how they’re going to treat the referral and how they’re going to communicate and what their expertise level is, that’s really important. That’s really important for me to have that trust to send over the referral to another attorney, a bookkeeping service, a CPA, that’s so important.

 

(00:25:06)

 

Because if there’s a complaint, then it comes back to me and makes me look bad and I really don’t want that. That would be one of the things that I would say is a tip for starting your practice and I am lucky to have this great network of female attorneys who are other Miami Law grads or my great friends in the Southern District of Florida, which is West Palm, Fort Lauderdale and Miami and I’ve been able to build a great network here in Sarasota in a short period of time and that’s mostly because my friends like me and they were accepting of me so that’s very important, thank you.

 

Adriana Linares: You’re very likeable.

 

Kelly Roberts: I try. But the w ay that in my local community I think that I was really able to solidify some good relationships is really reaching out to get to know other attorneys about their practice, what they do, what they specialize and if I was on opposing sides on a commercial lease dispute, I would reach out to the other attorney, have a phone call, maybe go out to lunch and that particular situation that I’m thinking of, we pass cases all the time to each other, clients all the time. And I think that the temptation for new solos to practice what — door law, anything that comes in the door. There’s that temptation there and I got some advice from one of my great female mentors that she said two statements that really stuck out to me. Cream rises to the top if you do a good job, do work, people are going to get to know you, your name is going to be everywhere and you’re going to start to have the momentum and the cases come in. So don’t worry if it’s slow in the beginning, which I would say is absolutely true.

 

The other thing is don’t take the cases you know you shouldn’t. Don’t be tempted to take something that is outside of your expertise, outside of your wheelhouse. Take that as an opportunity. Don’t think of it as money that you’re leaving on a table by not taking the client, take that opportunity to pass that case off as a quality referral to an attorney that’s then going to give you referrals for cases that you actually want. That’s been in the beginning, I think I referred out more cases than I took.

 

Adriana Linares: That’s really good advice though.

 

Kelly Roberts: And that really helped me to kind of build that momentum of that communication with that other attorney, getting to know them and it’s not just giving the client the name, it’s saying, “Hey, can I introduce you to this person?” And then sending them an email introduction to that attorney and really locking in the communication right then and there. And that builds loyalty with your referral sources.

 

Adriana Linares: With that great tip, we’re going to take one more break and then come back.

 

[Music]

 

The legal industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation and the Daily Matters podcast is here to give you a competitive edge. In Daily Matters, Clio CEO Jack Newton interviews prominent legal experts to explore how solo and small firm lawyers can succeed in the current economic environment. To listen, visit clio.com/daily or subscribe to Daily Matters wherever you get your podcasts.

 

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[Music]

 

All right, we’re back. Kelly, you ended up on the last segment just reminding people that not only is networking good, but two really good tips about starting that practice which is cream — what was it? Cream rises to the top?

 

Kelly Roberts: Cream rises to the top. If you’re good at what you do, people will know it and they will trust you with their referrals. So the work will come.

 

Adriana Linares: It will come.

 

Kelly Roberts: Right. If you feel like you aren’t able to network as much such as in this COVID era of Zoom calls and not being able to network, write articles, write blogs, write guest blogs for some of your friends who don’t have time to write. I know I would share any of my friends I they wanted to share some expertise too on my side or promote other people. I would absolutely do that. But try and contact your bar associations or other — Florida Bar organizations that you’re a part of sections.

 

(00:30:07)

 

I know they love free content. They love free work.

 

Adriana Linares: They do. And I’ll tell you. It’s funny you kind of read my mind because I was going to say, I was going to ask you, have you come up with any creative ways to continue your profitable and successful networking during this time, you just gave us some tips. And I’ll say this with my experience working with and for the San Diego County Bar Association, they have done so much for their members. I should say we, I’m a part of that, and it’s all been remote. Our engagement with members has been through the roof and higher because we’ve been providing more remote content, so everyone doesn’t have to show up at the bar. So that’s actually a great suggestion. To reach out to your local bar and say, “Hey, let me give a webinar on this particular topic, whether it’s substantive in nature or if it’s marketing or practice management, something.” They’ll appreciate it. They want that.

 

Your local bars, your voluntary associations, they need you right now. They want fresh content and fresh minds, so that’s a really good tip there too.

 

Kelly Roberts: And also, write about the cases you want. Don’t write about something off the wall. Give it in a digestible content way where attorneys that don’t do what you do can understand what your practice is —

 

Adriana Linares: And refer you the work.

 

Kelly Roberts: Right. it helps them identify who’s a good referral for you or next time that issue comes up, they’ll think of you and send it to you.

 

Adriana Linares: I’ll give one quick tip that I saw on the Internet. My dear friend, Dan Lear, who’s well known in the legal tech community, several months ago gave a tip for networking remotely and I wonder if anyone has actually done this but he tweeted out and said, “Invite a friend to a Zoom meeting and then tell that friend or colleague to invite someone you don’t know and you’re going to do the same and just meet for a coffee over Zoom with two new strangers, potential members of your network.” And I thought that was a really cool neat idea. We are a little bit all Zoomed out but there’s no reason to sit in a hole just because we’re all sort of sent in a hole. We still have the Internet and all the beautiful capabilities that it affords us.

 

So Kelly, it’s been a year and a couple months since you started your practice. What are your goals now? So you’ve got a groove, sounds like you’ve got a good flow of clients coming in, you’re able to work from anywhere, what are your goals?

 

Kelly Roberts: I would love to be able to delegate. But I just, I’m not in that headspace yet but I’m getting busy enough that it is hard to really — I mean, I believe that for the past three days, I’ve gotten up at 5:30 and pretty much worked until 7. But it’s not always like that. It’s just for me, August and September for some reason, are just really busy. So I take advantage of the slower times, but I’m thinking next year that I’m either going to have to engage a call service to help me when I’m with a client or doing something and someone needs to answer the phone or that I need to hire an assistant.

 

But I am not there yet but I’m working on it. It’s one of those things where I am a control freak and quality control is really important to me and usually, if I’m able to answer the phone, a lot of my business clients love that I answer the phone. So they’re able to get access to me which enhances their experience with their representation. There’s always clear communication there. There’s not a lag time in me responding. So I kind of got them hooked on that.

 

I have just been so lucky that I have really taken my friend’s advice about picking the cases that I want to do and then when you get busy enough with the amount of cases, then you can pick the clients that you want, not just the cases you want where, if it’s not a great fit or you know that client you feel like is maybe more morally or ethically fluid than you really join —

 

[Laughter]

 

— that you can just say, “No. I don’t think we’re a great fit.” Or “the turnaround times that you need for your matter are not going to work with what I have in the queue right now.” I’m really trying to get the clients acquainted with the concept of the queue. We have a queue. If you bring — not everything’s going to be a 24-hour turnaround, but I’m really lucky to have great clients and doing my own practice, I’ve really tried to keep that communication about what the expectations of the client are and what they can expect from me and communicate with them with updates and just communication is key to happy clients.

 

(00:35:15)

 

Adriana Linares: That’s very true.

 

Kelly Roberts: I think my other tip would be I’ve had a couple of attorneys call me now that bankruptcy is in vogue about — well, in January, it’s going to be really in vogue but how to open up their own bankruptcy practice and well, I just need an office space and I get an experienced paralegal and that’s it. And just pay for a bunch of advertising, just throw money at advertising and really, I think that’s kind of the opposite of what you should do in the beginning and for me, I’m still working through it but knowing how to do everything in your office allows you to be efficient, allows you to know what programs, subscriptions, services, and things like that are really giving you bang for your buck because you’re using them on a regular basis and also where the holes in your practice are where you can — I’m still in the subscription service automation phase of my practice where kissing frogs and hiring another human being seems really stressful to me right now. I’d rather throw in extra $500 at subscriptions if I can integrate it with my technology and see, this is the delegating. It’s all going to come back to me.

 

Adriana Linares: Well, what you really need to start doing is, and maybe you have, is creating your office manual, the systems book so that when you are doing it, you have to chronicle it and then there it is. Because if you wait to try and do that until you’ve hired the assistant, it’ll never get done. So maybe on your checklist, one of your checklists it should be, “Okay, today I’m going to chronicle how I close a matter. How do I open a matter?” And it’s important to start documenting that I think when you are solo. I’ve been helping this one new solo and he’s a little slow right now to get started and we’re using his time very productively like you did and that’s one of the things. Everything we do is — well, think about when you have an assistant, because it’s easier to start a solo practice and do everything while it’s just me. But with him, we’ve been doing a lot of, “Well what about when you have an assistant?” “Oh, yeah, you’re right. I better do it the right way.”

 

Anyway, long story short, you could easily do that even just by talking into your phone, writing down the steps, hiring Fancy Hands is what I use as an ad hoc administrative assistant when I need just data entry and stuff. I send an audio file; they type it out. I get it back and then I make it better. I was going to ask you, just quick side question, curious if you don’t mind sharing with us. As a busy solo and you’ve had your practice for a year, what’s your case load like? Are you carrying 10 clients, 50 clients, 100 clients? Active matter. So let me say it that way. Active matters. Like what can you handle?

 

Kelly Roberts: It’s hard. There’re cases that are in different stages. So I would say that I probably have 15 bankruptcies that are in different stages. I have 3 clients that are just on retainer, they’re individuals and that’s more like debt negotiation, asset protection consulting. And then my business practice really fluctuates and I’ve been successful where usually a business client will come with one particular project in mind and then they’ll just continue.

 

Adriana Linares: They keep you, right.

 

Kelly Roberts: They keep me on. Even if it’s something where I help them with that particular project and six months later, they have something else. Or things that pop up continuously for some clients. So with the businesses that I have, that’s kind of hard to approximate because they have different needs at different times.

 

Adriana Linares: But it sounds like you probably don’t have more than 20, 25 active at a time?

 

Kelly Roberts: Not bubbling. In the background, there’s more than that. You’re stressing me out!

 

[Laughter]

 

And you know, I’m definitely still at the stage where I think in the bankruptcy practice, because it is more of a —

 

Adriana Linares: Are you getting hives? I think I see you getting hives. I’m kidding. I guess what I was trying to sort of articulate is I think when you’re a new solo, you think, “Oh my god, I’m going to need 60, 70 clients to survive.” But the truth is, you don’t. You need less but quality and that kind of circles back to everything that you were saying before, which is pick your clients, pick your cases, be prepared, be organized, be communicative, they’ll keep you.

 

(00:40:03)

 

Kelly Roberts: Right, absolutely. And in the very beginning and even now, a very happy, very pleased client that loves you is better than $10,000 a month of advertising.

 

Adriana Linares: Or aggravation with a crappy client. How about that?

 

Kelly Roberts: Right. Unfortunately, I’ve had to let a few clients go but those are clients that are begging to come back and I’m happy for that but they’re just not — the fit isn’t right and their needs aren’t conducive to me properly serving my other clients. So you have your work family, which is when you’re a small business lawyer, you’re business, you’re their main cheerleader, you’re really involved in what’s going on in a daily basis. You have to properly serve them and make them happy. So you want to make sure that when you’re bringing on new matters or you’re bringing on new clients that the number, the complexity of the new matter or that new client is not going to be to the detriment of your other clients.

 

Adriana Linares: That’s great. All right, Kelly, well. I’ve taken up enough of your very busy time today. I want to say thank you so much really. I knew when we first met, I remember I said to you, “You tell me when you’re ready to come on New Solo.” And you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know. When will that ever happen?” So, about a year and a half later.

 

Kelly Roberts: Well, I’m such a fan girl, so this is — and that’s something that when you’re getting started, New Solo for me was helping me get that confidence and the competence and helping me budget everything and find those programs. It was so helpful so I’m jus so happy to be here and contribute to the New Solo family.

 

Adriana Linares: Well, I love it and I can’t do it without great guests and I have had a lot of experts and vendors on for the past few episodes. So I was really glad to come back to a lawyer that I knew would have some great pearls. So, tell everybody where they can find friend or follow you if they want to hear more from you or chat with you or invite you to a Zoom networking meeting?

 

Kelly Roberts: My email is [email protected]. I’m here in Sarasota and available via Zoom like everybody else. So feel free to reach out via email with any questions you have. I know I’m a big proponent of the programs that I am using. I’m happy to share my experience and how it’s helped.

 

Adriana Linares: You know what? I should have asked you that in the beginning. So you’ve got Clio for Practice Management, you’ve got PC, I know your PC. Do you have Office 365? Acrobat?

 

Kelly Roberts: Yes.

 

Adriana Linares: And do you use a special bankruptcy program?

 

Kelly Roberts: Yes, I use Best Case and the Acrobat is amazing.

 

Adriana Linares: Yep.

 

Kelly Roberts: I believe that I pay $14 and some change on mine and I use that — I’m a huge redacting person because I am in the bankruptcy practice and being able to edit PDFs and do the redacting and I’m an electronic-signed, everything like that. I’ve been using, I’ve upgraded my Zoom subscription because with my bankruptcy clients, I can share the screen with what is going on with Best Case and review their schedules line by line using the Zoom application. That’s about it I guess.

 

Adriana Linares: Yeah, you don’t need a ton of stuff because a lot of it has — like Clio has a lot of stuff crammed into and the bankruptcy software has a bunch, so you keep your (00:43:45) stock(ph) short, your subscriptions low and your networking efforts high, sounds like you’re going to do all right in the school of how to start a successful solo practice of Kelly Roberts.

 

Kelly Roberts: With these subscriptions, I really instead of just getting them all at once, I got used to using the programs, seeing the components that I liked and what I didn’t like and then I would supplement based on what just worked best for me and my clients.

 

Adriana Linares: I love it. Well, thanks, Kelly. It’s been really great having you here. Super, super appreciate it.

 

All right, everyone. I hope we picked up some good tips. It looks like we’ve reached the end of our program, which is always a bummer. So if you like what you’ve heard today, we’d appreciate it if you share New Solo with friends and colleagues who might be starting their practice or not. I think New Solo has a lot of good topics even if you’ve been practicing for a while. So be sure to let us know if you like this episode by giving us a five-star rating and hope to see you soon next month on New Solo. And remember, you’re not alone, you’re New Solo.

 

[Music]

 

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.

 

[Music]

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Episode Details
Published: October 1, 2020
Podcast: New Solo
Category: Practice Management
Podcast
New Solo
New Solo

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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