Lawyerist Lab member and estate planning lawyer Rachel Allums knows that the client experience isn’t “one size fits all.”
In this episode, Rachel Allums talks with Zack about her deliberate and thoughtful approach to client experience. Learn how she creates a personalized experience for every client by considering their age, family dynamics, comfort with technology, and more.
Rachel delves into how she integrates both digital tools and traditional methods for efficiency and offers valuable advice on creating educational videos, seeking mentorship, and navigating the path to a successful estate planning business.
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- . Meeting clients where they are
- . The importance of interpersonal relationships
- . Shifting the office to embrace new technology
Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Zack Glaser (00:35):
Hi, I’m Zack.
Stephanie Everett (00:37):
And I’m Stephanie Everett. And this is episode 456 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Zach talks with Rachel Allums, one of our Lawyerist lab members about delegating, serving clients, and productizing her estate planning practice.
Zack Glaser (00:54):
Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Postali, & LawPay. We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support. So stay tuned and we’ll tell you more about them later on.
Stephanie Everett (01:04):
So it’s hard to believe Zach, because for most people, they’re probably still thinking about summer and going to the beach and doing all the fun things, but it’s actually back to school time here, at least in the south. My daughter goes back next week, August 2nd. Yeah. Isn’t that crazy? It’s like, that it, its done.
Zack Glaser (01:20):
Man. The way it affects me, I’m childless. The way that it affects me is that I have to watch out for school buses, and you be thoughtful about the school buses that are on the road is I’m driving into practice or anything like that. But yeah, it’s back to school time. Going to get people’s brains bigger.
Stephanie Everett (01:40):
Yeah, and I bet we shared this. I loved back to school supply shopping. I still love it as an adult. Yeah, yeah. This year my daughter gets a t I 81. What? What’s it? That’s what’s called, right?
Zack Glaser (01:55):
Yeah. 81 was when I was in school.
Stephanie Everett (01:58):
Yeah, I’m sure it’s a different,
Zack Glaser (01:59):
Yeah. Oh man. To go on a tangent, the t i 82 was the first thing I programmed on. I programmed an interactive baseball game on a t t I 82 calculator, and that’s what got me into that type stuff.
Stephanie Everett (02:12):
Yeah, I feel like I heard that recently, maybe on another show, but that’s not the point of, I mean, it is back to school time and it’s a good reminder that this is a great chance for all of our listeners to do a community service project. I mean, there’s so many people, schools, schools, teachers, communities, community members who need help this time of year. And it seems to me like probably Lawyerist, many of them are lifetime learners and looking for ways to give back, and here’s a real easy one that you can knock out of the park pretty simply.
Zack Glaser (02:46):
Yeah, I would think that the majority of our audience are big on education. We’ve been doing it a lot and I’d say a lot of our audience is probably in the same boat as you and me of I go to Office Depot or I and maybe Office Max now, I go to office supply stores and just ogle some of the stuff. There was a mom and pop office supply store in Marshall County, Tennessee on the square. I used to go to court and then just, I’d just go over there and look at the pens and the envelopes and things like that. And well, there are obviously people that aren’t as well off as many of us are, and so it’s a good time to think about that. And there are obviously things like stuff, the bus campaign, or you can just probably get in contact with your local county school board or school administration or just Google, how can I donate school supplies? I think that would be a good thing for people to do.
Stephanie Everett (03:44):
Easy way to get involved with your community and give back. And if that’s not your cup of tea, then look for another opportunity. But as Lawyerist been privileged and we’ve received a lot, so here’s our chance to give back. And now let’s check out Zach’s conversation with Rachel.
Rachel Allums (04:04):
Hi, I’m Rachel and I am an estate planning attorney located in Poway, California, which is a suburb of sunny San Diego. I am a Lawyerist lab member and solo practitioner just working to create a business and a life that I love here.
Zack Glaser (04:21):
Great. Rachel, thanks for joining us here. You’ve actually been in the general legal field for a while now. You’ve been in a lot of different roles and have been able to see how the sausage gets made for a considerable amount of time now, haven’t you?
Rachel Allums (04:38):
Absolutely. Right now it’s around three decades, which I’m so young and vivacious, no one believes me, but I started actually as almost a child, 18 in a law firm as a legal secretary and worked my way into a paralegal position at another firm and took off from there. So I’ve been around and seen some things for sure.
Zack Glaser (04:58):
Well, in some ways, and this kind of gets to what we’re going to talk about here in some ways that makes you seasoned and so a lot about what you’re doing, but in other ways because like you said, you’re young and vivacious, you’re still kind of not new, but you like bringing in young answers and not stuck in decades old ways even though you’ve been around this for decades.
Rachel Allums (05:23):
I think that’s what really has made me unique in embarking as a solo attorney in my midlife, having come through, running a practice from that paralegal slash office administrator seat for so long, I was able to see a lot of what works, what doesn’t serves clients and what gets complaints. So I came to my position as a licensed attorney in that unique way, having come up in this field for so long, which is unusual. Most people go straight to law school, become attorneys, dunno what they’re doing when they set out to start a firm or to get a job and dunno how to file a document with the court or what kind of software does, but they can think a lawyer. All right. So I did come at it in the Benjamin button role kind of backwards of the whole way, which has been a real asset to me.
Having been in that seat, knowing what to do really helped to shape how I wanted to run my own firm once I got there. So I do agree that was super important to then couple that with the lawyerly thinking and the education piece I think has really set me on a path of hopeful growth and success. I also am in that middle between the digital immigrant digital native where I came up in the time when we had computers in school and we were using some technology. So I do have that ability to adapt, I think fairly well versus some folks who’d been mired more in the very old school way of doing things. But I still have a lot to learn and definitely find myself behind the eight ball in a couple of things just as the technology moves so quickly in our field.
Zack Glaser (07:03):
Yeah, I think that’s an important thing to kind of hang on for a second because you’re in the estate planning area. Correct. And I think as a legal tech advisor, I tend to try to be, use as much technology as you can, put people on computers, have them use their phones and everything. But in the estate planning area, you have to be cognizant that not everybody is a digital native. Not everybody is thinking, oh, I want to get my estate planning stuff done online. So being thoughtful, being progressive, being helpful looks a little different. It’s kind of colored a little differently in estate planning in some other places in law.
Rachel Allums (07:44):
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I think that when we talk often in Lawyerist about determining your ideal client, who does that look like? And in estate planning, it’s a slightly unusual because our ideal client does run a spectrum of age, of family makeup of diversity, and so being mindful of how to serve those clients that even when you niche down in estate planning and maybe even into a little bit more detail within it, your client base is going to look very different. So we have to have a system that works across the board and is accessible where we can push most of our clients maybe down one path that makes the job simpler on our end. For some clients, that’s just not going to be a good fit. And so we do really have to make sure that we design a path that’s available for them to get the same level of excellent service, but in a way that meets them where they are. I think that’s really important.
Zack Glaser (08:36):
Okay. Well, let’s talk about some of those things that you’re doing and bring that in because I think that’s we’re the meat of what we’re getting to here. So in your practice, in order to serve some of these clients better, what have you decided to do? What is it that’s kind of setting you a part currently or that you’re proud of right now?
Rachel Allums (08:56):
So I think really what my focus is that I’m the most proud of, and I think I get the best feedback from clients is really just that interpersonal relationship that I build. I really have focused my estate planning work on not only the long-term relationship with the client for their benefit and mine, but educating them, really talking to them at a level that’s understandable so that they know not only have I created what I think is a great estate plan for them, but that it’s their plan and they should understand the care, the feeding, how we’re solving the problem for them. And so to do that, we’ve had to really make sure, again, being able to meet a client where they are requires different things. If I’m meeting with a young family who’s tech savvy, we may not meet in person until we actually are signing documents with a notary.
We may be on Zoom, we may be on the phone, we’re texting. We have all sorts of ways that we’re engaging them in the way that they can meet with us. For my older clients or those who are not tech savvy, they really still want that FaceTime with me, they want in office. I do maintain still a brick and mortar building. We’ve got it nice and lean so that as far as keeping our office nimble, we’re doing so. But we’ve found that for this particular practice that’s important to clients employing things like assisted hearing technology in the office. I had a client come in to have a meeting with me who was 102. And she came in on her own feet, which was phenomenal. Sat down and just smiled pleasantly, but really wasn’t in engaging. And I asked her a direct question and I could tell she just couldn’t hear me.
And so I got out my little pocket talker and I said, Hey, let’s try this. I put it on and her eyes lit up and she said, I can hear you. And we sat side by side and we had a lovely conversation and were able to interact because we had planned ahead for something like this. And she was so appreciative that we took that extra step. We took that time to slow things down and to really make sure her needs were met. So it’s about making sure not only am I coming up with, again, a lean structure for my practice, what kind of software am I employing, getting most people to interact with me in this digital format so that it keeps things streamlined for my staff and keeps our data online. Getting our cloud-based all fantastic, but we have to remember that that doesn’t serve everybody. So again, just kind of looping in these other practice components to just make sure that we can meet those needs. Super important on my end
Zack Glaser (11:23):
And that’s interesting to walk down that path with you on we can serve this young couple who is perfectly savvy with meeting over Zoom and probably willing to do an online notary and all that stuff, but yet you can still serve the 102 year old woman who walks in your office. I think a lot of times when I talk to people, they say, Zach, I’m an estate planning attorney. I’m not going to do the tech stuff. They loop everybody into, I don’t want to say the lowest common denominator because that assumes kind of a level or a value, but they loop everybody into the people that have the least amount of tech savvy and then don’t push forward into technology. But you’ve been able to say, okay, well we’re going to not only use technology there, but you’re using advanced technology for the people who can’t interact with technology. So I think that that’s very neat and speaks to if you do think about this, you can use all of these things. You can advance, you can run lean.
Rachel Allums (12:27):
And I think also when you look at the technology that you’re using, and this is something that’s been important in sort of my evolution of what tools am I using, I’m a Clio user. I’m using now Decision Vault I’ve just brought on board, which is a client facing interface for our collection of information. So as we continue to test and design tools that are going to make things easier on my end, if we can train the clients, even my 102 year old client, she’s not going to get on a computer and maybe her 75 year old daughter that’s helping her with this is not comfortable, well then we’re going to use P worksheets or we’re going to bring them in and we’re going to walk through it with them. But they might have the granddaughter who is right by their side who says, no, no, let’s go ahead and get that kind.
I’ll help you guys. You give me the info. So we have to look at too kind of the family as a whole and estate planning who, who’s on board to support and who’s going to be kind of in the mix as we go. But I think really on our end just seeing can we continue to test products from each of those viewpoints? And I think that’s something that is easy to forget, look at the point of view from this particular age or demographic, disability, et cetera versus this, and can they both interact with this? Could we get a piece of technology that would work better and span more of them? So yeah, I absolutely agree. It’s easy to get into one mindset of this is just the easiest way to do it because all the clients can manage it versus this is how we do 80%, but we need to make sure that 20% we’ve got the best system we can. Right?
Zack Glaser (14:01):
Yeah. So how does your staff deal with that? When I think about like yes, 80%, 60%, I mean, again, even if it’s 60%, if we’re peeling off 60% and putting them in this fast track with the DMV the other day and they said, which one of y’all giant group of people are here to just renew? Okay, we’re going to take all of y’all, put you over here. You’re in a fast track. And it sped all of us up. It was still only probably 60% of the people, but I got through there faster. I wasn’t there to just renew, but we pulled a certain percentage off and just cranked it out. So that’s right, being able to do that, but your staff has to be able to manage the advanced technology and also taking things from a piece of paper. We handed this person a form, they sat down with a clipboard, they filled out their information, and now I’ve got to enter that data. How do you get them on board with that?
Rachel Allums (14:54):
Well, that’s a good question. When you say that implies that there’s significant staff here and there is not. And so I think I’m in the boat that a lot of solopreneurs are. I have been a true solo almost from the inception when I started my practice other than Lawyerist as my backup, it was just me up until a couple of months ago. I am building towards staff, so it is easier because I’m still in that phase of as I’m vetting things, it’s what works for me. But my goal is to hire, and that’s something I’ve been talking with Coach Sarah about preparing. My goal for this year is infrastructure, right? Building out what I need in order to grow the firm. So I’m focused on that foundational piece right now. So I’m fortunate. I have a temporary employee, happens to be my remarkable daughter who just graduated from college, of course, who’s with me temporarily.
This is not her end goal, but I’m able to utilize her right now to help me build out what that staff position looks like and what they’ll be responsible for. So right now, I have the benefit of if I’m trying new things, testing new things, as long as I’m okay with it, for the most part, that’s the only person that has to be satisfied. But having my daughter here, that’s been excellent. And honestly, I recommend this to anybody. If you’re trying to build something out, having someone who really doesn’t have a background in this has been phenomenal because she’s coming at it with an unbiased lens from somebody that’s going to have to pick up and learn this technology, this tool, and of course digital native because she’s 22. So very comfortable and not afraid of trying different technology pieces mean already since she’s been here, we’ve revised our intake process I think three times because we’ve said, okay, this is how we do it.
So we started there, this is what we want to add. I know this will be better. We improved it. Then we found a tool that was even more refined that actually helped. We scrapped the middle, we changed again. So to have somebody there to help me really define what tools work best, and to actually see it as the clients come in has been just mean invaluable. So I think the goal is to build it out so that once I do have more staff hired for these roles, it’s going to be pretty, I’m not asking them to reinvent the wheel, I’m just asking them to implement sort of the plans. So for now, with my single staff in person and myself, it’s actually pretty easy. The buy-in is great because she sees that we’re working toward a vision right now of the client experience that we want to create and that that’s going to take some iterations.
And I think that’s really important. And if you have staff, maybe that is more long-term, people that are more established people that have been doing things one way a long time and get into that mindset of, well, we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way. It’s the way I’m the quickest. It’s the way I know it by the back of my hand. If I learn something new, it’ll slow me down. I think if you’re in that mindset, it is tricky. So I think it’s really important there to look at that client journey. What are you ultimately trying to create? What experience do I want my client to have? Whether they’re that young married couple with little children, that newly retired couple, the elder couple who’s lost a loved one. Now, if I look at each of those journeys coming through my office, what’s the experience I want them to have?
That’s the focus I have to then build my experience because it’s my job to meet those needs. Finding the tools that help me do that efficiently, effectively, fantastic. But ultimately it’s about what does their end look like that that’s my client’s service focus. So I think the fact that my staff member also sees that and she’s on board to say, you know what? That is really tricky for the clients, and I’ve sat with them when they’re confused and answered this question or they call all the time for this one thing, we got to fix that. Right? And that’s why I say having somebody with not as much institutional knowledge about all of this has been really good because she can come to it and go, why are you doing that? That seems weird. Or Well, could you do this? And go, you know what? Yeah, I’m so mired in this one way of thinking even at all my years, I’ve seen it done these ways and I can pick out certain things I don’t want. But then you just start humming along and don’t even think, oh yeah, there’s this slightly better thing. Or she’ll bring a tool to my attention and go, oh, if we just used X, that would take 10 minutes off this process. What you need is kind of that fresh perspective with the eye toward how does this best serve our client?
Zack Glaser (19:18):
Yeah, I hadn’t really put as much value on that fresh perspective as I do on having buy-in on the process from the staff. Sure. So it sounds like you’ve got both of those things. You’ve got, Hey, I want to be a part of building this thing, and as we make it better, it’s better and I want it to be better. So both of you are wanting this thing to be built, but also yeah, you, you’re right. I remember coming into to my father’s office both when I was fresh out of college and kind of doing the same thing your daughter’s doing, and he then eventually convinced me to go to law school six years later. And when I went and joined his office after I got out of law school, it’s just kind of coming in and saying, why are we doing it this way? We literally had a drawer on my right hand side that was a tickler drawer, and we just had right pieces of paper go through. I mean, I’m sure you’re familiar, absolutely. A piece of paper go through that 30 day thing and I’m like, Hey, we have computers now. Dad, look, I have a phone.
Rachel Allums (20:14):
I came up the same way, Zach, the same way I had my tickler box with my little three by five cards and color coded and all that. So to switch that into a case management system, a client relationship manager was mind blowing. To have all this automation was like, whoa. But then to get everybody else on board tricky. So right now I’m coming from that position. You’re talking about that kind of wide-eyed, unbiased viewpoint. When I was running a firm, the attorney and the other staff members all were 20 plus years, my senior and all similarly aged and had been doing this for same amount of time here I come in and say, Hey, I’ve got a new idea. I think we need to change this. I think we need to do that. And in theory they’d say, oh, great, that’s a great idea. But in practice it just two days and it falls off. It’s like that new diet, right? Two days I’m perfect and then suddenly I’m driving through the drive through again, what happened? It’s muscle memory. So I totally get it. It is really hard when you have that ingrained practice to make a shift, even if you know it’s better, even if you believe in it and you can see where it’ll benefit you. So tough to make that shift. It feels overwhelming, right?
Zack Glaser (21:24):
Well, so I think that kind of lends itself to this is all about processes. It’s platform technology agnostic. We’re doing the same things we did 20 years ago, 40 years ago, 60, a hundred years ago. And so it, it’s about the processes and you grew up creating these processes and now kind of saying, okay, well, how can we continue to make them better to do the same things we’ve been doing, but we have technology that can handle that. And so real quick, we have to take a break for our sponsors, but I want to talk to you about some of the things that you’re doing with some new technologies that are related to handling the same processes that we’ve had for a while. So we’ll talk about that on the other side of the break.
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And we’re back. I’m talking with Rachel Allums about processes for lack of pretty much anything else but processes in our offices. And before the break, we were talking about how we’ve done a lot of these practices in law offices, not necessarily the same way, but at the root of them. We’re doing the same things, we’re just putting kind of technology on top of them or the technologies are advancing. And so you’ve got a couple things that you’re doing now in your office that you’re tracking these processes really well and then able to do to serve your clients better, to do more with them. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re setting some of that up?
Rachel Allums (25:07):
Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest thing that I came to my law practice with and that I still see obviously is the limited time of one human and that serving our clients, we want to give them as much as possible of us and give them the benefit and the value of our knowledge, our expertise. That’s what they’re coming to us for. But I’m one human, and so as I started this solo practice, I only have so many hours in the day to give and you quickly start finding that things start falling through the cracks. That’s why we had those little tickler calendars back in the day. Even now, we’ve got great tools. Like I said, I use Clio as my C R m, but it’s about utilizing that tool completely to serve me better so that I can give more of that time. And so that’s what I’ve been really focused on in my buildout of my infrastructure, is really fleshing out what can all of these tools do to help me create a standard product for my clients that they can know what they’re going to expect when they come in the door and I’m going to be able to meet or exceed that expectation for them.
So even just communication, we hear this everywhere. I know we hear it in the CLIA legal trends report. We hear it in CLEs that the biggest complaints that clients have about their attorneys is lack of communication. And while I pride myself on the relationships and the communication, I didn’t have enough time to be following up or keeping track of when did I last check with that client. They’ve been in the wind for three months with their worksheets. They haven’t come back and brought anything in, so we haven’t drafted anything. What do we do? But I wasn’t realizing it because the next person was in the door, the next person was in the door, right? So it was about utilizing these systems and getting them set up in a way that those kind of things were going to happen in a more automated process. So as I brought in my staff, one of the things we focused on was actually building out the system we have for client relationship utilizing the processes where we have automated follow-up triggers where we have automated and systematized client outreach that happens from the inception of the case, from them coming in to the initial reply that we send to schedule their meeting, to sending them a calendar link to sign up for their spot to come in and talk, whatever the case is, we just needed to ensure that that was really cohesive, that it was very clear.
So we started employing each of these pieces. So we started with just text expander using that tool to make sure we had a standardized outreach to the client, a snippet that goes every time that every client will see, but then it was making sure that actually happened and went out to the client. So we started having to build out our system for follow-ups, right? How do we track all of this? And knowing that, again, I only have so many hours in the day and I want to spend that with my clients and giving them that piece, not doing this minutiae in the background. So I had to look at making an investment of time and money to build these systems out. So I hired people that know better than I do that have the time to do this. I’m using Streamline Legal now to build out my client relationship management system, and they’re helping develop the policies and procedures working with us saying What are our needs?
Helping us to design that so that I’m not met with the white wall of what do I write down here? How do I start? They’re coming to us building the backend of our system to the point that now we have a weekly meeting now scheduled for file review. So I go with my staff member each week. We have a chunk of our files. It’s not everything. It’s within an hour. We go through a status update quickly so we can keep tabs. We’ve now created automated triggers within that system that get applied every time we finish one step, we apply the triggers for the next step. They’re already having tasks that are coming up when it’s time to follow up again, and we have the automated reminders. We’re using the text reminders within the system, and clients love this. So doing all of these things frees my mental and physical energy to actually be in that meeting with the client, to be sharing those solutions, to be checking in when I have a client that’s ill that has just lost a loved one, that they can have that relationship that I’m trying to provide.
So using all of these tools is what is allowing us to do that. Building out policies and procedures that are written, documented, even videos that we have that we can make sure that clients can see reiterated information that is coming right from me. And that’s something we’re working on building out now as well, that really I think is going to be useful for both the client and myself in estate planning. As with many other areas of law, we repeat ourselves every day. If you call in and you want to know, do I need a trust? What is probate? I’m going to repeat the same 30 minute piece of information that’s super helpful, totally informative, necessary, but that’s 30 minutes of my time over and over and over again. So creating videos that we now send to the client with their initial consultation link. Here’s the educational piece.
That way when they come in, now I’m focused on them. I’m focused on solving their problem, not explaining how this case law will work. So we’re creating all of those pieces. Now we’re standardizing also our product that we provide to the client, right? Over 20 now, 30 years in this area of law. Yeah, I know what’s really vital for the client. We’ve streamlined what we provide to them. So that product is very easy for us to produce, and we can really focus on the customization and not sort of the boilerplate pieces that are going to be mandatory for everybody to receive. By doing that. Again, we’re cutting our internal time down, but the client gets the benefit of that same excellent product. So it’s really just taking kind of slicing and dicing each piece of what we do. How can we automate components that we can continue to provide the same level of outstanding service, but reduce our actual output on our end? And then how can we continue to make sure that, again, that client journey is very clear, very structured, and we know each step of the way when this happens, then this, right? Yeah, nothing is going to get missed. That’s been hugely important.
Zack Glaser (31:18):
So that’s daunting. I think a lot of attorneys would say, man, I would love that. I would love to have all my processes written down. I would love to be a year into writing my processes down. But when you get started, there’s that blank page. And if you don’t mind me just kind of digging in a little bit, where do you keep track of this? How do you actually track these processes when you do write them down? Because it sounds like what you’re doing, and this is what makes sense to me, is that you have it written down and then you, you’re able to just iterate over those pieces each time and say, okay, well, how can we make this better? How can we make this better? And it’s we’re all going to go into the mountains, take three weeks and rewrite our processes every quarter or something like that. So where are you literally writing this down? What are you using?
Rachel Allums (32:09):
Yeah, that’s a great question. So again, one of the great things this year has been using a service like streamline legal experts who are in this field. Many of them are Lawyerist or have been Lawyerist. So they’re coming at it from that lens that I need, which is the client delivery, and then also from the lawyers’ desk. How is this going to help? They have been instrumental in helping eliminate the blank page because they’re giving me something to start with. They have that historical background of what a good process and procedure looks like, but it’s a lot of detail back and forth with what does my actual practice need? So we’re documenting that we’re actually creating an operations manual from it, and that’s the goal, is to have that built out that can then be shared with future staff. That would be a combination of actual written material, like an actual binder you could open up if the power went out and say, here’s what I need to do.
And then maybe again, some videos that we can come alongside for training new staff members. Another place where we fall short. Oftentimes when we’re employing new folks because of our time, it’s so limited and you sort of throw somebody and you’ve got a desk and we gave you a couple passwords and you know how to do this job, so good luck. Here’s the files. And we don’t sit down and say, listen, this is what’s important to our office. This is the client experience that we want to put out. Here’s how we deliver that, and these are the reasons why each of these components are important. So by having someone kind of assist with that, once they get the ball rolling, it’s easy on our end, just like any other attorney, we’ve seen it. It’s sort of the see one, do one, teach one kind of model.
And once we see it, now we can do it and go, okay, yeah, that makes sense. Now I’m not starting really from a blank square one. So we keep it. We have one local OneDrive file where we keep everything. We’re building out that ops manual a little at a time. Relentless incrementalism has been one of the most important. I think I’m going to tattoo it on my wrist lessons from Lawyerist, at least at shirt or something, right? Because I am one of those looking at my background, if you knew me, I came to the law without going to law school. So I’m a driven person. I’m not afraid to jump in. I like to do things efficiently. I like to get things going. I think I was a repressed visionary for a lot of years. I have been a technician by both assignment by role, and now by running my own firm.
But I think I had all kinds of ideas that were sparking. Well, once I got into my own firm, these ideas were exploding like popcorn and just going and going and going. And my best solution to that was jot ’em on a post-it note and stick ’em on a cubby above my desk. Well, I kept looking up as I’m working and being the technician of my business work, working away as a solo, and I’d look up and there’s all of these Post-Its and these ideas, and it felt overwhelming. Like you were saying, it just felt oppressive. It was worse than a blank page because it was a completely full page of every possible thing I wanted to do and that I needed to do and would make my firm and my life so much better. So each day I would look, and finally I remember getting into a meeting with Coach Sarah and just like heart palpitations, just saying, I mean, I have all the ideas and they’re there and I need to start.
And then every day you start to get a little more paralyzed because it feels like you don’t even know where to begin. So her advice at that point was, listen, why don’t you take all of those stickies off the wall and put them into a book? And then when you go sit down, you need to plan out your quarterly retreat, whatever you need to have a meeting, go through and just organize your ideas and start from there. But whenever you get a new idea, don’t put it where you’re going to just get it out of your head, which was really important. So they’re not all swimming around in there and put it aside and then dedicate the time. I took that to heart. And so as we started this process for this last year of really wanting to shore up the infrastructure, so we’re building toward hiring and expanding, I took all of those.
My daughter and I sat down for a full day, and we took every post-it note, we put everything on actual paper. We started then prioritizing, and we ended up with some groups. We had a group of infrastructure. This would be year one. We had a group of solidifying, you know what we’ve got and making sure we’re serving. And then we had a third column for growing. So we knew then this is all, we’re going to focus on these this year. These ideas are here. They’re not going anywhere. They’re absolutely going to be addressed when we get there. So just even taking that simple step, Zach was a huge breath of relief for me because I could still have these great ideas and know that they were going to impact my firm, but not be overwhelmed by the feeling that I needed to do everything at once.
I had a really wise person counsel me once, and she said, okay, I want you to stand up and maybe if listeners are doing this, if you’re somewhere you’re not in your car and you can stand up where you are and take three steps forward, now take the three steps back to where you began. Now I want you to take your feet and turn your left foot just ever so slightly to the left, right foot to meet it and now take three steps forward. Where do you end up in a totally different place? And this was the slightest little change. So we call that one degree, right? One degree changes. So I had to really adopt that mindset because again, this repressed visionary was suddenly exploding with ideas, but meanwhile still needed to be the technician of her business. So I had to take that step of relentless incrementalism of saying, okay, now that I’ve broken it down, now we’re going to fine tune it even more.
Now let’s take this year and break it into quarters. Let’s prioritize now, take that quarter and break it into the months and into the weeks. Those imperative quarterly meetings that we’re learning now, doing that, implementing that now for two quarters has been life changing really, because we’re able to actually set aside the time that is necessary to look at those ideas, and if we get new ideas or new visions that come along, instead of just plowing them in and saying, oh, well just throw that back in, and they have to go in the list and we have to reprioritize because we only have so much time to give and to get it right, we have to focus on those little one degree changes. So that’s what I’ve been doing with kind of the build out, building the structure. I mean everything from coming up with a pricing menu.
So that’s kind of the standardization of the plans. We are estate planning. We offer basically five different things. It’s a pretty easy menu. There might be an outlier here or there, some a la carte, but pretty much everything is standard. Now. I need a pricing menu. What is the value of my service so I’m not undercutting myself in a meeting? Creating that was a big priority. Creating our standardized retainer, our standardized worksheets, the standardized email that goes out when you first reach out to us to calendar your initial consultation. Each of those has just been one of those little degree revisions that we’ve made that have started to have a huge ripple effect for us.
Zack Glaser (38:50):
Talking about the pricing menu, I remember being in meetings with clients and thinking, how am I going to price this one? And that’s really, I mean, for lack of a better word, it’s a dumb thing for me to have been doing here I am talking with a client or potential client or whatever, and I’m not fully focused on them because I’m thinking about, okay, well how do I this? How do I do that? So just standardizing things like that. You obviously have seen a lot of movement, so obviously you know, are one person, you are making things more efficient for yourself, but are there other things that you’ve been doing that have let you get more effective? I think of that as efficiency, and then I think you’ve been delegating a lot of things, like taking things off of your plate saying, I’m not necessarily the person that has to do this, making it more effective. How have you been handling that?
Rachel Allums (39:46):
That’s huge. And so obviously having to bring on staff that if there’s nobody to delegate it to, that’s problematic. Otherwise, it’s me, myself, and I as usual.
Zack Glaser (39:56):
I’ve delegated to myself many times.
Rachel Allums (39:58):
A hundred percent. So the do it, delegate it, dump it, right? It was always do me doing it, me delegating it, me dumping it, but back to me. So having to hire staff and getting prepared for additional staff, that’s been the biggest piece. And as a solo, that’s always tricky. You got to make sure you got your foundation, you’re comfortable financially that everything is going to work out before you take on responsibility for another person’s livelihood. That’s absolutely a big step, but being able to do that, and that’s been especially tricky for me because of my reverse background coming up as the assistant and as the technician and being responsible for those roles. Quite good at it. I mean, I think, so I’m quite efficient, but it’s keeping me from really investing the time into my clients that I want to give. So I had to really have that, all that realization that I have to let go of some things, and even if I’m quick at them, someone else will get there.
And even if they’re not as fast as I am, they’ve taken those number of things off my plate. That’s 30 more minutes, an hour, two hours that I can invest either in my clients directly with the advice and information only I can provide, or on my business continuing to grow. So I’ve had to really delegate. So again, delegating E, especially the policies, procedures, some of those things, paying someone who’s good at that to get that done. Huge investment, excellent. Taking a ton of pressure off me getting my assistant in place and giving her more and more ability and trusting her to say, listen, she’s a capable young woman. She’s able to do these things given some direction, she can run with it. And she’s proven that to say, well, she comes to me and says, I think I could do this part too. Do you think you could let that go?
I feel like that’s more of a me job. Do you think maybe could you put that on my task list and say, well, absolutely. So to be able to do that, that has really freed me up because again, I want to be able to have more of that inner connectedness with my client. I want to be able to be having that actual phone call with my elder clients. I want to touch base with them, check in on them. I’ve got some that just don’t have a lot of family around. They don’t have a lot of people to count on, and as their counselor in this field want to make sure they’re doing okay, it’s not about additional business, it’s just about making sure that they’re doing all right. So to be able to delegate those duties to people who are well qualified, capable of doing them, been a huge shift for me and to know that although I can do it, I don’t need to do it. I don’t have to do it. Right.
Zack Glaser (42:22):
Yeah. I think that’s somewhere that a lot of attorneys find themselves. I know I found myself there before where it’s, there’s kind of two types of delegation that you talked about there. One is giving something to somebody that does it better, knows more about it. That’s one of those where you go, yep, I’m going to do that. Right? That’s an easy sell. Delegating a task that you’re good at, that you’re going to do faster than most people, you’re certainly going to do faster than anybody you’re going to hire. That’s tough. Recognizing the value of simply getting it off your plate, even though it’s going to take longer, you know, have to pay this person, but you then get to invest that time back into your company. And frankly, please correct me if I’m wrong here, that’s how you find the time to work on your company.
Rachel Allums (43:11):
Exactly. No, you’re exactly right. And I think when you start to realize the importance of that piece, that’s tricky. It’s easy to back burner as long as the wheels are in motion and you’re just getting through the day when you’re a solo especially, that’s all there is. But when you have a vision for growth, I didn’t open my firm because I wanted to own my job, right? I wanted to create a business that had impact and that hopefully will survive me and continue to serve in the way that I believe it can. So to do that is going to require energy and effort and thought and growth and things that maybe aren’t tangible paper product that comes out today that can be billed for X amount, but it’s super important. So to invest in those staff members and that outside support that can come in and take some of those lower level pieces off of my plate to free me up, that’s been huge in giving me the time even to do the things like I talked about, to just sit down and actually categorize all of my ideas, all of these fantastical things so that I can change them from ideas to goals, to tasks, and then that’s what’s going to propel the business forward.
Absolutely. And I think some of it too is tricky. As you said, you’re paying someone, right? But I have to look at that in the same way my clients should look at what they’re getting from me as an investment in the solution to problem that ultimately is going to save me not only financially in the future, but time, energy, headaches down the road. And that’s what I’ve really had to adopt is that same value-based mindset that, and again, I might not be able to do all of it at once. I’ve got to budget, I’ve got to make sure that the bills are paid. But in looking at it in that way, an investment into propelling these things forward has been really, really critical as well.
Zack Glaser (44:58):
I love that. Yeah. Well, we’re coming up on time. We could probably just continue to talk about this for a long time. And I say that a lot, my podcast, I love talking to people, and this has been a fantastic conversation. It’s harken back to me practicing at times as well and practicing with my father, which is a very nice memory. But before you go, what would you say to somebody, because we have people that are listening to this that are in a lot of different points on their path. What would you say to somebody who is starting to think about, okay, I need to stop owning my job and I need to start owning this business. I need to start doing these things, delegating and creating these processes. What’s kind of the first step? What’s the first jump? Yeah.
Rachel Allums (45:41):
Well, I think for me, I started out as a Lawyerist Insider before I ever started my firm. That was something I was looking for guidance right out of the gate to say, obviously somebody’s been here before me. Some people have thought through this process before me. I’m not the first one inventing fire here. So I think that’s one is looking for that support. Whether it’s materials like Lawyerist puts out a coaching program, a mastermind as a solo, especially when you’re looking to grow, it’s so tough to not have anybody to bounce those ideas off of or to tell you, you’re biting off more than you can chew. Or maybe this is a better focus. Just having some perspective. So important. And that’s to me, as a solo, been vital. So whether it’s a staff person that you bring on, like I said, with some new clear vision that can kind of see what’s happening.
And that can be tricky sometimes the dynamic of staff versus the owner entrepreneur, but having those other attorneys around you like-minded, having being a coach that you work with. Those things I think were really instrumental to me because again, it helps me to really hone in and focus on keeping that relentless incrementalism little at a time and making sure that I’m not biting off more than I can chew because that’s not going to get me anywhere but frustrated and paralyzed. Again, I think that’s the biggest piece. Accountability and some direction from somebody that can see it from a different perspective, hugely important. And then secondly, just I think really look at your vision. What is it that you do hope to build for your firm? What’s the impact that you want to have Once you start having that working backwards is easier, right? It’s just like that blank page idea of, okay, I’m, I’ve got this.
Where do I even begin by at least getting the ending point in mind and starting to work back. That’s kind of how I focused on it. That’s going to help me build the structures and then make a little tweak here and there to ultimately get that path clarified. So I’m heading toward that vision. So I think that’s really important. What do you really want out of this? How do you want it to serve your clients and then to serve you and then start kind of putting the pieces in place, but know that there’s no, no really deadline, there’s no artificial time limit. Yeah, I think we all feel this pressure to be at a certain point by a certain time, or we need to snap our fingers and have the firm of our dreams tomorrow. And that’s not the reality for any business that’s ever been built, right? We all see the beginning and we see the end, but we forget that messy middle has taken a long time for all of these other entrepreneurs. We’re no different, but it’s really just, I think, important. So have clarity of vision, have some accountability and support, and then look for those folks who have the skillset to do the pieces that are better left to them rather than to you.
Zack Glaser (48:23):
I don’t think I could say it better. Love it. Awesome. Well, Rachel, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate talking with you about this, and we’ll see you next time.
Rachel Allums (48:32):
Thanks for having me, Zach. I really appreciate it.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
is the Legal Tech Advisor at Lawyerist, where he assists the Lawyerist community in understanding and selecting appropriate technologies for their practices. He also writes product reviews and develops legal technology content helpful to lawyers and law firms. Zack is focused on helping Modern Lawyers find and create solutions to help assist their clients more effectively.
Rachel M. Allums, Esq., is a licensed attorney focused in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration in Poway, California, a suburb of San Diego. Rachel is a solo attorney heading Allums Law, APC. Allums Law helps families, professionals, retirees, and seniors craft customized estate plans that provide control, support their goals, and prepare for life’s transitions. Rachel’s success is based on a five-star client experience. Her affordable flat-rate model pricing, along with the education-focused and empathetic approach to all clients is highly appreciated. Rachel focuses on building long-term relationships as a Primary Care Attorney to be the first call you make when legal challenges arise. Rachel is also a proud volunteer for the San Diego County Bar Association’s Wills for Heroes program and currently serves on the San Diego County Bar Association’s Programs and Education Committee as a member of the Leadership Speaker Series Committee and the Leadership Academy Curriculum Committee.
Last updated July 26th, 2023