In this episode, Stephanie talks with the Student Loan Lawyer, Stanley Tate, about leveraging tech instead of staff and having a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset.
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- . Designing the Life You Want
- . How do you want your life to look?
- . How Stanley Tate delegates his work.
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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
Hi, I’m Jennifer Whigham
And I’m Stephanie Everett. And this is episode 383 of the Lawyerist podcast. Part of the legal talk network. Today I’m talking with Stanley Tate about how he designed his business to live the life of his dreams.
Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionist, Law Pay, and MyCase, he wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support stay tuned. We’ll tell you more about them later on Stephanie, we were just talking about taxes and talking about how we thought this might be a boring subject for the intro, but it’s actually not a boring subject. I think I’m very fascinated by numbers and money and how it works. But what do you think our lawyers are thinking about as tax season closes right now?
Yeah, I mean, a lot of people are probably hearing this. I mean, like I thought I just got through this <laugh> like April. Yeah. April 18th came and went and you know, my thought was for some of us. Yes. We’re probably glad that that part of life is over, but it’s often hard for small businesses. I know for me, like when my CPA calls and is like, Hey, guess what? You owe money or here’s how much you need to be paying in for your next estimated amount. That sometimes can be a very painful conversation if you’re not preparing for it.
Yeah. And preparing for it. What do you mean by that? How do people prepare for it?
Yeah. I think the easiest thing to do quite frankly, is just open up a separate bank account. And every month, you know, 15% is a usually pretty good number that a lot of people recommend. So you could work with your CPA to come up with your exact amount, but you just take like 15% of revenue and just throw it into that tax account and forget about it until your CPA calls you and says, here’s how much you need. And then you go to that account and there it is. And it’s amazing and thoughtless it’s magical. I know.
Yeah. But I think some of, I know people in our community, they, they might see that 15% as impossible because they have all these other accounts and these other things they have to pay. And then that might seem like the thing that they can put off and figure it out later. But I always wonder is that stress worth it. When you get to tax season and you get your taxes done and you get a big bill and then you have to scramble to figure out how to come with it. So even if you don’t do 15%, just something yeah. That you put in there, cuz you might not be able to do 15% right away the first couple years in business. But if you put something away, it’s gonna make it so much easier if you get a bill later.
For sure. I mean, some people say they hate paying taxes. You know, my dad kind of always was taught me like, Hey, if you’re paying taxes, it means you’re making money. So yeah, that’s a good thing, you know, which is a good way to look about, think about your business. Yes. Making money. So I’ll pay my share, but it just get started, put something away to lessen that burden, to know it’s there, your expenses do a weird thing. Like when you kind of, when that money gets outta sight outta mind, you can adjust other expenses. I think.
Yeah. I think so too. And I think that there’s this perfectionist attitude that we see running through everything that people in our community do. And it’s the idea of, I can’t do this exact 15% or if I can’t put exactly what I wanna weigh, I might as well just not do it at all. It’s this all or nothing thing. And maybe that’s a law school thing. Stephanie, you can tell me <laugh>, that’s true or not. I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer, but uh, just put something away and no matter how much you have away, it’s just gonna feel better.
Yeah. Unfortunately like I, I have a friend who’s a lawyer that does tax controversy work and he makes most of his money representing lawyers who can’t pay their taxes. And you see it a lot with contingency fee practices, unfortunately because they have such big swings and they think, well, I’ll have another big hit before tax time comes and I’ll use that money to pay for it. And right. It’s unfortunate, but you just don’t wanna set yourself up in those situations. So just get started. And then when April 18th or 15th, whatever, I don’t know why
I don’t, why did it change this year? I, I don’t have no idea.
I don’t either. I don’t keep up with it, but whatever that magic day comes around, you know, you can be excited and, and joyful and celebrate instead of freaking out. Wouldn’t that be
Lovely snack day party. Yeah. You know, that’s actually a great idea is to take something that is normally onerous and scary and boring and just make a party out of it.
Yeah. You could celebrate it and celebrate the fact that your business made a profit and that you therefore have to pay something to the government. Like that would be, yeah. That’s a, an amazing thing that you should be celebrating. Quite frankly. I love
It. Totally. I do too. Okay. We’re gonna, next year, we’re having a tax day party somehow.
I like it. All right. Here’s my conversation with Stanley.
Hey, I’m Stanley tate student loan lawyer, and I’m happy to hop on Lawyerist and talk with Stephanie here about all things. How I think about my business and tech and student loans.
Hey Stanley, I’m so excited to talk with you today. I mean, I guess to kick us off, maybe tell us a little bit about your practice and you and those kind of things.
Yeah. Uh, well, Stanley Tate, uh, I am a lawyer that I designed my practice to help people solve student long problems. And I came to that because I was like looking for something that allowed me to work remotely and to do paperwork. I, I realized pretty early on. I didn’t like going to the cattle call of sitting on a docket for anything. So I wanted something that gave me that type of flexibility. But before I even got here, um, from south side of Chicago Cubs fando, which is always weird for people. And then, uh, beyond that, the military veteran deployed Iraq came into law later on in life. I was 30 by the time I started this journey.
Yeah. Uh, so much I wanna dig into, I guess, let me just take a quick side note because, because you actually help people with student loan debt as your practice. I suspect that we may have some people that would be upset if I didn’t ask you like, Hey, what’s going on with student loans in the world right now. And is there anything pressing we should know because we’re all struggling with our own debt.
Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of things happening right now. Um, but the general tenor of the conversation is, um, especially from progressives, is the Biden administration going to do any type of massive widespread blanket cancellation for borrowers. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think what we’ve seen from this administration is going to be cleaning up existing federal student loan forgiveness programs and trying to make those work and holding off on any type of blanket cancellation. And I, I just think that’s a long shot because you not only do you have to get Democrats, even the modern ones, but you also have to get Republicans on board as well. And oh, he can do it by executive order. I just don’t see president Biden using his chips that way. I think it’s more likely that we’re gonna continue to see the fixing of existing programs that as we’ve seen with public service loan forgiveness, or just last week, fixing income driven repayment plan forgiveness so that they track it better and get people credit towards their 20 to 25 years forgiveness. I see that happening also maybe, um, there’s some talk inside of bankruptcy circles with changing the bankruptcy code to make student loans dischargeable after a certain period of time likely going to be around 10 years.
Okay. But for now we should just keep paying our loans.
<laugh> I think, I think you should keep track of the news as far as federal student loans. Cause the moratorium got kicked out until September and then for private student loan borrow, none of this really applies to you. So like whatever.
Yeah. I know. All right. Well, thanks for covering that. But what I really wanna talk to you about today is your law firm, your practice, because, and you’ve already really even mentioned this in your intro of yourself, you have really been very thoughtful in designing a firm that lets you live the life you want. And so tell me more about that.
So at the time that I was starting a firm, I was engaged soon to be married to a woman who was well, she is a medical doctor was, uh, pursuing cardiology’s fellowship. And I realized like if we were to ever try to have a family, there’s no way both of us can be 80 hour week people. It’s just not gonna work. So I was like, Hey, I need to find something that allows me to be flexible in my schedule. So I can be the one doing the errands, things like that because her job comes with its own mandate. So let me see if I can find something more flexible. And I started off in consumer bankruptcy and that was cool. But then I realized it was, it was like a race to the bottom. As far as pricing goes, there’s really not a way to distinguish yourself inside of that niche.
The way you get your money is in volume. It’s not because you are the very best bankruptcy lawyer for consumers. The system doesn’t reward you for that. There’s not a great difference between the Cola products, basically they’re everyone’s selling Cola. So I had to find something that worked for me. And, um, there was a lawyer window shirt come forever grateful to him. He was like, Hey, we need someone that understands student loans. And I didn’t even know it was a thing at the time, right? It was just dead, right? We’re talking like this is 20 13, 14. He’s having this conversation with me. Then I looked into it and I was like, oh, this is a problem. And it’s, it’s complex enough where it gives me enough interest. But more importantly, I realized pretty quickly it’s paperwork. And it’s understanding how all of these processes work together. And I didn’t have to go to court. I could work from wherever I wanted to and I could help a broad base of people and not have to be pull myself out of this just general. Can’t distinguish yourself. No, I sub niche down. And now I’m the guy that solves these student loan problems for bankruptcy and to solve them. So let me be the one that solves them.
Yeah. And I love that approach that you took because so often we get the advice, oh, what do you love doing? What interests you? You know, if you love going to court, you, you wanna, you should have a litigation practice, but you sort of said, well, I want a job that gives me flexibility. And so which practice areas allow me to do that. And that is so smart.
Yeah. I, I mean, I don’t love law. Like, like <laugh>, I didn’t go to law school cause I loved it. I, I went to law school cuz I was like, how the hell do I make money in a way that’s like pretty simple and straightforward. And I was balancing medical school or law school. And I was like, man, I’m not going to medical school. That’s like eight years outta my life. I’m just gonna go to law school and we’ll figure it out. And it’s the best decision I made as far as myself. Because like having the law degree is basically like a cheat code. Like it’s, to me, it’s better than an MBA cuz like people look at you and they assume you’re smarter than what you actually are. They’re like, oh he’s a lawyer. Right? And so it gives you authority to do something. And it also gives you a license to print money. Because like, if you think about it, what does it take once you have your law degree to start your own law practice, all you really need is a phone and the ability for someone to contact you and do from there, oh you need to print something. You can go to a public library print. So like the, the cost of opening a business, once you have a law degree were quite low and I was like, oh, this makes sense to me. Let’s do this.
Yeah. So tell me, what do you think have been the biggest game changers for you and how you’ve thought about building and growing your practice?
The biggest game changer for me has actually been thinking about how I want my life to look like. So starting from the end goal and then working backwards from there, but inside of the practice itself, one of the biggest game changers was giving myself permission to be myself. What I mean by that is a lot of times we, we have this persona of what we assume a lawyer is supposed to be and how they’re supposed to communicate. And we lose ourselves inside of that persona. And we don’t give ourselves permission to just be our, our best authentic selves and show up and let people choose from there. So I could tell you, like once I decided that look, I’m just gonna be the familial colloquial version of me and that’s gonna work for some people and it’s not gonna work for some people. And I’m okay with that. That just gave me peace showing up every day. Cuz I get to show up as me and that’s. Okay.
Yeah. And I think when, when you and I talked about this before too, you sort of approach life in your business with an idea of a growth mindset versus like a fixed mindset.
Yeah. Um, I guess tell me more, how do you think about growth mindset?
Well, it’s sometimes easier to go the other way. Right? Like the fixed mindset. People think there’s only a limited amount of resources in the world. So I must say yes to whatever comes my way. And what you just said is look, I can be my true, authentic self and there will be enough. There are enough people out there that love Stanley Tate just as he is and are gonna say yes to working with you and you’re gonna be great.
Yeah. No and I, I totally agree with that. There’s um, it was this article I read by this dude. He used to own CD baby, like the digital CDs. And he was talking about this idea of feeling securing your business. And when you feel secure in your business, it allows you to be generous and then it allows for greater opportunities to come your way. So if you feel secure that more business is going to come to you. It allows you this freedom inside of yourself. So you’re not operating from a position of hunger where you always have to say yes to something, right? Like I truly believe that if I am who I am supposed to be, there will be someone else out there that wants to work with this type of dude. And what I’ve found is like the clients who reach out to me, the visitors to my website, they reach out to me the big reason beside that I’m solving their problem.
The internet is that they feel like there’s someone they know they can trust. There’s this integrity inside of it. And I tell ’em like right off the bat, look, if you want someone to like be at you, don’t come to me. I’m going to shoot everything to you straight. I’m going to interrupt you. I, you may think I’m rude. I’m not trying to be an, but we have a limited amount of time together. I don’t care about all this other stuff happening in your life. You want to answer, we need to get right there. And people show up in her like, yes dude. Exactly. And like once I gave myself permission to do that, I just leaned into it even further, like on my newsletter. Um, we added in there, um, a section for people to buy me a shot of bourbon through like buy me a cup of coffee.
And for me, I didn’t want a cup of coffee. I wanted a shot of bourbon. Right. Cause this is what I love. And there’s so many people that like now they send me bottles of bourbon or they send me recommendations to get this bottle, that bottle. And we’re having this connection across a very like digital divide. And that’s interesting me because I, I think we often struggle with how do we connect with people in this internet environment, but then also maintain our professional boundaries where we are. We’re not friends, but we are someone working together to try to solve problems. And that’s worked for me is just showing up as myself.
Yeah. And I gotta compliment you. You do a good job on your website. I send people to your site all the time as an example, because you’re using the video ask tool to really allow people to get to know you and ask you questions in a really fun way.
Yeah. And, and that tool was tremendous. And it was like, that’s part of that like problem solving mindset is that we’re going through, uh, a site revision. And I didn’t like the hero section that we had. It was just a static image or it was like a looping video. And I was like, these all suck. They all look the same. And then I came across video ask and at the time it was being used primarily as a way to do like post call sales or something like that, or like a part of a sales pipeline. And I was like, well it has conditional logic like Typeform does. Why can’t I just do it as a, choose your own adventure type way to answer questions. And so that’s what I decided to do. And literal did. I know like the way I was doing was like revolutionary inside of it, but like, it was just trying to problem solve for thing. And I also recognize having that video there in that choose your own format, allows people to get familiar with who you are, how you communicate, what your voice is like. And by the time they talk to you and they get on the phone, they basically feel like they know you you’ve warmed them up in that process. And they’re many times they’re ready to hire you.
Yeah. And so if you’re not familiar with this and we’ll put your website link in the show notes, somebody can go to your website and a video of you pops up and you’re kind of like, Hey, what’s happening? Like what are you here for? Uh, I don’t have the video memorize, but then somebody can click on, well, I have this question or I have this question. And then that takes them through a series of little videos with you where they get to eventually I suspect a, like a consultation type call with you.
Yeah, exactly. It like, cause I started off with like the chat bots and all that stuff. But like the thing you realized about the chat bots at a certain point, you have to respond to this stuff. And it is a lot as a team of one. Like I I’ve been a solo as one person banned until the last like few months. And so there’s no way with the type of volume that, um, site traffic that my sites gets that I could respond to all of those chats. Like it was losing my mind. I was like, this isn’t gonna work. And that has, that gave me permission to say, we need to figure about, think about this differently. How do we do this? And that’s always been a response. Like even that whole, like the phone calls will get in people like, oh, you need to hire like, uh, these other virtual services.
And I was like, they’re cool. But unfortunately with the type of work that I do, I don’t know that these phone services can do a great job of filtering for me to get me the information I need. So it’s kind of a waste. But then I had to look and say, why do I even need to answer the phone to begin with? Why can’t I just put everyone to voicemail and be willing to return those calls or on the voicemail, tell ’em, Hey, if you wanna get in contact with me, go ahead and schedule a call through the website or shoot me an email. And that way I’m filtering down how I’m communicating with people, but also giving them clear expectations of what’s going to happen if they go option a, B or C.
Mm. And so that works for you. So you don’t have dude,
I emails don’t I don’t answer the phone at all. Like during the week everything goes to voicemail or I get text messages and I just respond to those through, um, the service I use now Dialpad. But yeah, I’m not on the phone unless I’m calling people during our scheduled times for our initial session together.
Makes sense. I love it. All right. We gotta take a quick break. We gotta hear from our sponsors when we come back, let’s figure out some more cool stuff you’re doing.
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All right, we are back. And I know you’ve been so intentional with how you delegate and get things off your plate. I mean that last one was a, probably a good example that you’re like, why can’t things just go to voicemail. There’s probably a lot of people who are freaking out right now, just thinking about that, but I guess it’s working for you. What are some other things that you think you’re doing that that would probably feel pretty different to other lawyers?
<laugh> that’s a, that’s a, that’s a tough question. Um, what, what people are shocked at aside from like the not taking phone calls, right. And to be clear, I don’t talk to courts all that often and opposing counsel were always emailing each other anyways. Um, so the vast majority of people who are calling me are cold leads than looking for help. So I, I, I just made that decision. But beyond that, like it’s about outsourcing all the things in your life that you can, that you don’t want to do for me. I realize like I have a shopping addiction at one o’clock in the morning on Instagram or on Amazon or on TikTok, really? Because you’re like, what? You could do that with that, what, but then you get this BS and it shows up to your house and you’re like, I need to return all this.
And then now you have all these brown boxes piling up and you’re missing your return window. And now you’re stuck with this crap that you didn’t even really want to begin with. It was just late at night when you bought it. So when I, I looked at it, I was talking to my friend, she was like, yo, you just need to hire a Tasker. And I was like a what? And she was like, yo, just gonna task rather and hire someone and then return all this stuff for you. And I was like, all right, cool. So I did it, it was like 20 bucks. And then the mental clarity I had from seeing those boxes gone and wasn’t the person doing it. It was so rewarding. So like now it’s like, oh, I’m donating stuff to Goodwill. Instead of riding, packing up that bag, you’ve decluttered your closets. You’ve got your, your, your know your, um, Marie condo on, and now you have this garbage bag in your car for the next three months. Cuz you never drop it off. Yes. Yeah. Not doing that no more. <laugh>
It’s in my car right now. Yeah. I gotta
Not doing that. <laugh> I will go on TaskRabbit, hire this dude, Shane cuz you can end up working with the same people over and over again. Yo here’s your $25. Come get this, go, drop it off. Thank you, sir. Work it to me every time. And so it’s outsourcing those types of things and figuring out what is it that I actually enjoy doing. And then also as I think more about how I’m scaling my business, what are the things I can fire myself from and still get a reasonable result on versus what are the things I have to do myself? Because those are the greatest value drivers for my business. And those are interesting questions about what is it that you’re willing to give up in order to scale?
Yeah. I love that. And so do you just have the self discipline to step back and ask those questions?
Hell no. <laugh> hell no, I don’t have the self discipline, but you do. We, we try to be our best selves. Like whatever our best ideal life self is. What I, what I have done is I’ve also looked at my calendar, how I go about things. And I used to be like a take vacation once a year. Then last year I, I experimented with okay, every six weeks I’m going to take a week off. And that was great. And during that week I would think about my business where we’re headed. But then I realized, yo, I don’t like waiting until week seven for this to come up for my vacation. And now this year I’ve been like, okay, I work three days this week, next week I work five. And so we alternate like that. So it’s like I take, uh, four day weekends every other week and that’s been pretty cool.
Just like having that opportunity to step back and say, take relief of where you’re at play video games some days. And then other days look and say, okay, where am I headed at? What can I be doing better? Or all those courses that I signed up for that are supposed to be learning from, but I never had the time for I’d make time for those during that four day week. I just go ahead and sit there and take that course and learn from this person and continue to coach my, get coaching on what it is I need to grow and develop, not just as a business, but as a person as well.
Hmm. That’s awesome. I just wanna applaud you and yeah, I know so many people are hearing that right now and thinking three days a week, every other week, I could never do that.
And that’s a question like, um, I was watching the Z and sorry, stand up. And he said, he was like, oh, I was talking to Frank ocean about like, how does he have so much peace in his life? And Frank says, earn less. And the Z looked and was like, what the? Like why would I do that? And there, but there is a question about, there are diminishing returns on a constant chase of like more, when is enough for you. And so you have to balance that question about like, um, with where you are in life and yes, there’s work, but work is always gonna be there. And then also what things can you just get rid of? And for me, I was thankful that I had someone that came along was like, Hey, how can I help you? And it’s been working out where like I offloaded some of the administrative tasks that this person that didn’t need to do.
And it freed my schedule up or oh, video editing. I don’t wanna edit my videos anymore. Let me hire someone to do that. And of course you have to have the pool resources to do it, but then you have to question like, what are your price and structures? Like, are you getting the full value for the services that you’re at providing or you out here being a sympathetic heart to people and you’re undercharging yourself and now you’re frustrated with the work and you’re stuck in this loop. And that’s where I talk when I hear lawyers and they’re just looking at themselves as a lawyer and I’m like, no, dude, you’re a business owner. You have to think about yourself as a business owner first and go from there.
Yeah. And it all comes back to where we started, which is you have really taken this idea of, of you told me you’re gonna design the life you want. Not just the job you have.
Yeah. I, I think that’s so important cuz like the job is like whatever, cuz like right now, like I do student loan loaners, all types of changes going on and I’m a little bit frantic about what may happen. But then I trust myself that no, the skills that I’ve learned in doing this job and are transferable to so many other things. So the question is just how do I use these skills in order to further and achieve the life that I want? Because that, at the end of the day, when I, I was telling people at, uh, ABA tech show, when I did my, uh, speak in my talk there, what matters to me is that when I die, like my tombstone reads like here lies a good dude. And so like how do I go about achieving that? And that has so little to do with me being a lawyer and has so much more to do with who I am as a person. And so let’s worry about those things and all this other stuff has sorted itself out.
I don’t think there’s much else to say after that. That was perfect. <laugh> I think you’re getting there. Cool dude. I love it. Stanley. Thanks for coming on with me today.
Oh no. Thank you for having me Stephanie. I appreciate being here. Oh, there is one thing I wanna share with every lawyer that operates in an online space and it has like a website. You have to look at your website as an employee, if not, what are you doing with it? And what I mean by that is you pay your employees a salary every single year. Like there’s so many of you who are frustrated with the results you’re getting from the website, but you haven’t reinvested back in the design of it, the content for it, all these other things that help make this employee go. And if you’re not getting results you want, I tell you, you may not be investing enough in your employee. And that’s what my website is to me. It is an employee. It drives leads to my business every single day. So I encourage all of you out there that are looking to drive, um, organic traffic that you have to reinvest inside of your Nu your, your main employee, which is your website.
Perfect. I love that. That’s awesome. Any other Sage wisdom?
<laugh> uh, Nope. There’s
Probably so much.
No, no Sage wisdom. That’s all I got other than, um, I’m getting excited to watch these warriors make this playoff run right now. That’s that’s that’s huge for me.
All right. I’m so excited. We got to hang out and chat today and I’m sure we’re gonna have you back cuz I know there’s more in there outta your brain. We can get out.
I look forward to the opportunity I’m um, thank you for having me today. And I look forward to, um, participating in the future.
Announcer 1 (29:59):
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 lawyeristbackup.kinsta.cloud/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, right for you. Head to lawyeristbackup.kinsta.cloud/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.
Stephanie Everett is the CEO of Lawyerist, where she leads the Lawyerist Lab program and our Partnerships team. She is the co-author of the bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap Revisited and host of The Lawyerist Podcast. Stephanie inspires growth in her team, her family, and her community.
Jennifer Whigham is the Community Director at Lawyerist where she coordinates Lawyerist Lab. She’s the behind-the-scenes stage manager of the program, where she facilitates Lab content, coaching staff, and events (including the annual LabCon conference). She is our team's Animal Ambassador and outside of Lawyerist, she’s the co-owner of a nonprofit music lesson studio.
Last updated March 21st, 2023