Episode Notes

Stephanie talks with law firm owner and Lawyerist Lab member Allison Harrison about why the job of managing your business is never done and how to navigate the endless opportunities. Bonus: Get inspired with some creative way to describe team roles.

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  • 9:10. Push through and evolve
  • 14:05. Knowing where to go next
  • 17:15. Lessons in hiring



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 


Stephanie Everett (00:34): 

Hi, I’m Stephanie Everett. 


Zack Glaser (00:36): 

And I’m Zack Glaser. And this is episode 478 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Stephanie talks with Allison Harrison about overcoming team turnover and embracing change. 


Stephanie Everett (00:49): 

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual ReceptionistsNetDocuments  & LawPay. We wouldn’t be able to do our show without their support, so stay tuned because we’re going to tell you more about them in just a few minutes. 


Zack Glaser (01:00): 

So Stephanie, we’re kind of coming into the, I guess tail end of the year, November 30th, and we’re going into December. I think people start thinking about what they accomplished this year around this time, but more importantly, what they want to accomplish in the new year. Lawyerist always has some sort of thing that helps people do that, and I know that you’ve got something new up your sleeve this year. What’s the offering? How are we helping people? 


Stephanie Everett (01:28): 

So this is really designed for law firm owners that have a team. So I’d say you need to have at least one employee and you should be generating $500,000 or more in annual revenue. And if that feels like you, then I want to offer you a chance for me to work with you one-on-one in the month of December in January to build out your 2024 goals and your financial projections. We’re going to use this amazing financial spreadsheet tool that we’ve built that honestly, that alone is probably worth five grand. We’re going to help you do this because I know that a lot of times you get stuck on your goals in this project because of, I don’t know, stress and fear and just general procrastination. It’s going to be hard. So by doing this with me alongside you, you’re going to get it done and you’re going to be able to start your year with really clear goals and a plan for how to exceed those goals. 


Zack Glaser (02:25): 

Fantastic. Well, where should somebody that’s interested in this go to? Where do we have this on the website or anywhere else? 


Stephanie Everett (02:33): 

To be honest, it’s not quite up on the site as we record this. So the best thing for folks to do is reach out to me individually. Just send me an email stephanie at lawyerist.com lawyer I S T.com, and I’m E-P-H-A-N-I-E and let know that you’re interested in it. There is going to be a fee associated with it, but it’s going to be well worth it and I’ll tell you how it’s going to work. Answer your questions and we can get you set up. 


Zack Glaser (03:02): 

Fantastic. So connect with you and then connect more with you. That’s a heck of a deal. Well, so now here is Stephanie’s conversation with Allison. 


Allison Harrison (03:17): 

I’m Allison. I’m the CEO of ALH Law Group. Our firm loves to find ways to automate and maximize efficiencies while still providing high-touch representation to our clients, business, litigation, estate planning, and I love technology. 


Stephanie Everett (03:30): 

Awesome. Well, welcome back to the show. Some people may remember that you were on before, and I think when you came on a couple of years ago, you were talking about hiring. Does that sound about right? 


Allison Harrison (03:40): 

Sure. Yeah. 


Stephanie Everett (03:42): 

So bring us up to speed. What’s changed since that time? 


Allison Harrison (03:45): 

I think between the time we recorded it and the time it aired, everyone in my team had turned over. Either I let one person go and then two other people found better opportunities. So I had the opportunity myself to revamp and start from scratch, which was really nice. I feel like we’re a much stronger, happier firm and do better things now. 


Stephanie Everett (04:06): 

Yeah, I mean before we hit record, we were really talking about how in a lot of ways your firm has evolved over the past couple of years, and I think as your business coach I can say I think I’ve seen that in a lot of different ways. And so when I say that, say that your firm’s evolved, what do you think about that? 


Allison Harrison (04:25): 

It’s so true. It’s evolved in the practice areas and the way that we approach it in just the camaraderie of our team. I think we have got one of the best cultures. We have a team meeting once a week and sometimes it sounds like a therapy session and other times it’s really tackling things within the firm that aren’t working. And right after that exodus of everyone, I stopped doing collections because I didn’t enjoy it, and that’s the best decision I made. And so yeah, it’s been really good. We’re just able to implement new technology and broaden the reach of services we can provide. 


Stephanie Everett (04:58): 

So I don’t want all this to get lost in what you just said. So is it fair to say that in the last year and a half you essentially lost your entire team? You had to sort of start over when it came to your team? 


Allison Harrison (05:11): 

Yeah, it was I think February of twenty-one. Everyone on my team except for one person who at the time just worked five to seven hours a week. Either I let go or they moved on to other opportunities. And so yeah, it was a two-week period where everyone who was physically in my office was no longer in my office. 


Stephanie Everett (05:30): 

Yeah, what was that like losing? Sounds pretty scary. 


Allison Harrison (05:37): 

It was for a minute, and then I took my week or two to have my panic attacks and cry a little bit, and then I just said, great, I get to start all over. I get to build a new culture. I can build out this differently. It was super helpful to have lawyers behind me because we talked about how do I hire remotely? Because in 2021, you couldn’t hire anyone because the market was just insane. And so I was like, okay, I want to hire the best person. I don’t care where they’re physically located. And that was incredible. I had been able to build a much better team once I was able to have my breakdown and move forward. 


Stephanie Everett (06:15): 

Yeah. I also distinctly recall you coming to me and really realizing that the thing you had always wanted to build in your business, you had this realization that you were sort of there. You had done it. 


Allison Harrison (06:29): 

Yeah. I look back at the three or five-year vision, whatever I built when I joined lawyer rest, and I was like, yeah, check, check, check. There was one thing I hadn’t checked off the box, and then that was my crisis starting this year was how do I think bigger? All of the ideas I have, they’re great. I can accomplish ’em in a quarter now. And so it’s like, okay, what’s the big idea? How do I keep making my firm better, providing better client services? 


Stephanie Everett (06:54): 

And it occurs to me that a little bit of the theme here is that our businesses are always evolving, changing, presenting us with new opportunities. And sometimes just when we think we have it figured out, that’s when the big thing comes in. It’s like, just kidding. You get this new challenge or opportunity as we like to say. 


Allison Harrison (07:15): 

It’s very, very true. We were running very well this year and we put a lot of new marketing ideas out there and they worked incredibly well. At the same time, I had someone go out on maternity leave, and so that was just chaos because everything was working. And then my challenge was, I can’t imagine making the decision is that person decided not to come back. They want to stay at home and be a mom, which is incredible. I’m glad. But it was really tough for us because we’re just like, ah, we’ve got all this work. We’ve worked through it. It’s been, I think three and a half months we’ve gone without an extra team member. My team’s tired and we’re hiring again now, but we were able to manage through it because we had processes in place and an amazing team. 


Stephanie Everett (08:02): 

I think it’s helpful for people to hear because sometimes to me, when I was running my own practice, when I had my own firm, it often felt very lonely. And I think I would encounter these kind of challenges and I just didn’t have anyone to share them with or I didn’t know that, hey, this is something that actually happens all the time to people and it’s not, you’re not failing. You’re simply encountering new challenges with your business. And so I just want to say I really appreciate you sharing some of these challenges with us and with our audience because I do think it’s important for people to hear it’s not just you. 


Allison Harrison (08:41): 

Yeah, I mean it happens I think to everyone at some point. It’s not a matter of when or if it’s it’s going to happen. And so just having something built out so you’re prepared for it and a good system. I’ve gone to more conferences this year than I ever have, and it’s been incredible because I know people there and so I can say like, Hey, have you run into this? What did you do? And get some really good ideas. So that’s been another helping tool. So it’s not all on my wife who hears about it nonstop. 


Stephanie Everett (09:10): 

Yeah. So looking back, when you think about what it was that was allow you to push through and to keep evolving your business, I mean, you mentioned systems, but what does that mean in real life. 


Allison Harrison (09:23): 

Well, the first thing that allowed me to push through is I had a breakdown and I was like, I don’t know if I can do this. And my wife looked at me and said, Allison, you’re unemployable. So figure it out because you are too independent to work for someone else. So just also having that motivation helped a lot. When we talk about systems though, it’s one written policies and procedures, but two, for us, that means how are we communicating? I know that right now you can’t book on my calendar for three weeks. And so the system is we work with my admin, sorry, chief communicator, and she communicates that to the client, Hey, we don’t have that. We’ll put you on a backup list. And so we’ve kind of created this backup list. We can call you quicker if someone doesn’t show up to an appointment. 



The other thing is technology. We now switched to Gavel, so a lot of the things we can send questionnaires out to our clients, we don’t have to do it. They don’t have to handwrite it. It reduces our spelling errors and it increases our accuracy because we’re having the client write down the information that we need to help them. And that builds into some automation as well that lets us do some of the simpler forms without we review them, but we don’t have to do the initial first draft. And so having that built out as well has helped quite a bit. And I think on the marketing piece, we kind of have a marketing plan. We know how many videos we have to record and chat Gpt has been helpful too, and coming up with some of the plan and spotting some of the holes in our plan, what are we missing here? That’s been a huge help. 


Stephanie Everett (10:51): 

I love, I mean appreciate all the systems you just listed, but I love that the first was the support system of someone who was willing to tell you, you’re not quitting today. 


Allison Harrison (11:03): 



Stephanie Everett (11:05): 

I think we forget that we need that sometimes, that you need that person who in your life who’s willing to kind of hold that mirror up for you or give you the kick in the butt that you need and be like, you’ve got this and you’re going to get through it. 


Allison Harrison (11:18): 

A hundred percent. I mean that’s what I had when I started my firm. I remember I got let go from my prior firm and I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do. And my dad said, you’ve always been made to run your own business. You can do it. And so that got me started and then my wife coming in, I think, what, five years later or no, gosh, eight years later and kind of saying the same thing, you’ve got this figured out was really helpful. 


Stephanie Everett (11:41): 

Yeah. Awesome. Alright, let’s take a quick break to hear from our sponsors. 


Zack Glaser: 

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Stephanie Everett (14:05): 

I am back with Allison talking about all the different ways that really she’s had to evolve her business over the past couple of years. As I think it’s fair to say you’ve learned more about yourself, about what you want from your business. I mean that came and that you changed your practice area completely in order to set up a firm that allowed you to do what you want to do. For those people who are listening, how did you know that that was the inflection point where you were and where you needed to go next? 


Allison Harrison (14:35): 

I had done collections for years. I started out doing that and when I was talking at, I think it was a lab or a call for lawyers, I can’t remember, and they’re like, do you even enjoy doing collections? I was like, no. Someone was like, then why are you doing it? And I was like, oh yeah. And so that’s kind of what got me out of doing that piece of my business, which I realized I was breaking even. I wasn’t profitable and I had an opportunity two years ago to look at buying a firm that just did estate planning at the time. I did it for existing clients, but I didn’t advertise it and I had an epiphany. I was like, I can do this. I don’t need to spend money to buy a firm. I can implement so much of this with my team, with my technology. 



And it’s been a game changer. We still do business litigation, which I enjoy, but after a while the adversarial nature of it gets exhausting. And so the estate planning has been this nice positive, happy piece of it. Our clients come in, they’re like, I want to do this thing. And we’re like, we did it. Here you go. And we celebrate. If you come in and sign an estate plan with us now we celebrate with a tiny bottle of champagne or a cupcake because you did a thing on your to-do list and we think that deserves a little extra recognition. 


Stephanie Everett (15:50): 

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of lawyers out there that we talk to that actually don’t love their practice area most days, but it feels really scary and intimidating to make a switch like that. 


Allison Harrison (16:03): 

It’s not though because you’ll come across so much more genuine. At least I shouldn’t, I don’t want to, should anyone, right? But for me, I found I can come across much more genuine about it than I can collections. There was nothing looking back that I was like, yeah, I love yelling at people to pay us. It’s not exactly my thought process, but I really do love helping people have a plan. At the same time that I was switching these practice areas, I also lost my grandma and my mom. And so the estate planning piece, I was like, oh, this is really impactful to have a plan for your loved ones and to know what they want. And so just having those personal experiences allows me to be more genuine when I’m talking with clients about it. I don’t know. I think if you’ve got a personal connection or passion to the practice area, your clients will feel it. Yeah, 


Stephanie Everett (16:58): 

Makes sense. To me. That resonates. I want to dig in a little bit more too on the hiring lessons that you learned because you were sharing with me that you really did also evolve the way that you hired and how you brought on teams. So what kind of lessons were you learning there? 


Allison Harrison (17:15): 

I feel like I continue to learn these every time I make an offer, whether or not it’s accepted, but I think one is having a policy. What are you going to do? Where are you going to look for your hires? And then what’s the interview process? And for us, I’ve hired folks before that are not super technologically savvy, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. They know how to use Word and excel, but we’re using a password manager and we’re using some tools that help automate and things, and those are just above what they were comfortable with. And I realized that’s just too important. And so for us having a tech assessment to figure out whether or not you’re going to be able to pick up the technology, you don’t have to know it. You just have to have the capacity to learn it pretty quickly. And so having some of those things which reflect back to our core values by the way, built into your hiring process, I think is a huge game changer. 


Stephanie Everett (18:08): 

You also told me that you had to bring in some outside help in terms of the actual interview process. 


Allison Harrison (18:15): 

Yes. When I was doing my hiring after the great exodus of twenty-twenty-one, I knew that I was strong at certain things but not others. And my wife is the yin to my yang. She’s the opposite in so many ways. And so I got two candidates that I thought were fantastic, and I had her interview both, and I’m like, you tell me which one I’m going to hire because she knew the things that frustrate me, the things that I’m not the strongest at, and that was huge. I made a really great hire after having her interview. So I recommend if someone knows what you don’t bring them in for a hiring interview. 


Stephanie Everett (18:48): 

I love that I’ve given that same advice because naturally we tend to hire people who are like us. That’s just something we do. We look for those qualities in people, and we naturally tend to gravitate towards those people. So if you know where you’re weak and one of your friends that’s actually their strong suits or someone that whoever your spouse, your partner, have that person do the interview, the opposite of you, because then you’ll be able to find that person that compliments you. They also naturally will gravitate towards the person like them. So it makes so much sense to me. I think it’s a great reminder. 


Allison Harrison (19:25): 

Yeah. It’s funny, I just had this conversation today. We’re trying to hire someone to add to our team, too busy. And my marketing chief storyteller and I were talking and the candidate, great candidate, but is not like us, which is bold, outgoing. We just had a conversation. We don’t always need that. We need someone else who may be a little bit quieter and reserved, but can get stuff done. Yeah. 


Stephanie Everett (19:48): 

You’ve dropped a few now. We probably should just, I should dig in. So you clearly have come up with very interesting titles, different titles for your team, and so will you share those with us? 


Allison Harrison (20:00): 

Yeah, so we were at a team meeting and I was calling, her name is Winnie, and I said, she’s my admin. And I was like, I stopped the meeting. I said, this is garbage. You do so much more than being an admin. Can we have some come up with a new title for you? And so she had a great time doing it, as did she was my chief marketing officer. Now chief storyteller. So my admin is now the tech whisperer and chief communicator because she truly does. Anyone who has a tech problem, Winnie can fix it. And then Kristen is my chief storyteller because that’s really what she’s doing on social media is building our story. Yes, I don’t have a fun title yet, but. 


Stephanie Everett (20:40): 

I know you need a fun title. 


Allison Harrison (20:42): 

Maybe that’ll be the theme of tomorrow’s team meeting because we are taking a break because I said we’re overwhelmed. We’re taking a break for two weeks from doing our normal innovation problem solving. We’re like, let’s just get work done for two weeks and then we can come back with a lot more energy to tackle how we can make things better. 


Stephanie Everett (21:01): 

So as you know may recall, one of our core values here on our team is stay curious. And so sometimes I like to ask guests, what are you doing to stay curious? What are you learning about either personally or professionally right now? 


Allison Harrison (21:17): 

Oh my goodness, I love to read books. I have a stack that I have read. There’s like seven I have read, and there’s I think 12 that are on my to read list. I’ve spent a lot of this year on hiring and marketing. That’s kind of been the theme of the books, but the next set of books is more how to become a leader and how to empower your team. So I don’t know. That’s what I’m doing is continuing to read books about being a good business owner, leader, et cetera. 


Stephanie Everett (21:47): 

I love that. We’ll have to have you back on and we’ll talk about what that means to be a great leader. 


Allison Harrison (21:52): 

I love it. Thank you, Stephanie. 


Stephanie Everett (21:54): 

The next evolution of you and your business, 


Allison Harrison (21:58): 

I mean, my goal is to continue to grow and so hopefully, yeah, I can be more in the leader CEO role the next time you have me on. 


Stephanie Everett (22:06): 

Awesome. Well, we look forward to it. Thank you for being with me today. 


Allison Harrison (22:09): 

Yeah, awesome. Thank you, Stephanie. 


Speaker 1 (22:13): 

The Lawyerist podcast is edited by Brittany 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 forward slash book looking for help beyond the book. Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities are right for you. Head to lawyerist.com forward slash community slash 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. 




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. 

Your Hosts

Stephanie Everett

Stephanie Everett is the President of Lawyerist, where she leads the Lawyerist Lab program. She is the co-author of the bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap and is a regular guest and co-host of the weekly Lawyerist Podcast.

Featured Guests

Allison Harrison

Allison has been running ALH Law Group for over 8 years. When she started her firm, she did so with an eye toward efficiencies and removing the unnecessary (and expensive!) work attorneys regularly engage in. Her practice is dedicated to providing competent and cost-effective legal representation to small business owners, concentrating on litigation, transactional business work, and compliance in the retail automotive industry. Outside of running her practice, Allison likes to cook, hang out with her two cats, Olivia Benson and Ellie Stabler, and travel with her wife, Heidi.

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Last updated November 29th, 2023