Episode Notes

Listen to the Lawyerist Podcast as Sara, our Lawyerist Lab coach, talks with Lab member, Anne Romanello, about the importance of strategy intensives and how they can help your firm. They answer the question, “Are retrospective strategy intensives necessary and helpful when it comes to planning your firm’s future success?”

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  • 7:58. Anne's story of how her team joined Lawyerist Lab
  • 10:35. Changes she's seen in their business in the past 6 months since joining Lab (client happiness, new legal tech to streamlines processes, etc)
  • 16:57. The value Anne gained during the recent strategy intensive she participated in with the rest of the Lab community
  • 25:57. Recent wins Anne's had in her business


Transcript automatically created.

Anne: (06:27)
I’m Anne, I’m the paralegal and practice manager at Mancabelli law. We focus our practice on business to business, contracts, startups, business advice, succession planning. Our ideal client is somebody who values the law and understands that knowing how to write a contract is not something they should need to know. They need to get somebody who really knows what they’re doing to do it. And so it’s really kind of fun. Our practice is just Patty and me and, uh, I’m the paralegal and practice manager. As I come from a business background, I work for a fortune 100 company. I have a degree in business administration and Patty and I have been friends for a really long time. And she needed a little help with running her business and came to me and said, Hey, you know, my legal assistant is leaving. And I’d like, I’d like to see if maybe you can help me.

Anne: (07:16)
I’m not exactly sure how or what, but I know that I need business help and I’d like you to help me. And I was like, yeah. Okay. And I jumped right in and you know, four years later we haven’t really looked back. She’s brought me up to speed on just about everything paralegal that I need to know. Uh, I’ve done a bunch of trainings on my own as well, but that part is secondary to the running of the business. And ultimately what brought us to Lawyerist to be totally honest with you. We knew that we needed help and we needed knew that we needed someone else to hear us and working instead of vacuum just doesn’t work. And you know, we, we looked at different places and tried different options within our own community of people that we know and wasn’t getting us to where we needed to be. And that’s ultimately what brought us to you guys.

Sara: (07:58)
Yeah. Well, its, it’s so good to have you on the podcast and we’re excited for our community to get to know you. I know that you and Patty have recently attended our first ever quarterly strategy intensive where you got some amazing work done planning for the first quarter in 2022. And I do wanna talk about that, but before we do, we love a good inspirational story. So let’s go back to the then, and I know you’ve already touched on a little bit, but when you guys first joined the Lawyerist lab program and sort of, you know, where your firm was then compared to how far you’ve come, which is just so exciting to see for us. So if you can remember back that far, you know, what was going on in the firm that led you guys to ultimately the lab program?

Anne: (08:41)
Well, you know, we’ve only actually been with Lawyerist Lab for about six months. So we’re still working through some of those initial reviews of our business. It’s been really eye-opening a lot of times, you know, you know what the truth is maybe in the back of your head, but you’re not staring at dead in the face and the tools that you all provide allowed us to do that, to break it all down and to say, okay, this is where we’re making money. This is where we’re losing money. This is what’s working. This is, what’s not, we thought, you know, Hey, if we’ve paid all the bills, we’re ahead of the game, but we’re not really ahead of the game is actually having money in the bank for the next six months. Not even just month to month or, or two months out or whatever, or planning for that extra hire or that, that independent contractor that we want.

Anne: (09:26)
And we, we had all those plans in our head, but we, we weren’t doing it right. We were, we, we didn’t have a plan in place that actually allowed us to check the boxes and say, yeah, we did those things. And so Patty came across Lawyerist and said, Hey, you know, I found these people and I think maybe they’re a fit for us. We, we had been through a number of versions of that. You know, somebody that we had mutual friends of ours, that our project managers who came in, they were laid off from their job and had some free time and they were gonna help us. And they, we got, you know, a bunch of things in place, but the actual follow-through on those projects was something that we couldn’t come by on our own. We just couldn’t make it happen. We needed accountability and like feed to the fire accountability.

Anne: (10:07)
And that’s the first time I met Stephanie, the first time we ever sat down, I was like, oh yes, this is what we need. It’s that, that group of people who understand the boat that we’re in, you know, it’s not just a project manager from some other discipline or some other place it’s, they’re practicing law. They’ve had these problems, they’ve worked the problems out. They’ve seen the technology that works or doesn’t work and they’ve effect, you know, put it into place and effectuated all of these answers. And we are like, oh yes, we need to have that. We need to have that for us.

Sara: (10:35)
Yeah. And it’s your has been so awesome to see you guys just dive in, you know, feet first you’ve, we’ve seen you at so many of our events, you know, our in person, lab con, and many of our workshops that we hold weekly. And it seems like you guys are really taking advantage of the tools and community that we provide here. So what has changed in the six months since you’ve really been working on your business?

Anne: (11:00)
Well, there’s definitely an increase in, I think, uh, client happiness. That’s a thing that I can say, like they’re, they’re feeling like we’re more in touch. We have a plan for how we communicate with them. You know, something that was kind of driven home at that lab con that we went to, which was a main by the way. And I would highly, highly recommend it to anybody if you’re even thinking about maybe, I don’t know, just do it cuz if not, not when. Right? I agree. You miss every shot you don’t take. And all those other little cliches that we like to say, but they’re so, so true and tomorrow is gonna be there too, but you gotta do something today in order for tomorrow to be better. So we, we were looking at the tool that we had available. We didn’t wanna start investing in new technology until we really flushed out what we had available to us and what we were already using and how do we improve those things.

Anne: (11:48)
So we’ve got some automated responses that we’re sending clients and we’ve got a portal now that we use instead of using email that allows us to see specifically to that client, what the questions are. And we have all of their information in front of us as we’re seeing the questions. So you don’t have to open up your email and read that. And then you gotta go over to your other interface and open up Cleo and open up the document and try to figure it all out. The questions actually come through a tag, their documents are attached. Everything’s right there just, it streamlined the whole process of interaction. So now what used to take 15 or 20 minutes to respond to a client question can take five minutes or three minutes even. Yeah. You know, we’re, we are getting to that place where we have some automated responses as well. We’re not a hundred percent there yet, but that’s the be beautiful thing about lab con and then the, this first quarter strategic, what’s it called?

Sara: (12:35)
The strategy intensive.

Anne: (12:36)
Thank you. First-quarter strategy intensive. I’m gonna memorize it. It’s gonna be good. But that was the beautiful thing about that. It allowed us to actually identify what parts we were gonna focus on right now. And when we were gonna talk about ’em and what were the milestones and when we were gonna hit ’em and now we’re holding each other accountable, we’re using up coach and that was introduced to us at the strategy intensive. And it’s been brilliant because Patty can go in and see what has been checked off on the, to dos for the, an individual project. So she doesn’t have to come to me and go, Hey, where are we? She knows. And she knows that, oh wait, now, now it’s my turn to do blah, blah, blah. And she can go do the thing she was gonna go do.

Sara: (13:15)
That’s what I was gonna ask you next is can you sort of describe to us the relationship between you and Patty and, and how you work together to build this thing?

Anne: (13:24)
She’s amazing. She’s an amazing attorney. She’s an amazing human. She also knows that our business is only going to grow. If the business side functioning properly too, you know, we’ve got the legal piece, locked up, we know what we’re doing on that side of things, but it’s following through on the projects to improve our client interface, to improve our billing interface and how we’re bringing money in the door and how quickly it’s coming in and what it’s costing us to do that. And so she wants to be involved in all of it, but she can’t a hundred percent be cuz she’s got another heavy list on the other side, doing the legal work. So up coach has allowed us to identify a project, allows her to go in and check on the status of the project and where we’re moving with it and then take over where she needs to take over or give me input and feedback.

[Commercial break]

Anne: (14:10)
We have scheduled calls so that we can update each other and talk about them. But in, on a whim in the middle of the night, when she also sits up and goes, where are we with that project? And what are we gonna do instead of starting from scratch? Like what has typically happened actually is we’ll start on a project and we’ll be moving forward with it. And then we, it drops off our radar. I’ll forget about it. She forgets about it when she thinks about it again, she starts over or she’ll try and find her research and then pick up from there and it’s all it disjointed and it’s not fluid. And now we’re finding more fluidity and we’re finding that we can actually work together to move it way farther forward than we were getting just a hoc, trying to do it on our own.

Sara: (14:48)
Yeah, sure. It sounds like that’s created a lot more efficiency between you and, and it’s amazing what the right tools will do. And for those who don’t know up coach is a tool that, that we are in the process of implementing for all of our lab stores to help them reach their goals and, and manage these projects and the sort of stuff that you’re talking about. We’re gonna take a quick break to hear from our sponsors. And then when we come back, we wanna hear all about the work that you did in the strategy intensive.

Sara: (16:57)
We’re back with Anne now. And I wanna shift gears and talk about the work that you and Patty did at our strategy intensive and how the year is going so far for you. So for those who don’t know what our quarterly strategy intensive is back in December, we hosted our very first quarterly virtual strategy intensive, where we guided about 50 law firms in doing a retrospective on their business. In 2021, we had them identify key issues for their business to solve, create clear goals for 2022, prioritize two to three projects for quarter one, and scope out those projects with action items, milestones, and KPIs. So they do exactly what they’d be working on January through March of this year. The feedback that we received from this quarterly retreat was absolutely amazing. I’m sure that you’d say so yourself and, and you know, it really validated that you guys, law firm owners and managers need the space to do this. And so we’re for sure gonna be hosting this event again at the end of each quarter, for those of you who are listening, you can definitely plan to be at our next one, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 30th, 2022. So please mark your calendars. But I wanna hear from you Anne, you know, what was it like for you to really go through that strategy intensive?

Anne: (18:16)
You know, as I mentioned at the beginning, I, I come from a business background and I worked for a fortune 100 company, these types of retreats and reviews of the quarter, what the quarterly goals are year to date numbers, year to date goals. This something I was very, very familiar with. So as I jumped in, I was like, wait a minute. I know this stuff, I totally get it. It was, I don’t know if the word is shocking or what, to me, how many goals we kind of glanced over in previous years as we were going to identify, I’m like, well, it was this. And, and oh, you know, our, our revenue goal was about this. And Patty said, well, why at that? And I said, well, that’s what last year’s numbers were, plus 10%. Why 10%. I’m like, those were the numbers we used, you know, in, in that life I had before.

Anne: (18:57)
And so it allowed us to have a full conversation about what type of growth percentage is realistic and where would those numbers actually get us? It allowed us to take the revenue goal, right? So if our revenue goals 250,000 thousand dollars for the year or $300,000 for the year, breaking it out by how many of those dollars are gonna come from hourly clients, how many are gonna come from flat contract reviews? How many are gonna come from entity formations and this new subscription plan that we’re launching and have launch? Actually, we do have one client that is signed up for a subscription,

Sara: (19:27)
But we can’t wait to hear all about that.

Anne: (19:29)
They are so, so, so happy. It’s just, yeah, it’s amazing. But anyway, it allowed us to break it all out. You know, that, that adage, that people say of how do you eat an elephant or bite at a time? And it’s breaking all of that, that big monstrous thing of, oh, I don’t know, into all those little bite-size pieces where you’re like, oh, wait a minute. I can do that one little thing. I can do this one little thing. Like we wanna input meant a new calendar system. One of the goals that I had was to ask the Facebook group for lawyers, what their feedback was on Calendly versus acuity. And then through that, I got information that Microsoft, that I didn’t even understand had had a calendar system called bookings, which allowed me then to review that one and to see which one was the most robust, which one was gonna give us the tools that we actually are looking for in identifying the goals.

Anne: (20:16)
We identify the tools. Now we know exactly what we want this product to have. And so it’s streamlining it and I believe they’re going with ly just, you know, just to kind of preemptively strike it. But ultimately it’s just been brilliant because it’s, it’s allowed us to see that 10,000 foot view very clearly. In my previous positions, we always talked about the different viewpoints and how clear the picture became. But I feel like in a situation like this, where it’s just Patty and I, we have to be able to see every level and we have to see them all as clearly as the one before. And so what we were doing is we had a real foggy view of the 10,000 foot and we would get, as we got closer, we would get distracted by our other work and then not really hone in on what that picture was. And this, this whole intensive allowed us to actually break down the picture to the very Manous details and then put a calendar or due date on every single one of ’em. It was like, oh, so now we know,

Sara: (21:10)
So now it’s so much more realistic and tangible.

Anne: (21:13)
Yeah. Almost LA laughably. So like that, that I guess was the thing is we were like, oh my gosh, like, huh. And just to have the time, you know, it’s taking the time failing to plan is planning to fail. And if you don’t take the time to just put everything outside your head and go, how am I gonna achieve that goal? And then break it down into those pieces, give them all the timeline and then do them, you know, ultimately the KPIs follow directly into those too, right? So you’re not, your indicators are whether or not you’re hitting those goals. And you know, at the end of the day, what it’s gonna bring you because we’ve already identified what the ultimate the goal is, you know, the calendar is going to allow us the implementation of a new calendar system is gonna allow us to work more efficiently out of our calendars and not out of our inboxes.

Sara: (21:56)
Yeah, absolutely. Had you and Patty done, uh, sort of all-day retreat like this before,

Anne: (22:03)
Before Lawyerist, yes. And they never came that we never got half as granular as we did with this. And you know, it’s absolutely the tools that you all are providing, you know, it’s one of those like yeah, of course. You know, we’ve got some clients who, when we, we draft a, a contract firm, we’ll go, well, yeah, I could have drafted that myself. Could you maybe I know hindsight is 2020. And so yes, after looking at it, I’m sure you think that you could, but would it to your mind in the beginning and that’s ultimately what you guys are giving us, is that 20, 20 viewpoint without having to do the heavy lift of what else do we have to think about? What else do we have to think about?

Sara: (22:38)
Yeah. That’s great. I’m so glad that you found it valuable. How else did the work that you did in the strategy intensive change, how you’re doing business this year? Not just this quarter, but for the rest of the year,

Anne: (22:51)
It’s really putting things into perspective. There are certain things that Patty wants to get accomplished in general. She’s been talking about them for a little while. Certain things that I know are important, but then there were other things that were time-sensitive. So specifically we were using a specific company to host our website. They’re terrible. They don’t respond. They don’t update the website. Pat is very unhappy about it, but we do not have the bandwidth to recreate the website, have somebody else do it, find somebody else to do it. But through this exercise, we’ve actually put time aside for all of those things. And we’ve got people we’re talking to already. We don’t have to actually cut ties with this other company until June, but we’re already talking about how we’re gonna do it, who we’re gonna go with and what it’s gonna look like and answering simple questions like who owns the website.

Anne: (23:35)
Let’s make sure that we’re not going down this path. And then all of a sudden we have to recreate it from the beginning because we don’t actually own it. And that’s not true. We do own it. So yay. But we know those answers now. It’s not something that’s in the ether going, oh God, that’s something I have to worry about later. Something I have to worry about later. Nope. Today I was only gonna worry about who owns the website. I answered the question moving on. Yeah. It lowers the anxiety. It lowers the, um, wake up in the middle of the night. Oh gosh, I gotta do that. We’re trying to eliminate that in our lives to spend more time with their families and really enjoy the work that we’re we’re doing.

Sara: (24:05)
Yeah. Less middle of the night wake up is always good. That’s that’s a positive sign. Things are going well for you. So earlier you had mentioned this new subscription model that you guys are rolling out. Do you wanna speak more on that?

Anne: (24:17)
We only have one client so far and it’s somebody who’s, they own a business and they’ve got a minority shareholder who’s trying to get involved. And what we’re trying to do is coach them on managing that minority business owner. What actions can they take to minimize the effect that that person is gonna have on their business? And so it’s not, it’s not what everybody’s gonna need, but we’ve felt that this client, because they’re a husband and wife team, and they’ve only owned the business for a few years and it has the potential to make them a lot of money and make them really, really successful. But this other person keeps getting in the way and they need just that advice. The legal advice of like, what contracts have I signed? What does my bylaws, what do the words of my bylaws mean? And how so?

Anne: (24:59)
It’s, it’s like really the type of advice wed, wanna be able to give somebody cuz I there’s monthly conversations they need to have because of the ruckuses that, that this other person is causing. So it’s like, it was, it was funny when they came to us, say, I said to Patty, they came to us like third quarter of last year. And I said, I think this person would be the perfect person to start our subscription plan with because it’s a lot of advice giving and not a lot of heavy lift, well it’s not litigation. Oh, just yet. Right. I mean it could potentially be maybe sometime down the road, but it’s not that right now, now it’s just really giving them advice and helping them to decipher the documents that they have in front of ’em and they have been eternally grateful. It’s been really beautiful actually so far so good. Yeah. And I can see us moving forward with other people cuz ultimately what we wanna be able to do is offer business clients the opportunity to speak to somebody who can decipher the contracts at the they’ve signed and help them to either stay out of the courtroom or to, you know, minimize the effect of any type of discrepancy or problem that they might have within their business.

Sara: (25:57)
Yeah. I mean good for you for trying this new model out and you know, just having this one client validates the possibility of creating a reoccurring, have a new source in your business and you can always expand that if it’s working and if it’s not, you can dump it. But you know, we love to see that kind of experimentation. That’s why we call it lab. And so yeah, that’s really great. Any other wins that you wanna share big or small that you guys have had in business since joining the lab program?

Anne: (26:27)
You know, just think the overall piece that we’re feeling right now, we feel like we’re in control. Like we’re driving the bus instead of being run over by it, you know, it’s with the empowerment, right? That’s the word that everybody likes to use when you feel like you’re in control of what you are doing and your job and having a specific time to dedicate to it. That’s been the biggest win honestly, is that feeling like there are goals and we’re achieving them and that they’re being set and then achieved and not just talked about cuz that, that was what we kind of regularly did is we would break everything out of what we needed to do and where we wanted to go and ultimately what all was, but that we didn’t, we weren’t able to get all the way down to the how and when yeah, you know, you gotta do it now and if you’re not doing it now, when are you gonna do it? Right. That’s been the biggest win. And actually, you know, the other piece of it is the camaraderie that we feel. We feel like we’re not alone in the boat. We’re not in the middle of the ocean on a little dingy going help or Y all share.

Sara: (27:24)
Yeah. Yeah. We hear that a lot. So for those who are unsure about joining lab, maybe they’re unsure whether now’s the right time to try to work on their business. Maybe because you know, it’s early in the air and things are really busy. Do you have any parting words of encouragement for those people?

Anne: (27:41)
My words of encouragement would be to just do it. It don’t wait. Don’t think any longer about it. If you have it, the pit in your stomach that says we need some kind of help try, there’s 1,001 different paths you can take with Lawyerist and with the group here and with all of the assistants and coaches and everybody else, somebody has the answer that you’re looking for. You gotta ask and these people have it. So that’s what I would say.

Sara: (28:05)
I love it. Thanks. And I just wanna say thanks to you and Patty for doing what you do to make the world a better place. Thanks for taking the time to come on the Lawyerist Podcast. We cannot wait to see what you guys do next in the firm.

Anne: (28:17)
Thanks. We’re looking forward to it too.

Your Hosts

Sara Muender

As a Lab Coach, Sara works with lawyers to build healthier law firms through workshops and 1:1 coaching. She makes sure lawyers have the guidance and tools to implement their ideas and grow their businesses.

Featured Guests

Anne Romanello

Anne Romanello is the paralegal and practice manager at Mancabelli Law. They focus on business to business contracts, succession planning, start ups, and more. Their goal is to empower and help companies with their contracts and make it more accessible for all. Anne comes from a business background with a degree in Business Administration and came to work with her friend at Mancabelli Law about 5 years ago and never looked back!

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Last updated January 26th, 2023