Today we’re excited to share a presentation by Emilia Coto from MaxLawCon 2021! Tune in to learn more about the different lessons she learned.
Emilia is the founder of Sisu Legal, a law firm in Windsor, Ontario. She will be opening an office in Troy, Michigan soon. Her focus is on immigration law and more specifically, family sponsorship. Sisu legal is on a mission to provide accessible, innovative, and effective legal services. Prior to founding Sisu Legal, Emilia was a lawyer at a mid-sized firm for three years.
1:11 done is better than perfect
4:24 what impact do you want to have in the world
8:28 always keep my eye out
11:03 the daily overwhelm
14:04 many different definitions of success people have
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Transcript: The Things I’ve Learned in My First Year of Practice Ownership with Emilia Coto
In today’s episode, we’re sharing a presentation from Max law con 2021. Keep listening to hear Tyson matrix as we share his talk, where do we go from here, you can also head to the maximum lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Now to the episode,
run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum liar, podcast, podcast, your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson metrics. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.
When I was getting ready to talk to you today, I actually had a lot of the same feelings that I had before I launched the firm. And basically, there was a lot of excitement. And I was really looking forward to connecting with all of you. But there was also a lot of fear and a lot of unnecessary comparison. And then I saw I was going right after Paul, and I thought, Oh, crap. But it makes it even worse. But the thing is that the first lesson that I had to learn is that Done is better than perfect, and that solutions are better than ideas. When I was starting, I would overanalyze everything. And I would just use that to procrastinate, because I didn’t want to put myself out there. And then what I realized is that my competition was launching imperfect solutions. And they were helping people with these imperfect solutions. And I wasn’t because I was just so fearful to do it. So the mindset tip that really helped me to get over that was to think about who I was trying to help. And once you start thinking about your clients, because law is such you have the opportunity to really impact people’s lives, then not putting yourself out there not putting out your imperfect solutions starts to feel almost selfish. And the thing is that one of the quotes that has been that I’ve been hearing a lot at maximum lawyer conference is that if you don’t have clients, nothing else matters. So I could obsess over all the different processes and what I was going to, you know how I was going to make it better. But if I didn’t have the clients to test and to give me feedback, I wasn’t going to be improving. And then what I did was that I would ask lawyers to go out for coffee to try to figure out how I was going to launch my firm. And a theme that came up often was that no one ever felt ready. It didn’t matter if they were established for 25 years before they started their firm, or if they were starting their firm right out of law school. And the reason is, because there’s always going to be things that you can’t plan for. So during my first week, it was sort of at the peak of COVID. And I had always planned for that to be my launch date. And you know, by that point I had already said no to job offers, I had no other choice. And the borders were closed. And I actually so I live in Michigan, and at the time, I only had my Windsor office. So being able to cross the border was really important for me. And I started out with student debt, my husband and I both quit our jobs pretty much at the same time. And we’re both doing our own thing. So we really couldn’t rely on each other for income. And we had, you know, a certain amount that we had to make every month right away. So then, the third lesson that I learned is that it’s so important to build your law firm around your ideal life and not to build your life around the firm. And if you were here yesterday, you might have heard Donnie Finch speak. And as you know, lawyers have a higher than average rate of anxiety, depression, and, unfortunately, suicide. So it’s important to think of ways that you can make your firm sustainable and work for you. Because that’s how you’re going to be able to help the most amount of people is if you can do it over the long run. So when you started your firm, you might have started just thinking about what the clients want. But I think it’s really important to learn about what your ideal life would look like, how do you want to spend your time? How much free time do you have? What impact do you want to have in the world? And what do your finances look like? A little bit of background for me, I was born in Honduras, I moved to Canada when I was in grade four. And then I moved to the US in 2019. So I have loved ones in various parts of the world and I really wanted to be able to work from everywhere so that I could connect with my family and not sacrifice quality time with them. Because of my story. I really connect with the immigrant experience. And I have a deep desire to help other immigrants and then I also wanted financial Freedom. So I wanted to have minimal student debt. And I didn’t want my time to be tied to the amount of money that I could make. So I wanted something that I could do flat fee. Then the fourth lesson I had to learn was how to market on a shoestring budget. Because, you know, as you’ve already heard the background, there wasn’t a lot of money for marketing. So the most important thing that I learned about marketing was consistency. And to do that, you have to enjoy what you’re doing. And you have to be willing to continue with doing it. And one of my other favorite quotes from the conference has been that, even when you don’t think it’s working it is. So what I did was that I made a list of the people that were already working with the people that I wanted to work with. And then I just started asking people out for coffee, sharing my story, telling them what I was trying to create. And that was actually how I got all of my first clients. And the majority of my clients still come from relationships, then I also had a lot more time on my hands. So I spent a lot of time writing content for the website and social media, and how to find things to write is either common questions that people would ask me, or I would go on Google and type the keyword of the service, let’s say spousal sponsorship, and then Google will actually give you suggestions for common questions. And then I would write long form content on the website and short form on social media answering those common questions. And the awesome thing about content is that sometimes I would put things out, and, you know, nothing would come of it. But now, a year and eight months later, I have people booking through the website, because they found this content that I wrote a year ago. And then once I started to get past clients, when they got results, then they would refer their friends. And that’s always nice, because they already come with that trust. And in the first month, that’s when I got like my larger group of clients. And it happened to be that I was the only Spanish speaking attorney, immigration attorney in Windsor. And there was a group of human trafficking survivors that had moved in the area and needed help regularizing their status. So I got to do really meaningful work that I had never thought I would have the opportunity that early on. And the other thing that I found interesting is I wasn’t associate for a bigger firm before, like 17 attorneys. And I had already been trying these same tactics to get try to get clients because I knew that was important, you know, in any situation. And it was so different. When I was out on my own and trying to get clients, it seems that people know that your livelihood depends on it, and they really go out of their way to help you. But it wasn’t all easy. And the fifth lesson that I had to learn was that I had to go all in. So in the beginning, there was some months, that would be amazing. And I couldn’t believe you know how many clients I got the impact I was having the money I was making. And then other months, I could barely get any leads. And I was stressed out about money and how it’s going to pay bills. And so I would always keep my eye out for jobs, and I wasn’t actively applying. But I always had that fallback plan in the back of my head. And there was a huge shift and a lot of growth that happened when I finally let that go. And I think that what happens is that once you don’t have that plan B you really have to force yourself to figure things out and to make it work. And when you’re always thinking that there’s a plan B, your mind isn’t forced to do that.
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Then I had to learn lesson number six, which is all about focus. And I really enjoyed the talk this morning that discuss this because I had a lot of trouble in a lot of different areas to try to figure it out. So one of the things was services I started, I always know what to do immigration, but I also did employment. And I also did civil litigation, just because I had done it before. And the fear of not having enough money or clients helped me do that. But it wasn’t efficient. It was the marketing is different for all those different areas. So it wasn’t working as well until I decided to narrow down on just immigration. And then when I did now, I’m still working on narrowing down even more so that I can work on my systems more. And then there was also the daily overwhelm, because it’s such a steep learning curve to learn how to be a business owner and not just a lawyer. So one of my favorite things about the guild is that at the beginning of the week, we get together as a group, and Jim or Tyson will ask, what is the one thing that you’re going to focus on to move your firm forward. And having that theme for your week, then helps you to break up, you know, like a big thing into small things over the week. And then I can do every day, I don’t do more than three things or big things every day. And that works a lot better than now when I had this never ending list that I was trying to get through. But wouldn’t because I was just overwhelmed. And then since I’ve found myself slipping back into old habits about, you know, working more hours than I want and not spending as much time with family, I’ve added in a daily reflection when I’ve tried to figure out how each day reflects where I’m trying to go. And then the seventh lesson is about mindset. And I had never heard about mindset before having to start my firm or what that meant. But basically what it boils down to is things like mental blocks that you have, in your mind that prevent you from accomplishing things that you want to accomplish. And for me, there was there was many, and it’s something that I continue to work on. But something that made me feel better is that our mastermind on Monday with guild members, it was a small group of about 10 lawyers. And everyone talked about things that they were struggling with, and I was in Jim’s group. So it probably won’t surprise you that he forced us to get vulnerable. And it ended up that a lot of the things that people are still struggling with, even after, you know, having a lot of experience and million dollar firms was mindset. So something that really helped with mindset was a book called resilient solution focus by Dr. Jason SALKIN, I think is from St. Louis. But basically, that book is just it’s kind of like a training of how to train your mind to believe that there’s always a solution. And to turn it around in your mind fast so that you’re not wasting time spiraling down with negative thoughts. And how do you focus on possibilities instead of looking at obstacles. And then the lesson that I want to end with is with community. And hopefully now by the end of the conference, you’ve got to experience this amazing community. And that was game changing for me really, because I don’t build right at the beginning. I don’t even know if I had any clients when I joined. But it really helped me to see what was possible. And I love seeing how many different definitions of success people have, and how supportive it is of each person, regardless of what that means for you. And the other thing is that having the family and friends support. So for example, like going through the experience of going out on our own with my spouse at the same time, it was awesome, because every day we really got to share in the struggles and the winds of what that meant. And then the other thing was that even when I made these mistakes, which I’m sure are common, I didn’t have to figure out the solutions all on my own. And so some resources I found really useful in my first year. So that book resilience solution focus. The other book that I found really helpful was E Myth by Michael Gerber because it talks about the importance of building your firm around your ideal the vision of your life and When I look back on the last, you know, year and eight months, I’m really happy with where I got to be. And even if I feel really far away from, you know what the end goal is, I was able to spend a lot of time with family. And especially during COVID, with the borders closed, I wouldn’t have been able to, if I didn’t have a business on on both sides of the border, I was able to really do meaningful, impactful work that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do. And I also got to learn that I can make my own paycheck from scratch. And that was really life changing for me because I had never been a business owner and hadn’t had that experience. So I share that to say that if you own a business owner, or if you’re just considering it, to just, you know, go for it, because you won’t know it until you try it. And then I just wanted to leave you with my favorite quote by Nelson Mandela, which is May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears. And I would love to stay in touch. That’s it.