Blog

“No Barrier to Results” w/ Elise Buie 208
Categories: Podcast

This week on the show we have Elise Buie, owner of Elise Buie Famliy Law in Seattle, Washington. After undergoing her own divorce and multiple relocations due to Hurricane Katrina, she truly understood what it meant to put the “best interest of the kids” ahead of her own, which led her decision to focus her practice on family law and serving as a Guardian ad Litem advocating for children’s best interest in high-conflict divorce and dependency matters. Elise rightfully prides herself on her ability to work through huge problems and major life transitions, as you’ll hear about in today’s episode.

Jim’s Hack:
Stick to your routine and connect with the people who give you guidance. This is not the time to pull back or isolate. Be in connection to help keep your mind right.

Tyson’s Tip:
Pick one project off the list of things you want to do for your practice, and over the next week work on that one thing.

Elise’s Tip:
Lighten up on outward expectations and stay connected to your partner.

If you enjoyed the show, we’d appreciate a 5-Star review!

The doors to the Maximum Lawyer Guild community are open! For membership details and all the member benefits head on over here: https://maximumlawyer.com/theguild/

Thanks so much for listening to the show! To keep on maximizing your firm, please join our Facebook Group – Maximum Lawyer, like us on Facebook – Maximum Lawyer Conference, and subscribe to our YouTube channel – Maximum Lawyer!

You can also go to MaximumLawyer.com or, if you’d prefer, email us at: info@maximumlawyer.com

– – – – – –

Run your law firm the right way.

This is The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.

Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Mutrux.

Let’s partner up and maximize your firm.

Welcome to the show.

 

Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim hacking.

Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux.

What’s up, Jimbo?

Jim: Tyson, my friend, it’s good to be with you. I’ve got my new standing desk. I haven’t recorded a podcast standing up in a long time but I’m excited to do it.

Tyson: Nice. It is nice. I’ve got a nice little setup too where it’s changed over the last one month and a half where my mic– I used to have to like set up my microphone every single time because my scissor arm didn’t fit the right way. I found a perfect spot, after I got my stand-up desk, and it folds away nicely so it’s always there. I just raise it up whenever I want to use it and fold it back down when I don’t. It’s nice having it. It’s good that you’ve got the stand-up desk. 

It’s funny because someone, the other day, asked me like, “So why do you have a stand-up desk?” I was like, “I guess it’s healthier” It’s just I’d never gotten that. Have you ever gotten a question like, “Why do you have a stand-up desk?”

Jim: No.

Tyson: It seemed like such an odd question.

Anyway, let’s get started.

Jim: All right.

Well, I’m excited about our guest today. Her name is Elise Buie. Many of our Maximum Lawyer friends will know her. She was at the Zapathon. She’s a fun member of the group. She has an interesting perspective on this new reality that we find ourselves in. She also got up really early to be with us this morning because she’s in Seattle.

Welcome to the show.

Elise: Thanks, Jim. I’m glad you got your stand-up desk. I hope you like it.

Tyson: Elise, I usually ask the question of, ”Hey, what’s your journey?” and I’m going to ask that. But as a part of that, I want you to tell us when did you decide that you wanted to become a lawyer and what was it that made you make that decision?

Elise: We’re going to have to go back a long way.

Tyson: Well, let’s go all the way back.

Elise: I grew up with a dad who was an attorney. And so, my whole life, I thought I would be an attorney. That was what I was fascinated with. I always thought I would do criminal defense work. That’s what my dad did. That is what I loved. Sometimes, getting to go with him to do a jail visit was pretty cool as a kid. I just always thought that.

And then, when I went to college, I was like, “No, I’m going to be a biomedical engineer.” Well, after about three semesters of calculus, I realized that was not going to happen. I then went back to my idea of being an attorney and really thought, even in law school, I would do criminal defense work.

I worked in the Death Penalty Resource Center in Louisiana, love that area of the law. But then, I think, my student loans became really abundantly obvious to me. I then went into that typical big law firm. I clerked for a Federal judge for two years. Then, got a job in a big law firm in New Orleans and did insurance defense litigation and really was just paying my bills or whatever but wanted to poke my eyeballs out the whole time. I hated it.

And so, I then left that and decided to stay home and raise my kids. At the time, we only had, I guess, three kids. And then, had a fourth. And so, I was home with my kids for a decade before I then came back to the law. And then, came back and was going through my own divorce. It’s a long story. I won’t bore you with all of that.

I then, went into family law. I was doing all this stuff for myself, personally, and I thought, “Well, we’ll just go into family law” and that is what I did. And then, have been doing that ever since.

Jim: I know that coming back from being gone, raising your kids, had to be an adjustment. Talk to us a little bit about revamping and restarting things.

Elise: Oh, sure. That was really interesting, actually, because at the time I was coming back into the law was Hurricane Katrina. There I am living in New Orleans, my husband and I realized we need to divorce. I had been a stay-at-home mom.

So, I was interviewing for work. I had actually gone back to my old law firm, the insurance defense law firm, initially, thinking, “Oh, well, I’ll just go back and do that.” They were like, “Sure. Great.” but Hurricane Katrina hit within– I don’t know, two weeks of this plan. 

He is my ex-husband now but the father of my four children. He and I decided, “Okay, we’re obviously not going to put a divorce on the forefront right now. We have a hurricane to deal with.” We evacuated. He is an attorney as well. He was a solo and is a solo attorney. He does like Workers’ Comp, social security, disability.

We evacuated to Georgia. That’s its own loss story because I had a friend who was in a coma with cancer situation. She had six kids and I was the person kind of helping her at that time. So, a lot was going on. We evacuated to Georgia and stayed in Georgia and just kind of decided that we were going to try to figure this out together and work through this.

We stayed in Georgia for a year. That’s where his family was from. Then, we moved to Minnesota. In Minnesota is where I really went full bore going back to work, so applying for jobs, networking, doing all the things. I was hired initially by the State of Minnesota to be a Guardian ad Litem for the 10th Judicial District there in Minnesota. That was a long process to get that job. I can’t tell you how many interviews I did and people were like, “You are so too qualified for the job you’re applying for.” I was like, “I haven’t worked in years. I promise I’m not too qualified and I’m not going to have an attitude. I will do whatever work you give me.”

It was really, really hard to ramp back up. I ended up writing a bunch of articles about off-ramping and on-ramping because I think that a lot of us thought once you have your license, it’d be no big deal to just go back to work, but it really was a big deal. I think that, for me, it made me realize had I kept my foot in the law that whole time better, it would have been a lot easier for me to on ramp.

I think my success, getting back to work, when I did, despite all the problems, I am kind of like the ultimate networker, like I meet people. I love connecting people. I met the lady who ended up hiring me at this event, and kept in touch with her, and really connected with her, and allowed her to mentor me to meet people there. And then, when an opening came up, I was at the top of her list. She called me immediately and was like, “We have an opening. Yes, you’re overqualified but it will get your foot in the door,” and that it did.

Tyson: Elise, it’s kind of crazy what you’ve gone through. You’ve had to, it sounds like, reinvent yourself. Are there some similarities as to what’s going on now, compared to what you went through back with Katrina? 

Elise: Oh, for sure. Obviously, this pandemic is kind of like Katrina but on a national level where people are just losing things like their businesses have all shut down. We don’t know what’s going on.

In Katrina, we all lost communication with everybody. Cell towers weren’t working and we couldn’t communicate. Businesses were shut down, obviously, all over New Orleans. But one of the things that I find both is hopeful is seeing the improvement from what’s happened from Katrina to now. In that, like it Katrina, I was mentioning all the cell phones. One thing those of us that did have cell phones realized– obviously, they weren’t the kind of phones we have now, but we realized that often we could still text even though we couldn’t call. I mean, nobody texted back then. So, those of us that–

I have to say my ex-husband was somebody who was very advanced, technologically. So, even in that time, he had pretty much a virtual practice. He was all-in to technology, so we were able to kind of do things that other people weren’t. He had a paperless office and things like that. 

I think that it helped me understand a lot around what was important. He and I had to go through this pretty intense IRS thing at the time. I ended up doing this whole IRS offer and compromise right at Hurricane Katrina and I did that on my own, really, but it was for him – this whole process, and was able to do all of that, virtually, from this little tiny house in rural Georgia. Because we had all our records electronic such that we could access them, I was able to turn a really bad situation into a true blessing for our family. I think I learned so much from that.

I hope that people in this pandemic can learn about really how important being– maybe not virtual, maybe a lot of people want to go back to the brick and mortar office which, obviously, more power to people to do it, how it works for them, but having the ability to access everything from wherever. I think it’s just critical, just the ability to run your life better. We’re here out in our tiny little house in the woods that we thought we are downsizing into this retirement home. Now it’s our little peaceful haven. I don’t ever see a person but I’m still able to run my whole law firm and my team from my phone. I do anything and can access anything.

Like with all this SBA loan stuff and whatever, I hired somebody to do some work for me with regard to that. He was like, “Well, can you get all this stuff to me in an hour?” I was like, “Absolutely.” And he’s like, “Okay” and got us an application in and done in a matter of a few hours. I mean, it’s naturally helpful just to have everything at your fingertips.

Jim: I want to get to all the lessons that you learned and all that stuff but, for a moment, I’d like to, if we can, just jump back. The hurricane is on its way to New Orleans. And then, the hurricane hits. Because I feel like, right now, with the pandemic, that we’re right in the early stages of it, so I’d like to focus, if we can for a minute, on those early first days after Katrina hit and sort of the reaction like how it sort of hit you in the mouth. 

Elise: Yeah, it really did. 

Well, just in typical Elise fashion. We have a wild Hurricane Katrina hitting story. The hurricane was not coming to New Orleans. If we all are going to go back and Google, it’s going to Florida. We, New Orleanians, were not really paying attention. I had this friend who, Friday afternoon, crashed, ended up in a coma in the ICU. So, there I am trying to help her ex-husband, who’s an ER doctor, manage their children and the family and figure it all out.

And so, I was at the ICU on Saturday. My ex-husband called me and he’s like, “Elise, we need to evacuate.” I was like, “Say, what?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And he’s like, ”We need to evacuate. The storm is coming. It’s really for real. We need to evacuate. What should I pack for the kids?” and he was serious. I’m like, “I’ve lived in New Orleans my whole life. I have never evacuated. I don’t know what you are smoking.” I was like, “We are not evacuating.” And He’s like, “Elise, you’ve got to get over it. Read. Look at the news. Do something, but we need to evacuate.” I gave him my little packing list, two of everything for every kid – two underwear, two pants, just two of everything. He did that. 

The next day – I stayed at the ICU the whole day, I come home and I’m like, “Oh, he is right. We absolutely need to evacuate.” And so, I was like, “Well, where are we going?” And he’s like, “Well, I guess, we’ll go to a hotel like just a little bit away.” Well, as our finances would have it, he had settled a case, got a check on Friday, called the client, and they were like, “Okay, we’ll meet on Monday and we’ll do whatever – disburse all the funds.” Well, to say that we had no money was an understatement. I think at the time we had $150 in our checking account. I was like, “Well, I don’t think that’ll work. I don’t think hotels are going to go for our credit plan.” We ended up driving to his parents’ house in Georgia, but we didn’t tell them we were coming because they probably would have said no. They were not the type to be thrilled with four kids, dogs, the whole bit. We just showed up there.

So, David, that’s my ex, was thinking, “Okay, I’ll deal with this.” He’s holding this money but it hasn’t been deposited anywhere. He was kind of freaking out. He was like, “I need to get this check deposited.” He actually drove to Atlanta on Monday to open a trust account in Atlanta because we couldn’t access our banks in New Orleans. There was no online banking anymore. Nothing worked. He’s like, “I cannot hold these guys’ funds. I need to get them in a trust account and do whatever.” He’s off doing that. And then, all of a sudden, on CNN, I’m sitting there and I was like, “I swear, that is your dad’s client’s wife on the news talking about her husband dying.” And so, it turns out it was.

We were not only flat broke. We’re in rural Georgia with his parents now, with no money, and he’s got this major thing he’s got to deal with. It was wild. I had no idea what was going to happen. I was pretty terrified. I have to tell you. It was scary. Here we are, in a setting where he and I are ready to divorce, too. None of it’s great.

I think the way, for me– I have this, I think, pretty sound resiliency but it is related to all I did was focus on, “How can I make my life as normal as possible for my children” at the time. That was the only thing I could control. Everything was kind of going crazy around me and I had no control over any of it.

I decided, the kids and I, were just going to do our normal thing. At the time, I was a homeschool mom so I’m like, “We’ll still do our homeschooling.” It was really different. My in-laws had this amazing swimming pool and blueberry bushes. They own like, I don’t know, a hundred acres or something. I thought, “We’re going to swim every day and we’re going to go pick blueberries and make pies.” We just did all these things that were just kind of normal, happy, healthy things. We started horseback riding lessons. I found this barn that would allow us to go and muck stalls. I mean, we mucked a lot of stalls for free lessons. My kids have so many positive memories of our time in Georgia horseback riding.

And then, the other thing I did, my kids were all very competitive swimmers at the time. I found a swim team. I applied for aid. I was like, “There’s no way I can pay this right now.” But I said, “You know, I will pay it.” The people were so nice. And so, they let us join the swim team. I’ll never forget, we brought them to swim practice and it was 35 minutes away. So, it’s a pretty big trek to bring the kids to swimming. We got back in the car, the first day of practice, and my son just said, “Okay, life is back to normal. We’re back in the pool.” And I thought, “Whoa!” I was like, “Okay, that was actually a good mom move.”

I think just trying to bring control and normalcy to what you can is really important. I probably have bad teacher advice. Teachers probably don’t want to hear me but this whole idea that everyone’s thrown into homeschooling. People need to just let that go. Yeah, if you can do a little thing here and there, great. Kids learn so naturally, if you just talk to them, have conversations with them, talk about what’s going on in child-appropriate ways, like engage them.

Kids don’t need worksheets and nonsensical school drills for the next four weeks to be sure that they’re okay. All these kids are going to be fine. It’s absurd, I think, the pressure that’s being put on families who are trying to deal with their livelihood and just with everything. That’s a lot of emotions that are going on in this pandemic. I think controlling what you can, and realizing that this too will pass, and you will survive, and you will probably thrive from it. This will probably be a pivotal moment in your personal history. You just don’t know how that’s going to play out yet.

Tyson: I want to stay on this for a second because you have an incredible mindset. The mindset is what’s going to get people through this. I don’t know, is this something you learned over time? How did you have this mindset? That’s incredible, you were focusing on all the right things, at the right times, and moving things forward. There’s a lot of people are scared right now, and they’re kind of freaking out, and they don’t know what to do. What’s your advice on maintaining that mindset? Because you had you had an incredible mindset – you still have a great mindset. So, how did you do that?

Elise: Well, I think, for me, at the time of Hurricane Katrina, I was way into running and I would go running through rural Georgia for hours. I spent two-and three-hours a day on trails running. I’m no doctor or no exercise person but I think that helped me tremendously, just being able to clear my mind. And it just lifts your spirits, so I would come back to this.

I mean, we lived in this pastorium, next to a funeral. There was grave sites all around our house. The whole thing was so random, after life in New Orleans, but I tried to really just have this mindset of, “This is my reality right now” I have no control over it whatsoever.” I tend to be super positive, I think, and optimistic. I’m like, “What can I do, as the leader of my family?” That’s how I thought of myself. At the time, my role was really to lead our family while my husband was supposed to be earning the money. I thought if my kids as my little people, like “How can I help them be okay through this?”

And so, now, I don’t have little kids at home. We just have a 17 year old at home, who’s about to be a senior. Even that, I think of the same thing like, “What can I control?” and really trying to work on that and [inaudible 00:19:56] into looking for outcomes. What is the outcome you want? Not so focused on the problem, but what is the outcome you want? Like, in at the time of Katrina, I wanted my children to somehow come through Katrina without massive psychological damage. I wanted them to come through with positive memories despite this bad situation.

Now, even with my 17 year old, I want my 17 year old– though it’s kind of different. Obviously, I don’t want him to have psychological damage now. I want him to understand that things are uncertain all the time. It’s not just this pandemic. Life is uncertain. You could get sick any day, or your spouse could get sick, or you could have a bad accident. Nothing is certain. Figuring out how to see the outcomes you want, and how to problem solve towards solutions rather than getting focused and bogged down.

My 17-year-old son here, at our little house in the woods, he came out here and I’ve been– at the very beginning of this pandemic. I’ve been quarantined, virtually, since March 1. I mean, I’ve been just here. Very initially– I mean, literally, on March 2, I think my husband and I sat down – my current husband. I kind of gave him my, “Okay. We’re in the middle of a natural disaster talk and I was like, “We need to look at all of our finances. We need to tighten everything down, as tight as we can. We need to prepare for me to have zero income but to somehow be able to support my staff.” This was way before CARES or way before whatever.

He went out and bought a whiteboard and we literally modeled– I think I modeled 43 different things on, How could we do this? How will we be okay? What expenses can we cut? And there’s my 17 year old coming in and out of the kitchen watching me do all this modeling. He would stop and talk to me and be like, “Well, what about this? Why don’t you tweak this lever rather than this?” He had some really interesting insights. I had some really frank conversations with him and I thought, “You know, what a great opportunity for him to understand personal finances, to understand kind of like family values – what matters to us and why is keeping my staff so important to me, and how might that impact him? I’ve had real conversations with him around my moral dilemma of, “Do I pay for my child to go to private school or do I save a staff member with that money every month?” We’ve had some really interesting conversations.

I think all of that’s good. And those are the things I can control.

Jim: We’ll pause for a word from our sponsors.

Thanks to our sponsor, Smith AI. Smith AI is a superior receptionist service for law firms, trusted by many Maximum Lawyers, including me.

At my immigration practice, the Hacking Law practice, Smith’s friendly US-based receptionists respond to potential clients in English or Spanish, screen and schedule new leads, and even take payment for our consults. The best part is that they don’t just handle these conversations via phone. They also have live agents and chatbots capturing leads on our website through their chat widget. They serve as our friendly gatekeepers while my team and I work uninterrupted. We get new clients and we get work done. How awesome is that? If you’re in a solo or small firm, I know you’ll appreciate this. 

Plans start at just $70 a month for calls and $100 a month for chats. They even offer a totally free chatbot so there’s no excuse. Try Smith AI today and see for yourself why attorneys like me say, “Smith AI receptionists are the secret to business growth.”

Smith AI offers a free trial and Maximum Lawyer listeners get an extra $100-dollar discount with promo code MAXLAW100. That’s M-A-X-L-A-W-1-0-0. Sign up and learn more at www.smith.ai.

Trust me when I say don’t let another day go by, try Smith AI.

 

Jim: We’re talking this morning with Elise Buie from Seattle, Washington.

Elise, talk to us about your staff and talk to us about interacting with your staff and sort of your mindset. I was surprised. I didn’t realize you had so many attorneys working for you. Talk to us a little bit about your mindset and how to deal with your team.

Elise: Well, first, I just love my team. They’re like the greatest team on the planet right now. I just feel so, so blessed to have them. We now are connecting very deliberately via Zoom on a regular basis. Historically, we have connected through these quarterly meetings. We do it my house in Seattle. I invite the whole office – employees, independent contractors, everybody. They come over to my house. We do these day-long meetings. I provide them breakfast and lunch. We talk about what things are doing, like how everybody is doing. We have a lot of time just to chat and reconnect. And then, we also talk about like quarterly goals and what we’re doing.

And so, now, those meetings are going to Zoom because we’re all at our homes. And so, we have one on Friday coming up. We just did one recently.

Right now, I think one of the biggest things we’re doing is just connecting. We had one recently where we all just we did it at like five o’clock and I’m like “Everybody bring their glass of wine and let’s just chat.” We really listened to how everybody was doing. There were a lot of tears. People were talking about how scared they were, what was going on in their own personal life. It was just a time for us to really connect. 

I think, as a leader– I don’t even know what you want to call this, but just as somebody who’s kind of facilitating that whole group of people, I think it’s important for us to all take a chill pill and really try to connect with our team in a way that resonates with them. I think that’s going to look different for every team member. And so, I also do these one-on-one Zoom calls. I’ve been doing a lot of them since this all started.

Right now, I’ve been doing them pretty much weekly where I really connect one on one with everybody, so it’s pretty time consuming. I’m doing a weird time – Saturday, Sunday– whenever. I’m always like, “Whatever works for you all works for me.” I try to work around all of their schedules, their families, whatever, but having those face-to-face Zoom calls where they can talk to me about what’s going on. We have somebody who has like a cat that all of a sudden got diagnosed with cancer and this. That’s like her pet and she lives alone, and she was terrified about that.

Just being there for people. I think showing empathy and really asking yourself like, “How do you want to relate to people, right now, during this time?” I think it’s really important. I think that bringing an empathetic ear to what people are feeling and realizing that people all deal with trauma differently. A lot of people don’t like to call this a trauma but it is a trauma. It’s an abrupt change and people are dealing with fear of death, maybe family members dying. There’s a lot going on. I think being that kind of calm, empathetic, reasonable voice matters.

Tyson: I had an interesting question from an employee yesterday. [inaudible 00:27:30] question. I guess, she called me. She said, “Hey, Tyson. I just want to talk to you about something.” She’s like, “I don’t know what the finances are with the firm but, if you need to lay people off, you can lay me off first and I’ll be happy to volunteer my time to work.” It was a very, very nice gesture. It was a it was a very revealing comment because I don’t share the finances with the firm. We’re fine because we do PI right now, so we’re fine right now. But they don’t know that.

And so, one of the fears that they all have is like, “Hey, am I getting to be able to keep my job? All these other people are losing their jobs.” And so, I had talks with all of them and I told them, “We’re fine because we do PI.” There have been rumors because they have paralegal friends. They’re all getting laid off right now because they work for defense firms and things like that. And so, I should’ve told her, “Hey, we’re fine.” 

Have you had any of those conversations with your people, because that is one of their fears right now?

Elise: Oh, absolutely.

The crazy thing is, I literally hired three new people in February that started on March 9, talk about some bad timing.

Tyson: No kidding.

Elise: Those people were really concerned, obviously, because, they literally were hired after I had already been quarantined. We canceled their onboarding, their face-to-face onboarding, due to this because this started kind of out here in Seattle. So, we’re so much earlier, but I went forward and let them start, obviously, not knowing just how quickly it was going to mushroom. But, I mean, I had a pretty good idea it was going to mushroom, you know.

Oh yeah, I’ve not only had the conversations. I’ve showed them my whiteboard. We talked through many of my whiteboards on how I modeled different things because I wanted them to all understand what I was thinking. One, because I was curious, if anybody had any other brilliant ideas that maybe I wasn’t thinking about. But then, also, I wanted them to understand that– because one of the things I did, initially, was just very much say like, “I will take nothing from this firm until we are 100% stable. I’m not going to take any income.” My husband, luckily,- he gets two incomes, so we are going to be fine. We can cut down our living, really good. I was like, “We will be fine.” I wanted them to understand that I was going to do everything in my power to maintain our team. That was my highest goal. And so, I also wanted them to know though that, if I couldn’t, that I’ve truly put thought into it, that I haven’t just like, out of panic, made some decision.

To date, everyone is fine. We are doing fine. We are bringing in business. We are way ahead of even my biggest model. We are doing fun. I know, that can change at any time, so I’m very open about it that they know and they all can ask me anything. I’ve told them that, “If any changes occur, that I will talk to them all immediately.”

I think it’s important to alleviate their fears if, at all, possible. I think it’s also important to help them understand because I even explained to them about some of my concerns. I didn’t want to lay people off because of the health insurance. We have a very robust health insurance policy in our office. I pay for everything. And so, that is a big fear, I think. I wanted to explain to them that I had already worked with my insurance person. I understood I could pay for all their premiums for a certain amount of time, even after I let them go, if need be. I assured them that I would do that, that I would not leave anybody in a pandemic without insurance.

And then, I talked to each staff member, very frankly, about their finances so that I could figure out, “If I had to let people go, kind of like your staff, Tyson mentioned, who would be the first person I would let go because I was thinking of it more – not so much in terms of how I would make money but in terms of how it would impact them, so that we can make sure to be as– I don’t know, just that my values can come out even how I handle this pandemic.

Jim: What a great boss and leader you are, Elise.

Let me sort of flip that a little bit. The people on my leadership team with me have been saying to me for the last few days that I’ve been too positive and too overly optimistic. Our cases are still coming in. I’m being very realistic with the case load and with the cash flow, but they think that I need to be doing a little bit more – not trying to make people fearful but having a little harsher conversations about what might happen. When do you sort of feel the right time is to talk about what bad may happen? Does that make sense?

Elise: I think it makes a lot of sense.

I, maybe, am more realistic in the sense of like I felt like it was important for me to talk about the reality really early on, when we started doing the modeling. It wasn’t that I was worried about bringing the cases. Well, it is. It is worried that I’m– it’s for us because we bill out of a trust. There’s only so much in trust. On the day I started my modeling, we had X dollars in trust. I assumed we would get zero more dollars and I’m like, “Eventually, those trust dollars will run out.” There’s nothing I can do about that unless I can bring in more money either via new clients or have other clients replenish.

I had those very real conversations early on. I showed them the modeling, because I did all kinds of modeling around billing. Like, “Could we bill less? How can we bill less every week to make that trust amount last longer?” because it wasn’t so much about, “Okay, we have the money in trust now and, if we all do our normal billable work, we could go through it all in a month or two. And then, what?”

I’ve really talked to them about prioritizing work and making sure they’re thinking about the trust dollars because, obviously, in a normal scenario, they don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about that. And so, I wanted them to understand like how it all works. I went through our expenses with them and I showed them how I could turn $20,000 a month in expenses down to like $4000. I’m a [inaudible 00:34:18] disciple of [inaudible 00:34:19], always have that mindset of like shrink down at any moment. And so, I’m really hesitant to sign like long-term contracts. It took me years to sign any kind of contract. I always say [inaudible 00:34:36] warps my head but it’s been really helpful in this, I have to say.

Tyson: I do have a question about that, specifically. When everything returns to normal– this is a question I sort of asked in The Guild. Whatever normalcy is, whenever we return, whatever that is– are you going to go back to– is it going to be all virtual? How are you going to do things, going forward?

Elise: Oh, yeah. We will stay all virtual. We, as a firm, have been virtual since February 2015 and we love it. I think, in our market, here in Seattle, you know, Seattle’s pretty techie. Most people just don’t care to come see me. They just want me to fix their family law problem and, if I can do that from afar, that is fine with them.

Tyson: I just have a follow up. I didn’t mean to cut you off. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry about that.

I do have a follow up with that because I want to I want you to address this for people that can’t get past that mindset part of it because there is a mental block for a lot of people that say, “I’ve got to have a physical office. I’ve got to have a physical office.” Can you address that as well?

Elise: Absolutely.

Now, we do have a place in downtown Seattle. We sublet and so we have one little office. I don’t know the square footage. It’s just an office with a desk and a computer on the desk – just a little office. But then, we do have access to conference rooms. We have access to a physical office. And so, that, I do think, is important – to have some place that you can go like if you need to do meetings or whatever, but it’s just not used that much because most people just don’t– they don’t need it. They don’t want it and they don’t care. They’re perfectly happy to be serviced, virtually.

I have had more family law mediations that I have met the client face to face the morning of the mediation. We’ll be in some big, tall, downtown Seattle building. We’ll meet at the Starbucks at the bottom because there’s always a Starbucks at the bottom. I’ll ask the client to send me their picture so I recognize them. We go meet. We drink our coffee and eat our chocolate croissants and just have a nice time. We might have already had a big Long phone conversation about how to do the mediation, but we’re going to meet, we’re going to break bread together. That’s just my thing around– I really enjoy getting to know people really well. I managed to do that virtually. I go into mediations and settle cases. Whether they’ve ever come and sat in my office just has no bearing on the results.

Jim: All right, Elise, any final words of wisdom for people that are feeling stressed out, maxed out, overwhelmed today?

Elise: I think, breathe. Just breathe and let yourself know that this too will pass, and everything will be okay. You’re going to have to just let go of some– all of us are kind of control freaks. You just won’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, but it’s going to be okay. I think getting a mantra where you tell yourself that all the time. I had a mantra and I still do. It’s called “I can do it.” It’s as simple as can be, but I tell myself that all the time. There’s nothing I can’t do. I will figure it out.

Tyson: Great stuff.

All right. I do want to wrap things up. Before I do, I want to remind everyone to go to the Facebook group and get involved there.

Jim and I also started this other little thing called The Maximum Lawyer Guild. If you want to join us there, we would love to have you. If you don’t mind taking a couple minutes and giving us a five-star review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast, we would love it. 

Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?

Jim: Could you give us a five-star review? Make sure that you recognize who the greatest host is of this podcast and we all know who that is.

For my hack of the week, my hack of the week is stick to your routine and communicate with the people that give you guidance. This is not the time to pull back, and to isolate, and to be by yourself. Elise is absolutely right that you need to be taking time to breathe every day, but you also need to be in connection. You need to use whatever tools you have to keep your mind right.

I had my third video session with my therapist yesterday afternoon. We worked on some great stuff, solved a couple things for me.

I just want you to keep connected. Keep in your routine. Do the things that have gotten you in success all the way up to the point that you are today. Keep doing those things. Don’t pull back. Don’t cut back. Obviously, if there’s financial reasons, that’s another thing but, to the extent that you can, don’t isolate. Stay connected to your fellows. Get involved in the group and stay strong.

Tyson: Good advice, Jimmy.

All right, Elise. What is your tip or hack of the week?

Elise: I would say it’s lighten up on outward focus kind of expectations. Now isn’t the time to nag your kids about cleaning their rooms or freaking out about all the little things. Like with Jim, the mind is more direct. Stay connected with your significant other. Really check in with them about how they’re doing, how you’re doing, and have those really deep conversation. That is going to help you get through this knowing that your partner is there right with you.

Tyson: Excellent advice. I love it.

My tip of the week is to pick a project, okay. One project. A lot of you have had a lot of projects. You have a list of things that you want to do with your practice and they just sit on the list. They never get done because you’re thinking about all the things you need to do.

I want you to pick a project over the next week and just work on that one project. Maybe it’s fixing something. Maybe it’s starting something new. Whatever it may be, pick a project – one project, and do that one thing over the next week and see how far you get on with it.

Elise, thank you so much for coming on the show. This has been great. I wish we had more time. I actually have a Zoom court this morning. Otherwise, I would’ve loved to gone longer. Thank you so much, I learned a lot.

Elise: Absolutely. Good luck in court today.

Tyson: That one’s a easy one. Thank you though. I appreciate it. See you.

 

Thanks for listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.

To stay in contact with your hosts and to access more content, go to maximumlawyer.com.

Have a great week and catch you next time.

 

Subscribe for Email Updates