In today’s podcast episode we joined Salma Benkabbou, Esq. Salma brands herself as The Millennial Business Lawyer®, a subject-matter expert in the legal areas of business, intellectual property, and business immigration.
Ms. Benkabbou, a Millennial herself, recognizes the nexus between social media and the modern business landscape. She uses this space to help modern entrepreneurs avoid legal rookie mistakes through the valuable perspective of a business lawyer. Through her social media platforms, The Millennial Business Lawyer® cultivates relationships with modern audiences by providing valuable, intelligible nuggets of wisdom in various areas of the law speaking to the pain points of modern entrepreneurs.
Her social media presence has effectively propelled her business forward, and she is happy to share Instagram tips with other lawyers looking to cultivate a similar online community. Salma Benkabbou, Esq., is the lead strategist at The Benkabbou Law Firm, PLLC, a boutique law firm located in Downtown Tampa, Florida.
2:27 the option to practice where you want
5:30 how your why transforms into a law firm setup
6:11 improving your marketing
8:26 what is EQ?
8:53 the most dangerous characteristic of an attorney
10:10 Instagram for business
18:01 team setup
18:55 managing a team remotely
20:35 growth goals
Jim’s Hack: Take 15 minutes a day for four days to focus on one of each of these: 90-day, 1 year, 5 year and 10 year goals.
Salma’s Tip: Book: Principles by Ray Dalio
Tyson’s Tip: Book: The 100-Page Book by Mike Capuzzi
If you enjoyed the show, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and leave a 5-Star review!
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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, Jimmy?
Jim: Oh, Tyson, I’m sitting on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. I’m looking out at the water. The water has been beautiful and warm. Lucky for me, because sometimes Lake Michigan’s really cold, we’ve had a great vacation so far.
Tyson: Very nice. I’m excited for you. We are talking about going to Michigan ourselves. So, Michigan always seems like– I’ve never– I mean, I’ve been to Michigan but not like for something like you’re doing, so it seems like a very beautiful place to visit.
Jim: Yeah, and the best part is you’re on the water in seven hours, so it’s really terrific.
Tyson: That’s pretty cool. I mean, especially from St. Louis, that’s a pretty quick trip.
All right. Well, do you want to introduce our guest?
Jim: Yeah, sure thing.
So, our guest today is Salma Benkabbou. She’s a lawyer from Tampa, Florida. She’s licensed in multiple states. She did very, very well in law school. She’s had a show on Sirius XM for a while. She’s been licensed since 2013. She’s licensed in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida.
Salma, welcome to the show.
Salma: Hi, thank you.
Tyson: So, Selma, tell us about your journey.
Salma: Sure. Where would you like for me to start? Would you like for me to start after law school or–?
Tyson: You start to wait where you think it is relevant because sometimes people start– like Neil Goldstein started whenever he was a kid. Some people want to start when they’re an adult. You start wherever you wherever you think it’s relevant to your story.
Salma: Sure. So, I guess, I’ll start in the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey into owning my own practice. So, essentially, I wanted to practice in a way that was different than what the traditional law firms offer. I wanted to have the freedom to be able to practice and take on the cases that I really cared about and genuinely make a difference with my license. So, realizing that working for someone else wasn’t going to be the best way that I’m able to do that and be able to utilize my skills because I’m always at the mercy of a partner or someone else telling me what I needed to do.
So, in embarking on that journey, I wasn’t even sure where I wanted to practice. I didn’t like the idea of being stuck in one state. And so, that’s why I have three licenses is because I wanted the option to practice wherever I wanted to do so. And North Carolina license has reciprocity with 23 other states. And so, I felt like that was the best choice to do.
And so, essentially, starting my practice was a lot of bumping my head all around. There was this idea of you have to sound like a lawyer and look like a lawyer. Otherwise, no one was going to take you serious, especially as a woman and a woman of color.
So, I tried some of the marketing strategies that marketing firms offered to law firms and it just wasn’t a good fit for me. It didn’t feel right. I felt like I wasn’t being myself and it didn’t really feel authentic and, to be quite honest with you, it didn’t even work. So, I decided to say, “You know what, the heck with it. I’m just going to try being myself and see if that works.” And, essentially, that’s kind of how my practice took off in the sense of just being who I am and introducing the world to my spirit, my heart, and started building from there.
Jim: That’s great. That’s great, Salma.
So, one of the things Tyson and I have been talking about, wanting to ask our guests and maybe even sort of at the beginning of the interview is, why do you do what you do? What is your why?
Salma: That’s a great question. And that is, honestly, the most important thing to have when you’re in in this journey or at least practicing law. My why is really essentially to help people who don’t necessarily have the mentorship that a lot of others are privy to. I enjoy protecting the livelihoods of other people. I enjoy being a part of the process of an idea. I call it creative greatness. It is such an honor and privilege to be around innovative people and to work with entrepreneurs who are like minded. And it really does provide a sense of gratitude and privilege when you are assisting others protecting their creative greatness.
Tyson: So, Salma, I mean, how did you come to that? Because a lot of people– and we see one of the biggest struggles is people coming to their why and actually really defining it. And it sounds like you nailed it. Right whenever Jim asked you, you didn’t struggle. You knew. So, how did you come to that?
Salma: Honestly, it was really nine months of searching because I thought the conventional way of practicing law just did not appeal to me. And, honestly, while in law school, I didn’t anticipate feeling that way. It got to a point where I didn’t even want to practice law. And what I realized is that, it’s not that I don’t want to practice, it’s just that I want to make sure that I’m on the positive side of things and I’m actually helping people in the right way. It wasn’t necessarily working for big corporations and there’s no individual behind the business. Big corporate law didn’t really interest me. It didn’t feel like it was driving me.
So, I really did a lot of soul searching and dug within and I said, “What’s really important to me? And how does God want me to utilize my skill? And in what way? Where am I needed?”
Jim: Sure. That’s awesome.
And so, how did that translate into a practice area or a law firm setup?
Salma: So, essentially, realizing that there was a need for the entrepreneurship community, specifically in the startup phase. A lot of people don’t have the mentorship to understand the importance of having a legal foundation. So, I started educating and really just started off because I started to see a lot of mistakes come across my desk that were definitely avoidable.
And so, I started to just host workshops anywhere that they would have me. That’s essentially where it began. And the more and more I did it, the more and more I realized, like, wow, people just really– there’s a need for this. And so that’s kind of how it started.
Tyson: So, I find it interesting that in the questionnaire that you filled out for us, you talked about how marketing used to be sort of a weak point for you and now it’s one of your strong points. Can you talk about how that happened? How that transition occurred?
Salma: Yeah, so marketing. I used to think that marketing was like a dirty word. I used to think it was just having like sales breath. So, I didn’t really know the difference between marketing and sales. And so, essentially– and, you know, part of what I do when you provide a service, people need to know who you are, and they need to kind of identify with you personally, right? Especially in a position of trust and such an intimate relationship such as that of an attorney-client relationship.
What I realized is, as I got out there and started to talk to people, I didn’t necessarily have to be anything or say anything other than just really being true to myself, and the right people will come and the right people will introduce themselves. And, they’ll introduce you to others. And it’ll just kind of organically grow from there.
I felt that marketing, at least the traditional way of how I understood it was, you’re kind of creating an image, or a persona, or something that’s not necessarily true. That was very uncomfortable for me so I avoided it. And so, I just said, “I don’t know how to be something I’m not.” So, I don’t know how to essentially convey a message that’s just not authentic to myself. And that’s kind of why it was such a weak point for me. And then, until I decided to just be myself, and when that started working, and I started to kind of enhancing my skills in marketing and really just having the EQ to understand what do the clients that I want to serve, what do they need? And then, what kind of education could I provide for them? And what are their pain points?
And then, I started to focus more on, “If I’m an entrepreneur that has no idea what’s anything about the law or what are the legal implications of starting my business or running it or even scaling it, what do I need to know?” From that perspective. And so, then, I started to think in the sense of, “If I’m in their shoes, what do I need to know?” And then, education is really the greatest marketing tool because nowadays the consumer is a lot more sophisticated than they used to be.
Jim: I loved your whole answer, but I want to focus on two letters that you mentioned and that is EQ. What is EQ? Can you explain it to our listeners and tell us how you think most lawyers get EQ wrong?
Salma: So, EQ is emotional intelligence. It really just comes down to the ability to empathize and understand another person and be able to anticipate, essentially, their emotions and how they’re going to make a decision based off of their personality and, essentially, how the connection that you may have with them. I think that a lot of lawyers get it wrong, because they lack empathy. If you want me to be completely honest with you, a lot of people in our profession are ego driven and I think that that’s the most dangerous characteristic that you can have as an attorney because you’re not really acting in the best interest of your client anymore, you’re really acting in your own best interest to your detriment.
So, when you focus on the client as the goal and their best interest which is what we’re supposed to do anyway then, in that sense, you’re able to better serve them and you’re able to come to better solutions, and you find that clients are happy. I mean, lawyers will probably make a lot less money but, at the end of the day, if you’re in it for the service, then you feel– I get more fulfillment that way than I do making a dollar.
Jim: My follow up on that, real quick. I think that you’re actually on to something, but I also don’t think that it’s connect with your clients on an emotional level and make less money. I actually think that when you connect with your clients, at an emotional level, it’s actually going to help you to make more money to be more successful.
Salma: I agree with you for the long haul. What I mean by that is, in the short term, you might make less but, for the long haul, you’ll definitely make a lot more just off of the goodwill that you build in that relationship, that you build with that client.
Jim: Got it.
Tyson: So, Salma, I’m going to take a radical shift in where we’re going to head with this. I want to talk about Instagram because Instagram is just not my jam but you have nailed it. So, talk about how you were able to build Instagram into a marketing force for you.
Salma: Yeah, absolutely.
So, each social media platform has its own language and you have to use its own copy that’s going to resonate with that audience that uses it. So, Instagram is definitely a platform that a lot of millennials use. And what I realized, within my own experiences, when I’m looking for a service provider – for example, when I was looking for a dentist, I definitely used hashtags as a form of narrowing down the type of dentist I would want it to hire or whose services I wanted to retain.
And then, it hit me and I said, “Well, if this is how I search for medical providers, to see what kind of work that they’ve done, what kind of personality do they have. Are they innovative or are they just kind of stuck in old ways of doing things? Then, I realized and I think it’s the same for lawyers as well. And so, I started to essentially just be myself and appeal to the millennial business owner or entrepreneur who is utilizing Instagram to sell their products or services. And that way, when they’re connected to me, or when they search using certain hashtags, they’ll see whether or not I’m the right fit for them based off of how I carry myself and who I am as a person.
So, I think that Instagram is a great tool for lawyers to use, so long as they understand the audience that they’re marketing to and they actually speak that language of that particular audience.
Jim: And how do you come up with your content for Instagram? I think a lot of lawyers wonder, “Well, what is a visual medium like Instagram have to do with being a lawyer?”
Salma: So, honestly, the content just is from your heart because I think that, nowadays, you have to be able to speak to their pain points. So even in the way that I educate, I educate from a purpose of “what does a business owner need to know in their terms?” So, if I speak in terms of because I practice business law and intellectual property, I’m going to speak about disputes that could possibly arise utilizing social media platforms, marketing platforms, speaking about the importance of protecting your business and why. You have to educate people. You can’t just throw information at them because, if you’re just giving them legal tips, which is what a marketing firm had originally told me when I first started out, you’re basically reminding them of everything that they’re doing wrong and you’re going to turn them off. And that’s exactly what happened. People started to unfollow and it was not working.
So, in providing the information, you have to put it in a way that it actually resonates with them, into their story, and something that they can relate to. And if you can’t do that, you’re going to miss the point.
Tyson: So, Salma, you have a system that looks like that it helps you– it looks like you’re big on systems anyways, but you have a system that helps you communicate regularly with clients and more often than most other firms. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Salma: In terms of on social media or what do you mean, specifically?
Tyson: Yeah, just how do you communicate with your clients. I mean, what differentiates you from other firms?
Salma: Sure. So, we’re very accessible. We allow for Zoom calls, phone calls way before the pandemic. The way I started my practice is essentially for the busy entrepreneur. And also, via text messages. Obviously, we don’t allow substantive matters to be sent via text messages, but it’s a lot easier for us to communicate that we have something important for you to review in our client portal or if we’re missing a certain document. Using text messages is a lot easier and we find a better response doing it that way.
I think oftentimes, now, people prefer that you just send them a text message or you’re able to hop on a Zoom call, if need be. Really, I designed my practice to serve my ideal client.
Jim: We’re talking with Salma Benkabbou.
Selma, what is your favorite thing about practicing law and what bums you out about practicing law?
Salma: My favorite thing about practicing law is the impact that I’m able to have on my clients, in assisting them, and the gratitude that they have for the services that I provide. What I hate about practicing law, I hate to say it, is really dealing with opposing counsel. I think that, a lot of times, we make this job a lot harder than what it needs to be. If we just, you know, put our focus on doing the best that we can for our clients and not taking things personal, we can definitely make this – the practice of law a lot more fun and, kind of, just erring on the side of doing the right thing. It doesn’t have to be a lot more difficult than what it needs to be in dealing with managing client emotions and then also now you’re managing opposing counsel emotions and figuring out a strategy based off of that.
Tyson: All right. So, Jimmy, I’m going to do our first live read. This is the first one we have ever done. And so, I’m excited to do it. You normally do it. I’m going to channel my best Tony Kornheiser. Hopefully, Christopher Nicolaysen will appreciate this.
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That is a corny tagline.
Jim: #nailed it #professional pitchman.
Tyson: That’s funny. That’s good. I liked it in the library. It allows us to add a little bit more flavor to it.
So, let me get to another question. I like to ask this of a lot of our guests. I don’t ask it to everyone, but Salma, I mean, you– I especially like to ask people that really just have it nailed it. It seems like you really are just squared away. But what is it that you struggle with the most?
Salma: To be honest with you it’s balance. And that’s something that has been on my priority list this year. As you scale practice, lawyers specifically, we have the heightened burden of practicing law which is difficult on of its own of its own and also managing a business. It’s not like we’re selling a product. We actually have to work really hard and also deal with the downfalls of the business side of things or the up and down of the business side of things. So, this year, I’ve been essentially trying to find that balance between my personal life and also scaling my business and it’s been quite a struggle. I can’t lie.
Jim: Tell us about your team and your setup. What do you spend most of your time doing, Salma?
Salma: Yeah. So, right now, I have two full-time employees. They’re assistants. One is a legal assistant. The other one is an admin assistant. I also have contract attorneys that I use for the overflow of work.
And so, essentially, all of us can work remotely or we can work in the office. It was really nice being able to just pick up a computer and provide that to my employees and they’re able to work from home. We’ve picked up like we didn’t even skip a beat. We couldn’t even tell that we weren’t around each other, to be honest. So, that was great.
Essentially, it’s very fluid. We work as a team and it’s somewhat of like an assembly line. So, each person relies on the next person to get their work done. We’re essentially working as a team. I like to call them my family.
Tyson: So how do you manage your team whenever it’s all remote? I mean, it’s something that we do, but I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with. So, do you have any tips for helping people manage a remote team?
Salma: Yeah, absolutely.
So, the main thing is to set the expectations and to have a daily to-do list. So, we use a digital platform where we all have a daily to-do list. On that to-do list, we’re all able to see what was completed. And I require everyone to leave a comment on, you know, if you made a phone call, I need to know what that phone call was about. And did you essentially accomplish the goal or the task? And we’re able to kind of work off of each other, in that perspective. And that also limits the amount of time I need to call and figure out a status update. The checklist is there. The comments are there. And so, we’re able to see where everyone is at, at any given any given moment of the day.
In the beginning of the week, we also have our meetings where we discuss our priorities for the week and our big projects that have to be completed. And throughout the week, we check in with each other to make sure that things are being completed. And, if there’s any hiccups, we’re there to support one another.
I’m not too far removed to do any kind of work no matter what level it’s at. So, if I need to step in and support anyone at any given moment, I’m happy to do that. And then, we also utilize Teams, which is a Microsoft app, that we’re able to communicate with one another as a chat box. Throughout the day, I’m able to see you know where we’re at, at any given moment, if we needed to.
As far as our phone systems, we use a virtual online phone. That’s something that I use from the inception of my practice. I never subscribed to a landline. I just don’t see the point, now that we have voice over internet phones.
Jim: Salma, you talked about growth and scaling. What are your goals, when it comes to growth? Is it more sales? More offices? More practice areas? What’s your mindset around growth?
Salma: So, this year, we’ve expanded into business immigration. Really, the big goals are to help as many people as we possibly can. Ideally, my long-term goal is to definitely have an office in multiple states so that I’m able to utilize these licenses for something. Primarily, I would like the business immigration side to focus on people within my own community, within the Arab community. And then, the business side of things, essentially, just continuing to grow at the pace that we are. Last year, we grew 89%. This year we’re along the same lines.
So, it’s really exciting to move forward in that in that perspective. But I am thinking about that balance and at what point do I want to essentially focus more on my personal life than it is business? So, it’s a little bit more difficult to manage and to think about. Especially as a woman, we have different variables we have to think about, especially if we want to move on in our next phase, in our next chapter of our lives of becoming wives, and having children, and so forth.
Tyson: All right, Salma, we do need to wrap things up. Before I do. I want to remind everyone to go to the Facebook group. Get involved there. There’s a lot of great information every single day. I posted a couple of times yesterday and got a lot of responses. And so, it’s just a great environment to get feedback on things.
Also, if you’re interested in the Guild, check us out at maximumlawyer.com, where we have more information on the Guild.
Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?
Jim: All right. For my hack of the week, I have a four-day project that you take 15 minutes each day. I want everyone to get out a pen and a piece of paper. Divide the piece of paper into four boxes. On the bottom right hand corner write 10-year goals. In the bottom left-hand corner, write five-year goals in the upper right-hand corner, write one-year goal. And in the upper left-hand corner, write 90-day goal. And I want you to spend 15 minutes today working on your 10-year goals and ask yourself, “What do I want? What do I want for my 10-year goal?” And then, on the next day, you’re going to work on your five-year goals. Then, your one-year goal. Then, your 90-day goals. It doesn’t cost a dime.
Tyson: I like it. That’s good. That’s a good one. I think it’s a simple way of doing things. An easy way to get started because I think that a lot of people struggle with that. So, I like it. It sounds like a coach thing. Did you get it from Strategic Coach?
Jim: And Traction. Yep.
Tyson: Nice. Nice.
All right, Salma. So, we always ask our guests to give a tip or hack of the week. It could be a book. It could be a podcast. It could be anything. Do you have a tip or a hack for us?
So recently, I’ve been reading the book Principles by Ray Dalio. It is an amazing book where he discusses his life’s principles and the principles that he has for his business. So, I would highly recommend it.
Tyson: We just discussed the Principles in the in The Guild yesterday.
I also have a book as my tip and it’s The 100 Page Book by Mike Capuzzi. It’s an easy read. It takes about an hour. It’s a really easy one. He talks about the importance of books, but he talks about easy ways of doing books. I like his idea of making it very simple and all that. And I think that that’s a good way to get started.
I hate that he uses the term shooks, instead of books. He calls them short, helpful books. He calls them shooks and it’s so annoying throughout the book. But, other than that, it’s actually a really good system if you want to get started with the books.
The kind of way I’m looking at it is, I think, you could use his system to create 300-page books, three books, and then put them together and just have like three different sections in a book. He does give you– it’s a very easy way of getting started and that’s what I liked about it. So, if you’re thinking about getting a book or you’re writing a book, read The 100 Page Book.
And thanks to Larry Weinstein. He turned me on to it because it’s actually pretty good.
Salma, thanks so much for coming on. We really appreciate it. It’s been a great podcast, so thank you so much.
Salma: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Tyson: Have a great one. We’ll see ya.
Salma: Thanks. Bye.
Thanks for listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
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Have a great week and catch you next time.