This week we have Terry Clancy as a guest on the podcast! Terry focuses her practice exclusively on Estate Planning in Oak Park, IL. Prior to starting her law practice, she worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office between 1991-1998 and again between 2006-2017. (Between 1998 and 2006 she was a stay at home mom).
Watch the recording here.
7:20 getting started with video
8:32 starting to get clients
13:54 client avatar
16:23 system to further your practice
17:20 tech stack
18:00 future growth vision
21:25 planning for growth
Jim’s Hack: Daniel Pink’s new class on selling.
Terry’s Tip: Get an estate plan! Use your software for what it’s not originally marketed for.
Tyson’s Tip: Zoho social for social media scheduling.
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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, it’s a great day. It’s about 70 degrees in the middle of November. And I just went for a long walk, as our guest said, “in my T shirt.” And it was great. And I came home. And I saw that we signed up one case at 3:00 a.m. and one case at 6:02 a.m., so that’s pretty exciting.
Tyson: Holy Jeez. Sign him up in the middle of night. I’m not sure– I can’t say we’ve done that without my assistant so that’s pretty damn good. Nice.
Jim: One of the clients is in London so it wasn’t early for her. You know, we have people all over the world so sometimes it works out that way.
Tyson: I guess so. We’re starting to feel the effects of the COVID spike because the schools just announced yesterday– it’s a weirdest thing. They said, all right, for sure, all the elementary school kids are going back to virtual starting next week, so that sucks.
Jim: That didn’t take long.
But they also, at the same time, same meeting, they said, “High school kids and middle school kids are going to go back to in-person in January.” It’s like, “How are you announcing this on the exact same day? This makes zero sense.”
Anyways, let’s get to our first guest. You ready, Jimbo?
Jim: Ready, bro.
Tyson: All right. So, we have Guild member and great estate planning lawyer who also does amazing videos, Terry Clancy. She’s out of Oak Park, Illinois.
So, Terry, welcome to the show.
Terry: Well, thanks for having me. Hello.
Jim: Oh, Terry, you’re so much fun to have in The Guild. We love having you in there.
Let’s get started, though, as we often do, with your story. So, when did you go to law school? And what happened after that? And how did you get to the point where you had your own estate planning firm?
Terry: So, I graduated law school in 1990. Perhaps there are some members that may not even have been born then but, you know, I went there, kind of, because I was inspired by a TV show, LA Law. I wanted to be a prosecutor. And so, I did. I became one. And I really loved the job.
But then I had a couple of kids and decided that I wanted to transition into being a stay-at-home mom. So, I did that for eight years. And then, I went back to work part-time and then full-time. But I just kind of had lost the desire to prosecute. I wasn’t as interested in criminal law, as I once was, but I continued on because, you know, it was a great job, kind of golden handcuffs. You had weekends off and have a lot of holidays and the pay was good.
And then I eventually got to a point where a bunch of us got laid off. We were, you know, all kind of over 40 but that was, you know, nothing I wanted to pursue as far as a lawsuit. Some of the people did, but I was really happy to leave because I had been kind of disenchanted for a while.
And so, I wanted to try to figure out what to do. And I just started working for other attorneys, going to court. And I happened upon probate court and realized, “Oh, my gosh. These things get really sideways when people are fighting over their parents’ money.” And I realized, “Well, we should probably get an estate plan.” Even though my husband’s a judge and I’m an attorney, we did not have a will or any of that stuff. So, I tried to look into doing that ourselves.
And then, kind of a tragic, but ended up being very impactful, my husband had a heart attack very unexpectedly. And he, luckily, is doing great now. He’s totally fine. But that kind of cemented my idea that estate planning was a very important thing to do. And I’ve kind of become an estate planning true believer ever since then.
Tyson: I’ve got sort of an odd question, unrelated to business, completely. What do you think it was like for your kids to grow up with a mom as a lawyer and a dad as a judge? I mean, do you think it was more difficult on them?
Terry: Yeah. You know, I think that they played some odd kid games. I was just talking to a friend and our kids used to play jailer and judge. And, after dinner, somebody would be the criminal and the other person would be the judge. And the sheriffs would bring them over and sentence them. You know, I’m sure there weren’t too many kids out there playing those games but– yeah, obviously, it impacted them.
None of our kids have actually gone into law or even looked like they’re pursuing law but, you know, I think they enjoyed us being an attorney and a judge. It was easy to kind of tell what your parents did for work. So, yeah.
I’d like to think that that inspired them to do well in school. You know, of course, you don’t know what does but.
Jim: Let’s talk about your current setup. I know that you operate a pretty lean outfit. Let’s talk a little bit about how you’re handling your marketing.
Terry: Yeah. So, I kind of started out doing, you know, what everybody else did, a blog. And then, after you guys kind of preached the whole video thing, I thought, “Well, I’ll give it a try.” And I really, really enjoy doing video. So, I, you know, set up the tripod and just started recording videos. I had somebody help me in the beginning. And, now, I have a video show that’s really more about Oak Park than it is about my business.
But now, I just started– I have– I’m going to launch it today, The Estate Planning Jeopardy Game which is ironic that Alex Trebek just passed away this couple of days ago, because I was on board to do the game anyway. And so, it’s 25 videos of 25 answers, all estate planning-related but more like trying to persuade you to do an estate plan than it is information about, you know, wills and trusts. I mean, it is a little bit about that but more of the persuasive angle.
Tyson: I love the idea. I don’t know how the heck you came up with it but it’s such a cool idea. Like, no one else is doing that. It’s really good.
Terry: Oh, we’ll see – see if it bombs or, you know, blows up and is great, so.
Tyson: I’m sure, it’ll be fun. It’ll be a fun experience no matter what.
I want to talk more about the video stuff because I think– and I may be wrong about this, but I think you were a little hesitant to jump into video. But your videos are– I tell you this all the time, they’re freakin’ awesome. I love watching them. I wish you’d push out more of them. But will you talk about your resistance, if there wasn’t resistance to doing video, and then how you feel after you’ve actually started pushing out videos?
Terry: Well, you know, many people don’t like to see themselves on camera, right? It just is just like listening to your own voice. It’s just sometimes not what you think you are, you know. And, as you grow older, you know, your appearance changes. And so, I would just see myself in pictures and be like, “Oh, my God, what happened?” So, you know what, I just bit the bullet and I thought, “You know what? I’m going to do this. It seems like the wave of the future.” And I just kept filming, and filming, and filming, and filming, and filming until I got used to the idea and used to looking at myself on video.
And then, once you hit that threshold then, I think, you know, you start thinking, ”Well, I look actually pretty good on video,” you know. And then, you start becoming a lot more positive about the way you look, and how you act, and how you sound, and you’re not so critical.
Jim: And so, how did you get started? We know a lot of people that really do have that sort of “I don’t like to see myself on camera” thing and then they’re wondering how do they create content. What was your mindset going into it and what have you learned?
Terry: Well, I just use my phone. You know, I started with a phone. I got the tripod. But I didn’t want to just talk about wills and trusts. And so, I thought, ”Well, if I have some format, it’s more interesting to me and more creative to me. Then, I’ll be more than enthusiastic about shooting a lot.” So then I wrote content kind of based on blogs that I was doing already. But I wanted to keep ‘em short and simple. And I really want to persuade people to get an estate plan more than educate them about all the intricacies about estate planning. So, I felt like I had a baby, a fresh angle, that other people weren’t doing who already were doing videos in the space. And so, that’s what I’ve been pursuing ever since.
Tyson: So, I want to back up a second because I feel like we sort of skipped a couple of steps and part of it’s because of my question, I think. When you started to do estate planning– so, you’d been a prosecutor for a really long time. You’d taken some time off to be a mom. I guess, how did you start getting clients? Because a lot of us, we have a lot of our cases that we get from classmates and a lot of our classmates know us as a certain type of a lawyer. And all of your classmates have known you as this prosecutor. Like, how did you break through that and say, “Hey, send me estate planning cases.” How did you start to get those cases?
Terry: Well, I created an enormous email list. I have, you know, 1200 people on my email list. I mean, now, I have more and more, like 1500. But, you know, my husband ran for judge three times so we know a lot of people. I’ve lived in this house for 25 years. I have four kids who are very active in the community. I mean, we have deep roots. Even before I opened my own practice, we have deep roots in the community. We belong to a lot a large parish. I’m very active in the parish, you know. So, I think I had a lot of connections just right off the bat.
And, luckily, with estate planning, most people need it, right? 50% of the population doesn’t have one. So, you know, I basically was appealing to everyone because, to me, everyone was a potential client.
Jim: So, let’s talk about that because I have a buddy who does estate planning. He actually did our first estate plan. And he said that he has a real problem having people who hire him. He does all the work and then they never come in to sign the paperwork. And I know that there’s like this psychological reluctance for people to think about death and planning.
And last month when Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther, died, Tyson and I did one of our Saturday meetings about that. And what’s been your experience with people’s reluctance to think about it? And how do you sort of deal with that issue of people sort of coming to terms that this is something important for their family?
Terry: Well, I got the biggest compliment from a client, and I keep it posted in my office, which says, “Thanks, Terry. You made a not-so-fun topic fun.” And so, that’s kind of what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to appeal to people to take it out of the funeral home and think about it just as an everyday issue that, you know, you get homeowner’s insurance to protect your house and you hope you never have to use it.
Well, you know, you get an estate plan to protect yourself. Especially when you’re young, you know, you probably– eventually– we all will use it eventually but, you know, you hope to never use it for many, many years. And I think people can look at it that way. That it’s just kind of an insurance policy for your life and not necessarily a drudgery situation that you’re, you know, trying to tie up loose ends in your life, that it just becomes an everyday thing. And that’s kind of what I want to convey to people.
Tyson: Do you ever have clients that want you to be a little bit more serious? I want to make sure I’m clear about that. I think that your marketing is it’s amazing. I think that most people might like it. But, every once in a while, I get people that they want you to be like the stereotypical boring lawyer and it drives me nuts. Do you ever get something like that with your clients?
Terry: I have one time– one time that somebody– you know, lots of people don’t hire you for lots of different reasons and you may never know. But I had one client– you know, I work out of my house. I do meet clients here, sometimes. And they came to my house, and they had already had an estate plan. So, they were updating things, but they had used a lawyer that was far away. But he had, you know, kind of a medium-size firm and they didn’t know what to make of me like I’m in my house. Am I really serious? But, you know, then that’s just not a good fit. So, that’s not the client I want. And they’re not the attorney they want. And it just seems fine to me, you know. And she actually, you know, said as much when she texted back that they weren’t going to pursue using me.
But, for the most part, I think that people really enjoy the fact that it’s not so scary and it’s kind of more relaxed. And, you know, I don’t know if I’d say the word happy is a way to describe things but it’s easy – easy and efficient. And that’s kind of what I try to make it. You kind of get on the conveyor belt of estate planning with me and, once you hop on, I do the rest of the work.
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Jim: All right, Terry. So, I like what you just said about if people don’t groove with you then it’s just not a good fit and on to the next one. I think so many lawyers get hung up on that. They try to be the lawyer for everybody. They try to make everybody happy. But I think that sort of having your avatar client and knowing exactly who it is that you want and who is not a good fit for you, both in practice area and temperament, is a good thing.
I also think that people come in as clients the way they’re going to be. So, if they miss their first appointment or if they’re late getting you stuff, they’re going to be that way throughout. So, can you talk a little bit about that?
Terry: I can’t say that I don’t have any clients that have– you know, I’m halfway through their estate plan with but there are only a few, you know, that are months later. And I really do try follow up with them. But I live in their neighborhood. I see a lot of these people. They know me. And so, I just feel like I am much more accessible to them than perhaps somebody who’s in an office downtown. And I also send– you know, they get on my newsletter. And so, I think that reminder, of every couple of weeks, that I’m still here, helps them to remember to follow up with me.
I don’t really have a good answer to how to continue to make people connect with you, but I think if you connect with them a lot in the beginning, and they like you, and they enjoy working with you, that will make it easier going forward. And no homework. I don’t have homework. And that’s a big thing with estate planning because people see this big, long form. They’re like, “Oh, no. So much work.” And I don’t allow them to think that way.
Tyson: I like that. I like that a lot. I’m going to ask you something that I haven’t asked anyone in a long time. It used to be my favorite question but I’m going to ask you because you’re one of my favorite people. Because I see Terry as this like– just really, just like nice and happy person that has everything going really well for her. But what is it that you struggle with the most?
Terry: Organization. So, you know, just kind of– that’s not my nature whatsoever – detail. And, you know, it’s probably very rare for an attorney to want to say that. I think a lot of attorneys are pretty detail-oriented but it’s not my nature. So, I really try to re-read things over and over again. Like, for estate plans, I think you need to be very detail oriented. So, that has been a bit of a struggle, but I feel like I’m combating that.
And then just using, you know, systems to further my practice. So, it took me a long time to get on board with having a bunch of software to use in my practice. That was pretty kind of 19th century for a while.
Yeah, you guys– just kind of a funny thing. The first couple of times, I was on a Max Law Group call, people were talking about their tech stacks and I thought you were talking about like stacking up your hardware so that you could like have a better vision of your monitor. And I thought, “Wow, I didn’t realize everybody was doing this tech stacking thing.” And then, I realized what it was [laughs].
Tyson: That is awesome.
Jim: That is awesome.
Tyson: That is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. It’s awesome.
Terry: Yeah. So, systems. But I think, you know, the more you think about it, the better you’ll be at it – the more intentional you are about it.
Jim: So, speaking of stacks, what are you using now to get the work done?
Terry: You know, I’m trying to just keep shopping in my closet kind of thing. So, I just use OneDrive for putting my files in there. I mean, I’m paperless, essentially. So, OneDrive, all my files go in there. I just use Less Annoying CRM which is not for everyone but it’s for me. I really like that CRM. And, you know, I just use kind of the basic stuff. MailChimp for my emailing list. I know there’s a lot of other fancier stuff to do. But, if I keep it simple, and I keep it less expensive, I feel like I can keep my costs to my clients down and I can spend money on stuff that I like doing, like giving them gifts [laughs].
Tyson: So, in the next, I guess, five to 10 years, what are your plans? I mean, are you going to try to grow the firm? Are you going to try to keep it the same? Like, where do you see this ship headed?
Terry: Well, I have two goals– well, three. The one is to change the way people think about estate planning, and that’s just not in Illinois but everywhere, and really make people think this is just a part of everyday life. At 18, you get powers of attorney. You have a child, get a will. And then, if you have any wealth or a house, you create a trust. And so, if people just think of it that way, I think that it will be just so much easier to do it in the end.
And then, I also have a goal of wanting Oak Park to have the largest amount of estate plans in the country. And I don’t quite know how I’m going to measure that besides going door to door and asking people, but I figured they’ll eventually come to me. The universe will show me how to do that.
And then, I want to hit a certain revenue goal by the time my youngest graduates college which is in four years. So, I don’t know if that’s going to involve hiring more people, which I’m not opposed to, I’m just not there yet because my family is largely helping me out with doing any of the work that I can’t do. You know, the busy work, the admin work. You know, maybe next year I’ll probably hire somebody.
Tyson: Jim, what do you think about that mission? That’s badass.
Jim: Oh, you know, I love stuff like that. That’s just great. And it would be a fun thing to figure out how to measure.
Oh, that just threw me for a loop, Tyson.
Tyson: So, sorry. I was like, “Man, this is such a well-defined vision.” I wouldn’t call it a vision but more of a mission. It’s great. It’s like, as you grow, as you bring more people on, like you can sort of just, “Oh my gosh, that’s our guiding light. Let’s focus on that.” So, hopefully, I filibustered enough for you to think about your question was, Jim.
Jim: You did perfectly. So, the other day, Tyson and I were talking to each other specifically about estate planning. And we were wondering, do you think there’d be any value, Terry, in marketing estate plans for particular occupations? In other words, in Oak Park, I want to do all the estate plans for all the lawyers, or all the doctors, or all the teachers?
And sort of a second sort of narrowing– not that you wouldn’t do all the other kinds but that you would just have particular marketing for people in that– I mean, I think your church is a good one. You know, all the people in your church. That’s a good one. But I’m thinking of other verticals. And I don’t want to get on stacks again because I don’t want to get you screwed up but sort of verticals of groups that you could identify that you could market specifically to them.
Terry: Yeah. That’s a great idea. I mean, oddly enough, my new website is very much appealing to single women. I had no idea. I don’t know if it’s just the writing or it’s made by me. My web designer is also a woman. But I have had a lot more single women clients. And, luckily, single women want to do their estate plan. Single men, not so much. A lot more single women clients contacting me, but– No, I think that’s a great idea. I love that idea. I might have to, you know, give that a lot more thought.
And as far as you’re talking about with my goals, I kind of look at it, I want to build more of a movement than a moment. So, you know, that kind of appeals to me kind of the save the world nature that I have.
Tyson: All right. So, I’m going to dig a little bit deeper in this for a second because you may or may not have thought about this. Do you have any plans on how you are going to do that? Like, what are some of the things you’re going to do? And, if not, we can sort of brainstorm right here to kind of figure out some ideas. But have you thought about some ideas on how you’re going to do that?
Terry: Creating the movement, you mean?
Terry: Yeah. Well, I think like– here, I’ll show you. People who can’t see. This is a new logo that I kind of have that I’m utilizing that in my new video series. And I just think the more people see estate planning as not a scary thing that you only do when you’re 90. You know, I just tried to talk about the advantages of doing estate planning all throughout your life. And I don’t have real strong ideas exactly how to make that happen, just kind of keep pursuing the next interesting thing to me.
Jim: All right. So, I know, you said that you have a lot of help from your family in doing sort of the tedious stuff but what’s going to have to happen in order for you to start either hiring VAs or hiring actual employees to help you grow this thing?
Terry: What do you mean? When am I going to do it?
Jim: Yeah, what has to change? What’s your marker as to say–
Terry: I guess, I probably just have to have more business because, right now, I feel like I can handle the business without bringing in somebody else. But if the business really, you know–
I don’t know. I feel like my website, I’ve been getting so many clients just from my website. So, I haven’t really pursued a lot more marketing than the stuff that I like doing like these videos.
I don’t know. Right now, I’m fine with the time I have devoting to the practice but, I suppose, there might come a day. And there certainly have been weeks where I’m like, “Ah, what am I thinking? I’ve got to get somebody in to help me.”
But with COVID, it’s hard because, to me, a lot of estate planning needs to be done– at least the stuff I want people to do, needs to be done with the documents. That means I have to have somebody in my house helping me. And I don’t really want to break the bubble with bringing in somebody I don’t know. So, I don’t know, I’ll have to figure it out. I have kids home from college for a few months. So, once they leave, I’m thinking about pursuing maybe an intern. And if I know, you know, somebody that’s local, that’s kind of college age because that’s really what I need. I don’t need somebody who has a lot of legal background to come in and help.
Tyson: We’re going to have to dig deeper into this later on, in the Guild, because I think that there are ways you can implement VAs without them having to be, obviously, in your house because I know that’s something that Russ relies heavily on. I don’t know about Paul Yokabitus. I think he has in house people. But we’re going to talk about that later.
But we are at our time. So, I do want to wrap things up. Before I do. I want to remind everyone to, if you want to join us in The Guild, go to maxlawguild.com. And then, if you don’t mind, taking just a couple of seconds, while you’re listening to the end of this episode, to leave us a five-star review. We would greatly appreciate it. It definitely helps spread the word.
Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?
Jim: Tyson, as you recall, when the Coronavirus hit, MasterClass came up with a two-for-one deal and you and I signed up together to get that. You’re right, that there’s a lot of junk in there but there are some real good nuggets. And I think the best of the best, especially for what we’re talking about, is Daniel Pink’s new class on selling. I started it. It’s terrific.
If you’re not familiar with Daniel Pink, he is a lawyer. He also was a speechwriter for Al Gore. He writes a lot of great books. And one of his books is Everybody Sells. And this is sort of a video walkthrough of the principles that he teaches about the power of persuasion. Real good stuff.
Tyson: I’m actually going to add that to my library right now, to-do, or whatever they call it in MasterClass. I haven’t opened that up in a while. So, I’m going to open the app and add that to my list. Oh, it’s actually– look at this, Jimmy. Right there. The first one pops up. That’s perfect.
All right, Terry, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Terry: Well, I’d be remiss not to tell people to get out there and get an estate plan. But, as far as beyond that, I really have liked using software that’s not made for what it’s originally marketed for. So, like with Loom, you know, a lot of people use that for workflow, and employees and stuff, but using it in my videos has been so fun. So, I just think take a look at what you have. Try to figure out a way to use it that maybe is not it’s original intention but perhaps is still valuable.
Tyson: I love that idea. Because I did the same thing with Infusionsoft. And a lot of people are like, “Are you using that for your case management system?” Like, “Yeah, I love it.” I think that’s a great idea. I love that mindset for things.
So, we do a lot of social media. So, my tip of the week is about social. And we get a lot of cases from Facebook. We are lacking in a couple of other social media platforms just because they’re not all managed. Like our marketing director, my wife, manages Facebook, basically. And like, that’s her baby. And Google My Business. She does those two things. Like, I do Instagram and I do LinkedIn and I’m not very good at it.
I know that there’s these other products that we’ve tried in the past like Buffer. And we’ve tried Hootsuite. I just wasn’t a big fan. But someone did recommend Zoho Social a long time ago and it was sort of stuck in the back of my brain. I never really used it. But I downloaded it and it is really good. It’s really simple and easy to use. And I really like it. So, we’re now using that with our social. So, now, we should have a much better presence on LinkedIn which is a goldmine for a lot of lawyers and Twitter. I do a little bit on Twitter and Instagram. So, we’re going to be able to raise our profiles, hopefully, on those platforms using Zoho Social. And they’ve got a really cheap plan. One’s $10 a month. And then, the other one’s 25 bucks a month. And they have a free trial. So, if you want to check it out, check it out.
Terry, thank you so much for coming on. As always, it’s a pleasure. And so, thank you for sharing your story.
Terry: Well, thank you for hosting me.
Jim: Bye, guys.
Tyson: See ya.
Thanks for listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
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