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Jen Lee, founder of Jen Lee Law and Lawyer Success Network, shares her unique approaches to business development, law firm growth, and practice management.
Alay Yajnik: [00:00:00] In this episode of Lawyer Business Advantage, I have a conversation with Jen Lee, attorney, entrepreneur and founder of Jen Lee Law and Lawyer Success Network. Jen approaches her firm differently than most attorneys, and that’s what’s led her to become one of the top rainmakers in her practice area. Listen and learn from a true attorney. Entrepreneur.
Alay Yajnik: [00:00:32] Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage, your source for biz dev tips, wisdom and inspiration. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik. We’re unleashing your inner rainmaker in 3…2…1….
Alay Yajnik: [00:00:47] I’m very pleased to welcome Jen Lee, the founder of Jen Lee Law and the Lawyer Success Network, to the program. Jen, thank you so much for joining us. Jen has been gracious enough to come on the program and share some of her insights with us. I’ve known Jen for several years, and the way that she approaches the business aspects of running a law firm is something that I find really refreshing. And I’m so glad that she decided to take some of her time to join us today on our podcast. Jen, I don’t think our listeners probably know your background, and yet your background is pretty different from many attorneys that I know. Would you mind just going into your story a little bit?
Jen Lee: [00:01:27] Sure. So this was a second career for me. I came from a small town in North Dakota. I worked in insurance and financial planning in my late teens, early 20s. And then I decided that law school would be a fun thing to do. And before I went to law school, I have an undergraduate degree in business management and I got an MBA in business and business management, basically. And so when I went to law school, I went to law school with the idea that I was going to open up my own firm because I had been in corporate and knew I was never going back to corporate. And I do much better. Working for myself, does not play well with others. It’s kind of my thing.
Jen Lee: [00:02:03] So I went to law school kind of opening my own firm. I thought being the young, naive lawyer that I was I thought that I would go into estate planning because my background in financial planning I had insurance licenses and designations and all that stuff. I thought estate planning would be the best thing for me. And I took an estate planning class in law school and I hated it. And so I had to revise what I was gonna do. I graduated law school in 2009 in the middle of a recession. And so I decided that bankruptcy was a good time to good place to be at that point. So that’s when I opened up my own firm right out of law school with practicing bankruptcy law.
Alay Yajnik: [00:02:43] Awesome. And since then, how has your practice evolved and grown over the years?
Jen Lee: [00:02:48] So in 2009, 10, 11, 12, bankruptcy was pretty – like you couldn’t throw fish without hitting somebody at all. That’s not the right metaphor to use there. But it was very common to have a bankruptcy and it was easy to get clients for. Because there are a lot of people in financial distress. And then I kept seeing people who didn’t necessarily need bankruptcy, who may need other type of help.
Jen Lee: [00:03:14] And so I kind of backed off calling it bankruptcy and started focusing more on financial stress. And people have debt and credit problems. And so my practice has evolved by changing how I help people and how I how I referred to their problems so that it hits home with them, how they think about their problems. And so I was a solo. I had a partner for a short time for a couple years. And then now I have my own firm with several attorneys who work for me. So it’s evolved and grown in a couple of ways, both from a logistical standpoint and also from a how I do things and who I help.
Alay Yajnik: [00:03:55] Yeah. That’s awesome. And just just for clarification, for our listeners, we talk about what you do at your firm. Now, it’s not necessarily the bankruptcy work, but it is still legal work. Right? That’s why you have several attorneys working for you.
Jen Lee: [00:04:10] Right. So I still do a lot of bankruptcy work. But what I found is that most people who need a bankruptcy attorney don’t know they need one if they don’t know to ask for one. And so when I changed it to more debt and credit, I get people who still need bankruptcy, but they never would have considered it or they would have waited way too long to talk to someone. And so when I say debt and credit, it is still really like 90 percent of my cashflow is bankruptcy work.
Alay Yajnik: [00:04:39] Awesome. Thanks for clarifying that. And one of the things that I love about watching your practice grow and develop over the years is how savvy you are at marketing your firm and what you do. What marketing tactics, just in general, do you really favor and why?
Jen Lee: [00:04:56] So I am an unconventional lawyer in that I try to speak very clearly, very English at low level so that everyone understands. I don’t like legalese. And so I think when it comes to my marketing, I try to make it so that it’s approachable. People aren’t scared to come talk to me. We do a lot of content creation, lots of blogs and videos. I have a podcast and education around what people are really struggling with. I also do a lot of networking because I find that most professionals out there are running across people who need my services. And so having as many touchpoints as possible people in insurance and financial planning and other attorneys has been very helpful for for marketing. But most of it is just educating people on what I do and how I can help you educate them in so many different ways.
Alay Yajnik: [00:05:51] Right. You do networking, you do speaking. As you mentioned, you have a podcast. You’re also quite prolific with regards to blogs and social media. Some of our listeners might be wondering how do you find the time for all of that and still practice law?
Jen Lee: [00:06:05] That’s a good question. You have to hire people.
Alay Yajnik: [00:06:06] Yes!
Jen Lee: [00:06:06] So the marketing is fun for me. So I think that’s where I’m a little bit different, too, as I enjoy a lot of the marketing side of things. But I also like helping the clients. I hire attorneys in order to help me with the legal work, especially the court hearings and things like that, because that’s not a part I enjoy. And I’m a big fan of doing the things you like to do. And either outsourcing or hiring for the things that you don’t want to do. So I hire attorneys to help me with that. I have a virtual assistant who helps me automate some of the marketing, the social media posts. I do say you have to be really authentic with social media and with if you’re doing videos or podcasts, you have to be yourself. So a lot of my social media is very personal about my kids or a glass of wine or something like that. So you have to mix it and it can’t be just generic. Here’s a post everyday saying call me if you need help with bankruptcy.
Alay Yajnik: [00:07:03] Seeing that firsthand, I can see how effective that has definitely been for you and some of the people that are listening to it might say, my gosh, you know, she’s approaching this really differently than I would as an attorney. I mean, this is like completely opposite of the way I would I would do it. And so one of the things I’d love to hear from you, Jen, is the approach that you’ve taken or the business philosophy that you have. However you want to describe it, but maybe your mindset in how you view your law firm’s growth.
Jen Lee: [00:07:34] Yeah. So I think a lot of attorneys get stuck in that traditional mindset where you have to go to the office from 9:00 to 5:00. You have to have all your billable hours. And I approach law more from a business side of things saying what problem am I trying to solve and how am I going to help somebody with that? So I think it’s a little bit of a mindset shift. Also, there’s so many things in the legal marketplace that are changing. Not to mention online companies that try to do our jobs and things like that. You really have to make yourself different and have a client understand what your value is when they’re deciding to hire a lawyer or not. So I think my viewpoint on my practice and how I market and what I do with things is really more from my problem solving. And what am I marketing’s that people want to buy type thing?
Alay Yajnik: [00:08:25] I think that’s driven, you know, quite a bit of your success over the years, and it’s just starting to accelerate. I suspect for you as well as for other law firms, because it’s easier than ever for people to connect with the very best. And so if you’re not if your firm isn’t good at marketing and your firm isn’t particularly, you know, exceptional at the practice of law, where you’re one of the best in the state, maybe one of the best in the country. It’s going to be easier than ever for you to lose clients and and not be able to bring on clients, because the people that are best at marketing, the people that use some of the best technology, the people that are some of the best attorneys. That’s where the lion’s share of clients are going to go. And you seem like you’re really well positioned to take advantage of that shift.
Jen Lee: [00:09:10] I hope that that’s the plan.
Alay Yajnik: [00:09:12] OK this is something that I hear a lot when people talk about, you know, other people that are successful. And Jen, I’ve heard this said about you quite a bit when people remark about the success that you’ve had. They say, “Wow, it’s really amazing. Jen is great. I just. The things that she’s doing as an attorney are just mind blowing. I think it’s awesome the success she’s having.” And then, Jen, what I hear is the the b-u-t word after that, right?
Jen Lee: [00:09:41] Yup.
Alay Yajnik: [00:09:41] “BUT, you know, she picked a really good time to get into bankruptcy,” or “BUT, you know, she spends all the time marketing,” the number, know whatever it happens to be. And. I’ve heard that a few times. So people remark on your success, but I don’t know that they had any clue of the effort that you put into it. You make it look so easy as as all of the pros do. And so people just don’t understand the effort. So love to hear. Get a little bit of an insight when you’re not in the office. What’s your typical routine like?
Jen Lee: [00:10:13] So. I like a lot of what I do outside of law. I like the marketing side. I like to do things. So I’m always. If you were inside my head, you’d be scared because I have all these ideas. And so sometimes it’s hard to turn that off. I will admit that. But when I’m not in the office daily routine, I often I have two little kids, so two little girls, so I often spend time with them. But I’m still a little bit tuned into what my business is doing and what the news is and what’s going on in the world. But I will say I don’t spend much time actually in the office. I’m a little millennial like that. I’m usually only in the office if I have a client meeting. Otherwise, I work from my car, Starbucks, where I happen to be. So I tend to be a bit of a nomad like that, but it makes it more time efficient, more effective to get things done.
Alay Yajnik: [00:11:07] Awesome. And if you think about all the things you have to do in a day. What’s your daily routine like?
Jen Lee: [00:11:14] So I try to make a list. Usually the night before. Of what I need to actually get done that’s deadline driven. But I’m also a big fan of blocking off calendar times. You have to be really efficient. I…if you look at my calendar it’s pretty…it looks like Swiss cheese because everything is blocked in on it. And when I give access to my calendar to someone like my assistant or my husband, they’re usually like, what in the world is this? So I will make a list of the things I need to get done, have a time block to work on those things. I try to get through my emails in the morning and in the evening.
Jen Lee: [00:11:52] I try not to do a lot of email in the middle of the day if I can help it because you can get sucked in.
Alay Yajnik: [00:11:56] Yes, you can.
Jen Lee: [00:11:58] And then for social media, I tend to pop on social media in the morning and evening as well unless I’m speaking or I’m out at an event. And I want to make sure that that information is on social media. I’ll do it real time while I’m there.
Alay Yajnik: [00:12:12] Awesome. Awesome. I love talking with Jen because she does so many things right. There’s three things that jumped out there that I heard that you do right, that I recommend to my clients quite a bit: One is figure out your to do list the night before. That saves you a lot of time with the morning. The second thing is block out your calendar. So get a plan for the day and block it out if you need to. And the third is with regards to email, you do e-mail in the morning, in the evening, but try not to do it in the middle of the day because that can be a huge time suck. So awesome. And thank you for sharing that with everybody.
Alay Yajnik: [00:12:46] And actually, it leads me to my next question. Because you are so successful, you’ve started up a group where you can share those successes and help other returnees. So tell us a little bit about Lawyer Success Network.
Jen Lee: [00:13:00] So Lawyer Success Network came about because I have so many people that will try to want advice on marketing and they want advice on business development.
Jen Lee: [00:13:10] And it got to the point where I can’t meet all those expectations and have coffee and lunch with everyone. And so I wanted to create something where we could have information on coaching programs and information on books, reviews, things like that. And then we could all mastermind marketing ideas. A lot of attorneys get scared when they come up with an idea that’s different from everyone else’s doing. I wanted to create an opportunity for people to talk about weird things. Most bankruptcy attorneys think I am off my rocker. And so it’s hard to introduce a new program or a new product or new service when you don’t have anyone around you helping you with that. So that’s kind of what I created Lawyer Success Network for. It’s an online membership community of a Facebook page and then there’s a membership group you can join. And then I also do I still do one to one discussions with people. But I do it on a paid consulting basis. And the reason for that is because people sometimes just want to bounce ideas and they want to drive a creative idea down the path of implementation. And it’s fun for me to do that. I am not a coach. I don’t want to be a coach. I recommend Alay for coaching, but I don’t. But I like the the creative side of things and asking people, have you thought of this or what if you created a product for your law firm that looks like this? So that’s the fun part of it for me.
Alay Yajnik: [00:14:36] You know, you did a presentation in ProVisors networking group not too long ago that was quite provocative and brought in a lot of attorneys. Would you mind just giving us maybe the title, that presentation in a couple of highlights? Because I’d love to hear about what it is in your practice that has other bankruptcy attorneys scratching their heads.
Jen Lee: [00:14:57] So a lot of the things. So the title of that, if I did it on Halloween, I think was October 30th. And it was called Spooky Tricks, Attorney Style. And a lot of what I talked about is getting away from the billable hour and getting away from the traditional way of practicing law. Because honestly, there are so much opportunity out there if you can come up with a new idea. So my whole discussion that day was about turning off your lawyer brain. And as soon as someone said, as soon as I tell someone, “Oh, you could create this service for your firm that’s based on a flat fee.” The first thing attorneys want to tell me is, “I can’t. I can’t do that.” And you have to turn that part of your brain off and start thinking, “How can I do this?” and not, “I can’t.”
Jen Lee: [00:15:42] The other thing I often get is, “No one else is doing this.” And they think that that’s why they can’t do this, because no one else is doing this. You want to be doing something that no one else is doing. You know, you want to be a market of one. That is that is the goal. That’s the ultimate service you could offer. As if no one else is doing this, that means you have the whole market to yourself.
Jen Lee: [00:16:05] And as a bankruptcy attorney, there are lots of bankruptcy attorneys. I am probably one of the busier ones out there because no one else is doing it like I am. And people don’t associate me as a bankruptcy attorney. So that “no one else is doing this” is my favorite thing for someone to tell me, because I’m like, “Yes. That means you have a product, you have a service. You can trademark it. You can do all kinds of fun stuff,” then, yeah.
Alay Yajnik: [00:16:30] “If no one else is doing it, maybe that’s exactly why you should.”
Jen Lee: [00:16:33] Yeah.
Alay Yajnik: [00:16:33] Fantastic. Well, Jen, for people that really find your ideas engaging and interesting and energizing like I do. How can people get involved with Lawyer Success Network?
Jen Lee: [00:16:45] So lawyersuccessnetwork.com is the website for signing up for the membership site. There’s also a Facebook group that’s called Lawyer Success Network and that’s free to join. And you just have to put in the comments when you sign up what state you’re licensed and because it is attorneys only. There’s no marketing in the group. So I would prefer to have just attorneys be in that group. So either the Facebook group, the Web site, lawyersuccessnetwork.com And then from the web site, you can also register for individual sessions to talk to me as well.
Alay Yajnik: [00:17:18] Awesome. And folks, I highly encourage you to go to the Facebook Web site, join, see the conversations that are going on. If you like what you hear, set up some time to chat with Jen because she has a pretty unique mind when it comes to marketing and business development for attorneys. So Jen, thank you so much for being on the show. Really appreciate it. It’s always a pleasure chatting.
Alay Yajnik: [00:17:38] And that’s a wrap. To get more episodes, webinars and free stuff, visit Lawyerbusinessadvantage.com. My name is Alay Yajnik. Thank you for listening. And remember, there is a rainmaker inside everyone, including you.