In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Elizabeth Green Lindsey, President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and Shareholder at Davis, Matthews & Quigley, discuss:
• How Elizabeth leveraged social, political, and attorney relationships to build a book of business in a new geographic area in just three years
• Business development for new attorneys
• The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Alay Yajnik: 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 three, two, one…..
Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to the show, Elizabeth Green Lindsey. Elizabeth is a shareholder with Davis Matthews and Quigley in Atlanta and is also the president elect of the AAML, which is the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Elizabeth, how are you this morning?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: I’m doing great, thank you.
Alay Yajnik: Thank you. I’m doing really well. Also. See, I was already answering your question. Thanks for being on the show today. Really appreciate you taking the time and joining us.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Well, thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Alay Yajnik: So tell us a little bit, if you will, about Davis, Matthews and Quigley, what they do and then what you do for them.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Sure. Davis Matthews and Quigley is a small law firm in Atlanta, Georgia, where we focus on families with wealth and we can manage and handle almost any controversy for a family except for bankruptcy and criminal law. We do tax trust and estate work, commercial real estate, some residential real estate, disputes with neighbors. And a large segment of what I do is solely in the area of family law.
Alay Yajnik: So just if you could tell us a little bit about your career trajectory, how you got started in family law, what you love about it, and then how you grew your career to become a shareholder at this firm.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Yeah, let me start at the beginning. You know, people wonder why you go to law school and I don’t have a great story for that. I was coming out of college with obviously a pretty good student and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So I decided to go to law school. And in law school, I engaged in a class called Civil Clinic and in that I represented a client in a matter involving usury. And as a law student, we sued the finance company, and we won and we got attorneys fees. And in that particular case, whatever doubts had about being a lawyer, I was on fire. It was just great to represent somebody who really needed help and had been taken advantage of. From that experience, I knew that I needed to do something fast-paced and people-oriented. So the options probably were criminal law or family law at that time. And I chose the path of family law, started my career in Charlotte, North Carolina, at a small firm and practiced family law. And from that moment on, I’ve loved it. And so I’ve been fortunate that I have had great mentors and great experiences learning about family law over the course of the years. And family law has really emerged. When I started practicing law years ago, there was pretty relatively simple. People usually had a house and maybe a retirement. But as things have moved on, people have much more varied interests. We have businesses that need to be valued. We have commercial real estate partnerships, trust, estate, executive benefits, all types of very complicated issues. Plus, you tie into it all the personality issues that come along with a divorce and the reasons for the divorce and the custody issues and dealing with people’s personality and their children. So it’s a great way to have a lot of interests every day. And what you do, that’s never the same day and you’re helping people in one of the worst times of their lives. And I think that a lawyer, and family law in particular, is a leader to help navigate your client through all the various issues that come up. And it’s very difficult. It can be very difficult, but it’s also very rewarding. So that’s kind of how I have evolved to this point. I moved to from Charlotte to Atlanta when I got married. I’ve been married and I’ve been in Atlanta now for almost thirty two years. And I’ve been with the same firm the whole time.
Alay Yajnik: Oh wow. That’s great. So when you moved from Charlotte to Atlanta, did you join David Davis, Matthews and Quigley as a shareholder right when you moved over?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: No, I was an associate when I moved here. I’d been practicing law for about four years and I became a shareholder probably about three years later. And that was a result of one of the things any shareholder has to do is start to build their career, build their client base. You have a book of business. And those were the things that I was able to develop.
Alay Yajnik: That’s really that’s really interesting because you were in Charlotte, you moved to Atlanta, which is in many respects a brand new area for you, and here you are having to build your book of business so you can take the next step to become a shareholder. And what were the things that you did that were successful that really enabled you to build that book of business pretty quickly? I mean, three years is not a very long time.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Yeah. You know, I was very fortunate. Timing is always an issue. But also having had a very good foundation from Charlotte where I, early on in my practice, was given a lot of incentive to help to develop business in terms of how my compensation structure was. And with that, not only to develop business and good clients, but also collect fees, right? Work all day. But if you don’t collect the money, you don’t get it.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: And so when I came to Atlanta, I had had a lot of courtroom experience and I was able pretty much to hit the ground running and representing in my firm and having the opportunity to help represent people and lawyers and law firms and happy clients. You know, you can build a book of business in family law fairly quickly if you put in the hard work and you get good results for your client. And you focus on that. So one is obviously a great client service and always constantly learning and improving your skills, your information knowledge base in terms of what assets and liabilities and corporations and issues would be in a divorce case, as well as your trial skills and your people skills. So I was tying that all that into my development of practice. I also was able to speak as given opportunities to to speak at seminars for family law lawyers, which I think is important for credibility marketing, so to speak, and to also become engaged in my community. I think one of the things that lawyers really need to focus in on for both personal development as well as it’s a good business development tool, is to be engaged in your community and to get involved in outside things that you’re passionate about.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: And, you know, for me, I was very involved in my children’s schools, my children sports and my church. Those were things that at that point in time that I was spending a lot of time up. But what is important, whenever you do outside of your law practice, you need to do it well. Keep your commitments. Be be a resource, even if it doesn’t lead to business immediately and to show up. The worst thing you could do is not be actively engaged in something you sign up to do.
Alay Yajnik: Family law is interesting compared to other areas of law from a business development perspective. And I’d love to get your comments and thoughts on on this, Elizabeth. I’ve been told by many family law attorneys that it’s actually hard to get client referrals because it’s a very hard time in their lives. And no matter what the outcome is, they oftentimes just want to put it behind them and move on. And so they’re not necessarily going to send you lots of referrals. Plus, it’s a pretty private situation for other people to be going through. I just wanted to get your thoughts on on the ability of a family law attorney to get referrals from former or current clients.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Well, obviously, you need to have satisfied clients. Right. But, you know, I’ve actually found my clients to be one of my best referral sources or the attorneys that referred the client because a client was satisfied. They will go back to the referring attorney. And so that creates even more clients. I think one of the problems in family law, it is that it is emotional and it is a bad time. But one of the key elements to client relationships is communication. And the client needs to feel that you’re on the same team. You need to be very honest with your client about what’s going on in their case and build their trust that you’re going to advocate for them, but also be very realistic with them. Clients are happy if they get a really good result and they have a good fee that they understand. And some cases are, you know, the because you can’t control the other side or the other lawyer, they get out of hand and sometimes there are issues that are very complicated, that are very expensive. But you’ve really got to work on client satisfaction and working with your client, communicating with them, making sure they understand the process. I think one of the biggest issues is clients don’t understand the process and they get frustrated. And it takes a lot of communication.
Alay Yajnik: Certainly does. And I’m glad you brought up that point because people on this who are listening to this absolutely need to hear it. And so if I could just recap back a little bit, when you were building your book of business, you focused on getting great results for clients, obviously doing great work and also delivering a terrific client experience that not only brought more clients to you from those referrals, but it also left a positive impression with other attorneys. And so you began getting more referrals from other attorneys, even though you’re new to Atlanta. And then you really dove into your community by finding organizations that you could be a part of that you really, really cared about, and then you committed yourself and and really got involved in those organizations.
Alay Yajnik: So let’s shift gears a little bit and tell me a little bit about the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Yes, as you know, I’m president elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. So a little bit prejudiced, right?
Alay Yajnik: Congratulations, by the way.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Well, thank you. My sincere belief that this is a fabulous organization and I would encourage any family law lawyer to make it their aspiration to be a member of this organization. And the AAML is committed to excellence in family law and professionalism and it’s stringent. It’s very hard to get into. There are state and national tests and most jurisdictions as well as you have to be peer reviewed and reviewed by your judges. You have to practice law and fit the area of family law for over 10 years. And seventy five percent or more of your practice needs to be in family law. And so the commitment is to provide thought leadership and CLE’s and promote best interests and policy best practices for all areas of family law. And we have about sixteen hundred fellows across the country and it’s a great network of people to know whom you can refer cases to in other places. The organization has two annual meetings and it’s great for relationships and building up friendships. Exchange of ideas is phenomenal and hearing how each state does things is great for creating new ideas. And whatever jurisdiction you go back to is also good for referrals. And it expands. And it makes it’s nice to have a little bit of policy as opposed to just pure practice because you feel like you’re making a difference on a higher level by your participation in AAML.
Alay Yajnik: It seems like a really vibrant organization. And the other attorneys I know in California that are members of it sing its praises as well. Not just as a relationship building organization, but, as you mentioned, an advocacy organization and an organization of thought leadership.
Alay Yajnik: There’s probably a very long answer to this question, Elizabeth, so please answer it in all facets that you would like to. How has the AAML over the years helped your business development?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Well, so first of all, it was a goal of mine from the very beginning. My first mentor in Charlotte was a member of AAML. And when I came to Atlanta, my shareholders, other than my boss, my shareholders were also members. And so I grew up in a culture where the feather in your cap, your goal, was to be in AAML and to qualify for membership.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: And so that was a huge step in terms of building my career inside my firm as well as in the state and now nationally. And so that was the beginning of it. And then, of course, you only get out of an organization what you put into it. And I’ve been fortunate to be very involved in the leadership from an early point of view. And so it’s developed. One of the things about any referral source, obviously, is you have to trust and know the people that you’re referring cases to. And due to a lot of intensive committee work, I’ve got to know people all over the country. I’ve had great friendships from all over the country and and there’s time for travel as well. And so that builds credibility. There’s a huge knowledge base that the AAML has. And so it increases the game in terms of what you bring back to your state on terms of excellence in family law and best practices. It provides referral sources and exchanges. I always think it’s good whether it’s business or not, to be seen as a resource for people. And it provides an extra level of that ability to be a resource for other people. I tell people all the time, you need a lawyer almost anywhere in the world, I either knows somebody in family law or know the person who knows the person. And so I’m always happy to be a resource. And any way I can. And so this commitment to excellence and professionalism, I think has been a huge benefit to me. And like I said, it’s enriched my life. It makes me want to practice law longer and it’s fun. So I’ve really enjoyed it.
Alay Yajnik: I’ve noticed, yeah, a lot of the best organizations tend to do that. They tend to not only impact people’s professional lives, but also their personal lives as well. They enable people to build genuine relationships. They provide a thought leadership platform to their members. And as a result of those things, as a result of the relationships and the thought leadership and the issues and the discussions, and the scale, referrals inevitably come out of it. But they’re an outcome of doing all of those other things. And one of the things that I think sets the AAML apart from many other organizations is they are they are very exclusive. A lot of times family law attorneys have to work for many, many years to be admitted as a fellow. So these fellows of the AAML are the best of the best. And there’s a lot of fun, a lot of great things happen when when you get to associate with people like that. And I notice you also receive the AAML Fellow of the Year in 2018, Elizabeth. So congratulations on that. And tell us a little bit more about what previous fellows have done to receive that type of honor.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: So the president chooses the Fellow of the Year. And that year I was delighted to have been chosen, but I didn’t make the decision.
Alay Yajnik: So I’ll have to talk to somebody else.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: You’ll have to talk to Madeline Marzena Luznovich. And that’s a mouthful. But what typically happens is that it’s a result of hard work over many years. And that that year I shared that award with one of my very, very good friends, Cari Mogrimmin from St. Louis, who follows me. He will be the next president after me of the AAML. And we had both been working pretty extensively on the strategic plan that we started. And that was a huge endeavor for the president that year. So usually the Fellow of the Year is somebody who has worked really hard to bring about one of the big policy or our goals of the president to fruition. And that was the impact for that. But we’ve you know, we’ve it all depends on the needs of the organization. It’s just we’ve had people in charge of the website who won at large, who was awarded the appeal of the year for all their hard work on developing the website, those types of things, that it was a it was a great honor and I was delighted to be included on that list.
Alay Yajnik: Awesome. And what I heard there is the amount of contributions you made to the organization, not just that year, but over several years. And so, again, congratulations on that honor and turning the page a little bit. You’re also involved in Atlanta’s political scene. So would love to hear a little bit more about that, too.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Yeah. Alay, when you and I first talked, I was telling you that at some point in the past, my husband had been in Georgia politics and had been the House Majority Whip. And that platform for our family and for our firm was a was a great way to be involved in the community and to be involved in policy making decisions. Now, I’m not the legislator my husband was, so most of my benefit to me was indirect. But it also allowed me and based on relationships that were formed to serve on many occasions and family law legislation as an adviser to some of the legislators on family law topics that were very hot in our General Assembly. One example is that the AAML fellows of Georgia became intimately involved with writing the child support bill that was being batted about, and they came up with a great bill. And I did not participate in the writing of the bill, but I was asked by the legislature, legislators, the female legislators prior to the vote to come down and talk to them about it and what would work and what would work about the bill.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: And I was very heartened that as a result of their work, the legislators work, they adopted the bill with the changes that I suggested to the female legislators. So that was very positive. But the real hard work went to the Georgia fellows who wrote the bill. They did a yeoman’s job and those were Tina Roddenberry, Sandy Berger and Carol Walker. But Georgia is unique and a lot of ways that we don’t have a lot of statutory basis for equitable division or a prenuptial agreement. And so as we are developing the law, we’ve had some chances to give some good input on what legislators would consider in a custody bill. We ended up, through the state bar family law section, the legislature came up with a phenomenally, really good custody bill based on the childrens’ best interest. And from time to time, we’ve been called upon and still are called upon to to give opinions that are a best practices for family law issues as the legislature considers them.
Alay Yajnik: Wow, that is a terrific way to not only provide service to the legislature and and the government, but also to unify that with thought leadership and family law. And as we’re talking here, Elizabeth, one thing that’s really striking me is how aligned and integrated all of the things are that you do to develop business, whether it’s being a fantastic attorney, being a leader in your field by becoming a fellow of the AAML, being a leader in that organization, and now the president elect, to finding ways to contribute to the political situation in Atlanta by commenting on proposed legislation and bills. All of that plays together. And then it’s all supported by the community service that you’ve done for several years through your church and your kids’ schools – it all plays together. And it’s a wonderfully integrated marketing portfolio, if you will. So congratulations on doing that. And as a new attorney who’s looking to get started with business development, they might look at that and go, “Wow. That is really intimidating for me to do.” And so when you’re advising attorneys in your firm or in the AAML or elsewhere, what advice do you give them if they’re looking to get started with business development or if they’re looking to take their business to the next level?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Right. So that’s a conversation I have with every young attorney. I think every young attorney needs to develop their own book of business. It provides you a lot of options if it makes you valuable to your firm, if you want to stay there. It gives you options to leave your firm if you’re not happy. I mean, really, it’s important to start business development. And as a first year lawyer, the first thing I would tell people to start immediately in their local bar associations and get involved in the family law sections of their local bars. If their young lawyers get involved in the young lawyers section. I encourage and support my young lawyers to go to those types of meetings and to aim to be leaders and those all that goes to credibility. Find a mentor to help you start speaking at some some seminars. You’re not going to necessarily get to speak at the biggest one. You know, the big national ones, not at first, but you get an opportunity to speak. Work on that. If you have a family law newsletter, work on writing an article, get your name out there, let the judges know who you are, let other lawyers know who you are. It’s all about getting to know who you are. And then, as I said, you know, you don’t have to do everything at once. Start off with something you really like. If you love animals, go work at the Humane Society or volunteer. Get on that position. If you love the art, go to the art center and find out what the young adults are doing and what kind of programs and what do they need. Every little bit that you do, that you do well, will help you, you know, and you’ve got to raise your kids, so you’ve got to be a good parent. But people will judge you by how they see you raise your children, too. If you’re sitting at the sports games with your kids. If you’re team parent, and it’s your turn to bring snacks, be sure to bring the snacks!
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: But seriously, you’re always looking to form trusted relationships and the business will come. And if you work on your skills. I actually encourage my my lawyers and they’re lucky, I think, to have to have our culture where we support them. But there are some AAML training seminars for our associates and we send them to the AAML seminar. We talk directly about how to market. We also use that as a marketing event where they can start forming relationships with attorneys all over the country. Another thing to do is to take a wingman with you when you go out to one of the bar or other networking events. You know, what I say for that is that it’s really hard to toot your own horn. For me, it’s hard to toot my own horn. But if somebody is standing next to me and says, “Elizabeth Lindsey did X, Y, Z,” I’m not going to look like I’m bragging, but somebody is telling somebody what a great result she got. And then I can say, “Well, you know, my partner, let me tell you about a great result she just got.” And, you know, that seems much more natural. And it’s also a way to do it and it makes you feel more comfortable.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: So, you know, just be yourself. And don’t be afraid to say you always welcome business. I never tell anybody I turn down business. I might turn down business, but, you know, I’m always open to be a helpful person. And, you know, and I tell people, “If I can’t help, you know, use me as a resource, I’ll find the person for you.” And sometimes finding that person for the right case that’s not you leads to more business. It’s like doing what you do well. And it will come. It will come.
Alay Yajnik: And it’s not just about being laser focused on business development. It’s about building these long term relationships. You mentioned finding the right resource for a potential client, even if it’s not a great fit for you. That client, they have a real problem. And in family law, it’s a serious problem. And so just by connecting them with the right attorney . It really helps them out, and that has its own reward also, and that’s going to come back.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Exactly, exactly. Helping people in these tough times – you know any legal problem is emotional. Family law is like 10 times up. But, you know, it’s always these people, people are in crisis. We have been trained and have certain knowledge, you know, stay in your lane if you’re a family lawyer, don’t venture into, you know, criminal law unless you’re competent. But that’s where you find people. You help people find the right answer. And, you know, most of us really enjoy helping people and getting to know them and being being someone they can trust. You know, I as a female, I say this. I don’t know how it works for men, but I will tell my clients, “I’m your your last best friend.” And inside the confines of my office, I’m going to tell you, “You look fat in that dress,” you know, but that’s something you need to be able to have. That honesty with your clients, you know, and you’ve got to tell them what will work and what won’t work. And they’re all different ways to do that and different situations you wouldn’t use that example in everything. But the point is, is that the more realistic you are with your clients, the more you set their expectations, the more they understand the process. Those clients are are ultimately going to understand what’s going on and more likely are going to be happy.
Alay Yajnik: I’ve got a two part question for you here, Elizabeth. The first one is, what excites you about the future of the AAML?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Well, I think that this COVID experience, as horrible as it is for all of us, has really got some silver linings to it that I’m excited about. As I anticipate my year coming up, which starts in November, we will be in pandemic mode probably, I think, through most of 2021 with the hope that the vaccine will be out there. But it’s going to be hard to have in-person meetings given all the various hotel contracts, travel restrictions and those types of things. So I think one of the things it’s done is enabled us through Zoom and video conferencing to recognize that we can have some very meaningful meetings and get to know people on Zoom. And there’s a platform, I think that internally we can build relationships that might have not been as frequent because we usually were waiting to meet in person twice a year. So I’m hoping that the fellows through their committee work will be on more in touch via Zoom as we welcome the day when we will actually meet in person. I think we’ve learned a lot about putting on webinars. The AAML last year was able to convert many of our programs to webinars, and we intend to continue that. We and we also offered a fair amount of free webinars to our members and to the public just to address all these various issues of parenting through covid and. What’s going to happen with business valuations and to provide member services at a reduced rate? There are many lawyers, as we all know, who are going to be suffering financially because their offices have been closed down and the courts have been closed down.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: So there’s a lot of concern about that. But I think there’s a lot of excitement. We’re starting next year and we’re having three new committees. And I’m very excited about one on racial and cultural diversity, which we are just putting a sharper focus on given our current environment. We’re also doing a twenty first century law practice and family law. What does that look like? How do you manage staff and train associates remotely? How do you know there’s been some work on Zoom trials as we’re all starting that process, but I think that’s going to get more and more refined. And so we’re going to focus on that. How to market yourself when you’re not able to meet people in person. And how much social media. How much Zoom conferencing do you do, how much telephone calls, how to how to keep your practice thriving and growing and and forming those trusted relationships that will lead ultimately to business at some point. So those are three things that we’re going to be doing. And I think that that’s, you know, in the pivot environment, there’s a lot going on that’s really very positive. And I’m excited about that.
Alay Yajnik: Those are those are some really interesting things that you’re that you’re going after with the AAML. There’s nothing good about COVID, but good things can come from it. And clearly, that’s that’s an example of that. And I hear you. Gosh, we’re six months in now and I’ve spent probably now over six hours doing free talks at bar associations on how to do business development and marketing in the area of COVID-19. So definitely a lot of a lot of need in those areas. So the second part of my question was, what excites you about the future of your law firm, Davis, Matthews and Quigley?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Yeah, so this is our my firm’s fiftieth year, so we are celebrating our fiftieth anniversary and it was formed by three young lawyers at the time, 50 years ago, and all of them have been vital and continue. Although they, too, have retired, they are still part of our community. And they started up with three very distinct practice areas, which propelled us to where we are today. And so we’re excited that we’ve got the third generation of leadership heading into the fourth generation. That’s exciting. We’ve got practice areas are growing. Our family law section is growing. Our trust and estate is growing. So we have a lot that we’re looking forward to, continuing this tradition that this firm set forth. And, you know, for me and my family law area, one of the things that my firm has offered that is somewhat unique to family law is that because we are a multi-practice area, we’ve been able to provide really good service to our clients because of the diversity of our practice areas. And so when I have a complicated financial case involving corporations and partnerships, trust, tax and corporate law or even executive compensation, I have people in my office that will help me handle those matters and understand all the issues to make sure we’ve covered them.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: And a lot of family law cases involving complex issues are almost transactional in nature. So some of the settlement agreements are business transactions, almost more than divorce settlements.
Alay Yajnik: Right, yes.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: And so that’s always been a great benefit to have and something that we’re going to continue and it’s just a great platform for us to move forward, so it’s exciting to be watching this, to race to the next- like I said, the fourth generation is coming up. And I think that it’s just an exciting time as well. And we’ve learned to pivot through COVID and go remote, everybody’s got a lot more technology. What do they say… that because of COVID, we’re all probably 15 years ahead on video conferencing than we would have been, but for COVID. So there’s a lot of positives in this very difficult time.
Alay Yajnik: Lots of silver linings. And Elizabeth, again, congratulations on being president elect of the AAML. That’s fantastic. And seems like your law firm is doing really well. So that’s wonderful news. Thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your time, giving some fantastic advice to our listeners. Really appreciate it.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Well, thank you. I appreciate you asking me to be here.
Alay Yajnik: And then if Elizabeth if people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Why don’t you email me at my email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to respond to to any emails.
Alay Yajnik: Terrific. Thank you, Elizabeth. Really appreciate you being on the show today.
Elizabeth Green Lindsey: Thank you.
Alay Yajnik: 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’s a rainmaker inside everyone, including you.