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Melissa Shanahan

#190: Doubling Your Revenue & Freedom: A Conversation with Mastery Group Member Christine Diorio

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People think staying connected to what matters most to them in life while growing their law firm is just a pipe dream. They think doing both well is impossible, but Melissa’s Mastery Group members have done just that, and she’s highlighting another incredible client on the podcast this week.

Family law, estate planning, and criminal defense lawyer Christine Diorio opened the doors to her law firm in the midst of the pandemic in 2020. Since joining Mastery Group a year later, she’s dialed in on her Rocks, doubled her revenue every year, and grown her team, all while expanding her time and freedom away from her practice, and she's telling us how she did it.

Listen in this week as Melissa quizzes Christine on her experience of Mastery Group and what it’s been like for her to grow as a law firm owner. Christine is sharing the impact having a supportive community has done for her personally and professionally, how progress over perfection allowed her to keep showing up, and the decisions that have got her to where she is today.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Enrollment will be opening soon, so join the waitlist right now to grab one of the limited seats!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

Why Christine sought out a coaching group when she started her law firm.

Christine’s insights on the best time to get support as you grow your firm.

How being a part of Mastery Group helped Christine double her revenue every single year.

Why having freedom and space away from her practice is vital to Christine.

Christine’s most meaningful Rocks that she has completed.

How Mastery Group helped her show up consistently.

Why progress, not perfection, is the path to playing the long game.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

Join Mastery Group

Christine Diorio: Website | Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook

Ep #189: Automation, Delegation, and Growth: A Conversation with Mastery Group Member Bobby Botnick

Stutz - Netflix

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast, powered by Velocity Work. For owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going, take planning seriously, and honor your plan like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Melissa Shanahan: Welcome to this week's show, everyone. We have a special guest, Christine Diorio. Hi, Christine.

Christine Diorio: Hello, hello.

Melissa: Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Christine: Thank you for having me. I'm so excited.

Melissa: Oh, heck yeah. Your fellow master group member, Bobby Botnick, just came on, and now you're coming on, which is great. I thought it would be cool to highlight a couple or few members that have done the work and have been in for a bit and can talk about their experience with their firm, what it's been like to grow as an owner, some of the things that you've experienced, all of that.

So I'm really glad you're here to share with people. And it's kind of like lifting the curtain a little bit, so they get to learn about you. And then it lifts the curtain a little bit on what the heck comes out of the work that you guys do in Mastery Group and what kind of people are in there and all of that. Okay, we tell everybody where you live, and what you do.

Christine: Well, I'm Christine Diorio. I have a small law firm, a law practice, in Tampa, Florida. I practice mostly family law, estate planning, and criminal defense. And I opened two and a half years ago, right in the middle of COVID. Didn't know anybody in Tampa. I'd only been in Tampa for a few years.

I'd been on maternity leave, and decided to open my own firm. I had practiced up in Gainesville, Florida, for the first part of my career. For about eight years, I was a prosecutor then I was a public defender. And knew I was burnt out from that type of work. It's really great work. It's important work, but I was kind of burnt out from it.

During my maternity leave, I started a photography business and loved it. It's really hard to make a real living doing photography, but it taught me business. Having been a government attorney for so long… My family is in the law. So, my mom was the Chief Deputy Clerk of the Court up in Alachua County for 48 years; she retired in 2016. My stepfather was a county court judge, he's now a senior judge.

So, there were no entrepreneurs in our family. It was always government work. But when I opened my photography business, while I was staying at home with my kids; I have three children. I realized what it takes to run a business, to market a business, word-of-mouth growth, and that kind of thing. And so, when the time came to really decide what I wanted to do, I thought, “You know what? I'm going to open my law firm.”

And so, I used a lot of what I learned in my photography business when I opened up the firm. And now, two and a half years later, we're off to the races and doing really well.

Melissa: Yeah, yeah. So, you started this in 2020, towards the end of 2020?

Christine: I opened my doors on August 1, 2020. That was the first day.

Melissa: Okay, got it. I met you in 2021, almost a year later. And we've been working together since then. You're in the Mastery Group. It has been pretty remarkable to me what you've created. I think what you've put together before I met you, just lifting something off the ground...

But you had big aspirations and dreams of what you wanted this to look like. And even if you weren't 100%, clear, you knew… There was a reason that you were seeking out something. So, can you speak to that? Like, why did you even look into a coaching group or anything of the sort?

Christine: Well, I had been, like I said, I didn't know what I was doing really, with starting a law firm. So, I remember I looked around online for any podcast, anything about running your own law firm, that I could find because I knew I just needed it. It's like a very lonely thing. There are not a lot of people doing it. And there's definitely hard to find other people starting out.

And so, I was trying to find a place where I could get information. And I stumbled across Ernie The Attorney, his Law Firm Autopilot. And he interviewed you. And you were talking about buffering, and some things that I knew from just my own personal development work and different things, and turtle steps, and progress, and all this. And I was like, “Wow, that really resonates.”

So, I started just listening to you. I don't know if I was looking for a group, but I somehow found you and started listening to your podcast. And I listened to you, for I would have to say like a good six months, maybe even longer, before I finally reached out.

I think I told you that story. I said, “I'm not far enough along. I'm not enough. I bet you Mastery Group is just so expensive, I won't be able to swing the cost.” But then, I finally looked into it one day, and I was like, “Oh, my God, okay. That's a reasonable rate, I can handle that.”

I reached out, and we met, and it's been a year and a half now, a little over that, I guess. And the rest is history. I don't know, I think it was kind of an intuitive thing. I just really felt like I responded to your vibe. Like, the stuff she's talking about, this is where it's at.

Because the reason I opened the law firm was, one, I do want to make a difference. I want to help people. But also, I want it to support my lifestyle. So that, I think, was the biggest thing that resonated with me. Where I think some other law firm podcasts are like, make money, you know, that whole thing. Which, yeah, the money's nice. But the bigger reason for all of that is so that I can live the life I want to live.

And that's where I really responded to you. That was where I was like, “Oh, and she's teaching this whole way of being able to obtain that; it's not just like woo-woo, pie-in-the-sky dreams. There's a strategic path to having the life you want to lead. And own a law firm, like, what? I was all about it; totally sold.

Melissa: Well, you’ve certainly done that. This year you had a lot of wins.  And I remember you sharing some, but the one that stood out to me was taking your son to Rome, just the two of you. It was just a dream trip for you. And it's because of the work that you've put in, that was even an option. Kudos to you.

You're doing such a good job of staying connected to what matters most to you, while you're growing your firm. That is totally possible. I think sometimes people think it's a pipe dream to have the life you want and have a growing firm that is really doing well. And getting tighter and tighter and tighter, in terms of infrastructure and processes and people. You’ve just done a good job.

Christine: I just want to say that the beauty of finding you when I did, which was kind of early on in the process, turned out to be such a bonus. Because as I've grown, I've been building this business on the principles that you teach in Mastery Group. Which means, that I don't think I would have been so quick to find a paralegal and delegate. To find ways to delegate, and take time every quarter, a whole day, just to set my goals for that quarter, and work on my business.

Doing those things as I'm growing, it just ingrains it into me. So that, let's say 2.5 years, when I hit that five-year mark, I'm going to have all of these principles just ingrained in my business. Like, this is just how we do things. And that's really valuable.

Because I know for some of my friends in Mastery Group that found you after they'd been doing things several years a certain way, they have a little bit of time to kind of undo some stuff, kind of to figure it out. And so, if anybody's listening, that's like, “Oh, I'm too early on in the process,” you have to listen to your instinct when you think the time is right. But there really is a benefit to starting this early.

Once you've got a little momentum going, once you realize, “Okay, I probably need some help. I'm going to be growing…” I would say that's a good time to come in because now you're going to have all of these principles as the foundation of how you operate. You’re reteaching yourself something.

Melissa: Yeah, yeah. I tend to say to people, once you've made 100 grand come on in. I mean, we've had people that are earlier than that, and they do just fine as well. But there's something to be said, for you've got an established business. But now, what? Are you just going to keep running the same game? Or, are you going to get strategic about things now that you've got something to work with? And so, I don't know if you agree with that or not.

Christine: 100%. And I think I was close. Well, no. Well, if you went from the beginning, I probably was right around a little less than 100.

Melissa: Okay, okay. Yeah.

Christine: But I was close. I was close. Like I said, if you look at my revenue growth from the time I joined Mastery Group to now, it's more than doubled, way more. I'd have to go look exactly because I usually just do it by the years. But it was really, I mean, I definitely doubled my revenue for 2022; doubled what I did in 2021. And I fully give Mastery Group and having the quarterly retreats and setting the goals and having goals for numbers and all of that, as the reason that I was able to do it.

Melissa: There are two things in my brain. One is that not only did you double your revenue, but you also doubled... I don't know if you doubled, but you exponentially increased your freedom and your ability to have space. And you're not done; that’s an evolving journey.

Most people, if they don't take space to think as a business owner, and I really believe have facilitation, so that they can really decide, make decisions, and be pulled to make decisions, then they can hustle their way to double their revenue, in some cases. But they're a shell of themselves when they get there.

And so, watching you, you're not a shell of yourself. You have a bigger business than you had, and you have more people working for you than then you've ever had. Everything is expanding for you, including you; you're not being constricted or weighed down. I'm sure, I mean, we all have, as business owners, weeks and sometimes months that feel heavy.

Generally speaking, it's interesting that you say that you do think people should do this earlier than later. I haven't really talked about that whole lot. But, I hear often that, and I agree with this; I’ve seen it happen; when you get to a certain point, and let's say you want to increase your revenue, and you put your foot on the gas without having the infrastructure that can really take it.

You and I talked about this a little bit before the recording. But if you haven't given attention to things in the right ways, and been really thoughtful and deliberate about making sure your house is in order, then putting your foot on the gas to bring more money through the door will also double your problems. Everything gets exponentially more intense, and not in a good way.

Whereas, if you are really intentional, and like you're saying, you're infusing these things, it's just a part of what you do, it's a part of what the firm does, then you can totally handle the growth with more ease than most around you. And that is cool. You, as the owner, have the capacity, and your firm has the capacity, to experience the growth in a way… Because it's not just money. It's people, processes and systems, and clients, and everything gets bigger.

Christine: Yeah, and when you're relying on word of mouth, client referrals, how your clients experience your law firm is everything. So, for me, it's like, yeah, if I get a whole bunch of people in the door, and I can't support their case, and I can't call them back. You hear people complain about lawyers not being communicative.

Part of my whole brand is, I'm compassionate; our tagline is “Where justice has a heart.” That's our law firm. So we're very client-centered, compassionate representation, a lot of hand-holding; not all lawyers want to do that. But that's something I enjoy with my clients, really being there for them.

But I have to have the infrastructure in place so that I have the time to do that. And if I'm just the only one in the firm, just working like a hamster on the wheel, then I have nothing left to give my clients. And what draws them into me is that ability to be present with them.

To share, “You know, I've been through what you've been through. We’ll get you on the other side; it’s going to be okay. But this is how it's going to have to go.” Walking them through their process.

But you've got to have the ability to support your growth. Because it does you no good if every time they call, they can't get a hold of you. You don't have a good staff in place. Now, you're not going to get that word of mouth. Your reputation is going to suffer. You're going to end up having to fix things down the road while you're supporting this crazy amount of cases.

I don't work after five. I don’t. I do not work on the weekends. And I know you'll hear other lawyers are like, “What?” I didn't open this firm in order to be miserable. I know some people love working all the time; if that's your thing, that's your thing. I don't.

Melissa: Right. Many people, they say it like they have to. And I understand that there are some nuances and there are always exceptions to a rule, but it's just a decision. Are you going to work nights and weekends, or are you not? And what happens when you really make that decision? Like, seriously, make that decision. You have to line up in a way that gives you the space to stop working at five and not work on the weekends.

So again, something I think you do really well. Because you could easily work on nights and weekends, there's always more to do. You know? And everybody's circumstances are different. Some people really are way past the point of needing a paralegal or an attorney. But I guess you're just proving my point even more.

You take it really seriously when we do our retreats; you are prepared, you bring your numbers, and you know your numbers. And most people are, in Mastery Group. And if they're not, I can help, right? But you are prepared, and you take it seriously. You evaluate what you really want, and make sure you're lining up with that, while you are fostering the growth of your firm.

That takes a level of intentionality that many people don't know how to give. It's not that they don't want to; it’s tough to give that level of thoughtfulness to it at all.

Christine: Especially if you're already overwhelmed with work. That's been the beauty… I probably, honestly, Melissa, could have grown faster; I turn cases down. I have to feel aligned with the client. That's why I have more than one practice area. I thought about niching down.

But I realize my niche is meeting people where they are in their crisis moment, whether that's a DUI arrest, or whether their marriage is falling apart, they're in a custody battle. Even in estate planning, sometimes people come to me while they're already…

I just had a client come to me, she’s stage four breast cancer, and she passed away. I got to be with her during that process. She just wanted to make sure her daughter was completely taken care of. So, meeting people in these moments, after all the things I've gone through myself, all things I've been through myself, that's what really informs my practice.

So, I have to make space to have energy for that. Because if you're just numbers, and you're just working yourself to death, you'll hate it. You'll hate your clients, you'll hate the work. I mean, family lawyers, notoriously, hate it. I don't know if that's known, but lawyers know. And a lot of lawyers will say, “I’ll never practice family law,” because it’s really difficult.

So, you have to take care of yourself. Cases can be heartbreaking. And so that's why, that rule. I could work on the weekends, I have enough work. I could work at night. Every once in a while, I might have to work in the evening, just to prepare for a hearing. It's very rare, though. I keep it very rare. And I have a family. So, for me, I think the intentionality piece is so important because then you lose sight of it. And then, it's like the law firm’s running you.

That's why, when I opened, we have an office location, but our firm is run primarily virtually. We have an office space when we need to meet. But I work in my home office; we closed part of our garage. I do most everything on Zoom. But I'm home with my kids.

Now, I'm not in the house with the kids, but when they walk in the door after school, they come and stop by if I'm not in a meeting, or as close thereafter. And I make eye contact with those kids and check-in. That is why I'm doing this. This is why.

I could work for someone else. I could do a whole bunch of other things. But it was that lifestyle, getting to be home with my kids in the afternoon. Still contributing to our family, and then helping people and my team.

So, that's the other part. That's been a whole new bonus, the team. You know, it's like, oh, I make a difference in their lives. And that's been so rewarding.

I think you helped me stay focused. In Mastery Group, you always make us, at the beginning of the retreat, write down our “why.” And I think one time I was like, “We do this every time, and it doesn't change in my head.” And then the other day, I was like, “Yeah.” And that was really good because then I just remember, every quarter, what is my why? Why did I start this law firm?

Sometimes it does change a little, but it's pretty much stayed the same, but it's so… What a value to re-center.

And I'll tell you, the reason why we all show up ready to go is because you show up ready to go. So, it's like we're meeting your energy. It's the energy you're putting out. You don't come in there half asleep. You're not half-assing anything. And we all know that. Melissa is going to expect you to be ready to go. But because you put so much passion into it and you're so in the moment with us, I know, from all of us in the group that I talk to you regularly, we feel like we have to meet you there.

Melissa: That means a lot. I've never heard someone say that before.

Christine: But that's why. We are matching what you're putting out. And then, it brings everybody else up. Because you see we're all taking this stuff seriously. And then, of course, you attract phenomenal people.

Melissa: Okay, you mentioned something before the call, that made me laugh. Give your take on you and wanting to hang out with attorneys, versus now…

Christine: Most of the time… And I'm sure people listening know, that attorney groups that you go to in your community or Bar Association… I don't want to paint too broad of a brush. But networking, BNI’s, and all that kind of stuff that's out there, it's just like no. Tell me I'm going to spend a whole day in a room full of other attorneys, no thanks. I just don't like that environment.

I feel like everybody can be very full of shit and just trying to be the biggest whatever in the room. And I don't like that. But the people in Mastery Group… I think part of it's because we're all in different jurisdictions, there's no competition for business, there's none of that going on. Are really able to just be ourselves and share our struggles, share our wins, we cheer for each other, it's genuine. The people are genuine.

I mean, we have our Monday Map meeting every week, and I try never to miss it because I love checking in with these girls; we're all girls in our group. But I love these girls to death, there's just no end to their generosity.

As I have expanded into opening an estate planning part of the firm, a lot of Mastery Group members happen to be estate planners, and they jumped at the chance to help me. “Yeah, this is how we do this, and use this template for this.” And it's just a resource.

And then, there's nobody else in the world that knows what it feels like to hang out your shingle, and put yourself out there and go through it. As much as my wonderful husband is very supportive, he's in IT, he doesn't know what we're doing. He can't get it. Like, he just doesn't really understand it.

But my peeps in Mastery Group do. And then, there's such a blessing in that. We're can get past that bullshit of impressing each other. I think that's what a lot of lawyer functions do. And this is not that. It is very people being willing to be vulnerable...

Melissa: Yeah, and honest. I think vulnerability does naturally happen when you are being honest. But if there is one thing in Mastery Group, it is that we tell the truth; that matters to me more than anything else. I am not interested in dancing around something. I want to understand the truth. And people in the group, we do attract a certain kind of person, that's willing to be no bullshit. And that takes courage sometimes.

So, I think we have a really great group that's so warm and supportive. And sometimes we'll have people come in that just aren't the same; they don't value the same things, and they weed themselves out. And that's fine. But it's open, and welcome to anyone who is willing to...

And when we say, just to be clear for listeners, because this could sound, which I don't really care if it comes across this way, but just to clarify, this could sound fluffy. But when I say the truth, the truth is in the numbers. So, we talk a lot about numbers, knowing your numbers, and starting there. And then having conversations, from the numbers, about decisions and etc.; facts, not feelings. And that's why I want the facts so that we can then work with something.

Sometimes it's tough to get to that for yourself. But I think facilitation helps. And a really supportive community of people who are all interested in the same thing. And watching you all have the willingness to be uncomfortable to say what it is and really get to it.

Whether it's a number, whether it's a problem you're having with a person on your team or a marketing issue that’s like a nut you haven't cracked yet. There's just stuff. And the people in there, just have the willingness to show up and be present with that and participate in that. That is, I think, what makes it so meaningful and…

Christine: It's rare. I mean, you don't usually go into a room and say, “This was my gross revenue.” I mean, that's like, “Ooh.” I'm from the South, we don't talk about money. You don't talk about what you make.

But when we all started sharing that truth with each other and stuff, it was so freeing. We all have stories we tell ourselves; I did. You realize there are just all different levels, and it doesn't matter; the revenue isn't the point. It is kind of the driving number for the overarching… But it's like what you do, like you say, it's not reaching it, it’s what you do on the way up there. It just changes everything and it's truly what happens.

And we're also, I want to say, some of us that have been in for a minute, we're close, but we're very welcoming to new people. And we’ve brought in some new people lately that are awesome. So I mean, there are more and more awesome people coming into this group.

And I know also if you are a true solo, and maybe you have a small staff or whatever, it's so lonely. It's just a lonely place. You're not in an office full of attorneys. A lot of us are used to that; you've been in big law, or you've been in the government, or whatever. I was used to having floors of different attorneys of all levels, I could go talk to and bounce ideas off of.

So, to have this group, to be able to talk to them and share and just feel a sense of community. I mean, there are so many benefits to this, literally. There are some really obvious benefits; like, you're going to get a handle on your numbers. You're going to have goals. You're going to be more intentional. You're going to gain this amazing support system. You're going to grow as a human being and a law firm owner.

It really has been probably one of the smartest things I've ever done for my business. The other thing I did, I hired a mentor when I opened. Now, she handles more of my legal. She's 30 years board certified in family law. She's winding down, I think, some of her practice. And she loves mentoring younger attorneys. And so, you know, I've been working with her for two years on the legal, you know, like the law. And, I think, some specifics of running a successful family law firm.

But then, Mastery Group, it’s really developing me, and as a business owner. A totally different skill than being a good attorney. And then also, knowing my numbers, having a handle on that. Being really strategic about the growth and the vision.

I'm just grateful. Like I said, I stumbled into this; I don't think I was looking necessarily for you. I think I just found you, and knew, “Oh, yeah, this is what I need. This is where I belong. I need to try this.” And now, I'm in it.

Melissa: I'm so, so glad you did. I am curious if you would share with people… There have been, along your journey in here… You've been through, I don't know, at least six or seven quarters of strategic planning. And you've had a lot of Rocks in those times.

Every quarter participants decide what their key efforts and priorities are going to be for that quarter. Which ones stand out to you as the most meaningful, you could take a second because you didn't know I was going to ask you this, in terms of projects you have completed because it was a Rock?

Christine: Well, that's a good question. Let me think about this for a second because there's been a lot. Well, definitely hiring staff. Getting a contract paralegal, and contract virtual assistant. I even have a marketing person. Expanding the team. And those were always Rocks.

And especially the admin assistant thing. You were like, “Christine.” I always just kind of holding back on us. I’m making it really hard in my mind. Put it out there. I was flooded. I didn't do Indeed, but I just went on my own network and social media, and I found this girl that's perfect. Anytime you're going to hire or bring somebody on the team, it's a big thing.

And those Rocks really just totally shifted my business. I've made a lot of hiring decisions. And, definitely making those a Rock. It's easy to just say, “Oh, I’ll get around to it,” and put it off. But breaking it down and actually taking the steps to do it, and then the next time a new role comes up that you need to fill, you feel that much more confident to just get it done.

So, that's been life-changing, for sure. I think I made a rock of… And I don't need it now, but there was a time when I was doing all my own social media marketing. And I came up with a system for how to do a month's worth of social media in a day, implemented that. Now, I get to pass that off to a marketing person.

Melissa: I remember you doing that. Yeah.

Christine: And always trying to expand referrals. That's definitely something I've worked on implementing different systems for that. And, building the system, implementing the system, I think, is where I'm weaker.

Melissa: Yeah, you know what? That's true for everybody. But yeah, right.

Christine: I think that's the other thing, too, is because we're all so honest with each other, you just come in thinking, “Oh God, if they all saw how I am,” or whatever. And then, you realize we're all struggling with this; we’re all struggling to balance it all. And, some people have a quarter where they're just in attack mode, and they're getting all their Rocks done. And then there are other quarters where you didn't get any of your Rocks done; it’s rare. I don't think I've ever had one where I didn’t do any.

Melissa: Listen, though, because what you're saying is true. People are going to have ebbs and flows, depending on what's going on internally and externally. But if you think about it, just because you're putting yourself in that situation, to have accountability and pressure. Because there is some in a positive way. You get more done than you ever would if you were…

It's not about perfection. I think a lot of people think… there is so much progress that happens just by putting yourself in this environment of… I see all your progress, and you just see what you fell short on.

Christine: Do you remember that post that Dana just put up? Dana is a member of our group, and she's awesome. She put up a post on Facebook in our group recently, where she just listed the progress that she'd made since joining. I think it was since joining, or was it just last year? But she killed it. And it just showed me, like, wow. That'd be a good exercise for me to do, too. Just sit down and really list out everything I've done.

It really does reinforce that a little bit does add up. Just like with a healthy lifestyle, right? It's like every little decision gets you further along. Maybe there’s an unhealthy decision here and there, but it's not a reason to just quit. You fail, you don't complete something, but you just get better for the next time.

I'm definitely a recovering perfectionist, and being willing to be messy; progress over perfection. And just not giving up, just staying with it, keep on going, get don whatever you can get done. That whole attitude, that's the key. Just keep showing up, keep on showing up. And I think Master Group helps you do that.

It makes you keep showing up. And not every day that I show up I’m in the greatest mood. Sometimes I don't even put my camera on in our group, because I just don't want to. I just want to listen, and I need to be in... But then other times, I'm really engaged and want to hear what everybody's… I don't know, it doesn't require perfection.

Melissa: No. I mean, actually, I feel like that's the antithesis of what we're doing here. Because it really is progress, not perfection. And the more you show up, the more progress you'll make. And sometimes, it'll be slower than other times, but it doesn't matter; it’s still progress. Just because you're showing up.

And that is the difference maker. It’s way, way more effective. And playing the long game by being willing to have bits of progress consistently. Versus coming out of the gate strong; flame up, and flame out. You take five steps ahead, and then seven steps back. It's like your swings are bigger, but they don't get you the progress that just showing up consistently does. It's not sexy, it's not fun, it's not as thrilling, but…

Christine: But it’s real. And that's what working in your own law firm’s like. You're the reason this thing is going. And you're showing up every day. And then, with this, you're just able to add this really important layer of intentionality to that showing up. That's all that's required, I think, is just the willingness to be honest. The willingness to grow.

And then from there, it's kind of like, wow, I've been floored. I mean, I know that I'm the reason I've been successful, and I made these decisions to get myself to where I am today. But there I am at a level of gratitude. The right people showed up at the right time. The right decisions were made.

And when I made the wrong one, I pivoted, and I worked with it. I learned from it. I mean, I just always have that feeling of I'm never going to just quit because something gets hard. And I think in the past that was kind of my, M.O. I mean, I passed the bar. I've stuck with some stuff.

There are some things I've done that are hard, but in general, it's a lot easier to start something. It's exciting. Building it, oh boy. And then you get to, now, that it's here, you’ve got to support it and grow it and nurture it. It's hard, but it's a lot harder if you're not building it in a way that's going to support your lifestyle. Support what you’re going to do in the first place. You're doing yourself such a huge favor by giving yourself the gift of a community and a program like this.

Melissa: Well, I mean, what you just said, “It's hard,” but I think it helps to understand it's only hard because that's what your brain is wired to do. Your brain is not a robot, you really have to train focus, and train follow-through, and discipline. And, again, there is no perfection with that. I mean, James Clear isn't perfect at it, and everybody loves him and puts him on a pedestal.

Is he further along in the game? Yeah. Do I think I'm further along in the game at some things that we talked about? Yeah. But you know what? There’s no perfection. We're all just beautiful messes, just continuing to learn and continuing to grow, and expand our capacity to have the business and the life that we want. And that is important to stay anchored to. There's no perfect vision.

This is sort of a side note. Have you seen Jonah Hill's documentary, which was just released? It was a documentary about his therapist.

Christine: No, is that on Netflix?

Melissa:  Uh-huh, yeah, it is. It is so good.

Christine: I haven't seen it. Oh, I'll have to watch it.

Melissa: It's so good. Because it talks a lot about these things. This idea that exists, it's like a snapshot that people have of what they're supposed to be or what they're supposed to do, or what they're supposed to shoot for. And the way he describes it is just really beautiful, but it's all literally impossible.

That snapshot isn't possible, that most people have around some area of their life. Whether it's the way their body should look, whether it's the way that their business should be, all of it. They have a snapshot in their mind with no real strategy for getting there; it's just clawing your way to try to get to this snapshot. And it's like, what are we doing? People do that all the time, we have a tendency to do that.

Christine: I have a vision, I’ve always had, of what a good lawyer does or how a good lawyer is, with very high ideals. I grew up in the law; I grew up around attorneys, really brilliant attorneys. But I'm really challenging that; that you have to be a walking Black's Law Dictionary, you have to know every case law in the site. And, there are attorneys that are good at that. But accepting I am a good attorney because I've gotten this far; practiced a lot of law.

But my strength is in the compassion I bring to my cases. And that's not really something I think the law values that much. And so, it's like I'm changing that snapshot of what a good attorney looks like and what a good attorney can be. And the service I'm providing to my clients.

Having somebody see you, and not just as another client, another retainer. But see you and your kids and get that this is really the most stressful thing an adult can go through, besides death or jail, is divorce. And I think I'm challenging that. Because family law has got a bad rap, and there's a lot that needs to be reformed.

And even with the criminal justice system and everything, I mean, I think a lot of the areas of the law could do with a little more compassion, and it's not valued that much. When you listen to a lot of the other lawyer podcasts, it's about making money and becoming the toughest trial attorney out there on the billboard with your arms crossed. But that's somebody else's vision.

My vision is this, and my clients, it resonates with them. So, I'm not everybody's cup of tea. And some people want that bloodthirsty bulldog, going to go to war. And sometimes that's necessary. It's not that I won't go to trial.

But it's like, what do you really want to get out of this case that is good for your family? That's good for your personal well-being? You can just be traumatized by the justice system. And attorneys make more money, the more contentious it gets. So to have somebody's that is kind of like… I'm trying, and I'm not the only one doing it. But you know, being a part of that new wave of attorneys that are trying to say, “Let's cool it down here. And let's really think about how we can actually help our clients. And not allowing their lives to be further made worse by unnecessary litigation.”

Melissa: Because the truth is, either path can be successful, right? So, pick what really lights you up. And for you, there's a path that clearly lights you up, that maybe people don't associate with as much success, but they are sorely mistaken. And so, you're doing it.

I just had this thought. I don't know if this is helpful or not, but we were talking before the recording started that one of the moves you're going to make this year is to hire a contract attorney to handle the litigation. And you said that it's hard to let go of because a good lawyer wants to be in court. And I've got to unwind some of that.

But I was just thinking, listening to you talk about the kind of firm you want to build, and how you want to serve your clients. A good lawyer is more self-focused, whereas good service, like serving clients well, is a different thing. And so, if you go into litigation serves the firm, being what it should be, then maybe you would do that.

But that's not how this needs to look at all. You can hire someone to fill that role, and that means you are being a good lawyer. Because you are creating this ecosystem that can serve more than just what you can do. It's bigger than you, it's bigger than that. And so, I almost wonder, if you play around with that a little bit, what kind of wiggle room you could get from deep-seated good lawyers, like litigation, and go to battle and all of that? I don't know.

Christine: Yeah. And there is a role for more collaboratively minded attorneys. And there's definitely a move; more and more of us are inching that way. But you will find in family law, an entrenched set of lawyers who like it the way it's been, and they make a lot of money because of the way it's been. And they distrust Collaborative Law.

So, I'm a part of breaking out from those old definitions and being something different and really upfront with it with my clients. By no means, do I let them think that I'm like, “Yeah, let's go, let's go. We're going to file this, we're going to follow that.” It's like, “Well, let's see what we can do to get you guys through this, get a settlement you can live with, and get you moving forward with your life.”

And if we can't do that, there are sometimes cases… I've got one this year, that's going to be probably one of the biggest cases since I've opened my doors. That is just an awful, awful case where my client’s gone through some really awful parental alienation, and he needs someone to fight for him. And I'm going to do that. It needs to happen.

But that's the thing, because I don't treat every case like that. I have the space to dedicate that to his case, and he needs it. It does need it. Whereas, most of the cases in family law don't need to be going to trial.

Melissa: They just need someone talented like you to be able to facilitate.

Christine: Getting everybody to agree. Getting them to see. Yeah, I mean, it's crazy, because just so much goes into good negotiation. But I mean, I think you have to have a good handle on trying cases, evidence, courtroom demeanor, all of the stuff that I gained from my past. I was in the courtroom every day, for a long time. So, you need that.

I'm not just counting that as part of your growth. But there's a point, as an attorney, where you can decide, is this really serving me? Is it serving my clients?

And like you said, to get that contract attorney, that associate attorney, that's where they're at in their growth. They're ready to try. Those attorneys that don't have kids, they just want to try cases. And they're in their zone of genius, doing their thing. Just like you said, serving my clients even more by having the person in there that really shines there. Yeah, no, I love that.

That is a big goal for me this year, which is to find the right partner in that with me. And I know, I'll find them; I found everybody else I've needed. So, I’ve just got to go rest, put out the right feelers, start talking to people, and I know, I'll eventually find them. I’ve already found an amazing contract associate for the Estate Planning Division, who's been amazing.

So I really am very grateful. This is a great time for me to have two and a half years. Because five years, to me, is kind of the big… I don't know, for me, when I opened, I was like, “When I've been in business for five years, I expect to really be where I want to be.” And I'm halfway to that five-year mark, wherever I end up.

But it's nice to just look back, and take stock. Getting ready to come to Atlanta, and be with you for the Core Assets Workshop. And I really felt like that was me saying to the Universe, whatever, like, “I'm serious, man. We’re doing this.” And I know, it's not going to be easy.

Melissa: No, it won't be, but what comes out of that… I mean, that's, to me…. So, she's talking about a workshop that we offered just for Mastery Group members, and they can create two core assets. One is an accountability chart that is done. Done; no wrapping things up after they leave. And then also, a tracking metrics dashboard, upping their game with whatever they currently have, and what are they going to do to get something dialed in.

So, the goal is no loose ends. When you walk back into your practice, this stuff is already working, and you're going to keep working with it. I mean, those two things can light a firm on fire, in a good way. Because it's like getting organized in a way that you just can't without them. And so, it is you getting serious and saying you're serious, and you will feel the effects of having done that work.

Christine: I'm really going to be I'm excited. I'm excited for it. But I am like, “Oh, boy, here we go. Got to look at this, my tracking spreadsheet.”

Melissa: Yeah, totally. One more point. Also, what we were talking about before we pushed record. You're coming, and we're going to work on your tracking dashboard; create a really solid dashboard for you. And you were talking about how you feel like it's not really your strong suit, but you are more dialed.

And as you were talking about, you go in every month, and you input numbers because now you have to have your numbers at Strategic Planning workshops. And so, you're more on it. You feel this sense of inadequacy or insecurity around it, but when you think about before you started, you are lightyears ahead, and you have so much understanding of the numbers in your business.

Christine: I didn't have any kind of tracking, I don't think. I maybe had little weird spreadsheets in there. But we track a lot. I like tracking, tracking conversions, tracking all kinds of stuff. Keeping track of the money and the profit, the expenses, all of that stuff, so that I can see average case value, all of that; that you've taught me to do. It's just been tremendous.

And in the making it math, just like you said, it's the facts, not feelings, making the math. It's forcing me to look at reality, and not create a whole story around it; here it is. And it's really freeing to do that.

Whereas in the past, I was afraid to do that. And I still struggle sometimes, wanting to avoid it. But the more and more I've gotten used to it, yeah, I love keeping track of my quarterly revenue, because I have a quarterly revenue goal, right? I actually have it down right now, but I need to put it up.

But usually, I have it up above here. And it's just awesome to be able to track that progress and hit it. Or, even if I'm not on it, I still know just having the guiding principle of, okay, this is my strategic plan to get here. It just makes me feel like, I'm not just willy-nilly out here taking cases.

“Okay, well,  we've taken four family law cases this month. There are three estate planning cases. This case I'm looking at, do I really want it? I mean, do I?” It gives me the ability to know how many cases I need. And I know some people are like, whatever comes to the door, they're taking it.

Melissa: Well, the real question would be, do you want the case? Because could you say yes to all of them that you want? Yes? Because you got to get there.

Christine: No, because I don't want to take… If it's a very nasty, contentious…

Melissa: No, no. All the cases that you want.

Christine: Okay, so I could take all the cases I want.

Melissa: So, you have the capacity to say yes to all the ones you want to say yes to.

Christine: I mostly turn down what's not in alignment.

Melissa: Yeah. Okay. That's great. Yeah, that's great. Thank you for sharing about yourself and your experience. And congratulations, you are doing such a great job. It's so fun to watch your evolution. And I said this to Bobby Botnick, and I meant it. And I’m saying it to you, and I mean it, this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning.

Christine: It’s so exciting. I’m grateful to you. Thank you. Because you've made this so much better than it could have been. I just am so lucky to have stumbled across you. I think it happened for a reason. I'm making some really dear friends through this process. I totally wasn't looking for that. You know how when you get old? Like, no more new friends.

But I do. I want friends. These are wonderful people. So. I'm just grateful to you. Thank you for showing up for us the way you do. And you're always bringing your full presence, and we feel that. There are so many people that don't do that out there, especially in some of the coaching circles and things like that. So, it really makes you different and special. And you inspire us to meet you there. So, thank you. I'm so glad I got to be here today.

Melissa: Oh, me too. Me too. All right, you have a great day.

Christine: Okay, you too.

Melissa: Bye.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process I teach called Monday Map/ Friday Wrap. If you go to velocitywork.com, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans. So that, week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to velocitywork.com to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to velocitywork.com, where you can plug into Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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