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Melissa Shanahan

#231: Flat Fees: The Secret to a More Fulfilling Life and Practice with Brita Long

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If you’re working hourly, making plenty of money, love your work, and are well-respected within your firm, the notion of using flat fees might sound like it’s not a great fit. Everything might look perfect on paper externally, but Melissa’s guest this week is illuminating a different way of running your firm that could be a potentially beneficial next step.

Brita Long is the Amazon bestselling author and creator of The Happier Attorney. She’s on a mission to teach fellow attorneys how to harness the power of flat fees and achieve financial stability without sacrificing their precious time and energy. She’s a huge believer in the possibility of having a thriving life and practice without having to track your time or overworking, and she’s here to invite you to start imagining a flat-fee practice for yourself.

Join Melissa and Brita on this episode to discover how to use flat fees properly to charge for your legal services. Brita is highlighting why attorneys often resist the idea of using flat fees, the benefits of using flat fees, and how to identify whether you should start embracing flat fees in your practice.

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 is open so click here to secure your spot!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• How Brita started helping attorneys harness the power of flat fees.

• The benefits of using flat fees properly.

• How showing up from fear and shame makes you reactive.

• Why integrating flat fees into your practice is about more than just logistics. 

• Brita’s advice for identifying whether you should shift into being a flat-fee practice.

• The dangers of using flat fees improperly.

Featured on the Show:

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

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Schedule a consult call with us here.

The Happier Attorney: Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Podcast

The Happier Attorney by Brita Long

Mark Chinn

Better Call Saul - TV series

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #231.

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.

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week's episode. Today you are going to hear a conversation I got to have with Brita Long. Brita is someone that I've known about through some clients, through the online world. But this was our first chance talking. What a conversation. You will hear a lot today.

I think the thing that I want to make clear from the get-go, is that there is a passion for her to help lawyers figure out flat fees. If you are listening to this and you want to figure out flat fees, you should talk to her. If you are someone who's listening to this and you're open to hearing about flat fees, but you're not quite ready, you're just not there, then that's okay.

I want to make sure to say that upfront. There was a couple of times we said that. She said that her job is not to convince people that this is what they should do. But you can hear, I mean, this is her job, right? You can hear how passionate she is, that she believes law firm owners should move this route.

Because it improves the quality of life and the margin for the business. It creates a lot of freedom and time and money for the firm, and the clients are winning as well. So, she's a big believer in this. And that's very clear.

I threw a couple of scenarios at her, of clients that I know, that I have, that are doing really well that are not flat fee. She has her ways to dismantle that, and you'll hear that in the podcast.

I've given a lot of thought about it since we've talked, and I wanted to make sure to put this in here before the recording goes out. Because here's what I know, for sure. No matter what fee structure you're on, you can be successful. I've seen it, I've seen too many examples of it. Do I think flat fee is a really great way to go? In many cases I do.

But I'm not the person to help a law firm owner do that, or make that change. Of course, that can be adjunctive to the work that I do with clients. I think that if that's an interest and there's research done, and they feel really strongly about it, the switch should be made.

There are a lot of perks to having a flat fee business, especially when it comes to ownership of the business. With that said, do not leave this conversation thinking that you cannot be successful if you are hourly. You can be.

Does it mean that you should always stay hourly? No. I don't know, everybody needs to come to that decision on their own. They need to do so through facts, not feelings. Not just because it's always been what they've done, is hourly. So, I do think it's worth listening to this conversation, and seeing if there's something that you decide to look more deeply into, for inside of your firm and how things are running.

Hourly is harder. In many instances, it's harder. But don't leave this conversation thinking that anyone is saying that you can't be successful if you're hourly. I have too many examples, inside of my sphere at Velocity Work, where that is just not the truth.

The truth is you can be successful no matter what fee structure you have. You do need to be smart about it. You do need to make sure that the value exchange, like with what your rates are, is what it should be. I believe deeply in that. But that is just one lever to pull to success. It's not the only lever.

And so, we're talking about one lever today. I want to make sure that that's really clear to everybody. That there's so many ways to pull levers, there are so many different levers you can pull, to get to success, and today we're talking about one of them.

Because we were so vertical on this topic, I do not want you to lose sight of the fact that this is one vertical. It's a meaningful one, but there is no blueprint, there is no recipe. You’ll hear us talk about that, but we're talking about with flat fees in the episode. We're talking about there is no blueprint for exactly how to do flat fees; what you should charge, all of it.

But also, higher level than that, there is no blueprint. There is no thing out there, and there is no one person out there, that can say you should do things this way over here, then this way here in your business, then this way here in your business, and then this way here in your business. It doesn't work like that. That includes fee structure.

So, while I think that this was a really interesting conversation, I have thought a lot about it since then, and I want to make sure that there is not a sense for listeners that my position, my stance, at Velocity Work is dogmatic about the fact that you should be flat fee.

I help people get successful, no matter where they are. We decide what levers we need to pull for that. And sometimes, this is an interest and this should be addressed, and Brita is the first person, the only person I would send them to, to get it sorted. I just want to make that clear.

We are fee structure agnostic here at Velocity Work. My number one care, more than anything else, is that the owners that we work with are thriving. And sometimes, one of the levers you can pull, and the owners decide to pull, is to go to flat fee. That will assist with the thrive.

But it's not the only thing. If you're hourly, you can still thrive. I want you to know that. I want you to understand that. It takes thought, and you have to be very intentional. You can't be sloppy, if you're going to stay hourly and you want to thrive.

But there's a path to success no matter what your fee structure, that I know for sure. So, with that, I want you to listen to this conversation. Keep an open mind to the things she's saying, really hear what she's saying. And if it resonates, then reach out to her because she can help. She has helped clients I've worked with, and she's made a big difference in their worlds. That was a choice they decided to make. It's panning out really well. It doesn't have to look just like that.

All right. This is a super interesting conversation. I hope you enjoy it.

Melissa Shanahan: All right. Welcome to this week's show everyone. I have a very special guest today, Brita Long. Brita, thank you for coming on the show. And thank you for being here.

Brita Long: Well, thank you for having me.

Melissa: Yes, I am excited to have a conversation with you. I feel like, in many ways we’re cut from the same cloth but do different work in the world. And your work is meaningful in the land of law firm owners, which is the world that we are both deeply a part of; one of the worlds that you are in. I think there are other ones that you exist in.

I would love for you to just share with everyone who you are, where you are, what you do.

Brita: My name is Brita, and I am the author and creator of The Happier Attorney. I still have my own law practice. I've had my own law practice since 2000. But I teach other attorneys how to use flat fees properly, to charge for their legal services. And I also work with my clients on deep personal development.

Melissa: Okay. How long have you had the business for working with lawyers on flat fee?

Brita: About four and a half, almost five, years.

Melissa: Nice. And why is this work so important to you? Why did you decide to do this? I mean, I'm sure you're busy enough.

Brita: Well, it started by accident. I had taken a little sabbatical from practice. I had moved from Seattle to rural Texas, my father was passing away. Long story short, I bought a farm house. It was a disaster. I put every penny I'd ever had into it. It was just a nightmare. My father dies, I sell it. I had, not a nervous breakdown, but I call it a simplicity breakdown.

Where I just had to throw up my hands and realize what I was doing was not working. Doing it the Brita way, going a million miles an hour, pushing through, wasn't working. I had some things to figure out.

And so, I had some money from the sale of the farm and I started writing. I loved writing. I loved writing. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is what I want to do. I'm going to buy a place in Vermont, and wear tweed. I’ll probably have to start drinking whiskey at 10am, as a good writer does,” all of the things.

The romantic notion of writing gets old pretty quick when you start going broke. It sounds great on paper to be a broke writer, but it's not so great in practice. I was in these incredible think tanks and writing groups with the most incredible people. And there were some kids in there; I say “kids,” like in their late 20s, early 30s. They were doing some really incredible things. And some of them were doing online courses, and doing very well.

I was still so much thinking like an attorney, but I'm like, “Okay, I can either start the practice back up again. Or I can try something else, just for now. Well, what do I know?” I was, again, still thinking like an attorney. “I don't know anything. I don't know how to do anything. Wait, I’ve charged flat fees. I've done that for a long, long time. Most other attorneys don't know how to do it. Maybe I could teach them that.”

Instantly, I came up with all of the reasons why that's a horrible idea. “A, it's really simple.” Well, yeah, it was simple, because I've been doing it a long time. “No attorney is ever going to pay me to teach them how to do this.” Wrong. “Attorneys won't understand it. I'll get laughed at.” I mean, all of the fear things. So, I was like, “Well, I might as well. Let's just try it and see what happens.”

I had some really great support, and so I took some classes on online courses. I don't do technology. I certainly did not know what I was doing with online courses. And so, the more that I learned, the more I'm like, “This is okay, I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

One of the first things I did was start this Facebook group, Attorneys & Flat Fees. I remember the first day, I had over 100 people join. I remember just sitting on the floor crying, because I was like, “This can work. People are actually interested in this. This could be a thing.”

And I created a thing. That's how I got started. And in that time, I was doing my own really intense personal growth work. It really took the majority of my time and focus for about three years, and a heck of a lot of money. And through that, when I was teaching flat fees, I very quickly realized that flat fees, in teaching the things, the tools, I used to say it was 5%.

Now, I don't even know if it’s that. The rest is some mindset, and mostly your relationship with yourself. That might sound ridiculous. That's okay. If people aren't there yet, that's fine. But it's true.

So, the more that I did my own work, the more I could see it in other attorneys, and the more I could see it in myself, years ago. And so, then I started working with attorneys on their own internal development. And when you see the changes and the results in people, it's pretty amazing. It's pretty addictive.

Melissa: I mean, the reason I reached out to you is because we have one mutual client, that I know of for sure. The transformation in the firm, the whole firm, because of the transformation inside of the individuals, has been really remarkable. And so, that made me very excited to talk to you.

And I know there's a lot of other people in my sphere that also have read your book, they know about you, they haven't hired you yet, but they're thinking about it. So I thought, well, let's just talk and have a conversation and see if we can shed a little light for everyone around the work that you do.

I have one more question about your background, because you said you you've done flat fees forever. When did you start doing flat fees? Why did you start doing flat fees when it really wasn't a conventional thing to do? And why do you think you were successful with them, when so many people on their own don't do it in a way that sustainable or really provides what flat fees can provide?

Brita: One of these days, I should just really do a deep dive in QuickBooks and find out the date, but I don't know exactly when I made the switch. It had to have been like 2006, 2005-2006.

I was practicing family law. And I'd been a deputy prosecuting attorney before, and so I knew criminal defense attorneys charge flat fees. And I had all of the issues that most other attorneys have. I had done the empire building thing; I'd had associates, I'd had Class A, the 10-person conference table with real leather chairs. I had what I could not even have imagined having.

I remember one day in particular, my accountant, who’s still my accountant, sent me over tax stuff. The firm had earned more than I could have ever contemplated, it was a number I couldn't have even wrapped my head around it. And I didn't know if I had gas to get home or money to get more gas. So, there was a little disconnect there.

I had done all of the things. From day one, I tracked my time contemporaneously, which I thought everybody did. No, they do not. I didn't discount very much. I took every practice management CLE (Continuing Legal Education) I could get my hands on, and I followed their advice. I sent out statements on the same day every month to coincide with, a little bit, before the first, for pay day.

I sent out great descriptions. I sat little notes on the descriptions. Nobody ever questioned my work; they just didn't pay me. And so, here I am, I'm practicing family law, I am going into the lion's den to retrieve this kid, I'm coming out bruised and bloody, and then you're not paying me? Are you kidding me? I was like, “This is insane.”

I remember driving by a dry cleaner’s once, they had a “Help Wanted” sign on the marquee, and I'm like, “Hmm, that wouldn't be so bad.” I mean crazy, crazy thoughts. Right? Absolutely crazy. The haunting kept going. You know the thought in your head that just won't go away, it haunts you?

I was like, “There has got to be a way to charge a flat rate for family law. If we can get a person to the flippin’ moon, we can figure this out. This cannot be that difficult.” I knew criminal defense attorneys did it. So, I had this thought, and I kept thinking, “How would I do this? How would I do this?”

And then, I don't know how I found him, but I found Mark Chinn. Everybody should know who Mark Chinn is. He is a great family law attorney out of Jackson, Mississippi, great attorney, great man, great person. He had written an e-book on flat fees in family law.

I was like, “Oh my gosh.” First of all, I wasn't crazy somebody else had been thinking the same thing. He was well respected; he wasn't some crazy ass person. And so, I read his book; immediately started. I mean, immediately. And I tweaked it. I tweaked it a lot to fit me, and to deal with some things, some issues I was running into that weren't addressed.

I just took the ball and ran. Never looked back. Was never tempted to look back. Can't imagine looking back.

Melissa: In the book, the e-book by Mark Chinn, did he talk about how to determine the fees that you were going to set? Did you have guidance on that, you did that on your own?

Brita: Yeah, a little, and then I refined it a lot. We attorneys, we want the formula. In the Facebook group, one of the rules is we don't talk about price. That's for several reasons; there are antitrust issues. But the most important reason is, that's not the thing.

People think, “Oh, if I just get a formula I will learn how to use flat fees.” That's not how it works. There's not a set formula. Thinking that there's a set formula is part of the problem, is part of the mindset problem. Because it's continuing to go back into thinking that your only worth is your time, or this certificate, or whatever.

Which, I get why, that's what we're taught. And, it's nonsense. It's total nonsense. So, in the book, there's kind of a formula. If you just rely on that you'll do better with flat fees than you certainly will with hourly. You'll get your time back, you'll simplify your practice, you'll make more money.

But if you want to really take this, you really want to see where this motor can take you, the less you rely on a formula and the more you rely on instinct, and really what you want to get paid, that's where things blow sky high.

Melissa: It’s a different world, a different realm, but one of the things that I think people who listen to this podcast know, is that I detest blueprints or formulas. People want that. But it doesn't exist. It doesn't exist in a way that's going to give them what they really want. Which is what you’re talking about. It's easy.

Brita: You understand why people want that, though?

Melissa: It's easy.

Brita: Well, they think it's easy.

Melissa: I think you and I would agree, there is some work to dig in and figure out what does make sense for you. And people don't know how to do that work, I think, oftentimes. So, they would rather just have the shortcut to something better. Not that people should be ashamed of doing that. I think to your point, it will get them to go from zero to one. But from there, there's real work that can be done that'll blow up your whole…

Brita: How often do shortcuts ever work? They don’t.

Melissa: So, when people are like, “How much do you charge for X?” Okay, again, we don't discuss it; I'm not going to ever say. The bigger question is, I don't know. I can't tell you. I can tell you what price is completely nonsense. But A, I can't be in every consultation with you. Okay? And, this is subjective.

Price is subjective, value is subjective, and people hate that, attorneys hate that. It's the truth, though. But when I get pushback from clients… When I say “clients,” I mean attorney clients… and they're like, “I need to know.” Here's one of our mutual clients, one of the ones that I’m thinking of.

“I've done the spreadsheet,” and when people talk about spreadsheets, I immediately start rolling my eyes. “Okay, I'll placate you. Tell me about your spreadsheet.” “I've done the research. I have all the numbers, and I got the spreadsheet.” They'll come up with a number. Okay, great.

Then, it doesn't take two minutes, before they do an exercise with me that might sound a little woo woo; it's not. I'm like, “Okay, what's your number now?” Their new number is always at least 30% higher.

Melissa: That's amazing.

Brita: Instantly.

Melissa: But the spreadsheet was exponentially better than they were doing, and you're saying, “That's not it. This isn't where it stops.” Yeah.

Brita: It might be, but it never has been.

Melissa: Okay, maybe you already said it, but just to close the loop. So, what is the reason, in your words, what's the reason people want the shortcut? They just want the answer, so they can go in their world and apply the answer.

Brita: Well, because we're human beings. We’re human beings. Down is easier than up. We want easy, we want shortcuts. It's the same reason that even though we know that that weight loss shake is crap, that new pill is going to kill us, we still are going to do it because the alternative is saying no to the mac-and-cheese. “I don't want to say no to the mac-and-cheese. So, I'm going to delude myself into this shake will do it.”

And, we are incredibly busy. We have busy-fied ourselves to the extreme. That's normal people. Attorneys? Forget it. We're in this culture, I think, of fast, cheap, easy. Where, again, we've kind of deluded ourselves into we can get that.

I use the example, real mashed potatoes versus instant. You can get instant mashed potatoes. I really don't know how long it takes to make instant mashed potatoes, but a lot faster than real mashed potatoes. I remember as a kid my mom making instant mashed potatoes. Gun to my head, I could not eat them today. Okay?

So, people want instant because they don't understand the difference, and we are so busy. We are so busy. I think people think that this is just about your price. It's not. Flat fees are not just about your price. If you use them properly, if you spend the time and the money and the effort and feel the feelings, they will not only change your entire practice, they will change your life. And I'm not being dramatic. I’m not.

Melissa: I totally agree. I wrote that sentence down, “They want instant because they don't understand the difference.” That is true. You almost don't know, what you don't know. And when someone can be there to walk you through and facilitate a deeper understanding, your world will change. Even if you don't do X, Y, and Z after that. There's a before and after moment that you really understand the difference.

Brita: Our attorney culture is so screwed up. Our culture is premised on this belief of ‘the more we work, the higher to heaven we go.’ That our worth isn't our work product. It's not how we treat people. It's not whether we do right by our clients or not. It is all in our time, and how hard we work.

Melissa: And, how much you can done.

Brita: Our done badge of self-worth is bragging to each other about working on the weekends. That's pretty sick. And then, we sit here and wonder why attorneys are drug addicts and alcoholics, and numbing themselves to death, committing suicide.

I don't think that flat fees are the panacea to all the world's ills, of course, but they're a darn good start.

Melissa: Because of how hard it has you looking inside.

Brita: When used properly, they instantly give you bandwidth. They give you bandwidth in time. They give you bandwidth in money. They give you bandwidth in energy. So, then you can deal with the other things that you need to deal with, or that you could deal with.

Melissa: Based on what you're saying, they give you those things, which is, that's the result. But you can't get those things unless you do the inner work. The reason people don't get their flat fees, or they don't use their fees properly, as you just stated, so that they can get bandwidth of more energy, time, money, fulfillment, whatever it is, is because there's a lot to navigate, for most people, internally, to be able to get to the place where they can do what they need to do with the fees, to give them those results.

Brita: It's complicated. I mean, I have talked to people… I'm using one story, but this isn't uncommon. I remember talking to two attorneys using hourly. Both admitted and that what they were doing was not sustainable. Not sustainable financially, not sustainable to their lives. Both working 60 hours a week; which, that's not sustainable y'all. Okay?

Based on what they were not billing, they were doing the work but weren't billing at least four hours a day. They're billing $400/hour. That means, each attorney was working, but not collecting, $1,600 a day. A day. I don't care who you are, that's a lot of money.

What I tell people is, I show them, it gets worse. Because it's not just that you're not making the money that you earned. You're paying for the privilege. We all have overhead. If you have a business, it's very expensive. So, you are paying money to have this business in which people are not paying you.

It would be like, I have a bookshop. I have rent, I have to buy the books, I have to have the staff and the cleaning person. And at least half of the people are just walking out with books. Is that sustainable? Here's my solution, I'll just work harder. I'll just buy more books, and make it up in volume.

I mean, if you translated what attorneys do to another business, it's absurd on its face. Likewise, it's absurd on its face. This is a no brainer, right? They're losing $1,600 a day on almost anything they do. I mean, that's hemorrhaging. Do you think that they worked with me? They did not.

She wasn't sure, she wasn't sure about how this was going to work. Okay. Well, I don't know how an airplane gets off the ground, I'm still on an airplane all the time. You don't have to know how all of the things work right now. Okay? You’ve got to trust a little bit here.

If this didn't work, I wouldn't have a Bar Number; I've got two of them. And I wouldn't have a line full of other attorneys behind me. She wouldn't do it. Well, nothing's going to change. Absolutely nothing is going to change in their practice.

So, when you see that, that clearly on its face… They would have made back what they spent on me at the time, within a matter of days. I'm not kidding. I've had clients start working with me, and earn $20,000-$30,000 more that week. I'm not kidding.

Logically, it made no sense that they didn't. Why they didn't move forward has nothing to do with flat fees or that they don't work. It's complicated. I don't know them well enough to be able to say exactly what. It can be fear. It can be, “I'm not willing to sit and be uncomfortable.” Because this is uncomfortable.

Anytime you learn something new, it's going to be uncomfortable. You're trying something new, that's going to be uncomfortable. Flat fees, people think it's new, it's not. It's how attorneys have charged since we've had attorneys, up until recently, actually. But people think it's new. It's not.

“Are other attorneys going to judge me?” All of the things. But what it really comes down to is, “I'm more comfortable sitting in the crap, than doing what I need to do to get out of the crap. To risk getting out of the crap.”

Melissa: Before we got on we were talking about mindset. You were talking about how it's so much deeper than mindset. You compared someone living on rice and beans, as an example. Will you run with that for everyone?

Brita: Sure. I've been there. I work with so many attorneys… We don't share our personal stories, as attorneys. The perception is, we can't be vulnerable. I had no idea there were so many traumatized attorneys out there. No idea.

And so, when you have an issue with boundaries, when you have an issue with self-esteem, when you have whatever issues all of us have; every single one of us has our shit; that comes forward. That affects everything that you do, whether you think it does or not.

When I have someone who is highly resistant, like a client that’s signed up but they're still resistant. They’re attorneys; we’re smart. We're coming up with all of the wonderful sounding rationale as to ‘why I can't do this or that.’ And my favorite is, “I live in a rural area.” That's my favorite one for why you can't price using flat fees.

It's all fear. Some of it is fear of the unknown. Some of it is fear of success, “What if this does work?” “Now, I know how to deal with being poor. I know how to deal with working 60 hours a week and being up to my eyeballs in alligators. I don't know how to do that, and that's really scary.” Of course, that's not conscious, that's all subconscious. Which is a million times more powerful than conscious thought.

So, we were talking to that one client, and his partner was full on, “Let's go, flat fees.” He was very excited. He started working the numbers and he started talking to his client about all of what we could do, etc. I said, “Stop. Stop. He's not there, yet. He is not psychologically and emotionally there, yet. We have to go little steps because he's starving right now.”

If you've been starving… A great example of this is, if anybody saw Better Call Saul, there's an episode where he's out in the desert and he's dehydrated. I'm an Arizona girl, when you're dehydrated, I mean, there's nothing like it.

He gets water and he just starts chugging it. The guy next to him slaps it out of his hand, because if he had done that… You're going to throw up. You can't do that. It's kind of like if somebody has ever fallen in a frozen lake, they don't just put them in warm water, they'll go into shock. I think, I'm not a doctor.

So, you have to take little bites, little steps, you can't overwhelm. The benefits of flat fees, they're all true. But sometimes when I talk about really what they can do, it's overwhelming for people and they tune out. It's like, it's too good to be true. Or it's too good to be true for them. That is all internal. That's why they will self-sabotage with flat fees.

Melissa: So, if they've been eating rice and beans up until this point…

Brita: When you set him in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Ritz Paris, they're going to get sick real fast, or they're going to get overwhelmed.

Melissa: Yep, or they're just going to ask for rice and beans.


Brita: Or they're just going to ask for rice and beans. It's too much.

Melissa: Will you say more about… You sort of started touch on it earlier, and it feels like the perfect time to dig into this. That attorneys “can't” be scared, and how that contributes to the trapped-ness that they're experiencing.

Brita: I think of myself. I remember, I started out as a litigator, as a prosecuting attorney, scared out of my mind. In my little Ann Taylor suit, with the cross in the back where I hadn't even known to clip it. Right?

Melissa: I know exactly what you're talking about.

Brita: Scared out of my mind. But you have to pretend. You had to pretend, “I'm not scared. I know what I'm doing.” I didn't know anything. I didn't know what I was doing. How many times, when you talk to other attorneys, “How's it going?” “Oh, good. It's going great. Never been busier. Going great.” Then, a week later, they kill themselves. True story. Okay?

We are not allowed to be vulnerable. We are not allowed to ask for help. I mean, obviously, there's nothing legally stopping us. But what happens when we ask for help? Oh, we get the lawyer assistant program involved. Great. Now, we're afraid that our Bar License is going to be taken or suspended, or whatever.

I don't know enough about those programs to really criticize them. But I know the road to hell is paved with good intention.

Melissa: It shows weakness.

Brita: It shows weakness. This machismo… Anyone who knows anything about real growth, knows that the lion doesn't have to roar. Real strength, you don't need to walk around saying ‘I'm the strongest man out here.’ We attorneys, we foster this culture of never being weak, and it's destroying us in my opinion. That is one of the things that is absolutely destroying us.

I give the example of a friend of mine. Her husband was a family law attorney outside of Seattle. A good attorney, had won all these awards. On paper, if anybody looked at him, “Oh, he's a great attorney. He's successful. He's doing all of the things…”

Well, internally, it was a mess. He didn't have good boundaries. He never said no to a client. Well, it's as predictable as day comes after night to see what would happen. The client, on Monday, hires him. He drops everything works on that case. Tuesday, client hires him, drops everything and works on that case. You can just see it’s starting to revolve around the drain here.

Then the phone calls started. “What's going on with my case? You were supposed to do this…” The deadlines started getting missed. Long story short, the Bar complaints started. He had a hearing on Tuesday, his first Bar hearing.

I will preface this with what I know about what happened, and what I know about the Bar, after practicing since 1997. He would not have gotten in serious trouble with the Bar. He certainly would not have gotten disbarred; not anything close to it. He probably wouldn't have even gotten a public censure.

What would probably would have happened is, at worst, they say, “We need to bring somebody else in here to help you, and get this sorted out. In the meantime, you don't take cases, okay?”

This Friday, before the Bar hearing, he shot himself. He left three kids and his wife. Life is complicated. There's not generally one simple ‘this is why’ or ‘this is how’ to fix… But when we live in a culture, when we have a professional culture, where it is perceived that it is better to kill yourself than go to a Bar hearing, that's a problem.

Melissa: I'm listening to you say this, and it's heartbreaking. Wow, they can't see the truth. They're so far removed from what is true, that this is the outcome of that. Wow. I mean, if there's one message from this whole thing, I think it should be, especially to honor stories like that, question.

Question what you believe to be true. Be willing to question it, and have a look. I mean, that is deep work. Because if you've been ingrained in a culture and in a society that says, “This is the way. This is the truth,” without questioning it, then…

Brita: Even if it kills you.

Melissa: There have been some pretty famous examples as of late, of attorneys behaving horribly, like killing their wife and their child. I don't say “allegedly” anymore, he's been convicted. But, again, life is complicated. I'm not here to psychoanalyze this guy.

But the thought for most attorneys, their identity is so wrapped up into being an attorney, and there's so much shame. We're a very shame-based culture, in the legal profession. Where people think they would die if they didn't practice law. Like, if that was taken away from them, they couldn't function.

Now, look, my license has never been threatened in any way. I practice family law, I've had a couple Bar complaints, but they've never gone anywhere. I've never had a hearing. So, it's easy for me to sit here and say I'd be fine. I do know that I'd be fine. Because I went without practicing for a couple of years, in this sabbatical.

And you know what? It was great. I came back because my son got licensed. And so, that's what we're doing. Life is fine on the other side. I go through this exercise with attorneys, in regard to scarcity. Because when you get into scarcity and you get into fear, especially when you get high in the numbers, you don't function. You go into fear-flight-freeze. Literally, the blood stops going to your brain, it goes through your extremities so you can fight, you can flee, you can freeze, okay?

That's great, if there’s an actual bear is in front of you. But when we're imagining… Here we are, as attorneys. I get it. Our whole gig is fear based. But here we are, attorneys, we're in the Sahara Desert, and we're like, “Oh, there could be a polar bear behind that bush.” Okay, there's not a polar bear behind that bush. “Well, okay, but if there was…”

Here's what I mean, we make it up. We're not able to actually think to solve the problem. So, one of the exercises I do with my clients is really, let's talk about worst-case scenario. If there's a polar bear in the Sahara, first of all, is that ever likely? No. If there was, the polar bear’s going to be a lot more miserable than you are.

One of two things are going to happen: You're either going to be okay, or you're going to be dead. You're not going to have much control over that. But there's not a polar bear there. And, if you have a problem, there's a solution. So, let's go through this.

I used to do the same thing. An initial cancels, and you immediately go into, “Oh, I'm never going to get a client again. I'm going to lose my practice. I'm going to get disbarred, go bankrupt, die alone in a ditch,” in a split second.

When you're in that fear-based mode, you react. You don't sit back and think and make clear decisions. So, that's when you take on the case that you shouldn't take on. That's when, in a flat fee, when you should be saying 10, you say two. Then, you just create this self-fulfilling prophecy. You either stay in the same loop or you go down the drain further.

Melissa: It's so wild to me, but I love it so much how this really all revolves around perception, the unwillingness to be uncomfortable, or to sit with the fear when you make an intentional decision, that's more in line with your best, highest good. And of those around you, by the way. Not just for you as a person, but your clients. Everybody ultimately wins when you line yourself up differently.

It's the thing that makes me tick, to contemplate, and to dig into; the internal is the work. It's not the logistical. With people, I'm sure the first question to you is not only, “What is the formula?” But then, “Well, do you have the contracts? Do you have the spreadsheets?

Brita: The fee agreement. “I just want the fee agreement.”

Melissa: Exactly. “All the things that I need to do, so I can just go do this thing.” All of that is figure-outable. Not the hard part.

Brita: Right. And, this work makes you a better attorney.

Melissa: I want you to go into that, but I'm just thinking of the listeners who are hourly, and they're extremely profitable, and they're not unhappy, and they're thinking like, “Okay, okay, okay.”

Brita: I'm going to push back on that, because that doesn't exist. Okay? Here's why I say that. The math doesn't work, Melissa. The math doesn't work.

Melissa: What is their effective hourly rate is $800 an hour? Does that work?

Brita: I can get a calculator. I can get a calculator, right now. Okay, you're at $800 an hour. You're at a big firm, you're at $1,000 an hour. I know what the overhead of big firms are. The math is never going to work with hourly. All right? Because let's just say… I'm moving my office. I can't find my calculator.

Melissa: That's okay. I can punch numbers if you want me to.

Brita: You're either going to be, how should I put this? Padding. Or you're going to be having lots of attorneys do other things, whatever. I'll play your game. Let's say you're at $1,000 an hour, and you're billing four hours a day. That means that you're still working 8-12 hours a day. Study after study has shown, for every hour that you're billed, you're working two to three. Okay?

So, fine. You're making $800,000. You're working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, or six days a week. I would bet any amount of money... You know what? Maybe there's somebody out there who would say, “I am perfectly happy working 60, 70 hours a week.” Okay, let's test that out.

So, you're telling me that you are physically healthy. I know you're not. I'm looking at you, there's no way that you're physically healthy. If you're working that, that means that you are eating whatever the heck you can eat at the food court. That means you aren't exercising, you're not sleeping.

Oh, how many hours a night are you sleeping?

I mean, basic physical health. If you are physically unhealthy… I've never met anybody who's physically unhealthy who can honestly say they're happy. When you're not sleeping, you're not happy. When you're in pain, you're not happy. When you can't walk not being able to breathe, you're not happy.

Let's talk about your relationships. You're telling me that you have a great, healthy, connected to your spouse, marriage, when you see them for half an hour, an hour a day? Really? Okay, let's talk about your kids.

One of my clients, he called to schedule the day after. He was putting his four year old to bed, just tucking her in at night, and she said, “Daddy, where's your phone?” Up until that moment he thought he was a great parent. So, I don't buy ‘Oh, I'm happy as a lark.’ Because I don't buy it.

Melissa: I'm thinking of specific examples that… Well, first of all, I am all about simplification in your business. I think that does wonders. So, I'm all for flat fees. But I'm also don't take the role to tell clients that do have hourly to make that switch. So, I work with them where they are.

There are certain people I'm thinking about that they have gotten themselves to an average of $800/hour. But their associate, one associate, isn't. So, there's not near as much margin with that role. He really isn't working 60 or 70 hours a week. However, could his life be easier if they made this switch? I think the answer is probably yes. I don't know. He's probably going to listen to this.

Brita: If I talked to him and we went through of my Life Quiz; How are things going?

Melissa: His world is okay. Here's the thing, without him, the firm would not be okay. And so, you're trying to build something that doesn't need you in it as much. And you've locked yourself into where all the income was coming from you. I mean, he doesn't overwork, but the way things are sitting, he is in a spot he cannot get out of, because of the way this has all been built.

There's that.

If you're listening, Sir, I know you know who I'm talking about. But it is a huge improvement on where he was. So, I'm just thinking, do I need to take a stance and be like, “Listen, everybody. You also have to go work with Brita.”

Brita: There are some people who get very upset, very, very upset about people charging flat fees. Like, “What you're doing is unethical.” Huh, well, I would love to hear more about that. Please, please tell me how, or where. And when anyone gets emotional like that, I always know it has nothing to do with flat fees. There's something else going on here.

But if somebody says, “I love using hourly,” which I have never heard in my life, but okay. “I love using hourly. I'm totally happy using hourly. I make plenty of money. I don't overwork. Everything's great,” okay. One attorney is coming to mind who would say just that.

Here's what I know, just because I know this person on a deeper level. On paper life is great. On paper, she's right. She doesn't overwork, she makes good money, is well respected. But I know that internally, there are some real issues there.

Melissa: Okay, two questions. I think this one should come first. There is a guide out there. I think people that really toot this horn probably say it's the standard. I don't believe that, again, that's like a formula, right? 3x 4x 5x, in terms of multiples. Also, other people, they also use the words “grinder, minder, and finder” to go with this. Meaning, what the cost is to have that attorney work at the firm and perform the work as an attorney.

So, let's just say for round numbers, which is pretty low, but let's just say $100k is the total cost. By the way, anyone out there that thinks that that's the total cost… [crosstalk]. But there's some people that their salary is less than that, so they think that's total cost.

But by the time you stack in taxes, benefits, all things, but let's just say $100k to keep it round, then they should at least be able to produce 3x for the firm. That means, $300,000 is what they produce for the firm. But if they are only doing 3x, they should also probably be bringing in business, or another way to have contribution to the firm, or maybe managing a team, etc. So, not as much time is being billed. I know this is all hourly.

Okay, then there's 4x. That's what this guide calls “minders.” Meaning, they mind other things in the firm, which is just management. So, maybe they don't bring anything in. They're not a rainmaker, but they do management inside of the firm, so they probably don't bill as much. So, they bring in about $400,000, if they're making $100,000.

If they are 5x, that means most the time all they should be doing is cranking out work. So, these are newer associates that are…

Brita: Okay, not to interrupt you. But does that sound attractive to you, though?

Melissa: No, I'm not saying it's attractive. But let me ask you this.

Brita: That sounds insane to me.

Melissa: It does sound insane. The hourly billing that's required for 5x, is basically… the way that I've heard this put by a fractional CFO that subscribes to this… that we have to be reasonable. So, that person does need to be able to go to the bathroom, they need breaks, but most their time should be billing. And so, they have the most amount of hours underneath them.

Okay, from a profit perspective… I am ignoring for the moment The Happier Attorney conversation; I'm just looking at the business side… that that is a path to profitability…

Brita: Short term.

Melissa: Short-term profitability. Okay, I'll go with that. Most of the time, the people I work with, they're not interested in 5x’ing. They are interested in a culture that they're proud to be part of. And so, are the people that work there.

These are people that would never consider flat fee, literally never. They've never considered it before. It gives a guide to work towards, so that they make sure everything is profitable. Most people aren't even at 3x, that I meet.

Brita: Here's the thing, I would say it sounds great on paper. Anyone who's ever hired attorneys, or had attorneys work for them or any employees, know it's not that simple. Think of how you just described that, it sounds like something out of Dickens.

Melissa: I hear you. I hear you. But if they are hourly, they have to think in a way like this, or they will be in the red. They have to think of it that way.

Brita: Which is why this system, the foundation, doesn't work. It's not meant to work.

Melissa: So, they don't want to be in the red and they're hourly, and so they really do have to pay attention to those as a guide. And that's not true for every single firm. There are some firms that do under three, and they do okay. But really, when you look at the numbers, and I'm sure you're like, “Of course,” it really does have to line up.

There's a range for any firm, given on what their practice areas are, where they are, what they're dealing with, what their rates are, but there is a range that they need to look at and find their normal; what matters to them, what range should they be in. Or else, they're not going to be profitable, and that's going to put on a stress on the business. And, that's the truth.

And so, if you're listening, and you're hourly, and you don't have any idea about any of this, there's a really good chance that you are… Being asleep at the wheel is never a good thing. Never, never, never. So, I'm not saying that they should be hourly, but they should have a read on some of this.

If they have a read on this, and they decide ‘I'm going to stay in here. I'm going to put my stake in the ground. I'm going to stay hourly because I've got to pay attention to all these things this way,’ and they don't move to flat fee, that's one thing.

If they are open minded enough to entertain what it could look like to be flat fee for themselves…. Most of them have probably thought, “That's not for me. That doesn't work for me. That doesn't apply to me.” But if they're willing to entertain the idea that they could shift into being a flat fee practice, how do they know? And so, is this part of what you dig in with them?

Brita: We haven't even talked about this. So, I give a workshop every month, to decide or not to decide. It's a little bit about flat fees, but it's helping people move through the process of deciding. Because the indecision costs so much. The back and forth cost so much.

People make learning flat fees a lot bigger than it actually is. Don't make it overwhelming. So yeah, that is part of the process of working with me. It’s working through the doubts, and looking at what this would look like, and whether it would work for you or not.

People used to ask me, “Will flat fees work for every attorney?” I'm like, “Yeah, unless you're doing contingency.” I don't say that anymore. If an attorney is getting their self-esteem out of overworking, at being busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, it's not going to work. And so, I don't try and convince people to do flat fees.

The numbers are what the numbers are. Math is math, you can't change it. And when you run the numbers, if you use flat fees properly, you are always going to be ahead with flat fees. Always.

And so, if people want to stay with the old, okay, good luck to ‘em. Good luck. Because there are enough of us going over to flat fees, and clients are demanding it, and there's a lot of competition out there. I don't know that that's going to work in 10 or 20 years. Okay, good luck.

Melissa: I do agree with that. It is part of it. Something we talk about a lot inside of Velocity Work is you have to know the facts. You get to decide what you do with those, but you have to know the facts. So, if they do move to flat fee… I don't think this, I'm just clarify for listeners...

It's not like you do a bunch of internal work and think about, well, how much are you worth? And then, you put a number to it and you flip over to that, and it's definitely going to take care of all the numbers in the firm. There's more to it than that.

Brita: Well, of course.

Melissa: I mean, I know that that sounds like ‘well, of course,’ but I think a lot of people don't understand. When we talk about deep internal work, it's almost like this or that. And, I think both are important. They both go hand in hand. You can't do the numbers without the internal work. And you can't really do the internal work without the numbers, if you're going to actually make the change.

Brita: Here’s what I’m talking about. To give people some perspective of what we're talking about. So, in the group coaching calls that I had, I had one attorney who had been in my group for a while, and still was not making even subsistence level income. And so, we're diving in going, “Okay, what is going on here?” I mean, she can't pay her bills.

She's in an incredible area in the country. Look, if you can't make a crap ton of money there, I don't know what to tell you. She has clients. She has a good reputation. She's turning work away she has so many clients. She's using flat fees, and she's still barely eating. So, what in the world is going on?

Well, here's what was going on. Her self-esteem is crap, absolute crap. So, even when she had doubled her price, and then doubled her price… If your price is supposed to be 10, and you start at 1, you can double it. You get to 2. You double it to 4, there's a whole long way before 10.

So, we're in this group. She knows the other attorneys, but she doesn’t their work product. She had a case that was coming up; a client that she knew really well. She was describing what was going to be involved, and it was commercial litigation. Big stuff, big stuff. I forget the number that she was going to quote them, but it was I think it was $12,000 or something.

Where I'm like, okay, there's not a perfect number. I'm not going to quote the number; I don't do commercial litigation. But I know it ain't that. And so, I said, okay. We'll call her Janet.

I said, “Janet, if,” and I named off the other people in the call, “If this potential client had come to them, come to Lindsey or Julie or Sam, and they asked you what they should price it, what would you say?” Every single one of them, she was like $70,000, $80,000. She'd priced her own at $12,000.

That's what we're talking about with internal work. She didn't view herself as worthy or deserving of more than $12,000. Even when she saw what she had just done, because I'm like, “Okay, well, why are they worth 10 times what you just quoted for yourself?” It didn't have anything to do with logic.

The other thing that we do with internal work, is we talk a lot about what is your value? What is the value to that potential client of hiring you? And we get specific. How much money is it going to cost them if they go to somebody else who has a caseload that is too big to handle? What is it going to cost them If they go to somebody who screws it up?

What's it going to cost them to have it fixed legally, if they can? What's it going to cost them in terms of time off work? In terms of their business? In terms of their reputation? In terms of their relationships, their marriages, all of the things? What is the actual value? Some of this is tangible, a lot of it's intangible.

We attorneys, we don't think that we have any value other than our time, right? When you have to start thinking about your own value, that seeps into every other aspect of your life.

I had one client early on, who ended a physically abusive relationship as a result of this work, because she had to start thinking about her value. Then it was like, “Well, wait a minute, if I'm bringing some value to my clients, wait a minute, I have some to bring to the table.” She got out of a really bad situation. We're talking about internal growth and development work a little bit.

Melissa: So, you do help them think through the value-based pricing and think through the different angles that they need to consider when they are setting the fees or range of fees that can be used on a consult. That is, I think, helpful for people listening.

Sometimes I'll have people come in that have done flat fee, and now they're coming to me for strategic planning and to get organized and all that stuff. That's great. I'll learn through their story that they've recently did flat fee, and now they're just going back to hourly. I'm like, “Aw, man.”

Brita: They didn't do it right.

Melissa: I know. I totally know that. I know that the reason they didn't do right, is because they didn't price it high enough. I do know that. Because they were going broke after they went to flat fee, but they weren't taking into consideration, like what you were talking about, value. They weren't even talking about what it's going to take to cover.

Brita: God bless us, as attorneys... I live in the south, so I can say that. Think about how arrogant that is, or how naive or whatever. So, just because I'm an attorney, and I used to think the same way, I'm smart enough, I should be able to figure this out myself.

Okay, so I'm a pretty smart person, but this is a new skill. Just like any skill, it takes practice. And it really does help to have someone who knows what they're talking about to teach you. I ask people, I use this example, “Do you bake?” “No.” Okay. Or some people say yes.

I say, “Great. Making bread is really simple. You put some salt and some water and some flour together, and a little yeast, or maybe not. You mix it together. You sit there, you let it rise, and then you put it in the oven. There, you have your bread. If you went home and tried to make bread like that, how's that going to work out?” It's going to be a disaster, even if you watch a YouTube video or have a recipe.

You know how many loaves of bread you have to throw out before you get one that's edible? It takes some practice. And so, you have people who don't know what they're doing, don't even have a recipe, going home trying to make bread. And when it turns out to be a loaf of crap, “Oh, flat fees don't work.” That's absurd.

You have to learn what you're doing. It takes years for the issues to come up, that's without the mindset. Years for the issues to come up and work through them. That's why it's helpful to learn. I tell people that flat fees are incredibly powerful, make no doubt. They will change everything if used properly. If not, they're dangerous.

It's like a power saw. If your job is to cut a log, and you've been using a handsaw, okay, it works, you can get the job done. You're cutting a log a day. I don't know how long it takes to cut a log, let's say a log a day. Then someone comes along with a power saw. Game changer, life changer. But if you don't know the safety features, you could die.

So, when people say flat fees don't work, yeah, because you plugged in the saw and you lost a hand because you didn't read the safety manual. That's not the saw’s fault.

Melissa: Yeah, exactly. So cool. I love that you do this. I don't know if there's other people doing this or not. I certainly haven't come across them, that do specifically the work that you do; as niche-focused as you do. There's so many layers and levels to people just rising up, and continuing to sort of unfold and create what they want to create, and do what they want to do. And I do feel like you are such a powerful tool that people can use for themselves in this way.

The work that we do with clients changes their life. They don't know how to plan, they don't how to think, they don't know what numbers to look at. They get very organized, and they get very intentional, and of course, everything improves because of that. But this is not something that I am an expert on. This is not my thing. I shouldn't teach this, what you teach.

To me, it's just like you said before, you can get yourself from zero to one... In many cases, I do have a lot of flat fee clients, they are doing fantastic. But there's those that aren't. They’re flat fee and it’s not enough. Or they're hourly. And so, they're always going to have to have an extra scrutiny on everything, when their business is set up so granularly.

It's just more work to pay attention to, the things you have to pay attention to, in order to grow in the ways you want to grow. So, it's almost like I have two camps of people. One that have got some things figured out and they're flying further faster. And the other, they're flying in the direction they want to fly, but it's at a much slower clip than what's possible for themselves.

Brita: I would say that's okay. It's a process.

Melissa: It is a process. The reason I'm saying this, is because I think there will be a point that people will feel compelled to type in That's great, that's the point in their process. But I just think there's room to say on this episode, wake up and just do a check in and see if now's the right time. Do you need to keep waiting, to dig into this topic, and just see if it is for you? If it is for your practice?

Brita: Because the haunting is not going to stop. The haunting isn't going to stop, until they recognize the pain that they're in. Until they really recognize what is holding them back, then they're not going to be ready. Now, when you do contact me, we go through things so that I can show you a little bit maybe some things that you don't see. Because we don't see our own blind spots. We don't.

It's kind of like getting really great bloodwork done. We all know that eating Cheetos isn't great for us. Everybody knows that. It's one thing to see that, to know that. But it's another thing to see really great bloodwork done, and when you see the actual results in your blood, then you're like, “Oh, oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, I really had no idea.”

That's what I do in the first meeting with people. It's just an assessment. Where, look, if you're totally happy… first of all, if you were totally happy, you probably wouldn't be reaching out to me… but great. If you're running on all cylinders, great.

But for those who remember… if you don't ride a bike now… when you were a kid, remember when your tire was a little flat? It wasn't all the way flat; you can still go. But you're working really, really hard and you're not getting anywhere, and you're like, “Oh my gosh, what is wrong?” And then you figure it out, your tire was a little flat. You get some air in, you're like, “Oh, my gosh, this was so much easier.”

That's what flat fees do. But people don't even realize, why is it so hard? Because you don't have air in your tire. That's what the feeling is.

Melissa: If someone comes to you, how do you know what kinds of things to dig into, to figure out if their flat fees are priced where they should be?

Brita: Well, I don't know what “should be” means. There's a range.

Melissa: For them and their firm.

Brita: I know what it shouldn't be. We run numbers. We run numbers and we check in, there's not a specific formula. It depends on what they want in life. It depends on how much they want to make, how much they want to work, what their comfort level is. We push past comfort levels, and we check in as to why, but it's not Brita setting someone's…

Melissa: I don't think that. I'm just wondering how you help them get to their own understanding if the flat fees they have are enough, or if there’s room…

Brita: I ask them. We lie to ourselves. So, play with me, and I'll just play on you. I should have asked your permission before I just start doing this. But you can make up numbers. Okay? So, I don't know how much you charge. I don't know how you charge. Do you charge a flat rate?

Melissa: I don't charge by the hour. I charge a monthly rate for the memberships, and a flat rate for private clients, for the year.

Brita: Talking about putting you on the spot. So, what do your clients, what value are they getting from working with you? What's the tangible that they get from working with you?

Melissa: The tangible is more money.

Brita: What does that mean?

Melissa: More take home.

Brita: What does that mean?

Melissa: Are you saying how much?

Brita: Yeah, how much?

Melissa: It depends on the person. Oh, my gosh, it totally depends on the firm.

Brita: But what can they expect? If they do what they’re supposed to do.

Melissa: On average… Their firm growth rate, on average… And we are careful to make sure that there's profit also, with the growth. Their firm growth rate, on average, is 30% in the first year of work. I'm talking about private. First year of working with us. That's not hard to get, just because we're getting organized and getting intentional, transferring responsibility where it needs to be transferred.

Brita: But it is hard, because if it was easy they would have done it on their own.

Melissa: No, well, I mean, it's not hard for us.

Brita: Which is part of the problem. Part of the problem, in your thinking, okay? It's easy for you because you know what you're doing. If it was easy for them, they would have done it by now.

Melissa: Oh, okay. Totally, yes.

Brita: The least, that a firm is not going to be up and running, if they're not at least grossing $150,000-$200,000. Okay? So, the least, financially, that they're going to be getting from you is $40,000-$60,000 a year. Up to, God only knows what.

Melissa: Because most of the private clients, they are, most of them, are doing at least a million a year in revenue. The smaller firms are doing the membership stuff.

Brita: So, what else are they getting?

Melissa: Okay, so, more money, we talked about. The owners get more freedom, they're less in the weeds. They're not doing as much grinding work. They have more space in their days. They're transferring responsibility to others in the firm, to handle certain pieces that they've been handling and they don't need to be handling.

So, really shifting what their role looks like in the firm. I guess, is the best way to say it. So, that they're more of an owner. They have more time on the ownership of the business, versus attorney. There is a level of clarity that they've never had before, in terms of numbers. They have confidence and certainty around what's what, and what numbers to look at.

I mean, we are a partner… Let's say they have a partner, because there's a learning curve to this too.

Brita: They have support.

Melissa: They have support.

Brita: Which is huge.

Melissa: I was going to say, in knowing what numbers they are going to adjust on purpose, and what levers to pull to adjust those numbers.

Brita: When I say support, that's not even what I mean. What I mean is, when something has gone awry, they are scared, they have someone to call and get them down off of the ledge. That is huge. You can't put a number on that. They also get someone that's holding their hand, which is the support, but still, just somebody that is standing by them going through this scary thing. Again, invaluable.

So, when you look at your numbers, I'm not going to ask you to disclose what they are, but when you're going through your numbers, is that reflective, truly reflective, of what your people are getting? Not dollar for dollar. You shouldn't be charging dollar for dollar, because they should be getting a lot more than they're paying for. But is it truly reflective? I think the answer is no.

Melissa: I could say with certainty the answer's no. Because I've never factored into any part of this, what you just referenced about not feeling alone and having somebody there. I know what that feels like. I haven't considered that for them and their relationship. If I'm being totally honest, it's been more, where can I get them that they want to go? What does that mean, from different aspects? I don't think I'm looking at it from every angle that I could.

Brita: Right. So, when I first started the Happier training, I did these courses on how to do video courses. I was so excited. And of course, the courses said, “Oh, the second grade teacher from Duluth started her course, and the first week she made $40,000,” and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And you're like, “Oh, well, if Denise from Duluth, the second grade teacher did it, I can do it,” right? So, I do the things, I think I'm doing them right, and I had an open… You could only register for one week. I was closing it after a week, because that's what I was told to do.

And they said nobody's going to buy the first day, the second day, everybody waits till the end, right? I don't remember how many people I had in the Facebook group, I think it was probably 200 or 300. They said 20 is a warm audience. 20% should buy, blah, blah, blah.

And so, I've done the math. At this point I haven't been practicing, savings is almost out, and I need this money, right? I need proof of concept. So, that Friday, five o'clock comes, when I'm shutting down. I'd done the Facebook post. I think I'd done everything. Guess how many courses I had sold?

Melissa: One, two, I don't know.

Brita: Zero! Not one. Not one. I was devastated. I'm crying. I’m like, “Fine. I'll just go back to practicing law. Just practice family law for the rest of my life.” Then I go into the whole feeling sorry for myself. Why can this 20-year old start a course?

Well, I reached out to one of my coaches at the time expecting sympathy, which I should have known better. And he said, “Okay, what do I say? And I said, “That we get what we need, not what we want.” He's like, “Yeah. Figure out what you needed. Why was this a good thing? How is this a good thing?” It wasn't the answer that I wanted, it was exactly what I needed.

I look back now, and I'm like, oh, my gosh, of course, nobody bought. Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, how embarrassing. Let me tell you, just having him have that support on a Friday evening made the difference. I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here today, talking to you. I would have given up.

Just that one phone call alone, was that worth the thousands and thousands that I paid him? Of course. That is a drop in the bucket of what I do with my clients, as far as what we value, how we get there. We go through how you're harming your clients when you are undercharging them. Which is not something most people think about at all.

Melissa: Yeah, that's true. I'm hoping that provides comfort for listeners to think about reaching out. The only other thing I'm going to ask you, and I know we're on borrowed time here. But I am curious about the people who are listening that have done hourly for 30 years. They have a base, they have loyal clients, this is the way they work. To flip the switch now, when they're 55 or 60 years old, and they've had all these clients for so long, they've had a practice for so long.

Those are the ones I feel like would be the most resistant to this idea, because of how much they have to internally overcome.

Brita: In their own head. It's not that much to overcome. Well, here's what I would say. Again, I'm not here to convert anybody. Okay? I'm here to invite the people who are interested to a different way of life.

What I will say, is that I have example after example of people in the same firm, where one partner was, “Hell, no.” It was less than two weeks, before, “Ain't no way I'm ever trying that,” to, “Oh my gosh.” Because the numbers don’t lie. The proof is in the pudding.

Melissa: So really, I mean in that instance, what has to be overcome is what other people might think of you, what perception of…

Brita: They see the results.

Melissa: But that's why they say, ‘no way.’ They say, ‘no way,’ because, “Even though this all sounds great, I've made my bed. Here I am. This is the firm that I have.” They're afraid to switch, likely, because of what people will think of them or what their clients will think.

Brita: There's a lot of reasons people are scared to go there. Lots of reasons. But none of which have any validity, by the way. They don’t.

Melissa: I would love to have you back on and go through the list of reasons, and just explain why there's zero validity.

Brita: Oh, absolutely. We could do that for hours. Bless your hearts. There’s not any validity. There’s just not.

Melissa: Yeah. Okay, would you come back for that? If we get around to it, some time?

Brita: Yeah, of course.

Melissa: Basically, we’ll have a list of objections. You just said it, and I want to reinforce it. I'm not doing these podcasts, and you don't have your business, to try to convince or convert anyone. But you understand what this can do for people. This is your work. This is what you do. This is what you help people do. And so, my hope is that these episodes can create some wiggle room in people's brains where they don't have it.

Brita: At least think. At least be open. One of the things that I work with my clients on, and myself because I'm a human being too, is attachment. When we get attached to ‘this is the way it is. This is the way it has to be,’ that is always a red flag for me of, there's something else going on there that's not good.

So, if all anybody even gets, is that it's possible. Okay. An acquaintance of mine, Regina, is a big flat fee proponent; has used them for a long, long time. She's very vocal on my page. She also has her own page. We will still have people, in both of our Facebook groups, this is our house, come in and post that flat fees don't work in family law cases, or whatever.

We're sitting there looking each other. It's like we're on the moon, and people are like, “You can't get to the moon.” And we're on there going, “We're here. What are you talking about?” Well, then how have I done it, in family law, for 15+ years? How has Mark Chinn done it?

I mean, it's absurd. “No, you can't do it. You can't do it.” “Okay. All right. You're right. You're right. I'm sure you're right. We're just going to be over here doing it. Okay. Good luck to you.”

Melissa: Oh, so great to talk to you. Okay, we'll have you back for part two of objection busting. I don't know. This has been fantastic. Hopefully, this gave people who might not have heard of you yet, get an introduction to you and learn about you. Yeah, I really appreciate you coming on.

Brita: Yeah. Well, thank you. And thanks for having me.

Melissa: Everybody can go to to learn more about you and the work that you do, the flat fee work that you do with attorneys. Also is where they can go for personal development work.

Brita: Correct.

Melissa: Fantastic. Thank you.

Brita: Okay, thank you.

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, 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 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 where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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