michele_zavosIn August 2006, I attended an Atticus® Workshop on how to run a law firm like a business. Nora Bergman was the speaker and I was blown away by her presentation. I immediately signed up for the Atticus® Practice Builder. At the time, I was working from my home and had two employees. I was planning to go into practice with another attorney, but when she backed out, I had to decide how to move forward. Because of everything I had just learned through Atticus®, I felt like I could build a successful practice on my own. I took a leap of faith and signed a 2500 s.f. lease by myself. My tiny team and I moved into the new office space in February 2007.

Today, 7 years later, we have 4,000 s.f. of office space and 10 full-time people in our firm. We have never missed a payment of a bill or staff payroll. My law partner and I set goals that enable us to take what we deserve from the practice – and we reach them. We now have a 401K for employees, and pay 100% of their health insurance. Everyone gets three-weeks of vacation each year. We work as a team, and clients get it. When they thank us, they say, “Thank You, Team” NOT “Thank You, Attorney.” We attribute a lot of our success to Atticus®.

Some of the measurable benefits that I have derived from working with Atticus® over the years are not working as hard as I used to, taking more time off, and feeling much more confident around how I make decisions. When I first heard Nora speak, I was working a lot. When Nora showed me that there is another way, I was intrigued. After working with Nora and Atticus®, I go into the office around 10 a.m. and I leave at 5-6 p.m every day. I don’t do client work in the evenings, and I don’t work on Saturdays more than once a month. When I do, it’s my choice. My favorite perk is going to Paris more often!

Our firm has become very well-known for cutting edge family law in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We’ve learned that the practice of law is not always about being the best technician. It’s about finding a way to connect with people, and listening to them. My law partner recently went to the Practice Builder, and she drank the Kool-Aid. I couldn’t be happier. We want all of our attorneys to go to the Practice Builder.

In my law business, I’m a capitalist. I now always ask myself, “What impact on our business will this decision have? “Will it help move us forward, or not?” If not, we don’t do whatever it is. I no longer get sucked in by all the sob stories. I know who I want to work with and why. We do lots of pro bono, but not because clients don’t pay us. This keeps us grounded and focused.

We also think much differently about hiring and firing. This is our business. We now know what it takes for us to be successful. When hiring we ask ourselves, “Is this person is a good fit?” If not, we move on. I have fired numerous people since working with Atticus®, and all of those were good decisions, as painful as some of them were. We fire clients as well! Most of our current team has been together for 3 years, and they’re terrific. Our office hours are 9:30-5:30, but only 9:30 to 4:00 p.m. every Friday, because we want everyone to have a life! If we’re unable to get our work done in a timely fashion, there is something off with the way we run our business. It’s on us as the business owners to address problems so we can keep moving forward.

There are so many things that we’re better at now, it’s difficult to know where to start. We’re better at having clients replenish retainers. We’re better at Marketing. We don’t really advertise. We get the idea of developing referral sources instead of referrals. I’m friends now with other professionals I have connected with over our business interests. We understand that we have to do what works for our firm when it comes to marketing. A fancy coffee bar doesn’t work for our practice, but giving clients substantive brochures, divorce information, and adoption books and T-shirts does. So we wrote brochures on Adoption, Estate Planning, and How to Keep Your Costs Down for clients. We also do a quarterly newsletter that I actually write to remind our clients and others that we are here! Atticus® calls that Top of the Mind Awareness (TOMA).

We use a lot of technology at our firm for efficiency and productivity. Every member of our team has a laptop and iPhone. When there is 8-10 inches of snow on the ground, we all stay safe and work remotely in our pajamas.

Building our practice as a business is an ongoing process, which is why we continue to work with Atticus®. It’s important to stay focused and keep implementing their tips, techniques and strategies. It’s tempting every now and then to cut rates or take a case that we know we shouldn’t, but Atticus® keeps us on our toes. At the moment, we are working to increase our realization rate and create important systems. I often say, “If we are standing still, we’re losing.”…We don’t enter a race to the bottom, no matter how much competition there is out there.

At one point, I was working with Senior Practice Advisor Cammie Hauser on an Exit Strategy. Now, I’m having way too much fun to stop! I wish that I had known about Atticus® 15 years ago; but, in my heart, I know that I wasn’t ready then. My journey has required a lot of work, but it’s worth every bit of it. If you would like Atticus® to work for you, you must be open to change and want it. If you are, Atticus® can change not only your practice, but your life.

 


Michele Zavos

Family law, including adoptions, assisted reproductive technology, LGBT family law and parentage, custody and divorce, estate planning, and probate
Family Law for a Changing World
Practicing in Maryland, District of Columbia & Virginia
(301) 562-8220

Contact

Atticus®, Inc.
345 South Highland Street
Mt. Dora, FL 32757
Toll Free: (888) 644-0022
Office: (352) 383-0490
Fax: (352) 383-8637
Email

Connect