Building a Successful and Efficient Law Practice Right Out of Law School with Chris Guymon
Nov 04, 2021
As lawyers, a bulk of your knowledge comes from what you learn from school. Experience as an associate in an established law firm will also be beneficial for your skills development. Such experience can also help you realize what field of law to focus on if you haven't settled on one yet. But sometimes, working for bigger law firms means losing control of your own time. You might not have the liberty or authority to improve the firm's operations either.
All these problems may lead you to want to start your own practice. But, how can you start a practice right after school and passing the bar? After all, law school doesn’t teach the business side of running a law firm.
In this episode, we are joined by Chris Guymon, a family law lawyer who built a successful practice right after law school. We discuss everything about building a practice — from determining which field of law to focus on to streamlining your operations. Chris also talks about how he manages his firm while continuing to be a dedicated family man.
Tune in to this episode if you’re thinking of building your own practice or improving it!
3 Reasons to listen to this episode on family law lawyers:
- Understand that you can succeed in building a law firm right after law school.
- Improve your efficiency to make flat-rate pricing as profitable as it can be.
- Learn how you can gain clients and keep them.
Chris's Background Story
- Chris was in the real estate industry, but he realized he wasn’t really passionate about it. After quitting real estate, he worked various jobs.
- The one that stuck with him was his internship in a courthouse. He found the work interesting, so he took the LSATs and went to law school.
- After law school, he had lots of job offers in San Antonio. However, he didn’t want to spend much time away from his family.
- So, he went back to Utah, took the bar, and decided to build his law firm. He started a free clinic at an abuse shelter, which led to paid clients.
- Now, he focuses on family law.
Chris: “I'm a big believer in fail fast and fail often to learn and made a lot of mistakes as I went.”
How Chris Built His Practice Right After Law School
- At first, he was very inefficient with even simple tasks such as filing. He got help from fellow lawyers who helped him with electronic filing systems.
- Starting your practice right after law school gives you a fresh perspective on systems, billing, and document drafting.
Chris: “The advantage of starting right out of school is that you’re not biased or prejudiced by seeing how other attorneys do things.”
- One thing that he didn’t adopt from the legal industry was billable hours. This practice makes lawyers take longer to make money.
Chris Deciding on Which Field of Law to Practice
- Chris initially wanted to provide a wide range of services.
- He started with estate planning but found a way to make this field of law efficient. His services then became affordable but insufficient for his growing family.
- He spent hours studying family law because most of his free clinic work involved this topic. It then snowballed into Chris’ actual practice involving family law lawyers.
- One day, he realized he was too busy. To find out where he was making money, Chris analyzed and listed all cases he'd handled.
- He followed the 80-20 law, focusing on two categories of cases: the ones that paid him the highest, and the ones that took up most of his time. He ended up focusing on divorce and custody.
Chris’s Firm, The Conflict Resolution Center
- Before COVID-19, Chris had a small team—an associate, two paralegals, and two assistants.
- When the pandemic hit, his team members left one by one until it was down to him and one paralegal.
- Eventually, he got a new clerk, who took the bar and will hopefully join as one of the family law lawyers in his firm soon.
- The Conflict Resolution Center only takes on custody, guardianship, adoption, and divorce cases.
Advice to His Younger Self
- Niche down sooner. Focusing on a single field of law allows you to work efficiently and be an expert in that area.
Chris: “You can't possibly know every area of law and be good at anything.”
- Know your worth. Set a price upfront that’s equal to the value that you’ll deliver.
Chris: “If you know your worth, and you say your price with confidence, I've found no matter how much I charge for things, people happily pay it if they trust you on that.”
- Create boundaries. Don’t tolerate clients who want to talk or email you outside your working hours.
- Once he created boundaries, Chris's clients became more respectful of his time. His family also benefited greatly.
- Chris is a family man. He has three kids.
- Chris sometimes uses his free time for work.
- His secret to success is to schedule things. He also blocks off parts of his schedule for family time.
Chris: “I would say time is not the constraining factor. I've found that you will take as much time to get something done as you give yourself to do it.”
- Christ learned from Parkinson's Law that time constraints encourage resourcefulness.
Moshe: “The longer that you remain holding on to tasks and just giving yourself all the time in the world to do them, the more it's going to hurt you and hurt your growth in the long run.”
- Chris uses Clio Grow, a cloud-based legal software. With this case-managing software, he can create Word documents using his own template and format.
- For every case, he makes a letter document for his clients that explains it. He also explains legalese terms to his clients.
- His staff does most of the preparations. He and his client then meet to confirm the facts before filing the document.
- Several cases refer to the same laws he and his team have faced before. So, automating things makes his law firm more efficient.
Flat-Rate Pricing for Family Law Lawyers
- Estate planning is one of the most convenient practices for flat-fee billing. On the other hand, family law can be very difficult to predict for flat-fee billing.
- In Utah, mediations are highly common and sometimes even required. So, Chris works toward mediation.
- While he offers flat-rate pricing, he also requires additional fees for each additional stage of the case. It allows his clients to understand the deal they’re getting.
- Chris remains transparent by informing his clients about this payment scheme.
- Together, he and his client will first try something. If it doesn't work, they can move to the next stage at the client's discretion.
Efficient Practices to Keep Flat-Rate Pricing Profitable
- Chris recalls what Tim Ferris said in his book: eliminate, automate, delegate.
- He eliminated all the tasks that didn’t lead to mediation.
- Afterward, he automates by having templates for letters and emails, thus making client communications more convenient.
- Then, he delegated tasks to his paralegals and assistants.
Moshe: “So it's okay to delegate, even if it could be automated, and then figure out the automation later. But don't forget that you need to get to automate.”
Where Chris’s Clients Come From
- Chris focused on making several clients stay rather than gathering many new clients.
- He believes in good karma. He’s gained numerous clients via social media.
- Direct self-advertising doesn't work that much on these platforms. Instead of saying that he's a family law lawyer, he gives some advice and lets them know that he's available for them to contact.
- Aside from Facebook, Google and Google reviews have also helped provide additional clients to Chris.
- While he has negative reviews, these are usually from opposing counsel. A few bad reviews were also from the time he changed phone systems.
Chris: “No one cares that you're advertising yourself. But if you jump on there and say, ‘Hey, when you're looking at hiring a divorce attorney, there's some things you need to take into consideration’... I usually try to take two or three things like that, just adding some value there. And then I end it with ‘If you have any questions, feel free to give me a call.’”
Defense Against Negative Reviews
- Take the higher road. Instead of saying that unfamiliar reviewers are not in your client history, reach out to them.
- Moshe says that one of the best ways to battle negative reviews is to have many positive reviews. The negative reviews are often not as helpful as the positive reviews.
Number #1 Advice for a Family Law Lawyer
- Know your worth. Know that what you’re doing is important and helps people.
- Helping people and getting compensation for it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
- You can start helping people pro bono. But once you understand your worth, you’d be compensated for your work.
- Chris also believes happiness will come afterward.
About Family Law Lawyer Chris
Chris is a family law lawyer, family man, former real estate agent, and the owner of the Conflict Resolution Center in Logan, Utah. He started his firm ten years ago, right after graduating from law school and passing the bar. Since then, his success has been massive. In law school, he was a part of a competition-winning negotiations team. Today, his practice revolves around negotiations and mediations for divorce, custody, guardianship, and other family law cases.
He’s recently rebranded his law firm to emphasize its commitment to solutions-based legal services and collaboration. As a family man himself, Chris also works to make his practice profitable and reasonable at the same time. He makes his operations as efficient as possible, not only for his clients but also for his family.
If you want to gain more insights into how Chris runs a firm for family law lawyers, you can join his private group, Scaling for Lawyers. If you have any concerns and insights about family law and estate planning, you can also reach him through his firm’s website.
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