Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Ali Katz (formerly Alexis Martin Neely), an attorney and creator of the New Law Business Model, which is a “re-training” company for lawyers who want to make a great living, have a great life, and do it by using their law degrees in a truly fulfilling manner serving families and/or small business owners as we teach.
Rather than the traditional transactional approach to law, the New Law Business Model gives attorneys the knowledge and skills they need to gain control over their schedules and income while delivering a truly meaningful service to clients who are more than willing—even happy and grateful—to pay very well for estate planning and strategic business planning. We call this the “relational” approach.
Now, previously unhappy, unfulfilled, overworked lawyers are able to build high six- and seven-figure law practices while making a positive impact on the lives of their clients and in their communities—and, best of all, they’re having an amazing time doing it. They’re working fewer hours and earning more money, and have plenty of time for family, travel, and hobbies.
I know this probably sounds too good to be true, and there was a time that I even questioned my own hyperbole, but I proved it to myself and now I’m all in on helping lawyers step back into their rightful roles as trusted advisors and counselors, which is a real need for families and small business owners, who otherwise are making bad decisions that leave their loved ones in court and conflict.
Some of our amazing lawyers after one of our advanced small group intensives learning the art of connection for more, better client engagement in Boulder, CO
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
After building my own million dollar law practice and then another million dollars a year online training company serving lawyers, I decided to walk away from all of it and file bankruptcy, honestly because I couldn’t handle the success I created and didn’t fully believe in the work I was doing. And, part of me hated being a lawyer. My mindset was really bad, and I didn’t understand how much that was impacting me, and the people around me.
Funny enough, in the process of walking away from everything I had created, Life showed me that it wasn’t being a lawyer I hated. It was what being a lawyer evoked in me because of the broken mindsets that many lawyers have around scarcity, and competition, and win/lose dynamics. And, I eventually came to see that being a lawyer is a huge gift when we have the right mindset, eliminate scarcity, shift into collaboration and win/win dynamics.
Ultimately, I was able to see that I really do have something special and important for lawyers who are longing to be able to bring their hearts and souls into their law practices, without sacrificing their income or time with their family or friends. I saw that I was meant to create the business model and systems lawyers need so they could focus on being the counselors and trusted advisors to the families and small business owners they serve, while we made the marketing, technology, team, and numbers part of the business much easier.
Today, the lawyers we serve love what we offer them, and as a result, we’ve now hit the Inc 5000 for two years in a row, and have over 200 member lawyers who are licensed as either Personal Family Lawyers or Family Business Lawyers, and we're-train nearly 400 lawyers per year. Our amazing team of 25+ is 100% remote, work from home, and we’ve just brought on our first COO, so I’m no longer running things myself, which feels amazing.
I do maintain a tiny roster of private clients from my home-based law practice in Colorado, where I co-parent my two teenagers with my ex-husband (we even still live together, but that’s a story for another article), and I am working on some exciting projects with my life partner that will likely have a big impact in the financial services industry in years to come.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I went to law school with a vision and a dream of making a real difference in my clients’ lives while having a great family life. Early on, though, I was shocked to discover what the practice of law was actually like.
I had my first “brush with the law”—or rather, my first brush with the traditional, transactional law business model—before I even started practicing law. Here’s how it all played out.
My father-in-law died just after I had graduated law school, while I was still at my post-law-school clerkship. Before he died, he had spent $3,000 on an estate plan specifically to keep us, his family, from having to deal with the probate court after his death, and specifically to keep us from having to deal with his ex-wife. So, you can imagine how confusing it was when, after he died, we were left dealing with both the probate court and his ex-wife.
You see, while my father-in-law had put in place an estate plan, thinking everything was taken care of, that plan had never been updated, and his assets weren’t owned in the right way to keep us out of court or from having to deal with his ex-wife after he died. And there wasn’t even a clear inventory of his assets, so we weren’t even sure we knew all of the assets we would be dealing with.
Do not reinvent the wheel. Whenever and wherever possible, leverage the learning of others who have done what you wanted to do, even if in another field. And pay them to hold your hand and teach you!
It was truly shocking to know that my father-in-law paid $3,000 for a set of documents that he really didn’t understand, signed them, took them home, put them on a shelf, and never looked at them again, thinking he had done what he needed to do to take care of the people he loved. But he hadn’t. And now we were going to have to pay his lawyer more money to clean up the mess.
I thought for sure the lawyer who had served my father-in-law must have committed malpractice. But very shortly after, I went to work at one of the best law firms in the country as an associate in the estate planning group, and discovered it wasn’t malpractice at all—this was common practice. At the firm I joined, we were practicing estate planning in the exact same way that lawyer in Florida was -- a focus on forms and fees, rather than guidance and counseling and systems to ensure a clients’ plan would work for their family when they needed it.
On top of that, I was out to dinner one night with my now ex-husband, and our baby daughter was home with a babysitter. Typical for most new moms, I was always thinking about what could go wrong. And I was thinking that night about what would happen if we didn’t make it home from dinner. We had an estate plan in place, but I realized that even with that traditional estate plan if we didn’t make it home, our daughter would be taken out of our home and into the care of strangers until the authorities could figure out what to do, where our plan was and figure out how to find the people I’d named as guardians, all of whom lived more than 3,000 miles away. And there were more problems, all of which I share about in the book Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly - and Essential - Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents. It was shocking to me that even though I had an estate plan, my daughter would be taken into the care of strangers if something happened to us.
The traditional, transactional law practice model was broken. And my dream of making a difference in my clients’ lives seemed not only impractical but impossible—so much so that I considered giving up law altogether.
Rather than leaving the law though, I decided to figure out how I could be the kind of lawyer I wanted to be, with a law practice I loved while having a great life, and experiencing the deep meaning and fulfillment that would come from using my law degree to truly serve clients in a meaningful way. It took me more than ten years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to put all the pieces together.
Many times, I wanted to give up. I questioned what the heck I was doing and why. I remember walking down the hall of my office, thinking to myself, Alexis, why are you doing this? Why are you risking it all? You’re making massive investments of time and money in your practice - to the tune of at least $500,000 - with no guarantees that you’ll ever figure this out!
But, I knew I wasn’t the only one who longed for a law practice model that really worked. I knew others out there were just as fed up as I was with the traditional law practice model, so I set out to create a new law business model for myself, the rest of the lawyers out there who wanted a practice that would really work, and for the client families we serve.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In the fourth year of my law practice, thanks to the New Law Business Model systems I’d created, I only had to go into my office three days a week, and I was still able to bring in more than a million dollars of revenue a year. At that point, I knew it was time to teach other lawyers what I had learned.
But there were many false starts as I tried to make the shift from serving clients 1:1 in my own law practice to teaching other lawyers. I hired people who promised to be able to help me and just ended up confusing me more. It wasn’t until I found someone who had done exactly what I wanted to do, but in another industry, that I finally got the answers and support I needed.
I held my first real teleseminar (remember the days of teleseminars?!?) in November of 2006 with 750 lawyers registered, teaching a class on my system for engaging 97.5% of the clients who came into my office. At the end of the call, I offered my “Client Engagement System”, praying that at least one lawyer would enroll. Within a few minutes of the call ended, I saw the orders rolling in and that I had made $117,000 in sales!! It was a life-changing moment.
Over the next 6 weeks, I went on to earn a total of $250,000 in new revenue from sales of the Client Engagement System via replays of that original call. And, in 2007, I launched the very first iteration of my Personal Family Lawyer membership program, in which I would teach lawyers serving families with estate planning not just how to engage clients, but every detail I had learned in my practice about educating and serving families in their communities in a new way.
That was all back in 2006 and 2007.
And I grew that iteration of the business into a million dollar a year revenue generating business quickly, running the online training business and my law firm together until 2008 when I sold my law practice and focused on the online training company.
But the truth was that I didn’t have the maturity or the business understanding to keep it all going, so in 2010 I began to dismantle it all, with the intention of leaving the law entirely. I thought that would solve the problem.
But in the process of doing so, I realized that it wasn’t the law that was the problem. It was my immaturity, my beliefs around money and my lack of understanding of the legal, insurance, financial and tax parts of my business.
In the year I filed bankruptcy, I discovered I would need to clean up my money mindset and also upgrade my own legal, insurance, financial and tax systems, what I’ve come to call LIFT, which is part of what we now teach the lawyers we train in the New Law Business Model.
It was a terrible time for me, but I’m happy to say that I wouldn’t change it if I could. As a result of the trial and error that created my huge losses, and my willingness to learn by making mistakes and then teach from those mistakes, I was able to come to understand what families and business owners really need from their advisors, and we now teach this to lawyers using the New Law Business Model. And, now we give lawyers so much more than just re-training, we have the tools, technology, and systems to support their law practices to truly serve their communities.
In 2013, I took all of my learnings and failures from the past, and launched the New Law Business Model, this time focusing on serving only lawyers who wanted to serve families and small business owners as a true trusted advisor, with all the support they need to do it. I used the same proven strategies I learned back in 2006 but upgraded to webinars instead of teleseminars.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The main way we attract customers today is through Facebook ads, though we’ve started to branch out into LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Google Adwords.
We either send ads to a static piece of content, such as the best-selling book I wrote on legal planning for parents, or to one of our webinars or a video series. From there, we inspire lawyers who want the kind of practice we can teach them to have to talk with a Law Business Advisor, to ensure there is a fit. If there is, they can enroll in one of our two “Bootcamp” style programs to learn the model, get their own plan is done and legal, insurance, financial and tax (LIFT) systems dialed in and take on two practice clients with our support.
In the past, I used to sell directly from the webinar, at a discount if they bought within a certain amount of time after the webinar, but I found that we ended up with a lot of impulse buyers who weren’t really ready to implement our systems. That was a problem for me and is probably part of the reason I burned out on my first go-round. I get inspired by seeing people actually use the work I created and have success, so we changed the model to require everyone to talk with a Law Business Advisor first and that’s greatly improved our business.
In the past, all of the Facebook ads featured me and my story, but recently we’ve begun to feature the lawyers who have had great success with our programs, and that’s working really well. Best of all, it means that the company is becoming independent of me, so that it can continue beyond me and create a true legacy.
The first ad below is me -- with a very old picture of me, from the early days of my practice. And you’ll see the next two ads are case study examples of lawyers who have used our program, successfully, to change their own lives and law practices.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Over the past three years, things finally clicked in a big way, probably because I let go of trying to build two businesses at once and focused all of my energy and attention on New Law Business Model. I had always been stuck at about $1.5M of revenue with a team that was wholly dependent on me and lots of turnover.
Today, we are on track to do $3.7M in revenue this year, we hit the Inc. 5000 the last two years in a row, and I’ve got a C-Level Executive team that is running the show, pretty much without me at this point. We have over 200 member lawyers, train approximately 400 lawyers a year, and we are growing rapidly.
Get as clear as you can about the big picture of what you are creating. Then look at what you’ll actually need to learn and invest in to get to your big vision, based on where are now, and find the capital you’ll need to take the bite-size steps to get to the big vision.
In fact, just as I am writing this, the team held their first webinar completely without me. I didn’t even review anything ahead of time or appear on the webinar. This is a huge breakthrough. With the freed-up time I have, I’ve spent the past year upgrading our curriculum, which will come out this coming January 2020, and writing the New Law Business Model book, which will also come out in 2020.
Looking forward, the company will continue to grow, and I will redirect my attention and energy to educating the families and small business owners, about what I’ve learned regarding personal success through healing my relationship with money, family and myself. I envision that this will generate significant demand for lawyers who are trained in the New Law Business Model, whose guidance isn’t just the traditional “lawyer” stuff, but goes far beyond into the true trusted advisor and counselor support I wish I had received along my journey.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned so much that it’s hard to summarize in a couple of paragraphs. I do have a book coming out called “The New Law Business Model: Build a Lucrative Law Practice That You (and Your Clients) Love” that will share most of what I’ve learned in the business, thus far.
But, here are a few things:
- Be willing to let your business be the pointer to where you need to grow personally, and remember that your mindset truly is everything. The more you can focus on what you want to create and what you’ll need to do that, the more you can take the steps you need to actually get there.
- Hire great people who you can give an outcome and then trust them to get that outcome done, meeting with them regularly to ask how you can support them in achieving the outcome, instead of managing to tasks. This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made over the years, mostly because of my own insecurities and not knowing how to truly be a leader rather than a micro-managing perfectionist.
- Do not reinvent the wheel. Whenever and wherever possible, leverage the learning of others who have done what you wanted to do, even if in another field. And pay them to hold your hand and teach you!
- Keep looking at where you are avoiding legal, insurance, financial and tax matters because you are scared of them, or don’t know what you don’t know and be committed to learning because it is this foundation that will support you to keep growing to your next level.
- Every breakdown is pointing to an opportunity for a breakthrough, and the real growth and learning comes from the failures. So do not be afraid to fail. Instead, court failure and learn from it, rather than getting sucked into the downward spiral of wasting energy on considering giving up when the failure comes. It’s the moment to innovate.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Front-facing, we use GotoWebinar to host the group coaching calls with our lawyers and to host our webinars for prospects, and we use the Invision Forum for our private member’s forum, and we’re building our new curriculum and membership resources out in AccessAlly. We also maintain a Facebook group for current members, members-in-training and those considering our programs.
I’ve been using Infusionsoft since 2006, but we are outgrowing it with their transition to Keep and deciding what to do next.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The most influential books for me have been the Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch, which might seem funny to write about here, but for me, business is all about something far bigger than just what it seems on the surface, and these books helped me to see and understand that in my life.
A Mark Cuban podcast I heard many years ago was extremely influential, as it helped me to see that I needed to build my business from where I wanted to go, and not from where I was. And I saw I was not investing enough in my bookkeeping, treating my financials like a practice, rather than a business. Changing that created a huge shift in my results.
Dan Kennedy’s books and work was hugely influential in my work, and I was one of the early online marketers back in 2006, as a result of what I learned through Dan.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The most important thing I can offer for any entrepreneur just starting out now is to get as clear as you can about the big picture of what you are creating with as much clarity as you can have around the time and money requirements to fulfill on your vision, and the step by step changes your income model will make at various points along the way.
Then look at what you’ll actually need to learn and invest in to get to your big vision, based on where you are now, and find the capital you’ll need to take the bite-size steps to get to the big vision. I teach this process in my Money Map to Freedom course through my other company, Eyes Wide Open.
Most of us just starting out far underestimate what we will have to invest from a time and money perspective to reach our business goals, and many think they can bootstrap with sales to scale. It’s just not true, in my experience. You will always get to a point where you need to invest beyond your current revenue would allow, and you need to have a plan for what you are going to do when that’s the case.
I was a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal in the early days, and while I was able to sustain that for a while because I figured out how to sell early on, my path would have been far easier (and I wouldn’t have had to go through bankruptcy and rebuild from rock bottom) if I had invested as much time in learning how to establish the legal, insurance, financial and tax foundations of my business, as I did in learning how to do sales and marketing.
Where can we go to learn more?
For non-lawyers …
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
New Law Business Model has provided an update on their business!
3 months ago, we followed up with New Law Business Model to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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