Welcome to the Six Month Report! It's been six months in the 6 for SM Legal, and I thought it would be interesting to review my progress so far. Looking back on the challenges, successes, and surprises of the last six months was super informative and helpful, and certainly an eye-opener!
Since one of my main goals is to use my practice as a platform to educate, I'm posting most of the results here. I hope this will be a fun and informative way for you to learn a little bit more about what it takes to run a legal practice.
My first six months have been a whirlwind of exciting opportunities and challenges. I decided to start my practice after half a year working for Legal Logik Inc. in Montreal. Though I loved living in Montreal, Toronto is home, and I was itching to come back. I started practicing in November and had clients right away thanks to an amazing network of colleagues, friends, and family.
Looking fancy at my first photo shoot
By December, my infrastructure was set up and I had some semblance of administrative process and organization. With the foundation set, SM Legal was launched with a website, social media, and a bunch of emails and phone calls. From there, it’s been a rollercoaster of experiences, full of success, failure, and everything in between. Without further ado, let’s get into the numbers.
One of the first questions I'm often asked is "where do you get your clients?" Well, here's the answer! It's a mix of a few sources and opportunities, with a lot of trial and error along the way.
Reviewing my client sourcing numbers, I find it interesting that all my various online activities, in combination, equal only about the same results as any one “real world” networking effort. It seems that overall there’s still a lot of value in personal connections and that there’s no one outreach method that’s vastly superior to the others.
I am also frequently asked about the distribution of my work. As a lawyer, I'm able to work in a number of different fields and practice areas. However, as a (hopefully) good lawyer, I only take on clients within my range of expertise. The chart above shows the specific distribution of my time between different areas of law.
Hanging out at February's Idea Jam!
One of the best parts of launching my practice is that it has given me so many opportunities to meet interesting people, participate in exciting events, and join some amazing organizations. I have consistently found that seizing opportunities and meeting new people is one of the most sure-fire ways to build my business.
I am thrilled to now be a member of the Self-Rep Navigators and a co-organizer for the Idea Jam networking group. Joining both these organizations has been amazing, and afforded me plenty of opportunities to learn, share ideas, and stay active in my community. I have also continued my work for Canada Legal Help, an access-to-justice project I started back in law school. I've found that, while growing my practice, exciting and unexpected opportunities have arisen for CLH as well.
Looking big picture, I find it really interesting to see how my day breaks down, and how the division of my time has correlated to the development of SM Legal as a whole.
When I launched my practice, one of the first pieces of advice I heard was that I shouldn't expect to spend most of my time billing. This is true for most businesses, and I didn't think it would be any different for me. However, my perspective on that division of time has still changed significantly. Whereas I used to fear the "non-billing" time as a waste, I now try to see all work time as equally valuable. Whether I am doing my trust accounting, drafting a social media post, or engaging in negotiations, all these activities contribute to the business. Though only the negotiation may feel tangible, it is impossible to deliver that service in isolation. The reality is that different business activities are intertwined and interdependent. Without focus and attention on all of them, you can't really succeed at any of them.
The operations analysis was overall super informative and helpful. Of all my results, I am most proud of my client satisfaction record. I am very passionate about my work, and seeing that passion recognized just makes me more determined to keep improving!
Takeaways - Hustle, Heart, and Health
If I were to list every takeaway from the past six months this would be a book. In order to keep to just a paragraph, I'll summarize my takeaways as follows. Firstly, hustle leads to opportunity. I have consistently found that the harder I work, the more opportunities arise, even if they aren't always directly a result of my efforts. Secondly, it's crucially important to do things the right way. Approaching every task with integrity, openness, and passion to succeed not only yields better results, but gives me tremendous pride in my accomplishments, knowing they were genuinely earned.
Lastly, and most importantly, I am starting to understand the deep correlation between personal and professional well-being. In my profession, health and wellness are trendy talking points which are completely swept aside once the workday starts. Improving my overall health while building a business has become an obsessive priority, as I've found that one simply can't exist without the other. It's something I've given quite a lot of thought to, and will write about in more depth in the near future.
And that's all! Here's to the next 6 months and beyond!