Hope Wood, Esq. is tech savvy when it comes to her estate planning, family law, and business law practice in Iowa. She has a paperless office and her website features secure portals for clients.
Hope has also reinvented estate planning to make it easier for her clients. She posts her fees for estate planning packages on her website so her clients know what to expect. And her unique concept of “Will in a Day” allows her clients get their estate planning done in a streamlined and painless way.
In our interview, Hope gives us tips about her practice and the truth of what it takes to be a successful solo practitioner.
Q. Why did you make the leap to start your own law firm?
Several factors lead my path to a solo practice. (1) I attended law school during the height of the recession (2009-2012) so there were few firms hiring. I started solo right from law school and knew by my 3L year that my own practice was going to be my plan. (2) It was important to me that I had flexibility in my schedule to attend my son’s school events and to have freedom to work remotely for long periods of time if I need to take care of my parents as they age. (3) I worked in management for 8 years prior to going to law school so I was less afraid of the business part of practicing solo. (4) I like making business decisions and having input on how a business operates – I only have to negotiate with myself as a solo.
Q. What makes your practice unique?
I have a true paperless office. The only paper I use is for documents that need an ink signature for legal reasons. Also, I disclose my fees on my webpage which I have never seen on a law firm webpage.
Q. What do you wish you knew before jumping in?
To fully understand that on average 1/3 of the gross income goes to overhead, 1/3 to taxes and 1/3 to me. That is in the event that 100% of fees are collected.
Q. What do you enjoy most about having your own firm?
I am behind the wheel and can take different roads, create new roads or take a detour.
Q. What social media platform have you used that you think is the most effective to reach your clients?
I have a Facebook and Twitter business page. I think social media is secondary to other marketing efforts. It may help assure a client that you have a well-rounded business once they start looking at your profile, but in my case, they don’t find me on social media. Right now, social media is a supplement to my website and word of mouth referrals.
Q. What was your best day?
A judge granted my oral motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim at the close of plaintiff’s case. I will never forget the surprised look on the judge’s face when I stated the motion and the reason he should grant my motion.
Q. What was your worst day?
It was in my first year of practice. I had a prospective client referred to me and after spending an hour on the phone hearing the potential case and giving it consideration over the weekend, I called her and said I wasn’t going to represent her. I didn’t have the experience, her chances of success were close to 0% because it had already gone to the Supreme Court, and there was no money to pay me. She made me feel so bad about not accepting the case that I started to cry in hysterics. I couldn’t form words and she ended up having to hang up on me.
Q. What advice would you tell someone who is considering solo practice?
Get into an office space with other attorneys. You can get referrals, mentorship and be with people who can be compassionate about the pressures of practice.
Q. You have a unique product called “Will in a Day,” can you explain that concept?
Will in a Day is a product of my efforts to break down all the barriers to getting a will done. In 2.5 hours, I do an estate planning consultation and get all the documents drafted and executed. The client sends a preliminary intake form but it is as simple as I can make it. The single meeting helps the client rip off the Band-Aid of making decisions regarding mortality that is inherent in estate planning. It helps me automate my estate planning caseload and provides an efficient way to open and close a case (and get paid) in a short period of time.
And Some Random Questions…
Q. If someone gave you $10,000 to give to charity, which one would it be and why?
United Ways of Iowa because they provide funding for several programs and the money all supports communities in Iowa.
Q. If someone gave you a free plane ticket to anywhere, where would it be and why?
Dublin or Shannon Ireland. I was married in Northern Ireland 12 years ago and we keep kicking back the date to return to the place of the ceremony. We originally said for our 5-year anniversary we would take the trip.
Q. What cheers you up after a stressful day?
Doing something nice for someone for no reason at all.
Q. What is the next thing you want to learn?
On a personal level, I’m currently working on how to do an unsupported handstand – something on my bucket list. On a business level, I struggle with the tug of war between having a general practice and specializing in one area. Many attorneys say to specialize but I like the challenges of different practice areas. I want to meet with more general practitioners to find out how they deal with the struggle. On a practice level, I want to learn more about Medicaid planning.
You can learn more about Hope Wood, Esq. at www.hopewoodjd.com.
Want more tips and advice for your awesome law practice? Check out Law Office on a Laptop, Second Edition: How to Set Up Your Own Successful Law Mobile Law Practice.