“Virtual” divorce and family law attorney, Joleena Louis, used quarantine downtime to hone new skills and expand her practice areas to catapult her firm into a prosperous 2021.
Even while nursing a dislocated knee, Joleena Louis, took charge of her situation and used COVID lockdowns to develop herself and her practice. She realized that this time of ‘pause’ was, in fact, a valuable opportunity.
Prior to COVID, Joleena was already a seasoned “virtual” practitioner. While other attorneys may have struggled to adapt their firms to the realities of virtual practice, Joleena didn’t miss a beat.
While other firms were scaling back, at the end of 2020 Joleena hired an assistant, and is on track to hire a full-time associate in 2022.
Joleena recently sat down with Law Firm Suites’ content manager Megan Hunt to discuss how she did it.
You can watch the interview here (or read the full transcript below), where you will learn how Joleena:
- Optimized her downtime to expand her practice areas by taking CLE’s to gain new skills and knowledge
- Took the marketing tactics she had in place and used them to provide information to her clients about COVID-19 via mass emails and social media
- Combatted the dreaded “Zoom Fatigue” by learning to say “No!”
- Loved the flexibility of being virtual, but missed the interaction with her peers and desires a place to go for a few hours to change the scenery
- Learned the importance of staying connected to your professional community
Megan: Okay, so good afternoon. As you know, my name is Megan and I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to join this call so we can discuss how COVID has impacted your business in 2020. So let’s get started. The first question of the day is really simple. Can you share with us your name and your practice area?
Joleena Louis: I’m Joleena Louis and I’m a divorce and family law attorney.
Megan: Okay, great. Thank you so much again, Joleena, for being a part of this call with us. Before the pandemic, how would you characterize your practice, and overall, how were you doing?
Joleena Louis: Before the pandemic, my practice was doing really well. I was virtual, still at Law Firm Suites; just running all over the city; really, really busy, but I already had a virtual office infrastructure,
Megan: Okay. So when news of the pandemic started to unfold and everyone realized that COVID was actually a big deal how did it impact your practice?
Joleena Louis: So initially I was definitely one of those people who thought this was just going to be a couple of weeks. We’d shut down, flatten the curve and we’d be back in business. So I wasn’t prepared for how – I don’t think anybody was how long it was going to be. So the biggest impact on my practice was when the courts closed. I do litigation I’m in court most of the time, so that was like a big thing. Initially, it was like, okay, a couple of weeks get a break for a few weeks, but then it dragged on and on and, as the courts aren’t open the cases aren’t moving, nothing is happening those first couple of months were a little bit tough because if I’m not going to court, I’m not making money. The cases aren’t moving forward; I’m not making money. So everything shut down for a couple of months there. So it was really tough in the beginning.
Megan: Yes, we heard a lot of attorneys were just put out. Once the courts closed, they were just like, “Oh, dang! All right, this is going to be more than we really thought it was going to be”, as COVID really just – it came in slow and steady, and then it just took over and everyone was like, “Oh man.” But when you started to notice the changes and how COVID was really going to affect your practice, how did you pivot in a way that worked for you in order to still be successful in 2020?
Joleena Louis: So the way that I pivoted was I decided to use the downtime to expand my practice, to focus on marketing when I didn’t really have actual client work while the courts were closed. I ramped up my social media marketing. I added some practice areas. I was doing a little bit of adoptions. I took some CLEs to expand on that because I had the time and things slowed down. I actually reached out to a lot of my former clients because understanding that because of COVID and things shutting down, there were some custody issues and people were out of work and there was some child support issues coming up. So I reached out to past clients like if you have some new issues because of COVID or if you’re having any custody issues, feel free to reach out to me. So I really just tried to use that downtime productively to focus on bringing in old business and getting new business in because I knew at some point the court was going to reopen and things could get back on track.
Megan: That’s good to hear that you actually took the time to hone in on some of your skills and then do what’s necessary to gain more skills for the advancement of your practice. A lot of lawyers actually took a deep dive into their marketing strategy and started to change the way that they were doing things or the way they were marketing themselves to their clients and you mentioned you went on social media and you revamped that. What other ways did you use your marketing strategy or did you change your marketing tactic to be successful?
Joleena Louis: So one of the things was, since I already had a virtual practice, it was really easy. it wasn’t a major change as far as interacting with clients. So I could just jump right into the zoom consultations with no problems. I had everything set up to do everything virtually. So that’s definitely something that I focused on and market it. I had my email list already. So again, with the new COVID updates with the court and things that were going on and custody issues, it was easy for me to just send out mass emails to people already on my list, people who I knew already had, for example, child custody issues, I could send them a mass email about COVID and how that would affect custody, things like that. So I kind of just took the things that I had in place already and focused on how I could provide information about what was going on about COVID as it relates to those practice areas based on the channels that I already had. So my Instagram and my email list and Facebook ads, and things like that.
Megan: Okay. was there anything that you tried with your marketing strategy or not even necessarily in your marketing strategy that failed? Did you try a new approach to gain more clientele and it just didn’t pan out the way that you thought it was going to?
Joleena Louis: I wouldn’t say that I tried any – well, new approaches necessarily. I did, in the beginning, spend a lot of time doing virtual coffees and virtual networking with people. It just got really exhausting, especially once court restarted and everything. You get zoom fatigue and you’re like, okay, “I’m tired of going to these meetings.” So that became a little bit difficult for me. But other than that, just as far as continuing with the social media marketing and things like that, it was just building on things that I had already done.
Megan: Was there anything that you did to help with that Zoom fatigue, as you mentioned. Since courts are now online and you were already meeting your clients online, what did you do in your downtime to make the super virtual aspect of your practice seem more, I don’t know, like relaxing, I want to say?
Joleena Louis: Well, I don’t know if I did anything to make it more relaxing, but certainly I just – I definitely had to learn to say no to things, like some of the networking things that were just exhausting to me because I was just so tired of the zoom and to only do things that were valuable that had direct value to either help with my clients or marketing, getting new clients and if it wasn’t something that could directly assist in either of those goals, I learned to say no to some things. I didn’t have to do everything. I didn’t have to go on every panel. I didn’t have to go to every virtual networking event because it did become overwhelming at some point. So just finding that balance of what I want to do and what I need to do.
Megan: Finding a balance is really important, so I’m glad that you actually said something like that because a lot of time when there are things going on that we can’t control externally, we start taking on so much because we get anxious about when’s the money coming in or just the sustainability of your practice. So being able to say, “No, I’m not interested” or just finding a middle ground, it’s always so refreshing to hear people say because they don’t think about the stress of it all. They focus on just being a go-getter and trying, to stay above the water. And sometimes it’s okay to coast or sometimes it’s okay to just take a break and not swim at this moment. So the COVID-19 pandemic, has it positively impacted your practice in any way?
Joleena Louis: I would say that, yes, it has. Well certainly, as a divorce attorney business has been through the roof. It’s definitely has gone up a lot. I think that a lot of couples after being quarantined with their spouses if you already had cracks in the foundation, would push you over the edge. So a lot of new cases, a lot of new divorces. The first couple of months, like I said, when the courts were closed, it was a little rough, but after that things have certainly gone up dramatically. And I think just this has definitely pushed me a hundred percent into the virtual realm. I was already there, but in-person consultations. I don’t know if I’m going to go back to doing that because I think a lot of people have adapted and they’re okay with doing the Zoom consultations or phone consultation, so it’s not necessarily expected or necessary to do the in-person anymore. I felt like I took the time to definitely hone in on some of my systems and processes to keep everything paperless and online and just really easy to manage and I can run my whole practice from anywhere.
Megan: Right. Having the realization that now you can do everything virtual, has that affected your desire or your want to come back into an office setting? I know you said that you’re meeting with your clients virtually and everyone’s okay with that, but do you ever foresee yourself in the next few years or even the few months being comfortable with coming back into an office and meeting with people?
Joleena Louis: Oh, absolutely. Certainly there are some situations where it’s beneficial to sit face to face, in person with clients to have meetings and everything, and just I’m tired of being in my house. So just going somewhere else, I do appreciate the ability to just go somewhere and work for a few hours in an office setting and to be around other people in person and other lawyers in person again. I’m actually looking forward to that, but I like just having the flexibility that this is not something I have to do all the time, but I have the option.
Megan: Do you have an action plan in place for when you do come into the office, for instance, Law Firm Suites has provided sanitizer and we got plexiglass screens at the reception desk and then some of the larger conference rooms for people who want to use them, have the option to use them, have you put anything in place that you would do when you come into the office? What are your guidelines or regulations for when you do meet with people in person?
Joleena Louis: So, again, depending on the situation, definitely requiring mask and distancing. If I get to the point where I’m meeting people in the conference room, I would opt for a bigger conference room so we can have space. So, it sounds like you guys have all the precautions in place with the plexiglass and the sanitizer and everything, so just building off of that and just having my own personal PPE and protection as well.
Megan: Yes. We’ve really just been trying to make everyone feel more comfortable with the situation that’s at hand. What are one or two things that motivated you to push forward during the pandemic?
Joleena Louis: Well, first of all, that I just have to keep my business going, I have to pay my rent. So that was definitely one thing. I can’t – as a business owner, we get paid when we work, so I couldn’t just sit back and not do anything because I have bills to pay, so I have to keep pushing. It’s a really tough time, just emotionally and mentally, it’s draining. It’s a scary time. A lot of people are dying. I lost family members. My father had COVID and he was in the ICU for a few weeks and it was a very scary time. For me, focusing on work and focusing on my business and things that I can control, helps me get through this complicated time and helping my clients as well, because they’re going through similar, difficult issues and being able to help them resolve some of their problems and at least I can do something during this crazy time to help someone that makes a difference for me.
Megan: That’s good to hear. And I’m sorry to hear about your father and I hope all is well with him. Were you able to stay in touch with or lean on any of your other attorney colleagues during this pandemic?
Joleena Louis: Oh, absolutely. So one of the things that kind of kept me going is I’m in a lot of attorney Facebook groups, and a lot of the Law Firm Suites members are in some of these groups of me as well. And just having people to talk to; they’re going through the same issues, the same problems, getting updates about the courts; so many people have been so great at just sharing information so that we’re all on the same page and we all know what’s going on. It’s been incredibly helpful.
Megan: Do you feel any of the relationships that you’ve had within Law Firm Suites, or even in your other networking groups that they’ve grown and becoming stronger during this?
Joleena Louis: Absolutely. I think that they have, and I think that people, especially since we’re all going through this together, people have been more open about their personal lives and personal things. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people a lot better than I have before the pandemic, just talking to them and just commiserating on what’s been going on together.
Megan: Is there anything that you can share, that’s funny or an interesting anecdote that might’ve happened in 2020 with the client personally, anything that you think would – that was just a little funny or interesting?
Joleena Louis: I don’t know if there’s anything that was funny, but I would say that I think that all of this happened, it was good timing for me. So in February before everything got shut down, I went to The Bahamas on vacation and I dislocated my knee. So I was on crutches. I had to go through physical therapy and I was so stressed out. How I’m going to get to court? How am I going to do all these things? And the pandemic happens; I’m going through physical therapy and everything and court is virtual now, so I don’t have to worry about. So it just kind of made me laugh, like, “Okay, well at least, if this was going to happen, this was the right time because it all balanced out.”
Megan: Right, it was like you’re pushed to slow down and actually rest.
Joleena Louis: Exactly.
Megan: I know that you wrote a book this year or last year.
Joleena Louis: Oh, yes. So it was just all my different blog posts and things like that. It was this collection of some more popular ones.
Megan: Have you been able to push it at all on during your downtime?
Joleena Louis: Not as much as I should, because again, things have been really crazy and my practice has gotten a lot busier. There’s a lot of divorces going on. So there’s been a lot of working on my – in my practice than on my practice right now.
Megan: Okay. That makes sense because you see a lot of memes and funny videos online about COVID spiking the divorce rate too. And it was like, “Families are falling apart. Blame COVID.” And it’s like, “No, you should have checked the foundation in the first place. I always saw things like that and I thought to myself, “That’s so interesting and I wonder if it’s actually true.” So hearing that from you, it’s like, “Okay, I know some people are really struggling.” Being that your practice has grown so much and did so well in 2020, what is your outlook for this year 2021? hat are your goals and what are you aspiring to accomplish this year?
Joleena Louis: Honestly, this year, I’m just trying to get through this year, get things back to semi-normal. I did hire, last year at the end of the year, a full-time assistant, which has been super helpful managing all of that. I do think that I want to work on maybe hiring an associate next year. So just 2021, I just want to focus on maintaining; the business is going really well and I just want to maintain that for now and get myself set up to hire the associate.
Megan: That makes sense. And I’m really happy to hear that your practice has thrived so much in 2020 because a lot of attorneys have to close the door and hang up their practices because it just wasn’t making sense for them and they didn’t belong in communities that could push them and give them the motivation that they needed to survive. So thank you so much again, for taking the time out of your day – your busy day – to actually sit down and do the Zoom interview with me. It means so much, so thank you so much, Joleena.
Joleena Louis: Thank you for having me and if I can just say one thing. Law Firms Suites have been completely amazing throughout this whole thing. As far as me being able to run my practice, even with everything shut down, I’m still getting my mail sent to me. I stayed in Connecticut for a while, it was no problem having it switched over. Just everything just kept running smoothly and I really appreciate that.
Megan: Well, thank you for being such a big part of our community.
Joleena Louis: Thank you for having me. Have a great day.
Megan: You too.