Don’t be afraid to fail. When I started working remotely, at first I didn’t know where to start. However, being lost is not a failure. I channeled my passion for law and learning and was able to dive into a new realm of the virtual workspace, and ultimately connected with a greater audience through social media.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marina Shepelsky.
Marina Shepelsky is an award-winning immigration and family law attorney, CEO and founder of Shepelsky Law Group. Marina is licensed as an attorney in New Jersey since 2002 and in New York since 2003. Marina lives with her partner and three children in New Jersey.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory.
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine USSR. I grew up in the Soviet Union, in Ukraine, until the age of 12. In 1989, my parents and I came to US as Jews with Refugee Status under the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. When we left Ukraine, we lost our citizenship and all our possessions, and arrived to US stateless. We travelled to US through Austria and Italy with the help of Jewish organizations that organized Jews’ repatriation out of USSR for a better life. When we came here, we lived in the homeless shelter in NYC for about 10 days, but after the vermin there almost ate us alive, my dad quickly found us an apartment in Flatbush and we moved there. I went to Yeshiva for one year, which was enough to turn me off organized religion for life, and then went to South Shore High School in Brooklyn. I graduated NYU with a Bachelor’s in Biology in 1998, worked as a paralegal for a bit, and then went to Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan where I graduated with a J.D. in 2002. I passed the NY Bar and NJ Bar, and scored in the top 15% of the nation. I started my law practice in 2004 when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, working in a small room. Today, I have one associate and 7 other staff members of my own law practice working for me. I have become an advocate for Immigrants’ rights in US. I am practricing MAINLY in the fields of Immigration and Divorce Law, and also do real estate, social security appeals and business law.
I founded a non-profit organization in 2019 for victims of domestic violence called END THE SILENCE foundation. This is an ongoing program I’m working on now. I am admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Courts. I just published my first e-book called Family-based Immigration in New York, which will be one of 4 of a series and helps people put together their Immigration family unification petitions and receive green cards.
I am a mom of 3 girls, aged 16, 11 and 11. I am divorced and now live with a life-partner in NJ, who is the love of my life. I host a weekly FB Live Show “Legal Status with Marina Shepelsky” where I talk about US politics, Immigration law and discuss topics of immigration law and divorce, with explanations of complex processes for regular people in regular people’s language. I do this show on Fridays in English and on Wednesdays in Russian. I also host various other education seminars for people about these topics. All my free time is spent with my family. My hobby is blogging on social media and sharing the stories of success for Immigrants who make America so wonderful. My favorite stories to tell are the successes of immigrant WOMEN.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is not about how many times you fall down. It’s about how many times you get back up.” This quote is by Jaime Escalante. Jaime Escalante was a Bolivian-American educator known to teaching calculus to ‘unteachable and troubled’ high school students from 1974 to 1991 at Garfield High School in East LA and the subject of an excellent 1988 movie “Stand and Deliver.” Jaime was born in Bolivia and was an Immigrant!
To me this quote means that everyone has failures in life. Often, what you may think is going to be a great idea or worth spending a lot of time on, will not work out. Life is not about how many times you failed in business, in relationships, as a parent, as a child of your own parents or even in a marriage.
Life is about the fact that you will keep on working and keep on fighting and keep on growing and learning from your mistakes and you will just keep GOING, don’t give up.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
PODCAST: I follow Ally Lozano, who is an immigration attorney and business coach for lawyers, and she is the author of my favorite book “Be the CEO of Your Law Firm: Gain Control, Turn a Profit, and Reclaim your Life.
Ally is my role model and my business coach. Since I read her book, I began listening to Ally’s podcast on a daily basis called The 6-Minute CEO Podcast. This podcast about making small changes one billable increment at a time in my law firm business. IT IS A BUSINESS. I have learned from Ally to treat it as such and to embrace being a CEO of my law practice. In the podcast, Ally shares strategies on how to take the law firm business from surviving to thriving. With the help of this podcast, I have turned things around in my own law firm and really began to make a profit like never before, doing what I love and having more time than I ever did for my family. This was ground-breaking, and the podcasts reinforce the ideas on everything from organizing the systems we have in the office, to sales, to accounting, etc. I got my life back due to the book and the podcasts and the daily FB Live strategy sessions Ally does FOR FREE for lawyers (like myself) who want to learn to have a business, make money, AND have a life outside of work.
During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, when I was sitting home crying for a few weeks, Ally called an Emergency Summit for a super low cost. For two days, she taught women owners of law firms like myself how to survive the crisis. After I participated, I began doing daily social media posts and live videos and this really blew us up! We started to get calls again! We survived and converted our law firm systems into cloud-based systems that work, so now we can all work from anywhere even during another lockdown. It all really works! I worked so hard during this lockdown, day and night, and it all paid off.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the pandemic, I ran my practice in more-old fashioned ways with in-person consultations, asking people to come to the office in person to begin their cases, all our documents were at the office on a server. During the pandemic, we created systems for working with virtual staff and even our regular staff when people would work from home, doing consultations and work on cases remotely; advertising and marketing in a completely different ways — with emphasis on social media advertising.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Instead of cutting down the workforce, we hired remote staff to support our day-to-day needs at work.
We also began focusing on our internet presence. We began doing FREE seminars and a Facebook Live Show. We now produce daily videos both advertising and educating the public about Divorce topics and Immigration Law topics, immigration politics, etc.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
In May 2020, I realized that I had to be nimble and start working more efficiently through remote processes. When everyone started working from home, I thought about how to leverage technology in ways that I could apply to my own business.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We’re still working on each process, and developing further tweaks to our system. That being said, things are going really well. We are constantly innovating the way we run our business.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
See above re: Ally Lozano above. Ally also is always accessible, whenever I write to her or call her, she always has time to critique anything I ask her to review from my marketing efforts, she even calls me herself sometimes! She gave me so much invaluable advice, she really changed my life!
My life partner Daniel Levin, who takes care of me, my 3 kids, and our family with love and patience and tremendous care, is my ROCK. He got me through this pandemic by always being loving, having a great sense of humor, always telling me I can do anything I put my mind to and never letting me feel any doubts about my abilities in business. He is someone I really respect and trust, so when he tells me “you can do this” I believe him!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
We now have clients from all over the U.S., not just local clients from NY. I help women leave abusive situations from their spouses, and now I am able to reach women in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, etc. There are many stories of women AND MEN whom we helped leave dangerous unsafe situations and get green cards, work permits and a life without stress. This is so meaningful, and goes beyond the business to the real reason I became a lawyer: to help people in crisis.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Don’t be afraid to fail. When I started working remotely, at first I didn’t know where to start. However, being lost is not a failure. I channeled my passion for law and learning and was able to dive into a new realm of the virtual workspace, and ultimately connected with a greater audience through social media.
2. Don’t be afraid to try to do things you don’t yet know how to do.
3. Don’t be afraid to delegate.
4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Ask for help often.
5. Don’t be cheap — pay a professional to help you do their kind of work to help your business thrive. For example, having a business coach really helped my business to grow. An in-house accountant provided me with good working systems at our practice to understand how much we make and spend.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Take weekends OFF, don’t check email and don’t do any work. Do the kind of exercise that you love. I am doing Yoga now 3–4 times a week; I feel better mentally and physically and started to feel improvement immediately.
Take a vacation every three months or even more frequently. I get the most inspired and make the biggest jumps in business growth right after a vacation.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A MOVEMENT OF KINDNESS. If people were kind to each other and made that a daily practice, it would change our world.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was an inspiration to me. Sadly, she passed away recently. She was a great role model for women of all ages and professions.
I’d also love to meet Gary Vee (Gary Vakarchuk).
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m active on all social media channels: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. Follow/add my personal account and our business page for tons of content.