Wendy Witt: “Don’t spend so much money to get started”

Focus on building relationships and work with a transformational consultant or psychologist to reverse the shield of doom that law school installs. As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Witt. Wendy Witt, JD is the […]

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Focus on building relationships and work with a transformational consultant or psychologist to reverse the shield of doom that law school installs.

As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Witt.

Wendy Witt, JD is the founder of Million Dollar Attorney, a private consulting firm designed to help lawyers prosper. Her mission is to tilt the legal universe toward wellness. She is a Master Law Firm Business Strategist and Transformational Consultant who helps solo and small law firm owners build law firms that give them the life they love.

She partners with lawyers to map out their customized path and then guides those attorneys along that path creating more income, time, freedom, impact, and joy. That path has led the way to million-dollar law firms.

Wendy is a former 15-year trusts and estates attorney who helped families with estates up to 500 million dollars, an ABA published article author, and former national attorney organization senior executive.

Her guidance has been published by Forbes, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Huffington Post, Experts Institute, Solo Practice University, Wealth Counsel, Interactive Legal, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Lawyer, Allegheny County Bar Association, Women in the Law Committee, and Attorneys.org among others.

She’s a frequent speaker/trainer and is a summa cum laude graduate of Susquehanna University and a cum laude graduate of The Dickinson School of Law.

Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn, MillionDollarAttorney.com, and Wendy@MillionDollarAttorney.com

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?

I landed in an associate position in a firm that was killing me. My physical and mental health was plummeting and I was looking for a way out while keeping my five-bedroom colonial which served as a home base for my family, including our three children. I suffered an entrepreneurial seizure and launched my first law firm which sunk because I had no idea how to build and run a business.

Being strong academically and being able to do complicated legal work requires skills very different than being an entrepreneur. As I flopped, I looked around and realized this was a problem universal within the legal industry.

I regrouped and created a firm that gave me the life I truly wanted, instead of the life I thought was required. That worked well and over time, I gradually began helping other attorneys with their business. It started with marketing writing products, then graduated to legal marketing advice, and eventually to full law firm business strategy and transformational consultation.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?

I started practicing law full time when my third child, Drew, was 6 weeks old. Many lawyer/parents will relate to this story. I walked out of a client meeting and my paralegal exclaimed, “What’s all over your back?!” I was wearing a black sweater and the entire back of my sweater was covered with dried fluorescent snot. Drew, a toddler then, had hugged me that morning and wiped his nose all over me. (Now, I know why colleagues wear one shirt to drop the kids off at the daycare center and another for the day at work.)

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m building out a blueprint for lawyers to build the million-dollar law firm that gives them the life they love.

What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?

While I’ve worked on cases for 500 million dollars estates, what’s most exciting to me is watching my clients’ lives evolve. It’s awesome when they blow past a big number like the million-dollar mark, but what’s even more rewarding is when they experience joy because their life has changed. They spend more time with their families and they see their kids’ behavior improve; they interact with them every day instead of missing days because the kids are asleep by the time they get home. If lawyers follow the pattern laid out for them by tradition, joy, health, and strong relationships are not on the roadmap.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

I’m inspired by all who put themselves and their families at risk to help fellow human beings such as those who helped along the Underground Railroad and during WWII — and now with COVID patients.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?

Focus on building relationships and work with a transformational consultant or psychologist to reverse the shield of doom that law school installs.

If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?

  1. Professional jury system instead of drafting people who don’t want to be there and don’t understand the law.
  2. Sentencing reasonableness and equality regardless of race.
  3. Decriminalize drug addiction.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve helped over 8,000 attorneys. When I empower an attorney to live the life they love, I may have saved a life. Depression, anxiety, addiction, divorce, and suicide are all too common in the legal arena. And, as my attorneys’ businesses are more successful, they help more clients, contribute to their communities, employ teams, buy supplies and services, and pay more taxes. That’s impact.

I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?

Impact. Tilting that legal universe toward wellness.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Law is a business. In 1991 on graduation day, my favorite professor said, “Wendy, call me if you give all of your money away.” He knew where my heart and mind were. At that time I knew I wanted to help people and thought salespeople and those in big firms had sold their souls. I hadn’t yet realized that everything, even non-profits, is business. Later, this perspective got me knocked on my face and I learned. You have to make money to help people and be there for them in the future when they need you.
  2. Here’s how to create a law firm/business that will give you the life you love. Few come out of law school knowing how to practice law. Even fewer exit having any idea of how to build a business. I love that I’m changing that with my pro bono work and through my private consulting firm.
  3. Focus on relationships. There is so much stress in law school because it’s designed to be that way. Like the Marines’ Bootcamp and Crucible, lawyers are minted through tradition. Don’t fall prey to the stress about grades and finding the right internships, focus on building relationships that will keep you afloat and serve you well when you are out in the world.
  4. Focus on your health. I personally know of health crises caused by stress. Law school was tough and I experienced contemporaneous difficult family issues that pushed my body to collapse. I was within seconds of death at just age 28 because my adrenal glands were burned out. None of us and live a cycle of stress and more stress without consequences. The ER doctor thought I was going to die.
  5. Don’t spend so much money to get started. One of the mistakes I made when I had that entrepreneurial seizure and blindly launched my own law firm was that I spent too much money on a lease, phone system, memberships, and the like. Don’t do it. You can launch and run a law firm with a laptop and a phone. Start there.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’d love to have breakfast or lunch with the person who would be interested in working with me to launch a course (as Kaplan or BarBri does for bar reviews) for attorneys who want to build their own law firm that gives them the life they love. There are 1.3 million attorneys (60% are solos or in small firms) and 130,000 law students in the US alone. To think BIG, the course could be adjusted to match all service industries such as CPAs, coaches, consultants, and counselors, etc.

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