It was around this time last year that I went to my mother and told her I was thinking about opening my own law practice. After almost a decade of practicing law, and always working under others, I was at a point where I became frustrated that I wasn’t able to apply my legal skills to do…more. I wanted to volunteer more, I wanted to help others in more legal arenas, I wanted more from my career. I wanted more of a work-life balance.
I expected more from my mother’s response, as well. All she said, after taking a few beats to sip from her cup of coffee (we’re a family of coffee drinkers), was this: “Megan, I love you and want you to be happy and I think you will do great things if you started your own firm.” There was no dreaded “but” to follow what she said. There was no criticism or disdain. I’ve taken that beautifully compassionate response, and I’m applying that compassion to my own business.
Because here I am, a year later, actualizing the things that were mere ideas twelve months ago. I wanted to open a law firm that could help address the various needs of my community, understanding that legal wellness is a multi-faceted issue that impacts us all in different ways. Addressing legal wellness requires a holistic approach that not all lawyers are able to do, or even want to do. Let’s face it: the law isn’t known as being an especially “touchy feely” field. It provokes feelings of aggression, confrontation, elitism, negativity, and anxiety.
“Holistic” and “client-centered” are buzz words in the legal field right now but aren’t strangers to it. A holistic practice is one that seeks to help the client meet their legal needs by addressing other issues as well that could be exacerbating or contributing to the legal need. A classic example might be the alcoholic who comes to a lawyer for help with a pending D.U.I. The holistic lawyer will not only address the criminal case, but also help connect the client with treatment for their alcohol problem and maybe even assist with connecting that person to other resources in the community if needed. The thought is: if I can help address this person’s issue from not only the legal angle but other angles as well, I can help maximize this person’s overall wellness.
A “client-centered” law practice is one that takes into consideration the entire client experience, from start to finish, using that mindset to enhance that client’s overall journey through the legal process. You develop procedures to make clients feel comfortable with the process, respond to their questions and concerns promptly, use terms and wording that the client understands, and meet the client where they’re at.
A client-centered, holistic law practice is one that puts the client at the center. Really, this is how the relationship should be anyway however there are still many lawyers out there whose own egos are at the forefront of their practice. Their social media or website may be nothing but sharing their own accomplishments, talking about themselves, or expensive headshots from their penthouse office in downtown Atlanta. And that’s completely fine! That’s their style, not mine. But is that the best match for you, when you’re looking for an attorney to help you with a family issue or to handle some simple estate planning?
My goal when opening my law firm was to keep the clients first and make their experience as holistic as possible, being as authentic and true to myself as I could. I knew that for sure. But there was something else I knew for sure as well: I wanted to open my business in Lilburn. Why Lilburn? Is it because the people here are incredibly gracious and kind? Yep. Is it because the businesses here are tight-knit and supportive of one another? Yep. Is it because we have streets lined with big beautiful trees, and green parks packed with kids playing ball? Yep. Is it because the community is diverse and vibrant, with people from all walks of life? Yep. Yes to all the above.
I moved to Lilburn in 2020 just before the pandemic shut us all down for a while. I watched this community come together, support each other, and continue to grow and thrive even when a global pandemic was raging. I saw the fortitude and endurance of this community and grew to not just admire it: I fell in love with it. And when I decided to make the move to open my law firm as a solo practitioner, I knew that this was the place to do it. I knew, and still know, that I have the type of background and experience that would benefit Lilburn and the wonderful people in it (and all around Georgia, too).
But starting a business from scratch in a new community was daunting to me. I have friends and neighbors here, but how would I get from point A to point B? I knew that I would need to make more connections if I truly wanted my business to succeed – I needed some roots. And joining the Lilburn Business Association was the absolute best choice I could have made to start planting, nurturing, and growing those connections into fruition. The breadth of knowledge and experience that this group has afforded me has been invaluable.
Through this group, I’ve gained confidence, made friends, received numerous client referrals, learned about all the ways Lilburn helps and encourages business growth, connected with other business owners, and even received constructive feedback on my marketing materials. I even met the woman who would go on to be my business banker! A focus of the LBA is how to help businesses grow, thrive, and help each other, and I have felt that from the minute I first walked awkwardly into my first LBA meeting.
For some of us, putting ourselves out there isn't easy to do. The LBA has given me the courage to do not only that, but the courage to be myself.
---------Megan McClinton, Esq