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Benefits of Setting Up Your Systems Early on with Johnine Clark

Navigating the intricate world of family law and estate planning can often feel like a labyrinth for many. But fear not, because on this episode of The Founding Partner Podcast, we are joined by the esteemed Johnine Clark, a seasoned family law and estate planning attorney who has carved out a niche in serving primarily men in Maryland and the District of Columbia. With a passion for guiding her clients through the complexities of the legal system, Johnine shares her journey from aspiring judge to establishing her own firm and the insights she’s gained along the way.

**The Legal Path Less Traveled**

Johnine Clark’s legal aspirations began with a childhood dream of becoming a judge, a path that led her to the prestigious halls of Georgetown Law. Despite an initial reluctance to leave New York, her acceptance to Georgetown marked the start of a journey that would see her build a successful practice in an area she hadn’t originally considered: solo practice.

**From Jack-of-All-Trades to Master of One**

Starting out, Clark took on anything that came through the door, from criminal law to personal injury. However, she soon realized the importance of honing her focus. This realization led her to specialize in family law and estate planning, areas where she felt she could make the most impact. She shares the importance of finding what you love by first exploring a broad range of legal fields, and then narrowing it down by eliminating what doesn’t resonate.

**A Niche Within a Niche: Serving Men in Family Law**

Clark has found that her most rewarding work comes from serving male clients within the realm of family law. She discusses the unique challenges men face in the legal system and her dedication to equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate their cases effectively. Her approach is not only about providing legal services but also about leveling the playing field through education and understanding.

**The Joy of Adoption and the Reality of Divorce**

Amidst the challenging cases of divorce, custody, and child support, Clark finds a silver lining in handling adoption cases. She describes these as the “feel-good” part of her practice, where she gets to witness families come together in a celebration of love and legal recognition.

**Educating on Estate Planning**

Clark emphasizes the importance of estate planning, a topic often overlooked or misunderstood by many. She uses real-life examples, including celebrity cases, to illustrate the consequences of being unprepared and the benefits of having one’s estate in order.

**Conclusion: A Legal Beacon in a Sea of Confusion**

Johnine Clark’s insights and experiences are a testament to the power of specialization and the importance of understanding your client base. Her dedication to demystifying the legal process for her clients makes her not only a skilled attorney but also a trusted advisor. If you’re intrigued by her journey and the wisdom she has to offer, don’t miss out on this episode of The Founding Partner Podcast. Tune in to hear the full conversation and gain valuable insights into the world of family law and estate planning from a true expert in the field.

[00:00:00] Johnine Clark: I ended up, you know, moving down here for law school. I ended up staying. I built my practice here. So it ultimately was the best decision for me. So I’ve always wanted to be a judge slash attorney. My feelings about being a judge have changed since I’ve been practicing, obviously. on the other side of the bench.

[00:00:19] Johnine Clark: So, but that’s how it was very pretty simple for me. I had always, this is something that I had always wanted to do.

[00:00:25] ​

[00:00:54] Jonathan Hawkins: Welcome to Founding Partner Podcast. I’m your host, Jonathan Hawkins. I’ve been looking forward to the [00:01:00] guests that we have today for a long time now. I met her back in January in person. I had heard her speak before, but got to meet her in person in January and I’m real excited. So we’ve got today, we’ve got Janine Clark.

[00:01:14] Jonathan Hawkins: I’m going to let you introduce yourself, tell us about who you are and your firm and where you are and what you do.

[00:01:22] Johnine Clark: okay, so we could be informal. Jonathan is it’s okay to say Janine and Jonathan,

[00:01:27] Jonathan Hawkins: Absolutely.

[00:01:28] Johnine Clark: Okay, great. Well, thank you so much, first of all, for inviting me. I’m really excited about this opportunity to sit down with you and, you know, just explore a little bit more about myself. Right now, I am a family law and estate planning attorney. Primarily, I work in Maryland, but I have also decided to take on the District of Columbia as well, so I’m picking up more cases in the District of Columbia. So on the estate planning side, but I still do, [00:02:00] you know, family law cases and in the district as well.

[00:02:03] Jonathan Hawkins: So do you have two offices or do you do the D. C. stuff out of your Maryland office?

[00:02:08] Johnine Clark: I do everything out of the Maryland right now.

[00:02:11] Jonathan Hawkins: Alright, so, take us through, how did you become a lawyer? What led you down the path? Why did you do it?

[00:02:19] Johnine Clark: Oh, my goodness. So I always think that’s something that I wanted to do from a very young age. I knew that. Well, when I was growing up, I said that I wanted to be a judge. Little did I know as I got older that in order to be a judge, you’ve got to be an attorney first, for the most part. So I said, okay, that means that I’ve got to try to buckle down and get good grades and take the LSATs and all the other requirements and go to law school.

[00:02:49] Johnine Clark: So I’m originally from New York. And I mean, I am a diehard Knicks, Yankees, I am a New Yorker, [00:03:00] right at heart. And so I wanted to go to law school in New York. I didn’t think anything else would compare because I was brainwashed to, you know, believe that everything begins and ends in New York, right? But I didn’t get into any of the law schools in New York.

[00:03:17] Johnine Clark: I did get into Georgetown, and believe it or not, I was not happy that I was going to Georgetown. Now, you know, every, All of my classmates, all of, you know, everyone else that I know that wanted to go to those, like, what is the problem? Georgetown’s a great school.

[00:03:32] Jonathan Hawkins: right.

[00:03:33] Johnine Clark: And ultimately it was the best decision for me.

[00:03:35] Johnine Clark: I ended up, you know, moving down here for law school. I ended up staying. I built my practice here. So it ultimately was the best decision for me. So I’ve always wanted to be a judge slash attorney. My feelings about being a judge have changed since I’ve been practicing, obviously. on the other side of the bench.

[00:03:55] Johnine Clark: So, but that’s how it was very pretty simple for me. I had always, this is something that I [00:04:00] had always wanted to do. I

[00:04:02] Jonathan Hawkins: we always need more good judges. So, if you change your mind, right?

[00:04:09] Johnine Clark: I know. I have a few, you know, folks that are like Trying to encourage me to do it, but I have a hard and fast no

[00:04:16] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, there’s still

[00:04:17] Johnine Clark: for that right now. There’s still time. There is still time.

[00:04:20] Jonathan Hawkins: So how long ago did you start your firm and what were you doing before that?

[00:04:25] Johnine Clark: So when I graduated from law school, there were not a lot of job openings at the time. Probably about not during COVID time, but probably around 2010, you know, forward, it was kind of You know, there was so many attorneys that have been hired, and there was very few jobs. So, I did basically document work.

[00:04:52] Johnine Clark: I did, you know, some work in different legal offices temporarily, but really didn’t have a job, because at [00:05:00] that time, I wanted to be not a family law and estate planning attorney, I wanted to be an assistant state’s attorney. I had clerked at the U. S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. That was my path, so I thought. So I you know, I had taken the bar, passed the bar and I was kind of trying to figure out what’s the next step. And a friend of mine who had an office in Maryland was like, well, you probably should just come and, you know, start picking up some cases and see if you like it or not solo practice, which was definitely not on the radar for me.

[00:05:34] Johnine Clark: And so I did it, fell in love with it. At that time, when I originally started, I was taking all cases. So anything that came through the door. That’s what I was doing. So I did criminal law. I did personal injury law. I didn’t do any workers comp, but I did family law and a little bit of estate planning.

[00:05:52] Johnine Clark: And what I realized as the practice started to grow that I really liked family law [00:06:00] more. And so my practice went from criminal law to family law, and then I added the estate planning component. And now, you know, within the last five to six years, I’ve exclusively been focusing on family law and estate planning, and not taking any, you know, criminal cases or personal injury cases.

[00:06:19] Johnine Clark: I refer to those as.

[00:06:20] Jonathan Hawkins: So when you first started and you’re taking all these cases I mean, I’ve taken, I’ve not done that, but I’ve taken a lot of different types of cases and it’s crazy having to sort of learn all these different areas of law. So how did you manage that? Did you have help? Was it just you?

[00:06:36] Johnine Clark: It was insane. So it, you know, you just learn the different aspects. What I think that did for me was it helped me better understand the types of cases that I wanted to do ultimately. But it also gave me variety. So I never felt like I was bored in any particular area of law.

[00:06:57] Johnine Clark: You know, if a criminal case came through, then [00:07:00] I focused on criminal law. If a family law case came into the office, then that’s what I focused on. So I liked it in the sense that I was doing different things at different times, but I also realized that ultimately that wasn’t going to be practical and that I wasn’t, I really needed to decide.

[00:07:19] Johnine Clark: What my area was going to be in that I was going to practice the majority of my time and then try to perfect, you know, the law and aspects of that particular area. So that’s what I decided to do.

[00:07:31] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, I talked to a lot of folks about, you know, sort of finding your niche and finding the things you’d like to do. And I think a good piece of that process is trying a lot of different things. Cause then you get exposed a lot and then you’re I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to do that, you know, people always ask, how do I find my passion?

[00:07:51] Jonathan Hawkins: I think I did a post today on LinkedIn as part of it. It’s you’re taking away things, you know, you don’t like to do, and then you end up with sort of the place where you want to be.

[00:07:59] Johnine Clark: [00:08:00] Exactly. And now, you know, of course, I still run into a lot of my colleagues that still do criminal law and they’re like, I don’t know how you could do family law. And I look at them and I said, I don’t know how you could do criminal law. So who works out?

[00:08:12] Jonathan Hawkins: So, so you ended up with family law and then at some point you added estate planning or did you end up with both of those?

[00:08:21] Johnine Clark: law. I was doing some basic wills, nothing really intense. And then I decided that I wanted to take on more state planning cases. Primarily because I just think that’s one of those areas. That a lot of individuals, a lot of potential clients don’t think about or don’t want to think about or they think about it when it’s too late and, you know, being able to educate people about, for example, the probate process, that it’s not this big, ugly monster that everyone thinks it is.

[00:08:52] Johnine Clark: Now, there are steps to it and there are things that you have to do, but, you know, really encouraging [00:09:00] people to not shy away from the probate process. I think you still need help through it. Then with respect to making sure that your estate planning documents are in order. We have so many examples. I mean, there’s so many celebrity examples that we could give of people that we, you know, hold in high esteem.

[00:09:19] Johnine Clark: We like their music. We like, you know, the movies that they participated in. We like the jokes that they tell, but only to see in, you know, the news that they didn’t have a will or they didn’t have things set up. You know, the assumption is, well, these people have a lot of money. Of course, they have people that are telling them to do these things, and they really don’t.

[00:09:40] Johnine Clark: They’re just like you and I, right? And so just being able to kind of be that cog in the wheel to get people moving in the area of making sure that their documents are in order.

[00:09:52] Jonathan Hawkins: Those celebrities give you good material for writing and talking to clients about, right?

[00:09:57] Johnine Clark: every week there’s a, there’s someone else that passed away [00:10:00] and we look back and we’re like, they didn’t have a will? Or, you know, they find the will later or it’s just so many horror stories. So we want, we use those as examples. So that hopefully, you know, our folks will get on board.

[00:10:14] Jonathan Hawkins: So, so back to the family law, which is its own niche. But I think my understanding is you sort of niche down even further within family law, right?

[00:10:24] Johnine Clark: Yeah, so I do primarily divorces, custody, child support cases. I will do adoption cases. Adoption cases are like the absolute best. Feel good. Oh, my goodness. This child is has a family, you know, and someone they could, you know, legally call mom, dad, you know, be on their birth certificate or mom and mom or dad and dad.

[00:10:47] Johnine Clark: However, you know, the parent structure is, it’s just such a great feeling, you know, to be in that situation. And it’s just a happy event when You know, we go in front of the judge. The judges love it. They take [00:11:00] pictures with the family. You know, it’s just a great feel good part of my practice. But on the other hand, I have divorces, custody and child support, which depending upon which side you’re on and how You know, the parties are really treating each other or have treated each other will determine how well the case will go.

[00:11:23] Johnine Clark: I think a lot of times I’m a big proponent of if we go in front of a judge, neither party is going to be happy usually. So to the extent that we can, let’s see if we can work something out. The majority of the time with a little bit of nudging. You can get to that point. There’s other times you can’t and you just have to try it.

[00:11:45] Johnine Clark: And then, you know, you don’t want to say I told you so, but you know, it just is what it is. I tell everyone I will do the best job that I can possibly do. So will my staff. But the ultimate decision is going to be a [00:12:00] judge’s or magistrate’s we have magistrates here in Maryland So I will do my best but they’re gonna make the ultimate decision and usually no one’s happy

[00:12:11] Jonathan Hawkins: Down here in Georgia, they have jury trials for divorces, which is kind of crazy. Yeah.

[00:12:16] Johnine Clark: Wow, I would love to sit in on the jury

[00:12:19] Jonathan Hawkins: You really got to, you really got to be

[00:12:21] Johnine Clark: It must be entertaining,

[00:12:22] Jonathan Hawkins: hand it over to a jury. Yeah.

[00:12:25] Johnine Clark: Exactly.

[00:12:26] Jonathan Hawkins: so yeah, but within the family maybe you don’t do this anymore, but at one time, didn’t you really just market sort of to men?

[00:12:33] Johnine Clark: Oh, yeah, I still do that. Absolutely. So one of the things that, you know, we’ve done with our business coach is to try to really dig into and dive down into who is your ideal client, right? We call them the avatars. So you go through these exercises where, you know, you ask yourself questions like which client is or type of client [00:13:00] do you like participating with the most?

[00:13:03] Johnine Clark: Which do you feel like you’re servicing the most? Sometimes the questions that we ask ourselves are somewhat negative questions like, you know, which client base. You know, annoys you the most, you know, and then you go through those exercises and you realize who your ideal client is. And what I realized over the years is that the best clients that I’ve been able to service, the easiest ones for the most part are my male clients.

[00:13:30] Johnine Clark: There’s such a lack of understanding about the system, the court system. The laws, the perceptions of, for example, the different types of custody involved in a particular case and just coming to the table with as much information as you can. I find that a lot of times my male clients don’t have that basic information.

[00:13:54] Johnine Clark: And I always, you know, use the analogy when you have a Thanksgiving dinner and all the families over at [00:14:00] grandma’s house, right? The men are usually. With the exception of me, they’re watching the football game, right? Or they’re outside playing football. And I would be the one that, the one woman that would be with them.

[00:14:11] Johnine Clark: But that’s a whole nother story. And the women are in the kitchen cooking primarily or preparing the food. The difference in conversations, right? So, you know, your aunts and cousins, they’re going to talk about their experiences with men and what they’ve done. So you learn at an early age. I don’t want to call it manipulation, but you learn different approaches to marriage and relationships during those times.

[00:14:39] Johnine Clark: Men don’t really have those conversations. So you know, when a woman comes into a matrimonial or a divorce situation, they’re coming with all those years of experience and what auntie said or what their cousin said. So just being able to kind of level that playing field a little bit and giving men, I can’t [00:15:00] give you all those years of experience in conversations, but I can give you enough information that you understand the process and how you need to approach it.

[00:15:08] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, I will say speaking from personal experience. I would say men are a little naive when it comes to it, right?

[00:15:14] Johnine Clark: well you said it, I couldn’t say that.

[00:15:18] Jonathan Hawkins: so, so, so that’s cool. So you, I mean, you’ve really niched down, you focus your marketing on men. You know, there are a lot of attorneys out there that would be sort of nervous and scared to do that.

[00:15:27] Jonathan Hawkins: All right, well, I’m giving up 50 percent of my potential client base. Were you scared going in? You know, what was your approach going in and what’s been the result? After you went all in on that approach,

[00:15:38] Johnine Clark: Right. So it’s so funny because I did write a book five things she’s doing to prepare for divorce. I got more reaction out of women than I did did men initially. So even though I’ve said, or I don’t, Like hit you over the head. Like I’m representing men. I believe that the [00:16:00] marketing and all of that kind of speaks for itself, but women bought the book because they wanted to know what I was telling the men.

[00:16:09] Jonathan Hawkins: you give it away the secrets.

[00:16:11] Johnine Clark: That’s exactly what they told me. They told me I was going to get kicked out of the club because I was telling them all the secrets. I was like wait. I think I can still stay in the club. So. They, and they said, you know, well, if you’re someone that’s working to support men, I want you to represent me as well, because, you know, if you could represent a man in this situation, then I think you would be a great attorney for me.

[00:16:34] Johnine Clark: So I haven’t really found any like someone that doesn’t hire me because they think that my, my material is more geared towards men than women. They, you know, welcome the opportunities, like I said, to find out what I’m telling the men so that they can be better prepared. And, you know, a lot of times that’s something that, you know, that they gravitate to me because of that fact. [00:17:00] It’s worked pretty good overall.

[00:17:02] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s cool. You know, I’ve heard similar experiences from other lawyers that really sort of go in. It doesn’t, you think it’s going to all these other types of cases coming in, but it really doesn’t. And it really helps you. It goes back to sort of your messaging, your avatar client, I think.

[00:17:17] Johnine Clark: Correct. Correct. And you also, it’s funny, I thought about that, but then remember, I had said, this is the kind of client that I want to work with, right? So I set myself up that hopefully that’s the type of client that’s going to come through the door. And for the most part, that’s what happened.

[00:17:35] ​

[00:17:48] Jonathan Hawkins: so let’s talk about sort of the growth of your firm. And by that, I mean, when you started, I assume it was just you. And then at some point you’ve added some people. So take us through the [00:18:00] progression of that. You know, when did you add sort of your first person and what role did that person have and what do you look like now?

[00:18:06] Johnine Clark: Right. So I, you’re right. For the most part, I started out on my own. I was doing everything on my own to this day. I still have that problem sometimes of delegating. I’m going to be honest. But probably around 2008. So I started my practice around 1998, 1980, 1990. 2009, somewhere in there, 2000, and around, so for the first eight, six or eight years, I was doing everything on my own. 2008 was one of the years that my practice started to really blossom and grow, so I needed some help, but it was basic help. It was filing help, it was, you know, answering the phone, scheduling appointments, typing letters, very basic. It wasn’t hands on, I’m [00:19:00] drafting documents or helping you draft documents.

[00:19:02] Johnine Clark: It wasn’t that kind of position. So I did that kind of position up until 2020, 2020, right before the pandemic. And that’s when I moved to a new office space. And I was like, okay, I’ve got to do something different here because not only because I had the space right, but because I could see that it was going to blow up even bigger and I just was not going to be able to, there’s not an hours, enough hours in the day for me to be able to answer the phone, schedule appointments.

[00:19:39] Johnine Clark: Get prepared for court, do discovery and all the other things that I had to do. Plus, you know, I had this extra lay of marketing on top of it, and I just couldn’t do all of that. So that’s when I started to sit back and seriously consider adding people. But what I wanted to make sure that I did was have enough [00:20:00] policies and procedures in place. we weren’t creating them on the fly, that I kind of had an idea of, you know, how I wanted the structure to be. And I think it’s easier to put someone in that structure as opposed to having them create it. And then, you know, things are kind of a little bit all over the place. So I started with we call her a client services specialist. And so that person is responsible not only for everyone hears that and they’re like, okay, they’re just a receptionist, but they really aren’t right now. Her position includes receptionist duties. But she’s also the person that’s responsible for making sure that our clients are having a good experience, reaching out to them, calling them periodically through the time of their case, seeing if there’s anything else that she can help with.

[00:20:53] Johnine Clark: She comes up with the ideas for all of our holiday events. Things like that. That’s her. [00:21:00] Then we have a marketing person. And he is exclusively responsible for our social media, our newsletters. We just started a newsletter referral letter for attorneys. I think, Jonathan, you’re on that list, but if not, I want to make sure you’re on that list.

[00:21:15] Johnine Clark: This is only our second epi second issue going out this month, so don’t, if you didn’t get last month’s, I got you this

[00:21:23] Jonathan Hawkins: Make sure I’m on there. Yeah.

[00:21:25] Johnine Clark: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, and that’s his area. So he does exclusively the marketing and then I have a legal assistant. And so now she’s more of the hands on person that’s helping me with preparing the cases, drafting pleadings, speaking with clients.

[00:21:42] Johnine Clark: She’s that person. So it has helped me immensely. But, you know, one of the things you’ll learn is as you bring more people into your company, That means that you now can service more clients or you have the ability to capture more potential [00:22:00] clients. Right. So now we’re looking at what’s the next hire?

[00:22:04] Johnine Clark: Who’s the next hire? And it’s happened so quickly really quickly. And Ben, our good friend, he said that was gonna happen. I didn’t believe him. I was like, I just, you know, so now I’m in my office, which I love my office space. But we broke out another wall and took over the next office next to us.

[00:22:22] Johnine Clark: And that has, we call it the executive suite. And that’s where my office will be, which is twice the size of this office, right? And you know, hopefully we’ll be able to put an attorney here. I’m going to take my legal assistant with me to the other side and then we’ll have another legal assistant here.

[00:22:39] Johnine Clark: So we’re growing. It’s a little scary

[00:22:42] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, that’s

[00:22:43] Johnine Clark: But we’re growing. So.

[00:22:44] Jonathan Hawkins: that’s cool. So I want to dig into some of that a little bit. So, to grow you gotta hire and you know, you, you need your help and you just talk through that. But hiring is a challenge in and of itself and retention and all of that. So I’ve heard you speak before [00:23:00] about some of the challenges you’ve encountered in the past about hiring and I want to explore that a little bit.

[00:23:05] Johnine Clark: And this is a great, you’re going to love the end of this story. I guarantee you can love the end of the story. So,

[00:23:10] Jonathan Hawkins: because, you know, just to tee it up a little bit, you know, talked to a lot of lawyers that are on their own and it’s scary to hire somebody. And they’re like, what if it doesn’t work out? What have you know? And they think of all the bad things and sure some bad things can happen,

[00:23:24] Johnine Clark: Right.

[00:23:25] Jonathan Hawkins: But there is another side to that. So, all right, here we

[00:23:29] Johnine Clark: is. So this is a great story. Like I said, you’re going to love the end of the story. So, when I started doing, you know, hiring the three team members that I have now, I actually started with at that time it was called the customer service specialist. And, you know, When you hire people, it’s all about where that person is in their life at that time.

[00:23:52] Johnine Clark: And so we started off great. Then we had some bumps in the road. It was best, I thought at that time that we [00:24:00] decide to separate. And we did. The thing about her was she was a great resource for other individuals. Right? So she was the person that recommended that I hired the marketing assistant that I had.

[00:24:15] Johnine Clark: And so for a while, it was just myself and the marketing assistant. And I was doing interviews. I did indeed. I did some others. Initially, when I started indeed, which was during using indeed during the pandemic, nobody was working. So you had a larger pool of talented people to pull from because everybody was looking for a job, right?

[00:24:39] Johnine Clark: Well, that started to shrink in my opinion as everything started to open up. So the quality to me wasn’t the same that it was before. And I tried, you know, several times to replace that individual. I think in the video we talked about earlier, I referred to her as heifer, right? [00:25:00] I had tried on so many instances and it just wasn’t working.

[00:25:03] Johnine Clark: Sometimes, you know, I’m very much of a believer. You just have to sit back and let some things happen. Because if you force it, you’ll be put yourself in a situation And that you won’t ultimately be able to thrive in. So I would say probably about six months after being in that situation and having, I had hired someone and, you know, having gone through this process, I just knew she wasn’t a good fit.

[00:25:28] Johnine Clark: I think I let her go within a day or two of hiring her. It’s just not going to work, right? I got a call from the original client, the customer service specialist asking for her job back. And, you know, we had a long talk about expectations and things like that. And I hired her back. So that’s the good part of the story.

[00:25:51] Johnine Clark: She was at a different place. I was at a different place. She obviously came in with knowledge of how I wanted things to be done and has conformed to [00:26:00] that. And so that’s been great. But the other part is, as I said, she was a great resource for other people that may fit within the office. So my legal assistant came in as a result of her recommendation.

[00:26:15] Johnine Clark: So I went from, what, one to none, to one, to now three, right? So, what I would say, it is a very scary position to be in, hiring. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to keep someone forever, right? And if it doesn’t work, which is what I’ve learned, don’t keep them forever. If it’s not working, and you’ll know.

[00:26:42] Johnine Clark: After a day or two, whether this person is going to fit or not, let them go. Now, I will say that in order for us to create the kind of culture that I needed in the office and to get to the expectations that I have, it takes work though, [00:27:00] right? You can look at different generations approach work differently.

[00:27:07] Johnine Clark: I’m not going to say whether one is right or wrong. Well, I’m a baby boomer. So of course I’m going to say everything that we do is right. Right. But, you know, You have to understand that particular group and how they function. It may not, they may not, and probably don’t function and or think the way that you thought or way your, the parent, your parents taught you.

[00:27:29] Johnine Clark: But there is a happy medium. There is a way to train them into the way that you want things to be. The way that you want things to be conducted. So, number one, they feel like they’re not becoming someone that they’re not. We do a lot of things with respect to appreciation, lunches, dinners. We do a lot of that.

[00:27:51] Johnine Clark: And you’ll see them develop into, you know, who you need them to be so that your office can function the way that you want it. That was [00:28:00] a long explanation. Was

[00:28:01] Jonathan Hawkins: you know, that’s some really good perspective. I like the explanation that, you know, part of it is where they are at that time and things can change. That’s a good perspective. The other one is, you know, a lot of it’s setting clear expectations, communicating it and maybe having, you know, meeting in the middle sometimes.

[00:28:22] Jonathan Hawkins: I mean, you’re the boss still, but you know, but in order to communicate and Get the best out of them, you may have to sort of go to where they are probably

[00:28:30] Johnine Clark: have to repeat those expectations more than once.

[00:28:33] Jonathan Hawkins: Yes, I Know and I you know letting somebody go that’s not a fun conversation. So I get

[00:28:40] Johnine Clark: Not at all. Not at all. Not at all.

[00:28:43] Jonathan Hawkins: Especially if they’re a good person, you know, but

[00:28:48] Johnine Clark: Right. But I would, you know, for your listeners it’s such a, the ability to be able to delegate is awesome because what it does is it frees [00:29:00] you up to do other things. It frees you up to be that rainmaker, the person that’s going to give the direction, the person that has the ideas about the marketing, you know, no, not that, but this, you know, to keep the train moving the way that you want it to, but you’ve got to, you just can’t physically in one body do all of the work that’s required.

[00:29:22] Johnine Clark: And there’s just so many, it just opens up everything. So your phones ring more than they ever have. There’s more people that want, you know, your time. They want to speak with you. They see you on social media. You know, when we do talks out in the community, they see your face. They want to know you’re, you know, you’re in the area.

[00:29:44] Johnine Clark: So just to be able to, if your goal is to service your clients and service them well and to continue a good reputation in the community you have to have help. You just have to.

[00:29:56] Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, so let’s talk about marketing. I know you do [00:30:00] a lot of that. And I’m sure that’s probably changed over the years too. And you, another thing, a lot of people, a lot of new law firm owners, they look out there and they’re like, there’s so much to do. And all these people are doing all this stuff. and I think you may have talked about this before, but you know, you can’t do it all at once. It takes time. So take us through sort of your evolution and the marketing stuff, sort of where you started and then what kind of stuff you’re doing now. And I know you’ve got plans to do more stuff, I’m sure.

[00:30:28] Jonathan Hawkins: So.

[00:30:28] Johnine Clark: Right. Absolutely. So when I first came to great legal marketing, which is, Where we have our mastermind together, there was so many ideas being thrown out and I felt like and was that I was way not even near the curve. I was just way behind. And so, some of the things required more money and resources that maybe I felt like I had at the time.

[00:30:55] Johnine Clark: So I took simple things that I thought I could do on [00:31:00] my own. That were maybe low costs, but would be effective. And that’s where I kind of started the marketing journey. So the marketing journey for me really started with there’s always the three basic things that they want you to do. You have to have a great website. You have to write some kind of book and you want a newsletter. Those are the three things that you should focus on initially. So, and then, so starting with the website, which is what I started on first, what I realized was the website I had before really wasn’t attractive to men. You know, it had a color scheme that wasn’t necessarily a male kind of dominant.

[00:31:46] Johnine Clark: color scheme. So what I did was I took a few of my clients that I thought, you know, really would tell me the truth, former clients. And I said, Look, how does this look? What colors would you like? And so [00:32:00] that’s how this whole brown orange kind of concept came from. Because I just asked a few of my clients.

[00:32:06] Johnine Clark: I did a quick survey, asked them to answer the questions. They loved answering the survey questions and gave wonderful comments.

[00:32:13] Jonathan Hawkins: you know,

[00:32:13] Johnine Clark: that’s how

[00:32:14] Jonathan Hawkins: can I interrupt you real quick? That is really interesting. A couple of things there. One, just the subtlety of the colors. I mean, I’m a guy probably, I would not have thought of that. I said the first thing, so, but subconsciously I would get a feeling from it, just like your male clients.

[00:32:32] Jonathan Hawkins: And then the other piece to that is. You asked clients, you got market feedback instead of just guessing. That’s really big. And a lot of people skip that step too.

[00:32:43] Johnine Clark: Right. Right. Right. And so at this point, we’re marketing, right, it’s all marketing, but we haven’t spent a lot of money, if at all. So that’s when the whole now the money kicks in when I’m rebranding the website. Found a great [00:33:00] company. And it’s not a true, if you look at my website, it’s not a traditional lawyer looking website.

[00:33:07] Johnine Clark: It scrolls through different pictures of fathers and their kids. Right. Doing different things, whether it’s a father and a daughter father and son. So it scrolls through a pictures of those in the background. And then we added pieces to it. So I added a free how to select a family law attorney white paper that anyone can get for free.

[00:33:30] Johnine Clark: It has opt in so that you can, you know, get on our newsletter list. It has little subtle things like that. That I think have helped us. It has a little video that we did as well. So that was like very basic things that I could do. Now you want to translate that website branding, quote unquote, into, you know, what you do in the office.

[00:33:55] Johnine Clark: So your letterhead and, you know, coming up with core values, [00:34:00] how you know, wanted your, what were the main things you wanted everyone to understand about you and how your office is going to operate. So everything became, You know, this orange and brown scheme, but it went from the website into the office.

[00:34:16] Johnine Clark: Simple things like how you set up your conference room when a potential client comes in. We asked them before they come in what type of music they like, what kind of snacks they like, what’s their favorite drink in terms of soda, coffee. and we have those things ready for them.

[00:34:35] Jonathan Hawkins: Nice.

[00:34:36] Johnine Clark: And again, simple stuff.

[00:34:38] Johnine Clark: When they come in the office, there’s a sign at the receptionist desk, which is directly when you come in the door that has welcome whatever their name is. I’ve had so many people just love the fact that we had a sign that welcomed them. Like they just stand there like, Oh, you have a sign that welcomes me.

[00:34:54] Johnine Clark: That’s so nice. Right? I didn’t think that was where they were going to focus. I said, they’re going to focus on the coffee and [00:35:00] the drinks and stuff, but they’ve been focusing and fixated on the sign. Great. But it creates this atmosphere of, we care, we’re welcoming you. We know this is a stressful situation.

[00:35:12] Johnine Clark: But let’s at least try to get past some of that stress by letting you know that we’re going to do the best job we can. And here’s how we’re going to welcome you into our

[00:35:19] Jonathan Hawkins: You know, that’s a great idea. And I bet you those people leave and go live their life. And they tell people, you know, this

[00:35:26] Johnine Clark: They do.

[00:35:27] Jonathan Hawkins: she was great. I walked in and there was a sign for me.

[00:35:31] Johnine Clark: there was one potential client that came in early for her appointment. We hadn’t put the sign up yet. So when she came in. You know, and I at that point I’m in the conference room and I’m talking to her. She said, you know, I heard about this welcome sign. I was like, you know what?

[00:35:47] Johnine Clark: Stop right there. So I made her walk out of the office. She thought this is the most hilarious thing ever. I made her walk out of the office. We put the sign up and then we welcomed her back into the I’ve had people take the [00:36:00] welcome signs. We put tank cards on the conference room. the table, you know, right in front of their space where they have all the information sheets and all of that, that they fill out.

[00:36:09] Johnine Clark: They take the tent signs. It’s okay. You know, so it’s those little things like having a pen, you know, that you can give someone little not too expensive items that people can take with them because separate and apart from. A business card. It’s something that they’ll have in their wallet or they’ll use when they go to write a check or something.

[00:36:32] Johnine Clark: I don’t know. We don’t write checks anymore, but whenever they’re writing something, they’ll have your pen in their hand, you know, or we have all sorts of stuff that we little crazy on the chachi side of things, but just things that, you know, you can give them so they can take with them. And it has a branded label on it.

[00:36:50] Johnine Clark: Now we’re getting into more expense, making it branded, but. You know, we get so many compliments about that. You know, we always have [00:37:00] things for the FedEx person for the UPS drivers that come in the act of the Amazon drivers when they come in. They always have things that they can pick up and take because they see a lot of people right on a daily basis.

[00:37:15] Johnine Clark: So why wouldn’t you want them to have a chapstick with your You know, logo on it so that they can remember. Oh, yeah, I was just in Miss Clark’s office. You have a family law matter. You never know where those conversations are going to come up, but you want to make sure that somewhere somebody has something that identifies you as the person that can help them with their problem.

[00:37:37] Jonathan Hawkins: So, you wrote a book and then you also, you do a, is it a print newsletter? Do you do an email newsletter as well? Or?

[00:37:44] Johnine Clark: So we do the email newsletter. I think everyone in the group has convinced me that I have to do a paper one. So we’re working on that now.

[00:37:51] Jonathan Hawkins: Me too. Me too. I don’t have one yet either. So

[00:37:55] Johnine Clark: it was like okay, I hear you. I hear you. So we have the email list. We started [00:38:00] the lawyers referral list and that’s basically, you know, a letter that I just talk about a particular topic.

[00:38:07] Johnine Clark: For a particular month, like I’m a big sports fan, so March Madness is coming up. So I talk about March Madness and the whole team concept and how that’s, you know, how we have to work as attorneys. And that letter’s really geared towards people that work outside of family law and estate planning. But there may be.

[00:38:28] Johnine Clark: you know, some cross acting of what they do and what we do. So personal injury attorneys, we send it to doctors, we send it to physical therapists, you know, anyone that we think could possibly come across someone that may need our help. So we do that. And then, like I said, we’re going to work on that print newsletter going out, I guess next.

[00:38:50] Jonathan Hawkins: and me, both you and me, both. Yeah. All right. So, so shifting a little bit again. So, got a couple of questions.

[00:38:58] Johnine Clark: Okay.

[00:38:58] Jonathan Hawkins: What’s the [00:39:00] best part? Well, let me start this. What’s the worst part of running your law firm? We’ll start there.

[00:39:06] Johnine Clark: The worst part of running the office is running the office.

[00:39:09] Johnine Clark: You know, it’s not so you have so many hats. Right. I am a therapist in my office. We’re not talking about clients, but I’m a therapist. I’m an accountant. Right. CP count and slash CPA, even though I do say my, you know, work out for a CPA to handle, there’s still part of it that I have to do.

[00:39:34] Johnine Clark: You know, any kind of operational things, ultimately, you know, that has to come across my desk because I’m the one that has to sign the check, right? Expansion, all of those different, all of those non lawyer things that you have to do. And then, of course, you know, work. So, I would say, you know, the main thing is the thing that I hate the most, but it’s not like a deal breaker for me.

[00:39:59] Johnine Clark: [00:40:00] It’s just all the different hats you have to have on during the course of a day. And then you look up and it’s two o’clock and you’re like, oh yeah, and I’ve got a, I answer a motion or something else. It’s like, okay,

[00:40:13] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, it sounds like you’re starting to solve that problem a little bit by adding your people a little by a little you’re getting there. All right. So let’s flip it. So what’s the best part? What do you like the most about running your own

[00:40:24] Johnine Clark: I, yeah, I have always been a proponent of freedom and my own time. Right. So that’s why this whole, I don’t know, being a judge and having to be there at a specific time. I don’t know if that’s going to work for me because I literally can work if I want, how much I want, how little I want. I could decide, I don’t know, I’m going to take off Thursday and Friday next week.

[00:40:49] Johnine Clark: So I’m gonna work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so I can do that. So the flexibility of it, I love the nuances of [00:41:00] the law and being able to apply those. I love that part, too. I’m starting to shy a little bit away from the litigation part as much. But So that’s how the estate planning, I think is starting to become more prevalent in the practice because I feel like I’m getting more satisfaction out of that than I am necessarily going through a two or three day trial, you know, in a divorce,

[00:41:23] Jonathan Hawkins: So that may lead us to the next question. You’ve been doing this for a while now you know, you’ve done a lot of different practice areas, you know, what’s your vision for the next, you know, 10, 15, 20 years for the firm. Where do you see this going? do you want it to go? Yeah.

[00:41:39] Johnine Clark: right where I ultimately, I’d never want the practice to close, right? What I would love to be able to do is be kind of that senior retired, you know, attorney, the kind of the rainmaker. You know, that comes in maybe a few times a month, make sure everything’s okay, gets a check mailed to [00:42:00] her or deposited in her account

[00:42:02] Jonathan Hawkins: that’s the dream. That’s the dream.

[00:42:04] Johnine Clark: while he’s still making money without me. That’s ultimately what I would like. So right now in terms of, you know, expansion, I see another attorney and another legal assistant. I see where it could go past that, but you know, you have to go based upon your comfort level. So that’s probably my comfort level right now.

[00:42:25] Johnine Clark: But we’ll see how that works because making sure it’s so important, obviously, to make sure that each piece fits and, you know, we’re very quirky. I have my, I’ve already ordered my St. Patrick’s Day hat, right? We have fun, you know, we do silly things in the office, but we also do get the work done.

[00:42:48] Johnine Clark: So you have to just make sure that each person, an attorney, a legal assistant. a receptionist, that everyone fits within that. They don’t have to be, you know, as silly as I [00:43:00] am, but they at least have to be, you know, they have to fit within the culture. I would rather, they may have a huge book of business, but if they don’t fit within our culture, then it really wouldn’t work for me to hire that person or have them

[00:43:16] Jonathan Hawkins: That’s huge. A hundred percent agree with that. And they have to laugh at your jokes. They gotta, you know, have to do

[00:43:23] Johnine Clark: Whether they’re funny or not, right?

[00:43:28] Jonathan Hawkins: So if you weren’t practicing law, if you’re doing something else, what would you be doing?

[00:43:32] Johnine Clark: Oh my god, what would I be doing if I wasn’t practicing? You know what, it’s funny, I probably would be teaching, I think. Now, teachers to me have such a hard time. I think they, that is one of the most noblest professions ever. When I see what these teachers do with so little, and they really just love what they [00:44:00] do, right? I think probably I would have been teaching somewhere. I don’t know. I’m thinking more like high school. I think of high schoolers today, but high school probably into college professorship somewhere there, somewhere in there.

[00:44:17] Johnine Clark: But, you know, I’m one of those that loves to see, you know, the first day of school when, you know, you have the little kindergarteners going to school and the backpacks are five times bigger than they are. And they have on their new clothes and they’re so excited but nervous all at the same. That’s like the best part.

[00:44:35] Johnine Clark: So. Yeah, probably teaching.

[00:44:38] Jonathan Hawkins: Well, I could see that you got, you’ve got a teacher, you got the presence I would definitely pay attention in your class. Maybe I gave you an opportunity here to do some teaching. So, what, you know, give us one, two, three, however many pieces of advice that you might give to. Either your younger self or some attorney out there that’s either [00:45:00] thinking about starting a firm, or maybe they just started a firm.

[00:45:02] Jonathan Hawkins: What would you tell them? What should they do?

[00:45:05] Johnine Clark: First thing is take a deep breath. It’s, it is a marathon, not a sprint, and just feel comfortable doing what you can do in your particular time. Like I said, I could not do. you know, 1000 website when I started, it just was not financially something that I could do, but I could do a simple one that would at least give me some kind of presence and then work on something else.

[00:45:35] Johnine Clark: And then when I got the wherewithal to be able to upgrade the website, you do that. But it is not, I don’t think it’s for the week, but you have to kind of have a vision of where you want to go from the beginning and be willing to learn, grow and be willing to take a chance here and there. [00:46:00] but also be willing to course correct or change direction if a window or an opportunity opens up. Save a lot of money if you can. Put some money aside if this is what you want to do because that’s going to obviously, you know, be important. Maintain excellent credit, you know, get those lines of credit out there because that’s going to be important. and then set up those systems early on. You know, this is how and believe it or not, you have to tell people and show people how to answer phones, how you want them to greet people, how you want what kind of empathy, right?

[00:46:44] Johnine Clark: Or kindness. You want to come across the phone when they’re speaking to someone or if they’re doing an email, how that tone of an email, cause emails can have tones to them, right? How you want that to come across. And even [00:47:00] though, you know, they may be disrespectful, they’re not being disrespectful to you.

[00:47:04] Johnine Clark: It’s because they’re in a high pressure situation. They don’t have the information. They’re scared, they’re angry, all of that. And once you can get through all of that and find out what the issue is, You’ll find that you’ve got a client for life, but understand that it’s not personal and you know, you get, what was it?

[00:47:22] Johnine Clark: You get more bees with honey. You know, it’s really not personal. Just work through it. And so, you know, we’ve had instances where it’s just been a little bit much and I’ve had to step in and say, okay here’s what’s going on, you know, and I’m saying, speaking with a client and making sure they understand that if you can’t talk to me, that’s why I have this person here.

[00:47:45] Johnine Clark: They can help you let them help you. And then we can always schedule a time when we can talk, but, you know, just be prepared that there, there won’t always be, you know, wonderful days. There’ll be other, I still have them where you’re just like, I don’t know what I’m doing. [00:48:00] Why am I doing this? Right.

[00:48:01] Johnine Clark: And then you’ll have great days, like I said, where, you know, you get great reviews from a client or someone’s really happy or, you know, a client will send you some roses or some candy or something just to say, thank you. And so that’s where you have to kind of hang your hat on in terms of is this right for me and should I keep going?

[00:48:23] Johnine Clark: That was a lot too, Jonathan.

[00:48:25] Jonathan Hawkins: that was good. That was some good stuff, but I’m with you. Savor the good days and the victories. And on the bad ones, just realize, you know, it will pass. It will pass. Well, well, I appreciate you coming on. This has been really good. You’ve dropped some really good stuff. If people want to find you how do they get in touch with you?

[00:48:42] Jonathan Hawkins: What’s the best way to find you?

[00:48:44] Johnine Clark: Absolutely. So our website is www. JNClarkLaw. com No E on Clark. JNClarkLaw. com And we’re on all social media. We’re on [00:49:00] Instagram. We’re just getting on TikTok. Give us a few minutes on TikTok though, but we’re coming.

[00:49:04] Jonathan Hawkins: Oh yeah.

[00:49:06] Johnine Clark: We’re starting a little footprint, but we’re on Instagram. We’re on Facebook. We’re on TikTok.

[00:49:11] Johnine Clark: So, you know, just reach out to us. Our phone number is 301 336 4900. Our phone is answered 24 hours a day. So, we’re here in Maryland and D. C. if you need us.

[00:49:24] Jonathan Hawkins: Awesome. This has been great. Thank you.

[00:49:27] Johnine Clark: Thank you so much, Jonathan.

[00:49:29] ​[00:50:00]