47. Olivia Vizachero, The Less Stressed Lawyer — Take Control: Tools for A Life of Intention

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Taking charge of your time – and career – is not about quick hacks or hustle. It’s about identifying the emotional problems that hold you to unobtainable standards. And moving past them.

Olivia Vizachero, attorney legal professional for nearly a decade, began The Less Stressed Lawyer to help attorneys prioritize well-being. So many of her colleagues were overworked, over-stressed, overwhelmed, and ready for a change. She dives deep into taking charge of your life and regaining control of your time. We uncover the emotional roadblocks that squander your time and the tools you need to put yourself first.

What’s In This Episode?

  • Who is Olivia Vizachero?
  • How can we make better choices to regain control of our time and, ultimately, our lives?
  • Why is hustle not a solution to better time management?
  • How can we stop making decisions from a place of guilt and worry?
  • Why is shame, and not flaws, the opposite of perfection?
  • How do we move beyond limiting beliefs?

Transcript

Olivia Vizachero:

Newsflash, you chose all of this. Now your job is to figure out why.

Sonya Palmer:

Pay attention to your thoughts. Your thoughts cause your feelings, your feelings drive your actions and your actions produce your results, in business and in life.

Olivia Vizachero:

So who do you serve? Meet people, tell them what you do, add value ahead of time and make offers to help them for free. Now people know about you before they ever need you, which is really what you want, right?

Sonya Palmer:

In 2021, women made up over half of all summer associates for the fourth year in a row, yet equity partners in multi-tier law firms continue to be disproportionately white men. Only 22% of equity partners are women, we would like to see that changed.
Hello and welcome to LawHer, the show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal field. Be inspired by their stories, learn from their mistakes, build community, and look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law. I am Sonya Palmer, your host, VP of operations at Rankings, the digital agency of choice for personal injury lawyers. This is LawHer.
Olivia Vizachero is an accomplished attorney, a certified life coach and founder of The Less Stressed Lawyer. She coaches lawyers who are overworked, overstressed, overwhelmed, and ready for a change by prioritizing wellbeing. Today we cover what self abandonment looks like at work and how to make better choices to regain control and why effective time management is not just a result of how hard you can hustle, but uncovering the emotional roadblocks to further deepen your psyche. She offers the tools you need to put yourself first. But first, Olivia shares her unconventional origin story. Let’s dive in.

Olivia Vizachero:

I am Italian and I had a really weird fascination with the Italian mafia when I was a kid. So at around the age of eight, I decided, after watching this documentary on the five crime families in New York, I decided that I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney for the Italian mob. And my parents were like, “Good Lord, I hope she grows out of this.” And I never did. So I made up my mind at that point to go to law school and wanted to be a criminal defense attorney and really never changed my mind from that. So from eight to when I went through law school, that was the game plan.

Sonya Palmer:

Was the law school experience what you expected it to be?

Olivia Vizachero:

Not at all. I actually have an aunt and uncle that both work for law schools, and one’s a professor, one is the Dean of Career Services, and they’re the only lawyers in my family. So I was an evening student, I worked full-time. And I went to school at night and worked odd jobs during the day, and then eventually I got a job law clerking for a criminal defense firm, so I transitioned to that. But my first year I was so excited to go to law school and then I got there, and when you’re an evening student they split up your 1L year. I had Civ Pro, Contracts, and Legal Research and Writing for an entire year, and none of the juicy stuff like crim law, which is what I was interested in because I wanted to criminal defense-

Sonya Palmer:

The mafia.

Olivia Vizachero:

… or torts or even constitutional law is kind of exciting. And I remember calling them after my first year ended and I was like, “Why didn’t you tell me it was this horrifically boring? What? Why didn’t you let me know that?” And they were like, “Oh, did we not mention that? Yeah, it’s a lot of boring reading. You’ve got to do all this boring reading.” And I was really concerned because it was really the only thing that I had ever wanted to do, so I didn’t have a fallback game plan. If I don’t like this, then what? And I decided to push through. I’m super glad that I did because my second year I got into torts, I got into crim law, we’re the homicides are and-

Sonya Palmer:

More exciting.

Olivia Vizachero:

Much more exciting. So from there, my genuine curiosity and interest in the subject matter started to take over. And then I got to take evidence and criminal procedure and I finally felt like I was hitting my stride and the boredom subsided mostly. And I also started to do better. I have been a really great student, and I’m sure you talk to people all the time who go to law school and they were doing really well academically all throughout their lives, and then you come to law school and it’s a little bit different. So I really struggled with the whole it depends mindset, and I read Getting to Maybe, and that really shifted things for me.

Sonya Palmer:

So doing the night school and then working full-time during the day, did you feel like you had a support system while you were going through it? Mentors, comradery, because it’s sort of an untraditional way to go through law school.

Olivia Vizachero:

I’m an only child, so my family was about as supportive as I guess I would expect them to be. I’ve lived on my own since I was 18, so there wasn’t really support in that way, in the traditional sense that you might think of family support. I had a full scholarship to law school, which was incredible. And I counsel law students or potential law students on that all the time. Depending on what you want to do, I don’t want to be a professor and I ended up going into big law, but I didn’t want to go into big law at the time, so it didn’t make sense for me to go to a more prestigious school.
And then being in the evening program was actually the most incredible experience. So I would say my support system came from my classmates. The evening students are a little bit of a different breed because we’re all working full time. A lot of them are older, they have families. Everyone is really collaborative and supportive. You don’t have the same competition that you might get from the full-time day students. We’re just like, “Hey, can I borrow your notes?” And they’re like, “Yeah, absolutely. Let’s share. Let’s all get good grades. Let’s get to the finish line.” So it was really fun. We also went out to the bar a lot because we were going to class at night.

Sonya Palmer:

So then once you graduated, how did your experience lead you to starting a coaching business?

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah. So I worked full time and I had worked for a man who was an incredible trial attorney, but I learned at a pretty young age that just because you’re a great trial attorney doesn’t mean you are a great business owner. So they’re two different skill sets and law school doesn’t teach you the ladder, and he struggled with the business administration side of running his practice and it made for things to be pretty unstable, very clunky. And as someone who lives alone, supports myself, that was really scary for me. So payroll, you’d get paid, but not always on time, and it was nerve-wracking. And all of that started to happen right around the last opportunity for me to go through on-campus interviews, and that had never been on my radar before. When I started working at this criminal defense firm, it was like, “I have arrived, I am home. This is where I’m supposed to be.” And I decided kind of on a whim to just go out for OCIs.
And I get the summer position. And at the time, I think I was really not being honest with myself. I was like, “I’m just going to go for the summer. I’ll see how it goes.” Knowing full well, it’s way more money than I would’ve ever made otherwise, it was very prestigious. So I ended up going for the summer, they made me a full-time offer for after taking the bar exam and of course I accepted it. I left my criminal defense firm when I took the bar exam and then started in big law. And very soon after arriving in big law, I had this come to Jesus moment with, “How the hell did you end up here?” And very early on, this is month two, I think, I was like, “All right, we got to get out of here. How do we do that?”

Sonya Palmer:

Olivia came from an entrepreneurial family and saw a side hustle as a way to replace the income she was currently making so that she could get back to doing what she loved, criminal defense.

Olivia Vizachero:

I didn’t know what kind of business I wanted to start yet and I just started binging entrepreneurship content, listening to a ton of Gary Vaynerchuk. I listened to an amazing podcast called Hack the Entrepreneur, and I just started researching and learning about business development. And through the course of that process, I listened to a woman who was being interviewed about her journey out of corporate America to become an entrepreneur and she basically took a job for all the reasons I did, what other people thought, money, prestige, none of the internal desire reasons. She ended up leaving, starting her own business and was making seven figures. I’m like, “Me, that’s what I want to do. How do you do that?”
And she explained on the podcast interview that she had worked with a life coach. And I had never heard that term before. I didn’t know what a life coach was. And I was like, “Maybe I should look into this, because she’s done exactly what I want to do.” So she said her coach had the best podcast out there, and it was called The Life Coach School podcast with Brooke Castillo. And I was like, “Huh, maybe I should go listen to that.” So I did, and the first episode was recorded for me personally, I think. It was like, everything you have in your life and that you don’t like is the result of a choice you’ve made. And at the time I was really in this victim state of, this career was forced on me and I didn’t make these choices, I didn’t have a stay in the matter. And she was like, “Newsflash, you chose all of this. Now your job is to figure out why.”
And that set me on this personal development journey of… I don’t even think that I had the vocabulary at the time to have called myself a people pleaser, I would’ve just said that I was really committed and tried hard and that I cared a lot. But really I was a people pleaser, and I started to learn that the reason I had ended up in this job was I cared more about other people’s opinions of my decision than I did following my gut. And I started to see the writing on the wall that that’s a recipe for disaster.
So I worked with coaches and joined Brooke Castillo’s group program and really just immersed myself in all of the coaching tools that she teaches. And I learned a ton about time management, which was a huge struggle for me and perfectionism and self-worth and all of the things that a lot of attorneys struggle with. And once I learned this stuff, I started to look around me and everyone else was struggling with the same things. So I was like, “All right, the writing’s on the wall. I see where my work is in the world.” I wanted to help people stop struggling, so I decided to get certified.

Sonya Palmer:

I love that you knew two months in, because so many people stay there for years thinking they just have to keep going, they need the money. All good reasons, but sometimes you’re just not where you’re supposed to be and no matter how hard you try or how long you stick with it’s never going to be right. So I love that you knew right away.

Olivia Vizachero:

I did. I stayed for a little while. So I was there for a couple years, but I knew very early on and I did listen to that voice. And I do coach people that know pretty early on that it’s not for them, but they prolong it a lot longer. And I think it’s important to talk about the negative impact that staying someplace that doesn’t work for you has on your life. So it’s consistent self abandonment every single day, and that leads to burnout really quickly.

Sonya Palmer:

100%. And you made a plan, you at least reconciled with the fact that, I need to get out of here. And I also love that you said, because when I look back at my own life, the jobs that I’ve had, the decisions that I’ve made, all those different things, there is an absolute pivot moment when I took accountability for my own life. That victim that you talk about, when I stopped feeling like things were happening to me yes and realized that my current situation was a result of past actions and my future was going to be dependent on my actions right now, that was a defining moment in my life. And I think that is so important, particularly for women who may feel like life is happening to them and that they don’t even have a say in it, but you do actually have a say in it.
All these experiences led you to create The Less Stressed Lawyer, and so many women leave the profession entirely and credit mental health concerns as a major reason. The work that you do can help so many women remain in the field, but let’s break that stress down…Why can’t we just not hustle our way or be better at time management?

Olivia Vizachero:

There’s a huge emotional component to time management, and I think people oversimplify it to just being a math problem. I always tell people, we’ve got to separate out two things. There’s math and then there’s mind trauma. But time management is so hard for people, especially women because of how we’ve been conditioned to show up in our relationships. To be the ones who are accommodating, to be the ones that problem solve, to be the ones that take on things, to be the people that make sure other people are comfortable and that we say yes to avoid upsetting anyone. And that is a recipe for disaster. So it’s how people pleasing ties into this time management problem. Also, like all three things are related. So I coach a ton on people pleasing, perfectionism, and procrastination. And when you’re trying to do everything and you’re trying to do it all at this unattainable standard, because you’re a perfectionist and it has to be quote, unquote, “the best,” otherwise you are insufficient, not good enough, you create so much more resistance to the work that you’re doing.
So we really want to start to pick apart and evaluate what are all the reasons that you’re struggling with time management? Is it you’re constantly reshuffling your schedule because you’re people pleasing? Is it you’re planning inaccurately? Either you’re not planning at all, or you are trying to fit 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5-pound sack, so to speak, when it comes to time? Or are you not honoring your plan? You don’t get started on time, you work and interrupt yourself, and you don’t finish on time. You really want to get clear on what the problems are. And everything that I just described to you is an emotional issue. So you have to learn how to feel uncomfortable and follow through with your intentional plan. And for women who are conditioned to navigate their own discomfort in a way that martyrs themselves or sacrifices themselves to make sure other people are more comfortable and that their needs are met, it just creates a problematic scenario.

Sonya Palmer:

So how do you shift that mentality?

Olivia Vizachero:

You are responsible for your emotional experience and other people are responsible for their emotional experience. So I teach a concept that your thoughts cause your feelings, your feelings drive your action, and your action produces your results. And that the circumstances in your life don’t cause how you feel. Other people’s actions don’t cause how you feel, what they say, what they do, what they don’t do, what they don’t say. None of that causes your feelings until you think a thought about it. And what that means is that you are in control of your emotional experience. So we get to control what we think and to change how we feel as a result, which is super empowering. So most people when they’re struggling with time management, have a lot of negative thoughts about time, about their workload, about their ability to say no. And those negative thoughts are driving them to create negative results when it comes to managing their time.
So part of it is addressing the thoughts. The second part though is recognizing that if that’s true for you, that you cause your emotional experience, that other people cause theirs. And when I learned that, that we don’t cause other people’s feelings, other people cause their own feelings with their thoughts about situations. And that’s their responsibility, it’s not your responsibility to manage their emotional experience and how they feel. It was like someone signed a permission slip for me to go live my life the way that I wanted to. So a perfect example is me choosing to leave big law. My parents were absolutely disappointed by that, no question. And it was crucial for me to have these coaching tools because I was able to recognize that they were disappointed, but that I wasn’t causing their disappointment. It was their expectations that I stay in this job that cause their disappointment. Their thoughts about me leaving that cause their disappointment.
And it gives that space to allow other people to have their feelings and not need to change them and not need to solve for them, but also for me to not take that on as my responsibility.

Sonya Palmer:

I don’t feel like time management is an accurate way to describe what you are talking about. It is, but there’s so much to this because… And you see threads of this where control your own actions, control your own feelings. And it is like women particular, and particularly I think mothers who are attempting to manage the emotional experience of everyone around them. And it’s a lose-lose situation for them.

Olivia Vizachero:

Correct. And that’s another big revelation is that normally we’re people pleasing or saying yes, and overcommitting ourselves, overpromising and underdelivering in order to avoid immediate discomfort. So if we’re thinking about the time management context and your day is really full, and you don’t have time to squeeze in that phone call. Then your gut, you know the right answer is to say no in order to manage your time well, in order to get the things that you planned to accomplish done in the day. But you’ve got that pang of guilt that you should say yes or that pang of worry that they’re going to be really upset with you if you don’t say yes. And it’s guilt and worry driving your decision making at that point. And what is true is that the fastest way out of guilt and worry is to just say yes for sure.
But the truth is, is that there’s discomfort both ways. There’s discomfort in saying yes and there’s discomfort in saying no. You do always have this choice. It’s like between guilt or resentment, between worry or overwhelm, between fear and exhaustion or exasperation or the extra stress of taking on too much. And if you know you’re constantly choosing between discomfort both ways, I think the choice gets a little bit easier to make where you’re like, if I’m going to feel uncomfortable either way, why not pick the route that gets me the life I want? You need to do this and create evidence that it’s safe to say no, that it’s safe to put yourself first because we’re operating from fear and then you never do it. So it always feels just as risky, just as unsafe. And a lot of times it’s fine.
So you need to start building a body of evidence that it’s safe and okay for you to say no, and that people will honor your no, and that they won’t get that mad about it, and that you can push back. Because so many people come to me and they’re like, “I can’t say no.” I’m like, “You definitely can. You just don’t want to because it’s uncomfortable.” But we have to create some evidence to support that it is okay for them to do so.

Sonya Palmer:

I like that to practice almost. I feel like sometimes practicing something, even though you’re actually doing it, is easier to digest than having to take the actual action. It’s just practice. I’m just going to practice saying no. The opposite of perfect is not imperfect. It is shame. It is the guilt of not measuring up. And when we people please, we look to avoid that shame by attempting to manage the emotional experience of another person. If Olivia could wave a wand and solve these problems, this is how she hopes they would conduct their lives.

Olivia Vizachero:

My hope with my clients is that they live a life on their terms. You only get one shot at this and living it for other people and constantly deprioritizing yourself, I really just think it’s such a squandered opportunity to make the most of your life. So I want people to be really honest with themselves. I think that’s one of the things that you get out of coaching. It’s a lot of candor that we create. If you don’t tell anyone else the stuff that you tell me, we’re going to have a really honest conversation about exactly what you want. And you’re going to start to understand all of the reasons that are driving you to make the choices that you’re currently making. And my goal is to get people making decisions where they know and love their reasons for making them.
So where they’re able to feel really in control and really intentional, and they’re spending their time in a way that feels authentic to them and in integrity for them. Where they’re able to build a life really on their terms and not worry about what other people think, but to operate from internal desire and make themselves their top priority.

Sonya Palmer:

I think one of the best things about that is that it can look different for everyone.

Olivia Vizachero:

Absolutely. I teach this concept called defining enough. Most of the people that I work with, especially the perfectionists, aren’t quite sure what they’re aiming for and they never define it. So the standard is really ambiguous and it feels out of reach, and it’s how we get into that place where we’re just constantly chasing the horizon. You just need to be doing more in order to measure up. And I find that that, A, creates a lot of hustle, but B, also dissatisfaction because you never are quite sure, is this where I wanted to be? Is this where I want to end up? So we’ve got to get really clear on the results that you want to create, and then we work backwards. And figure out, all right, what are all the things that need to happen in order to make that result inevitable.
Beliefs are just thoughts that you’ve thought often enough to where they feel like facts, where they feel true for you. Your beliefs aren’t true, your thoughts aren’t true. Facts are true, and thoughts aren’t facts. Thoughts are just your opinions. So beliefs are just opinions that you hold. And a limiting belief is any thoughts that holds you back from accomplishing the result that you want. So it’s going to be an opinion that’s not true, and it presents as an obstacle of what you believe you are capable of, what you believe is possible in the world, what you think can happen or can’t happen. Limiting beliefs, there’s a whole range of them, but I see it with, I can’t get a job in this market. That’s a limiting belief. People get hired in this market and in different markets, people are always getting hired. The belief that I’m not smart enough for this, or I’m not capable, or it’s too late.
I work with a lot of women on business development and they think that it’s easier for men to do. I just did a post about this on social media actually, of all these limiting beliefs that people pass down to us. And we don’t know any better, but to believe them when we’re younger, they just sound like facts, so we take them on as true. And being able to identify, oh, that’s actually a thought, it’s an opinion, and I don’t have to carry that with me anymore. I can put that down or return it.

Sonya Palmer:

Our minds lie to us all the time. Those thoughts are not true.

Olivia Vizachero:

And here’s why. There’s two parts of your brain, there’s the primitive part of your brain, and then there’s your prefrontal cortex. And your prefrontal cortex is where you make all these logical, amazing decisions about your future, and where you work on accomplishing goals, and create your strategy and game plan. Amazing. And then there’s the primitive part of your brain that’s really logical, but it’s only working in two-minute increments. And its job is to accomplish three things. Seek immediate pleasure, avoid immediate discomfort, and conserve energy. So even if you didn’t get a belief from someone else, it’s your own organic limiting belief. Your brain loves to throw that out like spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. Because if you believe it and you act in accordance with it, you’re going to seek temporary pleasure, avoid that instant discomfort and conserve energy. So you don’t change the status quo, and that is safety for your brain. It creates stagnation for sure, but it keeps you at that just baseline, like good enough comfort.

Sonya Palmer:

And so easy to do today with the amount of things that fight for our attention, fight for those dopamine hits. I think you’re going to see even more research and studies just about how addicting these things that are perceived is beneficial are. And then the other side of that and how dangerous. I think our bodies betray us too, just because we hold tension everywhere. And I’ve seen it even in myself. We’re not having to hunt or gather anything anymore. We’re safe in our homes for the most part, there’s groceries, we work on computers. If there’s tension, your brain will look for something to be afraid of because your body’s like, I’m afraid. You need to find something to worry about, even when there isn’t anything to worry about. So I saw on social media that you’re also trying to dispel the notion that the notion that in order to be successful, one has to stay weekends, work late, work during lunch, et cetera. I imagine giving up that way of thinking can inspire a lot of fear, because it’s a very competitive profession. How do you meet that fear, care for yourself, and remain a contender when everyone else is working themselves to the bone?

Olivia Vizachero:

So you have to start by defining what your value is. This is really a self-concept issue, because if you think your value and the reason people work with you is because of your hyper-responsiveness, you’re going to keep needing to be on 24/7 in order to remain competitive. So it’s building belief in yourself and your capabilities and what you bring to the table in order to be confident enough to feel comfortable setting boundaries and trust that the work is still going to be there.
You also have to increase your trust in your client base, because a lot of this is coming from fear and a lack of trust that your clients will want to work with you specifically, that if they don’t get this hyper-responsive answer, that they’re going to move and jump ship and work with someone else. So you have to believe that your people want to work with you, that you bring enough expertise to the table or enough value to the table. It really is a self-confidence issue.
And then from there, I always tell people, start small. If you work every weekend, don’t start never working weekends and leaving at 5:00. That’s going to be a shock to your nervous system. It’s just too much change, and it’ll be too uncomfortable, so you won’t stick with it. What we need to do is create that body of evidence that we talked about earlier. So start by just being offline for half the day on Saturday, and then you can work the rest of the day on Saturday and work Sunday, if you’re working weekends, and start to build up the evidence that nothing bad happens, that people are fine.
I teach people to check their email a couple times a day rather than to constantly be in their inbox, because it’s such a distraction and keeps you from doing those big meaty projects. And people are like, oh my God, but I can’t just go a whole hour without checking my email. And I’m like, what if you were in a meeting? No one cares. But because we don’t have a reasonable excuse for not checking email, which I think it is a reasonable excuse that you just want to focus on work, but because people aren’t comfortable or familiar with that, they’re like, people will think that I’m terrible and not responsive and that I’m irresponsible and I’m not committed. I’m like, or they might just think you’re in a meeting and it’ll be fine.

Sonya Palmer:

The limiting beliefs prevent us from seeing our own worth, and then we compromise ourselves to be overly helpful, to make sure that people still need us, they still require our services, they still like us. That compounds, makes things worse for everybody. And again, when you’re working remote, you’re trying to be flexible. We’ve introduced all of this technology, like email, like Slack, like text messaging, to make it easier, and now it’s almost made it worse. I am bad at that. If I am in a meeting and I get a Slack notification, I go when I look. Oh, I hope the world’s not on fire. But then I completely forget that I checked that notification and I’ve now dropped the ball on someone because I didn’t follow up because I couldn’t wait 20 minutes to go check that Slack message. So it’s a detriment to everything not being able to do it.

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah. One of the things that you just touched on there is this concept of making decisions ahead of time. So this is something that I teach my clients to do, where we’re constantly evaluating what’s working, what’s not working, what do you need to do differently in order to keep you really intentional. But you identify issues like that, where, oh, I dropped the ball on something because I checked it during a meeting and then I didn’t do the follow-through, which is like, add it to my to-do list or make a calendar event, in order to check it off.
So I teach people to come up with systems. I have a system around my calendar. As soon as the need for a calendar event arises, I have to create it. And I can probably count on one hand over the course of the last year that I have not followed through with that, and invariably, I always get double booked. If I wait even 15 minutes, because people have access to my electronic calendar, people … It’s like Murphy’s Law. They’ll book the one time that doesn’t work.
So I’ve come up with a system. I’ve made the decision ahead of time of exactly what I do when something happens. So for your example, you can come up with a decision ahead of time of, when I’m in a meeting, I don’t check Slack. And you have to learn how to sit with the uncertainty or the worry, just that anxious feeling that there’s something out there.
Now, you can survive that feeling, and it’s just knowing that to escape that discomfort, that’s what’s driving you to go check. And it’s effective, because then you get the relief of seeing that the world isn’t exploding and you have certainty knowing what it is, but learning that that’s driving your action and reversing it to say, “I’m just going to sit in the discomfort and I can tolerate that feeling. It’ll be fine.”

Sonya Palmer:

100%. And to trick myself, which is what I do now … James Clear talks a lot about this too. I currently do not possess the willpower to not do it. If that notification pops up, I’m going to go check it. So I close Slack. And I put that note even in my calendars. So if a meeting comes up at the bottom of that for my agenda, it says, “Close Slack, turn off notifications.”

Olivia Vizachero:

I love that.

Sonya Palmer:

And you could probably even set up automation so that if you’re in a Zoom-

Olivia Vizachero:

It shuts down.

Sonya Palmer:

… notifications pop up. And I’m probably not alone in this. I currently lack the willpower to ignore it. So I have to trick myself ahead of time to not get sucked into that. And I think you do get better at it. So I love … That’s exactly the purpose. The systems and processes that gets tossed around. That’s exactly the purpose of a process to make things better. I love it.
So you talked earlier about loving entrepreneurship. You mentioned business development. And a lot of lawyers that I talk to, a lot of lawyers we’ve had on the show, talk about starting their own firm as an alternative to having to conform to this pressure. Is starting a firm less terrifying than someone might think?

Olivia Vizachero:

The limiting belief that everyone gave me when I was starting my own business was that it’s very uncertain. And I teach people a formula to follow in order to organically market themselves and generate business. And it doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen faster than you think it will. And if you maintain consistent, both in your belief and in the action you take, your results will be consistent. So I think it’s a lot easier, but you do need to have a framework. I think where people get themselves in trouble is they underestimate what it will require of them and they just take a leap of faith and get started, and they haven’t invested in learning how to market and how to sell your services from an expert.
And one of the things that I really want to touch on for people, find examples of people who have done what you want to do. You may have to go into different firms, different organizations, different industries. There are people who know things that you don’t know. Don’t waste your time reinventing the wheel, stumbling and struggling on your own. Just invest and learn the skills that you don’t yet know from someone. And I really recommend for people to invest in working with someone, if that’s a goal that you have, to develop business, so you shorten your struggle time, and then humble yourself. When I finally humbled myself and said, “You know what? I have no idea how to do this, and I just need to take someone else’s process and give it a try,” that’s when everything shifted for me. And I can very clearly look back in time and be like, oh, that’s when you started making money. That makes sense.

Sonya Palmer:

That is so true. And you don’t know what you don’t know.

Olivia Vizachero:

Exactly.

Sonya Palmer:

Women, people who are thinking about opening a law firm, they might have an idea in their head, who they work with, where they want to be. But there are so many things that they could so easily overlook simply because they don’t know. And if you have someone to tell you what you don’t know, it makes everything so much easier.

Olivia Vizachero:

I agree. I think one of the biggest mistakes that I see people make, lawyers love focusing on backend stuff when it comes to setting up businesses. So they’re like, I need to get my logo and I need to get my business cards and I need to get my website and I need to do more research and I need to learn about SEO. And I’m like, you know what you need to do? You need to meet people. You need to meet people, you need to tell them what you do, and you need to add some value ahead of time. People also have misconceptions about, I need to be a Jill of all trades. The wider net that I cast, the more money I’ll make. And I’m like, whoa, that’s wrong. We’ve got to constrain, simplify your business and it’ll make you a lot more money.
So that’s the stuff that I see people not know. And I’ll watch people. I’m like, okay, you’ve been in business for several months, but you’re not making any money. And I just always ask. I’m like, “How much time are you spending in your business? Because if you want a 40 hour a week business, or a 30 hour a week business, or a 50 hour a week business, the world’s your oyster, you get to choose, but you best be spending 30 hours a week or 40 hours a week marketing yourself in your business before any clients come your way.”
And that was a big misconception that no one explained to me, that the very beginning of my business looked like spending eight hours a day on LinkedIn, meeting people, telling them what I do, networking, setting up virtual coffees, learning about other people’s businesses, attending Zoom networking events during the pandemic, all of that stuff, rather than either not working and waiting for clients to come, or doing this backend stuff that isn’t client facing, so it’s not going to be client creating.

Sonya Palmer:

I get it, because it’s fun, right? You see the really cool websites and the branding and the social media and this outward facing thing, and it’s so easy to subscribe to that. It’s very inspiring. But infant firms are going to get their revenue from referrals. They just are. And if you can set up a good referral system, a good referral network, getting out in front of people, meeting people, even locally, get local speaking opportunities, go to those little events, this is how you can get your initial revenue. You’re making money.
Now you start investing in marketing. Now you get someone to design a logo for you. You’re making money already. You don’t have to do it yourself. you get a website. Okay, oh, wow. I’m getting some leads now. I’m getting cases from the internet, from marketing. Now we ramp it up. Okay, now I’ve got a budget for marketing. And that’s how I think you can grow a firm. If you start with internet first, which you can, you could try, but I think it’s way harder. But you do have to go out, you have to talk to people, you have to create a network .

Olivia Vizachero:

For sure. I think you can do it in person or on social media. But social media is a platform where other … It’s like a big party that everyone comes to, right? When you’re focusing on a website, no one knows about you. So I’m always thinking about, how are people getting to whatever you create? And still, a lot of people come and work with me. They’re like, I want to have a blog. I’m like, with love, no one’s reading it. You know what your blog is? It’s your Instagram post or it’s your LinkedIn post.
And you need to be thinking about, where are my people? So who do you serve? A really good friend of mine, she’s a criminal defense attorney, and she gives me this limiting belief all the time that LinkedIn won’t work for her, or that she can’t market the same way on social media that I do. And I’m not going to say that she’s wrong. I think you can have a referral network of other attorneys from something like LinkedIn. But she handles misdemeanor and felony cases in North Carolina. So she needs to be speaking to people in North Carolina, in her tri-county area. And it’s the same concept. Meet people, tell them what you do, add value ahead of time, and make offers to help them, but you’re just doing it where it makes sense. So she’s surrounded by five or six different colleges in her area, and like, every fraternity,
every sorority, and every sports team should have your number in their phone.

Sonya Palmer:

No. Yeah.

Olivia Vizachero:

Right. I would do presentations on, “Here are your Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights. So if you ever get arrested, this is what you need to know. Or you ever get stopped by a cop, this is what you need to know.” I would reach out to those organizations, offer to speak to them for free, and to teach them those three things. And then now people know about you before they ever need you, which is really what you want, right?

Sonya Palmer:

Yup. Yeah. And I think a lot of times the belief might be that those are interchangeable. You can replace social media with local networking. You can replace social media with a website. And truthfully, they all work differently. You’re right about social media. It’s where people are at. Everybody is already on social media, but you can’t replace the intent of a search network. A website cannot replace the benefits of networking local, your community knowing exactly who you are.

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

And I think the lawyers that are able to get a grip on all of those are the ones that are able to rise above.

Olivia Vizachero:

If you constrain and do it methodically. And one of the things that keeps jumping out at me from what you’re saying is the limiting belief that you need to spend money to make money, which is not true. I hear that from people all the time. Another big red flag that I have, I’m going to channel my inner Gary Vaynerchuk right now, but I see the difference between people wanting to look like they run a business, versus running a business.

Sonya Palmer:

Oh, man. That’s true.

Olivia Vizachero:

So clients will come to me and they want to start a business, and immediately they want to hire people. I’m like, “Oh, no. You’re not ready for that yet. You don’t have the income coming in, so you’re going to put pressure on your brand new baby business, which is a nightmare.” It’s like, “We got to slow all this down.” And social media’s free, which is amazing. Networking in person, a lot of it can be free, and I recommend doing it in the least expensive or free way to keep your costs low rather than taking on expenses that are really unnecessary.

Sonya Palmer:

You’re absolutely right. And I think, again, this is why you need people to walk you through this. Because so often, if you’re reading books, or it’s not dedicated, they’re going to tell you, “Oh, you can’t do it all yourself. You need to hire.” And that that’s true someday, when you’re generating revenue. But I understand why there’s that conflict, why the message is confused. You’re like, “Oh, I can’t. I need to hire people, I’ve been told.”

Olivia Vizachero:

Yes. No, absolutely. Take it on as a badge of honor for a little while, of, “Oh, I do this all myself, and I can sustain myself, and my business is just me,” and you’ll get to having the team eventually, but you’re going to do it in a really strategic, sensible way where your growth supports the expansion, and that there’s nothing wrong with doing it … I run a very successful business now, and I am still a solo team. I outsource my podcast editing, but I don’t even have a VA, because I’m good with the tech. So probably next year I’ll bring on one team member to start helping me in a part-time capacity, but I run a multiple, multiple six-figure business verging next year on seven figures, which is incredible, and I don’t need someone. So I always challenge people to say, to really question, “Do you need to hire?” Or is that kind of a status thing of, “Oh, I have a team,” or, “I shouldn’t have to make copies, or scan things, or send a fax,” if people still do that? You can send the fax. You’ll be all right.

Sonya Palmer:

100%. Two things here. I like when owners do start things on their own, because I think it’s important to understand the pains of creating and uploading a video to TikTok. It’s not as easy as people think, right? Taking calls. Like, “Hey, welcome to law firm.” To understand the pains of marketing, of admin, so that they then hire the right people, and systems and processes. A lot of the attorneys that I see that are killing it right now after just starting is because they have just utilized the heck out of technology, and setting that up for success. They’re automating everything.

Olivia Vizachero:

And they’re getting their hands dirty, too, right?

Sonya Palmer:

Mm-hmm.

Olivia Vizachero:

They’re in it. You’ve got to figure out the pain points. Nothing will turn you into having respect for influencers than running social media accounts yourself. I also see people want to outsource that, because normally they’re confused about how to do it, or it feels overwhelming to them. And instead, you really want to work through that for two reasons. One, I truly believe no one will ever explain your business and your services better than you. And two, what you just talked about, which is something that I coach people on all the time, is the difference between hiring someone to solve a problem, or hiring someone to implement a solution.
And I used to work for a boss who he’d constantly hire someone to solve a problem. So he’d be like, “We need to market. Hire a social media person.” But he wouldn’t know what he wanted for social media, and he wouldn’t know what it looks like in order to flesh out a marketing strategy and plan. So people would come in, they wouldn’t have any direction, and then expectations would go unmet, because he was hiring to solve a problem, not implement a solution. And does it require more of you, more strategy, more intent to come up with the solution that you want to hire someone to implement? For sure. It also takes more time, but you’re going to get so much closer to the end result that you actually want when you do that.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. I think you’re seeing that across multiple industries right now, where the pandemic forced everybody online. A lot of businesses that had been face-to-face their entire existence now had to conduct themselves virtually. They had no idea how to do it.

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

And so they hired people, because communication was bad. Meetings were bad. Nobody knew what work was getting done. Reporting was bad. Hire a bunch of people. Then in the meantime, they work out that system, that process, that checklist, and now they’re like, “Oh, we didn’t actually need all of these people.”

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

And it’s the same thing with firms. They hire largely because they probably don’t have their act together. All good stuff.

Olivia Vizachero:

Yes. People really struggle with understanding their capacity. And this has been a massive difference in running a coaching business versus practicing law, because of how I package my time. So I work with people both one-on-one and in a group setting right now, but I work with people in weekly sessions. So your week fills up, and yeah, I could work 20 hours a day. I have no desire to do that. Or I could work weekends. I also don’t do that either.
But at a certain point, you get really clear on what is enough clients, what’s too many clients, what’s not enough clients, and I’m very clear on where my capacity is. And I know when to slow down onboarding, when to speed up onboarding, when to take people on, and when to let people finish. And I see a huge gap in the legal industry where people don’t know how to figure out what their capacity is for more work, for more matters, for more clients, and they just hire people because they have too much work. And it’s like, does it make sense to hire someone, or does it make sense to take on less work and maybe charge more?

Sonya Palmer:

Charge more.

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah. If you have the demand, that’s a great time for you to increase your prices, to increase your hourly rate, or your flat fee rate, whatever it is that you’re charging, however it is that you bill. But the solution isn’t just to grow for the sake of growing. You want it to be really intentional.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. Yes. So you mentioned coaching. You do one-on-ones and mastermind. What’s the difference between the two?

Olivia Vizachero:

Yeah. So we cover the same things. If people really want to do a deep dive and have a luxurious amount of time working through their specific problems, one-on-one’s a great option. I work with people for six months, and I teach people’s brains how to think a different way. So that six-month time period is really helpful for them to come, learn what I’m going to teach them, for us to work through everything that I outlined, that we would work together, and for them to be able to implement what they learn from me out on their own. And some people do both. They work with me one-on-one and they’re in my mastermind.
What I love about the mastermind, you’re still getting the same foundational knowledge, but you also learn from other people. So for me, I’ve spent a lot of time in group coaching programs, and I had a little bit of a hesitation in the beginning of, “I don’t want other people to see my imperfections.” And, “I don’t want to have to talk about what I’m struggling with in front of others.” And what I realized is you learn so much faster when someone else is working through a very similar situation that you’re working through, because you have a very different perspective on their stuff versus your stuff. When it’s your stuff, it’s too personal. It’s hard to gain perspective. You really can only see it the one myopic way that you’re looking at it. It’s hard to see it any differently. So when someone else is working through it, and you don’t have the same emotional attachment, or the same fears, or the same guilt, or the same worry, you’re just like, “Oh, this is what you should do. It’s so clear.”

Sonya Palmer:

So true.

Olivia Vizachero:

And then it catches you on the backside, where it’s like, “Oh shit, if that’s true for them, it’s true for me too.” Where for me it was like, “Oh, you’re not responsible for that person’s disappointment.” And then I was like, “Wait, oh, Olivia, you’re not responsible for that person’s disappointment.” That’s how I learned.
So there’s definitely reasons to be in a group setting. I think you learn stuff a lot faster, and also a sense of community. I’m sure your listeners will relate with this, but I felt very isolated when I practiced law. I didn’t feel super comfortable being vulnerable in front of my colleagues. Everyone’s kind of acting like they have it all together. So to have a group that normalizes, so many of my clients ask me during our sessions, especially our one-on-one sessions, they’re like, “Is this just me? Am I the only person who struggles with this?” I’m like, “I have this conversation 25 times a week. This exact same conversation, or one almost just like it.” And they really feel alone, like they’re the only ones struggling with these issues, and I think there’s such an opportunity for self-acceptance and for belonging when you’re in a group like that.
So I love both opportunities. Like I said, luxurious amount of time, personalized just to you, but to be in that group program is really neat as well.

Sonya Palmer:

Check in with yourself, often. If you know in your gut that where you work is not right for you, this may be self-abandonment and can lead to burnout. Remember that you have agency. The life that you lead is one of your own design. Your current situation is the result of past actions. Choose wisely, and examine the three Ps to be better at time management: People pleasing, perfectionism, and procrastination. It may be uncomfortable at first, but when you say no to the agenda of others, you regain control of your most valuable asset, time.
A huge thank you to Olivia for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us today. You have been listening to LawHer, with me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or it just made you smile, please share this episode with a trailblazer in your life. For more about Olivia, check out our show notes, and while you’re there, please leave us a review or a five-star rating. It really goes a long way for others to discover the show. And I will see you next week on LawHer, where we’ll shed light on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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