By Jodi Goodwin
Hola AMIGAS! Charging what you are worth is sometimes a hard long look in the mirror telling yourself, “I’m smart enough. I’m good enough. And, gosh darn it, people like me!” This snippet is just a few of my musings on how I set out to charge what my time was worth, while maintaining sanity and life balance. I am forever improving on my own ability to charge what I am worth, and forever increasing that value as my time becomes more and more valuable (and limited due to obligations of my children). A few tips for starters:
Take a serious look at your market and try to determine what are fair rates for attorneys in your area. Be competitive if it means getting clients in the door, but do not sell yourself short. Low-balling destroys not only your value, but the value of the attorneys in your area as well. One good benchmark is the AILA market survey. Another benchmark is the current rate for CJA (Criminal Justice Act) attorneys.
Set attainable goals for revenue. A great way to set such a goal is to think in terms of what you seek to pay with your income. Your initial goal might be making enough money to pay your mortgage, childcare, an ond overhead. For me, that would be $1400 + $800 + $1000, a goal of $3200 per month. If your market bears $4000 for a one-step Adjustment of Status, you can meet your goal (and then some!) with one case.
Keeping your overhead low means you get to keep more money. Instead of having an $800 surplus after paying for the items you set your goal to pay, you could potentially have much more surplus if overhead is kept lean.
Place yourself on a salary! Saving that surplus in the “good” months will pay off with a steady paycheck in the leaner months or those months you want to take paid vacation time.
Once you are able to set and meet a monthly goal, work toward a yearly goal. Prepay some of those bills so you don't have to worry about a slow month. Slowly add in new things to the monthly expenses you would like to cover: car, student loans, vacation, etc. Realizing the potential of attainable goals for income in a stair-step fashion is exhilarating and before you know it, you will pay all those bills and be hiring staff and taking vacations!
As to life balance, realize this....no one, I mean no one, is more important than your family. Take the time each day to prioritize the work that must be done THAT day and do it first, then if time permits work on other things. If you need a catch up day (I do about once a month) arrange for the children to have an activity that will be at least 4 hours of time so you can focus on catching up and not have the guilt of not being with your family.
Have a place in your office where your children can come to play, watch movies, do homework, sleep etc. I have always brought my children to work. Even as babies I had a crib beside my desk. Not one single client ever was disturbed by the children being there.
Recognize you deserve a break. Maintain relationships with your friends...or if you realize that you have no good friends, make some. Invest some time in getting to know other moms, lawyers, or people that have some of your same interests. A recharge of your battery by spending a few hours with friends will keep you sane.
Do only the cases that you want to do. Do not do cases that bring you unnecessary stress. If you see the client is demanding, don't take the case!
Status check yourself and your progress towards your goals every so often. Adjust those goals downward if you initially set the bar too high and don’t beat yourself up about it.
Be HAPPY! Spread PEACE to as many as you can. We are but like the little boy throwing starfish back into the sea making a difference in the individual lives we touch.