- What were the biggest challenges you faced when opening your law firm and finding your first clients?
- Ruby Powers forged her own path from the start—here’s how.
Ruby Lichte Powers (RLP): I started my full-service immigration law firm from scratch, only one year out of law school. To add to the challenge, I only attended law school in Houston (where my firm is based) one year before graduation and was working on developing my network while growing as a lawyer and business owner. Plus, in 2009, we were in the middle of the Great Recession, which had lasting effects on the legal industry and kept my operations on a shoestring budget. But learning how to grow in tough conditions gave me the fortitude for success even 12 years later.
RLP: My firm usually has between 10-12 full-time staff and three to six contractors depending on our needs at the time. My office manager oversees all operations and allows me to be efficient, and my executive assistant maximizes my time, helps me run my second business, and monitors my email and calendar. Among my team, we have our marketing assistant, administrative assistants, and legal assistants. I have a great team, we often go away on retreats or have office parties just to socialize, because although it is a workplace, we all really are friends here, and that’s what allows us to succeed. Of course, COVID-19 has made us get creative in keeping the culture alive, especially while we have been working in a hybrid environment for almost two years.
RLP: That is easy, social media and content creation; it is one of the most effective marketing strategies. It is important to realize there is different social media for different demographics which is why you must know who your ideal client is and where to find them. We are currently on Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. I would:
RLP: Facebook is one of the largest lawyer social media platforms out there, with 2.5 billion active users each month. Regardless of your field, you can absolutely connect with your target clients on Facebook. We have joined a variety of Facebook groups to connect with our ideal audience, and use Facebook Live as a method of communication. We have weekly live webinars in which we educate our audience on immigration news trends and updates. On Tuesday afternoons, we have “Powers Hour,” which is a quick live event going over any pressing news, and every Friday we have 15-30 minute webinars going over specific immigration topics of interest. We also provide content in other languages, including Spanish. We also mix it up with Facebook ads to increase our network.
RLP: When the pandemic hit, TikTok began to take off, and now it is still one of the most popular social media platforms. Gen Xers and millennials are the primary users of social media, and although sometimes overlooked, are often in the market for attorneys for themselves or their parents. At first, I was hesitant, but I enjoy TikTok because I can educate my followers on immigration topics in an entertaining and easily digestible way due to the time limitations, which have their own challenges. Honestly, when I need a mental break from a long day, I love recording TikTok videos. Now, my clients and potential clients tell me they watched my videos. So far my most viral video has 10.7 K views and we really only started a couple of weeks ago!
RLP: We actually have an e-newsletter that we have been doing biweekly every month in English and Spanish for the past eight years! Every time we send it out, we see an uptick in calls. I believe newsletters are very important to any type of business. They allow for building relationships and maintaining regular contact with current and past clients and other professionals. In our newsletter, we provide our subscribers with important news and updates on immigration and other significant information. It wasn’t easy to start and build a consistent habit, but I am so glad we did. With 12 years of clients and consultation contacts on our list, we have a large reach. I would highly recommend doing a newsletter for your network.
RLP: I have always loved reading and am a firm believer that we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of my family. After reading many books to help my business, I noticed most business books were written by men. There is a substantial lack of a female’s perspective in business books. Over a decade, I developed extensive knowledge on how to run a law practice in a challenging area of law, while also balancing my community involvement, being a wife and mother of two small kiddos, one large international move, and the loss of my mother. Law school does not teach us many of the critical skills we need as we open and maintain our law firms. When I looked around, I didn’t see many up-to-date law practice books, and none from the immigration law perspective. I wrote “Build and Manage Your Successful Immigration Law Practice: (without Losing Your Mind)” to give an on-point practical guide to other attorneys who are upcoming law practice owners, and provide them with tips and tricks that I wish I would’ve known back in 2009 when I was starting. My hope is that by learning these lessons from my book, they can leapfrog past many mistakes and take their firms to the next level sooner. Plus, I shared unique stories of running my law firm from Dubai and Turkey for 14 months in 2011-2012, and running my firm while having and raising two children. I even put quotes from children in the book to give them a taste of being an author and inspire them. They were very supportive of me during the year it took to write the book.
RLP: Many who know me realize I can’t sit still for very long. But after writing my book and presenting on various law practice management topics, I consistently receive requests from friends and colleagues asking for law practice management advice. What started as a virtual partner retreat in 2020, turned into multiple solo and small-firm owner retreats, monthly webinars, one-on-one consulting, a Facebook community, and a growing YouTube presence in 2022. Powers Strategy Group takes my book and brings it to life on various platforms and builds a community of entrepreneurs wanting to learn and grow from each other. And, I am excited to speak on the Future Practice of Law and Operations at the ABA TechShow this March!
RLP: I don’t talk about this much, but I have to give the credit to where credit is due. First, I was in speech and debate for two years in high school. That really got me out of my comfort zone and taught me key skills early on. Then, I was a Rotary Exchange student after high school for a gap year in Verviers, Belgium, where I learned French and lived across the ocean from my lifelong friends and family. While on exchange, you are expected to present to Rotary clubs about your life at home and your experiences in the new country. I was 18 giving speeches in French to complete strangers 40 years older than me! But I grew as a speaker and presenter, and later was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Barcelona, Spain between college and law school, and honed in on my presentation skills in yet another language and more countries around Europe. So, by age 24, I had presented multiple times, in three languages, in at least 10 countries. I credit these experiences for my ability to present and create content with ease at this stage of my career.
RLP: One of my main takeaways is that adaptability is key. I have lived in six countries, four states, and attended many schools and universities, and started two businesses in economic downturns. These experiences flexed my adaptability muscles and kept me open-minded. My biggest lesson during the pandemic was that you can do a lot more than you think you can, but you must remain agile and flexible. We lost substantial business and could not see our clients or our staff face-to-face, but we were able to adapt quickly with a virtual model, found ways to market virtually, and were able to prepare casework, virtually. This lesson I bring to my team continuously as I know they are capable of great things.
RLP: Personally, I worked out and learned about my neighborhood with walks and bike rides with my family. I started gardening, biking, hiking, and making homemade food from my garden. I'm continuing all of those new hobbies as I know these activities help me be a better boss as I explore other facets of life and stay grounded in nature. Professionally, I will continue to have a virtual component to my businesses. We will continue to leverage technology, and won’t be limited by geography.
During the pandemic, I found ways to slow down and connect with my staff, even if it wasn't necessarily in person. We had regular weekly check-ins over Zoom and now we moved to monthly themed potluck lunches and quarterly fun activities, trying to find ways to be safe and have fun while strengthening our firm culture.
RLP: Being able to prioritize all that I am juggling, has allowed me to balance all aspects of my life. Very importantly, having a team that I can rely on is essential. Delegation and growth as a manager are key. Regularly auditing my time and efforts while reviewing my goals, also helps me stay balanced. It is important to have a structure in your day, this allows you to take hold of your time. Like I always say, “Work on the business, not in the business.”
RLP: Funny you should ask. When I came back from my last national park family vacation in November to White Sands, Big Bend, Saguaro, and Carlsbad Cavern parks, I was super-inspired to start a YouTube channel following my family around the country as we visit all 63 National Parks in our RV. So many people ask me about our trips and are intrigued. We just booked our next trip to Shenandoah National Park in March and Yosemite and nearby parks in July. We shall see, but I already have my Powers Law Group YouTube and TikTok and my Powers Strategy Group Facebook group and YouTube channels, so there is a lot going on already.
RLP: I do my thing every day because I love what I do, and then I look up and realize, I am a rainmaker. I am responsible for bringing in new clients and maintaining existing clients. No one told me the recipe when I started, but early in my firm’s history, I did write out a reminder to myself. I had to maintain an equilibrium of networking lunches and events, speeches and connections to the community, working on the cases and attending CLEs to stay current and knowledgeable, and always keeping an eye out for change, staying agile, and adapting to the market. In a world that is constantly changing, adaptation is not only a virtue but the key to being a successful entrepreneur.