Episode 57

Published on:

23rd May 2024

Attorney Katonga Wright's Incredible 600% Law Firm Growth Journey in One Year | YPM Podcast

Join us on this episode of Your Practice Mastered Podcast as we dive into the inspiring journey of 2023 EAY finalist Katonga Wright. From her beginnings as a forensic scientist to becoming a leading entrepreneurial attorney, Katonga shares valuable insights and the pivotal decisions that shaped her successful career. 

Tune in to discover how she navigates challenges and leverages her experience to achieve greatness in the legal field. Don’t miss this compelling tale of ambition and transformation.

Our channel offers expert advice on law firms, entrepreneurship, and success strategies. Hit "Like" and subscribe to stay updated with our latest content.

Let’s Chat About Growing Your Law Firm. 


Katonga Wright: [:


But just know You're in for an exciting episode today as we get to explore entrepreneurial attorney stories. Rich, why don't we discuss EAY?

Yeah, so EAY stands for Entrepreneurial Attorney of the Year. Everybody At the end of the year receives an application that we customize for the year, and then they decide to apply for a couple of reasons.

One, because they believe me when I tell them it's good for them. Two, because even if they didn't have a great year, they want to figure out what was broken or three, they had a really good year and they thought they had a chance of winning and they wanted to apply to win.

ists then get an all expense [:

Meet the Finalist: Attorney Katonga Wright's Journey


th and final EAY finalist for:

Katonga Wright: Yeah, it's absolutely my pleasure. I'm excited. It's obviously hard to go last. I'm thinking, what else do I have to add? But I'm sure we'll come up with some things. I'm excited.

Richard James: I promise you that there are people who are going to hear what you have to say, and they're going to hear it from you differently than they heard from everybody else.

And you're going to speak directly to them. By the way, you're now going by Katonga Wright Miley, right? Because you're married.

hange. There is some zing to [:


There is some zing to attorney.


Richard James: I agree.

I agree. well,

I'm sure your husband appreciates it, and we appreciate him. I love hanging out with him when we get some time to spend together. So, Michael, where do you want to go from here?

MPS: Yeah, I mean, Katanga, so, why don't you share? Because you're obviously new. You've got Partners Club members that know you, but guests outside of Partners Club that don't.

So what's maybe something that not everybody knows about you?

From Forensic Scientist to Entrepreneurial Attorney: Katonga's Unique Path


Katonga Wright: Well, I guess, the one thing that most people probably don't know about me is that, this is actually my second career. My first career was being a forensic scientist. So, I was doing CSI work for 5 years as a chemist in the crime lab here in Georgia, and that entrepreneurial spirit and bug kept itching away, and it's hard to be a independent thinker in government.

And that's what led me to law school, following in my father's footsteps. So, that's what most people don't know about me. Second career, lawyer.

ard James: So your dad was a [:

Katonga Wright: Yes.

Richard James: And he was the one who inspired. So what was He also in criminal NPI or what was his specialty or practice area?

Katonga Wright: He did much more criminal than I do.

I've narrowed my practice to misdemeanor criminal only just because all the murders and robberies. It's a little bit heavy for me, but that's primarily what he did. But he was an old school lawyer. He was of the mindset. You just take anything that comes through the door. And so, when I started working my first job in insurance, doing insurance defense, he thought, oh, she's never going to come home.

So, He closed the practice. And after being on the giving end of some very large checks, I decided, man, it would be nice to be on the receiving end of those checks. And after about 3-4 years, I decided to hang another shingle and he and I joined forces together to start the right legal group.

en working with you all this [:

Katonga Wright: I wish, I could say that, Rich. That was definitely the plan, but I think, my dad definitely used it as an opportunity to say, here, I'm going to get you started and now it's time for me to retire.

So, It worked out to have you know, someone to bounce ideas off of. I would say, he was more of a council role than probably in the business. And I probably think that probably worked out probably okay, under the circumstances, so he just kind of let me take the reins and I was happy with that.



Richard James: Trust me, I've seen both sides cause I was the fifth generation of a family business, and when I was in the funeral business back in the day. And my grandfather had passed away, and that was the, turning point for me to come into the business because my uncle needed help. But my uncle told me stories about my grandfather, he did not want to retire from the business.

s work and to get the uptick [:

And it's funny when I text Michael at 7 o'clock at night or call him at 7 o'clock at night to check in, I think to myself, I wonder if he thinks about me the way my uncle thought about my grandfather. So yeah, I think, it cuts both directions, right? Having to retire, give you the freedom to go in your own direction and forensic scientist, entrepreneurial attorney, interesting a law as a second career.

I come across lawyers who have chosen law as their second career, more often than not, I find them to be successful. And I don't just mean successful lawyers, but successful business owners. Because they chose. So, rather than becoming a lawyer and happen to open up your own practice, you chose to open up the business of law.

Is that a fair statement?

ry fair. I did it all wrong, [:

Richard James: Okay, but that's okay. Your motivation was, I'm going to own a law firm. You didn't decide to go to law school and said, I'm going to go work for one of the big firms. And, I guess, you did to an extent because you went and you did defense work, which is, You know, it's the meat grinder, right? At $130 an hour, you're billing out or $104, whatever it is between them, we're between $130 and $180 an hour. You're billing out for insurance defense work. And you're, billing as many hours you can, and you're just not making all that much money. And as you said, you see a bunch of big checks coming in the other direction.

And so, you got the motivation to finally pull the trigger and open up your own firm. Why did you choose criminal NPI? Was it because the foundation your dad had or what was your reason for that?

Well, It was really strategic. I actually wasn't working for a big farm and law school. I knew, I didn't want to go the big farm route.

arder to move from the cushy [:

I had 2 kids while I was in law school and a husband that was in Iraq, 2 of those 3 years that I was there. So. I was ready for the challenge. I definitely wish I planned and done some things differently because there was some really lean years in the beginning. But I picked personal injury because I did insurance defense. And then, I picked DUI, misdemeanor criminal law in particular, because I'm one of the few attorneys, if probably the only one that's actually worked and done the testing.

And now, I can represent people who are being accused of driving on the influence.

Richard James: That's great. Yeah. And, it's a good fit to those two practice areas because one provides some fairly immediate cash while we wait for the cash to show up for the other practice areas. So Michael, where do you want to go from here?

t to talk a little bit about [:

What was it for you?

Katonga Wright: You know, For me, first of all, I never expected to be a finalist. That's number 1. I applied and I've applied in years past, just really doing that deep dive into the numbers. And as I was going through the application this year, I started realizing all of the things that we had really gotten done and was really surprised myself.

g through the years, to make [:

And this year, it's paid off.

Richard James: Yeah. And having watched you apply through the years, this year was different.

Katonga Wright: Yes.

Richard James: There was no question. You know, I would say, even last year was close. But this year, I've got the benefit now of watching this for almost a decade. Everybody apply, and many people apply year-over-year.

Some like, submit their application and say, Look, I don't think I'm going to win, but I'm doing it anyway, right? And they do it for the purpose of, they know the benefit of it. And I've watched your applications, and some of your applications felt like you did it because it was for the benefit of you.

hat helped move the needle in:

Katonga Wright: I think, the [:

The problem was, is that while they were closing sales, they weren't working on the cases, which is what their jobs really were designed to be, to move the cases along. so, After frustration with many of my paralegals, I finally got to the point to have the courage to say, okay, this is the right thing to do and look at it that we were able to identify a candidate.

to communicate and talk with [:

So, it really worked out and it was a huge success and a huge game changer, by making that one shift.

Richard James: so, I want to take you back in your journey a little bit. You said earlier, I wished we would have done things differently. There was more opportunity. You said some version of that. And while I appreciate that sentiment, we all have it.

There's so much opportunity I left on the table. But I will tell you that even just last night, my wife and I we're talking about, had some of the opportunities that I feel like I missed over the last 3 or 4 or 5 years when I was somewhat keeping it small, keeping it all. And while it was somewhat of a real proactive decision it was also because there was just a couple of things I couldn't seem to figure out to in order to grow at a level I did.

nally am grateful, as I look [:

right to propel you into this:

Is it still cloudy for you? Do Do you understand why you were able to now make the choices you're able to make when maybe before you weren't willing to make those choices? Put me in the mindset of what you had to go through to understand, how to be willing to make these tough decisions as you start to grow?

out picking and choosing the [:

And I'm okay with that. Because I know when we lay a good foundation, we'll have a strong footing so that we can grow and build from there.

the Grafton say, they won in:

ortunately or unfortunately, [:

And as a consultant, so one of my weaknesses for many years is, as a consultant, I'm supposed to have the answers. Like, all the time, right? And so, that positions you in a way that you feel like, I can't make any mistakes. And I suspect as an attorney and with a scientist background, did the scientist background help you like, understand like testing and making mistakes and moving forward?

Or was it, did it hinder you and you didn't want to make mistakes? Like, How did that work together for you?

ure we don't repeat the same [:

And so, I welcome change. I'm a big proponent of that. And that has definitely helped understand that you've got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And it's okay, because you're going to evolve, you're going to change, you're going to grow. But most importantly, have fun while you're doing it. Don't get so bogged down in the business, and in that growth, and in that development that you can't see the force for the trees.

And so, making a point to take a step back and take time for myself and for my family, doing the things that I love to do, making sure my team has the things that they need to be successful is really what it's about.

o pull on, is to stop having [:

I'm bought into the selling and, bind a dedicated salesperson. So MPS, what is it in your experience that, for that law firm that's listening out there that maybe they've never had a non attorney salesperson, maybe they've never had a dedicated salesperson. Why is it that having the dedicated salesperson can make such a difference in practices?

MPS: Laundry list is long. But for starters, if you come to a decision point as a law firm to either keep it small or keep it all or to grow, if you choose the path of growth, that means you're going to have to replace yourself in roles, right? Cause that's the only way you're going to be able to grow is so that way, you're not the bottleneck of everything.

our calendar to actually run [:

And I know, James Housing references, as well. He got to the point where he was booking 3 weeks out at 1 point. And then, show rates started to get affected, Right? So, for starters capacity.

The second reason is, look, a non-attorney salesperson's role is to do just that. Their role is to sell. And they should be trained to sell. And because they're a non-attorney salesperson, they can't give legal advice, which is actually a benefit in this case because that means now, they're focused on running the structure, running the script that they're supposed to run, and making sure they're maximizing the number of consultations that turn into paying clients because that's their one sole function and role. And so, you put those two things together, now you've opened up capacity. You've put someone in the role where their dedicated focus is to sell. And now, you've increased their conversion rate, aka close rate or higher rate. Well, Now you're starting to grow.

And so, those would be the [:

Richard James: Yeah. So, Katanga back to you. Okay. So, now that Michael set that up for us, I took this path for a reason, because I want you to share with everybody, as you look back. So you chose, you realized what Michael said to be true. You made the decision. And I think, you chose to go into the non attorney salesperson with your paralegals first, maybe as a safety move, maybe as a cost savings move, maybe a little bit of both. And then, you grew into the fact that you needed to hire the non attorney salesperson.

dedicated person. How do you [:

Katonga Wright: Well, you know, There's some benefits to doing it both ways, and there's some cons to doing it both ways. The benefit of starting with your paralegals is that you can start today. You don't have to wait. You can jump in and just say, okay, we're going to do 3 consults today. And that's what we're going to do and get it done. The disadvantage is, the problem that we faced. Well, when you take away paralegal time, that affects the bottlenecks and the rates that you're closing cases and bringing those cases to close. So that's the challenge. Starting with a full time person, maybe you need to build up to that. Maybe you don't necessarily feel as comfortable with that. And maybe you're just having a problems identifying the right person to fit that role. But whatever the reason is, I think, there is room to implement this process. And even with my paralegal serving in that capacity, it was a huge benefit.

vings, and time savings on a [:

Even though you're not on the console room, if you're constantly having to ask questions about things happening in the console room, that kind of defeats the purpose. So, Empowering the staff, so that they feel empowered to do their job and do it without me. It's really what we were pushing, whether it's the paralegal or a salesperson, just giving people what they need to be successful.

Richard James: Yeah. So, if you're listening live, you're still with us and you're listening to this live, and you either have felt the feeling of what it feels like to empower your team and feel that, Oh my gosh, I don't have to do it. Or you long for that feeling of being able to empower a team to be able to do it, so you don't have to do it.

s. Empowering into the chat. [:

Anyway, so yeah, whatever it is that's your thing that you're going to go do, that you get some freedom to be able to do it, and have your team execute on that, that's really the dream. Now, I know, we all have some nightmares around that too, because we worry and I'm curious. And I want to get back to Michael here, but I'm curious, Katanga. As you let go, and as you let your team start to do it, how much worry did you have that they weren't going to do it as well as you're going to do it?

a micromanager, and I, I had [:

Those were my, biggest concerns, is making the right decision at the right time with the right group of people and doing it the right way.

Richard James: Awesome. MPS back to you.

MPS: Katanga, you've provided a lot of value to everyone. So, I'm appreciative of that. And I think, you gave everyone a pretty nice recipe for some things that they could implement in their firm.

Obviously, besides coming to Charlotte here in 2 weeks and presenting for EAY, what's got you fired up and excited? Could be business, could be personal, could be both?

n more explosive growth this [:

And so, we're excited about implementing that. We're excited about continuing to automate our processes so that we can all take a pulse out of things that we don't need to be doing, and focus on the big ticket items and pushing the cases and the revenue growth. So, that's what I'm excited about from a business perspective.

Richard James: Have you started using AI yet?

Katonga Wright: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Richard James: More on the practice management or more on the conversion side?

Katonga Wright: On both. Okay. So,

Started a YouTube channel and using a lot of AI to develop the scripting and the videos. And even the video that I made, it was done the night that the application was due. And I had about 7 or 8 takes, and while I was done, and I was able to submit the application much earlier than I anticipated.

cient. And save money in the [:

Richard James: That's great. That's a scientist in you. I love it.

MPS: Yes.

Richard James: I do have a question around. Michael asked this of a few other people. And we had other people answered independently. And this isn't a commercial for Partners Club by any means, but we're seeing a Renaissance happen in the legal world. There's more law firm coaches out there than there ever has been before. If you're a lawyer, you're probably can't even turn on Instagram or Facebook or TikTok without getting bombarded with ads, but. and we apologize for that.

The Impact of Coaching and Mastermind Groups on Growth


Richard James: But I am curious, what was it you know, a few years back, when you were on that journey, did you, were you seeking out coaching, consulting, or a peer group at that time? Or did you stumble upon it? How did your mind work for you that you realized you needed to get some guidance, you needed to get some help?

some legal related business [:

Mm-Hmm. . And so, I went on Google, trying to find mastermind groups, business coaching groups, and came across you, Rich, in particular. And you truly embrace the buy, die, or unsubscribe model. But I appreciated it because I needed those urges, those pushes to jump in and be comfortable. And I think, I started with an analysis, being the science person I am, the law firm analysis. That's what put me to the program.

And then, eventually, I got a phone call from one of your staff members, inviting me to the first meeting. And that really was a game changer. I had no doubts that it was going to help because I had encouragement from others who had been through the process.

ctitioner for the most part, [:

I mean, My law firm has grown so much by just simply having conversations, with nothing else. That's been the biggest game changer, having you know, people that are have your back, understand what you're going through. I have dealt with problems similar to yours and being able to talk through those things and share ideas has really been the most invaluable thing that I have ever invested in my business.

So, I appreciate you for that. And thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the club.

Richard James: Oh, no. We're honored that you chose us. I wanted to inspire whoever's listening. Well, sure. We think, we have a few things figured out, that just as a law firm owner, any type of business owner, having a peer group to be able to bounce things off of is just so powerful.

million people that have a [:

My goal isn't to inspire anybody who's listening, that they really need to seek that out if they want some growth. And you've been a testament to that. And while I appreciate the kudos you gave us in the peer group, you had to do the work. Michael, I did take something out of this. We need to bring back the assessment tool.

So yeah, that lead generation tool obviously worked. We need to bring that back. And yeah, appreciate you, Katanga. Michael, back to you.

n, congratulations on being a:

ank you for sharing what you [:

Katonga Wright: Yeah. Thank you. And I'll see you guys in Charlotte. I'm excited.

Richard James: I'm excited, as well. I can't wait to hear all of the details. And I know, it can be nerve wracking up there. I know, you haven't been there yet, but I am confident, you've got this and I can't wait to see your presentation. So

Katonga Wright: I was telling my paralegal today, I was like, I'm so nervous. I don't know why I am though. I'm a child lawyer. I should be able to do this. It should be fun.

Richard James: It should be fun. Have fun. Obviously. To you, and everybody else who is a finalist here today, if anybody needs any help or support, as you put together your presentations, you just reach out to MPS or I. We're happy to help you, and serve you in any way that we can, as you're preparing.

Just that one idea of, look, [:

It's so much easier to steer the car down the road if we're actually moving, if we're sitting still and we're not moving, it's very difficult to go where you want to go. So thanks for sharing that today, Katanga. Appreciate you.

Closing Thoughts and Appreciation


MPS: Yes, of course, and to everyone that attended live today, we appreciate you. Thank you for investing the time. Thank you again to all of our EAY finalists that were willing to share their stories. But we hope that you were able to walk away with some value. There was plenty to pull from in this 2 hours and 10 minutes that we invested with each of the EAY finalists. So, thank you again for being on today. We hope you enjoyed.

Richard James: MPS, that's the pod, brother.

Show artwork for Your Practice Mastered

About the Podcast

Your Practice Mastered
Are you ready to take your law firm to the next level?
Tune into The Your Practice Mastered Podcast where we talk about specific problems for law firm owners as they grow their firms. A show that will allow you to learn how to build a law firm that supports a lifestyle that gives you personal and financial freedom. New Episode every Thursday 8PM EST.