Episode 55

Published on:

9th May 2024

Building the Ideal Law Firm Culture: Will and Kelly Grafton's Value Blueprint | YPM Podcast

In this episode of Your Practice Mastered Podcast, join me as I sit down with 2023 EAY finalists Will and Kelly Grafton to uncover their inspiring journey as entrepreneurial attorneys. Discover how they've navigated challenges, developed their firm’s culture, and strategically positioned themselves for continued success. 

Dive into their story for a blend of motivation and practical strategies suited for any law firm owner looking to excel. Don't miss out on their invaluable insights!

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Let’s Chat About Growing Your Law Firm. 


Will Grafton: [:

Richard James: And while it's all fine, you guys have to become better leaders to figure out how to lead your team, to be able to lead your clients. And so really there are three people that have to win, right? There is the client that has to win. There's the firm that has to win and there's your team that has to win.

And, and in order for all three of those things to happen, we have to become better leaders.

rked together and they could [:

Welcome to Your Practice Mastered Podcast


of our four EAY finalists for:

Introducing the Entrepreneurial Attorney of the Year (EAY) Program


MPS: EAY means a lot in our program and I'm going to turn it over to Rich in a second to introduce what EAY is and why it's important here in our world.

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

Richard James: Yeah.

The Evolution and Impact of the EAY Program


Richard James: So EAY stands for Entrepreneurial Attorney of the Year. Everybody at the end of the year receives an application that we've customized for the year. And then they decide to apply and they apply for a couple of reasons.

eve me when I tell them it's [:

This year, it's going to be in Virginia Beach, brand new Marriott Hotel on the ocean.

Meet the EAY Finalists: William and Kelly Grafton's Journey


MPS: Hey, today we're joined with our second EAY finalists. It's William and Kelly Grafton, and we are super excited to have them on today to share their story and their journey with us. So, William and Kelly, thank you guys for being on. We appreciate you taking some time to be willing to share your story today.

Will Grafton: Our pleasure.

also friends of the pod and [:

Will Grafton: well, Individually for me, I think it's probably my audible addiction. I've got about 12 months plus of listening time on my audible app. I probably average 6 hours a day with an earbud in my ear. Listening at 2.75 to 3.25, depending on the narrator speed. And yeah, so that's a, constant thing for me. I'm, always looking for something else to learn, something else to listen to.

Richard James: You know, You're addicted to audible when you have to keep buying credits. Like, we spent $400 on audible this year. What?

Kelly Grafton: I would never question that at all. The amount of value that he gets from audible is priceless. The only thing is the earbuds constantly when the kids, are, I are trying to talk to them, that's the only thing.

Richard James: [:

Kelly Grafton: I think you guys know everything. The only thing I could think of, cause when you asked Jonathan, I got my wheels turned. Maybe it's just the fact that I started working early.

I had my first job when I was 7, I grew up across the street from a shopping center, so I worked at every single store there. The pizza shop, I cut onions and folded pizza boxes. I worked at the pet store cleaning out the little you know, pet gear stuff. I worked at the grocery store and the fabric store and you know, everywhere.

So I'm a hustler. From the get go and I think that kind of goes into how our year developed. I was sidelined or was supposed to be sidelined for a few months and I just couldn't stand it. So I came in and did what I could do, even despite supposed to be on you know, home resting recuperating from surgery. I couldn't stand it. I can't sit still, I need to be hustling and doing something. so.

Richard James: You had multiple pieces of your body surgically repaired at the same time.

d the year with my shoulder, [:

yeah, I couldn't drive, couldn't type, couldn't write for months and never again. I don't care. Never again.

Richard James: Never again. Okay, let's hope we don't have to do that ever again. I know that there seems to be a common trait amongst those who are either successful at their profession or specifically successful as entrepreneurs that they had a desire to produce early. It might have started to make a couple of dollars, but that's not really the reason.

ractice area that you're in. [:

Kelly Grafton: Definitely. And Both Will and I have experienced that in our lives and been knocked all the way down and climbed right back up again because, that's why it's in our DNA I think.

n this position today for the:

to want to apply for EAY for:

ly Grafton: I was sitting in [:

It energizes me, it focuses me, it gives me something to plan for the year. While I was on that call, our sales guy quit without notice, mental health reason, you know, he had to move on for his own good. And suddenly I was thrown into the console room because we didn't have anybody and I had to go back and do that.

ot it done because we needed [:

Will Grafton: Think it was 48 minutes until.

Richard James: Well, I Will, I think you said you were making the video while she was finishing up the application. Yep.

Will Grafton: about 20 takes trying to get a you know, 5 minutes worth of talking into a 2 minute application video. So, it took me a minute and by the time I was done, Kelly was done. So we package it all up and send it in. So it's great.

Kelly Grafton: Yep, I didn't even see the video before we submitted it. There wasn't time.

MPS: The dream team. You guys got it done though. And you got it

done. Well,

Will Grafton: We work really well together.

The Power of Partnership: William and Kelly's Story


Richard James: Quick unpacking of that Okay. husband and wife team, both attorneys. You work really well together. Is that an accurate statement all the time? Do you have a challenge as a husband and wife team? What does that feel like? Maybe I shouldn't ask that question to be honest. Sorry. No, I didn't mean to put you on the spot but in all seriousness, what is it?

Cause I'm sure there's other husband and wife teams listening. So, whether they're both attorneys or maybe one's a business manager and one's the attorney. What is that like for you?

r me. I know that my partner [:

Richard James: Yeah.

Will Grafton: And You can't replace that. Right. I've seen business partnerships fail because, they are looking out for themselves. Right? And there's no me without Kelly. And so if I'm looking out for myself, I'm looking out for her.

Kelly Grafton: Yeah and I know I can count on him. We've always said that we can't both be having a bad time at the same time. So if one of us is you know, depressed and low energy and maybe not working up to speed, the other one picks up the slack and we take turns who's struggling at the moment. And we've been through a lot in our business, in our marriage, with our family. And that has really helped our need to step up for the other person when they're down really does help balance this out.

d kneecapped for years while [:

So we've got that space now, we've got some freedom, we have our defined roles and it really does work well together for us.

Richard James: Well, Maria, my East Coast Italian Bride, my ECIB and I have been married for 29 years this year. And we've been working in business every one of those years together at some level. And she, just today, she decided to come up to my office. And of course, the moment she walks into my office, she recognizes, it's just like a bomb went off and she wanted to start and I go, Oh, my space, she goes, Oh, yep and she left. Because I'm not allowed to go in her space and mess around and she's not allowed to go in my space and mess around unless asked by each of us.

d for the family. And that's [:

And I recognize that. And my team would tell you Maria and my team would tell you through the years, they didn't think there were times that worked for us either because we had some massive blowouts in the office. Cause we're both very passionate humans. And I wasn't a great leader at one point. I appreciate what you guys have gone through on a day to day basis. MPS, where do you want to go from here?

MPS: Yeah.

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Leadership


MPS: So, You guys, obviously, as we were getting ready to talk about the episode, started talking about a low point in the journey. Because like any entrepreneurial journey, it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

What was that low point for you guys in the journey? Walk us through that. And what did you feel like at that point?

Will Grafton: I don't know, Kelly, you want to handle this one or. Sure.

ers reached out to us back in:

Richard James: That big box of stuff I mailed you?

Kelly Grafton: Yeah,

Richard James: You never opened it?

Kelly Grafton: No, we didn't. And we have now, to be truthful, but we hadn't at the time. because we just, we weren't committed to doing this. We were both working at other firms doing other things. We weren't sure we wanted to do this for real. I'm very risk averse. So, you know, it didn't seem to work for me. But then we went, we got your golden ticket and we went to this event in November of 17 and we're just blown away. And so mad at ourselves for wasting two years of getting your materials and not reading them.

we want to be here, help us [:

And you did, Bert did, lots of partners met with us and helped us figure out how to be there. And it turned everything around in our minds. It's not that we weren't capable of these things before, it's just we weren't ready to do them coming to that event flipped the switch, I think. For me, it did and the rest is history.

Richard James: How about you? Will? Thank you, Kelly. That's kind. I received that. I don't want this to be promotional for us and I appreciate that you said it and it's not off grounds.

Kelly Grafton: I can't help it.

Richard James: It is.

I get it.

I get it. I appreciate that. We've always inspired to create a place where everybody else, when things are going well, you're going to reach down and lift that person up who things aren't going all that well for.

oints that come to mind that [:

The Path to Improved Leadership and Firm Success


e is, looking, I think it was:

Kelly Grafton: We

like, we're a million dollar [:

Richard James: But all your profit was stuck in trust.

Will Grafton: All of our profits stuck in trust and our lead time on every single case was just killed. And so that's what we went about to fix.

Richard James: Yeah, that's the downside of your practice area, bankruptcy, like in criminals, the machine's going to roll, right? The case is going to get processed. There's nothing they can do. Family law, the machine's going to roll. But in bankruptcy, unless they have an outside third party working on them, people don't necessarily have to get you everything they need voluntarily.

the firm that has to win and [:

And in order for all three of those things to happen, you, we have to become better leaders. And so, was there anything specific that you did to take that journey? By the way, I'm curious, if you're listening live, maybe you don't trust your money or maybe you do trust your money. But, have you ever had a moment in your season where you, just couldn't, it didn't feel like you can get all the work done. You were behind, type in behind. If you feel like you're just behind in the work. Maybe you figured out marketing and sales. Cause that's what we're good at around here.

Or you listen to a few other things, but like processing the work, you just feel like you're behind. Yeah. Right. Okay. It's out there people. That's a normal feeling. And so I tell that to you, Will and Kelly, cause you know that now, but to anybody that's listening, like, I want you to know you're not alone. Yeah. You know, You're spinning these plates, right? And it feels like, you get one spin and then another one starts wobbling. We often say it's like, changing the brakes in the cars, you're driving down the road and you fix marketing and you fix sales, but now all of a sudden you've got to serve the clients and you got to hold all this together.

So, [:

stems I had developed back in:

We needed more. And I kept getting feedback from staff, Oh, this job is too hard, or this is too big for one person or whatever, it really wasn't. If I could do it with one hand in half a day. literally

Richard James: one hand tied behind your back.

d be going around because, I [:

So, I had to give more information to each seat so that they understood how everything worked together and they could get out of their head for a minute and work more efficiently. So, I sat in that seat for two months or so. Meanwhile, the prefiling department is literally the next room over and I sat and listened to them all day and I started noticing the issues, the problems, the bottlenecks, the things that were causing them to just spin their wheels. And one of them was Deadwood. We had so many clients that had hired us. Paid a small amount and then disappeared. And we had bought into this buy, die, or unsubscribe model, so fiercely, we didn't wanna let 'em go.

to a paralegal who could do [:

This is wasted effort. So, I moved when we got a reception come in. I sat in that office for a couple of months. And then I sat you know, in the post filing office and I did this all year long. I sat in just about every single seat in the firm and in doing so rewrote the script, rewrote the procedures, redefined things, listened to them, and it helps not only the people that we had, but it also helped us figure out who we shouldn't have anymore, and we got rid of a few people, and it helped us to spot people that would be good fits. So we ended up hiring a client of ours because, I got an email from her in the middle of the night and dang, it was exactly what we needed.

our culture and figuring out [:

Will was bringing that into us and showing us what we needed to promote and what makes a good employee and what makes a good client and how the two fit together. Thank you.

Richard James: You agree with that, Will?

Will Grafton: Yeah. well, I mean, I saw Kelly doing what she did and still amazes me. But my part of this started actually in the fall of 22. Joe Jepson and I got with a small group of people and we did our own traction Mastermind group. Where we met once a week, or sometimes it was once every other week or every 3rd week. Just as our schedules allowed and mastermind our way through the book traction. And we put together our vision traction organizer and it took a long time. I think it was May 23 event.

Ben [:

And I wanted to create that same thing here. And so that's, what I worked on. We had developed our core values, kept working on them and it was probably 6, 8 months before I felt like we really had what those were. We tested them in to our hiring decisions and now they're going to you know, are a part of our hiring process. They're part of how we evaluate our staff. And they are something that I have to go in every now and then and evaluate myself. And that's harsh light sometimes, but it's necessary.

ut so, you got two partners. [:

At the same time, the other partner went out and decided the 30,000 foot view and the core values to figure out how to put this blanket over the firm and tie everything together in many ways. And so, what a powerhouse partnership that the two of you have. Congratulations on working well together, both individually doing what you found were your strengths and working towards them. excited to hear more about the details at your presentation.

Michael, we got about two minutes left. Where do you want to go from here?

MPS: Yeah. I mean,

Looking Ahead: Goals and Excitement for the Future


MPS: We're excited to hear the presentation and get into the nitty gritty of the how, but tell us what's got you excited today. It could be business, could be personal.

ll Grafton: Well, I've got a [:

MPS: A wonderful feeling. Kelly, how about you?

Kelly Grafton: No, he took, what I was going to say. I'm excited for this year's numbers. We seem to be, I don't even want to say that loud, man. We're rolling, things are moving smoothly, which is the kiss of death, usually. I'm really excited to see where we end up this year.

e M anagement, because we're [:

So that's where we're focused on this year, is taking all the knowledge that we've learned the last decade with you guys and honing it in so that we can make sure that this machine is running smoothly constantly without us. I'm looking forward to another summer at home with my kids, which is what I was able to do last year because I don't have to be in here with my hands on the steering wheel constantly.

So that's priceless. You only get, what did they say 18 summers with the kids and I want every single one of them if I can.

Up and Looking Forward to EAY:


fact that we're celebrating a:

f you for what you've done in:

MPS: Oh, I just want to thank you, Will and Kelly for taking some time to be on and sharing your story today. Again, we're super excited to see you here in a couple of weeks and deliver live to all of the other members, but thank you for taking the time into the law firm owners.

Thank you for taking the time. Make sure to hit that subscribe or follow button depending on where you're listening or watching. Thank you guys.

Will Grafton: It's our pleasure.

MPS: Awesome.

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