On this week’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer® Podcast, we welcome attorney Anna Byrne. Anna has over 25 years of estate planning experience and is the founding partner at Eckert Byrne LLC. Lawyers Weekly selected her as a Top Woman of Law in Massachusetts in 2014, and she was named SuperLawyer™ by Thomson Reuters from 2015 to present.
But it was her life experience as a young widow that inspired her practice. In 2016, she published the book, “A Widow’s Guide” to help women who have lost a spouse through their first year. Recently she published her second book, called, “The Inheritor’s Guide: A Legal, Financial, and Emotional Guide for Adult Children Managing Their Parent’s Legacy.”
We chat with Anna about her new book, the life experiences that led to the vision that sets her practice apart, as well as:
- The estate planning conversation everyone overlooks (you’ll be able to use this one strategy for yourself and to help your clients)
- The single best gift you can leave your loved ones
- One decision she wishes she’d made sooner
- Her mantra for growing her law firm
- And more…
Mentioned in this episode:
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. We believe all women lawyers deserve to be wealthy women lawyers. Our mission is to provide thought provoking powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m so excited for you to meet our guest today. So let’s get started.
Attorney Anna Byrne understands that life is unpredictable. Widowed at age 28, she knew she must continue to grow, despite the adversity and emotional devastation she was experiencing at that time. Her journey has taught her about the kinds of relationships clients need in times of transition and stress. As an attorney, Anna founded Eckert Byrne, LLC a life and legacy planning company out of a desire to create a state plan that encompass more than just the transfer of tangible assets.
She also founded Kendall Wealth LLC, an independent registered investment advisor company that offers planning in investment management services. Anna’s goal is to help her clients express and pass along not only their assets, but also to their values, with the lowest expense and tax impact possible to create a true legacy. She’s a member of the Massachusetts and New York bar associations. She’s been honored by lawyers weekly as top woman of law in Massachusetts in 2014. And was named a super lawyer by the Thomson Reuters from 2015 to present.
She’s also the author of two books, including a Widow’s Guide, which was created to help women who were in their first year after losing a spouse, and the Inheritor’s Guide her new book, which is a manual for anyone who’s lost a parent, and needs to understand how to transfer wealth from one generation to the next. So we’re so pleased to have Anna here today on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. Welcome, Anna.
Anna Byrne: Thank you so much. What a wonderful introduction. It makes me feel it makes me feel special.
Davina: Wonderful, wonderful. Well, you’re a very accomplished woman. So I’m super excited to have you here. And I want to talk about all the things, all those things and books. And I also want to talk since since a lot of our most of our listeners are other women law firm owners, I really want to talk about the business aspect of growing your law firm and starting another wealth advisor business. So we’re gonna dig into all that. But before we do, let’s start with you kind of telling us about your journey to becoming an attorney started your practice, and incident that set you on this path.
Anna: Oh, absolutely. So I I became a lawyer, somewhat reluctantly, I kind of just really, it was something that my parents kind of said to my brother and I one day when we were in high school, you know Anna, you’re older than your brothers. So we just wanted want to be very clear that would like a doctor and a lawyer. So you’re older, you get to choose.
Davina: That’s fantastic.
Anna: Yeah, so I kind of said, okay, well, I guess I really like chemistry. But physics is kind of a no go. So by default, but I ended up becoming the lawyer so. So I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I was really, I really loved international law, I had been an interpreter for the US State Department, I kind of wanted to go down that international law path. And, you know, life has a funny way of, you know, putting you in a different direction than expected. And so that path in a way, kind of closed for me when I got married really young. And, you know, I chose love, and I’m so glad I chose love. And my default desire or kind of interest, I guess, in the law was really tax law.
And I started off at the IRS working there for a couple of years right after law school, and that was just not a good fit. I think it was just the government it was the bureaucracy was just really the antithesis of how I operate to kind of fixing things and, you know, just having processes and systems and things that just worked a little bit more efficiently. And so I kind of came to a crossroads of really not knowing what to do, because, you know, taxes might default and I didn’t really know what to do. I was kind of at the apex of, you know, tax law. And then I ended up becoming a tax attorney for a wealth management firm.
And this was at the end of the 90s were the first dot com boom was really booming and I became kind of a tax advisor to some extremely interesting and wealthy clients that we had, who had had startups that were selling those startups in those startups, we’ve gone public. It was a really fascinating opportunity to, you know, see tax from kind of the private client perspective, and become the expert and stock options and equity compensation planning and, you know, kind of multi generational estate planning. And then, you know, tragedy struck me, I became a widow 28, and my husband died very, very suddenly. And it really just threw me for a loop.
You know, I really, I was, in a way last, but yet more certain, in that, you know, I needed to create a life for myself, now that I had become single. And, you know, it was a circuitous path, ultimately. But ultimately, I realized that I wanted to marry my personal experience and my professional experience in a way that I could make a difference in people’s lives. And then I could utilize what I learned, you know, personally, in becoming a widow, to help others who who will be on this journey, you know, the one thing that is inevitable is that we will all reach our end point, you know, we don’t know when that is. And what I learned through my personal experience is that, you know, what, when it happens, you know, the biggest gift that you can give to your loved ones is a plan.
You know, a plan, that’s clear, that not just outlines, you know, that you get the money, or you get the insurance policy. It’s just all of these other things like, you know, passwords, what I would hope for you if something were to happen. And so I ultimately ended up starting a Eckert Byrne in 2009, out of a desire to really help people do things differently. And earlier in my career, even after Ron died, I was very much a tax attorney. And I had this really interesting client, very successful client come to me and say to me, you know, Anna, I, you know, I’m really curious about revocable trusts, and I really, you know, want to understand what they are. So I would like for you to come in and consult with me about what revocable trusts are and how they work. That down, I explained this to him, I talked about all of the tax advantages, and all of the reasons why this would be a much more efficient plan than having a will.
And he said to me, okay, that sounds really good. But here’s the thing, could you draft a trust for me, that’s 10 pages long, you know, regular single spaced with one inch margins with the signature page being part of the 10 page packet. And I looked at him and I said, well, you know, I don’t think I could do that for you. Because I would have to leave a lot of things out that, I would worry that if I left them out that all of a sudden, you know, we would need them for one reason or another. So he said, okay, fine, I really appreciate your honesty. So fast forward, four years. Four years after I consulted with him, I get a call from the person who was named the executor in his will, who tells me that he died very suddenly at the age of 65. And he died in an ambulance from a massive heart attack, leaving two young children and a wife, and an extremely substantial estate and in excess of, I think, $25 million.
And at that moment, I was just struck by this feeling in the pit of my stomach that you know, what, I didn’t reach him. I didn’t reach him, I didn’t use the right word, they didn’t think about my personal experience, and how I could have spoken to him differently. And I ended up administering this very substantial state. And it took, you know, probably three and a half years to kind of get it to the end point for a variety of complex reasons. But I realized that I needed to talk about love, I needed to talk about, you know, what this would have meant to his wife what this would have meant to his children. In really having, you know, a plan that was articulating what he would want for his wife what he would want for his kids.
And it would be done in a way that would be orderly, and that it would not be expensive and take three and a half years. And so when I started Eckert Byrne, it was really with this client in mind of, you know, there has got to be a different way to talk to clients about estate planning. And I really wanted to empower people by educating them about what estate planning is and how it actually works. Because there’s so much information on the internet. There’s so much information everywhere about estate planning, but it’s really incomplete information you hit here, a little a bit about probate. You hear about beneficiaries, you hear about all of these different things, but it’s disconnected. And so I decided that what I was going to do in the law firm was educate people about estate planning and how it actually worked.
And then I was going to embark on creating estate planning in a way that visual and understandable. Anyone who has ever done any estate planning knows that the language is so arcane. You know, that you your eyes, people’s eyes glaze over when they start talking about wills, trusts, and, you know, beneficiaries and things like that. And so I wanted to make things very visual so that people could follow along, and so that we could be partners in this process of creating state plans. And then I was going to make a commitment to administer plans in efficient and cost effective way if they maintain the plan.
And so that’s what I did. I had this vision of, of creating a law firm that was focused on love rather than taxes. And I always tell people, you know, the tax piece will follow along, you know, once we’re clear in terms of what we want to achieve for your loved one. And that’s how it started. 2009 it will be, gosh, 12 years. It’s been 12 years in April. So I feel like I’ve done it, and we have hundreds and hundreds of clients who have gone through the experience. And at the end of each each delivery is each kind of estate planning binder people, you know, look, look at us and say, you know what, thank you so much. I understand what I have, and I feel at peace.
Davina: I love so many aspects, of what you shared your story, because I, as a business owner, when we’re thinking about our business, oftentimes we sort of fall into attorneys who commonly fall into a practice area. Maybe because they go the first job out of school or something, and then they sort of wind up doing something and then and then having to reverse engineer when you start looking into your branding, and then looking at your purpose and why why you’re doing the things you’re doing. And they have to go back and sort of figure out why does this matter to me. And your story, this really came from what it sounds like it really came from a place of very personal, not only your personal experience, but this experience very early on with a client.
And it really caused you to reflect about what you truly wanted to be able to do with your law practice and how you wanted to be able to help people. So I love that you share that. Because I think that’s a piece for a lot of women law firm owners going deep and understanding why isn’t they want to serve people in a particular way, is so important to being able to have the kind of impact they want to have in the world, right?
Anna: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I think that, you know, having passion for what you do, wherever it comes from, it’s so important. I think that people, you know, clients and referral partners really sense authenticity. You know, I, I think that by having this deep passion allowed me to, to miss that step of being insecure, you know, about what I was doing. You know, because I think it would have been easy for me to say, gosh, you know, in the early years, you know, you know, I had some clients, but not a lot of clients. You know, am I really on the right track?
I mean, you know, I had this one woman attorney actually, early on, I couldn’t believe that she said this to me. But it was my first year in the practice. And I was at this kind of bar event with other lawyers and this other this woman came up to me and I knew she who she was she had an estate planning practice. Kind of a boutique practice with her and maybe an associate. And, you know, so I introduced myself and, you know, she said, oh, I heard you know, who started a firm? And I said yes, you know, it’s just a couple of months, or whatever it was. And she looked at me and she said, well, what makes you think that you can do that?
Anna: I was so floored I thought and you’re older than me, like, you know, like, I would have thought she would have offered words of wisdom. But instead, she completely knocked my, my legs out from under me. And, and I kind of just quickly recovered and I said, well, it must be you know, what you experienced right? However many years ago must be the same thing. By the way, just shocking into, you know, a moment like that when you’re very vulnerable and feeling insecure about, you know, what’s going to happen. Is this actually going to work. You know, I felt like no, you know, I’m following my heart. I’m following my passion. I know that this is this is going to work you know. So having that passion and also having that authenticity is so important, you know, to be able to articulate that story, whatever it is, you know, whatever that experience is, I think it’s very important.
Davina: Well, you know, that, you know, you have someone who’s coming from a mindset of lack and thinks there’s only one pie. And if you get a bigger piece, then she does get the smaller piece. So it’s a real mindset issue, you know, that somebody’s revealing. They’re revealing more about themselves than they are about you. And we also all start from the beginning. Like nobody just nobody comes out being an expert, you know, right out of law school, or whatever schooling you have, you know, we all we all start at the beginning. I want to talk about I know, it was it was such a formative experience, in addition to being emotionally devastating experience, to lose your spouse at such a young age.
And I, I think about you know, I’m in my mid 50s. And it’s very common for women in their, in their 50s, 60s, to lose a spouse. And we often see women who don’t really think about the possibility of such a thing happening, until that happens. And when someone is later in life, then it becomes a real, you know, a challenge also, because now you’ve also got your own mortality, you’re looking at a little closer to you. And so it’s interesting to me that you have this experience early on in your life. And it probably really was a leapfrog kind of experience for you. In that it, it sort of made you made you put you in a position where you were dealing with issues and thinking about things that you probably would not have thought about, you know, had you not had that experience in your 20s. Did you find that to be the case?
Anna: Oh, yeah. I mean, it was the worst nightmare, you know, I ever had, you know, I actually, Ron was 33, I was 28. He was a lawyer, you know, we just, he went out for a walk, you know, he went out for a walk with the dog in the morning and just didn’t come back and was killed. He was shot, he was shot to death. You know, so, and he was on his parents property in the woods, you know, so it was just, it was just so incredibly surreal. And so devastating. I mean, he was just the love of my life. And I met him when I was 21, and just starting law school. And it’s just, you know, the kind of love that you have in your 20s you know.
But yet, you know, he had the story behind it is, you know, he actually had thought of things, you know, he had thought of, we did have basic estate planning documents. He did have life insurance. He, I think it was a week before he died. He loved Halloween, and he died on October 25th. So it’s like the week before, you know, he loves going to cemeteries and Halloween, you know, spooky things. And I remember we went to a movie. That year, we were living in this pretty town of Hangar, Massachusetts. And there’s this old cemetery and he said, you know, let’s go to the cemetery. And so I said, okay, fine, you know, let’s go. And, you know, he, he explained to me, you know, exactly how he would want his female to be.
And he then when he came back, he said something to me. He said, you know, and if something happened to you, I would remarry. And I would want you to think the same, you know. And then a week later, he died. So, just those things that he said to me, you know, we’re so powerful, because they fueled me, they fueled me to believe that love will conquer this horrible grief. It will concrete this terrible trial that I have to go through. It will conquer it all. I just had this deep, deep, deep belief that, you know, it would be okay. And it would have to be okay, because I would have to do this for him.
You know, so many widows that I work with, you know, they endure this first year, because that’s what their spouse would want in some way. You know, it’s just kind of getting through this grief. And then year two, and year three are kind of all about kind of starting over and becoming known person in year three. But the the experience was something that I just felt like everybody needed to have these conversations. It’s not just estate planning. It’s not just tax. It’s about love. It’s what you want, you know, for your person and to give them permission to do things and to secure them in a way that would give them the freedom to grieve. You know, grief is black and dark and it’s it’s debilitating.
In various spaces that people endure and the gift of an estate plan, the gift of having a well good, well organized plan is the ultimate gift of love that you can give to your family. So I this, this just became my driving mission to help people articulate all of these aspects. I mean, I just had a prospective client call two weeks ago or last week and this poor woman, her husband drowned to death while on a vacation in, in the Caribbean, and her 17 year old son was with her husband, and they had a plan. And do you know what, what wasn’t documented were any of the passwords to any of his mobile devices. So no, no iPhone access, no iPad access and new computer access.
So you lose access to the iCloud you have access to email, you lose access to everything. So when I talk about estate planning, I talk about not just documents, I talk about all these details, where are you documenting passwords, you know, what are your wishes for how you want that memorial and that funeral to look like because that’s the first thing you have to lose after your spouse has suddenly died. You want a roadmap, you want to know what that person would have wanted. And so you don’t have to think about it.
Davina: I’m sure, it also just makes one of the hardest things to do when you’re in that kind of emotional state is to make decisions. So decisions are already made. And you just have to follow through with thing. You know, if if somebody already told you this is what I want to happen, then you’re not having to make the hard decision that a time in your mind is most confused. Right?
Anna: Right. Oh, absolutely.
Davina: And so this, this led you to create, write your first book. How long after you’ve went through this did you write the Widow’s Guide?
Anna: Oh many years later. I want to say I’d say the book came out in 2016. So probably 18 years after Ron died. And you know, it was really, in a way I realized that even though I talked about estate planning, and in this way that I had decided I wanted to create a law firm, to create these kind of comprehensive and holistic estate plans. I felt like my story was just not out there. And I didn’t. And I also felt like I wanted to help more women that I then I could actually work with in my practice. And I also wanted to give women who I worked with a roadmap, right, because in especially that first year, there’s so much happening, there’s so many timelines and deadlines.
And, you know, it’s difficult to remember all of these things. So I really wanted to create a guide for anyone that I was working with anyone that I couldn’t work with, or anyone that just wanted to kind of get a better understanding of what things look like in terms of the process. And, in, give them some hope, that, you know, I went through this tragedy, and I survived. And I, you know, took the lemons and I made the lemonade, you know, and I found love again, and I ended up having a family again. And, you know, there there is hope, you know, and, and I wanted to create this book, as not just this guidebook, but kind of a ray of hope that you will get through this grief.
And there will be sunshine on the other side, whatever that may look like for you. And it also I wrote it at a time when the guy who who killed him was getting out on parole, and I just felt like I needed to tell the story. Get it out there. And that was in 2016. So it was a very cathartic experience. It took much longer than I anticipated. I think I started writing the outline for the book five years before I actually wrote it. So it was definitely a substantial undertaking in terms of time, and emotion. You know, it was such a personal story.
Davina: Exactly, exactly. I just, I just published my first book, and it was not and it’s a very, it’s not emotionally, you know, difficult at all. But it still took me like probably three years from the time I first conceived of the idea to actually get it to get it, you know, out in the world. So I can only imagine what it must have been like for you to have to tell such a story so close to your heart and something that you know, you lived through that was so difficult. But I’m imagining that a lot of other women attorneys, particularly other women, estate planning attorneys probably really benefit from reading this book. And kind of helping them to see, particularly if they’re just starting out working with clients see that the from the perspective of someone who’s lost a spouse, what they need to be alerting them for, you know, in the coming year.
Anna: Yeah, I actually was, I guess in early 2020, I attended Heckerling, which is the big trust and estates conference in Orlando, sponsored by the University of Miami, and I was sponsored to do a little book signing for the Widow’s Guide. And it was very, very interesting, because there were a number of people who came to the booth, and, you know, said, and they were law professors, and they said, oh, you know, it’s so interesting that you’re writing about this, because we feel like this is, this is like, the 2.0, of where estate planning needs to be.
Because it’s that emotional, it’s meeting people where they are, and not just, you know, being their lawyer. People get stuck in this process all the time. And if you are not equipped to have conversations, then, you know, you’re, you’re really, you’re not as helpful as, as you could be. You know, there’s a human element to what we do with lawyers, there’s always a human element. It’s just when we get kind of wrapped up in what we have to do and checking the boxes, and you know, making sure that eyes are dotted and the T’s are crossed, we forget about that.
You know, that bedside manner, and that, you know, meeting people where they are whether, you know, making things visual for them, or just, you know, saying, okay, I know that you are getting stuck, because the following hasn’t happened, you know. What can we do to help help move things along? You know, where are you getting stuck? And just understanding what is happening in that grief journey for someone. It’s really important.
Davina: Right, right. And so you’ve recently published The Inheritor’s Guide. So some of this is different, because what was the impetus for writing the second book?
Anna: So The Inheritor’s Guide was published two weeks ago.
Anna: Thank you, thank you. It was really kind of this pandemic project to say that, oh, you know, I’m working from home, I’ll have all this time. No. That’s not how it actually worked out. But I’m very excited that it is finally done. And it’s available. So this book was born, not out of personal experience, actually, in terms of moving my parents, including my parents are both alive, and doing fine. But it was really, it was it was born out of experience that I had in my practice. So my practice has really two major practice areas, we do estate planning, and we do estate administration. And under state planning, we maintain plans, and we create new state plans, and I and I left that practice a little bit to develop the state administration practice.
So I have a partner Kristen, who oversees all the planning and all of the maintenance, and I moved over to the administration side would kind of sit there for a while and develop processes and systems and develop a team to handle those cases. And so over the last three years, I’ve really been working with families, not just widows, but families who are dealing with a lot of parents, and really seeing what is actually happening there. And it’s while there’s grief, it’s different, because there is not a spouse, right? So that kind of dependent relationship isn’t there and not that, you know, spouses or depending on their, you know, husbands or you know, anything like that. It’s just different, you know, you’re not living with someone necessarily, you’re not dependent on their income or their assets in the same way that a spouse’s.
But what happens with adult children is that there’s a sibling, there are other people involved. There’s a lot of kind of baggage associated with, you know, kind of those sibling relationships. And there’s a lot of nitty gritty stuff that has to happen, that is challenging, clearing out mom and dad’s house, clearing out, you know, their clothes, clearing out their personal effects, finding information about what they had, even the documents that they had the assets that they had. It’s just a different layer of challenges. And while you know, grief exists, it’s different. It’s, it’s a different form of grief that manifests in different ways. In writing the book, I interviewed a number of people, clients as well as just colleagues, who had experienced the loss of a parent recently and just tried to understand what the challenges were.
And, you know, there was a lot, I would say not one person that I interviewed, who went through the loss of a parent with siblings said that, you know, there weren’t any sibling issues, there were always sibling issues of one form or another. And so the book was really, it’s really was born out of this experience in working with clients talking to people who’ve lost their parents and navigated the whole administration process. Because I felt like, there was a lot of miscommunication. And when there’s miscommunication, there’s misunderstanding, there’s potential for conflict, and just second guessing what is actually happening so frequently, when mom and dad leave a will or trust, it’s only one of the children who appointed to serve in in that personal representative role of the custody role.
And you know, then there are other people, other kids potentially, who are not responsible for checking the boxes and doing the work working with the attorneys. And they may not be communicating to the others what’s actually happening, and it creates a lot of friction. And I wanted to write a book that would inform about the process, about the journey about what to expect, what the timelines are, what should happen, what needs to happen, and creating checklists for you know, how things need to get done. And when they need to get done, not just for the child in charge of the administration, but everyone else involved as beneficiaries in a way to really set expectations, realistic expectations, for you know, what, when when they could expect their inheritance or not, you know, they’re just too many debts, or, you know, something like that.
And my sister in law is a psychiatrist, and she had lost her mother, five years ago, actually, seven years ago, I’m sorry. And her father in November. And she agreed to contribute kind of, to the emotional piece of what happens when an adult child loses their spouse, and the potential issues that can arise with siblings and the stress and grief and how those types of emotions manifest to avoid kind of problems. Because the worst thing that can happen, I think, you know, I’m not a litigator. So maybe litigators will disagree with me. But, you know, having litigation that arises out of an administration, my goal was to create some transparency into the process to keep the peace.
Davina: Right. I remember when I was in law school, I also practiced estate planning for a while. And I remember when I was in law school, the when we were discussing cases, and you always saw in family law, in particularly, probate cases, some of the worst, the most protracted litigation and some of the worst fallout, because you’re dealing with family, turning against family, you know. Having and having, and you just, you really see the true nature of people when there’s a lot at stake, and what it does to family relationships. So it’s very much a topic that, you know, attorneys need to attorney in that area of practice needs to really understand, to try to help tell families and help parents prepare, so that they’re not setting up those dynamics.
Anna: Exactly, exactly. Because, you know, it is it is devastating when you’ve lost a parent, and then you have, you know, sibling issues, and this is what happens. I mean, I’ve seen this firsthand, and some of the clients I’ve worked with is that mom and dad are not there to be the, you know, the mediators in these little arguments and these little spats, and so they just escalate, you know, the escalate. Unless you know, someone steps back, takes a deep breath, and like, just gets perspective, because, you know, this is how estates get decimated. I mean, all you have to do is open up, you know, the paper, you know, at least once a month someone famous dies, and then, you know, they either don’t have an estate plan and that’s the news or the other news is that oh, yeah, they’re they’re suing each other because, you know, maybe it’s a blended marriage and their kids from the first marriage, you know, all the money went to the, the new spouse or something like that, or the money got left to the aid versus the kids.
So you know, this This happens all the time. It is it is the ultimate, you know, family drama. But you know, mom and dad are gone. So it’d be much better if mom and dad could just prepare and prepare the kids for what would happen and create a solid plan to avoid it. And you know, if there’s sibling issues, you know, maybe the best thing to do is just, you know, as the people in charge to keep the peace. I mean, there are different ways to solve for various problems. But, you know, this is why I always wanted to have an estate planning and estate administration practice, because the administration, if you do both, you really become a much better planner, because you can see how things actually work. They’re worked out.
Right, you can anticipate, you know, some of these issues. And so, it’s really important to have a good relationship with your clients and open conversations about, you know, things like this, like, how do your kids get along? You know, what, how are they situated financially? How are they situated in their relationships, you know, how, you know, in making these simply, quote, unquote, simple decisions, right of like, who’s going to be the PR? Or who’s going to be the trustee? These end up being the biggest decisions and potentially some, some of the fights that arises like, well, why did you get this role?
And, you know, wouldn’t it be nice if mom or dad kind of wrote a letter, this is why we appointed you, because, you know, you, you, Sally are just so busy, you’re so successful, we have no doubt that you would have done this job, but we just couldn’t burden you with them, or, you know, whatever the case may be. But there are ways to kind of plan around these types of situations, but it’s too late right now. I had a client call me two weeks ago about, you know, mom, mom died. And she did not have an estate plan. They had a very substantial estate. Mom was 101. Mom was 101. I mean, how did mom not have an estate? But whatever, you know that that ship has sailed.
So now we have this administration. And what ensues is you know, what, what always happens with these intestate administration’s is, you know, we just pray for the best that everybody’s going to get along, and they’re all going to be patient and that everyone is going to work together. So if you, if you don’t get a chance to plan, you know, then you then you just have to administer and kind of educate people about what what is what is happening. And I really wanted to write this Inheritor’s Guide book to inform, educate, and, in a way, try and speak to people in a way where, you know, they would fight less about things, right. Because if there’s more transparency, in terms of the process, my feeling was, well, at least they’ll have a sense of what the timeline is, and not blame the person in charge for, for taking so long, for example.
And several other things, you know, I mean, people fight about the silliest things. You know, it’s clearing up the house, and somebody takes the one painting. And nobody thought the painting had any significance until Sally comes along and says this was this was what I wanted, this is what mom and dad told me, you know, and the thing is probably worthless, but it’s what, you know, what got taken away, when she wasn’t looking, you know. And then all of a sudden, there’s a lack of trust. And so there are ways that you can administer and just educate the family to just say, you know, what, no, nobody’s taking anything out of the house, you know, we have a process, we were going to be thoughtful about it.
And we’re just going to have to be patient, we’re just going to discuss how this is going to work out. And we will have a way of dealing with all of these, these tangible personal property items, and everybody will have their time. Right. And that’s just one example of, you know, what I think people should do, right? I mean, just you have to wait, you have to have a process. And we have to inform everybody in a way about, you know, how that simple thing is going to happen. Because in the end, it may not be so simple. Maybe the thing that just triggers a whole other set of emotions and creates distrust, and misunderstandings, and then that leads to litigation. And that’s what, you know, I would want my clients to avoid at all costs.
Davina: You’ve shared some great information. But before we wrap up, I do let’s talk a little bit about your business model. And for the women law firm owners listening to this, and because you have, you have a team of people and I’d like for you to share the walls on your you know what positions you have in your team, and how that evolved for you. You have written a couple of books, and I’m sure all of these were very intentional decisions around not only having a greater impact and help a lot of people but also the business decision aspect that went into this I’m sure. So can you share a little bit about your firm and kind of your, how your growth has tracked and evolved through the years and some of those key decisions that you feel you’ve made along the way to create that kind of growth?
Anna: Absolutely. So, so yeah, so I, I have an amazing team, and it is all about the people is always about the people. And I just been very blessed and grateful for the wonderful people in my firm that have come into my life. So I have a partner who I actually hired as an associate seven years ago. And she’s grown into becoming my partner. And I’m just so delighted, Kristen, is with me. And she’s, you know, he’s just been amazing to work with. I also have another attorney, who oversees kind of is starting to oversee the administration practice. Kristen oversees the estate planning practice. And then we have support teams, we have a legal assistant, paralegal for within each practice area.
And then I have my my right arm Audrey, who is kind of in charge of operations, and just kind of billings and operations and just systems and process. She’s my systems and process person, you know, documenting everything so that we always have the numbers. And then I have an executive assistant, Emily, who I couldn’t live without, she takes care of me and takes care of like, my calendar and my schedule and tells me where I need to go and feeds me. That’s probably the most important thing. She makes sure that I am, I am hydrated and fed. And I know what I’m doing on a daily basis. So. So in terms of the growth, I have to say, like the biggest, the biggest and most important decision that I made was I always had a paralegal and I always had kind of a legal assistant slash operations person, from really the very beginning.
Because I really felt like I didn’t never, I never wanted to be in the position where I felt like balls would drop because I wasn’t, I wasn’t doing the thing. And the way that I I worked into that was maybe something useful for for young lawyers starting out is I made a list of everything that needed to happen on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. And I circled all the things that I love doing, I love doing and I circled all the things that I liked doing. And then those ended up on the Anna list. And all those other things that I didn’t like, or hated doing ended up on the list of I needed to delegate these out to someone else. And that’s how I created my job descriptions early on. So whether it was the legal assistant paralegal or the kind of office manager person, that is how I created my job descriptions.
And that is what I highly recommend that every because it just allows you to work at your highest level and to do the things that you want to do, because you’re going to need the energy to do those things without being you know, drowned by all the stuff that you aren’t really good at and hate doing. And then it doesn’t get done. And then you have a problem. So with that said, my my biggest hurdle and I think the biggest reason why I grew as I did, and I ultimately became as successful from kind of a revenue perspective was the hiring of another attorney. You know, I think I had this fear that, you know, this person was gonna learn everything that I knew and then leave, you know, it just was very scary.
And then it was also very scary of how am I going to pay for this person, right? That’s like a big salary pay. And I actually joined a coaching program to kind of help me with kind of this next level of growth, it was clear that I was meeting success. It’s clear that I was attracting clients, it’s clear that I understood that I needed to have systems and process. But there was something missing. And so I joined this coaching program, and I basically got pushed off the cliff to hiring Kristen. And oh, my goodness, I mean, just very clearly, within two months, I knew that I made the right choice and then every other hire after that became that much easier. But that was that was the person that I needed in in in really the coaching and I know that you do coasting.
So I really appreciate all you do. Is it the growth in understanding who you are as a person and developing leadership skills Not just, you know, not just to attract clients. But to build a firm, because you have to build systems and processes, you have to build a team, you have to train team, you have to encourage their growth, you have to monitor things to make sure that you know, when you’re hiring, you’re actually seeing, you know, kind of the revenue increases, or you know, what your numbers are at any given time. So, I really credit, you know, this coaching program that I did, and then, in developing myself as a leader, and also in, you know, just finding people that word that counterbalance to what I offered, you know. I have Audrey who is totally systems and processes and patterns, and she loves digging into the numbers and seeing you know, trends and discovering all of these different patterns that I wouldn’t have the patience to look at.
So developing a team with people that offer things that you don’t do that are better at doing things that you don’t like doing right. That you need all of those different pieces, to have a successful firm, because I never wanted to have, I never wanted to be a solo practitioner. I just felt like gosh, I mean, I couldn’t be good at any one thing, because I’d be too busy doing all of these different things. I couldn’t really focus. So I always from the very beginning wanted to create a law firm that was a sustainable business, and I tested it over the years. I frequently take at least a month off, if not six weeks off, you know, and just see what happens. I mean, I’m not allowed to check my email. And other people have to figure out, you know, what to do when, when on the way.
So I highly recommend that if you aren’t getting coached to get some coaching, if you don’t have systems and processes, if you don’t have people. There’s so many different ways to find those resources. Now, you just have to look for them. And what else I think, to do to grow, I this was my mantra for so long, and I think it still is, is to grow, I have to let go. Right? To grow, I need to let go. And it’s it’s so true, you know, the more you hang on to just being in control of all of the different things of being a lawyer in the state planning side, or the lawyer on the administration side, if you hold on to that you will never grow. You will never grow the firm to be bigger and to perhaps even exist without you, which is my goal is I really want my firm, my both my companies to continue to grow even when I’m gone, because I’ve created something that is bigger than me.
Davina: You know, by doing this, you’ve created space, to be able to have enough the second company and follow that, and be able to write two books and follow those passions. And I think that’s something that, you know, a lot of people kind of have in their mind that they’re going to do, but they can’t let go of those details and not to allow them space to do it. They can’t reconcile that I need to, you know, if I want the bigger and better, you know, projects that are really dear to my heart, I have to get some help to manage these things. Right.
And one of the things that I want to put out before we wrap up is that I think really jumped out at me was the fear around hiring that first attorney, because I know that that is where a lot of women law firm owners can hire staff, they kind of have to they sort of get over that initial part time. Or maybe a lot of them sort of bring a paralegal them. But it is that attorney that first associated attorney, there seems something about hiring a peer, or something that is a little more challenging. And there’s the fear that they’re going to demand more, and I’m going to have to provide more compensation. I’m going to have to provide a good career experience. I’m going to have to provide all these things.
So there’s a lot wrapped up in our minds about hiring associates. But you said something that a lot of my clients have experienced is that when they do, they immediately go, oh man, within just a few weeks or months they’re going why didn’t I do this sooner? This is awesome. Yeah. Hiring after that does become easier once they sort of make that hurdle. So I appreciate you sharing your story on that because I think that’s a real sticking point for a lot of people. And yet once you do that, it’s like opens the floodgates into your mindset and your ability to sort of expand your capacity and handle more emotionally in terms of growth.
Anna: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Davina: Well I’m really appreciate you being here I probably to both of you for like another hour. But we’re gonna wrap it up and you can tell us how we can I know a lot of people are gonna want to grab your books, and check out your website and follow you on social media. So will share those details with us.
Anna: Absolutely, thank you. So you can find my books on Amazon. But an easier way to find my books is just to go to my book web page, which is Annabyrne.com. That’s a n n a b y r n e.com from my books. The Widow’s Guide and The Inheritor;s Guide are located there. If you’re in Massachusetts, are welcome to visit my law firm page. And that’s eckertbyrne.com. That’s e c k e r t b y r n e.com and my registered investment advisor company is Kendallwealth.com and that’s k e n d a l l w e a l t h.com. And you’re welcome to visit any of my websites and look for my books also on Amazon. And thank you so much for having me as a guest, it was a bit of a walk down memory lane.
Davina: I am really glad you were here and enjoyed it so much. We will include those links in the show notes as well. So people can just click on those links and go right to where they need to go. Anna it’s been a pleasure.
Anna: Thank you.
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