Practicing Law In Paradise | Above the Law

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Chelsie Lamie to our pages.

It’s 8:50 a.m. and I’m running late to take the kids to school.  I’m only one minute away but I’m stuck on a one-lane dirt road in the jungle outside of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  A local farmer’s bulls have gotten out of their pen (again) and are blocking my way.  Thankfully, one of the farmhands sees me through the trees and zooms out on his motorbike.  He quickly clears the road and I am on my way again.

After dropping the kids off, I head back to our home to prepare for my 11:00 a.m. telephonic hearing.  I watch the waves of the ocean as I enjoy the watermelon juice and fruit cup that I picked up from a vendor on the highway (for only 3 USD).  The hearing goes well.  I can’t help but smile when my motions are granted while I’m wearing a swimsuit, thousands of miles away from the courthouse.  I head up to the rooftop and practice my Spanish with a family visiting from Columbia while I get in a quick swim.

Later on in the afternoon, I have my weekly telephone call with my office manager to discuss the week’s financials before picking up the kids and taking them to soccer practice.  After soccer, we try a new restaurant for dinner (for a total of 25 USD for a family of four).  We walk home from dinner, tuck the kids into bed, and I take an hour to respond to emails and answer my team members’ questions through our case management software.

Thanks to a great team of employees, years of building systems with integrated forms, and a decade of marketing, I have found the sweet spot.  I truly believe I have attained the best work-life balance that is possible for me and my practice area.  If you would have told me I would be living and working this way, just three years ago, I would have laughed out loud.  I had always been a big believer in lawyers having a brick-and-mortar space.  I thought clients expected it and would flee if I went virtual.  But I started tracking the data in 2016 and noticed that over 80 percent of my clients never stepped foot in my office.  They hired me based on personal recommendations from other attorneys or past/current clients.  They didn’t need to see me or my space in person.  My client base was getting younger, more tech savvy, and simply preferred to do business over the internet.  Based on my review of the data, in 2018 I did what I had previously considered unthinkable: I took my five-employee, mid-six-figure law firm virtual.  I closed my brick-and-mortar space and quickly grew my business into a seven-figure law firm in less than nine months.

My clients have access to me through telephone calls, Zoom video calls, email, and of course, in-person meetings when I come back one week each month to attend depositions, hearings, and mediations.  I won’t lie, I call that one week “hell week” for a reason.  My days start at 7 a.m. and ends almost at midnight.  But it’s only seven days out of each month and to me, it’s worth it.

From a business perspective, going virtual freed up over $5,000.00 per month in our law firm budget (no more rent, electric bill, alarm system monitoring, office snacks, etc.).  But the most important and valuable change I’ve seen is in my personal life.  I’m more connected to my husband and kids than ever before.  Three weeks out of the month, I drive them to and from school and soccer practice and tuck them in each night.  We are living a healthier lifestyle, walking everywhere we can, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and spending our weekends immersed in nature.  We spend our nights and weekends swimming in cenotes, floating through underground rivers, snorkeling with sea turtles in the ocean, combing the beach for shells, exploring ancient ruins, and visiting different cities across Mexico.  From the beautiful cobblestone colonial city of San Miguel de Allende to the peaceful translucent lake of Bacalar near the Belize border, Mexico has so much to offer.  Our kids don’t have time for tablets and video games — they’re too busy identifying the bugs, lizards, snakes, spiders, and birds in the jungles that surround our magical city.  They’re learning a new language and absorbing a culture that puts family and community ahead of material possessions and competition.

I hope that my story has inspired you to consider transforming your brick-and-mortar law firm into a virtual one.  You can certainly do so without moving your family thousands of miles away to a different country.  But once you are virtual, the opportunity to at least travel more is a fantastic one and I hope that you take advantage of it.

Earlier: Mothers At Law: Achieving Meaningful Success In The Legal Profession

After 11 years of practicing law in a brick and mortar firm, Chelsie M. Lamie, a personal injury attorney, moved her family to Mexico and took her six-person law firm virtual in 2018.  She returns to the Tampa Bay area one week every month to meet with her clients, and to attend depositions, mediations, hearings, and trials.  Chelsie is a 2002 graduate of the University of Tampa and a 2007 graduate of Stetson University College of Law.  Prior to attending law school, Chelsie was employed by an international insurance carrier as a bodily injury and general liability claims adjuster.  Chelsie has been married to her husband, David, for 18 years, and they have two fantastic boys, five-year-old Michael and three-year-old Henry.  Chelsie and her husband are certified scuba divers and travel enthusiast.  Chelsie and her family have visited 60 countries and are working towards visiting the remaining 130+ in the next 15 years.

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