The Three Pillars to Operating Our Law Firm in the COVID-19 Pandemic
“COVID-19 took everyone by surprise, but as New Yorkers and Americans, we’re resilient, adaptable, and are determined to win,” says Mia Poppe, Esq. from the Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, a boutique New York City Matrimonial and Family Law Firm.
“This is just another part of our story,” quipped Mia.
Mia Poppe, a female business owner who founded and manages her midtown Manhattan Firm, has certainly faced challenges and adversity over the last decade of building her successful law practice. What small business hasn’t? But, now to the Firm and to Attorney Mia Poppe, the stakes seem even higher.
“In February and even most of March, it seemed as though COVID-19 was so far away, but one day, suddenly, we were in crisis planning mode,” Mia shared. The Firm quickly sprung into action to audit and adapt their existing business technology and continuity plan to meet the needs of their clients. Time was of the essence as New York City had become the epicenter of outbreak in the United States.
“We looked at every single piece of technology from how we communicate with clients to how we maintain and access case information. Many of our clients are going through divorces with custody at issue, and custody and access issues, as we anticipated, would require new strategic methods given the impacts to the courts. We had to make sure that we could continue to advocate for our clients, in particular when both physical safety and parental access were both compromised in the time of the uncontrolled pandemic. We had to continue “business as usual” despite the challenge confronting us,” expressed Mia.
The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates evaluated and simulated every scenario to ensure that working remotely would have no impact on the day to day client advocacy, at a time when courts had sharply limited operations, or were closed to filings, except for emergencies.
“There are a lot of tips and tricks on ‘what’ you should do to operate a law practice remotely. We looked past “band-aide” temporary fixes; rather we engineered new processes that could, for the long term, accomplish serving our clients relentlessly in the office, or in remote home-based offices.
As a result, Mia and the Firm arrived at the following pillars to how they would continue to operate their firm in the midst of COVID-19:
- Over-communicate with Clients – Keep clients abreast of their matters real-time.
- Test server and backup systems regularly – Every business has back-up systems – interval testing should be a regular part of the workflow to ensure continuity.
- Reinforce daily the Firm’s core value of ‘Relentless Advocacy’. – A firm’s core value is it’s guiding light. It’s the lens through which decisions are made. In times of crisis, it’s critical to remember your core values.
1. Over-communicate with Clients
“We exist to serve our clients, helping them navigate through what can sometimes be the scariest time of their lives,” says Mia. “As a group, we knew that we had to focus on the lifeblood of our business, our clients, making sure that we were in constant communication with them about changes to court dates, firm processes, and updates on their case.”
This means that the Attorney Poppe and her team are touching base with clients on a weekly basis. In addition to this, the firm sends out COVID-19 updates and helpful blog posts regularly to ensure that their clients are always in the know.
2. Test Server and Backup Systems Regularly
“We implemented regular “stress tests” on our various firm platforms to ensure that we could continually meet the needs of our clients,” says Mia. “We follow Murphy’s Law that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Our goal is to catch it before it does.”
Regular system checks help The Law Firm of Poppe and Associates ensure that they are able to deliver on their promise to be relentless advocates to the clients that trust them with their family and matrimonial law matters.
3. Remember Our Firm’s Core Value of “Relentless Advocacy”
“Our firm is built on our core value of ‘Relentless Advocacy’,” explained Mia. “This is our north star when it comes to how we operate professionally and personally. Relentless advocacy means that we are constantly in pursuit of our client’s best interests, day or night, pandemic or not.”
“It is important now more than ever to remember this core value,” says Mia.
And with that in mind, the Firm continues to be relentless advocates day in and day out for their clients, even in these extremely trying and uncertain times.
Our Lives and Relationships Have Drastically Changed
These are unprecedented times; living through a pandemic. Everything has changed. In New York, things changed in March when Governor Cuomo issued a “stay at home order”. We’ve seen changes from personal grooming and cleaning our apartments and homes to work and raising our kids. We’ve also seen changes in our most personal relationship, our marriage.
How we approach and live our lives has drastically changed. Time has not stopped, but it has certainly slowed down for the vast majority of us. Social media is flooded with quips regarding happy hours or after-work drinks taking place at 10:00 AM and the like.
This time, for many, has also created an opportunity for serious self-reflection and self-assessments. For the first time in a lot of marriages, couples are truly acquainting and re-acquainting themselves with the person they married.
Spouses have now spent months together, and for many, they’ve reached the point where they’ve started to explore ending their relationship. This is a direct correlation between self-reflection and “quality time” being spent with their spouse.
Whether you’re still self-reflecting or are potentially ready to pursue a divorce, there are a few things you can do to save your marriage or survive your upcoming divorce.
- Talk to your spouse about how you are feeling – leverage a therapist or other mental health professionals to encourage you to identify, frame, and communicate your feelings with your spouse. Therapists do wonders for relationships and may stave off divorce.
- Ask your spouse the “5 whys” – seek an understanding of how they are feeling. The “5 why’s” entails asking a question about a behavior you’re seeing your spouse exhibit that makes you uneasy with the relationship. Ask 5 followup whys to seek understanding, from their perspective, as to what the behavior means.
- Discuss a trial separation post-COVID-19 – consider testing the adage, “absence makes the heart grow folder”. It’s also possible that you simply need a break post quarantine and a trial separation may be the solution.
- Consider using a mediator if you believe divorce is inevitable – you and your partner may be candidates for divorce mediation. If you’ve decided to divorce and mediation is an option, consider starting this process during the pandemic. Remember, in mediation you must compromise. Each side must be willing to give something up.
- Speak to a qualified divorce attorney regarding a possible divorce – Schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney to get a fuller understanding of the divorce process and how they apply to your situation.
At the Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, P.C. our website chats and phone calls came to a near halt in the weeks following the reality that the pandemic did in the United States. But recently, our website chats are up, and our emails are receiving inquiries daily.
People are starting to explore their options as they are looking to survive their divorce post-pandemic.
– Mia Poppe, Esq.
If you are exploring divorce or mediation, contact the Law Firm of Poppe & Associates to schedule a consultation with an attorney today.
Unleash Your Cupboard Capital
In 2005 my oldest son graduated from high school and my gift to him was to spend a few weeks in Europe. While there, I very purposefully enrolled in an economics course at the Graduate Institute in Geneva (IHEID). Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 – 2006, studied International Relations at the Graduate Institute so I was excited to study there also. The primary learning tool of this course was a book by economist Hernando Desoto called The Mystery of Capital. In the book, Hernando Desoto opines that all over the world there is “money in the cupboards” or “dead capital” and that the systems of many countries don’t allow this capital to be leveraged.
At the household level, our internal operating systems (our modus operandi or belief systems) likewise prevent us from leveraging the abundant value or capital within our own “cupboards”.
Hernando DeSoto’s macro concept applies to our individual (micro) lives. We have untapped capital in our cupboards! We have immense intrinsic value that’s not restricted to the form of the almighty dollar bill.
With this cupboard capital, we can acquire things that money absolutely can not buy. Cupboard capital can “buy” us autonomy, personal fulfillment, innovative ideas, witty inventions, creativity, and strong relationships.
The issue is, we are not taught how to leverage our “cupboard capital”!
It’s incumbent upon all of us to tap into professionals like Stacy Francis of Francis Financial, life coaches like Nesreen Mamoud of Harbor Light Coaching, and, most importantly, accountability partners. We must tap into our accountability partners (who may also be our professional advisors) to help us look into our own “cupboard capital” to help us figure out how we are going to buy ourselves into our dream lives.
We should all be living our magnificent dreams and not our beautiful nightmares (pigs with lipstick).
We Must Have Accountability Partners in Our Lives
I’ve been running my own business for over a decade and I don’t find myself talking much about work ethic anymore. Although work ethic is extremely important I now find myself talking about accountability. I have accountability partners that I can talk with about money, like Stacey Francis, other matrimonial lawyers, and my many friends.
The other day an accountability partner, who is also a female matrimonial lawyer, asked me point blank – “Mia, how much money are you going to make this year?”. What a question for someone to be able to ask you! My first, but fleeting thought was, “I can’t believe I’m being asked something as personal as how much money I make.”
Don’t be afraid of accountability and the sometimes uncomfortable questions that accountability brings. Also remember, we choose our accountability partners. And most importantly, what a great discussion this question (how much money will you make?) generates to help one uncover their “cupboard capital”.
When’s the last time you had an open conversation about money in pursuit of achieving your life goals?
Accountability partners allow you to talk about something we’ve been taught not to talk openly about. These accountability partners are critical to financial freedom, and living the life of our dreams.
Here are my four tips for finding and fostering a relationship with an accountability partner to leverage your “cupboard capital” in pursuit of your dreams.
4 Tips for Finding and Fostering a Relationship with an Accountability Partner
#1 Solidify their position in your life by inviting them to be your accountability partner. As the universe would have it, your accountability partner is probably already present in your life, because the universe is truly good. Work with someone you trust!
#2 Share your goals and dreams with your accountability partner.
#3 Meet regularly, and engage honestly.
#4 Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Swallow the tough conversations and don’t throw away the relationship when you hear something that offends you.
Mia Poppe, Esq.
By: Kamelia “Mia” Poppe, Esq.
Welcome back to my four-part blog series, Leveraging Your Financial Capital into Freedom, based on my podcast with financial planning guru, Stacy Francis . Thank you for joining me for Part Three of my four-part series.
Today, I will share my five tips for entrepreneurs on how to utilize a concept that is novel to many: Valuing Yourself.
First, I would like to take a moment to capture the key points in my prior two blog posts of this four-part blog series.
In Part One, From Divorce to Divorce Attorney. My Journey to Manhattan, I shared my personal story. My clients trust me with the most important details of their adult lives: the painful details of the demise of their marriages. I operate in personal transparency and empathy. I often use my own experiences with my two failed marriages to develop a strong personal relationship with my clients and use these experiences to provide them with a tentative blueprint of the possibilities in and outside of the courtroom. Part One culminated in the following tips:
- Work Hard
- Keep Smiling; and
- Never EVER Give Up!
In Part Two, The Three Tenets of Success That Have Made Me a Successful Matrimonial Attorney Entrepreneur, I summarized the tools and practices that have helped me achieve success and fulfill my life purpose:
- Locking into a Faith and Value System
- Finding Yourself “Hype Queens”
- Establishing a Solid Work Ethic
No One Will Value You Like “You”.
Albeit the notion that no one values you like you seems intuitive. However, in application, it is far from intuitive
No matter what you value most, family, time, relationships, etc., an employer’s values will likely not align with your own. Entrepreneurship provides a path to leading our careers and work lives with one’s own values.
Starting my law firm remains one of the quality decisions that I’ve made in my life. Why? Simply put, no one values me like me. I have considered value and my personal value proposition often. I thought on these important questions or notions:
Am I committed to working hard and providing niche legal services that begin and end with “caring for clients”?
Am I as smart, talented, and charismatic as other successful business owners / leaders?
Would I write me a blank check for my salary?
Am I unwaveringly committed to pay for performance, regardless of how much pay (to me) that would result in?
Would I ever pay a man more than a woman for doing the same work?
In asking myself the above, repeatedly, I remain grateful that I made the decision to “bet on myself” and start my own law firm. The one thing that I would have done differently is aggressively seek out a business partner. I believe in the synergy of two heads being better than one. I value partnership and I value collaboration.
Whenever I have the privilege of meeting and speaking to entrepreneurs contemplating starting their own businesses, I offer these five tips to help make sure that he/she has the right state of mind, expectations, and framework for success.
#1 Bet on Yourself
Self value is my path and journey, to recognizing and acting on my intrinsic value, or the value that I “bring to the table”. We should all give careful consideration to our individual paths and journeys and how we enhance our own self view, first in our own eyes and then in the eyes of others. Understand your worth and your special skill sets. This could mean valuing your own skill sets and embarking on a new journey utilizing them.
#2 Consider Partnership
If I could change one thing when I started my business, I would have found another female work partner at the commencement of my journey.
When you start your own business, you’re everything from the janitor to the CEO. And as I get older, the more I realize how valuable is the adoption of the “work smarter, not harder” mindset. Working with a partner is one way that we all can work smarter.
Find someone who shares your same level of integrity, desire, and hunger for success. Synergies and collaboration can do wonders for a business.
Think about how nonprofits fundraise. They don’t send one person out to raise money. They form a committee and leverage the collective’s experiences, connections and skill-sets to raise that money. Consider taking the same approach to starting your company.
While working with a partner will have its own set of challenges, the ability to multiply and optimize time,effort and skills is invaluable.
#3 Put Your Business Plan on Paper
Treat your business like it is a Fortune 500 company. This means that everything can’t live in your head. Put it on paper. Create a paper trail. Do your research, define your product/service, establish your brand identity, track key performance indicators, and identify your exit strategy.
When things are on paper, they’re real. And your business is real, no matter how small it may be when you start.
Putting your business on paper holds you accountable and allows you to measure and adjust your business strategy more easily.
#4 Keep Business and Personal Finances Separate
This is one of the most important pieces of advice that I share with aspiring entrepreneurs. Heed this advice tenfold if you are married.
A lot of times, people commingle funds. If you commingle funds, you are setting yourself up for a massive financial mess. When finances are commingled, it’s hard to tell if you’ve paid yourself, how much you’ve paid yourself, and if your business is financially healthy.
If you are married and get a divorce, commingled funds create a whole host of problems that end up with someone in the relationship severely losing. Valuations will be difficult. Determining salaries will be hard. And, your divorce will end up costing you much more than it should.
#5 Invest in Marketing
There are many types of marketing, but marketing can be a key driver of success for your business. I’m not only talking about digital marketing and advertising (although those are very important). I’m also talking about relationship marketing.
To be successful, you must put yourself out there. You must meet people, build connections, and sell yourself. I tell all aspiring entrepreneurs to join a local networking group. These types of groups can become an invaluable revenue-producing channel for your company. When marketing, always remember your brand, the brand “You”.
Odds are, one day you will have a friend who is going through a tough divorce. Sometimes divorces are amicable between the spouses. Unfortunately, more frequently divorces are nasty as we saw in two divorce movie classics: Kramer v. Kramer and War of the Roses.
When divorce turns nasty, the emotional toll on the individuals involved and their families can be catastrophic, health threatening, life-altering, and debilitating. And when divorce hits this level, it’s absolutely critical for friends to be there to support their friends through the divorce process’s inevitable emotional ups and downs.
Here are 5 ways I recommend you support your friend through their nasty divorce.
#1 Take Sides
Don’t be afraid to throw radical support behind your friend. You have history with your friend. You have forged a relationship that has survived the good and bad times of BOTH of your lives. Most likely, they have supported you in the tough times of your own life. Right now, you have the opportunity to give in abundance one of the benefits of forging lasting friendships, that is unconditional support.
Whether their own actions have contributed to the divorce, it may not be time to do an analysis based on logic. Please know, at some point, you will want to tell it like it is and help your friend see their contribution or part to the situation, but use your best judgment to determine when they are ready to take ownership of their part. Show your friend that you love them without limitations–no matter what. Tell her/him that you will always be there to support them. Tell them that you are on their side. Show your understanding for why they say what they say and why they did what they did…. For now, don’t be afraid to take your friend’s side, even when and if that means breaking ties with the other spouse. Being a loyal friend is honorable.
# 2 Be Consistently Present
Your friend needs to feel connected with the outside world. Divorce can isolate the most outgoing of individuals. Family members (generally in-laws) that were once full of love can become full of hate. Friends that you thought were close suddenly feel so far away. It’s critical for you to consistently check-in verbally and physically every week; the more the better.
When you’re present, this tells your friend that you care about them, at a time when they may feel like their world is falling apart. Most times they will not reach out to you (or anyone). Take the affirmative step of reaching out to your divorcing friend, don’t wait for them to reach out to you.
#3 Limit the “Parade of Horribles”
In divorce it’s easy for those going through the divorce to focus on the pain, the heartache, anger, and everything that the former spouse “did to them”. I call this the “Parade of Horribles”. Do not let your friend relegate their whole life to only be about vignette of their divorce. Don’t let them continually focus on the details of what went wrong and who wronged who. Doing so is exhausting both mentally and physically, and my experience tells me that such focus on who did what will result in the unhealthy loss of sleep for your friend.
Instead, help them to focus on their own self-worth, the present, and the bright future as a newly single person. Their life is so much more than this brief chapter of their stories.
#4 Remind them to Engage in Self Care and Smile
In a divorce, remind your friend that there is nothing more important than taking care of themselves. Your friend needs to know this. One of the best ways they can focus on themselves is through self care. I mean both physical and mental self care. Both are important. Smile at your friend often, and remind them to smile or even better to laugh.
If you see them physically letting themselves go, take them to the spa, the gym, or to their stylist. Their physical appearance plays a large role in their self confidence and mental outlook regarding their future. Remind them that, “this too shall pass”.
Emotional health is also critical. I always encourage individuals in divorce to find a therapist, divorce coach, or life coach and attend regular sessions. Professionals are skilled in helping your friend overcome the emotional toll that divorce can have on their life. Encourage your friend to seek the help of a trained professional.
#5 Be Patient
This may be the most important point in supporting a friend through divorce. Your patience will be tested. Why? Because you have chosen to “be there” and to walk this walk with them. You are like Simon of Cyrene, helping Jesus carry his cross.
And as they led [Jesus] away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.
You, maybe unlike Simon of Cyrene, are a willing partner in this experience with them. That’s what friends do. But, because you are more “clear eyed” than they are, sometimes you won’t be able to understand why your friend is acting the way that they are. The Parade of Horribles, the late night phone calls, and the occasional anger can all take a toll on the both of you. Remain patient and continue to stand by and stand with your friend. As we all have heard, love is patient.
When you’re patient, although your friend may not acknowledge or know it in the moment, it is appreciated and can make all the difference in the world.
A divorce is a life-altering chapter in any one’s life story. A friend undergoing a nasty divorce will need your support and guidance to escape “The Parade of Horribles”. As a true friend, you are uniquely positioned to help your friend escape the vortex of the unpredictable tornado called divorce. Remember……
#1. Take Sides
#2. Be Consistently Present
#3. Limit the Parade of Horribles
#4. Remind Your Friend to Engage in Self Care
#5. Be Patient
Mia Poppe, Esq.,
 Columbia Pictures, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).
 Twentieth Century Fox, The War of the Roses (1989).
 Luke 23:26.