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Insights on Success in Estate Planning and Elder Law: An Interview with Michele Ungvarsky

Posted On: April 8, 2024

By: Jennifer Goddard

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Written by: Jennifer Goddard

Jennifer Goddard is CEO and co-founder of IMS. She has been at the helm of the agency since its start-up in 1995. Jennifer specializes in helping estate planning and elder lawyers grow 7-figure firms with digital marketing. Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in business administration from Michigan State University.
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Last week on my podcast, The Marketing Lawcast, I had the privilege of interviewing attorney Michele Ungvarsky, one of our IMS clients who enjoys success in estate planning and elder law. It was great fun talking about how she decided to specialize in estate planning and elder law, the clients she serves, and the success she has enjoyed in growing a great law firm that is profitable and enjoyable.

With so many attorneys struggling both financially and emotionally with frustration, stress and burn-out, Michele’s story begs the question: What’s different about her? Why does Michele enjoy success, enjoy her practice, even enjoy life … while so many others struggle?

Working with her over the years, including hosting her here at the Ranch for a private retreat, there are three things I notice about Michele that truly distinguish her and open the doors for her success.

First, Michele loves her work and her clients. While her practice is probably in the top one percent of solo estate planning / elder law firms in terms of revenue, she’s not in it for the money. She brings a passion for helping people navigate some of life’s most difficult challenges. You can see the enthusiasm and satisfaction in her face when she talks about her practice and her clients. In my nearly 30 years of working with estate planning and elder law attorneys, that is a probably the #1 distinguishing characteristic that separates the happy, successful lawyers from the frustrated, struggling ones. Choose your practice area carefully, enforce standards for the types of clients you choose to work with, and then love going to work (most days).

Second, she treats her practice like a business. When Michele came to the Ranch for her private retreat, she was armed with great data about her practice. Anything she didn’t have committed to memory, she could easily access. She has goals and milestones she knows she needs to reach to achieve those goals. When we look at her marketing plan, it’s in complete strategic alignment with those goals. She doesn’t let ego get her off in the weeds, worrying about insignificant details that don’t matter. She stays focused on the goal line. She isn’t afraid to invest money to reach her goals, either. If the investment makes sense, helps her better serve clients and become more profitable, she is all-in. 

Finally, Michele is decisive. Because she has passion for her work, is completely aligned with her purpose and knows her numbers … she can make quick, informed decisions. I talk a lot about decisiveness being one of the keys to business success because I see too many lawyers who just struggle for weeks, months, or even years to make mission-critical decisions about their marketing … while the very business they so desire slips away … day after day after day. While they are carrying on an internal debate, their competitors are taking away their business and getting stronger with more revenue, referrals and reviews. Every day they sit on the sidelines, they get further and further behind and the job ahead gets bigger and harder. This is the big competitive advantage that Michele has. With a business-like approach to her practice and dedication to serving clients, she is clear-headed about what needs to be done and how to do it. As a client, she is a joy to work with because most things go very smoothly for her. Conversations are easy, the path forward is clear, and the results are tangible.

There you have it. The three things I notice that distinguish Michele – and other successful attorneys – from those who struggle with frustration and burn-out. It starts with a foundation of passion for your work and love for your clients. Take that passion and temper it with a business-like approach to your practice. With those two things in alignment, you will find that the business decisions you have to make are much easier, the path forward is clear and the investments well-justified. That’s a great formula for success!


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Disclaimer: Growing a small law firm to six or seven figures (or more) is not easy. The journey is both challenging and exhilarating. At every step you may be tempted to quit. Those who succeed are committed, coach-able and resourceful. If that’s you, let’s talk.