I’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

Episode 9: I've Come a Long Way, Baby!

In the early 90s, the idea of a woman launching and running her own law firm was a stretch of the imagination. But Genie Harrison was on the case — paying her dues, honing her skills and building lasting relationships. Then in 2013, The Genie Harrison Law Firm was born and quickly grew into one of LA’s predominant go-tos for employment law.

In This Episode
Genie Harrison, Genie Harrison Law Firm
Transcript

Pratik Shah (00:07):
Hi, everybody. And welcome back to Bootstrapped Solo. I am Pratik Shah, your host. And today we’re going to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly about running your own practice. This podcast is for those that want to know what it’s really like to start, run and grow practice. Today’s guest, very special guest today, is Genie Harrison. She runs the Genie Harrison Law Firm, which is an eight person practice that focuses on employment law, sexual harassment, and discrimination. She started her practice back in 2013 and has been growing strong ever since. Genie, welcome to the show.

Genie Harrison (00:43):
Pratik, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here and have this conversation with you.

Pratik Shah (00:49):
I am so glad you’re here. I mean, everybody knows you. You’re a CAALA past president. You’ve gotten some incredible results. And so I really appreciate you coming on and being able to talk to our audience about how you’ve done all this stuff. And let me start at the beginning. We chatted a little bit before the show, you got licensed in 1992, but you didn’t start your own practice until 2013, correct?

Genie Harrison (01:12):
Yep. That’s right.

Pratik Shah (01:15):
Yeah. So tell me about what you were doing between ’92 to 2013.

Genie Harrison (01:21):
My very first year out of law school, I did a clerkship at the LA Superior Court with two trial court judges because I wanted to really get my feet wet and understand what was happening in the trial courts. And so then I went out and this was then ’93, I went out and was an associate at a firm for probably about six years. Then I trans… And I was in that time period, I mean, things were really different then, too. There was just much more of a traditional path in practicing law and people, especially women, really weren’t going out and starting their own law firms at the time.

Genie Harrison (02:06):
And so I sort of took that path and then I was doing some business litigation and I did also plaintiff’s employment law. It was sort in its infancy at that time, plaintiff’s employment law. And so I was doing some individual cases, select cases, and I really wanted to just do employment law. I definitely cut my chops on business litigation and learning how to just work a file really hardcore. But then I transitioned into the plaintiff’s employment law practice by, at first, being an associate for a solo, right? And-

Pratik Shah (02:51):
That’s a different experience than working for a firm.

Genie Harrison (02:55):
Yeah, yeah, definitely. And having to work on a shoestring there and figure out how to maximize the outcome on cases with very little money in terms of resources, and then eventually became a partner with that solo, but that didn’t work out. And so then I ended up going and I started at that point for about a year, maybe a year and a half, I had the law offices of Genie Harrison, but I was working kind of on contract with a different law firm. So I was just committed to this one very large case at this other law firm. Well, that went very well. We had a seven month trial and at that law firm and well, with that arrangement. And so then we decided to become partners that was Litt as to our Harrison & Kitson. And so that went on for a little while and then I decided that I needed to leave there. And then I ended up being a partner in a different firm for about three years and that’s when we transition into, okay, now finally it’s 2013, August of 2013 and Genie starts her own firm, and why in the world does that?

Pratik Shah (04:17):
Well, yeah. Tell me about that. What led to that decision? I mean, obviously it seems like you always wanted to be in this ownership role, besides the few early years in your career where you worked at a firm and worked for the solo, since then you had always kind of been in this ownership role, either as law offices of the Genie Harrison or a partnership at different places, and then eventually decided to go completely on your own. No partners. Tell me about how that happened.

Genie Harrison (04:47):
Yeah. So as I like to say, I figured out that I was the problem in all those relationships.

Pratik Shah (04:54):
No, I doubt that.

Genie Harrison (04:57):
Yeah, seriously. No, because I did. And I think it’s important to talk about because I was constant… Again, I was coming from a much more what we would talk about and refer to as a sort of traditional approach to practicing law. I thought I had to have partners. I thought that that was the only way people would take me seriously. I had these older notions based on what it looked like when I started practicing law. And so finally, and all along the way, Pratik, I have my own ideas about how things should be done, what the decision should be. I don’t think we should do it that way, we should do it this way, et cetera, et cetera. And I was outvoted or what have you. And I was very frustrated. And so that’s when my dear husband James said, who’s a serial entrepreneur said, “You got to go out and make your own firm, man. You can’t be hitting your head against a brick wall and it’s of your own making.”

Pratik Shah (05:59):
And there’s a little bit, and I could speak to this for myself is that there’s a little bit of imposter syndrome where start your practice and you’re like, “Well, I’ve never run a practice. I don’t really know if I’m doing things the right way. This person probably knows better than me.” And then you find out they don’t know any better than you either. And you’re just both trying to figure it out, that’s what I went through. I’m not sure if you kind of felt that at all.

Genie Harrison (06:22):
Oh yeah, for sure. And honestly, I think we are our own worst enemies in terms of the things that we tell ourselves in our own heads, because I made running the business out to be a lot more. It is time consuming, it is hard, it is stressful. Certain things are very complicated, but I made it out to be unknowable on my own. Really. I made it out to be this hugely impossible task, which is why I put it off for so long. And honestly, Pratik, I knew that I was destined to really start my own firm and stand on my own two feet without being attached to another firm. Not of counsel, not nothing. I knew that for years before it happened. And I said for years, “I know that’s where I’m headed because it’s the thing of which I am most afraid.”

Genie Harrison (07:24):
And I tell you, when my husband said, “You got to go out and make your own law firm.” I was like, “I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to run a business. I never ran a business on my own.” I mean, I was apoplectic, but I knew it was true that I needed to do that. And so I got to say with a lot of things in terms of stuff I’ve accomplished, I tell people good God, if I can do it, you can do it. And if you look at me and think, oh, she’s got it all together and she’s firing on all the cylinders and it’s easy for her, I’m like a duck on the water with those little… I’m paddling like this as fast as I can trying to look calm on the top, we’re all doing the same thing.

Pratik Shah (08:12):
We’re all doing that.

Genie Harrison (08:13):
We are.

Pratik Shah (08:13):
Yeah. I try to tell people that, all the time. It’s so easy to look at someone else’s business and someone else’s firm and feel like, oh my God, they have it all figured out and I’m struggling. But the reality is everybody is trying to figure it out as they go along. And the more mistakes people have made, the more that they’ve learned and don’t assume that your competitor or anyone else is any smarter than you are.

Genie Harrison (08:37):
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think it’s very satisfying to take the risk on yourself and to have it pay off in terms of just knowing that you built it and you did it your way. And it’s so great not to have the noise for me, not to have the noise of other people’s issues, right? And so that was always very distracting in my partnerships with other people’s issues and trying to manage those relationships. And I just don’t have to deal with that anymore. Now as a boss and as a manager, I even… I dislike drama in my office and at home so much. When I am interviewing people, I tell people, “Listen, this is a zero and I mean zero drama office. I won’t tolerate drama, interpersonal drama in the office because the practice of law is dramatic enough in and of itself.”

Genie Harrison (09:53):
And I need the time and my energy to be focused on our client’s needs. And I need the employee, our staff, and other lawyers, attention and energy to be focused on the client’s needs, on dealing with opposing counsel, on dealing with the court and in trying to help others within the legal practice as well. That’s where our energy’s needs to be focused, not on where did you put your coffee cup and crap like this. So it is so great now that I set the parameters and set the terms that are comfortable for me, for my working environment. And I get to just come to work and live the way I want to live, consistent with my own values and that is something I really appreciate.

Pratik Shah (10:42):
So it’s something like we’ve heard this from people out there of kind of designing your own life kind of thing. You, with intention, have designed the firm the way you want it. And would you say that in the years prior, you’ve learned what you didn’t want and now you’ve realized what you do want, is that fair to say?

Genie Harrison (11:04):
Exactly. Absolutely fair to say. And for me, I agree with you. You mentioned something about like, if things don’t work, you’re learning and that is absolutely the growth mindset. The reality is that when things don’t work, we figure out how to tack a little bit closer towards where we actually want to be. And failure, I mean, what people call failure, even though it has all of these negative connotations, it’s just like the thing didn’t work the way I thought or I intended, or I envisioned, and so I’m either going to completely abandon it or I’m going to change it, retool and refire. One of the things that’s just so amazing about the practice of law, having done it now for a few decades, is that I always have the opportunity to learn and change and develop myself emotionally, intellectually, in regards to my client’s cases, I love that. I have to learn a new business virtually in every single case that I do in the employment law area.

Genie Harrison (12:18):
And I learn about different human beings in every case. And I think it’s endlessly fascinating and I get myself into trouble if I’m not constantly completely engaged, that’s when I… I know myself, I get into trouble then. So it’s great that I have a very demanding career. I need that. And so I love the fact that I get to learn all of these new things, develop new business techniques and strategies and create new things. And I mean, Pratik, I’m 30 years in. I started practicing law when I was 23. And so, yeah, I’m 30 years in now. And so it’s still is an endlessly captivating way to spend my life. Yeah.

Pratik Shah (13:16):
And I’m so glad you brought that up, so you’re a 30 year lawyer, you started your practice in 2013, which is about nine years ago. So you were practicing for about two decades, just a little over two decades when you started your practice. I mean, for a lot of people and maybe for you two, did it feel like you were kind of starting over again?

Genie Harrison (13:36):
Yeah, it did. And I mean, in some ways I don’t regret the way things happened in my life. I don’t have that. But in some ways I wish I could have, or had chosen to start my firm earlier, but I’m also very grateful that I did it when I did it. So everything happens for a reason. I really do believe that. And so I’m good with it, but I can imagine… I’m excited. Let me put it this way, I’m excited for the lawyers who are looking at starting their practices earlier on in their careers than I did. I’m excited for them.

Pratik Shah (14:20):
So when you did start in 2013, now when we hear you now and you tell us about the parameters you’ve set in your law firm like, “Hey, look, this is how we aggressively fight for our clients. This is how we represent them. You got to learn on every case, we’re drama free,” these parameters that you set., Did you have them when you started in 2013 or is that stuff you’ve kind of learned along the way? Obviously, zealously advocating for your clients, everybody knows your reputation, knows that you were doing that already, but as far as the management rules.

Genie Harrison (14:53):
No, these were definitely principles that I had already developed. And I learned through the early years that I didn’t… I don’t like the drama in the work environment. I hate it. And I also don’t like people being duplicitous and manipulative and all of those kinds of things. I am a blunt instrument, I’m like a hammer, I’m bam, bam, bam, bam, and straightforward. That’s just the way I am. And I need to be surrounded by people who are similar and also even if they’re somewhat different, not in the core values that I hold. They need to have the same core values, even if they approach things somewhat differently in the mechanism. And so when they see things differently, I value it when people see things differently than I do, and they work differently than I do because I get to learn from that. And that hones me. But I have to be working with people who appreciate my core values and what I bring to the table as a human being, because otherwise it’s not going to work.

Pratik Shah (16:17):
And I want to touch on what you talked about, about being blunt and being straightforward. I think that’s super important as a business owner and as a manager, you have to just say, here is what I expect of you and you can’t say that directly, you don’t want to be rude about it. You have to do it in a nice way, but you have to say, here are what my expectations are. And if you can’t meet the expectations, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. But if you don’t have that ability, you should develop that. Not you, but I’m telling the audience that if you don’t have that ability to sit down with somebody and say, this is what is expected of you and this is how I expect you to act and perform at my company, I think you’re going to run into some trouble. What do you think?

Genie Harrison (16:58):
I totally agree with you, I think it’s really important. And it’s so important because the rest of your organization is looking to see whether or not you’re going to be a leader. And whether you’re going to allow these things in their workplace or not, and they won’t respect you and they won’t respect and value the workplace if you are not demonstrating respect for them, by actually being clear about your expectations and then enforcing the rules and enforcing those expectations. People will be like, “Well, I’m doing my job. I’m meeting her expectations, but that person over there isn’t, why should I work so hard to follow the rules? And then she just lets this other person get away with it. And that causes me strife and trouble, and I have to cover for the other person and all that kind of stuff.” I mean, you put yourself in other people’s shoes and realize I wouldn’t appreciate it if my employer says one thing and does another, I don’t respect that. I’m not a person who respects that kind of thing.

Pratik Shah (18:09):
Yeah. Was that something you had to… Was that a skill you had to develop and learn or was that something that came naturally to you?

Genie Harrison (18:16):
Oh, it came naturally to me.

Pratik Shah (18:19):
Yeah. So one of the other things you talked-

Genie Harrison (18:21):
I always told people what I thought.

Pratik Shah (18:24):
Good. As you should. I mean, as everybody should. I don’t think there’s any room in this profession. And like you said, we work so hard on our cases and they take so much time that there just isn’t really a lot of room for everything else. And if me being direct and clear with you is you’re going to feel that that’s rude, I mean, that’s just how I operate and it’s my show. So that’s just the way it works.

Genie Harrison (18:50):
And that’s why I did. I really did. I didn’t understand earlier in my life, how important teaming up with people who have those same principles and values is. It’s just where I’m able to be comfortable and then excel on the actual case work and really become my own person. And it’s interesting because even though I was a successful partner in these other firms and I would get verdicts and settlements, I mean a lot big stuff. I didn’t stand out until I stood alone. And so that is when I was really able to develop clarity about who I really am, what my brand is, who I want to speak to in the community. What kind of clients I want to draw to myself, what cases I absolutely love doing and being super intentional about everything. And so it’s been definitely a journey, but it’s been well worth it.

Pratik Shah (20:09):
So a lot of people are afraid of saying, this is what I want, because they’re afraid they’re going to turn away potential business from these other areas of law or other potential referral sources. And you just mentioned something about being intentional of saying, Hey, this is the exact client I want, this is the exact case I want, these are the people I want to work with, I want to work with me and it’s okay if you don’t fit into this role, because then this is not the place. I’m not the lawyer. I’m not the law firm. I’m not the workplace for you. How did you feel about that? Of when you say, “Hey, being intentional about what you want, not just in cases and clients, but employees and being okay with missing out on other people or other cases.”

Genie Harrison (20:55):
That is such a great question. And I think that people spend a lot of time… Younger lawyers, I know I did, thinking I got say yes to everything and trying to figure out what am I costing myself if I say no to X, Y, and Z, but I tell you some different things I’ve heard and things that I have lived and experienced as truth. The fact of the matter is in a contingency practice, a big part of one’s success is based on what cases you reject, okay? So I develop a ton of potential business, and I’m very careful about tracking all of my leads, et cetera, et cetera. I have a very, very thoroughly built out system and process. And I think I reject, I’m going to say over 95% of what I develop. And I reject and I refer out on appropriate cases and that kind of thing.

Genie Harrison (22:05):
Here’s the deal, I know myself. My personality is I am a deep dive person on virtually everything I do. I’m a deep dive person. So I am not a volume practice. And I have never been able to be a volume practice. I want to take cases and I want to work them up hard and I want to maximize the outcome, whether that’s by way of trial or settlement. And for me to be able to do that, when I look at a case, I have to know that when I see it doesn’t mean that anybody else sees it the same way I do, but that I can see my way towards liability, winning on liability in that case, because in employment law, if I win no matter pretty much, no matter how much I win, I’m going to be able to get attorney’s fees because there’s a fee sharing statute.

Genie Harrison (23:01):
So I got to be able to know that I’m going to make it past summary judgment, and there’s a way to get liability on that case. And I know that I need to be able to… The way I am is I am very communicative. I need to be able to work with my client. I need a client who’s going to listen to me, work hard, do the homework I give them, be thoughtful and pay attention to how I’m training them because this is my investment. And so I’m not going to invest in somebody who’s not going to respect my investment, that shit’s not happening. That is not happening. And so I weed those out very early on and I have a, as you can tell, a very strong personality and so-

Pratik Shah (23:53):
No, that’s a good thing though. Yeah.

Genie Harrison (23:54):
It works for some people and it doesn’t work for other people. And so when you’re saying being straightforward and being able to tell people, including your employees, this is what I expect, this is okay, this is not okay, do this, don’t do that. All of these kinds of things in regards to the work parameters, I do the same thing with my clients. And if they’re not going to listen to me, even if they start off listening to me, if they stop listening to me and if they become really disrespectful, I fire them. I’m out, adios, bye-bye. Life is too short and you’re going to screw up my investment. And so maybe that people are going to think that’s too harsh, but here’s the deal, I also went… I talk a lot. I’m sorry. I’m going to keep going.

Pratik Shah (24:41):
No, that’s [inaudible 00:24:41]. That’s why you’re here, we want… No, this is what we want. This great. Please, continue.

Genie Harrison (24:48):
I’m going to tell you too, there was this one CAALA Women’s Conference at which there was a business coach and she said, “What drives you? What is your business motto? If you had a motto.” My name is Genie Harrison and I blank. And so at that moment I said, my name is Genie Harrison and I help victims recover. That is what came out and that is what I do. I especially help people who have been victimized by employers and who have been sexually abused, I help them recover. I help them recover emotionally. I help them recover their boundaries. I help them recover financially and the other things and their self-esteem, okay? And their self-respect and the things besides money are actually the most important thing that I help people recover because that’s what actually changes their lives for the better. And so-

Pratik Shah (25:54):
For them to regain their confidence.

Genie Harrison (25:56):
Yeah. Absolutely. Changes their lives for the better. And so I said, “That’s what I do. I help victims recover.” And I’m just going to be straightforward about that, that’s what I’m passionate about, which comes from my own experiences. And so I’m going to do that and I’m going to let people know that’s what I do. And I’m going to let people know that we’re like… And you know my firm is all women. We have a fractional director of operations who is a man, but he’s not a full-time employee. And so we’re a firm full of women. And these are women who have experienced a lot of different things in life. And so we love everybody that we represent, but I think we really, in terms of the client, we really speak to women and my client base is 99% women and they feel comfortable.

Pratik Shah (26:59):
And they should, right? And this goes back to what we’ve talked a lot about throughout, which is just diversity of thought and diversity of experiences. And we’ve heard that you’ve speaked on that as a CAALA past president is that when you have attorneys that have come from different backgrounds and different cultural experiences, different gender experiences, they speak to the client in a different way because they can understand what that client went through in a way that a different person just can’t understand. It seems like you’ve kind of built that out also intentionally.

Genie Harrison (27:31):
Yeah. For sure. I mean, I want our clients to feel like they have a place where they can really be open about what they’ve gone through and how they’re feeling, because I can’t do what I’m great at, unless I can have that connection with them and I know I can help them. And I tell them, you are… And I’ve been there, so I share my experiences with them. So the things that I have been through, I start off with telling my clients about so that they know where I’m coming from and they know that I really accept and don’t judge them negatively. And I, instead, judge the people who should be judged, who are the perpetrators, right? And so I tell them about my experiences and I tell them right now because they usually come to me, I catch people in the free fall of their trauma.

Genie Harrison (28:39):
That’s what I do, it’s catch them in the free fall of their trauma. So they come to me in a very in active trauma and they are in active victimization, many of them. And so I say, “I see you, you are in victimization land. I’m going to help you pack your bags and move from victimization land to survivor land. I know how to get there and I can lead you and I will help you do that. So believe me, when I say we are going on a journey together. All right?” And so it makes them know that they have a light at the end of the tunnel a little bit. I can’t reverse what’s happened, but I can try to help them understand that there is a path forward and that you can tell I’m passionate about.

Pratik Shah (29:39):
Yeah. You can tell how passionate you are about the work. And it’s interesting because we talked earlier about in 2013, when you started the business you mentioned that you spoke to your husband and were like, “I don’t know really how to run this by myself.” But at the same time, a couple of things you’ve mentioned in the last 10 minutes are that you have a great system when it comes to intake, you’ve built out a great system. You’ve got a fractional director of operations that kind of helps with the day to day. So it seems like from how you felt when you started in 2013 to where you’re at now, it’s very different.

Genie Harrison (30:15):
I’ve come a long way, baby.

Pratik Shah (30:20):
So how was that growth path of clearly you’re a fantastic lawyer, you’re passionate about your clients, you’re passionate about the work. You understand all of that, but it seems like where you had to grow was in the business owner kind of category, fair to say?

Genie Harrison (30:35):
Totally. Absolutely fair to say. And so the way it started was I started the firm with just me and my wonderful friend and associate in my last law firm, Amber Phillips. And so I begged her to please come with me because I was starting my own firm. And she told me… She said, “Let me think about it.” And I was like, “Ah, I can’t believe it. Come with me, don’t say you’re going to think about it.” So she finally said yes. And it was just the two of us in somebody’s extra space and which was like a loft and there was extra loft space. I didn’t have my own storefront. I didn’t have any of those things. And we worked 24/7. I had to learn… The absolute nemesis of my existence for years was QuickBooks. I had to learn-

Pratik Shah (31:30):
QuickBooks is the worst. It’s the worst, it’s so annoying.

Genie Harrison (31:38):
It’s so horrible, it’s torture, but I had to learn. And so I taught myself to… Had online coaching and stuff like that and learned how to do QuickBooks, which was very important. I wanted to always make sure that I was the person controlling the books, because I’ve heard of a lot of people who have been stolen from, and I’m not going to let that happen. I know I will not be able to live with myself if I let that kind of thing happen. So at any rate I taught myself QuickBooks and I made all those decisions and ran everything in my firm. And I thought it was important for me to learn every single aspect of the firm, make all the decisions about is it FedEx or Golden State Overnight and why? And all of those things, because how am I going to maximize profitability, and I should say, maximize longevity and profitability? Make sure that this is a successful business because first it really has to be a successful business and then be able to maximize the profitability.

Genie Harrison (32:53):
And I had to do that by completely understanding my business. And so I did that and Amber and I brought cases with me because I had already been developing cases, which goes back to one of the earlier things I said here, developing business. And then as those things settled, I’ve always been very conservative financially. And so you’re never going to see me, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but you’re never going to see me out there getting a jet or something like that. People are like, “When do you get the GHLA helicopter?”

Pratik Shah (33:28):
I was hoping to get on your jet, Genie.

Genie Harrison (33:29):
I’m like, “No way. Not going to happen.” And so it’s just the way I am. And so I plan things carefully and I don’t overextend myself. I actually have relatively little debt and people… I think Teresa said this one time when we were on a panel at the most recent women’s conference, there was a question about, how much money do you need to start your own business to start your own law firm? And I think she’s the one who said, however much you have now. And that is the right answer. That is the correct answer. So to those who are listening to this podcast, how much do you need? You need how much you have now, if now is the time when you want to start your business, because you’re going to find ways to make money. You will, whether it’s contracting, whether it’s co-counseling, whatever it is, you’re going to figure it out. Okay? You’re going to do it.

Pratik Shah (34:34):
That’s super important, is having that desire to figure it out, right? There’s a lot of folks that I think maybe when they get this idea of starting their firm, they feel like they’re putting in too many hours at their current firm and so they want to go start their own firm. But you mentioned it that when you started in 2013, you were working 24/7.

Genie Harrison (34:53):
Oh yeah. It’s a whole other level when you have your own business. And so there’s nobody even in your own… My own mind, I can’t think, Oh, he’ll take care of that or she’ll take care of that. No, no, I will take care of that. I was thinking of myself the other day I was on my run. I do 5.3 mile run every Sunday, which exercise is one of the most important things that people can do consistently. I want to put that out there. So I was on my run and I was thinking I have spent more than 20 years working almost all the weekends to one extent or another, like for example, last year when I was CAALA president, very few weekends off, usually working the entire weekend.

Genie Harrison (35:48):
And so the hard work, even though before I had my own business, it was on cases and generating all of that money for the firm in which I add all these partners and different people making the overhead decisions, and I disagree with those decisions, and now it’s working for myself and the things that I’m passionate about, but this business is no joke, whether you’re going to be a successful attorney in somebody else’s firm or whether you’re going to start your own firm. This whole quiet quitting thing, no, not in our business. No, not in our business. I mean-

Pratik Shah (36:34):
You know, my position… Sorry, go ahead.

Genie Harrison (36:36):
I’m going to say not in our business, if you want to really push and if you want to define your life differently and success in your life, which is very important to have your own definition of success, that is, it should be a core thing that you figure out early on. It shouldn’t be somebody else’s. I spent decades doing other people’s… Living in other people’s frameworks and started finally living in my own in 2013. So what is your definition of success? And your definition is fine, okay? If you want to be the Brian Panish or the Bob Simon or the Pratik Shah or the whatever, the Genie Harrison, these are people who are putting in a ton of time. That’s just what it is.

Pratik Shah (37:31):
First of all, thank you for including my name. Thank you, including my name in that group, but I’ll take it. Despite not deserving it, I’ll take it. But I 100% agree with what you said, I think that everybody has to figure out what’s important to them and do that. But if you want to have a 1% level of success, if you want to be in the 1% of attorneys and I just don’t mean financially, I mean in reputation and results and in voice and opinion in having a disproportionate amount of influence, it’s going to take that 1% of effort that the 99% aren’t going to do and you have to have that understanding. There’s trade offs. If you don’t want that, that’s perfectly fine. Just then don’t be upset if you don’t get there. And then don’t say that it’s because of some other reason why you didn’t get there when really the reason you need to look in the mirror if you’ve made this quiet quitting decision, or even just lower effort, it’s all up to you what’s important for you in your life.

Genie Harrison (38:32):
Which is totally fine and I’ll give you an example, a perfect contrast. My brother is a structural engineer and what was most important to him in his life was making sure that he lived five minutes from his house and that he was able to drop his sons off and go and pick them up every day and go and have lunch at home. And that he did not want work to interfere in any way, shape or form with his time with his sons. Weekends, scouts, all those kinds of things. And so in contrast, I did not give birth to my kids. And so I married into my third marriage, married into two wonderful kids in 2011. And so now we have an incredibly supportive, wonderful family unit. Different approaches, right? Because I was always very driven in terms of business and being a lawyer.

Genie Harrison (39:39):
That’s just my nature. So my first marriage, I’m very good friends with my ex, my first husband. And he really wanted a much more traditional sort of wife. And we met in law school and we were both very young and so he figured out that what he wanted during the course of our marriage. And I figured out what I wanted during the course of our marriage. And we figured out you want something different than I can give you and vice versa, and there’s that compatibility issue. And so again, it’s just knowing yourself, which sometimes it takes time and I totally get it. And it’s, I think, one of the most important things that we can do in our life is accept who we really are as a human being and what drives us and what we actually want and put it on the table and say, this is who I am. This is what’s important to me. And this is what I want. And this is the way I want my life to be structured because that’s going to make me happy.

Genie Harrison (40:40):
I’m going to have to work hard or I’m not going to have this, but I’m going to have that. I’m going to have… I won’t be the owner of the engineering company, but I will have had every single weekend with my kids and those are decisions each one of us has to make. And I commend everyone for making those decisions about their lives as early as possible,

Pratik Shah (41:07):
A hundred percent agree. Hundred percent agree that you figure out… You have to figure out who you are and what you want and then just go all in on that and don’t worry about anything else. Just go all in on what you want once you’ve figured it out. So a couple more questions, and then we’ll let you get back to kicking butt is, since you started your firm in 2013 to today, when you think about it for a second, what would you say was your hardest day as a business owner?

Genie Harrison (41:33):
Oh, for me the hardest days as a business owner are always when I have to tell an employee that it’s not working out. I mean, even though it’s necessary, it just crushes me, honestly, that’s it.

Pratik Shah (41:50):
Yeah, because you understand that they’ve been trying to build their life with this job in mind. And when you hire somebody you’re an eternal optimist. We all are, when you hire somebody, you hope it’s always going to work out because that’s why you hired them. You thought they had the tools needed to succeed at your company. And it’s almost… Obviously it’s hurtful for the person that you’re letting go, but it’s also admitting that you were wrong.

Genie Harrison (42:16):
Yeah. And you’ve invested, I always invest heavily in the employees here. Education, continued education, mentoring, one-on-one, all of that. And you invest and then sometimes despite everybody’s best efforts, it’s just not the good fit. And it’s really hard to say that. I’m a very empathetic person, I don’t know if you can tell. And so I take people’s wellbeing and their emotions very, very seriously. And one of the things I’m proud about at my firm is that we’re really able to have the employees prioritize their lives, working out, their families, kids, their own healthcare and being healthy in their lives, et cetera, et cetera. And so when it doesn’t work out, I’m sad.

Pratik Shah (43:18):
Yeah. Yeah. And then what are your favorite days as a business owner?

Genie Harrison (43:24):
My favorite days as a business owner are seeing the successes of the people who work here and when they have their achievements, that is multiplied so much for me because they wouldn’t be having those achievements if I didn’t… In this moment, in this way, if I didn’t take the risk to start the firm, this place wouldn’t exist if I didn’t do what I did. And at the times that I did it and as hard as it can be, and as hard as it has been at various times, just seeing them succeed is makes me so happy and grateful that I took the risk and that I have created a place where they feel comfortable and confident and supported to spread their wings and do their best.

Pratik Shah (44:27):
I love that. I love that. One final question and then we’ll wrap up here is, if you could go back in time to 1992, 1995, mid 90s, and you could talk to younger Genie Harrison, what would you tell her?

Genie Harrison (44:44):
I would tell her that she’s braver than almost anybody I’ve ever known, that she’s going to have an amazing life, that she is going to make herself proud, that she’s going to make the legal community proud and she’s going to help change some people’s lives for the better. And she’s going to have an amazing family with the love of her life and a truly epic relationship. And she’s going to meet wonderful people along the way and have an opportunity to do really fascinating things. So I see wonderful things for her and she should try to enjoy it as much as possible. That’s what I would say.

Pratik Shah (45:38):
That is amazing. Thank you so much Genie for coming on, really appreciate it. And thank you all for listening or watching. We’ll see you on the next episode of Bootstrapped Solo. And remember just because people like Genie Harrison make it look easy and effortless, it doesn’t mean that it is, or it was. And as always the one ask I have for all our listeners and watchers is if you enjoyed the pod, please share it where you share stuff, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok. We can only grow if you let others know about it and so we’d appreciate your help in doing that. And that way we can continue to get great guests like Genie on here. Thank you again and see you next time.

 

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