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The Business Side Of Law: Rachel Levine, The Lawyer’s Strategist On 5 Things You Need To Create Or Lead A Successful Law Firm

An Interview With Eric Pines

Law school primarily prepares lawyers for the practice of law. But leading or starting a law firm requires so much more than that. It requires the entrepreneurial skills that any CEO would need to run a business; How to manage personnel, how to hire and fire, how to generate leads, how to advertise, how to manage finances, etc. On the business side of law, what does an attorney need to know to create a successful and thriving law practice? To address these questions, we are talking to successful law firm principals who can share stories and insights from their experience about the “5 Things You Need To Create Or Lead A Successful Law Firm”.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Levine.

Rachel Levine is an attorney and psychotherapist who has expanded her practice to teach other attorneys how to successfully build their law practice without spending 80 hours a week doing it. She brings her psychotherapy background to her masterclass for attorneys and helps them build their practice and get peace with their money and themselves. Rachel also works with attorneys in her therapy practice, helping them to change their relationship with work stress thereby opening the door to greater enjoyment of life and access to greater inner peace. As an attorney, she has worked in family law, civil litigation, and most recently representing workers, under- and unemployed individuals at administrative hearings to help rectify their economic insecurity.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are? Specifically we’d love to hear the story of how you began to lead your practice.

Thank you for having me! I wanted to be an attorney ever since I was a little kid. I can still remember being about 10 years old, watching a law show on my little black and white TV, and feeling inspired by attorneys being a voice for clients who did not have a voice in the legal system. I wanted to do that, too. Fast forward to my 3L year where I got an externship at a civil legal aid clinic in the family law unit. And I got to realize that dream of my 10-year-old self. In addition, I quickly learned the necessity of effective tools to care for my own well-being: mental, physical, and emotional. And this was another area that I found endlessly fascinating… psychology and its impact on the body.

After I practiced law, having my own firm for a time and then joining a big law firm, I was exhausted and wanted to find a way to practice and still have energy for the rest of my life! So, I made a career shift from full-time law to building a psychotherapy practice and creating a unique law practice, as well. And now I am able to expand my business to include a masterclass specifically for other attorneys who also want to find a new way to lead their practice and not do it at the expense of their own health while still making great money.

In a nutshell, I ended up here because I learned the hard way of how not to be a business owner, and now I no longer do it at the expense of my own health.

I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?

I absolutely agree! I’ll tell you a story from my longest mentor relationship, and then I must make an honorable mention of another mentor I had.

I had a mentor in law school and continued that mentor relationship long after I graduated and passed the Bar. I can remember freaking out my 2L year, as many of us do, right before a mid-term exam. I had emailed my mentor the night before about my concerns and right before I took the exam, I checked my email and he simply said, “C = J.D.”

Ha! In other words, even if you get a lower grade on this midterm, you will still get your degree. This simple equation put the rest of my law school experience into perspective. I still worked very hard, studied, and even enjoyed a few CALI awards. It was a valuable lesson to remember to prepare and do the best that I can. All other anxiety and worry on top of that will deplete my energy and is not helpful.

I had another mentor, specifically for when I was studying for the Bar exam. With about 3 weeks left to study before the Bar, I began to panic about what else I needed to study and know and could feel myself spiraling. So, I reached out. He helped me to calm down and got really practical with me about mapping out what I had left to study and creating a plan of attack. What another valuable lesson here of, okay, feel your fear briefly and then take a few breaths, and decide what is the next best thing to do to reach your goal. And yes, I passed the Bar on the first try!

From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?

To share with you one of my greatest struggles, particularly as it relates to me being a business owner, then we’ll need to journey back to elementary school. Bear with me. I lost a woman who was like a second-mom to me to cancer. I was seven. And she was the one person in my childhood who was consistent with pouring love, nurturance, delight, and belief in me. When she died, I felt like I lost all of that and the greatest struggle for me has been to bolster a deep-rooted belief in myself that of course I can accomplish my dreams.

Today, the accomplishments on the outside and the belief on the inside are more congruent and closer than they have ever been. What I did to overcome this struggle was to do the work in my own therapy and surround myself with people who will encourage, support, and challenge me, who I trust have my best interest at heart, much like Kathleen did, the woman I lost.

And what I came to realize is that while many of us had difficult things that happened to us when we were younger, we also most likely had at least a few amazing things and people in our younger years, and we get to draw on those experiences, as well, to help encourage and nurture ourselves as adults.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

Ah! It’s hard to pick just one. Okay, here is one of my favorites: “Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it is too late. Today, this hour, this minute is the day, the hour, the minute for each of us to sense the fact that life is good, with all of its trials and troubles, and perhaps more interesting because of them.” That’s a quote from Robert Updegraff.

In between my solo practices, I worked at a big law firm. I’m thankful for this experience. I mostly worked with some great colleagues, enjoyed promotions along the way, and after almost five years, was absolutely exhausted. My life revolved around work, and I would come in on the weekends to meet deadlines and the demands of the cases. I liked contributing to a larger team and valued the comradery. However, before I knew it, I had burned my health into the ground, and I really wasn’t happy much of the time. And it was only after I gave my notice and quit to make the career shift into counseling that the actual state of my health surfaced. The body can endure quite a bit but once my body got some breathing room after leaving the firm, my immune system basically collapsed and needed to be rebuilt in a sense. That process took a solid year.

What I learned is that I never again want to dig my health so far into the ground that I have a doctor telling me that surgery is the next and last option, as nothing else had worked up until that point. So, I have purposed to never again take my health for granted… or my happiness for that matter. And I want to clarify, happiness does not mean complacency. You can be happy and be very effective in your work.

Hence the quote, happiness, health, enjoyment, (you fill in the blank with a word of your choosing) they are all meant to be found along the way, not at the end of the road. I had to do the hard and gratifying work of figuring out what this looks like in my life. And whether I am building my practice or enjoying the fruits of my labor, I can breathe deeply and say, “Life is good, with all the troubles and the delights in it.” And if I can get there, anyone can get there.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

In just about every job I have had, the primary motivation and drive is to help people live into and enjoy greater health, be it mentally, emotionally, physically, or health related to their job. I have always had a tenacity to grow and develop as a person, and I am over the moon when I see my clients enjoying greater health and enjoying their lives in a way they were not before our work together.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Ever since the last semester of my master’s counseling program, I have dreamed of a way to bring law and psychology together. To that end, I am putting together a multi-week masterclass for millennial attorneys to teach them how to scale their solo or small firm practice and get peace with their money and themselves. I am very excited about this project!

Fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing the business of law. Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

During the pandemic, I represented workers and unemployed individuals in administrative hearings to help rectify their economic insecurity, along with advising and educating claimants as they traversed the unemployment system.

In my therapy practice, I focus on anxiety, depression, and trauma, and I also have a special focus of my practice devoted to seeing attorneys. They appreciate seeing a therapist who is also an attorney because they know, I get it.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Tenacity — I started a solo law practice while I had my therapy practice up and running. I was determined to practice law in a way that worked for me and would not deplete my health. In addition, with each client, I communicate that I am in their corner, rooting for them, and doing what I can to see them succeed in their goals, whether that is an unemployment client or a therapy client wanting to break free from past trauma.
  2. Flexibility — I definitely needed flexibility to go along with my tenacity! I was open to practicing law in a non-traditional way and to having multiple streams of income. Before, I was focused on working full-time in just one arena, law or counseling. With experience, intention, and willingness, a different opportunity crossed my path and I jumped at the chance to make it work, that is having a law practice and a therapy practice.
  3. Learner — I do love to learn! I can read and research on a topic that fascinates me for hours. And I seek out people who are further down the road that I am on, who can teach me from their successes and also from their “failures.” I put failures in quotes because as long as we are able to learn from a difficult situation in our lives, I don’t really consider that a failure. But language limits me here. All this to say, learning that a difficult situation is not the end of the story has been very instrumental to my success.

Being an attorney and a psychotherapist is unique. There is an interesting balance there, and I love it! I can remember one week where I was preparing for an administrative hearing, prepping the client and while I validate their fear of the process and speaking before the judge, I can be more directive, give them specifics of what works best and what material they should have in front of them to help them during the hearing. Also, I don’t ask a question at this hearing for which I do not already know the answer. Lawyers totally understand this! And I like that we go from start to finish in just a matter of weeks, but sometimes it takes longer.

And then the next day, I am seeing a therapy client and am reminded that we are exploring the terrain of their soul and I am asking questions for which I do not know the exact answer. Ha! This process takes much longer, months or years. Being able to practice both law and counseling is deeply satisfying to my left, logical brain and my right, intuitive brain.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

Not really. Almost any law school you go to will equip you enough and then comes the hard work of learning how to practice law, not just study law, but practice it. And that is exactly what it is… a practice! And so how you equip yourself as a lawyer has more to do with success than anything else.

Now with that said, if you are an aspiring lawyer who wants to get into a big, prestigious law firm or get a clerkship, then going to a top-tier law school will be important to your success in that aspiration.

Managing being a law practitioner and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?

There is definitely a difference between working in your business and working on your business. I am most acutely aware of this difference as a counseling practitioner and business owner. I am grateful to have certain days that are completely devoted to the business side and other days that are mainly devoted to client-facing hours. So now I get to be in my CEO role for an extended period of time during the week before I switch roles to working in my business as the psychotherapist.

Can you help articulate the entrepreneurial skills a lawyer needs to run and lead a successful law firm?

Without getting bogged down in too much detail, the entrepreneurial skills that a lawyer needs to run a successful law firm can be boiled down into four skills. The lawyer needs to be able to generate leads for the firm, convert those leads into paying clients, deliver a really great service/product, and know when and where to hire for certain roles in the law firm to delegate tasks.

As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing clients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?

I am fortunate because I have scaled my practice to the point where I pretty much split my time 50/50 between working in and on my practice. As I mentioned earlier, I have certain days that are devoted to my CEO role and other days that are client-facing.

Can you share some specific, non intuitive insights from our personal experience about how a leader of a law firm should:

  • Manage personnel: Communicate a lot up front, more than you would usually. Create a drama-free or at least a drama-less environment and lead by example. We are here to get our jobs done, and we are also human beings who sometimes need to talk through miscommunications, upsets, and hurt feelings. While this takes time on the front end, it will be easier on the backend to manage personnel with this approach.
  • Hire and fire: Draft a job description and be thorough in your interview process. Your law firm is your “baby” in a sense, and you don’t want just anyone handling your baby.
  • Generate leads: Have a lead capture page and provide something of value for free to visitors of this page and this one move could potentially increase your lead generation in a mind-blowing way. Of course, networking and word-of-mouth referrals help to generate leads, as well.
  • Advertise: Paid versus free advertising… That is the question. Or is it? If your advertising, sales message and process are good, it doesn’t matter if you’re using paid or free. With the money you will make through a good sales conversion process, all of your advertising winds up being free.
  • Manage finances: Get thee to a great accountant, ASAP! And if you want to learn more about managing finances, pay someone to teach you, or read up on it. This is extremely valuable information for the leader of a law firm to know.

Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview about the business side of law. What are your “5 Things An Attorney Needs To Know In Order To Create A Successful And Thriving Law Practice”?

  1. Creating a successful and thriving law practice is like being a sailor in a boat on the open seas. Once you figure out what your compass is that you will rely on for your direction and you learn how to trust in that (and assuming it is a reliable compass), then you have the freedom to go wherever you want that your law practice will let you go. But until you get that piece, you’ll wind up staying safely along the shore so you know where you are.
  2. An attorney needs to understand money and wealth. For example, there are different mindsets around money and wealth. It is important to learn what you need to know to fit into the income bracket that you want to be in.
  3. Strategies for business growth. The best time to implement these strategies for your business was a year ago. But the second-best time is today. Start now to grow your business and keep at it so that you maintain a steady stream of leads and clients, even in an economic downturn.
  4. I include techniques for inner peace to create a successful law practice because if you are stressed out, exhausted, and losing health, I’m just not sure how “successful” that really is.
  5. And last but certainly not least important: time is not money. Yes, you read that right, time is not money. Time is absolutely more valuable than money. You can always figure out a way to make more money. You can’t make more time. You can’t catch the soccer game, piano recital, or your friend’s wedding that you missed. If an attorney will learn how to stop trading their time for money, they can potentially have a successful and thriving law practice beyond what they originally thought was possible, and they can do it without the burnout.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would inspire a movement related to the number five I just spoke about. When the breadwinner of a family stops trading their time for money, they get to free up their time and spend it with their family and those they hold dear. The ripple effect is that this move positively impacts families, friends, and communities, bringing goodness to many people. And for those who are single, think of the energy you would have to just relax more or to create something, contribute in some larger way to your community or to the world, if that is what you want to do!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit me at

Follow me on YouTube @Lawyer Strategist and Instagram @thelawyerstrategist if curious about therapy services

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.

While he and his firm specialize in representing federal employees from all federal agencies and in reference to virtually all federal employee matters, his firm has placed special attention on representing Veteran Affairs doctors and nurses hired under the authority of Title. He and his firm have a particular passion in representing disabled federal employees with their requests for medical and religious reasonable accommodations when those accommodations are warranted under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA). He also represents them with their requests for Federal Employee Disability Retirement (OPM) when an accommodation would not be possible.

Mr. Pines has also served as a mediator for numerous federal agencies including serving a year as the Library of Congress’ in-house EEO Mediator. He has also served as an expert witness in federal court for federal employee matters. He has also worked as an EEO technical writer drafting hundreds of Final Agency Decisions for the federal sector.

Mr. Pines’ firm is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. His first passion is his wife and five children. He plays classical and rock guitar and enjoys playing ice hockey, running, and biking. Please visit his websites at and He can also be reached at



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Eric L. Pines

Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach