Decision Dialogues
Decision Dialogues

Episode · 1 year ago

Striking out on Your Own - Ep 13

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On Episode 13, Mark Willoughby and Tom Orecchio speak to Chris Hliboki of Hliboki Law. Chris discusses his decision to strike out on his own as a solo legal practitioner after working as an associate for another firm in the early part of his career. He talks about the challenges he's faced, the rewards that decision and others have resulted in, and his decisionmaking processes in his work today. Get the full show notes and more resources at ModeraWealth.com/DecisionDialogues

Are you paving the way for the life you want facing decisions that may affect you personally and financially? The decision dialogs podcast, brought to you by moderia wealth management, presents personal stories about navigating through life's pivotal moments, narratives that we hope will inspire you as you create your own story. You'll learn what influence their next steps and gain insights that could help you with your own critical choices. Welcome to decision dialogs. Thanks for joining us on decision dialogs. Were thrilled to have you along. My name is Mark Willoughby and I'm a principal and wealth manager and the Chief Operating Officer of Madeira Wealth Management Llc. Today my partner Tom Orechio, the chief executive officer, principal and Wealth Manager at Madeira, and I will be chatting with Christopher Leboki and experienced estate tax, business and real estate attorney, founder and owner of a successful legal practice serving clients in the New Jersey and New York area. Welcome everyone to the show and I'll hand it over to Tom. Thank you, Mark Chris. Great to have you. Oh, Tom will thank you very much for having me so full disclosure Chris and I know each other since before we were teenagers. Chress, we're just going to go over just some general questions about how you got started and what you do. So why don't we start with what line of business you favor most and how did you get started in that? Well, I've been running my own practice now for about twenty two years and so I do a lot of work in the tax and estate planning area. In additional my law degree, I have my masses in tax law. So in addition to the state planning and tax controversy area, I also do a lot of general corporate work and transactional work. We do a fair amountal real estate and we do some commercial litigation work from time to time as well. So, Chris, when you got to add a law school, I know that you were working for another firm. What cause you to go out on...

...your own? It's an interesting question because they were combination of factors. Number One, I just applied and been accepted to the NYU LM program at the time and my firm was going to pay for it and they renact. So that was a jump start for me to realize that my time there was was very limited at that point, my wife's career was starting to take off and she, you know, I got to give her credit. You really supported me in the decision to go out on my own. And, yeah, you know, timing is everything. At that point, what I left, I didn't have client one and on top of that, I was leaving my desk every day at thirty, driving to New York City to get in my seat at Nyu at night from six to ten at night for three nights a week. You know, I look back on it now and I just don't even know how I did it, but I'm sure glad I did because it is one of the best decisions I ever made. So, Chris, for our audience, can you describe what the LM programs all about? Yeah, sure, you know, it's a masses of tax law. So it's like going back for another two and a half three years of law school, but specializing in tax. Okay, this I'm assuming that comes up a lot in your practice. Yeah, you know what, one of the things that I was really impressed with the partner that I was working for when I was an associate. He has LOM and tax and one of the things that really impressed me was he's just thrown on a different plane and you know it's one thing to do a business deal, it's another thing to look at from his a tax perspective. So I knew very early on that's what I wanted to do. So it's just a question of finding my way into the tax program and putting the time in to go out and study for the yell. So twenty two years ago, you go out on your own. How long did it take before you felt you started to get traction enough that you can make a run at this? You know, every day, even twenty two years later, I think the same thing Tom even at the phone does a ring for a couple hours in the office, I still get a little bit anxious. But you know what, it was probably about two or three years in and...

I started landing some significant clients at that point. And when you really know that you've done a good job and things are starting to take off is when you have client to referring clients to you because they told you you've done a good job and that that validation was really important to me. That's great. So when you go out on your own and you're responsible for all parts of the business, not only bringing in business, and serving clients, but running the actual business. What do you find to be the hardest decisions about running your business? You know what, the biggest concern that I always have from day one is time management and efficiencies. My I will tell you one of the greatest things I ever did was it was hire my secretary, Rito, because she's with me for almost twenty one years now and she puts just a wonderful face on my firm. The clients love her and she wears so many hats in the office. I have to tell you, it's it's like having a second wife because we bigger sometimes like an old married couple. But she's fantastic and you know, I've been part of her family now. I've seen her kids grow up and now she's she's a grandmother three times over with the fourth on the way, and it's just it's been a great relationship. That's great. You mentioned that time management's a difficult part of the business. Walk us through a typical day. What happens? Well, there is no typical day. Every day is different and one of the things that I try to do every day or the night before walking you off as all of a list of fifty or twenty tasks that I want to accomplish. I'm a big list guy like that. You know, I walk in the office, especially on a Monday morning, by ten thirty there are ten other things that I've been added to my list at that point because so many things happened between a Friday and a Monday that we your phone calls and and throw my agenda out the window for the day and I have to start reprioritizing right away. And that's the biggest challenge, I think, on a day to day basis is that...

...you just never know what's going to happen. You know, things go wrong, opportunities arise for clients and you have to jump off you have to prioritize. You're constantly reprioritizing. So let's stay with this for a minute, because we have a lot of clients who are business owners and I'm sure that we have adult children of clients who are aspiring business owners. It's difficult to separate your work from your life and your family. Do you find that it could easily be a seven day a week job and if so, how do you separate it or do you separated? It? Definitely is a if you're going to be a business owner. It is you have to be totally invested in and it is a seven day a week job, without a doubt. I'm very fortunate that my family is very supportive of it. My wife, as you know, tod, works a very big job herself, so she perfectly well understands that by hours are whatever they need to pay. But I got to tell you, I mean I don't struggle with it, only because I don't mind doing the work and I don't mind doing the work at all hours. I try to balance at the best I can, but it seems to work. I don't really have a big issue with does the same apply to your personal finances and your business finances? I know that, you know your works tied very closely to your life. Do you find that there is a bit of an entanglement between your personal assets and Finances and your business finances? Now you know what I we keep them entirely separate. I never make my business decisions based upon my personal finances or vice versa. What it comes to my business, the biggest challenge, you know, obviously, is staying on top of clients and you know, in terms of billing and collections and all that and and it's a it's a constant challenge for, I think any small business owner is to is to keep the review coming in the door. But I have also found that if you are up front with your clients about it and you are consistent with your clients concerning billing and collections, that they are very, very responsive and they're very appreciative of it. Okay, as a...

...small business owner and as an attorney who practices a lot of areas, I'm sure that there are days that you enjoy and their days that you don't enjoy, and there are areas that you enjoy working in and other areas where it's just part of the job. What's your favorite? You know what my favorite really is is dealing with my business clients, and one of the reasons why is I just enjoy seeing these businesses go from from startups literally through to sale. I've been along with that evolutionary process with a number of clients over the last fifteen, twenty years. Or have clients walk in the door sixteen, eighteen years ago with a piece of paper and a check for two hundred dollars to start their business and before you know it they've got five centers they've got sixty five employees and they're selling it out to the you know, whether it's a private refirm or a strategic partner, and to see that growth and to be part of that along the way is really it's gratifying from a professional standpoint and I don't I kind of feel, you know, part of as a small part of that success. I really enjoy it. Sure, twenty plus years into this, if you could look back and you started over, what would be the one thing you would do differently? The only thing I probably would have done a little bit differently is I probably would have hired an associate earlier on. I've gone through a series of power legals. I've gone down the route several times with associates. The problem for a small firm like like mine is at associates they come and go and there's no consistency. They come in, they learn that, then they're on to the next thing and and and they move on and that's that's the biggest challenge for a small practice like mine. So this is a difficult question and it's a two part or. What is the best advice you ever received and, if you can recall, what's the best advice you ever gave the best advice I've ever received. I...

...was sitting in court one day and I was contemplating whether or not to go out on my own, and I was there with a another solo practitioner and we were on opposite side of the case and we were sitting outside of judges chambers waiting to basically have I was waiting to get my head handed to, me tell you truth. But I asked him. I I just out of the Bluis, I said. I said, Pete, how do you know when it's time to go out on your own? And he said you never know. There's never the right time, he said, but you have to trust in the process, he said, because when you are on your own, the business will come, and which is a very hard thing to have faith in. But I will tell you, he was a hundred percent right and when I did finally go out on my own, he was my first phone call. He referred me a ton of business and I'm happy to say he actually when I'm and became a respected judge. You or a burden, Kempy? That's great. And how about the best advice you've given? The Best Advice I've given one of the things that I tell all young intern Y's and low school students who I come across is never take a case or a matter solely for the money because when you do that you will end up with a dissatisfied client and you'll end up with a whole bunch of problems. You have to be you just never do anything based on solely on the money in this business. That's good advice. That's any business. So, Chris, I know you pretty well and I know that you love to run and I know that you love to read. What are you reading right now? Right now I'm reading the splendid in the vile by Eric Larson, which is about Churchill and the bombing of London World War Two. I've read several of his books. I read devil in the White City and the garden to beasts. But you know, I do fall into those really lighthearted crime type novels. I've read probably like twenty Michael Collony books. He's a guy does Lincoln lawyer. I just reade Nelson the mill's book the deserter, which recently came out.

But one of the most interesting books I just read was the nickel boys. Like Coulson Whitehead it's about a reform school down in Florida back in the Jim Crow eer and my kids had to read that for school and so my wife read it as well and she's like you got to read this book, and I did and it's an excellent book. I just happened to find out that he was actually on sixty minutes about a month ago, so I watched that because it was a really impactful book for me. So what do you think has been your greatest business success over the years? You know, I think it touches on a little bit what I talked about earlier. It's those clients that, you know, that we started with fifteen, twenty years ago, even clients that I that I had what I was in associate that actually moved over into my firm when I first started out. The fact that they were with me for so long and the fact that we were able to, you know, and and again again, we move into set your second and third generation with those clients. That to me, you know, feels like the best success that I've that I've had because, you know, we get clients in, they're not one off say, they stay that and we developed that relationship over a long period of time. I treasurer's relationships. That that that's that's really the base of my practice. And how about your biggest personal success? You know, I think my biggest personal success I mean setting aside my in my kids, of course, and my wife, but my biggest personal success, I think, is being able to juggle at all. I know I one of the things I never compromised all throughout this process was it was getting the opportunity to spend the time, to be there worth my kids. And you know, that's the greatest thing about being a solo practitioner is you do get that bonus time where you can I say, you know what, at four o'clock in the afternoon, I'm going to go see my son play baseball. Today. I was hoping you were going to say, is when we put together that travel baseball. Yeah, you know, those are...

...special ball withs and ones you never get back and I treasure all that. I really don't. That goes fast, it goes really good. So just to wrap up here, just a couple quick personal questions. Tell me when you think you know it's time to pack it up. Well, you know, if you ask my wife that question about me, should say where they're willing me out. Okay, in a box, but but I know reality. I don't know if there's ever really, you know, a time that I would say I would be ever ready to pack it up. I think that there's a time to do to wratch it down, and I think there's a time to slow it down. I can't ever imagine stopping cold. I just can't see that. I don't see the reason why I would ever do that either. Okay, I enjoy it either. There are not a lot of lawyers out there that will unequippoally say that they really enjoy what they do, but I know I found a space in this practice and a niche here that I really enjoy. So that's good. So tell us something about yourself that our listeners wouldn't know or wouldn't expect. HMM. Well, one of the interesting things, I think from a personal standpoint, is I would love to be able to tell you that I'm a good cook or something like that, but I'm not. But one of the things I've learned to do over the years because I just have a sweet tooth that goes beyond I love my sweets. So I'm over the years I've really taken up baking because I love the bake. And the other thing that I do all the time, which is just the biggest sun cost around this house, I love to put a vegetable garden. Every year I spend hours out the vegetable garden and I'm constantly battling deer fitters and all the deer and all the funders and everything else that goes along and try in the garden. But you know, I don't have a big plot where I do it, but I really enjoy I probably spend I don't know, like a thousand dollars a year to grow a hundred dollars worth produce, but it's relaxing to me. I really enjoy I've also bet...

...they spend about a thousand dollars a year on ice cream, because I know you're a big ice that's for sure. If there's one thing I bet my wife's will to, that's ice cream. To the last question for you, what is the last non financial related decision that you've made in the last couple of days? Well, you know what, every morning when I got up, I really I just go straight for the coffee machine. I have to have my coffee. That there's there's there's no way I can even function about that First Cup of coffee in the morning. But the first thing I reach for after my cup of coffee is I have to have a piece of fruit every morning. My wife tell me she asked me every day when she goes to grocery store on a weekend, what do you need from the store? I just said you have my fruit. I need to have fruit. So it's always a question. Or I have a strawberries today and I have a Paraday, or by having a banana today. You know what a I have to have a piece of fruit to ward. So today, what's a banana? So that's great. Well, it's been a pleasure having you on and thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences with our audience. Tom Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it, and thanks very much to Tom Orecchio and to Chris Laboki for letting US listen in on their conversation. We appreciate their time and perspectives and thank you for tuning in. We hope you'll join US next time on decision dialogs for more stories from successful to business owners. So long for now. Thank you for listening to decision dialogs. We hope you found today's stories helpful for your own decisionmaking. If you like to listen to more episodes, you can subscribe on your preferred podcasting APP or visit our website, where you'll also find show notes and important disclosures. WWW DOT wellcom. Forward Slash decision dialogs. This has been a production of twin flames studios.

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