Shortly after Anila Rasul chose to leave Big Law and go Solo, she also found out she was pregnant with her first child. “There was no turning back then,” she says. So, she embraced the challenge with gusto, which she says was the only way to go about it. “There was never a Plan B.”
We discuss those challenges and the growth of ASR Law Firm, including how now having her team has allowed her to focus on two key things to continue to grow the business, as well as…
- The hardest – but most valuable – lessons she learned in her first year as a solo
- Key systems and processes that have streamlined operations – and kept clients happy
- The first tasks she offloaded to her team – and what she focused on instead
- What motivated her to go out on her own – and keeps her going to this day
- And more
Mentioned in This Episode: www.asrlawfirm.com
Davina Frederick: Hello, and welcome to the Solo to CEO Podcast, where we provide a mix of powerful thought-provoking and practical information to assist you in your transformation from solo to CEO of a high-impact, high-revenue generating business. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m here with Anila Rasul, attorney and CEO of the ASR Law Firm. ASR Law Firm is based in Boca Raton, Florida, and serves clients throughout Florida seeking real estate, business, and estate planning services. Welcome, Anila. I’m so pleased to have you here today on the Solo to CEO Podcast.
Anila Rasul: Thank you so very much, Davina. I am so thrilled to be joining you.
Davina Frederick: Well, great. So, I gave a very brief introduction saying the name of your law firm and telling about the services you provide, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your clients and how you serve them, the services you provide, and what you do for your clients, exactly?
Anila Rasul: Of course, of course. So, like you said, I am located down in South Florida in Boca Raton, and I serve the Tri-County area down here, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach Counties. And I assist with the estate planning, with real estate and business services. And it’s actually, it’s fun because it turns out that most of my clients when I kind of look at the portfolio, are what I call start-ups, whether they’re starting a new family or they’re starting a new business or just starting a new phase in their life, they’re just venturing off on a new adventure, and I’m able to assist them with taking those steps. Most of my clients really, they have things like young families.
So, things like estate planning is very important to them. Or they’re first-time home buyers needing someone to help them through the process, or assisting with the closings on their properties, as well as new businesses. And that can be individuals who’ve worked for many years, or just starting off new from college or things like that who’ve never really done anything like this before, but they just need someone to guide them along and help them with the legal aspects of their business.
Davina Frederick: And this really makes a lot of sense for you, because this kind of mirrors what is going on in your own life. Right? Because, you are someone who has started a new business, and a new family, and, kind of, did that at the same time.
Anila Rasul: Yes, it surely does. So, I chuckle a little bit, when I do say that because exactly what you said, it really mirrors my life. So, my firm has been up and running for the past 3 years now, and it coincided with me starting a family. Essentially, I decided to take the plunge of leaving big law, big firm life, and starting off on my own, twelve days before I found out I was expecting my first child. So, I always say that I don’t know business ownership outside of motherhood, and lack of sleep. That’s the only way I know it. I actually think it’s been a benefit, to my development. I’m able to see a lot of my clients trials, and some of the fears that they face, in the things that they’re entering. And I, really, am able to identify with many of the issues that they encounter.
Davina Frederick: Oh yeah. So you were with a big law firm, for a while, before you went out on your own.
Anila Rasul: Yeah, I practiced for about ten years, prior to going out on my own.
Davina Frederick: Right. Oh, wow. So, were you practicing in the same areas? Real estate?
Anila Rasul: So, I practice, mostly, creditor right representation and bankruptcy cases, which allowed me, funny enough, you do get exposed to a lot of areas, including the intricacies of people, of businesses, as well as real estate, and things like that. So, I definitely had exposure to all these areas, but I didn’t practice it, specifically.
Davina Frederick: And what made you decide to go out on your own, and own your own firm? What was it that motivated you to do that?
Anila Rasul: You know, really, before I never thought about it. But, after ten years, I really grew tired of a couple things. Workplace politics, coupled with what I was beginning to realize, were unsustainable hours, and just an unsustainable lifestyle, really. Now that’s not to say, that I don’t put in the equal number of hours, at times, as a solo, or working for myself. I think the demands and the overall environment and experience is more enjoyable, but it’s also less stressful. I think the biggest issue, was that I didn’t think it was sustainable, and I didn’t think I would be able to last a whole lot longer, doing that kind of time.
So, I just, it really was, I don’t want to say it was a whim, but it really was a fast decision that I made. To go out, and just start my own business. I came up with a plan of what it is I, a vision and a plan of what I thought I wanted to be doing, at that time, and how best I thought I can serve, really and truly, my peers. And, I put together a plan, and I just went for it. Now, as I mentioned, shortly thereafter, I found out I was expecting. So, I knew, at that point, there was no turning back. There was no… I just had to keep on going full force, ahead with it.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. So, tell us what that first year was like, for you.
Anila Rasul: It was slow to rise, I would definitely say that. Aside from the normal hiccups and things that you would find, when you do start off a new business. It’s growing, it’s like anything else, it’s growing. So, there was that, plus I was going through a pregnancy, and then I had my child, nine months later. So that was definitely slow. However, I was determined to keep it going. And I was determined to just keep on pushing, even if it was little increments at a time, knowing that, eventually, my time, everything will happen in its own time.
I was, at least, lucky enough to be able to do that, and I identify that. In terms of, obviously, being able to rely on, I’m married, on my husband’s income, that sort of thing. So, I just made sure that I had a plan, and I wasn’t doing things willy-nilly, because I knew I couldn’t control other things in my life. I knew I couldn’t control baby’s sleep schedules, or doctor’s visits, or things like that, necessarily. But, what I could control, was the specific goals that I had set for myself, and for my business, and how I was going to go about attaining them.
Davina Frederick: And you also did some other thing. You had a… You actually had more than one business, kind of. Because you had a partner, that you were involved, doing some title work, right?
Anila Rasul: Yes, up until recently. Yeah, so I had, at the same time, I had two business, kind of, going. I had the law firm, and then I had the title company. And, I went off on this venture, with the title company, with this partner. I think that well early on, in my decision to go, to step away from my ten years of law firm, big law practice, and I did it for a very common reason. And, I think that many people starting off believe that they need that support, for whatever reason. Whether it’s the financial support of all the startup costs, or just the extra knowledge that, perhaps, a partner might bring along, or just the extra courage that they may bring along.
Davina Frederick: The emotional support, right?
Anila Rasul: Yeah, the emotion, exactly. To help with that process. And, I did that, and you know, it worked well, and it was fine, until I realized “Hey, I can do this, I can do this on my own, without the unnecessary back and forth, and the juggling that you have to do, as a partnership, and coordinating to people who, on their own, have their own law firms, as well as this joint venture.” And I just decided, one day, a couple months back, that no, I’m going to do this, fully, on my own, and I incorporated everything that I had established in that title company and that partnership, and I just incorporated it all into my law firm. It was a seamless transition, and I have been up and running, solely, through my law firm, for the past 6 months, or so.
Davina Frederick: Oh, wow, that’s amazing. That’s wonderful. And how old is your, you have a boy, right?
Anila Rasul: I do, I do. He’s two years old.
Davina Frederick: Oh wow. So, we’ve entered the toddler years.
Anila Rasul: You know, it’s a tough one to enter, but I’m taking him along for the ride.
Davina Frederick: Yeah, it’s probably… So, is it, do you find it easier than the newborn years, though? Are you getting more sleep, at least?
Anila Rasul: I’m definitely getting more sleep, which is always great, and everyone always says, parents, especially parents who have children older than I do, they all would say, “Well, you know, it’s different hurdles that you encounter.” And, it’s the truth. So, when he was younger, it was great. He would be in his little Rock ‘ne’ Play, or is tucked away next to me, I’m working, he’s asleep. Or, the babysitter’s there, taking care of him, there’s no real issue, and whatnot.
Now, he is, he demands, obviously, a lot more attention, but then he’s also able to entertain himself, now. So, it’s a double, and it’s just learning to kind of move with the times, and move with whatever’s going on in your environment. One of the things that I decided, a long time ago, was I can’t let these two aspects battle themselves, in my life, I am going to, kind of, let them grow together. So, I tried to mirror what I see happening with my child’s development, and the changes we have to make there, and include that flexibility in my business. And, just remember that it is something that’s growing, and things are changing, so you have a plan. The plan does not always work out, but you be flexible, you move with the times, and what’s needed at that moment.
Davina Frederick: So, tell me, then, what were some of the challenges, some of the biggest challenges you had, that you faced, in that first year. And, what did you do to overcome them?
Anila Rasul: In the first year, I think, it really was underestimating the physical impact it had, giving birth and having a child, actually had. Again, I was lucky, I have had a lot of support, I’ve always had a lot of physical support, with my family around, and things like that. We’ve been lucky enough to have baby sitters, and things like that. However, I never really believed things like mom-brain and, I know that’s a little bit of a taboo term, a lot of people don’t like to say it, I didn’t think it was actually true.
But it is, to an extent, and it’s all, again, something that you need to manage. And I was in denial for quite some time, until, it was very retrospective for me, until one day, I felt a change in myself, and it happened close to the time that my son was about to turn one. I think it was a couple weeks before he turned one. And I thought “Wow, I just feel a lot more rested, I feel a lot more, there’s a lot more clarity.”
Whereas before, it was always, you’re always go, go, go, and you didn’t feel as though, there was a lot of… You’re focusing on the important things, which of course, is the baby, and your work, and what I have to do for my work. There was not a whole ton of time for myself, or for my own thoughts. And then, as time progressed, that got better. And, of course, at the time, I was able to invest in my own mental wellbeing and emotional wellbeing, and things like that. That got better, so did things with the business, and just with anything that I had to do, whether it was the business side of things, the legal side of things. Everything just became a lot clearer, thereafter.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. So, what… You, your husband also, is an entrepreneur, correct?
Anila Rasul: He is. Yes, he is, he is. So, we…
Davina Frederick: So, is he involved in helping you with your business?
Anila Rasul: He is, to an extent. So, I’m lucky enough to have a husband, who does all types of online marketing, consulting, things like that. So, all of my online presence, and a lot of things, that tend to be a little bit of a headache for others, I have the benefit of having him there to rely on, and to ask questions, and to help me with, regularly. However, he, also being a business person, I think, one of the benefits, is that he understands the need for autonomy, as a business owner. And for me, making my own decisions about certain things.
So I would talk to him about thoughts I was having. But, luckily, he respects my position as a business owner enough to allow me to make those decisions on my own. Just, probably, nudge me along, if he thought I was, perhaps, just hesitating out of fear, or out of anything like that, he just helps me along. It’s been a very good, I think it’s been a benefit, for us both being, although, both working as solo or sole proprietors, although we do, ultimately spend a lot of time together.
Davina Frederick: Yeah, I am married to an entrepreneur, and it is, they’re unique. There are benefits to entrepreneurs being married, but because we understand, we have a deep understanding of what it means, what it requires to start and run and own a business. But there’s unique challenges that come with that, too. Because there tends to be an overflow of work and home life. And, did you experience that?
Anila Rasul: Yeah, there sure is, there sure is. So, many of our date nights, when we can fit them in, our conversations are filled with work type issues, and topics to the point, sometimes, where we have to say “Wait, stop. Let’s talk about something other than work.”
Davina Frederick: Probably work and babies. It’s probably work and baby.
Anila Rasul: Work and baby. Yes, yeas, for sure. We, absolutely, most definitely we’ve realized that we no longer do the things that we used to. I don’t remember when last, went out to the movies. So, those things you always have to make time for, and things like that. But, it does spill over. We make a very consorted effort, sometimes, conceptually, sometimes not so much, to make sure that when it does spill over, it doesn’t affect us, emotionally. But, it is something that we just face, it’s our lifestyle, and it’s based, these are the choices we’ve made, and we just have to be responsible with them.
Davina Frederick: Yeah, it’s also, can be very enriching it can be, now, because you have such a shared, you share passion, for business and growing a business, and all of that.
Anila Rasul: Most definitely.
Davina Frederick: Yeah. So, what is next for ASR Law? What are your… Two years down the line, and what’s next?
Anila Rasul: What’s next? It really is… You know, I’m all about growth, and I know that is a very vague term, at this point. But, up until now, I have, essentially been doing it solo. I have, yes I’ve had great support, professionally and otherwise, but I’ve been doing everything myself. In recent months, I’ve been reaching out, trying to build a very strong and trustworthy team, and I am so happy to have had, and to have come across the people that I have come across, in the last couple months. I have a very strong support staff, for the title closing, and the real estate portion of my practice, and I also have an amazing attorney assistance and staff, that help with the more complicate estate planning matters, and things like that.
And, what that’s allowed me to do, is it’s allowed me to focus more on one, in terms of my business, more of the customer experience, making sure that the customer service is where it needs to be, and our customers are being attended to, as they wish they need to be, because there really is only 24 hours in this day that we have, and there’s only so much one person can do. So, while I have others doing some of the legal work for me, I’m able to step in more into a business owner role and attend to more, with my clients.
And, it’s also allowed me to balance the role of motherhood and business owner, and successful business owner, and that I don’t feel that I am giving up one or the other. That being said, the goal really is to continue to grow, and to bring in more business. To make more connections in the industry, that was something that was a little bit of a hindrance, early on., simply because I didn’t have the ability just to pick up and do a last minute lunch with anyone, because of course, I had a little one to deal with. Now that he is in school most of the day, I’m able to have a lot more connections, to have one on one time, whether it’s with client’s or colleagues in the industry that will, then, translate into new growth and better commitment to my clients.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. So, tell me, what were some of the best decisions you have made, you feel that you have made in growing your practice, and managing… You’ve talked, a lot, about support, and you’ve talked a lot about your being able to grow your business, while you had the baby. And so, were there systems that you had? You talked about having plan. Tell me some of the things that you did that you think were really some of the best things that you did, the best decisions that you made.
Anila Rasul: Right, right. So, early on, I made the typical mistakes of any business owner, in that I couldn’t handle it all. We don’t want to expend too much money, we don’t want to stretch ourselves too thin, so I’m going to handle it all, and I’ll be able to do it. Wrong. So, first, one of the things that I did, very early on, was some of the matter that I just, they were not related to the legal work I was doing, and it really wasn’t related to business building, I hired people to do it, so I got an excellent bookkeeper, I got someone, an excellent CPA to do my taxes, and I have never looked back. And, I don’t think about things, anymore, they’re not part of my day to day.
So, I’ve taken that off of my plate. I also, then, invested in programs, and computer systems that will help me keep everything organized. You know, many attorneys and law offices, they have client management systems, which as a solo, a lot of times… Or, sorry. As a new solo, a lot of times, attorneys don’t jump on that bandwagon, just yet. They wait, they say “Okay. I’ll organize it, I’ll have my paper files. I’ll do all those things.” I knew that I needed something to help me organize, not just my filing systems and things like that, but also my calendar system. And then, also integrate that with the accounting system. So I obtained programs for that. I made sure that they were fully functional, and it was things that my bookkeeper and CPA knew were familiar with and knew how to function with, so that there was little transition or learning curve that was needed there.
And then, thirdly, it’s what I just explained, I went out and I found very qualified individually, who were willing to work with me on, whether it’s cases by case basis, or whatnot, and who would be able to provide value, other than just getting the work done. I work with other solo practitioners, who have been doing this for many years, so they bring, to the table, not only an extra set of helping hands, but also a wealth of knowledge to help my clients and my customers. And, just making sure that all the individuals that I have working together, there’s always clear communication, so that, at no point, anyone, nothing’s ever really dropped, because we have clear communication and clear processing and systems in place to allow for a very seamless and stress free work flow.
Davina Frederick: Right. So, if you were to give advice to somebody who’s on this Solo to CEO journey, behind you, maybe somebody who wants to start a family, and has their own practice. What advice would you give them?
Anila Rasul: First and foremost: believe in your abilities.
Davina Frederick: That’s great.
Anila Rasul: Always believe that you can do whatever it is that you have set your mind to. If you don’t, it’s just self-hating, and it’s almost a waste of effort. You just have to believe it, you can do it, because you can, you really can.
Secondly, I keep on mentioning a plan. I always have a plan, I always have it written down I have tons of lists, and every aspect of my life has a list. But also, be flexible. Realize where, sometimes, we see things retrospectively. Or sometimes we get really close up to what we think is the end goals, but then there’s a fork, and it can also take us in a different direction. So, always be flexible, and also, realize where that fork can be a U-Turn. Sometimes you have to start from scratch, and re-plan.
And then, also keep pushing forward. Every business owner tells you, early on, they have experienced many thoughts of, “Okay, I can’t do this. Probably, this is not for me. Maybe I should just go back to what I know, and find a job elsewhere.” But, just keep pushing forward, because eventually you will get where you need to be.
Davina Frederick: Right, right.
Anila Rasul: And sometimes, that happens a lot sooner than you think.
Davina Frederick: Right absolutely, I couldn’t agree more with that. It is that tenacity, and not having that Plan B. You know? When you said, earlier, that you quit big law, then you found out you were pregnant, and then you just said “Well, you know. I’m in it now.” Right?
Anila Rasul: Exactly, exactly.
Davina Frederick: There was no Plan B, you just had to, you were going to keep going. At that point, because that’s what you wanted, you wanted a family. So, you really couldn’t go back, then. So, I believe in that. I believe that when you make that `decision, just sticking to your decision and just having the confidence and know that there’s a way. So, tell us how we can find out more about ASR Law. Where can we find you on the inter webs?
Anila Rasul: You can find us ASRlawfirm.com, and please visit my beautiful site. I’m very proud of it, and we’re also on Facebook, and also Instagram.
Davina Frederick: Okay, awesome. Terrific. Well, I really appreciate you being here today. This was a wonderful conversation, you and I always have terrific conversations, and I really enjoyed it.
Anila Rasul: Thank you. And, I’m so happy to be here, I always, Like you said, our conversations are always great, and I’m so thrilled to be here.
Davina Frederick: All right, thanks.