Client of an Academy Member
My husband, Bruce, and I have had an excellent relationship with Michele Tutoli, our estate planning attorney in San Diego, who is a Member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. She has kept us up to date with Trust law and helped us maintain our ancillary documents, as needed. We knew the Trust was sound and “would travel with us” when we moved to North Carolina, but we were concerned about the other issues that might appear. Specifically, we were interested in health care documents as well as any other nuances of estate planning law in our new home state. Michele put us completely at ease by refreshing our memory of Academy practices and referring us to an Academy attorney in Durham, where we now live.
I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how happy we are with North Carolina attorney Mark O. Costley, an Academy Member Michele recommended. He has been extremely helpful to us. He manages to be professional and quite personable at the same time. He has clearly acquainted us with the differences between North Carolina and California estate planning law. I am very happy to report that we have, very comfortably, executed our new ancillary documents. We are completely satisfied. We are, once again, in sound hands.
It never crossed our minds that we would leave San Diego when we first drafted our Trust. The nationwide reach of the Academy was nice to hear about, but we just didn’t think it would have consequences for us. I am so happy to report that it did, and we are so grateful. Walking into Mr. Costley’s office the first time, with the confidence and trust of Michele’s referral, was a benefit that can’t be measured. Thank you so much.
The Most Thorough and Complete Estate Work Ever
I was moved to share a recent story from my practice. I am sure you hear things like this all the time but I still wanted to share. As a new attorney (new to the practice of law & new to Estate Planning), I started my practice with the Academy. I often find myself relying on Education to feel comfortable in assisting clients or anytime something is or even ‘feels’ new. The end of last year, I had a case that was very different I emailed Education about the client’s problem. Not only did I receive an answer back but Steve took time to talk me through the fact pattern and send me fact scenarios to run through with the client not only helping me understand the law but what I needed to do to assist the client and properly draft the document.
Last week, I had a lunch & learn with the advisor that referred the client to us and she commented that without my knowledge she sent the plan and documents to her brokerage company’s attorney. They told her that it was the “most thorough and complete estate work they have seen in years.” Needless to say, the advisor will be sending me additional work in the future.
I am sure you hear things like this all the time but I really appreciated the time all the Academy staff takes to invest in our practice and lives and felt compelled to share this story.
No More Litigation
North Carolina Member
I’ve been practicing as an attorney for the last twenty-one years, and I was fortunate enough about eleven years ago to decide in a moment of great epiphany that I no longer wanted to litigate. I was a successful litigator, I had trials, I studied with Gerry Spence, big verdicts, but I wasn’t happy.
And I sat down with a yellow pad, I remember it like it was yesterday, and I put down what I really wanted to do. My father’s an attorney, my grandfather’s an attorney, and I remembered when I was a little girl that my grandfather was an estate planning attorney. He would take me to visit people in the hospital and unfortunately take me to some of the funeral homes, but it was the relationship that he had with the different clients and I liked that.
So when I was sitting there with my yellow pad I went back to those days, and then I started looking and exploring to see if there was any type of group out there to convert a former litigator to a successful estate planning attorney.
And I think it was providence, but I found the Academy. I remember I was reading National Lawyers Weekly and I did my due diligence, I called up the attorneys and I felt like I was joining Amway because every single person that I talked to was telling me how amazing this group of people was.
Then I went to my first meeting, again, doing my due diligence, and I remember just that people went around the group telling about their experience with the Academy and how long they had been with the group and what success they had seen.
And if that wasn’t enough, I then looked at the computer systems and all of the different systems that they had for marketing and talking and teaching the public and teaching me about estate planning, because I hadn’t really done estate planning besides a few little wills outside of law school, and it’s everything that I was promised and more.
I’ve grown my business from a one-woman, one-paralegal firm into, I think we have nine employees now, and there’s another attorney. We have a Certified Financial Planner on staff. And the best news of all is our office only works four days a week in Greensboro, North Carolina and we’re doing better than we’ve ever done before. So, thank you to the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. You’ve really made a difference in my life.
Best-Selling Author of the E-Myth
“That’s the work that you’ve done [at the Academy] and I’ve got to say, guys, you are absolutely, clearly adding immense value to every single estate planning client that your estate planning attorneys actually are capable of working with. Because you’ve eliminated the chaos, eliminated the confusion and created the blessed result of everybody beginning to plan in an organized, dedicated and productive way.”
No Other Estate Planning Group Compares to the Academy
I’ve been a member of the Academy now for eleven years, and over the years I’ve investigated numerous membership organizations that represent various court organizations in the estate planning industry, and in fact I’m a member of a number of those still today, including the Academy.
The one thing that I have learned through my detailed investigation of these organizations is that none of them offer a complete turn-key program like the Academy does in terms of providing a different way of looking at your practice from a standpoint of being an entrepreneur focusing on working on your business so that ultimately you have something of tangible value that you can ultimately transition out of and sell.
Handling all aspects of the management of that business, everything from marketing to HR issues to internal systems and procedures in terms of processing work through your office. In terms of establishing what the organizational structure should look like and actually putting together an organizational chart, complete with detailed job descriptions for each individual position within the framework of the organization.
There’s just nothing like it, and then the events getting the consistent support and additional information in terms of what we should be doing staying cutting-edge in the various areas and staying on top of developments within your organization, within the industry.
There really are none that touch it, and for those out there that are considering membership and are also considering other organizations, the likelihood is I’m either a member of that organization or have investigated it. Feel free to give me a call and discuss the details of kind of a side-by-side comparison of how the Academy addresses things like no other organization does
Buying a Practice
I started with another member last year. I would say that his membership in the Academy (since 1994) and his introduction to the Academy was one of the reasons I bought his firm. I appreciate everything about it. In addition, there are some other things I’ve done. I’ve practiced law for about 28 years actively, and I’ve never been in an organization where the attorneys talk to each other as freely and openly as they do here. It astonished me when I saw it the first time, now I’ve just come to appreciate it
Practice Building Consultants Have Huge Impact
The Academy has proven invaluable to me. What I find most beneficial about the Academy is that it has provided me a structure for not only the marketing of my law firm, but for the operation of the firm.
One of the services that the Academy provides me is a Practice Building Consultant. No greater benefit can you have than to have someone who is able to look at your practice objectively and point out the things that you don’t see because you’re working in the practice.
The Academy gives me the wherewithal to work on my practice as well as in it, and I’m very grateful for that and I don’t know where else I would have been able to get that kind of support.
The Academy provides me more than I can expect and more than I have even been able to take advantage of with regard to how to market my firm… and really what that means for me is that the sky is the limit, because how far and how well I’m able to market my firm really depends on how much I am able to put into it.
And with my Practice Building Consultant making sure that I keep moving along, I’m sure I’ll get where I want to go
Being on the Cutting Edge
I’ve been an Academy member since October of 1993. What I find most in my Academy experience is inspiration. Inspiration as to cutting edge estate planning techniques, inspiration to do more with respect to the same individuals and my staff, and an inspiration to be the best that I can be. All new management techniques on a constant basis, better ways to do what I do as an estate planning attorney
Financial Services Put My Kids Through College
My wife and I relocated to Minnesota in 1995 with our two children, I became a member in a downtown firm for one year.
We broke off and joined the Academy in 1996, one of the best things about the Academy that I have seen is the introduction of financial services to our firm.
I wouldn’t practice any other way than being with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. It’s a wonderful way to have a small practice yet be part of a large national organization, so I would encourage anybody to look into this organization and again, I’ve been a member since 1996 and it’s been like a home away from home for my wife and I.
Quick Tax Advice Means Everything
One of the biggest benefits I get out of the Academy is the education that is provided. Not only do we have complete educational programs continuously throughout the year, but in addition we have tax attorneys on staff that can answer questions on very, very short notice.
So, you have a client coming in, you have a quick tax question you don’t have the time to research, having tax attorneys on staff gives you the benefits of the big law firm… it is invaluable to me.
In addition, I also like the fact that the Academy has been teaching me systems to run the law practice. Lawyers, we’re maybe great technically with what we have to do, but not always the greatest business people in the world.
Having systems to operate the practice so you can run a really tight ship and have the business acumen that they provide to you and teach you how to run it the right way also helps you make more money and support your family at the same time. So, those are the biggest benefits I see out of the Academy.
The Documents Are State of the Art
New Jersey Member
We’ve been members of the Academy since 1994. I’d like to tell you why the Academy’s Education Department is so important to us. My partners and I are all CPAs and we all have advanced degrees in taxation, but the Academy people are just beyond belief.
Whenever we go to regular Bar Association meetings and they say, “Do your documents include this?” and “Do your documents include that?” we always say yes, because the Academy keeps us up-to-date with all the most current documents and knowledge about what’s going on in tax law. We’re truly state of the art.
Successful In a Small Community
As a sole practitioner in 1994 I joined the Academy, and at that time I think I was looking for guidance with how to move further into this education-based type of practice.
But the most important thing that I’ve learned and gained since becoming a member in a smaller community is that I now have the camaraderie, the fellowship of other membership, and the ability to seek help from others who are in the same kind of position that I’m in, and who are always willing to help, and it’s just been an amazing experience for me and one that I would never change.
Documents and Quick Legal Help Make a Difference
I’ve been a proud member of the American Academy since 1993, actually, June of 1993, and here are a couple of thoughts I’d like to share with you about the value of the membership.
First of all, the Academy provides us a broad range of practice management tools. Let’s start, for example, with the Education Department. It’s very important that as an attorney, we have documents that we know are up to date and reflect the current thinking, current status of the law so we can provide our clients with the best possible plan.
Secondly, questions come up all the time when we have interviews with clients, and it’s terrific to be able to have a resource such as the Education Department of the Academy who can respond quickly and accurately to help us address those issues in a very punctual way. Clients like that quick service, and the application of that expertise. So, the Education Department provides a tremendous resource and tool for us.
So, what I’d like you to consider is, visit with your Practice Building Consultant or someone at the Academy and have them explain all the valuable tools that Academy membership will afford you and your practice.
Academy Systems Changed My Life
I’ve been a member of the Academy since 1995. When I joined the Academy, I joined because it was a turn-key system, it was going to change my life and it was going to help me do estate planning and provide all the services I wanted to provide to my clients.
I was right on all counts, it was a turn-key system and it did change my life, but the big change was all the relationships with all the people I’ve made in this organization who are now some of my closest friends, and upon whom I can rely for almost anything. Any questions day or night, any assistance with any clients, they’re always there to help.
And even though they’re peers, we don’t compete because we all have different territory, and these relationships to me, over the thirteen years I’ve been a member, have been the most valuable resource about my Academy membership, on top of my education, which is great.
The marketing, which is great, the documents, which are great, but the relationships, that’s what’s really great. I hope to be a member until they carry me out many years from now!
Academy Camaraderie and Vision Make Things Work For Me
I’ve been a member since 2005. One of the things I love most about the Academy is the camaraderie. Everyone is like a gigantic, happy family. Most lawyers don’t really cooperate with each other, but with the Academy it’s a lot different. Actually, more like a friendship sort of developed, a real happy family.
Robert and Sandy are two of the nicest, most cutting-edge, visionary people that you could care to meet. They’re really pioneers in everything I have seen in the estate planning practice, all the ideas that they have, I just wish we could implement all of them, it would be great, but it takes some time. But if you listen to what they say and do and you implement it, you’ll do very well practicing law. It will make it a lot easier and a lot more fun.
Financial Planning Has Been the Icing on the Cake
I’ve been a member since 1994. The Academy has been great for me, I have a background in estate planning so the education part has been good, but that wasn’t as important to me as the marketing side of the business.
So, I came out of law school ready to go, I worked for a big firm and decided I wanted to get out on my own but I wanted to specialize in estate planning, it’s very, very hard to get clients, especially in a small town.
The Academy was able to give me the marketing tools to build an exclusive estate planning practice, and of course the Academy does have territories, but the other members in the Academy are very good at sharing their ideas with each other because they don’t compete directly with each other. So, I’ve been able to put together a very, very successful estate planning practice with thousands and thousands of clients.
Here I am fourteen years later still doing seminars and have two lawyers working for me and started a financial planning company on the side and it’s been very lucrative, so I would recommend anybody to get a chance to join the Academy.
Education Makes a Transition Possible
New York Member
I’ve been a member for about a year and a half, in fact, fairly new to estate planning and being an attorney. I’m really appreciative of having the Academy and assistance, particularly the Education Department. I found it a wonderful resource.
Matter of fact, we had recently retained a complex estate planning case, and I don’t think I’d have the confidence to take that on without the support of the Education Department, I’m really thankful for it.
The Academy marketing materials are proven winners.
Membership Makes a Difference to My Clients
Two things that have always come back to me that mean a lot about the Academy and to our clients is number one, if we don’t serve people, if we don’t serve clients to the best of our ability our job satisfaction is basically non-existent. At least, with me.
But also, we have to be happy with what we do. I mean, if I don’t get up in the morning and have some energy to go to the office, I’m here to tell you, I’m not going to do a very good job for most of my clients. The Academy has allowed me many avenues of improving quality of my work for clients, follow-through for the clients, staff training and top quality education.
Above all of the rest, the members of the Academy like each other, they support each other, and they challenge each other. When was the last time you went to a Bar Association meeting and the attorneys couldn’t stop talking about how much success and enjoyment they were having from their practice. It happens to me every year, two times a year, when I go to an Academy summit meeting.
Value of Education Exceeds Dues
I’ve been a member for eleven years, and while there are a lot of great things that I like about the Academy, probably one of the best things is the Education Department. I think that attorneys that head up the Education Department are just incredibly smart, and the value that they provide my practice far exceeds the fee that I pay to be a member.
In addition to that, oftentimes I have found that the advice that the Education Department gives me is just incredibly helpful in retaining the client that has a unique fact pattern that you’re trying to solve in order to retain the client. So, if there is anything to consider, and there’s a lot to consider, I would recommend the Education Department.
Systems and Tools Help Me Do a Better Job For My Clients
I’ve been an attorney with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys for five years. I appreciate the Academy because it has given me the systems, procedures, the tools to have a better law practice. Moneywise, satisfaction-wise, I feel like I do a good job for people, it gives me confidence, it has allowed me to feel like I’m really reaching out and helping some people with the work I do.
Education and Coaching Are Great Resources
I am a fairly new attorney, it doesn’t look like I am but I went back later in life to law school and I graduated in 2004. I got my approval to the Bar in December of 2004, and in January of 2005 I joined the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.
The reason I jumped at the opportunity to join was because I was a new attorney, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience as far as the technical aspects of creating wills and trusts, and so the Academy has provided me with some outstanding opportunities to learn the process of estate planning.
Really, they provided the kind of support that I needed. First, they provided the documents, which I could trust. I think our documents are, bar none, as good as any in the industry that I’ve seen.
Also, they provided an Education Department. The Education Department answered my questions on a timely basis relative to the issues that came up on various different estate planning, trusts and wills or trust administrations or even probates that I had to deal with early in my career.
Also, they have the Practice Building Consultants that are available. The Practice Building Consultants help a new attorney to develop the types of relationships that you need in order to get referrals, to have people come and consider you for doing their clients’ estate plans. So, really the Academy was a tremendous resource.
It also has educational material on hiring people, on what types of training people need to have. It has advanced educational issues, not only the beginning of the wills and trusts but also educational issues regarding charitable giving, islets, that type of thing. I really do appreciate the opportunity to talk for the Academy because I feel that they are a wonderful resource for a new attorney.
Academy Makes a Difference to Spouses and Office Managers
We’re from Oklahoma City and Kansas City, and we also have an office in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I want to speak as a wife of an American Academy member who’s worked in the practice over the years. I was a Doubting Tom like so many of the wives, and now I’m their greatest fan.
I can’t say enough about the friendships, the relationships, the networking, the education, the marketing tools, the support in every area that you need. If you have a question or a problem, there is always someone there that will help you, and help you get it answered. I recommend the Academy to anyone that’s thinking about it, and I certainly would say to any wives that would like to visit, I’d be happy to tell them about my experience.
It’s Like Having Partners Across the Country
I’ve been with the Academy since 1995 when I joined my current partner, who’d been a member for two years prior to that. So, that puts me twelve or thirteen years into the organization.
I’d always done estate planning work, but on a much lower scale, and by myself which is an isolated feeling. By joining the Academy I got the advantage of, although I still was a one person office in Kansas City, and I enjoyed that one person office, I liked the independence, but now I had a new set of partners, a hundred of them basically all across the country.
And you throw in the Education Department in case you get in a pinch on an educational, it gives you the confidence when you sit down with your clients you know you’re going to be able to do a great job for them, and you can focus on their situation and not worry about all the other issues of running a law practice.
We can talk about lots of different issues, but I think that gives you a flavor for what has been so good for me for my twelve years with the Academy and what I hope to be another twelve years.
Academy Impact on Home Life
My wife and I are from Indianapolis, Indiana. We’ve been married almost forty years, in the last fifteen there’s been some sanity added because I’ve been a member of the American Academy, and it’s allowed me to get home and enjoy my practice much more and make more friends, other Academy members. It’s a lot of fun!
The benefits to me since I joined the Academy could not possibly have been anticipated by me. First, my documents are probably the best in the area, as I am repeatedly told by those who see them and deal with them. Second, I have been able to streamline my operation and make it more efficient. Third, I have increased my income substantially. Fourth, and perhaps the most important, I have done all of this and been able to cut back to working three days a week and taking only three appointments a day for at least the past 10 years. I wish the Academy had come along when I was 40 years old.
Open Member Exchange of Ideas
I’ve been an Academy member since 1994. Over that time period my practice has grown as a result of the Academy membership. The Esprit de Corps within the Academy is fantastic, I now always have a fellow member that I can bounce ideas off of. They are a wonderful organization.
Higher Income, Less Anxiety
I’ve been a member of the Academy since actually the very beginning. In March of 1993 there was the very first event and my partner and I attended that event and we’ve been a member since the very beginning and I can say that the Academy has really been the best thing that we have ever done for our business and for our lives.
The Academy just gives you an incredible amount of tools that are necessary to being able to develop your practice, not only from a marketing standpoint, education standpoint, practice development, being able to have higher income with less anxiety, it’s really the best thing we ever did and I highly recommend anyone to join the Academy.
We come to Academy events twice a year and share information, we’re not competitors with each other, we’re in different markets and so you’ve got open camaraderie and sharing of information, it’s like something you can’t get anywhere else in any type of typical Bar Association or your own community. That in and of itself is just a tremendous asset of our membership.
Growth Every Year of Membership
I’ve been with the Academy, our firm has been with the Academy since 1993. I’ve been practicing since 1974, I would tell you that we would not be the success that we were and are and will continue to be if we did not have the Academy’s support.
The Education Department, the summits, the website support, the programs, the software, the initiatives, the ability to reach out to other members on the listserv for assistance, all of those are just such key factors in the success of our organization.
We have grown every year since we’ve been with the Academy, we continue to grow, we are absolute strong believers in the effectiveness of the Academy and we hope that others will follow our lead and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
Left Large Firm—Went Out On My Own
South Dakota Member
I’ve been a member of the Academy since 2002. I joined when I was at a large firm and then I separated and the Academy has been fantastic for me. I love the estate planning practice and all of the resources.
It has taken my practice to a whole new level, which gives me more time to get to really know my clients and do the best that I can for them, and then on top of that the fellowship in the Academy is far beyond anything I could have imagined.
I’ve got an amazing group of what I would call partners who are at the Academy, the fellow members who are excited for you and you’re wanting to help them and be excited for them, and so being in the Academy has completely changed my life and my family’s life.
Setting Goals and Achieving Them
New York Member
I’ve been an Academy member for twelve years, and what’s most important to me about the Academy is that they have helped me to achieve results and goals that I would not have achieved in such a short period of time.
So, when I think about the Academy, the systems, the Education Department, the whole Academy experience has really helped me to just be the preeminent estate planning lawyer on Long Island.
Planning and Running a Business Is Transformed
I’ve been a member of the Academy since May of 1995. Before then most of my practice was in commercial and business and construction litigation.
I had done a lot of estate planning but never like the Academy, the Academy taught me not only to be a great estate planner but to be a business person, to know how to run a business, to train a staff and lead a staff, and it’s been really transformative in my professional practice and in my life and certainly in my finances.
I’m deeply appreciative, and I recommend that anybody who’s interested in getting out of a rut with their practice consider joining the Academy.
Membership Collegiality Beats All
I’ve been a member of the Academy, what they call I guess a “founding member” since June of 1993. The Academy never ceases to amaze me at the depth of new ideas, new techniques, new strategies that they come up with, always enabling us to improve ourselves, giving us the chance to do so and the support that’s there.
I don’t think there’s any other organization in the country that offers the collegiality, the depth of resources, the diversity and the support that Academy membership offers.
Experience Planners Love the Education
Our firm has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys for thirteen years.
I entered the Academy with a lot of experience in estate planning, but one of the great benefits is the Education Department. It has several attorneys who are very competent in some areas of estate planning that I don’t practice in all the time, and they are available to answer the special questions that come up from time to time.
They also keep the Academy documents in excellent shape and are continually upgrading those to meet the new needs of our clients. So, the Education Department is a major component of the Academy that supplements and enhances my practice quite a bit.
Someone to Lean On During Change
I’ve been a member about a year now. For me, if I had to say one thing about Academy membership it’s just been the way the staff and all the other attorneys have just been able to be a resource. I started my practice with the Academy, so that’s been absolutely invaluable.
Staff People Benefit
I’m really thankful to be a part of the Academy and have so much help from the Academy whenever I need to bounce off ideas or I’m feeling insecure about ideas. There’re are so many people to talk to and so many things to reference. It’s really helpful.
Legacy Wealth Planning and Services
I’ve been a member since June of ‘93. Two things, I think, summarizes what I like most about the Academy. One is the seemingly endless stream of ideas, innovations, programs, inspirations from the Academy, the ability to get rejuvenated and reinvigorated and reenergized by coming to an event. And two, the friendships and camaraderie and collegiality of members.
You really realize that when you miss an event. I missed the fall event. Unfortunately, my father passed away two days before the event. To those of you who I did not get a chance to thank you for your good wishes and cards and emails, they were very much appreciated, and the Academy as well, their response and support.
In a period of just under two years, I lost five close family members and an in-law. I just want to take about 20 seconds to share a thought on this legacy wealth concept and the DVD program. I attended funerals for six people, five other than my father, and listening to obituaries about people that I’d known all my life, except for one who I knew for 20 years through marriage. It struck me that I was finding out things about these people that I never knew, that I never found out about during their lifetimes.
What an unfortunate thing it is to wait until somebody is dead to find out those things. So, I don’t know how it can be incorporated into what we’re doing, but it’s certainly part of the concept and the legacy you leave is about much more than money. Just a thought to add in. Thank you.
Listserv Contact With Members Keeps Me Connected
I’ve been a member of the Academy since fall of 1993. I was with a firm for quite a few years and last summer opened my own office. I’ve really enjoyed the Academy over all of these years. It’s been great support.
All things considered, the members, I love the Listserv and the things that I learn, and help that I get not only from the members, of course, but specifically from our education department. Those guys are brilliant.
So very glad to be a member of the Academy.
Business Has Never Been Better
There’re other things besides that’s helped me, but the Academy’s part of the equation. Actually, I think I’ve gotten my office in the best position its ever been in—in all the years I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing. It’s not running me, I’m running it in such a way that I’m able to do things that I didn’t used to be able to do. So, I think that’s the key for me.
Solo Without Being Alone
I’ve been a member since 2005. I’m in solo practice and I could not do what I do if it weren’t for all of you. I really appreciate the way the Academy keeps innovating and helping us recreate our practice.
Adding Financial Services Changes Everything
I’ve been a member since ‘95. I love the education department and all the support and creative solutions they come up with for problems. But I think what has really impressed me the most over the last several years is the combination of the financial services with the estate planning practice.
It’s All “Most Important” at One Time Or Another
New York Member
I’ve been a member since 1996. Why is the Academy important to me, or what do I most like about it? I really thought about it. The first thing that came to mind, for me, was the living trust seminar. That, to me, was the most important thing when I first joined because that was the way I was able to get clients.
But then, we started to get clients and I realized we had to do documents. So then, the document assembly program became extremely important. And then, of course, there were all these legal questions.
Being My Own Boss
South Dakota Member
This is nothing compared to what we’re used to seeing. I have been a member for six years. I used to be a partner, I was the first partner at the oldest law firm in South Dakota, first female partner I should say.
I was with the Academy then and I decided to stretch my wings. It has been fantastic. My life has been blessed by a great measure and the practice has too, but it could not have happened without the Academy, the education department, the whole package. So, it has been fantastic.
It’s not been easy. It’s been a lot of work, but I love what I do. I call my own hours now, to a degree. It couldn’t have happened without the Academy.
No More Pushing Boulders Uphill
I’ve been a member since September 2005. What I appreciate about the Academy is my practice building consultant.
I’m sure a lot of times with her it must seem like pushing a boulder uphill, but she keeps a good attitude and keeps trying to make sure that I build my practice in the proper way.
I also appreciate the education department because it certainly gives you a good feeling of well being to know that when you’re dealing with these complex issues of estate planning that you have those guys to call on. They always have an answer.
Marketing Software Staff and Vision of the Leaders
I’ve been a member for ten years. As far as the most valuable part of the Academy for us, it’s, I would say, the marketing systems and the software production programs and the staff of the Academy from top to bottom, starting with Robert and Sandy through the education department through the website people through the practice building consultants. Everybody, top to bottom. Outstanding crew. Just a pleasure to work with them all the time.
Entrepreneurial Spirit Runs Throughout the Academy
I’ve been a member since 2001. The thought that comes to mind most frequently when I think of the Academy is the entrepreneurial spirit that runs from top to bottom for the entire organization. Whether you use all of the tools in the toolbox or some of them, it’s a wonderful toolbox to draw from. We’re very proud to be members.
Member Wife/Marketing Coordinator Stays Inspired
One of the reasons I enjoy the Academy is people like our Practice Building Consultant, who keeps it fresh and keeps me on track with my marketing. I also appreciate the summits because after a long time you can kind of get into a rut and when you leave you always feel inspired, is how you feel.
Member Since the First Event!
I’ve been a member since 1993.
Over the years, I appreciate all the support I receive not only from the Academy staff but also the members of the Academy and the systems they’ve developed and the educational marketing programs have been excellent. For that, I’m extremely thankful and hope to remain a member forever.
No More Litigation
New York Member
I’ve been a member for one year.
Having been a litigator for 20 years and doing estate planning for all of one year, I can say that if I had to limit it to one thing it had to be everything. The only other thing that I would point out, from my perspective, was just the approachability and generosity of everybody who is a member every time I have a question or call on somebody. They’re always there for me. So, I thank you all for that.
Rural Firm Is Successful
We are not in the law business. We are in the people service business, and the Academy has brought that home to us for many years. The more times we have relationship with our client where that relationship is an awesome engaging experience, our clients win, we win, and it’s just a great way to be able to get up in the morning and want to go to work.
So, I appreciate this Academy. Everything you’ve heard, you potential new members, nobody here is blowing smoke. Our experience in our firm, if you’re concerned about being kind of rural and that way, talk to my brother and myself, my associate and friend and partner in financial practice. Talk to [other Members]. You cannot go wrong talking to anybody about what the Academy system and quality can do for your life and your clients.. You’ll be able to do a great job.
Old Thinking Held Me Back
I’ve been a member since May of 1995. I’ve been practicing law since 1973 and before I joined the Academy I mostly a sole practitioner. When I think about it, it’s been really transformative for my practice and therefore for my life to go from being a “me” to being a “we.” I’ve got a partner who’s about as ideal a relationship as I could ever imagine in business.
I couldn’t have done that with my thinking, my mindset, before I joined the Academy. I didn’t have the opportunities open to me without having Robert and Sandy give me this “turn-key” organization. I could not have imagined when I joined the Academy at the age of, what was it, about 49 years old that I was going to keep practicing law, doing what I was doing for very long.
Now, I’m looking forward to getting a 25-year name tag on here because I will be able to do what I’m doing and having a ball doing it well into my 70s, I think, God willing and the creek don’t rise.
I worked Less Than 10 Months Last Year
New York Member
All of you have said so many good things. I’m going to tell you one small thing that I really like is Counsel Pro, the little launch feature you use when you go to the paperless files, if any of you have paperless files. I find that to be really just bringing joy to my life every time that I do that.
On the larger scale, as I was sitting here I realized that this year I’ll actually work under ten months and that’s a result of me continuously, aggressively taking time off when my kids are off from school. So, if they’re off for a week in April, I’m off for a week in April. I haven’t gotten the guts up to take off the whole summer yet.
But, the Academy has allowed such efficiencies to occur in my office that the practice really is, I’m going to say…I forgot to mention. I’ve been a member for more than ten years. I’m probably ten years ahead of where I really should be. Looking toward the future, I’m anxious to do the Peak Performers program.
I really can’t even imagine where I’m going to be next year or ten years from now, but I know it’ll be a result of some of the really dynamic, innovative, inspirational ideas that I get from coming to these meetings and from our leaders there, both Robert and Sandy.
Went Out On My Own Without Pain
I’ve been a member since 2003. Pretty much that first session of the Summit got me to become a member because I really enjoyed what everyone had to say, so it’s kind of neat to be here five years later. Last year I started my own law firm. Really without the Academy the transition would not have been as seamless as it was. I love everything about it. I love the education. I love the documents and everything that it has to offer.
Gone From 1 to 9 Employees In a Short Time
When asked the question, “What are my favorite things about the Academy?” the first thing that came to mind was the document production and the education. I don’t know what I’d do without Education.
But as it went around the room I thought more about it, and the thing that I didn’t put my finger on right away was just how confident I’ve been as an estate planning attorney. Five years ago, I was doing litigation for a big firm in downtown Los Angeles, knew I wanted to leave there and do estate planning, went on my own, joined the Academy right away.
After a few months of learning the materials, I started doing seminars, started getting clients, started producing great documents for the clients. In that time, we’ve grown from just one person to now we have nine employees at our two office locations. We do have another area of practice. Nonetheless, I know that as our firm has grown and as it will continue to grow with the Academy behind me, we’re going to be able to have the system and tools to structure it correctly.
Relationships Here Make All the Difference
I’ve been a member since 1993. We have offices in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa. You’ve heard the great comments about the collegiality and the associations we have. It reminds me a little bit of Shatner and Spader in what must the best two minutes of television today on Boston Legal. We have those kind of relationships. Sometimes we chide one another, sometimes we love one another. So, that’s something that you can’t replace. I certainly don’t have that any place else in my life.
I appreciate the leadership of the Academy, the founders and the staff people. I think I can sum it up by saying this, my membership here has been the antidote to complacency. It’s made all the difference in the world.
Judges Don’t Control My Schedule—I Do
I’ve been a member since fall of ’95. I was a litigator. I used to walk around and I always wondered how people established an estate planning practice because that appealed to me. Getting away from the whole thing with litigation where judges control your schedule and clients are never happy with the result.
The Academy showed me how to build an estate planning practice. And then, of course, now you get the clients coming in, how do you deal with the legal aspects? Because when I started in ‘95, I knew theoretically what a trust was, but I didn’t know how to draft trust. I didn’t know how to settle an estate.
And of course, the education department helped me through that. It was just this April, I guess it was March 25th, a desperate call to education. I had the most complex estate tax return I’d ever done. It was all this stuff was coming to fruition. I had charitable remainder trusts I had done for these people. I had a second-to-die life insurance policy, and how do I get all this on the 706?
So, you know, it showed me how to build a practice. It showed me how to do the technique aspects and it’s great organization and I second all the other comments that everybody’s made.
And finally, when I came to the event, you know how we all get a little bit burned out and you kind of say, “There’s so much to do and so little time.” I find myself already getting renewed by hearing the other Academy members as we go around the room, and hearing their comments, and reflecting on things they’ve done at other Academy events that have helped me along in my practice.
So, it’s a great organization.
Systems and Services Support Associates
I think there’re a few things I really like about the Academy. Number one, the education department and all the materials that they provide to us. Also, one of the biggest things I’m most excited about is this funeral trust and the DVD. When I presented that to the clients, they’re very excited about that.
Sense Of Personal Satisfaction
I’ve been a member since February of 1995. It’s hard to focus on one thing that the Academy has done for me, but I would have to say it’s provided me the feeling and reality of being a success in this area of practice. But also, the personal satisfaction of having a success that doesn’t drive you crazy.
Being Cutting Edge Gives Me an Edge
Rhode Island Member
I’ve been a member since March 1994. I think the most important thing to me, I think, is just all the cutting edge ideas. Right from the start, from Robert and Sandy with the seminar ideas, the constantly new ideas in the marketing area. Education has cutting edge ideas. Even the IT, the tech support has always helped us, always going from a beta-tester with the DOS system through Counsel Pro, has been just a tremendous development.
I think we’re at the cutting edge. I think, to me, that’s the key. I don’t think any lawyer anywhere, any estate planning attorney anywhere is as cutting edge as we are for any of those prospective new members.
The second thing is kind of a level of comfort. Everyone’s talking about the camaraderie and that sort of thing. Obviously, we can bounce things off other members.
But being a sole practitioner, I tell my clients because I’m a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, even though I’m a sole practitioner, I feel like I’m a member of a law firm with, I know probably between members and associates, 250 estate planning attorneys. And there’s probably no law firm in the country with 250 estate planning attorneys.
So, that’s real important when you need to bounce things off other members or education for a second opinion. It helps you sleep at night to know that we’re on the right track.
Systems, Financial Planning and Visions Mean the Most
I get very excited about coming here. It’s a great experience. It’s unbelievable.
The one thing I say about the group, I look at everybody here as my blood brother and my blood sister. It’s an unbelievable feeling.
I joined the Academy, and haven’t looked back.
They Weren’t Crazy, They Knew What They Were Doing
New Jersey Member
I’ve been a member of the Academy for 13 years. I almost did not become a member of the Academy. I saw an advertisement in Trust and Estate magazine in early 1995, and I forgot the content of it but it promised a bright financial future. So, I called the Academy. They sent me a brochure. I read the brochure and it was kind of microscopic print. I’m looking all the way through the brochure for the cost. I’m reading and reading. I think on the last page at the bottom it said what the admission fee was and what the monthly dues were.
So I said, “Are these people out of their mind?”
So I threw the brochure away. But a great marketing technique you had got me in the end, you had a cassette tape in there. At that time, I was loathe to throw away a cassette tape because I didn’t know what was on it. So, I was commuting home that evening, so I plugged the cassette tape in. It was one of the boot camps. I guess the last boot camp before that.
Well, it took me,.. I don’t know, 40 minutes to get home. I was absolutely sold on the Academy by the time I got home. So, I was talking to my wife about it and I said, “I think I’m going to join this organization.”
My wife is very frugal. She said, “What’s the cost?” So I told her the admission fee and the monthly dues. She said, “Are you out of your mind?”
I said, “No. I really feel good about this.” So I said, “Look, how much can they teach me. I’ll only have to pay these dues maybe a year, and then I’ll learn everything they have to teach me, and then I’ll drop out.”
So, she kind of grudgingly gave her blessing, kind of on the understanding I’ll probably drop out after a year and end the financial drain.
Well, needless to say, I’m still here. I’m really proud to say that the Academy has provided infinitely more value for me and my family and my firm every single year than the meager dues that I have to pay. In addition to the financial side, the membership in the Academy has enriched the quality of my life, not only on the financial side but maybe more importantly on the personal side.
I won’t repeat what everybody else has said. Every part of the Academy is a gold mine. The most recent gold mine in my personal life is my affiliation with 1st Global. So, I became licensed as a financial planner and that has deepened my relationship with my clients. I go home at night feeling that I have really performed an outstanding service for everybody.
For those of you who are thinking about joining the Academy please don’t hesitate. I know positively you will never regret it.
Documents Are Top Notch
I’ve been a member since 2003, with a former member’s firm four years before that. The thing I appreciate most is the education department, being able to email and get the answer instead of a list of watch out for this, watch out for that. So, the education department’s real helpful. And even on documents, as nuanced as the Unintentionally Defective Grantor Trust, they’re very helpful on those.
Balancing Family and Business
Been a member for about four years. As far as what I appreciate the most, there really isn’t any piece I could do without. I appreciated his comments there about how membership and the law practice has kind of helped me balance my life between earning the money and being with the family and all the other things we’re doing.
It’s really given me the tools, somebody who just started the law practice right out of law school, to earn a good living for my family and also spend a lot of time with them, although you have me beat. Anyway, I really appreciate every piece of the Academy.
Lawyers Are Happy to See Me
I’ve been a member since February of 1999. I walked into an Academy event, February of 1999, I had 80 lawyers in a room. They were all glad to see me. That’s never happened before. It doesn’t happen in any other organization. Well, it happens here.
Where would I be if I wasn’t an Academy member? I’d be working 100 hours a week and I would die at my desk. Now, I still complain about the time, but we sat down last week and realized that since 2003, I’ve been out of the office nine and a half weeks or more a year. You can’t do that practicing law. You can do that in this kind of business.
And the other thing is that by going to a four-day work week, for me, and the staff going to a four-day work week half the month, I really don’t work that much.
That Legacy Toothpaste Really Works
I’ve been an attorney for going on 22 years. I’ve been a member of the Academy for five and a half years.
The highlights, for me, recently have been the new Legacy Wealth Planning Seminar. I’ve now done two sweeps and people love it. It is a great seminar. The toothpaste tube is flawless. On Saturday morning, I had people asking me questions relating to giving people a tube of toothpaste as opposed to giving them toothpaste. It was fantastic.
Legacy Wealth Planning
I like the concept of Legacy Planning – helping people with more than just the financial assets.
Focused, Strategic Plan
Membership in the Academy has totally transformed my practice and my life. Formerly a general practitioner for 22 years, I never knew what was going to come in the door next, nor whether I would have the resources to handle it. I now have a strategic plan such that I have been able to create a practice that adds value in tangible ways to the lives of everyone it touches.
Robert Armstrong and Sanford Fisch are visionaries who are always looking to the future.
Supportive Academy Staff
The education support is timely, practical, and prompt! My practice building consultant really cares about my success and is always willing to help.
The database is the key to my practice. With a simple point and click, I can manage the marketing of my practice. I can also see instantaneously every time we have contacted a prospect or client and everything we’ve either done for them, or said to them or been told by them. I can’t imagine practicing without it.
South Carolina Member
The Academy has been the difference between my law practice being a success and not being a success. It has allowed me to support my family.
Cutting Edge Education Department
Having the Academy’s Education Department at my beck-and-call allows me to devote more time to developing my practice and bringing in more business instead of constantly reading case law and journals. Even the best publications are a month to 6 weeks behind on the law by the time I get them. With the Academy, I get the new and relevant case and tax law changes literally as they are happening! That feature alone is worth my membership fee. And even my most complex questions are usually answered within a few hours – my clients are always shocked at how fast I can resolve their issues. Now that’s real customer service.
Saves Five Years of Mistakes
As a new member I can tell you that I have gotten my money’s worth so far. I’ve directed questions to education and have gotten practical answers quickly. The tapes and other materials are outstanding. I think you are going to save me five years of mistakes.
Secret Weapon for Success
I have always felt that Academy membership is my secret weapon for success in estate planning! I would not want to attempt to practice in this field without being a member.
Rewards Far Exceed Expectations
North Carolina Member
I have been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys for six years. The Academy is the single most important professional tool I have found in my sixteen years of practice. The Academy provides me with top-notch educational training, turn-key business systems, marketing expertise, financial acumen and colleagues, now friends, who readily share information and support without worrying about competition. While initially deciding to join was scary and expensive, the rewards have far exceeded my expectations.
Like Being a Member of a Large Law Firm
Being a member of the Academy is like being a member of a large law firm. When I have a question about any topic that I don’t know the answer to, I can always get the answer from the Academy. As a sole practitioner that is very important to me.
A Practice Building Consultant is a Great Tool
Working on a marketing plan with our Practice Building Consultant is a great tool and benefit. Getting another set of ears and eyes for the best strategy and hearing what others are doing successfully around the country.
Education Department Keeps You on the Right Path
With the Academy Education Department to back me up, I can handle cases which I might not have current, fresh information to handle, and not enough time to research by myself. More importantly, when I have a hunch that I need help, or guidance, I contact the Academy. It may only take a little nudge to get me on the right path, but then, I have a greater level of assurance I am on the right path.
Academy Documents are a Quality Product
The Academy documents truly are the result of the combined efforts of the Academy staff and its members resulting in a quality product which I could have never on my own created.
Develop Financial Expertise
Because of the education the academy has provided, I have developed expertise to the point that many financial professionals in my area now call me for advice on many estate related questions, as well as refer their clients to me.
Complete Support System
South Dakota Member
The number one benefit to membership in the Academy is the completeness of the support systems in place: the education department, the practice consultant, the technical support, and the marketing support – it’s all in one place.
The response time from Education is unbeatable, as is the completeness of their knowledge and willingness to help.
Marketing materials—I have received such positive feedback from the public and referral sources from the seminars, it makes my development very easy.
Initial Consultation Principles Increase Retention Rate
Words cannot express the magnitude of the impact the initial consultation training has had on my law practice, and more significantly, on my life. Your retention rate absolutely will go up as you apply the initial consultation principles. In addition, you’ll be more relaxed in your consultations, and you’ll feel good about the important work you do. The principles you learn will have application in all aspects of your life. Finally, you’ll have a lot of fun, and get to know one really remarkable person in the process.
Training Improves Initial Consultation Performance
Because lawyers are not trained on conducting initial consultations they believe they must do all the talking and “educate” the prospect into becoming a client. Unfortunately, what is talked about and what the prospect wants to hear are often not the same. The predictable result is “Let us think it over,” at best, or “No.” Both mean the same thing. After the Initial Consultation training – multiple times – we learned the value of an interview system. Among other benefits, this system taught us how to:
- Establish rapport with our prospect,
- Lead the prospect through the elements of the process,
- Create expectations for a favorable outcome,
- Successfully deal with the money issue,
- Artfully handle objections so they never destroy your sale,
- Discover what’s really motivating the client,
- Ask the “right” questions that cause the client to say “Let’s get started” and,
- Increase the odds of a successful outcome for us and the new client.
If someone arrives at a consultation after attending one of your seminars they have already said “yes” to you at least five times. It’s yours to lose. Do you believe your service is valuable to your prospects? Do you believe that nearly everyone you meet will benefit from your services? Do you really? What would it mean to learn about a process that – if you consistently apply it – will help you convert two additional prospects each month who need your help? The economic return is apparent. What’s more important is improving your performance so others more clearly see the benefit of letting you help them.
Initial Consultation Training Sessions were Life-Changing Experiences
My attendance at the Initial Consultation training sessions were positive, professional and personal life-changing experiences. The Training has changed, for the better, the way I approach every interpersonal transaction. It has enabled a quantum leap in my effectiveness in communicating with my clients. In my practice, it has given me the tools to awaken in potential clients who are in need of my services the eagerness to move forward in implementing their estate planning. In showing me the “Power of the Questions,” it has enabled me to elicit the true feelings within my clients which cause them to act or not act. As a result, my efficiency has been dramatically improved.
Initial Consultation System Keeps Clients Focused
Focus, focus, focus. The initial consultation training ingrains in the lawyer how to keep the (prospective) clients focused on the “gut” reasons why they are in your office. The initial consultation system teaches you how to keep the clients focused on their belief that your preparation of an estate plan for them is both necessary, valuable and worth every dollar you are charging.
I’m reminded again of how blessed we are to be members of the Academy. The spirit of sharing and helping from members is just amazing. Sometimes, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. Thanks again to Robert and Sandy. Your vision and forward thinking continues to benefit all of us.
Membership Proves Invaluable
I’ve said it publicly many times: I can’t imagine practicing law without being a member of the American Academy. Thanks to all of you!
New Jersey Member
It is really funny in a way, I always thought of myself as an attorney with a good nose for business. I had studied almost every one of the books on the market for improving the business and myself and implemented the best I could. I have been building my little business in the right direction for the past 5 years, with ups and downs. It was this summer that I decided to end the litigation portion of my practice and focus exclusively on estate planning. I found the Academy about a month later.
When I joined I had a small perceived regret – that I might lose the feeling that I was creating something out of thin air. To build a business from scratch with nothing but vision, passion and self education is something I really enjoyed. I felt that I would somehow be cheating myself if I merely implemented the great ideas, systems, programs, etc. that you have created over the past 20+ years. I thought in some small way that I would be taking the easy way out.
Boy was I wrong. Yes, it is easier in that I am focused and clear on my goals, but I have worked harder (and smarter) in the past 4 months than I ever have in my life. Once you know where you are going, there is a decision that you must make. Do I want to go get it or take my toys and go home?
So when you go for it there is no more B.S., no kidding yourself and no need for distractions. You have a vision and there is nothing left to do but fulfill it. I have learned quickly that even with all of the fantastic tools, systems, lessons, education and everything else that the Academy has to offer, there is no short cut, no cheating—it’s real work.
In the end, I have not lost the feeling that I am creating something out of thin air. That feeling is still intact and thriving because my firm is still my unique expression of what I believe my marketplace truly needs.