How I Practice-Judith Nolfo McKenna

Judith Nolfo McKenna
Judith Nolfo-McKenna
Law Office of Judith Nolfo-McKenna
Albany, NY

1. What are your areas of practice?

My law practice focus is in the areas of estate planning, elder law and trusts and estates.

2. Describe a typical day for you? 
A typical day at my office starts early with returning phone calls and e-mails. My goal is always to respond within one business day to any question or request, if possible. Next, I review my list of files currently open to determine my priorities for the day, taking into consideration scheduled client consultations and other meetings or court appearances. I try to tackle a simple task first thing in the morning, as it often motivates me to move on to more challenging items. I usually meet with several clients each day.

3. Where do you practice? Do you have a stand-alone office or home office? 
I have an office in Albany and a satellite office in Malta.

4. What is the most rewarding thing about having your own practice?
By far, the most rewarding aspect of having my own practice is the understanding I have the power to make the most or least of every working day. I have control to build my client base and to set the tone for the day’s agenda. Each day brings the opportunity to inform and educate each person who consults with me. I love watching a client breathe a sigh of relief when I can answer their questions and address their concerns. I relish the possibility that the client may be with me for decades, and we will forge an excellent attorney/client relationship.

5. What are some of the challenges about having your own practice?
The biggest challenge can be summed up with the old adage, “The Buck Stops Here.” When I make a mistake or fail to complete work in time, there is no one to blame but myself. Another challenge is consistently creating new business. I have a monthly goal for the number of new clients, and when I fall short, it can be challenging.

6. What are your must-have tech tools/apps?
LinkedIn has a been a great tool for my business. I have received calls from other areas of the country looking for New York estate planning or probate assistance from other professionals who found me via LinkedIn.

Another favorite app on my phone/tablet is Flipboard. It gathers news and interesting articles from daily and weekly sources around the world. I create my own “magazine” and “flip” articles of interest. For example, one of my magazines is titled “Elder Law” and I save all sorts of articles to read or use at a later time. Also, Flipboard gives me an option to follow topics. Some of my topics include articles about retirement, case law, aging and social justice.

I also rely on billing and legal software to keep track of my billable hours and my client information organized. 

7. How do you market your practice? How do you find new clients?

I finally found the right marketing specialist, and he has made a world of difference in how I market my practice. He understands and respects my marketing goals and limits, as I envisioned a professional, informative website to introduce myself and my practice, and provide information to those site visitors. I also enjoy public speaking and am invited to speak to small and large groups about my focus areas. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, the best marketing tool is still a direct referral from a content former or current client.

8. When and where do you interact with other attorneys?
I have a wide network of friends and colleagues from Albany Law School and from NYSBA and county bar associations. I find attending NYSBA Section Meetings, Annual Meetings and CLE programs are essential to my practice development. It is important to join committees through NYSBA and other organizations. When you are in a small firm, you often have to reach out to other attorneys with questions. Also, participating in pro bono clinics is a wonderful way to meet other attorneys dedicated to the public good.

9. How do you stay informed with legal news/developments?
I attend various CLE offerings, read legal publications and periodicals, and enjoy countless discussions with other practitioners in similar areas of practice. On holidays, I relish my alone time with my brother, Matt Nolfo, who practices in the same areas and is a never-ending source of support and advice.

10. If a fellow attorney decided they wanted to start their own practice, what is the one thing they should know?
There are so many large and small issues every day when you have your own practice, but, if I had to share just one pearl of wisdom, I would say you must believe in yourself. A healthy dose of confidence is key. Just remember you will not know everything and you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone and accept new challenges. You will not automatically receive a salary as you are responsible for your own pay. Some months will financially bountiful, and others lean. Just keep the faith and you will be successful.