Maresa Martin Talbert is an attorney and law firm owner with a story you won’t want to miss. She served as an officer in the Navy, used the GI bill to pay for law school, opened her own successful law practice, and plans to retire early!
In this episode, Darren speaks with Maresa Talbert, founding attorney at Talbert Law Office, APC, and navy operator, to discuss her journey and the lessons she learned along the way.
Darren and Maresa discuss:
- What inspired her to want to become an attorney from a young age
- Leadership lessons she learned from serving in the Navy and how those translate to her work as an attorney
- What inspired her to launch her own practice, and what advice she has for other law firm owners.
- And more!
Connect with Darren Wurz:
- 30 Minute Chat With Darren
- Wurz Financial Services
- The Lawyer Millionaire: The Complete Guide for Attorneys on Maximizing Wealth, Minimizing Taxes, and Retiring with Confidence by Darren Wurz
- LinkedIn: Darren P. Wurz
- LinkedIn: The Lawyer Millionaire
- Twitter: Wurz Financial Services
Connect with Maresa:
About our guest:
Maresa Talbert owns and operates Talbert Law Office, APC, a virtual law practice that helps entrepreneurs, founders, and creatives start a business or nonprofit, maintain legal compliance, avoid risks, and protect personal and intellectual property assets through business formations, contracts, trademark registrations, and so much more.
Her business is not just a transactional exchange of goods and services. She lives by the mantra, “Purpose over profit.” Her purpose is to (1) honor God; (2) make her family proud; and (3) serve her community.
The way that it reflects in her business is by (1) delivering a premiere client experience; (2) providing culturally relevant education through her legal services; and (3) empowering her community to thrive in their purpose and build a legacy.
Transcript:[00:00:00] We are on a mission to help lawyers and law firm owners maximize wealth and achieve financial independence. Welcome to the Lawyer Millionaire with Darren Wurz From Wurz Financial Services. In this podcast, we will help you build wealth, minimize your taxes and plan for retirement with money management strategies designed for the legal profession.
Join us in this journey where we help you manage your money so you can make the most of your future. Start feeling confident in knowing you are well prepared for retirement and on track to financial independence. Now on to the show.
Patrice: Going it alone can be tough, but that is exactly what Darren Wurz’s guest has done. Maresa Talbert has a solo law practice focusing on business, nonprofit, and intellectual property law. As the founder and owner of Talbert Law Office, she knows the ups and downs of doing it yourself. Darren, [00:01:00] why don’t you tell us more about Maresa.
Darren: Yeah, I’m, I’m super excited to have our guest on today and learn more about her and her firm, and as we were just talking in the intro here, before we got started, I was learning that she’s on the West coast; but she actually goes back and forth. So I’m excited to learn more about that and about all the exciting things she does. She’s a veteran herself and she started her own practice. Very exciting stuff. So, welcome to the show Maresa, we’re glad to have you here!
Maresa: Thank you so much, Darren. I am excited to be here.
Darren: Well, great. I’m excited you’re here too! And I was just gonna say, I’m jealous because you’re in San Diego, is that right?
Darren: Right, but, I understand that you spend some time on the East Coast also. So I’m not too jealous, I guess. But I am longing for the warm weather definitely.
Maresa:[00:02:00] San Diego. Is that a paradise place? It is. It has truly been fun to call San Diego.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. I was in San Diego many years ago around Christmas time, and it was like 60 degrees or something, and everyone with, all the locals were wearing like parkas and I was in shorts and a t-shirt, because I was excited for the warm weather. So. Well, Marisa, why don’t you start out and tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an attorney and what that was like.
Maresa: So the journey to becoming an attorney was pretty clear for me. So I always knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an attorney. The type of law that I do now was not as clear. I thought I wanted to be a criminal prosecutor when I was about eight years old. And that was both birthed from [00:03:00] seeing attorneys on TV and really loving the courtroom action and really feeling like I wanted to do something that mattered and that made a difference.
But it also was birthed in the fact that…. Lawyers on TV really lived these lavish lifestyles and I knew I wanted to live well and I was naturally inclined to do well in school. I loved reading, so it just seemed kind of like a natural fit for me to make a living as a lawyer. So through high school, through college, that was my focus.
I knew I wanted to do well and be an astute student because I had to get the good grades to get to the college that I wanted and eventually go to the law school that I wanted. Once I completed college, I was in a rut. I was a little bit burned out. I kind of wanted to take a break from school and I wasn’t [00:04:00] exactly sure how I was going to pay for law school.
So that was really the crux of, how, where, how do I now do this? Where do I go next? What’s my next move? I was at the time working at the Texas State Capitol. I’m from Texas and I graduated from college. I was working at the Texas State Capitol for a Senator, and my mom said “you should go into the Air Force because you could get the GI bill to pay for law school. You wouldn’t be stressed, you wouldn’t have to try to work full-time.” And I thought, oh mom, that is the worst suggestion you could have ever suggested. I am not going into the military. I don’t know why you said that. Now both of my parents have retired from the Army. So, I was a military brat. I was very familiar with the army. Where I grew up was a military town. So I was familiar with the army, but, or the [00:05:00] military in general, but I, that was not my path or so I thought. About six months after my mom recommended that to me, I went to see a recruiter. . Now this story gets a little funny.
I went to see the recruiter. I accidentally walked into the Navy office instead of the Air Force office. So they had just switched offices and they hadn’t changed their signs outside. So the Air Force office was actually next door. So I walked into the Navy office. The recruiters were very friendly. They started talking to me and come to find out I already had a college degree, so they’re like, oh my gosh, we can get you in. You’ll be so easy to get into the Navy. And I’m like the Navy. I thought I was, I thought I was coming to see an Air Force recruiter and they’re like, oh, they’re next door.
So I went next door to the Air Force recruiter and they were not as friendly. They acted very snobbish, for lack of a better word. And [00:06:00] so I was just like, oh, well I don’t really, I don’t really wanna deal with them. So I went back to the Navy office and they got me signed up.
So I told my mom, Hey mom, I went to see a recruiter. Um, I talked to the Navy and she’s like the navy, where did the Navy come from? So she said, both my parents, they said, you can’t go in unless you go in as an officer, like we did the enlisted route. You have a degree. Go in as an officer if you’re gonna do anything.
And so I took the test. I applied for the officer’s program before I left for bootcamp. I got accepted and a week before I left, I told all my friends I’m leaving, I’m going into the Navy. And they were stunned and they were like, she’s gonna be back soon. She’s, she’s, she’s not gonna do this navy thing. I left home and never came back.
12 years later, I have done active duty in the Navy. Navy [00:07:00] Reserve, and I, after I completed my four years of active duty, I got my full GI bill, and went to law school. So, that was my journey to becoming an attorney .
Darren: Okay. Very cool. I am very fascinated by that. So both of your parents were veterans then, correct?
Darren: Okay. Wow, very cool. And then, yeah, so you mistakenly or accidentally ended up in the Navy and it says here you’re, on your LinkedIn, you are a Surface Warfare Officer. I think that is so awesome. Can you tell me just a little bit about what that means?
Maresa: Sure. So it sounds. . It sounds very cool, and it is very cool when you think about it from the outside in.
Um, what that really means is that I am a tactical ship driver for combat. And so as a Surface Warfare Officer, we are trained to be the commanding officer of the ship and to do so in times of combat [00:08:00] and in times of peace. So I have driven billion dollar warships assets on deployment, outside of deployment, and I’ve learned all the tactical requirements to do so effectively. So that, in a nutshell, is a Surface Warfare Officer.
Darren: Wow. That sounds awesome. Absolutely. Very cool, Maresa. Well, as you’re talking about all this, I’m just curious, uh, and we’ll kind of get into how you started your law firm, but, did you find that there were things you learned in the Navy that carried over into your law practice, what can you tell us about that?
Maresa: I think everything that I have taken from the Navy definitely translates over into my practice. It translated definitely into law school even. I felt very assured of what I was doing. I was very disciplined. [00:09:00] I maintained that discipline.
I feel like I was disciplined as a child growing up but being in the military gives you an altogether different kind of drive. It gives you a different kind of discipline. And I have taken all of that in my practice. It helps me just dealing with all different types of people from different backgrounds.
I have led hundreds of people, so it gives me leadership. It makes me very sure of my leadership style. It makes me very assertive in times where I need to be. I have really taken so much from the Navy that I will always, always treasure and be thankful for. Definitely.
Darren: Absolutely. That. The last one you mentioned there, assertiveness. I love that and I imagine that that experience gave you that, that courage. I mean, sometimes, I don’t know if you have a lot of this experience, but if you’re on the opposite side of a deal or something, you have to exercise some of that. How can you tell us a [00:10:00] little bit more about that experience or what you, how you’ve used that in real life?
Maresa: So I like to say that my leadership style is very collaborative. I’m very much open to feedback with any and everybody that I work with, but I’m also very decisive and I have come to trust my decision making very much so. So, I can make a decision with a team or without a team. I am very confident in the decisions that I make, but also when it comes to that assertiveness, I know how to be a bulldog when I need to. Um, I’ve had to stand up to people who, who were, who outranked me. I’ve had to stand in the gap for my sailors in different scenarios where it wasn’t pretty or it wasn’t fun. Or it wasn’t easy. And so that has also translated into when I’m working with opposing counsel, again, I’m very collaborative when I’m working with [00:11:00] opposing counsel, but at the same time, I know how to take that and be very decisive. And be very assertive when the time comes. And if I need to turn into a bulldog, I can do that too.
Darren: Absolutely. I admire that about attorneys. The ability to negotiate, with someone that’s on the opposite side, negotiating in their own interests. And to be able to do that without letting your emotions get the best of you and be able to do that calm and in a collective, collected way. I really have a lot of respect for that. And so you were talking about you know, all these great qualities that you learned, these characteristics that you acquired. and you, you used that in starting your own practice, but that wasn’t the original plan, as I understand. You started out at a larger firm. But what kind of was the journey that led you to eventually opening up your own practice? And then tell us about that.
Maresa: So, Darren, that is a loaded [00:12:00] question. . . So when I graduated from law school, my only plan, my only aspiration was to get a job at a big law firm and practice law, and that is what I set out to do.
I applied for many, many, many jobs, many positions, and I got nothing. So between talking to my mentors and talking with my husband they all kind of led me to the path of ” you can start your own”. At the time, that was something that I had no aspiration for. I just didn’t wanna do it. It was definitely far from my idea of what success was. And I was contracting. I was doing contract work for other attorneys. About three other attorneys at the time. One was [00:13:00] paying me about $25/hour for work. One was paying me $75/hour and another one was paying me maybe another $25 to $35/hour. So I was kind of doing these little projects for them when they had overflow in their caseload, and I really got upset with feeling like I was working for pennies. And it was my husband who said, you can do this on your own. He was the first person that said it to me, you can do this on your own. You don’t, you don’t have to work for anyone else. You can take your own clients. And I thought, no, I can’t. I can’t do that. And I, one of my mentors, reached out to me to speak at a continuing legal education seminar; and continuing legal education is something that all attorneys have to do to maintain their license. And so, I was on a panel speaking about microaggressions and eliminating [00:14:00] bias and he reached out and said, “we need your bio so that we can market and you know, market the program.” And I sent, well, when I was trying to figure out what my bio was going to say, I was, I was lost. I said, okay. I’m a California licensed attorney. I’m a Navy veteran. I don’t have anything else to put on my bio. I can’t say I’m an associate attorney that works at such and such a place. And so I was really embarrassed by the fact that I felt like I didn’t have anything to put on my bio. So my bio went out with a California licensed attorney and a Navy veteran. That was it. I spoke at this workshop and I’m speaking to all of these seasoned senior attorneys, and a lot of them came up to me afterwards and thought, oh, you did such a great job. Can we refer people to you? What area of law do you practice? They really wanted to refer clients to me. And [00:15:00] so I was like, okay, I guess , I guess I can, I guess you can refer clients to me. I did have business cards. I gave out my business cards and I got some calls and so that was the first time that I started to actually take on a client or two on my own. And I felt like, to me, I was just a freelancing attorney. So I kind of set up a letterhead that said Talbert Law Office. I did that really quickly. I prepared an engagement agreement to start taking on my own clients, but I still was only doing that as a means to an end until I found my big law job. So all of this time that I’m taking on my own clients, I’m still like applying for other jobs and I’m like, okay, soon my time is gonna come where I get a job at a big law firm.
And about a year and a half later, I got the job at the law firm. Practicing the law that I wanted to practice, and I hated [00:16:00] it. And I quit after two months and I thought, I hate this. I can deliver services better and I can deliver services in a way that I want to receive the service. And that is what I did. I left with the full intention, I can do this on my own. And I felt very assured that I can do this on my own. And that was the start of me actually creating Talbert Law Office and putting everything into it to make it what it is today.
Darren: Wow. So this is, it kind of started out as a necessity and wasn’t the original plan for you, but I bet now that you’re doing this, you feel like this is the right pathway. Would you agree with that?
Maresa: Without hesitation. I know now that this is the divine path that I was supposed to go on, and God just had to [00:17:00] force me, kind of redirect me through all of that to go this way because I wouldn’t have done it on my own.
Darren: Absolutely. So you’re starting your own practice. You had some clients coming in. Tell us about, some of the, the difficulties and the challenges that you experienced in that process. What was that like for you?
Maresa: So many. I think for me, the practice of law came very easy, easier. The business of law. Quite different. And by that I just mean the business of running a business, being a business owner, wearing all the hats, while also doing the work. You’re kind of the visionary and the implementer, and so trying to balance that has been really difficult. Even now, it’s still very difficult. I have come to learn to manage a lot of it and to [00:18:00] automate processes and, you know, implement processes that make some of this a little bit easier, but it is still very different hats to wear being a CEO and being the person who’s doing the work. And I’ve now come into a place where I have a clear vision, but that just came maybe about a year ago where I had a clear vision of where the business was going. And so I think part of the challenge initially was, one what am I doing? First of all, what am I doing? I know how to deliver the service, but I don’t know how to create this world around doing that.
Just have recently, I would say, started marketing myself. I wasn’t marketing, but I was having clients come through the door because of word of mouth, which I’m very thankful for because it alleviated me of having to try to market [00:19:00] myself. So a lot of it was what business structure do I need? I was a sole proprietorship for the first three years of my business. And, switching into a law corporation was something that was, I had to really think through and make sure that it was the right time and the right thing to do. It was making sure that I was doing all the filings correctly with the state bar, making sure that my accounting was correct, making, what am I charging? Why am I charging this? If a client asked me about why their bill looks like this. I have to be ready to explain that. So how do I explain my prices? Why are they the way that they are? It’s all of those external things that go into the business applause that make it difficult. What if a client doesn’t feel like they got what they paid for? How do I make sure that I’m very clear in the scope of services? It’s so many things. And when I first started, I was not creating boundaries at [00:20:00] all. I would answer clients at any given time because I just wanted them to know that I was trustworthy. And when I would have consultations, I would just spill everything because I wanted a client to feel comfortable with hiring me. So there’s a lot of things that I have learned in the process. That I have stopped, I have now started to really create boundaries and stick to those boundaries. You know, I know how much to give. I know not to give too much information. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming for a client when you are talking a lot about things. Other times they just kind of are window shopping and seeing who they can get is the most information from. So many things that I’ve learned along the way, and I continue to learn and evolve literally every day. I’m always learning. I have plenty of books now. I’m always reading. So it’s, it’s been a process.
Darren: Absolutely. There’s been you’ve, you’ve learned that you need to [00:21:00] be an entrepreneur in addition to an attorney. And I know you mentioned you had the clients coming in initially, so that was great. And you focus on business, nonprofit, international, and intellectual property. Did it start that way? Or how did that, how did you decide what area you were going to focus on?
Maresa: It did start that way. I think I was doing a lot more. At first, I was taking anything kind of business related or anything nonprofit related or anything intellectual property related. Now I know my wheelhouse areas, and so while it started in those broad areas, it is still pretty broad. I now know. Okay, I don’t care to do this specifically. These are the areas that I focus on and that’s just come with time and realizing where my time is most valuable, realizing what’s gonna take me a long [00:22:00] amount of time that I don’t care to spend or knowing, you know, I just don’t enjoy doing this and so I’m not gonna do it. So, these areas of law were the initial areas of law that I’ve always wanted to practice in since about my second year of law school, since I knew what area of law I wanted to practice. These are the areas, and so I’ve kind of stuck to that pretty well. It’s just I’ve kind of niche down within those areas even more than I initially started.
Darren: Absolutely that, that’s a great marketing strategy. I’m all about the niching down into a particular focus. So, uh, congratulations there. Now as you think about all this that you, you’ve, you’ve gone through and, and creating your business and so forth, you talked a lot about the business of law.
What are some big lessons you learned? You mentioned boundaries is a good one. Maintaining those boundaries. Are there some resources that helped you and figuring out how to manage the business side of law or, or what are some of the big lessons you learned there that you could pass on to other attorneys who are [00:23:00] in kind of a similar position?
Maresa: So, definitely resources. I think experience is the greatest resource. But I also have books. I have the 12 week year, I have the Business playbook. And those have helped me in just creating some systems and being productive and time management. Um, but I think a lot of it comes from just working hand in hand with my clientele and the things that have happened that I did not like. Where ,um, clients would delay the project for weeks and weeks and weeks at a time, or I can’t hear from them. And where I’m always very much trying to be the person that waits on my client and making sure that they’re not waiting on something from me. I’ve also come to learn that the longer it takes for me to finish a client matter, the more money I lose.
So, putting in processes where if you [00:24:00] delay or if I can’t get in contact with you for a certain amount of time, I have the right to terminate you as an attorney because you’re holding me up and if I can’t move your project forward. Then, you know, I, I either need to return the money that you provided, or we need to, we need to do something else.
So, that’s been something that I’ve learned. I also, in the beginning, I used to not take deposits. I used to wait until I worked and then invoice the client, and I’ve not gotten paid. So, I. Starting off, you want to, at least for me I wanted to, I’ve always wanted to treat people the way I wanna be treated, And sometimes it is hard to pay for something upfront and you don’t have an insurance that you’re gonna get what you paid for. But I’ve come to realize there are reasons why most businesses have you pay upfront . [00:25:00] So it’s some things are just because that’s how business is done and you can see why business is done that way. And some things are very unique to situations that I just didn’t like to be in. And I am not confrontational.
So it’s really hard for me to to confront a client in that way to terminate them. I have started to do so, and it has become easier for me to do when I need to terminate a client. But they always have a sob story, it’s always like, oh my this or that happened, or, oh my this.
And I’ve come to realize that is not my problem, as much as I am sympathetic. Yeah.
Darren: Yeah, that’s, that’s tough to do, to know when to do. But that’s such a great lesson. I’m glad you’ve learned that one early on is, making it easier for clients to pay, getting [00:26:00] the money upfront is a great lesson in improving your profitability. The quicker you can make that cash flow cycle that’s gonna mean your business is more profitable. You know, collecting on accounts receivable later is so much more difficult. The longer, the more time that goes by, the harder it is to collect on those things. And I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t realize when they think about running a law firm is getting the clients to pay, you know, that’s just assuming that they’re gonna pay. But, you know, you wanna make sure that that happens and that doesn’t, unfortunately, always happen. So, great lessons to learn. Now, Marisa, I’m curious about the future for you. You know, you’ve got a lot of time ahead. You, you’re, your practice is still young. What, what are your future plans? What are, you talked a little bit about your vision for the business. Tell us more about it.
Maresa: So it’s such a broad vision, but it is very specific. So right now, to be [00:27:00] honest, my goal is to train my c e o; the person who is going to replace me and have them up and running within the next five years. That is my goal. So everything that I’m doing right now in my business is geared toward my replacement, training, my replacement. When I started on that journey, it forced me to revamp everything that I was doing in my practice, and that was because I was doing everything from me being the person, the implementer, and being the person who knew the process, and being the person who knows how I wanna speak to this client, and knows how I want to email this client, and knows how I named this file. And when I realized that I needed to bring someone else in to really, not only just expanding to bring in another attorney and interns and other people who will work under me, [00:28:00] but to also bring in someone who will eventually replace me. It was such an overwhelming task to think about all the things that I needed to do to make that possible, and so it started me on the journey of documentation, and creating videos, and having a naming convention for files, and getting SOPs up and running, and having a centralized place where everything is. It really took me on a journey. An overwhelming journey that I don’t think I was fully ready for at the time because I realized, oh my gosh, I have been working and just churning out the deliverables and I have not been documenting anything. And so, Oh boy.
Darren: That’s, that’s very fascinating. So, uh, the process, this is in procedures, so you’re talking about now this is someone [00:29:00] replacing you, is this like a long term succession plan that you’re kind of starting now? Wow. I love that. I am a big fan of that. Kudos to you. You know, one of the things I talk about in the book is getting that succession planning starting now early on. So hats off to you, Maresa. That’s really fantastic stuff. And you’re right. All the things you’re thinking about, those are things people start to think about and those are all just good business practices by the way. So , that really makes it, uh, forces you. To, to think through a lot of those things. So, great, great stuff. Well, we’re almost out of time, unfortunately. I feel like we could go on and on and on and on. We’ve got so much good stuff here to talk about. I have one last question and then I want you to tell our listeners, uh, how they can get in touch with you. But one question I want to ask all my guests going forward. What does retirement look like for you? It looks like something different for everybody, but what does that mean to you? And then tell our guests how they can get [00:30:00] in touch with you.
Maresa: So retirement for me, I hope is quicker than most. I would like to retire early. I am in my thirties right now and. . I think I would like to retire within the next 10 years. So retirement to me looks like being at home with my family, probably cooking or experimenting in the kitchen every day. I love to cook. I love creating in the kitchen, and so retirement for me is really, truly probably being a homemaker full-time.
Darren: Wow, that is fantastic. So you’re on the retire early train. Kudos to you. I want to know more about that. That’s awesome. And as we wrap up here, why don’t you tell our listeners how they can find you, how they can get in touch with you and learn more about you.
Maresa: Yes. So right now, I am revamping my website.
It’ll be up within a week at talbertlawoffice.com. But you are still able to schedule a [00:31:00] consultation if you would like to. And you can find me on Instagram at Talbert underscore law underscore office or on LinkedIn at Talbert Law Office or Marissa Talbert. And I think that’s it.
Darren: Great. Well, thanks so much for being on the show, Maresa.
Maresa: Thank you, Darren, it was such a pleasure.
Darren: Absolutely. And if you wanna know more about The Lawyer Millionaire Podcast, the lawyer Millionaire the book, or to get your own copy or to learn more about me as well, or book a consultation for your own retirement planning, just head on over to thelawyermillionaire.com.
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