Julie Tolek, Enterprising Lawyer
Who are these “enterprising lawyers”? Actually, they are easy to spot. Look for the more engaged and happier lawyers in the crowd. Deeply invested in the power of the work they do, they have ample interests beyond the practice of law as well. And they seem to have more energy for getting things done than anyone in the crowd. You probably know one — you may even be an enterprising lawyer yourself!
Julie Tolek is the marketing-savvy enterprising lawyer behind the “proud New England law firm” Think Pink Law — a “human law firm with human clients.” The 2013 law grad’s start-up focuses on family law, adoption, and trusts and estate planning.
Think Pink Law
Boston, Brookline and Framingham, Mass.
New England Law, Boston, 2013
Suffolk University, B.S., 2003
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer? I come from a family of doctors, so it was either medicine or law. After college I took the LSAT and my advisor told me not to bother applying anywhere because my score was not good enough to get into law school. So I did a post-baccalaureate pre-med program instead. After taking chemistry a few times, I realized I am a words girl, not a numbers girl! I began working for Apple, and almost three years later I decided to apply to law school. I had to take the LSAT again, so I took a prep class, studied … and got almost the same score as the first time! And I had no problem getting into the schools I wanted. So, the short answer is that my soul always knew what I was meant to do with my life.
What is Think Pink Law? Think Pink Law is a law firm for humans … because helping people while building lasting human relationships is my goal. I am good at connecting with people, and comforting them, and I bring that to my practice. I love to use technology like videoconferencing when I can — on the surface that seems very non-human, but it brings people together when they otherwise can’t be.
You know the expression “You are not your job”? Well, I am. I am the firm and I am the brand. TPL is 100 percent authentic me.
Where did the idea for Think Pink Law come from? TPL was born when the firm for which I was supposed to work after taking the bar said they did not need me anymore. I understood it was a business decision, but I was still heartbroken and I went into panic mode. I thought, how can I set myself apart in a city so saturated with lawyers? What am I good at that many lawyers are not so good at? What will make clients pick me over the next guy?
In law school, I had already branded myself when I created LegallyblondBos, my blog about being a law student in Boston. The color of the blog was pink, of course. Over the years, people started to recognize me as “the law student with the pink blog” — I was “pink” and I was going to be a lawyer! So, while I was figuring out how I was going to do something different, a colleague (the first lawyer friend I ever made on Twitter, via my blog) said I had to make it pink. At first I didn’t think I could get away with it, but the more I thought about it, the better it sounded. Having a law firm with the word “pink” is disarming, unexpected and memorable. It is human. I wanted people to remember me and hire me because I am just like them, a human, who is trained in the law — I am not a robot or a stuffy, arrogant drone who barks the law at people.
What about practicing law did you learn the hard way? I learned that you never really know anything, you just think you do, and sometimes there are no answers. You have to learn by doing. (Also, you have to keep all your accounts organized from January on to do your Schedule C the right way come tax time. I’ll never make that mistake again!)
Many lawyers have good ideas, but struggle to bring them to reality. To what do you credit your ability to do this? I didn’t know I was an entrepreneur until I became one. If you told me two years ago that I would have my own law firm, I would have laughed. Honestly, I had no choice — it was fight or flight and I had to fight. It’s the same mentality that got me through the bar exam. Failure was never even on my radar. That being said, I did almost close my firm a month after I started. The financial uncertainty was tough. I had a lot of “haters” and, as a single woman at the time, I did not really have the emotional support system that many people starting new careers in their 30s do. But I knew it was the best time to take a risk — if I was going to do this, I had to do it now. Once I got into it, I realized that I had a talent for entrepreneurship and marketing, which I believe comes from my genuine desire to build relationships with people.
What is the first thing you “check” each morning? The time. I am paranoid about oversleeping.
What is your favorite technology tool? If I have to pick one, I will say my iPhone … because within that, there is a whole universe of apps that I can sneak into this answer. It’s like my tech Swiss army knife!
How would you describe the location and décor of your office? My office is in the suburbs about 30 minutes from Boston. Right now, my desk is in a room with four others. Mine is the pinkest of them (naturally). I have a lot of plants around my desk, and other things that make me happy: Entrepreneur Barbie (in a pink shift dress with an iPad in her hand), motivational thoughts in black on a pink canvas, and a candy jar full of pink and white M&Ms. The reception area is very Zen, with a couch and matching chair, small rock garden and dark blue walls.
Where do you think the practice of law is going? I wish it was going in a paperless direction. Seriously, there is a lot of competition with online LegalZoom-type business models. So again, I constantly ask myself, why would people choose me? Then I try to embody those reasons.
In that context, where are you going? Onward and upward! I would like to be able to practice in more New England states, and a few non-New England states as well. I would like to open TPLs in a few other places, and I already have some people I want to work with on those projects — they believe in the brand and share my values.
What are people most surprised to learn about you? That my first career out of college was working for Apple as a lead creative trainer.
What do you use every single day that you could actually easily do without? Tanning lotion.
What three things must you always have in your bag, desk drawer and refrigerator? Bag: Phone, lipstick, eyedrops. Desk: Pink Post-its, lipstick, protein bar. Refrigerator: Various cheeses, guacamole, probiotics.
Where do you turn when things go really badly? First, inward (I tend to over-analyze everything), then to my friends and people who ground me.
You can find Julie Tolek at her blog Think Pink Law, on Facebook and on Twitter @thinkpinklaw. If you’re in Boston, Julie will be sharing marketing tips at LOMAP’s 5th Annual Super Marketing Conference, June 4.
Read About More Enterprising Lawyers
- Janine Goodman & Marc Lindsey
- Douglas Sorroco
- Andy Greene
- Walter Sargent
- Lee Rosen
- Kelly Phillips Erb
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Illustration ©ImageZoo. Photos courtesy of Julie Tolek.