SB Law, PLLC (SBLaw) is a minority-owned, woman-owned energy regulatory law firm, established in 2020 in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus and United States social justice pandemics. Having studied the practice of law as a business for over 10 years while practicing energy regulatory law for over 30 years, the founder, Regina Speed-Bost, created a practice that would meet the needs of energy clients while also speaking to the heart of her community. Regina has over 30 years of legal and regulatory experience practicing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and various state public service and public utility commissions.
Regina worked addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) issues throughout her career, and in 2020 pivoted a family business to address the DE&I needs of the legal community and corporations small and large. WTE Enterprises LLC (WTE) provides diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting services to corporations and law firms of all sizes. WTE also provides business development consulting services to start-ups and small businesses with a focus on minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Linda Evers (LE): Tell us a little about how your firm began and how it grew? Was collaboration or marketing a big factor?
Regina Speed-Bost (RSB): I launched SB Law, PLLC in July 2020. I had been studying the business of the practice of law for many years. I finally saw an opportunity to apply the knowledge to my own practice and I am happy I did.
Much of the success I have experienced over the past year or so has been tied to my collaboration with and encouragement of friends. From referrals to co-counsel arrangements, to information shared with me by other solo and boutique practitioners, these relationships have been a great support.
LE: Wow, you started a law firm in the middle of a pandemic, please elaborate!
RSB: Yes. 2020 was as much an awakening for many as it was a challenge while we sheltered in place because of the coronavirus. I know several lawyers who asked themselves hard questions over the past 18 months: Am I doing what I am passionate about? How can I make a positive impact in my family, my community, the world? And, how do I take care of myself at the same time? The answers to these questions vary from person to person, but in the end, being successful, however you define that, requires being satisfied with the ways you are living your answers to those questions. If you are not, then do what it takes until there is harmony between your answers and your lifestyle. Yes, some might say that I chose an interesting time to launch my own firm and to pivot my consulting work. The time was right for me to start these businesses. I was ready and I was not going to let a pandemic stand in my way!
LE: How did you get your very first client? And your most recent client?
RSB: Both my first private sector client and my most recent clients came to me in the same way, through relationships with people who knew me and my work. My first client in private practice was referred to me by a former colleague who went in-house. We worked together at two prior organizations. She said she knew that I was a really good lawyer and that she saw how I would “kill myself” for my clients. As in-house counsel, she wanted that type of dedication and energy on her matters. It was important to her to have someone who would “have her back” as she entered her new role and trusted that I would be that person for her. My most recent clients generally express the same sentiment. They want someone they can trust to “have their backs”, not just the business. I aim to exceed their expectations and meet their needs in that regard. My clients seem happy with the service they receive.
LE: What is (different, either about you or your firm), that has allowed you to become a successful rainmaker?
RSB: I believe I am in the right place at the right time. When I began my career in government service, there were a number of boutique firms that specialized in FERC matters. They were prominent names in the energy bar. Over time, as energy regulation became more market-oriented, larger firms identified the promise and profitability of energy regulatory practices and many of those boutique practices closed and joined with larger firms. Over the past few years, I have seen a bit of a resurgence of energy boutiques. I offer clients the efficiency of a boutique practice with the experience of a career built by having the backs of my clients. I am less focused on whether or how this makes me different. This is who I am. I focus on being the best me I can be.
LE: Describe the biggest influence on your career.
RSB: The biggest influence in my life is my faith. My faith is my foundation, and it is the biggest influence in everything, including my career. I have also had a number of people who have been influential in my career, from my first mentor who said I should “give energy law a try” to several former partners who told me to focus on and then taught me the business of the practice of law. They imparted a few common themes that repeat themselves: first, be true to yourself. If you are wildly “successful” but have lost the core of who you are, then you have lost more than you have ever gained. Second, the practice of law really is a service industry. Remember that our jobs are not just to provide great legal advice – which we must do – but to be trusted advisors to our clients. When you remember that, you will be successful. Third, “don’t be afraid to make a mess.” Lawyers are known for being risk-averse. Yet, we are asked to be troubleshooters and problem solvers. Our creativity requires risk, within the confines of the law. I have tried to apply these principles throughout my career.
LE: What obstacles have you overcome to build your book of business? How did you overcome them?
RSB: I am a giver at my core. There is an adage that says a closed hand can neither give nor receive anything. So I tend not to fight over things like originations and responsible attorney credit. Many have told me that is unwise, and I agree it has cost me over the years. I must, however, remain true to who I am at my core–a giver. That said, the greatest obstacles have not been the ones you would normally expect such as racial or gender discrimination. These exist without a doubt and I could tell you some stories. But the biggest obstacles have been individuals and organizations that wanted me to “stay in my place” and “wait my turn.” I remember a former partner condescendingly asking me at compensation time, “How much do you need to make anyway?” Mind you, he had just shared that he told that firm’s compensation committee what his number needed to be and it was no small number. I have also been told that as long as I keep another partner’s clients happy, I did not need to worry about building my own book of business. Please hear me: income partners, service partners, and of counsel are valuable individuals and often are not compensated fully for the value they bring. However, statements like those are intended to be limiting. Action supporting those statements, like restricting a lawyer’s business development activities and budget so they can “focus on billing” undermine individual growth and supplant your vision and desire for your career with someone else’s vision and desire. Often, their view places their own self-interests ahead of you. In the end, however, I choose to dwell less on the reasons behind the statements–whether racism, sexism, classism, or any number of other reasons–and focus instead on what I know about myself. It is that knowledge of myself and belief in what I am capable of that light the fuse to the fire that resulted in my own firm.
LE: Has the pandemic and/or the current work-from-home environment changed some of the ways in which you market?
RSB: Just as we all had to pivot during the pandemic and learn how to serve our clients remotely, we also had to learn how to maintain and grow our relationships remotely. I have used the same vehicles many have employed. I hosted a virtual dance party last summer, a virtual inaugural “ball” in January, and co-hosted a virtual Kentucky Derby event in May. Each of these was an opportunity for friends and clients to connect and have a bit of fun.
As for the work-from-home environment, because I traveled fairly extensively before the pandemic, I was able to shift to a 100 percent remote work environment easily. The success of starting my own firm during a pandemic was a natural outgrowth of the “working from the road” environment I had adopted over the years. I cannot count the number of pleadings drafted, conference calls attended, and matters handled while on the road before 2020. Last year, in many respects, simply made remote the norm. As my clients became comfortable with working remotely–many of which already had schedules that permitted partial work remote schedules–the remote location of outside counsel became less of a concern and was likewise an easy transition.
LE: What books, podcasts, or apps would you recommend to a lawyer who is interested in becoming a rainmaker?
RSB: There are a few. On my desk and at the top of my Kindle currently are:
Books: The Bible; The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It by Valerie Young, ED.D.; The Authenticity Principle by Ritu Bhasin; Role of a Lifetime–Reflections on Faith, Family, and Significant Living by James Brown with Nathan Whitaker; A view from the Top–Exceptional Leadership Strategies for Women edited by Linda Ellis Eastman, and That’s What She Said–Wise Words From Influential Women by Kimothy Joy.
Podcasts: Advice to my Younger Me – Sara Holtz; Corporate Homie Podcast – Demetra Liggins and Bemetra Salter Liggins; and Women at Work Podcast – Harvard Business Review.
LE: What are the top three tips that you would give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?
RSB: There are a few common themes that repeat themselves for me. First, be true to yourself. If you are wildly “successful” but have lost the core of who you are, then you have lost more than you will have ever gained. Second, the practice of law really is a service industry. Remember that our jobs are not just to provide great legal advice, but to be trusted advisors to our clients. When you remember that, you will be successful. Third, be generous. In one form or fashion, we all reap what we sow. Keep your hands open and busy to give and they will already be open to receive what is coming to you. And, when it does come, be grateful and express your appreciation. I am grateful to you, Linda, for your friendship, kindness, and generosity. Fourth, “don’t be afraid to make a mess.” Lawyers are known for being risk-averse. Yet, we are asked to be troubleshooters and problem solvers. Our creativity requires risk, within the confines of the law. Failing forward or learning from life’s ups and downs is the greatest gift you can give to yourself. I have tried to apply these principles throughout my career.
About the Author
Linda R. Evers is a shareholder and chair of the Energy, Communications and Public Utility Group at the law firm of Stevens & Lee. She also is the owner of The Connection College, a business development coaching company.