Daissy Dominguez graduated law school in 2013 and founded Dominguez Legal Justice Center, LLC (DLJC) in Chicago with a focus on immigration and landlord/tenant disputes. Ms. Dominguez is an adjunct law professor at The John Marshall Law School and is on the Board of Directors for The University of Illinois Latina Latino Alumni Association. She also serves as an appointed committee member for The John Marshall Law School Board of Trustees Alumni Committee. Ms. Dominguez has been awarded the “Woman of Inspiration” award by Ms. JD, Super Lawyers Rising Star 2019, Outstanding Paraprofessional Alumni from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center Paraprofessional Program, the “Remy Centaur” award by Remy Martin, was named one of the Latinos 40 under 40 by Negocios Now, and was selected by Invest Chicago to receive $25,000 from its “Women’s Innovation Fund.”
Andreia Ribas Precoma (ARP): What are the top three tips that would you give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?
Daissy Dominguez (DD): First, I would tell the lawyer to be genuine and passionate about the work they want to do and passionate about the practice of law. I am passionate about immigration law, and I show real interest in the cases. This is one of the reasons why clients prefer to work with me instead of other attorneys.
Second, I would say to be dedicated, work hard, and do not give up, because it takes a lot of effort to develop a business.
Third, I would say that having the right personality is an important role in a business because you have to be able to connect, network, and engage others in building genuine relationships to help grow your practice.
ARP: What is (or was) different, either about you, or your firm, or anything else, that has allowed or enabled you to become a successful rainmaker?
DD: My clients tell me that the reason I’m different, and why they ultimately choose to work with me, is that I really take the time to explain everything and go through the process of how to handle the case. My initial consultation is almost one hour long, so they usually say I am the first lawyer who took the time to explain the process to them. Clients have lots of concerns. They want to know what is going on and how to be engaged in the process, because they have a lot at stake, and it is important for them to understand their case. Clients say they do not feel intimidated in my office, but rather they feel that they are in a welcoming environment.
Clients also admire my honesty when I explain the reality of the immigration process and explain the weaknesses and strengths of their case so that they have realistic expectations and can make an educated decision. I am aware that their life is at stake, and I want to make sure they are making the right and educated decision.
Lastly, I believe what is different about my firm is that it is designed to serve moderate and low-income communities with fees that are acceptable and flexible. Through the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) I was able to obtain the proper guidance in developing a sustainable practice, while at the same time serving low and moderate-income communities. Also, I understand that the immigration process is already expensive, so first I try to figure out the financial situation of the client and try to be flexible about the fees. I believe every person should have the opportunity to hire an attorney. I charge a flat fee, and I work with payment plans that allow my business to be sustainable while having reasonable fees that allow clients to hire me.
Also, I do a lot of work in the community. I present educational workshops about people’s constitutional rights and eligibility requirements to gain lawful status. I provide training for advocates on how to work with the undocumented community so they are better prepared to help them and empower those individuals to seek support. In addition, I volunteer as much as I can in citizenship workshops or free consultation clinics. I also participate in fundraisers and auctions by offering my services for free. Finally, I mentor students that want to go to law school about the college/law school process and recent law graduates about how to open their own practice. I do a lot besides work on cases.
ARP: What obstacles have you overcome to build your book of business? How did you overcome them?
DD: Being able to participate in the JEP program helped me avoid many challenges, but I still think the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was how to build my client base and manage my time. I started my practice right out of law school, and it was difficult trying to manage the 20 hours per week of pro bono work that JEP requires and the part-time job that I needed to pay my bills in addition to running my own business. In the end, it was all worth it, because after one year everything fell into place. I also struggled with charging the right fee for my services. Knowing that it was very hard for a client to afford the fee, I would lower my fee too much. I had to stop doing that, but it took me some time to figure out the right fees. I realized that if I charged too little I would lose my business, and then I would not have the opportunity to continue to help clients, which is why I quickly overcame that obstacle.
ARP: Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
DD: I probably would not have charged such low fees at the beginning of my practice. Although, at the same time I was able to help a lot of people, and at the end of the day, these clients ended up referring me other clients and bringing a lot of business to the practice. Also, I would have stopped working at my part-time job after six months, but I committed myself for one year and I like to honor my commitments. I believe, in the end, that everything I did helped me to be where I am today.
ARP: How much time do you devote to marketing yourself and your law firm?
DD: I don’t count the time I devote to marketing, because I think marketing entails a lot of different things. Even things I do on a daily basis, such as a simple conversation, are marketing. I believe that marketing occurs naturally. Someone asks me about what I do for a living, and suddenly this is a way of marketing my business and myself. I do it all the time. I believe my work is part of who I am because I see my job as a lifestyle. Because of that, every time I talk about what I do, I make a connection. I also go to a lot of networking events, because I believe the more people I know, the more resources I will be able to give to my clients. My clients need a lot of services, more than just immigration services. The more people I meet, the more I can help my clients. My motto is “Teamwork makes Dreamwork.” I love to network, so I don’t see marketing as a job. It can be as simple as taking a picture at an event and posting it on social media.
ARP: In your opinion, what makes your practice unique in the field?
DD: The fact that my practice targets low and moderate-income communities with accessible and flexible fees, without high billable hours. I not only focus on casework but also work on empowering the community through workshops, mentoring and community work.
ARP: How do you maintain a work-life balance with the pressures of running your own practice?
DD: This is the hardest thing for me because I need to be busy, it is part of my personality. This is not so easy on my personal life, though. I love my work and used to work long hours and weekends, but after two years of doing that, I realized that I didn’t have to do that to be sustainable. I felt it was taking a toll on my well-being and I started forcing myself to stop working late evenings or weekends. I also try to stay active and to do different things, such as boxing and fitness classes. Committing to fitness classes was a great idea, because as long as I commit to something I have to do it. Now, I balance my work life and personal life. I noticed these changes not only made me happier but also more productive; even my clients started noticing the difference. I can compare the two periods of my life and I can say that work-life balance is absolutely necessary. I am glad I was able to make the change, my business is better, and I feel better.
About the Author
Andreia Ribas Precoma is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law.