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Lawyer Business Advantage
30 minutes | a month ago
Level 3 Niche Marketing with Ken Levinson
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Ken Levinson, Founding Partner at Levinson Stefani Injury Lawyers, discuss how his Level 3 niche marketing strategy contributed to his firm’s growth: Ken’s P.I. firm specializes in trucking crashes in Chicago. Alay and Ken also discuss cash flow management for contingency-based law firms. And pizza! Tweetable Moments: “You have to pick an area that you’re good at, that you can solve a client’s problem, and differentiate yourself.” – Ken Levinson “If I talk to a lawyer here in Chicago…they may know 15 of my competitors really well. But if I speak to 150 lawyers in Maryland, I might be the only personal injury lawyer [in Chicago] they can think of.” – Ken Levinson “An expert realizes that dabblers cannot deliver the kind of service that a sophisticated client needs.” – Alay Yajnik “If you’re in a practice area with a lot of competition, find a sub-category specialization that’s really fascinating, where there’s opportunity to learn and go deeper.” – Alay Yajnik Transcript: Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage Ken Levinson, founding partner of Levinson and Stefani Injury Lawyers. Ken, welcome. Ken Levinson: Thank you. I sure appreciate you having me on. Alay Yajnik: Well, I’m delighted to have you on on the program because you have built a successful book of business. First off, I have to ask you, what is your favorite pizza? Ken Levinson: You know, I shouldn’t say this publicly, but I will. I’m a thin crust fan! In Chicago we love our thick crust, Lou Malnati’s and some of the bigger thick crust Gino’s, but I just like that thin crust New York style. I’m going to probably lose all my clients, Alay Yajnik: Maybe we won’t put it in the podcast. Ken Levinson: Oh, you could. We actually, my law partner and I, I think before the pandemic, we got this idea from someone else. We decided we love to eat. We love to spend time together. So we go around local restaurants and we do like a little video. We highlight Chicago restaurant. So it’s on our Facebook. We share it a lot. So we love to eat. So next time you’re in town, we’re taking you to a great meal. Alay Yajnik: That sounds like a deal. Sounds like a deal. Very cool, man. Well, that was not the answer I expected. I was thinking Giordano’s or Gino’s or even better, something that I’ve never heard before. So that’s awesome. Ken Levinson: I know I love to think we have some really good, interesting Chicago food and great Italian and great steak houses and every time. Oh, it’s a great food. My wife, our favorite food is Indian food. So we have Indian food in town. This place we love and but there is every type of food you can imagine in Chicago. Alay Yajnik: I was looking through your background. You left the Illinois Attorney General’s office in 1996. So just by way of introduction, why did you leave and decide to join a firm? Ken Levinson: Well, I went to the Attorney General’s office because I felt that would be the place where I gained the most hands and experience to be a trial lawyer, and that’s what I want to do. So early on in my career, I was going to court taking depositions. Arguing motions? And after I was there a few years, I really wanted to represent people who needed lawyers. I love my time at the state and representing state agencies and state employees, but I really wanted that connection to help people and individuals who needed a trial lawyer. Alay Yajnik: And as you were doing that, your focus is on personal injury, right? Ken Levinson: That’s correct. Alay Yajnik: And so P.I. is not an easy practice area to to kind of develop from just an economic standpoint. So what were some of the big challenges that you had to overcome as you ventured out and started your own firm to really make that firm into a success? Ken Levinson: That’s a great question, you might have this dynamic in California, we have it here in Chicago and Illinois, there are some other personal injury firms out there. You might see one or two. You might see a billboard and notice a TV or radio or paid advertising online. So it’s a very competitive space. So we think about how to grow our firm and market and get as many clients that we can help as possible. I mean, we think about it a lot. And I’ve been a lawyer a long time and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And one of the things I’ve learned and doing things wrong for a long time is you really have to pick an area that you feel you’re good at, that you can solve a client’s problem and different differentiate yourself in your practice. And we’ve tried hard to do that. Alay Yajnik: That’s great, and so as soon as you left the firm, you join and started your own firm, what are now the areas in which you focus? Ken Levinson: Well, you might notice if you look at the personal injury law firm website that they will list, generally speaking, every injury and catastrophic event known to man and woman. Yes, dog bites, medical malpractice, work injury, food poisoning, product liability. What we focus on and what we think we’re really good at and have experience doing is truck and auto crash cases. That’s what we focus on. That’s what we concentrate in. And we let our clients make the decision and tell prospective clients, look, you can hire a law firm that knows a lot about a lot of things or maybe try to be a jack of all trades. Or you can look for a firm that’s going to handle a case just like yours and really dig deep and know the area and know the area by writing articles and books and public speaking and leadership positions and recognition and results in your area of law, whether it’s a catastrophic truck or auto crash case. And I think most clients want a trial lawyer on their side who’s got that kind of experience versus someone who can one day handle a dog bite case. The next day, a slip and fall and next day an auto collision. And maybe the lawyer is great doing that. What we do is we focus and concentrate just in our areas of what we think we’re good at and that we handle day in and day out. Alay Yajnik: That is really interesting. So not only are you focused on on crashes, on collisions, but really specifically on trucking. Ken Levinson: That’s right, that’s right, and it’s a very complex area, there’s a lot of federal regulations, a lot of specific experts that we hire and use and anything from data with a black box and accident reconstruction to federal regulations and truck driving experts and safety experts and safety directors that we depose. It gets very complex. It’s just not a bigger auto case. These truck cases where a vehicle’s eighty thousand pounds, where a professional driver has to be trained and and careful, much more so than a regular passenger vehicle. And there’s a lot of intricacies that we’ve learned and honed in on. And we’re always learning, always getting better, always thinking about these issues and how to help our clients better. But I don’t think you can necessarily dabble in this type of practice, even if you handle personal injury cases generally, because oftentimes clients and even other lawyers say, well, you’re a personal injury attorney, you can handle any type of tort or injury case. And and I don’t think that’s true. And I don’t think the best lawyers necessarily can do that. Alay Yajnik: You hit the nail on the head. I think as we become really good at what we do, we realize that if we really want to do our best work, we can’t do it for every kind of case that’s out there. We’ve got to get really, really specific. Stay in our lane and get to be real, true experts of what we do. That’s the definition of an expert. And so an expert realizes that dabblers cannot deliver the kind of service that a sophisticated client needs. And so with with your expertise in this kind of work, who’s a perfect client for you? Ken Levinson: Well, that’s that’s a great question and to back up a little bit, I think a mature lawyer and law firms realize after experience and really being honest with themselves, that not every client is a perfect fit. Sometimes we want a certain type of case that looks like a wonderful case. We can really help, but it’s not really up our alley and a lot of times I look at a client, I say, “I’m not the best lawyer for you.” And I can point in the right direction. So for us, the ideal client is a family dealing with a tragic truck crash with devastating consequences, where we can get in early in the case, investigate what really happened. Find the truth and ultimately help this family, whether it’s making sure that a widow has enough funds to pay her mortgage, feed her kids so the kids can go to college. If the breadwinner was killed by a dangerous trucking company or a driver on drugs or sleeping not enough and being too tired, a fatigued driver. That’s where we get the most satisfaction. And that’s the type of client we really delve into. Alay Yajnik: And Ken, how did you decide to focus on these specific kinds of injuries versus, say, motorcycles or something else? Ken Levinson: Well, we’ve handled some cases, and once I got more involved in the federal regulations and the expertise that the witnesses bring, I really enjoyed it. I really sunk my teeth into the area. I had friends in other states who were doing these type of cases, a friend of mine in Ohio, my colleague, who remains one of the best truck accident lawyers in the country, and he asked me to try a case with him in Arizona at the Sandra Day O’Connor district courthouse in downtown Phoenix. And I really got the bug in these cases and helping families and haven’t looked back since. Alay Yajnik: I love that. And clearly, the work you do is incredibly meaningful and impactful in your client’s lives. So that is that is terrific. And that’s something that, as I’ve done a lot of these episodes I’m seeing, the best lawyers have a genuine passion for their practice area. And they’re oftentimes one or two levels, if you will, deeper in than a typical attorney. So not just P.I., not just automobile crashes or vehicle crashes, but specifically truck crashes. Right. Something very, very deep and focused where they write a lot. And you’ve done more than your share of that. They’ve tried some really impressive cases and they’ve gotten some great results and built an expertise. So that all that being said, as you mentioned, P.I. is a challenging area from a marketing and business development standpoint because there’s a lot of competition. So having that niche focus no doubt helps a little bit. But how do you break through the noise, all the noise out there that’s P.I. law firm marketing to really attract your perfect client to you? Ken Levinson: Well, you know, it’s just a constant effort, you can’t rest on your laurels, so to speak, I thought years ago, if I ever made to a certain level cases and clients would just come along, I wouldn’t have to do anything. Couldn’t be further from the truth, Alay. I’m always working it. I’m always doing a lot of things to be ubiquitous, whether it’s on social media, keeping in touch by email. A lot of my referring lawyers, we get most of our work from other lawyers who don’t do what we do or trial lawyers out of state who think of us in Chicagoland, I do everything I can to keep in touch: call, text, my friends, past clients, LinkedIn. I’m active on Facebook and we just really try to stay top of mind and be strategic about it and really focused on what type of case we’re looking for and remind potential referring lawyers and sources of what we do. And like you said, there’s a lot of noise in the market. There’s certainly a lot of trial lawyers, personal injury lawyers that are really talented, smart, caring attorneys in town. We have some of the best trial lawyers in the country here in Chicago, just phenomenal lawyers, a lot of friendly competitors who are just truly good friends. But we do our best to differentiate ourselves with our expertise and turning away clients that just don’t fit the model of who we can best help. Ken Levinson: And I guess the other thing we’ve been successful at doing is looking at areas where we would sort of stand out. And I’ll give you an example. I know some of your prior guests have talked about building their book of business and clientele by public speaking. And I’ve done a fair amount of speaking in other trial lawyer associations. So yesterday I wound up being the keynote speaker to the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association. And I guarantee if I talk to a lawyer here in Chicago who is a family lawyer or business lawyer, they may know 15 of my competitors really well, one might be their brother in law. But if I speak to one hundred and fifty lawyers in Maryland, I might be the only personal injury lawyer they can think of [in Chicago]. So if they have a potential case for me, I’m the only one they know, perhaps, whereas it’s much more competitive in Chicago to break through. So sometimes find your – there was a book about it – your Blue Ocean strategy where you’re in a much better place to gain business and get clients, it’s just putting yourself in the most successful position, if you will. Alay Yajnik: This is this is a really cool strategy, Ken, because I have not heard any other attorney on the podcast mention it yet, although it’s something that I do. And I know it’s something that you do and we know some folks that do that too. So let me recap it back, make sure I’ve got it all. The idea behind that is let’s say you’re practicing in Chicago land like you are. People in Chicago know other attorneys who do P.I. in Chicago, that’s just the way it goes. But if you travel and speak or write or network out of the area, so a place like Maryland, for example, or New York or Dallas or wherever it happens to be Seattle, San Francisco, those people in those geographies, especially attorneys in those geographies, may not know a P.I. attorney in Chicago. Until they meet you. And so the next time they get one of those referrals that comes across, which is in that area, you might be the only name that they call. Was that the strategy that you were talking about? Ken Levinson: I’m sorry I cut you off. I got to tell you, you’re asking me these great questions, Alay! Alay Yajnik: Go ahead, please! Ken Levinson: So there is a second step to my method. You’ve got to stay in touch. It’s just not like the old school going to a bar association function, the “cocktail party.” And you meet 50 lawyers, get 50 business cards like Josh talked about your prior podcast. And you throw those business cards away. It’s meeting the lawyers, getting known, and showing your ability how you can help potential clients for them. That’s step one. Step two is keeping in touch, and there’s a lot of innovative ways and creative ways you could think about doing that. And we do email blasts. We’re active on social media platforms. A few of the folks reach out to me yesterday after my Maryland presentation, and we immediately friended them on Facebook. And I’ll put them on our list and keep in touch. If I go to Baltimore for an event, I’ll reach out. We’ll grab dinner. It’s just keeping in touch. Now it’s a much longer-term strategy. You’re not going to cases immediately. A lawyer in L.A. might not have a case for me this month, but eventually it’ll work. And over time, it’s been a fairly successful strategy for us where we probably have twenty five to thirty percent of our significant cases were referred by trial lawyers out of state. Alay Yajnik: That is really, really cool, and it’s not a surprise either, because you’re also so well differentiated. They don’t know a lot of people that have the expertise and the qualifications that you do that are in Chicago. So it makes a ton of sense. Maybe some advice that we could give the folks who are looking to maybe build that kind of differentiated practices: if you’re in a practice area where you’re feeling that there’s a lot of competition, find sub-category of that, a specialization of it that really grabs you. That’s really fascinating where there’s a lot of opportunity to learn and just learn and go deeper. And if you still feel that there’s competition, go deeper and keep going until you do what Ken has done, which is break into an area where there is a lot of opportunity to become an expert and there are not a lot of attorneys that are in that space at a high level in your geographic area. Ken Levinson: And you could be very yeah, and we test it and we’re very strategic about how we have grown our firm, how we think about marketing. It’s an old adage where 50 percent of my marketing works, I just don’t know which. So we keep trying different things. And strategically, we think, OK, we’re in Chicago. What type of folks come to Chicago? Like for us, we know our market well. A lot of tourists come to Chicago in the summer, go to a cub game and go to a White Sox game. Come here to see our world famous Chicago Bulls, the Trade Center, or go to Michigan Avenue to shop for the holidays. And if they get hurt here, they might go back to wherever they live. It could be Florida, it could be Michigan, wherever, California. And they’ll call their local lawyer and say, “You know, I was injured. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?” And they’ll say, “I can’t. But I’ve met a lawyer in Chicago who might be of use to you, who might be able to assist.” Alay Yajnik: And so you’re spending a lot of this time and a lot of money on all of these different marketing platforms. And I suspect you’re really sharp about how you decide whether, you know, someone in the firm is going to actually do this marketing or whether you’re going to pay someone externally to do the marketing. But either way, and Ken just before I continue with this, just to make sure you do your practice is largely contingency fee-based, right? Ken Levinson: It’s all contingency fees. We don’t win, we don’t get paid. Alay Yajnik: Yeah. And so that’s my question: if you’re making all these marketing investments for a contingency type of practice, cash flow has got to be really a very interesting situation. So how have you navigated that cash flow crunch? Ken Levinson: Yeah, that’s always a challenge for contingency fee attorneys, because we have our fixed overhead: salaries and rent and things like that, and then we front all the case expenses for our clients. Our clients don’t pay our our court fees and depositions and experts and that fun stuff. So it’s always a problem with cash flow. So we have to be really conscious of when we get a significant settlement, we can’t just spend it on marketing or take it for ourselves as partners. We have to really plan and make sure. Not that a thing like a year long plague could ever happen and affect cash flow in this country or world. Alay Yajnik: No, no, never. Never. That would never happen. Ken Levinson: I mean, I know I’m be a paranoid lawyer. We can never have a year long plague where people couldn’t work or remote. But if that were to happen, Alay, you have to plan for it, be very strategic and talk to your banker and and make sure you spend money as wisely as possible. It sounds obvious, but we really track every marketing dollar and I’m sure most good business folks do. And most law firms track where they’re spending money. Alay Yajnik: You’d be surpised, Ken. Ken Levinson: I know. I bet I would. You probably see it all time, right? Alay Yajnik: I do, but I don’t see it that often in successful personal injury law firms because you guys do a better job than almost any other practice area of managing cash flow because it’s so critical to your success. Ken Levinson: Yeah, we have to be very careful. You can’t just. Get a fee in a case and think, oh, God, this is great. Oh. Buy a new car or buy this or buy that, you have to think, wait a minute, I have all this overhead. I have cases I have to spend money on to fund and you have to be very, very conscious of it, and even marketing. Alay Yajnik: And so with that in mind, can one of the instruments that people can use to address cash flow as a line of credit, just curious to get your thoughts on on a line of credit, what you think about that concept. Ken Levinson: Yeah, as long as you’re careful, I think a line of credit, we have a bank here in town that a lot of plaintiffs attorneys use and I think they’re really wonderful to work with. They help with our loan application process. And as long as you don’t get in trouble, where you have too much debt that you can never get out of. And the interest keeps compounding. And as long as you’re conscious of it and smart about money, I think a line of credit is is absolutely a worthwhile endeavor. I mean, people talk about gambling and lawyers who just risk their money on a case, but I don’t look at it as a gamble. I look at it as a very educated decision making process. We don’t just gamble our money and our clients money in a case. We look at all the facts, what we’ve done in the past with cases. Similarly, all the evidence, what the witnesses are going to say, and we make a really informed decision, as best we can tell, to invest our client’s money and really our firm’s money. Alay Yajnik: You know, a big focus of this podcast is on law firm growth. And so you’ve done this at a high level for a long time. What advice would you give to attorneys and law firm owners and partners who are interested in growing their book or growing their firm? Ken Levinson: To me, really think about what you can offer potential clients or referring lawyers, what pain can you solve and just do the best job you can accomplishing that on one hand and the other hand, it’s always been a building trust based, true relationships, not trying to hedge what you can do or pontificate or puff your credentials. It’s about just being completely honest and building caring relationships. And I think doing that over time, doing it the right way and honest, ethical way, I think you’ll grow your firm. And I guess the third piece of advice, if you will, is to make small tests in the market and see what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t plop all your marketing budget on one thing for personal injury lawyers. We see a lot of billboards and TV. I suspect successful firms don’t just say, oh, I have a chunk of money from my marketing budget. I’ll put it all into a billboard campaign or a pay-per-click campaign. I think it’s a wise decision to test what works and if it’s working, keep doing it, maybe double down. If it’s not, figure out why isn’t working. Maybe it’s not a good endeavor, despite the fact that you thought this thing, this marketing campaign will absolutely work, but test it if it doesn’t move on. Alay Yajnik: As you think about the future, granted, we we are in this unforeseen pandemic, but hopefully we’re on our way out of it. What excites you about Levinson and Stefani, and the future? Ken Levinson: We’ve done the best we at least think we can in this pandemic era to block out time to improve the firm, our processes, our reports, our case management system, our in-house training to make sure that our structure is this is complete and the best it can possibly be, whether it’s giving a client’s medical records and most effectively, efficiently, whether there’s in-house training on all the things that our lawyers and team do to improve the firm and our processes. And we’ve done a lot of work making sure that we’ve improved. We continue to learn and get better and excited about implementing some of the things we’ve been doing the last year and always learning and improving and getting better. And I feel that you can never have the perfect firm. It’s like playing the perfect basketball game. You never shoot thirty five for thirty five, right. You never hit a thousand in baseball. But to me it’s always about trying to reach perfection even though you’re never going to get there, but always improving. And that just really excites me. And I’m just so optimistic with our team and our lawyers here and the ability to really help clients and their family’s lives forever. Alay Yajnik: Well, congratulations again on all your success. I love your passion, love your enthusiasm. You guys go about it right. And you have a really, really clear niche that helps a lot of people. The person listening to this podcast wants to reach you. What’s the best way for them to do that? Ken Levinson: Well, they can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. They can call my office. I’m pretty easily accessible. Find me on Facebook or LinkedIn connection. But I love meeting new lawyers, the new professionals that I can help for my clients, too, if there’s a need. And that’s how I met you. I’m just really excited about the future and other relationships that we can build and just continue. Alay Yajnik: Yeah, well, thanks again for your time and thank you so much for being on the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. Ken Levinson: Well, thank you so much for having me and all the best with your fantastic podcast. Alay Yajnik: Thank you. And that is Ken Levinson, founding partner, Levinson and Stefani Injury Lawyers. He is your “go to” attorney if there is a victim of a trucking crash. Thank you so much, Ken. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you can see freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.
28 minutes | a month ago
Attorney Entrepreneurship with Jacqueline Newman
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Jacqueline Newman, Managing Partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, discuss how she has grown her firm from 3 attorneys to 17, and growing! Tweetable Moments: “For me, culture is really important.” – Jacqueline Newman “If you’re only doing two things at once, you’re wasting time.” – Jacqueline Newman “Most successful attorneys build their business upon the relationships they have built.” – Alay Yajnik “The best law firms grow through talent, not marketing.” – Alay Yajnik Transcript: Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart Business Guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage Jacqueline Newman, who is the managing partner of Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein. Jacqueline, how are you doing this morning? Jacqueline Newman: I’m well. Thanks so much for having me. Alay Yajnik: Thank you so much for being on the show today. I’m very excited to chat with you. I think you have a lot of insights that our guests could really benefit from. Tell us about your role at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein. Jacqueline Newman: Sure. So I’m the managing partner. I have been with the firm for over 20 years, and it’s actually the only firm I’ve ever worked at. So I kind of moved my way up. But yeah, I manage. We have an office in Westchester which we manage. I have a Jersey Of Councilperson and then we’re talking about expanding what we’ll talk about that a little more later. Alay Yajnik: I look forward to that. For people that aren’t familiar, what is your role as managing partner? Jacqueline Newman: So, I mean, basically, I kind of manage everything CEO, CFO, rainmaker, billable workhorse, a little bit of everything. But really, basically, I mean, I’m the one who’s kind of actually handling all the finances. I’m also making all the managerial decisions and I do the hiring. Unfortunately, sometimes I do the firing and it’s really everything that goes to running a firm. Alay Yajnik: So ultimately, it sounds like the buck stops with you. And there’s a lot of people that, you know, might not enjoy that responsibility. But based on our conversation earlier, you really thrive on this. So what do you really enjoy about wearing all of those hats as managing partner? Jacqueline Newman: Yeah, I do, I absolutely love it, so our firm is a matrimonial law firm, so we do exclusively matrimonial law and I kind of joke often that I can only divorce so many people. So the idea that ultimately I’m in a situation now where I get to do business. I used to be a matrimonial law that dabbled in business. And now I actually think I’m much more so a business person that kind of dabbles in matrimonial law. I spend probably more than 50 percent of my time at this point running the firm, and I absolutely, absolutely love it. I think it’s fun and it’s interesting and there’s always a new challenge. And I love the idea of being creative in business, and this gives me that opportunity. Alay Yajnik: What do you love about running your firm and focusing on the business aspects of running your firm versus practicing law? Jacqueline Newman: So, you know, they’re very different, but on some level they’re the same, so we deal with the high net worth, so we do divorces. Most of my clients are business owners. I think the fact that I’m running my firm, I have such a better insight. I think it actually makes me a better lawyer to many of my clients that are business owners. And I think what I learned from my clients actually also helps me run my business. And I do a lot of managing partner meetings. So I meet people that are all over the place. I had one this morning and we were talking all about comp and succession planning and stuff. And I just love this stuff. I’m a big supporter of anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur. I can talk business all day long. Alay Yajnik: I love to hear that. That’s great. And how did you get started in learning about the business of law? Jacqueline Newman: Well, it really happened organically. So I had my partners actually one is now retired, but I had two older partners and one of them was my law school professor. And I went up to him at the end of class and asked if they were hiring and they were. And that’s how this all started. And so what ended up happening was that I started as an intern and then I was an associate. And as I became more engrossed in the business and became a partner, then became an equity partner then a named partner. And as I moved up, I was very interested in the business aspect of things. My partners were less interested in it. They were very much into the practice of law and they would pay the bills, but they just weren’t paying attention to the things. And I became very interested in it. And eventually the way I became managing partner was, I actually walked into their office one day and I said, “I think I should be managing partner.” And they said, “OK.” And that was that. And so, yeah, and since then and now I’ve taken that role. And in the time we started with just the three of us and now we are 17 attorneys. So we have been consistently growing. We are going to continue to grow. And I’ve really taken, from my opinion, the managing partner part to such a degree. You know, now this is a business now that before was really just lawyers that were kind of playing business. But I don’t know if you experienced that. Lawyers as a whole are generally pretty bad business people. And so when you find someone who enjoys it and really gets into it, I feel like people, they like that. Alay Yajnik: Well, lawyers work really hard at practicing law, and that’s what they’re trained to do, is to practice law. And it’s a full time job, more than a full time job to become a better attorney as well as take your clients. And there isn’t always the time to learn about business. And so you’ve done that. And I’d love to get your take on this because they asked us to clients and and other folks all the time. Which do you think is more challenging? Is it learning to become a really good matrimonial attorney or wanting to become a really good business owner? Jacqueline Newman: Really depends on the day. I think that there are challenges to both being a matrimonial attorney and you adapt your client situations. And so it’s very hard, I think, of each of my cases is almost like a TV show. There’s a whole cast of characters and everyone has their own story. And so you’re balancing a lot of different things. And I and I do enjoy that and I enjoy helping people. And that feels really good to me. And I find a lot of the issues that come up with my clients, whether it be their businesses, their families or just interesting people issues. So I enjoy that. And then when you’re looking at being a managing partner of a business, you have all of your client, I mean all of your staff who I can kind of consider like my family. And so you have all the issues that go on there and a lot of dynamics. And, you know, for me, culture is incredibly important. I mean, I pour so much time into the culture at my firm, which is obviously being a little challenge in the club at times. But we’re doing pretty well. And so, you know, when you ask about challenges, I mean, when things are not going well in any way, I probably take it a little harder for my business perspective, because these are my people and this is my family. And I want to make sure everything’s going well as opposed to the clients that their family. And I’m trying to help them. But I didn’t help create that environment. So I probably I think it’s harder on some level running the firm from that perspective. I probably take a little more personally. Alay Yajnik: That’s a really interesting insight. I tend to look at things in terms of the the educational components necessary. And for me, being someone who’s a business person, looking at the practice of law, I am just mystified and in total admiration of everything you all do. And the law firm from the firm, like a business model perspective, is super simple. So I love bringing all the aspects of culture that you’re bringing into this, managing your team and taking care of your work family, because they’re the people at the end of the day are the firm. The firm does not exist without them. And so you’re balancing a lot of hats. You’ve got business development running the firm and you’re taking care of clients. You mentioned you’re preparing for trial. How and you have a family. So how do you balance all of these things together? Jacqueline Newman: So I don’t sleep a lot and I’m a big multitasker. I always joke that if you’re only doing two things at once, you’re wasting time. So I think it’s just a lot about time management. I also happen to be really good at working late at night. Like my associates, they know they’re going to get work from me up to one o’clock in the morning. Those are usually I take the hours from pretty much like I would say, like nine o’clock to one is the time that I focus really on so much of a lot during the day. I would say it’s a lot more of the networking. It’s a lot more of dealing with client calls. But I do most of, as I said, the business stuff and the real like editing agreements and researching and all that sort of stuff. I do that really late at night, so I definitely get the most out of all my hours. And I think that helps. Alay Yajnik: And you clearly enjoy it. There’s people that would be just that don’t want to have that lifestyle. But I can tell you light up when you talk about it so you have a real passion for what you do. Do you ever see yourself shedding some of those responsibilities over time? Jacqueline Newman: So, you know, it’s interesting. I said I had a managing partner meeting this morning, a woman’s managing partner meeting and they were talking to me a lot about that this morning and saying that they think it’s an important thing and I am making efforts with it. We have established in my office what I consider an executive committee of a few of my partners. And we have executive committee meetings and I’m really making a point of trying to engross everyone into that to help with the decisions. We also formed a ton of committees. Every time someone mentioned something, I said that sounds like a committee. And so we have like probably like twelve or thirteen committees in the office right now. And I’m really trying to kind of push a lot of the response that I’m a little controlling. So it’s kind of challenging. And then I do see this. I have two children, but I see this firm as my third baby. So it’s a little hard, but I’m making big efforts because I do think you get to a certain point where it’s important for them to grow. But it’s also, I think, important for me to kind of step back on something. Alay Yajnik: And what are some of the differences you’ve seen in the culture of the firm and among your team now that you’re forming these committees and people are getting more engaged in the decision making? Jacqueline Newman: I actually think it’s helping a lot. Originally, it really was kind of I was making a lot of these decisions. I also have a partner is a little younger than my another equity partner who has been like my sidekick. I mean, he’s amazing. And so I talked to him a lot about a lot of these things and he’s learning the business more. So, I mean, he sits in a lot of my calls and he’s definitely interested. And I love that because when you feel like someone’s interested, it makes you excited. So he’s been really helpful with me on that and taking some of the burden. And I feel like I can complain to him because he gets it. He sees it on all levels. So it’s not it’s not falling on deaf ears whether he can help or not. And sometimes he’s like, look, it is what it is. And he’s right. It is what it is. You just have to deal with it. But I do feel like it, especially in the corporate world. And what we’ve been doing a lot with the culture and these committees and things, I do think it’s helping. I think that it’s keeping people engaged. I think that they’ve got more skin in the game when they say their voices are heard. I mean, I’m very into the idea that we all make decisions together as a firm. I mean, I think we have a very rare culture in that in that sense. I mean, only recently in March was the first time I ever lost an associate to another matrimonial law firm. Before that I’ve never lost anyone to a matrimonial law firm. More than 20 years I have people that have started with me and that have been with me for 10 years plus. It’s really a very, very special group of people that I work with and I feel so fortunate. Alay Yajnik: So I have to ask, since you opened the door, how would you describe the special culture that you built? Jacqueline Newman: I mean, I use the word special. I mean, they are my family. I mean, one of the things about this covid situation, we haven’t been in the office since March. We’re in the middle of midtown Manhattan. So my office emptied in March and we haven’t been back since. And I miss everyone so much. I mean, we do we do a lot of meetings. We do at least once a week. We do these new meetings. We actually have a full firm happy hour this afternoon. Yeah, we do a lot of that to try to keep everybody as connected as possible and just physically seeing each other. But it’s hard. I mean, it’s it’s a very hard thing to kind of keep the culture alive, but I think we’re doing as best as we can. And people seem happy and and we talk a lot. There’s a lot of communication in my office and everybody knows my door’s open and they know they can reach me up to at least one in the morning. So that helps, too. Alay Yajnik: Well, thank you for sharing that. For me what really comes out there (you mentioned this now a couple of times) is you really think of the people in your firm as your family. I don’t hear that a lot. And so I’m not surprised that if you really take that perspective in your firm, which you clearly have, that that drives a lot of loyalty and a lot of engagement. It’s not something I hear very often. Shifting gears and moving to the business development side of things. You have done so many things with regards to business development. I’m really excited to chat for a few minutes with you about that. You’ve just written a book, The New Rules of Divorce Twelve Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health and Happiness. Tell us about that. Jacqueline Newman: So that was a passion project, to say the least, that got published by Simon and Schuster. Came out not this past January, the January before almost a year ago, right before covid, no less. I was very excited about the project. It was a really interesting experience to write a book and to go through the publishing process. But it’s helped a lot. I think it’s helped in business development, but more so even to the point that I say this. Now people come to me all the time and think that, “How do I write a book?” As if I’ve become this expert, which I’m obviously not. But I did go through the process and I say the funny thing about writing a book is that people assume that if you write a book, you’re smart. I always joke about the fact that I could have written “Mickey divorces Minnie” 8 million times in the same book and people would still think you’re smart. And that was an interesting aspect of it. I mean, I obviously think the book is really good and I think it’s really helpful to people, but it has helped with business development to that point that people will say, “Oh, you’re an author.” Jacqueline Newman: And obviously it’s a book that a lot of people I’ve had clients that have absolutely bought it and come in to me and say, you know, I bought it because I read your book and I’ve come to see you because of that. And quote me back my book, which is always kind of funny Alay Yajnik: You’re thinking, “Wow, that’s brilliant! Who wrote that?” Jacqueline Newman: Yeah, that’s right. But one of the things one of the reasons that people talked about it from a business development perspective of writing a book is that people don’t like to throw away books. And so you’ll get a book and you feel bad throwing it away so people will just throw it on a shelf. And then one day, you know, the theory is that like someone’s like, you know, they need a divorce attorney, whether for themselves or a friend. And they’re like, wait, I know there’s something around here as opposed to a business card, but someone’s going to toss out so and then they’ll find a book and then hopefully they’ll love it. Alay Yajnik: Love it. Well, I’m glad to hear it’s working for you and getting published by Simon and Schuster. That is a big differentiator versus self publishing a book too. There’s a whole other podcast we can do on how you got that book deal and and made it happen. But you’ve also done YouTube, podcasts, TV, you’ve been quoted in articles and you’ve taught at law school. All of those things have business development implications. And so over the course of your career, what have you found to be the most effective business development tactics for you? Jacqueline Newman: So I think that really what it comes down to is much more just plain old fashioned networking, I think, which doesn’t show up on a website, but I do a lot of networking. I do a lot of meetings. I’m very into putting the right people connecting. And I say when I first started, when I started networking, when I first started taking it very seriously, it was probably about 10 years ago. And I used to call it work dating or basically you would basically go on a date. You’d meet people and you decide, you know, if you thought it was someone you were going to work with. But I dated a lot of people in the beginning. I pretty much said no to no one. Anyone that wanted to go and meet, I would meet. As I’ve gotten further in my career. I probably don’t do that all the time now. But I think that just one on one meetings, which is a little challenging the closed environment. But I do think that those are really the best way to get yourself out there. Jacqueline Newman: And matrimonial is an interesting thing to network, because first of all, everyone finds their stories interesting and for many people where people want to network with us because they see as a liquidity event.So you have accountants. We have so many different areas. We have accountants. We have trust and estate attorneys because everyone’s going to need a will. Financial advisors love to come talk to us because, again, liquidity event and we’re a trusted advisor. So you get a lot of people that come to us and say, “I want to talk to you.” And that obviously helps in my networking as well, because not everybody knows a matrimonial attorney. And so especially as we do prenups, too. So prenuptial agreements are a big thing that you get trust and estate attorneys that will refer to you and financial advisors. So when you talk about what works, I think that works. The other thing that I think is really helpful is I do think doing any kind of media, television, any kind of writing, I think that helps, too, because the TV, especially because any time you have videos of any type, people will watch them. And if they’re on your website, they just get a sense of you. And I think that’s an important thing when people are making decisions, if they want to work with you. Alay Yajnik: I am so happy that you threw out networking and relationship building as your number one, because all these things are terrific and it’s wonderful to have them available out there on the Internet and in other forms of media. But at the end of the day, for most successful attorneys, their business is built on the relationships that they’ve built. And so I’m really happy to hear about that. Are there organizations that you’ve done that have really boosted your networking efforts or is it been more just finding individual people? Jacqueline Newman: So I’ve never done the full structured structured like I’ve never done the BNI or any of those type of things. I mean, I went to one meeting and while I think it was great and I actually give people a lot of credit for doing it, it wasn’t necessarily a great fit for me. And that’s really one of the only ones I did that was probably more in the structured environment. I have had a lot of groups like, for example, I’m part of a lot of managing partner groups. I said I’m part of certain women’s groups. I’m a part of business owners groups. Like I basically kind of find the things that are interesting to me and form groups around them. And I find that that helps because when people enjoy being where they are, that it creates a good environment. And I do. I have a I do do a lot of women networking, a lot of female networking and not all. At one point I was part of a high net worth group. It’s like you just find a commonality and that usually will breed networking. Alay Yajnik: So find groups that you’re interested in, find groups that you enjoy and do those things. Jacqueline Newman: Yes, that would be my advice. Alay Yajnik: Great. What is your perspective on the Bar Association? Jacqueline Newman: So I am part of certain associates, I think it’s important to be involved to some degree. I mean, you can make impact and obviously you’re dealing with people, you know, I don’t network as much in the structured environment outside, I guess some of the bar associations, if you consider that networking. But I usually network with people who are referral sources, such as people outside of my industry. That said I enjoy the bar. I’m on a matrimonial committee and I like that because it’s also nice to bounce things around with people that speak the same language as you do. So they’re less interested in the stories because they all have their own. But as a whole, it’s nice to be able to kind of blend and talk about things that we all understand or even to talk about war stories of like I can’t believe this happened, that happened to me with this judge or whatever it is. So that’s nice, too. Alay Yajnik: So at the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned that we were going to talk about law firm growth later on, and that’s where we’re getting to right now. So I know you have really grown your firm in your tenure as managing partner, and I expect you might have more growth plans ahead. So tell me a little bit about how you’ve managed to grow your firm and what are your aspirations for the future. Jacqueline Newman: So we’ve been really fortunate, I mean, again, when I interview people, one of the first things I look at, I mean, obviously I want to make sure you know what you’re doing and you’re a good person. But I think what I want to go to lunch with you. To me, that’s one of the biggest criteria, because I want to be able to create again, it all feeds into the culture. You could have the greatest book in the world if you’re not going to fit into my culture. Like, that’s not going to work. And I always say, like, no one yells at my associate ever for any of my staff, like no one gets no yelling. There’s no yelling in my office. Happy place, no yelling. I’m a big no yelling policy. And I can say, like in 20 years, I’ve never been yelled at. And I can honestly say that I don’t think anyone in my office has ever been yelled at. So when I think about so when you talk about growth, I really think for me it’s about finding the right people. I’ve been really fortunate in finding the right people. What happens? A lot, you know, matrimonial is a little bit of a hard field to break into because it’s small by nature. Jacqueline Newman: We’re actually one of the larger matrimonial firms in in New York City. And considering we’re only 17 attorneys, it seems kind of crazy to say we’re a large firm, but we are. And so basically, it’s a hard field to break into because it’s a lot of those, as I said. So what happens is you get a lot of people that have are maybe a different practice areas and say, I really just want to have the experience. So I’ve gotten a lot of people that have come in as interns. Even if they’re right now, we’re actually we’d have hired somebody who was five years out. He was doing real estate, but he really wanted to do matrimonial came in as is practically a first year, because we have to teach him everything. And so sometimes I’ve had people come in and they’ve wanted to enter and I say great. And I say, listen, I’m not looking to hire. Well, you can be an intern, but I’m not looking to hire. And then they become invaluable and then I hire them. And that’s kind of what’s happened a bunch of times. And I have to create creating offices and things like that. Jacqueline Newman: So we’ve been fortunate. And what’s happening also with associates is that I say a lot. I get a lot of people that call me from a different law firms and I mean that often, plus schools. And they’ll say, can I just can we just meet? I want to hear about how you build your practice or whatever those kind of I have these meet and greets and one of the pieces of advice I give to these people often is you should not call necessarily managing partner. You should be calling the senior associate because they’re the ones who know if we have to grow. And I say all the time with my senior associates, I say, you tell me if we have to hire like we just hired actually we hired three people. But it’s all because my associates said we need help and we do. And so I say, OK, well, they’re the ones who know because there is elements of some sort of hierarchy where I work with certain people and they train and so everybody trains each other. And so that’s really worked for us as a growth. And I’m really pleased with the way our firm is working. Alay Yajnik: What I really took away from that, Jacqueline, is law firm growth for you has been much less about marketing and business development and much more about hiring the right people and building that amazing team. And that’s how the best law firms grow: it’s through talent, not through marketing. Jacqueline Newman: Oh, I absolutely think that’s true. And as you grow a good team, then you’re going to get more clients and then when you get more clients, you need to hire more people so that all kind of feeds on each other. And one of the things we talking about with growth is that we are looking to open another office. We’re talking about open one in Long Island. And what ends up happening like this is what we did in Westchester is that, you know, at least what I’m finding is that you have to hire insiders when you’re basically in a situation that I say I’m not cocky enough to think I can go into a court where I’ve never seen a judge before and just be like, “I’m here.” And they’re going to say, “Who are you? I haven’t known you since sixth grade, so I don’t know anything about you.” And sometimes in these outer suburbs, people have known each other for a long time. And in the New York City Bar, we all sort of know each other. I think that that happens in whatever bar you’re in. Jacqueline Newman: People develop communities. And so one of the things I love to do is to find the right community and to basically hire people and bring people into my firm, like we have a very good infrastructure. And so sometimes smaller firms might want to be part of a bigger matrimonial firm, but they don’t want to run their office anymore. And so I say, listen, we’re a plug and play like, I’m going to run your life for you. You’re going to practice law and we’re going to figure it out and you’re going to be part of our culture and have access to my associates. We’ll run everything for you. And a lot of people are interested in that, because going back to what we were saying originally, a lot of lawyers are not great business people and they don’t want to run a business. They just want to practice law. And so for people like that, we’re perfect because I do want to run a business. So I will run your business and you can practice law. Alay Yajnik: That’s a great fit, right? Let people do what it is that they want to do. And that’s why I wrote my book on hiring, Staffing Up, because I very quickly realized is in helping law firms grow, the easy part is the marketing and the business development. The hard part is finding the right attorneys and building up that team over time. And if you don’t have those people in place, you could be doing the best marketing and business development in the world. It’s not going to get you any farther because you’ll max out. So you have to always be increasing capacity by adding quality people. Alay Yajnik: What advice would you give to other partners, managing partners who are interested in growing their firms? Jacqueline Newman: So I think kind of what you would just said, actually, I really do think it’s all about the team. I think that when you want to grow, you need to because, again, to totally echo exactly what you just said is that you could market people. But if you market and you bring people in, but you can’t fulfill it because you don’t have the right team in place and that’s really doesn’t do anything and it can destroy your reputation. So I think that’s a really important thing. So when you talk about growth, I think it’s all about, again, finding the right people. I’m a big believer in if you build it, it will come. And so and I find that a lot. Every time that I think that we hire someone, I’m like, oh, they’re not going to be busy. They’re going to be they always end up busy. Like right now we’re probably busier than we’ve been. And I was a little panicked at the fact that we just hired three new people. So I think, again, I think it’s building it. I think when you’re looking to bring in laterals, are looking to build like we I joke about being like someone who goes in each other. Jacqueline Newman: Firms like I want to bring in other firms or other smaller firms that want us to do something. So you have to find the right puzzle piece that fits. But if you are looking to grow and you’re looking to bring people in that are that are rainmakers, for an example, there’s all sorts of I mean, we have a million different creative formulas on how you can financially make it work. But I think it’s very important, again, finding the right people, finding people that are going to fit your niche. If you need a rainmaker, then find someone who’s a rainmaker. If you need somebody who’s going to be a worker bee, find someone who is a worker bee. Don’t think that you’re necessarily going to change. It’s almost like marriage. Don’t think you’re going to change someone. Mind where their strengths are and make sure it’s a right match. And I think that’s really the important part. So growing your business is being smart about the people you find. Alay Yajnik: I love that, love that, thank you, Jacqueline. So as you look ahead, what excites you about Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein and the future? Jacqueline Newman: So I think the idea of growing is exciting to me, someone asked me the other day like, how big do you want to get? And I said, you know, again, it’s so much about the right people. But if I find the right people, there’s no stopping. You know, it’s all about if I can find the right people and sit and say I could have lunch with every little box on the screen, which is how I feel right now in the real world, then I think that’s great. So I think the things that excite me is, again, just to see, like what’s going to happen. I mean, I’m all about creativity. I’m all about business creativity. And to think what the next great idea is going to be, that’s exciting. So we’ll see. Alay Yajnik: Well, Jacqueline, thank you so much for being on the show, for sharing all this terrific insight and advice and wisdom. If people want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to reach you? Jacqueline Newman: I would say probably the website, which is www.berkbot.com. Alay Yajnik: Thank you very much! And everyone, that is Jacqueline Newman, managing partner of Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, outstanding matrimonial lawyers in Manhattan. Jacqueline, thank you so much for joining us today. Jacqueline Newman: Thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you can see freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.
27 minutes | a month ago
Staffing Up with Jennifer Bennett
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Jennifer Bennett, Partner at KBF Search, discuss how using recruiters can help small law firms win the war for talent and staff up with great people. Tweetable Moments: “Small firms have this flexibility to build your practice in a way that maybe you’re not able to where you are.” – Jennifer Bennett “When you go the job board route, you’re limited to people who are unhappy where they are.” – Jennifer Bennett “Getting good at hiring is a skill that every firm needs to have.” – Alay Yajnik “If you haven’t made a bad hire yet, you will. Hire through that and get better and better at hiring.” – Alay Yajnik Transcript: Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage Jennifer Bennett, partner at KBF Search. Jennifer, how are you doing today? Jennifer Bennett: I’m doing great, how are you doing? Alay Yajnik: I’m doing very well. Thanks for joining me on the podcast today. Tell us a little bit about your background, because it’s very compelling. And then why you decided to found KBF Search. Jennifer Bennett: Sure. So I have spent the first 20 years of my professional career recruiting inside law firms, mostly AMLAW 100 firms, but one smaller firm as well. I’m not a lawyer myself. I moved out to California from the East Coast with the intention of working as a paralegal for a couple of years and going to law school and didn’t quite work out that way. Jennifer Bennett: But what did happen is I ended up having 20 pretty fun years working in inside law firms, which I know sounds a little bit weird, but I thought it was a lot of fun. My most recent role, I was the Director of Partner Recruiting for a firm based on the East Coast, but the role was national. So I got to fly all over the country recruiting lawyers. We opened an office in Dallas during that time, which was really fun. And so I really just grew to love working with lawyers. They’re smart, driven people and people that I love to work with and help. And so I really enjoy that. Sometime in 2019 I kind of got to the tipping point where I found that more of my day was spent doing managerial, managing my team and being involved in firm initiatives and firm management projects, which was interesting. But the part that I really loved – recruiting – had really shrunk into a really small part of my day to day. And so I just felt like I needed to think about a change. And I really wanted the opportunity to work with different firms, smaller firms, be able to pick my clients and my projects, and maybe most importantly, to build a business the way that I’d seen the partners around me do for so many years. Jennifer Bennett: So fortuitously, my now business partner, Kelly Fiore, was a recruiter whose client I had been for years and years, and we were meeting for drinks to talk about a deal. We were trying to get done and started talking about life and careers and, not for the first time, she said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun for us to work together?” She had just gone out on her own and it went from there. The rest is history. And so just celebrated one year. Alay Yajnik: How has your first year been? Jennifer Bennett: Well, I mean, how has 2020 been for all of us, right? I mean, it was very good. I’ve never been happier than when I talk to, you know, small business owners, small firm owners. I hear a lot of what I feel, which is I wish I had done it sooner. I love the freedom to work on the projects that I like to work on. I have loved working with a lot of small firms this year. That’s something that being inside a big firm, I didn’t really get to do that kind of work. And so it’s been great and, you know, 2020 for a lot of people was a year of examination. Right. What’s important and what do I want to be doing with the bulk of my day? And so career and transition plays into that. And so I had the opportunity to work on some really rewarding projects. And I’m looking forward to now having a year under my belt. I’ve learned a few things and seeing what we can do in 2021. Alay Yajnik: Yeah, 2020 was crazy. Some people were thriving. A lot of people were really struggling just to get through the year and most of us were somewhere in the middle. So congratulations on starting your firm and on having a successful first year, pretty much by any measure and within those circumstances that’s really extraordinary. So congrats on that. Alay Yajnik: You mentioned that you would start doing more work with small firms. So what is it that you enjoy about working with small firms maybe versus working with some of the larger firms? Jennifer Bennett: I mean, I think the first thing that comes to mind is the impact you can have when you help a small firm really find a great hire. The very first placement that I did with my new business was for a six lawyer firm. And the partner who brought me into the project said “this hire has changed my life.” She had been looking for months to add somebody and just didn’t know how to go about doing it and wasn’t having luck. And that’s just not something you hear as often when you work with a larger organization. The impact that you can have with a single person is just, you know, by virtue of the numbers, it’s less so that that is the first thing that comes to mind. I also just love a build. I mean, my favorite part of any of my big firm jobs was building an office or building a practice group from the ground up. And there’s more of that to be done, I think, with small firms and really partnering with the owners and the other folks who are involved with the management in really digging in and helping them grow. So I find it very rewarding and quite frankly, pretty fun. Alay Yajnik: It’s very similar to what I like to work with small firms, too, because we can really move the needle. And when we do, it has a big, big impact, doesn’t it? Jennifer Bennett: Sure does. Yeah. Alay Yajnik: So that’s a lot of fun and one of the one of the things I want to get out of the way up front right away, I have heard from attorneys that recruiters are too expensive for small firms. I hear that all the time. But you’ve worked with a lot of small firms. How do you respond to that? Jennifer Bennett: That’s a great question, and I hear it, too, and I heard it when I was in big firms too. So I mean, it’s out there. It’s a common complaint. So, yeah, I’m happy to address that. When I talk to small firms and we’re talking about the possibility of working together, there’s kind of three things that that I used to respond to that that line of query or that that comment. I think ultimately it comes down to time allocation. I know myself as a small business owner. There’s so many things to do and only so many hours in the day. And so I’m always asking myself, what’s the highest and best use of my time? And frequently that helps me figure out that there’s pieces of my business, that I’m better off allocating financial resources to somebody who’s really an expert in that area, who can do it more efficiently and effectively. And so that’s that’s the same question or comment that I bring back to small firm owners is, you know, are you feeling like the time you’re spending trying to recruit yourself is pulling you away from other parts of your practice that that are more important. And so that’s where I start. I think the other thing, quite honestly, some small firms do a great job of recruiting for themselves. They know who their candidate pool is. They’ve got a great network. And I’m really honest with the small firms I talk to who are in that situation that I’m not sure I can add much value. So maybe it doesn’t make sense for us to work together. And I think that’s that’s great. But far more often than what I uncover when I talk to them is what they’re doing is sort of passively recruiting: throwing up job postings or using websites where you’re really only getting active job seekers. Jennifer Bennett: You’re not getting those candidates or those lawyers that are just knocking it out of the park where they are, but kind of haven’t realized that there might be a better option for them. So that’s where I can really come in and move my clients from defense to offense. And this was the same thing I said when I was inside big firms. You know, it’s very much the way even in big firms with sophisticated recruiting functions, that a lot of the partners, the way that they recruit is they they wait for the resumes to come in and there’s no sort of forward proactive effort. So that’s the other piece I talk about with small firms. And finally (and I don’t lead with this) it’s mostly true in most cases, most of my engagements as I work on contingency. So there’s really no risk to a firm to start working with me and see what I can what I can bring to the table for them, because they don’t it doesn’t cost them anything until they hire someone. And so and I bring a lot of value along the way because in the process of uncovering what they’re looking for, we talk about everything from does this hire fit with your strategic plan? How are we going to pitch your firm to the market? And sometimes I can help them improve their hiring process, too. So sometimes it’s actually the opposite. Firms are getting all my time and some of the expertize that I’ve built over the years and sometimes there’s no placement at the end of that. So they’re they’re getting a lot of value for for virtually no cost. Alay Yajnik: So, Jennifer, one of the things you mentioned that really struck with me is when you work with small law firms, you help them build a case for why an attorney that is already employed and is knocking it out of the park at another firm, should come work for this law firm. And I run into this a lot when I talk to my clients about the war for talent and how they can position their small firms. What are you seeing that small firms can do, how they can position themselves, to win that war for talent against some of the larger firms that are out there? Jennifer Bennett: Well, I think there’s a lot of things small firms can do, but the biggest thing is it’s an education process. I think lawyers who grow up in big firms and frankly, I mean, I can say this for myself as somebody who is a creature mostly of the big firm environment, is you really don’t understand when you’re in a big firm that there is so much great, rewarding, profitable work to do outside of the big firm environment. You sort of drink the Kool-Aid, as they say, right? You think, “oh, I can’t there’s no better place to be kind of unhappy and maybe a little miserable.” And I’m talking from a lawyer’s perspective here because I think we all know that there’s a lot of, you know, at least semi-miserable lawyers at some large firms. So I think it’s a matter of education. And this is where I can really come in and help, because one of the things I enjoy doing the most is working with a lawyer who maybe is thinking about leaving the practice of law because they’re so unhappy where they are or they’ve just gotten to this position where they’re, you know, just their situation, the demands on their time. You know, it’s untenable for them, but they don’t think they have another option. So they start looking at all these crazy places or assume, “Oh, the only thing I can do is go in-house.” But no, actually, there’s so many great options and small firms, there’s all this flexibility to build your practice in a way that maybe you’re not able to where you are. And so I think that’s the biggest advantage small firms have. I think the second is just the flexibility. And I think we’ve seen in 2020, and this makes me so excited for the future, that law firms have been forced by COVID to be more flexible and to work differently together. And I think the firms that really hold on to that and embrace it are going to be in a much stronger position in the war for talent. And so I’m hopeful. I know that there will be some who will kind of go back to doing business the old way, big firms and small. But I’m hopeful that with all of these options in front of us, that it’s going to really open the door, especially for smaller firms to compete for talent where maybe they didn’t feel like they could before. Alay Yajnik: Jennifer, tell us about the process you go through when you’re executing a search. Jennifer Bennett: Sure. So I am very proactive and very targeted. So I start when I work with a firm with just sitting down and really digging in, getting a good sense from them what the specific need they have is and how it fits into the larger strategic plan. And then I really pressed them for selling points on their firm. I really want to be able to talk about a firm when I talk to a candidate as if I work there, which in a sense I do when I’m engaged on a search, and really get candidates excited about the opportunity. You only sometimes get one opportunity to have the conversation. So I want to make sure it’s as impactful as it can be. And once I have a sense of what I’m looking for, I try to craft a target list of candidates utilizing the knowledge that I’ve gained over my years and affirm the nuances of practice areas and my understanding of the firm, my clients culture and then the culture of the firms that I’m reaching out to. And then and then I just I start I start reaching out and having conversations. Sometimes I get lucky. And I’m already talking to somebody who sounds like they could be a fit or I can I can get there a little more quickly through my network. Jennifer Bennett: But more often, it’s really a process of putting myself in the shoes of the firm and really understanding what they’re looking for and finding some. It’s a very short list of those people. But if they’re the right people, that’s OK. You only need one. So that’s how we go. So again, being very proactive and really being on offense and encouraging my clients to not be afraid, don’t be afraid to go after people because you think you can’t get them. You never know until you have the conversation. So that’s that’s what I what I try to bring to the table. Alay Yajnik: So when you’re going on offense, would love to get your thoughts on the differences in candidates that a law firm might find if they work with someone like yourself and go on offense versus they use that defensive approach, or reactive approach that you alluded to earlier, which is where they’re posting on job boards and just looking for people that are already looking for a job. Jennifer Bennett: I think the danger, at least in my experience on the lawyer side, is when you go the job board route, you’re really limited to people who are already there, so unhappy where they are that they have they have commenced a search or they have been told by their current employer that they need to find another situation or for some other reason, they’re feeling not secure about their current job. And there can be legitimate reasons for that. I certainly don’t want to say that people who are actively job searching are not great candidates. That’s not necessarily the case. But I think you run a greater risk of there being more to the story or some baggage there that maybe a small firm doesn’t want to bring in to their to their situation. So I have always throughout my time, either inside of firms or on the side, had more luck if you if you can really attract somebody to talk to you based on the power of the opportunity you’re presenting to them. And if you can really get them to understand and believe that their situation can be improved by making this move, it’s a much stronger position to be in as an employer. Alay Yajnik: And as you’re listening to this podcast, just put yourselves in that situation for a minute. If you’re unhappy in your current firm, what are you likely to do first? Probably nothing, right? Just kind of stew in that and be unhappy than what you might do after that is you might reach out to your colleagues, the people that you trust, and start asking them, “Hey, do you know any firms that might be looking to hire? Because I might be interested in making a move.” If that doesn’t work out, you might start to think about, “OK, well, maybe it’s time to start my own firm.” Probably at the end of all of that is when you start to actually go on LinkedIn and Indeed and try and apply for jobs. And especially for sophisticated attorneys, that’s just not not going to be a successful route to take. So I love that approach, Jennifer. I think it can drive huge value in terms of the quality of candidates, which can make a huge difference for the firm. Alay Yajnik: As we’re talking about recruiting, the reason I’m delighted to have you on the program today is recruiting and law firm growth go hand in hand. I’m pretty good at driving law firm growth. It’s what we do at Law Firm Success Group. But no matter what we do on the marketing and business development side, a law firm can only grow as much as its people can allow. And very quickly, a law firm is going to get full with business and full with clients, and they’re going to need to go hire. So the ability to develop a really strong hiring capability within your firm is critical and you’re going to need to use a mix. For most people, it’s going to be a mix of some things that you source internally and some things that you sourced through a recruiter like Jennifer for. And developing the capability within a firm is going to directly impact the growth of the firm much more so, quite frankly, than marketing and business development. Jennifer, what advice would you give to partners who are interested in growing their law firms? Jennifer Bennett: Sure. Well, I mean, you you answered a bit of that question for me, which is do the work before you launch a search. Don’t go out into the market and go looking for somebody until you know what you’re looking for. And if a firm has has worked with a growth expert or has done some soul searching and strategic planning on their own, it’s so much easier to help them find the person who is going to be the right fit for them. It’s knowing the why behind why you’re going to make a hire and try to build is so important, not just as a firm to know that yourself, but it’s important to be able to articulate to a candidate. I’ve had this conversation so many times over! Ask a hiring partner. So why do you need this? What’s the why behind this hire? Give me some history. And the thing that comes out of their mouth is, well, we need somebody. And I say, “What’s the selling point?” “Well tell them that we really need them.” And that’s just not enough. I mean, especially in a market it would be enough, particularly in this one. That is not a selling point. That is a defensive, almost desperate sounding maneuver that is not going to help you really attract great people. Alay Yajnik: “Come work for us. We have work for you to do!” Jennifer Bennett: Even if even if that is the answer, I mean, I’m sure you work with firms all the time where there’s a little bit of a succession planning issue going on. And even in a situation where you have a senior partner who wants to find somebody to help inherit their practice and take over their clients, I mean, the answer would still be, “I need somebody to come and help me transition my practice.” But it’s all about the way you craft it and the way you message it. So the more work on that side that can be done with a firm before before I go out into the market and do my piece of the job just ups the chances for success and just finding a really great person. Jennifer Bennett: The other piece of advice I would give, and I have this conversation a lot with small firms is a lot of fear of hiring. It’s expensive. It just it can feel very scary. And so my my message would be, don’t be afraid to hire if you’re already overwhelmed and at a pain point, it’s almost too late. And what you don’t want to do is run the risk, especially if you have other people around you, other lawyers who are feeling burned out and overwhelmed. It’s so much harder to add somebody to the mix when you’re already past the point where everybody is feeling overworked and miserable and where you’re feeling like you can’t. You get into that trap where you want to develop more business, but you feel like you can’t because you’re afraid if you get it, how are you going to get it done? I do find it even in big firms. This is a thing. I mean, law firms tend to be reactive and it’s so much harder, again, especially in the Bay Area in California, where the demand for legal services is so high, doesn’t matter who you are or how much you’re paying, if you’re in certain practice areas, you’re just going to have a really tough time hiring. And it just makes your job harder if you’re coming from a position of everybody. Everybody here is already working so hard to join us and help us. That’s just not a not an effective message at all. Alay Yajnik: “Overworked and underpaid. Come join us.” Jennifer Bennett: That’s great, right? “Really nice people.” Alay Yajnik: But I also want to take some of the pressure off of the people that are listening to this. And some of the things I hear from from attorneys who are looking to hire is they’re burned. They’ve had a bad hiring experience. What I usually tell them (and I’m curious, your thoughts on this, Jennifer) is, “Look, having a bad hire is just a fact of life. If you haven’t made a bad hire yet, you will. It’s going to happen so that you just have to accept that and continue to hire through that and get better and better and better at hiring. Does that mean you can still make a mistake? Of course. Does that mean you will? Probably, but you have to keep hiring. You may have a crack team now. They’re awesome. You’re hitting on all cylinders, but team members leave and they oftentimes leave even if they’re very happy. They relocate. They have changes in their life that caused them to to leave their job or move to a different part of the country, a different part of the world. They retire. These things happen and they’re outside of your control. So even if you have an amazing team right now, you’re going to need to hire to replace some of them at some point in the future. And so developing that strategy and getting good at hiring is just a skill that every firm that’s going to be around for a while is going to need to have.” And someone like you, Jennifer, I think can be kind of their secret weapon to help them get really good at hiring and help them find some attorneys who can really come in and really take the firm to the next level. Jennifer Bennett: Yeah, I, I completely agree, I think too sometimes when people leave, it feels very personal to the partner who who works closely with that person and that’s true of small firms or big firms. And I can help relieve some of that that burden. I’ve seen this happen with partners I’ve worked with. It feels like such a loss. And it’s hard sometimes when you’re when you’re grieving that a little bit or you’re again thinking maybe you’re not in overwhelm yet, but you’re thinking about the the case that’s going to come in and two weeks after this person was left and how am I going to handle this? I can really help and come in and take some of that burden away and not on top of all that overwhelm to then have to pour so much time into sourcing candidates and slogging through resumes and doing sort of initial screening. So that’s the other piece, too. Jennifer Bennett: But but I agree. A great team today. Things can change very quickly. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s people are reevaluating and moving and doing things that they might not have done five years ago. And so I think having another resource to help manage through that process is is really key. Alay Yajnik: We can talk about this topic for hours and maybe we should, but probably not on the podcast, but it’s the reason why I wrote that book Staffing Up: the Attorney’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent is because I haven’t found a good resource for that anywhere. So I’m so glad that we had a chance to connect today. Thank you for some fantastic advice that you’ve given to everybody. What excites you about KBF Search and the future? Jennifer Bennett: That is a great question. Well, we’re in the process of renaming and rebranding and relaunching, so that’s been very exciting. I don’t know. I’m sure there are people listening who have been through that process and it’s exciting. And so that’s learning about how to incorporate an LLC and build a business. So so that’s that’s point one. But more broadly and more importantly, for purposes of this conversation, I’m really hopeful for the future. As we talked about a little earlier, I think law firms have I mean, for unfortunate reasons, but there is a silver lining here. Law firms have really been forced to think differently about how they can work together and deliver legal services and become more flexible both for their clients and on the way they work together. And so I have already been involved in moving some folks from firm to firm in this landscape. And it’s really fun and rewarding. And so I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2021 and beyond brings how it’s going to change the legal industry and how law firms work and how how they can hold on to some of this flexibility. And I’m really energized to move into this year with with all of that going on. Alay Yajnik: Terrific, Jennifer. And if people wanted to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do that? Jennifer Bennett: Sure. Probably the best way is by email, and that address for now is email@example.com. Alay Yajnik: Well, Jennifer, thank you so much for being on Lawyer Business Advantage today. It’s always a pleasure to connect with you. And I wish you and your partner all the best with your rebrand. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you can see freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.
34 minutes | 2 months ago
Business Development for Introverts with Saja Raoof
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Saja Raoof, Principal of Raoof Law and Of Counsel with Philip Levin and Associates, discuss how Saja has used her introverted nature as an asset and a strength to build her practice via networking and speaking. Tweetable Moments: “Public speaking makes sense for introverts because you dictate who you engage with.” – Saja Raoof “Introverts are people who have the propensity to vanish alone and the proclivity to make decisions while staring out a window.” – Saja Raoof quoting Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack. “You don’t have to change anything about your nature. You just have to figure out your roadmap.” – Saja Raoof “Ultimately you can’t learn something from a book. You have to apply the concepts.” – Saja Raoof Transcript: Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart Business Guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage, my friend and colleague Saja Raoof, principal of Raoof Law and Of Counsel to Philip Levin and Associates. Saja, welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. Saja Raoof: Thank you so much for having me. Alay Yajnik: I really appreciate you being on the program. And as an immigration attorney, I know there’s a lot of different things we can talk about, particularly in the situation that we find ourselves in. Alay Yajnik: But you’re also an introvert and you’re very open about being an introvert, just like myself. And so I would like to first of all, because “introvert” means different things to different people, just take us through. What does it feel like for you to be an introvert? Saja Raoof: Well, now I’m open about it, it used to be sort of a secret, and when I mention it to others and they tell me that they’re also introverts, it’s like this little secret club that we identify with only to each other. Saja Raoof: It used to be something it became something that I recently became more comfortable talking about with the encouragement of two extroverts, my good friends Carol Marzouk and Marc Hankin. And the way that happened is that when networking went online, when the pandemic started last year, Marc referred to the new leveling of the field as revenge of the introverts because it played to our strengths in networking. So he had me, with Carol’s encouragement, joined him recently on a conversation, a presentation on how extroverts and introverts networked differently. And that was last Wednesday. And since then, this is my fourth time speaking on how introverts can network. It just sort of snowballed from there and it became a claim to fame. Saja Raoof: I’m really doing wonderful. I am soaring. And it’s not because of the Biden Administration. Alay Yajnik: I’m glad you’re doing really well. That’s cool. So I’m curious. You mentioned a few times now, as we’ve talked about how you were kind of a closet introvert and now you’re talking about it freely. Really, I’ve dealt with this for so long that it’s just not a thing for me anymore. It’s just part of who I am and I have no problems talking about it, but I also don’t feel a need to talk about it. I don’t think it’s worth talking about that much, and I’m just curious to hear what has been your response, what reactions have you gotten in your approach and talking about the fact that you’re an introvert and that’s a thing, and it’s a special thing, and here’s how you deal with it. How have people responded to that? Saja Raoof: I just think back to Pre-2018, when networking was the single most stressful word in my vocabulary as a law firm owner and how I would not go to networking events unless my best friend from law school would come with me, and it was just this anxiety ridden process. And I needed to make networking work for me because that’s how I got my best referrals. No amount of spending on SEO will substitute for good referrals. So that’s my target audience, is the introverts who are in the shoes that I was in before. Talking about it never would have occurred to me if Carol and Marc hadn’t decided to bring me into the conversation to the presentation last week. You can think extroverts for initiating that process. Alay Yajnik: It’s great. I look forward to seeing your presentation. That should be really cool. One of the things that is so interesting for me is so many people who are introverted, myself included, are really comfortable speaking. It just seems weird, it’s like, “Yeah, I freak out at a networking meeting, but get me up in a room in front of 500 people, I’m totally fine.” Saja Raoof: It goes back to the example of the author of the book who who says she was the D.J. in college because unlike a bartender, you don’t have to engage in small talk. You don’t have to engage in conversation. True all eyes are on you, but you are dictating what comes out of your mouth and who you engage with. So in school in Saudi Arabia I used to be the…I don’t know the word for it in English…but there was this morning presentation from two or three students in front of the whole school. And that was usually my job, even though I was an introvert. So public speaking is definitely make sense for introverts, in my opinion. Alay Yajnik: Actually, one of my law firm clients with a number of associates asked me, the associates actually asked me, to do a training for them on how to make small talk in networking meetings. They don’t know how. And so it’s going to be I don’t know, I haven’t put the talk together yet, but it’s going to be really interesting, actually, teaching people how to make small talk in a way that’s not cliched. I suspect one of the reasons for that is there’s a lot of introverts in that associate group and they’re looking at this going, “I’m going to walk into a networking meeting. What on earth am I supposed to say?” And it’s funny because you mentioned that with practice, it gets better and it does. But at least for me, it never goes away. I’m still not comfortable walking into an unknown room. I don’t enjoy it. I can get through it better than I could, you know, five years ago. But it’s still not easy. And I still struggle with a lot of that stuff. Saja Raoof: I’m still learning that. We had an SF14 E.C. Meeting yesterday and Robert Gillette was the first to show up and he said, “So how are you doing?” I said I’m fine. He said, “How are you really, really doing?” So that kind of probing, I think, is a useful approach for bypassing the small talk and getting to the genuine things that people actually enjoy talking about and creating a more meaningful connection. Alay Yajnik: Yeah, see, it’s interesting because I’m most comfortable when I’m taking over and leading the conversation. You know why? I can make sure everyone has plenty of things to say and I don’t have to talk about myself. Saja Raoof: I love it. That’s why introverts make the best G.L.’s! Alay Yajnik: Exactly, exactly. Jump in and like make sure everyone has their piece. And I’ve got 10 seconds. Here’s what I do. Let’s go back to the main room. It’s pretty funny. Alay Yajnik: There’s a lot of confusion, too, about who’s an introvert and who is not. Alay Yajnik: And I’ve had people tell me, “I’m an introvert because after a full day of meetings, I’m tired.” I’m looking at them going, “that’s not an introvert!” So take us through what it feels like for you. How did how did you come to the realization that you are actually an introvert? Saja Raoof: There’s a book that I will refer to several times that I recommend highly called Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Debra Zack. She defines introverts as people who have the propensity to vanish alone and the proclivity to make decisions while staring out a window or taking a brisk, uninterrupted walk. Their depth of concentration could cause them to miss an earthquake from its very epicenter. And that applies to me and that applies to people I know who identify as introverts. I used to define it as people who are highly selective on whose company we keep and are very particular on the time, place and manner of those interactions. But I realized I’ve always known that networking doesn’t come to me naturally. That needs a little bit of preparation and planning and strategizing and conversations and debriefing with other introverts afterwards and. It just takes a little bit of figuring out, but it’s doable. Alay Yajnik: So there’s people in networking groups that when they walk into a room, they light up the room, they command the room, they really enjoy it. They thrive on it. You can tell that the more they’re in that kind of environment, the more energy they gain from being in that environment. It’s pretty cool to watch. That is an extrovert. Alay Yajnik: Someone who’s an introvert, like you mentioned, Saja, you know, I don’t know about about your situation, but when I have to go to a networking event, I have to get myself psyched up. You mentioned you have to prepare. How do you feel after the networking event is over? Saja Raoof: If it’s a group I’m new to, then I do need to schedule time afterwards to relax. And so after, for example, last week’s presentation on extroverts and introverts, I had the time scheduled for doing some kind of mindless activity just to be able to transition to my other meetings. If it’s a group that I’m long friends with and feel comfortable around I don’t need to do that afterwards. Alay Yajnik: That’s cool. And I would encourage everyone if you’re trying to figure out if you’re an introvert or not…if you’re asking the question, you probably are an introvert to be clear about that. But it’s oftentimes how you feel after a networking meeting or any kind of group get together where you have to be social and you don’t know the people. The extrovert people jump in, thrive on it, love it, enjoy it and make a really good impression. The introverts are the people that really don’t want to be there and don’t want anyone to talk to them. Saja Raoof: And they fake getting phone calls so that they have an opportunity to step away from conversations. Alay Yajnik: I have literally looked at my phone. Nothing is on the phone. I would literally stare at a blank screen just so I would not have to talk to people. Or have you ever done this? Have you ever put the phone up to your ear like you’re on a call and left the room? “Oh I have an incoming call,” and I just walk out. Alay Yajnik: So how is introversion created challenges for you as you’ve built your book of business and built your firm? Saja Raoof: It has taken more time than it would for an extrovert to figure out how to effectively network. So in addition to reading the book I mentioned and planning pre-meeting rituals and post-meeting rituals and meeting with introverted friends to discuss and which is a nice way of saying complain and sort of vent. So, you know, but once you figure out how to overcome the stress of that and you become more comfortable with it, essentially what it is, you’re not changing who you are, but you’re navigating the situation by applying new skills. Alay Yajnik: So, yeah, how is it that you’ve overcome this introversion? Saja Raoof: So I in addition to the encouragement from Carol and Marc, the aspects of introversion that I’ve decided to use towards my advantage and towards building my practice are the fact that introverts are good listeners and we prefer the focus to be on the other person, so we will do less talking and more listening. And that works well both for our abilities as attorneys and for our clients to we were able to empathize with them naturally. We also this is a term that, thanks to Marc Hankin’s encouragement of me over the past year, I call his kind of networking and both extroverts and introverts do this “marc-eting” spelled with a C the way he spells his name. And that’s the act of giving to others so generously that they can’t help but think of ways to support you in return. And for introverts to have that kind of giving spirit is very uplifting for us, because once again, you’re taking the attention off yourself and you are figuring out how to engage the other person. And that is the most effective and sincere form of networking. Alay Yajnik: So you recently became a group leader in Provisors and congratulations for that. You’re now a networking leader and you go to a lot of networking meetings. And I’m curious to hear about how you deal with this, knowing that you’re going to be in a room, whether it’s virtually or in person with a bunch of different people. And you’re doing this regularly. How do you get the energy to show up at your very best? Saja Raoof: The question that is on my mind all the time isn’t how am I appearing and how am I coming off. And the thousand questions that you can ask about yourself, is my accent coming through or am I talking too fast? There’s preparation, of course, on what you want to say, and that’s separate. But the questions that you’re asking about yourself, your focus needs to be on others. So in my Provisors group, 99 percent of the time I’m thinking about how do I help my new members grow their business and network effectively? And by focusing on that, that relieves the pressure that usually prevents introverts from networking. Alay Yajnik: That’s terrific advice. It’s about thinking about about something else that can command your attention. So in your case, it’s about how can I help the other people in my group or the other people in the room, which is terrific. We did a podcast on Introverts earlier, this was several episodes earlier, with Kirsten Howe and what she does is she goes to a networking event with somebody else and she introduces that person. So once again, this idea of making the other person look good. If people are listening to this they might be asking themselves, “If I’m making all these other people look good, how is that going to help me?” It’s helping everybody else. Saja Raoof: In Provisors we have what’s called the currency of providers, which is testimonials. So you give a testimonial for an individual who has supported you or referred to you business. And the advice always improvisors is to make it 90 percent about the person you’re giving the testimonial for and only 10 percent about yourself. When we started on Zoom when the pandemic started, I got into making Zoom-onials, which is Marc’s word for testimonial that is given over Zoom. And this is a wonderful tool for introverts for many reasons. Saja Raoof: First of all, once again, it takes the attention off yourself and you pour your effort and video editing skills into singing the praises of the person who sent you business in audio visual format, sort of like a mini documentary. And then second, you don’t have to do any of the talking. You just hit play. Zack’s book says that in college she used to be a DJ. So she has a clear and specific role. It may sound counterintuitive for introvert to be a DJ, but she has a clear and specific role. She doesn’t need to engage in small talk. She can wear headphones and she can be comfortably alone and get the spotlight at the same time. Saja Raoof: So that’s how Zoom-onials also works for me and that has done wonders for my networking over the past few months. Alay Yajnik: Well, it certainly draws a lot of positive attention to you and to the person you’re featuring. And it’s interesting you would say that because I know you clearly set the standard when it comes to doing these these mini videos, these mini films that you put together. I always wondered when I hear Zoom networking is the is the revenge of the introverts, what on earth they mean by that? Because it actually takes a lot more energy to project energy into a computer monitor, which is just kind of dead and lifeless than it is to work a room, because in a room there’s other energy that we can feed off of. But when we’re just staring at a dead screen, it’s that much harder. But your point about preparation really rings true. If I’m in a networking meeting, I have to stand up and and talk off the cuff and I can’t take notes. And it’s just this thing here, I can literally read off of a sheet of paper that I have near my keyboard and no one will ever know. So all that preparation is now a lot more invisible. And we can use aides and tools to get us through the meeting like the the short videos, like the PowerPoint slides. Saja Raoof: All I can say is if COVID was invented in a lab, then the it was definitely an introvert. Alay Yajnik: Well, as I like to say, there’s nothing good about the pandemic and about covid, but there are a lot of good things that have come from it. So we’ve known each other for a long time. And in the years that we’ve known each other, I have just been so inspired by how you have transformed yourself personally and how you transformed yourself professionally. So take us through that journey if you could. Saja Raoof: It was smooth sailing from my practice since I set it up in 2012 until the previous administration was inaugurated in January of twenty seventeen, and I had initially thought that the immigration focus would be on the groups that were discussed in the twenty sixteen campaign, specifically Muslims and Mexicans. It was a bit of a surprise that an executive order by American American that was issued in April 2017 also called for a focus on business immigration. And I realized early after that executive order that the focus wasn’t so much. Saja Raoof: It wasn’t so much on enforcement of business, immigration law as it was on excluding foreign nationals sort of nativism or nationalism over trumped the interests of the companies that were petitioning for foreign nationals. And I do business immigration. So that was my focus under that very high pressure atmosphere that immigration attorneys were facing. We all felt very overwhelmed. Saja Raoof: We were struggling and at some point I decided to stop trying to figure it out for myself and to reach out to you. And you had been a very generous giver since the first day I met you at a holiday party at the Bar Association in 2017. So you were the first to come to mind when I decided I need help figuring this out. And from there I had thought that it would take a year or six months at least for me to start seeing changes. Saja Raoof: But I started seeing changes a couple of months in and you really taught me the art of working smarter, not harder. And in addition to your wonderful guidance, you put me in the room with other attorneys who are also figuring out how to manage their practices and doors open for me. So law firms invited me to join to partner with them. I started getting fantastic referrals. I started getting invited to for speaking engagements, media appearances. I revamped my practice. I got so much more out of what I was expecting. I was hoping just to restore my status to 2017 levels. But the practice of immigration it became exciting, it became sort of my commitment to it was refreshed and I would have creative ideas. I even had attorneys who had mentored me in the beginning of my career call me to ask how I figured out how to get certain work visas approved, so etc.. Never I’ll never be able to quite thank you for your wonderful impact and my practice on my life. We worked together for a year and I still feel the effects of having worked with you. Alay Yajnik: Well, I appreciate that, Saja. Thank you so much. However, that being said, there is another side to that coin, which is that I provided some guidance along the way, but I remember our conversations and I remember your participation in the group meetings. You took deliberate steps, you took action, you implemented the advice, and you spent a lot of time and effort getting yourself known in the area, building those relationships with attorneys, showing up at other law firms in a positive way and attracting the kind of attention that that you now get. You’ve earned all of it. And that’s all due to your hard work and your willingness to learn and grow as a person. And as I said, it’s incredibly inspiring. And it’s because you’ve been open to it and you’ve been receptive to it. And you thank people for it. You know, there’s a lot of people that are are helped along the way and they don’t bother to thank the people that help them out. But you do. And that attracts other people to you. And I just want you to know, as we’re talking here on this on this podcast, I want you to know that you deserve everything that you have now because you have worked to earn it. And yes, other people have helped, and that always happens when you are open, when you work hard and when you’re deserving, other people will come into your life to help you out. None of us can do this on our own. Alay Yajnik: And so you have done an amazing job and I look forward to seeing the continued growth of your firm and where you take things from here. Alay Yajnik: As a business coach, I’ve got to touch on this. Please share with us how your transformation as a person has impacted your business. Saja Raoof: I have learned that the preconceived notions that I had of what could be limitations are actually things that I could put to good use. As my good friend and G.L.A. of San Francisco 14, Brittny Botorff says, “work your work.” So I thought introversion was going to be a perpetual limitation to my networking, but I was able to figure out how it could serve as a strength. And I have put it to good use. Saja Raoof: And on the personal front also I was diagnosed with adult onset type one diabetes in mid-2018, just a couple of months before you and I started working together and I had decided not to tell anyone outside of family and close friends because I didn’t want to be reduced to the diabetic attorney. I don’t want to be just thought of as I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a diabetic attorney. And this did become sort of a limitation troikas, for example, business lunches. I would leave the table as soon as the food was served. Then I had a visual for the portion of carbs and I’d go to the restroom and give myself insulin, which is an awkward point to leave the conversation. But then eventually, as I got involved more in the diabetes community and with the encouragement of other adult onset type ones who had, unlike most type ones, didn’t live with it from childhood, decided to embrace it and talk about it and figure out how, what do you do when you’re in the middle of a meeting and the medical devices that replace your pancreas go off and how do you handle that? And it has, you know, deciding to embrace it and talk about it. It has inspired others improvisers to approach me and tell me they have adult onset type ones in their family. And they’d like to talk to me about how I’m managing the stress. So once again, is the concept of taking the attention off myself and figuring out how I can support organizations that support diabetics, how I can support type ones. And that is liberating and transformational. Alay Yajnik: It’s so interesting because all these things you’re talking about, you know, your your stance with with diabetes and how you dealt with Type one diabetes and how you are utilizing your introverted nature to build your business, all of these things are actually really making you stand out way more so than so many extroverts that I know. You have a strong presence on LinkedIn. You’re everywhere. You’re all over Provisors. People are singing your praises up and down the state of California. It is really inspiring, as I mentioned, to see. Alay Yajnik: For other attorneys who are introverted, who might be thinking, “I don’t really like networking. I get really anxious before I go into a networking room. And when I’m in the room, all I can think of is I just want to get out of here. I can’t imagine what it takes to build a book of business.” What advice would you give to them about how to build a successful firm? Saja Raoof: First of all, be yourself. You don’t have to change anything about your nature. You just have to figure out your roadmap. And you could learn the theories of networking from Zack’s book and many other books that are specifically aimed at introverts for networking. Saja Raoof: But ultimately you can’t learn something from a book. You have to apply those concepts. And it will feel uncomfortable at the beginning. But I promise it will get better with practice. And you want to go in with a question every time you network with someone. The guiding question in your mind should be, how can I serve you? So before the pandemic, I would bring a notepad to business lunches and I would ask the other person to understand their business in depth and figure out how to support them and what is their ideal client and where do they get their business from and what would be a useful introduction for them. And just do that exercise of trying to brainstorm and think of your contacts and how you can serve them in ways that they may expressly ask for or things that you come up with for them. So that is how I would navigate networking as an introvert. Alay Yajnik: And how would you how would you weave or how do you weave speaking into that? Because you do a lot of speaking as well. Saja Raoof: I practice a lot. And at the recommendation of Marc Hankin, I worked with Deborah Shames, who is a speaking coach who trained him on speaking, and she is a magnificent public speaker coach. And once again, it was one of those things where I thought I can figure it out for myself. I’ve done public speaking in the past, but she took it to a whole new level. So that’s a wonderful resource I would highly, highly recommend. Alay Yajnik: And so as you look towards the future (2021 is still mostly ahead of us) and beyond, what really excites you about Raoof Law and your role at Phillip Levin and Associates in the future? Saja Raoof: We have weathered a seemingly insurmountable era in the history of immigration over the last four years. As stressful as it’s been for us and the immigration community, it’s strengthened our resolve and really refreshed our commitment to preserving the US as a nation of immigrants. And I love the connections that we’ve created in the immigration community. I may have never met for at least not as early as I did, if it weren’t for the fact that we needed to reach out to each other in the immigration community and support each other and that kind of camaraderie that we created for ourselves and for our clients and ultimately for the US, the US is ultimately our client because when we work on maintaining its character as a nation of immigrants and bringing the best and brightest to the US to build the American dream and make the US more diverse and innovative society, we are ultimately serving the United States. Alay Yajnik: And if people wanted to reach out to you and connect, whether it’s to bring you in as a speaker or because they’re looking for an immigration attorney as a partner. What is the best way for them to connect with you? Saja Raoof: My website is my initials: sar.law, and I’m also on LinkedIn. Saja Raoof. Alay Yajnik: Everyone that is Saja Raoof. Saja is a principal of Raoof Law and Of Counsel to Philip Levin and Associates and an introvert who is a business development extraordinaire. Saja, thank you so much. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help. Request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you can see freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your Perfect Practice.
34 minutes | 2 months ago
Powered Up PR Marketing with Terry M. Isner
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Terry M. Isner, CEO of Jaffe, discuss how public relations marketing helps small law firms grow rapidly. Tweetable Moments: “PR brings a new light to these these firms who have woken up to the fact that they need to support social issues, cultural issues, be a part of change.” – Terry M. Isner “It was their story. We recognized what they were doing, got on board with them, and then shared that with the world.” – Terry M. Isner “Without PR, business development is like running uphill. With PR that works, business development is like running downhill.” – Alay Yajnik “You can’t be a superstar in every niche. The competition is too much. The law is too much. You have to pick your lane.” – Alay Yajnik Transcript: Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart Business Guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And I’m pleased to welcome to the show. Terry M. Isner, CEO and owner of Jaffe. Terry, thank you so much for joining Lawyer Business Advantage. Terry M. Isner: Thank you. Thanks for having me. This is really exciting. I really appreciate being featured today. Alay Yajnik: Jaffe does public relations and marketing for professional services firms. And so, Terry, instead of me talking about the great work that you do, can you share with us a recent example of a small law firm that’s really benefited from your public relations expertize? Terry M. Isner: And it’s funny you say small law firm, because I might as well just start off directly with the idea that there’s a big trend and a big trend right now is a lot of law firms are starting to be created coming out of big law. And this is nothing new. But what we saw over this last year and the pandemic, I think a lot of people really stepped back and started to question, am I at the right place? Am I making a real change in the world? Am I affecting change? And do I have the ability to make those changes? Am I getting lost? Diversity, women’s issues. So all of these things have created this new this kind of new small law firm that you’ve asked about, which is really exciting. And so when you think about the opportunities that they have to take advantage of promoting the fact that there may be a diverse business owner now or leader, simply just a woman-owned and and led law firm, all of those are are just very simple acts of being who you are. But they fall so perfectly into I don’t want to use the word trend, but where we are, as I think a society and where we are especially with in legal. Terry M. Isner: And Jaffe’s been working with lawyers and law firms for forty two years, and lawyers and law firms only been allowed to market themselves for forty two years. So we like to think we’ve seen a lot of this, these changes. So a couple of good examples just to kind of close up what I was saying about this move from big law and the opportunities. So we’re seeing a lot of these small boutiques open up and they’re coming in from a totally different perspective than how law firms were created in the past. They’re coming in with a conscious, they’re coming in with an eye towards the environment, with an eye towards diversity, with an eye towards inclusion, to equalizing the workforce. All these things that we’re trying very hard to get the bigger ships to kind of right themselves. These firms come in already having that as part of their foundation. It’s part of their culture and culture right now is kind of risen to the top of an important deciding factor of how businesses align themselves. And we can come back to that and how you hire and retain. So these small firms are coming in already with this big plus sign on them. They don’t have to change it. They get to be who they are and people want to gravitate and be with companies and businesses like them. So now come back to how we help them. So we’re now being able to promote this kind of feel good law firm. We’re promoting people first and and creating these dynamics where powerful women say to us, “I want to create a law firm that I can reach down and pull everybody up with me.” Terry M. Isner: And I just get goose bumps when I hear that because I don’t speak to law firm owners and managing partners that talk this way. So imagine the power of telling that story and how that story today will resonate and PR tells that story. It allows us to talk about how important diversity is to you, how it was important for you to recognize how complex and big law was and that you were not making the effect that you wanted to. And so we can tell these stories. So PR brings a new light to these these firms who have kind of woken up to the fact that, hey, I need to support these social issues, these cultural issues, and I need to be a part of change and. We have the ability to kind of tell that story and that story then resonates so well that the growth opportunities for them are staggering compared to what we fight every day in business development for full services in terms of a larger size. And I realized that was a big answer. But I wanted you to understand why the landscape had changed and how from our perspective and sharing their story with the world, it’s easier to do because it resonates so much easier, because we’re wanting that now. Alay Yajnik: And Big Law will always have its place in the world and some clients will always prefer big law. What I love about the small law firm space and where it’s headed is it is now easier than ever for small law firms to get started. With the technology we have in place today, they can create a paperless law firm just like that with the software and the now with the trend towards remote workforce. They don’t even need a big office or, you know, they can make do with a very small office. And so what are some of the things that they can do to differentiate themselves from this, this this tide that we’re seeing of all these small law firms coming to the fore, all trying to clamor for their share of their spot in the limelight? I think public relations and a good public relations campaign can be a real differentiator. So share with us a little bit about maybe a quick example of how you’ve taken the story of one of these small law firms and really showcase them and they’ve grown as a result. Terry M. Isner: So this this is my favorite story of all, and it’s a law firm, it’s an IP firm and they’re located in Northern Virginia and they’re a small firm, but they are a virtual based law firm. So already, props to you. You’re smart, you can reach out, have greater talent opportunities because you’ve broken down those walls. So already you’re an IP firm. You should think this way. And they do. So beauty is you’re doing tha right. But then the unique part of this law firm is the relationship of the owners: two brothers (twins) and a few of their friends. Terry M. Isner: And they have a really tight relationship, extremely tight relationship. You go to a meeting there, and I’m in a suit and they’re in sweatshirts. So it’s just a very different dynamic of what they created. Along with that, they realized that they needed to give back much more than any other law firm. They were drinking the Kool-Aid of diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility. And they recognize that their firm needed a purpose. So they were doing everything right, including even coming up with creating a an IP tool which recognizes the amount of the top leaders of IP patent applications. So the Microsoft of the world and the Apple of the world, they can see and understand what their competition is within that marketplace and how many applications that are creating nothing more than a resource for the people that they work with. And then in addition to that, they decided, well, we’re going to step up to the need and call for diversity. So we’re going to create an incubator. And this incubator is going to be to create minority firm owners. And we’re going to create this three, four year program in which we will train them in three years. And the fourth year we will train them to be a law firm leader. And our clients are supporting this with the idea that they’ll be work for them in the end. And every four years we’ll launch to new minority owned IP firms. Terry M. Isner: They’re doing all of this, no PR, no marketing, nothing. They hired us and said, we’re doing all these great things and nobody knows who we are. So what we recognize was our goal was very simple: all eyes on this firm. That was that was our mantra. All eyes. Terry M. Isner: And that’s what we began to do and we started to tell the story, tell the story from the managing partners perspective in their relationship, from the firm’s ability to be so diverse because of its recognizing or creating its virtual format. To recognize that you can’t talk about diversity, you have to do something about diversity. Terry M. Isner: And I love it. So we went into full campaign mode. You’re talking about an incubator and the first thing that comes to mind is chickens. So we had to avoid that. Right. And we had to think about how are we going to create an interest that says “trust in us to give your career to us?” I mean, that’s a big trust and to trust in the fact that this is real. You know, this are you really doing this? So we create an entire PR campaign. The concept was more of a think, more like astronauts think more of a space age incubator mentality. And so we used astronauts. We hired astronauts to go to their events. We brought astronauts. Alay Yajnik: No way! You actually hired astronauts to go to their events? Terry M. Isner: We did. Well, astronauts, suits, everything. We did videos with the astronauts. We created really cool kind of Space Age Odyssey 2000 videos that we sent out in the package, really cool graphics. And and so we really changed the whole dynamic. And trust me, the amount of PR that this firm was getting by us simply telling the story of what they were doing, we didn’t create anything out of the ordinary. We tied it up into a creative campaign. But they were doing it. It was their story. What we did is we came in and we recognized what they were doing, got on board with them, and then shared that with the world. Terry M. Isner: And it created such huge opportunities for them to connect with other firms that recognize that innovation and applauded them and wanted to hear more of the story and wanted to know more and really are showing by example. But I think that that shows that you can do all the right things and still not be recognized for it, not have it as a brand differentiator or brand awareness, not getting any mileage for it at all. And the return of investment, you know, is small and could be such a bigger one because of the ability to introduce this type of thinking to so many others. Alay Yajnik: You know what’s really cool about that whole story that you guys set up there? It’s an IP firm and you used the space age kind of motif for that. And as someone who’s a bit of a sci-fi nerd and space fan myself, I can see how that would really attract other people that are into innovation and into technology. That’s really brilliant. And as you mentioned, you told their story. And so I’d like for you maybe to comment, just give your perspective: when I talk to firms about how they’re getting the word out. A lot of it is things like, “I’m going to blog, I’m going to promote myself on social media. I’m going to go ahead and do a lot of business development.” Tell me about the advantages that a public relations campaign can bring to a firm as far as building that awareness. Terry M. Isner: Yes, sure, and think of it a lot like we used to talk about marketing and business development: marketing paves the road, business development went down that road and closed those deals. PR is a lot like that. So what’s happened is the tech revolution has created a dynamic in which we are in control of doing our own due diligence. So the sales process happens way before the sales process starts to hit you. So before the phone rings, before the relationship begins, due diligence is happening. And so when you think about the sales process and how do we improve it, think about the power of PR. It’s telling your story. It’s creating you as the superstar that they’re looking for, for whatever that is. Now, the important part of that is you’re a superstar within a sector and you have to recognize that and you have to want to be a superstar of that sector, because when you want to be a superstar at everything, well, that’s become so diluted and the waters are so muddy, you’re probably not going to be found. Somebody else is going to beat you pretty much to the punch as being the expert there. Alay Yajnik: It doesn’t matter how great you are, you could be the smartest, most capable attorney on the planet. You cannot be a real superstar in every niche that’s out there. You just can’t. The competition is too much, the law is too much. You’ve got to pick your lane. Terry M. Isner: Think about what that also says to the buyer. Really, I need somebody who’s really invested in this and in me enough to be able to step back from a ten thousand foot perspective and see where the issue lies and where the solution lies. And you can’t do that when you’re the jack of all trades, or the jackie of all trades. Terry M. Isner: And so you have to think about that. Sharing your story with the world is so important. That is being so transparent. That is that is allowing people in to what makes you tick so they can trust in you to do what it is that they need because of what’s keeping them up at night or what their goals to achieve and where a service to them. We’re nothing more than a tool for them to reach the next goal, and they have to trust in that tool. So PR tells those stories. They’re stories that you relate to. “I’m looking for an attorney that, you know, it does a certain thing within a certain sector and has had the same issues that I’ve experienced and had a positive outcome.” You can only get that through a story. You’re not going to believe it through marketing jargon. You’re going to get that through a real, authentic story. And that’s what PR is designed to do, tell that story. Alay Yajnik: And I know there’s a lot of people listening, Terry, who are thinking, man, man, this is great. I want Jaffe or a PR firm to tell my story. And you and I both know the truth of the matter is that public relations isn’t a great fit for everybody. And so let me tell me a little bit about who’s not a good fit for PR. Terry M. Isner: Well, you know, that’s kind of putting PR almost in its old traditional format and thinking that you speak to journalists, you go on camera for broadcast or you’re quoted in a publication. Of course, that still exists. And that’s an important part of kind of building who you are. That’s that sharing your story with the world, that’s building the credibility in different channels. But, you know, if you think about PR today, it’s social media, it’s writing content that’s being read on social media. It’s podcasts, it’s videos. It’s all of these other forms and it’s speaking opportunities. All of this is PR, all of this is public relations. And media relations is kind of a different factor now. Alay Yajnik: Public relations and media relations, what’s the difference between the two? Terry M. Isner: I think what I’m seeing the shift in are we’re seeing a shift in is that public relations, which is, again, public relations, you are dealing with the public in all of these different channels. And I think that might be the difference of the evolution. So media relations, the media is controlling so much more. So they determine whether it’s newsworthy or not. That’s what the editor and journalist get to do. And so it’s a bit subjective and what they think is news and what they are and how they want to portray that news. Public relations and your website, you are in control of that. You’re in control of social media. You’re in control of your email. You’re in control of your blogs. You’re in control of everything. Nobody can edit you. You know, nobody can decide what is newsworthy or not. You can share your news from your voice and from your perspective and all of these public venues. So I think that there’s this shift where media used to be, where credibility was, where you wanted to be and needed to be. And, of course, that still exist. I’m not at all putting down the importance of media relations, but the difference now is we’re more in a public relations environment in which it’s connections and creating relationships and being part of initiatives and causes and actions and all these things. And they’re more public and you have more opportunity to relate within those public areas with less control. And that’s why I think there’s a greater emphasis now in public relations and less in media. Alay Yajnik: It’s a really good point. And Jaffe’s been around for over 40 years. You guys have the media relations across the country and in all metro areas, in rural areas. When you’ve been around for that long, you’ve just developed those kinds of relationships, but you do much more than that. And so tell me a little bit about your integrated approach, where you integrate media relations, public relations and marketing and how that’s different from maybe a traditional PR firm. Terry M. Isner: Yeah, so part of the question that you had asked before, which kind of leads to this, is the fact not everybody is set up to be a good a good person for a public relations or media relations campaign. There are certain people that do really well in those venues. And it’s extremely important, I think, for your agency itself to recognize those players and help, you know, bring them into the fold and help them become, you know, thought leaders through these different vehicles and telling their story and they might not have known that. So then you look at all the other integrated processes and you go, “OK, you’re really not right for PR and this is why and you know it. But what you’re going to be perfect for is creating resources for this industry.” You are such a thought leader and you are so in tune to the science behind this and understanding the need to protect this at this innovation and this intellectual property that you should write on that from a personal perspective and why this matters so much to you to create an opportunity that protects others to come up with wonderful ideas that solve the world. And that’s what you want to do every day. So be this amazing storyteller and let’s create a vehicle that people read and want to respond to what it is that you are writing and telling them and and appreciate this and appreciate you as an expert within that or video. I’m comfortable to creating this thought leadership in my own office. I’m just not comfortable of doing that in public through responding to social media. I want to control my message. The other is, hey, I’m very comfortable with responding to what other people think and telling my point of view. Therefore, within you should be more engaged in social media because you’re very confident in yourself and you can respond with really great contribution to the conversation. A lot of us don’t like that, that’s no, I don’t want to have that instant response. I want to have the more controlled response. So if you look at all those different channels already, you’re still you know, you’re still using the idea of PR. Terry M. Isner: You’re still creating a way in which you are communicating with another human being or collaborating with or creating some type of user experience with that. So it still follows in my mind within that public relations. Right. You’re still connecting with people just within different channels. And the way that you’re providing that content of that information is now done again through different forms and through different channels. But all along, we’re still sharing your story with the world. We’re just doing it in a different way, in different ways. Yeah, that’s where I think the difference is very cool. Alay Yajnik: And so that’s we’ve talked a little bit about what maybe someone who’s not great for PR or media relations is. What is a great engagement look like for you and for your clients? Terry M. Isner: So let me can I show by example a couple of two stories on that? So, you know, we have this one situation where there was an attorney who we felt would be really great at commenting and talking about and creating thought leadership around a big national case. Now, this person had no outreach other than that. Really wasn’t doing any PR, no branding, no personal marketing. Really was not. No. But we recognized that they would be really a great person to comment on this. This attorney went from no interviews to up to 50 interviews a week on this topic, was quoted and re-quoted and his information was shared not only at the national level, at the regional level, and at the local level of anywhere and everywhere this national case. Alay Yajnik: 50 interviews per week! Terry M. Isner: -that was released in one week alone, yes. Alay Yajnik: Wow. That is really something. Terry M. Isner: Yes. From not having any. From not being related to as the expert and/or superstar. We recognized he would be the perfect person to relate on this. And it began and it just the process you kind of sometimes have to pull the expertise out. Right. You have to help them. And that’s our job. I’d like to remind our team that I look at every attorney like they’re the superstar on Entertainment Tonight. And our job is their manager, their publicist, their agent. We’re everything because that’s that’s what we have to do. Every single person deserves that level of attention, how to creatively talk about them, how to create and creatively mold them, how to find those differentiators, how to get them comfortable in telling their stories. And here’s another quick example of that. Also, we had another attorney and he was a member of the firm’s corporate practice group. And earlier last year, he began to write bylined articles specifically on the PPP loans. Again, we have to look for opportunities. That’s the other thing, is to be attuned to the opportunities that fit you and so does your publicists and team. So here’s all of a sudden, our world has problems with those before, but we have them. And this gentleman started to write bylined articles on it. And then we started to play several of those articles and many of the big top legal publications for him. And this established him as a thought leader on the PPP loans. And this led to interviews and top tier national publications and even including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Again, taking somebody that just does a good job, isn’t already a superstar and becomes a superstar and lands in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal or 50 interviews in a week. That’s the power of PR when everybody’s working together, including the talent, and is a part of that process, you know, not resistant to it, a part of that process. And that’s when you get success stories like this. Alay Yajnik: Fantastic. So, Terry, what advice would you give to attorneys or to law firms who are really interested in using PR to grow their business? Terry M. Isner: So I think I would say, 1. Rethink the use of PR, and if you are not using PR, you have a huge hole in your communications plan. The other thing about PR, it’s the easy win. It’s the fast win. So let’s think about the idea of you’re a law firm that is slow to to to start up with the whole idea of a communications program to brand to marketing, to PR. And you have to kind of look at how PR will one help jump start that very quickly. But you might have certain marketing initiatives and other initiatives going for you, but you don’t have that support of kind of paving the way that we talked about putting out there and validating that you are an expert and why they should hire you or even if it’s from a firm perspective, why you should go and work for them. So if you’re not using PR, you have to understand that the reach is greater than any marketing tool that we have. It’s return on investment is even greater, especially if you’re trying to get buy in to start a marketing program because you can show quick hit PR plays off the ego, which is terrific, especially for this industry. So if we have you feeling really good, you’re going to understand the value of that. If you could see the return quickly when people are responding to your article and it’s not just your wife or your mom or your husband, then you realize that you’re starting to move that. Right? And so the point I’m getting at is if you haven’t tried this, you’re missing out on an opportunity that has the greatest reach of all and has the greatest power to begin to tell your story. And your story in the end is what we connect with. Everything today is based on that emotional connection. That’s where all decisions lie. 90 percent of our decisions are all based on emotional decisions and or reactions. And so doing that, it’s telling the story enough that I can relate to the fact that this person has my back or understands my situation. So I would say to anybody who can hear this, if you have not looked into PR, do it. It is the most important way to get your brand out there. It’s the most important way to get people to understand what you care about, why you care about it. It’s the best way to attract people. It’s the best way to to create relationships which will lead to greater work, all because it’s a form that organically allows you to tell who you are. And nobody can control that other than you. Terry M. Isner: And so I would look at this also is it’s no longer a silent solution, right? PR used to be here and marketing would be here and websites would be here and all that’s blurred now. But the beauty is PR supports every one of those things. You create the content that goes to the website. It creates the stories and validation that supports your bio, that makes the sale to choose you as the attorney much easier. It tells the great stories about your social corporate responsibilities, your community efforts, your diversity, inclusion, all of these things that matter. PR is telling that story in some form or another. So if you are not including that, you don’t have the power to integrate that into your body program, which you might have, or your program is going to be a lot easier. As I said earlier, if you incorporate a publicist who’s telling the great things they’re doing and they’re finding that and doing their due diligence. So I would say PR is probably, from my perspective, one of the most powerful and best return on investment that you might have out of all of the marketing arsenal tactics that we have to go to. Alay Yajnik: Yeah, I agree. As someone who’s heavily involved in business development, I liken PR to shifting the grade, if you will. Without PR, business development efforts, you’re running uphill. It takes a lot more. It takes a lot of effort. You’re really pushing hard. You have to exert a lot of effort with a lot of time. With PR that works well, you’re running downhill. It’s much easier. You can move much faster and you’ve got this momentum and that’s all the difference. So, Terry, what excites you as you think about Jaffey in the future? Terry M. Isner: What I’m excited about is how integrated we’ve created our service offering because this year showed us how adaptable we have to be. All of us have to. We were already a virtual firm, but we still had to adapt because our people didn’t have their spouses and their children at home with them. So there was still adapting. So what I’m really excited about is the the digital side of what we do. We’ve done this for forty two years. We know the whole traditional side of this. We’ve seen the evolution of every photograph that you’ve overused, every color palette that logos have had, every way that they’ve talked about themselves. We’ve seen it all. What I’m really excited about are these new tools and I’m excited about them because these new tools create relationships. And I believe that’s where all of this exists. The individual might not buy your service, but the relationship you build with them, they are going to tell two or three other people to buy your service. So these new tools are relationship building tools, they’re storytelling tools. And I love that we are telling real human interest stories about law and changing the whole dynamic about it. And we’ve gotten away from the lawyer joke because we’re all the same now. Zoom created a dynamic and equalized legal, and it did from a fact there’s no corner office in Zoom. Everybody’s exactly the same. You’re cold at home. There’s kids running around, the dogs are running around. So this is what I’m excited about. I’m excited that things like Zoom rip the Band-Aid off so we can actually get to business now and get this industry taking advantage of exciting things like social media and digital advertising and all of these video and podcasts and all these other forms that these younger generations are connected to and comfortably using on a day to day basis. Alay Yajnik: Well, it’s definitely a brave new world, and I’m very, very optimistic about where things are going. It’s great to see that you’re excited about it as well. And Terry, if someone wanted to reach out and connect with you, what is the best way for them to do that? Terry M. Isner: The best way is just definitely go to jaffepr.com, but if you want to reach me directly, you can do that at TerryIsner@Jaffe.com. So feel free to reach out. You can find me at SharingTMI on LinkedIn or SharingTMI on Instagram or SharingTMI on Facebook or SharingTMI on Twitter. Alay Yajnik: And that is great branding because it’s TMI for Terry Isner. So love that you walk the walk and you talk the talk. That’s terrific. Well, Terry, thank you so much for joining us today on Lawyer Business Advantage. Really appreciate your insights and your enthusiasm, your passion for what you do. Terry M. Isner: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help. Request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you can see freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your Perfect Practice.
24 minutes | 3 months ago
Level 3 Niche Growth with Scott Rahn
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Scott Rahn, managing partner at RMO, discuss how RMO’s niche strategy and people strategy have driven its growth. Since its inception in 2015, RMO has grown to six offices from coast to coast! They have a Level 3 niche: Trust and Estates -> Trust and Estates Litigation -> Probate Litigation They focus their efforts on being probate litigation “ninjas” The Level 3 niche ensures that they can cooperate and co-counsel with other attorneys They are very selective about who they hire in terms of cultural alignment, skills, and ability to learn They are always looking to hire and grow “The single most important thing in building any business are the relationships you have” “Hiring is one of the single biggest challenges to any business” Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And I’m pleased to welcome to the broadcast my friend Scott Rahn, who is the founder and managing partner of RMO. Scott, thanks for joining us today. Scott Rahn: Thank you for having me. Alay Yajnik: One of the things I love about how you’ve built your firm, you grew very quickly, you have a really nice sized firm and also you have grown using a niche. So tell us a little bit about the growth and evolution of your firm. Scott Rahn: We are in a very specific niche, as you’ve highlighted here at RMO. We are a probate litigation firm and that’s really all that we do. So we stay in our lane. We don’t deviate from that lane and get in other people’s lanes. And we focus specifically on probate litigation, resolving and litigating probate disputes. And what that means is handling will contests, trust contests, contested conservatorships, all the things that you think that might arise when a decision passes and family members have issues regarding their estate or pre death. If someone is having issues regarding a loved one and requires court intervention to address issues with them, their money, their health, et cetera. Alay Yajnik: There’s so many trust and estate law firms out there. And there’s also some that are pretty focused on trust and estate litigation. Yours is the first firm I’ve heard of that focuses on probate litigation. So how did you come up with this idea and discover this niche and then choose to develop it and build it up? Scott Rahn: So you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of firms out there that do trust and estates. There are some firms that do trust and estates that also have trust and estate litigation practices.All of that’s in the probate court. We are one of the few firms that is focused on just the litigation side. So we don’t do the planning, we don’t do the taxes. Our administration practice is limited to those matters that are tangential to the litigations that we’re handling. And what that does is that doesn’t create conflicts for us with the nice estate planning lawyers that we work with. So we’ll often co-counsel cases with estate planning lawyers, tax lawyers, corporate lawyers, other litigators who don’t do what we do, frankly, don’t want to do what we do. Most planning lawyers don’t like to go to court, certainly not over a contested matter, and they don’t want to be in the hot seat in trial. And most litigators don’t want to go to probate court because as I was told when I was a baby lawyer and got my first probate court case, it’s weird. It has its own set of rules. I came to find that it’s not weird. It’s actually very common-sensical and frankly, just a really, really nice place to practice. So we’ve focused on this. Like I said, my first probate experience came when I was a young lawyer and then had the opportunity to move into a department that focused on trust in the States. It was a full blown planning and administration and litigation practice where I focused on the litigation but got to learn the planning and the administration alongside and really to sharpen my toolkit. Scott Rahn: And then throughout the course of my career, I just continued focused on that as I moved out of other practice areas and shed those because I really liked the probate litigation work. It’s one of the few practice areas where you really get to help people, you get to help families, and you really get to help them at a very challenging time in their lives. Everybody we work with is dealing with a situation where they’ve lost a loved one or a loved one is compromised and they don’t know what to do. This isn’t something that people go through often in their lives, hopefully, and they’re stressed, they’re vexed, and we get an opportunity to hold their hand and let them know it’s OK. And we have a path to get them through this, to get them a results and put them in a place where they can move on with their lives. And I think it’s that approach, the empathy with which we approach our clients and their cases. In addition to obviously the focus, the structure, the strategies, the muscle that we put behind those cases to get those results that really distinguish and differentiate us and have helped us to grow as a firm over these past many years. Alay Yajnik: I want to ask you a question about how you grew your firm in terms of when you brought on the attorneys and how you brought in the attorneys. Because an area like probate litigation, it’s very interesting for me to hear about what experience you wanted when they came into the firm versus the experience and training that you gave them to be really good probate litigators once they joined your firm. So tell me a little bit about the size of the firm when you started. Now you’re much larger. How did you get through that process of adding attorneys and really finding and then bringing on talent and balancing that with training? Scott Rahn: Great question. And I think hiring is, as you know, is one of the single biggest challenges to any business. Ours certainly is not the exception to that rule. I started the firm in 2015. Me, myself and I, we were an army of three being me for about the first month or so. I then hired my paralegal from my firm, Gina Rosales, who’s been with me prior to that and since then, and has been part of the backbone of the firm. She’s got decades of experience and is just a wonderful, wonderful person to practice with. But as we continue to get busier, as the market continued to to realize what we were capable of doing and more and more cases kept coming in, we needed to be able to obviously continue to do the good work that helped build that reputation. So we, like most small firms, started by going to friends and family to hire people that we knew, liked and trusted, as the old Provisors adage goes. And one of those first hires is my partner Sean, who runs our Orange County office. And as my co-managing partner of the firm, Sean and I were summer associates together at our first firm 20 years ago. And we went our separate ways when we both went from that smaller firm to big law and honed our practices. But we got the band back together, if you will, in late 2015, 2016. And he’s been an integral part of helping to to build the firm from that point. Scott Rahn: And we really look for first, we look for good people. Fit is the single most important thing I’ve told anybody who would listen when I’m talking about who we’re trying to bring on that fit is the single most important thing, because if they’re not people who do their business the right way for the right reasons and they’re not genuinely interested in helping people, it’s just not going to work. There are plenty of lawyers out there who will lawyer the bejesus out of a case, generate fees, maybe even get results. But our clients are our people first cases second. And you really need to have that approach. And I think that that approach of taking care of people, whether it’s our clients or our employees, our referral sources, I think if you lead with that, I think the rest of it takes care of itself. So we always look for people who are first good people and second, good lawyers. And third, hopefully somebody with some probate experience, even if it’s just exposure and fourth, if they don’t have that, then someone who’s willing to learn and a quick learner. And we’ve been fortunate that the people we’ve been able to hire check those boxes. They’re good, smart, hardworking people who frankly just want to do a good job for their clients. And you combine all those things together and we get results. Alay Yajnik: You started this firm in 2015. It’s 2021. So in six years, Scott, you now have fifteen people at least working for you, probably more than what’s on your website. What do you attribute that level of growth and scalability to? Scott Rahn: It’s a great question. I think the growth and scalability is in part driven by the market because we are so niche. You know, we are not a competitor to many. We because we don’t do the planning, we don’t do the taxes, we don’t do the corporate work, the real estate work. You know, all the things that come out of a traditional estate planning firm, we’re able to shoulder up with a lot of estate planning practices and practitioners so we can bolt on with their firms. We can co-counsel and ninja assassin, if you will, the litigation piece of of a family dispute and then leave the client with the referral source for them to wrap up the administration, do the next stage of planning, do the corporate work, real estate work, et cetera. We come in, we get a result, we get out. But the referral source and the client are fat and happy and continue down their path. And I think that’s really something that being able to distinguish ourselves in the market and being known for what we do and being good at it and knowing that we’re we’re there to help protect the relationships of those who bring us into those relationships. I think really has helped us on our growth path, and we are going to be past the twenty five person mark here by the end of this month, we just hired some some new lawyers for our Miami office and some new paralegals and lawyers for the California offices as well. So it’s tremendous and we’re very, very proud of of everybody that’s here and what we’re what we’re able to do for people. Alay Yajnik: Well, congrats on that growth story, Scott. That is fantastic. And if you’re listening to this, I hope you’re paying attention to what he’s saying and what he’s putting out there. I hear a lot of people talk about where should I specialize, my law firm and what three practice areas should I focus on. But I would challenge all of you to do what Scott has done, find an area of practice where you really good, where you can get really good and get really specialized, because if you focus on just that, you’ll be doing your best work. And to Scott’s point, you know, your referral partners are going to enjoy working with you because they know you’re going to come in and like Scott’s team does, they go in, they get their very specific job done. They get out the existing referral relationship between the client and the attorney. The other attorney is still in place. The other attorney looks like a rock star and a hero. Client’s happy. And the referral relationship is preserved. So, Scott, tremendous job of really leveraging the niche that you’ve built to grow your firm. One of the things we were talking about was personnel. And you mentioned that your co managing partner, Sean Muntz, has been with you for most of this journey. A lot of a lot of attorneys are out there trying to grow firms on their own, and I’d love to hear from you how Sean has contributed to the growth of the firm and how you two work together. Scott Rahn: The trust that we have in one another, having shared an office when neither of us frankly knew anything and the friendship that was struck, then the foundation that we built that we’ve been able to build upon has been significant in what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far and for where we’re going. But I think one of the biggest reasons why we’ve had as much success as we’ve had and will have is because we complement one another. We both bring strengths and complement each other’s, if I dare call them weaknesses. Sean is a lawyer’s lawyer. I have always joked with him that he’s a much better lawyer than I. I always joke that he knew the code of civil procedure by the end of our summer by heart. And he was when when we were baby lawyers, after we returned to that firm, after passing the bar, you know, he was my go to associate when I would have procedural questions and he just continued to build his toolset and sharpen those tools in the time that we were apart. Scott Rahn: So for me, it was a no brainer bringing Sean into the fold. And it’s something that he and I had talked about on and off over the years. So, you know, we’re lucky that we have each other and that we’re able to to leverage off of that and frankly, to be able to have the the new people that we have at the firm, like Matt Baker, our junior partner, and a lot of the other lawyers who frankly just pulled together. And we do work together well and complement one another. It’s really a wonderful team. It’s it’s an honor to work with them. And I feel lucky to have found each and every one of them. Alay Yajnik: That is a wonderful, wonderful story and I love hearing, hearing those kinds of things because, you know, that doesn’t always work out. A lot of law firms break up earlier on and they don’t grow to the size that you’ve grown to. So congratulations to you and Sean and the rest of the team on doing that. Looks like you’re in six offices, Southern California, all the way across the coast of Miami and a few in between. One of the questions I always get asked is, “Should I open a new office here or should I open a new office there?” Love to hear how the additional offices came to be and what was the business reason and the personal reasons for setting those up? Scott Rahn: That’s a question I get frequently. And as one of my mentors likes to quip, “some people fall in love with profit. Some people fall in love with overhead,” alluding to my affection for the latter, but the reality is that we, as I’ve said, our ethos is to help people and frankly, we have a better mousetrap. We take better care of people. We get better results sooner for less legal spend. And that is a market niche that is valuable and almost any market, and if there’s enough volume to support a practice and the market can use our services where we’re able to help people and provide them better results for, frankly, less legal spend, and that’s where we’re going to try to be. Alay Yajnik: One of the reasons that people listen to this podcast is because they’re looking to build a successful small law firm similar to what you’ve built. And so for someone who’s trying to do what you have done, what what advice would you give them? Scott Rahn: I think the single most important thing in building any business is the relationships that you have. If you don’t have those relationships, you’re going to have a hard time. You’re not only going to have a hard time finding clients that will support your business, you’re going to have a hard time scaling that business. I think one of the reasons that we’ve had the success that we’ve had in not only having the cases, but finding the personnel to support those client relationships is because of the relationships that we have. Our recruiter that we use. It came through a friend, an old classmate of mine, law school classmate. The marketing firm that we’ve worked with for the past many years is someone that I’ve known for a decade and so on and so forth down the list. And it’s really through those relationships and the people that you need to know that are going to help you build your business. That’s where the magic is. Scott Rahn: I remember sitting down this was probably 15 years ago or so, sitting pre kids pre-marriage in Mexico for four New Years with the CEO of a publicly traded company. Just he and I, he was a friend of a friend, but he and I came down a little early for the rest of the group down there. And we were sitting there sipping a little tequila. And he had been a serial entrepreneur, had started a bunch of companies. And then I had them to myself and I was going to ask the million dollar question. So I did. And I said, “How do you do it?” And he said, “How do I do what?” I said, “How do you start all these successful companies?” And he just kind of shook his head and took a sip of his tequila and said, “That’s the question I get asked more frequently than anything else.” And I just looked at them waiting for the answer. He didn’t say anything else, is that. “What’s the answer?” And he said, “I don’t know. You just do it. You figure it out. You have a question you start asking people. Funny thing is, people want to help you. So the first person you asked may not have the answer, but they might have a friend who does.” So I only share that with you because it was illustrative to me that relationships and having these relationships, which I was building at the time, are the key to all of this. And what ends up happening is it brings the community closer together and it makes all of the magic happen. Scott Rahn: You know, I grew up in a small town in rural Wisconsin, about 1100 people strong when I left. And, you know, that feeling of community that you get growing up in a in a small town, that’s what you end up getting when you focus on those relationships. And again, taking care of the people, taking care of the people ultimately who are going to take care of you. Alay Yajnik: Thank you, Scott, for that and for that answer, that is a incredibly powerful insight. Oftentimes when we work with a firm, we talk about the operational components of the firm. We do talk about personnel. But it’s way more when you’re talking about is way more than that. It’s actual relationships. And the phrase it’s not it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, that doesn’t quite do it justice. Although it’s true. What you’re talking about is much deeper than that. It’s building a tight, close knit group of people that trust you, that you trust, that you can lean on for years and decades, and you can grow together and be successful together. And they may be acquaintances. They may be employees. They may be professional colleagues. But that group, that tight knit group that you can build, that’s going to help you and you’ll help them. So, Scott, thank you for that insight. So as you’re thinking about the future of Aamot, you’ve got six offices you’re going to cross. Twenty five employees this year. It’s a terrific story about building a niche law firm. Alay Yajnik: I get the sense that maybe you’re just getting started, but what excites you about your firm in the future? Scott Rahn: I’m excited about the people we have. I’m excited about the people who are coming aboard. I’m excited for the new markets that we’re exploring currently. But to get into those new markets and this is something that I think I failed to to discuss fully when we were talking about what the secret sauce is and expanding, you know, we have to find the right people. So we found the right people in Miami know San Diego, Orange County, et cetera. You know, looking at these other markets, you know, some of them we’ve been looking for a couple of years at this point because we want to make sure that the person who is going to be flying that RMO flag for us with us is the right person. Scott Rahn: Again, the person who does their business right for the right reasons and cares about taking care of people. So I’m excited that we have these opportunities to look at these new markets and the opportunity to expand in these new markets to bring our better mousetrap to those markets. I’m excited to find those people because I know they’re out there. We found them in all of our other markets. It’s just a matter of unearthing them. It’s it’s challenging. As we all know, as we discussed at the beginning, hiring is is challenging for any business owner. But we’re committed to being in places where we can help people. And we know as soon as we find the right people, we’ll be able to do just that, hiring the skill. Alay Yajnik: And the more you do it, the better you get. And you’ve certainly done your share of hiring and you’re continuing to do that. And being selective is so important, especially for geographic expansion. So if there is somebody who is listening to this, who thinks that they may know of someone who would be a good fit or maybe they’re a good fit themselves, how should they get in touch with you, Scott? Scott Rahn: Can send me a message through LinkedIn. Give us a call at the office or you can shoot me an email directly either at the firm firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to me at email@example.com. It’s my last name, first initial and happy to talk to those people. Alay Yajnik: Scott, congratulations on all your success. Best wishes for the future. And thank you for being on the program today. Scott Rahn: Thank you so much. It was really fun. Alay Yajnik: Everyone, that is Scott Rahn, founder and managing partner of RMO. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsucessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember: you can seize freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.
23 minutes | 3 months ago
Passionate Lawyering with Josh Borger
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Josh Borger, partner at Berliner Cohen, discuss how his passion and enthusiasm for practicing law have helped him build his practice, develop referral sources, and establish himself as a thought leader. Practicing the law is an honor. You should embrace that honor and love being a lawyer. Discover a niche in the law where there are lots of questions, yet no good answers. Study this area and write articles that clarify areas of confusion. The best marketing you can do is to do good work for your clients. Be responsive to your clients. If you’re working with them on a case, they will want to hear from you ASAP. If you are relatively new to the field of law, your fresh perspective is an asset and you may have a unique perspective to offer. Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to the show today. Josh Berger, partner at Berliner Cohen. Josh, how are you doing? Josh Borger: I’m doing wonderfully. How are you doing? Alay Yajnik: I’m doing very well, thank you. Thank you so much for joining Lawyer Business Advantage. I’m very excited to be talking with you today. Josh Borger: I’m looking forward to it as well. Alay Yajnik: And you and I are both members of Provisors. And there are a number of litigators in that networking group. There are a number of litigators in every metro area, but most litigators do things a little bit differently. And so what I’d love to hear from you is what are the types of cases that you absolutely love? Josh Borger: My cases run the gamut because they come from other lawyers. And what the lawyers tell me is they look to the fact pattern. They scratch their head. They threw up their hands and said, “Yeah, I don’t know.” And then they tossed it over to me. So the fact patterns I love are the complex ones, the convoluted ones, the really fascinating ones. I will find something fascinating about every case that I have. I’ve had cases where people lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a wire fraud scheme. It runs the gamut. But because of that, I absolutely love it. Alay Yajnik: This definitely plays into something I wanted to talk about, because whenever I speak with you and you talk about the law, you communicate with such passion and such enthusiasm. I know you have a whole history around this, so I’d love to hear from you: why is it that you decided to become a lawyer? Take me a little bit on that journey. Josh Borger: Oh, I always knew I was going to be a lawyer. I wrote my first contract in sixth grade. It was between my brother and my parents because he didn’t want to take piano lessons anymore. And I remember being in high school when they were playing Christmas music over the loudspeaker. And I researched whether you could, and I went to the principal and said you have violated the Establishment Clause of 1804. My aunt, who’s in her 90s, said, “Josh, you’ve always been like this.” Josh Borger: So I love the research aspect of it. I love the history of it. In my free time, I researched the history of laws. I remember yelling at 3:00 in the morning, “I can’t believe that!!” My wife woke up and said, “What’s happening?” And I said, “Do you know what’s in the Magna Carta?” She still reminds me of that because I couldn’t sleep. And why would you not read the Magna Carta at 3:00 in the morning? To be a lawyer for the money is just absolutely wrong. It is way too much work. It’s not worth it. And nothing is worth it for that. Josh Borger: But if you’re a lawyer, because you think what we do is fascinating, because you’re part of this incredible continuum going back thousands of years, going back to when the Norman smacked into England, and you are part of this history of developing common law, then it’s a pleasure and an honor. And you wake up every morning jazzed about being able to do what you do. I’ll tell you, I had a trial that went on for weeks, phase one alone. And at the end of phase one, there were three firms on the other side. I was lead on mine. One of the lawyers in charge of his firm, well-known firm in San Jose, leaned over and said, “You get way too much joy out of this.” You can’t get too much joy out of this. It’s an honor to practice. And if you view it like that, you’re going to be salivating at every case that comes your way because there’s something about it that’s just fascinating. Alay Yajnik: You have such a dynamic personality, were you always this way with this kind of personality, this enthusiasm, this energy, or is that something that developed over time? Josh Borger: Always, always this way, every one of my family has said Josh takes over a room, even from the time he was young, he would go in and he would take over the room. I think it’s probably being third child. You have to make yourself known. Alay Yajnik: No one’s going to hand you anything. You’ve got to get attention. Josh Borger: No, but I do remember also let me say that with permission of the principal, I didn’t skip school, but I took a day off in high school and I went to see a trial in court and sat there for the whole day. And I was probably hooked in being a lawyer long before that, but that was also fascinating. I still remember that to this day as a learning experience, everything is. Alay Yajnik: Well you’re such a high energy guy. How has that factored into your career and helped your career as an attorney? Josh Borger: It has absolutely helped my career and I think makes me a better lawyer than I would be otherwise, because, again, lawyering is like a deluge of water just flying at you. And if you don’t love it, you’re going to get smacked down by the water. You’re going to drown. But if you love it, you’re going to accept the challenge of swimming to the top of the wave and riding the waves with as it comes at you. And so given that I find everything coming my way fascinating, I would always tell people I have young children, so I have no where to be on Saturday night. So I end up researching issues. Josh Borger: That’s how I was able to get back money in this wire fraud scheme that I mentioned before where someone lost hundreds of thousands. I published articles on it because I thought it was fascinating and I thought the laws that were written were wrong and I couldn’t find anyone that had talked about this. I don’t like researching, writing about areas that everyone else has talked about. I like seeing what are the problems people are impacting and how can the law address that in ways that nobody has thought of. And so I’ve written articles. I ended up getting calls from NBC a few times. They came to my office to talk to me. They said they’ve been reading my articles. I had a call from someone who was in the Secret Service previously to talk about my articles. Josh Borger: With this administration, I was constantly reading about whistleblowers, for example, and I thought, what can you take from your employer since their employers documents and, for example, give to the government and not get sued for in? The answer was nobody knows. There’s no clear answer. And so I researched it and I researched it and I researched it. And I published an article on this in the Daily Journal, it’s online. Clients followed but I never did this to get the client. I did it because I was fascinating about these issues I was reading about and thought the law can help. Alay Yajnik: Well, this is a terrific segue into business development. And clearly, when you do business development and marketing, a lot of of what you do probably comes from the work that you’ve published, the cases that you’ve done, just how you’ve practiced law since probably the moment you got into the legal field. But I’m curious to hear your general approach to business development. What does that look like for you? Josh Borger: Very different avenues. First, with respect to when you’re meeting other people, get to know them as people. Don’t do the hard sell, nobody likes it. Figure out how you can help them. Get to know them as a person, hopefully you like them as a person in turn. In due time, business will follow. But I think it’s a mistake when I see people at events who just have a stack of business cards and hand them out. Nobody’s going to do business with a business card. They want to get to know you as a person. And if you’re at an event and you only spend the entire time speaking and getting to know one person, that’s success. That’s not a failure. The failure is coming home with one hundred business cards. And then what everyone does is throw them away. So there’s that. Publishing and speaking. Find things that you find fascinating again that other people need to know about. Josh Borger: Billions were lost in wire fraud and no one was talking about it because no one thought the law could help. I thought that was a mistake. People who think they have a whistleblower claim but are afraid to do something about it, need to know what their rights are and you as a lawyer have the privilege of being able to scratch your head and figure out and advise them. And so do that. You want to become the authority. If you’re just regurgitating what everyone else has said online, you’re not the authority, you’re just plagiarizing. But if you can figure out an avenue that other people wrestle with, that they’re not getting advice on and you can become the authority on that business, success will follow. Alay Yajnik: And Josh, when you talk to attorneys that are kind of junior, their careers just getting started, looking to build a book of business, the things we have just discussed and you just shared with me: building really high quality relationships, becoming a thought leader by actually doing some research, finding a new angle, finding a new idea and bringing that to the legal community and then speaking in, writing on that. Those are things we’ve heard so many different times. You have a really awesome spin on that. And other successful attorneys have their own unique take on it. How do you communicate with someone who is junior their career and looking to build their business and get involved in business development? Josh Borger: Being junior in your career, while some more senior lawyers may look down upon you as thinking you don’t know what you’re doing, but you come with a fresh pair of eyes. And some of us older ones, as I look in the mirror, my hair goes grayer, you get used to doing something in a certain way and your eyes may gloss over it and it may be wrong. I was working as a staff attorney for an environmental nonprofit my second year out of law school. I started off. I was a federal law clerk. And I filed a CEQA case against the State of California. And everyone was telling me you wouldn’t be able to do it based on this, it didn’t make sense. But it made sense to me and the case ended up going forward. In fact, Jerry Brown threw down a bill in the state legislature because of this case. It became huge. And it’s the thing that you would only do when you have a fresh pair of eyes and you look at a problem. And while everyone else is saying, we haven’t been doing it that way for 30 years, that’s not how we read it. But you’ve read it now, the statute for the first time, and that’s how you decided it should be read. And it turns out I wasn’t wrong. I was just talking to people who had been doing the same thing over and over and decided because of that, that’s how it should be done. A fresh pair of eyes is a wonderful thing. So take advantage of that. When you’re a lawyer, there’s things you can learn, but you can also teach others. Find your niche. You’re never too young to find your niche and educate others. Alay Yajnik: And how do you do that? How do you go about finding your niche? Josh Borger: There’s no one way, and this is where you have to love what you do, you have to read the paper and see what are the problems people are encountering and what can I do that other people aren’t doing. To respond to that, you have to look around. I ask people, instead of lecturing you about realtors, for example, about real estate problems, I ask them, what are the problems you’re encountering? I will research, figure out how to respond to that and advise you. But you who are on the ground need to tell me what are the problems you’re encountering? I can’t tell you what those problems are. I find that to be a very successful angle, because if if a few of them tell you that’s the problem they’re encountering, the odds are they’ve all encountered it or will in the future. And they appreciate that you’ve gone out to help them answer that problem versus the problem that you already know the answer to. And you just want to talk about it. Alay Yajnik: You know, I think this is where attorneys have such a huge advantage over so many other professions. Law is everywhere. Law has been everywhere for a very long time, like you said, dating to back when the Normans invaded England. There are bodies and bodies and bodies of case law and legislation and situations that are relevant. And so there really is every opportunity in the world for an attorney to find some area of the law that they have genuine interest and genuine passion about. And then just start digging, get deep, find areas, find those gray areas, find the areas of conflict, learn it, research it and start to provide some opinions on it and just stay focused on that. And if you can maintain the passion and the interest, the rest of it will follow, like you said. And you are going to have a nice practice and it’s going to be a niche in an area that you love. And most industries, most professions, they can’t do that. It’s really a cool thing about being an attorney. Alay Yajnik: So as you started to build your book of business and as you’ve built your book of business over the years, tell me a story about a key lesson that that you learned as you’re building your book. Josh Borger: I give my clients my cell. Litigation is very stressful, and one of the mistakes that I think that I hear quite often is that lawyers aren’t responsive to people. The two people that have to be responsive are your lawyer and your doctor. When you contact them, they’re the two people you can you can never lie to the people that have to be most responsive when you contact them. It is because you are involved in a very stressful situation. And if they don’t respond promptly, it adds to the stress of it. My clients have my cell. I try to be very quick in responding. I put myself in my client’s shoes. If I were being sued, what would I want from my lawyer? And given that I think promptness and being very genuine in your responses has led to my success as an attorney. Alay Yajnik: That attorney client relationship is oftentimes about business, it’s oftentimes about personal situations, but whatever it is, it’s an intensely personal relationship, no matter what the situation is. And I’ve heard this and I’ve said it on this podcast before, there’s a lot of jokes about lawyers, but when people have a big, big problem, their attorney is their best friend, really. And the work that attorneys do is life changing to the people that are involved in the companies that are involved. Josh Borger: I have been at parties where people were sitting around telling lawyer jokes, and a lot of the people telling the jokes had hired me to do work for them. Not the other people didn’t know you will be the butt of the joke, but when the “sh” hits the fan, you’ll also be the first phone call and you have to accept that and you just deal with it and you roll with it. You are the confidant. You are the secret that they don’t want to tell. And that’s your job. Alay Yajnik: For other litigators who want to build their books. What’s the piece of advice that you would give to them? Josh Borger: Do incredibly good work for people. Take a case that was unwinnable and make it winnable. Every case is winnable and then word will get out. It’s that simple. Do a fabulous job. Doing a fabulous job is the best way to get a good client. Josh Borger: I get my clients from two sources, lawyers who continuously send me their clients in litigation because I continuously get their clients good results. Alay Yajnik: And the clients who achieve those results for other attorneys to refer to because of the legal work you do is something that I think is a real opportunity for litigators. Can you help me connect the dots? How is it that when you do good work for you in a case that word gets out to other attorneys? Josh Borger: Well, if the attorney sends me the case and there are some where I’ve knocked that out of the park, as they say, for their clients over the years, then when their clients need litigation, they keep sending their clients my way. Those clients oftentimes are involved in groups, have other friends, know other people that will be in a similar situation. And so they tell those people then: You have have a problem you should reach out to Josh. I hired him. He did a good job. It was fair, the price. And I was very happy with it. It’s really that simple. Alay Yajnik: That’s that is really one thing I’ve heard and I’d love to get your comment on this, is I had heard from other attorneys that when you do a great job in court, this other attorneys that are watching and they see you in court and then they get impressed and they send and they send cases to you. What’s been your experience with that? Josh Borger: I have someone who was opposing counsel who sends me cases quite often. I settled the case, but it was an area of the law that I was learning. And I did very well when my client did very well on it. And as a result, after that, whenever he gets these calls and he does quite a bit, he sends them over to me. And that was opposing counsel. The some of the people who sent me the most cases started as opposing counsel, and I treated them with dignity. I was very professional, but I got a good result for my client. So the combination is. I told people it’s very simple, if you want a lawyer to send you a case, they have to like you and they have to think you’re good at what you do there. I synthesize five hundred pages. It’s that simple. And that is the relationship that I’ve built. So I do have a lot of people who started off as opposing counsel who send me work. Absolutely. Alay Yajnik: And Josh as we’re wrapping things up today, what excites you about the future, Berliner, and with your practice? Josh Borger: Oh, everything excites me about the future of my practice, the thought of expanding it into areas that I. Didn’t know about that I can learn about is absolutely fascinating. I was speaking to lawyers about artificial intelligence the other day and all the ramifications of that. And one of the lawyers is at a big firm in Palo Alto said, this is great, maybe we’ll have a case together. And that would be fascinating to have a case dealing with artificial intelligence. I was speaking to another about shareholder activism, and I admit that what I thought it was was something completely different. And he educated me as to that, he thought he said, well, maybe we’ll have something together. That would be fascinating. So what fascinates me? What what am I excited about? The same thing I’ve always been excited about: of being brought into new and fascinating areas of the law and learning about it, the laws. The ability to keep learning! What an amazing thing to do with your life! To have a career where you get to keep learning and scratching your head and you can do it until forever and a day. I think Jim Brosnahan is still practicing and he must be in his 80s because you love it, because you’re still learning. And when you view it like that, why would you ever stop? You’re going to give your client your all and you’re going to love giving your all. And because of that, you’re going to be very good at giving your all. Your work product is going to be good because you don’t view it as torture. You view it as an honor. Alay Yajnik: There are attorneys listening, who have some really interesting cases with crazy fact patterns, and they will probably be reaching out and giving you a call. So if they want to connect with you and reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do that? Josh Borger: I am a Berliner Cohen in San Jose, berliner.com. Like most people, I’m working from home right now, but you can send me an email through the site, Joshua.Borger@berliner.com or leave me a message. I check my voicemail constantly and I will get back to you right away. Alay Yajnik: Josh, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Great insight, very entertaining. Lots of great tidbits and takeaways. Thank you so much. Everyone, that is Josh Berger, partner at Berliner and an amazing litigator. Josh Borger: Thank you so much for having me. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help. Request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember: you can seize freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.
35 minutes | 3 months ago
Blog-based Marketing with Kevin Brodehl
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Kevin Brodehl, partner at Patton Sullivan Brodehl, discuss how Kevin is using his two blogs, Money and Dirt and the LLC Jungle, to attract his ideal clients to his law firm. Takeaways from our conversation include: When you’re building your book, you should be visible, be memorable, and be helpful. Give your blog a name, and get the “.com” domain on the internet for the name. You have time to write a blog each month. Make it a priority, make it a commitment, and stick to it! Basic blogs (like the kind that may companies write for you) attract basic clients. Sophisticated blogs (like the ones that only you can write) attract sophisticated clients. Writing a blog can be effective, but it isn’t a substitute for getting out there and connecting with people. There is no blueprint for marketing, so do what you enjoy and give yourself permission to try lots of different things. A good business coach will help you discover your niche. Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart Business Guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And it’s my pleasure to welcome to the show Kevin Brodehl, partner at Patton Sullivan Brodehl and author of the LLC Jungle and Money and Dirt blogs. Kevin, welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. Kevin Brodehl: Hello. Thank you for having me. Alay Yajnik: I’m glad we have a chance to chat here. We don’t get a chance to talk as often as we used to. So thanks again for joining the show. And tell us a little bit about yourself, your practice and your blogs. Kevin Brodehl: Sure. Thank you for having me again. It’s a pleasure. We’ve known each other for a while now, so I’m very happy to see you doing a podcast and very honored to be a guest. I’ve been a litigator my entire career. Started practicing in 1998 and I’ve focused entirely on real estate and business disputes from a broad perspective. And when you drill down, most of my cases are relatively high stakes. Most of them involve real estate in one form or another. And then more recently, I’ve noticed that a lot have involved LLC disputes and a lot of those are real estate-related. Some are not: they can be from industries all across the board. And I don’t do any transactional work, don’t do anything that doesn’t involve a courtroom or an arbitration room. And so that’s what I’ve done and I love it. Alay Yajnik: Very cool, how did you get this idea for doing blogs as a business dev tactic? Kevin Brodehl: So the blogs came to me. The first one was Money and Dirt. That came to me around, I think, 2014. I started that. And that was really the result of a lot of trying different things and seeing what I liked and maybe what worked. I think it was the recession that kind of put me into a marketing framework, as it did a lot of attorneys at that time. Up until then, I was a 10 or 11 year attorney when the recession hit. And up until then, I was perfectly happy just doing the work. Just feed me the work. I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Well, I like to read the research and I like to write. But right around the recession, it became pretty clear that that wasn’t going to be enough to really have the kind of career that I wanted to have and I wanted to go out and develop business. So I started trying a lot of different things. And one of my former partners at a prior firm had started a very well recognized construction law blog. And I thought, that is so cool. And not only is it accessible, but it just seems like he had a really fun time doing it and so it was right around 2014 that I decided upon starting the Money and Dirt blog because I figured, you know, a lot of people are doing real estate stuff, but not a lot of people are dealing with the intersection of money, both in the form of big deals that have gone bad, but also secured lending and foreclosure type litigation between big banks and sophisticated developer borrowers. Not a lot of people are writing about that. So I decided to try it out and it’s stuck with it ever since then. Alay Yajnik: What did you find so interesting about that topic that you felt that, OK, here’s something that I need to write about because I’m excited about it, and there’s other people as well that are out there who might also be excited about it. Kevin Brodehl: I think maybe one reason that the blog idea or the concept of a blog turned me on so much was that there was no real – I mean, there are industry groups for developers and such, but a lot of my clients, they’re not so big that they’re participating in these big nationwide commercial real estate developer groups that kind of keep to themselves. And the same thing on the L.L.C. jungle area. Those are even smaller clients. Most of those LLC’s are maybe four to 10 people, mostly real estate investors. There is no systematic and organized way to reach those people by just joining an industry group or some association. And so I looked at blogging as a way of, well, OK, they can find me if I’m putting relevant material out there and helpful material out there for them, they can find me that way. Alay Yajnik: There’s something you do differently than probably ninety five percent of the other attorneys who blog, and it’s really one of the first questions I get as a business coach, my clients will say, “I want to do a blog!” And they’re so excited about doing one and they attach the blog to the website and that’s all it is. It’s just a blog that’s on the website. But you have it named: the LLC Jungle is one, Money and Dirt is a second. They’re named. They’re different. Tell me a little bit about how you came up with titling those blogs the way you did. Kevin Brodehl: Well, a lot of thinking, brainstorming! Anyone who knows me knows I’m a night owl and I do a lot of my best work at night. So do a lot of my best thinking at night. Sometimes at night when I’m done with my billable work somewhere around midnight or so, my brain will be too revved up to fall asleep. And so that’s when I start thinking about different marketing ideas. Honestly, the title of those two blogs just kind of came to me in different late night thought sessions laying down waiting to get tired. Money and Dirt struck me as I mean, I’ve always heard of real estate litigators referred to as dirt lawyers because they deal with their real estate. But to me, I was always more interested in that intersection between big deals gone bad, big loans gone bad, and that’s money. And then the LLC jungle. I really wasn’t looking to start a second blog, but it was around 2018 that I realized, wow, for the last maybe half of my career have been LLC disputes some of them real estate, some of them not. And so I was debating between two titles for that. One was the LLC Jungle. The other was the LLC Whisperer which – I mean – all these titles are a bit corny but corny does get remembered and I’m glad I picked the jungle over the whisperer. Alay Yajnik: I think it fits well too, with your firm’s brand, which is pretty intense, aggressive, sharp litigating law firm. LLC Jungle certainly fits in there are a lot better than whisperer. So yeah. Kevin Brodehl: And I think Jungle also conveyed – with respect to the LLC litigation that I do, there are just so many traps and unknowns and an under-appreciated aspects to LLC law that I thought Jungle better summarized those risks. Alay Yajnik: We can definitely see the tigers lurking in the underbrush. And so you did Money and Dirt and presumably you enjoyed that. And there were some signs there that it was working for you. We’ll get to that in a minute. But what was it that actually made you say to yourself, OK, you know what, I’m going to do this second blog, The LLC Jungle. I’m going to double down and spend more time doing blogs, and I’m going to launch a separate blog instead of just doing more Money and Dirt posts. Kevin Brodehl: Yeah, it was such a challenge for me to actually pull the trigger on it because it was right around the time that I was leaving my bigger, comfortable regional firm to start up with my partners now in a smaller firm. My two partners now, Randy and John, they had been together for a decade. So it was really neat joining them. But we also changed a lot when I came aboard. I had new ideas to implement. So there were a lot of entrepreneurial efforts going into my career at that point in time. So that’s another reason I didn’t have time for a second blog, but maybe it was just having on all those entrepreneurial thoughts, like how do we run a firm better? How do we build a better firm, how do we build a better practice that I just couldn’t ignore the massive opportunity that I saw in niching out on this L.L.C. stuff. And I actually reached out to a former partner at a big San Francisco firm that I had gotten to know through the UC Davis Law Alumni. And I told her what I was going through and I got enough on my plate already. But there’s this opportunity with this L.L.C. stuff. And she said, “Kevin, you have to go for it.” And so I did, right around the same time we we started the new firm. Alay Yajnik: And so now that you’re in a few years into it, into both of these blogs, how have those blogs actually helped to practice? Kevin Brodehl: So I’ll admit that probably the one deficiency I have is any real systematic, organized way of tracking things. However, yeah, I’ve noticed more and more lately that when I get calls or referrals, people will mention the blog. Now, a lot of the time – I would say most of the time – the blogs serve as, you know, confirmation or verification that I might know what I’m talking about instead of just, oh, I found you through your blog. But there’s been a lot of instances in the past couple of years where they actually have found me through my blog and these are not small cases, they’re bigger matters and they’re sophisticated clients who – you know, in this day and age, a lot of our sophisticated clients are doing their own research and they’re not going to represent themselves proper in a case, but they’re certainly going to do a lot of digging and figure out as much as they can before they hire an attorney. And so to me, the blogs provide credibility more than that direct pipeline of business, but it’s worked both ways. Alay Yajnik: There’s a couple of things that you mentioned. There were fantastic points. I want to make sure the audience remembers these. The first is that you cannot necessarily draw a line from a blog post to potential clients, that line is hard to draw. It does happen and it’s happened with you, but you can’t always make that direct connection. That’s first thing to bear in mind. Alay Yajnik: The second that you mentioned is your blogs are not basic topics. They’re sophisticated blogs written for a sophisticated audience. And so maybe it’s not as surprising when the people that read those blogs contact you and they’re good cases because you’re talking about complex topics. And so just a word to attorneys that are doing blogs. If you want to attract a basic audience – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if who you want to attract, write a basic blog. If you want to attract a sophisticated audience, write a sophisticated blog, because what you put out there is what you’re going to get back. And I love that you really took an intentional approach to doing that. Kevin Brodehl: Yeah. And I think another kind of comment that dovetails with that, Alay, is the importance of having a niche and really having subject matter expertise. I know that a lot of my earlier marketing efforts were writing an article about this new appeal case about evidence or attorney fees or some really nuts and bolts procedural stuff that frankly would really only interest other attorneys. And I think that having a niche, having the subject matter expertise in my case with the LLC’s and with the, you know, the money and dirt type cases, that’s going to help a lot, too. It just helps you be more memorable when you’re writing about things that are in a very narrow lane. And to me, that’s probably one of the hardest things to to get past as a younger attorney trying to market. You just you want to spread it out so broadly to make sure you don’t miss any opportunities. And one of the first things I read about and learned about when I started getting into this marketing thing was the value of a niche that the narrower you get, the bigger your opportunities actually are going to be. And that’s been one hundred percent true for me. Alay Yajnik: I love that. And so how did you find your niches if you think back? Kevin Brodehl: So it’s funny because it was not really an intentional “I’m going to dive into this practice area” type thing. And for many years I struggled with the niche concept because I could see how it would be valuable to have a niche. But I always just thought of myself, and I’m just a business and real estate litigator. I do a whole bunch of business and real estate related cases. I can’t narrow it down any further than that. But it was really only after just a lot of reflection over the types of cases I was doing and drilling down and seeing how other attorneys who did business in real estate litigation, whose practice looked nothing like mine, it just took some thinking about how to appreciate how is my practice different, how are my cases different? And it was really a process of deduction more than anything else. I realized, these are the two areas that I kind of own with my practice. Alay Yajnik: I thank you for being so honest about that because so many attorneys that I work with, they think that, OK, we’re going to go on this offsite and there’s going to be this this white board, and we’re going to go through this big analytical exercise about opportunities and strategy and come up with this brilliant, brilliant move. Oftentimes, that’s not the case. That’s been my experience too. My focus on attorneys was literally just reflecting on my clients and saying, “Oh, my gosh. I have a ton of clients who are lawyers and law firms, maybe I should focus on that.” And you were open to finding a niche for a long time before you deduced where your sweet spot was and where your niche should be. And so oftentimes that’s really what it is. It’s reflecting, being open to it, thinking about it. Kevin Brodehl: Yeah. And at my prior firm, we had a marketing coach that would work with groups of attorneys at a time for a short period. But I remember one comment he made to me when I was kind of griping about this. “You know, I’m just a business real estate lawyer. You can’t ask me out any more than that, man.” And he said, “Kevin, if you were in North Dakota, maybe you could be the business and real estate litigator and that would really stand out. But you’re in the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area of California. There are thousands of other business and real estate litigators that basically brand themselves that way. In your area, you need to drill down.” And I think that really inspired me to to get a little deeper. Alay Yajnik: Outstanding. That is terrific. And it is a process that you go through. I remember one of my clients, an estate planning attorney, we had to figure out what made her unique, what was the unique value proposition. And it turned out she did not have a specialization like you do. It was just general estate planning. But in her area, in her geographic area, at her price point and with her background, she was the only attorney in the area that kind of checked those three pieces of criteria. And so that’s how she marketed herself and it worked out really well for her. So, yeah, that you’re finding a way to differentiate yourself is awesome. And just out of curiosity, now that you’ve got these blogs and you have these niches, what has that done to simplify your marketing? Kevin Brodehl: Oh, it’s helped immensely. It really has. Whereas before I used to just pitch across the broad spectrum of real estate and business issues. Now I just pitched super narrow and the LLC was actually even narrower than the money and dirt because money and dirt still encompasses quite a few different types of cases. You have your real estate investors maybe fighting with each other. You have a purchase and sale agreement that’s gone bad between a developer and a big landowner. They’re still kind of a big variety. They’re the LLC jungle. It’s about as narrow as it gets. It’s, hey, if you’re a member or a manager in an LLC and you’re having internal problems, I mean, that’s what I do. And people remember that much easier than just, oh, Brodehl’s the business and real estate litigator. It’s so much more specific. Alay Yajnik: Yeah. And clearly you put a lot of thought into what you post. I don’t appreciate all the nuances, but I’ve gone through and read some of those posts. I can tell they’re very well thought out and well articulated, which begs the question, when I look at a lot of attorney websites, they have had one blog post in the last three months. Now with with the pandemic, they might not have blogged in 2020 at all. How do you find the time to not just blog on one but do two blogs. Kevin Brodehl: Well, so when I started the second blog I had Money and Dirt for a couple of years, 2014 until 2018. 2018 is when I started the LLC Jungle. Back when I just did Money and Dirt my goal was to post twice per month and I hit that. And when I started the LLC Jungle I figured, well if I post twice per month on both blogs then I kill myself. It’s just too much. And so I shifted to twice per month, one for one blog, one for the other blog. And that’s what I’ve maintained pretty much every month since they started. The way I make time for it, it’s just the same way to make time for anything else. You habitualize it. It’s a goal of mine. And oftentimes if you look at my blogs, you’ll see that a post might be on the 30th or 31st of the month because I hold myself accountable. Each blog needs one post per month and so I’ve held myself to that the same way you hold yourself to workouts or any other habit that you want to have. Even when I’m busy, even when I’m in trial, I’ll get one done. Alay Yajnik: Well, that’s the point I was going to mention is you’re a litigator. And so at times your workload can get pretty intense. Plus, you’re a partner at the firm. And just so everyone here knows, just so you all know when you’re listening, Kevin doesn’t just sit in his office and blog as his only business development tactic. I mean, you are out, right, Kevin? You’re out and about as far as other marketing that you do. Kevin Brodehl: Yeah. Yeah. The blogs are just one component. My favorite thing to do is just go out and meet people and talk to people. In fact, one of the first marketing books I’ve read, the quote that I’ll never forget was “business is best done belly to belly.” It just means get out of your office and go meet people because it’s only really when you have that one to one or maybe in a three person lunch dialog that you really get to know people. And so, yeah, it’s in person communications. It’s networking groups. You and I are both involved in ProVisors. That’s been a great group. I’ve been involved in other industry groups from here and there. But those regular coffees, lunches and small group meetings – there’s no substitute for those. Alay Yajnik: So Kevin spends hours probably every week networking, whether it’s on Zoom or whether it’s in person, and he’s a partner at his firm, so he helps run that. He’s involved with hiring for his law firm and he’s a litigator – and a very active and busy one. And Kevin still finds the time to do two blog posts a month. So for all of you out there who are saying, “I don’t have the time to do a blog post,” you do have the time. You just have to prioritize it. Alay Yajnik: And so, Kevin, you know, many attorneys have blogs, but their blogs don’t seem to help them. And we’ve talked quite a bit about some things that you’re doing differently. But as you reflect on that, what do you think might be different about your approach? Kevin Brodehl: Well, I think in all my thinking about marketing in my own head, at least have distilled it to three things. One is to be visible. Two is to be memorable. And three is to be helpful. And there’s no real secret to any of those. Being helpful speaks for itself. The first one, being visible, just means you got to get out there and do stuff, whether it’s write or talk to people. It’s the middle one, I think, where you can really go with the blogs being memorable, it really just means writing about something that matters. You know, my earlier efforts, I think, probably lacked that component because, again, I was just writing about generic issues that pop up and might be of some vague interest to maybe every attorney in the world, but not that interesting. And now having the focus and the niche, when I write about things, it might not be interesting to ninety or ninety five percent of the world population out there, but for anyone swimming in the L.L.C. jungle streams that I’m in or in the money and dirt streams, it’s going to hit, it’s going to hit with at least some group of people. And so I think being memorable goes hand in hand with having that niche. Alay Yajnik: That’s a terrific point. I love how you broke it down into those three things, visible and memorable and helpful. That’s awesome. And the nice thing about blogs is they live into perpetuity. So once you write it, it’s out there, it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever. For those of you that are looking to get started with a blog, as Kevin said, your early blogs might not be great. They might suck. But Kevin, I’m sure you’re finding now it’s a lot easier to write a blog than maybe it was before it got started, right? Kevin Brodehl: It does. You get your formula down. For me, it’s just a matter of new cases being published by the Courts of Appeal in California, kind of the backbone of my blogs. It’s not always about a new case, but it usually is. And so I just keep track of cases. I save the cases that look interesting. And then each week I’ll go back and look at them closer and figure out which one is it, blog worthy. And it’s kind of built into my daily and weekly grind at this point. Alay Yajnik: And because you’re doing that, because you’re constantly going back and looking at these cases to determine which ones are interesting and which ones we’re publishing, has that had any impact on your ability to keep up to date and current as an attorney? Kevin Brodehl: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I always joke with people that I’m finding more and more now I’ll come across a situation and a case, a real life case, one that I’m handling as an attorney. And I’ll think, you know, I’ve seen this fact pattern emerge somewhere else before. And I think I blogged about a case that would help me here. And I’ll search back. And sure enough, like five years ago, I blogged about a case that’s applicable to the current dispute. So it’s actually been helpful for my own education to look back and have that kind of library resources that I’ve already thought about. Alay Yajnik: And as you were thinking about starting up these blogs or continuing with the blogs, one of the things I’ve heard a lot about attorneys that they tend to be perfectionists. And so how did you overcome that? “I’ve got to make this thing perfect, but I also have a deadline and it’s the 30th of the month and I’ve got to get this done.” How did you get past that, get the blog published and continue to move forward? Kevin Brodehl: Boy, it is hard because attorneys are perfectionists. I think you just have to keep reminding yourself this is not a brief. This is not going to result in a win or a loss for your client. It does reflect on you. So, of course, you can’t be too cavalier about it. You do have to put in thought. But, you know, sometimes less is more. I always aim for a pretty brief blog post, even if it’s a really complicated forty page appellate decision. I know that there are going to be many issues that just don’t connect with anyone reading it. And so I usually try to distill it down to the one or two important things about that case. And then as I’m writing it, I’m always trying to keep the audience in mind: this is not for me. This is not necessarily for other attorneys. This is for people who just want to get the gist, get the punch line. Have it be something that sits with them and affects them, and you’re not going to get that by writing a law review article, every blog post. Alay Yajnik: Absolutely. What do you think about – this is something I’ve been thinking about as this topic came up. There’s a lot of companies out there. When they’re doing the SEO stuff, they also offer to write blogs. And I don’t think you use those services. Correct me if you do, but I don’t know that you do. Kevin Brodehl: You are right about that. I do not use them. And it’s funny you mention that, because when I came and joined John and Randy to make Patton Sullivan Brodehl, one of the first things I wanted to do was revamp our website. And so I took on the lead of figuring out how do we do this? And boy, I spoke with probably 10 different shops that said, “We specialize in law firm websites. That’s all we do. We know how to do this.” I found that very appealing. And I talked to all of them and they all wanted to sell this: We’ll write your blog post for you, SEO and SEO and we’ll write it. We know what keywords to include. And I just thought to myself, “I don’t want you to write my blog posts.” I mean, it would be easier to have someone else write all this stuff for me, but that’s not why I do it. I do it for myself partly. And once you lose authorship of the blog, to me it’s like, what are you doing it for? I guess it would work maybe with them, I don’t know, more consumer-focused, that consumer-facing type practice where maybe the issues you really are just trying to appeal to a mass audience. But for me and my practice areas, they’re just so narrow and specific and they’re pretty complex, too, to figure out that I just needed to maintain authorship. So we ended up not using any of those national websites / blogging firms, and we found a local option that was much better, a great option and kept full control of the blogs. Alay Yajnik: Terrific. That’s awesome, because if you’re just blogging for SEO locally in your market and you want to do something that’s just out there, that’s going to maybe throw off a few leads and a basic blog service where you outsource, it might be the way to go. But that’s not what you’re doing with the LLC Jungle and Money and Dirt. You’re building something special and you’re putting a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of sophistication into the content. And the return you get is commensurate with that. I don’t know that you could outsource these to other organizations and have anywhere near the return on your investment as you’re getting by doing it yourself. It does take more time and more of your effort. But there are so many rewards as we’ve been talking through here today. Kevin Brodehl: Yep, I agree. Alay Yajnik: Well, as attorneys are looking to really get their business development on track or if they’re looking to really upgrade it and take it to the next level, I know we’ve been talking about blogs here today, but it’s part of your overall business development strategy. What is some advice that you have for those people that are just looking to get started or to really take it to the next level? Kevin Brodehl: One thing I would advise younger attorneys looking to get started is just don’t be afraid to try a lot of different stuff, because there are there are so many ways to market your practice. And I mean, maybe they can be boiled down to some fundamentals. You do have to meet people. You have to get to know people. And you can’t really do that effectively by being a hermit and doing nothing but research and writing your briefs. So you do have to get out there. But beyond that, it’s so customizable. And I don’t think that there is one blueprint for success. And I know I searched I mean, back when I started thinking about marketing, I wanted someone to give me a blueprint and I was ready to charge into it. But no one ever gave me a blueprint. They just had these suggestions about, well, maybe this maybe that even the mentor partners at my firm who had wild success with their practices, even they said, well, I don’t have a formula, but here’s a few things you might try, and it depends on what you want to do. And so it really is free form. It’s so customizable. And I think it starts with the the motivation, frankly, to just want to build a practice. And some people don’t want to. They’re comfortable just doing the work and doing the work. But like I said, the recession in 2008 really changed my attitude about how comfortable I was doing the work, because for many, many years I thought of myself as the technician. I would be the best writer and the best researcher and the best arguer in court. And that’s all I needed out of my career. And the recession came and everyone took massive pay cuts. And I had a third kid on the way. And I thought to myself, you know what, maybe I should start thinking about this. So advice is to just do what works for you, try out reading and writing and try out speaking, because I’ve also focused a lot on speaking gigs that kind of revolve around my blogs. So that’s been a natural evolution. And since COVID hit, I’ve been giving webinars on the L.L.C. Jungle, which used to be in-person seminars. But there are so many different things to try. You just have to try them and maybe there is an industry group or organization that would be super valuable for other practices. For me, it didn’t have a ton of appeal, but that could be very valuable, depending on what industry you’re in and what kind of practice you’re in. But I think the number one tip is to just get out and start trying stuff and don’t be afraid of failing because seven out of 10 might go absolutely nowhere and another two out of 10 might just be kind of vague and you don’t really know if they’re working or not. And so the best gauge is, are you having fun doing it? Are you being helpful for other people? And are other people remembering what you do through your marketing efforts? To me, that’s the key. Alay Yajnik: Yeah, I love it. I love it. And by the way, I’d be suspicious if anyone does have a blueprint to give you because it may have worked well for one person, but it will not work well for the majority of people. You’re absolutely right. And the faster they try things, the faster you might call it failure. I call it learning, but the faster they get to what they really enjoy doing, what they’re good at, what puts them in front of the right people, the faster they can go to practice. That’s terrific advice. So Patton Sullivan Brodehl and then the L.L.C. Jungle and Money and Dirt blogs, you have a lot of irons in the fire with the growing law firm and these two blogs that are attracting a lot of attention. What excites you about Patton Sullivan Brodehl and the blogs and the future? Kevin Brodehl: Well, I’m having more fun at this smaller platform than I’ve had in my whole career. I’m excited about the entrepreneurial angles that having a smaller firm brings. And I am excited for the future, because I will say that since I started up at the smaller firm, it just feels like people want to give me business. More people, I think, respect the other entrepreneurs in their community. And I think just in general, something I’ve noticed for many years is a lot of clients have lost their lust for the big firm practice. I think clients are kind of catching on to the fact that, you know, these big firms with huge overheads, they’re paying for that. The clients are paying for that. And so there is to me, there’s a huge opportunity for smaller firms to really take very good, valuable work from some of the work that’s traditionally been done by the bigger firms in the area. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing. We’ve been growing. I hired our first associate in January of 2020 this year. And it’s been a great ride. And I think our firm is one of several that I have gotten to know around the area with really excellent attorneys, because I think the misperception and I spent my whole career at bigger regional firms and I always thought, oh, why would anyone want to be at a smaller firm? It’s like you feel so unsupported and naked at a smaller firm. But now I’m seeing, like, a lot of really, really smart attorneys with good, strong practices have left and started smaller firms. And everyone I’ve talked to, they’re happier than they’ve ever been, and that includes me. Alay Yajnik: Well, in the past, maybe there wasn’t as much of a choice because technology didn’t enable that as well. You needed a lot more to start a firm 20 years ago than you do today. And you’re absolutely right. A lot of firms have figured that out and a lot of attorneys have figured that out and they figure they can bill fewer hours and make more money than they could at if they worked at a large firm. So totally get it. And that is exciting. If people want to read up on your blogs, where should they go? Kevin Brodehl: I’m an easy person to find on the Internet. You can go to either of the blogs: MoneyandDirt.Com or thellcjungle.com. You can also check out our firm Web site at psblegal.com or you can just Google my name, Kevin Brodehl. You’ll find me pretty easily. Alay Yajnik: Awesome. Awesome. Well, Kevin, thank you very much. Really appreciate your time today. Thanks for all your advice and insight and for being on the show. Kevin Brodehl: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me and good luck. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember: you can seize freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.
30 minutes | 4 months ago
Leveraging Relationships with Mika Domingo
In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Mika Domingo, owner of M.S. Domingo Law Group, discuss how Mika built relationships that she was ultimately able to leverage to build her book of business: Serve your clients incredibly well. It’s the best advertising. Reach out to your connections…both business and personal. Talk with them. Become a master listener, and listen to what their concerns are. Then, try to help them or connect them with someone who can. Leverage activities you’re already involved with, such as a social club or activity club. Become a thought leader by speaking about technical aspects of the law that interest you. Get involved with a bar association and build relationships by collaborating with your colleagues. A good business coach will help you leverage your relationships, choose the best organizations, and put together an approach for how to leverage both. Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart Business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1…. Alay Yajnik: And I’d like to welcome to the show Mika Domingo, the founding attorney with the M.S. Domingo Law Group. Mika, welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. Mika Domingo: Thank you, Alay. I’m very excited to be here. Thank you for having me. Alay Yajnik: Delighted that you’re here. And tell us a little bit about your firm and the areas in which you practice. Mika Domingo: M.S. Domingo Law Group helps individuals protect their assets and loved ones in the event of incapacity, disability or death. We prepare wills, trusts, advance health care directives and powers of attorney. We also represent individuals in probate and trust, administration and litigation matters. So these include will contests and will defenses, breaches of fiduciary duties, breaches of misconduct, probate litigation, improper execution, undue influence, elder abuse, fraud, removal of trustees, removal of executors and creditors, claims against the estate. M.S. Domingo Law Group is located in Walnut Creek, California, and we represent clients in both Northern and Southern California. Alay Yajnik: Awesome. And so I understand you do a lot of trust and estates type of litigation. Are there other practice areas that you that you do as well in your law group? Mika Domingo: Yes. About two years ago, we started taking cases, auto collision cases. So we do have that as well. Alay Yajnik: So how does auto collision fit in with trust and estates litigation? Mika Domingo: Totally unrelated to trust and estate litigation! And the reason why I started doing some of these cases is because I have some colleagues or referred cases to me who were really seeking me out for the civil litigation experience that I’ve had. And so I was very limited in what I wanted to take initially those cases that that were strict liability cases. And that’s worked out well. Whenever I get any cases that have to do with med, mal and complex cases, I’m sure to refer those cases to my colleagues who focus primarily on personal injury cases. Alay Yajnik: I think it’s terrific that you are such a highly thought of litigator that people are willing to bring you those kinds of cases, cases which are outside the trust and estates realm. But I really want to hear about some of the reasons why you started your own firm, because it didn’t have to be that way. Mika Domingo: Right. So I started out as a litigator. I served as a deputy attorney general for the attorney general’s office in Sacramento. This was during the time our vice president elect, Kamala Harris, was the attorney general for the state of California. It was an incredible experience. I really enjoyed my work there. I had the opportunity to work on constitutional law matters, Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, First Amendment issues. The training was foundational and allowed me to hone my skills as a litigator. And I really enjoyed the mentoring also from the supervising deputy attorney generals. However, I couldn’t sustain the five hour a day commute via the Amtrak. I didn’t like to drive. And so I took the Amtrak from home and the five hours was just very exhausting. Mika Domingo: I took the first job available working for this private firm that was fifteen minutes away from home. And at that firm I learned about estate planning, real property, business law, and I handled some litigation matters, but not quite enough. I worked ten to twelve hours, five days a week and another eight to ten on the weekend. I appreciated the exposure, though, to those newer practice areas. Alay Yajnik: That is really something! So that commute, that five hour commute, must have been brutal and I totally see why you would step away from that to something so much closer to home. And then sounds like iwhen you were working at this other firm, you learned so many different practice areas. What was it that made you decide to leave that firm and start your own law firm? Mika Domingo: So the experience was very valuable to me because I was able to get exposure to trust and estates and work with attorneys who have been in the business for 30, 40 years. But the hours were long and the conditions really not ideal for me. And it wasn’t really conducive to both my professional and personal growth, and I wanted more flexibility with my time and autonomy over my own cases. As you know, before becoming an attorney, I had worked in other industries, including publishing and finance. I ran a publishing firm and worked as a finance auditor and also engaged in various small business ventures. And my family also runs a small corporation, real and a commercial property rental. So I was always looking – and I still am – I’m always looking for opportunities for growth. I enjoy doing project management, building and motivating a team. I like running numbers in my head, managing finances, building something new, taking risk, well-calculated risks and challenging the status quo. So launching my own practice made a lot of sense to me and the idea of being my own boss again really energized me. Alay Yajnik: And so when you did that, you stepped out, you started your own law firm. It’s another challenge for you to tackle and well in line with your interests. And then you realized, well, OK, now I’ve got to bring in the business. And you’ve been successful at that. You’ve hired staff as a result. How have you built your book of business over the years? Mika Domingo: You’re absolutely right about the challenges, definitely challenging and exciting at the same time. So the first thing I did was leverage my existing personal and professional networks. Mika Domingo: As I mentioned, I had worked in finance as an auditor and my mother ran a very successful international CPA bookkeeping firm. So I had access to professional CPAs, bookkeepers, business owners. So I reached out to contacts and anyone with a vast network to let them know what I was up to. I was fortunate to have had 12 estate planning clients on my first week from a CPA attorney power partner who was actually one of my mom’s mentees. I reached out to past mentors and colleagues who work in various industries to start planting seeds, and I received a tremendous amount of support from lifelong contacts and most of whom I had known for two decades. Mika Domingo: So I dialed in on my various connections and really focused on serving them well, because I knew that I needed to have that foundation, and I needed to make sure that whoever I served came back, which they did. They came back and brought their family and friends. So I had a decent flow of clients coming in. Of course, I knew that was only the beginning and I needed to have a strategic plan. Mika Domingo: But I have to say, as far as what I did initially, I didn’t necessarily subscribe to those traditional methods of marketing: direct mailing newsletters, blogging, search engine optimization, Internet marketing. But as I grow my practice, those areas I’m looking more into. Mika Domingo: But the second thing I did was focus on being a master at listening. I was fortunate to have had over twenty five years of experience serving on leadership roles and volunteering for both nonprofit and for profit organizations. So reaching out to my contacts, as I did in the past, was really nothing new. So over the past two decades, I’ve developed relationships with individuals who do just about anything you can think of. They’re really from so many different worlds. You know, the social workers, crisis counselors, CEOs of high tech companies, restaurateurs, bankers, educators, retail owners, Broadway actors, publicists, policy makers, CPAs, engineers, doctors, web developers, news and media professionals, composers. Our managers, advertisers, officers of the court, just the list goes on. Alay Yajnik: That’s amazing. How on earth did you manage to connect and build relationships with so many people? Mika Domingo: So quite a few of my contacts are centers of influences in their industries. My general approach, when connecting with both people I already know and people who are introduced to me is to really focus on listening. I learned this in theater, of course. Think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, you either attract or repel. Right? So, of course, it’s helpful to have some of those skills, those basic skills that we learned in some of our leadership conferences where you learn about somebody’s personality so that you can have a sort of a way to approach people, because that’s an integral part of communicating, right, is listening. So when I reach out to individuals I’ve known over the past two or three decades from different aspects of my life and and my family and my siblings who are also very, very social and involved in their own industries. When I reach out to them, I always focus on listening to understand what their concerns are so I can figure out if I have a solution for them or if I know somebody who has a solution for them. So I’ve been known as a listener rather than a talker, although if you ask my immediate family, I’m probably most often the talker. So I’m someone who’s just genuinely interested in issues that concern others I’m interested in and not just the the industry I work in, but in in theater and sports and all sorts of things. And so that’s why the connection, if you look at I’ve listed those connections, they come from different industries. Mika Domingo: So I just listened intently and make sure I take the each moment to absorb what’s going on before formulating a response, because I know that communicating in this way really has an effect on one’s credibility, trustworthiness and authority. I focus more on it. It doesn’t really matter where I am. If I’m at a football game or friend’s concert, I have a lot of friends who are in opera and Broadway or movie directors. Doesn’t matter where I am, my focus is on how I can be in that moment with whoever that person is and listen and even provide resources, if I can, and help deepen and develop those ties between the individuals or between businesses and create a win/win situation. Mika Domingo: So listening intently leads me to focus more on other people who had to understand what they’re about, what they might need if I can help. So I like to think of myself as the one who leads and and moves people to action. So I’m oftentimes a facilitator and I like to think I’m the facilitator of the transaction. And if I can’t do it myself, I know somebody who can do it for you. Alay Yajnik: I think there’s a lot of things that you that you just rolled out there and oh my gosh, for starting a law firm, you have put in place several great things for people to internalize and put into action as they’re starting their firm. First off, talking to everyone that they know, professional, personal, it doesn’t matter. Even if they don’t have the the sphere of influence that you do, Mika, they can certainly talk to everybody about what they do and potentially get clients that way. And I think it’s amazing that you got 12 estate planning clients in your first week. But given your network and your genuine interest in helping people, they are also going to be genuinely interested in helping you. So I’m not surprised at those results either, and that those results have continued to build. The second thing you mentioned is the value of listening with the intent of helping people. Now, it’s one thing to just listen and smile and nod, but you’re thinking about, OK, how can I help this person? What do they need right now? And whether I can do something for them or I know someone or something that they can take advantage of. How can I connect them with that? That’s awesome. Mika Domingo: Absolutely. And and so by my second year, I hired a business coach, Alay Yajnik, who helped me with business development. And you remember this. So we zeroed in on my vision plan and tangible steps to achieve my goals and looked at other areas of improvement. I remember there’s this acronym I learned from you and it’s called SMART. Do you remember that? Specific, measurable, aligned, realistic, time bound. Alay Yajnik: And you remember! That’s awesome! Mika Domingo: I remember a lot of those graphs and pivot tables and, you know, time management tools, so I use those tools I learned from you and it’s been incredibly helpful and really has yielded results. So as a business person, I understand how critical business planning is. And with smaller companies, with limited time and personal resources, this is often overlooked. And so I, I have really benefited from working with you. And I know that having a roadmap is a critical step, especially when there are unfamiliar areas to explore. If you remember, we looked at all these other things I could be doing. Right. Alay Yajnik: A lot of things you could be doing. Yes. Mika Domingo: Absolutely. And one of them was being a thought leader, which had not even thought of before we started working together. And since then, I have done, not a lot, but several presentations with various organizations on topics relating to trust and estates, launching my own practice, managing caseload and so forth. So I also attend a lot of lectures and listen to podcasts to learn from others. You also remember we look at the activities I’m already involved in. Alay Yajnik: That was quite a list. Mika Domingo: Yes. And the idea was you wanted me to leverage those connections. So, for example, my husband belongs to a golf club that does monthly tournaments, so every golfer in his club has his own professional and social connections and can potentially share resources. And this year – I haven’t told you about this yet. I started my own golf club. Alay Yajnik: You did! And we talked about that. You mentioned you were thinking about it. So you actually went ahead and did it! Mika Domingo: I did, yeah. We started officially our first round was in August. And I am expanding. I have a lot of colleagues who are interested in joining. I actually have some business owners who want to sponsor my first tournament. Alay Yajnik: Congratulations. That’s wonderful! Mika Domingo: Yeah. Thank you. And thank you for the encouragement. So we’re looking at at the end of next year or maybe even twenty, twenty two. As you know, the pandemic has placed restrictions on get togethers, but golf is one of a few things we can continue to do and to be out in nature and continue to connect with others from a distance. Everyone wears a mask when we play. And, you know, you have several foursomes actually, because there’s a lot of us now. So I’m having to book all the golf course and book four to five different slots. And I think it’s a win/win because we love the game. My husband and I and my family, my dad loves it, too. And we love to connect with others. So I’m really excited. And I know Alay, we also looked at my involvement with bar organizations. Alay Yajnik: Yes. I was going to bring that up. Yeah. Tell us more. Mika Domingo: So through the bar organizations, I’ve worked with some of the most well-respected attorneys and leaders in the county who have supported me from day one. James Wu, a colleague and good friend who is an employment attorney and past president. Alay Yajnik: Yeah, I know James really well! In fact, this is this is kind of funny. And James, if you’re listening, you’ll get a chuckle out of this. So I’ve interviewed some amazing guests on this podcast. Even though it’s pretty new. We just recently exceeded 600 downloads, which is kind of neat. But the top downloaded podcast out of all of the 15 or so that I’ve done so far is the one that I did with James where James talked about Bar Association leadership. Mika Domingo: That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. Wow. Yes. And so those connections to the bar and friends that I’ve had for a long time, Natalie DeCourtaso, who an estate planner and also co-counsel for some of my cases, is also Commissioner Gina Dashman, who worked for a large firm, and Tim Heiden, who also practices trust and estates. And these are my core, my key power partners and mastermind partners. And it’s been amazing to know them and to strategize with them, share ideas. I’ve served on numerous boards over the past decades and over the past 10 years, I’ve served on boards both in Contra Costa County, Alameda and San Francisco counties. I’m still currently on the Contra Costa Bar Association and California women lawyers serving on several committees. And within those groups, I’ve worked closely with attorneys and other professionals and develop relationships with them. And so one of the questions that I have for you, you get involved in so many organizations and because you have a lot to contribute to those organizations, they all want you to do more. They want you to take leadership positions in organized activities. At the same time, you have to bring in business for your firm. You have to manage your team. You have to do the client work. How do you manage to balance your time between all of those things? Mika Domingo: Managing all the things I want to do has always been a challenge. As you mentioned, I am interested in so many things. It’s it’s easy for me to say yes. Right. To request for help. And I’m passionate about the organizations I belong to. So oftentimes they spend a disproportionate amount of time on volunteer work. In the past, I’ve done 20 to 30 hours a week on volunteer work and maybe only 20 on my firm. And I know you’re going to say something here I can see it! And 10 to 5 on teaching, but this year I’ve done a lot of reflecting and decided to scale back a bit on my volunteer work and prioritize my health and my business. So that’s changing. 2021 is going to be a different year, of course, for most of us. For all of us, it better be. Alay Yajnik: We’re all looking forward to 2021! Mika Domingo: Yes! Alay Yajnik: But it can get really overwhelming. And I know one of the first things we did, we’re working together as we looked at where you were spending your time and so much of your time was going into so many of these worthy causes, but it wasn’t really driving business to your firm. Alay Yajnik: And so talk a little bit about some of the changes you made there so that your activities where you were spending your time was was resulting in business for your firm. Mika Domingo: So as far as the organizations I have worked with, we we kept track, right? With a pivot table of where the yield was, what was going on there. And what I did was just communicated with some of the nonprofits that I was not going to be able to do some of the more taxing projects. And if I know that, for example, for one particular organization, I’m spending 10 hours, 20 hours a month and I have 18 other organizations to volunteer for. So I focused more on the centers of influence, the power partners, those who tended to reach out to me on a more frequent basis for help because it just made more sense. If I make myself more available to those power partners, then they tend to come back and not go somewhere else. So I just sort of reconfigured things so that my energy was just not spent on so many organizations. And actually this year has been – the last quarter – I’m spending a lot of time on that and just communicating it with some of the organizations. For example: well, if I’m not able to do this holiday virtual event that you want me to work on, which I’ve worked on in the past and I spent 20 hours, I may it may sponsor it, you know, give some assist financial assistance so that I’m still there. Mika Domingo: I’m helping. And as far as how that helps my business, then my firm is a little bit more visible. Because a lot of the work, quite honestly, that I do there, just work that they are impactful, but nobody mentions it. Right. Except, of course, those projects that that I participate in where I serve as chair or president of an organization, then you have a little bit more visibility. Mika Domingo: But as far as the organizations that I’ve volunteered with what I’ve done is sort of combined one of the tools that I learned from you, and that’s being a thought leader. So I volunteered to speak at their events so that if I’m there, I’m taking space, I’m taking time. I’m also communicating with them what I can do, what my firm can do for them. So it could be a realtor association, a theater group. It could be one of my spiritual groups, it doesn’t matter. I make sure that the time spent with each organization is is worth my time and could potentially yield results. Alay Yajnik: And what I love about that is you haven’t just cut off all of those organizations. You’re still involved with a ton of organizations. You’re doing a lot of great work in the community, just maybe not spending quite as much time doing all of that as you were before and instead doing other things like sponsoring activities, contributing funds, or stepping down from a leadership role and dialing back your your involvement a little bit. So you’re still able to keep involved. You’re doing a lot of good work in the community. You’re doing a lot of great work with Contra Costa County Bar Association, but you’re still able to focus on the relationships that are bringing in the cases for your firm, because let’s be honest, you’ve got to take care of your firm, too, just like you take care of your health and the community. Mika Domingo: Absolutely. Alay Yajnik: Wonderful. Well, Mika, thank you so much for for spending the time today. I’ve got one final question for you, and that is: what excites you about M.S. Domingo Law Group as you think about the future? Mika Domingo: Great question. I’m very excited to continue, of course, serving my clients to take on more litigation cases and collaborate with other attorneys. I want to improve our marketing strategies and visibility in various networks. Mika Domingo: I had some practice doing that in using our our platforms because of the pandemic. So we’re doing quite a bit of presentations online. And also M.S. Domingo Law Group is looking to hire. So we’re looking to hire a paralegal and an associate. We’re looking for a paralegal who has at least five years of related experience and an associate with at least three years of litigation experience. Mika Domingo: And also very excited to launch my own podcasts in 2021 and to expand my golf club. So I hope to see you there when we have our tournament. It’d be great to see you. Alay Yajnik: Well, I would love to participate. My drive is about 400 yards. But the problem with it is it always hooks at a 45 degree angle and goes out of play. So if I do 18 holes, I usually lose about 20 golf balls. Mika Domingo: Oh, wow. Yeah, 20 is a lot. Alay Yajnik: It’s about one per hole. But I’m happy to come out and knock a few out out of play for you. Mika Domingo: That’s great. That’s quite a distance tale. Yeah. Alay Yajnik: Yeah. Now if I can just get it straight, that would be really good, right. Mika Domingo: My shots tend to be straight and short, very much consistent with who I am. Alay Yajnik: At least they’re in play and they’re moving towards the goal, which is also consistent with who you are as well. Mika, thank you so much for being on the show today. Alay Yajnik: And if people wanted to reach you and talk about your golf group or your upcoming podcast or just wanted to get in touch or potentially apply for that paralegal or that associate position, what’s the best way for them to reach you? Mika Domingo: The best way is two ways: call me. My number is 925-891-5006 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alay Yajnik: Thank you, Mika. Thank you for being on the show. It’s always terrific to have a client on the show. I appreciate all the kind words and all the advice you’ve given to our listeners. Thank you. Mika Domingo: Thank you, Alay. Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to write this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember, you CAN seize freedom. You CAN embrace happiness. You CAN build your Perfect Practice.
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