Guest: Dean Blachford just hanged his solo shingle eight weeks ago. But he didn’t jump into solo practice blind. Instead, he reviewed New Solo’s back catalog and sought advice from host Adriana Linares.
He joins Linares to share his crash course on striking out on his own.
Five Categories of Must-Listen Episodes:
5) Inspirations from famous people
4) Building a marketing plan
3) Planning for proper financial management
2) Nailing down a collections strategy
1) Best of New Solos
Blachford’s Tech Stack:
- Microsoft Teams for team meetings and video conferencing
- Microsoft Word and Excel for planning and collaboration
- Hubspot for contact relationship management
- RingCentral to manage business calls
- Clio for ease of clerk and client use
- LawPay for client payment flexibility
New Insights (brought to you by Nota):
- Veteran practitioner Starlett Massey answers litigation associate Melanie Kalmanson’s question:
- Question 2 of 4: “What is the most underutilized tool in litigation?”
Special thanks to our sponsors, Lawclerk, Alert Communications, Abby Connect, and Clio.
Adriana Linares: Before we get started with today’s episode, I want to make sure and thank our sponsors, Alert Communications, LAWCLERK, Clio and Abby Connect.
As the largest legal-only call center in the US, Alert Communications helps law firms and legal marketing agencies with new client intake. Alert captures and responds to all leads 24/7 365 as an extension of your firm in both English and Spanish. Alert uses proven intake methods customizing responses as needed, which earns the trust of clients and improves client retention. To find out how Alert can help your law office, call 866-827-5568 or visit alertcommunications.com/ltn.
Intro: So, if I was starting today as a new solo, I would do something — the entrepreneurial — you have to communicate that and figure out what your new plan is — we have to change the way they’re practicing — wish that they’ve done it earlier — do that by organize — what it means to be fulfilled — make it easy to work with — becoming a leader — new approach, new tools, new mindset, new solo — and it’s making that leap.
Adriana Linares: Hi and welcome to another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I’m your hostess, Adriana Linares, a legal technology trainer and consultant. I love helping lawyers and law firms figure out how to use technology in order to run their businesses better and today, we’re going to have a really fun conversation about starting your solo law practice business with Dean Blatchford. Hi, Dean.
Dean Blachford: Hi, Adriana.
Adriana Linares: Thanks so much. This is an idea I should give you full credit for this episode because it was an idea that you had as a past listener and I think a current listener of New Solo and it’s a really nice way to pay it forward, right? So you learned a lot from past guests about starting your practice which is what we’re going to get into in a few minutes and I think it was a great idea for you to come on and share those episodes in case somebody’s looking for the crash course because you are a maniac and you actually binge listen to all of them I think.
Dean Blachford: That’s right. There’s three pieces of programming that I have loved to list to binge–The Wire, Game of Thrones and the New Solo podcast.
Adriana Linares: I don’t even know how to respond to that other than that’s a pretty awesome list to be on. So let’s start with who you are, where you live because people are going to recognize your accent and say, “Is that guy Canadian?” You’re going to say, “Yes,” and the type of law that you were practicing and then we’ll talk a little bit about your new solo practice that you just launched not even a month ago.
Dean Blachford: That’s right. We’re three weeks to the day. So I’m a lawyer that helps businesses and individuals who are facing really significant tax disputes with the Canada revenue agency, so that’s our version of your IRS. I’ve been practicing for about eight years, have been specialized in this field from the get-go and three weeks ago today, I joined the ranks of new solo with my law clerk and we departed the wonderful people who are at that firm that I was I was recently with and we launched Blachford Tax Law.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome. I will say this–you have been smartly very active on LinkedIn talking about the practice. You’ve got a newsletter that you’re already firing out. So tell us a little bit just about leaving the firm, breaking the news to them and then thinking about how you were going to get the word out about your new firm.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, so I mean, I’m a maniac about planning and kind of preparing and I’m that way by nature but I also felt like it was really important for this idea of launching because things were so good at my former firm, HazloLaw. So I knew that if I was going to leave, I wanted to kind of have thought of everything and be really prepared. So I’ve been preparing for this. I started to investigate it about a year ago with the caveat that I knew if I couldn’t do something that was going to be really good, I wouldn’t do it because I was happy where I was. But eventually got to the point where I felt good about what I could make, thanks in large part to this podcast. So yeah, we finally after about a year of planning, we launched a few weeks ago and telling my boss, I was really nervous about it because he’s been great throughout but you never know and thankfully, he and his business partner were just fantastic and the whole thing has gone really smoothly.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. So you contacted me, let me think, would it have been September of 2020-ish?
Dean Blachford: That’s when I started listening. I don’t think I reached out to you right away, so probably a bit like somewhere in the winter time.
Adriana Linares: You know what? It may have been you send the initial email to me like, “Hey, I listen to your podcast. I’d like to get some consulting from you,” in maybe December or January knowing that you had about six months for your planned launch. Okay, and you did it during COVID, so brave, brave man.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, I think COVID was helpful in the process because it got me used to working virtually and realizing that my clients don’t actually need to see me in person and saw that me and my law clerk could function really effectively despite also not seeing each other very often.
So COVID, in a way, that’s a very privileged position to be in, but COVID in a way was helpful to me.
Adriana Linares: What tool do you use to communicate with her? Are you all using Teams or Skype or G Chat? How do you stay in touch?
Dean Blachford: We were using Zoom initially but thanks in part to listening to this podcast, I did switch over to Teams.
Adriana Linares: Oh, good.
Dean Blachford: And now, we’re finding that much better.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, Teams is great. Okay, so you presented the idea of sort of giving us a crash course that if you’re in a hurry and you’ve got to find that out of the tens of episodes that there are, the top 10, 12 maybe where would someone start and you gave me a great list of categories that you broke them down into and I’m pretty excited about number one.
So we’re going to go according to you and sort of least important to most important, although they’re all important but your categories were famous people and inspirations from famous people. Who were they? I can immediately guess Seth Godin has got to be one of them.
Dean Blachford: Of course. Yeah. This list is my top five categories of episodes that if you’re just starting to listen to the podcast and you’re planning on going solo, if you don’t have time to binge all — you’ve got over 100 episodes now, all 100 New Solo podcast episodes, these are the ones that I would definitely go to first.
The first one is famous people and it’s first on my list because it’s fun but also because like these are kind of groundwork podcasts, I would say, if you’re starting to think about things. So you’re right, the first one is Seth Godin, the famous author and he did a podcast on December 2020 with Jack Newton who’s another one of your famous people as your co-host. And so, that one, it was great episode. It’s kind of big picture thinking and the big thing that Seth Godin was really pushing for is positioning, right? Really becoming niche, really focusing on one area, if that file coming in the door is not right in your in your skillset to refer it out and I think, yeah, that’s a foundational thing. And for me, I’ve been positioned tightly from the very beginning so that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about, but hearing someone like Seth Godin remind you refer workout, refer workout, refer workout, that was very encouraging to me.
Adriana Linares: I love that. I think that’s really important because a lot of times, solos are going to practice what we jokingly call door law, anything that walks in the door, we’re going to take but I think that can lead to a lot of stress if it’s an area that you’re not really focused on or specialized in and it also makes picking technology out a little harder if you’re going to try to have an immigration practice and an estate planning practice like do you need specialized software.
I definitely think niching is incredibly important, not to mention the aspects that come along with being able to more easily market a niche than a general practice. Okay, so Seth Godin’s at the top of the list and then who else?
Dean Blachford: Number two is Jack Newton and you had a podcast with him on July of 2016. You’re talking about tech trends there and I think that was a good episode but I would actually encourage people, Jack has his own podcast, Daily Matters and you went on his podcast in May of 2020, that’s episode number 33 on their website and I would encourage people to listen to that one, then they get a picture also of what you do. I think that episode was really helpful.
There’s one thing that you and Jack spoke about on that episode which has really kind of rung true for me is you talked about you’re concerned that okay, is the technology that I’m bringing into a firm going to cause people to no longer have a job? Your experience was like no, this doesn’t actually happen and something that Jack said was what we see is we see law clerks moving up the value chain is what he calls it and that has certainly been the experience for my law clerk. I could never have done this without her. She’s been critical to executing on the technology like I’ve been the one who says, “I think we should look at this. I think we should look at that.” But I’m pretty useless with technology to be honest, so she’s the one that often figures it out and then kind of teaches me and she’s definitely moving up the value chain as we kind of implement more better tech systems and better tech stack as the cool kids call it.
Adriana Linares: That is what the cool kids are calling it these days, your tech stack. And I will reiterate that it’s important to use technology for tedious and repetitive tasks so that you and people working with and for you can use their brains for what they’re designed and they want to use them for you, you’re going to keep staff happier and you’re going to run a more efficient law firm, so that’s a great reminder for people is put the tech in but make sure everybody’s using it to the fullest so that we can act like humans and not robots in our law firms.
Dean Blachford: Exactly and the third famous person is Ernie The Attorney.
Adriana Linares: Well, of course, one of my dearest friends.
Dean Blachford: Of course, yeah. He’s your friend, he’s famous to me.
Adriana Linares: He’s so good though. He’s so good. He’s so full of information and experience because he was also a litigation lawyer at a big firm in New Orleans and decided to go on his own and become a technology coach for lawyers. He does a lot of marketing and he loves talking about newsletters and really making sure your website is well-positioned and okay, so good. What’d you get out of Ernie?
Dean Blachford: Systems and procedures.
Adriana Linares: Systems and procedures.
Dean Blachford: Yeah. That’s his episode on February of 2020 with him and you and him and a friend of yours, Liz. You three dug into systems and procedures and you talked about which ones are most critical and just like the basic thinking about why to use systems and when to use them and first steps and not like worrying too much about which technology you’re using to develop your systems just like use a word document if you need to the point is just to get yourself written down.
Adriana Linares: Document it.
Dean Blachford: Yeah. Again, that’s something that we’ve been doing for a long time, my law clerk and I, and I’ve found it to be instrumental. Just the fact that file opening process, billing process, file closing process, collections process, having these things written down and automatic just makes it so much easier to do them regularly and they’re no longer a pain in the neck I find once you have a system for them.
Adriana Linares: Well, you don’t have to keep reminding yourself for skipping a step. What tool did you decide to use to document your systems and processes?
Dean Blachford: Mostly, it’s just Word.
Adriana Linares: It’s fine.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, it’s my law clerk. Often, she’s the one who’s starting it. I come back and kind of touch it up or add in stuff that I have to do on my end but it’s usually just in a Word document. Sometimes we’ll use an Excel if we’re doing it for like multiple clients just when we’re transitioning. We started with a system, a process for how do we transition trust funds, how do we make sure that no dollars and cents are lost in the transition, this type of thing.
So we start with the system and then we execute it from there and it makes everything easy, it makes sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. I love it. Okay. Any more famous people?
Dean Blachford: That’s it. I mean, I’m sure there will be more to come but those were the three that I identified and there’s some others that that kind of come up in another section.
My next section is section called your business plan episodes. If you’re starting out at the beginning and sorry, I should call this marketing plan–your marketing plan episodes. So you’re starting off at the beginning, you’re kind of figuring out how you’re going to market your firm, how you’re going to get the word out. These are the episodes that I suggest that you listen to and there’s five here.
The first is a couple that you did a session with Conrad Saam. You did two with him in July and August of 2020.
Adriana Linares: Oh yeah. I had to turn it into a two-part episode because he gives such good information so Conrad Saam is a SEO and marketing specialist with Mockingbird Marketing in case somebody wants to Google him but the episodes were you said —
Dean Blachford: July and August of 2020. You did that one and then just a bit after that, you had one with your boy Jason Marsh.
Adriana Linares: Yep, my man, Jason, my other favorite legal marketing specialist, yeah. He’s big on niches. Jason loves attorneys that call him and say, “I have a niche.” If a general practitioner calls him, he kind of throws his hands up and goes, “It’s going to cost a lot of money like can we pick a niche because once–.” Okay, so good.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, so those three, I would listen to together. Jason’s was on September of 2020 and so, if you listen to those three episodes, you’ll get content on how you should design your website, how much you should invest in your website even, real talk by Conrad about SEO. He’s very blunt about what your expectations should be and if your expectations are unreasonable, it sounds like you get set straight in those episodes.
Adriana Linares: Yes, no long-windedness out of Conrad. He cuts right to the chase.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, exactly. If you’re expecting to just start a new solo firm and then be right at the top of the Google pages, it’s just not going to happen and then Jason gets into pay-per-click stuff. Those three episodes together are very comprehensive on those topics.
Adriana Linares: Good. I’ll throw a tip out there. Are you in clubhouse? Have you gotten under the clubhouse deal?
Dean Blachford: No.
Adriana Linares: There’s a couple of SEO and marketing clubhouses where the people are so good and they take questions from and it’s all free of course and they’re giving away really great and valuable information. They call people up, someone will ask a question about — Here was my question. Google thinks I’m a law firm. I’m not a law firm. I service law firms, so how do I tell Google and they had all these great suggestions on how to change a lot of like the title tags and using Yoast and stuff. There is so much good information about SEO. If you’re a real nerd and like to learn about that yourself, clubhouse has some great resources that I’ll pitch too. It’s pretty neat and there’s tons of lawyers in there. It’s really interesting.
Okay. Next episode under the business plan/marketing?
Dean Blachford: Yeah and what I like about your episodes is I never feel like I’m being sold. I’m just getting information and then it’s just up to us but those three episodes actually convinced me that I’m not going to sweat SEO a lot and I’m not doing pay-per-click. Everyone has this kind of idea or at least I think a lot of us have this idea, “Oh, maybe we should be spending money on ads.” And it’s kind of like, “Oh, you just put it up there and you get great clients and they just call you up,” and these episodes really speak about how much work there is actually behind it, your intake process, all that stuff, so I think it really helps with forming realistic expectations and if it allows you to, like in my case, just strike something off your to-do list is okay, we’re not doing that for now like maybe we circle back later, but for now we’re not doing that. That was very helpful to me for that because god knows there’s a lot of things to think about when you’re going solo.
Adriana Linares: And let me be fair and just give Jason’s full information in case someone wants to Google him like I did for Conrad. He’s Jason Marsh, no weird spellings and his website is Marsh8.com. Okay, what else?
Dean Blachford: A couple episodes on CRMs. You had Michael Chasin in August of 2016.
Adriana Linares: When he was just Lexicata at the time and before Clio bought Lexicata which has now become Clio Manage. So, okay, what were the what were the takeaways from that episode? Just have one.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, so him and Matt Spiegel then came on in January of 2019.
Adriana Linares: From Lawmatics.
Dean Blachford: Right and so, those ones for me, I mean, we’ve been thinking about a CRM well before we were even thinking about going solo. We had looked into it a lot. I found it to be an extremely hard process to figure out which one to go with but those episodes helped me understand what the point of a CRM is. I think it’s important in my research, I realized, there’s some CRMs that are designed to help the intake process. There’re others that are designed to help you kind of manage relationships with clients and so, I ended up going with HubSpot and we’re using it for our e-newsletter but it was just getting some of that information from these two guests was very helpful and just kind of demystifying it for me.
Adriana Linares: Okay. Let me give a little explanation there. Michael Chasin was the founder of Lexicata and now, he’s just in with Clio. Clio Grow is their CRM and then Clio Manage is the practice management program. After they go through the intake process and you are working on their case, it moves into Manage. That’s where Michael came from and then Matt Spiegel, who is really one of my favorite people and so fun to hang out with was the original founder of MyCase and ran MyCase for a while and sold it and then laid back for a while and took a look at the landscape in legal and said there’s not enough CRM. Basically, it was just Lexicata at the time. He built a product and Lawmatics is very sophisticated and I would suggest anyone go look at it along, if you’re a Clio user, obviously you can look at Manage. Lawmatics is really great, requires some commitment to setting it up but once it’s set up, I’ve got firms that love it, so good products.
Of course, those are two legal specific but you went with something that’s not necessarily legal specific. You went with HubSpot. Can you tell me real quick why you ended up picking that one and was it hard to set up? Was it something you and your paralegal were able to manage?
Dean Blachford: Yeah. I would say so far, I’m very glad that we have a CRM. I’ll get to our newsletter in a second, but I just love it already because I was using an Excel sheet before. So, I can’t speak to HubSpot compared to Lawmatics or any of the other ones.
I spoke to people at Clio Grow and they were really good about saying, “This is what we do well. This is what we don’t do well.” They do intake really well, fill out forms but it’s designed to turn that contact into a client. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’ve got about a thousand accountants, in particular some lawyers and financial advisors that are very important to me and send me work and I’m trying to facilitate that relationship with them. It’s not about the pipeline process of turning someone into a client, it’s managing those relationships.
So far, HubSpot has been really good. It was a bit random like maybe I could have looked at Lawmatics more. At the end of the day, it was just kind of like I need to make a decision here and they felt good and we’ve been happy with it so far.
Adriana Linares: Do you mind my asking or can you remember what you pay monthly for listeners?
Dean Blachford: I think it’s about 50 bucks and there’s a free version.
Adriana Linares: Very reasonable.
Dean Blachford: There’s a free version of it but for it to sync with my phone system which is RingCentral, you’ve got to pay for it and then every phone call I make to a contact, it’s recording the history of that contact.
Adriana Linares: I just want to say this too because I feel like in legal, we always call it client relationship manager or CRM but, in your case, it’s a contact relationship manager and it can also be a customer.
So the C can have three different terms and I just felt like I should say that so that it doesn’t sound like you can only use it for clients. You’re using it very wisely to send out newsletters and regularly touch contacts that could be sources of referral to you. Part of your goal there with a contact relationship manager is staying top of mind.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, exactly. I mentioned earlier that I decided not to do the web pay-per-click stuff. I’ve just decided there’s about a thousand accountants that have entrusted work to me or have attended one of my presentations, so all my marketing is just geared to providing value to them and out of appreciation for them, kind of sending stuff to me. That’s kind of the approach I went with.
That leads me to this gem of an episode that you had with Andrew LeGrand back November of 2017.
Adriana Linares: Another one of my men. He’s so good.
Dean Blachford: He is really good like I was kicking around this idea of a newsletter for a long time but in my head, I couldn’t figure out a way that it would be interesting or creative or people would actually want to open it and just hearing him talk about his newsletter it’s like, “Oh, okay. You got to open your mind up a bit to some creative ideas.”
We had our first newsletter go out in our first week of launch and went to a thousand people, 400 people opened it, 200 people clicked into the video. I have a video embedded in it or the content and we have this community news section of the newsletter that was really popular. A lot of that kind of just stemmed from your conversation with Andrew. I found it extremely valuable, that one.
Adriana Linares: Do you get his newsletter too?
Dean Blachford: You know what? I didn’t and I never even looked at his website until I was preparing for this podcast. His website is great and he does a calendar of events.
Adriana Linares: Exactly. I get his newsletters and there’s a lot of personality in it because first, he starts off with here’s what’s new with me and mine and he talks about his family. He got a puppy. Then, he might have like a tip or a suggestion for small businesses which are his niche is small businesses in New Orleans and then he’ll think referrals. So if somebody has sent him a referral, he’s got a little bulleted list, thanks to everyone who trusted me with a referral and their names are in there.
And then at the bottom, he’s got a list of upcoming events. So he’ll list concerts and festivals, Saints games and honestly, that’s one of the reasons I open it in case there’s something I missed. He does a really clever newsletter that makes you want to open it even though it’s coming from a lawyer plus he’s just a very personable guy like you are. He’s fun and he clearly enjoys his job so all that comes through in his newsletter and I think that’s really inspiring.
I saw that his comment to you on LinkedIn, so you put out the newsletter and then said, “Thanks to everyone who helped me launch this practice, Adriana,” and then you also said, “And to Andrew LeGrand.” And it was cool that he commented back and said, “Wow!” So nice to hear that that podcast episode, which was a long time ago now, 2017, it’s evergreen information, all those episodes that you’ve mentioned so far are evergreen. The content in them is not going to necessarily get stale. There’s always a way to apply it.
Dean Blachford: Totally agree.
Adriana Linares: Was that it for the marketing and business list?
Dean Blachford: That’s it. Those are the five episodes that if you’re starting out thinking about your marketing plan, I would check those out for sure.
Adriana Linares: Okay. Well that sounds like a perfect time to stop for a quick break. We’re going to continue this conversation after a quick word from Clio’s Legal Trends Report Minute, which this month focuses on what the most successful law firms are using to stay ahead post-pandemic.
Joshua Lenon: Did you know that in 2020, over 50 percent of legal professionals worried about the success of their law firm. To think that over half of the legal service industry has experienced such duress should be raising alarms. I’m Joshua Lenon, Lawyer in Residence at Clio. The good news is that industry data shows law firms are as busy as ever with new casework. The bad news for most lawyers is that billable earnings continue to be down by 6 to 8 percent. Clio’s Legal Trends Report based on data from tens of thousands of legal professionals show some lawyers have managed to earn $37,000 more than others. What are they doing differently? They’ve been using three key technologies–online payments, client portals and client intake solutions. To learn more about these technologies and much more for free, download Clio’s Legal Trends Report at clio.com/trends. That’s Clio, spelled C-L-I-O.
Adriana Linares: Okay. New Insights is our new segment where we ask two attorneys to ask a question and answer a question. I want to make sure and thank Nota powered by M&T Bank for their support of this segment. To learn more, please visit trustnota, N-O-T-A, so it’s trustnota.com. Terms and conditions may apply. And this is Melanie’s second question for Starlett.
Melanie Kalmanson: My next question having recently transferred into more of a litigation–focused role rather than appeals is in your opinion, what is the most underutilized tool in litigation?
Starlett Massey: It’s funny because law school and undergrad curriculums and any pre-law jobs we have all focus on communication skills but I think the most underutilized tool is not just being a good communicator but being a good listener and when something doesn’t make sense, ask gently and effectively the right question so that you can truly understand where your client or the other side is coming from. It doesn’t have to be adversarial but sometimes, just being quiet and listening and waiting will get you more information than even the most well-crafted discover responses can.
Adriana Linares: Great question, Melanie and Starlett, awesome answer. That was Melanie’s second question. Make sure you catch up with us on our next episode for Melanie’s next question.
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Adriana Linares: I’m having a great conversation with Dean Blachford about his favorite podcast episodes of New Solo that helped him launch his practice and so far, we talked about famous people as a category, marketing/business plan as a category and your next category, Dean, is finance, which is an incredibly important topic. So, which were your favorite episodes in planning for proper financial management of your solo practice?
Dean Blachford: There’s two here and I think on their face, they sound it’s financial management, it’s not super glamorous, it’s not exciting, this is kind of like the eating your vegetables version of podcasts but in actuality, they’re very good podcasts and they’re hilarious too. Your podcast with Amanda Moore back in August of 2019 where she was just like literally sweating as you —
Adriana Linares: I know.
Dean Blachford: That’s a riot and that episode’s great for basically you —
Adriana Linares: I just want to give a little background here.
Dean Blachford: Do it, please.
Adriana Linares: Amanda Moore is one of my very best friends. Her, Liz McCausland, Barbara Leach come on the episodes a lot, Ernie Svenson, but Mandy, as we call her, is not a lawyer, she’s just an accountant and I don’t mean just an accountant because right now literally this morning, she started a solo hike through the pacific northwest trail. So, she’s not like just an accountant, she’s very adventurous but she’s such a stick in the mud about accounting that that episode is true, I was making her sweat from the palms and the pits with the questions I was asking her and my boyfriend Henry was in the background also with his commentary, so that was a very fun episode for me and I’m so glad you found it valuable because I really wanted to get to the basics of essentials for accounting and understanding what you should be getting out of your CPA and maybe your bookkeeper are for. So tell me what were some of your takeaways.
Dean Blachford: My big thing there is I’m a big review person. I do a review at the end of my day, I do a review at the end of my week, do you review the end of the month, and a review at the end of the year. But with regards to finances is new, right? I had a corporation before so I was an independent contractor with my previous firm, so I’ve had the corporation and I’ve had QuickBooks for a while but now we’ve got a trust accountant and because I’m handling tax, I see how things go wrong when your books and records aren’t tight.
What I got from that podcast with Amanda is just like this is exactly how you can do a review at the end of the month. These are the reports that you print and if you can basically put your eyes on those and nothing jumps out to you, that’s going to be half the battle as far as keeping really good financial records, so that to me was very helpful. That’s a great episode.
The other one was just more recently with Peggy Gruenke.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. I figured that was going to be the other one. She’s so good too.
Dean Blachford: Oh yeah. She was prepared for that podcast. That was February 2021 and so, the theme for that podcast was pitfalls to avoid kind of and she had a lot of great ideas there. She had this idea of calculating your nut like the nut a squirrel would have kind of and that was something after she mentioned that, that was something that I went back and did and be like, “Okay, this is exactly what I need for this business cash flow. These are all the expenses I’m going to have over the course of the year.” And having that basic calculation is very reassuring to know, okay this is what we have to do to make this a success. That whole podcast is a really good one.
Adriana Linares: In all fairness, let’s make sure and make it easy for people to Google or look up those folks. Amanda Moore is a pretty common name but she is just at amandamoorecpa.com. She’s Florida, so she really can only help attorneys in Florida. She doesn’t specialize in legal. She’s just a good overall CPA but Peggy Gruenke, G-R-U-E-N-K-E is with cpn-legal.com. She specializes in helping lawyers and law firms with their finances. One of the things that I did not realize and I think many new solos or people just trying to get their finances straight can appreciate is when you hire Peggy to help you. She has a chart of accounts already in QuickBooks ready to go and can really expedite the process of setting up your charts and of accounts and getting started. So thank you for remembering both of them. They were wonderful guests and very helpful.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, my pleasure. That then brings us to category second from the top here and this is collections. There’s only one podcast. Here, I’m talking about getting paid after your invoices go out. There’s only one podcast.
Adriana Linares: Then it has eight tips, right?
Dean Blachford: That’s right. This is eight commandments for getting paid with Marco Brown. This guy is serious. If I were this guy’s mama, I wouldn’t want to owe him money. This guy gets paid. It’s one of these things that’s just — and I think it resonated with me because I like doing legal work. I like helping my clients. Obviously, I like getting paid but I don’t like calling people for money and he’s got a process in place that we’ve just basically adopted. And he’s got a process in place that just makes sure that it makes sure that you get paid by having a really tight system, bills go out on the first. If they haven’t been paid by the 21st, they get charged on your credit card. We incorporated all that language into our retainer agreement.
Adriana Linares: So smart.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, I’m really happy about it just to have again, going back to systems and procedures, having a really clear system that my law clerk and I can follow to ensure that just collections is not something that we’re wasting our time at. Our clients don’t pay us to haggle them about money, they pay us to get the work done and if client A is not paying me, then client B isn’t getting my full attention to their file.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome.
Dean Blachford: That one’s a must listen for sure.
Adriana Linares: Okay. Drum roll. Top category of new solos. So your favorite episodes where attorneys just like you have come on and shared their trials, tribulations and tips and tricks for starting their practices. Who do you have on that list? These ones are so good and they’re just kind of sprinkled throughout your history. So they’re kind of everywhere and I didn’t go back and kind of pluck all the ones I love but I would just say to those people who have come on, their stories are extremely inspirational. There’s never a podcast that I listen to that I don’t get some sort of nugget out of them.
A few that just come to mind and I don’t have the date references for these but the guy who fled a hurricane with his law firm and just got an Airbnb and moved them up there, so he’s not a solo but he’s running his own firm. That’s an incredible story.
Adriana Linares: I did one specifically on preparing for disasters with Zack Zuroweste and Renee Thompson who are two Florida attorneys who are just very cloud-invested so that when that happened, Zack’s interesting because if you go back and listen to that episode, he has about a 15-person, maybe 20-person firm and they literally told everybody, pack your dogs, pack your kids, grab your computer, we’re all going to Georgia, this hurricane’s going to pass through but we’re going to keep working and that’s exactly what they did.
So great reference on that one just being prepared to pick up and go.
Dean Blachford: Yeah totally cool, totally inspiring. I mean, if you can get through a hurricane with your law firm, you should be able to get through your normal day to day. That’s what I took away from it.
And then just like a few recent ones. You’ve got the woman who moved to Puerto Rico with her law firm.
Adriana Linares: Oh right. Sarah de Diego.
Dean Blachford: We’re not at a place where we’re going to be moving to Puerto Rico but it’s pretty cool to think like hey, it’s possible one day and I found that like just cool to listen to and inspiring. There’s the woman who was recently on who kind of did this alternative law school and didn’t actually go to law school and was —
Adriana Linares: Oh, Rachel Allums?
Dean Blachford: Yeah and like studying with a daughter who I imagine was kind of like a teenage daughter at her side like that’s a very cool story about just like hustle and making it happen. That was very inspirational.
Adriana Linares: I agree. That gives me goosebumps. She’s so cool and it is such a great story. You have a dream? You can get there.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, very successful practice and then like one of them which came at a really good time for me. I was doing this website and I found the website hard. The idea of like it’s the most forward-facing thing to like put yourself out there, I found not easy but I did these three success stories videos that go on the services page of my website and I filmed them and I don’t know what I’m doing, these are the first videos I’ve ever filmed. I didn’t know that I could turn the brightness down on my ring light, so it’s basically glaring at me and I’m just totally washed out on this video and then the editing was bad, my fault, not the editors.
They just weren’t ideal and I was thinking about just not bothering with it and then I listened to these two women who talk about posting these videos on TikTok just recently.
Adriana Linares: Oh my god. Taly Goody and Michelle Fonseca-Kamana. They were so good and so much fun to talk to. I’m glad you liked that one. Two young lawyers from Southern California who have really adopted social media as ways to get their name out there and successfully get clients from TikTok and Instagram.
Dean Blachford: Yeah and they’re talking about how you have to ignore the haters because there’ll be guys that like go on and troll them after and just what I took away from that is like yes, you do your best production but the end of the day, you just got to get it out there. You can’t hold it back. You just got to put it out there and sure enough, out of the compliments that I’ve gotten on my website, it’s been the logo which I had nothing to do with, my designer was awesome for that and the success stories. So like lots of people really like those videos.
Adriana Linares: People love videos and they want to get to know you so it’s important to put yourself out there. I’m glad you didn’t take them down.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, thanks. So that brings me to the end of my kind of list of these five categories of must listen to New Solo podcasts. I think they’re extremely valuable.
Adriana Linares: Well, it means a lot to me that you listen to all those episodes that you found them helpful and that you wanted to come on and give everyone the cliff notes version of if you don’t want to listen to Adriana for 80 hours, you can hone in on these and I think that’s really great.
Let me ask you a couple backup questions about your firm then. You spent a lot of time, you did, you were very methodical, we had a couple calls. I said, “Go look at these tools, go look at those tools.” What did you end up with aside from HubSpot on your tech stack?
Dean Blachford: Microsoft, Adobe, no-brainers. For me, also Clio was a no-brainer. Out of all the things I had to worry about, I didn’t want to worry about something for no reason and so I just was like Clio all the way. We have been using PCLaw before.
Adriana Linares: So, you were at Fred Flintstone’s law firm and decided you were going to open George Jetson’s law firm?
Dean Blachford: Yeah. The way they do it, it works for them but if Clio is going to save my law clerk mostly, it’s going to save her a lot of time, it’s going to be much more user-friendly for clients like something like the payment method, law pay so that clients can pay with credit cards, really happy to have that, so that was a no-brainer for me.
HubSpot as we mentioned, RingCentral are my phone systems.
Adriana Linares: Oh good. Now RingCentral does not integrate with Clio right now, is that correct?
Dean Blachford: That’s right. I prioritize it integrating with HubSpot. The other one which you mentioned to me, Dialpad I think doesn’t integrate with HubSpot. That was the decision there.
Adriana Linares: That’s fine. That’s good.
Dean Blachford: Those are the core kind of features of our stack.
Adriana Linares: Two more questions before I let you go because I know people are going to wonder. You mentioned that you had a designer design your logo for you. Did you go to something like 99designs or did you find someone local and can you give us an idea of what you paid?
Dean Blachford: Okay. In your episode with Conrad, you guys talked about going cheap on website and focusing on driving traffic to it. For me, design matters, brand matters and so, it was something that I invested quite a bit of money in. I’ve got my best friend when I was in grade four who works for lululemon and branding. Another best friend of mine is — I’ve got three best friends who are all in kind of branding or art or marketing.
Adriana Linares: Cool!
Dean Blachford: So I hit them up for a lot of advice. Anyways, one of them referred to me to this guy named Henry Slaughter and he is a designer. He designed my logo, did my kind of brand, my colors, that type of thing which takes a lot of work and then from there, he went into website design.
The whole thing cost me $12,000 Canadian. That was an investment that I was ready to make and I’m happy to have made it.
Adriana Linares: I’m glad to hear that because we can’t give the advice to go cheap, just go big drive traffic but if you can do that right from the beginning, you save yourself a lot of trouble later because later, you’re busy with clients and trying to build the right website or choose a logo or find a designer gets hard because most attorneys are surprised at how quickly they actually get pretty busy when they’re launching new practices, so great. That’s great. I’m glad, thank you for sharing those numbers. I’m always a little hesitant to ask but I know that’s what listeners are thinking just like you probably were and I like to make people tell me what things cost.
Dean Blachford: No, I think it’s good.
Adriana Linares: Well that’s awesome. Dean, before I let you go, tell everyone your website domain and how they can find, friend or follow you and reach out to you through the things that we love on social media and the Internet?
Dean Blachford: My website is blachfordtaxlaw.com. That’s B-L-A-C-H-F-O-R-D tax law. I’m not on a lot of social media stuff but I’m on LinkedIn. I’m active on LinkedIn and it’s Dean Blachford on LinkedIn and we have a company page there as well that we’re getting fired up.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, so everybody needs to go like that company page on LinkedIn and connect with you and thank you so much. You’ve been a great listener, a great guest, you’ve been a great client. I’ve enjoyed working with you and your paralegal’s name?
Dean Blachford: Ella Suey. She’s the best.
Adriana Linares: Ella Suey, it’s really neat that it’s obvious how much the two of you like each other and like working together and that you took this journey together because you told her first, right? You said, “Hey, if I go, want to come?”
Dean Blachford: Yeah. I do not know if she had said no, we wouldn’t be here right now that’s for sure.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. It’s really important to have that type of relationship and someone who you trust and enjoys working with you. Dean, you’re just a sweetheart and a pleasure and I’m sure she loves it.
Dean Blachford: Yeah, I hope so. Thanks so much. It’s a real pleasure to be here. I am grateful for you. You’ve done it steady. You look at what you’ve done and you’ve done it steady which anyone can start a podcast and it can fall off but to do that many episodes over time, it’s a big deal, it’s a testament to your kind of determination and there’s just gold in those podcasts, so I do encourage people to go back and check some of those out.
Adriana Linares: Well, I appreciate it because it’s conversations like this that keep me going and I will take this opportunity to thank Legal Talk Network for letting me do this for so long and Nathan Todhunter has been my producer and my engineer for a couple years now and he’s just a gem. He picked out the music for the new start when we started the new year with new music or the sound bites in the beginning and then the song at the end, which I don’t know if anybody’s ever listened to the end but I love that song at the end. It just it makes me want to go out and like run a marathon because–
Dean Blachford: It’s totally on brand.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, it’s inspiring. So having guests like you and people behind me to help me put this podcast together is really important, so thank you Dean.
Dean Blachford: My pleasure. Thank you, Adriana.
Adriana Linares: All right, everyone with that, we finished another great episode of New Solo. If you’ve liked what you’ve heard today, please pass this podcast on to your friends and associates or contacts who might be thinking about starting a new practice and especially this episode with Dean Blachford, it’s been so much fun and if you have a second, please hop on to Apple Podcast and give us a good rating and a review. It really helps and I appreciate it very much. Hope you all have a wonderful day and see you next time on New Solo.
Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com