Marco Brown struggled in the beginning of his career as a solo attorney, feeling he made every mistake he could make. After years of working long hours and only collecting about 65% of his fees, he realized he needed to shift his focus. He made the decision to prioritize getting paid and has had a more meaningful and productive career ever since. Marco talks with Christopher Anderson about his personal experience and shares actionable tips with lawyers who struggle with collecting payment for their services.
Marco Clayton Brown is managing partner at Brown Law LLC in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Nexa, Solo Practice University, Scorpion, and Lawclerk.
The Un-Billable Hour
Your Number One Job as an Attorney – Get Paid!
Intro: Managing your law practice can be challenging. Marketing, time management, attracting clients, and all the things besides the cases that you need to do that aren’t billable. Welcome to this edition of The Un-Billable Hour, the Law Practice Advisory Podcast. This is where you will get the information you need from expert guests and host Christopher Anderson, here on Legal Talk Network.
Christopher T. Anderson: Welcome to The Un-Billable Hour, the Law Practice Advisory Podcast helping attorneys achieve more success. We are glad you can listen today on the Legal Talk Network.
Today’s episode is about, well, it’s about production but it’s also really about finances, because what we are going to talk about, the title of the show is Your Number One Job as an Attorney – Get Paid! and my guest is Marco Brown. Marco is the Principal of Brown Law LLC, it’s a Salt Lake City divorce law firm and Marco helps a lot of other law firms focus on the most important thing in their business so they can in turn focus on solving their clients’ problems.
And I can tell you that through all the things that we talk about, we have talked about marketing, we talk about sales, but it’s really amazing to me that sometimes one of the key issues that a law firm faces is asking to get paid and then making sure they do get paid, so I am really excited to have Marco on the show.
I of course am your host Christopher Anderson and I am also an attorney with a singular passion for helping other lawyers achieve success with their law firm businesses.
In The Un-Billable Hour every month we explore an area important to help you be a more profitable lawyer through growing your revenues, getting back more of your time and/or getting more professional satisfaction from your business.
The Un-Billable Hour is dedicated to bringing you guests each month to help you learn more about how to make your law firm business work for you instead of the other way around.
And before we get started I do want to say a thank you to our sponsors; Nexa, Solo Practice University, Scorpion and LAWCLERK.
Nexa, formerly known as Answer 1, is a leading virtual receptionist and answering service provider for law firms. Learn more by giving them a call at 800-267-9371 or online at www.nexa.com.
Solo Practice University is a great resource for solos, no matter how long you have been practicing. Make sure you check out solopracticeuniversity.com and learn how to run your practice better.
Scorpion crushes the standard for law firm online marketing with proven campaign strategies to get attorneys better cases from the Internet. Partner with Scorpion to get an award-winning website and ROI-positive marketing programs today. Visit scorpionlegal.com/podcast.
LAWCLERK, where attorneys go to hire freelance lawyers. Visit lawclerk.legal to learn how to increase your productivity and your profits by working with talented freelance lawyers.
And again today’s episode of The Un-Billable Hour is Your Number One Job as an Attorney – Get Paid! and my guest is Marco Brown, and he is again the Principal of Brown Law LLC.
Marco, welcome to The Un-Billable Hour.
Marco Brown: Hey, thanks for having me on Chris.
Christopher T. Anderson: My pleasure. And notoriously, if you have listened to this show, you already know, but if not, my introductions are brief and inadequate. So if you don’t mind tell listeners a little bit more about you, a little bit about your firm and also what leads you to talk about this topic. Why is this topic of interest to you?
Marco Brown: So you are right. I run a divorce law firm here in Salt Lake City. Divorce is all we do, no car accident cases, no real estate cases. We do one thing because we want to be really excellent at it.
I started this law firm in 2010, did kind of everything under the sun, made all the mistakes that a solo attorney makes. I mean I came here to Salt Lake, my wife wanted to get a doctorate, so I am like great, let’s do that, had no network, no clients, nothing, just came here and kind of made it work and made tons and tons of mistakes and have learned from those mistakes and that’s why I talk to people about these things is I just don’t want them to relive the kind of five years of wandering in the desert, as it were, that I had to go through to figure stuff out.
Christopher T. Anderson: So I mean it sounds like you are telling me that — obviously I remember starting my law firm and the bucket of mistakes is big enough to fill with lots of different topics, but it sounds like you really find that failure of getting paid, failure of you to either demand or secure payment was one of your biggest mistakes over those first few years?
Marco Brown: Absolutely. That was the biggest mistake I made. So I did well. I was the 2015 Divorce Attorney of the Year, voted on by the Bar here in Utah, so I had done well professionally, kind of figured out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. But then in 2015, it was just a bad, bad year. We were still mired in student loan debt. I was having a real tough time with relationships, like kind of spiritual portion of things as well and physically things were not good. So it was a rough year and I knew I had to figure stuff out otherwise it was going to break bad very, very quickly.
I was thinking to myself, what do I need to do, like how am I going to change this and you want to think of that one thing you can change that will change all of these other things instead of changing a thousand different things.
So when I thought through that I thought well, why don’t I just start with getting paid, because I am not, right, I am doing all of this work and I am doing well, but I am not getting paid for a 100% of the work I do so why don’t I just start there and see what that changes and see what it ameliorates, and it changed everything.
Christopher T. Anderson: So let me just challenge you on that a little bit because on my show, my listeners for instance are very interested in and tend to listen and re-listen to episodes that we have on marketing, advertising and even on sales and this is not a topic that we talk about a lot. It almost seems like duh, you have to get paid, but you are not the only person I have talked to that actually this is an issue for.
So why did you prioritize, during your first five years, the getting paid thing, for you why was that the higher priority than better marketing, better advertising, getting better clients?
Marco Brown: With all of those things, better advertising, better marketing, better sales and sales encloses the second most important thing that attorneys need to do; attorneys are terrible at it and they need to figure that out, but all of those things are meant to bring in more money, right, to create cash flow. There is no easier or less expensive way to create additional cash flow in a law firm than to get paid for the work you already do.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Marco Brown: That was my thought process and I thought okay, well, why don’t I do this and not spend more money when I can just get paid for the work I am already doing, which will free up money so I can spend more money on marketing and advertising and figuring out sales and closing and all those things to kind of — and then it becomes a flywheel effect, right, but the quickest and least expensive way to increase the cash flow is just to get paid for what you already do.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, because regardless of whether you get paid, right, you paid to get the work done, whether it was yourself or an associate or a paralegal, like you have already put out the money, if the work has been done you have put out the money or the sweat to make sure that happened. So anything that comes in after that point really like you said can go to compensate the owner, can go to marketing and advertising, it is one of the easiest like you said ways to improve cash flow.
But also I mean when this was happening, let me just like go back to these early days when you said this is what you learned during those five years, what was going on with your getting paid, like how did it manifest itself? I am sure you didn’t just work for five years and then say hey, maybe I should charge for this, like I am sure you were getting paid by some and not by others. How did this like really bubble to the surface for you?
Marco Brown: Exactly. So I was probably bringing in, when I go back into the historical numbers, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-65% of the hours that I billed, I was actually collecting on, and one of the major problems I had was I was doing it as a solo in the beginning and 56% of American attorneys are solos, so I am not alone in this at all, and there is a lot of other data that kind of proved that this is a real pervasive problem.
But I would bill maybe once every two or three months for example and that was a serious problem, because I would rack up a bill on a case and I hadn’t invoiced it for 90 days and then I would send it out and I was nervous about asking them for money because I hadn’t invoiced it forever and it was a big bill, which just was kind of a horrible effect where they got mad about that because they hadn’t seen anything and then they get this huge bill, and I was nervous about asking them for money, so it’s this cycle, just downward, downward cycle. So that’s just one of the examples.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And it’s one of the kind of precepts and things I discovered as I was starting my firm too, it’s like one, people don’t just call you up and go like hey man, you haven’t billed me in a while, I really would like to send you some money.
Marco Brown: No, they will take whatever they can get from you.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and two, they seem to have about the same level of urgency in getting the bill paid as you do in sending it, right? So if you sit on it for 90 days, you are now in a cash crunch, you finally get around asking for money and now you expect that they are going to pay it in five days, right, they are just not going to do it.
Marco Brown: And when you ask them to do that then they get upset, because then they say, you didn’t send me a bill for three months, cool, you are jets, and they are right, that’s completely legitimate. So that’s one of the things I talk about is you have got to bill regularly and that has to happen at least once per month.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And so like for you like when did the rubber hit the road, you are going through this, you are doing this five years, things — you said this year was, did you say it was 2015?
Marco Brown: Yeah, it was 2015.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, 2015, things are not going well for you all across the board; you said relationship wise, spiritually, in the business, was it your bank account, what happened that you said you know what, I just need to get paid?
Marco Brown: So actually it started with a shower and then probably went to the bank account. So I love showers, I would wake up and I think we all kind of get this as solos especially and litigators even on top of that, that you will wake up at like three or four o’clock in the morning nervous about a case, right? So that was happening to me so it was messing up my sleep.
And then I would get in the shower and I love showers, but I would have about five minutes of reprieve in the shower and then I would start thinking about cases again and my heart would start to palpitate, my chest would constrict and I would get a headache and it was a horrible experience, and it was at that point that I actually knew I was going to die by about the age of 60 or 65 if I kind of walked this path and kept going on it. And that to me was — it was a nasty realization. I didn’t want that to happen.
So then I started looking at all of the metrics inside my law firm deciding what I could do. I think I am probably — I looked at all the money, I looked at all the bank accounts, there wasn’t nearly as much in there as there should have been and then it was just hey, why don’t I just get paid for everything.
And at that point, that was a tough one because then I had to make the decision to do that, which meant that I had to go actually bug all of these people to get paid and I lost a lot of clients because of that and I figured out that that was okay because clients who don’t pay you aren’t really clients, they are leeches, right?
Christopher T. Anderson: Right, yeah, just get rid of them.
Marco Brown: You lost the freeloaders. You know what, it’s painful anyway when you do, but then you realize that it’s kind of ripping off the Band Aid kind of painful.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. All right, well, we are talking with Marco Brown and we have been talking about kind of the history of his law firm when he realized that one of the best things he could do for his business and improve his results was getting paid.
So we are going to take a break here. When we come back I am going to ask Marco about first of all what he has learned by talking to a lot of other lawyers and from his own business about why lawyers are bad at this. So it’s not just his story but he has got a lot of evidence as to why lawyers are bad. We will go over some statistics and then how to do better. But first, we will hear a word from our sponsors.
Advertiser: If you are missing calls, appointments and potential clients, it’s time to work with Nexa Professional. More than just an answering service, Nexa’s virtual receptionists are available 24×7 to schedule appointments, qualify leads, respond to emails, integrate with your firm’s software, and much more. Nexa ensures your clients have the experience that they deserve. Give them a call at 800-267-9371 or visit them at nexa.com/podcast for a special offer.
Advertiser: Feel like your marketing efforts aren’t getting you the high value cases your firm deserves? For over 15 years Scorpion has helped thousands of law firms, just like yours, attract new cases and grow their practices. As a Google Premier Partner and winner of Google’s Platform Innovator Award, Scorpion has the right resources and technology to aggressively market your law firm and generate better cases from the Internet. For more information, visit scorpionlegal.com/podcast today.
Christopher T. Anderson: And welcome back to The Un-Billable Hour. We are talking with Marco Brown and we have been talking about one of the most important things you can do in your business. In fact, what he calls your number one job as an attorney, get paid. And we have kind of reviewed how that issue as a priority surfaced during his first years in his business. So we are going to turn a little bit now and talk more about what he has learned from bringing this message forward.
So Marco, is it fair to say that not only did you learn about this in your own business and you sought to change it, but you also started reaching out to other attorneys?
Marco Brown: I did. So I began by just having lunch with other attorneys, networking and realized that I wasn’t the only one in this boat and then I started digging into some data and figured out that the problem was super, super pervasive among American attorneys, and American attorneys actually have a really good life compared to attorneys in almost all of the world, with the exception of probably Britain and in Ireland. I mean we have good lives, but we still have this massive, massive problem.
So I kind of put together that data and put together the rules that I learned and then started actually teaching people about it, so giving CLEs and talking to anybody I could about it.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And would you mind, just share some of the most important data points or kind of the most significant data points you have uncovered in that research?
Marco Brown: Yeah, absolutely. So Clio is a really, really good source for this. They put out the Clio Trends Report every year, which is amazing. So what they do is they go through an anonymized behavior data from their users. So they have the biggest user base and then they anonymize actual behavior data. So this is a survey data where you say — where somebody asks you how many times you work out a week and you say five, when actually what you do is you go on a walk on like Sunday night.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, exactly.
Marco Brown: This is how they actually work. So the average American attorney works about eight hours a day, bills about 2.5 hours a day and then collects 1.7 hours a day. So it’s 21% of the hours worked they actually collect and this is 2019 data.
Christopher T. Anderson: Which is just unbelievable to me, I mean it’s just — so we are already starting in a sense, we are business owners, we are out there, doing the work, sitting in our office, away from our family, away from other things for eight hours a day, not horrible; I know a lot of attorneys do more, but only billing 2.7 of that and only collecting even a fraction of that.
Marco Brown: Exactly.
Christopher T. Anderson: So when that’s the case, not collecting seems to be — I think — you are not even working with very much there. So what did you dig into that gave you evidence as to why this is? So that’s good numbers and it’s shocking numbers, but it also shows a huge amount of room for improvement which is always an exciting thing. But what’s the reasons, what did you learn about why they are so bad, why we are so bad at getting paid?
Marco Brown: So the research doesn’t really address the why, it addresses that it exists, the problem exists, it doesn’t really address why it exists so much.
But from my experience, my personal experience and then when I talk with attorneys about this very stuff, I think it’s a few things. One, and this is my first rule is you have got to change your mindset about money. So I think as attorneys we are made to feel almost guilty about money and how much we make. So the first people who teach us about money as attorneys are our law professors, who are really bureaucrats and they don’t have to do anything, right, they just get paid for sitting in an office and teaching some classes.
So they don’t have to go out there. They don’t have to get clients to pay a mortgage. They don’t know really what it’s like in the real world to do this, so they say things like your number one job as an attorney is to do good for your clients and so on. I am like all right, I don’t know what that means. But that’s kind of the first group to teach us.
And then the second group to teach us is even worse, it’s our Bar Associations. People listening here, if your Bar Association is anything like mine, 90% of what they talk to you about is pro bono. Like you need to do pro bono, you need to do pro bono. So it’s give your stuff away for free and the message, they don’t say this explicitly, but really the message is you need to give away your stuff for free, you shouldn’t be making this much money, you should be giving it to other people for nothing and that’s just not a message that’s conducive to collecting for 100% of the work you do.
Christopher T. Anderson: No, and quite honestly it’s not a message that’s conducive to doing great work for your clients, because if you are not getting paid, what are you worried about when you are working on your client’s problem. I would posit to you that you are not worried about your client’s problem, you are worried about paying your rent, you are worried about making payroll, you are worried about a lot of other things than making your client’s day better.
Marco Brown: You are absolutely right.
Christopher T. Anderson: So you have done CLEs, when you do these CLEs, you talk to lawyers, you were bad at getting paid because you weren’t paying attention, but you mentioned like one of the reasons was — one of the things that’s wrong is a mindset issue and you say that it was — it’s generated and I agree with you by law school, which teaches you basically work hard, do great work for your clients, which we all should, but that then like there is this message that sort of the law firm management fairies will come in at night and take care of business, and that doesn’t happen.
In a sense when you hear from people that work for larger law firms, in a sense it does happen, right? They come and do great work. And there are law firm management fairies, the administration of the firm that does this, but for us, for small law firm lawyers that’s not there.
So you said that then the Bar, which we talked about, but that their mindset has to change. What did you do to change your mindset?
Marco Brown: I gave myself permission to get paid and to make a lot of money is what it comes down to, and that may sound kind of brash, but that’s exactly what needs to happen. I mean if you feel guilty about making money, then you are never going to make money. You are also correspondingly never really going to serve your clients all that well I don’t think.
Christopher T. Anderson: Let me ask you, I mean how would you say your service of your clients today, five years after 2015, this annus horribilis, to use Queen Elizabeth’s term, how would you compare your services to your clients today versus then and what part of that would you ascribe to the fact that you actually get paid?
Marco Brown: Yeah, it’s 10x better. So we communicate with our clients more. We are more proficient in our cases. We go through cases faster. Our systems are much better. The way we run the law firm is much better.
The way we take care of people is again just 10x what it used to be, and that is made possible by the fact that we get paid for. We just have more money to figure these things out and more time.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, you actually have time to dedicate to your clients’ cases and do the kind of work that quite honestly you owe them. That makes me just different, you’re getting paid timely, because you said you weren’t getting them out — bills out for almost three months, but turning back to the Clio data, you weren’t unusual, right? I mean the amount of time lawyers take to get the bills out is a long time, what do you see about that?
Marco Brown: Yeah, exactly. So this is 2015 data from Clio. The average lawyer from the time of service when they actually did something for the client to the billing when they send out the invoice was 87 days, and then it was 83 days from the receipt of invoice by the client until the client paid, which is a 170 days, that is insane. It’s six months from the time you do work until you get paid for it. That is not a sustainable business model in pretty much any sort of industry.
Christopher T. Anderson: No.
Marco Brown: Especially a direct pay industry like lawyering, maybe that works in doctoring when you have to deal with insurance companies and that’s just the norm, but in direct pay that’s never going to function.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and it was resulting in you, I mean, your number from your firm, and this is consistent with what I see in other firms. You were resulting in a 65% collections rate. So down to that two hours of day that you’re actually billing, you were only collecting two-thirds of it.
Marco Brown: Exactly. Yeah, it’s just a terrible problem. Now the other aspect of this you had asked what’s the cause and so the mindset is a real cause. I think that — that’s where everything starts is your mindset. But then there’s a system’s problem as well and attorneys simply don’t have systems in place to deal with getting paid and getting paid in a timely manner. So that’s a very serious problem.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and I want to get to that. We’re going to go to that after the break, but before the break what I wanted to ask you since we were talking about in the first segment about, how not getting paid was impacting your personal life and the stress it was causing you?
I wanted to wrap up this before we go to break by just asking you getting paid better, focusing on getting paid, how has that affected your all the things in your personal life, your family, your spiritual life, the things that you were talking about that were so racked up in 2015, has it had an impact and an effect on that?
Marco Brown: It absolutely has, it changed, it changed my entire life. So in 2015 when I made this decision I also made the decision to get out of debt, and we had about a 160,000, so my wife has a Doctorate and then I have a JD, so we had lots of student loans. So we paid off all of those student loans in a year. Our relationship is much better. We have another child. Our first child is adopted. We were never able to have our own biological kids, but we did IVF and had a kid, so I have a 16-month old and —
Christopher T. Anderson: Fantastic.
Marco Brown: And that was only possible because we get paid and I get paid a fair amount of money now. I make a fair amount of money because IVF is expensive. So there is no way we would have ever been able to grow our family and do the things we wanted to do without making that change back in 2015.
Christopher T. Anderson: Fantastic. All right, we’re talking with Marco Brown. We’ve talked about the problems he faced for not getting paid and some of the statistics around how lawyers in the United States are — I mean, the numbers are just shocking. We’re spending 40 hours a week and actually billing like 10 and only collecting a fraction of that.
I guess the good news, the optimistic news is that the huge opportunity in front of us because of those numbers. Marco has shared a little bit about how that affected his life, what I want to do after the break Marco is talk to you about what is that opportunity for other lawyers today? What do they need to do and then some practical steps who they should hire and how they should really affect this effort to collect the money that they’re due so that they can service more clients?
But first, we’ll hear a word from our sponsors.
Advertiser: Ready to create and build your own solo or small firm practice? Need a nuts and bolts education on the 360 degree experience of starting a business? There is only one online destination dedicated to helping you achieve your goals. Solo Practice University, the only online educational and professional networking community dedicated to lawyers and law students who want to go into practice for themselves. More than a 1,000 classes, 58 faculty and mentors, what are you waiting for? Check out solopracticeuniversity.com today.
Advertiser: LAWCLERK is where attorneys go to hire freelance lawyers. Whether you need a research memo or a complicated appellate brief, our network of freelance lawyers have every level of experience and expertise. Sign up is free and there are no monthly fees, only pay the flat fee price you set. Use rebate code “UNBILLABLE” to get a $100 Amazon gift card when you complete your next project. Learn more at lawclerk.legal.
Christopher T. Anderson: And we are back on The Un-Billable Hour with Marco Brown, and we’ve been talking about Marco’s trials of running a business and running a law firm business without getting paid timely and collecting about two-thirds of what he billed, and then his decision to improve that and how that’s positively impacted his life.
So what I wanted to do in this last segment is leave our listeners with some practical takeaways that they can use to improve their lives.
First question I had for you Marco is what’s the greatest opportunity for lawyers out there? I mean, what can they do, how do they take advantage of that opportunity?
Marco Brown: I think the biggest opportunity — it’s going to go back to this, the biggest opportunity is to get paid a 100% and then to use that money to increase your footprint in your market.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Marco Brown: That’s branding, that’s being on YouTube all the time, that’s creating ubiquity as much as you possibly can, and you will not be able to do that unless you have money.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I think that’s a huge — I often when I’m consulting with the law firms and whatever and we’re talking about marketing and marketing spend, the truth is that marketing dollars can only be paid from one place in your business and that’s profit, and that profit can only come from actually charging revenues in excess what it costs you to deliver the services.
So you’re absolutely right. It’s just simply getting paid will enable you to out-market lawyers who don’t get paid and thereby help more people, and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Marco Brown: Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s all about. Now some people may be put off by what we’ve been talking about because it’s about getting paid, but here’s the deal.
We as attorneys have a very simple kind of compact with our clients and that compact is as attorneys we do excellent, excellent work and then our clients pay us a 100% for the work that’s done.
So, we as attorneys, need to be extremely good at what we do and one of my rules here is we need to specialize, because one, we can command more money when we specialize, but it also makes us much more excellent at what we do and the uptake for our knowledge and everything else is just that much faster when you only do one thing.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, doing one thing is super-important because as you said you’ve got a contract, maybe not written contract that’s our retainer agreements don’t usually say, we’re going to do excellent, excellent work, but that is really the compact we have with our clients who in the line of work you’re in and the line of work a lot of small law firms are in, are not sophisticated consumers of legal services but they do expect that their attorney will be excellent.
And the other side of that compact is that they will pay, so what you’re saying is by niching down, if you will, by being really good at a thing if you are solo and or even a small firm, a good thing that you are known for being excellent kind of gives you the right to demand that you get paid for the work that you do?
Marco Brown: Yeah, so that’s really part of it and then the other side of the equation is that we need to service them as best we possibly can. So this isn’t just about getting paid and being greedy, this is about getting paid so you can be amazing at what you do so you can serve your people better. That’s what this comes down to, and that’s what I think a lot of attorneys don’t understand they kind of have that bleeding heart, oh, I’m going to cut my hours, I’m not going to collect on this bill, and that’s, if you want to be an excellent attorney and serve your clients in the long term over 20 and 30 years you have to get paid. You’re going to burn out if you don’t. So this is about you getting paid and serving your clients exceptionally well, and this is the way to do it.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and I mean, I think if that’s difficult for anybody to digest or to take in and say, yeah, that’s true, I think it’s just all you have to do to see the truth of that is flip it, don’t get paid. How long do you think you can be excellent if you don’t get paid? Unless you have an independent source of wealth, the answer is not very long, because your mind can’t possibly be focused a 100% on your clients’ issues if you have worries about your own, and I think that’s where it comes down to.
So when we talked earlier, Marco, you mentioned that there’s some strategies behind this, behind becoming excellent at what you do, behind getting paid. And so, one of the first strategies I want to talk to you about was, you had an idea if there’s solo attorneys who are listening and I know there’s lots of them, what’s the first hire in the firm, how do they really get on this track to being excellent? Who should solo attorney in your opinion bring in as a first hire in their business?
Marco Brown: They should bring in the person that’s going to be over the collections. That’s the absolute first hire that should happen. Before you hire somebody to answer phones, before you hire somebody to bring you coffee, before any of that kind of stuff, hire somebody that will collect on your bills. It is the highest ROI that you will ever have in your entire law firm.
Christopher T. Anderson: And why do you see that as a role like why isn’t that the attorney’s job, why should you hire that role?
Marco Brown: Because attorneys are just terrible at it, and I don’t know why exactly. Some attorneys, like me, so I’ve stepped away from doing the day to day on the cases and now I manage the business and mark it and get more people in so we can help them. So I do this sort of thing, but I realized that I’m not an average attorney thinking about these things. So there are some that do it. But for the vast majority of attorneys, they simply don’t want to do it, they want to come in, they want to do their jobs, they want to help their clients and they don’t want to do all the admin stuff which means they don’t get paid, so you have to have somebody other than attorneys doing it.
Christopher T. Anderson: All right. So in a law firm that’s operating more like a business, which is of course what we advocate here at The Un-Billable Hour, whose ultimate role is it to make sure and oversee that collections and finances are going the way they should be?
Marco Brown: That really comes down to the owner of the law firm, so you either have an owner of the law firm who does it or you have a managing attorney who acts essentially is the owner of the law firm who does it, this is the setup.
So you have the attorneys who bill, then you have somebody else who’s a non-attorney that collects and talk about the systems to allow that to happen, but they do the collection part, and then someone has to oversee that person, so somebody has to watch the watcher, because that person will do a pretty good job but there’s always stuff that’s going to get mixed up, and attorneys are going to tell this person, oh, I don’t want to stop work on a case or I want to cut time or I want to do something like that, and since that person is not an attorney, they can kind of stand up to them but they need somebody to back their play, and the only person that can do that effectively is the person who either manages the law firm in total or hones the law firm.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, so I think what I hear you saying really is that because lawyers kind of suck at doing the collections they should delegate that, but not abdicate it. They delegate it which means they verify, they make sure it’s being done, but they know they’ve got this kind of hired gun to go out and actually do the work as long as it’s supervised and the attorney retains ultimate responsibility.
Marco Brown: Yes, exactly.
Christopher T. Anderson: Excellent. Yeah, I agree. So, as we come close to wrapping up. We talked at the beginning of the show about what everybody wants to talk about is marketing, Advertising, marketing growth, and what we’ve been talking about is getting paid and I even mentioned during the course of this that marketing dollars come from profit, but some people asked the question about whether or not they should kick off their marketing or at times take on debt to advertize and expand. What thinking do you have around that?
Marco Brown: I think you can do that if you want to. I don’t do debt. So, we paid all of ours off, I have no debt in the office. I just don’t do debt. To me it’s a stone on my back and I didn’t really want it, but if you don’t think that way about it, you certainly can do that, you should never ever do it though until you’re getting paid 98%, 99%, 100% for what you do, because you’re just leaving money on the table and choosing a quick fix, which is to go get debt instead of solving the problems in your law practice that are going to make you ultimately successful.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, it sounds like really, really sound advice. So, as we wrap, I always like to leave when possible and when the show makes sense to leave with a main tip, a takeaway if you will, for the listeners. What’s one piece of advice you give to an attorney who has heard this and go like, it started, yeah, I deserve to get paid a 100%, what’s a tip you got for them? What should they do right now, tomorrow, today, tonight to get on that path?
Marco Brown: Yeah, so this is one of my rules I would tell them to fire their worst client today.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay
Marco Brown: And when I say “Fire your worst client” everybody who heard that had an image in their head, and that image is their worst freaking client, that’s the person they hate, that’s the person their team hates. Fire that person today. Your life will be exponentially better tomorrow.
Christopher T. Anderson: I think that is an excellent piece of advice and you can define it like you said, you can define it all you want, but when you said those words everybody knew who it was. Don’t go into denial about who that was, don’t justify who that was, that was the one.
Marco Brown: That is the person. Your gut and your brain tells you that person and just go with it.
Christopher T. Anderson: Oh, that’s absolutely great advice.
So Marco, thank you. That wraps up this edition of The Un-Billable Hour, the law business advisory podcast.
Our guest today has been Marco Brown. He’s Principal of Brown Law LLC in Salt Lake City.
Marco, if our listeners want to learn more about this, maybe catch one of your CLEs, what’s a great way for them to get in touch with you?
Marco Brown: Yeah, so I always give my email out, [email protected]. You could call me. I don’t have a phone in my office. They haven’t for a long while, so email is the best way. If you want me to come out and give the CLEs somewhere I’m happy to travel to do that. If you just want to talk on a personal level about things and help, then great. I don’t do pro-bono like it’s just — I don’t take divorce cases to do that sort of thing, it’s just another divorce case. This is how I help people is by talking them through these things.
Christopher T. Anderson: Definitely great advice and the advice that lots of folks need to hear. Thanks again, Marco.
Marco Brown: It was great. Thank you very much.
Christopher T. Anderson: Thank you. And of course this is Christopher Anderson, and I look forward to seeing you next month with another great guest. As we learn more about topics that help us build a law firm business that works for you.
Remember that you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes.
Thanks for joining us and we will see you again soon.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Thanks for listening to The Un-Billable Hour, the law practice advisory podcast. Join us again for the next edition, right here with Legal Talk Network.