Host Christopher T. Anderson meets with lawyers around the country to discuss issues they are currently facing in their practices.
Featured on this episode:
- How should I market two different areas of focus for my law firm?
- How do I find the right call intake employee to hire?
- What is the best use of marketing dollars when starting a practice in a new state?
- What are the pros and cons of training a new hire vs. hiring an already-experienced candidate?
- How do I deal with understaffing as I’m about to go on maternity leave?
Special thanks to our sponsors LawClerk, Alert Communications, LawYaw, and Scorpion.
Christopher T. Anderson: Before we start the show, I would like to say thank you to our sponsors. Alert Communications, Law Clerk, Lawyaw and Scorpion.
Male 1: The Un-Billable Hour Community Table where real lawyers from all around the country with real issues they are dealing with right now, meet together virtually to present their questions to Christopher T. Anderson, lawyer and law firm management consultant. New questions every episode, and none of it scripted. The real conversations happen here.
The first question comes from a lawyer who is uncertain how to market two different areas of focus for her law firm.
Female 1: I’m a medical malpractice lawyer. We’ve decided to put all of our marketing dollars on medical malpractice and to try to be facing to the world as we are only medical malpractice lawyers. However, as you know, Christopher, I have a very senior, what I call a general personal injury litigation lawyer because I put all of my eggs in the medical malpractice basket she’s running out of cases. As you know, when I was advertising for those cases in 2019, her attorney’s fees were over a million dollars. She also is able to turn those cases more quickly than we can med mal cases.
There’s a lot of reasons for me to keep her with a healthy car wreck, truck wreck, general litigation docket. Spoke with my marketing people a day, and they were like, “Well, you got to Rob Peter to pay Paul.” So, what I was wondering are what are some basic marketing techniques that I could use that are not digital marketing that could help build this docket. That makes sense?
Christopher T. Anderson: The question makes sense. I don’t know why you’d want to exclude digital, but I mean, I think the biggest PIMMA would be — if you go to PIMMA, you’ll find out exactly what you need to do. What’s the one for personal injury? Yeah, PIMMA.
Male 1: PILMMA.
Christopher T. Anderson: PILMMA, thank you. You’ll find out all the different things you can do. I mean, billboards are huge. Radio is huge. TV is huge. There’s a lot of different –800 specialized — 800 numbers are huge. There’s a lot of marketing techniques and tactics. But I don’t know why we would exclude one channel in favor of all the others. Do you have a reason why you want to do that?
Female 1: Well, because we don’t want to appear public facing to say we can handle your eight-figure med mal case and also your soft tissue car wreckage.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right, I got that. And that’s why I have a solution for that. But it doesn’t necessarily involve killing digital. The answer for that is you need a separate brand. Because this is the dog clinic and the cat clinic, and the marketing — it’s even worse than the dog clinic and the cat clinic. This is indeed just two separate products that don’t go together, and trying to co-market them will dilute both brands.
As you know, the factories are different or whatever, but that’s not your problem. You’ve got both factories figured out. I know that. The problems with operating two different practices are always the marketing gets confused and the factories get confused, and that can really be a strain on the business. It ruins profitability. But you’ve got the second part figured out. So, I’m not aware of Texas’ rules yet, but does Texas allow trade names at all?
Female 1: No.
Christopher T. Anderson: Not yet. Not yet, because the States were falling fast. New York just fell. I never thought New York would go. So, you need a different brand under the same name or a separate entity like you and your other person. She needs to be a partner, but she can be on the frame, the firm or it could just be personal injury. There’s something else you can do, but we can set up two separate brands.
The third problem with doing that is the one I want to be sure that we’re anticipating, which is as long as anybody else smells that Kate is doing personal injury like trucks as well as med mal, then other PI firms will be less likely to send med mal cases your way.
Female 1: Correct.
Christopher T. Anderson: And there’s no getting around that. If you just avoid digital, it’s now like they’re not going to sniff you out, they will. So, you just have to be prepared for that. That is going to decrease referrals from other PI lawyers because they’ll be worried that you’re competing because you’re not going to be referring your MVAs to them. Your MVAs to them. So, if you’re prepared for that, if that’s okay, then the idea here is we just market under a completely separate brand so the market doesn’t confuse the two.
And then you can hit digital, you can hit all the resources based on what you think is the best marketing mix for that business and fill her up.
Female 1: Yes. Right. Okay, tons of things to think about, and I think I do know actually some really prominent lawyers in town that just all of a sudden one night, there was this guy all over billboards, and everybody in town was like, “We’ve never heard of that guy. Who is it?” And then as you’re saying, they sniffed it out. They just got somebody that they thought made a good brand image and said, “Hey, do you want a job? You can have this firm or whatever.” So, I understand the concept and yes, I’ve heard about PILMMA for years and great legal marketing as well. So, I’ll look into that.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, those will give you the ideas of what you can do. But again, I think it’s not the right thing you can think about just avoiding digital to not mix up the brands. It’s about creating a separate brand.
Female 1: Got you.
Male 1: The second question centers around the struggles a lawyer is having. Finding a call intake employee to hire.
Female 2: I’m out of options on hiring. I’m literally stuck, and I think I’ve done most everything I could possibly do. My recruiters, I’m firing the intake that came from a recruiter, so he’s going to find me a replacement.
Christopher T. Anderson: First of all, your questions just start with hiring. You didn’t say what role and I know the answers by all.
Female 2: I’m sorry, let’s just say yeah, all. Well, intake and attorney are my now top two priorities. We might have a virtual staffer we just interviewed an hour ago. That seems at least I could probably maybe get a year and a half to two years out of them. This intake to me, intake has a lifespan of about two years. I’ve been noticing that trend because of the call volume, the stories. Has anyone had an intake person more than two years?
Christopher T. Anderson: No.
Female 2: Yeah. So, I’m thinking if I can get a virtual person or anyone for that matter, but at least I get a year and a half to two years, I think I’ve hit that they cap out at about that rate.
Christopher T. Anderson: What’s your number of calls per day that intake is fielding?
Female 2: Recently, it’s probably about ten new referrals, plus those calling back from previous days.
Christopher T. Anderson: So, ten new leads a day for intake marketing qualified leads. 220 to 250 a month.
Female 2: In the past couple of weeks, it’s dramatically increased.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay.
Female 2: Yeah, it wasn’t like that. So, it was manageable.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right.
Female 2: So, you have the intake problem, and then my sales is selling. So now I have an attorney problem because I don’t have.
Christopher T. Anderson: So frantic. My solution is always been to have a core person on team and then to have an outsourced team on call that can handle the overflow, which you handle with a call tree or some automation so that two rings, boom goes. So, the client doesn’t experience anything. And of course, you could always — the beauty there is you can weigh the effectiveness of both sides of the business. As far as recruiting for intake, I got to be honest, I’ve been the most successful over the past year as far as internal. I recruit from excellent customer service that I receive in my local area, either New York City when I’m there or in Georgia when I’m there or in Colorado when I’m there. And I have hired people from Bodegas. I just recently hired a person who was doing interior decoration, like interior remodeling instead of sending an engineer over, they sent a sales guy over, loved them, hired them and I didn’t buy the interior remodeling from that company. But it’s a recruiting game.
They’re not out there because they don’t –and when I was with how to manage, we face the same problem with marketing people and we finally decided to start advertising for the jobs, not mentioning it was how to manage or the business we were in because sales people, intake people, people who would be effective in the role don’t see themselves at a law firm. It just doesn’t click. They don’t think law firms do this. And so, they’re not looking, if they see it, they won’t apply. You’ve got to either position a separate marketing intake entity. It doesn’t have to really exist. You just create it for the purpose of recruiting, and/or you just go out there and you hunt and you turn everybody you know, your husband, your friends, everybody you know, I’m looking for this. But if you come across this is what this person looks like. This is how they quack. This is how they waddle. This is how they flap their wings. If you see one, it’s a duck. I want it. Bring it to me. And here’s a finder’s fee.
They don’t have to be legal. I prefer that they’re not. I just hired two, the one I just told you about. I’ve hired actually three. I hired a guy who was selling mattresses. The other one is in New York. But I just find them because you’re right they don’t last that long. I hire them whenever I find them because I always have something for them to do because I’ve got the overflow right. So, when I hire someone else, I can pay my overflow business less for a while until the volume builds back up.
Female 2: Should I change my Ad? My job ad to remove law firm or keep it law firm or just the title should say inside sales.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yes. Yeah, inbound, outbound or both? You characterize it the way you will. Mine are heavily both. So, I make sure I do say that it’s inbound and outbound.
Female 2: Remove anything about a law firm and just say –
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, because they don’t see.
Female 2: Well, tell you about it when you call.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, you could say highly fast-growing professional services business, fast growing services business however you want to characterize it. But don’t say law firm. They don’t get it, especially family law firm. It just doesn’t click.
Female 2: All right, I’ll try that because I’m at my wit’s end and then the recruiting for the lawyers. I mean, I’m about to just I don’t know, honestly. Nothing, nothing. Crickets.
Christopher T. Anderson: I’ve come across someone that I’ve started using. I can’t tell her name to everybody in the business, but if you DM on this call. But if you DM me, we can speak privately and I will give you her name, she is not a lawyer recruiter, but I have recruited her to recruit lawyers and she’s doing a great job.
Female 2: Okay.
Christopher T. Anderson: I’ll give you, her name.
Female 2: All right, cool.
Christopher T. Anderson: It’s another one of those things where I saw someone in a different business and said, you’d be good at this and she is.
Female 2: Interesting.
Christopher T. Anderson: And yeah, you’ll do. Then, she charges normally because she knows the recruiting business. She charges me like everybody else, but she’s easy to work with.
Female 2: Thanks.
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Male 1: The third question is from a lawyer who wants to know how to best use marketing dollars when starting in a new state.
Male 2: This may be a question that you’ve probably already answered for yourself. You go into a new market where no one knows you much and you’re starting out whether it’s competitive or not. I see you’re into divorces in Colorado so my question is where do you put your money in your marketing as you come in? What do you do, starting out from nothing? I mean, a lot of obviously digital and things like that, but I’m just kind of curious just from your perspective coming into a place where to introduce yourself to a lot of new people will take some time getting any traction when you’re figuring out what lawyers to speak with, how you ask for the referrals from that aspect. Obviously, we’re doing auto accidents and personal injury down in Tampa which is one of the probably highest concentrations of Morgan & Morgan and everybody else that’s blowing money left and right. So, I’m just kind of curious what your thoughts are.
Christopher T. Anderson: First of all, the big question is what are you doing in Tampa? Are you doing the same thing? You’re doing PI work or what’s the thing in Tampa?
Male 2: Well, we’re doing PI and my son’s license down here so I took the bar exam. I think maybe, I told you that I wasn’t sure. But anyway, so I’m licensed down in Florida and we’re doing personal injury and some criminal defense kind of like what we’re doing in Nebraska to a certain degree.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay, so I think the answer is for me and the business I’m actually in Colorado and elsewhere is law firm acquisitions.
Male 2: Okay. We’re building a new business model and then acquiring law firms and putting them into it. But in order to do that, we had to prove the concept. So, my model for proving this concept of how to drop a law firm, how to drop a brand into a new area is, first of all, you have to build recognition. So, the first thing was you do things free. Give free content, give free workshops, give free seminars and some low-cost stuff, but get good six to nine months of market priming so that you can get some recognition.
Then you hit the market with marketing, with cold marketing, because you’re not a known entity, you don’t have authority yet. And you can hit it with cold marketing in a variety of ways. But to me, the number one key is hire somebody who is known. That is the fastest way into the market. So, you get someone who knows their way around, who can tell you who’s good, who’s bad, what they know about it, and who has some recognition that can tell the marketplace, “Hey, this firm is legit. This is a good idea, and you should do it. You should consider them to be legit in the space.” That’s in a business that requires knowledge.
Now let’s talk about what you do. For the most part, what you do much like what Kim does, much like what Carrie does, involves people who have zero sophistication in deciding how to hire a law firm, because they’ve never done it before. So, you get to educate them on how to do it and that’s where you focus your marketing. Is this –why are you different? Why are you in this market space? Why should they hire you? And you have to get to them. So, the answer to that is, to the extent you can’t do what I said before, get someone who’s known and leverage a known entity.
Then you focus on digital and any other means that gets you directly in front of the consumer in a way that they will not be looking for social proof, referral evidence. But basically, they’re looking for you to teach them what it is to be their client. And so, your messaging is around that. “This is Inkelaar Law. This is why we do things the way we do them. This is why we’re different. This is why you’ll be okay with us and here’s what you should expect from us.”
And make it what they won’t get from someone else. Don’t make it the stupid stuff like we’ll return your phone calls or we care what’s different. What is something that other lawful lawyers aren’t saying? Say that. Only if you need it, of course. Then you put in your money, and it’s what I described to, I think at the last meeting, we were talking to someone else. But I said you have to distinguish in marketing between the allegory is one that should be important to our estate planning folks, at the beginning, when you’re launching a business, you are building money. As the business matures, you move to build wealth.
Building wealth is getting referral clients, getting people to send you business, getting known in the marketplace, getting brand recognition. That’s all wealth. At first, spend all your money getting money because that’s what you need. And the wealth has to come second. You can’t do it the other way around. So, a little bit of priming the market, then focusing on getting money and then building the referral network and if along the way you can inject some talent from the market, that will help a lot.
Male 2: Okay. You talked about market or acquisition of law firms. I went through that process for about a year and looking at several law firms down here that were for sale and obviously, the process that you go through and what people put on their numbers and what you find out are really one way or the other, you think they have good law firms, and then you find out that reality, they really aren’t selling much.
Christopher T. Anderson: No. Most law firms are worth close to zero.
Male 2: Right. So that was the process that we went through. I considered finding some good firms, putting some money into those and like you said, you’ve got a known entity that’s already running, you’re pulling in some clients. But bottom line is that I went through, I think, three or four different law firms over the years and came to the same conclusion every time. We might as well take the 150,000 to 200,000 that we have to put into it, let’s say –
Christopher T. Anderson: Put in marketing, yeah.
Male 2: And just go ahead and try to market. So that’s why I was just asking you when you’re starting out and nobody knows you and you don’t have that leverage of current clients coming in. I mean, we’re doing lawyer referral from the Hillsborough bar just to kind of have some connection. They’re doing a lot of free work, just answering questions that have nothing to do with car wrecks, but still building recognition from people who know who you are.
Maybe spending some money, but you’re just trying to get familiarity with different people, knowing who you are, and at least have the phones ringing.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yes, I’ve got to play you out, but that’s a conversation that I want to continue with you. If you want to talk about plopping into a new marketplace a little bit more, just shoots me an email. We’ll chat a little bit more about that.
Male 1: Our fourth question is about the differences between training a new hire versus hiring an already experienced candidate.
Female 3: I wanted to ask you about training people versus hiring people for a position. So when I first started out on my own, I would hire the cheapest, least experienced people and that was a disaster and then I swore to myself up and down that there’s no way in hell that I wasn’t hiring someone who wasn’t already a competent professional at the job I was hiring for and I’m finding myself — I’m hiring for sort of a very specific role and having a really, really hard time finding that probate paralegal who isn’t doing ultra-high net worth and wondering if I should grow one of my own and it kind of gives me a pit in the bottom of my stomach to do it because it’s going to be so draining but I’m going to keep meeting these people. That’s kind of part a of my question.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay. The answer is higher. Clearly, you’re not big enough to train. There are positions where you have to train for because they don’t exist or you’ll have to try to mold someone into something that you’ve got that doesn’t exist in the market space. If that’s the case, that’s what you got to do. But let me give you this, as I grew my business/businesses, what I often found when I found someone who met the job description was really a rock star in that area is that I learned along the way that I had no idea how good that role could be.
In the beginning of my career, I had some paralegals around and I went into a firm that had some paralegals around and I thought that’s what a good paralegal was until I hired a good paralegal and I was like, “Holy shit. Paralegals can do all that?” And it just raised my standard and I trained a few. I mean, I would never have trained a paralegal for that standard. I would now but I wouldn’t have then. And now I don’t have time. Now, could I train a paralegal to that standard? Yes, I could. It would take me a year it would be a colossal waste of my time because they exist in the world.
So, the only time where it’s really important to be able to train is A. for culture we’re you’re willing where you have a role for them in their untrained state. So, for instance, if you’re a large enough firm, you can bring in law clerks. And when they graduate, they can be junior attorneys because you’ve got a role for junior attorneys where they can be valuable in that role, and then you’ll train them to be senior attorneys. But they’re serviceable all the way through that training because that takes time. If you don’t have a firm that size, you’ve got to hire for the position you need and then hope that they grow from there. But you can’t — you’re not a training business, and I don’t actually know enough about your background, Yana, but I don’t think you’re a professional trainer. And so, it’s hubris a little bit to think that you’re going to all of a sudden become one.
You’re also not a professional recruiter, so that’s part of the problem, right? But you have a better idea or you have a better chance of finding what you’re looking for if you just get really clear about what you’re looking for and you go out there and you hunt for it, or you pay someone else to hunt for it and not accept less. Meet your standard for not accepting less.
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Male 1: Finally, our last question comes from a lawyer who has problems with understaffing as she is about to go on maternity leave.
Female 4: I’m scheduled to deliver any day now, Chris.
Christopher T. Anderson: Congratulations.
Female 4: Yeah. I’ve lost a lot of money this year behind that, so I’ll take it. But what I wanted to ask you is I have hired an attorney that had supposedly on the books, on paper, she has 18 years of experience. I have a younger attorney who fresh out of passing the bar at the end of last year. I find him to be worth more than the 18-year attorney that I have. And the issue that I have is that he’s not ready to go to trial. He can’t try cases. But I have an 18-year vet that’s on my payroll who I’m struggling with. But at the same time, the market is so bad, and I’m about to pop. So, I definitely can’t jump in a courtroom right now. I’m not even in Georgia. I’m in Florida. So, what do I do with this 18-year vet? Do I just let her loose? What do I do?
Christopher T. Anderson: Well, I mean, so there’s a short-term answer and the long-term answer, right. If that leaves you without anybody that can go to court tomorrow, you don’t do that to your business. But the market is the market. There are lawyers out there. It’s different. You’ve got a market for them and find them. I’m hiring them. And you guys can, too. It’s not putting an ad out on Indeed. I don’t want to give all my secrets away, but I won’t even give the name. But there’s another law firm in Colorado who claims to be everything, that is my mission, but they’re not.
And so, the lawyers that are there are disillusions, and I’m picking them off one at a time. If you get your name out there and listen, here’s the model that I’ve tried to teach, and we’ll continue to try to teach because I think it works. It works for me. Is you start with, “Who would I want that I know exists in the world?” Doesn’t matter if they’re looking for a job or not. Who would I want? If you could choose any lawyer that you know to come work in your firm right now do you know who they are?
Female 4: I mean, they own their own firm.
Christopher T. Anderson: I didn’t say that they would work in your business. I just said if you could wave a magic wand and they’d be in your business.
Female 4: Oh god.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. Who would it be? You know them. And they either own their own firm or they work in a firm and hopefully, you know some who work in a firm and they’re happy where they are.
Female 4: Right. And if you know the owner of the firm, even better, because then you call the owner of that firm and you say, “Hey, listen, I want to talk to Gene(ph).” Gene is exactly the kind of lawyer I want to work in my firm. And I promise you not waste a Sunday, even if Jean tells me she hates your guts and wants to leave, like, I won’t hire Gene out of respect for you. This is not what this conversation is, but here’s what I know. Lawyers like Gene know lawyers like Gene, and I don’t.
So, I want to talk to Gene to get an idea about who out there is not happy, but they’re not looking. They’re not on Indeed, they’re not looking where I’m putting the word out so that I can go talk to them. And then you get permission to talk to Gene, and you ask Gene, give me — at the end of the day, I can’t hire you, but can you help me out? I need people. Who are the five lawyers you would think would be great for my business?
And you go talk to them and you ask each of them for the three lawyers and I learned this from my insurance guy when I first opened my law firm. My insurance guy came in to try to sell me insurance. It was like day three, I wasn’t buying anything. I was buying paper clips. We had a nice conversation. He said, listen, “I know you’re not going to buy anything this year. I know you’ll buy for me next year. But in the meantime, you know three people I should talk to.” And I gave him three names. That’s how he built his business. And that’s the same thing I’m using to recruit is I just go find people that are people that I would want if they were available. And I don’t care if they’re available because each one of them knows five people.
And before you know it, I’m talking to 125 people and then I find people and that’s how I found everybody that’s been building this new business. Like that’s how I find all the lawyers right now. Because lawyers aren’t looking for jobs. Not the good ones.
Female 4: Right.
Christopher T. Anderson: But they are looking in their heads. They’re just afraid. So, you go find them.
Female 4: All right.
Christopher T. Anderson: But yeah, for right now. No, you can’t leave yourself in the lurch. Have your new lawyer second chair her so he can get trial ready. Send him to Nita(ph).
Send them to Nita, I was going to say the trial lawyers College in South Carolina but I think that’s only for prosecutors. But Anita is a good place to go and there’s probably others. Some there’s probably AALJ or something like Inkelaar might know who else on here does defense.
Female 4: ALJ, if you’re doing civil litigation for PI work, Trial Lawyers College is doing stuff for criminal. But they also do — if you don’t represent corporations, they will train you for certain things. And then, Nita is some of the civil litigation and there’s a National Criminal Defense College as well or Criminal (00:30:42).
Male 1: Thank you for listening. This has been The Un-Billable Hour Community Table on the Legal Talk Network.