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Hiring, Marketing, and Client Management for Solo Firms

August 27, 201945 min read

The Attorney as Entrepreneur with Neil Tyra

Law Firm Growth Podcast Episode 10: The Attorney as Entrepreneur with Neil Tyra


Neil Tyra: [00:00:00] But the single biggest factor in those firms that are able to grow versus those that get stuck and are unable to, to develop, and that's releasing that hero mentality.

Narrator: Welcome to the law firm growth podcast, where we share the latest tips, tactics and strategies for scaling your practice from the top experts in the world of growing law firms.

Narrator: Are you ready to take your practice to the next level? Let's get started.

Jan Roos: Hey everybody, this is Jan Roos. Welcome back to the CaseFuel podcast. I'm here today with Neil Tyra. So Neil is a serial entrepreneur. He's currently running his own state law practice out of Maryland, but he's also the host of the Law Entrepreneur Podcast.

Jan Roos: So he has a lot of experience speaking to some interesting people doing some very interesting stuff himself. And we're going to talk to him about some of the challenges that might be faced for the new law practice owner and people that are looking to grow up their practice. Thanks again for taking the time Neil.

Jan Roos: Extraordinarily happy to be here, Jan.

Neil Tyra: Thank you for having me.

Jan Roos: [00:01:00] All

Neil Tyra: right.

Jan Roos: My pleasure.

Neil Tyra: Tell us a little bit more about how you got to where you are today. I haven't really decided what I want to be when I grow up. I keep changing my mind. Law is my fourth career. I came to the practice of law fairly late in life.

Neil Tyra: In fact, I was the oldest student in my law school class by a long shot. You know, before that, I cooked for a living, and then I spent 20 plus years helping to build hardware and software systems for the government in the space program and satellite program. And then complete shift. I owned a martial arts studio for several years and finally sold that to go to law school.

Neil Tyra: So truly I can't figure out what I want to be when I grow up. And I'm not sure that I won't pick a fifth career at some point.

Jan Roos: That's interesting. And actually, what kind of martial arts did you do? I'm just curious. I practice the

Neil Tyra: Japanese form of the martial arts

Jan Roos: called Gojiru

Neil Tyra: Karate.

Jan Roos: Oh, interesting.

Jan Roos: Yeah. No, it's, it's always interesting to see people who have the martial arts background. A lot of discipline carries over to different parts of your life.

Neil Tyra: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I remember my instructor was an attorney, an immigration [00:02:00] attorney in New York city. And he often stated that. The practice of martial arts directly led to his success as an attorney because of the discipline and the focus and those kinds of things.

Neil Tyra: I wasn't the best martial artist, but I was a pretty good teacher and I'm not the best lawyer. I keep that in mind. There's lots of lawyers that are, that are better than me, but. I'm a pretty good teacher when it comes to explaining the current practice area that I focus on. So all those things have carried over.

Neil Tyra: So following on that

Jan Roos: a little bit, the main focus that we're seeing on the Law Entrepreneur podcast is sort of what people didn't learn in law school. And you know, you've went through the process recently about going through law school and then running your own practice. So I wanted to ask in terms of like broad strokes, what are kind of the commonalities that you see that people don't have equipped when they graduate, they pass the bar, they're ready to open their practice?

Neil Tyra: That is the 64, 000 question, as we like to say, and it's really the reason that I started the podcast because I think the fundamental misunderstanding or the misconception or [00:03:00] the lack of preparedness on the part of graduating law students is the recognition that running a law practice is owning a business.

Neil Tyra: And frankly, the law schools have no interest in teaching you how to run a business. When I was in law school and graduated not that long ago, there were no classes, none, about how to prepare to own your own practice or what's necessary. I was lucky, as I said, I had already owned a small business, a martial arts school, so I had made all the mistakes that were possible.

Neil Tyra: And when I say made all the mistakes that were possible, I made every dang one of them. I squandered a lot of money and a lot of time, and I learned by my own mistakes about how to run a business, how to rent facilities and what to do in terms of contracting for utilities and telephones and. Meeting state and local regulations and how to market your, your business [00:04:00] and how to maintain your books and how to pay your bills and hire staff and do all of those things, which were absolutely necessary to run a martial arts school.

Neil Tyra: And frankly, are absolutely necessary to run a law practice. And. There's not a single aspect of that that is addressed when you're in law school. So when I came out of law school, it was right at the height of the economic crisis. And all the big law firms and major multinational law firms were laying off droves and droves of attorneys because their business was drying up.

Neil Tyra: Or shrinking. And all those high priced corporate attorneys were unleashed on the market and they started trying to find jobs in mid sized law firms, which caused a lot of the attorneys on the bottom end of that ladder to get axed or Not get hired. And so it just put downward pressure all the way down to the point where graduates in my year of [00:05:00] graduation faced a very daunting task about getting a job.

Neil Tyra: And as the law schools churned out more and more graduates with fewer and fewer jobs, there was this complete disillusionment about what the practice of law meant. And for many, the only opportunity they had to practice what they've now spent a fortune learning was to open up their own practice, but they've had no training on how to run a business.

Neil Tyra: It, there was time after time and time again, I saw attorneys. You know, commit terrible mistakes, either financial mistakes or ethical mistakes. And they either lost their shirt and went out of business or lost their license and went out of business. And I said, there's gotta be there. I mean, there's something missing here.

Neil Tyra: And frankly, to be honest with you, I think. It's almost malpractice for the law schools now to unleash all these attorneys without some understanding of what it takes to run a practice. And so that's why I started the law entrepreneur, but [00:06:00] they didn't teach us in law school about running a business. I was hoping that I would have a local audience that would be interested in hearing what other successful attorneys.

Neil Tyra: Had to say and learn lessons from them. I'm stunned by how broad the audience is and how much enthusiasm after two years. Now there still is for the podcast. So not in a nutshell, but in a, something of a long winded explanation is how we got to where we are today.

Jan Roos: Yeah, I got you. Maybe not a nutshell, maybe a coconut shell.

Jan Roos: Exactly. Okay. It's something that I'm, I'm running into a lot as, as being somebody who runs a marketing practice, that there's almost a, not only a lack of education for the business side of things, but almost disdain for a lot of these things. You hear these, these, these. These pieces of advice that like, you know, good lawyers don't market.

Jan Roos: And you literally wouldn't hear that in any other sort of vertical. It's like, no one says, okay, yeah. And I'm a good, good consumer packaged goods. Companies don't market, you know, you let your, let your detergent stand on its own. It's never going to [00:07:00] happen with all this sort of culture, kind of almost conspiring to prevent people from having success.

Jan Roos: It seems like there's a lot of pitfalls that the the new attorney or the person who's going into solo practice for the first time can face. And I'm sure you've gotten a lot of these stories in your experience, Neil. What would you say, if you had to boil it down to a couple of the most common pitfalls, what do you see happening most often with people who are starting a practice for the first time?

Neil Tyra: Well, it's really interesting because the demographics are changing. When I first started my practice of law and then ultimately the podcast, people were coming into solo practice or small firm practice from either directly out of law school or they were transitioning from other law firms. So there was kind of a mix of age groups.

Neil Tyra: The younger attorneys. Embraced a lot of things that the older attorneys would not, and you mentioned exactly one of them. Older attorneys kind of came with the mindset that advertising legal services is disdainful. I didn't go to law school to become a marketer. I went to law school to become an attorney.[00:08:00]

Neil Tyra: Whereas the younger attorneys, I think, who have grown up, In the social media era, they were actually quick to adopt those methodologies and those platforms. It's kind of a mixed bag. If there's a common theme, I think the most common thing that I've seen, at least in the last two years of the podcast, is a very strong migration to solo practitioners not having dedicated office space.

Neil Tyra: Again, when I started as a solo practitioner, the first thing I did was sign a lease. I would not recommend a new attorney. Do that now because the technology is such that you can practice law from anywhere. So more and more, I would say the overwhelming vast majority new solo practitioners are starting off in a virtual environment.

Neil Tyra: That's the thing that I see. Most frequently. The other thing is, again, this is a bit generationally oriented. I find that the younger attorneys are doing a much better job, a much more aggressive [00:09:00] job of niching down their practice to something specific so as to set them apart. Whereas the older attorneys seem to lack a little bit of that kind of vision.

Neil Tyra: And you know, that's a great generalization, but I do see younger attorneys identifying as themselves as attorneys who, for instance, cater to the needs of restaurant owners or another attorney who is solely focused on the law surrounding craft breweries or another one who was completely devoted to animal law and just kind of a more narrow, more specialized niche practice than say a general practice or A broad spectrum family law practice as an example.

Jan Roos: And I think that's a very important point to make and it kind of betrays sort of an awareness of these marketing principles that maybe these younger attorneys are having. You're not going to be able to open up a shingle and all of a sudden be the best attorney in town. I mean, you're competing against the giant firms.

Jan Roos: Like, [00:10:00] let's say somebody is doing corporate law. You know, you're in competition with Paul Weiss from day one. So to be that kind of person is really, really tough. But on the other hand, if you are, you know, Mr. Craft brewery law, no one else is really hanging up their shingle for that. So it kind of allows these people to set a category of one.

Jan Roos: And it's kind of funny because on the advertising side, we can actually see a lot of the data supporting this. So one of the things is in New York, for example, one of the most expensive keywords that people would think would be something like mesothelioma law or personal injury law or something like that, it's actually the keyword lawyer.

Jan Roos: Which is kind of silly because either the people that are coming in for lawyer, if it's, it's completely outside of somebody's practice group, then you know, not only are you, do you have to have this incredible brand gravity to get somebody to convince that, that you're the person in lieu of actually niching down.

Jan Roos: But there's so many different ways that you could lose that client. If you're talking about something else on your ad or your landing page, it seems like that's a pretty interesting kind of an interesting dynamic. And one that I definitely recommend for people who haven't considered to look into, because it can make things a lot easier.[00:11:00]

Jan Roos: The

Neil Tyra: other thing I see a great deal, or there's clearly a trend with respect to the law entrepreneur, it may be because this is my focus as well, is the successful solo and small firm practitioners are really leveraging technology. And that's not just to say, you know, social media platforms in terms of marketing and brand awareness, but they're really leveraging technology in terms increasing efficiency and therefore higher profitability.

Neil Tyra: The younger practitioners are in general that's not to say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but they're quicker to adopt automated tools, your data capturing mechanisms, integration techniques to get the most out of what they have. Instead of perhaps immediately thinking, I need to hire somebody to help me.

Neil Tyra: If I can do the work more efficiently and can generate more work because of the better use of technology, I can put off the expense of having to [00:12:00] hire someone longer and therefore I have a much better chance of succeeding.

Jan Roos: Yeah, absolutely. And we just wrapped up a podcast. So it was kind of going into the, the whole concept of the E myth, which I'm sure you read that book, right?

Jan Roos: Yeah,

Neil Tyra: exactly.

Jan Roos: At the lowest level. Any single hour that you're spending filing your own papers or taking out the garbage or you name it is isn't an hour that that you're billing as an attorney, but you know, when you're taking the perspective of somebody who's looking to grow a firm, even work that you're doing yourself is something that's keeping you from getting more case files at the end of the day.

Jan Roos: And that's what can really spur the growth of the business. But yeah, it's a flip side of the coin because it's a flip side of the coin. You know, on one level, the solo practice is, is kind of a tough stage to get through if it's one that somebody is looking to get through, because you have this, this whole dynamic of 24 hours on the clock, you know, what are you going to spend working existing cases?

Jan Roos: What are you going to spend working existing cases? And I kind of described this sort of as the networking. Paradox, because most of the time, especially when people are doing stuff like BNI chapters, and you have business cards, that sort of thing. It's kind of a self [00:13:00] defeating cycle because when you get enough work from those channels, it prevents you investing your time into it.

Jan Roos: And then when you're trapped to your time and marketing, that's tied to your time is going to be crippled when you have to actually have.

Neil Tyra: Well, one of my early guests, Christopher Berry, he's an attorney in Michigan. I think he said it best. He said, you know, when you first start out as a solo, the thing you have most of his time and very little money.

Neil Tyra: So you're able to invest more time early in the game by necessity, because you don't have a lot of money as you get busier and you grow and have more on your plate. The thing you have less of is time. You might have more money, but you have less time. So trying to figure out when to stop spending your own hours and trade that by spending more dollars to buy those hours back, that's the key to success.

Jan Roos: Another question, and this might be kind of a moving target, but I know we're talking about stuff like software and practice management and that sort of thing. When have you seen as a good time for people to start looking into solutions like that? I mean, obviously it would be fantastic [00:14:00] if you could just roll out with a full package on day one, but might not be a reality for most people.

Neil Tyra: I think the answer to that is the sooner the better. And that's kind of a, that's an easy answer to give. But I think what happens also is that if you're not paying attention to that early, you can get stuck in what you have. So as a perfect example, you may choose to use a, you know, one particular type of Of say a case management system or case management tool or CRM tool, if you want to even look at it that way, you know, customer relation management tool, you may choose that early because it's something you're familiar with or it's easy or it's free or something like that.

Neil Tyra: Whatever the case may be. If you're not paying attention and looking to how you may upgrade or improve that process along the way, you may get to the point where you get so much vested in a poor solution in comparison to what's available that you can't switch and you get stuck. And that is a limiting factor.

Neil Tyra: And I [00:15:00] see it often, ask somebody on the podcast, well, what do you use as. Your case management tool as well. I'm kind of just using a spreadsheet. Well, why is that? Well, I've just got too much time invested in. I've got too much data in the spreadsheet. And the idea of converting that into a real case management tool is too daunting for me right now.

Neil Tyra: And so I'm just going to stay with what I have and therefore I'm going to stay stuck.

Jan Roos: That's a big issue that I see with attorneys as well as entrepreneurs at all levels that are starting out. People tend to overemphasize in my experience. Like if you look at anything, if you're not paying sufficient For something in money, you're paying for it in time.

Jan Roos: And when a lot of people would consider something like a sunk capital cost, people don't really take the time to consider what a sunk time cost is. And that's the perfect example. When you're using that system or that, that spreadsheet or that less high level practice management system, it's. You know, you can't really migrate that stuff off of it.

Jan Roos: And, you know, even if you saving a couple hundred bucks a month, you might be losing thousands of dollars a month in terms of the time that you're investing into it.

Neil Tyra: It's also true, however, that you can spend a lot [00:16:00] of money needlessly. I mean, I know when I started my martial arts studio, I built out an entire Bay and this, you know, high traffic shopping center, because that's what I thought would attract students, you know, having this really cool looking space.

Neil Tyra: And as they walk. By the way, we ought to come in and start taking martial arts. Later, what I realized is that I spent an enormous amount of money that I really could have used much more efficiently to do other things to attract students that could have then paid for the upgrades to the facility. The same is true in practice of law.

Neil Tyra: You can spend a lot of money, and there's a lot of ways out there and a lot of things you can do. That will eat up a lot of funds pretty quickly. So you have to be frugal about what you spend money on, at least in the beginning, when you start having a boatload of clients come in, you know, hopefully when you're that successful, then you can be a little more freewheeling with your expenditures in terms of tools and products and services.

Neil Tyra: But it's a hard decision to make when is the right time for that to occur?

Jan Roos: [00:17:00] Yeah. Cause you're kind of bounded on either side by. Potential wrong things happening. So it's a, you definitely spend too aggressively, but it'd also be too cautious to your point. One of the things that I found is the mindset that I find some, some smaller practices getting locked into it.

Jan Roos: It's this sort of all or nothing approach. So going back to sort of the martial arts analog, that investment in that space was clearly a huge commitment, clearly a huge spend, and it wasn't until after you'd made that investment that you were able to tell whether it was going to work or not. Right. Based on what the size, or I'm guessing it wasn't the, it didn't live up to the expectations that you thought.

Jan Roos: Right. Nice

Neil Tyra: space, but pretty expensive. Like for instance, I put down these hardwood floors. Had I known that when I know now how to just put mats down as the perfect example.

Jan Roos: And then the thing is it's a good mindset for a lot of people to have, to kind of look for ways that you can kind of itemize that, especially when you're going smaller.

Jan Roos: So, you know, maybe instead of getting, you know, a billboard in the main street in town, send out some direct mail or like, you know, instead of investing in the awesome office, then, you know, you want to. Pass off wires or something like that. Or, but being able to kind of [00:18:00] scale down, double down, you know, provided there is an ROI and what's happening, it'll give you more chips to play with, which I think is a really important thing.

Jan Roos: And when people can accept small wins and take the mindset that that's something that they can roll into to greater wins, I think that's kind of something I've seen that the more successful practices get into absolutely. And I'm sort of on that note, kind of transitioning a little bit from the person starting out to the people scaling up and.

Jan Roos: Granted, that's not what everyone wants to do. There's, you know, there's a lot of people out there that are perfectly happy running a successful solo practice, a profitable solo practice. And I know that's all they really want, but the people that want to scale up to the medium, large, you know, eventually very large firm, what kind of practices have you seen that.

Jan Roos: That, that separates the people that win in that field versus the ones that don't.

Neil Tyra: The ones who want to scale up are the ones that a mentor of mine once said, who can shed the hero mentality, the quickest, you know, I think there's a tendency for us as attorneys to think that. Particularly when I start the practice, start my own practice, that I am the [00:19:00] practice, that it's my expertise, that is what's being sought after.

Neil Tyra: And I have to do things and nobody can do them as well as I can. And the longer you hold on to that hero mentality, the more difficult it is to allow somebody else To perform that function in order to free you up to be the rainmaker for the business. Again, as a mentor of mine, same guy once said, it's the difference between working in your business and working on your business.

Neil Tyra: So the ones that are the most successful in scaling are the ones that have been able to offload the legal work that they're doing quickly. It used to be that meant hiring somebody. So the ones that could take the leap to say, hire a paralegal, either part time or full time or, or a legal administrator slash secretary, that used to be the first kind of staffing addition that would free up the business owner to continue to [00:20:00] grow the business.

Neil Tyra: But what I'm seeing absolutely more and more these days is the use of virtual Assistance or virtual attorneys. In fact, entire industries are growing up around the idea of being able to hire staff members, either those with JD degrees or just paralegal certifications or simply virtual assistants, all with the idea of being able to offload.

Neil Tyra: Work hours to free up the business owner, to grow the business, to grow the firm. And that to me is the single biggest trend or the single biggest factor in those firms that are able to grow versus those that get stuck and are unable to, to develop. And that's releasing that hero mentality and getting to a point where you can offload the work to, in today's era, more to a virtual environment.

Jan Roos: That's a really interesting point. And I'm sure that we have some heroes that are going to be listening to this podcast that are [00:21:00] probably saying this invisible objection of, Hey, I spent all this time investing in this JD. I know how to do this stuff. What if my quality goes down when I hire these virtual staffs?

Jan Roos: What would you say to the person who's asking that question?

Neil Tyra: The thing is, is when you hire somebody, you can't abandon your responsibility to oversee and manage their performance. So it's not like a free pass. Oh, I could, I hired a virtual paralegal. I don't have to worry about it anymore. I don't have to review the work that they've done.

Neil Tyra: Now you got to review the work that they've done and tweak their output. If it's not up to the standard that you expect or that is expected of you, it's on you to do that process improvement to make sure you get there so you can't abandon that responsibility, but you know, it is a challenge. I mean, we all have been.

Neil Tyra: In that position where we say, Oh, it's easier for me to do it than to try and teach somebody else to do it while that's true in the short term, it's not true in the long term, and it is a limiting factor. So it's a difficult hurdle to get over. But if. It is your desire to [00:22:00] grow your practice. You have to do that.

Neil Tyra: There's just no two ways about it.

Jan Roos: Yeah, that's very interesting. And one of the things I think is kind of a negative pressure working against that is, you know, you might be more comfortable practicing the law than picking up just like a lot of the attorneys didn't go to law school so they could be marketers.

Jan Roos: A lot of the attorneys didn't go to law school so they could be managers. So you're facing this comfortable feel that you have this. Deep level of expertise. And you have the choice of doing that for another week versus taking the plunge and hiring a virtual assistant, and then trying to start completely fresh in the management space and do something that's very uncomfortable that you might not feel as confident in.

Jan Roos: But at the end of the day, I think it's pretty clear that like, there's, like you said, there's, there's really no two ways about it. Like you're not going to be able to scale yourself past the 160 or so hours that you have in a week, assuming that you don't sleep. sleep. But if you can have a couple of hours of management, then you could leverage that into 40 hours at a time for as many people as you want to bring on.

Neil Tyra: Well, it is a threshold question that I think attorneys have to ask themselves when they're considering embarking on a solo career. [00:23:00] Do I have what it takes to do that? Am I the kind of person who. You know, it's comfortable managing other people or, or it's comfortable letting others do the work while I grow the business, or am I the kind of person who is willing to invest in learning the skillset and acquiring the knowledge to go out and market my business?

Neil Tyra: Cause that's not what I, it's not what I trained in and how comfortable am I with respect to, I spent, you know, 300, 000. learning how to be an attorney. I don't want to give that up. You have to get past that threshold question. And for some people, the answer is no, I really want to be an attorney. I don't want to do all that stuff.

Neil Tyra: And I don't even want to have to think about it. Well, then you're really not the right candidate for a solo practice. You really should be looking to work in an environment where you can focus your attention on the pure practice of law. The great thing about the most, you know, this recent movement towards virtual environment is That you can dip your toe in the water and find out what kind of manager you are, what kind of marketer you might be, because you don't have to make [00:24:00] that full commitment.

Neil Tyra: You can hire a virtual assistant, whether they be a paralegal or an actual attorney or. legal secretary or intern or whatever. You can do that a couple hours a week, four hours a week, one day a week. You know, you can scale it up to whatever your needs are. That is not something that was always available to us.

Neil Tyra: It is now available to us in droves. And so that's where you find the most success right now.

Jan Roos: And just to dig down in that a little bit, for the people that this might be new to, where would you suggest is a good starting point for finding people?

Neil Tyra: First, you know, ask others that there's lots of forums where you can, can jump on either listservs managed by your local bar association or state bar.

Neil Tyra: There's even the national level, you listservs, Solo says is, you know, a nationwide one. That's usually the first place to look. I think going to some of these larger legal trade shows, if you will. Or conferences. I mentioned that I just got back from the ABA tech show in Chicago last [00:25:00] week. There's also the AVO lawyer nomics conference in Vegas a little later this year.

Neil Tyra: I think if you can spring for that, it's a good idea to go there and walk the vendor floor because you'll find all kinds of vendors able to do what you're looking for. My friends at Ruby receptionist call Ruby. They're. They've been at both various other types of virtual paralegals are available. I use a company called Paralegal Consultants out of Southern Maryland.

Neil Tyra: Valerie Nowotnik was a guest of mine on the show early. So you get that through either word of mouth or going through some of those larger tech shows, as I said, or conferences. And then you can also ask your local bar associations who they might recommend that kind of space. So there's plenty of ways to find them.

Neil Tyra: When you find one or two. Then you'll find others will start to find you. If you know what I mean, you go looking around on searching around on the internet for virtual paralegal services, you're going to start seeing some ads all over the place for similar products.

Jan Roos: And [00:26:00] that's if they have the the courtesy to stay out of your inbox as well.

Jan Roos: Okay. So that's super helpful, Neil. Thank you so much for that specific advice. All right. So we're, we're kind of going through this. Progression of the solo practitioner. So they've got some help. They freed up some of their time and now it's time to make it rain. So what kind of stuff do you start seeing?

Jan Roos: If you wouldn't mind kind of classifying to this at what's been working at different stages, how do you see the people that are successful in scaling up, make that transition?

Neil Tyra: Well, there's a lot of different tools and techniques and some work. Better for some folk than for others. I mean, early in the game, people did Google AdWord and search optimization and greatly profited from that.

Neil Tyra: That's still important, but I don't know that you can solely rely on that. And it's become a little more. Expensive to rely on something like that. The age old idea of networking as a tool for creating brand awareness and growing your practice has never left us and probably never will, but I [00:27:00] think how you do that has changed.

Neil Tyra: The days of networking by going to bar association meetings and luncheons and, and speakers groups and that kind of thing, I think that's dwindling more and more, you find the concept of relationship management as being the key to referrals. And so the more you can cultivate referral sources. Through really strong relationship building, the better off you're going to be, that's going to take all different manner of things that, you know, it may be, it may be luncheons.

Neil Tyra: It may be, you know, happy hours. It may be coffees, that kind of thing. But once you've made a connection, you really have to really develop that relationship. And it has to be I mean, people sense the person who's only there to try and create a lead versus the person who you're genuinely connecting [00:28:00] with as a friend and colleague.

Neil Tyra: And I think the more you can do the latter than the former, the better growth you're going to have. So I think that's the key point, relationship building, that's the most successful. And then content marketing, really key. I don't think we have to explain to this audience, you have to have a website. Right.

Neil Tyra: There's just no two ways about it and that website can't just be a static product. You have to use that website to reach out to potential clients and educate them about what it is that you do and why you're able to solve the problem that they have. And that goes to content marketing. You have to be able to come up with fresh content, come up with fresh ideas.

Neil Tyra: You have to be able to blog or more and more today and it's going to be even greater tomorrow Video content marketing has to be part of your practice. So if you don't have video on your website, or if you're not doing video as part of your email, if you're not doing, if you're not embracing video [00:29:00] platforms such as Facebook Live, you're just simply going to get left behind.

Neil Tyra: Behind. So those are the three areas that I think are the most valuable content marketing, particularly video marketing, a relationship building, and to some extent, you know, the tried and true SEO and, you know, AdWords development.

Jan Roos: Yeah, absolutely. No, we sort of live in the AdWords and SEO world, but to your, to your point, you really can't rely on any one channel.

Jan Roos: And I always like to kind of frame this question when I'm talking to to attorneys that are considering our services, it's, you know, what would happen if you didn't have any leads from networking in this next month? And the thing about networking is it's a huge flywheel and, you know, without a doubt, the best leads that you ever get, the easiest ones to close, oftentimes the most lucrative ones, Are going to come through networking.

Jan Roos: But the the unfortunate thing is that you can't really determine when those are going to come through. So it's being able to kind of hedge that with different channels, you know, content marketing, SEO, you name it, it's a super important thing for people to consider because, you know, the, the other thing too, is that, you know, Google [00:30:00] changes something in the algorithm and your whiz bang ranking on, on SEO ends up dropping overnight.

Jan Roos: It's the same thing at that point. You know, what would you do if SEO didn't work out the next day? What would you do? Right. AdWords became too competitive in the next month. And, you know, a lot of the times, especially in 2018, when things are so competitive, generally, I'm extremely candid about this. You know, the margins that you're going to get on something like AdWords or SEO are not going to be extremely high.

Jan Roos: And, you know, this is compared to stuff like if you go to a conference, it costs you 1, 500, you get 150, 000 in a case files from it, you know, that That could be a great return, but you know, usually with AdWords, you're probably looking at a three to five X, which is great money. But again, it's, it's not going to be that super dramatic 10 X, a hundred X return that you're going to see in these other channels.

Jan Roos: So it's kind of tough. And in figuring out the blend of how to mix the things that might take some time to get off the ground. The ground, the stuff that can work today, that's really a challenge that a lot of these firms are looking to grow up are going to face every single day. And it's constantly moving target.

Jan Roos: And, you know, staying on top of these things is a very important, but also very challenging.

Neil Tyra: And that's why [00:31:00] having somebody like yourself on the team is hugely important. Because for instance, I don't have the time to keep up to speed with the changes in, in Google's algorithm and the trade offs, the value determination of an AdWord campaign, I need to rely on somebody.

Neil Tyra: And again, you got to do your homework because there are people far less scrutable than you. So that's a given, but as an attorney, I need somebody to help me with that. Because that's not my area of expertise.

Jan Roos: Yeah, absolutely. And this is something we run into a lot and especially it's, you run into people who are solo practitioners or even a little higher up when you have somebody who's a marketing manager.

Jan Roos: A lot of the times you could have somebody who you come from, you know, there's a lot of domains that you could come into that could qualify somebody as a marketing person. I mean, this could range anything from. Somebody is a direct mail strategist to somebody who's a designer. And a lot of the times you're forcing these people to wear a lot of hats.

Jan Roos: And you know, the reality is some of these channels are very, very, very competitive [00:32:00] and it's not something that people can expect to get handled in a couple hours a week. Or it's certainly not to be competitive in a couple hours a week. So yeah, building out that team. And I'll be the first to admit there are so many shady AdWords practitioners out there between lack of qualifications and just not being ethical about it.

Jan Roos: Lack of expertise in a particular domain. Sometimes I try not to attribute malice to a lot of this. Sometimes people will just think that a channel is the best thing for them. And everyone loves lawyers as clients. So, Hey, why not try Pinterest for, for attorneys, right? The thing that stinks about dealing with marketers is that they're usually pretty good at marketing.

Neil Tyra: Yeah, I will tell you that I've probably had, I'm going to guess close to 200 SEO and AdWord marketers approached me about being on the podcast. I've had two and you're one of them. I think that speaks volumes.

Jan Roos: Yeah. Thank you for that, Neil. Really appreciate it. We've got this mix of these different marketing channels, but I think another thing to tie this back to is that a lot of this stuff just gets so much more effective when you have that niche thing, which is really something that [00:33:00] people can do from day one, especially in the content realm.

Jan Roos: It's like, you know, it's, first of all, it's very powerful to just label yourself as the business lawyer for craft breweries. It's another thing entirely to have case studies and success stories about situations that these craft breweries might be facing. And, you know, it's another thing yet. To have you on camera talking to these people, because, you know, when you're kind of pre selecting them, if they're enjoying the sort of expertise that you're putting out, chances are, they're going to resonate with what it's like when they're in your office.

Jan Roos: And then it's a really great way to put yourself out there and you put out your vibe and attract your tribes, so to speak. So it's definitely super important. One last thing to kind of close out. So going back to your own practice, Neil, tell me a little bit about how it's been in the world of estate law these days and some of the things you've been seeing that that may not apply to other aspects of the law.

Neil Tyra: Well, I think estate planning, there's a couple of things that are different about estate planning than other areas of law like to refer to as reformed litigator. Meaning, I mean, I used to do a lot of personal injury law and then [00:34:00] family law as well, which that tied me completely to the courthouse. And one of the reasons as I'm a little older, I kind of transitioned to estate planning decoupled me from the courthouse and allowed me to do practice my law wherever I needed to, not necessarily right downtown.

Neil Tyra: I could be up the street in the suburbs or at a coffee shop or down to the beach, frankly. So that was an attractive element of it. But one of the paradigm shifts that you have to come to grips with is that for a lot of reasons, a lot of things, there's an external event driving a potential client to seek an attorney, things like not always good.

Neil Tyra: Most of them are bad. Those are the things like they got arrested. They need a criminal defense attorney. They had a DUI. They need an attorney who focuses on DUI. They've been served with a lawsuit, civil lawsuit. They need, you know, a civil. They're getting a divorce, they need a family law attorney, there's a custody issue, family law attorney.

Neil Tyra: So there's very frequently an external event that causes them to [00:35:00] seek out an attorney. So if you're practicing one of those areas, the key for you is to be the attorney that they think about or that they find when that Event occurs for an estate planner. There's not always an event that motivates somebody to come and get their will taken care of or a trust created.

Neil Tyra: Sometimes there is like in my own case, when, when my mom passed, she passed away with the unsigned will on her kitchen table, she hadn't got around to signing it. That's kind of an event that when you tell that story, that may motivate somebody to come in and get their estate plan done, but in general.

Neil Tyra: There's not anything that motivates them to do that. So you actually have to, there's more of a sales component, I think, to estate planning. More of a need to educate your audience and show them what could happen if they don't take care of this. You have to make them aware of the problem that they may not even know that, that [00:36:00] exists.

Neil Tyra: They may not have any understanding of, you know, What could happen to their family in the event of a tragedy? So it's a different sales model. This is a different paradigm. I think that's kind of the thing that I noticed the most about estate planning. The other thing is it is one of the areas that are absolutely being.

Neil Tyra: I don't know if attacked is the right word, but it's a practice area that is absolutely being encroached upon by automated legal services vendors. I think most everybody is familiar with a company that offers to generate your will or your power of attorney online. You just log in and do it yourself. So the do it yourselfers tools and platforms to assist.

Neil Tyra: People to generate their own estate planning documents, very prevalent, advertised on TV all the time. You don't see that for say criminal defense. You don't see a platform that you can log into and figure out how to represent yourself and stay out of jail. You also don't [00:37:00] see. Do it yourself dentistry offered.

Neil Tyra: It's one of those things. I think estate planning, there is a lot of pressure in that regard. So you have to be able to deal with that question. Why, why should I hire an attorney when I can go online and generate my will for 250 bucks? I think that's kind of unique to the practice of

Jan Roos: estate planning.

Jan Roos: Going back to the niche stuff, once again, obviously within your practice, and this could be said of anyone, it's like you understand why it's more important for you to do this. Then why a qualified attorney would be willing to protect your, your assets in the event of your untimely demise, then a self serve sort of platform.

Jan Roos: But this is the reality that a lot of people have. It's a tough pill to swallow, but if you're not able to communicate that, they're not going to be able to telepathically get that information out of your head. It's really sort of the threat, but also the opportunity for the estate law practice to be able to use some of this more complicated marketing.

Jan Roos: A personal injury law firm, for example, to, you know, their mailing list is going to be not a huge asset that it can work with. But, you know, you're talking [00:38:00] about somebody, your total addressable market for somebody who needs a will is, you know, anyone who can fog a mirror above the age of 18. When you're educating people in the right way, you might be able to take them across the line with Be it a email that you're sending out your list or a Facebook ad, or, you know, some of these things that are, that are a little bit more complicated from an execution perspective of the marketing.

Jan Roos: But again, there's huge value when you're able to really tap into that. And for some people, you know, this could be something that you can take that time. If you're offloading those hours that you would be spending billing to. Paralegal to, to focus on. And a lot of the times when you find a channel that works for you, it's basically like a vending machine.

Jan Roos: How much do you want to pay for a client? How many clients can you take? And it's just really in your, in your hands from there.

Neil Tyra: You're absolutely correct. And I think you as a marketing specialist understand better than most is that you have to understand the changing nature of the potential client base, there is a huge.

Neil Tyra: DIY component to people seeking legal services. There are a bunch of [00:39:00] folks that say on a number of different levels, well, I, my divorce is pretty simple. Why can't I do it myself? I don't really need an attorney. You have to be able to address that mindset to communicate with that. And in some cases I tell people, you know, in family law, as an example, you have no children, you have no assets.

Neil Tyra: You just. You rent and you both have one car. And to be honest with you, you really don't be, I'm happy to help you, but you probably can do your divorce yourself. You don't necessarily say that for people with a will, because I think there's contingencies that they have to think about that may not be true right now, but you have to understand the changing nature of the potential client base.

Neil Tyra: I mean, just like. Again, as a marketer, you understand this 80 percent if not higher of the people who access the internet are doing so from their phone. If you don't recognize that, if you don't understand that, if you build your website or have somebody build their website for you, that is not mobile compatible, you're never going to be seen by those folks who are searching for an attorney while they're sitting in a Starbucks.

Jan Roos: Absolutely. And it's one of those concerns too, [00:40:00] especially for these more reactive things in a lot, you know, somebody gets hit by a car, they're sitting on the sidewalk with their, their leg broken, you know, they're not going to drive back to their desktop to make that search and we've actually seen, you know, Google puts a lot of studies out there where we have some internal data with clients as well.

Jan Roos: It's definitely shifting towards mobile, but again, it's, it's one of the reasons why. People have to stay on top of this stuff. And again, it's, it's, you know, to the people who end up making the moves to some of these newer platforms, that's really where the opportunity is. You know, if you were the first guy in town with a mobile website, when the iPhone came out or when the iPhone really hit critical mass, then the advantage there was massive, but you know, these things will generally.

Jan Roos: 10 towards parody over time. So that's what I find really exciting about a state law in specifically is, is because a lot of these newer channels like Facebook marketing and content marketing, those are changing a bit faster and AdWords is going to be important personal injury, 10, 20, 30 years from now, I'm assuming, you know, nothing terrible happens on a global level, but the people who are going to be really killing in the next year in a state law are gonna be taking advantage of these new challenges, [00:41:00] which unfortunately are the ones that are the riskiest.

Jan Roos: You know, to the victor, go to the spoils that people are going to be investing the time and energy into figuring these things out. True that. All right, Neil. So this has been an awesome conversation. I think we've kind of covered most of the things that, that will help people, whether you're at the solo level or looking to scale up on, on what are the things that to focus on and ultimately the mindset that you're going to have to take really ownership of this and take responsibility for this is super awesome.

Jan Roos: And if you have the mindset. You're going to find the way to figure it out. And if you don't have the mindset, there's almost no amount of help that's going to work. But if you've taken that hard look at yourself and you've committed to growing your practice or having a successful solo practice, then it's just a matter of focusing on the right things.

Jan Roos: Thanks again, Neil, for providing so much awesome guidance on that. Looking forward to, to speak with you again.

Neil Tyra: Well, I was thrilled to be invited, Jan, and I'm happy to do it at any point at any time, and if your listeners. Also want to pop into the Law Entrepreneur. They can search for that on iTunes. We're available [00:42:00] there.

Neil Tyra: And if you have any further questions, just drop me a line at [email protected] I'd be happy to answer any questions they may have.

Jan Roos: All right. Fantastic. So thanks again, Neil. And tune in next week for a new episode.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to the Law Firm Growth podcast for show notes, free resources and more head on over to casefuel.

Narrator: com slash podcast. Looking forward to catching up on the next episode.

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Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy is the CTO of CaseFuel. He's managed millions of dollars in ad spend and has built the digital infrastructure that has aided hundreds of attorneys turning leads into cases

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