The Rankings.io Marketing Masterminds Podcast – An Executive Summary
On my recent appearance on the Rankings.io Marketing Masterminds podcast, I had the opportunity to answer some interesting questions on building and managing a law firm. It’s only thirty minutes, but I know many of us are busy. So I decided to summarize what we covered for those who wanted a quick scan instead.
On Advertising –
When I started my firm, I thought that advertising on TV was the “big time.” I chose the approach and the vendor because I thought they were well done, and I didn’t want to be in them. Those commercials were an immediate success. Those ads led to a lot of cases and were the first impetus to learn to handle a higher volume of cases.
On TV Ad Strategy –
What you spend depends on your market. We like to be in the top three to five. Go big or go home. TV is still powerful, and we use it as a direct response mechanism and a branding play. We want to be in front of a potential client at the moment they’re in need. That means running high-frequency daytime TV ads. It’s proven cost-effective – it is expensive, but it does work if you can afford it.
There is an erosion of TV effectiveness, but it still works. That may change in 10 or 20 years.
On Culture –
Culture is a point of great interest to me. If we have a strong, well-defined culture, we tend to attract people who fit it and are happy in it. And they tend to stick around. Defining, enforcing, and nurturing the culture is one of my primary responsibilities. You want to keep your superstars and attract “your people” who share common values. Strong culture reduces turnover.
We’ve eschewed using personality tests and profiles. Instead, we’ve got our own 24 JSF Ways that define model employees’ culture and behavior. We send it to prospective employees, and we screen them for these behaviors. Values are too amorphous. Behaviors are easier to recognize, and it helps us find the right fits. I also believe in having at least two people in final interviews to ensure there’s no bias.
On the Historic “Black Farmers” Class Action and Its Effect on the Firm –
The work you do, if you do a good job, prepares you for the next challenge. Our experience with high volumes of cases led someone to approach us to be involved in the Black Farmers case. It was a risk – there was no guarantee a law would be passed to allow it to continue. It was also an opportunity to stretch ourselves and be part of a historic case.
There were 18,000 claimants, but there were 90,000 potential claimants. We had to communicate with them, process their claims, and so on. Eric Sanchez had to figure out how to manage the case, communicate effectively, and create the logistics to get it done. It was a Herculean task. However, working around the limitations of the software we had at the time and what he had to do to make it work gave him the idea that he could build something better. That was the inspiration for GrowPath.
On GrowPath –
We concluded that existing solutions didn’t do what we needed. We wanted to build something. So we gave Eric a budget and some developers. In two years, we had the first version of GrowPath. It was just for our firm to run better. Over the course of a weekend, we moved our data over to it and started using it. People liked it. They were more efficient and effective. Average case ages were coming down. Case values were going up, and case resolution speed was increasing.
That success led us to open it up to other PI firms as well.
What Sets GrowPath Apart –
From a firm leadership perspective, what I like is that I can see at a glance what each person with case responsibility is doing. Matter Trackers make it easy to see who’s doing what or who’s backed up. I can get email alerts when cases of specific magnitudes come in. There’s just an incredible level of customization and reporting, so I can see what’s important to me as the head of the firm.
I see the data how I like to see it. The software has a lot of features. Lawyers can dictate into it instead of typing, for example. It’s fun because Eric is still involved and still improving GrowPath. Our law firm is our skunkworks project. We don’t wait for people in another country to respond to our development requests. We move really quickly.
On Pandemic Response –
When we had to deploy our staff almost entirely remotely during the pandemic, having a cloud-based platform in GrowPath facilitated that for us. And the built-in Productivity Tool enabled us to objectively measure the paralegals and attorneys using the software based on the work. Against themselves in many instances.
We could measure how much work they did in the month or two before the remote deployment against what they accomplished remotely and see who was truly being productive from home. We could see how many emails and how much screen time and what they were getting done in the office. And we could compare that, apples to apples, to the amount they were getting done at home. We can validate the work instead of just taking someone’s word for it.
That gave me a lot of confidence. As a law firm owner or manager of hundreds of people, especially when deployed remotely, there’s tremendous peace of mind and managerial power in knowing who is working and who isn’t. And 95% of our employees were able to be productive. (Refer to the culture discussion, as that is directly related to this high productivity and accountability rate.)
On Success Metrics in a Personal Injury Firm –
I’m a big believer in analyzing the fees per month, not just the amount of the fee for a case. Case fee is important, yes, and you want to compare marketing cost to revenue to analyze return on investment.
I like to measure not just the amount of the fee but its velocity. When the fee per month dips below a certain level, those cases aren’t worth taking on. I would posit that amongst attorneys and law firms, velocity is underappreciated. Clients love it. We’re not compromising the case’s value, and we’re reducing delays and waste that add nothing to that value.
If we can shave two or three months off the time it takes to get the same value versus our competitors, and our clients are going to be ecstatic.
On the Client Experience –
We try to cultivate a client experience that is sure to lead to referrals. We’ve thought of ways over the years to be intentional about our client experience. How we talk to clients at various stages of their case and how we conduct a dispersal are all very carefully orchestrated. We have a three-person training department who listen to calls and coach people on language and client communication.
That helps us do a better job of expressing ourselves. I think there’s a direct correlation between how we communicate and how our clients perceive our law firm. We’ve thought about what we can share to show our clients what we were up against and what we were able to accomplish for them. We don’t want their impression of us to be accidental. Most have not worked with a law firm before. We want them to see what we’re doing and generate higher appreciation and referrals.
On Lean Principles in a Law Firm –
I’ve read books on Toyota manufacturing principles, and they make a lot of sense. We try to apply them. There are a couple of areas in a law firm that can cause real delays. One example is making a mistake early on. Not getting all the information or finding all the policies or liens or medical providers can set a case back to square one. So we focus on getting things right the first time. It’s a process.
The other thing that was a big lesson for me, and came out of these lean studies, is that we create many delays by batching our work. I was a habitual batcher. I used to send demands out on a Friday. That was the time I set aside for that work. That habit causes a delay. What happens if the case is ready on Monday? It’s just sitting there waiting for me to get to it on Friday.
It’s better to reduce that time-on-desk, and we try to have our attorneys avoid batch work to deal with things as soon as possible. We create a mentality where delay hurts. Email is another example. You can’t always be immediate. You have to prioritize. If it might slow down a case, I want to respond to it as soon as possible. You don’t want to be chained to your desk by email. Triage it. Is it something to delete? Can I deal with it later? Or does it need immediate attention?
On What’s Next –
I enjoy what I’m doing and growing the firm. I like working with quality people and building something great. The big challenge is creating an entity that can be successful when I’m not running it day-to-day, and empowering the next generation of leaders to succeed.
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