Scott Limmer

22 minutes

Scott and Oscar discuss some recent articles and emerging issues that reflect the change in the legal marketplace.

A few of the topics discussed on todays show are;

  1. Are State and National Bar Associations recognizing the real needs of their members?
  2. Could an Uber like company enter the legal marketplace?
  3. How not to send a resume!


Episode transcript

 

INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice, two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

OSCAR:                      Hello everybody. This is Oscar.

SCOTT:                      Hi everybody. This is Scott. We’re going to do something a little different today. Over the last week or two, I’ve encountered a couple of things that have, I guess, drawn my ire that just seemed to be, it didn’t sit well with me. So I wanted to bring them up. I wanted to show you, Oscar, and get your impression of it.

OSCAR:                      Okay, talk to me.

SCOTT:                      The first thing I’m going to bring up today, and I think this really goes to the modern view of networking and how attorneys need to understand this new paradigm. I got the New York State Bar Association journal this past week and on the cover is more war stories from the New York hoarts and there’s a picture of two people that looked like they are dressed in Game of Thrones garb and a wood structure behind it that looked something out of, I don’t know, 1600s in England. They are battling on a grass field. My thought is that the New York State Bar Association and other bar association should probably be a little bit more proactive and help their members wade their way through what’s going on in law right now.

OSCAR:                      Well, you would hope that’s what you’re getting out of your dues is that there’s a bar association out there that’s going to promote and drive your business. So what was the war story about? What was the purpose of it, the general article, I mean? Do I need to hear fellow lawyers give war stories if they don’t kind of help me in my practice area? I don’t know I need to hear a trial story. It’s always good. You kill sometime. You’re in the courtroom but I think it should connect to one of two things – how to better my practice or how to better my business, I mean, my law practice.

SCOTT:                      Yes. These are just some stories. There’s nothing extremely interesting about any of them other than they are just a little bit interesting. It might be something fun to read in your spare time but I would think that more pertinent information would be forthcoming from the biggest legal organization in New York.

OSCAR:                      I don’t think it spends enough time in helping particularly the small firm and the solo person develop their practice and I think more can be done by all bar associations in that regard. I saw a bar association, which I don’t remember, that does have a small and solo firm practice group. It’s getting better.

SCOTT:                      I just actually went to it for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

OSCAR:                      What do you think?

SCOTT:                      I liked it. There’s about a 12, maybe 15 people or so, some people that seemed interested in their practices and hopefully, I want to try to get more involved. Hopefully grow it a little bit.

OSCAR:                      Right. It’s very good in the sense that you want to try to see what area you’re in that you had that maybe some other lawyers there don’t have. I found that the benefit of, let’s say the bigger bar like a State Bar. I’m not a fan of the ABA. I didn’t get anything out of being a member for the years I was a member.

SCOTT:                      Yeah, I don’t think I did either.

OSCAR:                      I was a member of New York State Bar Association for a long time and I focused more on local associations, bar associations that would be more relatable to me. So I joined the Hispanic Bar Association. It was on Dominican. I joined the Nassau Bar Association. I joined the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers even though my criminal defense practice is much smaller than it used to be, but I still found it to be a good source of placement of articles and then I get a lot of referrals from it because most of those folks do exclusively criminal and don’t do the kind of work that I do. So you really have to think about like what does the bar association do for me and my practice, and how can I give value back via content, an article, being part of a committee, and doing those types of things that get your name out there.

SCOTT:                      So one of the reasons I think I’d like to see the bar associations be a little bit more proactive, Oscar, is as I read this article a couple of days ago. It was on Above the Law, which is a website I go to pretty much every day and read the goings on of the law.

OSCAR:                      It’s a good site. I like it.

SCOTT:                      So there’s an article that talks about how attorneys are outsourcing work to other countries. It specifically talks about an English-speaking law school graduate in India who is willing to do Nondisclosure Agreements for clients and the cost is about $25,000 a year. The article went on to say that if you would like someone in Poland who graduated at the top of her class from a respective law school, it will probably cost you about $60,000 a year.

OSCAR:                      What? Is that legal here?

SCOTT:                      Well, I don’t know. That’s a very good question. I don’t know if those people are practicing law but they are outsourcing certain things, Nondisclosure Agreements is what they are talking about in this case to lawyers in other countries that are going to work for much less money. So now what does that do? What is the trickledown effect to all of the solo and small practitioners because if this is going to become more of the norm and bigger firms are going to start outsourcing their work to other countries, there’s going to be less need for them to be hiring associates? What are those law graduates going to do then?

OSCAR:                      Right, look to come into your marketplace. Even large firms, I’m well aware of this, Scott. I don’t know if you are but these large firms that hire from the top law schools and the top students from the top law schools that they have 1,000 lawyers or 1,500 across the country, they have sub law firms in Middle States like Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma where they pay lawyers at far below. They are jus contract lawyers and not in the partnership track to do document review, all these kind of grunt work at a much lower base salary and not use the high end talent for that. What’s difficult about that is how they bill their clients for that and they bill the clients the same rate. So it’s a much larger profit factor for these larger firms.

The reason why this becomes relevant is because that could provide a way for you to develop a business doing that in the sense of if this is the type of work that’s out there that needs to be done and you’re capable of doing it, you can promote yourself as a US, New York admitted attorney to do that kind of work either for businesses, larger firms or directly for the client. In other words, always look to see if there’s an opportunity for you to take this glut of work or this work that these firms don’t want to do for themselves and develop your own business practice, but I think it says a lot about the marketplace.

SCOTT:                      It does and let me just follow up on that, Oscar. Do what Oscar is saying but don’t expect to do that for the rest of your life.

OSCAR:                      Of course.

SCOTT:                      Do it to develop your business. Do it to make contacts with these attorneys and get your foot in the door, but please don’t do it for very long.

OSCAR:                      Exactly. I mean, we talked about before that having a small firm and a solo practice may not be for everybody. This could be a good in road into finding out what kind of work can you do, what kind of work is out there, and then do it to develop a track record, expertise in an area, always with the mindset of focusing your site, your online presence like we talked about last time for that target business that you’re trying to generate. So it’s always got to be a means to an end, not the end.

SCOTT:                      Right, exactly.

OSCAR:                      That’s very important.

SCOTT:                      So I was talking to an attorney I know about this article and they were very pessimistic and thought it was a bunch of nonsense. They said,” Hey, the legal profession could be doing a little bit better but you’re predicting Armageddon. You’re talking about lawyers handling New York Cases from foreign countries. It sounds ridiculous.”

Well, I want to tell you guys about my week last week. Maybe I’m a little behind the times and I’m getting old but for the first time, I used Uber. I was in California. I was in San Diego for a conference and I used Uber. I used what I believe was a significantly better service than if I would have just called a cab and I got to thinking about what would happen if Uber really became popular in New York. I think of the guys that own medallions. It’s very similar to attorneys who are admitted to the bar and practice law in New York State. I don’t think anyone who bought a medallion 20 years ago thought that there would ever be an issue with their, dare I say, monopoly.

OSCAR:                      You know it’s a great analogy because you used to be able to just have a medallion and sit back and put your heels up, and make enough money.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      Then they kept adding the number of medallions and increasing. There used to be a sacrosanctum but the city used to promise taxi cab owners, “Don’t worry. We’re never going to add more medallions” and then slowly overtime, they added more medallions. Just today in the Times, you may be shocked at this, Scott, Uber cabs outnumber yellow cabs.

SCOTT:                      That’s amazing.

OSCAR:                      In the City of New York. Uber cabs now outnumber yellow cabs and for the first time in the history of Medallions, for the last two years, the price of a medallion has been plummeting. That was ridiculous.

SCOTT:                      That has always been artificially high but they had the monopoly.

OSCAR:                      Right and they got the number because you needed to do it. They changed their business model to make it more profitable where it used to be, you own a medallion, you drove the cab, and you made your money.

SCOTT:                      That’s it.

OSCAR:                      Now, you own a medallion, you have a guy who drives for 12 hours. Another guy drives for 12 hours and you just collect the rent on it. So it’s going to require yellow cabs to find a way to compete and in this new environment, and that’s exactly analogous to the legal field in many, many ways. These independent, smaller people figured out a way to break an age old monolithic business model and it’s exactly what happened to the legal market place.

SCOTT:                      And it’s happening all over. It’s happening, what is it, Airbnb, is that it?

OSCAR:                      Airbnb.

SCOTT:                      Airbnb. I am not an internet savvy. It’s really scary.

OSCAR:                      You sound like a dinosaur. Yes, Airbnb is cutting into the hotel industry. Now they are looking to regulate it.

SCOTT:                      And how are they going to regulate it?

OSCAR:                      It’s going to be difficult but that’s exactly what they are trying to do, and they are going to be growing pains. There are problems with Uber drivers not being responsible and in other countries, they have attacked people. Airbnb, if there’s problems, nobody to complain to, no national board that they are members of or any business associations.

SCOTT:                      Listen, if they put Airbnb out of business tomorrow, there would be 10 different sites that would pop up that you’d be able to reserve a room in for the city tomorrow.

OSCAR:                      Sure, look at just the way travel agencies have gone out the window because you can now use one of 15 sites and a better one comes up every month. It used to be Travelocity then it was Expedia. Now, it’s Kayak and moving on. By the time you hear this, there will be something else that’s out there that will be a niche to find to place to stay or a car to rent or what have you. So what’s the message for lawyers out there? It’s happening everywhere. It’s not just the legal field. Wake up. You need to change the business model to adapt to the new consumer who doesn’t see the loyalty to the yellow cab who doesn’t care about the loyalty to the yellow cab. If Uber does it better, does it more efficiently, does it quicker…

SCOTT:                      And does it cheaper…

OSCAR:                      … that’s the way they are going to go. So with your legal practice, you need to look at your areas, that whatever areas of practice you want to do and see what is happening out there, what are other people doing in the market place to deliver this service and I don’t want to say it’s a race to the lowest common denominator because that’s just the opposite of what we’re saying. We’re saying to create a better model, a more authentic value driven content for that person but you’re going to need to use the tools that the consumer is using to find products and services today. If you don’t adjust and don’t look at the market place for what it is, not just in law but globally, you’re going to be left out. You’re going to be driving a checker cab, if anyone even knows what that means.

SCOTT:                      And we know we keep saying the same things but we’re trying to, I guess, enlighten those who think that practice may bounce back and these things can never happen to the legal profession. “Never” isn’t a word that you can use anymore. We don’t know. The technology has changed so many things and it’s going to change the practice of law also. We can’t close our eyes to it.

OSCAR:                      But you have to constantly develop and change. That’s the most important.

SCOTT:                      Right. So Oscar, I have one more thing to show you this week. I got a blind resume in the mail last week. I opened it and I was absolutely stunned when I took a look at it. So the first page has the kid’s address, well the person’s address, and it says, “Dear Employer.”

OSCAR:                      Oh.

SCOTT:                      I stopped looking at it at that point. I kept looking at it because I was curious in all honesty.

OSCAR:                      But you knew you’re going to talk about it.

SCOTT:                      Right. As soon as I saw this, I said, “Oh, I got to talk about this.” He tells a compelling story in his cover letter in all honesty but the whole point of writing “Dear Employer” and the impersonality of it, I don’t even know if that’s a word, but the impersonality of it just was striking. I can’t imagine that anyone is going to look at this resume and be impressed and want to give this kid a call. I just don’t see it.

OSCAR:                      Right. What hurts is the rest of the message talking about his experience, speaking from his personal experience, this is someone who travelled here from another country and was always looking excited to become part of the American way of life, etc., but you start off on that wrong foot and among the many letters and resumes you get, you’re not going to get past it. He even had a sheet in front of it that was labeled “Application for an entry level attorney position with your firm.”

SCOTT:                      It’s just odd.

OSCAR:                      Yeah.

SCOTT:                      He obviously made up 50 or 100 of these and sent them out blindly.

OSCAR:                      And just a little more attention, for example, it’s so easy to do a mail merge, put all the names you want, and replace “Mr. Limmer” with “Dear Potential Employer” and you get a real sense that the person at least is trying.

SCOTT:                      Listen, could someone see this resume and hire him? I guess they could. Could you figure out a better plan? Could you try to just send resumes to people you meet? Could you try to follow up with an email? If you’re going to send it blind, follow up with an email three or four days later. Introduce yourself. “Mr. Limmer, I sent you a resume. I hope you had time to review it. Please email me at your convenience.” Something, do something to get the attorney to stick out.

OSCAR:                      Well, get the attorney to do something, to get the attorney to focus on the message that you want to deliver because if you don’t do it the right way initially, you’re never going to get to that message. So it’s the same way when last week, when Scott was talking about these static websites that don’t do anything to get a message across, you go all through these trouble, you pay for Google Ad clicks like he was talking about, you pay for whatever search engine optimization or drivers that you’re going to have to get to the website only to have a website that says “Dear Client, I am a good lawyer. Hire me.” Trust me, the message is lost.

SCOTT:                      From attorney.

OSCAR:                      Right. You’re only going to get what you put out. So if you use these static templates that looks like everybody else’s site, if you don’t think thoroughly about the message that you want to get out there, if you’re going to be a member of a bar association and you’re just going to send dues and you’re not going to write an article, go to the committee meetings, look at what they can do for you, you’re wasting your time and money. You’re spinning your wheels to end up right where you are. It always has to be focused on what’s the message I want to get out, who is the client I want to come through the door. Every single thing you do needs to be focused on that message. Otherwise, you’re one among the multitude and you’re going to have to outsource making money for your business. You’re going to have to find some other way to eat. It’s not a nice thing to think about. It is an essential thing to think about. Always have that on point.

SCOTT:                      We know there are those of you who are listening to this that may be doing very well and don’t really understand some of the things we’re talking about, but I also know from personal experience and from speaking with other people as Oscar certainly knows also that there are some attorneys who are in a lot of trouble right now, who don’t really have any guidance, who don’t really have any understanding, who are really in a tough situation and need to work their way out of it. We don’t mean to be harsh and say, “Hey, you have no other choice but to do this,” but we see real life examples of attorneys who have only treated their law practice like a practice and not a business, and it’s not pretty, some of them.

OSCAR:                      Right. The other thing too is that for a lot of the folks, some of them who have contacted us, some of them who we’ve known personally, they may have a certain amount of money that they want to give for this last shot to develop their own practice before they go work for this Sri Lankan firm that’s doing the document production for large law firm, LLC, but don’t spend that money without doing the ground work first. That’s the whole point of this podcast, which is before you reboot your law practice, you have to think about what you want to do, how are you going to engage. It’s a process, okay?

SCOTT:                      You make a plan. You go over your goals and you create steps as to how you’re going to build to them.

OSCAR:                      And think about what is the message that you want to get out there to potential clients and referrers, and don’t just go in there and go online, get out the credit card, and call lawyer A-Z Marketing Company, throw up a website that looks like what everybody else has and which doesn’t transmit your message and then you say, “Oh, this is great. I’m going to go network,” and you don’t think about what organizations to join, why am I going to this bar association tonight, what do I hope to get out of it, how does it promote my business. What can I talk about? Also think about, which is always the initial thing, what is it about my practice, my law practice that I like to do? What’s the passion? Where does it come from? How will it help me get clients? How do I transmit that message? That’s it – every single time, every single thing you do driven that way.

SCOTT:                      That’s it.

OSCAR:                      That’s it. So any questions, comments, or show topics, you can reach me at Oscar@LawReboot.com.

SCOTT:                      You can reach me at Scott@LawReboot.com or you could also call us at 516-900-4842. Leave a message, a comment about the show, a question, or a suggestion for future shows. Thanks for listening, everyone. We’ll talk to you next week.

OSCAR:                      Take care.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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