Gary Winter: Taking the Frustration Out of Running a Law Firm

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Gary Winter discuss:

  • How practicing law is like flying an airplane.
  • Must have technology to run your firm.
  • Evolution of the legal industry.
  • Working remotely and building a strong team.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you approach your practice of law as a business, it eases the stress of the business side, because that is what it is.
  • Managing a team in a remote environment is different than when you’re in the office.
  • If you give your employees an opportunity to interact, they will do so, even if they aren’t actively in the same office.
  • If you’re utilizing digital practice management, use the whole thing. Don’t be partly on, partly off.

“The practice of law is a business. It does need systems, it does need checklists, it does need organization. You have to approach it that way. It actually takes the stress factor down when you do that.” —  Gary Winter

Thank you to our Sponsors!

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Episode References: 

Connect with Gary Winter:  

Website: https://lawvex.com/

Email: gary@lawvex.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/garylwinter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/garywinterlaw

Connect with Steve Fretzin:

LinkedIn: Steve Fretzin

Twitter: @stevefretzin

Facebook: Fretzin, Inc.

Website: Fretzin.com

Email: Steve@Fretzin.com

Book: Legal Business Development Isn’t Rocket Science and more!

YouTube: Steve Fretzin

Call Steve directly at 847-602-6911

Show notes by Podcastologist Chelsea Taylor-Sturkie

Audio production by Turnkey Podcast Productions. You’re the expert. Your podcast will prove it.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

SPEAKERS

Narrator, Steve Fretzin, MoneyPenny, Gary Winter, Jordan Ostroff, Practice Panther

 

Gary Winter  [00:00]

The practice of law is a business. It does need systems. It does need checklists, it needs organization, you have to approach it that way that really actually takes the stress factor down. When you do that.

 

Narrator  [00:15]

You’re listening to be that lawyer, life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Each episode, your host, author and lawyer Coach Steve Ritson will take a deeper dive, helping you grow your law practice in less time with greater results. Now, here’s your host, Steve, Brett said,

 

Steve Fretzin  [00:37]

Hey, everybody, welcome to be that lawyer. I am Steve breaths and hope you’re having a wonderful day today. If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you know, it’s all about helping you be that lawyer, someone who’s confident organized in a skilled Rainmaker. If your goal is to achieve and to become happier lawyer to become a more well balanced lawyer in your profession in your life, this is the show for you. So hopefully, every single week, you’re getting two shows a week, and that you’re getting great tips and value. And now it’s not that every single thing said is going to change your life. But my hope is that people I bring on in the interviews conducted in the tips that we try to, you know, talk about and get get, you know, get to the surface, or making an impact in your life. That’s the goal for the show. If you’re new to meeting me, and my company, CEO fritzing, Inc. and Steve frets and as I mentioned, now twice, is all about helping to work with lawyers in two ways. One is for lawyers who are interested in learning business development as a skill is a learnable skill that they don’t teach in law school, or many cases at the law firm level. I’m essentially working with lawyers and an MBA level to to really understand how to grow and develop business in a systematic way with language and process that they may have thought of, but maybe not put together in school system. And the other thing is I do the peer advisory group. So if you’re a very experienced Rainmaker, if you’re running a firm, and you’re dealing with all the stresses, feeling like you’re on an island, there’s an opportunity to join one of my peer advisory groups where I have eight to 10 lawyers getting together and you know, working on their businesses together as a team, and in a confidential environment. And everyone involved in those absolutely loves them. That’s the feedback I’m getting anyway, unless they’re lying to me, those sons of guns, and now they’re not. They’re all good. I’ve got Gary wait in the wings, Gary, how you doing?

 

Gary Winter  [02:24]

I’m doing great, Steve. Yeah, thanks for having me.

 

Steve Fretzin  [02:26]

Yeah, I’m excited to get into the weeds with you a little bit, a moment to thank our sponsors, we’ve got practice, Panther, legalese, and money, Penny all helping you to be more efficient in the way you run your law firm. And more about them in a few minutes. So Gary, you are so kind as to send me this great quote of the show. And it’s going to be talked about a few times. But it’s Jack Newton. And he says, from a client centered law firm, how to succeed an experience driven world, client centered law firm succeed because they compete on experience in a world where experience is king. So talk to that what first of all, welcome to the show. Second of all, talk to me about that quote, and why that was sort of your quote of the show.

 

Gary Winter  [03:08]

Yeah, well, yeah, thank you for having me, again, happy to be here. And I think that quote was particularly appropriate. I think it was a week or so ago, I came across one of your either shared or one of your LinkedIn posts that made that point. And I actually think maybe you were sharing somebody else’s. And it made that same point, like, you know, law firms that are, you know, competing on price are in a race to the bottom or some variant of that. And, and, and I think you said, or someone else did, that, you know, law firms that are competing on experience, are the ones that are able to drive not only better fees, but better client relationships, overall, people are just happier. So and it’s actually it’s the premise for how we do business. I mean, that’s, that’s the whole concept behind, you know, our firm law X. And you know, why we have a funny name and how we, you know, see the world so, so it just fits I think I liked that post on LinkedIn. And, you know, that was seemed appropriate for this podcast anyway.

 

Steve Fretzin  [04:07]

Yeah. Well, I appreciate that. And you are the founder, and also the managing attorney at law of action. Before we get into your background, maybe Yeah, sure. What is that name law of x mean? Why did you decide to name your firm law? Vax?

 

Gary Winter  [04:21]

Yeah, it’s really simple. I mean, it just basically means to us to take the frustration out of law, you know, with the Latin of x, and then the axe is sort of maxing it out. And so it’s got a lot of thought behind it. But the concept was just that as I was practicing law as a young lawyer, I just realized how it seemed like nobody was happy. You know, the clients weren’t happy, the lawyers weren’t happy, the staff wasn’t happy. Everyone was frustrated with some aspect of our industry. And I thought, you know, isn’t there a better way to do this? And that was really along about the early 2000s When we started having cloud based practice management. So assumes and, and I came from prior career. So I had an airline career before this. And so I thought of the world in terms of hub and spoke and I just had this idea for a law firm that was decentralized, and would have take the offices out to the client, as opposed to stacking all the lawyers in the most expensive building in town, you know, just having sort of outposts where it’s more convenient for clients to get to and, and sort of solving that problem, because there was just so much, you know, popular word these days is friction, there was so much friction between the client and the lawyers, as I practiced originally in a very large law firm, hundreds of lawyers, regional firm in this area. And it just amazed me how hard it was for people to get to me either through the phone, or even just coming up for floors in the elevator and sitting in the, you know, the gilded conference room. And I just thought to myself, you know, for a certain type of client, that that’s probably totally appropriate if you’re an insurance company, or, you know, fortune 500 company, but for, you know, most of my clients were small business consumers, because, you know, I’m a Business Trust and Estates lawyer and all that, I just wanted to kind of reduce that, you know, take some of that friction away and take some of that frustration away from people because they were upset about a number of different things with their lawyer. And then the attorneys were unhappy, too. They had these billable hour minimums, and staff were grumpy. And so I just, I looked at the loving concept, as we got to do this better, we had to take the frustration out of the legal experience for our clients, attorneys and staff. And so everything sort of built from there. But that’s what the name means.

 

Steve Fretzin  [06:35]

Yeah, it sounds like that might be your be that lawyer tipping point to just like the frustration of it, and realizing all this unhappiness, and all this inefficiency, and all these, you know, this is no way to live, right? I mean, that’s, we’ve got, there’s got to be a better model. And I think that’s how a lot of people come up with new business ideas and solutions, right? They just, they get to sort of a breaking point where it’s like, this isn’t working, I’m not happy, you’re not happy, you know, we’ve got to figure this thing out. And it’s how inventions happen and new service offerings happen. And so it sounds like that’s what law that says,

 

Gary Winter  [07:08]

Yeah, and it just occurred to me that, you know, with most of the traditional firms, you had, people’s, the lawyers names are on on the wall, you know, and on the front door, and it was really the traditional firm I see as being all about the lawyers, and not necessarily about the clients where, you know, if you have a client centered, firm, or if you’re trying to take the frustration out of it for clients, then you’re going to orient the whole purpose, that’s the mission, right. And then from that, you know, we just found all these things, several things that people hate about, you know, interacting with their lawyer, whether it’s like, they didn’t know what the bill was gonna say, or they never called him back, or they were, you know, kind of a rough bedside manner or whatever. And so we built out our values, which is how we live out the mission. And we said, Okay, well, we’re going to be transparent in our billing, we’re going to be compassionate, we’re going to provide education, we’re going to provide, you know, speed and efficiency and value. And that’s just, you know, how we kind of organized our team. And that’s how we recruit. And that’s how we, you know, grade people based on living out those values. And for us, that’s how we take the frustration out of law, you know, is we just took all those things that people hate about lawyers flipped them on their head and said, Well, these are our values, that’s what we’re going to focus on. Yeah.

 

Steve Fretzin  [08:22]

Really cool. So, you know, I was gonna ask you what’s more stressful landing a commercial jet or a practicing law?

 

Gary Winter  [08:28]

Well, I’d say probably practicing law is more stressful. I mean, it’s, when I was flying, one of the great things about pilots is they’re a fairly homogenous group, you know, they’re mostly you could, you could pick pilots out at the airport and go, Okay, that guy is probably a pilot. And it’s nice to be able to have, you know, a team of people that they all know what their role is, they’re all very highly skilled, very highly motivated people. And as a result, you know, you have teams that work together, and, and you can beat somebody in the crew room, you know, an hour before you go fly. I never met the guy before the gal. And we’re gonna go jump in an airplane and fly, you know, close to the speed of sound with with a whole crew of Flight Attendants in the back that we’ve never met before. And everybody knows their job, and everybody knows how to do it, and that there’s a comfort in that, because of the professionalism of, you know, our transport system. And so, you know, yeah, of course, it can be stressful if there’s bad weather and stuff. But I think actually, a lot of the stress associated with the practice of law is the lack of systems and organization, people get really, really round up and wrapped around the axle in law because they actually don’t have a plan. They don’t they don’t have a checklist. They don’t know what they’re supposed to do. They’re trying to figure it out as they go along. That is incredibly stressful. And so, you know, I think one of the things I love about what you do what you do, and your consulting is just teaching that the practice of law is a business. It does need systems, it does need checklists, it needs organization, you have to approach it that way. that really actually takes the stress factor down when you do that.

 

Steve Fretzin  [10:04]

Yeah. And again, you’ve got experts in sales and marketing, you’ve got experts in it, you’ve got experts in, you know, management, right, and all and leadership and all these different people. And if you there’s a skill that you don’t have, you know, in law, well, you go learn it in law school, or you learn it, you know, from a mentor. But when it comes to running the business of law, right, and you’re just kind of new to it, and you’re starting, you’re like, I have a client who’s been with a big firm forever, he’s never been, he’s going off with a partner, very nervous, but we talked about it today. And he said, Steve, you know, knowing that I’ve got you in my corner, knowing that, you know, where you’re gonna help me with at least this piece of it. And by the way, I have the vendors. So for the areas that I not, is effective to help them I’ve got the contacts, right to help him with the other areas. And it really made me feel good that I’ve had to rush off the phone with him, I felt bad because I had another meeting. But, you know, the idea that he you know, trust me in a way, because we’ve worked on sales together. And he’s even more excited to do business development now. Because it’s going to be for his own firm, not for the big, you know, 4000 person firm he’s a part of. So let’s dive into this, Gary a little bit. You know, obviously, you have a new model we’re gonna get into talking about in a few minutes. But how is law practicing law, it changed in your mind in the last 10 years? I mean, what’s been sort of the couple biggest things that you’ve seen change that really, lawyers need to be cognizant of?

 

Gary Winter  [11:30]

Oh, well, there’s a lot, I think the biggest thing is, I say all the time that we are, we have become information brokers. Today, we used to be information keepers. You know, before my practice, I’ve been practicing as my 17th year, but pre 2000, right, you could hide the ball as a lawyer, and you could protect your knowledge and your information. And that could be, you know, theoretically provide you some security for your work, that all changed with the Internet. And now, people are educating themselves more in every area of their life, medical, legal, whenever you want an answer, and you’re good at searching, you can find mostly basic things. So I think that the information age is an enormous pivot point in our industry, because now, if a client can go out and answer a legal question, or get a rough answer themselves, then what’s the value that you bring? Right? I mean, obviously, appearing in court and doing things that clients can’t do very well. But yeah, and it kind of spins back into what we were talking about just a minute ago with the law of X mission and with our values, and, and just the client centered experience, right? You have to you have to look at it as a business owner and say, you know, I’m not going to survive by, you know, telling people well, I have my set of forms that no one has known, they all have it now. So, you know, I like to say, the practice of law these days, I tell my my team all the time I go guys, we’re not selling paper, we’re not selling paper, you’re not selling the court order, you’re not selling the form, all of that is out the window, you’re selling your knowledge and experience here, you’ve got to take it to another level, you got it, you’ve got to get really, really good at things that are really, really hard and hard to automate. And that to me, I think that’s the most pivotal thing. And it all started with the information age.

 

Steve Fretzin  [13:20]

And I think part of it, too, is legal tech, right? So there’s that there’s the experience and the knowledge. And then there’s also how we’re using technology to get the edge, how you’re dealing with the client relationship, how you’re dealing with the how you are dealing with the paper, right, and how you are, you know, able to do things more efficiently, because the old school attorneys that are doing everything manually versus the new school attorneys that are using legal tack mean, they’re going to have quite an advantage not only on profitability, I’d say more in efficiency.

 

Gary Winter  [13:53]

Yeah, there’s and I think there’s been layers now of legal Tech, I think there’s used to say that we do have a practice management system, you’re, you know, you’re providing value that other people aren’t, I think we’re beyond that, you know, you’ve got PracticePanther, and Clio, and, you know, these guys that are prolific now. And I think that’s a must have, if you’re not there, you’re probably not beyond help, but you need to really get with the program pretty quick. The next layer of legal tech beyond that is what I would consider more of like the back office stuff, you know, that’s our law, in our drafting software, and things that have really become so much more advanced, you know, calendaring, docketing, all those kinds of things that used to take a lot, man hours. The third layer is the new layer. And that’s the client facing layer. Those are the Clio for client app. It’s the case status app, you know, that makes interacting with your clients so much more seamless and so much more informative to the client. Like we recently invested in case status for our probate cases, because we want to interact a lot more seamlessly with our clients on those cases. And we literally have drawn out a roadmap for them and they can see that through the app. I Mmm, it’s incredible. So I mean, I think there’s multiple layers of legal tech now, and lawyers are finding themselves in one of those layers, and they need to keep pushing into the next layer. Because it, you’re just not gonna be able to compete with firms that are really good at that stuff. Right? Yeah, it’s

 

Steve Fretzin  [15:17]

not only that, and then we take it a step further, and I don’t know, if you how far ahead of COVID You were in, you know, the pandemic and all that, but the idea that, you know, we can move to a virtual environment, or the idea that we could, you know, run, you know, just about everything without huge overhead. And that’s another aspect of it, too, right.

 

Gary Winter  [15:34]

100% Yeah, you know, I did not predict COVID. But I did see that you could take a cloud based practice management system, like Clio, and use it as the, the backbone, you know, with your other tech stack products, to be able to have a leaner environment. We’re a hybrid firm, meaning that we have physical offices to meet with clients, but we don’t have private offices for lawyers or staff in our locations, we have conference rooms, and then we have co working spaces, in our physical offices where attorneys or staff can come in and, you know, get high speed internet, get away from the kids prep for meeting prep for hearing prep for trial, whatever. Some of them use it more than others. But we we wanted that in terms of a, you know, a perk, actually for originally for our lawyers to be able to work from wherever they wanted to work, they could work from the clients place of business from the office, from home, from court. I mean, lawyers are pretty pretty mobile when you’re doing, you know, B to C, or B to small business law. So we were, I think, better positioned, certainly then, you know, a traditional paper firm, because we were already functioning as a hybrid since 2014. So we already had remote workers. The only shift we made was we pushed our paralegals to fully remote in 2020. When that went all that went down. So we were we had a bit of a revenue offset. We were down about 20% for three months, maybe one quarter when the courts were closed, and then we recovered right back and then we started picking up a lot of business. Because I think a lot of law firms so the practitioners just got out of practicing during that time, some people just folded up and went away. So yeah, so it definitely positioned us better for what we experienced. But I wouldn’t want to lead anybody to believe that it didn’t affect us. Of course, it affected us so right.

 

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Steve Fretzin  [18:05]

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Jordan Ostroff  [18:35]

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Steve Fretzin  [18:55]

So there’s a cultural impact that’s been happening through this as well, right when people move to remote, they’re not the camaraderie and the you know, hanging out with each other and mentorship and some of the things get have been reduced. And is that affecting the world of law? Or is that just another transition that’s going to happen? And then things are just gonna keep on moving the way they’ve always moved?

 

Gary Winter  [19:20]

You raise a good point, I think it’s tremendously impactful. We talk about it a lot, and we’re trying to understand it better because, you know, having a team that you manage in the remote environment, it really is different. I mean, you need to be able to keep track of first of all production and and you’ve got to be numbers oriented to be able to know, you know, quantifiably, what is that person, you know, being, you know, profitable for you. But, but you mentioned the culture fit and that’s huge. So that we do a couple of things that we’re still learning a lot. I think everyone is in that area. But one of the things we use is a software called slack that Real popular with software developers, which is like, you know, kind of your own private chat room sort of chat room, you got channels and see have channels for the practice areas, we have channels for general, you know, information, we have channels for it, we have one called POV x, which is our pets, you know, we just post pictures and funny videos and stuff. Yeah, and then if some of my people have channels on like the true crime channel, because they all like to watch true crime. And so I think what happens is people if you have platforms like Slack, and we use some other stuff, too, but I think people find a way to interact, if you give them an opportunity to do that, you know, they can definitely interact. So we communicate a lot on Slack. We also picked up a really great software called bonus Lee recently, which I’ve enjoyed a lot. And bonus, Lee basically allows, everybody gets a few points or whatever. And then they can, you know, give bonus points, if you will, to whoever for doing something cool. And then you can hashtag like our values. For example, when somebody does something, right, or something great, you know, and that can come from anybody from a staff member to an attorney or an attorney to a staff member, it doesn’t all come from me as the managing guy. And I think that that’s been a win. And they those points actually can be converted into real stuff, like they can convert it into cash, they can convert it into extra PTO day, they can convert it into gift cards, you know, at Starbucks, or just a Visa gift card or whatever. So they actually have real value. And that one’s been really cool for just creating great interactions between our, our attorneys and our staff, you know, in recognizing, you know, wins, right, because as adults, you don’t get a lot of Pat’s on the back, you know, I mean, the kids get all the Pat’s on the back, they get a ribbon, they get a trophy. And so it’s a huge thing, just to for a young up and coming legal assistant, who just finished maybe the paralegal training program to get a pat on the back from a 25 year lawyer means a lot. And and it’s such a simple, you know, and are funny because sometimes we put little pictures or memes or GIFs, or whatever on there that would kind of make it laugh, or whatever. So

 

Steve Fretzin  [22:07]

I think you got to look outside the box. And whether it’s automation or technology or something cute like both Honestly, you’re trying to consider, you know, the culture, you’re not ignoring it with moving to a hybrid or moving to a virtual environment. You’re just trying to work around, work through it, and do what you can to keep and maintain the culture, right,

 

Gary Winter  [22:26]

I think you actually have to focus on harder because you lose the watercooler Miranda moments, you’ve got to focus on as a leader, you really got to focus on your culture, when it’s remote, and we’ve shifted our you know, we still have a weekly stand up, you know, that’s pretty short to half an hour. But we’ve shifted the focus of that from technical or announcement related, we can all do that, you know, over slack, but we’ve shifted it more to personal development, we read books like Brene, brown and Ariana Huffington book, and we just go through those things and really kind of focus more on, you know, how are you doing as a person? What does work life balance really mean? How does it you know, they do pertain to what we do, but it’s not a, you know, a technical meeting staff meeting anymore. It’s more about, you know, that personal growth, and I think people have really appreciated that, you know, our team has really enjoyed that. Yeah,

 

Steve Fretzin  [23:17]

one of my friends I spoke with earlier today, he was telling me, he went to a technology conference or something and brought his, his staff with them. So like, Hey, I’m going to this conference, once you guys come with me, enjoy the conference, you know, we’ll hang out together pays for the hotel, the airfare and it’s not going to break his bank. But I mean, it’s showing, I think I carrying in an interest in the team building exercise, you know, at least, you know, once a year, twice a year to do something to make sure that he’s, you know, getting some real face time, in addition to the, to the virtual zoom time, and, and some of the other, you know, bonding things that are happening, but more in a virtual space, I think that you got to consider the other side of it.

 

Gary Winter  [23:57]

agreed yet, we’ve done some of that as well. I mean, we when when they were virtual, we had everybody attend the like, for example, the Clio conference, virtually, last year, we took three of our staff, you know, two of them, all of our paralegals are fully remote, one of them’s in North Carolina, ones in Alabama, and we just flew them up to Nashville. And they joined us there because we’d actually never met them in person before. So that was the first time we’d ever seen him in person, we were able to hang out just socially, have fun, but also around a professional environment. I think they really were able to, to kind of interact in a in a new way. And it was it was tremendously, you know, building Team building for them and for us to be able to hang out with them. So there’s definitely a place for that. You know, one of the folks I followed for a number of years Billy tercio. She’s got a Phoenix family law, Arizona firm. And she she told me she took she took her entire team and plus ones to Mexico, I think Cancun or something like that. And I thought that was really interesting enough Asking in a couple of ways and sat down and thought about it, I go, you know, I don’t know that that’s for me. I’m not sure my people, like we all appreciate and respect each other professionally. But I don’t know that we want to hang out socially at a resort in Cancun for four days or whatever. And I don’t mean that in any kind of discounting way at all, I think, you know, good for her, and that she knows her team and what works, but I don’t think that would be a good thing for my people. We’re just so diverse and so different. And that I don’t think that I think that would present all kinds of complications and interesting stuff that I don’t even want to think about. But going to a professional conference, I think makes a ton of sense. And we’ve done that, you know, historically, and it’s been a win. So I think you you kind of have to figure it out as a leader know, your people and know, know the environments that they could flourish and and know the environments that might present a risk to your team, which for me, I you know, go into a resort in Mexico. Yeah, that would,

 

Steve Fretzin  [25:53]

yeah, I think there’s hedonism, you should try that. You want to get into some interesting trouble. That’s the way to go.

 

Gary Winter  [26:01]

That is an HR nightmare. Yeah, the whole thing to me,

 

Steve Fretzin  [26:05]

I went through with my listen, you want to hear a funny thing. I went there with Larry, the lawyer when I was in my early 20s. And the stories I could tell you, things that went down, were insane. And we’ll save that for a separate podcast, called insane stuff you did with your crazy father. But I love I agree with you that, you know, you’ve got to know your people. And you’ve got to ask your people and know what your culture is, and know what environment is going to make the most sense. Hey, I’d like to wrap up with something before we get to the game changing book, Gary? Um, what’s your definition of sort of a hybrid model? And if somebody’s interested in moving from a standard law firm model to a hybrid model? How would they go about

 

Gary Winter  [26:44]

that? Yeah, well, hybrid in my understanding, and would the way we describe it is if you’ve got remote and physical workers, you know, seem to have a physical space. So you’re either you’re either purely physical, which is traditional, just you know, office space, or you’re a hybrid light, which means we have remote workers and physical space, okay. Or you’re a full remote, which is like Fisher Broyles or ring cone or some of those guys, I actually rincones a hybrid to the Fisher Broyles is a full remote virtual environment where they don’t even have physical space. So I think there’s a place for law firms to be fully remote, I don’t think every practice area is a great fit for that we’re a hybrid because we’re a full service trust in a state’s firm, we believe people, at least here in California still want to sit down and look us in the eye face to face, they want a sense of security and permanence. And so we have, you know, nice office space and conference space for them to be able to come in and meet with us. So our lawyers are connected to at least one office location and need to be within driving distance. Our paralegals, on the other hand, are fully remote, and they’re all over the place. They’re Oregon, North Carolina, Alabama, California. So yeah, that’s how I see it, in terms of transitioning from, you know, full tradition to a hybrid space. Number one, you’ve got to have a cloud based practice management system, that’s your backbone, you got to start there. And then that begins the process. And then I would say, the next step is you need to fully utilize the practice management system, you cannot be half on and half off half paper file, half digital file, that’s a recipe for disaster. Actually, I would say that for anyone who’s going to digital practice management, use the whole thing. And thirdly, I think you’ve got to have systems and procedures and processes built, because you’re not going to be able to walk in someone’s office and take a look over their shoulder and see that they’re actually doing what they’re supposed to do. You’ve got to get comfortable with having those systems like we use a software called Sweet process, which is basically a cloud based policy and procedure manual with workflows and screenshots of videos. And well, that’s how we trained and that’s how we, you know, say this is how we draft a letter. This is how we format a letter, this is how you do process service, a process, whatever. So you’ve got to have those things. I mean, that’s your bare bones minimum, I would say it’s those, those three or four

 

Steve Fretzin  [29:03]

things right, and I think yeah, and I’ve heard so many time management, and also just leadership experts, the importance of SOPs, and having everything streamlined, where it’s just you could put someone in that spot, and you’ve got everything they need right there to get to get ramped up fast, because you just don’t want to you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the weeds training and helping someone get up to speed if you’ve got to lay it out ahead of time.

 

Gary Winter  [29:29]

And honestly, I mean, the reality is like I was a checklists, SOP guy, right? Because it was my former life. That’s how we function. I think that way. Yeah, a lot of lawyers don’t. And so I mean, for them to make a transition, like what you’re saying is actually really, really hard. And they need to work with you or someone like you to really help them understand, you know, the logistics of what we just described. You know, going cloud base for one thing is a handful, but you could buy the software but if you don’t utilize the software fully and actually have your staff on it. You’re not ready to, you know, really be a hybrid.

 

Steve Fretzin  [30:05]

I mean, I’ll take it one step further. I mean, just in so we love practice Panther, we’ve talked about Clio, I’m gonna mention law Maddox real quick to that my marketing, legalese marketing, they do training in setup on nomadic. So the way that my podcast is run now and the way that it’s going to be run in 2023, are going to be very different from a standpoint of how the guests are integrated into the marketing mechanism of how are you and I are getting ready for the podcast to be released? What social media and graphic and assets? Are you going to get to help promote the episode? How is that going to happen before the show airs while it’s airing, and after its airing to get both parties you and I, Gary, on the same page? Well, up until now, it’s all been kind of handled by me. Well, that’s no good, right. So now we’re going to put some automation in there where you’re going to automatically get the assets and direction on how to utilize those assets to get the most promotional bang for your buck involved with me in the show. So that’s just another example of how these automations can be done for you. I’m not going to learn how to do that through automatics. I’m going to utilize legalese marketing to do that, for me,

 

Gary Winter  [31:17]

essentially, agreed, yeah, we invested in law medics last year, or earlier this year, I should say it’s not quite 23. Yet, but and we’re going down that path. I would put law medics in the third category of things, you practice management systems, and then you’ve got back office and then lob Maddox is a great client facing automation system. And yeah, we’re deploying that already. And I think, at this point, since, you know, maybe 10 years ago, you could have dabbled with practice management system and made that switch yourself and sort of figured it out. The problem is, is now we’re like I said, we’re on level three. So for the guys who haven’t done level one, probably need to hire a consultant to come in and catch you up. Yeah, I mean, that’s what I literally think that and I’ve talked to a lot of people, you know, if you’re just a solo, maybe you could kind of, you know, wade your way through it. But I think you’re, you’re miles ahead, if you get experience help, because we’re a decade plus deep in this now. And a lot has changed. And this stuff. You know, with today’s integrations, like really, your PracticePanther, your Clio, or whatever, it becomes the, you know, your backbone, and it’s all these integrations, law Maddix, QuickBooks Online, you know, scheduling, Calendly, court rules, all these things now sort of fit into the spine, which is your practice management system. And we’re getting into this now client facing world of apps, that is really, really impressive in automating the interactions and the data collection from clients, you know, we found, we’re spending an inordinate percentage of our staff time just collecting data from our clients, whether it’s a document or some information and verifying it. And now you have the Clio clients app, you got case status to be able to do that and automate a lot of that really cuts your staff time down. So that’s, I think the cutting edge. Today is really more client facing automation, like well, Maddix in case status.

 

Steve Fretzin  [33:02]

Yeah, well, Carrie, the world’s changing and I’m happy that your brunt of it or on it on top of it. And I hopefully the lawyers listening or taking some notes or taking heed of what you’re saying, because you’re either you’re the part of the future, you’re or you’re living in the past, and you’re gonna get run over by it. So I think that’s where we kind of want to wrap things up with, let’s put in another, you know, shout out to Cleo, I guess in this in your game changing book isn’t actually a book, you want to share what what we talked about pre airing?

 

Gary Winter  [33:30]

Yeah, well, I just suggested maybe the legal Trends Report, which, you know, Cleo, launched about five or six years ago. And George Soros on their team now has since moved on, really was the spearhead behind that Fraser Newton, Jack’s brother was in the original effort. And, you know, when once you had a prolific, you know, cloud based practice management system there, obviously, collecting data, right, just like Facebook collects data, and everyone else collects data. Well, all of a sudden Clio found themselves with an inordinate amount of, you know, solo and small, firm data from their customers. And then they said, Well, hey, what can we do with this, so we’re going to aggregate it, you know, sort of de identify it, and then start reporting it. And that’s the legal Trends report. I mean, specifics come out each year, but the theme has been overwhelmingly disconcerting, I would say that the actual level of productivity, the utilization rate, the realization rate of the average lawyer, is significantly lower than everybody thought. Everyone has this idea about how productive they are in a solo and small firm, but the reality the data actually showed something radically different. And, and I and there’s lots of other, you know, interesting concepts about, you know, client interactions with lawyers and speed to get paid and all kinds of stuff like that. But to me, I think the thing that has been, you know, Pivotal is just understanding as a solo or as a small firm, how difficult it is to actually be productive. And that’s one of the reasons why we are a firm. If it was the opposite, I would have just stayed solo and tried to crush it as a solo. But I knew that there was just no way we were going to be as productive as we could be with all of the, you know, the modern, you know, regulatory and marketing and finance and everything that we need to do it. And it’s the reason why lawyers have been banding together, historically, forever, right, cost sharing, and so forth. So that you can, you know, have lawyers focus on being lawyers, which is, which is really our, that’s my business model. I mean, that’s what love x is, is we provide all of the administrative support. And it’s an easy bolt on for laterals, and exiting attorneys to come work under our umbrella. You know, you give up a few freedoms, you don’t have your name on the door, but we have a extremely financially lucrative system for our partners. And we have a really quick and easy program for associates to move into partner, it’s not a mystery, it’s very black and white. And I think by doing that, you know, we can continue to scale and continue to grow, and really get the best of both worlds, you get to add, you know, all of the technology horsepower. But you know, lawyers can just focus on being lawyers, they don’t have to waste four hours a day blowing on admin time. And so I think there’s a place for firms like us, and I think they’re gonna grow, they already have like, we’re small, right. And we have, you know, eight or nine lawyers and three offices and 16 staff. But look at Fisher Broyles, those guys are fully remote. They’re huge. I think they just busted into the amla 100, maybe. And there’s a firm called green cone out of San Francisco that has gone global, they’re hybrid. It this is a prolific opportunity, I think, for people who are business minded to provide the administrative and the business side of things for lawyers so that they don’t have to do that because most people didn’t go to law school to run the business.

 

Steve Fretzin  [36:51]

And it’s not for everybody, Gary, I mean, starting your own thing, and having you know, all the hassles that are that accompany starting a solo practice, or running a small firm, it might seem exciting. And for some people, like my plan I mentioned earlier in the show is going to be amazing, and I’m very excited for him. But there’s other people that have been in it for six months, I talked to a lovely, you know, young lady the other day and man, she’s just like, I love everything about it, except, you know, all the you know, everything, all the administrative and technology and all this stuff that you don’t want to deal with. Right? So absolutely just got to pick you got to pick your you know, pick your lane, as it relates to you know, what you enjoy and get value from in life and profession. And think about who you can partner with that can take some of that, you know, trash off off of you if it’s not your jam. Exactly. To that point. People want to get in touch with you, Gary, they like what you’re saying they like your model. They’re interested in hearing more of what how do they get in touch with you?

 

Gary Winter  [37:47]

Sure. Well, I’m I’m open to, you know, having chats and interacting with people about a number of different things. I’m also an adjunct law professor in the legal technology space at the local law school. So anybody who wants to connect on law practice management, or legal tech or things like that, or just the hybrid model, you can always reach me at Gary, I’d love x.com ga ry at La wv x.com. If you don’t want to do personally email, you can follow me on LinkedIn, I’m usually on there, periodically looking at things. But that’s probably the easiest way if you’ve I do some Twitter, it’s at Carey winter law. But it’s that’s not my preferred medium. I like LinkedIn a little bit better. But But yeah, feel free to reach out, I’d be happy to interact. Very cool. Well,

 

Steve Fretzin  [38:32]

thank you, man, I appreciate you being on the show and sharing your wisdom. I think we covered a ton of ground. I mean, a lot more than I actually had planned. So I’m really, really thrilled with that. And you know, I’d like to keep in the loop with you, man.

 

Gary Winter  [38:44]

Yeah, likewise, no, I enjoyed our interaction the other day with the group. And I’m happy to be here. And I nerd out on this stuff. And I enjoy chatting about it. And I just think it’s a fascinating time for our industry. And there’s so many cool things happening. And usually just having a conversation like this is interesting and valuable for a lot of folks to tune in on. So I appreciate you having me on the show.

 

Steve Fretzin  [39:05]

Yeah, my pleasure. My pleasure. And thank you everybody for spending some time with Gary and I today, you know, I have to believe if you’re, you know, listening, that you got some really good thoughts and ideas and so maybe even some understanding of some tech out there and kind of like you know, where you fall in that zone about you know, you know, wanting to go out on your own or wanting to go to a hybrid model or thinking and considering the different avenues that might make sense for you. And whatever the case might be, you know, the goal is for you to be that lawyer. And that’s someone who’s competent, organized and a skilled Rainmaker, so keep in touch everybody be safe be well, we’ll talk again real soon.

 

Narrator  [39:44]

Thanks for listening to be that lawyer. Life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Visit Steve’s website fredson.com For additional information, and to stay up to date on the latest legal business development and more Marketing Trends for more information and important links about today’s episode check out today’s show notes