In this episode, Steve Fretzin and John Strohmeyer discuss:
- Recognizing how lawyers and law firms are different from other types of companies.
- Definition of customer service for a law firm.
- Minimize the things that don’t help you solve the problem your clients bring to you.
- Take care of your referral partners with exceptional service as that is where your primary business comes from.
- We are all selling some sort of product and it is, primarily, one of three flavors: stuff, results, or entertainment and fun. Understanding what type of business you are changes how you do customer service.
- By focusing on what you do, you aren’t getting distracted with other areas of law that are outside your area of focus.
- Consider what is good for your staff, not just your client.
- Get the right people in the right jobs to do things for you – you, as the lawyer, cannot do everything all the time.
“Most of this service isn’t about spending more money. Clients aren’t looking for you to shower them with gifts and making sure your office is decked out in marble and glass. It’s taking care of things for them and making it easy.” — John Strohmeyer
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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.
clients, lawyer, referral sources, easy, service, disney, people, business, zappos, law firm, meeting, john, seasons, focused, problem, talk, day, spend, thinking, red herrings
Narrator, John Strohmeyer, Steve Fretzin
John Strohmeyer [00:00]
Not one person is going to come to your law firm, because you’ve got a drink or an omelet menu. I mean, sure you could invest in it. But there’s no way you’re really going to compete with a restaurant that’s doing it all the time. So you want to minimize the things that don’t help you better serve clients. And when you’re better serving your clients, you’re helping them move the needle on their problem.
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 Fretzin, will take a deeper dive, helping you grow your law practice in less time with greater results. Now, here’s your host, Steve Fretzin.
Steve Fretzin [00:49]
Hey, everybody, welcome to be that lawyer. I hope you’re having a lovely day. I know that I am. It’s Wednesday, I’m not sure when you’re hearing this. But you know, look at Chicago with the summer, we don’t have fires, we don’t have tornadoes, we don’t have hurricanes. So look, nobody can complain if they’re in Chicago in the summer. More importantly, this is the show, if you’re looking to grow your book of business, as a lawyer, you’re looking to learn tips, tricks, ideas, to just get ahead and do things more efficiently, more effectively, and not feel so lost and alone. And if that’s how you’re feeling well, we hope that we’re your partner and building this book of business and making sure that your law practice is sustainable. Part of that is having great client service, if you’re not doing great client service. I don’t know if you know the statistics, but it’s six times more work money, energy, etc. To get a new client than it is to keep an existing one. So you got to kind of go above and beyond what you may think you need to do like being fair on your pricing and showing up on time for meetings. I think that might be the bare bare bare minimum these days. The person I am today is my guest, you’re going to absolutely love. He is an expert, not only in client service, but also in tax estate planning. He’s an attorney in Houston. It’s John Strohmeyer. How’s it going, John?
John Strohmeyer [02:00]
Great, Steve. Thanks for having me on.
Steve Fretzin [02:02]
Yeah, well, the pleasure is mine. You know, just think you’ve got a lot to say and a lot to share. And hopefully, we’re going to pull all that out on you and keep everybody very occupied with taking notes or mental notes. But do me a salad and give a little background because you’ve got an interesting background, especially in providing client service, or Well, thank
John Strohmeyer [02:19]
you. Yeah, so right now I am the proprietor of Strohmeyer law in Houston, Texas, where I guide my clients through the maze of tax and estate planning law, to help them set up their estates. So they’re really leaving no message behind for their family. But before law school, between college and law school, I had a first career working for the four seasons, hotels. And of those four years there, almost three of those years were spent working as the night manager of the Austin property. So the short version is I show up at 11 o’clock at night, Tuesday through Saturday night, I pretty much be in charge of the hotel from 11pm until eight or nine the next morning. And so you see a lot of weird things, you have to deal with a lot of weird things in a hotel. And it was great experience. I’m glad I got that I learned a lot that lawyers don’t learn about how to take care of people. And now my job is how can I help other lawyers think about this? Because, unfortunately, we’re taking the wrong lessons from places like Amazon, and Zappos, and Disney and Ritz Carlton. And it doesn’t mean we can’t take some lessons. But we’ve got to bring it back to what are lawyers doing. And remember that we’re different from those companies in very important ways.
Steve Fretzin [03:33]
And I want to dive into that. But I think the more important question, taking a step back before we go forward is did you ever find a dead body?
John Strohmeyer [03:41]
Let’s see, I never found a dead body. But I did get pretty close. There was very definitely one time where I was called, probably in the four to 6am range of you need to call the paramedics because this dude is odd. Oh, yeah. Like right on the line. There were also a couple of suicide attempts that thankfully did not, did not work and had their own. So no truly dead people. A few people who did their darndest to get there though.
Steve Fretzin [04:12]
Gotcha. Gotcha. So, you know, you brought up you know, the idea that companies like Disney and Amazon and Zappos they have, I guess, some way of doing client service or some way of running their businesses and how should law firms be run differently than those kinds of business because you’d think all Disney you know, Disney, oh, they keep everything so clean and etc. But what’s your your comparison and contrast there?
John Strohmeyer [04:34]
Yeah, so, we’re gonna start, we’re gonna zoom way, way back out, very general business lesson. Every business, whether it’s a law firm, Amazon, Zappos or Disney, we’re all selling some sort of product. And that product takes one of three main flavors, so Zappos, they’re primarily selling you stuff. Like you go to Zappos and you want a thing. And those things happen to be shoes. When he comes to a lawyer, you want some result, you’re trying to move the needle on some problem, and you want the lawyer to do the work to solve that problem. John, couldn’t we say that Zappos is solving your lack of shoes problem? Yeah, but you know, kind of go with me, you know? Absolutely with you keep going. Yeah. And then Disney is doing a very different thing. Disney and four seasons, and Ritz Carlton. They’re all about some version of entertainment, pampering or fun in a way that if you had a free day off and an unlimited budget, you’re not going to spend it at your lawyer, but you may spend it at Disney or four seasons. And it’s there’s a very huge shift that happens when your business is focused on. Are we trying to entertain, pamper, or surprise and delight our guests which Disney is trying to do? Or are you trying to move the needle on a specific problem for your client, which lawyers are trying to do? And to kind of throw us in, you know, doctors, accountants, barbers, plumbers, nobody’s calling any of us, you know, professionals, whether we’ve got a license or not fun day off, they’re calling to solve a problem.
Steve Fretzin [06:08]
Yeah, I mean, when the plumber comes in, I say, Hey, man, how can I help you? Let’s get down and dirty together? Because no, I don’t do that at all. Because it’d be fun. No, that would not be fun. The opposite of fun for me, I was thinking to Disney sells like the sizzle, they sell the dream, you know that the concept of what fun is, and I think yeah, law firms and lawyers, they’re selling the results. But aren’t they also sort of selling competency or selling, you know, maybe it’s the icon, the idea of a resolution,
John Strohmeyer [06:37]
I would put it as they’re selling here, come enjoy your time with us. Like come to Disney, drop your dollars off at the front door. And everywhere you go, once you get through the turnstile. And we’re going to make sure you are glad you’re spending your day with us. Versus when you come to the lawyer, you dropped your dollars off. And frankly, you know, again, if the clients turned around, never walked back to our door, and we just presented them with, you know, here, your problem is resolved, like your state has planned, you’re out of jail, your kid is adopted, your divorce is done, they would be fine to spend no more than as little time with us as possible. And it’s not don’t want to be entertaining, we don’t want to make it easy, and you know, even have a good experience, but they’re not coming to us for that entertainment experience. They’re coming to us to solve that problem. You know, we want to keep our eyes focused on it. And as you mentioned, our job is to be efficient for our clients. And so we shouldn’t get in the business of trying to surprise and delight, you know, like, we don’t want to put in the cappuccino bar that clients aren’t coming to us for, you know, we don’t want to put in the omelet bar, like this law firm has the best omelets in general.
Steve Fretzin [07:45]
I don’t know about that. I think an omelet bar, you’d be the talk of the town. It might be your differentiator, like barber shop that has, you know, like a carnival atmosphere anyway. But here’s where I want to go with this. And that is, you know, you mentioned things like Disney and four seasons, et cetera. And they’ve got their idea of client service. So what is the definition or the idea of client service in the legal profession? What should lawyers be aspiring to? And how does it differ from the dream that is Disney?
John Strohmeyer [08:12]
Right? So Disney? I didn’t work there. I can’t tell you exactly what it is. Yeah. So I’ll give you four seasons. And there are two ways to think about it there. One, it started with the Golden Rule treat people as you want to be treated. Yeah, really? Is that simple. Think about it from their eyes. What does it mean? What can we do to make it easy for them? They got broken down into an initialism service. So each letter standing for everything, you know, he started off smile, just real obvious things. And, you know, rather than go through all that, you know, when we turn back to lawyers, our job is to make it easy for clients to achieve their objectives we want they’re coming to us to move some needle, how can we move that needle as easily as possible for them?
Steve Fretzin [08:56]
Alright, so number one would be ease meeting ease of communication? How is this all going to make my life better, and not just more difficult,
John Strohmeyer [09:05]
not just more difficult, but like don’t crowded with other things that don’t matter? You know, we want to give people the stuff they need. We want to make it accessible to them. You know, we’ve got a hard job of translating all this, you know, nonsensical lawyer legalese that we’ve learned. And I mean, I had this with a client yesterday, where we were talking about something having to do with one of the trusts, they’re setting up. And we were talking about one of the power of appointment. And this is something that confuses clients. And so I’d sent them a video upfront like me explaining exactly what a PowerPoint is how to use it, to help make it easier. They still had questions, but I’d made it easy because they were able to watch that video and at least get some of the words in their mouth before the call. And so it’s easier not only for them because they had some of the background and so we ended up talking about this is what It means in your specific claim in a way that, you know, I’m not going to talk about their specifics in a YouTube video, right? It also makes it easy for me and my staff to because we’ve given them those that information upfront, I don’t have to spend the time kind of explaining for however many times I’ve explained powers of appointment to clients over the last decade. This time, I can come in fresh, it’s like, oh, you’re asking about question two or three? Not the basic level question.
Steve Fretzin [10:28]
Got it? So if our number one tip is, you know, just ease what would be the second tip, what are some things that you’re talking about teaching and doing as it relates to client service?
John Strohmeyer [10:38]
Right? So it’s thinking about not only how do you do it, but making sure you’re not investing in what I call red herrings, you know, the things that sound like you’re making it, you know, you’re increasing experience, but it’s taking away from what you’re actually trying to do for the client.
Steve Fretzin [10:55]
So we can explain that to me. Yeah,
John Strohmeyer [10:57]
here’s a real obvious one. Lawyers should be focused on certain niche practice, I’m sure you’ve probably talked to know about this. Gone are the days where you can hang your shingle and just be on John, the lawyer, I will apply law in whatever fashion you need. This doesn’t help you, it doesn’t help your clients. Why? They don’t know when to call you. Nobody, none of your referral sources know when to call you. John does everything. Yeah, but Steve down the way, he’s going to be better at Project X, you know, Joe, two doors down, it’s going to be better at this because he’s focused on that. You’re making it easy for everybody to know what you do. And that’s where we want to start thinking about is, of course, I’m losing my train of thought, because I’ve started rambling.
Steve Fretzin [11:40]
Well, but you’re talking about the red herrings and that people need to specialize, right? How does that impact in a positive way client service?
John Strohmeyer [11:48]
So by focusing on what you do, you’re not offering these other services that you’re not good at, you know, saying, Well, I do estate planning. But you know what, it’s a good client, I’m going to do the criminal defense, or I’m going to do the divorce, or I’m going to do the m&a work for them. You’re not getting distracted with that level of other stuff. And that’s easy. You know, it’s like, okay, well, those are the technical lawyer services we may be delivering on outside. When we think about other things. Well, you know, I’d mentioned having the drink menu, that’s a red herring, as well, why not one person is going to come to your law firm, because you’ve got a drink or an omelet menu. I mean, sure, you could invest in it. But there’s no way you’re really going to compete with any restaurant that’s doing it all the time. So you want to minimize the things that don’t help you better serve clients. And when you’re better serving your clients, you’re helping them move the needle on their problem now,
Steve Fretzin [12:50]
well, yeah, but the obvious answer that you’re giving is, when you’re a specialist, and you focus and you’re good, and you’re set in doing what you do best, the client service is gonna go up, because you’re not having to have all these calls to make excuses or to explain away why something didn’t work the way it’s supposed to work, because you’re not really the best at it. Right? Absolutely. And so that’s going to improve the client service that’s going to improve your reputation, everything that comes from it.
John Strohmeyer [13:17]
Right, it’s gonna make it easier not only for your clients, it makes it easier for your staff. And it makes it easier for you as the owner, and whether or not you’re doing your soul cook and bottle washer in your firm. Or if you’ve got a big staff, thinking about those three parties who are involved in the representation. It’s not just about let’s do it to make it as easy as possible for the clients. Because if you’re going to create a revolt with your staff, because they’re looking at this and say, We can do this, but there’s just no way we’re going to be able to, you know, you’ve got to consider what they want as well. Right?
Steve Fretzin [13:53]
Well, and I think that’s an important lesson. Because if you if you’re trying to be everything to everybody, not only is an impossible to keep your client service up, but also, you’re not going to start making some enemies, you’re going to start providing, you know, just not working at the level that you need to work. So I think that’s a really important customer service client service point. You got one more doozy for us that we could digest?
John Strohmeyer [14:14]
Oh, of course, I do. Think about, we’re coming back to meetings. But it’s all about how do we make it easy for our clients? One of the one of the ways to think about this is what are the things that will make it easier for your clients to get what they need to out of, you know, Nuttall use the example of a meeting, but you kind of take it extrapolate from there. If clients are going to come into a meeting in your office, they’re gonna sit at your conference table. You want them to think that you knew they were coming and you were ready for them. So it’s all about showing you’re prepared. Two ways of kind of even showing you’re prepared know what you’re doing. Cleanliness, shows competence. don’t have papers everywhere. Don’t have a look like the tornado just came through. Your office with papers all over the place. If it’s clean setup, people are gonna think, Okay, well, they’ve got things put away. Sure, they may be a slob like me on the other side of the wall. But at least here where it matters, they’re taking care of things. The other side of it is, when you show that you are ready for them, you knew these people were coming into your office, you don’t have a conference room table that could seat 20 people, and nothing on the table, because it’s like, oh, they just shoved us in any room that worked. If you’re gonna have a meeting with three people, you and two clients, or have three settings out there, and it doesn’t mean you have knives and forks tables, but you know, a legal pad for everybody and a pen for everybody just sitting out there. This is not something that’s going to cost you any money. It’s just showing, oh, here’s where I probably need to sit. And John knew I was coming in, John knew that me and my wife were coming to the office. And they’ve got three settings, I probably supposed to sit at one of the ones where they’re next to each other, and John’s gonna set aside across from us. And that’s kind of the hidden secret as well. Most of this service isn’t about spending more money. clients aren’t looking for you to shower them and gifts and high weight bond paper and make sure your office is decked out in marble and glass. It’s taking care of things for them and making it easy, you know, how do we do that? How do we show them we were ready. And we know what we’re doing. You know, we had all the documents ready. We had everything lined up for them. Everything’s in order so that they can be there and get their work done, and then go do something else. Yeah,
Steve Fretzin [16:37]
I had a meeting a virtual meeting with a new client the other day and his end. Last thing he said to me sort of before we wrapped up his while you’re really organized. And I was like, You know what, not only am I organized, but I just appreciated being told that I was working organized because I am all the time, but no one really talks about it, it just sort of is assumed or it’s just sort of like what everybody expects, and maybe they leave disappointed. In some instance, not with me, but hopefully not with me. But you know, the any meeting that someone might leave disappointing, you never really hear about it.
John Strohmeyer [17:07]
Right? I mean, I’ve got a meeting with a new client Friday morning, as I said, here it is Wednesday, we’re gonna send out our pre meeting homework packet just to here, this is the organization of what we’re going to do, here are the documents you already have in place. Here are some of the things we want to talk about. If you can take five minutes and just skim through it, we’re gonna be in a better spot to make sure we can plow through this information, because I’m stuff going to be the first time you’re seeing it. You know, here, I’ve thought through this, this is what I want to talk about. I know they want to talk about certain types of trusts. So just having the schematic in there of who should be the trustee who should get stuff from the trust. It’s all about making it easy for them. Just saying like, we’ve been here before, like the mountain top you’re trying to get to. I’ve been up there 15 times this week, you should not worry that I know how to get up there.
Steve Fretzin [17:57]
Yeah, you’re the Sherpa. Yep. Okay. So let’s go from the beginning of the story to the end of the story. I think one of the areas of client service that’s neglected on a regular basis is how do we take care of clients after the fact? How do we keep in touch with them? How do we because at the end of the day, that’s where referrals come from, that’s where the repeat business comes. That’s where they come and say, Hey, I know you did my estate plan, but my brother is in an accident, or my brother got in some criminal trouble, or needs a bankruptcy or whatever. And you’re the one that they’re coming to you become, you know, their go to, right. So what are a couple things on the back end that you’re recommending that either you do and that you’re recommending other lawyers do
John Strohmeyer [18:39]
part of the easy part of this is stay in touch with them, you know, we’ve got monthly email list, we send things to our clients, we send it to our referral service or referral sources so that they’re getting information. But it’s not just the basic information, the secret that my referral sources tell me. And that’s not just hey, did you read my email, but I get them. I’ve literally had them pick up the phone and call me and say, we just got your email, and thank you for sending something that’s actually useful. You know, the information in there is stuff they didn’t know it’s not, hey, when you’re signing a will make sure you have two witnesses. The referral sources either already know that, or don’t care, because that’s my job to know it. I’m not telling them what my job should be. I’m telling, you know, kind of giving them the little bits and pieces so they don’t have to pick up the phone and call me. Why? Because that makes them look good. For folks who aren’t estate planners. One of the things that I’ve really realized in the last few years is I’m not going to crowd out the legal ethics side of this. But when you think about repeat clients, most of my actual clients, you know, Bob and Jane Smith who come in, they may come back in a few years and my goal is to make it easy for them to come back. But it’s those referral sources where I’m thinking about them as this is the client and you know Laura Smith As the financial advisor, I’m going to do four different projects for her this year alone, they’ll just be called the Smith family and the Jones family and the other Jones family and the Brian family. And so taking care of that referral source, making sure she gets what she needs. And honestly, it’s not about kind of, again, showering her with stuff, but it’s helping her look good in front of her clients. How can we do that, and just providing the, hey, think about this, here are the you know, you’re the financial advisor, these are the problems that we see when we don’t talk to clients. If you can make sure that you’re asking these questions, because these questions make my life easier and lower your clients bills, you know, not just do they have a will check the box and then never ask them again. When’s the last time you actually signed the will? Or had it reviewed? Do you know where the original last will? Is? That’s a big deal in Texas. I know other states don’t care as much about that. But just knowing specifically, what do you see? And where are clients getting surprised? Bills? How can we help are those referral sources, those actual clients look good, because then we’re taking care of them, they’re gonna take care of us, right,
Steve Fretzin [21:12]
I would just add that the newsletter is critical, and most attorneys don’t have one. And if they do have one, they’re not really thinking about it strategically as a way to not only stay in touch with their clients, but give them information that could lead to you know, referring their brother, their sister, their friend, you know, their business associate, etc. The other thing is in Is there a way to keep in touch through email correspondence on a regular basis, that’s maybe more personal, right, something that’s just going to touch them. And I think a lot of the CRMs today, the client relationship management tools, law, Maddix and Pipedrive. And some of the ones that are out there, you know, automate that. So it really does feel and seem like it’s individually done, when in fact, it’s more automated.
John Strohmeyer [21:57]
Right? I mean, that’s one way of doing it, but also just the reaching out and calling clients, the way old school look, just go old school. And one of the things that I do in my emails to former clients, there’s a link to get on my calendar. By it’s not just one way it’s, do you have a question? Here’s the link to jump on and ask your question. Part of that, is it look, you know, oh, my God, John, don’t you build by the hour? You’re losing money? They’re gonna send a bill? No, I’m not, you know, these are, if anything, thinking about these as chances to win that business back. Of course, these are people who’ve already worked with me. Hopefully they liked what we did, it’s a chance for them to reach back out and say, Hey, I was thinking about this. What do I need to do? Even if it’s just me saying, I don’t know, you need to talk to my friend Adri about this. I’m the good guy for still being there responding, and getting them the help they needed.
Steve Fretzin [22:57]
Right? Well, I think another thing that pops up in the client retention, and how do we continue to get referred by, you know, clients and referral sources is that FaceTime, so emailing phone, calling, maybe taking them to a game, the social thing, but the other piece that’s missed, and I see this on a regular basis is not being a resource or not being proactive, and how your resource so for example, you know, I’m constantly thinking about my clients, and who they are looking to meet. So, for example, I met a an individual who focuses in international banking, okay. And I’ve got a client who does international trade and regulations and regulatory stuff, and I’m putting them together. And that’s a benefit to the banker. But more importantly, it’s a benefit to my client. And so anything I can do, that’s going to add value, by connecting them by being there go to a meet, even if someone said, Hey, I’m in the area, I need a painter, I want to know that I can refer the painter I just got off the phone with an estate planning attorney here in Chicago, who mentioned that he’s interested in moving firms, and there’s some potential, you know, upsides to doing so, and he’s not using a recruiter, and I’m like, Are you nuts? Like, let me get you in front of a top recruiter who I think will really take care of you. And it’s just another level that we need to get to, to make sure that we stay sticky with the people that were involved with.
John Strohmeyer [24:19]
Right? You know, it’s just, there are so many things trying to pick which direction do I go with that comment? Because you’re right, we want to stay in front of people. It’s email is easy. But we’ve got to give people the chance to connect with us better, and whether or not it’s going to a game for clients who like doing that. Personally, I’ve just found most of my clients or they don’t want to deal with me, outside of business hours, and I’m fine with that. Like, yeah, that’s just me. You don’t take it personally. And now I’m giving my job is to make it easy for you and give you back as much of your time as possible, but also giving the chance to those who want to talk to you don’t shut them out. The other thing I was that it made me think about is in hiring that recruiter. Think about it, if you walk into a hotel, you know, when I worked at the Four Seasons Hotel, four seasons were founded in Toronto in 1960, something by a man named Isidore sharp, he hasn’t checked in anybody in decades. And guess what, that’s fine. You know, you’d be shocked if he was still working behind the register. And we as lawyers need to recognize that we need to get the right people in the right jobs, to do things for us. Because we can’t do everything all the time, you know, for me and my practice, how am I making it faster and easier. I’m delegating and always trying to find things that I can get off my plate, to somebody who works for me, you know, doing the calls before the meetings, so that not only do I have the information, but the associate who is going to work with me has already talked to the clients are inoculated, they know that somebody else works for me. And they know somebody else knows what’s going on. Like it speeds it up. Because guess what, think of service as the ways that the adjectives for describing how things are delivered. Now, is it fast? Is it easy, pleasant, hard, mind numbing. That’s what we’re trying to bring to this. How do we make it fast and easy for our clients?
Steve Fretzin [26:19]
So hey, just in wrapping up, I mean, if somebody wants to talk to you about an estate plan or tax, or they want to talk to you about client service, what are some of the best ways to reach out to John,
John Strohmeyer [26:29]
for legal work, head to Strohmeyer law.com. All the links are in there to get on my calendar and get in front of me. For client service. Best thing to do. Look, you’re probably already listening to a podcast or you’re obviously listening to a podcast. I’ve got a five star counsel podcast where I’m talking about all these issues, bringing in folks from legal and a lot of folks from outside of legal. What we’re trying to do is answer the question. What would a law firm that was built by the founders of Disney for seasons and Amazon look like? Every episode? We’re trying to dig into that answer a little bit and figure out what that looks like.
Steve Fretzin [27:05]
Okay. Very interesting. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate it. I appreciate your insights. And again, I think from the cradle to the grave, right, we’ve got to perform client service and it sounds like it’s something that you’ve really mastered.
John Strohmeyer [27:17]
I’d like to take so if anybody wants come on the journey with me I’m happy to have them Oh,
Steve Fretzin [27:21]
there you go. Hey, listen, everybody. Thank you for spending some time with John and I today you know, this is another opportunity for you to be that lawyer someone who’s confident organized in a skilled Rainmaker. Thanks, everybody, take care be well be safe.
Thanks for listening to be that lawyer. Life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Visit Steve’s website fretzin.com. For additional information, and to stay up to date on the latest legal business development and marketing trends. For more information and important links about today’s episode, check out today’s show notes