In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Reza Torkzadeh, the founder and CEO of TorkLaw. Torklaw is a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm based in Los Angeles with offices throughout the country. He is the author of The Lawyer as CEO, a book that has obtained record-setting results. He is an honorary board member of the trial lawyer charities and chairman of the Dean’s Inner Circle at UCI Law.
1. How did you decide to write the book, The Lawyer as CEO?
When I first came out of law school. It was very challenging to figure out what really goes into running and operating and scaling a law firm. There were no classes offered in law school; there were no manuals or books. Most every other industry has authoritative guides and training and tools for that particular area, and for whatever reason, the legal industry just does not. They don’t teach you how to run a business. They don’t teach you how to think like an entrepreneur. They don’t teach you the elements that are required really to run a successful organization and be competitive. When I look back on my now fifteen-year legal career, had I had certain information, where would I be today? What would the trajectory of my legal career look like? And I decided to share my experience in this book so that the younger generation of lawyers and those lawyers who are running their firms right now across the country can read my experiences, and not have to repeat the mistakes that I made along the way. I was very transparent and vulnerable in some of the stories that I shared, and some of my experiences potentially could have been fatal, not only to the longevity of my firm in my company but certainly at times, maybe in my career. So I looked at it as a way to give back, but also share how important it is that if you want to be competitive as a law firm owner in today’s industry, it’s not enough to just be a good lawyer and practice good law. The industry is changing so quickly, and to stay competitive it’s really important to hear some of my stories and share some of what I believe the landscape is going to look like down the line.
2. How can your knowledge now help other law firm leaders and law firm owners?
My firm just turned ten years old, and the things that I am now focused on are way different than the things that I was focused on very early on in starting my own firm. When I first started my practice, my focus really was on providing legal representation at the highest levels. What I was dedicated to one hundred percent was making sure that I did everything I needed to do every single day, so that I knew that my clients had the absolute best representation as success came in, and I obtained some amazing results. More cases came in, and other lawyers started to refer their cases to us, and we began to grow the firm and scale. My vision always was to have a firm that has a wide and long reach and to be able to help as many clients as we can. That was always my goal. But I was never focused on the right things that actually allowed you as an organization to grow and scale and do it effectively, and do it in a way that’s meaningful, without losing the quality of your core product. At the end of the day, yes, we are a profession, but this is also a business, and unlike any other business out there, the things that really make businesses thrive are stuff that I never considered early on in my career. Today I focus a lot on culture. What is our company culture? Who are we? What are our core values? Now, if you would have told me that ten years ago, when I first started my practice, I’ll tell you, “Look, get out of here. I don’t have time to think about this stuff,” but having gone through all the stuff that I did, and all of the pain led me to really focusing on these core practices. If someone is serious about scaling and growing their organization and doing it in a meaningful way, a focus on culture is the first one. We spend a tremendous amount of time and resources talking about culture. It’s in every single meeting. It’s in every single discussion. Our recruitment process is second. We spend a tremendous amount of time recruiting. We have a whole process. We’re not just collecting resumes and picking out the first person that may or may not have a little bit of experience, and may or may not have worked for a competitor. Now it is important to think about culture. It is important to think about recruiting in a very intentional way. A lot of the things that I talked about in the book could be applied to any industry in any business to save them from the things that I had to go through then. Then I’ve done my job, and I’ve impacted somebody.
3. Legal marketing is always a hot topic, what advice do you have for young lawyers starting out knowing how expensive and competitive legal marketing is?
I think if you’re not marketing or you look down on marketing, then you’re just not going to make it. If you’re relying on word of mouth, and you’re relying on referrals. I think there’s a ceiling, there’s a limit as to how much you can grow and scale, and the clients and demographic you can reach. So, to me, marketing is probably the most important thing you can focus on and think about as a business owner. Yeah, is it expensive? Absolutely. I mean, I think, in the fifteen years that I’ve been doing this, this is probably the most expensive cost for acquisition in that time span. It is also competitive. There are so many effective ways to market outside of TV, outside of billboards, outside of radio, outside of competing dollar for dollar. But the advent, obviously of social media and digital marketing, the various digital platforms that are out there. I think you could be a brand new lawyer and be just as competitive. Now, I’m not talking about the volume and scale of someone who is doing mass media, but being able to find those cases that you’re interested in being able to reach a unique demographic. There are just so many creative ways today, and I see it every single day. But this is something that you must work on and really be intentional about every day. I think one key thing is, don’t just think that because a law firm is on TV or on billboards, or on radio, they’re doing really well. Do they have the funds to run those ads? They certainly do. Are those ads more effective than what you’re doing digitally or what you’re doing offline? I don’t know, but I would argue that if you are a law firm owner you’re looking at marketing, and you’re brand new, and, I would say: save your advertising dollars and look at more effective, affordable ways to be able to acquire clients. And at the end of the day. What you want is longevity.
Understand why you want your own law firm. It’s a very challenging endeavor, and you need to do it for the right reason. If you have the right reason and you love what you do, then stay the course. It might take time but stay the course.
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