S3:E8: Jay’s Firm Advancements

Join Seth and Jay as they talk about Jay’s recent firm advancements. They discuss how to incorporate remote workers more with offices are reopening. With growing percentages of firms no longer seeing the inside of their company, it’s important to incorporate touch points for employees to be able to hit when they are not there in person. They discuss the opportunities that can arise from remote workers and how to navigate the process of training employees properly online, and having team meetings to foster a collaborative environment is a great step in enhancing internal communication. Separate chats can be helpful as well to allow for a space for projects, feedback and comments.

What's In This Episode?

  • When you’re at the top of the pyramid, it’s hard to get fired up.
  • The importance of having team retreats.

Transcript

Jay Ruane

Hello, hello, and welcome to another edition of Maximum Growth Live. I’m one of your hosts, Jay Ruane, CEO of FirmFlex, your social media marketing funnels for lawyers, as well as managing partner, well, actually not managing partner anymore, but CEO, of course, of Ruane Attorneys, a civil rights, criminal defense firm here in Connecticut.

Seth Price

I hate to jump in before my intro, but you’re still a managing partner, you may be puppeteering from outside the room. Sorry, but sorry to interrupt.

Jay Ruane

Not a problem. That man over there is Seth Price. Seth is the managing partner of Price Benowitz, DC, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina lawyers, as well as one of the founders of BluShark Digital, SEO for law firms and other industries. And really sort of a thought leader in the SEO space, you know, in talking to you, Seth, over the last couple of years, you guys at BluShark were really out in front of some of the local algorithm changes with Google, and it was really sort of inspiring to see that BluShark was sort of setting the bar saying, we think we know where Google’s going and they went exactly there, because it’s so hard to tame that beast. But as always, Seth, I want to check in with you, how’s your week going? How you doing?

Seth Price

Going well, a little under the weather, so, I feel like, you know, when that happens it’s harder to get motivated. So, you’re sort of like, the energy level is lower and you’re, you know, I sort of I didn’t go to the office just stayed from the, in one sense, very efficient, but in one sense, it’s hard to get fired up when you’re sort of, and thankfully not COVID, but you just now, you’re of this world where like, is it COVID? Is it not? But I just, but, you know, being at the top of a pyramid, you feel like you’re letting your team down when you’re not fully there and engaged.

Jay Ruane

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. Talking about engagement, the first topic I want to talk to you about today is, last Friday, we had a firm advance, we did not call it a firm retreat because we are not retreating, we’re advancing and going forward. That was my little pun that I put in there, and they actually, my team actually picked up on it. At the end of the day, they said, is it called an advance because we’re not retreating? I’m like, yup, and they’re like, oh, I got it, but anyway, it was really great. We brought in facilitator, Stephanie Everitt from Lawyerist, and Stephanie walked us through a number of different exercises. As a team, we broke up my teams into their groups, we utilize technology well, we had all of our overseas people, and some of our people who could not travel in, be there, but a bunch of people flew in, which was awesome, and get, you know, for example, Emily and Krista, who were able to fly in, I haven’t seen them in person in eight years, and, I mean, you know, Krista I’d been working with now for 20 plus, and to have not seen her for eight years is, is kind of crazy, but, you know, we got to do a lot of cool things, and I wanted to talk a little bit about that today. Because, you know, what I realized after having this event was that I think you need to be conscious about creating a firm wide event, regardless of whether or not you are all overseas, all in the states, a mix of both, and figuring it out. And we’re already planning something like three months down the line, we hadn’t really done anything all together other than a couple of Christmas parties, holiday parties, you know, and some other events over the years but…

Seth Price

With criminal as a backbone, it’s always tough because people are always in court.

Jay Ruane

Always in court, always. Agree. It was tough for us to schedule everybody out of the office for the day.

Seth Price

And you did it on a weekday?

Jay Ruane

We did it on a Friday. Stephanie came in, sat with me the day before, and we talked about our goals and everything, but yeah, we did it all day on Friday. And then…

Seth Price

That’s just awesome. You know, we, I speak for myself, you know, we’ve done, you know, in non-COVID times and now coming back, we’ve always done our holiday parties or summer parties, we did two kickoffs, which was social. And we do team meetings, we’re trying to implement stuff, but I love, I love that, and especially with the overseas teams, I think that’s one of the things we forget about is that other people get at least a touch point when they come into the office, but you have a growing percentage of your firm that’s never going to see the inside of your office, and then, getting those relationships and touchpoints really, really valuable. Make them stick your employees.

Jay Ruane

Well, I mean, we work 50% fully remote now, I mean, that’s just, you know, I’ve got 30 plus people…

Seth Price

Of the 50%, how many of those other 50, you know, are stateside? And how many have been in the office? At some point, even a year ago.

Jay Ruane

So, of the 50, five have been in the office, 10 of them are fully remote. Although, the interesting thing that came up is four of my 10 fully remote people have actually gone ahead and gotten visas renewed and passports renewed because they want to come up and come to the office and work out of the office for a week, which was amazing to me that they would leave their homes, come to the United States, planning on working for a week in the Office, they’re like…”I’ll bring my laptop and I’ll work.”

Seth Price

The headlines, I know the headline is gonna be learning about this, but I’m gonna play, I love this section of Reddit, am I the asshole? So, I’m playing the game for myself for a second, what are your thoughts on this? Because it goes hand in hand, I’m not going too far ADHD on it. So, we have a relatively new part-time employee, and they came in for a specific task, and for me, the question was, you know, they were, they were brought on, they weren’t trained well. It happens, like we didn’t, it was a job where the prior peoples manual wasn’t ideal, the person who trained them wasn’t up to speed, it was a cluster, admitted. So, I said, okay, it’s time for a reset. We, you’ve done this before, I’m sure where you’re like, hey, it didn’t get off to the right foot, this person was a rockstar, so, it’s not for lack of talent, but they live, let’s say, an hour, to two hours outside of the office, this is not, it’s a remote position. You know, my idea was, if you’re gonna do a reset, and we’ve never had this person inside the office, they’re not in Ecuador, you know, they’re not in South Africa, they’re like, you know, an hour and a half away. And we said, hey, look, let’s get an in person reset, because if you’re doing things, part of the portfolio is working with reviews, and there’s, like, how much of a difference would it be if you could be in the same room? It’s doable without, and I got tremendous pushback. Oh, my husband works, that I can’t get a babysitter I trust, isn’t free at eight, all sorts of nonsense. You know, you have two choices in life, right? To the Jay Ruane answers, like, f it, they’re done, you know, I’m just, one of the answers I want to hear from you, the other is, okay, you play ball, you try to tweak it, you sort of kick the can a few weeks, and you say, hey, it’s really important you give it a second sort of nicer push. What are your thoughts on that? When somebody can make it to the office, and it’s not an office job, but, to me, if you have the ability to be in the office, and you have a job that’s dealing with people and getting stuff from people, there is a certain value of doing everything remote, but when you know somebody and you sat in their office for a minute, it changes relationships. The reason you did your off site was to strengthen and make up for the fact that everybody can’t be in the same room. What are your thoughts on this? The fact that I’m sort of bent out of shape on somebody pushing back versus, you know, yeah, it just it is who the person is.

Jay Ruane

So, let me, let me get some more facts out of you before I pine. So, you wanted to have them reset, so they were going to come in for a week, or a day?

Seth Price

Like a day… come in after rush hour, leave before rush hour, but at least get to see some people, see our physical office, which, you know, is not as is, you know, if you want somebody to be able to advocate for you, and one of the jobs is, you know, helping follow up on reviews and putting stuff together as collateral material for newsletters, things like that. To me, you could do everything remotely, and, you know, there are people from overseas that are never going to be in your office, I get that, but if you have the ability and you’re turning that down, to me, it’s almost like if you’re making a statement.

Jay Ruane

I’d have some problems if you couldn’t, if you couldn’t come in for a four-hour window in the middle of the day when we’re paying you because, you know, all your family’s excuses. I mean, there’s a value to come have lunch with everybody, just that, and break bread and just, you know, that was one of the benefits, I mean, I think the people, you know, it was very interesting to me when we had our breakout in our lunch, how wide the variety was, I would have thought that people would have been cliquish, like the lawyer sat with lawyers, and that type of thing, and at lunch, there was a lot of variety of who was sitting with whom, which I think really worked well for our events. And the other thing I think that really worked well for our event was that we discovered that after we broke them into teams, lawyers, legal operations, which is the paralegals and receptionists, intake and marketing, and that type of thing, what we found was that, internally, the teams were really firing on all cylinders, really doing well, but we had a lot of breakdown in a very discreet area. Teams were not doing a good job communicating with each other.

Seth Price

Not surprising. It’s the hardest anyway.

Jay Ruane

It’s the hardest thing, but we were able to identify. Like, we have one lawyer, right? Older lawyer who was upset that reception wasn’t buzzing him on his desk phone at his office. When somebody was on the phone, they would send a Slack message and he said, why are they not just buzzing my desk? And we discovered, well, they don’t know that you’re at your desk, right? You know, you don’t come in and say, hey, everybody, I’m going to be at my desk, this is my extension. I’m here for the next five-hour block. They just did, they’re like, well, maybe he’s in court today or he hasn’t gotten back, or maybe he’s working from home. I won’t keep you too long today, Seth, I know you’re a little ill. But, we found a very easy solution, hey, there’s a Slack channel for reception, just announce when you get to your desk, and that solves all that problem, but it had been something bothering him, bothering reception, and there had been no communication on how to solve it and we solved it in about a minute when we were all together, everyone said, hey, I have a solution. And I think that’s one of the things that, maybe more than ever, a firm retreat or whatever, when you start to talk about what’s going well and what the problem is, you can actually identify and solve those things, and we were lucky to find that the communication issue between teams was a problem, but it was very solvable and so, we were happy with that, and that was certainly something. And then, of course, we’re talking about vision and I think we all are of the same vision now, and I think that’s important, to do some vision building.

Seth Price

Let me ask you this, because that was, you know, we’ve gone through the EOS thing, and we’re, you know, there’s mission statements, and then people that put it out everywhere. How did you come to that? Because there are, you’ve a bunch of different practice areas, how did you figure all that out?

Jay Ruane

So, my mission statement, I wrote myself, and I got the feedback from two lawyers in the office. I said, here’s our mission statement, I would like to publish this to everybody, and I published it back at the State of the Union, because I’ll be honest, you know, I saw a lot of lawyers doing mission statements and I thought it was hokey, and I said, you know, I don’t need to do this, it’s not important, but at some point, I just said, you know what, if ever, all these companies are doing it, they’re doing it for a reason, and it’s because it gives you an opportunity to sort of rally around something. And I think, even if you’re a solo and you’re looking to grow, establish your, your mission statement now, and we’ve gone so far in the last four months now. We put it in our job postings. Here’s our mission statement, if you buy in, apply, if you don’t, don’t even bother applying.

Seth Price

And to a certain extent, like, I’m sure it’s not like it’s a controversial statement but it’s just, you’re basically giving somebody a hook to be, to resonate, and if somebody is like, this really doesn’t, they’ll stay away. Hopefully, you know, that’s not a huge… it’s not like there’s something in there in terms of I don’t want to, I don’t want that as my mission, right?

Jay Ruane

Right. Oh, absolutely, I mean, we talked about it in our mission statement we talked about how education is important, and how we’re brutally honest with each other to get the best for our clients, those types of things, but it was great seeing it in practice and we actually lived some of those core values in our firm retreat where people were honest with each other. We were looking to give the best to our clients, and what can we do better, and, you know, one of the things that came out, and this has nothing to do with our current topic, but it just popped into my mind. One of the things that really popped out to me was our remote team, which is basically reception and intake right now, and we have a couple, we have three that are paralegals and training, but the most of the client contact was going to be done with our reception and intake team. They decided on their own and came to me, they said, we need a tutorial on culture of Connecticut. They’re like, we need to know, what is, what’s the state like? I mean, we’ve had we actually have one overseas person who grew up here, here in Massachusetts, and knew a little bit about Connecticut and she said that it was very easy for her to talk about her time in Massachusetts and when she started talking to clients, but I put together some basic facts about pizza and baseball, and football and that type of thing, and, you know, there’s the coastline and the capital, and some history of Connecticut. I’m putting together sort of like a 20 to 25 video tutorial about what our area is like and why we like it, and what our clients are like, and I think that’s going to help our overseas people sort of connect with our clientele because now they have at least the understanding of a touch point, that if I had a state sign of people who lived here, they’d have those shared touch points, but, you know, that’s just something that if you have remote workers, it might be something worth investing in and putting that together, even if you’re just starting with one, because one of the things that we found early on when we had remote workers was that people would call in and be like, oh, I have to go to the office, can you give me directions? And the remote team would be like, I’ll read it to you, and they would read them the directions and they would get them into the office park and then not be able to describe what next. So, we actually created videos…

Seth Price

To be fair, office parks in Connecticut are, you know, even if you’ve lived there for 20 years, you can’t really explain it.

Jay Ruane

Exactly, exactly. And so, by doing that… It’s crazy, we put together, my video guide put together a video of the process of getting to our office and the people who liked it the most were the intake and reception team. They loved it, because it gave them, oh, okay, this is where it is, I can see things now. And it really helps, so that’s just some tips or tricks that you might be able to use. But, I, you know, as somebody who for 20 years was against the idea of a firm retreat, where we talked about the business thinking it’s my way, I’m the only one making decisions and that’s the only way it’s going to be. I was very pleased with having done something. I think our next thing is to separate the teams and have team, individual team retreats, so that they can really get into the weeds on their issues and how to make it better. I think we’re getting there.

Seth Price

That’s awesome, so like, I came out of big law, and to a fault, I think I fought it fighting back. There were so many worthless, stupid meetings that were meaningless to the people working there, and that means the meeting we did have really didn’t have any effect on the rest of the firm that I’ve always resisted. I know, I’ve never been a big speech person at holiday parties, I’ve had to put that back because it was a demand for it. That, that was, you know, people want that leadership. I’m going to throw an off-topic thing, but it comes right into what you’re talking about, which is that buy in. We just had and, you know, Gary Falco has talked about this many times, we just had a recorded call from one of our top intake people, and it was scary bad. You know, it was just, it was bad enough that it should have been termination at that moment, you sort of like take a few moments of rehabilitation, is this a bad day, is this whatever, but this was a lost opportunity where all it would take would be giving a shit. And we, look, for, we’ve had a change in the guards, we brought back a former rockstar to run the team, you know, a lot of good stuff going on, but when you see these things, my question in the back of my mind, as you’re saying this, is if I did have these things, would this energize people who may have in the emotional ups and downs of COVID? I’m struggling with a teenager who’s really not done well with COVID, read about it, hear about it, I’m living it, right? A kid who’s just lost all, you know, direction and, you know, sort of drive with COVID. You know, I assume our employees go through that as well. I applaud you for doing this, because I think it’s one of those areas that, you know, to us, at some level, reinvigorates you and makes you realize it’s more than you working out of your isolated silo.

Jay Ruane

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, I watch that show, Billions on Showtime, and they have Maggie, what’s her name, she plays a psychiatrist role, psychologists…

Seth Price

At the hedge fund.

Jay Ruane

At the hedge fund. And, you know, while I would love to have something like that, that our people could step into and sort of get their mind straight as they go. I don’t necessarily think it’s required at the level that we’re playing, but these quarterly meetings really sort of reinforced that we are here together, we are working towards something and I think it, coming out of it, there’s a renewed sense of optimism, there’s a renewed sense of energy. I will tell you this, my sales team and, no, my marketing team, you know, work their ass off for four months to get to a point but with our leads on Monday, they more than, they did like 150% of their weekly sales goal on Monday, you know, they came into the day really fired up and they crushed it, and today they’re continuing to crush it so, they’re all fired up about it, which is awesome, because, you know, if you have the sales, if you have the marketing generating the leads and the leads closing, you’re going to be in a better position down the line. And you know, we made some tweaks to our, how we, we charge people, that’s going to generate another $100,000 with the revenue this year. It seems to be working already, because people are not objecting to the way we finance some of our clients. So yeah, I mean, it’s just, we seem to be coming out of this in a really great spot. Of course, the last time we were in a really great spot was two years ago right around now, when we had two record setting sales weeks back-to-back, and then the bomb dropped and the world collapsed, but I don’t think we’re going to go through that again, even if there are spikes in the near term, I think, you know, I think we’re in a good position and I’d like to keep riding this wave. And so, we’re already planning something in June, that’s going to be purely fun, and the way we’re doing it is, we’re looking for an online entertainer, so that we can have our overseas people participate as well because we really want to give them, and then we’re going to do something, a breakout here in Connecticut for the lawyers, obviously, that are here in Connecticut, where we take them out and do a separate event, but we’ll have a firm wide entertainment thing with the remote people with, you know, and it will be a lot of fun. And it’ll be all fun, no work, which I think is important to balance.

Seth Price

That’s what I’ve always been good at, you know, is the fun, I wouldn’t say good at, but I applaud, really applaud what you did there. That’s just tremendous.

Jay Ruane

Yeah, I’m feeling really good. I got some pushback from some of the lawyers here.

Seth Price

Do you do a full day or a half day? Or what do you do?

Jay Ruane

So, we started at nine, we went to for 3:30, 4:00 o’clock-ish, and then went, and then we quickly went out for cocktails, a bunch of us afterwards, after showing a few of the people who had flown in the office, which they had never seen. We stopped by the office, and then we quickly headed out, had some cocktails and got into some fun conversations, not work related, whatsoever. So, I think it really serve its purpose, and I’m, and I’m happy with it.

Seth Price

That’s awesome. So, you know, we got a lot, you know, part of, you know, I’ve always, and I think for a lot of our audience, one of those things, and I know you’ve been sort of thinking about how to mastermind certain groups and bring people up to speed, I think it’s great to do all these things. The question is, can you execute, so the fact that you’ve sort of taken in these different ideas, and then brought that as a day long event I gotta figure that out, but I applaud you for doing that internally.

Jay Ruane

Yeah, and, you know, one of the key things for me, coming out of this, is that we’ve already tasked one of our, my assistant, to start looking for things that we can do online as a group in June. So, we’re not waiting, we’re attacking it. We’re taking the, we’re going on the offense to try to get these things lined up to give people way points to be looking for. You know, one of the things that’s interesting is that, you know, if you look, I think we’ve grown year over year, we’re at about 30% growth, I mean, I might even apply for that law firm 500 because we seem to be crushing it this year, but if you go back to 2019, we’re at 19% growth over 2019 numbers. So, by seeing where we are and where we can go, I think we’re in a good spot, and then, that’s why I said, you know, I reached out to you over the weekend and said, you know, my heart is with the criminal defense community. I know I’ve done PI, I’ve done family, I’ve done other things, but I really want to put together sort of like an accelerator for criminal law firms, because I think I have some knowledge in the industry that I can help, help get them to the place where I’m at, and it’s, I gotta tell you, you know, I’m feeling, I’m sure tomorrow, the hammer is gonna fall, you know, something’s gonna happen on Friday and things are gonna change, but today, I’m feeling good… it’s probably because it’s Patty’s day, right? You know, this is my day, for my people and, you know, I’m not heading into the city tonight for my annual dinner.

Seth Price

I, as I said, next year in New York, I’ve wanted to accompany that dinner for a lot of years. We got to make that happen.

Jay Ruane

Yeah, they’re doing it at Yanni’s this year, it was like, $600, they have, who’s that, Scott, who’s that Senator or Congress person who was married to Gabby Giffords, the astronaut?

Seth Price

Yeah, yeah.

Jay Ruane

He’s one of the speakers. They, I mean, it looks good, but it just didn’t work with what I needed to do for my family, and, of course, you know me, that’s why I do what I do, is let them do first, but you should come up in two years, because the dinner is going to be on Friday night and then you can march in the parade with me and my father under the county mail banner, and either that or my aunt, who’s on the parade committee can hook you up with some seats in the viewing section if you don’t want to walk the 30 blocks with me, but I can see Seth Price marching in the parade.

Seth Price

As I said, that was always a, every political was there ever…

Jay Ruane

Oh, yeah.

Seth Price

You know in the days of Ed Koch and everybody else. It’s the one day everybody in New York is smiling.

Jay Ruane

I gotta tell you though, one of the most, I don’t want to call it magical because it comes by way of a depressing situation, but I was, I was at the parade in 2002, after September 11, and at, you know, I think what the first tower fell at 9:49, something like that. And at that point, I was right next to, they had 343 flags held by 343 new fire recruits that were just about to be put on duty, and the entire parade stopped and they turn and face the towers, and they had a moment of silence in midtown Manhattan. Absolute silence, it was stunning. Stunning. I’m sure there’s clips of it, you can catch on YouTube, I’ll see if I can find one and put it up in the comments. But, man, I gotta tell you that, it’s a great parade and only the crazy Irish were marching in a parade when it’s not necessarily warm out yet, and it’s usually rainy and wet. So, that’s my, those are my people, Seth, you know, so that’s how I roll. I’m gonna pop out of here, go home, have a Guinness, and have a good rest of the day.

Seth Price

No, well, I hope just to recover, get myself back in shape so I can continue kicking ass.

Jay Ruane

Alright. Well, feel better. For everybody here at Maximum Growth Live, I am Jay Ruane. If you want to catch up with me, you can join my Systems Group, Systemizing Your Law Firm for Growth. And he is Seth Fitz Price or Seth O Price. However…

Seth Price

I’ll leave you with this story. As we conclude, my wedding, married at the Mayflower in DC, and they have like one premier suite, and I lost the suite for our wedding night because we got married St. Patrick’s Day, and the, I guess it was the, we were married the day after, but the the Irish Prime Minister spends, or, I’m sorry, the Irish head of state does not spend it in Ireland, he comes to the US every year for St. Patrick’s Day, and Mayflower’s his residence, and they hold on to his room, not just for the night he’s there, but until he leaves US airspace. And so, because of that we lost… So, I was a little bitter about that, but I’ve gotten over it, intervening 16 years and this weekend we’ll be in New York for 16th anniversary.

Jay Ruane

Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, usually the Prime Minister is at our dinner, I mean, back in the day, 15 years ago that dinner would have, you know, 3500 men there in tuxedos, or Roman collars, or military dress. It’s gone down, it’s probably about 1200 men and women now for the friendly sons of St. Patrick, but our first guest, as I am a friend, one of the friendly sons, our first guest at the first dinner that we had as an organization, George Washington was the guest of honor, so, little history…

Seth Price

Have a great weekend.

Jay Ruane

Have a great day, folks. We’ll see you next week. Bye for now.

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