S6:E2: Owners’ Insights: End User Impact & Money Efficiency

On this episode, Seth Price and Jay Ruane leverage their own law firm owners’ insights to provide expert advice regarding impressions on your end user and saving money.

No matter where you are in the growth of your law firm, this episode has valuable information for you with these expert law firm owners providing critical insights. After the pair discuss graphic design and leaving positive impressions on your end user, Seth and Jay navigate the complex terrain of fiscal responsibility within law firms. In particular, their insights address the challenge of reconciling varying spending habits among employees. They offer some advice into things they have said to employees for promoting financial responsibility, and how to mentally reconcile money seemingly flying out the door as a firm owner.

Check out the podcast on The Law Firm Blueprint Facebook group, the BluShark Digital website, or stream it wherever you get your podcasts!



Jay Ruane 0:07

Hello hello, and welcome to this edition of The Law Firm Blueprint. I’m one of your hosts, Jay Ruane. and with me as always, my man Seth Price down there in the BluShark/Price Benowitz headquarters. You know, it’s funny, I see you. And it’s clearly a backdrop just like mine is the backdrop. It looks nothing like where BluShark started from. Because I can remember being downstairs in that building of yours in DC. There were no windows with beautiful clear light coming in. It was like a cave.

Seth Price 0:39

And we literally – just as of January 1st – gave up the cave, the dungeon, as some would call it, and now we’re all above grade. Probably not the smartest thing we ever did getting it. But you know, back in the day when we had marketing people and intake people, we just needed cheap space in a city. It was really important. But ironically, a Jay Ruane/BluShark tie in. Congratulations on the, the Jay Ruane website being named as a top Lawyerist website for lawyers. Pretty cool.

Jay Ruane 1:14

Yeah, it is cool. You know, we got one a couple of years ago for our lady DUI site. We’ve got it for this year. We’re actually right now in the wireframe stages of building out the next look, we, we got some pretty cool stuff coming. It may not, it probably won’t help SEO, which I know matters to you.

Seth Price 1:33

Well, it matter- it matters to me?

Jay Ruane 1:33

But I thought the look and feel of what we’re going to do on the next site, especially with the bio pages I think is going to be sharp, it’s going to be different. And I’m really excited to see how that plays out. Because you know, I think you know what, and we can talk about that, you know, you, I see a lot of questions in forums online, in Facebook groups, that type of thing. They’re like, what should I do for my website, and you see a lot of people saying, I’ll just put up a Squarespace site, it doesn’t matter. Just have a digital business card, it doesn’t matter. But you know, in my experience, the better looking your website, the, you know, with professional looking pictures, I invested years ago, in getting a wedding photographer to take really, you know someone who could tell a story through pictures. You know, I know there’s this battle between design and technical that often people run into, but you know, the better looking your site, people expect to pay more, and you can easily quote more I mean-

Seth Price 2:33

Okay, so we’ll do the ying yang. So I don’t disagree. Like I think you ca, the spoiler is you can have your cake and eat it too. Right? You shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Can you not have like, a blank page with a little white dot in the middle of it? Yeah, there’s certain things you can’t go to the extreme on. But the truth is, I think that as you’re saying photos make a big difference. I’ll tell you a story. When I first started the firm, I the $25 a month templated website, seemed like a lot of money at the time. I don’t know if I could afford 25 bucks, right? So it was 25 bucks a month. And I kept adding features to it. Where like, you know, it was chat or this feature, that feature. By the time I was finished, I was paying $500 a month. And the guy eventually fired me because I sort of maxed out his program. He’s like, it’s time for you to fly and do your, build your own thing. I can’t do any more for you. But I remember a friend of mine who is a, runs a, a design company that helps people find designers permanent and temp. And that’s all he does is web designers full time and temp not in the legal space. And I said, I was so proud of my site, because I had grown from three to five lawyers with this rinky dink criminal law DC site. And I showed it to him and he’s like, yeah, that’s nice ish. Not really. And I was like, really hurt. And, you know, in hindsight, it was a, it was a red templated three columns site, but it made money. And I was thrilled. And what he’s taught me and I’ve tried to take in is that you can have both, that it’s not an either or, but to say with limited resources that design is the first place to go and spend 40k. I know you’re not saying that, but I’m saying is as somebody who’s making decisions, to me, you need to have revenue, once you have revenue, and you want to say hey, I want to posture for a higher place. Okay. But design is one of those things that you, as soon as you finish one, and you just had an award winning one, you’re like, ready for the next one, like it is it is not something where if you let it sit for too long, it will be dated and that you’re constantly trying to update it. That said you hate the term, but it depends on what your area is. And are people even coming to your site? There are people that are just word of mouth, nobody’s going to their site and there are people where the site is everything and knowing where you are in that continuum.

Jay Ruane 5:02

Yeah, I mean, I think for me, you know, I, you know, I get it, I have a type of practice area that people don’t necessarily want to talk about. So there are a lot of Google searches, or just general searches, even if you’re using DuckDuckGo, or whatever. And our first impression with that website needs to be powerful, it needs to be, you know, expensive, and that’s really helped us convert clients at a higher rate. And so it just, it’s something that people need to be aware of that I think, you know, with Target and Apple, you know, it there’s a clear difference between an Android phone and an Apple phone in how it looks and feels.

Seth Price 5:39

You better be careful, I am a pixel guy. So,

Jay Ruane 5:43

I know, I know you are, but like, look, I mean, I don’t think it’s, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn, Google products look like engineers develop them. And Apple products look like graphic designers develop them. And the ease of use, I think is important. But I think people are expecting at price points that lawyers charge, I mean, it’s the same thing. I mean, how many lawyers do you know that still have an @ Gmail or at AOL email address, and you think I’m gonna give you a 10,000 or 20,000 or $100,000 to work on a deal. And I’m sending an email to your at AOL email address. So

Seth Price 6:20

Look, I’m biased, I see people pitching with a Hotmail or Yahoo address. And I basically, I’m like, guys, you know, spend the $15, even G-, I don’t know, I’m biased. But I think even a Gmail address, shows a modicum more sophistication than somebody walking around with a Hotmail, you’re like, you’re proud that you’re like, the first person who ever got a thing, but never upgraded?

Jay Ruane 6:20

Yeah, I mean, I really think, you know, if you are a lawyer, and you’re, I’m sure there are people, here’s, I’m gonna say for the first time, I think in the history of this podcast, I guess it depends right on on your clientele. But I’ll tell you right now, I wouldn’t hire-.

Seth Price 6:56

No, it doesn’t depend. You are better off look, it’s on it’s on G Suites. It’s still a Gmail address, right. But at least pay the 20 bucks or whatever it is, I- there are very few things I’d say spend your money on from moment one, the website design, right? Going from good to amazing takes a lot. Right? You could go on Squarespace and make a perfectly nice place with the right photos, right? You don’t need to spend a ton that said you can’t hide from an email address. And to me that, that is something that is, you know, I remember thinking when we very first started yet, well, before we even had an office, you know, do we need a prestigious office for people to come to? Today that’s not as much of a thing at all. But it’s still a thing. And to me not spending to get a firm email. That’s a huge, huge, that’s a- I would say flat out that. That’s a non starter. There’s no depends. So you didn’t use your depends.

Jay Ruane 8:10

I can have one it depends that I’ll use all year.

Seth Price 8:13

There’s no dep-, because you’re trying to be nice, but I’m not I’m not, I’m gonna say no, if you, if you’re we talked about being capitalized to start a firm, if you don’t have enough to get a branded law firm URL? That’s like showing people that you’re not ready for primetime.

Well, and I think, you know, one of the things that’s great about the Google, Google environment is that, in addition to having that email address, you can then sign up for a Google Voice number that becomes your office number. So there’s a lot of options that you can use right, within that.

But I’ll go, I’ll go with cell phone as office number before I go for, you know, before I will allow somebody to use a non firm email, because it is positioning yourself as really, at the rudimentary.

Jay Ruane 8:59

I mean, I had I had a, I had an accountant pitch me, and he was at Gmail. And I said, Yeah, I’m not doing business with you. And he’s like, well, can I ask you why? And I said, you have a Gmail @gmail email account. I said, you know, I just don’t find that professional. And he was blown away by that very harsh feedback. And I got a message like, you know, a week later, hey, here’s my new email address in case you need to get in touch with me. Because he went home and said, should I be using Gmail? He probably asked a couple of people and they’re like no, like, no get, get your domain name @ you know, and, I mean, that’s, that’s, but see, that’s one of the things that I want to talk about today is, is the impression on the end user, I think is critical. Right? And it’s about our branding, it’s about our logo, it’s about the services that we deliver and how we deliver them. I can remember you know, when I first started out 20 years ago, you know, having the presentation folder that we would give to the in office consults with the stacked, papers, and here’s bios and all that stuff, that stuff really mattered back then.

Seth Price 10:09

We spent a fortune on those beautiful blue folders to match the Price Benowitz blue. And there’s a typo on it. And so we had boxes and boxes have beautiful thick folders. My kids used them for school projects for like years and years. Because they of course, did a whole new print job for us. But it was, it was one of those life moments where I remember like growing up that was, stationary was a big deal for my dad, I would get the, that when a partner left or an associate left, we’d get all the old stationeries, was thick bond paper that we could. And now that’s the one of the few things we save money on everyone who started a firm, we never had letterhead, it’s all digital. And that, that, that was one of those few things that with technology, we saved a lot on. No more stationary.

Jay Ruane 10:54

So that leads me to a question that I think we should be talking about is where, where as a law firm owner, you can allow your people to do things that may not necessarily fit with your sensibilities. And so let me let me talk about a little, let me explain this a little bit more than, you know, as the owner, if I’m negotiating my lease, I’m negotiating it, I know the price points I want to be at, I know what services I want, that type of thing. Same is with marketing vendors, same with when I’m, when I was more active in my caseload, I would say to other lawyers that were working on files with me, hey, here’s your authority, right? You can go in this range. And unfortunately, you know, a lot of times they would come back to me and they would have accepted the lowest end of the range. It got him within the range. And so that was-

Seth Price 11:50

But that is one of the Seth’s truisms. I hate to talk like Bo Jackson about like myself, but I know that if I give, even an amazing direct report, as good as you’re ever going to get, if I give them authority to go to a number, it ends at that number. It is rare that like we get, I’ll give you an example, an unhappy client, they’re asked, they paid $5000. We’re like, hey, well, we’ll refund somewhere between $2500 and zero. What can, you know, try to keep it as low. The moment I tell that person, it’s $2500, it settles at $2500. It just sucks. And know that. So it took me a lot of, once you understand that concept, saying hey, I want to end at $2500 I’ll give them authority to give away $1,500. And if they say they have problems, we can flex. But the moment you give that initial number, it’s going there, because the person has done their job within their, their confines. It’s human nature. I don’t know how I wish I knew a way that I could give somebody blinders where like, here’s your number. And here’s your emergency escape one.

Jay Ruane 12:58

Yeah, I don’t I don’t know about that. Because I’m wondering-

Seth Price 13:01

People open up if the call blows up.

Jay Ruane 13:04

Yeah, I don’t know about that. Because I’m wondering if there’s any, is there a way to give somebody like two numbers? And or, you know, maybe in the personal, I don’t do personal injury. So I’m not gonna, I’m not going to presuppose it, you guys have it? Maybe we can get some people who are in that area? Are they do they say, look, you get, here’s your bottom number. And your bonuses are based on how far you get away from that bar.

Seth Price 13:32

It’s usually micro-transactions. And I mean, again, maybe it’s scale, but I just had a mediation the other day, over an issue. And I said, you know, we were on one side, and I was trying to say, you could give up, you know, 50 grand, and they said, you know, can, you know, can we can we go to 60? If we need to like, if you need to. Where’d we end up?

Jay Ruane 13:53

Yeah, I see that. And, and that’s, that’s, that’s part of the conversation is that when you have people working for you? Are they going to go to the same ends of the earth that you would go as a firm owner.

Seth Price 14:06

Well, same ends of the earth? That’s an extreme. But let’s take the average piece, every piece, you know, we try to put certain rules in place, I try to Jay Systematize. I’m not nearly as good as Jay. But, you know, do you get three vendor quotes for Karen coffee before you purchase? Right? It can be a 40% difference. There was a point where Bed Bath and Beyond was still in business, I’d send somebody down the street. And it was hundreds of dollars in difference, noq you had a person you had to make sure you had the bandwith to do it. But it is something that I struggle with a lot, which is I know if I did everything, I’d save a lot of money. I try to now have a more Zen approach, which is if I want to scale there’s going to be, it’s not going to be as good as me doing it myself. I get that. Sometimes there are certain things that people do better but this type of stuff it’s, it is very, very tough. I tried to say to somebody, if it was your money, how would you do it? And that usually gets a light bulb to go off in their head, the best employees treat it that way. Right? You know, we had some, we’re doing a build out. And we had some, somebody brought in a bunch of cubes for us to see the difference between two different sized cubes. And they left it in our employee common space. Well, tomorrow, I’m hosting a big luncheon for the FIDF. And I have all these people coming, I need the space. And they’re like, oh, well, if they take the stuff back to their office, they’re going to charge us for it. I’m like, no, they’re not, we’re about to spend 10s of 1000s dollars with these people, they did a demo, they can’t leave it here, they’re going to leave it here for months till we do it, they take it, they bring it home, like and then they’ll come back and they’ll do it. Otherwise they’re not. So it’s that it’s that presence of, of course they are, that the average person is not going to have, that it, which I think comes down to we’ve talked about this in a different place, that when you scale, it’s not just the person for person dollar for dollar increase, it’s that you may need a mid level manager at some point to manage people. And then at some point, you need, like an HRey, type person to take care of stuff that before could just be ah, we’ll get rid of it, we’ll take care of it. And I think similarly, that as you scale, there are certain things. We ordered pizza for an employee event the other day, just pizza, straight pizza, and they spent $600 on pizza. That’s a lot of pizza. That’s not a, you know, you’d, you’d. That’s a fair amount of pizza for the number of people we have, which is not insignificant, even good pizza, we a) over ordered to make sure everybody had it. Or b) nobody asked for a deal. They just didn’t. And that’s the piece, the DNA, that again, I’ve always complimented you on the fact that you’re the first person to pick up a check. I know that you leave money on the table with a lot of things you do, which is awesome. It’s, but what drove me, we talked about what drives you, what drove me to get this done would be to make sure we had companies would come in, you know, the third party companies that would come in and evaluate your photocopier, or your Westlaw bill. And the guys would look at me and look at our bill and be like, yeah, we can’t help you, sorry. Which to me was the greatest compliment. It just made me happy. So, you know, I think it’s psychologically we see people who are sometimes stuck at a smaller number. As we have these conversations, I’m always hoping that people might see wow, you know, what, if I realized that I’m going to pay 20% more for things, because it’s not me doing it? Will I make overall, that’s just for those little expenses. You know, if the overall firm revenue is a million, and you’re gonna have 20%, more of $100,000, is that meaningful, because if you’re willing to give that up, then you’ve let go. And you can get you could get your million dollars to 1.5. Which you can’t without it. And that’s, I still struggle with this. I have a radio station relationship. And I have a new, amazing Head of Marketing. And the question is, are there things that I know she’s amazing, and she would make sure I get my spots and this and that, but the station is nefarious, and not giving us some of the things, both a promise in writing and orally. And that’s, they’re professionals at it. like this is like, these people are, you know, they literally, I’ll tell you in a second one thing to watch out for, but it’s causing friction with me and my director, because neither of us are getting it. If it’s me, I know I’ve left nothing on the table. Now I might burn the relationship with the station, which she won’t. But I know that if it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to be for lack of trying. And that’s the struggle that we have.

Jay Ruane 18:36

So how do you motivate employees to care? Is there a way? Or do you do hire somebody and and say, like, your job is to be our purchasing manager, and make sure that we’re squeezing every dollar out of every transaction that we’re in and getting our value. Because if you’re a $5 million operation, and you can save $200,000 a year by being aggressive with your vendors, and your purchasing, and that type of thing, shit, put somebody in that role for 60 or 75 grand and now you’re, you’re ahead.

Seth Price 19:14

It’s easier said than done. And we both know that, right?

Jay Ruane 19:17

Right, oh no I-

Seth Price 19:18

No, no. And so what I would say is a couple things. If you go too hard with vendors, they break and you lose them, right, that happens. If you go too soft, obviously there’s a lot of money there. And the question is can somebody junior even do it, or is it a life experience? I’m always amazed, my kids are along for the ride. How many times just asking gains great things. And that’s where the Jay, I think the Jay, is what I the next program I want to see Jay provide to the, for, whether it’s a standalone product or whether it’s part of the, the, the, the whole catalog, but what are the questions you have to ask when doing any sort of business transaction. And it comes down, a late great friend of the family just passed away, he built his own air conditioning business, commercial air conditioning in New York City, about as tough as it gets, right? Went from a guy in a truck to having 40 trucks. Sad, and note of caution, got sick, and ended up having the company essentially stolen by a guy he brought in to be his retirement partner, who when he got sick, you know, so just be careful about who you bring in as a partner. Because when the chips are down, he lost a lot. But I learned a ton. And I remember watching him go into Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s to buy something for his wife. And to me, you go in and you say, hey, I want this piece of perfume, how much is it? No. But what, you know, what can you throw in? Are there any samples? And it was like, it was 12 questions, and it was a little cringy. You got to be careful, right? You don’t want to become a stereotype. But at the same time, maybe get four of them, which is any, any promotions, anything I can bundle that might save some money. And you go through fundamentally piece by piece, what you know, a kit. My question is, can we somehow add sca-, add systems to make it from 20% down to 7%? Is there a way? Have I talked to three vendors? Have I asked, I mean again, a lot of its online. But have I applied any coupons? Are there any on Amazon? Are there recurring orders that save you money? What are the things that we could do? So that it’s not as much of a delta? You know, there are times you look at something on Amazon, you say this is cray cray, I gotta go somewhere else? And the question is, can we somehow teach? Because the people I have doing a lot of the purchasing are administrators trying to get through the day. And to them its a checkbox, they, they don’t have the art or the skill or realize that that decision adds up to something. And it’s been really, it’s been very painful. It’s, again, but its the personal side. The good news is that every time I’ve let go and allowed that. we spent 600 hours on pizza, 500 plus tip that, you know, there’s some crazy amount, that it’s not making or breaking, because everybody had a great time at the event. But can it be done for less?

Jay Ruane 19:41

So let me ask you, where did Portnoy score the pizzeria that you chose was it was in at least above a seven?

Seth Price 22:26

I would, this was, the place we chose was like, I believe in the low eights. So it was you know, it was a solid, it wasn’t it wasn’t nine or whatever. But it was, this was not a Domino’s. It was a real place.

Jay Ruane 22:35

Okay, because, you know, coming from New Haven, Connecticut, pizza is a very important.

Seth Price 22:40

I love New York City, right back at you, right?

Jay Ruane 22:42

Yeah, New York City is like mediocre.

Seth Price 22:44

Oh stop it! You got, you guys put white clams on your pizza, like our pizza’s so good, we don’t need to need to put stuff on it. It’s just cheese, tomato sauce with some spices.

Jay Ruane 22:52

I’ll tell you right now. I’ll tell you right now, if you go to Sally’s in New Haven, just get a tomato pie. You don’t even need cheese, and it’ll blow your mind. It’s that good.

Seth Price 23:01

I am sure is great. You know, I grew up spoiled. That was the one thing you leave New York City the one thing that’s more expensive is good pizza. $1.50 gets you one of the best slices in the world, you know, in DC to get a decent slice, a good slice, you know, $4 starting starting point. Cheese slice, yeah.

Jay Ruane 23:20

God and to think that it cost them like 11 cents to make that slice.

Seth Price 23:23

It’s getting more, because they actually have to put some decent ingredients if they want it to be really good. But that said, yes. It’s, it is, it is amazing that the single slice widget out of market, out of New York is now four blocks for a legit, we have a group that’s scaling down here called Andy’s. And they, it’s a solid pizza. Like is it? I’m guessing that he put it around an 8, you know, maybe a 7.7. But it’s a solid slice. And you know, the fact that that’s, that that widget is now $4 here is a crime.

Jay Ruane 23:54

Yeah, well, that’s just, you know, the reality is, is everybody’s paying more for everything. Even legal services

Seth Price 24:00

Well look and that may be, let’s make, tee this up for next time, which is with inflation, with the hyperinflation, call it what it is, post COVID, we got salaries, we got expenses, the only good thing we got is rents going down.

Jay Ruane 24:14

That is, that is interesting. You know, I’ve got two more years left on my lease. And now’s the time. I’m three years into it. I signed it during the COVID specifically because my landlord needed signed leases, to be able to refinance with the bank. And so he came to me asked me to sign a new lease, I did. So now I’m at a point where I usually start renegotiating for what happens two years from now. And I gotta make some, some decisions. So it’s interesting. I called, I called up my landlord, and I, you know, I signed without a problem, right? And so I’m helping out a local pediatric cancer charity with a big fundraiser in October and one of my first calls was, hey, Bob, I need you to buy a table. It’s, you know, it’s $3,500. And he said, absolutely, Jay not a problem. I can always rely, and so that’s where I’m using all of those. That money left on the table, all that generosity. I’m just trying to-

Seth Price 25:13

Right. But it’s more than that. I think that like part of what’s created the Jay Ruane brand, is that piece. And look, there are a lot of different ways to do it. But you know, we, I’ve been to lunch with you and you’re like they’re split it, there are times when it could easily go in a different way. And you’re just, and to me that that is a great. And, you know, it always struck me there have been a few times like I tried to be that guy. Now it took me more years, took me till past 50 to figure it out. But I think it makes a lasting impression when you do it in the right situations.

Jay Ruane 25:45

And it’s funny, I was, speaking of picking up tabs, I was in DC, I was at Shula’s Steakhouse. When I was going to get sworn into the Supreme Court bar, this was probably 20 years ago, I was a young lawyer, I was barely making any money. And we, I went out to dinner with three lawyers who are now in their 60s, late, late 60s, probably early 70s, for the two of them. And so there was five of, five of us out at dinner. And they started laughing and joking. They say Jay as the young guy here, you know, you’ve got to pick up the tab. So I ate the tab. I mean, I think the tab was like three grand. And at that point, it nearly maxed out my credit card. I ate it like a champ. I didn’t say anything to anybody, I can remember going back into the office, you know, the following week, and saying to my father, hey, I need to make another grand this week, how do I do it? Because I got this credit card bill and, and those guys didn’t expect me to eat the tab. And I don’t think I paid for a drink or a meal with them since. Like, they’ve just they’ve they’ve always been like, I can’t believe that you did that kid. You know, you didn’t have to, we weren’t doing that for you to you know, to embarrass you. But boy, you really shoved it right up our butts. When, when you gladly picked up the tab and said I got this no big deal. And so that’s part of the part of the way I built my business was, you know, the aura of success, even if it wasn’t actual success that I mean, I had enough money to pay the bill. I may have been eating cereal that week for dinner. But I’ve eaten some pretty impressive tabs. I think I had an $8,000 tab in Iceland at a club one night and I had a $12,000 tab in Vegas at pure, one night with a whole bunch of DUI lawyers. We took over a whole section and that was a that was a lot of fun, though. I mean, I’ve had some good nights eat the eating out of those tabs, that I can’t imagine going out drinking with you and some friends in-

Seth Price 27:42

The drinking, I’m kind of a lightweight, but the food tab to get up there.

That’s for sure. That’s for sure.

Jay Ruane 27:49

Let’s let’s get it. Let’s wrap this up. And then next week, let’s talk what to do. Because I think it’s a real deal. The inflation doesn’t always allow us to charge more, but our expenses are certainly there, and how are we how are we and how are other people dealing with that?

Well, I’ll tell you what I’m doing is I’m not taking more money for myself. I’m actually taking more time for myself and I’m telling people hey, look, you’re getting this raise you’re gonna have more responsibilities in the office you need to get this done. I’m not going to be here, because what I need now is to find myself more time not necessarily another couple dollars in savings because I’m, I’m pretty good in that respect. And so that’s it, okay, folks. So that’s gonna do it for us this week here on The Law Firm Blueprint. Thank you for joining us. As always, you can take us with you on the go by subscribing to our podcast, wherever you get podcasts. Just search up The Law Firm Blueprint and give us a five star review when you do that. Of course you can always catch us live in the group, The Law Firm Blueprint Facebook group that’s available wherever you get your Facebook, it says on your phone or on your desktop, but for now I am Jay Ruane, he is Seth Price. And we will see you next week here on The Law Firm Blueprint. Bye for now.

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