S6:E3: Mid-career? Ultimate Guide to Launch Your Firm

In this episode, Ben Gideon and Taylor Asen join Seth Price to discuss how to launch your firm, detailing some of the benefits and hardships of starting a new firm midway through a law career. While they were able to pump more financial capital into the firm and get it off the ground perhaps faster than someone fresh out of law school, they also had to navigate their own families, putting their kids through college, and building a new culture in their firm. They discuss an annual retreat they established to aid in the process of cultivating their culture, as well as some strategies for expanding their notoriety. These strategies included opening multiple offices for SEO purposes and writing a book, which helped build up their backlinks.

Ben and Taylor were able to uniquely position themselves in the market to be masters of the medical malpractice space, differentiating themselves from competition. They started bringing in cases almost immediately after opening, benefitting from Ben’s reputation and experience, and the pair’s careful planning and execution of strategies. Ben and Taylor give each other credit for having complementary skill sets which has allowed them to enjoy the hard work, and they express gratitude for all of the mentorship and resources they have utilized to aid them in opening their firm (such as The Law Firm Blueprint)! Tune in for key advice on how to launch your firm!

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



Seth Price 0:10

Welcome, everybody. I am thrilled to be here today with Ben Gideon and Taylor Asen. We, you guys have done some remarkable work over the last few years, I met you, Ben, when you were sort of, sort of starting to roll this out. And you know, when I talk to Jay, to other law firms, we see a lot of firms that are just starting out a lot of firms that are sort of fully developed. But this is a great case study of somebody who is part, of during the ascent. So we’d love to hear from you guys and talk to me a little bit about where you’re at. And we can talk about how you got there.

Ben Gideon 0:46

So one, one thing I want to say to the listeners is that I was really appreciative, Seth, of your generosity and your time, before we launched our firm. And we were just trying to figure out some of the elements of marketing and SEO, I called you up and you were willing to talk to me at some length and share what you knew about that. And it was really helpful to me, and we really appreciate it. I also was an avid listener to your podcast with Jay Ruane at the early days of our firm and a lot of tips and advice and information that you shared, we definitely used and implemented in building our practice. So we really appreciate that.

Taylor Asen 1:34

I’m still a listener!

Seth Price 1:36


Ben Gideon 1:36

Taylor was a little late to the game, but now he’s catching up on the episodes. He really likes you, Seth, he finds sometimes Jay can be a little bit hard to take in large doses, but-

Taylor Asen 1:51

Not at all!

Seth Price 1:52

I’m usually, Jay’s the happy go lucky guy, I’m the out the prickly one.

Taylor Asen 1:56

What I what I like about Jay is he’s standing in the shoes of the rest of us who are confused and asking the questions we all want to be asking.

Seth Price 2:04

That’s definitely, and every time you think you got it figured it out, you realize, you know, it’s two steps forward one step back, my law partner and I often say if it was easy, every- everybody be doing it. And then the other, the corollary to that is nothing’s easy. You know, you think you’re good. And next thing, you know, there’s some crazy, you know, I had some, you know, a partner of mine who does key tam work ends up with an issue. And he decides he’s going to sort of talk to our counsel about how to deal with it. And you know, there, you, just things spiral, you blink for a minute and stuff happens. And so I think what I love about it is no new two days are different. There’s always something new and exciting, a new obstacle to overcome. But maybe it’s that, you know, dopamine that we get from, you know, successfully navigating those waters that keeps us going.

Ben Gideon 3:01

Yeah, for sure. And I you guys have done a series at one point where you had different firm consultants on, I actually found that to be very valuable. So I recommend that to anybody who hasn’t checked those out. I would say that though, in terms of starting our firm, we had an enormous advantage, which is that I had already been doing a trial practice for 17 years before we started our firm. And there are different entry points to starting a new law firm, there are people that are recent graduates, are kind of new to the game that hang a shingle in they’re at one stage. And I think there are certain considerations that apply to folks that are doing that. And then there are people that start a firm sort of more midstream to late in the game in terms of the- their career path. And I was definitely in that category, I would say that I, my one big regret was that I didn’t do this sooner. Even though I really enjoyed my prior practice and my old firm. I think there’s advantages to starting earlier, just like compound interest at a bank, if you start investing that sooner you’re going to see greater rewards. I’m, Taylor’s in the enviable position of being 12 years behind me, age wise and I guess career wise so I’m, my the way I look at it as I’m going to build a very successful practice and then at some point, turn it over to him so-

Seth Price 4:34

Well at least you have that, like so many things there. I my analogy though is to parenting. You know, I was a you know, late 30s and then early 40s parent you know, with new kids, and that I always am, not envious, but I look at people who are, you know in their early 20s and the energy they have and they’re empty nesters by 40 something, by early 40s. I wonder if the analogy could be made here. But I would also say that there have been advantages to being an older parent where you’re more established, and you have certain things that are grounded, that I think that play dividends. And I would argue, Ben, and I’m curious to hear Taylor’s perspective, as somebody who’s watching you do this, that, while you may think, hey, I wish I’d done it earlier, you brought all of those attributes to the table, which has allowed you to get to where you’re at as quickly as you have, and you probably wouldn’t have, and would have stumbled a lot more had you started it without all of that knowledge.

Ben Gideon 5:32

Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. I mean, there’s three to four huge advantages to starting it later in your career. One is obvious, which is you have capital to invest that allows you to build out your systems and scale up much more rapidly than you could have otherwise. And we did, we had the advantage of being able to invest a substantial amount of financial resources in our firm at the outset. So we were never the poor starving, new lawyer hanging their shingle that had to do that.

Seth Price 6:06

And as you, Taylor, you know, we talk about that a lot on the show, many people put out a shingle with no resources. And like, you might be able to scrap yourself to multiple six figures, God forbid, seven figures, but that any other business in the world, you start with a business plan and seed capital, lawyers are the only people that think I can start it just by saying, hey, I’m here.

Taylor Asen 6:26

Right. And you become like Mike Morrison. And when he talks about in his book, you become sort of captive to the people sending you cases, especially in our world and plaintiff’s personal injury. That’s a real risk. And I think one thing I’ll say about that, about Ben is what it allowed, I think we would have brought in cases, even if Ben were younger, or evem less known, but what we, our vision for this firm, which we’ve been able to achieve, I think fairly quickly was to do really focus on high end, complicated cases. And there’s just no way we would have brought those in without Ben’s reputation. And a lot of those cases come from out of state, you know, out of state lawyers who have a case in northern New England and need someone to do it. And you know, Ben being in the inner circle. Is, was, that’s been a huge part of how he’s, we’ve become known. And doing those cases?

Seth Price 7:25

No, and look I think so- that’s really interesting perspective, right? I mean, I remember when Ben approached me and said, hey, I want to do this. We had a pretty frank discussion, that’s not easy. But I think that what the secret sauce he brought with him was he had paid his dues. So yes, you could have launched a site, you could have launched the firm and you would have dealflow. But you know, there there is nothing like having a national reputation in your geo. That is, you know, that you can’t really buy your way to

Ben Gideon 7:58

I think the other, the flip side of what we’re saying about starting later in a career is that, although you start with enormous advantages, you also, you don’t start at a place where you can afford to make as many mistakes. I mean, I have three kids I’m putting through college and enormous financial obligations on the home front side. So I’m not starting at a place where I’m eating ramen noodles out of an apartment. You know, as a single guy hanging a shingle, so we needed to be able to generate substantial revenue and profits really in year one I mean, I couldn’t afford-

Seth Price 8:40

And tht’s not nothing, I mean, people doing PI, very often it’s a 2, 3, 4 year cycle, before you’re really jamming, especially if you, well, you paid some of those divid-, you paid some of those monies upfront, by investing upfront, it allows you to actually take capital out, whereas if you start with nothing, everything’s gonna go back in or it’s not gonna go anywhere.

Taylor Asen 9:02


Ben Gideon 9:04

And it, and what, I mean, some of the things I think we did really well were before we launched our firm Taylor and I met on a number of occasions and sat down and we, we wrote up a business plan that was quite detailed with year one objectives and five year goals, and, and a marketing plan for how we are going to generate our cases and bring in business.

Seth Price 9:36

Did you work with anybody on that? Or you just did it between, with you guys?

Ben Gideon 9:39

It was a combination of no, we didn’t we didn’t work with an outside person, but listening to lots of different podcasts like yours and others reading books. We both of us read a lot of books. And I think we spent a substantial amount of time trying to learn something about the business side of practicing law because neither of us I had much experience with that, although I was on the Management Committee of my prior firm for about a decade, but it’s very different, running your own firm versus sort of rubber stamping decisions as a committee member in a larger firm. So there was a lot we didn’t know. And I think we had a steep learning curve. But we were very intentional about every step of the process. And in terms of where our cases were coming from, our criteria for case selection, our core values, we had developed a list of core values and had an annual retreat, our first year with all of our staff, where we kind of finalized that core value list and had everybody buy into that. And that’s been, our core value has been kind of the centerpiece of the culture of our firm as it’s grown. So I feel like we’ve done a lot of things, right, in terms of, you know, the way we’ve approached building our business and growing it.

Seth Price 10:09

Let me ask you a blunt question? Because you guys, you guys, were sophisticated people coming in. What did you budget? What was your first year? You know, what were you guys throwing in? That exp- dollar wise, if you don’t mind me asking? So, because I think that is something that Jay and I talk a lot about, which is, you know, what do you do when there’s zero versus, what was your first year, overall nit that you were willing to put in?

Ben Gideon 11:36

Are you talking about case cost plus operational expenses?

Seth Price 11:39

Everything. How much cash did you bring to the table to get this thing off the ground year one?

Ben Gideon 11:44

Well, there’s a diff- there, those are two different things. I think our year one budget was somewhere in the $750,000 to a million dollars between case costs and out of pocket expenses. Is that about right Taylor?

Taylor Asen 11:58


Seth Price 11:58

And that’s, and again, you can finance some out, some of those expenses, I get that. But that’s, you know, that’s not nothing.

Ben Gideon 12:06


Seth Price 12:06

You sat down as if you were opening a restaurant and said, hey, we’re going to need to buy, you know, technology, we’re going to have to be able to pay for marketing, we’re going to have to travel to certain conferences that you’re going to get visibility at. It’s not nothing.

Taylor Asen 12:20

We also took some cases from our other firm, which of course, we had to share fees. But, and the last one of those actually, I just tried the last one. The cases that have lasted three and a half years, you know, financially probably haven’t been a great proposition for us. But the cases that we settled early on, that we took, were our lifeline.

Seth Price 12:43

Right, understood but okay, of this, this is what I’m trying to get at. And it’s because I think a lot of listeners are interested in this. Did you say hey, we think we can settle for $400,000 worth of stuff and we bring 350 to the table? How much cash did you have to bring to the table in order to get this thing launched beyond-

Taylor Asen 13:00


Seth Price 13:01

Did you have like a window saying we hit our numbers, great, but like, what, what, what did, what did you need to do in order to get this thing launched? That wouldn’t have happened had you not invested yourselves?

Ben Gideon 13:13

I think we put a quarter million to 300,000 cash to start it.

Taylor Asen 13:15

300,000. And can we never, we thought we might have to put more but we didn’t, we we took a lot of credit out but we never put more than that in.

Seth Price 13:26

And that because that is the piece that I that I struggle with advising aspiring law firm owners with. I mean, you guys had some extra pieces, right? You brought some cases, that’s an asset, which you wouldn’t have had had you not had your career before. You had joined inner sanctums of networking, which were very valuable. But I think that that’s one of those things that, you know, essentially, you helped payroll for that first year. I mean, you could slice it a lot of different ways, paid for marketing, but you essentially got yourself off the ground, where if you said, I’m only going to use the money I get from the prior cases, you wouldn’t be where you are today.

Ben Gideon 14:06

Right. And we, I mean, one thing I think we did really well was we, we started our firm in a, we created a pretty sizable footprint from the outset, for instance, we launched our firm with three offices. Now we we didn’t have all three offices fully staffed, but we had a footprint in the three key geographic areas within our state. And then, as, when we launched our SEO and our web presence, we were able to have local Google presence in the major urban areas and you know, another area in between. And it cost a little bit of money to do that because we were paying rent for spaces that weren’t producing a lot in terms of, you know, the usefulness of the brick and mortar locations, however, I think we we got right out of the blocks and were perceived as covering our whole state from day one, and that we had resources from day one, that we weren’t skimping on those things. And all of our branding, we’ve from the moment we launched, has been very focused on projecting our brand of high value added work. And in particular medical malpractice, we decided that we were just going to own medical malpractice. So all of our industry advertisements are focused on medical malpractice, whereas our principal competitor, which is the firm we left project themselves as kind of a jack of all trades per, plaintiffs firm. But people who don’t know, don’t know that whether they do medical malpractice, or is that really, you know, an area of specialty we- we sort of, I think, dominated the marketing on these are the medical malpractice experts. And and we made it, that was very intentional. We also published a book on medical malpractice.

Seth Price 16:10

Look, you’ve checked every box, it’s unbelievable. So like, with SEO, I was smiling, you couldn’t hear it if you’re listening to this audio. But the idea that you have multiple offices, I battle with people, my buddy, John Fisher, I’m sure you know, from New York.

Ben Gideon 16:22

Yeah, yeah yeah.

Seth Price 16:23

Took me I think, nine years to convince him to open a second office. Crazy, he had 500 reviews in Albany, New York. I’m like-

Taylor Asen 16:32

And you’ve got like 600 offices, right?

Seth Price 16:34


Taylor Asen 16:35

You have like 600?

Seth Price 16:36

Yeah exactly, but my answer is, I want to be where people are. And it turns out that Google was heading that way, you know, a couple years back, the proximity updates happen. And people with a single office were really hurt, Google only gave you a very small radius. So the fact that you, look, you make, you know, we’re, our success comes from stuff that we do, that that multi office strategy, brilliant from a digital point of view, the book, you know, not only is a good for visibility, not only is it good for like, you know, pound your chest and for people to see you differently. It’s also good for links. And those links help elevate those multiple offices. So you know, really proud of you guys, because I again, I take a lot of these calls. And to see somebody who took those, those early calls and put the fundamentals in place, I’m sure you would have done it without speaking to me. But the fact that you were able to sort of put that mosaic together to build what you know, when you left, you were like, I’m leaving this juggernaut of sorts, or regional Juggernaut, and you’re like, I remember, it was sort of like, how could I ever be them? And the fact that you’ve now created something substantial, and you have five lawyers and growing, to me, that’s just a testament to you put your hard work, you know, with a plan, you guys sound like you had several plans, both from a marketing point of view, an operations point of view, and just overall firm vision. You know, tying that together. That’s that’s about nothing. So congratulations.

Taylor Asen 18:03

I do think, to go back to your question, especially in contingency work, it’s, it is really difficult to start. And I think there’s a double whammy of the, you know, the fact that it takes a while to get paid on these cases, combined with the fact that case costs are not tax deductible. And that is a huge issue that to people who don’t do plantiffs work sounds boring and in the weeds, but it’s a huge issue, because you’re spending all this money, and not able to deduct it when you spend it. And it creates an enormous barrier to entry. It, I don’t know, I assumed the purpose of that law was to screw class lawyers. But what it’s really done is create barriers to entry for new lawyers.

Seth Price 18:51

And that look, that is a lot of what we see in life from Bar Associations to regulations like that is to, is to create those barriers to entry and look to a certain extent it did its, did its thing, it wasn’t like you could do this day one, it took a lot of years of practice before you could pivot and do it, which is, you know, I don’t love it. But I, you know, I, we play the game, and we have the obstacles that are there. If you could send a message to people aspiring and thinking about making a leap, you know, who might be more junior, what is your advice? Ben, do you think that, and Taylor, do you think that you would say make that leap earlier? Do you think that paying, paying some dues, whether you paid too many is a question, but do you think that paying some dues propelled you further than if you had started this with much less earlier in your career?

Ben Gideon 19:45

I mean, personally, I think there’s a sweet spot there, which is probably in the 10 to you know, 15 year range of practice where you’ve acquired enough of a reputation and confidence in your ability to do the underlying work, and you’ve learned how the industry works, and accumulated some assets that at that point, it would, it’s a good time to make that transition if you want to make the transition. Because you have the, sort of the best of both worlds. I think as you start to age beyond that, then you have a shorter time horizon, although I was 49 when I did it, and I think my time horizon will still be fine. I don’t plan to retire anytime soon. And-

Seth Price 20:37

It’s like, it’s not like you were not making any money before this-

Ben Gideon 20:41

No, no, I did

Seth Price 20:42

And now it’s a new challenge. And you control your own destiny. So the kids, you’re also, I assume an empty nester?

Ben Gideon 20:49

My youngest is still at home and a couple of more years, but yeah,

Seth Price 20:53

Aspiring empty nester.

Ben Gideon 20:54

Two of the three are gone.

Seth Price 20:55

Right and so its a different, you know, you’re not playing full contact, you know, you’re not changing diapers, you’re at a point where you can focus on it. And to a certain extent, you know, as you see, now, there are certain headaches, you know, whether it’s on your shoulders or Taylor’s, that are not nothing. And that not in that, that that you had, you know, carefree in working with somebody else. It wasn’t like, that was easy, but there are certain additional special challenges that are there that not having to interfere with younger kids is not the worst thing in the world.

Ben Gideon 21:27

Yeah and I also think, I mean, having a good partner, and having a partner, I mean, first of all, it’s, it’s been a lot more fun to do this with a partner, I think it would have been very lonely and depressing to have done all this on my own. Secondly, I couldn’t have done it on my own, because there’s so much energy that goes into getting this operation off the ground and, and different skill sets. And I think it’s great to, if you have if you’re looking for a partner, finding somebody who has a complementary set of skills, well, they are things Taylor is excellent at that I that I really don’t like doing and I’m not very good at and vice versa. And so we’ve had a fun time doing it. But also, you know, we’ve made use of our complementary skill sets, which is, and difference, honestly, in time horizons, you know, he’s, he’s younger, and but he does have young kids in the house. So we’re slightly different places in life. But that’s been useful in building our business, I think.

Seth Price 22:39

No, I look, I, I can, I get it, like I started. It’s funny, as you say this, started the firm, 10-15 years out, knew enough to be dangerous, partnered with somebody, completely different skill sets, my buddy from college and law school, you know, Dave Benowitz, he’s sort of one of those nationally known trial gurus, he teaches up at Harvard Law, he loves it. And the idea that, the idea that we are able to mesh those together, and I think that one of the reasons there have been a proliferation of coaching programs has been that is lonely. I see a lot of people that running their own firms, it may be more profitable, but you’re sort of isolated, and that that isolation leads to the need for those gurus and conferences. And not that I don’t get a lot out of it myself. But I think that there’s that, that has that, that many of those groups have filled the void that happens when you’re trying to do this yourself.

Taylor Asen 23:35

Yeah, I don’t know how people, I don’t know. I tell people I’m really glad we did this, but I think I maybe wouldn’t have done it if I had known how hard it was gonna be. But I don’t know how people did this before the era of podcasts. I mean, now there are I mean, it was, I learned a lot of what I learned listening to you know, you and Jay and other people talk through the problems they were having, which turns out are exactly the same problems we were having. And it also turns out that just because you’re a good lawyer doesn’t mean you know anything about running a business, they have nothing to do with each other.

Seth Price 24:09

In fact very often it goes the other way. You know that if you’re great, great at like crushing somebody in court that may not be the people skills needed to get a team and a core value in [inaudible].

Taylor Asen 24:19

Right, and we’ve made a lot of mistakes I mean, HR Mistakes, you know, we had an IT disaster in our first couple of months and, but we’ve tried it’s been interesting and fun to learn new skills, but I just don’t think you can possibly do this without learning from other people.

Seth Price 24:40

Very cool. Look, this is, this is tremendous. Tell us, you mentioned doing New England before but what, what do you, Taylor and Ben, what, where, is your, what is your world and what do you guys you know, who are you looking to connect with you guys do, all of New England, parts of New England, only catastrophic, med mal? What are your, what’s your what’s your avatar?

Ben Gideon 25:01

You know we, unfortunately are stuck in New England, which is maybe the least advantageous place in America to be trying plaintiffs cases.

Seth Price 25:09

I’ll challenge that with the Mid Atlantic and [inaudible].

Ben Gideon 25:13

Yeah, so we, we have significant cases going right now in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine. And we occasionally take cases and other states. We’re looking at one in Missouri right now. And we get contacted from people around the country who might have a medical malpractice case, in particular, some other kind of catastrophic case they want to talk to us about. So with the right case, we’re willing to go beyond New England, but primarily in New England is our home base.

Seth Price 25:46

Well I am so thrilled to you know, a, you know, a conversation with an uphill battle to see you guys with three and a half years later, kicking ass and taking names is is quite remarkable. And really thank you for being here today and sharing your story.

Ben Gideon 26:04

Yeah, thanks for having us Jay.

Taylor Asen 26:05

Thanks a lot.

Ben Gideon 26:06

Thanks. I mean, Seth, called you, Jay. Oh, my God. And we really appreciate you, you were there, really from the start for us, and we appreciate that.

Seth Price 26:19

Thanks so much, and I hope to catch up in person real soon.

Ben Gideon 26:22

Take care.

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