S6:E4: Massive Success and Firm Growth with Michael McCready

Join Seth Price, Jay Ruane, and special guest Michael McCready on the newest episode of The Law Firm Blueprint to discuss Michael’s firm growth and how he has become a regional juggernaut in the PI space. In this episode, discover how Michael’s unique approach combines traditional marketing while fostering strong relationships with referring attorneys. Learn about his innovative four tiered system for attorney development, where transparency and clear expectations drive growth and loyalty within the firm by allowing attorneys to have a timeline on their career growth. This way, loyalty is developed, and attorneys have the resources to chase their goals.

Michael dives deep into scaling a law firm and creating a thriving culture. From humble beginnings, Michael shares his journey of building a successful law practice over the past 25 years. He discusses the essential steps of becoming a great lawyer, mastering client relationships, running a business, and generating business both through marketing and referrals. Jay, Seth, and Michael also explore topics ranging from targeting younger attorneys for referrals to empowering junior talent within your firm and planning for succession in a law firm.

Don’t miss out on valuable insights and practical strategies for law firm success! Tune in to The Law Firm Blueprint now.



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 is my man, Seth price over there, Seth, how you doing today?

Seth Price 0:16

Doing great, doing great.

Jay Ruane 0:17

And Seth, we have somebody very special with us. Why don’t you give us a little intro.

Seth Price 0:20

We do. Michael McCready, welcome. Michael McCready is the founder of Michael McCready Law, who is not only an exceptional lawyer, but an exceptionally great human. And I think that that combination of being a great lawyer and a great human is what we’re going to hear about today. Because what Michael has built is pretty extraordinary. And you know, we are here talking about how to scale a law firm and this guy has done is as good a job as anybody over the last few years.

Jay Ruane 0:45

Oh, for sure. Hey Mike, how are you doing.

Michael McCready 0:47

Morning, so good to see you guys. Two of my dearest friends, usually we get to see each other in person. But, but this informality over the internet is just as good, thanks for having me.

Seth Price 0:58

So Michael, when we first met you through the John Fisher mastermind, you had a nice PI practice in the Chicagoland area. And you blink. And you are now looked at, you know, from a technology point of view is one of sort of the thought leaders on how to build out a firm. And so people look at you as oh, this is the, you know, software geek that knows how to really run things and automate things. But then you look at the operations and you’re like, wow, this culture you built is great. So talk to us a little bit about like, how you went through the process of going from modest law firm to this sort of, sort of regional juggernaut that looks like it’s not stopping growth anytime soon?

Michael McCready 1:42

Yeah so, I’ve been a lawyer for 32 years, I started my firm 25 years ago, this year. And what I realized about my career is that over the span of my career, I’ve gone through different phases. So first, I had to start out being a good lawyer, okay, there’s no, there’s no way around it, you got to know how to be a lawyer. The next thing is you need to be good with clients. And that’s an a completely different skill. And I learned that for my first, from the first firm [inaudible]. He was fantastic with clients struggled with practicing law, but he had so much business because the clients loved him. And then he hired smart people, right. So, you know, learning how to deal with clients is the second step. Third is, you know, running a business, you know, every law firm starts as just a, you know, a one man or one woman shop or a small business, you know, learning about bookkeeping, and taxes and things like that. So, you know, I started on my own as a solo, then had a secretary and an associate, so I had to run a business. The fourth step, and this is where things really started to take off is when I started learning about generating business. So here I was, I was a good lawyer, I was good with clients, I kind of know how to run a business, but unless you’ve got a source of clients, you’re never going to go anywhere. So I dove into, into marketing and relationships and, and really focused on, you know, making the phone ring, so to speak. Then the final step, and that’s where I’m at right now is it’s all about building a firm and culture, and, and creating a great environment and hiring the right people. And, you know, and that’s what the real challenge is. Now, I think it’s very difficult to do some of the things that I’ve, I’m doing now, or it would have been nearly impossible for me to do some of the things I’m doing now, 25 years ago, I had to go through that progression in order to be able to do and grow my firm the way it is today.

Seth Price 3:50

One of the things that I’ve seen you do, which I think is rare, is there are firms that are great referral shops, and there are firms that are great marketing that can bring things in off the web or wherever it is. It’s rare that I see that together. And very often, people who are referral shops are like, hey, I’m sick of paying that third to everybody else but they fall on their face with the marketing, even if the phone rings, they don’t, they never make that jump to instant gratification that a referral shop may have a little bit of bandwidth on and vice versa. You have firms that are great at bringing in volumes of cases, but they can’t get that foothold as a relationship for referrals. How did you sort of make that one-two combination work? Because to me, that’s pretty unique.

Michael McCready 4:34

Yeah, it kind of grew organically. You know, I’m a big data guy, as you know. And I’ve always tracked where my leads come from and where my cases come from and where my best cases come from. And you know, I did I was involved in digital fairly early on. But what I’ve never really done is mass market advertising. You know, I don’t do television or billboards or wrap buses or anything like that, because I felt that, you know that that type of marketing appeals to certain types of clients. But there are a lot of clients that are turned off by that, you know, a lot of clients don’t want this PI lawyer that’s I’m in your face, and I’m gonna get you the, you know, you know, the type. And so that’s not me. And I kind of branded myself as you know, much more traditional, I won’t say more respectable, but you know, a little more dignified presence than what some mass marketers do.

Seth Price 5:31

And that’s I’ll pass to Jay in a second, but that’s what I’ve struggled with. So the good news is I’ve similarly took a lawyer like Dave Benowitz, and put them on a pedestal and built our digital around it for PI and criminal, and that’s all great. But when I looked at what are the options in radio, and TV, you can do it and you can still be, you know, you can put yourself out there, but it seems the people that are very edgy that are outside the standard deviation of what I think you or myself would be comfortable with, don’t do as well, you may do okay, but the guys who really crush it, numbers wise, if you’re a numbers person, have to do things that I think would take away from the reputation slash ethos of the practice.

Michael McCready 6:20

Yeah, no, I would agree with that. So listen, in the PI field, and that’s what I know the best, you know, 60% of the people that are in car wrecks, don’t call a lawyer, okay, we’re all fighting over those 40% that are trying to, that want to call a lawyer, if you could figure out a way to resonate and connect with that 60%. Now there, that 60% comprises a lot of different groups of people, you’ve got people that are anti lawsuit, oh, I don’t believe in suing, you’ve got people that, oh, I don’t have any money, I can’t hire a lawyer they’re, they don’t realize PI lawyers don’t charge upfront, even though we’ve been saying that for 100 years, you’ve got people that you know, are too busy, or don’t realize what their rights are, you’ve got people that the insurance company gets to and says, oh, you don’t need a lawyer, we’ll take care of you. So you know, its hard to fashion a message that reaches that 60%. That’s kind of what I’ve targeted, I don’t want to compete with the with the billboard people, you know, I want my message, I don’t need to reach everybody, I don’t need to sign up everybody. I have tried to target the people that, that other law firms might turn off. So, So that’s been my app, you know, kind of my theory of advertising over- and branding over the years. But, but the second part is about 40% of my practice is from referring attorneys. And those are all relationship based. You know, I started a long time ago by literally sending a letter out saying, hey, I’m a PI attorney in the neighborhood, you know, I know you do bankruptcy. But if you ever have a client, you know, I still have some of those lawyers that are still sending me cases today, 20 years later after that first letter. And and what I realized is that, you know, a lot of referral attorneys don’t want to refer people to these mass market advertisers. Right? You know, I coulda called that billboard guy, why are you sending me there? And interesting, I think we’ll come back to this later on is, because Morgan and Morgan is starting to do that, is Morgan Morgan is the big advertiser around the country. But now they’re targeting attorneys for referrals. I mean, I get, I get information from Morgan Morgan, constantly wanting business and referrals. And but anyway, so those are my two areas of where I get my clients. You know, one is traditional marketing, and digital and the other are referring attorneys.

Seth Price 8:54


Jay Ruane 8:54

Okay. So Mike, I got a question for you, because referrals are such an integral part of your practice. I have a feeling, and you just brought this up and said you had started, you know, 20 years ago, where you send out a lawyer, a letter to the bankruptcy lawyer in the neighborhood and said- are you doing anything now, to target those lawyers that are 20-30 years younger than you to develop those referrals? Because what I have found, and you guys can both chime in on this when I’m done, is that, I found a lot of lawyers when I was starting out, would pass me cases, and they were 10 to 15 years older than me and they’d say, hey kid take this, you know, I don’t want to $2,500 that much. But I know you will hustle, that type of thing. But what I find is lawyers who rely on those types of referrals, eventually those people who referred your cases age out or die. So that lawyer who’s 50 now who’s been getting cases for 20-30 years from a guy who’s 20 years older than him. Now that lawyer has retired and his entire referral network has dried up. And so we’re making a conscious choice here now to really go after the lawyers that are 20 years younger than us at our firm. Are you doing anything to try to identify, you know, the connectors, the hustlers, the people who can send you business in the next decade that are younger than you?

Michael McCready 10:21

Yes, yes. So we specifically target younger PI attorneys, especially ones that are you know, solo or, or just went off on their own. And it’s interesting, you know, growing my firm, um, so one of the reasons we specifically target younger PI attorneys is not every lawyer handles all types of cases. So we have developed a specialty in premises liability cases. And you know, what, a lot of lawyers don’t want to do it. They just want the routine car wreck cases. Our staff, including a couple of our attorneys are bilingual. So they may get a Spanish speaking client, and do what they can to settle the case. But you know, what, when you have to file for litigation, it’s really better to have a lawyer that speaks Spanish. So we get those kinds of cases. We’re, we have several offices in several states. And so we get Illinois lawyers referring us Indiana cases, Indiana lawyers, referring us Illinois cases. So, to your question, Jay, you know, we definitely tried to make a focus on some of these younger attorneys.

Seth Price 11:29

And I think one of the things that have been enamored by how you’ve been able to balance is, there look, right, we have the younger attorneys, who potentially could refer higher level cases, one of the ways to keep them interested is stuff that you’re not interested pushing down, obviously. But one of the things I think you sort of targeted well is when large players come into your market, big billboard guys, people that aren’t going to be able to handle all of the different cases that are coming in, when it, especially when comes to litigation, you seem to have carved out a niche as being the back end for some of the more substantial marketers out there. So that your faith doesn’t have to be on the Billboard, but that you’re making a buck from that, those transactions.

Michael McCready 12:15

So I said, Jay, early on, you know, I targeted bankruptcy lawyers, real estate lawyers, criminal lawyers, you know, they may have one case a year, two, three cases a year. And I had plenty of time, and I did that I fostered those relationships. Now, I don’t have the bandwidth to meet with a lawyer that’s going to send me one or two cases a year. Not that I wouldn’t. But now, with the firm that I’ve built, is I can target law firms that can send 10,50, 100 cases a year. We have a new advertiser here in Chicago. Last May, okay, came in, the first month, we had 250 leads from this advertiser. Okay, scaled it back a little bit. Now we’re about between 180 and 200. And we’re signing up between 30 and 40 cases a month just from this one advertiser. Okay, I couldn’t have done that a long time ago. But how I scaled my practice, and I won’t call it the pitch, but I can talk to these law firms that generate a lot of cases and explain what my process is, I’ve got all the data to prove it, I show them, you know, my case management system, I show them my numbers, I tell them, and I’m not bragging is that you can refer your cases to anyone in this city. Okay. And I can guarantee you that we will get more money on your cases than anyone else. Is there a law firm that may get one case and get more than us? Absolutely. Right. But if you’re looking at referring cases, day in and day out, these, you know, routine bread and butter cases, the processes that we have in place, we will get you better results. And, and I have, I give 1/3 of referral fee to everyone, period, no exceptions, whether you send me one case, or 100 cases, and I’ve had law firms, well, you know, so and so has offered to give me 40%. What, I’ve had people want 50% for the referrals. Sorry, I’m not interested, I will make you more money giving you a third, then that law firm’s gonna make you giving you 50%. So you decide, I’ll walk away, I’m not interested. So you know, that that comes with, you know, the confidence in the systems that we developed and the people that we have on board. But, you know, once again, I’m targeting people that can refer large number of cases.

Seth Price 14:50

You know, one of the things, there’s a lot of extraordinary things about the firm and I think the process is that, and then probably, as you say, lends to this but something that we talk about on the show, my dad’s 89 still practicing law, doesn’t really have a succession plan. You know, a lot of lawyers just, you know, close up shop, we see it in PI firms, where the widow gets 20 cents on the dollar 10 cents on the dollar. You know, you seem to have done some very progressive things with a stated exit time. And empowering people that a lot of lawyers would have said, yeah, I can get this guy to work for less, I don’t need to give anything away, where you’ve trude up Junior talent, who are fiercely loyal, and retained. Talk to us a little bit about your, your process of going through that because it’s not like you’re sitting there with no expenses you got, you got, six kids and a new wife. And you know, it’s, you know, you clearly aren’t ready to stop practicing now, but how, you’ve given a lot of thought to this.

Michael McCready 15:57

So you know, when it’s just yourself, you know, you don’t have anybody else to think about. But then when you start hiring your first associate, and your second associate, and you lose your first associate, and then got to hire somebody, you gotta go out and find someone and hire someone else. You know, somebody out of law school, it takes two years before they’re able to do much of anything. And then they leave, or they work for five, six years, and realize that the boss isn’t going to share anything with them, you know, and then they go to a competitor. So I figured this out pretty early on is that losing an attorney costs more money than it would be if I treated them fairly. Okay. So that’s always been my philosophy. When I hire, I expect these attorneys to be with me, you know, until they retire. But, but here’s, here’s where as, as I started hiring more and more associates, it’s all well, and good to tell them what the firm expects of them, right, you need to make this amount of money, you know, we want you to be involved in bar activities, we want you to be in social activities, more to take a teaching role, all these things that we want of you. But we flipped it on the other side, and laid out exactly what they could expect from the firm. Okay, everything from the types of cases that you’re going to handle, at what stage of your career, how much money you’re going to make as a base, what your percentage is going to be as a base. And we we structured our attorneys in four tiers. So tier one is a brand new attorney fresh out of law school, or a year or two of experience. And we have absolute things that are requirements in order to be promoted to tier two. Tier two is your typical associate, right, and you’re going to spend, you know, 3,4,5,6 years, you know, learning your craft, and really, you know, becoming a good attorney. Tier three is, is when you, when you’re promoted to tier three, you’ve made a commitment, this is going to be your firm, and we get them much more actively involved in firm management, and supervisory and mentoring with the ultimate goal of reaching tier four. And, and two of my attorneys are tier four, but they would be you know, partners, they are the ones that are involved. And they will be the ones taking over the firm. But a corollary to that is, you know, we are transparent about what we pay people, right. And, and every month, we show what the fees are that everybody has generated. And you know what, there are no surprises, you know, if you want to make Rockstar money, like some of my attorneys do, watch what they do, and watch how hard they work. If you’re, if you’re happy with making, you know, mid to, mid to high six figures, well, you know, 100-150, you know, that’s fine, you can do that too. But the, but all of it is transparent and everybody, everybody can see what it takes to get what their goal is.

Jay Ruane 19:14

I think that’s that’s genius, because one of the biggest problems with law firms and, and where you’re going is that if you have people in your firm, they may, you know, see, oh, there’s an opportunity for me outside the firm and they’re dangling the best of all scenarios. But if you are clear, as to your best opportunity here in the firm, you know the inertia, people are going to stay if they know where they can get to. But so many firms hide and obfuscate that and aren’t clear about that as you’re, where you can grow with your own firm. That I think I think that’s a genius. I love that tier 1,2,3,4 I may I may steal that myself before the day is out.

Michael McCready 19:59

I’m happy to share it. And it’s all written, it’s all written out, it’s in black and white, you know. And it’s not just you know what your fee goals are. But listen, we have requirements of generating cases, if you want to be promoted from tier one to tier two, you can’t be promoted until you bring one case into the firm. Okay? One case, if you don’t know a neighbor, or an uncle, or a friend or a colleague, it’s, and it’s not the one case that’s going to make or break me or them. It’s planting that in their mind that generating business is important. It’s another aspect in your career, because when you get to tier three, and tier four, the expectation is you’re going to have a reputation. And you’re going to be known throughout the community. And you will be expected to bring in cases. Now once again, it’s not going to, you know, it contributes to the firm, right? It’s not Michael McCready, it’s the firm, and we want people to, our attorneys to be invested in the firm. Promotion from tier one to tier two requires getting Google reviews, okay. I don’t care if you’re the stud trial attorney, and you’ve got the best culture in the world. If you’ve got no reviews, you’re not getting to tier three. Okay, now, we have quarterly supervisory reviews. So this isn’t like a surprise, like, oh, I thought I was going to be promoted. And you’re holding back on Google reviews, no, but we go over each of these requirements every quarter. Okay, you know, how are you? Hey, you didn’t have any google reviews last month, you know, it’s kind of a requirement, you can get one or two. All right, make that an effort. You know, these are silly things, but it’s culture. It’s, it’s, it’s creating the expectations for my attorneys at a very young stage. And then when they get to tier three, or tier four, they’re where I want them to be, right. I want to grow, I want to grow well rounded people who happen to be attorneys, and care deeply about the firm. Just simple as that.

Jay Ruane 22:10

I love it. I love it.

Seth Price 22:12

Great stuff. Thank you so much for making the time. Can’t wait for Sicily this, this summer.

Michael McCready 22:18


Seth Price 22:18

The John Fisher mastermind. Hopefully, some of the audience will join us. Maybe Jay.

Jay Ruane 22:23

I can’t, I got a family reunion. And you know me between baseball, soccer, volleyball and family reunions, my summer is slammed, I’m trying to figure out where I can squeak something in in August. So who knows? Maybe I’ll join Mike down in Puerto Rico in August. And I’ll start looking for property there.

Michael McCready 22:40

And gentleman? I mean, you know, where I am today took a long time. And I’ve learned from a lot of people, Jay, I love it. You know, you’re, you just got something for me. I’ve gotten things from you over the years. You know, we don’t we don’t come up with this stuff in a vacuum. Right? You know, Seth, you’re one of the smartest guys I know, Jay, you and your processes. Thank you for respecting me, we all have the utmost respect for each other. And we all learn from each other. And we take these little things, and I adapt them to the McCready way, right? You know, everybody in my firm is like, oh, you know, we just we do it the McCready way, you come up with your own way of doing it. And-

Seth Price 23:20

And just tell the audience, our EOS, one of our rocks is how close to McCready, we have like, you have your four steps for partnership, we have how close we can get our software automations to the McCready world, is an EOS rock within our department.

Jay Ruane 23:37

That’s awesome. You know, guys-

Seth Price 23:40

His name is literally on, is on the EOS as the rock. It’s not like just you know, get better. It’s like can you, you know how close to McCready can you get?

Michael McCready 23:49

I’m glad I have bad lighting because you’d see me blushing.

Jay Ruane 23:53

So you know, it’s funny. Before we wrap up, I’ll tell you right before we did this, we did this segment, I had a coaching call with one of the, one of my people in the criminal mastermind, who’s been practicing for 30 years. We started off at the same time. And the topic of the coaching call, because he just joined, joined me was what are these CRM things that people talk about? And he’s like, you know, I have about 200 cases a year. Do I even need one? I’m like, yes, you do. And there’s so much more you can do. I started to show him what was out there in the market. He was like, I can’t believe these things are out there. And I’m thinking to myself, how do you not know but there’s so many people who don’t know these things that when you find a community of people, like the Fisher group, like Mike, like Seth, who are just free with ideas, saying, look, there’s enough work for all of us out there. You just gotta, You just got to do the best job you can. I think it’s wonderful. So Mike, thank you so much for for coming today and speaking to us and sharing that stuff. And I’m literally getting off this call and I’m gonna go back in and start drafting up my system for tiered lawyers. Because I think that’s genius.

Michael McCready 24:57

I’ll send you an email when we’re done with what I’ve got.

Jay Ruane 25:00


Seth Price 25:01

Thank you so much everybody.

Jay Ruane 25:02

All right that’s gonna do it for us here at The Law Firm Blueprint, thanks so much for being with us. Of course thank you to our special guest Mike McCready. As always I’m Jay Ruane you can take us on the go wherever you want to go. If you subscribe to our podcast be sure to give us a five star review. Of course you can get the show live in our Facebook group every Thursday at 3pm Eastern, 12pm Pacific and also now broadcasting on LinkedIn Live. Thank you for being with us today. And we are The Law Firm Blueprint, bye for now.

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