Unfortunately, just being a great lawyer isn’t enough these days. For those tasked with practicing law and managing their own firm, knowing how to handle marketing and finances is just as important as what you do in the courtroom. Attorney Mike Morse is working hard to get this message across in his new book, “Fireproof: A Five-Step Model to Take Your Law Firm from Unpredictable to Wildly Profitable”, which is now available for purchase.
Morse co-wrote Fireproof with the long-time COO of his law firm, John Nachazel. Together the duo has transformed the Mike Morse Law Firm into the largest personal injury law firm in the state of Michigan, and now Morse is ready to share their secrets to success. Our blog recently spoke with Morse about the business aspect of running a law firm, how fireproofing has helped his firm successfully navigate the COVID-19 crisis and what attorneys need to do to make their marketing really stand out.
Answering Legal: In your new book, you suggest running a law firm like a business. What do you mean by that exactly?
Mike Morse: Most lawyers have no background in business – there isn’t a section of the bar exam that requires them to understand marketing or a quarterly report. When I started my firm in 1995, I didn’t appreciate the importance of many of these things until a mentor of mine suggested I hire a business coach. That coach, Gino Wickman, revolutionized the way I saw my firm. He taught me how to delegate and he showed me that I needed to find someone to handle the business tasks that I dreaded. It was because of him that I hired my COO and co-author John Nachazel. Most law firms don’t have a COO, but they should. John has brought stability to my firm and my life. Thanks to his financial forecasting, I know what I can expect the year’s profits to be within 0.1% and we can easily identify potential problems before they become dangerous. In Fireproof, I cover all the ways that changing how I saw my law firm has been beneficial and how our success can be recreated.
AL: How did you come to the conclusion that you needed to start running your firm like a business? Do you recall any specific turning points in your firm’s journey?
Morse: Before I hired Gino Wickman in 2007, I was drowning. My firm had almost tripled in size in two years and I was directly managing all my employees. I did all the hiring, training, and onboarding while maintaining my full caseload. I signed every check and made every decision. It wasn’t sustainable and I was killing myself trying to run a great law firm on my own. My father-in-law, Steve, noticed how badly I was struggling and repeatedly told me to hire a business coach. I made excuse after excuse until I finally snapped and made the investment. Gino was the one that convinced me to change the way I was running my firm and to hire a COO.
AL: What made you call your new book Fireproof?
Morse: The book’s name comes from the two crises that my law firm had to weather in the past. Our building caught on fire in 2008 and then in 2011 the firm that supplied 70% of our cases through referrals fired us. These two devastating blows made me concerned for the existence of my firm and they threatened to destroy so much of what I had built. But they also gave me the opportunity to make important changes. In Fireproof, I explain all of the changes that I made and how they turned my firm into a very stable, successful business that is protected from any future “fires.”
AL: Would you say that the COVID-19 crisis has served as an important reminder of why lawyers need to be fireproofing their firms, and preparing their firm to handle any possibility?
Morse: Absolutely. Being fireproof has been a great comfort during this time of crisis. We were able to transition all 150 employees to working from home in one day. We haven’t had to lay off anyone, and our employees have really stepped up recently. Many of them offered to take pay cuts or move to part time. I know that a lot of my friends in the legal community have been struggling with building shutdowns and a drop in cases. The COVID-19 crisis has only further proven to me how valuable being fireproof is.
AL: In your experience, what do clients seem to care about most when hiring an attorney?
Morse: Clients want to hire an attorney who wins. They don’t necessarily want an aggressive fighter or a family member, though those are good things to be, they want a winner. Our marketing has been built around that idea. Mike wins, call Mike.
AL: What are some things your firm has done with its marketing over the years that have allowed it to stand out from the pack and become a household name in the state of Michigan?
Morse: In 2013, we decided to invest in creating high quality ads with Lerner Advertising. Most attorneys use the free resources that stations offer to make their ads. These ads aren’t as high quality, but many attorneys are unwilling to make the investment to create a great product. Our approach worked, our ads looked different from our competitors, and the phones started ringing off the hook. Our TV ads have allowed us to scale massively.
AL: What’s your biggest piece of marketing advice for an attorney currently in the early stages of growing their law office?
Morse: One of the best places to start is digital advertising. It’s less expensive and studies suggest that the average person spends more time viewing digital media than traditional media. After trying several digital companies, my firm has found that Caliber Legal Marketing is clearly the best. Whatever you decide to do, commit to it. Develop a message and be authentic and different from your competition.
AL: Are attorneys doing enough to track their firm’s day-to-day successes and failures?
Morse: No, they aren’t. Ever since I hired John and he started tracking our daily business, we’ve been able to identify potential problems with productivity and workflow before they happen. I can sleep at night, knowing that his revenue predictions are accurate to 0.1%. Having the data to back my decisions has made me a more confident leader and better boss. I know that tracking their statistics seems overwhelming to many lawyers, but it really pays off. I recommend giving the task to one of their other employees or hiring a new person to run the data collection to make it less stressful.
AL: Why would attorneys be wise to pick up a copy of your book?
Morse: Attorneys should buy Fireproof because it has everything that I wish someone would have told me back in 1995. I know how stressful it is to be a small, struggling law firm that doesn’t know where its next case is coming from. Fireproof is a guide to becoming stable and successful based on my experience. I know that these methods work because I’ve seen what they did for my firm. We’ve grown around 25% every year since 2008 and we’ve handled it with minimal growing pains. I recommend Fireproof because, simply put, it works.