Law school teaches you a lot… but nothing about running a business – that’s your law practice. You want a great income and an enjoyable lifestyle, while doing fulfilling work.
But to have that thriving business, you need to start thinking like an entrepreneur.
Neil Tyra specializes in helping struggling lawyers scale up their practices so they can have the careers – and lives – they’ve always dreamed of. He’s also a practicing attorney, so he knows firsthand the challenges facing lawyer entrepreneurs… and how to overcome them.
We talk about the common myths of business ownership among lawyers, the importance of systems and technology, and more, including:
- How to hire the employees you really need (and leverage outsourcing)
- Ways to create a flexible schedule not tied to the courthouse
- Why you should think about starting a podcast
- The biggest mistakes start-up law firms make
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast formerly known as the Solo to CEO Podcast. It’s a new year and we have a new name but our mission in 2020 is still very much the same, to provide thought-provoking powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own wealth-generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm.
I’m your host Davina Frederick, and I’m here today with Neil Tyra, founder of the Tyra Law Firm and creator of the Law Entrepreneur Podcast. The Tyra Law Firm is located in Rockville, Maryland, and provides estate planning and guardianship services to clients throughout the state. Welcome, Neil, I’m so glad to have you here today on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast.
Neil Tyra: Well, I’m already overwhelmed with excitement of being on your show. So there you go.
Davina: There you go. We’re both just verklempt.
Neil: Yeah, exactly.
Davina: So tell me, I have so many questions for you. So much we have in common that I want to talk about because, you know, I love talking with other lawyers about their journey and how they came to do what they do now. And you have some really exciting stuff going on being a fellow podcaster. I definitely want to get into all that. But I want to start with you telling me about your, just your journey to becoming a lawyer because I see that you have, this is like me, this is not your first career. So tell me about that.
Neil’s Particularly Diverse Career Path
Neil: Yeah, actually, law is my fourth career. So I like to tell people I haven’t really figured out what I want to do when I grow up. I’m certainly not grown up yet. I started off cooking for a living. So I cooked at some of the finest restaurants in Annapolis. Of course, I didn’t start off as a cook. Started off as a real, you know, entry-level dishwasher job.
But quickly, I learned how to cook and then, you know, if you ate anywhere in Annapolis during that decade, there’s a fair chance that I cooked meal for you at some point. Then I spent a long period of time in the technology world and building hardware and software systems for the government and for DOD. So I worked primarily for NASA and then ultimately in DOD programs. The NASA experience was phenomenal. I worked in the space program.
You know, there was a point in time where I would have done that job for free. It was so cool. But they paid me and also put me through school. So it was just a great experience. And then I finished that part of my career helping to build air defense systems in foreign countries. So most specifically, the Icelandic air defense system. But I decided to get out of the technology world and all through that period of time, I’d also been a practicing martial artist.
So the time was right and I decided to open a commercial studio for the martial arts. And I ran that for a number of years, a dozen years or so. And enjoyed teaching very much and was pretty influential in the community in that respect. But I’ve always kind of toyed with the idea of going to law school. I always thought that some aspects of the legal profession spoke to me whether, and I can’t even really recall whether it was through experiences on TV or reading in the newspaper or what have you.
But I always had that interest and I had a couple of friends of mine who went Law School later in life and that opened my eyes up to the possibility that that opportunity had not passed me by. So I said, Well, let me see if I can at least get in. I didn’t even know how to go about applying for law school. So let me figure all that out and apply and see if I can get accepted somewhere nearby because I wasn’t going to uproot my family at that point. And you know, I’ll deal with it at that point. And I was lucky enough to be accepted at the Catholic University of America’s Columbia School of Law. And then I had a decision to make.
What was I going to do? And I ended up selling the martial art studio and going into semi-retirement in terms of the martial arts and approaching the law school as a full-time job. And so I was by far the oldest student in my graduating law school class. And when I finished law school, I thought I was going to be a prosecutor. I’ve done all my internships and all that in the state’s attorney’s office. But at the last minute, I had a crisis of confidence. And I said, Well, let me see if there’s anything else out there that would appeal to me.
And a small boutique law firm at the time in Washington DC extended me an offer and I took it and they did personal injury law. So I cut my teeth originally doing personal injury law. I was there for about two or three years. My son was a, my daughter’s an actress as a lot of people listen to my podcast know. She’s an actress in Hollywood. My son at the time was a pretty accomplished athlete, and I knew that I wanted to be able to see his soccer games and wrestling matches without having to ask someone.
So I do what I normally do. I just jumped into a new adventure and quit my job with the blessings of my former employers and just decided I was going to open up a solo practice not really knowing what that entailed. And I had run a business before so I had at least made a lot of mistakes and learned from my mistakes in my previous business. What I didn’t recognize was that in the law practice, there are a whole new set of mistakes that you can make.
Davina: Right. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, there’s so much to unpack here and it just created more questions for me. But the very diverse careers that you have had leading up to becoming an attorney, that’s fascinating to me. And like I said,
Neil: They’re not really connected, are they?
Davina: No, they’re completely different. And I relate in so many ways because I owned a high-performance fitness training facility with my husband at one point before I we, well, I was actually after I become an attorney. We had that business for a number of years. And but, you know, I never had that, no, I was in marketing before. But at no point did I ever have such an exciting career as working with NASA. So that’s really, really cool to have been able to have that experience.
Neil: I’m going to tell you, it really was something. I was able to do a lot of different things. I started off in kind of a technical clerical position, and then ultimately became what was called a launch coordinator, which sounds as interesting as, it was as interesting as it sounds. One of my last jobs for NASA was I got to be the roving reporter for the shuttle mission. And so I was able to go down to Johnson Space Flight Center and with a full access media badge and, you know, go to all the briefings and anywhere in the control center and just write up what was going on with the first three shuttle missions. And I mean, come on, It doesn’t get better than that.
Davina: Yeah. Doesn’t get more exciting than that. That’s fantastic. So on to you being an attorney and starting your law firm. Well, first of all, how, about how old were you when you graduated from law school? Because I was in my early 40s. So I don’t know that, you know, I don’t know if you were the oldest in there.
Neil: I was in my late 40s. 49 and a half to be exact.
Davina: Yeah. So you, I understand what that experience is when you’re that, you know, when you’re in your 40s, and you’re there in law school, and you’re looking around going, yeah, these could be my children here. So I’m sure that was a unique experience for you. Tell me about starting your law practice. And what, when did you start your law practice? What year was that?
Neil: Um, let’s see, it would have been 15 years ago. So whenever that, 2004, 2005. I think it was September 2004.
Davina: What was that like for you? Like you said you had, you probably had the same thoughts I did. You’ve had other businesses before and so hey, I can go hang my shingle and, you know, it won’t be bad. And then you learn Okay, this is a little bit different.
Neil: Yeah, I mean, I did all the wrong things in retrospect. It worked out okay for me. And that was more luck than judgment. And, you know, I have a couple of drivers, couple of thoughts that were dominant in my mind. And with respect to opening my practice, they weren’t really the brightest thoughts in the world because, for instance, I didn’t stop to consider and wasn’t as viable and opportunity as it is now.
But, you know, where was I going to practice my craft? And I just thought, well, attorneys need a physical office. That no longer is really the case but that was more the case then. And so but I had a very clear and specific idea what I wanted in terms of office space. And the driving factor there for me is just I wanted an office in a building in which my clients had to take an elevator to get to my office.
Now, don’t ask me why I thought that way, because I really don’t know. But in my mind, the image of somebody coming to an attorney’s office involves taking an elevator. And so I didn’t want to, I didn’t want an office in say, a garden, apartment type setting or a townhouse setting or private residence renovated for law offices that we have all in and around our jurisdiction. I wanted a, in my mind, a proper business office in a building. And I was lucky enough to find space that fit exactly that need. And I got the corner office with windows on either side to boot for a reasonable price.
So there was my first objective, okay? And then I didn’t stop to think how was I going to physically outfit the office? What was I going to do for furniture and desks? And there’s lots of ways to do that now, but I just took the most expedient way and I went to, you know, Staples or Office Depot and just bought something that looked good. And I remember the driving thought in my mind, again, I don’t know where this comes from, but I always wanted to have a dry bar in my office so that after hours, I can invite people over.
And that was the image in my mind that conveyed a successful attorney. Now it’s silly but those were the things that than I did in terms of the physical space. And now in terms of the work that I was going to do, I didn’t really have any exposure to anything other than personal injury from the firm that I was leaving. And as luck would have it, that firm had been doing the litigation work for another firm, another firm that would take the case all the way up to the point of litigation and then turn it over to our firm. Well, the firm that I was leaving was getting to be larger and bigger and they didn’t need that work.
And so they said to the originating attorney, we’re not going to do your litigation work anymore. We have our own cases. But hey, Neil is going out on his own and you work with him, you might contact him and see if he’d be interested in taking your cases. So literally the day I opened the office, the day they turn the phones on, you know, I had to get the phone system, you know, set up. But the day they turn the phone on, literally, the first call I got was from the referring attorneys. They said Hey, your old firm’s not taking my cases anymore. I’ve got about a dozen or so that I need to put into litigation. Are you willing to take them? I said, Yes. Yes, I am.
Davina: Yes, yes.
Neil: So I started off, you know, so my practice area was dumb luck, really, in that respect. But I knew that one of the advantages of being on my own was I didn’t have to be locked into just only doing personal injury. So I looked around and I thought, well, you know, I liked at that time, I liked being in the courthouse and courtroom.
And I thought, well, people are always wrecking their cars, and frankly, wrecking their marriages. And so I thought there would be a vast source of potential clients if I went into family law. They have a pretty interesting kind of program here in the county where if you agreed to take two pro bono cases, you got this free training in family law, which was really very good.
And I thought, well, gee, that’s simple to do. And that started my family law practice area. And at some point in time, I then was doing more family law than personal injury. You know, the vast majority of my cases were family law. And then that shifted as well after a few years of doing family law and enjoying it. My kids, at that point, had grown and they had moved to the west coast. And so I needed to have a little more flexibility in terms of being able to come and go. And again, I looked at the fact Well, here I am a solo practitioner. I should be able to set those rules.
But the thing that was timing down was my ties to the courthouse schedule. So I started looking to see what could I do that didn’t involve litigation? And what interested me? And because again of my age, being a baby boomer, all my peers, all my friends and family, they were all struggling with, you know, aging parents. And so I thought that okay, well, elder law sounds like it would be something really interesting to take a look at. And so I started off doing some elder law cases.
But I found very quickly that elder law devolved into two different categories. You had crisis cases. Mom slipped and fell and broke her hip and she’s in a nursing home. We need to qualify her for Medicaid within 30 days before they ship or out to a rehab center. Or pre-planning cases. People who knew that they wanted to get their ducks in a row in terms of providing for long-term health care, should they need it.
And the former was the crisis type cases required a significant amount of staff because you had to be able to drop everything to help these people because it was, by definition, a crisis. And I didn’t have staff. I was a true solo. And so that was causing me more anxiety than I really wanted. And I found that I really enjoyed the pre-planning aspect much more. A lot less headaches. And that’s really estate planning. And so that’s what I did. So now I’ve transitioned almost exclusively to estate planning and I’m very happy in that space.
Davina: That’s wonderful. Have you, do you have, are you still a true solo or do you have staff or other, you know, paralegals or virtual paralegals or anybody helping you?
Law Practices Going Virtual
Neil: I am a true solo, however, I have outsourced almost everything I can possibly outsource. So I have virtual receptionists, I have virtual paralegals. I have virtual assistants that help, you know, in the ad hoc type administrative tasks. And I’m really exploring the concept of using virtual lawyers as adjuncts to my practice. So I say I’m a true solo in the sense that I’m the only one, you know, with access to the checking account, so to speak. But there are a lot of people that I work with who work with me, for me for pay, but they’re just, they’re not employees.
Davina: No, they’re not in your office. They’re not employees. Are you still in the same office or have you kind of scaled that down now?
Neil: No, I left that a while ago as well because I realized now, or at that point, that the need for physical space wasn’t as important anymore as it was when I was doing, you know, family law and personal injury. So I left that space. And I have a very, very nice office in my home. So I’m working primarily out of that, but I use a virtual office space.
Again, something that wasn’t as available back in the day as it is now. I have an office space arrangement with a company called Regus. REGUS. And they’re international. And it’s really a great opportunity. So what it amounts to is I have a membership there and I’m able to go into the office and book office time under that arrangement for five days in the month.
So I batch up all my meetings with clients on those five days and it just works out really well that way. And what’s particularly advantageous is that they have space, as I said, all over the country and literally all over the world. So if I have to meet somebody in Down County, as we call it, I can book office space there. If I need to meet them Up County, I look office space up, you know, further north. So it gives me the opportunity to have multiple physical locations under one virtual arrangement.
Davina: And how have you found that to work for your clients? Have you ever had any sort of pushback on that? Or, you know, because I know when you talk about having your office there was a lot because I same thing with me when I started my practice 12 years ago, I got an office space and I didn’t get a place with an elevator. Well, I guess it didn’t have an elevator. But it was an old restored building that was built, it was an old hotel that was built in 1865 or something that had been restored
Neil: Sounds lovely.
Davina: Well, you would think, but I think the last time that it was updated was in the 70s. And that was still reflected in the building. So it wasn’t as lovely as one would think. But I had some people close to me point out, say to me, Well, you know, what about your image? Because I expect to walk into a law office and see, you know, receptionists and see this and that. So we have in our mind this image of what a law office should look like based on, you know, TV shows. Whatever the legal show of the day is.
And probably around that time it was Boston Legal or maybe before that LA Law. So we get these visions in our minds just as much as like jurors get their vision in their mind of what lawyers are supposed to look like. And, you know, so as a starting lawyer I think that’s something that a lot of attorneys do starting out. They have this kind of vision in their mind of what they’re expected to do.
And I know that I had people when I left and became virtual, I had attorneys say to me, oh, your clients aren’t going to like that. I remember one guy in particular, your clients aren’t going to like that. And I, and of course his agenda was he wanted me to rent space in his building for a very high fee. But I never found that to be a problem or the case. Have you had any pushback or any comments from clients or any worries that you might not be, you know, really an attorney or whatever as a result of you having this virtual kind of practice?
Neil: Not at all. And in fact, I think the pendulum has swung completely the other way. And it almost tracks the idea of how to dress in the office as well. I know when I first opened my practice, I wore a coat and tie every day, whether I saw clients or not, because to me that conveyed the image of being an attorney.
And then I realized, well, I’m only performing that for my own benefit, because if I only meet clients in client meetings that day, and frankly, I don’t accept drop-ins, then why am I wearing a coat and tie? Who am I wearing that for? Was just so I’d be seen in that uniform when I go out to lunch? And that has some value to it, I admit, but practicality, okay, took the charge and I started wearing, becoming a little more casual. But, you know, if I was going to meet clients, I would put the coat and tie back on.
In fact, I have, you know, suit and coat and tie hanging on the back to the door for just that purpose if there was an emergency or whatever, what have you. But gradually I came to understand that the clients really didn’t care. They want to know whether you can help them solve their problem. And certainly, the clients weren’t getting dressed up to come to the lawyer’s office. And I got to be a lot more comfortable not dressing up.
And by the same token, I found my clients a lot more comfortable coming to a virtual office space. It’s still an office. It’s still, I close the door. You know, it may not be the same if I meet you one week to the next it may not be the same office space itself, but it’s still an office. And for the clients, they feel just as comfortable with that. But I will tell you the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that my estate planning practice now, there’s a fair number of clients and I would say it’s now tipped over the majority, there’s a fair number of clients that I actually physically have never met. T
hey never come office and they prefer it that way. And this eye-opening revelation came to me when I was trying to do some marketing with a group that I love. My flat-track roller derby girls, because that’s another thing that I do on the side. I was involved with his flat-track roller derby and I was doing some marketing with them and I was using them as a test case. And I found a lot of them weren’t actually taking advantage of the opportunity that I was providing them.
So I knew them well enough that I could actually put them in a room and say, what’s going on? How come you guys aren’t taking advantage of this great opportunity? What’s the problem? And they said to me, Well, it’s the difficulty of coming to your office. What do you mean? Well, you know, I work, my husband works. My partner works. If I, if we need to come in, we’ve got to take time off from work. I don’t have that much time or I don’t get time off or what have you. You don’t offer after-hours opportunities and frankly, we don’t want to see you after hours. We’re on weekends. So it’s really a problem.
So now I said, Well, okay, well, how about if I came to you? How about if I met you at your office or met you at your home? They said no because it wouldn’t work in my work, because, you know, that’s the kind of work that I do. And I certainly don’t want you to come into the house because I gotta find a babysitter or I gotta clean the house or what have you. And so I said, Well, how about if we did this online virtual, using technology that’s now readily available.
It wasn’t back in the day. But now it’s everywhere. And they said, Yeah, that’s great. Can we do it via FaceTime, or Skype or just a regular phone call? And you can send me the documents online and I can sign them online and send you the money online. And so that’s the way it’s evolved. And so now, I have, like I said, it’s almost more than 50%. And I think it’s going to continue to climb as I actually market to that audience. There are clients that I physically have never shook hands with.
Davina: Right, right. I couldn’t agree with you more. And I think more and more we’re seeing that. Especially when you live cities, you know where there’s a lot of traffic and it takes a long time to get from point A to point B. So going to somebody’s office isn’t just an hour out of your day, it’s two or three hours by the time you, you know, go have your meeting, come back, that kind of thing. So you can see where more and more people are just, and like you said, the technology has become so much more readily available. And people are getting more comfortable with it, you know?
Neil: Teah. I mean, when your kids can FaceTime the grandparents, you know, it just about anybody can take advantage of video conferencing these days.
Davina: Right. So tell me what, I want to get, I want to have a little bit of time to talk about your podcast because you’ve been doing the podcast now for how long? 4 years?
Neil: Almost 4 years Yeah. Coming up in a couple of weeks on my 200th episode.
Davina: Wow, yeah, I know that you’re at like 196 or something right now. What led you to the idea of doing a podcast? And the name of your podcast is called the Law Entrepreneur and to tell us about the nature of what you discuss on the podcast and kind of what led you decide to do that?
Neil: Sure. I mean, I was a podcast junkie. I listened to a lot of podcasts and I was inspired, I learned, I was entertained. It was to me, just the perfect kind of medium where I could select what I wanted to listen to, what I wanted to learn, who I wanted to learn from, and where did I want to learn it. I could do it in the car. I could do it sitting by the pool. I could do it on the treadmill.
So podcasts, I was an early adopter of podcasts and maybe because I’m a serial employment jumper I entertained the idea as well. I wonder if I could do a podcast? What would I do a podcast about? So I have been entertained by some great older attorneys here in our area who love to tell stories about what it was like practicing law back in the day and I thought will not be a cool podcast. I could do that. And but it quickly dawned on me that I would run out of gas pretty quickly.
And how much of a broad audience would that garner and I said I’m not sure that’s the right thing. Well, right about that time, I had some law school friends who because they couldn’t find a job in the market at the time that we graduated, were essentially forced to hang their shingle and try and go it alone. And sadly, these folks were never taught in law school, how to run a business. And many of them literally never had a checking account or written check.
And, you know, my kids are the same way. My son got a checking account, he said you don’t get us a card? No, this is a paper check. This is how you write a checking account. And so sadly, one of our graduates lost his license because they made a terrible mistake with respect to money. And I always felt that that was a shortcoming of law school because there was a no opportunity in law school. And even the bar associations pay little attention to law firm management.
And so I thought, well, you know, I could do a podcast on what they didn’t teach us about running a business in law school. Oh, wait, there’s my tagline. And so that’s what it is. So the law entrepreneur is built on the question what they didn’t teach us about running a law practice in law school. And so we cater to solo and small firm practitioners about lessons learned, you know, advances in technology, opportunities making, becoming available, and we have three different types of guests.
We have other successful solo small firm practitioners who tell us about their journey and we all learn from that. We have entrepreneurs who have a skill set or vision that lawyers would be well advised to kind of pay attention to for the growth of their own firm. And then we have what I call gadget folks, people who have a product or a service to sell. And we have those folks on as well. And so that makes up the bulk of our guests.
And then anybody else who I think is interesting that has some tangential relationship to the legal profession. If I think they’re going to be interesting and entertaining and informative for the audience that I have, then I will invite them on the show. And if you had told me four years ago that I’d still be doing this podcast, I would have expressed a lot of surprise because I thought it had maybe a six to 12 month run in it. And it just keeps getting more popular and bigger every month, every week, really. So I’m blessed in that regard and I love doing it.
Davina: Right, right. And there’s so many legal podcasts now that are starting to pop up out there every week. There’s new ones that are coming on the scene. So I think that’s a good indicator that you have a lot of people who are interested in these types of topics. We can’t get enough support as attorneys.
Neil: Yeah. And I think one of the things that that illustrates, it just hammers home the point that the legal community needs this type of education, this type of information. They’re not getting it from their law schools, they’re are not getting it from their bar associations, they’re not getting it from private industry. At least not enough and a mass not on a mass level.
There are some law schools that have absolutely incorporated law firm management into their curriculum. But it’s really like a one-credit course or maybe a two-semester course for two credits each. If I were running the law schools today, I would have a separate track just on law firm management because you want to be able to prepare your students. And if they decide that’s the way they want to go that they’re going to be successful and reflect well upon your law school. And the same way with bar associations.
Bar associations, I think are so often focused on the technical aspects of the practice areas. How to stay abreast of family law. What does it know about immigration law? What’s the latest changes in criminal law. But they forget that 50% of the bar association members are small and I don’t know if that’s an accurate number, I’m just making that up. But just
Davina: We’re just making our own statistics here.
Neil: Yeah, yeah. Disclaimer, that number might be wrong. But let’s just say a lot of their members are solo and small, firm practitioners. And they would like to know how to be better at running their office. And then you have some commercial ventures. People have coaching sessions and workshops and that like. So you can take advantage of those for a price, then you got to find the right one.
And I say, I have a lot of law firm development coaches on the program. There are a great many of them out there. You just got to find the one that works with you in the way that you find beneficial. But even then, it’s not as comprehensive as it could be. So I think the fact that there’s so many legal podcasts popping up and, by extension, the fact that we’ve been successful over the course of four years, just illustrates how important the need is.
Davina: Right. Right. And, you know, what is it, like, if you want to work in big law, it’s the top 5% of the class in the top, from the top tier law schools. Well, that leaves, you know, 95% of the other lawyers, you know, looking for other alternatives for their career. And so many of us start our own, you know, businesses and our own practices. And as you and I learned, even if you have business skills, it doesn’t necessarily translate into, you know, running a law firm, right? There’s a lot of aspects of running a law firm that are different from some other type of businesses. And so I think that that, you know, that is definitely needed.
You know, with regard to podcasting, I encourage attorneys to try out podcasting. And I think we could even use more podcasts. Because one of the things that, you know, attorneys that I, that are my clients, you know, ask is what kind of podcasts would I do? Who wants to hear about, you know, this or that? B ut I think there will be more and more of a need for podcasts about particular areas of practice as well as time goes along. What do you think about that was encouraging other attorneys to have podcasts?
Podcasts Are the New Blogs
Neil: Well, I think that podcasting is kind of where blogging was a decade ago. And, you know, when blogging first came on the scene, there was so many people said well, what would I write about? Who’d be interested in what I have to say? And a lot of attorneys jumped into that space. And my good friend Ernie Svenson was one of the first. Ernie, the Attorney. And he’s made an entire career, entire living out of being a blogger and now podcaster and coach. But you know, some people get it better than others. And those blogs flourished. Some people didn’t have, frankly a lot to say, and their blogs languished.
So I think that’s where we are with podcasting. There’s an infinite number of subject areas that can be addressed. And even in the legal space. I think there’s all kinds of subject areas. You just have to figure out what works best for you and what’s the best story you can tell and what’s the best way to go about it. Is the interview model where like we’re doing today where one is interviewing somebody else on their podcast? Is it the dialogue model, such as what Ernie does on his podcast? Was largely just him speaking on a subject that he feels is important and he gets across to his audience.
Or is it some hybrid? I think the next real frontier for that is YouTube. And we’ve already broke or gotten across that threshold because YouTube is an explosive growth area, just in general. But I don’t see a lot of attorneys yet starting their own YouTube channel. So I think the crossover from podcasts to a dedicated YouTube channel where I can literally have a hosted TV show regarding whatever subject I want to deal with in the legal space. I think that’s where you’ll see a lot of growth there as well.
Davina: Yeah, yeah. I think you have a lot of, you know, I think podcasting may be easier for people because they’re not having the video aspects of it. You know, there’s so many people that are so worried about the way that they look. But then, you know, people also don’t like hearing their voices recorded. So, you know, those are all internal issues that you have to get over. It’s the visibility factor. Like you said, with blogging, people saying, well, who wants to hear what I have to say?
You have to really, if you’re using tools like blogging and podcasting and videos to market your firm, you know, you have to kind of get over that fear of being visible to a wider audience and potentially, you know, being judged or criticized for what it is that you, you know, the way that you’re doing it, right? And I found it to be a very friendly kind of environment. Maybe I’m not paying close enough attention to detractors if I have any but what have you found for your experience in podcasting?
Neil: Well, I’m always stunned about the positive response that people have shared with me. I mean, I know my friends and family like the podcast. But I’m always really surprised, and pleasantly so, about the positive feedback that I get. And when I get recognized it’s even more humbling. I was at a, I think it was the Avo Conference in Las Vegas a couple of years ago.
And I’m just walking down the vendor display area, and this woman jumped out from behind a counter and said, You’re the Law Entrepreneur. I went why yes I am. I love your show. She goes and you look just like the caricature. But no actually the caricature looks just like me but okay. I came first. But that was just, I was just shocked about that. And I was playing golf down at the beach and they took my name down because I entered in a tournament and when I went to register, went to check in with the pro when the tournament started.
Said hey, my sister is helping out here and she saw the roster she saw your name she wanted to know is that the Neil Tyra who is the Law Entrepreneur. And of course, the golf pro had no idea what the hell she was talking about. And I said well, yeah, that’s me. Man, can I, she would show like to meet you. Oh, you’re kidding me. Yeah. So that happened.
So that kind of thing, I think is very humbling, and I’m happy about that. But yeah, for me, it’s a door opener. I certainly have used it not so much to market my own firm, although there is crossover but not really as much. It has given me the opportunity to really network and connect with some really important movers and shakers. And I will just tease your audience a little bit. You may by the time this airs, it may already be over but my 200th episode, I have an absolute killer, absolute killer guest that I can’t wait to share with everybody. So yeah, so that’s going to be in on February 10th.
Davina: Oh we will look forward to that.
Neil: Yeah. So I mean, so it’s given me the opportunity here to reach out to people I would never think to talk to, you know? One of my favorite episodes are repeated a couple of times. I interviewed David Berkus, who wrote a book called Friend of a Friend about the science behind networking. And I’ve seen him on an online thing. And I just decided to take the leap and reach out to them and see if he might be interested in appearing on my podcast. And lo and behold, he couldn’t have been happier or quicker to respond.
And it was a phenomenal interview. I learned so much from reading this book and so much from talking to him. And he’s a big-time author and professor at University of, Oral Roberts University. I never would have just reached out to somebody like that. So, podcasting, blogging, Youtube video channel posting. Those kinds of platforms do give you the opportunity to reach out, connect with some people that you might not otherwise do. So and therefore expand your network, and hopefully as a result, expand the opportunities that flow from it.
Davina: Right, right. It’s funny you said that because my next question for you was your most interesting conversation you’ve had. So I appreciate that you showed that. Have you, is there something else that comes to mind when I asked you that question the most, what’s the most interesting conversation that you’ve had?
Neil: There’s dozens of them, really, that have just stopped me cold in terms of how informative and how useful they have been. You know, people like Mike Mogill, who is the CEO of Crisp Video was really just blew me away and just really interesting conversation. His company specializes in doing brand videos for law firms and it’s one of the fastest-growing biggest companies in Atlanta, Georgia. And they did my brand video. So if you go to my website for my law firm, you’ll see the brand video that they did for me.
Davina: I saw it. It was great. It’s a great video.
Neil: Yeah. So they’re great. I can’t say enough about Ernie Svenson. Ernie, the Attorney. Another guy who I spent a lot of time talking with is Victor Medina. Victor Medina is an estate planning attorney in New Jersey but he also runs a conference called MacTrack Legal. And I’m never at a loss of words talking with Victor because he’s just so brilliant and so personable. And, you know, there’s, I could go on and on and on.
Davina: Right. It’s a very enriching experience.
Neil:It’s hard for me to pick out one over the other.
Davina: What kind of, you know, you started out with this podcast and you talk about how, you know, after 10 years of being a lawyer and having your own practice that you kind of started this podcast wanting to talk to people about how they’re running their law businesses to see what you could learn from it for your own law business. What kinds of things stand out in your mind that you’ve learned through doing this podcast that you’ve then implemented and how you run your practice today?
Lesser Known Perks of Podcasting
Neil:Well, let’s be clear and real open about this. I enjoy the podcast is much for the fact that I get a ton of free advice as a result. I get to talk to coaches that I would otherwise have to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to. I get to talk to experts whose services cost a lot of money. I get a lot of free advice and I’m very clear that I’m lucky in that respect. So I’m appreciative and very grateful for that. And yes, my practice has been totally reshaped by what I’ve learned interviewing people on my podcast.
I think one of the biggest things that I learned is the need to outsource as much as you can. And, you know, I had this conversation with one of my guests a couple of weeks ago who, we talked about the challenge that attorneys have that they think before they can outsource work that they have to build up a bank account to make that affordable. And they never get to that point. So all they do is they get stressed and they get overworked and overwhelmed.
And his point of view is, you know, the sooner you can outsource some work, whether it be administrative work or paralegal work or actual legal work that you free yourself up as the owner to use that time to get more business. And so, you know, so that’s really influenced my organization of my law firm. The concept of so that’s one, outsourcing. Another, just by the way, that was Brett Tremblay on episode 195. He owns a company. He’s a very successful attorney down there in Florida with you, but also owns a company for offshore or foreign-based virtual assistants.
So that’s something you may want to take advantage of. The other, second thing I think that I’ve learned and it’s influenced how I run my practice is, and again, this comes natural to me because I’m a techie by nature, but the idea of being able to do everything paperless and electronically. And even though I professed to be a paperless office, and I largely was. I was 95, 98%, paperless, the point was driven home by a client of mine who owned a tech company and hired me to do their estate plan. And when it came time to send them the retainer agreement I, you know, drafted the retainer agreement and I sent it to him as an attachment, an email.
And he chastised me and said, Wait, wait. The Law Entrepreneur doesn’t have electronic document signing? And I went well that’s something I’ve been meaning to get around to. That I had to stop and implement an electronic, you know, contract signing. And that led to electronic PDF development. And so now I do literally an electronic payments system. I use LawPay to plug that company, and then I get anything for doing so. But I love LawPay. You know, so I’ve learned from my guests, the simplicity and the importance of doing those things. And so that’s greatly shaped my practice.
Davina: Right, right. I, what, just before we wrap up here, can you give me some, what advice would you have, you know, out of all these years of doing this and all that you’ve learned, what was like a key piece of advice you would have for new lawyers coming out and starting their own practice. In particular, you know, my audience are women lawyers who start their own law firms, and we haven’t really touched on the differences there. But what advice would you have for them?
Don’t Accept Less Than Equal Opportunity
Neil: Well, yeah, I’m glad we have a couple minutes to spend on that subject because, again, you know, you and your audience don’t need me to tell you the challenges that women have in the practice of law. And if you don’t believe that there are challenges, just open your eyes a little bit more because it is particularly difficult on women. I’ve seen that with my own eyes in terms of how they’re treated in the workplace, you know, opportunities that are made available to them, how they’re paid in the workplace.
So all of that is very real. Intuitively we know that. And a lot of us men just want to hide our heads in the sand and not believe that to be the case. But, you know, I talked with a lot of attorneys, female attorneys who have told me that they came to where they are today because they didn’t have the opportunities, the opportunities weren’t made available to them in big law or the corporate practice or public sector practices they were working in. And so what I would say, in terms of advice, is to for women who are considering a solo practice or small firm is don’t settle for that.
Don’t accept that. Fight hard against that. Because in many ways, you’re more suited, frankly, to the practice of law than your male counterparts are. And you can design your practice the way that it works for you. If you want to have your children in the office, okay, you can do that. If you want to have your dog in the office, you can do that. You know, if you want to take a break in the middle of the day, because the kids dictate time that you need to be away from the office, don’t let a firm tell you that that’s not possible. Because it is absolutely possible.
You can create it for yourself if you have to. But you know the people who are successful female attorneys, who are successful in the solo world, they intuitively get that or they explicitly designed their practice around it. And, you know, I think if you’re sitting on the sidelines, and you’re wondering if, you know, can I do this? Or is it feasible? I would say absolutely. You know, design you desire and what works for you, because you can have a successful, very successful practice that way.
Davina: Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I think that one of my core messages to women attorneys who are solos, and a lot of them are solos. A lot of them are choosing to start their own practices. I mean, there are many reasons. Some of it is because they can’t find what they’re looking for in a law firm environment that somebody else owns. But so many times I hear it’s because I need the flexibility because of the way my family is set up, you know, the way my life is set up. I want that flexibility.
But one of my messages is that you can have that and you can have the monetary success that comes along with it. Because I think that’s so many women think well, I’m going to have this but I’m not going to be able to make the kind of money that men might be able to make if they have started a law practice.
And so that, we’re I think the tool, a lot of the tools what you’ve talked about, what you talk about on your podcast with all the different technology and outsourcing services available to us now, it has really made, there’s really a tremendous opportunity for women to have very successful practices and make money. Make real money. Not just replace a job, but actually have a business that’s profitable by using some of these resources. And it, so it really levels the playing field a lot.
Neil:Absolutely. And I will also point out that I’ve had a number of guests who took a break from the practice of law. In fact, you had a guest on who did the same thing. Took a break from the practice of law. And they worried. Would I be able to restart my career after two or three years of raising a family or however long they chose and decided that the only way to make that happen was to go into solo practice.
That shouldn’t be something that should deter you. If you feel that that’s what’s right for you and right for your family, you can absolutely be successful as a solo practitioner and grow that solo firm and restart your legal career. I’ve had dozens of guests that have done that. And that’s just indicative of the opportunities that are available. You just have to insist that you’re going to make that happen.
Davina: Right, right. It’s an exciting time, isn’t it, Neil? It’s an exciting time with all of our technology and everything.
Neil: I think so. Absolutely.
Davina:Well, we are, you and I have had a nice long chat. I could chat with you probably for another hour, but we probably need to wrap this up. So why don’t you tell us where we can find out more information about you and the Law Entrepreneur so people can find you?
Neil: Great. So, you know, my law practice is at tyralawfirm.com. TYRA law firm, all one word. Tyralawfirm.com. And then the podcast. Our podcast webpage is at thelawentrepreneur.com. So www.thelawentrepreneur.com. And you can find me everywhere on social media. Just search Neil Tyra, NEILTYRA, one word. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. And you can find me on the Law Entrepreneur as Law Entrepreneur on Facebook and Twitter. I would love to connect in any way, shape or form.
Davina: That’s terrific. Thanks so much, Neil. I really appreciate it. It’s been such a pleasure.
Neil: Terrific. Happy to be here and much success to you on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast. I have it in my rotation and will continue to listen to you for quite some time now.
Davina: Great, thank you so much.