The final post on my entrepreneur-lawyer journey. Read parts one and two.
After the startup gut shot, I only had a year left in law school and coincidentally, my final clerkship that I had lined up was about to conclude. So, at the suggestion of my tech startup partner, I joined his search engine marketing company and we decided to focus on that business until our next idea came to us. This situation was ideal for me because I could make good money and continue to hone my computer skills, all the while looking for our next billion-dollar idea. From a small business perspective, we made a great team. Still to this day we can say that we have never lost a sale when we met with a potential client together. To be honest, I think that people were impressed with our ability to translate the tech concepts into business principles. The law degrees didn’t hurt either.
Launching My Law Firm
After I graduated from law school, I was still working with my business partner in his company and we were discussing the possibility of me solidifying the partnership by me buying into the company. I had been splitting time between practicing law and helping with the tech company, and it was time to commit. I partially blame my recent open wound caused by the failed startup, but I decided that I needed to pick one venture and focus 100% on that venture. I saw the opportunity in practicing law and decided that building a law firm would be my next startup.
So, as I sat in my office of nothing more than a desk, a cell phone, and a computer, I built a website for my law firm. I remember it well because I stayed up all night and knocked it out in one quick swoop. I used all the knowledge acquired and honed while building web sites for the tech marketing company and applied it to my own site. My goal was to build a law practice that centered around business.
I launched the site and didn’t think about it for the next few days while I set up my legal documents for the firm and worked on other operational set up tasks. Then, my phone rang. It was a client. Then another. After some investigation, I found out that I had managed to build a website that immediately ranked #1 for many terms including “business lawyer Little Rock,” “Arkansas business law firm,” and “AR business attorney.”
I snapped pictures with my cell phone showing my firm placed immediately above a few of those large, prestigious firms for which I had recently clerked. It was a funny and amazing experience when I thought about how the Internet works. But, in the end, my website was professionally developed, and I was professional on calls and to new clients and I still, to this date, have never been asked about my experience or my age when it comes to new client intakes. I accredit my previous experience to this amazing statement.
Because of this, I had the opposite problem of most new law firms: I had too many clients. Given that they don’t teach you how to practice law during law school, I had to solve my newfound problem before I lost clients or, even worse, failed to properly represent my new clients. My solution was to find experienced attorneys willing to teach me how to practice law by co-counseling with me and my clients. My older, wiser co-counsel loved this relationship since they were able to simply practice law, make money, and not have to spend money on marketing for the clients that I brought in. Little did I know that this technique that I “invented” would shape my future practice in such a huge way.
Johnson & Vines, PLLC
After approximately eight months on my own, I had sent such a significant amount of work that, after futile attempts to hire me as an associate, one firm offered to partner with me in a new firm. They were successful in the rural areas of Arkansas and I saw it as a great opportunity to handle marketing for a larger entity with a larger budget and, at the same time, further develop my legal practice skillset. For reasons outside of the law firm, the partners broke up after a few years. I was left with the infrastructure to handle new leads, a system to produce new leads, and the staff to support a law firm.
Around that same time, my current law firm partner had left one of those large corporate law firms mentioned earlier for many of the reasons that frustrated me all those years ago. He had the large firm and complex litigation experience a fully developed law firm business plan with marketing ideas that were similar to mine. However, despite knowing the importance of online marketing, he lacked the background and there was a blank space on his business plan where online marketing should go. My entire business plan happened to exist in that blank space, and thus the partnership was born.
American Injury Attorney Group
When we formed Johnson & Vines, PLLC, both of us had acquired a medical device recall client. We both were investigating the claims but knew little about the litigation and nothing about the world of “mass torts.” As we talked about the firm infrastructure I had built, we really dug into the problem that I faced for years and that he was only beginning to face: despite popular belief, one lawyer cannot acquire sufficient experience in every area of law. At least not to a level comparable to another lawyer in the area. In fact, we came to believe that in almost every situation, we could scour the network of lawyers we’d worked with and find a person that would add value to the representation of each client. We decided to start a new company called AR Lawyers Group, which would eventually become our present company, the American Injury Attorney Group.
The concept was to build a firm that put clients first in every situation. We took the consideration of profits/revenue out of the equation and decided that with any new client, we would always consider every lawyer that we know. Should we know any lawyer that could provide any additional value to that client, we would split our fees (without raising fees to the client), and bring that attorney on-board to help with the representation of our client. Since inception, we’ve grown our network to include hundreds of attorneys with co-counsel in every state in the US.
We started out marketing for everything from business formation to family law issues, but since have honed our marketing towards complex and mass tort litigation, including medical device recalls, bad drugs, toxic torts, and class actions. Our law firm has partnerships and co-counsel relationships with some of the largest and most-prolific plaintiff firms in the country. We have lawsuits filed against huge corporations including Exxon, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Bayer, Syngenta, and many similar. But, in the end, we could never have managed these with the small firm we had when we entered into many of these litigations. Our partnerships have allowed us to take on these corporations and represent hundreds of individuals.
In addition, we’ve seen the upper echelon of litigation tactics and lawyering and trial skills. We made a large bet that forgoing profits to benefit our clients would pay off to both our clients and, eventually, to our firm. This is only the beginning of our firm, Johnson & Vines, PLLC, and the American Injury Attorney Group. We are changing the way you find a lawyer with each new client we sign up.