Your law firm’s culture has never been so relevant as it is today; in a time where we all face uncertainty, and each one of us has to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation to make it through, your law firm’s culture is probably the single most crucial factor that will determine if your team has what it takes.
Atty Eric Farber from Pacific Workers’ Compensation Law Center and author of the book The Case for Culture, joins Grace and Liel in a conversation about why Attorneys should lead with a humanistic approach.
Eric explains how establishing values and creating a law firm with a mission has helped him build a seven figures law firm that has gone from four people to forty in just five years. During this conversation, Eric openly discusses the challenges he had to face to get to where he is now, and shares with us what actions he is currently taking, to anticipate and prepare for what is coming next.
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Liel: [00:00:00] In 2015, Dan Price made headlines when he committed to give every one of its 120 employees at the Gravity Payment, his credit card processing company, a minimum wage of $70000. To help fund this initiative. Dan cut his own salary from 1.1 million to seventy thousand. His business and employees have been driving since the change. I’m Liel Levy co-founder of Nanato Media and this is In-camera podcast where great things happen when you lead with a humanistic approach.
Liel: [00:01:06] Welcome to In Camera podcast, Private Google Marketing conversations. Grace, thank you very much for being here today. How are you?
Grace: [00:01:12] Good. How are you?
Liel: [00:01:13] Grace, I’m OK surviving. I’m not going to be lying about this. It’s been a rough week. Right. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety.
Liel: [00:01:22] But at the same time, I think there’s a lot of opportunity and there’s … It’s really a great time for us to be more introspective about what is it that it’s happening internally in our businesses and what is it that we can do right now during these difficult times, not just to make positive changes, but to reinforce everything that we’re doing. And for that particular reason, Grace, I’m very excited about the conversation that we’re going to have today because it’s so relevant and it’s so important for us to talk about this that I let you do the honors of introducing our next guest.
Grace: [00:02:03] So in today’s episode, everybody, we are thrilled to welcome attorney Eric Farber from Pacific Workers Compensation Law Center for a conversation on law firm culture. So Eric’s focus on culture has helped him build a seven figure firm that’s gone from four people to 40 in just five years. It’s been an ink five thousand company twice was named to the Bay Area 100 list of fastest growing companies and spent two consecutive years in the top 50 of law firm five hundred. And most recently, Eric published the book The Case for Culture, where he shares the wisdom and tools lawyers need to transform themselves and their law firms culture. The book is available on Amazon as a hardcover paperback, Kindle or e-book, and has tremendous value. Eric, thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to in-camera podcast.
Eric: [00:02:53] Hey, welcome. Thank you for having me. And would just have been going through the audio files. So Audible will be available pretty soon on the book as well. So I’m pretty excited about that.
Liel: [00:03:05] Oh, amazing. How convenient. I must say the Kindle version of it. I’m in the process of finalizing the book and it’s amazing. Eric, thank you so much for putting out there, you’re sharing so much in there. So we just to get started in the conversation. I have a question for you. Your title is CEO and chief legal officer of Pacific Workers Compensation Law Center. Can you please explain to our audience why you use this title instead of just managing partner?
Eric: [00:03:38] Well, one, I’m actually a shareholder because of our structure, so we we aren’t partners, we’re shareholders in our company, but really, a law firm is a business, so I look at it as a business and I want to use the title as a business, as chief executive officer and chief legal officer. You know, I’ve kind of always put it in there because even though I’m really not that that Bilal Kassem, who I started this with the co-founder, he really is that he’s kind of a managing attorney, I guess is the easiest way to put it. But I always feel like every letter that goes out, every email, anything that actually happens, I’m responsible for.
Eric: [00:04:26] So I sort of say chief legal officer and, you know, the buck stops here, so to speak. Right.
Grace: [00:04:33] That makes perfect sense. I mean, you know, how many times Liel, right, that I bring everything back to business. Right? To other, different types of business and different ways of looking at it. So I appreciate that, Eric, because that’s exactly what we try to do here, is let people know that this is the business of law. And so having this conversation with you about the culture of the business of law is going to be great. We appreciate it.
Liel: [00:04:57] Yeah, I think there is a lot of the reason why we brought up that question is because there’s a lot that you can learn about the organization alone just by hearing the title and the way that your organizational structure is looking. And so I appreciate you giving us that insight. And I guess now let’s just get started with some of the valuable information that you recently talk about in your book. So, Eric, one of the things you mentioned in your book is you differentiate between what is the difference between having shareholders for your business and having stake holders. Can you give us a glimpse into that?
Eric: [00:05:33] Sure. I mean, it’s not so much every business, every organization has sort of the shareholders who are the owners of the company itself. And the difference between that and what stakeholders are, which really is everybody that the business touches.
Eric: [00:05:51] So that’s the team, the employees, the team, the community, the clients, of course, the vendors and everybody that’s associated with that.
Eric: [00:06:05] So that’s every every kid sitting in a home that is getting a meal from, you know, from the paychecks that their parents are bringing home. And everybody that the company touches are the stakeholders.
Eric: [00:06:18] And for many years in this country. And it really started, it started probably in about the 50s with with Friedman saying that the purpose of a business is to generate profits.
Eric: [00:06:37] And if you actually go back further than that to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, it really says the purpose of a business is to feed its consumer, so to speak. And so that’s a focus on the consumers and the people who are going to buy your services. And but, you know, Milton Friedman comes along and he basically says, you know, you have to generate profits. And that shifted the focus of a business to the shareholders. In fact, I believe it’s even codified in most state corporation codes, to that they have to, especially for public businesses, that they have to think of the shareholders first. And thinking of the shareholders first is really a bad way to operate, because if you think about the clients first and what you’re serving and you think about the teams and what you’re doing for them, whether it’s personal or professional development, whether it’s, you know, paying more, whether it’s being transparent, whether it’s being a soft place to land for them, whether it’s being, you know, a place of safety where they can raise their hand and say, I don’t understand this, where I may have screwed this up or I’m having a really hard time today or I’m having a really hard time this week.
Eric: [00:07:52] Then. Then the focus is on the people who are taking care of the customers rather than just a focus on how much profit can we get. And I think there’s some great examples of when people when companies focus on profit more than they focus on the teams.
Eric: [00:08:09] Then, you know, you have some really bad violations of ethics. Wells Fargo is an incredible example of this. In order for them to make their quarterly numbers, they decided to open up accounts where people didn’t even know they had accounts to charge them fees, and that the whole purpose of that was to make the quarterly numbers. So they do away with their ethics. They do away with the values of the company.
Eric: [00:08:35] And everybody pays. And so when you turn your focus around and you really think about the clients and the teams that are taking care of the clients. Then things start to change.
Eric: [00:08:50] And in the end, the shareholders profit.
Grace: [00:08:51] That super important. Eric, thank you so much for bringing that. I think that really helps me kind of frame the conversation as well, because, so I’m going to mention something. I am actually a double major in marketing economics. So I happened to read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. And so when you were mentioning it, it just brought like a smile to my face, because you’re right. Right. It’s about the people. And that is what this conversation is. It’s about the culture and the people, not necessarily stakeholders first. So my next question is, you lead your law firm with what you call a humanistic approach. Sure.
Grace: [00:09:29] Can you explain a little bit about what that means to us?
Eric: [00:09:33] A humanistic approach is to make sure that people feel like they have autonomy over their job, even though they might be said, it might be said, look, this is how we do things.
Eric: [00:09:46] And I use this, you know, this old this old saying, I guess is the best way to say it is, as you know, as is the woman who, you know, is preparing a roast for Sunday night dinner and she cuts off the end of the roast and her daughter says, well, why do it? Why do you cut off the ends of the roast? And she says, because that’s the way my mother did it. And so she calls her grandmother and says, why do you keep a run to the roast? And she says, well, that’s the way, you know, your great grandmother did it. She calls a great grandmother and says, why do you cut the ends of the roast? And she says, well I don’t do that anymore. Back when your grandmother was growing up, our oven or our pan was too small. So I had to cut the end of the roast off to fit it in the pan. Just because somebody does something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s right. And so we always say the same thing and we’ve got this thing called the failure log where people have it with them. And they write down any mistakes they see. And so they get to bring those mistakes up and then they get to say, hey, I’ve got an idea to change this mistake. I’ve got an idea to make the process better. So even though you give them you know, you give them a way to do things. You also give them autonomy over how they’re doing them. How often, if you call a big company and you said, you know, this is really ridiculous, you know, and you’re talking the person on the phone and the person on the phone says, yeah, we know it’s really ridiculous, but nobody listened to us. Well, that’s not autonomy over a job, right? If people feel like they have autonomy and they feel like that people are grateful for them being there every day. That starts changing the way they think about where they’re sitting. You know, most people will sit in a cubicle for most of their lives, right? In their work lives, at least you think it has to be something that they want to do. Otherwise, you know, they’ll just go to the next place because it’s a one by one bigger cubicle.
Eric: [00:11:44] So the true humanistic approach is understanding that, you know, you can’t you can’t look at people. And the old saying of leave your personal life at the door is just simply ridiculous. You know, I’m joining this podcast and we’re getting kicked in the teeth every few hours right now. And so, you know, one of the things I did. I know that I’m not the only one that’s feeling stressed. I’m not the only one that’s feeling nervous about what’s going on. I’m in I’m in the Bay Area. I basically haven’t left my house as of 3:00 o’clock today in a week. So I know that everybody is feeling this way. I have spent my time this week joining Zoom calls with our team and then we had a full Zoom call with everybody today because we want to be as transparent as possible. I also want to see their faces and I want them to know that we’re here. I’m on Microsoft teams all day long. So anybody can just jump and say, Hey, Eric, I need to talk to you. And even if they don’t, I want them to know that that’s OK. I mean. Ten minutes before this, five minutes before this, my marketing director, you know she hasn’t. So we’ve have to deal with that. And and we have to be humanistic in our approach to things. We do all sorts of different things that are, you know. Well, you know, occasionally have a meditation session. We have wellness walks. We have, you know, stretching.
Eric: [00:13:21] We have all these different things. Certainly those are great. But what really matters is that you can listen to people and understand what they’re coming to work with. What’s going on in their lives. So we can address those things and we can say, hey, you’re you’re among family here. You know, we know you’re not going to be able to pay attention in that deposition today. We’re going to cover it for you. You know, you’ve got something going on with your family back home. You know, we just had this, oh, maybe a month ago I came back and one of our director level people, you know, I said, hell, where is she? And they said, she’s in Mexico. Her grandmother’s very sick. And and there’s nobody else to go take care of her. And she’s probably going to pass. And I said, OK, I’ll give her a call and make sure she’s doing OK. It wasn’t where the hell are you? We have work to do. The work can sometimes wait. But the amazing thing is, is when you build this kind of teamwork, that what I have found is that people step in around them to sort of take care of the other people and they know that they’re going through it. And they also know they do the same for them. So our teams of three, which are our case management teams, are very often, constantly operating on teams of two. So because they’re covering for each other, you know, the likelihood that something’s going on in somebody’s life.It’s happening all the time.
Liel: [00:15:03] Yeah. Eric, thank you so much for sharing that. I think having read your book, your law firm has had its fair share of situations where you guys have really had to come together and support all their team members during difficult times. And the resilience that you can see that exists within your teams is amazing and it’s tremendous. And so I really think that is probably the best example of what the right culture, what the right values can do for your law firm. And so without any doubt, we are fully confident that you guys will continue in your great path to success despite these difficult times that we are all in. And so I think a lot of us can take a lot of inspiration in the way that you’re handling your team right now and such. So you’ve mentioned something and I’d like to dive into that a little bit more. So you’re telling us that you’re being remote for these whole week, since pretty much last Friday. Thank you very much for taking those steps to keep your community and your team safe. How’s your days looking like right now? So you say you were available on teams throughout the day. So if any one of your team members needs you. How are you managing a client anxieties. How things are working now for you in a way that, yes, it’s stressful, but you guys need to stay strong and be and be a pillar to both your clients and those team members that rely on you.
Eric: [00:16:38] Well, there’s three pillars. You know, it’s team clients, community, and one where… I’ve always felt technology. Every company is a technology company.
Eric: [00:16:50] You can be a law firm, but you’re technology company, too, right? You can be a media company. You’re probably closer to a technology company. You can be a dry cleaner right and you can be a technology company. So we spend an awful lot of our budget every year on cloud based systems. So we have a lot of extra laptops and things like that in the office we brought everybody together now a week ago Tuesday, I said within one week we want to be home. I’ve been I think it’s our duty as leaders to make sure we know what’s coming down the pike. Anticipation is one of the greatest things a leader can have. It’s the great line by Jeremy Irons in the movie Margin Call if nobody’s ever seen it. It’s great movie to see the CEO of a huge investment bank that’s about to, that has discovered the crash is just a few days away. And he says, why do I get paid the big bucks? Because once a year, I’m asked to predict the future. So anticipation is, is everything. I saw what was coming down the pike. I’d started looking at the virus issues in January. In fact, probably January 10th. A friend of mine send me a video from China. So. I wanted everybody home by, within a week, we’re actually pretty much out of the office. I said it last Wednesday, actually, we’re pretty much out of the office and everybody is ready to go. Started to work on it, at home on Monday. Everybody was pretty much out of the office by midday Monday with the exception, just the people that that need to be there to process mail.
Eric: [00:18:38] So that was it. It was technology based, but I wanted to do it quickly. And I’ve already heard of some firms laying everybody off because they don’t have that, which is just awful. Right. And how do you keep going? But, you know, unfortunately, I’m in the worker’s comp business. We represent injured workers in northern California. And the workers comp courts aren’t quite the same. So they’ve suspended all hearings this week. They’ve suspended the medical unit to get medical appointments for our clients. It’s just because we’re able to do it doesn’t mean that the industry can do it. And so we are running into our new challenges. And we we have work. We don’t have slack, but we have a Facebook workplace which is similar to slack. So we’re posting messages on there. We’ve told everybody that they need to check in with that. We have set up what we’re calling the Pacific Workers Cafe and calls ourselves PWC Pacific Workers Cafe, which is a drop in at lunchtime, I guess, for about two hours. You know, sort of bring your favorite beverage and, you know, jump on Zoom and talk to us. But most importantly, most importantly, it’s about the leadership. Going to our people and talking to them. In clear direct messaging, I think there’s huge opportunity. I’m just gonna come out of this. We’re gonna go low before we go high again. But there’s gonna be incredible opportunity that comes out of this for the places that can get their stuff right. This is a time to really streamline our processes and our answers and our consistent messaging to our clients.
Eric: [00:20:29] If you’re not gathering up the 10 most frequently asked emails that are coming in, then you’re doing it wrong because you should be grabbing those, giving consistent answers to them and handing them back to your team and say this is what you should say. Right. And because everybody’s asking the same questions right now. Your team has to know that you’re real leader and real leaders jump in and real leaders lead. This is it. It’s not enough to have a title. That’s nothing.
Eric: [00:21:08] So, you know, and I’ve been working really, really hard in developing people for this exact purpose. So 90 percent of the stuff is being handled by Irving, who’s our director of operations. He has been unbelievable in, you know, within one day he had, you know, 20 pages of, you know, frequently ask questions from working remotely. And then our wellness program director is putting out, you know, how to stay, OK? And that I am I am literally listening to podcasts and joining webinars on how to lead a remote team. And, you know, there’s Michael Mogill who wrote The game changing attorney is putting out videos every morning that are spectacular. He’s one of the smartest guys I know. And and I have to watch his video yet this morning. But I’ll tell you what, I think it’s my new meditation because he gives me a lot of energy when I watch this stuff. So you’ve got to keep going. Meditation is a great way to, you know, to to keep yourself calm. If you freak out, your people will freak out. Yeah. So if you’re an angry boss, you’re going to have a lot of other angry people around. If you are a compassionate boss that really does have values, you’re going to have people around that that are compassionate and have values. So what we are right now is very much a reflection of who we are.
Eric: [00:22:42] My partner, Bilal Kassem, is far more calm person than me. So I’m the guy who reacts quickly. He’s the guy who says, OK. But let’s figure out how we’re going to message really well. And I practice that over the last five years and I’ve also practiced trying to listen over the last five years. Active listening shows empathy and trust and doing with your team and doing with your clients and teaching them how to do with their co-workers, etc. We don’t have any yelling and screaming in our office. That’s the only law firm I’ve ever been in that doesn’t have any. It’s not OK, right? It’s not OK. So if at this time this is about clear, consistent messaging to your team so your team can give clear, consistent messaging to your clients and then we are posting on on Facebook, all sorts of different things, trying to inform the community as much as possible. So that’s how we’re trying to operate. I don’t have much else on that. I mean, it’s that if you’re going to be, if you are listening to this and you’re a leader in your law firm or you’re leader of a business, now’s your time to actually be a leader. It’s not just about the money wrist as an investment.
Grace: [00:23:59] It’s about the trying times Eric. And I so appreciate you explaining the humanistic approach. And honestly, that really brings the 360 degree culture. Right, of the law firm. How do you feel that 360 applies now? And what is it? Can you give us a little bit about that?
Eric: [00:24:19] Well, I think a lot of what we’ve just been talking about is that 360 culture one is it encompasses everybody wanted to humanistic approach and and there’s all sorts of things that really go with a culture. Right. I believe discipline is just as important in culture than anything else. You know, the talk I give, I’ve got a slight of a foosball table in the tech world. Right. And I say this is not culture. That’s fun. And you can have fun like we…
Eric: [00:24:49] We’ll save a lot of money because every Friday we all get together. Right. And once a month, we have firm lunches and we have big events all three times a year. And so we’ll save somebody on that stuff. But that’s our fun site. But you can only have fun if you got discipline and discipline is the phone’s answered within three rings that you know, that it’s transferred a certain way, that there’s certain ways of doing things.
Eric: [00:25:17] And but that brings back in. People say, well, you’re too disciplined. No, we’re not even that disciplined. And and and I preach discipline because it’s really, really hard to get discipline into a company. So but once you do all those different things, once you get your procedures down, once you get a good hiring process down the right people in the door, then you could point, you know, as Jim Collins, who wrote Good to great, great by choice and some of the best books out there, as he says, you know, get the right people on the bus, get right the wrong people off the bus. And what that really means is, is you’re setting a set of values, you’re setting a mission, you’re getting the right people on board who share those values and the ones who don’t get them out. It’s as simple as that. It’s kind to get the people who don’t share the values out, let them go find a place that’s better for themselves.
Grace: [00:26:18] You’re a hundred percent, right. I actually just, I had to, Liel I have to say something about this because I just looked up the definition of culture and the verb itself is to maintain conditions suitable for growth. It’s exactly what you’re saying, Eric.
Eric: [00:26:35] Absolutely, I mean, the word culture actually comes from the Latin cultist, which means to care. And if you’re a business owner and you haven’t started exploring people like Daniel Pink and Brené Brown and Simon Sinek yet. It’s time.
Liel: [00:26:51] Yeah, actually, it’s interesting you’re you’re mentioning Simon Sinek because he was a few days ago in LinkedIn right? Showing a video, sharing and saying like, how is he connecting with his employees. How is he making what he is calling Monday morning huddles where he’s inviting his entire team to join a Zoom call. And they just have a few minutes of each talking about how they feel. Right. Just kind of keeping that human connection, because it’s very easy when we are in situations in which we are now to become very transactional when you’re in an office working as a team. There are small little interaction that are happening that are keeping the workplace human and personal. But when you remove all of those elements out of the picture, you can very quickly transition in to a place that is mainly transactional and where you are just the means to something as opposed as the one of the driving factors. And I think, you know, it’s a simple video. It’s probably a few seconds long, but it actually does a good. It just it’s a good reminder. Right. And there’s a lot of that content coming out now. And I think a lot of us can take a lot of inspiration on that. But I want to go back to something that you were saying here, Eric, that it’s about hiring the right people. You make it sound very easy, but in reality, bringing on board the right people is not that easy. What advice can you give to business owners, law firm owners as to how they should go about finding the right people for their team? And I know this cannot be a blanket formula. Depends the position, but just some high level advice that you can give us with regards to this.
Eric: [00:28:38] Liel, you’re absolutely right. It’s not easy to hire people. And boy, oh boy, did we go through a lot of people finding the right people. But it was. But we call it having a predictive hiring system. And there’s plenty of great books out there on hiring. I think Adam Robinson’s book, The Best Team Wins is probably about the best that I have found. But you know what I recommend to people to find a philosophy and then put it in. One of the reasons I like Adam Robinson’s philosophies on this is his philosophy works whether or not, regardless of what what you’re hiring for, whether you’re hiring lawyers or C-suite or the person in the mail room. Essentially, we’re asking the same questions. You have to start with, you know, with some deep stuff, you know. Do you have a mission in your law firm? What is the mission? Do you have values? Have you written them down? And then for each job, you really have to identify what are the soft skills that are required. You know, some of the hard skills, 90 percent of hiring is not about the hard skills. But, you know, I do want to make sure they can, you know, write a sentence that is grammatically correct and you know, how to use a computer. And in a way that, you know, in a way that they can be efficient, but most do. A lot of those things are pretty on these days or, you know, people know those things. So what we’re looking for is a type of values. And we put out ads that go, you know, garner a lot of response. And if we don’t get a lot of response, we wait. We wait until we find the right person. We’ve hired the wrong person just because our pool of candidates has been too short, too small before. Not a good way to hire.
Eric: [00:30:31] So we wait until we find people and then we literally send them our job description, which are very detailed. And they try to encompass as much as we possibly can in the real, everyday practical tasks that need to be done. We say you might be on the phone if you’re assisting case manager for six hours or more a day on the phone. If they don’t like talking to people on the phone, forget it. If they can’t connect with people, forget it, and then we have we have telephone interviews with about, about 10 percent of the resumés. And I’ll tell you something else, if a resumé has a typo in it, I don’t care how good that person is or they look on paper. Just go to the next one. If they can’t even get their own marketing right. Go to the next person. You can hire a marketing executive who who has a typo in their own marketing document? No way. They can’t proofread. So we just go to the next one, which is why you sort of whittle down to only about 10 people that you’re gonna talk to on the phone. Then we bring in. It really starts to become clear about halfway through a phone call with them. Who’s right?
Eric: [00:31:51] Most important, they’re very scripted interviews and we tell them in advance. You know, we say this is gonna sound really scripted and it is because we want to give everybody the exact same questions. So everybody has an equal playing field.
Eric: [00:32:06] And then we just ask the questions and then we just sit back and listen if we want to know more, we have basically two response questions. Tell me more. Describe. And that’s about it. Occasionally we will. You know, they’re always broad, open ended questions because you want people to start talking. And I tell some good stories about this in the book. You know, the woman who, you know, purposely made somebody cry, you know, and she told this story with such you know, she told this story when she was actually in the interview with pride, because I think that’s what she thought. Law firms want to see. So, you know, it was. And then we identified immediately that she lacks empathy, which is one of our core values. It’s how you connect with clients. So you’re going through and then you’re picking the three best people, maybe you have five. It’s unlikely. Usually you have one or two.
Eric: [00:33:01] And by the time they get to the office, you pretty much already know that they’re right. Then you just want to get a look at them. Do they dress well? Do they have good hygiene? Do you know? You know. Do they? Will they fit in? Will they fit into the office culture?
Eric: [00:33:19] And I got to say, it’s been very rare that they’ve got in our new, we’ve been doing this hiring system for about a year, a little more than a year. It’s very rare that somebody comes in that that we’ve brought in, we haven’t actually offered a job to.
Eric: [00:33:39] Most people do it the same way they bring somebody in because they see the resume and they say, oh, wow, they weren’t assistant at a law firm. That was a criminal firm. You know, we’re a personal injury firm, but they’ll be able to adapt. Right. And then they bring them in and they say, oh, we’re really great place. We’ve got lots of clients. And and, you know, we have happy hours, you know, every I don’t know, every quarter or whatever. And we’ve got these great benefits and we’re really nice people. You want to work here? When can you start? Right. And they negotiate a salary and they negotiate a start date. You know nothing about that person. That’s why, you know, essentially it is shut up and listen. That’s an interview. That’s how you learn about people. And when when something comes up, you just say, wow. Can you tell me more about that? Can you describe that situation? Here’s another thing that is my favorite in this process is do they remain in touch with their previous supervisors, not their co-workers, their supervisors? Because real professionals and you want to hire a professional, whether in the mailroom or there in the C-suite. Real professionals, stay in touch with the people that have come across their lives, that have made it, that have been impactful. And most of those are supervisors.
Eric: [00:35:03] So, you know, that’s a great way to tell. So the other way to tell is, you know. They say, well, I lost my job, there was layoffs.
Eric: [00:35:18] Well, not good enough. Can you describe what happened in the layoff. Where they part? Was there half of the people in their department laid off or was the whole department laid off? Because, you know, we interviewed a guy that said he was laid off. OK, well, that’s always a little bit of a red flag to me. What’s not a red flag is he says, my entire department was laid off six months ago. They wanted me to stay. So they pulled me into a different department. And then they laid that department off. Well, boom, right there. If an entire department is laid off and they keep one person and he’s the person that they kept to go to a different department before they laid off that entire department and didn’t offer anything new. You know, other company’s going under or it’s in really bad shape. But this is the one guy they’re trying to keep around. So just because they say there was layoffs. Don’t move past that. Find out what happened in the layoffs. Were they, you know, if they kept half of the people. Why weren’t they the half that they kept? If they say something like, oh, well, I was being paid more than everybody else. So they let me go. Well, you know what? If I’m a company that is going through some tough times, I may want to keep the person that’s worth more money, that’s being paid more because they’re worth more than the person who’s being paid less.
Eric: [00:36:41] You know, at the end of the day, if it’s a job that you talked about, the difference in two $2 an hour that they’re being paid more. That’s only four thousand or so dollars a year. Right. So if they’re letting go, the person who’s being paid more, that’s not the real reason they’re letting that person go. So there’s all sorts of things you can learn if you just listen and ask the follow ups. That’s how you got to get a predictive hiring method. Everybody that we’ve hired so far, with the exception of one or two people, have been spectacular, you know, calling a reference. And, you know, I remember the very first person that we hired through the system. We kind of got to the end. And I just knew with the references would say, but I didn’t know they’d be that sort of gushing. And one of the women, I actually tell this in the book, you know, one of the one of the people that we called the employee had moved away from the area to go to school. And she said she said, well, you know, she had a life change and she left here. Wish she were still here. And she kind of talked about how great she was. And then she just said, look. If you don’t hire her, you’re just stupid.
Grace: [00:37:53] That’s a really glowing recommendation.
Eric: [00:37:58] Right, exactly. Or the person who I called who had worked at a bank and banks are notorious. You know, you can’t call a former supervisor. They’re not going to talk to you. They’re going to say, call HR. This woman said, well, you got through to me cause she put it on there. So here’s my cell phone number. Call me after hours, because we’re not allowed to talk to you. So I called her after hours wondering and she’s like. Same thing. She was like, we’re not allowed to talk to you. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you of all good things.
Grace: [00:38:30] That’s fantastic. So I think you actually. It’s so in-depth. The response. I really appreciate that. Particularly because I think it’s giving a lot of people some help right now with everything that is going on. Right. Because now I think and I feel that the culture is an integral and always was. But this is kind of showing even more how important the culture is in a firm. Right. How the leadership treats its people, how the people feel when they’re there and how in turn the clients get treated as well. Right. Because it’s all from top down to everyone else. Right. So I think, you know, you’ve spoken a lot about the culture. And I know we’ve discussed a little bit about the 360 and all that. But with all these unprecedented times that are going on and with all the challenges that these attorneys are facing right now, how do you feel? What kind of information can you give us or can you help to navigate these current turbulent waters and essentially remain a pillar to the team? Can you give us some additional insight, some things that you’ve learned while you’re going through this right now specifically?
Eric: [00:39:44] You want to ask me in a month.
Grace: [00:39:46] You know what, we’ll probably do this again in a month and hopefully we’ll be in a better place. And that way you can tell us exactly what you’ve been dealing with, even more so in a month.
Eric: [00:39:59] Look, these are unprecedented times.
Grace: [00:40:01] Yeah.
Eric: [00:40:02] We’re living in a disaster movie. Collectively. I think you guys are in Austin, Texas, right?
Liel: [00:40:11] I live here.Grace is in…
Grace: [00:40:13] Fort Lauderdale.
Eric: [00:40:16] The Bay Area’s treated this way. We’re the very first area, 7 million people to go on lockdown. This is headed your way. All right. You need to know. You need to treat this as though you already have it. All right. I know seven people are eight people now all over the world, not just here. No, somebody in London. Two people in Bali. Two people in Florida. So this is going to be a massive, massive disruption to your business for lawyers, prepare now if they’re listening to this today or tomorrow, I am going to do my best to keep chin up. Think about the opportunities at the end of it. I might have to make some very, very hard decisions within a very short period of time. We are a business of cash flow as most law firms and we have to know, do we have enough to to keep everything going? We are still signing cases. Hallelujah. Right. But there’s going to be opportunities. There’s gonna be opportunities for marketing, cheap marketing. Very inexpensive.
Liel: [00:41:32] Yes we’re seeing it now.
Eric: [00:41:34] I called my billboard company in and I said, hey, I got six dollars. How many billboards can I have? They weren’t amused. But I know one of the biggest buyers in our area just cancelled his order for next month. There’s no cars on the road or there’s very few.
Eric: [00:41:56] We’re going to see changes like we’ve never seen before. And they’re going to go on for several months. Can you sustain and can you come back? And there’s going to be a lot of hard, hard leadership decisions. Don’t pass them to your team to do on your behalf. You’re the boat captain, you’re the ship captain. Right. I’ve already said if I go down, I go down. And then I’ll come back. I got kicked in the teeth on 9/11. I got kicked in the teeth in two thousand crash. I was representing almost all dot coms back then in entertainment, media and athletes. So 2000 was terrible. And then 9/11 was terrible for everybody. In a very different way. And then 2008 was terrible again. I had 90 some percent hourly clients in one day, 14 clients go bankrupt in one day. It was the day, they all called me the day after I set my highest billable hours back then on a new client. He called and said, I’m not setting the retainer. We’re actually decided to close shop. So, yeah, this is we’ve been through it, but I don’t think we’ve ever been through it like this.
Grace: [00:43:17] On the global scale.
Eric: [00:43:19] It is a global scale. All our stores are closed, all our businesses are closed, with the exception of a very, very few grocery stores, gas stations, banks, drugstores. That’s it.
Eric: [00:43:35] So can I tell you what’s coming down, how I’m doing this? I’m meditating in the morning. I’m drinking a lot of coffee. Trying to get exercise. I’m meeting with my teams. And that’s the best I can tell you right now.
Liel: [00:43:50] Yup.
Eric: [00:43:52] But clear, calm, direct messages, as soon as I get off this, I’m gonna go sit in my backyard for a few minutes. Before I pick up the phone.
Liel: [00:44:01] Yeah, absolutely and I think we just need to also keep keep the right mindset right right now, particularly because of the shift of changing our usual working environments, having our routine being as disrupted as it is now. May in a way or another unbalance us in a way that we are now starting to pay attention to things that are very, very important. Right. We all want to know what’s the current status of the pandemic of each one’s local community and what can be done to mitigate the damage. But at the same time, it’s very easy to lose the focus on your business, your clients, your employees and your responsibility towards them. And so it’s very, very important to stay focused, stay centered and not let just the overwhelming amount of information that’s coming your way get to you. And I think and I’m not gonna say that, you know, previous times that we’ve been in similar situations, we know that there are less impactful because with the sheer size and magnitude of it. But I also think a big role in it is that probably this is the first time that we are coming through situations like these, leaving in a media world, living in a world where we are 100 percent connected all the time to our mobile devices, t.v.’s, you name it. Right. And so we’re bombarded all the time with information. It’s making it harder for us to see past that and keep focus on things that have to do with our business. You’ve mentioned Michael’s videos, saw that he’s doing every single day. I think, you know, yesterday he brought up a very, very good point, which is we are paying too much attention as to what’s happening on the stock market and what’s happening with the numbers with regards to Corona virus. But what’s happening with the numbers and your law firm? This is the time to pay attention your email. This is a time to pay attention to your marketing numbers, to your budgets and to see what you can do and what opportunities are there for you to explore? Absolutely. I don’t want to say that these are not the times that we need to attribute importance where it lies, which is keeping our communities, our clients, our partners safe. But it’s also time for us to find and be creative about our businesses.
Liel: [00:46:16] So I really, really like that. And in that note. Eric, I really would like to ask you about something, an initiative that you guys have and I think it’s fantastic and it’s a positive one. And we’d like you to talk to us about that. Which is your be a hero program that you currently have in your law firm.
Eric: [00:46:33] Yeah, we’ve been doing that for a long time. Look, we consider ourselves heroes to the community. We consider our clients heroes to the community. You know, our clients, the people that keep the community moving, they’re health care workers, they’re first responders. We’re the largest supporter of the Oakland fifty five local Oakland fifty five union, which is the most pretty much the most powerful of all the unions in California for the firefighters, they’re police officers. But there are also in-home health care workers, there are also delivery drivers there are teachers. We represent a lot of teachers. They’re retail workers. They’re warehouse workers. They’re the people who keep our communities moving every single day. I spent 20 years representing athletes and entertainers. How important are they today compared with how important are the grocery store clerks? The first responders.
Liel: [00:47:35] We can look at the bad art of the Imagine video that the celebrities put out a day or so ago, that didn’t go out very well.
Eric: [00:47:44] Right now, they don’t care. Right. Yeah. If you’re 20 million dollar a year, you know. I won’t mention the team, but they said, oh, we’re gonna put in a hundred thousand dollars or something to a fund for all the people who work at the stadium. I thought are you kidding? It’s like 15 minutes of your highest paid of your highest paid guy.
Grace: [00:48:11] So true.
Eric: [00:48:14] But, Mark Cuban, thank God for Mark Cuban, right? He’s paying everybody. And he understands what’s going on. And, you know, I don’t know if anybody listening has any power out there in the world, but, you know, to pay the airlines when nobody’s flying. Is ridiculous to me. Right. To give them three hundred billion dollars to keep things going at the airlines. Forget it. When people want to fly again, then give them money right now, get it in the hands of the people who need it.
Eric: [00:48:48] You know, that’s it. I mean, look, I’m not trying to turn this into a soapbox of what’s going on. But I’m here in Ground Zero. I mean, Seattle’s really ground zero. But nobody shut down as fast as California.
Grace: [00:49:02] You’re 100 percent right.
Eric: [00:49:02] My hairstylist, you know, you got to see me on video, so she’s you know, there’s not much to do every three or four weeks. But I’m gonna have, you know, pay her. My gardener’s still coming. My pool guy, even though he sent a note saying he can’t make it and I haven’t figured out why. There’s going to be people out there that you’re gonna pay in advance because they need. They’re literally going from employed last week to zero this week. There’s going to be 50 percent of the people are gonna be out of work for at least a month or two or more. So we got big issues that we’re about to face. And I know you guys aren’t here, but I’m sort of, we are three days ahead of you.
Grace: [00:49:59] We’re all in this together.
Liel: [00:50:00] Exactly.
Eric: [00:50:02] Yeah. And in Florida. Wow. They haven’t closed the beaches. Unbelievable.
Grace: [00:50:08] Spring break. Spring break. They still are having it.
Eric: [00:50:11] Who cares?
Grace: [00:50:11] I don’t get it.
Liel: [00:50:18] If something’s coming out of it, is that a lot of things are getting exposed. And it’s going to be very hard to excuse some of the behaviors that in the past may have gone…
Eric: [00:50:33] Unnoticed.
Liel: [00:50:33] But it’s going to be hard to make those same arguments that have worked in the past in this climate. Eric, thank you so much for your time. We know that these are challenging times and the fact that you’ve still kept your promise to join us for these episode means a lot to us.
Liel: [00:50:53] I think if we would have recorded this a week ago, we would have had a completely different conversation. But quite honestly I think that this conversation, what you’re sharing how honest and human it is, it’s not just going to be useful for attorneys around the country, but basically employees and businesses. Whether you’re an employee or you’re a business owner. So thank you so much, Eric.
Eric: [00:51:19] You’re very welcome. Listen. People could get the book on Amazon. I’m going to talk to the publisher about dropping the price right now so people can grab it. You can also find me on like linked in Twitter at real Eric Farber. I’m on Facebook. If you want to send me an e-mail, you just want to chat. You just want a phone call or, you know, to try to, you know, run some ideas or, you know, as leaders, we need our own support groups. Right. Eric@farberco.com. There is a site for the book. I am putting out reading lists which were supposed to start in April. I think probably going to hold off just a little bit, you know, with a blog. I’m not I don’t have a consulting company. I’m not trying to jump in and sell you anything if you want to buy the book. I’d love it. And great.
Liel: [00:52:15] Yeah. And it’s already at a great value, honestly. I don’t think that it requires for a price drop about, but absolutely. Anyone who has some time to dedicate to read something that’s actually going to help them and help them a lot in this time. Highly recommend that book. I am enjoying it a lot. All of these links can be found on the episode notes. So thank you, Eric, again for joining us. And we’re looking forward to having this conversation in the near future. Hopefully better times.
Eric: [00:52:42] Thank you. You guys stay safe. And all the listeners, stay safe, too. OK.
Grace: [00:52:47] Thank you.
Liel: [00:52:47] Thank you.
Liel: [00:52:51] Grace, what an enlightening conversation, an honest right. Because I mean. We are all in a time of a lot of uncertainties, but there’s one thing that it’s clear, right? We need to remain leaders, not just to our teams, but in our communities to our clients and to make sure we don’t lose focus on the things that matter and the things that we have an impact on. And what do we have an impact on is our organizations, whether it’s a law firm, whether it’s a marketing agency, whether it’s any other kind of business, you can control up to a certain extent what happens inside your organization. So take charge of that and use it for the best. And Grace, again, like all of our conversations, there are so many takeaways and many of them are actionable. But we always have to boil it down to three. So let me put out what I think the first one should be. And this doesn’t change under any circumstance, whether we are in a pandemic or whether we are in business as usual. You should always be a put your team first. It’s really kind of like a cycle, right? Leader, take care of employees. Employees take care of the clients and then the clients bring it all back to us, right? Their recommendations, their reviews, their continuous business is what keeps us afloat. And so I think that’s the reason why we always put our teams first. And one thing that he mentioned, Eric, is that you need to build a trust. Right. You need for your team members to be engaged enough to be able to accept when they don’t know something, when they make mistakes. Comfortable enough to know that they will have your support and that they will find guidance in you rather than fear and reformation. So building trust is an essential element of putting your team first. OK. So I think we’ve both agreed on that. What other takeaway, Grace, do you have?
Liel: [00:55:03] Due to a latency issue, Grace’s audio was momentarily lost, anyway at this point Grace, introduced our second takeaway, which is create lists whether it’s a failure log for improvements or frequently asked questions.
Liel: [00:55:21] Frequently ask questions so you can streamline communications within your organization and be consistent in the messages that you’re putting out there. Right. Not only it simplifies things for your team, but it also enables for a better experience from the customer’s standpoint, from the client. Right.
Grace: [00:55:39] For Everybody. Yeah.
Liel: [00:55:41] The worst thing is to be told by someone one thing and then call again and ask something similar and then completely hear a different message. It complicates, create confusion and then leads to frustration. And for your team, it just makes it easier for them to be able to know. Okay. This is what I referred to. This is how I address this particular situation. Grace, that’s the most important thing. I remember going back to my hotel days like every time.
Liel: [00:56:06] And this was, we were talking about organization that had up to ten-fifteen thousand employees around the world. And when things like these would happen, right, we would get a communications for corporate office with very, very specific guidelines as to how we should talk and how we should address every single question that could come in relation to a topic. So anyone across the organization doesn’t matter whether you were staying at our hotel in Tokyo or what are you were staying at, our hotel in Atlanta, you would hear the same response and the same message. And so that’s the power of having these kinds of lists in place. But let’s now talk about the other one that you say, which is the failure log. So first of all, that ties back to building trust like you can not expect for people to create a list like these if they don’t know that they have your support in having conversations about failures and how to improve and take steps to get better results in the future. So, Grace, I honestly love that.
Grace: [00:57:12] Yeah. I mean, it’s super interesting, right? I mean, it’s just a whole other way of looking at it, but it’s always been there, I guess. Right. And you and I always talk about consistency is key and the space to be able to converse about these issues. This is what the whole podcast is about. So to have the idea of a failure log is fantastic and it gives them, your team a forum to have a discussion and improve themselves. I mean, there was something called individual development plans when I was a manager at Target many, many moons ago. And they that’s what it allowed you to do. It allowed you to see, put you in your highest and best fit and train on the things that you weren’t good at. It didn’t put it exactly like a failure log, but it was a training log, which is the same thing. I mean, these are the things I lack or these are things that I need to get better at. And call it a failure log. There’s nothing wrong with failing. Failing is an opportunity, right?
Liel: [00:58:07] 100 percent. Grace, 100 percent. There is. Yeah. You know, and we hear this a lot across many different companies. People are trying to demystify the concept of failing. It’s part of the cycle. I guess you just want to make sure that when you are in that situation, you get up and move on, take a learning experience and get on with life. Of course, you know, there’s a difference between people who are talking and preaching. We’re talking about your average LinkedIn influencer telling you about, you know, I love failure because failure taught me. I mean, that’s an extreme, right? That’s an extreme. You don’t have to push at that point, but. But at the same time, you need to understand that it’s part of business development this period of growth. And as long as you respond to failure with the right approach, you should be OK. OK, so that was a good point. Now, Grace, let’s go to our third and final take away. What what would that be?
Grace: [00:59:11] That is having to do with the company, right. Hire with a purpose. Isn’t that the whole point? Right. I mean, culture, how are you going to have a good culture if you don’t hire with a purpose? So part of that is really, as he mentioned, as Eric mentioned, it’s knowing your company’s mission and values. You have to hire based on that. You can’t just pick something out of a hat and say, oh, that person, I think will be good or this person will be great because they used to work at a law firm already. Whether it’s different from mine or not. No. Do you know your company’s mission? Do you know your company’s values? Are they going to fit with your culture? you have to work with these people every day or multiple times, hours per day? And how many times Liel, have you and I said we spend so much more time with people we work with. Even you and I spend more time together than half the people at home. I mean, right now it’s a little shifted a little bit, but even the remote workers have to spend separate, separate themselves from even their own family while they’re running around and having to do work. So.
Liel: [01:00:14] Right.
Grace: [01:00:15] Hire with a purpose.
Liel: [01:00:17] Yes, absolutely. Know your mission. Know your values and every single candidate. Just like Erick said, it doesn’t matter if he’s going to be mailroom clerk or if he’s gonna be a C-level executive. You want to make sure that you are measuring them against your culture, your values. And of course, depending on the position, you may be more interested to looking at attitude over skills. Right. Because skills you can teach, skills they can learn and they can adapt. But having the right attitude, having the right approach towards the business, towards your team is something that needs to come from within.
Grace: [01:00:56] Can’t be taught.
Liel: [01:00:58] Right. And so you want to make sure that you’re bringing the right kind of personalities to support your efforts and that share your vision and your goals. Grace, this was another great conversation and we are carrying on, right, because life carries on and we need to make sure that we find within these challenging times that we are opportunity for growth, opportunity to improve ourselves opportunity to become better in what we do. And I am looking forward to our next conversation because there’s gonna be a lot of insights that will help us achieve that, though. Let’s get on it.
Grace: [01:01:39] So, guys, as Liel said, we’ve made it our mission to help law firms grow. To begin with and have no bullshit conversations as it is. And so everything going forward will be colored with obviously what is going on today. And so we will shift just slightly how we can help you. Besides the typical SEO this and the other. How it’s really, truly being affected and how you are being affected. So we will do our best to have everything focused on that to assist you guys in this crazy time. And you know, because we’re going through it, too. So we’re going to try and give you as much insight and assistance as possible. And even today. Eric on here, ask me a month from now. Right. And we will we will ask him a month from now. And I think we will ask a bunch people how they’re faring, what they’ve learned, and we will share that with everybody.
Liel: [01:02:34] And you, listener. Share your thoughts. Share your experience. I’m sure there’s a lot that we can learn from what you’re going through. And we need…
Grace: [01:02:43] Yes.
Liel: [01:02:43] We need to hear from you. We want to hear from you. So, Grace, thank you very much for keeping it real and have everybody a great day ahead of you.
Liel: [01:02:52] Thank you very much.
Grace: [01:02:52] Thank you all.
Liel: [01:02:58] If you like our show, make sure you subscribe. Tell your co-workers. Leave us a review and send us your questions at email@example.com. We’ll see you next week.