e11. Law Firm Marketing: Ann Thayer, The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC – Starting a Solo Practice During a Pandemic

September 4, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin
Ann Thayer is the Founder (and Attorney) of The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC. With her law firm, she represents juveniles and adults charged with traffic, criminal, and DUI/DWI offenses. She also handles domestic violence and civil protective orders, dangerous dog and other animal cases, as well as expungements. In addition to her years of experience in law, Ann served as Co-Chair of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for two years. She is a member of NCDD and a founding member of DUIDLA, two DUI defense organizations, whose goals are to help attorneys protect their clients’ rights in DUI-related cases.  
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Who is Ann Thayer?
  • Ann shares her law practice journey.
  • How Ann has been managing her practice during COVID-19.
  • Ann shares how she gets cases.
  • Why Ann focuses on juvenile cases.
  • Ann talks about her mentors.
  • What to do to launch your solo practice—even if you’re scared.

In this episode…

Have you been thinking about starting your solo practice? Are you worried that this isn’t the right time because of the pandemic? Ann Thayer launched her solo practice, The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—and has been making strides. Want to know how she did it? Listen to this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast with Matthew Laurin as he interviews Ann Thayer, the Founder of The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC. They talk about how Ann started her law practice, why she decided to go solo, and how she’s reached success on her own during a pandemic.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Esq Marketing, your firm’s strategic search marketing partner. Esq Marketing helps law firms generate more clients and cases using search marketing and helping them land on the first page on Google so that clients can find you right away. We help companies ranging from those with 10 or less members to those with over 50 in their team, essentially creating a marketing department for them to help them reach potential clients with ease.
 

Episode Transcript

Intro

You’re listening to the Esq.Marketing Podcast hosted by Matthew Laurin, President of Esq.Marketing, where he features successful solo and SMB law firms from all over the United States. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Matthew Laurin

Hey, I’m Matthew Laurin, President of Esq.Marketing. And you’re listening to the Esq.Marketing Podcast where we feature successful solo and SMB law firms from all over the United States. This episode’s brought to you by Esq.Marketing, we help law firms generate more clients in cases using paid and organic search. And speaking of successful law firms today I had the pleasure of speaking with Ann Thayer, Attorney and Founder of Ann Thayer, PLLC. In addition to her years of experience in the law, and has served as Co-chair of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for two years. She is also a Founding Member of the DUIDLA and NCDD organizations whose goals are to help attorneys protect the rights of their clients in DUI related cases. Ann it’s an honor to have you on the show.

Ann Thayer

Hey, how are you? I am just a founder of DUIDLA? I wasn’t a founding member of NCDD. But I remember I just I don’t want to take credit for something I didn’t do.

Matthew Laurin

No, no worries. I think it says that on your website. Um, maybe I read it wrong. Maybe I read it wrong.

Ann Thayer

I am the founding one for DUIDLA, but I’ll have to double check things. If that’s wrong, I’ll make sure I get it.

Matthew Laurin

Oh, yeah, no worries. So the DUIDLA um, I read like a snippet about it just so that I could say it on here. But what is that all about? Is it like an organization of attorneys or?

Ann Thayer

Um, yeah, so there’s two different organizations, the National College for DUI defense has been around for a really long time. And when I started with the firm back in 2007, my boss got me involved in that and they’re dedicated to all DUI defense. So they sponsor a lot of seminars throughout the year and all targeting DUI defense. DUIDLA is a DUI Defense Lawyers Association. A lot of those founding members and people that started that organization, originally were part of ncbd and kind of split off. They started that organization back in 2014. And I’m one of the founding members of that organization. I still participate in both organizations, they both do a lot of seminars, we just had the DUIDLA seminar last week, it was virtual, it was supposed to be in Texas, but Austin was shut down with a lot of things for bigger groups. They did it virtually, which was interesting. They did it all over zoom. And that’s cool. Very cool. Very,

Matthew Laurin

very cool. So my first question I wanted you to kind of just take me back to the beginning, I looked through your LinkedIn profile, it looks like you you’ve worked for a lot of law firms, you’re a public defender, or worked in the public defender’s office for a little bit. But take me back to the beginning of your journey as a lawyer and how you kind of got to where you are today.

Ann Thayer

Um, well, my dad was a police detective. So I always kind of was interested in criminal law. And when I first started out and pass the bar, I took the first job I found, which was as a public defender actually did a lot of juvenile defense and domestic assault cases there. And I really enjoyed it. The main issue was it just didn’t pay much. You have student loans, you have bills, you know, that sort of thing. So I found I went, I was there almost two years and then went into private practice for a firm. And he did a lot of DUI cases and got me trained and things on the field testing and breath testing. So I did that. I really liked working for him, but it was back around 2008 when we had that recession, we just weren’t busy. I felt like he was going to have to let me go. So I started looking for another opportunity. And found another firm that was out of DC and Maryland that was starting in Virginia and I was their sole attorney for a while they are now have a much bigger presence in Virginia than they did back when I was with them. And after being with them a couple years I found a law partner joined up with her she already had her firm set up I was 5050 partner with her for eight years. And I’ve been wanting to leave for kind of almost as soon as I was with her but it’s one of those things you’re scared to go out on your own and do it by yourself. And I

Matthew Laurin

know how that feels.

Ann Thayer

I finally kind of forced myself to take the leap last year to get it going. And of course I did that and pandemic times. But it’s been okay so far for being a brand new firm and a pandemic. I think I’m doing Okay,

Matthew Laurin

Wait a minute. So you just launched like right before the pandemic hit

Ann Thayer

I launched my firm February 1.

Matthew Laurin

Oh my gosh, I didn’t know that. I thought you had been practicing for a couple of years. I’ve been practicing since I’m sorry. Like with the with your firm. They started

Ann Thayer

now my new my own firm open February 1. So that’s so crazy. You know, our year I’m good, right?

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, I mean, if you can found a company, no matter what it is at the beginning of a pandemic and still be still be alive. You know, as it’s getting a little bit better than I think you’re you’re good to go long term. This is this is like the worst climate to start a business in ever.

Ann Thayer

It is But I’ve been doing okay, I’ve worked with all the court committees. So because I’m on those committees over the COVID, when the courts were closing and doing different things, I knew how to get cases into court from being on those committees. So I was able to resolve some things that might otherwise not have been resolved that quickly, just to kind of push things through, or to get my clients earlier court dates and things like that, just from being on those committees. That’s why I do that. It’s a lot of time to invest in those, but it helps me to help my clients. So that’s my main is just to keep informed on what’s going on.

Matthew Laurin

I’ve spoken with some other attorneys, and they’ve really had to adjust their strategy for meeting with clients who are attracting new clients or getting clients to actually do consultations with them, because they may be afraid to come into the office in person. And have you noticed that at all, or is that is there a learning curve,

Ann Thayer

that hasn’t really changed too much for me over, I would say over the last 10 to 12 years, I’ve been really good at talking to people over the phone. If people really want to come in person, I would make that happen. I’ve tried to limit that a little bit more, because being a sole practitioner, now, I’m kind of all over the place. So it’s a lot easier for me to do a phone call or even a video than it is to wait on someone to come into the office and things like that or to get back from court and time to meet somebody. So I’ve tried to target that more, even outside of COVID with being more open to video and things and getting more things done. COVID kind of fed into that a little bit, I haven’t had too much of an issue with that. Good to hear. And then being a small firm, I don’t want to have to worry about cleaning and having people in and out and things like that. So I think virtually I’ve tried to adjust as much as I can, with phone calls, my clients get my number, my cell and my email and all that anyway. So I’m pretty open with my clients and people calling in. So that hasn’t hurt me too much in terms of attracting clients. It’s hard to know with my marketing steps, what’s worked and what hasn’t, because in the middle of a pandemic, and there’s some other criminal changes, too. So there’s so much going on right now. I don’t know, what’s the cause of what’s working or not working?

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, it can be it can be. So and a lot of attorneys are hungry, obviously, when they start their own firm. And like you said, there might be some apprehension about generating business. How are you out there hustling to get cases?

Ann Thayer

Um, I wouldn’t say I’m hustling necessarily. But like I like I said I wouldn’t be bad phrase. Well, no, no, and but for criminal like if I see something going on, like there was some things that happened at the courthouse recently with the marijuana cases, and I was able to step in, and I didn’t make any money off that. But I was able to hand out some cards and help some kids with the prosecutors getting rid of marijuana cases. And then they weren’t like they’d sent letters out to them. And then they weren’t getting dismissed. And it was a big issue. So we were able to kind of get that stuff fixed. I saw a girl the other day that was about to go in front of a really bad substitute judge on a 90 something reckless and I was like, you’re gonna go to jail and like, don’t do it. And the judge tried to warn her and she wasn’t listening. And I guess her mom finally was like, Hey, listen to her. So they ended up hiring. So just stuff like that, where you’re not like, I didn’t even hand out my card. She came later and found me and asked me for it. I just didn’t want her to get screwed and have to go to jail. You know, so yeah, I guess that’s kind of my hustle. And then I do a lot of social media posting, like my Facebook, my Instagram, like just trying to I use a lot of funny memes and to kind of spin it into criminal and traffic stuff, just to kind of educate people on what’s going on in Virginia and get feedback and so that I’ve gotten some things from that too. So I guess that’s kind of my hustle.

Matthew Laurin

I’m a huge meme fan, I love memes, um, I first thing you said, though, is pretty cool, because it kind of it sounds like, I’ve always thought that the most successful, you know, lawyers or business owners or whoever are those that are passionate about their work, and it that kind of comes through and what you’re saying that you’re really passionate about helping people and you’re kind of just there, you know, seeing what you can do. And maybe it sounds like that’s playing into to helping you get new business to,

Ann Thayer

it has and I do a lot of protective orders, which have been huge right now with like the pandemic and things that people were kind of in a tough situation with those cases either not having somewhere to go if it’s on the petitioner side or the defense side, when they can’t come back to their home and they’re not able to get a hotel. And it’s been kind of there’s been a lot of that right now with families and people stuck so much together. A lot of animal dog bite cases, I guess animals are getting just as restless and anxious as their owners. So I feel like there’s been a huge amount of those cases coming through to or it used to be. So some of the things I’ve already been doing in my past practice covid didn’t really affect that a little bit. My DUI stuff I haven’t been doing as much there haven’t been as many in my mind. In terms of DUI cases, people just not haven’t been out and about bars being closed things like that’s true. Or, you know,

Matthew Laurin

I’m in from speaking with you before you had mentioned that you like to do or you like to focus on juvenile cases. Is that was there a conscious decision to kind of focus on that area or,

Ann Thayer

um, I’m the oldest of six so I’ve always been around Kids, I have a lot of nieces and nephews and things. I believe, like, when I first started out as a public defender, I did a lot of juvenile cases. So the juvenile code is a little bit different than the adult statutes. And it gives us more creativity and ways to help kids. So I like to kind of help steer them back in the right direction and get them the services and treatment and things that they need. So we don’t have to see them back in the courts, or they don’t have to go to detention. So I feel like if you can help make a difference with them early on, it could keep them coming back. And, and that’s where my passion is a little bit because I think people forget that they have the same constitutional rights and things that an adult does. You know, parents get mad at me if they say why you can talk to my kid by themselves. And I say because they’re entitled to attorney client privilege. I don’t it doesn’t matter that you hired me and I got I’m gonna fight for them the same as I would an adult. I just want to give them a better chance, you know,

Matthew Laurin

That is so cool. Yeah.

Ann Thayer

So that’s where my heart is, but not as many of them lately. I think kids have been laying low a little bit.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, yeah. I feel like with everything, um, yeah, people have just been staying staying inside. And maybe there’s less of less of that going on. But that’s really neat that you’re able to I totally agree, like, so I have five kids too. And my oldest is 14. And are not too I know, you said you were older. So yeah, I guess. But my oldest is 14 and, um, got your life just changes when when you have kids and and you probably feel the same way having younger sibling seeing that, how they grow up, how they start, how they grow up, and you just really look at people differently. And I

Ann Thayer

would say that my younger siblings had it way different than my myself and my older my parents kind of learned and a good friend got his driver’s license, and he posted it. He was following on Facebook post the other day, he’s like, Oh, I’m following my son. He’s like, like, freaking out. And I said, I was like, well, don’t forget to call me if there’s tickets. And then some of his friends started popping up. They’re like, Oh, you do those, but make sure it’s not just speed and things like that. And here’s the cool, the cool lawyer it.

Matthew Laurin

That’s awesome. Um, yeah. So it’s cool that you’re able to, to help kids out when they’re because they are still kids at that point. I mean, they’re not I, it really bugs me when I see, like headlines where kids have committed a crime, even serious crimes, and they’re being charged as adults, or they’re, you know, being dragged through the court system. And

Ann Thayer

in a couple of

Ann Thayer

those, and they went differently. I had two kids kind of similar. Well, what not similar circumstances, but one that got involved with another kid and committed a pretty serious offense, I felt like he should have stayed in juvenile court. He was like, honest, like cooperative, like, was completely remorseful and they just were like, no, this is too serious. We’re sending them up to adult court, and they wanted a prison sentence. And the judge was like, No, I’m not doing that he won’t make it there. He’s like, I’m gonna treat them as if I’m going to sentence him under the juvenile stuff and give them a chance. So even though he has a permanent felony, violent adult conviction, like he didn’t have to do the several years he was really facing. And then I had another kid same type of charges. And they were really pushing for him to have that kind of stuff. And finally, I pushed and pushed and pushed. And finally, they just didn’t have the evidence on him. He was kind of, he really wasn’t the one involved. And they finally figured all that out, got it situated. And luckily, his case went away. And I had substituted in on that his attorney been trying to push him into a felony plea. And they were just like, but I didn’t do it. And, you know, I finally got involved, it all went away. And he just sent me an email that was back in March. And he just sent me an email about a month ago and said, I just want to thank you, because I wouldn’t be here with my family having dinner. And it just made me feel good. And I was like, well, it’s like, you know, it’s kind of

Matthew Laurin

changing people’s lives. That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s so great. Um, so almost every lawyer I talked to, there’s like someone in their life professor or first boss, something like that, where they’ve been a major influence in their life, or in the direction they’ve taken for you who’s been a mentor on your journey to you know, starting your law firm and doing the things that you’re doing now. Um,

Ann Thayer

I’ve had a full been a couple different pushes with that. So my boyfriend and family and friends have always been pushing me, why aren’t you doing this on your own that sort of thing. You had that kind of behind the scenes. And then what really finally was the final push for me is I attended two seminars actually a year ago. One is in San Diego for the DUI deal, a conference where I have several different attorneys UI friends throughout the nation. And the other one was the Crisp Video Marketing Summit. And I was at that last year with some other they were I also met one of them through the DUI organizations, and then his buddy who does personal injury. So we were all kind of there together. And they really between the two conferences and the friends I had at those conferences. They were like, Look, why aren’t you going out on your own quit, like dealing with your partner. They’re like, go do this. And so those two things and then push me they kind of like, I wouldn’t say it was a bet but they were like, you’re never gonna do it. And I was like, I can do it. got me going. And it was kind of that first step, I was like, I’m gonna prove them wrong, I can do this. And so then I had a couple things happen with my old partner that was just kind of the last off, you know that last push that you’re like, you know what, I gotta do this on my own. And so I did it. So nice. I would say the different attorney friends I’ve had, my dad was always a good influence he passed away several years ago. But my family and friends, like people just look that to you. They pushed you to say, hey, my mom always saying, hey, I want to see your name on a farm. You know, those kind of things are ways to do it.

Matthew Laurin

That’s really cool. Yeah, I know, the peer pressure sort of thing. And the competition can be really powerful. In a good way, when, when you need that extra push. So yeah, that’s a really neat story. So if if there are new attorneys out there, that’s that’s primarily our audience. What, what piece of advice would you give them? If they’re kind of in the same boat? Like maybe they’re working with a partner? Or maybe they’re working at another firm? And they’re thinking, Man, I got to get out of my own, but I don’t know if I can do it? What piece of advice would you have for them? I mean,

Ann Thayer

there’s two components to that, like one is the business side of things, which is the marketing and advertising and see how you’re going to go in that direction. And the other is, making sure you learn and understand how to handle the cases you’re going to handle. Because we see a lot of new attorneys out there doing things with cases that we’re like, oh, my goodness, what are you doing? And when we see that we try to mentor people and say, Hey, this is really how you should do it. You really need to have people you can ask questions of I just had lunch today with a group of people that work with me on the committees and things and we talk about our cases and throw out questions, we’ll message each other and say, Hey, you know, the case for you know, whatever, you really need that group of people to rely on that can help you. Because you can’t do everything.

Matthew Laurin

And sometimes someone’s support system.

Ann Thayer

Yeah, you need that. And so I really, you need to find that. And then in terms of going out on your own, you need to have a plan, like the bar has a lot of checklists. That’s what I did. I researched the ethic parts of things. I researched the checklist on what you need to do. I tried to keep my office expenses down, like my actual like startup with furniture and stuff, I got a lot of used furniture and things but it looks really nice. I spent some time searching for things. And I tried to keep my actual, like, office stuff down and then spend more on marketing and advertising. Because I knew with the being a new firm, I wanted to come out strong and be competitive and start getting cases, I brought a lot of cases with me from my old firm, my client, your clients get to choose where they want to go, Oh, they all they all came with me. So I had a little bit of startup. And then I got the website going a couple months before I was ready to leave. You know, I talked with my partner back in December, we decided on the end of January, like termination date kind of thing to wrap up a lot of things and then I was ready to go February 1. So

Matthew Laurin

that’s great advice. Yeah, um, yeah, I’ve heard that from, from a few people that have asked that question of where they talked about having a plan. And I think it’s just so important to have at least a rough idea of what you’re gonna do. If not something written down on paper, we’re gonna take this step by this timeline, or this step by this date and, and having it all worked out. So that’s, that’s great advice.

Ann Thayer

You can go hang your shingle and just go out without a plan. But I’m kind of more of a planner.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, I think that’s why a lot of businesses fail in the United States is because people, they, their technicians trying to become business owners. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, The E-Myth Revisited. It’s a lot about starting a business and starting mature business. But anyway, one, one story he tells in that book is why why a lot of businesses fail. And I think it’s because a lot of people go out without a plan. And they’re technicians they’re good at doing you know, one thing and then they try to make a business out of it, but they don’t really realize all these other things that go along with owning a business, all the you know, all the accounting related work, all the marketing related work, all the sales related work, all the administrative related work, aside from you know, the actual service that they’re delivering, so, it’s cool that you were able to do that successfully.

Ann Thayer

I will tell you people, that’s one of the things I’m having to learn is my last partner and I we were 5050 we each did a little bit of everything, like I did a lot more of the marketing and advertising and things so having to do the books, making payments for bills like you know, accounting stuff, doing all your case files, talking to new people deciding on your marketing things, you know, staying up to date on your continuing legal education being involved in the committees it’s you gotta have to space it out and budget your time a little bit.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, you quickly realize you know, not only what you’re good at what you’re not but what you want to do and what you don’t want to do and like they’re saying their CEO and then there’s an accountant and their marketing person and and their sales representative and whatever and and then I think you can pick out what you what you can delegate first. Like I hate doing this, when I get enough money, I’m gonna hire a person to do this.

Ann Thayer

And also learn to like I was working really, really like 18, 19, 20 hours, you know, for a few months there and then finally was like, I can’t keep doing this. So now I try to make a list. Every day, I’m like, Okay, this is what I got to get done today, this is what I’d like to get done. And if I have time, I’ll finish these things. And I try to give myself a cut off time so that I’m not here till 10 to let you know in a minute, and balance with those things, too. So I tried to just take care of whatever is really priority for that day, and then fit in whatever other things I can because you always have new things that pop up whether it’s a new console or set from the committee’s that I’m working on, you know those type things.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah. Yep. Great advice, guys we’ve been listening to Ann Thayer, Founder of Ann Thayer, PLLC. And where can people go to learn more about your firm?

Ann Thayer

So you can go to a few places. I have a website which is it’s Thayernovalaw.com, so it’s my last name and then Nova for Northern Virginia law dot com. I’m also on Facebook under The Law Office of Ann Thayer. I’m on Instagram, LinkedIn, a little bit on Twitter. And I also have some YouTube videos that I’ve been filming to educate people about different parts of Virginia law things. So I’m out there a lot try to educate people as much as I can I do free consults for all the cases that I handle to make sure I can answer your questions that I’m the right fit for you. That sort of thing. Gives us each a chance to figure that out, make sure I can actually help you. And then once you hire me, we’ll get started with actual pieces so you can find me on any of those places.

Matthew Laurin

Sounds good. Thanks for being on the show, and I really appreciate it.

Conclusion

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