e10. Law Firm Marketing: Brian Zeiger of The Zeiger Firm – Practical Steps to Keep Your Solo Practice Startup Cost Low

September 5, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin
Brian Zeiger is the Founder of The Zeiger Firm, which specializes in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. He’s a trial lawyer through and through, with a passion for jury trials and protecting people’s individual rights. When he’s not in the middle of a trial, he also excels in record clearing, expungements, government pardons, and federal pardons.  
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Who is Brian Zeiger?
  • What it was like in the early days of Brian’s firm and his initial marketing strategies.
  • Brian shares why he chose to become a trial lawyer.
  • The biggest challenge Brian had to overcome when growing his firm.
  • Tools Brian uses to efficiently communicate with clients.
  • Has civil unrest impacted Brian’s civil rights litigation cases?
  • Brian’s advice for attorneys who want to go solo.

In this episode…

Starting your solo practice is a significant and expensive decision. You want to rent an office, buy office furniture, hire an assistant, and set aside a monthly budget to run your marketing. But what many don’t mention is that you might not have a lot of incoming cash flow for those first six to eighteen months. So how do you start your solo practice with all you need in place while keeping your cost down? Catch all the details of keeping your solo practice startup cost down on this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast as Founder of The Zeiger Firm, Brian Zeiger, chats with host Matthew Laurin. They talk about Brian’s initial strategies when growing and marketing his practice, why he chose to go this route, and his preferred tools for keeping consistent communication with his clients. Keep listening.

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 I feature successful solo and SMB law firms from all over the United States. This episode is brought to you by Esq Marketing, we help law firms generate more clients in cases using search marketing. And speaking of successful lawyers today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Brian zeiger. Brian is the founder of the zeiger firm and specializes in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. He’s a trial lawyer through and through in the trenches every day fighting aggressively to get justice for his clients. Brian, welcome to the show.

Brian Zeiger

Hey, Matt, thanks so much for having me.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, no problem. Thank you for participating and we’ve, we’ve had a lot of different attorneys on the show, some criminal defense, but I don’t think anyone’s been as involved in trial litigation as you. I mean, I know a lot of attorneys do that. But you seem to really relish that.

Brian Zeiger

Yeah, I, when I get a case and I meet the people, I’m instantly from the minute I meet with them, I start thinking about what we’re going to do at trial. I appreciate that a lot of things don’t go to trial. But I prep and think about cases as if I have to try it from from the very beginning, both with criminal and with civil rights. I probably done approximately about 120 jury trials as lead counsel. And so I’m constantly thinking, you know, well, let’s try this one. So let’s prep it like we’re gonna

Matthew Laurin

chance prepared, right? Yeah. So Brian, take me back to the beginning. When you started your firm, what was what was that like?

Brian Zeiger

Well, at that time, there were three of us and we we were rented this really, really tiny office in a very middle of the road kind of building. And we were able to, you know, sort of sort of get started there. And about, you know, we didn’t, we had almost no cases. And then about maybe nine months later, there was a tenant next door to water down the hall that moved out. And we sort of made a deal with the landlord to take over that space as is. And that was kind of a mess as well. But that was like a real office. So we were able to have a real a real office setup at that spot.

Matthew Laurin

And were you guys were you guys doing the same types of cases back then criminal defense, civil litigation,

Brian Zeiger

uh, back back then we were basically focused on criminal defense. Okay. Um, we were basically focused on criminal defense and we did a lot of criminal cases. Of course, when you’re on your own like that the beginning you’re hungry. If and you know you’re lean, and so you’re doing what you can do in order to overcome that hunger and no longer between. and and, you know, use your time in order to attempt to justify your living, and doing that to your family and your spouse and your friends and all that. So, other cases do come in, but we attempted to hone our skills on criminal defense. Yes,

Matthew Laurin

gotcha. Gotcha. And so like, when you’re starting that off, and it’s the three of you, and you’re looking for cases, was it a referral network? Or were you doing your own marketing or how were you? What was the plan to generate business? So, so it’s really interesting question. Um, so at my age,

Brian Zeiger

I am on the cusp of people who grew up with and embrace computers.

Matthew Laurin

Me too,

Brian Zeiger

in childhood, and people who did not embrace and use computers in childhood. I remember in you know, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade getting a home computer. I remember having a computer in a classroom at school in maybe fifth grade. I remember those things I remember working you know, earlier in life where everyone did not have a computer on their desk. Right and then I remember later earlier and work work everyone had a computer on the desk and there were no longer shared computers. So I remember Daisy wheel printers. That everyone for me, I remember the sounds of the daisy wheel printer and I remember tearing the sides, the dotted sides off the sides of the paper. I remember having a laser printer at home was a big deal. Yeah, it was when at home color printers came out and and not getting one because of laser printer was a better thing to present at work or school. And I say that to you because when we started There was a thing called the Yellow Pages. That was it was a thing, especially for personal injury lawyers in the Philadelphia area. And there was a thing inside the Yellow Pages called a double truck. That was when you opened the the book, if you will, if someone had an ad that ran the entire page from left to right across the entire page, that was called double truck, they had had the entire opening. And that was somehow some symbol of success, I guess in the community was that well, they have a double truck. So they therefore must be a real law firm and or that there was sort of the back cover of the yellow pages or on the front there was like a magnet that they stuck on to the front of the Yellow Pages. And these things were all sort of a very big deal and you can only get in once a year because they only publish the Yellow Pages. What One time. Yeah. A year. So. So we started, right, I believe, when that form of advertising was falling off a cliff. And people started using the Yellow Pages for like coasters.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, mine was a doorstop. So,

Brian Zeiger

yes, exactly. So, um, so we so we were on the border for that. And so at the same time we we were of the age of, well, it seems like we should be using the internet to advertise instead of the Yellow Pages. This is wrong. So we did both more so in the yellow pages, and that took about two or three years to get out of our system. And then we dove in at the deep end on internet advertising.

Matthew Laurin

Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, I remember all that stuff, too. You know, I had a very basic computer in the home growing up and it wasn’t until in my teen years when, you know, we had you know, the dial up AOL, you know, you got the disc in the mail. And yeah, it wasn’t really prevalent in my life either. And then now, I’m They’re everywhere, right? I mean, people have supercomputers in their pockets. And it doesn’t seem like you can do anything, you know, get a job or do a job without a computer. So it’s amazing how much how far it’s come. Another question I had for you was about the trial work itself. So I was reading on your website, and it is trial to work something that all attorneys have to get into, or is it just something that you kind of consciously chose?

Brian Zeiger

I get very small amount of lawyers that actually go go to trial. Okay. So I think there is a much larger group that have tried cases. I think, I think they’re I think there’s a distinction between people that have have tried a couple jury trials in their career. Right, and people who actually, their focus is on trying cases. I don’t think it’s the same thing. I think there are many lawyers, for example, who maybe have done, you know, eight to 10 jury trials as either sec. Chair lead counsel, and they’re prepping all their cases like they’re going to go to trial. But I think that’s different than having tried the amount of cases I’ve tried. Maybe I get to maybe I did not answer your question.

Matthew Laurin

No, no, that’s fine. I had a cousin once, who was a prosecutor in another state, and there was one thing she didn’t enjoy about the job was being in in trial. And, and I was wondering, like, how, you know, does an attorney have to get really good at that in order to run a successful practice?

Brian Zeiger

I think, um, that there’s that there’s two requisites or prerequisites for being a trial lawyer. I think you have to sort of naturally enjoy public speaking, and being quick on your feet, and having a sense of humility about yourself. Um, like, like self humility. And then I think the second part is that knowing the, you know, self, acknowledging that you have the first part, and that you’re interested in doing this. The second part is you have to work on it. You have to hone your craft. Right, you can’t, you constantly have to work on sin no matter you know, everyone who does a lot of trial work is naturally a good public speaker in my opinion, I very rarely find people that try a ton of cases that are terrible public speakers. It seems

Matthew Laurin

like there’s an error of salesmanship to it as well,

Brian Zeiger

I guess. But but the but you know, so that to those people, then you have to take it and go sort of to the next level, and really hone hone your skills. Um, so, you know, I think that that’s that those two things need to be there. Okay.

Matthew Laurin

Okay. What’s up, Brian, what’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and growing your law firm? So you started off in the beginning and you’re trying to get cases you’re hungry when did you kind of notice a tipping point and, you know, I got to do this to get you know, grow the business.

Brian Zeiger

It’s really hard to say I so we’re in Philadelphia County, is where our offices and we serve, you know, anywhere in Pennsylvania that people want us to go and, you know, federal court, state court and in Philadelphia County. There A lot of other lawyers. Yeah. So I think a lot of good lawyers who I like and I respect and I’m friends with, and and being friendly with them, you know, I think the biggest struggle is, is that if I were somewhere much smaller than this community, I think I would be far more prevalent. I thought that all the time so I think that’s the biggest struggle in growing the firm. Being in Philadelphia County, is that you really have to do even better than your best. You have to you have to set yourself apart like a story about there was a championship game where LeBron James in the first half was having just this this spectacular first half. And it halftime apparently, I get like an all world’s first half like a career first half. But the Cavs were not winning. They weren’t They weren’t there. Cavaliers weren’t winning. And apparently Tyrone Lou and halftime called him out and said, You know, you’re doing a horrible job. And and he the team was like, why this is our leader. He said, He’s having a career night. And Lou said, it’s just not good enough, you have to do better than your best. And so I think I think that resonates with me and that being in Philadelphia County, I think that there’s so many great criminal defense attorneys here that you have to do better than your best. You have to remember that speech and you have to try to elevate your game and realize you know, where you are and what you’re trying to do with your practice. I think the hardest part of growth,

Matthew Laurin

that’s great advice. Yeah, I mean, yeah, sometimes you just have to dig a little bit deeper. When you think you’re doing doing great and it’s always hard to hear right? If you’re if you feel like you’re working as hard as you can, and then someone says, you just you got to do it better. Yeah, totally agree. Um, Brian, what’s a piece of software Or a tool that you use daily in your practice that has kind of been a game changer for you. There’s something that like improves the efficiency of your practice or helps you work

Brian Zeiger

better. I would say, um, Google Voice, okay. It’s probably one. Probably the best tool now today, currently, um, I would say WordPress, maybe 10 years ago. Okay, was the best one. And the reason for that is, so I grew up in a very middle class area. And the feedback I heard from my neighbors, and the community and the people where I live, who dealt with lawyers was that the lawyer never called them back.

Matthew Laurin

Okay, I hear that a lot, too. And

Brian Zeiger

yeah, and so I, from the time we opened, make sure that before I went to sleep at night, I returned to every phone call that I received, or I returned every email that I received from everyone, because I remember growing up there were no lawyers I knew there were no one I grew up with was an attorney and I, I heard that constantly from from folks in the neighborhood. So I make sure I do the best I can to call everyone back. And what what Google Voice allows me to do now is to give everyone my cell phone number, and have it on my computer screen in a separate window, or have a separate monitor setup next to my computer, just with Google Voice, and have it’s on my business card and have all my clients feel free to text me call me, contact me for any reason they want 24 hours a day, and be able to immediately type a response back

Matthew Laurin

and you could just do it on the computer and say, right, I’m gonna take my cell phone

Brian Zeiger

out. I don’t have to. I don’t have to use those tiny buttons with old man fingers. I don’t have to do any of that. I can sit down. I type very fast and I Sit there, and I can just type immediate responses to clients. And I think that being in constant communication with clients and their families is such an overwhelming thing and to be able to streamline that process and do it so much more efficiently. I would say that by far Google Voice is the best platform for that. Now, years ago, I would say it was WordPress. And the reason for that is because I have no problem. Again, as we discussed earlier, engaging in the computer stuff that we have to do, right and what WordPress did for me years ago, not any more was give me the ability to go on and quickly create content for page quickly blog. quickly check some SEO stats, very quickly, very user friendly, very hands on and also when I was purchasing, SEO or PPC services, I was so well educated in what was going on that I knew when I was getting Shinola from the other side that I was able to say you actually have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re just a salesperson. You’re not actually an SEO or PPC guy or gal. So yeah, thank you, but I’m not interested in your product. So WordPress allowed me to be super educated in you know, what’s, what’s going on?

Matthew Laurin

That’s cool to hear you say that? Yeah. They have tons of documentation online. It’s neat how imbedded they are in the SEO community. I mean, there’s so many plugins for WordPress, there’s so many blog posts about how to use plugins effectively. And not just from WordPress, like it’s a whole developer community, a whole marketing community that are publishing this content that is super helpful. I mean, what I do is not hard by any means and there’s so much information on the internet to go out and learn how to do it. And even you know if you don’t have the time to do it to learn a little bit about it like you said yourself. So you know when you’re getting taken for a ride I had one question that has been bugging me. So you do a lot of civil rights litigation, how is what’s going on in the world right now impacted your practice, you’ve been seeing a lot more volume, case volume because of all the, you know, the social unrest and things going on in the world. I think it’s really hard to say.

Brian Zeiger

I think it’s really a tough thing to answer. I think that, um, in life, I always think about a pendulum that that swings and it sort of makes you know, like a figure eight or like a circle and it keeps going back and forth. And there’s there’s ebb and flow in life. And you know, we as people try to find center to find common peace in like in like meditation for ourselves, but It’s very difficult to answer your question, because I think that I’m now I would imagine we would have a slow time in civil rights in new business, period, slow time and new business. Because I would think that if I worked in law enforcement, I would be super sensitive and be hypersensitive to these issues. Yeah. And so I would be much more cautious and using force, then then then then perhaps I had previously been in my in my career makes sense. On the other hand, I would think that perhaps there’s more going on out there. And so it might require police to be somewhat more hands on than they had been previously, because there’s more civil unrest. Third, I would think that the certain areas of law enforcement or would have a far greater need and request for body cams and dash cams. Even though we’ve really seen that come on in the last five years or so, I think that now there would be sort of a request to say, well, we’re just doing our job. And, you know, let’s mount off with this technology to show everyone what we do at work. And so once they have the body cam on, I would think that then we might swing back the other way to where we were before all this started with just all of these sort of random events that wind up being cases. Yeah. So it’s, it’s very hard to say Think about it. Like, when you do SEO for Google, based on Google, right? You’re doing a site and SEO you’re doing is 100% geared towards Google organic, okay? You’re not considering any other stuff. But then Google changes their algorithm. Right? So there’s this constant, sort of sort of flow or changing things. As to the core terms of relevancy, and how Google will will, you know, judge that and put you number one, on the on the on the top of their page. So again, it’s just like a figure eight or a circle where there’s just a pendulum swinging in like that, you know, in society, we have changes as

Matthew Laurin

well. Yeah, that’s, that’s a great answer. And good analogy too. Yeah, it’s, I have always sort of wondered how, you know, social undercurrents, like that affect business at different law firms. And I know that was relevant to you. So

Brian Zeiger

the cases we do, and we’ve discussed this with you are sort of halfway between Medical Malpractice and medical deprivation cases at prisons, or community corrections centers. So those cases are not affected by right. Yeah, I opinion. And so, you know, we’ve signed up two of those very recently. So so I don’t I don’t think there’s any effect on those based on what your your question was. So again, it’s it’s case by case.

Matthew Laurin

Gotcha, gotcha. So on your website, Brian, um, you talk about one piece of advice that you’d give to clients, when they get, you know, arrested or when they’re detained or whatever, and it was to keep your mouth shut. What is a piece of advice you’d give to attorneys starting off a law firm? Like they’re thinking about going off on their own? What, what would be one thing you tell them before they go start doing that?

Brian Zeiger

Um, I have two pieces of advice, but they are they are they are countered to each other. Okay. Okay. The first piece of advice would be to keep your costs as low as possible. Right, so, you know, maybe rent space from someone else as opposed to your own space. Right, rent an office in someone else’s office first. Um, you know, don’t, don’t spend a lot of money on office furniture. don’t hire an assistant. You know, Don’t Don’t you know, don’t spend a lot of money on on things. Try to keep your monthly costs down because the first six to 18 months, you might not have a lot of cash flow coming in. Right? So if your costs are low, you can sort of tread water. Okay. On the other hand, the second piece of advice is, if you’re going to advertise, you know, we talked about the piece of marketing, I was talking about the piece, product placement, people promotion price, okay, there’s a basic piece that I analyze in marketing. So when someone comes to me and they say, will you buy this product from me, I do an analysis of all five of those PS, and see and see where it is, you know, how does that how does the end user get to my ad, you know, promotion Anyway, I’m on advertising. I believe that after you do your five p analysis for whatever product it is that you’re going to purchase at That point, you must jump into the deep end. So with advertising, if you go into the shallow end of the pool, and you put your foot in like up to your ankle, you might as well not spend that money because in my experience, you don’t get anything out of that kind of spend. You need to go on the diving board and dive in headfirst to the nine foot and spend a lot of money and crush that that medium with your advertising in order to get a return on your money. So your show so the advice is not same. first piece of advice is don’t spend any money. Do it as cheap as you can. And the second piece of advice is if you’re going to do paid advertising, do it. Don’t Don’t test the waters because you’re wasting your money. I can’t tell you how many people I see have. They want to get a website. It’s like that doesn’t work. They they want to have a sign on a bus. That doesn’t work. None None of that works. You can’t do any of that stuff. You have to do an entire full force nine foot deep end advertising campaign.

Matthew Laurin

That’s good. That’s great advice. And you’re right. Yeah, if you I mean, if you just dabble in here and there and you don’t fully commit, then yeah, I mean, you’ll see lackluster results. I’ve seen that a lot, too. Right? I’m even listening to Brian Zeiger, Founder at the Zeiger Firm. Brian, where can people go to learn more about your law firm?

Brian Zeiger

Well, because I’m your client. They can go to Google or any search engine. And they’ll see me come up. Hopefully on the top of the fold them first.

Matthew Laurin

Yes, they will. Yes, they will.

Conclusion

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