e3. From File to Trial: How to Run a Successful Solo Practice with Marc Wietzke of Flynn & Wietzke PC

June 1, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin

Marc Wietzke is the Owner of Flynn & Wietzke PC. His practice is solely focused on the railroad industry and he represents injured passengers in their claims against commuter railroads, railroad workers who were hurt on the job, and those who were punished for reporting an injury, reporting a safety hazard or for following doctor’s orders.

Marc is a successful trial attorney who has brought over 30 cases to verdict in the last 10 years alone with awards totaling over $20,000,000, not including settlements. He has won successful suits against carriers such as Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Union Pacific Rail Road, Springfield Terminal, MTA, Metro-North, CSX, and more.

 
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Who is Marc Wietzke?
  • What Flynn & Wietzke PC does for their clients.
  • Why Marc decided to focus on the railroad industry for his practice.
  • Tools Marc uses to run his solo law firm successfully.
  • How Marc gets railroad law cases.
  • Marc talks about being responsive as a way to convert more website visitors.
  • Marc’s advice for attorneys who want to go solo.

In this episode…

If you’re thinking of going into solo trial practice, your knowledge of the law won’t be enough. According to Marc Wietzke of Flynn & Wietzke PC, you need to spend time watching trials and building your credibility by doing pro bono work. This will allow you to gain valuable experience and build trust in your name. Once you’ve established your credibility, marketing your law firm will not only be easier, it will also yield greater results.

In this episode of Esq. Marketing Podcast, Matthew Laurin interviews Marc Wietzke of Flynn & Wietzke PC about taking cases from file to trial and his best tips on how to successfully run a solo trial practice. They’ll also be discussing how Marc zeroed in on his industry focus for his practice, the tools he uses to efficiently run his firm, how he markets his firm to get clients, and more. Stay tuned.

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

Prologue

You are 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 and cases using search Marketing and speaking of successful law firms today, I have the honor of speaking with Marc Wietzke, owner of Flynn and Wietzke, PC. Marc is a successful trial lawyer who has taken verdicts against Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, Union Pacific Railroad, Springfield Terminal, MTA, Metro-North CSX, and a slew of others. Marc, welcome to the show.

Marc Wietzke

Thank you

Matthew Laurin

That is a lot of verdicts that he’s taken. So, on your website, it says 48. Has it increased since then?

Marc Wietzke

Probably not since I’ve had eight trials delayed in the last three months, so.

Matthew Laurin

Okay

Marc Wietzke

And we’re now being told we shouldn’t expect any civil jury trials until December-January of 2021 now.

Matthew Laurin

Gotcha. So, you practice in, technically, it’s like a personal injury niche, but it’s much more specific than that. Can you talk a little bit more about what the firm does?

Marc Wietzke

Sure. Railroad workers are not covered by Workers’ Comp because railroad, in one little area of the world, came out ahead of everybody else back before Workers’ Comp was invented. In 1908, the Congress was killing on an average 12 people a day. Well, I shouldn’t say Congress wasn’t killing them. The railroads were killing 12 people a day, and so they passed a law called The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).

Matthew Laurin

That’s FELA, right?

Marc Wietzke

Yes, FELA. The idea was that if you’re going to get hurt on the job, you should have some way of recovering for your on-the-job injuries. The difference from Workers’ Comp in our world is we have to prove negligence like you would in a regular personal injury case. But our standard of causation is lower, meaning we have to show that the negligence caused and holder in part even in the slightest. It’s not proximate cause. And then we get jury trials. We aren’t stuck with some archaic book that tells us what our clients are worth.

Matthew Laurin

That’s very cool. Yeah. When I first met you, I mean, we’ve had PI Attorneys on the show. I’ve had like bankruptcy and divorce lawyers and even consumer rights lawyers but never for lack of a better phrase train accident attorney.

Marc Wietzke

Yeah, so we’re train accident lawyers, and when they know we exist, a lot of passengers will find us too because they realize that we know all the inside baseball. We know literally and figuratively where the bodies are buried. You know, how to use the [federal] regulations to trigger strict liability. There’s all kinds of things that, like anything else, once you become the person who’s been doing it for 20 years and knows everything in the inside, you can make a difference much more efficient.

Matthew Laurin

Excellent, excellent. So, what made you go into this particular niche? I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot of PI niches you could have gone after. Was there something specific? Was it a business decision to go after the train accident-related?

Marc Wietzke

The easiest answer is the firm that I started out working for was close to my law school, and I could drive back and forth between classes and still earn an income because I had to pay for law school out of pocket. So, I needed to be able to work, and the law school was literally a 10-minute drive from the job, so I can go back and forth and work around classes. At the end of the day, though, I ended up loving it because I started doing it just North of New York City. The firm at the time was called [Elkin], Flynn and Moore, and they’ve been doing just railroad work since 1951, I think. It then transitioned into the Law Offices of Michael Flynn and then became Flynn & Wietzke. So, we’ve literally done nothing but railroad, and in the interim, I went out and worked big firms and, you know, 700 lawyer firms where I learned I do have a major authority complex. So, it was a good thing that Michael Flynn called me up and said, “Look, I’m going to be retiring in a few years, I’d like you to come back, and learn the practice from the inside instead of just what I had been doing before, and take over.” So, I think Mike retired, what? 2012 formally, but I don’t know that he had really been actively engaged for the three years before that. For about, yeah, we’re over a decade now of me flying solo.

Matthew Laurin

That’s super cool. So, it’s like some of your first connections resulted in your long-term career.

Marc Wietzke

Oh, absolutely.

Matthew Laurin

They do that a lot.

Marc Wietzke

In fact, my current office manager used to be my boss. You know, I like to remind her that I now sign her paychecks, but the answer is yeah. So, I started working for the firm in 1996. I worked there for a few years, went off, and did the big firm thing, and then came back. Mike and I just never lost touch. We’ve got to lunch at least every six months, keep up, and he’s exactly 20 years older than me, and it was a match made in legal heaven.

Matthew Laurin

I think that’s a positive way looking at it. Very cool man. Over the course of running the Law Firm, when you were solo, what’s been key for the success? Is there like a certain tool or software program you use that has been extremely helpful for you?

Marc Wietzke

So, from a software standpoint, honestly, Dropbox made a huge difference for me.

Matthew Laurin

Really?

Marc Wietzke

Yeah. So, it sounds strange, but we went virtual. Not virtual. We went paperless.

Matthew Laurin

Paperless, yeah.

Marc Wietzke

Probably 2013, so six or seven years ago. The biggest thing for me from a workflow standpoint was just how do you get work? How do you get your mail? How do you get first drafts of documents, edit them, and get them out the door? I mean, I’m in the office maybe one day a week. The rest I’m on the road, or pretty much all over the place. I mean, my cases are literally, California to Texas, to Indiana to everywhere in the tri-state area, and everywhere in between. So, if you’re not going to be there, how do you keep work moving? The answer for me was everything that comes in my office gets scanned in a hardcopy mail. It gets scanned in within 24 hours so that I can see it. I read it right there. It gets filed away before I ever even see it because I don’t need to. They just drop a PDF copy of everything, and I can review it on the road off my phone, off my computer, or anything else. It’s just such ease of everything, and now we’ve moved over to using Abacus is a case management software. But I don’t even know if I can really call it Abacus anymore because I so severely rewrote the whole thing to make it work because again, you have a specialized practice, and you’re used to doing things a certain way. That was one of the things that drew me to Abacus was that I could tweak the entire front end dashboard to look like I needed it to look in order to work for me because too many lawyers, I think, feel stuck working with the computer as opposed to the computer working for them.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, I can see how that would happen. You mentioned you go out of state. So, how does that work? Are you licensed in multiple states?

Marc Wietzke

I’m licensed in two states, New York, and New Jersey, and have been since whatever, ’96-‘97? Actually, it’s ’97–‘98, I think. Then I’m admitted in, I don’t know, something like 17 different Federal District Courts. Lawyers who do what I do around the country will tell you that a lot of them will say they avoid studiously Federal Courts. I disagree, the Federal moves faster. They’re more cutthroat, meaning the judges will cut you down to size in half a second you get. But I can get a case from file to trial, meaning filing the lawsuit to standing in front of a jury, typically in one year or less.

Matthew Laurin

File to trial. I like that.

Marc Wietzke

And the idea is do all your homework before you file suits, so you’re not figuring your case out once you’re already in too deep to get out, and the other is know your venue. So, a lot of the district federal courts, I get local counsel even if I don’t need them because you need somebody saying, “Watch out for Judge So-and-so or watch out for defense counsel,” or “Hey, we have a weird thing we do here.” It’s always worth the referral fee or the local council fee to have that kind of inside baseball.

Matthew Laurin

Also, throughout your time running your firm, what’s gotten you the most traction in terms of getting new business?

Marc Wietzke

Success. Word of mouth. Honestly, I get more cases from word of mouth than anything else, but that wasn’t always true. Meaning when I started out, I had to prove myself, so honestly, I was trying cases that everyone thought I was crazy to try, but it was because I needed to prove that I would do it. To this day, there’s not a rail around the country that doesn’t believe that I will try that case because I won’t take it if I’m not willing to. When I sign on, I tell the clients, I’m climbing to try your case. If they put a pile of money big enough to make us stop, we will. But do not hire me as your lawyer if you’re not willing to go to trial yourself.

Matthew Laurin

When you say success, after you had some success with some cases, did you leverage that in terms of reviews, or do you promote that in any way?

Marc Wietzke

Well, interestingly, if only there was somebody who was unique to attorney Marketing, et cetera, and so oddly enough, that’s obviously how you and I met is I don’t think I’m doing enough of that. What I’ve come to realize is just from the web analytics that I already have, I can tell that over 55% of my website traction is coming from mobile phones. I can tell how long they’re spending on a page. I can tell which pages are the most downloaded. For example, I created the simplest Excel spreadsheet in the universe that calculates wage loss. It gets downloaded probably four or five times a day at this point around the country. I don’t know why it’s such a big deal, but it’s literally what I use in the practice. I just made it so that other people could download it because I got the same question. “Well, I don’t know what my wage loss is.” Why not? It’s, you know, when did you go to work? When did you stop working? And what’s your hourly rate? It ain’t Rocket Science, but when somebody else puts it together, it makes it easy.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, it’s neat, those little tools. People love those things on the internet. I know I searched for things like converting colors from like RGB to hex. There are tons of searches for that.

Marc Wietzke

And the right person will actually understand what you just said.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah. Cool, so yeah. It sounds like, and I hear that a lot. A lot of attorneys who’ve had success, they start getting more referrals. They start kind of leveraging that whether it’s online, or whether it’s through their own referral network. But once they start having some success, other attorneys will refer them cases. Other people they’ve worked for will refer people to them. So, I hear you. It helps to have some work under your belt that you can show off to other people.

Marc Wietzke

But the other is the FaceTime, you know, just going and being willing to pick up the phone. Probably 40% of the phone calls I get are not active live cases. If somebody’s complaining about something on the job, generally, et cetera. But when you’re willing to take the few minutes or calling everybody back and leaving a detailed response to the question they called you with. You know, response. I can’t tell you how many times I look back and see that I got a case because I responded to somebody coming in through the website within a few hours as opposed to a couple of days. That responsiveness is something to the point where my family now says, “I’m positive no one’s looked at the website in the last 30 minutes, Dad. You’re fine.” Because look, it’s a cutthroat universe, and we know that we’re one of a lot of options. So, you’ve got to be better, more responsive, and technology has really made it possible. I don’t have to sit in check my voicemail all the time. Stuff comes into me, and I’ve flagged my phone so that if it comes in with the right keywords, it pops up with a noise, even if I’ve had the phone on silent—that kind of stuff.

Matthew Laurin

That’s great. It’s great. You’re leveraging technology, and yeah. I mean, it’s a customer-centered universe. It’s the ones who are responsive and provide good customer service definitely succeed. Marc, if there’s an attorney out there who’s thinking of striking it out on their own, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to them?

Marc Wietzke

Well, if they’re going to be doing trial work, the answer is well, two things. One, go watch trials. The other is, volunteer your time. Go do pro bono stuff. You’re going to lose cases, but you’ll get experience. Don’t worry about losing cases here and there, and also know when you’ve hit your Kenny Rogers moment. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them. I had a trial with one of the Class 1 Freights. The woman sitting in the hallway outside of trial was not my client’s doctor, but instead was his sister, and she was there to look like a doctor so that we could get the best settlement on the table. We knew that we weren’t going to be able to get the doctorate. So, you know, you go into something like that, and the key is never get caught bluffing. Not don’t bluff, but you can’t get caught bluffing, and to this day, I never had.

Matthew Laurin

That’s great advice. Great advice, Marc. We’ve been listening to Marc Wietzke, owner of Flynn & Wietzke, PC. Marc, where can people go to learn more about the firm?

Marc Wietzke

The easiest would be the website, FELAAttorney.com. All one word. You’ll have a double A .com or 516-877-1234.

Matthew Laurin

Awesome. Thanks, Marc. Thanks for being on the show, man.

Marc Wietzke

Of course, I appreciate you having me.

Conclusion

Thanks for listening to the Esq. Marketing Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

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