e13. Law Firm Marketing: Frank Vendt, The Vendt Law Firm – The Strategy That Works

October 7, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin

Frank Vendt is the Owner and Founder of The Vendt Law Firm. He is a high net worth divorce attorney and knows firsthand how difficult the divorce process can be. Frank has been practicing law for almost 20 years, venturing out to start his own successful law firm back in 2012. He’s currently the President-Elect of the Fort Bend County Bar Association.

 

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

  • Who’s Frank Vendt?
  • Why Frank started his law firm, The Vendt Law Firm.
  • Frank talks about his struggle to find clients during the early days of the firm.
  • How Frank attracted clients and referrals for his firm.
  • Frank talks about his mentors.
  • What Frank thinks every new lawyer should do to start and run their firm successfully.

In this episode…

Imagine this: you spend over $150,000 on an office setup and different kinds of ads, but weeks pass and not a single client phone call. You know you’re a good lawyer, but you don’t have the clients to prove it. What do you do?

For Frank Vendt, quitting was never an option. So instead, he figured out the marketing strategy that helped him grow his law firm.

Tune in to this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast with Matthew Laurin to hear from Frank Vendt of The Vendt Law Firm. They talk about what it’s like starting a new law firm, the struggle to acquire clients, and how to add to your client roster.

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 from Google search. And speaking of successful law firms today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Frank Vendt. Frank is the Owner and Founder of The Vend Law Firm, and he’s been practicing law for almost 20 years and started his own successful law firm back in 2012. And he’s currently the President of the Fort Bend County Bar Association. Frank Vendt, welcome to the show.

Frank Vendt

Good to see you. Matt.

Matthew Laurin

Did I get that right in the 20 years? I should ask you about that before.

Frank Vendt

Yeah. SoWell, obviously, I was in law school. I’ll say 2001 started clerking for a firm so I worked for firms and legal contract negotiation, a lot of different things.

Frank Vendt

Prior to starting the farm,

Matthew Laurin

okay, cool. Cool. So yeah, take me back to the beginning. Why did you? Why did you decide in 2012? Why’d you start? Or why did you decide to start your own law firm?

Frank Vendt

Why you see that little girl right there.

Frank Vendt

Duty men to feed them. So here’s the thing. When I came to Texas, I was working for a big corporation. We did contract negotiation, I want to get back into doing private type stuff, the litigation work. And when I not being not being from Texas, I had. My view was when I came here, I was going apply for jobs like everybody else. So I really end up starting my firm out of necessity. Now, I’ll tell you a funny story. I was with my father. And we were sitting there and I was telling them how I was having trouble getting my foot in the door. To a law firm, I didn’t find anyone that would hire me. And I was number seven. In my class, I passed two bar exams that I thought surely I could get someone to hire me. Now that I’ve been in business long, I realized why that’s not that easy. Because firms are trying to make money and they’re trying to be able to support their own families. And most of your litigation firms just aren’t really, really big unless their personal injury or something like that, where they’re turning clients. But the kind of work we do in family law, and at the time was doing some criminal. It’s more that attorneys more focused on the client. The client wants that attorney, they don’t want a big conglomerate of people, they want to know who’s working for them. So anyway, so what I was sitting there talking to my father, and I said, you know, I’m having trouble getting bigger job. I don’t know if this was a good decision to be caught out like this. And he says, well, let’s just start a farm. And my father is a plant worker. He didn’t come we didn’t come from money. He says I’ll get some of my 401k and I begged and begged do not take any money out of your 401k so no robot robot builder, robot builder, I put you in it you’ll be fine. I’m literally like begging him do not do that. And he’s going we’re doing it Come on let’s go get a real job we’re gonna find a builder. So we go out there and find the biggest dump of a place you can find and he says I said how much you think it would cost me file account knows about you? And I said How much do you think it costs to redo this thing reminded about 35,000 Well, that sounds safe. So we go and buy this piece of property have no idea because I’ve moved to Texas like a year earlier have no idea really what we’re doing. We’re just

Frank Vendt

guessing. Yeah. And he

Frank Vendt

we buy the place we start getting quotes the first quote, we get to redo this building. And not even really do it right. was like $90,000 Hmm. And I went that’s exactly what I did. You know that feeling like oh my god. Look, here’s the deal, we’ll fix it up. When this doesn’t work. I can sell it. I probably won’t get as much as I can. But I can go back to work in and sales or something and I’ll just give you the money back. I mean, you’re not to lose your 401k Yeah. And he’s like looking at me like I’m stupid cuz you know, a parent thinks their kid can do anything in the world. And I’m thinking you think that because you’re my father and you’re about to see me crash and burn, buddy, this is gonna go bad. So we ended up putting about 150,000 into this, don’t have a building that I should have torn totally down and just built from the whole slab But hindsight is 2020 Yeah, needless to say, we went about 120,000 over budget. And at this point, I’m just kind of giggling like, Okay, this is gonna be hilarious. I’m thinking in the back of my mind, good thing I learned about bankruptcy won’t get rid of the student loans, but at least I can bankrupt. So, you know, we go and my father comes up with this idea is like, oh, there’s a lawyer, they put the sign in the front with this LED. And I’m like, Man, that is not the image I’m wanting to portray. I want to be looked at seriously. And he’s like, Listen, son, you have to get somebody in this door. He’s like, you can be a great lawyer. But first, you’ve got somebody in this door. So he talks me into this. Really just it the signs, not, it doesn’t really fit what I was trying to portray. It’s, yeah, totally sign out in the front. So am I gonna put the sign on? I’m gonna change tires, basically, you know, I don’t think it’s gonna be hard. But it’s not as professional and prestigious as you kind of want to be portrayed because you’re trying to make this image, especially as a young lawyer. Yeah,

Matthew Laurin

very common and leave industry.

Frank Vendt

Yeah, you don’t believe in yourself that much as it is. So you just kind of want to at least look what you’ve seen. So I had been working in law firms before, so I kind of, I believed in I knew what to do. But it was more about what other people believed in. Yeah. So I go in there, and I put the sign on. And it’s January first, we lit it up. January 1,

Matthew Laurin

January, January 1 2012.

Frank Vendt

Ah, so I was working 2012. But the farm was open. But that build was done, I guess, was 2014 and 14. Okay, so I was like working remotely satellite that’s for nothing and trying to find a job because that wasn’t working. Right. So we opened this farm. And I, I sat there for three weeks, and my father would call me every single day. Anybody call? Anybody call you? And I’m at my desk like, no. Good. Got one call. Not a call dad. thing that son should be getting them there. I’m going, Yeah. Yeah, I know, I’m thinking about going out there one of those signs of spinning it around, you know, we’re open. So I sat there and did that deal. And about three weeks go by. And finally someone calls and, and I’m so cheap at this time, like my car I had, the copy machine was like a I don’t know how to use copy machine. I had a scanner. That was I bought one of the scanners in one night, I had to scan something like 50 pages took like three hours to put it because they weren’t doing electronic file and at that time, so I’m like scan that keeps getting pages stuck. I’m like, Oh my god, you know, but I was so committed. I’d stay there till one o’clock in the morning scanning it because I had to electron because they just started this electronic filing, but they weren’t you at the time you didn’t have to do so. just ridiculous. But I remember getting a call and bought a little cell phone. And I answered the offer. It’s like nine in the afternoon, you know, 9pm and they’re like, Hey, I got your number from my father. He knew your father worked at this company. And we knew him and we’d heard his son came here from law. This is what happened. They could have said anything it wouldn’t matter what they said the law what kind of case it was, I would have taken it. Yeah. And it happened to be a criminal case because at the time I wanted to do criminal I later found out that I really didn’t like defending from Yeah, just reality that is

Matthew Laurin

that was it. That was the first one that came in, etc.

Frank Vendt

that came in one from the side one from anything. And, um, I took that case and then someone came off the street on the sign I took a DWI. So underprice To this day, that guy got a steel rod prepare for a jury trial for each house. He paid me 1500 dollars in total.

Frank Vendt

But long story short,

Frank Vendt

I went to see a friend of mine in town, who was the only lawyer I knew in Texas at the time other than I got to live in Austin I didn’t really talk to and I knew as a lawyer, but I don’t like that. But this guy had met. And I went to him and I was like, Man, I’m really trouble getting busy today. You know, I get a lot of my business off the internet. I went, Oh, the internet. Okay, because that was something I we didn’t really do in the past firm. I was

Matthew Laurin

worried. That was gonna be my next question. Like, what what were you going to do to get cases in the door? So

Frank Vendt

that was what it was. So he said that and I said, Okay, so I caught up a buddy of mine. He’s like, I know how to make websites. So he gets on GoDaddy and makes me a $250 website. And it looks really pretty good. I was impressed with his work. Yeah. Only problem was no one ever saw it ever, because we didn’t know how to optimize it. So we had a website but no one ever knew it was there unless it was on your business course. My best score looked at my website, right? Yeah. And so nothing was happening. I was like, I gotta get people. So I’m like googling, how did you get your stuff up? Because I mean, I haven’t really focused on I had a marketing degree. But it was from 1990. We The Internet was kind of new around that time. Yeah, brand. And then the Yellow Pages was the king of advertising for lawyers in 2001 2003. When I came out, you wanted that double page? Yeah,

Matthew Laurin

the double truck, right, double.

Frank Vendt

Yeah, so that was a big deal. And you couldn’t get them because the person who had them first got them all the time until they, they wanted like, 20,000 a month for him. So I’m sitting there going, Okay, I remember the Yellow Page, you guys came to me. So the first year so I work two jobs. They say, and I work two jobs. And that’s what I did. I committed my job was for bills. And every dollar I made from my farm would go back into advertising. If you were an advertiser, and you stopped at the vet law firm, you got a sale. I didn’t care what it was. If they stopped by with pins, if they you know, the high schools. Were you sponsoring our magazine? Yeah, what ever it was, I was that guy that they walked out with? Wow, I really sold him. They don’t have a clue. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d already committed every dollar was going to advertising so that I could figure out what worked. I put it. My when I tell you I was on the radio. I was on weather apps. If they called me and said, Are you interested? Sign me up. I didn’t

Matthew Laurin

care. That was going to be one of my questions like What was your biggest professional challenge? And it sounds like just getting things going was like getting it going.

Frank Vendt

If I remember sitting there. I’m Christian. And I would pray and say, God, I know I can do the job. Will you please get me somebody to do it for? I mean, I would have done it free almost, you know? Yeah. So I went around and I tried every single advert. I’m not lying to you name that I did commercial. I didn’t do TV. But I did commercials, where I do like a little commercial and run it things. Yeah. Anything you can think of I sponsored shares calendars I was my card was every single put, if you talk to me, you were thinking I was boasting. I was a lawyer. I wasn’t boasting. I was a lawyer. I was trying to let someone know I was a lawyer. So they would call me like I go to a frickin snowball. Stan, Here’s my card. I’m an attorney that you know, like, what is this guy doing? So I’m sitting there, and I’m just doing anything I can. And I had decided that the law firm, so I called up some people and I was like, Look, I’m trying to start a nice I’m gonna build me a website, and then get it where I’m on Google first page and all you know, yeah, no, I yeah. What are you looking to spend on like 500 bucks or something new. That kind of giggled. They were like, man, if you’re gonna do pay per click all you’re looking at like, you could be talking 10,000 a month if you these big firms to compete with them. Yeah, I went 10,000 a month. I said, Oh, my God, I have a good friend of mine. Let’s talk a bit kind of caught him. I was like, man, I think I really I’m not gonna get this building up for sale. This is not good. Yeah. So I found a company that would make a website for like, I forgot how much I think was $3,000. And then they would try to optimize me for it wasn’t much I know they even do optimization. They would just move me on pay per click. Yeah, they they went ahead, and they they made the worst website you’ve ever seen. It looked like something out of a cartoon? It was horrible. I don’t know what they were thinking. It truly looked like something like from we should have astroworld here. But you’ve heard of Six Flags, or does it look like a cartoon lawyer website? Oh, my

Matthew Laurin

God. Was that on The Vendt Law Firm.com that domain. It was a long time. I’m gonna have to look that

Frank Vendt

It was so bad. It was so but so they were the first one with that domain. Then this other guy comes to me I go to one of these because I’m doing everything I can I go to one of these groups that you meet. What do they call like a referral working a network networking group? Yeah. Those were horrible. Totally not my personality. You know, I’m not gonna trade. I’m not. You’re not even. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna give something of value though. Like, you got to pay this fine. I’m like, No, I can’t. I’m like, that’s paying for clients. I can’t do that. And so I did. I went to that little meeting, heard what it was never got in the group. But a guy was like, I do websites and I’m like, we gotta be better than these cartoon characters I have. So he gets it. He’s like, oh, mine’s overseas. I’ve got some people in India that knew everything went great. And the website like was better but it never worked on his phone like I put up my closet look when it’s on the far side. Yeah, but you you got to flip your phone over. Most people flip their phone over. I’m like, What? Might you kidding me? Because I kept trying to go as cheap as I could. Yeah. Finally,

Frank Vendt

finally I

Frank Vendt

I went with you guys, which used to be the other company. rankings Esquire ranking right Rankings.io. Yep. And I remember the price and all and kind of gone. I don’t care, whatever it is, this is it. It either works, I’m done. Because all the other advertising, I used to say you got to get this many dollars per dollar you spend. And I still I still look at is about a one to five, or five to one, you got to get about $5 for every dollar you spend over advertising or it’s a waste, you’re working for them. So I started kind of looking at what was working. And I realized what was working was only the internet. Nothing else was working like calendars. commercials. site, nothing was working. But the internet. So I went all in. You guys were really good. But we were having trouble at that time getting me on the first page and sugar lamb

Matthew Laurin

in those Oh, yeah, those key markets.

Frank Vendt

Yeah, the key markets that I’ve talked to you about. So I firmly believe without a doubt that Chris and you without y’all I’m gonna tell you right now, we would not be the firm that we are. Now. We we get more from referral today because we got the opportunity to go out there and do our job. And people start referring you cases. But we still rely on you guys to give us that one or two cases a month that’s going to generate cases down the road.

Matthew Laurin

Because shake them and that’s awesome to hear.

Frank Vendt

We kind of look at the marking, I always tell my staff, the internet is to get us a person that we do a job for. So they can go out until three people to come see us.

Frank Vendt

That’s a great way to look at it.

Frank Vendt

That’s how we look at it. Now we still need to make money off for you guys. And when it’s slow, you know me, I can tell you, when we fall on the page, I can tell you when we fall on the page. We’re not running PPC right now as you know, we’re just we don’t have the staff to handle everything. Which is a great thing to say. Right? Yeah, I mean, versus I’m waiting on the call. But when we run PPC we definitely see that I can tell you when Pay Per Click is on. I can tell you when it’s on. I can tell you when we’re on the tops of the first pages and and what Eric I can see where the clients are coming from. And I can see how many calls we’re getting.

Matthew Laurin

That’s so cool to hear, man. Hey, um, when you talk when you look at a pay per click advertising versus organic search, even in your experience with other agencies, where do you feel like you’ve you’ve gotten the biggest bang for your buck.

Frank Vendt

So used to I always used to think it was SEO, I thought SEO was definitely the biggest bang for the buck. When Google changed the way they do their list of people. So there was a time when you saw like a couple here, a couple up there. And then you saw the SEO back then this was probably four or five years ago. Yeah, I felt like SEO was really where it was. today. I really think you generate just as much if not more from pay per click.

Matthew Laurin

Now I feel like I feel like that’s probably pretty true statement that there was a lot of activity going on

Frank Vendt

and on. And for a while there I had a stigma that and I think I was right when it was transitioning us to people looked at SEO was the real people. Everybody else was an advertiser. It was like whoever was the first one on the list from search engine optimization, like number one on the page from advertising. That was the real company, that that’s how it kind of was like that was established. So you wanted to be there. But I don’t. And it’s almost like it’s now it’s not like that used to even I used to go to Google, if I saw an advertisement, skip them and go to the real stuff.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, I know some people that are so so like that for sure. Mm hmm. And so you’ve got

Frank Vendt

to have both if you want to, but

Frank Vendt

that stigma is going away. And you’re seeing, you’ll go to the top of the page on advertising and go to the first one on the list. It’s the same as the advertiser now, right? So a lot of times it’s like, I don’t I don’t I think the maps are good. maps are good. People coughed a mouse. But you get the and this is for lawyers only that I can talk about. I find that people get caught off the map or doing the quick Hey, do you handle this? How much are you? Okay? Yeah, the people that go into the website are reading about you. They’re reading and they’re looking at things that matter to them. Um, you’ve seen my website have a quote about me. Being married prior, and I’ve made a comment to someone before we got divorced. So yeah, no, I read it on your thing. I liked it. She said that. So they do look at your content. Yeah.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I mean, when you, when you can get the cycle, higher quality leads, it’s so much more beneficial than just the people that are kind of pre shopping and in in your career. Frank, I wanted to ask you, and maybe you already touched on this a little bit, who’s been like a really influential person or kind of like a mentor that’s helped you kind of get where you are today?

Frank Vendt

Well, I mean, obviously my father because he was, but he’s not in the professional tailors. Two people might not well, three, the lawyer I work with first who’s now deceased, really showed me how to be a lawyer. I was young, I was 20, something, he would show me how to go. He was big on how you dressed. He said these people pay you a lot of money. Do not show up. Not looking the part. Yeah, there’s an element, they don’t pay you just for what you say. So they’re paying you for every single thing down to when you show up. When I mediate on zoom, I wear a suit and tie every single time. He said they’re paying you for every bit of it, not just what you say not just the result, the entire piece of it, which is why I get frustrated with my staff. When we make any little, even on an email, they’ll say something and they’ll use the wrong word or something like that is grammatical. It bothers me. And I do it too. But it bothered me because people are paying. So he taught me about what you need to do as a lawyer. My father, of course, was my backbone. He thought I could do anything you want a personal

Matthew Laurin

story, by the way?

Frank Vendt

Yeah, well, you just you, it’s like, I had to pay him back. But he also believed in me so much, and I didn’t believe in myself near as much as he did make. And to this day, you know, you kind of seem like, names, and it was a no brainer. And I’m still going you don’t understand. Yeah.

Matthew Laurin

We got lucky. Oh, so cool that you had someone to be like that in the belief in you. And then there’s an

Frank Vendt

attorney in town, Scott, Bruce, or who, when I went into Family Law, I went into family because I was kind of like in divorce. And Scott was a family lawyer, the only person literally the only person I knew in town, or in Texas, that was a lawyer. And the reason I knew him is he had handled my divorce when I got here, and I would text him or call him very cat like very light, like, hey, do you mind answering? I will I would look in the book before I call him for hours, because I didn’t want to bother him. And he and I’d say, Graham, thanks for asking. I’ve been looking for four hours for that. And he’s like, you research for four hours, you could text me that. So him open his door? Which is why if a young lawyer calls me or text me, they’re getting an answer. And I tell every one of them. Don’t even but see lawyers just have this thing where we don’t want to ask, or we’re not good enough or something. Look, they can ask me anything, I will tell them anything because I have been where I had no one to go to. And something that took four hours was like literally all you do is put a line on the end of the page with the person’s name and let them sign. That was

Matthew Laurin

actually one of my one of my final questions was about if you had a piece of advice for a new attorney, what would it what would it be? A young attorney calls you up? And he’s like, I’m new to the area. I’m starting my own firm, what would be the first thing you tell them?

Frank Vendt

Everybody talks about networking on my wife says it best as you know, networking, no, that’s good. But let’s be honest, they’re trying to get business for themselves and not really gonna do it for you. That the first thing I like to tell them is be ready to put in the time. You know, when I told you I didn’t have the copy machine, and all that was just me, I answered the phone, I did a type and I did the filing, I did everything. I would sit in my office till 1230 or one in the morning putting papers in a file. My back was killing me because I was sitting on the floor. Um, and I gone through a divorce actually lived in the back of that office for a time, it was services tough. You’ve got to be able to say Listen, I can’t I’m not gonna worry about you know, you’re watching your friends make money and you’re sitting there that you got to pay the dues. And then the other thing is, you got to be willing to put in the work. But outside of that you need to figure out a marketing campaign. Because there’s a bunch of you out there. There’s a bunch of kids coming out of law school that know how to do law. There’s a bunch of kids that look like you you what’s gonna do it is you luckily I had a marketing degree and I always knew it was important to a business. But you got to look at your marketing you you need to be low on overhead as possible, as low as you can on overhead as possible. But if there’s somewhere you’re going to spend it It better be in marketing. Because if you don’t have business, I don’t care how good a lawyer you are. You go you can go out and recite law day long. You’re not gonna make $1 on it unless you have someone paying you to do it. So That’s great advice. Very good advice. I mean, it’s just a reality. It’s a real I mean, like I told you, I kept saying, I know I can do this job, I don’t have a business. If you don’t, you have to first get the clients, then you can do the rest. That’s the number one thing. So yeah, you might start getting referrals down the road when you get known, but how you gonna do it must get business. So the way I looked at it was, overheads got to be low. But if there’s something you’re going to spend it on, it’s going to be marked. Remember, I told you put all the money back into it, I was working two jobs. I put all the money back into it. And the marketing is still to this day, when I look at our stuff. I’ll tell my paralegals, and I say look, this much we’ve got always have available in case we’re slowing down to dump and you know how I kind of work the PPC. Yeah. So but um, yeah, that that that’s the only thing and then if they don’t know anybody, and they don’t know the law, I mean, yeah, they need to try to find somebody kind enough to that you can call and don’t be scared to call them because believe it or not, a lot of us really enjoy telling you the answer. Yeah, we like talking about it. I get a lot younger call me up sometimes I don’t even know to ask my man. Think about that. Let me look into this and find it out. And I’ll tell you, because there’s there’s some things that come up that we just don’t know right off the bat. Yeah, you enjoy answering it.

Matthew Laurin

That’s super cool, man. Yeah, straight from the from the guy who’s done it. Guys, you’ve been listening to Frank Vendt, Owner of The Vendt Law Firm in Richmond, Texas. Frank, where can people go to learn more about your law firm?

Frank Vendt

But www.TheVendt. Vendt is like an air vent. But with a D before the T The Vendt Law Firm.com I think we’re also www.divorcelawyerintx.com in TX for Texas divorce while you’re in Texas, com?

Matthew Laurin

Yes, sir. Frank, thanks for being on the show, man.

Frank Vendt

Hi, Matthew. Good seeing you

Conclusion

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