e18. Law Firm Marketing: Jonathan Denis, Guardian Law Group – Partnership Over Solo Practice?

December 9, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin

Jonathan Denis

Jonathan Denis is a Founding Partner at Guardian Law Group. Before founding Guardian Law Group, Jonathan worked in the public sector as a legislator and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Calgary-Acadia twice.

In addition to being a recognized authority in politics and governance, Jonathan has received accolades in his career, including being appointed a Queen’s Counsel of Alberta, and winning a spot on Avenue Calgary’s “Top 40 under 40” in 2010.

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

  • Who is Jonathan Denis?
  • What was it like for Jonathan to quit politics and start Guardian Law Group?
  • Should you begin your law firm with a partner or go solo?
  • The challenge of being a lawyer and running the business of law.
  • Working for a firm or running your firm: what’s the big difference?
  • Jonathan’s most effective way to generate new business.
  • The one piece of advice every lawyer trying to start a new firm should know.

In this episode…

You want to start your law firm, right? But, you’re not sure what to expect if you quit your job to branch out on your own. On top of that, you’re thinking: should I go solo or find a partner?

Well, just like you, Jonathan Denis of Guardian Law Group once had to make that critical decision. Today, he shares his experience with Matthew Laurin and touches on what he thinks every lawyer who wants to start a new law firm should know.

Join the conversation on this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast as host Matthew Laurin sits down with Jonathan Denis, Founding Partner of the Guardian Law Group. Jonathan shares his experience about what it was like to quit his job, find a partner, and start a new law firm. He also talks about the challenges of being a lawyer and running the business of law, the most effective way to attract new business, and more.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Software Tools Mentioned:

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 and today outside 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 law firms today, I have the pleasure speaking with Jonathan Denis, Jonathan is the co founder of Guardian Law Group. In addition to being a recognized authority in politics and governance, Jonathan has been named to the Queen’s Counsel of Alberta, and one of Avenue magazine’s top 40, under 40. And that was when he was under 40. Jonathan, welcome to the show.

Jonathan Denis

Welcome. Thank you for having me.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, no worries. I’m glad to have you on. I know it took some doing but we finally got you scheduled and thought you would, you’d be a great guest. Because it just reading on your site appears you’ve had a ton of success, not only growing your own law firm, but in local politics in in Alberta, Canada. Is that correct?

Jonathan Denis

That’s correct. Yes. Alberta is just north of Montana. For those of you who may or may not have been here, I know that. I live in a city called Calgary, which is about 1.21 point 3 million people Canada’s fourth largest city. Also the kind of the number two energy capital in North America next to Houston, there’s a lot of oil and gas in Alberta. There’s also a large number of American citizens who live in my city.

Matthew Laurin

Crazy. I didn’t know that. And I like that you said it’s about Montana, because I it’s so helpful. I feel like we hear about these places all the time, but we never really think about where they are. So that’s cool.

Jonathan Denis

So Jonathan, I’ve lived in Canada my entire life, but I have I’ve actually been to 39 states, I quite like traveling to the United States. I’ve had a great time, every time I’ve been there.

Matthew Laurin

Awesome. Awesome. Um, so take us back to the beginning. When you started your law firm, what was it like for you?

Jonathan Denis

Well, so I, I got into politics actually, rather unexpectedly, the government changed. We weren’t expecting that at all. But then in 2015. And I asked myself, What do I want to do, and I actually met one of my partners, through a mutual friend. And I ended up working at her office for a while. And we decided, actually, we were going to buy that buy some real estate, which we did in 2016. And we’ve since grown this for this firm to 13. legal professionals, plus support staff as well. We’re located in downtown Calgary just east of the downtown, a bit of a different business model, we like I said, we do. Oh, excuse me, my partner, I do want the building here. I just I thought it was a good time to get into get into the real estate business. And this has worked out we developed a floor and it’s, it’s been quite a good venture. Actually.

Matthew Laurin

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So you worked at other law firms before you headed decided to go out on your own?

Jonathan Denis

That’s it? That’s correct. Yeah, I worked at an at one of the Canada’s top 10 National firms before I got into politics as well. The there was options available when I was back into the private sector. And I decided to go the private route of one of the reasons business, I think there’s something to be said about running your own chip. There’s a lot of benefits you have at the larger cars, but I wanted to try my hand on my own. And the best thing I will tell you is it is it’s much better. Having actual partners, as long as you have good partners. And I do I was just talking to one of my partners here. She’s fabulous. And it’s a it’s much better when you have people that you can work with and depend on.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, definitely. Because then you can actually treat it like a business and take vacations and and things get still get done when you’re when you’re not there as opposed to owning a job right.

Jonathan Denis

100%. Like in a law firm, it was not just a business, there’s obviously the professional responsibility. That’s first and foremost, your responsibility to the court, to other lawyers, to the profession to your clients. But there’s also a business acumen that you need. And that’s what separates a lawyer who might make $100,000 a year from a lawyer to make maybe $400,000 a month a year is the business model they have.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, like they said that too. And they, a lot of the attorneys that I talked to, you know, they teach you everything about the law in school, but they don’t really give you a lot of coaching on running a business and all those things that come along with it. And so that could be a challenge. Well, what what was the biggest challenge for you in learning how to do all that? Did you have a business background or

Jonathan Denis

I have been I do have a commerce degree Actually, I’ve run several businesses as well. And actually, when I when I look for students to hire, I typically prefer people that have a business or commerce background. Because again, the Professional Responsibility is always first. But running a law firm is like running a business. And you may have these lofty cases that they teach you about an academia but at the end of the day, you also have to make business cases as to where you want to go where you want to go with your firm. How are you going to market yourself what your niche areas of practice are much like any other business again, so back to the Professional Responsibility there, too. A bit you have to consider as far as being a martyr.

Matthew Laurin

Gotcha, gotcha. And my next question is, what’s one tool or piece of software that you use on a regular basis in your law firm that’s really sort of help you be more efficient or helped you help you grow it?

Jonathan Denis

Well, I’ve been at the accounting software that we use PC Law, I’ve used that most of my entire career I find is a very positive accounting software. There’s other there’s other platforms, they’re like, Easy Law, Clio I’ve used before, I always find that pcls actually is actually the best and ba may not be the most flashy thing in the world. But it’s actually the best piece of software that that we have. I also do a lot of business by email. And I find it’s much more efficient than than other ways of business. And particularly in a situation where you have a this this COVID issue, we’re doing more and more video conferencing up in Canada, you can actually do court appearances by video, which I actually find much more efficient. I hope they keep it when society returns back to normal.

Matthew Laurin

I’ve heard others attorneys in the states doing that. And they say the same thing. I’m trying to think what, what’s one thing you notice from working for a firm to running your own firm? What was one thing that was like, oh, man, that’s totally different. I didn’t realize it would be that way.

Jonathan Denis

Well, we’re going to national office, there’s, there’s always a, there’s really never a shortage of work. At most national offices, you’re dealing with very high end clients. But the downside of that is a lot of the firm’s here are, are controlled out of their central office in Toronto. So you don’t have the freedom. Like I like to write letters to break articles in the paper, I sometimes would have somebody complaining in Toronto, they don’t like my opinion or something, you don’t have that in a smaller office. But a smaller office, though, you do need a marketing plan. And a person’s notoriety only goes so far. So maybe as soon as 1015 years ago, you would just take a big yellow page ad in the Yellow Pages. nobody uses Yellow Pages anymore. So it’s tying into your business. It’s it’s important that you have an actual system that works. And I will tell you that this is no reflection upon a good professional like yourself. But you got to hire the right people in that area, because we’ve actually hired many people that will promise you the world and deliver you nothing but a bill. Yeah, yeah, you

Matthew Laurin

gotta watch out for those SEO guys, they’re scammers. No,

Jonathan Denis

I’m not saying that. Just gonna hire the right people.

Matthew Laurin

I hear you. Yeah, it’s it. You’re right. There’s a there’s a lot of fly by night companies out there. And if you’re not careful, yeah, I mean, anyone can can promise promise results? And then, you know, unfortunately, sometimes they you know, they can’t deliver. Um, so you’re totally spot on about that. Um, I didn’t realize they had the yellow pages in Canada.

Jonathan Denis

They have. I haven’t seen one in many years. But as soon as, like, as recent as about 10 years ago, the good lawyers would take on a page in the Yellow Pages and not just like a card, no one’s gonna read a card, you have to spend the money into a page. And I think that same principle applies to online marketing as well. If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it. Well.

Matthew Laurin

I think they call the the double truck. Is that what they call it up there, too?

Jonathan Denis

I never heard that.

Matthew Laurin

That ad. Okay. I thought I thought the the two page or the one page ad was called the double truck. So, Jonathan, out of all of the advertising marketing initiatives, at your firm to generate new business, what’s been the most effective for you?

Jonathan Denis

So the most effective is still word of mouth. Okay. I actually I teach some of the students there, if you want more work, I’m sorry, my, no worries. If you want more work, all you have to do is do a good job with your existing clients. Okay, because people will talk about I get many referrals from other people that we’ve done good work with. And one of the things we’ve actually started doing here is when we resolve a file, I will ask someone boldly, can you please put a positive Google review for me?

Matthew Laurin

Nice. If that worked out for you. They follow through?

Jonathan Denis

It has it has Yes. But one by one like this. Getting back to politics, as many candidates that I haven’t supported, just because they didn’t ask, you’d be surprised what you can get in this world just by asking. Yeah. And if somebody is happy with you, and you give them a nice checker or settlement, whatever they’re looking for, I will humbly ask them, can you please put a Google review for me It takes maybe 30 seconds of their time. But these things add up after a while. Yeah,

Matthew Laurin

the simplest, simplest advice is usually the best. If you don’t ask if you can’t get there, Jonathan, what’s one piece of advice for an attorney who might be thinking about going off on their own that you would give to them?

Jonathan Denis

Okay, so being on your own isn’t as scary as you think it is. But I would typically want to work at another firm your first few years of career help you learn that learn both the practice and the business of law and develop a reputation as someone who does good work in your local market. So I wait a couple years, but then if you bought on your own, you’re going to need a certain amount of capital to start up. But the second thing is, as I mentioned, you need good partners and good partners who maybe are in different areas of the law, but are people who you trust and you can work with.

Matthew Laurin

It’s great advice. It’s good advice. Guys, you’ve been listening to Jonathan Denis, Founder at Guardian Law Group, Jonathan where can people go to learn more about your law firm,

Jonathan Denis

you can go to their website right now and Guardian.law that’s www.Guardian.law. And all of our areas of practice are on there as well. I’m actually I’ve just been accepted at the University of Arizona to do my Master’s degree, I’m going to be pursuing a a bar call in Arizona, there’s quite a link between the two jurisdictions is reciprocal judgments. So I’m probably going to be doing more cross border work in the future as well.

Matthew Laurin

Congrats. That’s awesome. That sounds exciting. Well, thanks for being on the show, man.

Jonathan Denis

It’s always a pleasure speaking with you, and I hope you have a great week and stay safe in these crazy times in our society.

Matthew Laurin

Thanks, buddy.

Conclusion

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