e19. Law Firm Marketing: Mitchell Chaban, Levin Ginsburg – Winning Over Clients From Other Lawyers

December 16, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin

Mitchell ChabanMitchell Chaban is a Partner at the Chicago-based law practice, Levin Ginsburg. He is a trial attorney who represents business entities, municipalities, and individuals in commercial, business, and employment-related litigation in state and federal courts in the U.S.

In addition to his jury and bench trial experience, Mitchell also represents clients in arbitrations, mediations, and other alternative dispute resolution cases. He is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and Chicago Bar Association and serves as a Group Leader for the Provisors Chicago West Group.

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

  • Who is Mitchell Chaban and what’s his role at Levin Ginsburg?
  • What does Levin Ginsburg do?
  • How Mitchell became a Partner at Levin Ginsburg.
  • Why Mitchell didn’t pursue a solo practice.
  • How to win over clients from your competitors.
  • Mitchell talks about how to find great hires.
  • The challenge with the Farm system for recruiting lawyers.
  • How COVID-19 has impacted the legal practice.
  • How to keep moving efficiently at your firm.
  • Mitchell’s advice for lawyers looking to go into solo practice.

In this episode…

Let’s face it: your dream client may already have a lawyer who does excellent work. But one day, for some reason, you get a chance to talk with this potential client. What do you say to make them change their attorney and work with you instead?

Mitchell Chaban, Partner at Levin Ginsburg, says the number one thing you can do to get business as an attorney is to give business. Then come the questions: who do you give business to? And how? What does any of this have to do with winning clients over?

Find out more on how to win clients over from other lawyers with this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast, as host Matthew Laurin sits down with Mitchell Chaban, Partner at Chicago-based law practice Levin Ginsburg. Their conversation highlights how to be more than just a lawyer to clients, recruiting great hires, and Mitchell’s advice to lawyers trying to start their firm.

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 had the pleasure of speaking with Mitchell Chaban. Mitchell is a Partner at Chicago based Levin Ginsburg. He represents business entities, municipalities and individuals in commercial business and employment related litigation in state and federal courts all around the country. Mitchell, welcome to the show.

Mitchell Chaban

Thanks for having me, man.

Matthew Laurin

Is this your first podcast? I didn’t I forgot to ask you that before.

Mitchell Chaban

This is my maiden run on it on a podcast very excited for the opportunity. Awesome. Awesome. I

Matthew Laurin

haven’t been doing it too long. But I usually ask people that before our intro and just to just to cut I’m just curious from time to time, because a lot of times when I have guests on, they’re like, I’ve never done a podcast and we’re supposed to do something or how do I do this? I don’t do that. And like It’s fine. It’s just we’re just having a conversation. Cool. So um, Mitchell, tell me more about Levin Ginsburg, the the firm You are a partner at what do you what do you guys do?

Mitchell Chaban

Well, Levin Ginsburg has a long and storied history. The firm is 40 years old this year. Founding and its founding partners, Joe Ginsburg and Bob have been our business law attorneys that really focus on transactions. They formed the firm in 1980, and have built it to currently 14 lawyers. We’re a full practice business firm. We generally represent small medium, and some large companies as well as municipalities and some select individuals in all manner of business law, litigation, employment law contracts, corporate mergers and acquisitions, securities, state planning, business succession planning, soft intellectual property, so things like trademarks, copyrights, license agreements, we stay away from patents. We don’t do Family Law, we don’t do personal injury, and we don’t do bankruptcy. But other than that, we pretty much cover the full gamut of the type of legal issues that business owners will encounter.

Matthew Laurin

Gotcha. And I think I read somewhere you’ve been at the firm for 15 years of that 40.

Mitchell Chaban

My 15th annual anniversary will be this January. So just a few weeks from now. It’ll be incredibly 15 years since I joined Levin Ginsburg, that’s awesome.

Matthew Laurin

So did you come in as like an associate or?

Mitchell Chaban

I, this is my 25th year of practicing law. So by the time I got to Levin Ginsburg, I’d already been at this for 10 years, okay, I came in as a senior associate, because I didn’t have much of a book of business, one of the I had been at a couple of different firms before I got to Levin Ginsburg, where those firms really wanted me to focus on doing the legal work, you know, working the files, billing hours generating revenue, I was not encouraged or incentivized to go and develop my own book of clients. And as I reached about the 10th, year of my practice, I started to get opportunities to represent clients that were already represented by the firm I worked for, and I was not really supported in pursuing those opportunities. So that was the signal to me, that I should move to a firm that was more entrepreneurial, and would support my efforts to build a business of my own. And one of the real hallmarks of Levin Ginsburg, is that all of our attorneys are entrepreneurial, we all have an obligation. And we’re all committed to bringing in business ourselves as well as doing the work. So we are complete attorneys, we like to think of ourselves as Renaissance lawyers. So we’re really good at what we do. We’re really enthusiastic about what we do. And we’re all about bringing value to the relationships we have with our clients and our referral sources.

Matthew Laurin

So did that that that entrepreneurial spirit start from day one at Levin Ginsburg? Did you was it always the case where like, you’re going to be involved in the business aspect of marketing aspect, the day to day operation aspect as opposed to just practicing law when you came into the firm.

Mitchell Chaban

That was the expectation when I was hired. I think when I was looking for opportunities around my 10th year of practice, and I was connected with Levin Ginsburg through a headhunter, in the initial interview, they, you know, Joe Ginsburg said to me, what do you want? Where do you see yourself as a lawyer, and I said, 10 years from now, I want to be an equity partner at the firm and have a million dollar book business. And this is self sustaining lawyer and, and have enough work to keep some younger attorneys busy and help mentor them into becoming partners too. And I think that was the right answer. Joe Ginsburg became my mentor. And he challenged me from day one, you said, you want to be a Rainmaker? What are you going to do to develop business, and he made me put together a business development plan with clear goals and benchmarks and set dates to report back to him as to whether I’ve hit those benchmarks, and what am I going to do differently? If I have not, and I was held accountable, year after year, and, you know, maybe that’s what it took. But it worked in business development, on marketing, networking is just kind of a regular part of my everyday life.

Matthew Laurin

That’s, that’s so cool. And it’s different than, you know, a lot of the attorneys I talked to they’ve, for the most part, you know, they’ve worked at firms for a little while, they kind of get the feel for how things work, and then they go off on their own, whereas you kind of, in the attorneys at your firm have sort of been taken under the wing of someone who’s been out there and, and, and allowed to kind of grow within that without facing a ton of risk, right? Maybe that you face if yet if you just kind of opened up shop and started trying to get clients in the door from your own firm. Um, so that’s, that’s really neat that you have a that you had a mentor in the beginning like that. I know, from my perspective, so this agency is the we have a parent agency and the CEO that Chris Dreyer is my mentor, similar, you know, we, we started this agency and, and he’s been really great at holding me accountable and setting goals and showing me how that whole process works. So that’s, that’s unique to you, I guess, in, in the law firms that I’ve spoken with any way that that that you’ve been able to grow within an organization. Um, so, back in the beginning, when you got involved with Levin Ginsburg, was there any thought in your mind about kind of starting off on your own before you came to this firm? Like, did you ever think about like I wanted to start my own deal?

Mitchell Chaban

I did. And the the thing that deterred me from pursuing a solo practice is that after 10 years of working for firms, I was very confident in my ability to do the work in my area of practice, but not confident in doing work outside of my area of practice, areas of practice. And I didn’t want to pass up on opportunities to build relationships simply because the the opportunity that presented itself wasn’t an area of law that I had experience in. So I felt I needed the backing of a firm that, you know, had a breadth of practice areas that would help me bring clients in for whatever the initial need was, and then get sticky with them and develop a personal relationship, and just tangentially, my personal philosophy. And that’s probably not unique to me, that I believe I really have a client, when that person or business calls me about something that has nothing to do with legal services, because they trust me as an advisor, to steer them in the right direction to find them the right person, or, you know, whatever this solution is, even if it has nothing to do with legal work, and it doesn’t mean a fee for me or my firm. And whenever I talk to a potential client, by the time I’m seeing them, they probably already have a lawyer. So why would you make the change? And so what I say to them, and I might be giving away a little trade secret here, but I say to them is, if your existing attorney, CPA banker, if they’re not opening up their world of contacts to you, to make introductions and connections to help you solve your problems and accomplish your goals, you’re not getting the full value out of that with those relationships. So what I’m offering you, you know, consumers of legal services, look at lawyers, a lot of the way that you and I would look at going to a doctor, you just expect that the doctor is competent, and he’s going to get it right so there’s no There’s no you know, extra payoff you get for just doing a good job that’s expected. But the things that the client remembers are that I took their call on Saturday that I talked him off the ledge when they were about to make a really emotional decision that they probably would have regretted, and that they remember when they needed their CFO quit, and they were in a pinch, and they really needed someone right away. And I connected them with the right people. Those are the things that they remember, they don’t remember what the legal product looks like. It’s just like you don’t remember when the doctor set your broken arm. It just worked out. But you remember the experience you had going to the office? So we try to deliver the best client experience possible, because just getting a good result is already expected. So you’ve gone off the tangent time what you asked me there?

Matthew Laurin

No, no, that’s great. Um, yeah, you’re right. I mean, very seldom do we remember exactly what it was we liked about any service that we buy? And, yeah, we just remember the experience, whether it be good or bad. If it’s negative, we remember it being negative, we don’t really can’t really pinpoint it. And if it’s positive, and it’s good, that you’re dependable for for your clients, you’re able they’re able to rely on you. Which leads me to my other question about people at your firm. So you have 14 attorneys. What’s uh, how do you how do you find good people like that, that are entrepreneurial that are that are able to put in the grit and the work? You know, how a lot of letters, a lot of law firms that I talked to, you know, maybe they’re looking to hire their first associate or get someone else in the door to help help scale things? How do you find good people like that?

Mitchell Chaban

Well, that’s a great question. So in my 15, or so years at Levin Ginsburg, my observation is our best hires, whether they be attorneys support staff administrator have always been referrals from people who already work at our firm. So people who are being brought in by my partners or my colleagues, and they already know them, we already have a pretty good idea of what we’re getting, those tend to be the best hires for us. Historically, at least again, over the last 15 years or so, we’ve not had a lot of success with our farm system in the sense of hiring a first year out of law school, and keeping them you know, all the way through their associates ship till the point where we can promote them to a partner. In the 15 years, we’ve had some great hires out of law school, and they stuck around for a while. And then for one reason or another, they left to go in house, they left to go to a bigger firm, they moved away whatever it was. So we have had difficulty bringing, you know, people up from the beginning, although I will tell you coincidentally, today, we made an offer to our Locklear, who is our clerk while he was a third year law student, he graduated in 2020. He passed the bar this summer. And so now he’s officially an associate our firm. So we haven’t given up on the farm system. But you know, in the long term, it has not yielded, you know, what we had hoped for. So we’re, you know, we’re tinkering with the way we handle it, and the hope that this guy who we love is going to be with us for the next, you know, 30 years of his career.

Matthew Laurin

That’s awesome. Man, you mentioned farm system is that? What is that? Is that just a term you refer to for?

Mitchell Chaban

Yeah, it’s a it’s a sports reference, you know, to, okay, baseball farm system that a lot of firms, you know, years ago, they would go to the law schools, and they try to find them, you know, real good students and bring them in as law clerks or summer associates, get to know them. And then find the ones that you think are really going to fit the culture of your firm and do a good job and, and bring them in as first year associates and train them the way you want them to be trained. And that was really the way things worked. I’d say until about 2008. When we had the big, you know, financial crisis, then the law firm started shedding younger lawyers and partners that weren’t carrying their weight. And now suddenly, no one was interested in hiring a first year lawyer, you know, it’s probably a year and a half, two years from when you hire them before you really start making money on them. Okay? The dirty secret about law school is you get out of law school, you can pass the bar and they hand you a license that says you can practice law but the reality is you don’t know how to practice law yet. And you need to be mentored and there’s a cost of you know, more senior Your attorney time spent teaching younger lawyers how to do this. I mean, I enjoy doing that it’s a necessary part of our profession. But it’s a sunk cost. In those younger lawyers, I should say newer lawyers, some of them are in their second careers, they may not be chronologically young lawyers. And so I think a lot of firms have gotten away from that, because they don’t want to sink the resources into train this person, because the odds of an attorney, an Associate Attorney, spending 20 years at one firm right now is pretty low, which, in our experience bears that out. you’ve trained well, you know, new lawyers for 567 years, they get to be really good. And then for one reason or another, they move on, and you got to start over. So that’s sunk investment is gone. So, you know, that’s what I mean, by the farm system. We haven’t given up on it yet. I think our selection criteria may have changed a bit, since we, you know, sort of looked into, why are our associates leaving after a period of time, and there isn’t one reason for it, but, um, and none of them would ever say I think, or at least not to our face that they weren’t happy. It was either. They had a reason why they had to leave, like one moved away, he got married and moved. Another one took a job in house because it was just an easier lifestyle. Yeah. You know, not that they weren’t happy at the firm, but they just didn’t necessarily want that level of intensity.

Matthew Laurin

Gotcha. Gotcha. That makes sense. Um, I wanted to switch gears a little bit here and talk about, you know, the, what’s been going on with COVID and everything and how that’s changed how businesses operate. Has that changed or impacted your firm a lot and how you guys conduct business?

Mitchell Chaban

Well, it’s, you know, it’s certainly impacted us the way it’s impacted. Everybody, our office has essentially been closed, we have been working remotely since the middle of March. If we have clients that have a need or a desire to meet in person, we will do that. In terms of court proceedings, and such, those are mostly being conducted remotely. So in that way, it has impacted the practice, but in a surprisingly positive way. There’s a lot of efficiencies built into these video hearings on doesn’t work so well for like contested court hearings, where you have to present evidence and examine witnesses, but for routine court hearings, it works great. But more to your question about how has it impacted the firm? We used to host a lot of things at our office, our various partners belong to different organizations, and they would host meetings and any potential opportunity I’d have for a new client or something, I always try to get them to the office, you know, they get a feeling of who we are, they can meet some of my colleagues, I think we present Well, when you come to our office.

Matthew Laurin

I didn’t even think about that. Yeah,

Mitchell Chaban

yeah. So so you know, that’s, that’s a challenge. But, you know, sort of ironically, although it’s inhibited our ability to meet face to face, I’ve had people that I’ve worked with, where they work in a company that we represent, and I’ve been doing legal work for that company for years, but I’ve never met this person, I’ve only talked to them on the phone, I’ve never seen them face to face. Well, now we have these video meetings. And so we’re going to AI for the first time in 10 years, I can put like a face to the name. So you know, you don’t get the in person meeting now. But I think you get more face to face than you did before.

Matthew Laurin

Do you think you’ll keep any of these new processes as things kind of get back to normal?

Mitchell Chaban

I think that I will. Um, I you know, to me, the biggest development is what we’re doing right now, this video conference where I can actually see you and in a low cost, a whole bunch of us can jump on and have a team meeting and break out into separate rooms and the technologies, you know, really powerful and creates a lot of opportunities. I think it would be foolish to not continue to use this and find ways to leverage, you know, all the things that this can do.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, yeah, agreed. I know, we’ve always worked remotely. And so my world didn’t change much. But it’s neat to see businesses adapt. I’ve always thought that was interesting. And it’s neat to see law firms be able to leverage technology and change things and find new ways to operate. Is there any other business processes that you guys use? You’re a bigger firm, a lot of the firm’s I talked to, you know, it might be one attorney or maybe two, with maybe one or two support staff. Is there any processes that you use to remain efficient, keep things moving in a efficient manner.

Mitchell Chaban

As you know, as an organization, I think we’re always looking at streamlining our processes, whether that’s this doesn’t really apply some of In my practice area, whether that’s creating form documents that can be filled out by just filling in the fields, or creating banks of legal research that we’ve done on other cases, to sort of have a knowledge Bank of work we’ve already done so when these issues come up again, we have an efficient way to go get that we’re always looking to leverage technology that way I am not involved in that can be you know, committee, I need you talking to me, my, my technological skills are pretty rudimentary. But I, you know, we’re in kind of transition, the two founding partners of the firm are now you know, well into their 50 plus year of practice. So it’s sort of a generational transfer to my generation now is kind of in control of the firm. There are some, um, you know, folks a bit younger than me that are more technologically savvy, that are looking at other platforms to switch to to kind of upgrade some of our existing technology. And that’s where I think the efficiencies are really is in the use of technology.

Matthew Laurin

That’s cool that you have people coming into the firm that are comfortable doing that, um, my final question for you, um, if an attorney is listening, maybe they’re working at a firm and they’re thinking about going off on their own, or maybe just like you did go into a firm that has more opportunities for equity, equity partnership, what would be a piece of advice you’d give to them?

Mitchell Chaban

I guess I have two pieces of pieces of advice. If you’re whether you’re going to go out on your own, or whether you’re going to try to build a book of business with a firm behind you, my first piece of advice is figure out who you are as a lawyer in a in a major metropolitan area, like, you know, Metro Chicago, you cannot be all things to all people. So you need to decide what kind of law you practice and what kind of clients you do and can represent and focus on that. That’s my first piece of advice. My second piece of advice, the number one thing you can do as an attorney to get business is to give business. And that’s a it’s a way of life to look for opportunities to ask the right questions, get the right app information, to make connections so that commerce happens for other people. If you can do that. Business will come back to you.

Matthew Laurin

There you have it sage advice. You’ve been listening to Mitchell Chaban, Partner at Levin Ginsburg, Mitchell, where can people go to learn more about the firm,

Mitchell Chaban

you can go to www.lgattorneys.com and check out our website where you can reach out to me Mitchell Chaban, I’m happy to talk to anybody about anything. If you have a legal issue about anything. I’m happy to talk to you and the initial consultation is always cost free.

Matthew Laurin

Nice. Nice. Thanks for being on the show. Mitchell.

Mitchell Chaban

Thank you so much for the opportunity and thanks for

Conclusion

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