ep23. Law Firm Marketing: Phil Andonian, Co-Founder at Caleb Andonian PLLC – What to Expect in the Early Days of Starting a Law Firm

January 22, 2021
By: Matthew Laurin

Phil Andonian Phil Andonian is a Member and Co-Founder of Caleb Andonian PLLC. Phil’s practice is dedicated to representing individuals facing criminal prosecution or government investigation, as well as working on employment and personal injury matters.

Before co-founding Caleb Andonian PLLC, Phil was Of Counsel at one of the country’s leading labor and employment firms, Bredhoff & Kaiser PLLC, where he represented local and international unions in all manners of litigation at the local, state, and federal levels.

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

  • Who is Phil Andonian?
  • Why Phil decided to go out on is own and launch Caleb Andonian PLLC
  • How Phil cut his teeth in the business of law
  • What to expect from a significant shift in your practice area
  • Why new lawyers still struggle with starting and running their firm
  • Should you start a new practice—and what should you expect?

In this episode…

Do you know what to expect during the early days of starting your law firm? Whether you’re riding solo or with a partner, one thing is for sure: you’ll be doing less lawyering and business legwork. Well, business development, that is, according to Phil Andonian, Member and Co-Founder at Caleb Andonian PLLC.

So what does that mean for you if you’re about to give up your steady paycheck and benefits to start your law firm? And, most importantly, what should you expect?

Listen to this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast with Matthew Laurin as he chats with Phil Andonian, Member and Co-Founder at Caleb Andonian PLLC. They talk about the process of starting a new law firm, what to expect from a significant shift in your practice area, who should be starting a law firm, and what to expect in the early days.

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 attorneys 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 digital marketing. And speaking of successful lawyers, today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Phil Andonian, Co-founder of Caleb Andonian PLLC. Phil’s practice is dedicated to representing individuals in criminal defense, employment and Personal Injury matters. Prior to co-founding Caleb Andonian, Phil was up counsel at one of the country’s leading labor and employment firms located in DC, where he represented local and international unions in all manners of litigation at the local state and federal levels. Phil, welcome to the show.

Phil Andonian

Thanks for having me, Matt. Great.

Matthew Laurin

No problem. So yeah, let’s jump right in. I usually ask this question of a lot of my guests because our audience is, you know, solo law firms and small law firms and business advice. Marketing advice is always helpful, and, and also just the driver behind why you started your firm. So why did you decide to go off on your own?

Phil Andonian

Well, I think I decided 2020 wasn’t tumultuous enough to wanted to be sad, like losing a stable income and benefits. No, I, you know, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And I’ve always been really lucky to be working in places in offices that I love, but people that are pretty indifferent that I’d love to start my current firm. But I think I’ve always, sometimes deep down and sometimes not. So deep down just really, really needed independence and the ability to kind of like, you know, not just make my own decisions, but cases take my own decisions, that kind of management. Practice, I think I just function better, I think better, I work better. I know, driving, safety net, to just assume is going to catch me. So, you know, I I do think that was probably something about, you know, the pandemic, and just kind of being locked out. And, you know, kind of interesting confrontation with mortality. Yeah, I think it just felt like the right time. And, you know, my wife is really supportive. And, you know, I think she could see it brewing and kind of give me so that, you know, the reactor.

Matthew Laurin

Nice, nice. Yeah, I noticed you’re a public defender for a number of years. And so back during that time, was it always the plan sort of to evolve and go off on your own eventually, after you kind of got some experience on your belt?

Phil Andonian

I think it was not necessarily something I had thought explicitly about back then. It’s been a while. But I definitely think that experiences is a lot of what molded you know, or formed my kind of legal personality that led to this because, you know, we were, we were really kind of autonomous, even in an office, I think there is a lot of value put on kind of like taking initiative and being creative. And, you know, we all have our own pieces, even though collaborated and even have supervision at the end of the day, like we’re the ones that are trying. So I definitely, I think got a taste for that kind of freedom that, you know, I’m open, you know, I, hopefully, this adventure kind of produces more of, and, and certainly, you know, the skills that I’ve learned there are what I feel kind of comfortable with in terms of like a foundation to do this. So it was definitely a big word.

Matthew Laurin

I hear I hear you. I hear that a lot from attorneys about the business aspect. And then actually, that the practice of law, and so they don’t really teach you a lot about the business aspect of things in law school. Was it what were some resources that you found helpful for learning about that?

Phil Andonian

Yeah, now I keep dragging with my partner. Like, I can’t wait to actually start practicing law. So far, we’ve spent approximately 7000 hours on like, business and startup stuff.

Matthew Laurin

After invoicing and employment stuff and building websites you’ll start right Yeah, right.

Phil Andonian

Exactly. three in the morning. Um, you know, I there are a lot of really, really great resources. I know Lawyerist is the site that I went to, that’s actually how I how I found out about you Because they were very kind of like one of their highly recommended or whatever it is so Okay, yeah, that was great. And yeah, they had a bunch of other really good primers on, you know, just billing and you know, firm setup and all that. And then, you know, I, it was that in talking to a lot of people and just kind of like worrying about all the different things and kind of figuring out the way others have dealt with it. But honestly, much of it, it’s just been videoed, and we’re doing it now. And half of what I thought I was all planned for is completely gone out the window. And you know, the rest of it is stuff I hadn’t even thought about. Yeah.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, you raise a good point. It’s kind of getting in there and doing it. I know, with I mean, any business, I’ve been involved in other businesses too. And yeah, sometimes you just can’t figure it out until you’re actually doing it and feel the pain of making a mistake or, or encountering some challenges that you have to overcome.

Phil Andonian

Totally. Right. That’s exactly right.

Matthew Laurin

So if you had to go back to the beginning of when you started practicing law, what’s one past failure or mistake that you experienced? That kind of led you to future success?

Phil Andonian

Oh, my God. I mean, if I had to pick a failure, I, you know, I guess I would, I think it’s not so much one failure so much as it is just a, maybe a mindset that I would have done, I would have had that was different, I think I tended to be very clear, what was in front of me kind of like, Well, I was a public defender, I was just, everything was trial law, and everything was stand up on our feet, but you know, lawyering it so I really kind of threw myself into that. And I, you know, really kind of turned, you know, my nose down at writing and just anything that wasn’t like real kind of combat trial lawyer in the courtroom. And I, you know, and then and then the last 10 years, I’ve been in a firm that, you know, it’s in the civil world, it’s just a very different life. And, you know, you’re not very writing intensive and very research intensive. And, you know, I definitely struggled a lot with that, because I it was like, a complete shift in attitude about what the law what sin what, yeah, how I could function as a practitioner. And I, you know, I feel grateful for my former colleagues, who really, really kind of helped me grow in that regard a lot through a lot of patience, and kind of advice. But, you know, I, I definitely think that the transition could have been made a lot easier if I had just kind of like, looked at the bigger picture earlier on and understood better or had bargain appreciation for how it’s all kind of part of it, even if I’m working on specific skills. So thankfully, I did go to this firm, and I now feel like I’m a pretty well rounded lawyer, but it did not come easily.

Matthew Laurin

That’s good. That’s good advice. I mean, yeah, it’s hard to look out past your own surroundings and kind of forecast for the future of what you want to do. I noticed on your profile, that you’re a faculty member at Harvard. And so and you still teach there?

Phil Andonian

Yeah, I do. It’s a yearly, I mean, this year got interrupted because it COVID but it’s an annual workshop that they put on, it’s a free course, precursor to one of their clinics. We go up every year, and we you know, it’s kind of like go through mock trial Foundation, you know, evidence.

Matthew Laurin

Very cool. So it we’ve been speaking with the students there, do you ever have a chance to sort of prime them or prepare them for what it might be like to run their own law firms later? Or if they’re like, sort of thinking about that?

Phil Andonian

Yeah. So I have not since, you know, if we’re up and running again in the fall, which question if that if that happens, this will be the first year that I will be there we as you know, as

Matthew Laurin

tall as owning your own or

Phil Andonian

actually, you know, having really seriously contemplated declines? And I would imagine, I’ll have a lot to say about it. I mean, I, I do a lot of other trainings. And I did one recently, a couple people reached out to ask specifically about my, you know, how the transition did my own practices. So it seems like something that

Matthew Laurin

you’ll learn some valuable insights.

Phil Andonian

Yeah. And I was telling one of them yeah, this is a great time because I’m like, really overwhelmed with everything and it’s probably a much better window and like experiences like five years from now, but hopefully I’m with you back laughing. Yeah, like oh my God, let me do that.

Matthew Laurin

always curious, like during law school, even for yourself like is that usually an ambition of law students to eventually own their own firm or people scared to do that?

Phil Andonian

Yeah, you know, I it was not something that I I felt was really an idea that was pushed in my in my law school and I, I would feel pretty comfortable guessing it’s probably the case everywhere and maybe even more so that it’s not a kind of prevailing idea it really big top tier law schools I mean, like Harvard, I mean, the caliber of students there, it’s like, you know, every everybody is either going to an am law 100 firm running for office working for an administration. Sure, yeah. So it’s not, I think you hit on a really good point that even if it if it were something that were kind of openly talked about, there, for sure, was not one bit of any kind of practical kind of business side operation side training, or anything that I was appearing to be. So I don’t I don’t even know how, if one, were thinking about it, they would do it without really doing a lot of work on their own. Sure. And yeah, sure, would be nice if that were the case, because, you know, I feel like there’s a lot of people like me feel like, maybe they’re better not necessarily having to work for others. And yeah,

Matthew Laurin

and you point out a good point earlier about, you know, the resources like lawyers or you know, other online resources or other attorneys even that have done it. network with those people to try to figure out what you need to do to be successful. Yeah, rituals for success, I always like to ask this of our of our guests, what’s something you do on a routine basis, whether it’s daily or weekly to help you kind of focus focus on your, your long term goals?

Phil Andonian

You mean, like, perfect, like any, like, personal,

Matthew Laurin

personal professional death, and that keeps you centered and focused? Well,

Phil Andonian

I mean, you know, a big, big part of my life was, you know, kind of daily going to the gym and kind of really working out hard for a couple of hours, and that that’s actually been a real boss with, you know, with the pandemic. Yeah, I am not somebody that easily self motivates. Unless I have to get up, go to a gym. Yeah, and like, you know, there’s equipment I can use. So that that actually kind of really took a big chunk of my, of my focus out of it. But, you know, I still try to do that. I actually, recently, I began to say my wife is the most supportive person on earth. Not only sponsoring this move, but you know, I few months ago, got a motorcycle for the first time, I spent my life a Harley, no less. And so I’ve actually been really nice, just going out on long rides, and just yeah. And that’s it. That’s been oddly meditative. And so in a way that’s starting to reclaim some of the, the kind of mind clearing the gym used to do for me, so hopefully, that’ll that’ll tide me every time. That’s great.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, and that’s good, you know, advice for anyone is just find something that you can detach with.

Phil Andonian

Yeah, I mean, I really, that breather is so important, because I at least for me, I’m not somebody who can just go non stop with no kind of downtime and still function. Well. So

Matthew Laurin

yeah, I don’t know anybody that is. So so you’re kind of in the thick of it right now starting your own firm. So your advice on this would probably be the best, what’s something you’d tell an attorney thinking of getting into your position? Maybe they’re at a firm, they’re getting a solid paycheck and benefits? And what would you? What kind of advice would you give them that they’re thinking about going off on their own?

Phil Andonian

I guess the, the big kind of top line lessons or ideas that are becoming, you know, evident. And I think they were obvious to me to be a bit but, you know, the, the, the business side of the operation side, which I which I’m including, you know, like business development and kind of like, network building it. Yeah, really, it can’t overstate how much time that takes, and how much you really have to want to be doing that, and how, you know, like, I think it’s probably totally possible to start a law firm if you really would rather not. But I’m definitely finding that, you know, the way that we’re growing and the ways that we, you know, consistent with how we want to, or because we’re, my partner and I are really kind of like taking the entrepreneurial part of it seriously, but it’s a lot of work. And, you know, I guess the other the other thing is, is to to really be again, self evident to me, but you know, you never know what relationship you’ve made or what contact you’ve made is going to end up being important or useful and helpful, and so on. I I definitely for not not because I thought I was gonna sort of firm it, I think more so because it’s in my nature, I just tend to get along with people and I try not to, you know, jerk unless I have to. And as a result, you know, I’d like to think that I have a network of, you know, people and acquaintances and colleagues that think something of me, that’s not bad. And, you know, I’m definitely seeing a lot of, you know, and again, it’s not like using my context, but just the support and just kind of having a lot of people, you know, just kind of pop up, you know, when I’m least expecting it and have something helpful to say, or have a referral or whatever it might be. So, you know, really just being mindful of how how easy it is to, you know, really hurt yourself, if you if you alienate yourself and how, you know, overall, nice it is to just have a community.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, yeah, networks, networking is so important with finding a job starting a business. Yeah, I mean, you never really realized how crucial it is,

Phil Andonian

yesterday, like in the early stages of a startup, maybe that’s going to be a lot of like, the referral network is kind of a lot of, you know, kind of seed client. before you’re, you know, established yourself and

Matthew Laurin

to get some of the other firms I talked to, even if they’ve been, you know, at it for several years, referrals are still a huge part of the business that they’re generating. Right. So for Caleb Andonian, PLLC, where do you guys see yourself in the next five years, I’ve never really talked to someone like at this stage of starting a firm and so interesting to hear what your projections are,

Phil Andonian

yeah, you’re getting all the four weeks or four weeks in or five weeks into your bar, you know, I mean, our goal, I think, is on some level, we want to grow, especially growing with, you know, increasing work, I think we want to be busy and be able to be increasingly busy, which will then you know, naturally, you know, more staffing to a point where we’ve got, you know, a good amount of work. We have a couple of associates that we’re working with and, you know, staff paralegals, and you know, I don’t know that we necessarily see ourselves as wanting to manage, you know, mid sized law firm, although I don’t know so, you know, as small you know, but but formidable shop, I think is kind of what we’re looking to do, you know,

Matthew Laurin

gotcha, yeah. Mark my words, Caleb Andonian, PLLC is gonna be formidable in the next five years,

Phil Andonian

or will be a cautionary tale for

Matthew Laurin

benefits. You can show this podcast to students in your in law class. You’ve been listening to Phil Andonian, Co-founder of Caleb Andonian. PLLC. Phil, where can people go to learn more about your firm?

Phil Andonian

Great, thanks, man. Yeah, Our website is www.CalebAndonian.com. Calebandonian.com

Matthew Laurin

Nice. Thanks for being on the show, man. I really appreciate it.

Phil Andonian

Thanks a lot for having me Matt. I enjoyed it.

Conclusion

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