e3. Law Firm Marketing: Bert Polito of Polito & Harrington, LLC – The Truth About Starting and Marketing Your Law Firm

July 15, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin
 

Bert Polito is the Principal of the personal injury law firm, Polito & Harrington, LLC. Bert has been a practicing attorney in Connecticut and Rhode Island for over three decades. He’s received several awards throughout his exemplary career, including the Lawyer of the Year award by Best Lawyers in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019. Bert is also a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

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

  • Getting to know Bert Polito
  • What does Polito & Harrington, LLC specialize in?
  • Bert talks about his process starting his own law firm
  • The turning point in the law firm’s marketing process
  • The software tool Bert is using to run his law firm more effectively
  • What do you do when a challenge like COVID-19 hits?
  • Bert’s advice to lawyers going into private practice for the first time

In this episode…

Founding and running your own law firm is defined in part by a steep learning curve. It can be discouraging at the beginning of the process, but those who succeed are those who are willing to collaborate and learn from people who know more than they do.

In this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast hosted by Matthew Laurin,you’ll hear from Bert Polito,  Principal at Polito & Harrington, LLC, as he talks about what it was like when he first started his law firm and what a lawyer starting today should do to scale their practice.

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 engine marketing. Speaking of successful lawyers, today, I have Personal Injury Lawyer, Bert Polito, of Polito & Harrington LLC. Bert has been a practicing attorney in Connecticut and Rhode Island for over three decades. Among other accolades throughout his career, he has been named Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers for 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019. As well as a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. Bert, welcome to the show.

[Humbert Polito]:

Thank you, Matthew. Good to be here.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Awesome good to have you. Bert, let’s just get started with an easy one. Tell me a little bit about your firm. What kind of cases do you guys focus on?

[Humbert Polito]:

Matthew, I have a partner, James Harrington. We’re a two-attorney firm focused exclusively on Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Litigation. As you said, we practice in Connecticut and in Rhode Island. James is also admitted in Massachusetts, and in Connecticut, we have two large tribal-owned casinos that have their own court system.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Cool.

[Humbert Polito]:

We also practice in those tribal courts as well.

[Matthew Laurin]:

That’s extremely interesting. So, there’s the PI side of it, and then there’s the tribal law. I’ve not really seen a lot of lawyers involved in that part.

[Humbert Polito]:

Right. Yeah, and you might imagine there are a number of incidents that can occur at casinos by visitors from really all-over New England. So, if to the extent those people sustain some sort of life-changing injury, we’ve represented them as well.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Gotcha, gotcha. That’s really neat.

[Humbert Polito]:

Yeah.

[Matthew Laurin]:

So, take me back to the beginning, Bert. I mean, you’ve obviously been practicing for a long time. What was it like in the beginning just starting off your law firm?

[Humbert Polito]:

I should tell you, Matthew, that I had the good fortune of meeting a lawyer who was a practicing attorney when I was in law school who had his own Law Firm, and he invited me to join his firm. So, I practiced with him for over 16 years, and really that was a great experience. He and his partner were excellent mentors to me. I learned a lot about the actual trying of cases, and I’m really grateful to them to this day. What was interesting is that about 16 years into that work, I came kind of a watershed moment and that for me was I had a certain desire to start my own law firm, and it took some deep thought talking to people who I trust and basically took a deep breath and said, “I’m going to do it.” I think I realized at that point a lot of us who do what we do have a certain entrepreneurial spirit. You know that desire just to start your own shop and to make it yours. I had very much respected what the people I worked with had created, and now, it was my opportunity to do the same, but it wasn’t done without some trepidation. It’s a risk. I had a good solid situation where I was, but I wanted to build something that was more in my own vision. You know?

[Matthew Laurin]:

You’d already been practicing for 16 years when you did that?

[Humbert Polito]:

That’s right.

[Matthew Laurin]:

In the 90s – early 2000s?

[Humbert Polito]:

Exactly right, exactly right. So, I did reach out to someone with whom I had worked, and he joined me. I will say, starting out, we were fortunate because a number of the folks I had been representing previously came with me, but it still, there was so many basic things we had to develop and work very hard to do. I will tell you, that’s probably where fortunately some good life experience I already had kicked in. You and I have spoken before. I mean, one of the unique things about me that I’m very proud of is I’m one of 12 children.

[Matthew Laurin]:

I love big families. That’s so cool.

[Humbert Polito]:

Yeah, and when I look at my own life and think about certain qualities that have been important to me running a law firm, I realize I was fortunate enough to learn certain things before I ever walked out the front door of my house. You know?

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

You don’t take certain things for granted. You do have to work hard for what you get. You learn to be grateful. You kind of have to figure out early on what matters the most and what matters the least, and you have to be resilient because things don’t always go your way, and you have to be able to collaborate to work with people. So, a lot of those things kicked in, I think in starting my own firm, and I think those have served me well. So, if I could encourage a younger lawyer, or a lawyer thinking about doing this to just remember those things. It’s going to be hard, and you can’t take anything for granted. You’re really going to have to work very, very hard. The other thing I just learned is to reach out to people who knew more than I did about certain things.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Very true, very true.

[Humbert Polito]:

Fortunately, people were more than willing to share their knowledge, and I benefited from that. So, that process continues to this day.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah. I know, I’ve experienced that in running this agency a lot, and even in my former role with rankings. It’s easy when you run a business on your own to want to just do everything yourself because nobody does it like you, but then it is hard to admit when you need to reach out and find expertise in other areas, but then when you do, it pays good dividends because there’s always something that you’re not totally the best at, and having that outside help can really, really help excel your growth.

[Humbert Polito]:

That’s right. Exactly right, yeah. There’s a certain humility I think that comes with knowing as a leader you don’t have to do everything. In fact, as a leader, one of the things you realize is what you’re not good at and finding and surrounding yourself with people who are good at those things. And having hopefully, the wisdom and the humility to say, “This person can really do that and really run with it, and that’s what I need.” I’ve been fortunate because I have been able to surround myself with some real quality people, and I think that’s another really important aspect of moving forward.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Agreed, agreed. Bert, in your years of experience, what’s been the best, or not the best, but maybe like the most effective strategy or tactic that you’ve used to grow the law firm or get more leads or just grow the business?

[Humbert Polito]:

Right. Well, given my age, because I am somewhat older, Matthew I can tell you that I probably reflect a transition point for a lot of lawyers in the sense that I was raised in the law when one-on-one referrals were very much the way people did business. You developed a network of referring attorneys who didn’t necessarily do the kind of work that I did, and they would refer those matters to us, and that can be, and it remains very effective. But I would say that probably the turning point was realizing that the world had moved from print to digital, and that may seem so fundamental now, but there came a point, I remember, in one year many years ago, where we simply looked at what we budgeted for other sorts of advertising, and a lot of it was print. It was so clear that we simply needed to move that to digital advertising.

[Matthew Laurin]:

What year do you think that was?

[Humbert Polito]:

That was, for us, I would say we were a little later because we were having a fair amount of success in the more traditional model.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

Because we valued our reputation, and I think we were respected for what we did. So, those sorts of referrals were coming, but I would say just within the past 10 to 15 years, really.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Okay, okay.

[Humbert Polito]:

You know, that recent. I had the good fortune of reaching out to someone locally in Connecticut, who was someone who mentored other folks and encouraged me to think SEO and think search engine work and referred me to someone who ultimately was very helpful to me. Then, in turn, introduced me to you.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Okay.

[Humbert Polito]:

So, I will tell you that, that was so clear to me, and it’s something I’m very, very grateful for.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah. It’s amazing how much it snowballed. When you say, “The past 15 years,” it sounds about right because I mean even though the internet was alive and well at the turn of the millennium, a lot of people didn’t start taking it seriously until later on and you know, 2005-2006, and later, and I mean, it’s just it’s growing exponentially now. There’s still holdouts, but I agree too to your point about referrals. We developed really strong referral networks for our agency, and that’s still a really great way to get businesses is just developing relationships. Even in the work that we do, in helping rank client websites, relationships are extremely important.

[Humbert Polito]:

That’s right.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Because it’s just gotten very sophisticated, but that’s cool. That’s really great. I think you’ve kind of touched on this a little bit, but what are some tools or software that you’ve used throughout your career that has really been essential life-saving tools? I know there’s a lot of chat. There’s a lot of case intake software, business management software—things like that. What’s been kind of like a mainstay for you or something that’s really helped run your law firm more efficiently?

[Humbert Polito]:

Well, it’s interesting. We, again, maybe because we had some success early on, we developed our own organic kind of management software.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Okay.

[Humbert Polito]:

But over time, that universe has exploded as you know.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

There’s a lot of competition, a lot of people in that space and we have moved recently to a new management software which we’re excited about. I think there’s a lot of good products out there, but I do think that in order really to have a better handle on what’s going on in your own firm and how to measure what’s going on and identify trends, I think that’s really important. So, I would say that. In terms of social media, again, people are all very different about that. The one thing I would say is that I am completely convinced now that those are the places where we need to be more active, so we’re trying, and made commitments to place ourselves through the help of others with information about ourselves in various forms of social media. That’s how we’re pivoting increasingly. We’ve made a commitment to do that, and we want to do that. I mean, that’s just the way that the world has moved. If that makes—

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely shifting that way. For the management software, did you go with like Clio or one of those?

[Humbert Polito]:

We went with a product called CloudLex.

[Matthew Laurin]:

CloudLex, okay.

[Humbert Polito]:

Which is very much focused on Plaintiff’s Personal Injury.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Okay.

[Humbert Polito]:

I think as they say, there’s a number of good products out there, but this one tends to be more focused on that. It’s interesting. We had just made a commitment to do that just prior. We’re having this discussion during COVID-19.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

Prior to that, we had made a commitment to move in that direction. All our matters were being migrated, so to speak, into that system just as COVID-19 hit. What it allowed us to do, though, was to pivot more nimbly, so to speak, to working in a remote capacity.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Did that kind of ease the transition?

[Humbert Polito]:

It has, and there’s been a sense in which COVID-19, it’s been very painful in so many ways for a lot of people, but for those of us, fortunately, have been able to stay healthy, it’s given us some pause time. You know?

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

To kind of maybe rethink.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

And pivot in a different direction, so the timing, in that sense, has been helpful.

[Matthew Laurin]:

That’s cool. It’s cool to hear that. It’s one of my favorite things about business is just how, you know, all businesses, not just law firms, can be so organic and change the way they behave to adapt to market conditions. If you had to give advice to another law firm who was struggling during this time like if they couldn’t find a way to adapt and change their business to be successful in the time of COVID-19. What kind of advice would you give them?

[Humbert Polito]:

The thing that I have heard, and I do believe in is that any time when a challenge hits, when struggles occur. That’s kind of where some things kick in from very basic lessons I learned growing up. Which is now it’s the time to be resilient. Now it’s the time to work harder. Now it’s the time to maybe think out of the box for yourself. I mean, for me, moving from printed digital was really thinking out of the box.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

It may have been obvious to other people. So, this might be a time when instead of pulling back. Yeah, and again, this is not my own idea. I’ve heard this from a number of sources. Now is the time to commit yourself to a new strategy. To commit yourself to SEO or to commit yourself to more presence on social media. Instead of pulling back and retreating, be strong, and the phrase I’ve heard is put your foot on the pedal. You know?

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

I think that makes a lot of sense. Our instinct is to pull back.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

But I think the world we live in that doesn’t work. The truth is people in my life and in your life when we’ve encountered challenges, that’s not what we’ve done. We’ve faced them and tried to deal with them. It just might mean thinking out of the box a little bit.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah. Yeah. I like, and as I told you, I have a lot of kids, and I know you come from a large family. That’s kind of one of the things I’ve told them growing up because there’s always challenges in sharing resources and having to empathize with others in larger families, and I think that is going to help them succeed later on in life. Maybe that was your experience, where maybe you were forced early on to have to adapt.

[Humbert Polito]:

Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, because we care about the people in our lives. We want to do things for them, but sometimes I have to be reminded to pull back, and where did we gain our strength from, right?

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah.

[Humbert Polito]:

And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah, yeah. That’s cool. I have one final question for you, Bert, and you kind of touched on this a little bit too. If you were talking to a lawyer going into private practice for the first time. What’s one piece of advice you’d give them?

[Humbert Polito]:

You know, it’s interesting because I’ve been teaching at the UConn Law School for the past 20 years. So, I have these young lawyers in front of me a lot.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Oh, so you probably have lots of advice to tell them.

[Humbert Polito]:

Yeah. Well, you know what I try to say to them, and I think about this for myself, Matthew, is trying as best you can, and this is going to take some time finding the right fit for yourself. Because I do believe to some extent, there’s a lot of things we can learn, and we can change, and we can adapt in certain skills, but I think all of us have a certain temperament called a gift. A certain talent to really move powerfully in a certain direction, and if you can find that out that kind of those areas where you really find the most passion, joy. You know, where things kind of click for you. Try to find them because it can be tough when you see someone practicing, and you can tell they’re just kind of running up against their own instincts. It’s just not something that’s they feel really very good about, and it really varies.

Again, going back to my family. One of the cool things about a big family is that you can look around before you leave the house and see there’s a lot of different personalities—a lot of different styles. What works for one person is not going to work for somebody else. What I am doing, you know, practicing. This is the right fit for me because it allows me to fight for people. To help people. It’s very person oriented. It’s kind of a manageable scale that I like. That might not be the right thing for somebody right next door or even someone close to me.

So, what I would say to them is spend some time trying to figure that out. That might mean a few different stops and starts in terms of trying different workplaces, but ultimately, try to find them. Because I think if you find them, you’re going to have a lot more satisfaction, and you’re just going to be better at what you do. So, that’s what I often encourage the students to do. It might not be your first job. It might take you a little bit of time to figure that out.

[Matthew Laurin]:

That is for sure, and that’s great advice. We’ve been listening to Bert Polito of Polito & Harrington. Bert, where can people go to learn more about your firm?

[Humbert Polito]:

We are located in Waterford, Connecticut, and we’re happy to have people reach out to us. You should be able to find us. We’re at www.PolitoLaw.com, and Matthew, it’s good to talk to you. Good to be able to share some thoughts.

[Matthew Laurin]:

Yeah. That’s awesome, Bert. Thanks for being on the show.

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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