This week on the show we have Bill Farias, founder of Farias Family Law, LLC in Fall River, MA. His firm focuses on family law, mainly divorce and child custody cases.
Bill began his legal career as a prosecutor with a goal to become a top criminal defense attorney. However, after a few years doing criminal law, he shifted his focus to family law.
Bill believes in the importance of constantly striving to improve personal well-being. He learned a valuable lesson in law school when burning the candle at both ends and neglecting his personal health resulted in his having to take time off to recover. He’s learned that prioritizing physical and mental health will make you happier, healthier, and a more effective professional and leader.
Bill has shifted his focus from being a lawyer to being an effective business leader and is working on growing his family law practice.
In this week’s episode:
- Competing for a living
- 3 phases of being a firm owner
- Prepping for a downturn
Jim’s Hack: Mark Schaeffer books, great for anyone looking to get into more content marketing or to develop their voice. Known, Marketing Rebellion, and The Content Code.
Tyson’s Tip: PI lawyers may already know about this, but there’s something called Case Analysis, and they’ve been doing free webinars for the last month and I’ve just been bingeing on those. Some of these just amazing trial lawyers that have been putting on these presentations and giving– I mean, I’m talking about opening the full playbook.
Bill’s Tip: Book – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, basically gives you the science behind habit formation. And it literally gives you a blueprint for hacking habits.
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Transcript: “From Lawyer to Leader” with Bill Farias
Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux.
What’s up, Jimmy?
Jim: Oh, Tyson. I’m laser focused. I’ve got my eye on the prize. I’ve got a big argument today. I’m excited about that.
I’m also excited about our guest today. He is one of our good Guild members, Bill Farias.
Why don’t you tell me how you’re doing, real quick, before we get to Billy?
Tyson: I’m doing great. I was telling Bill. We’ve got a little bit of rain for my garden. I’m excited about it.
I got this new hobby. I mean, we’ve already always gardened but like I’m really into it this year. We watched that masterclass by Ron Finley. So, if you’ve not seen it yet, Jimmy– I don’t know if you do any gardening at all, but it’s really– it’s entertaining at a minimum.
Jim: Man, we’re getting old. Last week, I was excited about a new bed and you’re excited about gardening. Just for the record, anything that involves sweat, grass, or mud, I have no interest in as evidenced by our hay bale discussion last week.
Tyson: That’s true.
Well, Amy has not let me mow the lawn for like the last two years. She’s hired someone. And so, I don’t get my fix on the lawn mower anymore. So, when I’m gardening, I get to drive the little lawn mower around carrying less stuff around. It’s my excitement on the weekends. I like it. It’s fun.
Jim: Well, let’s get to it.
Billy, how are you doing, man?
Bill: I’m doing great, guys. Thank you. It’s an honor to be on the show.
I am also the opposite of a green thumb. I cannot do gardening at all. So, it would not look pretty if I tried to go out and improve my garden.
Tyson: Okay. Well, you al have your black thumbs.
Let me just say this. If you’ve got Masterclass, just watch that video. It might get you excited in gardening. I’m just telling you. It’s really good.
Bill: [inaudible 00:02:01].
Tyson: It’s [crosstalk].
Bill: It’s the little things, these days. I agree.
Tyson: That’s right.
So, Bill, tell us a little bit about like–
Jim and I know you’re really, really well now. But for those that don’t know you, tell people your journey, your story, how you got to where you are now?
Bill: Yeah. So, I am the son of immigrant parents. They are career factory workers. They’re retired now. They taught me the value of consistency, reliability, integrity.
They fostered my love for sports. I was a sports kid growing up, played a lot of hockey. They were very supportive. I remember being very intensely competitive as a kid, more so than a lot of my peers.
Going into undergrad, I really didn’t have much direction which I don’t think is unusual, but I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I majored in having fun. I went to what we call the Zoo, UMass. It was a lot of fun but really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living.
So, I did case work for a while, coming out of undergrad, but it wasn’t feeding my competitive drive. At that point, I’m slowing down in sports which, unfortunately, happens to everyone. So, I’m thinking, “How can I compete long term?” And that’s the point at which trial work became interesting and fascinating to me because I was thinking, “Well, here’s something I can do for a living, and get paid, and compete” because I know I wasn’t going to be a pro athlete. So, I start consuming everything I can get my hands on, on trial work. Then, I’m on my path to law school.
So, I start law school. Unfortunately, I very quickly fell flat on my face in law school. I was, I guess, the best way to put it is burning the candle at both ends. I wasn’t taking care of myself at all, personally. I think a lot of that comes from my competitive drive, right.
So, everything I do, I do 1,000% and I approached law school the same way. Just every waking hour, that’s all I did, wasn’t sleeping, just generally not caring for myself. And that snowballed into some pretty intense insomnia and sort of a downward psychological spiral. It got to the point that really I couldn’t function. So, I couldn’t think.
I was at a crossroads. I had to decide what I was going to do. I had to take some time off from law school. I remember feeling defeated at the time and embarrassed, right. It was the first time in my life that I put my mind to something, and I felt like I failed. So, that was a very difficult time for me.
So, I had to go to the administrators and tell them what was going on. They were very supportive. They said, “We’re going to hold your slot and you do what you need to do to take care of yourself. And let us know if you want to come back.” So, at that point, I wasn’t really sure. I was filled with doubt. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back. The thoughts going through my head, “Is this something I can even handle? Do I want to do this?” But I got myself some quality help, saw a cognitive behavioral therapist, read a lot on psychology, learned about personal well-being, re-grouped, went back and got my law school degree.
At that point, my goal was to become a criminal defense attorney. My thought was that the best path was to prosecute for a couple of years, got a ton of trial experience in court, every working day, trying cases in front of juries, judges, just really getting comfortable on my feet. So, I did that for two years. And then I started my own practice. I was mainly doing criminal work at the outset. But, at some point, started taking family law cases, became more interested in family law and, eventually, transitioned to doing mainly family law.
Now, we have a small firm in southeastern Mass. There are three of us, myself and two other employees. I’m really excited about the future, planning to grow.
Jim: Bill, talk to us a little bit about making that transition away from criminal law. How has that been? And how has your mindset been, going through that?
Bill: It’s been great in the sense that I can now devote all of my attention to what’s really important to me and what’s really going to help me take it to the next level. I felt like criminal law was my safety net. I mean, I did it for so long that I felt like to let go of it was a big risk. That’s something that I’ve really worked on, in terms of my mindset, is taking on more calculated risks.
So, for a while, I just wasn’t open to doing it. I think The Guild was very helpful in helping me develop a mindset to make that leap. I think what was most difficult for me was I knew that I had to take a step back, financially, at least short term, to make that leap.
I do believe that niching down is the way to go. So, once I focused on family law, it was really a matter of digging up the courage to make that transition. Then, it was a matter of just doing it, just went out there, announced it, “Here’s what I’m going to do.”
Now, I have a few cases left but I’m going to close those out and it’s in the rearview mirror. I’m really excited for what’s ahead. I enjoyed criminal law, but I’m more interested in family law. I think it’s a better fit, especially for what I’m trying to do, in growing the firm – at least in terms of where my interests lie.
Tyson: Bill, you made a really good point because you do have this short-term pain but long-term gain whenever you decide to niche down and get rid of one of your practice areas. It is painful at first but, once you get past that, it is very beneficial for your firm.
I want to step back as well. I want to ask you about how much of your story do you incorporate into your marketing, because I think you’ve got a really interesting story that would relate to people that are going through a very stressful situation. So, how much of that do you incorporate into your marketing?
Jim: Good question?
That’s something that I have to work on. I think I need to certainly develop my marketing skills. I mean, I have the fundamentals. My eyes were opened and a whole new world opened up to me, when I started consuming Ben Glass and Dan Kennedy at around 2015. So, I’m doing the basics. I’m putting out content. But I think once I sort of solidify my foundation in terms of my operations, which is my focus right now, that I really need to think about my marketing and come up with a plan. I think that that’s something that I certainly need to do more of. So, the answer is zero. There’s none of my personal story in my marketing.
Jim: Bill, we had a chat over a few weeks ago and you, after that, did a Kolbe. I know that on your Kolbe report that it came back that you’re a high fact finder. Listening to your story, this morning, I can see it because you said that when you were finishing up college, before you went to law school, you did a real deep read on trial and legal work. And then, when you had that situation in law school where you needed to take a step back, you said you did a lot of reading on psychology and working with a therapist. Talk to us a little bit about what your approach is to reading so as to up your skills.
Bill: I am a firm believer in making time, every single day, to consume knowledge. So, before I tackle any work, every single day, I consume about half hour of reading on a number of different topics – a lot of it business development, personal development. You know, I came on to this, a few years back, when I started learning that a common denominator among very successful people is that they consume knowledge regularly. They don’t really take time off. They are constantly in improvement mode, self-improvement mode, both personally and as businesspeople.
And so, I just decided that that was a habit I was going to incorporate. And so, I sort of bookend my days, no pun intended. I start with half hour of reading and I finish my day with consuming a little more knowledge before bed, usually more personal, at that point, to kind of wind down. But it’s something that I’ve incorporated into my routine. And so, now, it’s second nature.
Tyson: So, Bill, you said a few things that sort of, you know– I don’t know, really pinged with me. I noticed some differences and things that you’re doing now, as opposed to a year ago. And so, over the last year, what are some things– I mean, how have you changed? How have you changed your practice over the last year that have helped you, I guess, make more money, but also helped clients, improve your efficiency, things like that?
Bill: So, I think it’s best to probably step back to explain what I see as my evolution, as an attorney and as a firm owner. So, I think, of my career as having three phases. So, the first phase was, I was intensely focused on being the best lawyer I could possibly be. And so, I did that for a stretch and just went out and got as much practice as I could and read/consumed everything I could on that subject.
The next phase, which I spoke about briefly, was when I learned about marketing which was about in 2015. It was at that point that I learned that you have control over your financial destiny, that you don’t have to do, I call it, the old school way of just going out and working hard and relying only on word of mouth to build your business.
And then, the next phase, which is the phase I’m in now, started probably about two or three years ago, when I started to view myself as a CEO and firm owner. That was really a breakthrough because it allowed me to kind of step back and look down on my business from a 10,000-foot view and understand that there are all of these components that I’m in charge of – marketing, systems development.
One of the most important that I’m focusing on now is staff development, right. So, now, I am a coach, I am a manager, and I’m doing my best to develop my staff to create a system that allows us to all grow together and learn together. So, my perspective has really changed in that regard. I’m working on freeing up more time every day, it’s going to be a gradual process, but freeing up more time every day to focus on those tasks and responsibilities.
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Jim: What do you enjoy most about this current phase that you’re in?
Bill: This goes back to what we talked about, Jimmy. I did the Kolbe. I didn’t really dig into the numbers and what they mean but I remember, after having that conversation with you, going into the Kolbe, hoping that I was going to be a visionary, right, because it’s Steve Jobs that gets all the attention and hype. That’s the cool thing, right. Not many people know about Wozniak and what he did at Apple.
It turns out that the numbers indicate that I’m more of an integrator and that makes sense because I do enjoy the nuts and bolts of putting together plans, sort of being the engineer of the firm, right, taking a look at the different systems. What needs tweaking? What needs improvement? So, I do enjoy that a lot. I do also enjoy the marketing. And I enjoy the long-term planning and building that. But I do think that I’m a little bit more of a hands-on person in the sense of actively working on improving the business.
I am getting better at delegating. That’s something that I really struggled with a while back. I guess, you can say I was sort of a control freak. I think after shifting into this phase that I’m in now, I learned that there is absolutely no way that you’re going to be able to scale a firm by being a control freak. And so, I’m very comfortable now delegating and trying to do more of that. So, I think I’m best at running the operation.
Tyson: So, Bill, I do want to kind of try to get down into some things that you said you had some struggles with. One of the things you said you have struggles with is diversifying marketing. Can you tell us what you mean by that?
Bill: Yeah. So, what I mean is that I’m a big fan of Content Inc. I read Content Inc. a while back. It’s a great resource for anyone who hasn’t read it.
I’ve been focused mainly on written content. So, I’ve been doing that for years. I shifted my focus, for a while, on creating some video. That was a very short period of time.
And so, essentially, I’m relying solely on my written content and my SEO which I think is pretty strong overall, but I believe in diversification in the sense of I don’t think that I should be relying only on my Google local and general SEO. I think I can do a better job of, for example, I need a newsletter. So, that’s something I’m working on. I’m working on creating a newsletter. I currently don’t have an after unit, right. So, I’m working on building that. And I think the newsletter is going to be a big part of that.
I think another thing that I can work on is– Jim, you and I had a brief talk about this at MaxLaw ’19, about networking, right, and the power of networking. We know that John Fisher is great at networking and a big proponent. Many fellow MaxLaw members believe in it.
I have not networked at all. So, I think that may be the right answer is– so maybe it’s not going to be an I group every single week or doing a launch every single day, but maybe it’s better more targeted networking. I’m just thinking out loud, just trying to pick certain individuals who, first of all, you can help, who you can use to sort of create a service hub where people come in, they have a problem, you have someone reliable you can refer them to and, you know, maybe at some point down the line, you get some business from that. So, that’s another area that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to.
Generally, I just think I need to be diversified. I think I have all my eggs in one basket and I’m not sure that that’s the best approach.
Jim: So, I’ll ask Tyson a question.
But for me, Bill, there is no practice area that we refer out more than family law. I only have one lawyer’s card here, Steve Bardol, in the office. And when we get a family issue, which I literally think is at least once a week, we refer the case to Steve.
I don’t know about you Tyson but, for me, family law, if there’s someone I know who’s good at it, who enjoys it, who doesn’t view it as a grind and knows what they’re doing, I’m happy to refer them. So, I think networking, in your particular field, would be helpful.
Tyson, what do you think?
Tyson: I completely agree. I mean, there is not a case that I refer more than a family law case. I’m sure that the majority of those are just a total pain in the ass because I can’t imagine wanting to ever do a family law case. I’m with you, Jim. We probably get one every other day, at a minimum, of people calling or something through the website. It’s crazy.
So, I think picking lawyers is a smart idea. If you’ve not been networking, I think you’re probably missing out, honestly. So, I think you should start targeting.
I think your idea of targeting specific people is really, really clever. I mean, I have a top 20 list and a top 200 list. I think Jim has something very similar. He just calls them different things, where we target these people with specific things. I think you should do the exact same thing.
I will also say this though, cracking the relationship at this at this stage in your career is difficult because Jim already has referral partners. I already have referral partners that I trust and that I like. So, you need to be smart about cracking that because you’re going to go to some people, they’ll never refer to you. They just will never because they’ve already got their people.
So, maybe targeting younger lawyers could be the right way. I thought about this a little bit, targeting younger lawyers, maybe as young as law school, because they don’t quite have those referral partners yet. You want to get them early so that you can get them to regularly refer to you.
Bill: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense.
Along the lines of what you guys said, I think family law is that practice area that many attorneys just don’t want to do. I mean, even general practitioners, who practice threshold law and take everything, exclude family law. So, I think it’s a great opportunity and it’s definitely something that I need to develop a plan for and execute.
Jim: I’ll push back a little bit on what Tyson said. I love Steve Bardol, but if some young upstart who I liked said, “I want to do some family, I need some cases.” I would probably feel a little sympathy for him and try to dole it out a little evenly. No offense, Steve.
I think that if you can find people who aren’t generalists, who don’t ever touch family and, like you said, don’t want to touch it, I think that just being sort of systematic about it, like Tyson said. I mean, if you think about all the heavy hitters who spend all that money on personal injury cases, if you could just become friends with them. You know they’re getting referrals for other things other than car accidents. So, just becoming friends with them would be good. Of course, if you’re just doing family and they know you’re not going to steal their PI case, then it’s going to be much more of a free flow of cases your way.
Bill: Yeah, absolutely. I think I need to do that to take this to the next level.
Tyson: Steve, you’re still my guy, man. I’m not going to cheat on you. You’re still mine.
So, tell us. I asked you what you struggle with, when it comes to marketing, but other than that– I mean, I feel like you’re in a really good place right now.
I don’t know about you, Jim. I know there’s a significant difference between you now and you a year ago. So, is there something else that you’re struggling with now that we just don’t see?
Bill: I don’t think so. I think I was very fortunate to be in a good position to move through this pandemic and recession. You know, I had saved up a decent amount and was sort of expecting a downturn in the economy, so I was already in the mode of sort of solidifying the foundation and I wasn’t really focused on growth for right now. So, I feel like that has a lot to do with it. So, when this hit, my mentality and my mindset was– I mean, obviously, no one wants a pandemic, but my mindset was, ”I was already in this mode anyway. This is just going to give me more time to work on my business.” So, I think that that’s pretty much it.
I mean, I do struggle with the marketing, I am getting better at managing. Again, I only have two employees at this point so I’m relatively new to this. So, I’m trying to learn as much as I can on that. I think Radical Candor is a great resource for that, for creating a system of being open and honest, but still caring with one another. So, we challenge each other.
I mean, there are challenges day-to-day. But, in terms of something that’s holding me back, I agree that I’ve come a long way in the last year or two. I think a lot of it was just being comfortable with fear and understanding fear. I think it’s Seth Godin, who says, “You have to dance with fear,” right. Whereas before, it was holding me back and I was just thinking, “Oh, I’m going to take on all this overhead and this is going to be so difficult. What if things go wrong?” But you have to learn, you know, if you did the work, and you’re doing the work, and you’re getting better, you have to trust that you’re going to be okay, that you will suffer some setbacks but to treat those as learning opportunities and move on.
So, I think, most importantly, it’s been the mindset shift that’s helped me the most and to not view adversity as the apocalypse but rather using it as an opportunity to improve the firm.
Jim: I remember that you were one of the first people to go on the hot seat in the OG Guild. You know, what’s said in the Guild sort of stays in the Guild. But I just remember, broadly, you pushing back on hiring somebody. I remember how that was such a big deal for you. So, you have indeed come a long way.
I want to shift gears for a minute. You have been a great student of marketing. And if you’re reading things like Seth Godin, and Dan Kennedy, and Content Inc. I’m wondering, Bill, what do you think was your biggest misconception about marketing and what have you learned about marketing that really helped you the most?
Bill: My misconception about marketing. That’s a difficult one. I’ll have to come back to that.
In terms of what’s most helpful, I think it’s sort of speaking the client’s or the potential client’s language, and meeting them where they’re at, and making and designing your marketing so that it’s about them and their pain points. So, that’s really, I think, the key. I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that no one wants to hear about you, and your credentials, and what you did, and how successful you are. They don’t care. They just want their questions answered. And so, I try to focus on that. I try to think of the potential client, put myself in their shoes and ask myself, “What are they worried about? What questions are they asking? What information do they need?” and develop the content that way.
So, in terms of misconceptions, I mean, I really don’t know. I really can’t think of a misconception. Like I said, it was a few years ago that I started learning about this stuff. I thought Dan Kennedy’s material was awesome. He’s not for everyone but a great resource and I learned a lot from that. So, that’s what I’m trying to focus on is focus on the client’s needs, wants, and designing my marketing accordingly.
Tyson: Bill, it might be common knowledge to the people in Maximum Lawyer but it is not common knowledge to most lawyers. I was actually trying to Google Massachusetts Family Law. I wanted to see what the advertising was like because I guarantee it’s all about them. It’s not about the clients – the vast majority of it.
So, you’re doing a really good job. And I even– on your website, you’ve got the banner that says, “Hey, we’re open. We use email, phone, text and video conferencing to serve our clients remotely. Learn more.” I think it’s really smart. I’m probably going to steal that idea, that ribbon across the top. I think it’s really effective. It’s in red. It’s nice.
All that being said, we do have to wrap things up because Jim does have a really, really big hearing today. So, good luck, Jimmy.
I’m going to wrap things up. Before I do, want to remind everyone, go to the Facebook group, get involved there. I want to say hello to the Guild members that are watching live right now. If you’re interested in the Guild, reach out to us, maximumlawyer.com. And if you don’t mind, just take a couple seconds, as you’re listening to the rest of this episode, to give us a five-star review.
Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?
Jim: When Bill was talking about Content Inc, I remember how much I liked those books by Joe Pulizzi. Those Content Inc guys are really good, definitely worth following. They have solid emails every day. But it also reminded me of a fellow that we’ve talked about on the show named Mark Schaeffer, who I was introduced to by Mitch Jackson. He has a couple of books along the same lines as the Content Inc guys, including the Content Code. My favorite one is called Known, K-N-O-W-N. It’s a great book. So, anybody who’s looking to get into more content marketing or to develop their voice, like Bill was saying, anything by Mark Schaeffer would be very helpful.
Tyson: Good stuff.
All right, Bill, you know the routine by now. So, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Bill: So, my recommendation is a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I’m a big fan of routine, both personal and in business. I think that’s really the key, right. I mean, everyone come up with this idea or do something here and there, but you are the sum of what you do, day in and day out. It turns out, it’s not that easy to break bad habits and implement good habits and to do that consistently.
So, this book, The Power of Habit, basically gives you the science behind habit formation. And it literally gives you a blueprint for hacking habits. So, I think it’s a great resource, again, both for personal life and for business.
Tyson: Very good stuff.
For those of you that have been listening to the last few episodes, you’ve heard me talk about sharpening the knife, or the sword, or whatever. However, I put it. Sharpening the blade–
Jim: The saw.
Tyson: The saw. Sharpening the saw, getting smarter.
But studying, and training up, and making sure that your skills don’t diminish. I found– and a lot of you PI lawyers may already know about this, but there’s something called Case Analysis. And they’ve been doing free webinars for the last month and I’ve just been bingeing in those. They had some last week and this week. They were just truly amazing. Some of these just amazing trial lawyers that have been putting on these presentations and giving– I mean, I’m talking about opening the full playbook. It was mind blowing, the other day, whenever I was watching one on crossing defense experts. So, check out Case Analysis. It’s really freakin’ awesome. I think it’s by the Trojan Horse people that are doing– they’re kind of trying to replicate the reptile stuff. If you do personal injury, you know what I’m talking about. But if you want to sharpen your trial skills, even if you’re talking about just– even if don’t do jury trials, I highly recommend it.
All right. Bill, thanks so much, man, for coming on. It’s been way too long. We appreciate it. I’ve learned a lot.
Bill: Thank you, guys. Good luck, Jimmy.
Jim: Thanks, brother.
See you, guys.
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