The Post Pandemic Office Space w/ Billie Tarascio 401
Categories: Podcast

Today we’re excited to share a presentation by Billie Tarascio from MaxLawCon 2021! Tune in to learn all about Billie’s post-pandemic law firm, the review of her systems, and her experience on the path to continuing becoming an expert in the field.

Billie Tarascio has been pushing the boundaries for how to build a successful law practice since starting Modern Law in 2008 in Mesa, Arizona. After graduating from Law School at the University of Oregon, she started seeing what many lawyers see. “Most of the people who needed our help couldn’t afford attorneys and lawyers needed more work,” she says. Searching for a better way of doing things for attorneys and clients alike, she started by building a low-cost law firm to help clients during a difficult economy.  Alas, the numbers didn’t work, she recalls. “I needed to find some way of making divorce cheaper,” she said.

That’s when she built Access Legal, a cloud-based document automation software for clients to help them create their own forms and filings, ostensibly with the coaching help of an attorney or paralegal. Still, clients were not always comfortable creating legal documents. But technology continued to drive the bottom line in her firm, where she developed techniques to tweak results that she’s been sharing with other lawyers around the country. 

Through her experiences and driven by metrics, Tarascio has developed the steps to create and assess changes to any law firm, and drive measurable increases in company profits – which ultimately serve clients with better service. Tarascio has four children ages 3 to 14 and lives in Gilbert, Arizona.

1:26 made predictions

4:01 demand is off the charts

7:28 client advocate role

12:55 Google mind business

16:20 where are the people searching

20:17 what is the purpose of the locations

Watch the podcast here.

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Transcript: The Post Pandemic Office Space w/ Billie Tarascio

Speaker 1
In today’s episode, we’re sharing a presentation from Max law con 2021. Keep listening to hear Bellator ASIO. As we share her talk, the post pandemic office space, you can also head to the maximum lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Have you grabbed your ticket to this year’s conference? If not, head to max law con 2020 to get yours today. Now to the episode,
Speaker 2
run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum liar podcast, podcast your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson nutrix. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.
Billie Tarascio
All right, so I have 20 minutes and I tried to pack in as much as I possibly could, because that title was so long, and it gave me so much opportunity to talk about so many things. So if I go too fast, just tell me that I’m probably going to post pandemic office space, march 2020, we were all in the same exact spot told to go home, we had to look at what our systems look like. We just send everybody home and figure it out. My firm was in a fairly good position to do that. We had systems everybody always had the ability to work from home. So it was a culture change, but not a deal breaker few tweaks good to go. We met often. And we talked about what does this mean? And I made predictions. And I told my firm, here’s what’s likely going to happen, we’re going to hit a recession, the middle class is going to shrink, there will be a larger, lower class demographic and increased demand there, and a smaller number of people who will be able to afford peak services or Premier services. So we need to continue on our path of becoming absolute experts in what we do. We need cash, we need to prepare for huge demand and bankruptcy and foreclosures seem solid. People are like, gosh, she’s so smart. And that was not what happened not even a little bit. Instead, over the last 20 months, our entire culture has changed. And it has rattled my workforce and my clients. And so instead of what I predicted would happen, instead, we’ve got a massive culture change in what our employees want, in how our customers are and clients are behaving, where they’re working, where they’re at, where they’re searching for lawyers. We’ve got massive tech advances, huge resignations, and your current employees, they’re rattled, they’re looking to leave. And they’re not just looking to leave you. They’re looking to leave law. They’re looking for their greater meaning in life. 54% of people right now statistically, are looking to leave their job. One of the biggest reasons is remote work, people remote work for people is no longer really an option. If you want top talent, I think I think you will not retain top talent if you’re unable to give people a remote work option. At least this is what I found in my office. So demand is huge. You know, the whole thing about my demand going smaller because the top of the market would be smaller. That didn’t happen. Instead, we’ve got massive demand for what we do divorce. Now we thought that divorce demand would go up because of the pandemic, putting people together, right. We all predicted that that’s not actually what happened. Statistically. Divorce filings are not actually up there actually, statistically across the nation down. But I think what happened is so many law firms that were not well positioned to adapt to this change shrunk and went away, that those of us who are still here are getting more and more calls. So demand is off the charts. Although my clients are squirrely, the thing they are they’re squirrely, they’re harder to please. They’re like, I don’t know if it’s just because we put more checks into place. But like it’s harder to keep them happy. It’s harder to keep them connected. And I think that that’s just because the world is harder right now. And there’s anxiety, and there’s angst and if you are going through a divorce, you’re adding that on top of everything else. So I’ve grown hugely in the last 20 months. And what is stopping me from growing more is people getting the lawyers and the paralegals. So the war for talent is real. And the war to keep your people happy is Israel. So I’ll just before I get there, I want to a quick story. So we talked I just heard Seth talk about those all stars within your firm. One of my All Stars is a paralegal that I’ve had named Candace. She’s been with me for nine years. She’s written literally all my policies and procedures. She trains everyone. She’s amazing. But she’s had a rough time during the pandemic. She’s a process person, which makes her amazing at what she does for my firm but also she tends to be a little negative. Those people have huge pros and who’s cons. So the pandemic was hard on her and I could tell she was unhappy. And one day she called me and she said, Billy, I’m sorry to tell you this. I wish I could tell you in person, but when I’m in person, I can’t do this anymore. I’m out. I’m going to start a food truck with my brother. And I’m like, Yes, Candace, I’m so happy for you. Congratulations, like, how can I help? Because that’s how you need to respond to your people who quit and then fabulously the next day, she’s like, I don’t know what I was thinking, I touched my brother. He’s like, I wasn’t ready. You did that you couldn’t. She’s like, I thought we talked about this. So she’s back. And you know what that thing that little blip for her was what she needed to get out of her funk. And now she’s, you know, she’s engaged. And she’s like, Hey, I really need more time with you. And we’re doing that and she’s back to being awesome. But your people are squirrely. So anticipate that and do what you can to keep them and keep them engaged. Now, let’s talk about sexy job descriptions. How are you attracting the right talent? rewrite all of your job descriptions to talk about what an amazing place that is for people to work? Right in the job description that you’re gonna pay them a sign on bonus, you’re competing right now with everybody everybody is looking to hire? Do you see this? Do you see the we’re hiring everywhere? And are you having a hard time getting quality applicants, one of the things you can do is one of the things that I’m doing is I’m taking the money that I would be paying a recruiter, and I have a $10,000 sign on bonus for a family law attorney. In my title, you get five when you sign on and five after 90 days, if you’ve made it through your 90 days, because that’s tough. I also require a video interview. And then when I’m writing my job descriptions, I’m talking about what an amazing place modern law is to work. Do you want to work for a boss that will support you invest in your career, a team that will have your back? Do you want flexible hours, like I’m basically marketing to talent. So think about all the effort you put in, and the marketing exercise that we were given this morning. Think about that also for your employees, or the potential people to come into your firm, then make it very hard to come in, you still want to be very, very selective, but you want to get as many possible quality applicants as possible. That’s one of the ways to do it. Now select your people slowly and carefully and job titles. Okay. So one of the things I’ve recently done is I’ve changed client intake, nobody wants to be in sales. I read an article recently that says nobody wants to be in sales. There’s no more degrees in college for sales anymore. And it’s very unpopular with our Gen Z and Gen X. So one of the things I’ve done is I’ve changed my client intake role to a client advocate role now that people who want to be client advocates are much more willing to apply for that role. So think about that in your title as well. It’s fine for the attorneys. It’s fine for the paralegals. But if you’re looking at some of these other areas, think about how to make that very attractive. Now I always require a video interview, I do pre employment testing, I’ve heard massive shoutouts for Jay Henderson who have not used but I think I need to and then assess their values. One of the ways that I do that is we’ve got a sheet of paper with let’s say 20 adjectives or 30 adjectives, and then I ask them to rank them one through 20 or one through 30. That is better than saying, Do you here’s our values. Do you agree? Everybody agrees? Everybody agrees that yes, there’s values to but if you actually write them down in order and make people rank them, then you’ll get a better idea of these people of whether or not they actually have your same values, then you want to do a multi person interview, you want to make it hard to get in the door. So attract as many people as you can, and then make it hard to get in the door. But be adjust, be open to changing. One of the things that has happened is that when we sent everybody home, they were happy to work from home, sorta they didn’t really want to work from home, they wanted to get back in the office. But as an ad, I was looking at expanding my space because we had outgrown our space a long time ago. So I was looking at building a much bigger space to house our very growing office. And one of the things that was keeping me from growing as quickly as I wanted to was lack of space. And one of the things that is no longer an issue is lack of space. Because after four months or so, every quarter, we do a check and we do a retreat. And I started asking people, you know, six months down the road, nine months down the road, 12 months down the road of a pandemic. If the pandemic was gone today, how often would you want to come into the office? And slowly but surely, that number went down. And now people are telling me and maybe one day week, and nobody wants to drive? And if we’re thinking about keeping top talent, you’re not going to keep top talent if you make a drive? How, how many of you are business owners? Most of you, how many of you have to drive more than 10 minutes to get to your office? How many of you have to drive more than 30 minutes to get to your office? Okay, very few of you. And I’m shocked. I’m shocked you do that to yourself. Because if you have the option to not drive, like that’s just wasted time. So where does that lead us? Oh, what am I client advocates? Do I want to tell you about this? My client advocates do more than just intake. They do current client check ins. So they’re now talking to people at the beginning of the case. They’re doing current client check ins Hey, how’s it going? We’re nonverbal person. Is everything going okay because we’re trying to call a client feed back more more often. And so that’s how I know clients squirrely, and then they want a referral program. Now, what I’m not talking to you about today is deregulation. But Arizona has deregulated Arizona has now allowed gotten rid of 5.4. They have gotten rid of the rule against non lawyer ownership of law firms. And one of the things that we’re allowed to do now is a an official referral program. So they run our official referral program, which is badass and creating a whole lot of things. So hit me up about that. It’s not talking about that. And then they do MPs and they think about reviews. Now, my whole marketing team, they’re part of the marketing team, and they get bonus based on that.
Speaker 4
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Billie Tarascio
Now we’ll get to the office. Okay, so the office, nobody wants to come in. Right. And I posted a video on maximum lawyer, I’ll get you this this about my Saturday morning experience with Google Maps. Some of you may have seen this. But let’s talk about Maps. Google Maps, Google Maps is the freest most accessible, most valuable place you can go for demographic information and for research tool to talk about where you should put your office. Because you can use Google Maps to identify where are my clients, guess what they’re working from home, the best people are not driving to the office every day. So they’re not searching for a lawyer from downtown anymore. They’re searching for a lawyer from their house, your people don’t want to drive. And you can use Google My Business to find out where your competition is, and where you can put your next offices. So I’m going to take you step by step through this. This is the Phoenix metro area. It’s massive. I went to the Phoenix Business Journal, I looked at the top 10 zip codes, wealthiest zip codes in Phoenix. And I went on Google Maps, and I put them in and then I marked them as a favorite with a star or with a heart, just so I could visualize where are my target clients. Then I added my people, I went into gussto. I looked at their addresses, I put them on Google Maps, and I marked it as a favorite with a star. Then I put my current offices that wasn’t this at the time, because I added offices based on this. I put my current offices and I saw well where’s the holes? Where are my people at and my clients where I don’t have an office? Then I took it a step further, and said, okay, but who are the lawyers that are over in those areas? So I started, you know, typing in lawyers or attorney and hit the zip code and zoomed in and found them and then I could see where’s their holes where the lawyers need to be. And the other thing I could do is I could look and see hmm, there’s an estate planning firm exactly where I want to be, I want to say any office space they want to give me because reduces aren’t working anymore. And so then I just messaged him through this on that morning and said, Hey, do you guys have any space you want to share? And two of them said yes, exactly where I wanted to be. So this one right here. That’s my North Scottsdale location. That is right next to my dude here, Ryan that works here. And this is with co located with an estate planning attorney who had a really good reputation and worked with super rich people. So we’re now office sharing this one. I contacted this guy who was a personal injury attorney. Hey, do you have any office space? He’s like yeah, actually, I have a condo right next to me that a weight loss persons in and they’re leaving and I’d love to rent that to you. I’m buying it. It’s now mine. I entered into a lease option for a great deal and that’s my first office buy. Just because sight, like hit people up on Google Maps. This is Google My Business. So when you talk about Google My Business, Google, my business is free local search, right? And these are people that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, these are free clients. This right here, this is our pure relocation, which we just got less than a year ago. And I’m just buying right now. And this discovery section tells me from my Google My Business page, 11 145 people, new people found me and a month from this location. So you need to think about locations differently. Locations are getting you business. And then this, this is macro search, how many people found us? Can I see what it says? No, the numbers are a little but there were a lot, a lot of like a lot for the money. And then new calls, new visits. How many new calls? Am I getting? Again, that’s too far away. But let me look, this is the website 3822 calls? No 22 were requests for directions and 15 calls one month, one location, right? So locations are money. Now, the other really cool thing here is is are you in the right location, you can go into that Google My Business. So now I have five locations. And you can go into Google My Business and look at insights. And this tells me where are the people searching that are finding your Google My Business. Okay. Now, one of the things that this showed me is that these are my two, these are two locations, Mesa and Gilbert Mesa is the location that I’ve had the longest Gilbert is my pop up location within the mall. Have you guys heard heard me talking about that? I put a location inside a mall, a high Deluxe, you know, rich people mall, like the coach in the Apple Store. And they, they the malls are now allowing you to rent space on a very short term basis when normally you got to enter into a five year lease to get into that type of location. But it’s a popup location, you can try business model and I wanted to try a modern Express business model, which will be a low cost business model that really focuses on what my legal document preparers can do. And anyway, it hasn’t worked. The only reason it’s been successful is because of pro bono days. So we’ve been doing pro bono days, those have been hugely successful. And part of what we do at pro bono days is not only sign up a lot of clients, which I didn’t know what happened, but did. But we also ask every single one of those people for reviews. But that’s a little bit of a tangent, because what we’re talking about here is the searching. So this is telling me that people who are coming to the Google, my business and Gilbert are from these locations, these zip codes. And people from the mesa, Google My Business are coming to me from these zip codes. They’re on top of each other. They’re too close. So I found a new location by using Google My Business last weekend. And looking for lawyers in the area. And I found this this lady, I only contacted one lady, I looked at the different lawyers that were surrounded by the hearts. I looked at their websites, I looked at their Google My Business, I tried to decide like how savvy are they? How good of a reputation do they have? What is their office actually look like? You can look at all of that from Google met. She didn’t really have a website. So I messaged her on Facebook. And then I was like, Do you have any space that you’re interested in leasing? She’s like, Yep, sure do, how much she want. So I’m gonna go meet her next week. And I’m gonna move this location, which is not only not making money, but on top of the other location, we’re going to move it there, which is in a much more lucrative place. Also near my stars, and your these two hurts. What’s that the question one? Do I have staff at the Gilbert location? Do I have staff at all locations? Let’s just talk about that. So not all of them. So I have staff at two locations that are our main locations, the other ones are not staffed all the time. And it does not impact my ability to have a legitimate Google My Business and collect information from there. And then as long as my people are located nearby, they can have meetings there. And people can book consultations online per location. For the Gilbert location, which is the mall location. I put my intake team there. That team could work from home, but I didn’t have to hire new people to cover that space because I just put my intake people there. Oh, yeah, let’s take questions.
Speaker 5
Using your employee home locations as Google My Business locations.
Unknown Speaker
I am not. I’m not. Yes.
Gary Burger
Are you transferring reviews when you change a location? Are you changing the location so your reviews go with
Billie Tarascio
you? Yes, if I’m moving a location so for instance, when I move the retail location to miss Kristin White’s office, I will simply change the location and the reviews Look, I guess.
Speaker 7
So is the purpose of having multiple locations to serve as an anchor in the Google and give people the sense of proximity? Marketing is that the marketing goal?
Billie Tarascio
What is the purpose of the locations, they’re multi purposed? Number one, attract clients who are in the area and searching for divorce lawyers, because we know that is how people are finding divorce lawyers, not because they walk by somebody in a mall, and they don’t want to drive they’re searching at home. So that’s one of the reasons. Number two, I want to attract and retain talent. So I want to put offices near where my people live, so they don’t have to drive. Those are the two reasons. Other questions? Yes.
Speaker 8
So your team needs to be in the office, they can go in otherwise, they work remotely? They need to get out for a day. Oh, yeah. They have genuine flexibility.
Billie Tarascio
Absolutely. The office is completely available. And there’s always an office that someone can work within. Many client meetings will happen there. We’re doing we have company meetings on Fridays. And we ask that everybody comes in on Friday, so we can see each other and have lunch together when they’re when COVID. Not a big deal. But most of the time, it’s just completely optional. Yes.
Unknown Speaker
suite number.
Billie Tarascio
Okay, so I’m not a digital marketing expert. I don’t have a different suite number from the estate planning attorney that I share an office with in north Scottsdale, what I’ve heard is that as long as you have a different area of law, you’re fine. So what does this allowed me to do? It’s made it simple to attract new clients in a different area. It’s made it easy for me to cater to my best employees, and attract new employees, because new employees are now located to one of the office spaces. And it allowed me to scale as fast as I can, without having enough seats or room to put people in seats. This was a change that I didn’t really want. This was not this is a different culture than my law firm had. And my law firm had previously rejected the idea of having a culture that was remote, but the culture changed. And what am I going to do argue about it, fight against it, or embrace it and take all the benefits that I can and still find a way to build my culture in a new world. That’s it. Any other questions? Thanks. All right. Thank you, guys.
Gary Burger
Thank you, Billy. Thank you. Can I ask you one question before you go? What if you’re like an old dinosaur lawyer, and you need to see people in your office to make sure they’re productive and stuff, and now you have people working? I’m not talking about me? How do you monitor productivity? or manage this? And I know, I don’t want to cut into Jay’s time. But I did have that question.
Billie Tarascio
How do you keep people productive? How do you make sure they’re doing their job?
Gary Burger
You’re gonna let them do this virtual environment working?
Billie Tarascio
Okay, regardless of whether or not they’re in the office or at home? How are you gonna keep them productive? I don’t think the question is different. I don’t think being across from somebody and watching them. I think that is false. I think that is a false mindset issue and a false issue of security. And the way that you keep people accountable is through KPIs. And for me, there’s two KPIs that I use to keep my operations team accountable. And that’s revenue, and its net promoter score, NPs Net Promoter Score. And we also ask client satisfaction along the way to keep us on track. But those are the two numbers that I need in order to know if my firm is on track or not. All right, everybody,
Gary Burger
let’s give it up for Billy, please. Great job. Thank you very much.
Speaker 2
Thanks for listening to the maximum lawyer podcast. To stay in contact with your hosts and to access more content. Go to maximum Have a great week and catch you next time.


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