In today’s episode, Jim and Tyson chat with personal injury lawyer, Brooks Derrick! They dive into the ups and downs of being a lawyer, learning what you want, and the journey to becoming a better lawyer. If you’ve been thinking about how to find your focus and need to make some changes, check out this week’s episode.
Brooks Derrick is the husband of a wonderful woman, the father of two (soon to be three) wild boys, and a personal injury lawyer in South Carolina. He runs his law firm, the Derrick Law Office, in Simpsonville, SC.
4:55 Charleston Law School
8:59 house of cards
12:40 unprompted compliments
15:37 baggage in your head
19:28 hop back in
26:00 forming a plan
Jim’s Hack: Add a simple marketing card or a way for your firm to ask clients if they’re satisfied or unsatisfied with the service you’re providing. It’s an easy tip to find ways on improving your business.
Brooks Tip: Don’t let your future self or the person you want to become hate who you are today. Remember that you’re an awesome lawyer, focus on the things you’re doing well.
Tyson’s Tip: Pick a realistic goal for the quarter, set a reward for it, tell your team about it, and go after it. It’s a good way to dip your toe into scaling up and gain traction.
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Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux. What’s up, Jimmy?
Jim: Oh, I’m excited about our friend on the show today. And it’s funny because I was convinced – convinced he’d already been on the show because I specifically remember being down in Florida and walking around Florida talking to him and you, but it must’ve been a hot seat in The Guild. I remember we were talking about growth and all that stuff with his team and he’s grown a lot since then.
Welcome to the show, Brooks Derrick.
Brooks: Thanks, guys. Good to be here. I really appreciate it.
Tyson: Yeah, I’m really, really excited about this too as well, Jimmy.
So, Brooks, tell us about your journey and be as detailed as you want or, if not, don’t worry about it. So, tell us about your journey and how you got to where you are today.
Brooks: Oh, well. Let’s see. Well, probably the first half of my life, the only thing I wanted to do was be a college soccer player. So, I had no imagination, no dreams outside of “I’ve got to play college soccer.” That’s it. Every decision I made, every single thing I did was to get to that goal.
And I played soccer at Gardner Webb. And when I finished there, I went to Clemson and started in a Ph. D program in chemistry. And I was still playing a very, very, very, very semi‑pro, like $200‑a‑game soccer in Greenville for the first, I believe, it was two years after school. And the third year, I didn’t make the team and I remember driving back to Clemson thinking, “What in the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I had no foggy clue what I wanted to do from that point on.
I switched programs. I went from a Ph. D program in chemistry to biomedical engineering. I graduated from Clemson and I won, I believe, with my master’s degree in biomedical engineering. Moved to Charleston and started doing research at the medical school down there, in immunology. Worked here for a handful of years. Got married.
And somebody came to our labs to talk about intellectual property and the importance of notebooks and all that kind of shit. And I thought, “Wait a minute. This guy’s a lawyer. He’s talking about science. Maybe this is the direction I can go.” Right? I was still in this disparate place in my life, right? I had no idea what’s going on.
And there was a law school that was opening up in Charleston, South Carolina. The very first class was being enrolled that year. And I, on a whim, without much planning, sent an email to the school and said, “Hey, what do I need to do for an application process?” And they’re like, “You’ve taken the LSAT, right?” And I’m like, “What’s the LSAT?”
So, this is like the spring of that year, right? And I go. And I send them all my transcripts. They provisionally accept me. I take the LSAT that summer. I probably get– I don’t remember, but I don’t think it was any better than the middle of the curve and they let me in. And I started in their night program.
So, I was still working full time at the school. So, I had this idea that I was going to be an intellectual property lawyer. And I just fell in love with law school. Like, it was hard but it was so much fun. It was just a wonderful experience. There was no upperclassmen in our school, so we had nobody to talk to. We were writing constitutions for the school. We were doing all kinds of fun, fun stuff that it was just a great, great, great time.
I got a phenomenal job, probably one of the best one or two, three jobs that wasn’t a federal clerkship out of our school. They were paying me– this was 2007. So, this is looking into the eyes of the recession, right? They were paying me a boatload of money. They even gave me a big old gigantic signing bonus that beginning of that summer. And that beginning of summer, second day of our Bar Review, my wife and I, at that point in time, separated. So, I went through a summer, going through divorce, sleeping on a buddy’s couch, studying for the bar exam.
I started that job. And much like I was as a husband, I was a terrible employee. So, it was not only a terrible employee, it was also the recession was coming. And so, about, I want to say, eight to 10 months after I started that job, I was walking out the front door with no job. And I can’t blame maybe but 1% on the recession. It was 99.9% Brooks’ fault. I walked out of that door and I still had no foggy clue what the fuck I was going to do.
I called a buddy of mine. His name was Ittriss Jenkins. He’s now a judge down in Charleston. He had not got a job out of school. I called him I said, “What am I supposed to do?” He had started his own practice. He’d been working for 10 months. He said, “Come to my office.” He gave me– I can’t remember what the name of that book. He gave me like the How to Start And Manage A Law Practice. I believe it was probably the only book that was out at that point in time. And this would’ve been ’08. And I’d read it cover to cover 45 times and did every single thing that that book said I was supposed to do. I mean, I even called my law office, The Law Office of M. Brooks Derrick, LLC after whatever he said in the daggone pages of that book, right?
But then I spent the next seven or eight years of my practice, just a completely self‑absorbed human. I thought I had it all figured out. I was making money, a bunch of money at times and not a whole lot of money other times. I was getting lucky with leads, with referral sources. It just was, at that moment in time, I didn’t think that there was any mystery of what was going on. I thought I was exactly where I was supposed to be. This was amazing.
People thought– when people looked at me, they looked at me and thought, “Hey! Man, I really want to be Brooks.” Right? And in hindsight, now, I know they were thinking, “That fucker is stupid. What a stupid person right now.” Right?
And when my grandmother died, in 2015, that shook my entire world up. I was falling in love with my now wife. Grandmama passed away. I was living in Charleston. My grandfather was still up here. And I had this– over the string of a few days or weeks, I can’t remember exactly what it was, it was just this whole kind of awakening. I remember– I have told Jim the story. I remember I was in the shower one morning, crying my eyes out, just thinking to myself, “You are a house of cards. And if you don’t get things in order, things are just going to fall apart, and you’re not going to have anything.”
And when we came back from my grandmother’s funeral, Andrea and I were living together then. And I said, “What do you think about moving to Greenville?” In fact, Simpsonville. And she didn’t flinch. She said, “Okay, do it.” And we moved back up here. And that would’ve been in 2015.
At this point in time, I still had no clue how to run my business, right? I have absolutely no understanding of cash flow other than I don’t have any money in my operating account. What case can I settle? Right? Like that’s how my business practices was. That’s how I was watching. My dashboard was my operating account, right?
We moved here. A few months later, I’d developed this cervical radiculopathy down my right arm and I don’t work for six– eight months. So, I’ve moved to a new town. It’s not really new but it’s new business‑wise. I am not out beating the pavement, you know, kissing hands and shaking babies, just everything– but I’m still making a bunch of money because I have all these injury cases in reserve. So, like I’m still making a bunch of money. And by the time I start getting healthy again, that business starts to dry up. And I was in a completely terrible place, emotionally and mentally, not knowing what was going to happen.
We were living here. There wasn’t a lot of business coming in. I was doing divorces. I was doing some criminal work. And I remember crying in the closet up here, trying to figure out what I was going to do next, what was my next job going to be, because I didn’t think I was going to be being a lawyer much longer. I thought I was going to have to have some other kind of job, do something else with my life.
And when my son was born, I remember walking around with him and thinking, “I don’t want to disappoint you.” Like, I remember he wouldn’t go to sleep at night. And so, my job was to go and I had to walk him around, and walk him around, and walk him around, and walking around. And I was having all of these conversations with him like, “I don’t want to disappoint you. I want to make you proud.” And those were those were things I’d never had even crossed my mind up to that point, right. It was like I was starting to feel like there was something to be done, right?
As my son was born in ’18, I looked back, the other night, and I joined Maximum Lawyer in ’18, the big group, and I bought– let’s see, I bought– Traction, I think, was in the beginning ’18. And I bought Profit First the beginning of ‘19. So, all of this, like there is– trying to piece all those stuff together in anticipation of this conversation with y’all, like trying to remember my timeline of all this shit, right?
I would just– when– right, when my son was born in August. And I just remember, I was just so scared still that I was not going to be able to be a lawyer. And I was grasping at all these straws. I was grasping at y’all. I was grasping at these books I was reading.
And my wife was working for me at the time– or right before this, right before my son was born. And she was always– but not when I was being a pain in the butt, and whining, and crying in the closet like a wimp. But when I was doing my job, she would give me all of these compliments that were unprompted that would– you know, we would do something that– we would settle a case or we’d do something else and she would say, “Man, you are a great lawyer.” I mean, like, she would say stuff like, I’m on the phone with these other people’s offices and these other guys don’t have a clue what’s going on, you know she just was always probably subconsciously thinking, “I’ve got to make sure this cat doesn’t fall off the damn deep end.” But she was just bringing me along, I guess.
Like, one day, I was coming home and I had had the end of it all. I was just– I was completely broken. Pulled into my driveway and I just cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cried. And I could hear my wife telling me, like not telling me, but just responding to little inquiry. “Hey, you’re a great lawyer. You’re, you’re a great lawyer.”
And I sat in that car and I said– and I probably was channeling my inner Tyson or my inner Jason Selk, who I didn’t even know at the time, but I was like, “I am a fucking great lawyer.” And I kept repeating it over, and over, and over. I won’t do that on this podcast. But I kept doing it over and over and over. And I probably set in that car for 10 or 15 minutes, maybe 20 minutes, and I didn’t say anything else. Just like, “I am a fucking great lawyer.”
And that was the fall of ’18. Like, my son was probably a month or two old, three months old. And that was like the point where this life kind of started to get a little bit of a focus again. Like, this was when I started pouring myself into this group, pour myself into more books and trying to figure out stuff, actually, paying myself a daggone salary, you know, doing all kinds of things that I never knew were even out there. I was just closing my eyes, walking down the road with, you know, the stick. But, I guess, that– probably, I’ve been talking too long here but. So, I guess, that’s my story. So, where we are today.
Jim: Well, that was a great story and thank you for sharing. Obviously, we didn’t need to interrupt at all. You did a fine job telling it. I just really applaud you for all the changes that you’ve made. And I think you are a fucking awesome lawyer. And I’m glad to see your success.
What doubts or recordings in your head, did you have to change after you had those realizations from holding your son and telling him you didn’t want to let him down and your wife telling you that you’re awesome? What did you have to– I know that a lot of us have baggage in our head. What did you have to stop listening to, Brooks?
Brooks: Very good question. Probably myself, leading me to things that weren’t important to fun or to poor decisions, something as simple as maybe drinking four glasses of wine instead of just one glass of wine. I carried just so much anxiety and I don’t know where it all originated from. But my first thought was always, “You’re just not that good at this.” Right?
And I think that we, as lawyers, we spend so much time in one specific area. We know, in that finite area, and all of the law, we know where all the holes are, even in our own knowledge. And I think that gets in the way, sometimes, of like really saying to yourself, “I’ve got a lot of this stuff figured out.” I’ve said this to Tyson before, like not letting the person that you want to become hate the person that you are today.
And that, you know, all these like holes in your knowledge of like, “Well, I haven’t tried enough cases.” When you see somebody else that you think is this great trial lawyer, you know, like, “Well, I’m never going to get there.” Right? Instead of looking at all of the things that you’re doing really well, you’re focused on that little hole that might make you a better lawyer.
I think my focus has just been on more of the positive things that are in my life, with my kids, and my, you know, smokin’ hot wife. And just– I mean, I haven’t thought about that, Jim, but it’s got to be the– it was really just a– you know what I’m trying to say, a mindset shift in the car, I think, that day of just trying to focus on, “Hey, you’re good fucking lawyer, man.” Like, just because you know there’s a couple things you don’t know doesn’t mean you’re not a great lawyer. So, go figure out those things that you don’t know. Go try some more cases or be a better businessman. You know, like, I think I was focused on all the gaps in my life and not all of the things that were great.
I’m sure there was a lot of people– I’ve thought about this a lot recently. I’m sure there’s a lot of people in my life that were sitting on the sidelines going, “He’s about to just not kill himself like with a gun but just he’s going to die. And I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking, but he ain’t thinking much good stuff right now.” And they didn’t see my head. They just saw my actions. Yeah.
Tyson: So, it’s pretty easy to backslide into some of those old thoughts. So, how do you avoid that? Like what do you focus on now to make sure that you’re doing the right things every single day so you don’t backslide into those old negative thoughts?
Brooks: Honestly, this group. My biggest thing is like getting that consistency of action, right? It was like, for me, the Monday and Friday Calls, of which I haven’t– I got on this week but I haven’t been on in a couple of weeks. So, I have this, like little bit of a prism, right? You’ve got this– you can look back over the holidays which were amazing. I did nothing for two weeks, and my staff was off. And we all got paid. And we all got bonuses. And we all did all kinds of fun stuff that the people in The Guild are all hi‑ho about and it was fun‑freakin’‑tastic.
But in that time, when you come back to work, and you’re trying to– you know, the race is still running and you’ve got to figure out a way to like hop back in and start running again, I lost some of those– like the process steps of like, “What are my tasks here?” I’ll just hop at my desk and then go to work. And that leaves me very empty at the end of the day versus when I can– and empty meaning like, I got a whole bunch of stuff done, but I didn’t actually move, you know, the thing – the balls that I need to be moving forward.
But those calls and our friendship has just really propelled me and the accountability of the group. And even though nobody’s like calling like, “So, what did you do?” You know, like, it’s still very helpful for that follow up because this is a lonely fuckin’ life, right? As a solo practitioner, it’s a lowly fuckin’ life, right?
I mean, I practice in a very small town. Luckily, I have a really great friend that’s right down the hall from me that we can talk about being lawyers and what it’s like. But like, you know, you live in your ivory tower and, most of time, you’re not talking to anybody about anything other than like, “Okay. Get to work. Get to work. Get to work. Get to work. Get to work. Tell your staff dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.” Go home. You know, take a bath or give the kids– you know, it’s just– so being able to like jump into the group with y’all and like‑minded folks or people that are like‑minded and I’m like, “Do I want to do that? Nah. Do I want to do that? Yeah.” Like that’s got to be the linchpin to my success over the last three or four years and my continued ability to manage my brain.
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Jim: So, you’re about to enter the baby fog once again.
Brooks: Yes, number three.
Jim: How will you handle the three kids, being a good husband, and running your firm in the months’ to come?
Brooks: The joke in there would be I’m going to handle it very poorly.
But I’ll take off. I have two great full‑time people here in the office. I have a VA in the Philippines who works like 40‑50 hours for us. I will probably not take off, but I will ramp down to probably 30% or 40% capacity for myself and make sure nothing goes crazy via email and just pour myself into my family for six to eight weeks.
I mean, I didn’t know that a second kid was going to be that much more of a, you know, challenge than the one kid because one kid was a challenge for me in my life. But I’ve been told that, when you go from playing from man‑to‑man to zone, it goes to another level. So, hopefully, the third one’s going to be more like the first one and not like the second one and their father because, apparently, the second one is like their father. And, like I said earlier, he needs a leash inside of his own home to keep him safe.
I closed the refrigerator the other day. I opened the refrigerator to grab milk, closed it, and by the time I closed it, he had climbed on to the kitchen table and had a knife in his hand standing like he had conquer– like he was like, you know, He‑Man on the top of Grayskull or whatever. Is that that it’s called, Grayskull?
Tyson: Oh yeah, Castle Grayskull.
Brooks: Damn, that was good. Damn.
Tyson: Sounds like my Hudson, for sure.
So, I know we’re running long on time, but I want to stick in this question. So, tell us about your YouTube show, A Lawyer, His Friends, and Food. It’s really, really cool. The video quality is amazing. So, tell us about it.
Brooks: Like I said, I practice in a small town. We’re just outside of Greenville. So, we’re about 15 minutes away from Greenville, South Carolina which, I say, is in the upper left‑hand corner of the triangle of South Carolina. And we have a ton of these like, you know, local Facebook groups that are popping with people. And I just was trying to figure out a way to do something where I could pop into those groups, other than responding to every inquiry, like a lot of people do in there, and do some kind of some kind of show, right? Like, inspired by Jim, inspired by, you know, Casey Neistat, inspired by all these guys that are on YouTube that have just different kinds of shows and stuff like that and, as Jim would say, trying to produce content of any kind of content. And I just started thinking about it, “Okay. Could I interview local business owners that– because like I said, a minute ago, we’re all in these, like, in our ivory towers, right? We don’t really– I’m probably pontificating by the ivory tower. But like we’re all really siloed all, right? We’re in our individual silos. We don’t really get a chance to see like, ”What’s the real estate agent? What’s his challenges? What’s he doing? He looks like he’s thriving. What’s he doing?” Or the local, you know, greasy french fry and hamburger spot, right? And so, I thought, “Maybe we can do some kind of an interview show.” But I wanted to do something other than just a show. You know, maybe us, just on Zoom. Right?
It was before Zoom. I was thinking of this before Zoom. So, I was like, “What can I do that could be some kind of higher quality?” So, I dove my neck into all this stuff. I learned all about cameras. And I was trying to think about a way I could do it myself. And I came to this realization like, “I can’t do this myself. Like, I don’t even know what the fuck I’m doing. Like, I understand all of the things, but I can’t do this.”
And so, I started down these rabbit holes on Instagram trying to find somebody. And I got connected to this guy named EJ Falero. He’s a young guy just starting out. And he had done one other like interview show that was nothing like what we were doing, but I could see his eye and what he liked. And so, we started talking last May ‘21 and just formulated a plan. And so, we’ve been either interviewing the owner of a restaurant, at their restaurant, and eating their food, and enjoying their food, or interviewing someone else, like a photographer at a specific restaurant in town. So, either a way to highlight one business or two.
And my focus has been on them telling their story, their kind of origin story ala kind of taking How I Built This with Guy Raz and smashing it with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and maybe even the 3 Lawyers Eating Sandwiches in y’all’s town, right? Like that kind of a melding of those three shows.
And it’s been tremendously fun. Getting a lot of good feedback, a lot of good traction. I haven’t gotten any– I’m sure there’s tons of people out there. “Well, have you got any cases yet?” Well, I have not gotten any cases yet, but I have gotten a tremendous amount of inquiries on LinkedIn that are not injury related but are all lawyer stuff like, you know, a family lawyer in Lexington County. “Do you know this person?” You know, do you know a person here or a person there? And I’ve gotten a ton of people asking me stuff on Facebook that were my friends, originally, or have always been my friends on Facebook, but I have never heard from that are asking me a little questions like that.
So, I think, anecdotally, it’s going to be– my fault originally was I just needed to put something out there that I could continually put out there and keep people, my herd and these little small groups, aware of me. And that’s been a tremendous thing. I don’t have a call real tracking number or anything like that for that or anything crazy, but I think it’s just a matter of time before, you know, we get some good cases out of it.
Because I wasn’t getting all those inquiries before. And the only people that sent me a message on LinkedIn were people that were trying to offer me 14 new leads, you know, in a personal injury space. “Do you have room for 14 more leads?” Yes, I do. But you don’t have them or I don’t have room for your 14 leads.
Tyson: It’s just that snowball effect. It’ll start to come. No doubt in my mind, for sure.
All right, Brooks. We are going to need to wrap things up. Before I do. I want to remind everyone go to the big Facebook group, if you’ve not done so already. There’s a lot of great activity. If you want a higher level conversation, join us in The Guild. Go to maxlawguild.com.
Make sure you get your tickets to MaxLawCon2022. Go to maxlawcon.2022.com. And if you don’t mind, while you’re listening to the rest of this episode, give us a five‑star review. We’ll greatly appreciate it.
Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?
Jim: All right. So, always on the lookout for interesting marketing things. And I bought a pair of lamps for our office at home. And I was throwing the trash away and I noticed that the company included two of these glossy cards on one of ‘em. It says, “Happy or unhappy?” And if it’s happy, then it says, “You can, you know, tell your friends and family, leave a review on Amazon, or connect to the company.” And then, if you’re not happy, they have the email address for the customer service line of the company. This is for the lamps, right?
The other one is, “Do love your lights? Share a pic and get 10% off your next Brighttech order.” And there’s a whole little Instagram way of posting that they want you to do it. And I just thought these are two really simple sort of bright and fun things. They caught my eye as I was throwing away the trash. So, if a freakin’ light bulb company can do it, I don’t know why law firms couldn’t do something this simple.
Tyson: I completely agree.
Brooks: So, what you should do is “Unhappy/happy” card, Jim. And, if you’re happy, it’s call your office. If you’re unhappy, call Tyson’s office.
Jim: There you go.
Brooks: It’s that one number on the back, right?
Tyson: That’s exactly right.
Jim: It’s even better.
Tyson: Well, it’s like that storage unit place. I rent a storage unit. I can’t remember the name of that company. It’s like the major one, the national brand. They give you these little big postcards. It’s like this big. It’s gigantic. And it like tells you how to leave a Google review and like what it means to them. It’s like such a simple thing to do but it’s like, “Oh, here’s a, you know, 20‑cent postcard.” And then it was like– it was gigantic. It was hard for me to throw away. And guess what I did, I gave a Google review. It was awesome. So, little things like that are effective.
But, Brooks, what’s your tip or hack of the week?
Brooks: I cannot believe I didn’t think about this beforehand. I have listened to all these daggone episodes. I totally forgot about this part. But I would say that my tip would be, don’t let your future self, the person you want to become, hate who you are today. You are a great fucking lawyer. And, right now, look at all the things that you were doing well and focus on the things you’re doing well. And don’t focus on the things that you want to become in a way that it takes away from your current happiness or your current self‑worth because, if you’re always doing that, you’re never going to be in a good place, never going to be truly content where you are.
Tyson: Love it. Very good stuff.
My tip of the week is, you know, we talk about Traction, and we talk about Scaling Up, and we talk about these different systems with a 12‑week year or whatever it may be and it’s a lot for a lot of people to get into. So, I was just thinking of like a simple way for people to get into those things. And it’s really simple, I think. I encourage people to pick a goal. We’re early in this quarter, right, so you can still do this for this quarter.
Pick a goal for the quarter, and set a reward for it, and tell your team about it, and go after it, and then reward your team. It’s that simple. Just pick a reward, pick a goal. And then, once your team hits it– and make sure it’s a realistic goal. Don’t set some ridiculously high goal that your team’s never going to achieve because then they’re going to resent you at the end of it if you set some goal that they’ll never be able to achieve or they just won’t work hard at all. But pick a realistic goal, set it up for the end of the quarter, and then send your team after it, man. Make sure it’s an exciting goal and it’s something that the reward is fulfilling. And they’ll love it. So, that’s an easy way to dip your toe into Scaling Up, and Traction, and a 12‑week year and all that.
So, Brooks, I wish that we could talk to you for hours. Luckily, I’ve got your cell phone so I can but not on the podcast, so.
Brooks: That’s right.
Tyson: Yeah, thank you so much for coming on, man. Really appreciate it.
Brooks: I really appreciate y’all having me, man. It’s a blessing. Thank you so much.
Jim: Thanks, buddy.
Tyson: See you, dude.
Jim: See you, bro.