This week on the show we have Matt Aulsbrook. Matt started his first insurance agency in 2009 when an entrepreneurship class in his MBA program sparked his interest in business ownership. This taught him how to be lean with a startup as he bought a duplex and rented the other side to keep a low overhead. He still ran out of money, as many small businesses do, but his dad bailed him out with additional funding saving the agency from closing. Matt was able to pay his dad back and worked up to owning five agencies. The insurance businesses funded law school. He became an absentee owner in the agencies in 2014 and started law school.
He graduated law school in 2017 and got his bar card in 2018. He has since sold all except for one small agency. The money from the sale of the businesses has allowed him to pay off all debt excluding real estate. Now his primary focus is growing his personal injury firm in Arlington, TX.
6:23 Addiction and recovery
16:33 The power of gratitude
22:06 Long-term goal shifts from COVID-19
Setup a good morning routine. It gets your mind in the right place to start the day.
Reevaluate what you do every day that wastes your time. For Tyson, it was upgrading an old scanner.
Take a listen to Bill Umansky’s new podcast “The Lawman’s Lounge”.
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Transcript: “Courage is Optimism” with Matt Aulsbrook
Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux.
What’s up Jimmy?
Jim: Good morning, Tyson. How are you?
Tyson: Good morning. I’m doing well. I think I’ve got a little bit of allergies. I think. I woke up last night and my chest was kind of tight. I’m like, “Oh, no, I’ve got the corona,” but I just think a little bit of allergies. I’m fine, otherwise, though.
How are you doing?
Jim: I’m doing great. I’m doing great.
We had a good meeting in The Guild yesterday. Things are rocking and rolling. We helped our friend, John Fisher, get some signups for the Mastermind Experience which is coming up.
Our guest today has been to the real deal and so have we, so I was happy to help John spread the word.
Tyson: When this one goes live, is it going to go live today, or Thursday, or is it going to be after the Mastermind Experience?
Jim: I think we have one more, so it’d be after.
Well, if you have an opportunity to go to John Fisher’s Mastermind Experience. I do recommend it. It is very, very good. We’ve talked about it before, but it really is good. It’s just people working on your practice, like you go. It’s a mastermind, so you go, and you sit in a room, and you help each other out. It’s a really cool experience.
Jim: Yeah. And you always get more out of hearing other people’s issues. You learn things that you can tweak on your own so it’s always good.
Let’s get to our guest today. It’s a longtime listener, first-time caller, Matt Aulsbrook, the Law Dog from Texas. In honor of Matt, Tyson and I have changed our Zoom names. I am the law octopus and Tyson is the law tiger.
So, Matt, welcome to the show.
Matt: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Tyson: Alright, Matt. So, tell us a little bit about you, the firm, and your journey.
Matt: Actually, yesterday was my two-year anniversary of getting a bar card. I’m 40 years old, so this is a second career. I was in the insurance industry for the last decade and I’ve still kind of got a foot in the water there. I had five insurance agencies. I’ve sold off all of them except for one. Insurance provided me a good living.
I became an absentee owner in my insurance agencies, and stepped away, and went to law school full time. Ironically enough, I stepped away as an absentee owner. I went to Hawaii for a month to see if I could step away from the business prior to start law school.
Y’all were just mentioning John Fisher. When I was in Hawaii, that month, I did a lot of reading. I read John’s book. And then, I read another book by another John – John Morgan.
Y’all were mentioning the mastermind. Ironically enough, I’m hanging with those two dudes a few months ago, in February, at a mastermind where, ironically enough, two years back, I was reading their books. So, it’s just funny how things work out.
Jim: So, Matt, what made you–
It’s interesting, we’ve had several people on the show who’ve been in the insurance world, including my co-host Tyson. Talk to us a little bit about what running an insurance agency taught you as far as running a law firm.
Matt: I think business is business. Most of the same principles apply, no matter what business you’re in you. You’ve got to do marketing. You’ve got to hire good people. I mean, you’ve got to bring in business, and make payroll. All those all those things apply, no matter what business you’re in.
I did realize two things now. Y’all know and I know many of the listeners that I’ve met in the group know I’m a pretty straight shooter. So, a couple of things. I went to law school and it’s not a charity event. I went to law school to make money.
So, two things I realized about being in insurance, that the insurance checks always cash. That’s why I went into PI because I knew there was money in it. And number two, I knew that my clients, from the insurance agencies, didn’t always get a fair shake. I mean, they weren’t always treated fairly when it came time to make a claim.
Tyson: I will say 99.9% of insurance checks cash, but I’ve had multiple insurance companies go bankrupt in the middle of the claim. So, that’s just a little warning to you all. If you get some cheap po-dunk insurance company, you might want to switch because they do go out of business, contrary to popular belief.
So, you’re two years in, Matt. It’s not a complete culture shift but it’s a definite change. You’re on the other side of the coin now. What’s the transition been like? How has it been going?
Matt: It’s been going great. I love what I do. I mean, listen to colleagues in my market and around saying, “Well, personal injury’s not like it was back in the in the ‘80s or ‘90s, before tort reform.” That may be the case. There’s competition but, just reflecting on this the other day, I mean, I grew up on a farm. I’m a country boy so this is easier work than hauling square-baled hay in July and August.
One of the first jobs I had out of high school was a HVAC installer. This is certainly a better gig than crawling around in attics in July and August in North Texas.
Tyson: Jim, have you ever picked up a bale of hay? Have you ever picked up a bale of clover? Is my question. You ever picked up any clover?
Jim: I was just thinking about my soft hands and how the hardest job I ever had was walking old ladies from their car in the [inaudible 00:06:07], so the answer to all these questions is, “No. I have a hard time cutting the grass.”
All right, Matt. So, two years. I know it’s a second career for you, but I also know that you spend a lot of time on self-improvement. You, obviously, came up to St. Louis last year for MaxLawCon 2019 which is where we met. It was great to meet you. You spent the time and resources to– I know it was tough, go to Hawaii to go to John’s mastermind. What’s your approach to working on Matt?
Matt: Yeah. I appreciate that question.
Anytime I talk to a group of people, I always want to tell my background. I’m in recovery for drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t anything that my parents did. I come from a good home. My parents have been married 50-plus years, still married. A middle-class family. Nothing on their end, but in high school I started dabbling with drugs and alcohol.
And then, I went on about a 10-year run of drinking pretty hard. I was addicted to methamphetamines. I was arrested eight times. Another reason that pulled me into wanting to be a lawyer, I realized that my dad paid good money for criminal defense attorneys, when I was younger, and so I thought that they made money. After I got into it, I realized criminals don’t have a lot of money – always, so I didn’t stick with criminal law.
About a decade ago, I decided it was time to sober up when I was introduced to program, Alcoholics Anonymous and I’ve been sober most of the last decade. I had a brief six-month relapse in law school. I’m heavily involved now in Lawyer Recovery and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, and Texas Lawyers Assistance Program in Texas. It’s definitely something that attorneys struggle with. For our profession, we have one of the highest rates of addiction.
I just want to put it out there, if there’s anybody listening that’s happened to struggle with drugs or alcohol or anything like that, feel free to reach out to me. I can get you plugged into some resources wherever you’re at so.
Jim, I want to say I appreciate your vulnerability for telling your story at Max Law last year so, certainly encouraging.
Jim: Thanks, man.
Yeah, that was that was good. It hit home with a lot of people and that certainly was how you and I connected. I remember seeing you, as soon as I came off stage, and you gave me a big hug. That’s something I’ll remember forever.
Tyson: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that because I think this might be helpful to some of the listeners. What was the turning point? Like, what made you change your mind, “I’m done with all of this. I want to move on with my life and get better”?
Matt: Man, I just wake up one day and hanging around junkies in trailer houses just wasn’t the vision I had for my life. I had a girlfriend, at the time, and I didn’t want her to leave. You know, you live that lifestyle that I was living and nobody really wants to stick around in a relationship. If they do, it’s because they’re as messed up as you are. That’s the only reason they’re sticking around. So, I was ready to kind of settle down and I didn’t want her to leave, so I decided to sober up.
In hindsight, and now knowing what I know about the program of recovery, you can’t decide to sober up for anybody else but yourself. You have to be ready. It’s that old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink.” I mean, if somebody’s not ready to sober up, they’re not going to sober up. But I did, and stayed sober for well over five years and had a little relapse but got back on track and living a sober life now.
Jim: That’s awesome, man. That’s awesome.
Let’s, let’s change gears a little bit. Talk to us about your setup now, with your firm. How does it work? What’s your schedule like? What do you get most excited about with running your law firm as the law dog?
Matt: I’ll just start by saying pretty much every aspect of my firm that you guys, in the Maximum Lawyer Community, have had input on. I’m talking about everything I run, from pretty much all my of softwares and everything, is a direct result of you and the Maximum Lawyer Community.
As far as my, my schedule, my morning routine is a huge deal for me. I think that sets me up for a good day. When I wake up, first thing I do is pray, and read something spiritual, and try to meditate for a minute. And then, I head out.
My normal routine is to go to the gym although that’s been affected here recently. But as with the times and the word pivot has been used a lot. I’ve pivoted and started running again. I used to I used to run a lot but hadn’t done that in a long time, but I’m up to running three miles a day now. When I when I go out for my workout, I usually listen to a podcast or something to try to make myself better. A lot of times, I’m listening to y’all or a lot of other different things. I think what you put in affects you mentally, so try to put good stuff in.
Tyson: So, Matt, over the last couple years, you’ve had to hire new employees. I mean, I don’t know, if you’ve had to fire employees. I’m sure you’ve probably switched case management systems or tried out new softwares – all of that, but what is it that you’ve struggled with the most over the last couple of years?
Matt: Yeah. All of that.
I know, you and Jim have talked about it – about the software stuff and to where you’re going to commit to using this for two years and not make any more changes. Yeah, so I came in and I tried Infusionsoft and Clio. I’ve switched and Lawmatics and FileVine. Now, on Lead Docket and File Vine and I’m two years. I don’t need to make any more changes, like I’m good with that. But I think I’ve got a good software stack now and it’s testament to you guys and the community.
Yeah, hiring and firing. That’s always a struggle. I think I’ve got a good crew now. There’s four of us in the office. I’m the only attorney. They’ve all got a decade of personal injury experience so, truth be told, they know more about lawyering really than I do. And then, I’ve got a couple of virtual assistants. That’s okay.
Right now, what I’m struggling with is where to where to put some marketing dollars I know you mentioned this a few episodes ago, Tyson, that you were finding some good success right now in pay-per-click. I’ve tried that in the past with not a lot of success, but I think I’m ready to dip my foot back in that water. I’ve been interviewing agencies on some pay-per-click. I’m not a tech guy, so that’s not something that I really want to take on myself but I’ve been interviewing people. To your point, to where it may be cheaper in your market right now, the cost hadn’t really gone down in my market. I’m in the Dallas Fort Worth market and clicks are expensive, but this is my— what, 24 – 25th month since getting a bar card.
May is going to be my best revenue month, since I’ve swung the doors open. We’re going to do about four times the amount in fees this month that our average month is so, as in PI, it takes a while for that snowball to get going but had a had a good truck wreck that’s going to settle this month.
Right now, to your question, I think I’m struggling with who to bring on to handle some pay-per-click.
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Jim: You’re listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. Our guest today is Matt Aulsbrook. He’s a personal injury attorney from the Fort Worth area, down in Texas, as you might be able to tell from his accent.
Matt, what advice would you have for people who are struggling right now? Like even in the PI sphere, what advice do you have for people either just starting their firm or trying to get new clients? What would you say?
Matt: I’d say, if you’re following your true passion, you’re doing what you should be doing. I’ll go back to what I just said about my morning routine. My morning routine sets me up for the day. It gets me in the right mental frame.
I think, for me, gratitude is so important. Gratitude is such a powerful emotion. I feel like, when I’m in gratitude, it overpowers other negative emotions. It’s hard to be pissed off when you’re grateful. We’ve all got something to be grateful for.
You can think about how much business is down and signups are down, depending upon your practice area, but if you got up this morning and you were able to brush your teeth with a toothbrush, you can be thankful you got the toothbrush. When you just scale it back and take the little things like that in your life that we generally take for granted – stay grateful, puts you in the right mental attitude and it sets you up for success.
Tyson: I couldn’t agree more.
It’s funny. I’ve talked about this before, every night, at dinner, we talk about the funnest thing we did today and then also what we’re grateful for. I always try to focus on like the really, really simple things like doorknobs, and light bulbs, and things that are like so simple that we just don’t think about everyday but it is. These are really, really important things in our lives. The kids always focus on toys and TV, television shows, or whatever. That’s fine, but I’m just trying to convey the message appreciate the simple things in life as well.
I’m going to shift gears a little bit. Now, let’s talk about the Texas Law Dog. Why the branding of Texas Law Dog? I just googled Texas Law Dog and you’re the first one that comes up. It’s cool. It definitely comes up. What was the thinking behind all of that?
Matt: Well, it wasn’t a complex thought process. My last name is Aulsbrook. I’ve had to spell it for other people my entire life, so the thought of having a domain with my last name was just not going to work. I wanted lawdog.com but that was like 10 grand or whatever, so the Texas Law Dog made sense. I bought it. I actually bought the domain prior to starting law school. So, I had the forethought. I knew, when I went to law school, I was going to open up my own shop. So, I just needed a bar card. So yeah. So, that simple. Not having to spell my last name, so I needed something else and that’s that.
Jim: I love the way that you’re grateful for your bar card and the way you framed it. My clients, oftentimes, don’t ask about getting their citizenship. They just say, “I want my passport. I want my passport.” So, hearing you talk about two years since you got your bar card and all that makes me happy. Matt—
Matt: Well, to that, I will say I mentioned that I had been arrested eight times so, in Texas, they don’t– and I’m assuming it’s the same for your State, too. They do a pretty thorough investigation on your background whenever they want to think about letting you practice law in the state of Texas, so when I disclosed to The Board of Law examiners that I had been arrested for eight times, they had some skepticism about giving me a bar card. So, I had to gather up- I had about, I don’t know, 15 or 20 lawyers write letters on my behalf saying that I can be allowed to practice law. One of them was the Dean of my law school, who was a former Federal Judge. His letter was on the top of all those letters. And so, we had to go down to Austin and go before the Board of Law examiners. When I presented my packet to the board and the Federal Judge’s letter was on the top, they were like, “We don’t need to say anything else. If Judge Ferguson said your good work, we don’t need to look at any more of the letters.”
Nevertheless, they put me on what’s called probation. So, I had a probationary bar card for two years. We’re on my two-year anniversary. So, I have successfully completed all the things that they wanted me to complete over that two-year period. I’ve got the real bar card now, so a really cool time.
Jim: Fuckin’ a right. That is awesome. People are going to love this episode. I know it already. This is going to go down as one of our all-time best episodes.
Matt: A part of that was they wanted me to go to three recovery meetings a week. One of those being a lawyer recovery meeting. I was already going to over three meetings a week, anyway. That, along with staying out of trouble.
I got one parking ticket in two years. Man, I was watching my speeding and everything because like a speeding ticket’s not a huge deal to the Board of Law examiners but you just don’t want to have to tell them you got in any sort of trouble. Man, I’ve been watching my P’s and Q’s. So, maybe now I can go out and speed and not think about it.
Jim: So, Matt, tell us about two years from now, two years after you have your full bar card, what are the things going to look like?
Tyson: In a way.
Jim: I know we’re taking it day by day, I understand that, but I also know you’re a man of goals. Nobody goes to law school with eight arrests and aren’t an optimist and thinking that things are going to work out okay.
Matt: Man, I want to be a big player in the PI market, in my space. Two years from now, I want to have some associates. My case load, I think, needs to quadruple. I think we’ve done a good job assigning cases but the number of cases and the quality of the cases has to improve over the next two years.
I was looking at some two years ahead. I’ve got two years left on my lease. I was looking at some options, prior to this crisis, of purchasing a commercial building. I don’t know that I need as much space now. I mean, yes, we’ve done remote work but that’s something to consider over the next two years.
I’ve talked to so many attorneys that, when they decided to hang it up, at whatever age that is, and they’ve paid a high rent for 30 years, and then they have nothing to show for that. I just had the thought, “Well, why not at least buy a building, if you’re paying the rent anyway.” Two years from now, let’s just– I don’t know, something’s been on my mind.
Tyson: Just curious, because this is something that’s been on my mind for a while too because buying a building is something I want to do. I don’t know, my mindset has shifted a little bit over the last few months. Like, what are your thoughts? Are you thinking that you’ll still do that? Or are you thinking that maybe a smaller space than what you were thinking? Like, what are your plans? Maybe you haven’t fully processed it yet, because I know I haven’t, but what are you thinking?
Matt: I still think I’ll always have a brick and mortar office. So, for that, I’m going to have to pay rent. So, why not make a mortgage payment if I’m going to pay rent? I don’t necessarily know that I need as big an office as I was thinking, but I do think whatever I purchase, I want to have a space to be able to rent out.
When I started my first insurance agency, over a decade ago, having read business books and such and bachelor’s. I was getting my Master’s in business at the time. It’s important to keep expenses low. So, I bought a duplex and I lived in one side of the duplex and rented out the other. The tenant pretty much paid my rent. That being said, I still ran out of money.
About a year into the business as most small businesses do, unfortunately, my dad bailed me out. I was able to pay him back later because I actually succeeded in in the insurance business.
One of the things that I’ve learned I’ve still got that duplex a decade later and now both sides are rented out and I have that income. When I’m looking at purchasing a commercial building, I want to be able to rent out space. Now, what’s that look like? Does it mean putting a family lawyer or a criminal lawyer in there? Maybe putting a chiropractor in there since I do business with those types of people? I don’t know. I do know people always need a space to rent and rent money is good passive income. So that’s something that I’m considering when I’m going to purchase a building.
I do think that this has changed some things, that this is going to open up the idea to remote working, moving forward. For me, and I’ll speak to my current staff. Yes, we were all set up to work remote and they all just took their laptops home and rolled with it.
My current staff, they have young kids, so their productivity, even though they have good intentions, is just not as high at home as it is in the office. Yeah, we’re able to track those metrics of tasks completed, and this and that, but they have admitted to me they liked being in the office because they’re more focused and they’re able to get more done.
Now, I think that’s a case by case basis. I think others may be able to get just as much done at home. That’s my current staff and the feedback that they’ve given me so.
Jim: So Matt, where do you think things are headed, down in Texas, in the personal injury space, in the next couple years?
Matt: I don’t know. I guess, that if I had that crystal ball, I might become the number one player in in my market. I think that’s one of the things that we struggle with as business owners. What next step do we take? What risks do we take? What next move is going to take us to that level higher that we’re trying to get with our respective businesses. I don’t necessarily know where it’s going, at this point.
Tyson: Alright, Matt. So, we do need to wrap things up. Before I do, I want to remind everyone to go to the Facebook group get involved there. We also have this little thing called The Guild that we’ve started which is pretty awesome. I think it’s exceeded my expectations. I don’t know about Jim but it’s definitely exceeded my expectations.
And then, if you don’t mind, just taking a couple of seconds, you can do it while you’re listening to this, and give us a five-star review. Just go help spread the love.
You know what? You don’t even have to write the review, just click the five stars, okay? That’s all we ask. If you could give us a five-star review and give us a comment, that’d be great as well.
All right, Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?
Jim: Yesterday, in The Guild, Paul Yocabitus mentioned getting a good morning routine system set up. Matt mentioned it today on the show. I’m a big believer in morning reflection, quiet time, not rushing into the day. I try to journal most mornings. I do a little bit of reading as well. As Matt said, it gets my mind in a good place to start the day.
So, if the coronavirus or whatever is going on in your life has caused you to bounce off your morning routine. Even if you are a night owl, and stay up late, and get up a little later, still figure out a way to find mental space in your day so that you can sort of set your agenda. I think it’ll all pay dividends.
Tyson: Very good. Very good.
Matt, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Matt: I think, if you’re listening to this podcast, then you’re most likely a fan of listening to podcasts. So, our mutual friend, Bill the Law Man, Umansky has kicked off a podcast. I think he dropped his third episode today. So, if you’re looking for another podcast, go give him a listen. All of his episodes have been like 30 minutes so far so give the law man a listen.
Jim: You’re listening to The Law Man.
Tyson: Anytime that Bill is mentioned now, Jim has to use the voice. What a voice.
We need to have the Law Man back on the top [inaudible 00:29:00] podcast, for sure.
Tyson: All right. My tip is to re-evaluate what you do every day that’s wasting your time because I was for– I don’t have it here anymore. I was going to show it to you but I had this scanner on my desk. It was this old, old scanner that I bought at like EPC which is this computer store that you buy old used computers and I bought this like five years ago.
Jim: You cheap bastard.
Tyson: What’s that?
Jim: You cheap bastard.
Tyson: I know. I don’t know. I’m cheap. I ironed a patch onto my jeans this morning because I don’t want to throw away my jeans. I don’t think people realize how frugal I am.
Anyways, back to my point. I had it with this old scanner I had to go plug a USB into it, scan the paperwork, unplug the USB and then plug it into my computer, and then upload it to Google Drive so it can be coded and then dealt with by the VAs.
I just got sick last week. I’m like, “You know what? Screw this. I’m not going go and actually spend money on a nice scanner because everyone else in the firm has a nice scanner, I don’t. And so, now, all I do is put a little sheet. And the scanner goes straight to Google Drive. And then, that gets coded and puts in files and dealt with by VAs.
So, my point is just re-assess what’s going on. Like, what may be killing your time. And then, fill in that process and make it better. It’s something I should have done a long time ago. Especially with all the technology that we use in our firm, I should have done something different with that long time ago. That’s my point.
All right, Matt. Thanks so much for coming on, man. It’s been really, really good. Thanks for being vulnerable with us. I bet it’s awesome. I have a newfound respect for you. And so, thanks for coming on.
Jim: Thanks, Matt.
Matt: Thanks, fellas.
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