In this episode, Jim & Tyson interview Patrick J. Higgins, a Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury and a Litigator Lawyer out of New York who has recently opened his own law firm; The Law Offices of Patrick J. Higgins, PLLC. Listen as they go over this big step after practicing for over 32 years; his mindset, strategy, marketing, challenges and surprises on the way!
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- About Patrick:
- Opened his firm in May of 2018
- Plaintiff Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice lawyer for about 33 years
- No volume business; 15 or 20 cases
- A funny story with our friend John Fisher
- Patrick witnessed John Fisher going out on his own
- “He was ahead of the curb and he was bringing in a lot of cases”
- What changed in 2018 and made Patrick go out on his own
- “I want to do what I want to do and I have the ability to go out on my own”
- Improvements for his website: http://phigginslaw.com/
- How do he gets his cases:
- Personal relationships
- Referral attorneys
- Referral based marketing
- Content creation
- Repurposed BAR content
- Classic and simple questions
- Challenging thing since starting his firm
- Recognize what he needs to develop as a skill set
- Work on vision and on strategic goals
- Books and podcasts
- Good to Great by Jim Collins: “The Flywheel Concept”
- Patrick’s Vision
- Make X amount of money
- Serve 15 to 20 clients
- 3 Legal Services a year
- Fully automated, top notch website
- The best manage firm
- Be in control
- Out on your own with no one to bounce things off of
- Meetings with people who run their practices
- Advice to himself
- Developing the client base much earlier
- Understand what clients understand
- Chart an independant course
- Surprises going out on his own
- Less time for legal work
- 50% of the time working on the business
- One of the most accelerating things about running your own firm is just all the new things you do get to do and learn. GROWTH.
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Jim’s hack: When you are working on a brief or any kind of pleading or anything important, right before you are done editing it, when you think you’ve edit it as much as you can, change the font to a different font and make it bigger. When you read the text again you see things differently.
Patrick’s hack: A client communication tip. When you explain something to a new client, ask them to relate back to you what you just told them.
Tyson’s tip: Speak to your accountant and reduce your tax bill for next year.
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Transcripts: Going Out On Your Own After Practicing In Firm Settings For Over 32 Years ft. Patrick J. Higgins
Patrick J. Higgins
The skill set you come out of law school with, which is, you know, essentially legal technical is not necessarily enough for you to get where you want to be. So you’ve got to develop your communication skills. You’ve got to start understanding what motivates clients. And you’ve got to start looking at your own business development and start thinking about what kind of lawyer do you want to be, you know, and do the strategic planning and start thinking about that as if you’ve got your own business, even if you’re in another firm, because even if you want to stay in your own firm, and you want to be a partner or something like that, you’re still going to need clients, because that’s what drives the legal practices client.
Run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum layer podcast, podcast, your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson nutrix. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.
Patrick J. Higgins
Welcome back to the maximum lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim hacking
it on tasty music. Obviously, the jump right in because I think it’s hilarious that our guest editor Kagan’s was talking all these good things about us and you literally interrupted him, to have him say the good things about us on tape, which I think is really freakin funny. Hey, we just want
Patrick J. Higgins
everyone to hear the truth. I’m happy to do that. What I was saying off tape was that I’m just I’m really very, very appreciative to you guys. This podcast is awesome. I listened to it. You know, I just opened my practice in May of 2018. And I listened to it all the time. Some of the earlier ones in terms of strategic vision and planning. I’ve listened to three or four times and it’s been great. So I just wanted to say thank you so much.
And honestly gonna say that. I mean, it’s because of people that listen to the podcast, and I always call it a crowdsource podcast is because people like you, Patrick. I mean, really. It’s great. I mean, it’s it’s not me agenda with everyone else. So it’s really great.
Patrick J. Higgins
Our guest today is Patrick Higgins. He’s a medical malpractice and personal injury, and a litigator lawyer out of New York, he practiced with John Fisher for quite some time. And so we’re looking forward to hearing some tales of John Fisher’s craziness back in the day, Patrick, welcome to the show. Thanks so much, guys. I really appreciate it.
So tell me this, I guess talk about just what you do in general. But a little bit about your firm your background, but then give us a funny story about John if you get one?
Patrick J. Higgins
Well, yeah, my firm is basically I’ve opened my firm in May of 2018. I’ve been a plaintiff’s personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer for about 33 years now. And I don’t run a volume business, I run maybe 15 or 20 cases, I try to work up and maximize damages. I take a small amount of commercial litigation for plaintiffs, but I have plenty of funny John Fisher stories, and I’d be glad to share them. But you know, John has been great to me. He’s been really like when I was thinking of opening my own practice. I’m like, you know, I don’t know if it’s a good idea. So I went down and met John, and like Kingston, you know, where he practices which is an hour south of Albany. So I started talking to him, and after about, like, 20 seconds, he’s like, Oh, dude, you gotta go out on your own. That’s it. You know what I mean? Like, I’m like, John, you haven’t even heard us know, you gotta go out even on right now. And so I mean, you know, he was very happy. You know, he’s very supportive. I’m part of his mastermind group, which is great. And he’s helped me a lot. So I just, you know, I’ve known John for a long time. And, you know, looking back, I can see the genesis of like, you know, before he was John Fisher, you know, I mean, we used to have these meetings every Thursday with the whole firm, which was a, you know, one of the preeminent plaintiffs firms in Albany in the capital region. And I remember John would say things like, hey, you know, I just went down, I’m gonna go down to this thing with Ben Glass. And like, everybody’s looking around, like, you know, who the hell is Ben Glass? And I mean, and how does that relate to our trial schedule? You know, I mean, and I was the same way. I’m like, I, you know, that sounds great. But I’ve got a trials next next year. So, you know, let me know how that goes. But John was really focused early on that, and he really, I think, grasped what was going on and what would be going on. So he started writing these these books, and you know, and he would just be like, I’m writing a book and everybody like, yeah, okay, John, you’re writing a book. That’s great. And, you know, I’m Santa Claus. And so then he would start doing it. And then and then he had a website. You don’t I mean, and then he had a book, and then, you know, then he went out on his own. So I think that he loves to help other people. And I think that that is really not a rare quality, but it’s an uncommon quality. And I think that, you know, John is is living his best life. Not just when John went out on his own. Did you have any thoughts of either joining him or doing the same thing? And if not, I think a lot of people would be surprised that someone who hadn’t got on their own for 33 years finally made that leap. So I’d really like to hear about your thought processes both at the time that John left. And then what finally changed in 2018? Yeah, when John left, I think he was ahead of he was looking down the road a lot a lot better. Or he was just saying, well, listen, I’m bringing in a lot of cases, and I’m getting X percentage. And, you know, I want to do things a certain way. And I don’t know whether the firm was necessarily on board with that. And so he was, he was just, I think, ahead of the curve. And he was just like, Well, okay, I want to do what I want to do. And I’m gonna go do it. And, you know, if the firm doesn’t like that, then you know, I appreciate that, and, you know, no hard feelings. And that was it. But as for me, I was back then I was, you know, to use the technician, manager and entrepreneur classifications, I was a classic technician manager. In other words, I love trying cases, I love doing plaintiff’s ti work, I love doing that network, and it’s all I ever wanted to do. And so I would do it. And I would do a ton of cases work like crazy hours, but it wasn’t work for me. And I was very happy doing that. And I did it. And I was as well paid for it, and things were good. And then about 2014, a friend of mine from law school said, Hey, do you want to do some construction law, you know, over this, you know, corporate commercial firm. So I’m like, Okay, I mean, I really can’t explain my thought processes, it seemed like a good idea at the time, very nice people over there. I spent three years doing commercial construction law, I found out very quickly, I didn’t like it, I really liked doing what I had been doing. So they didn’t really want to develop or branch out into the med mal Personal Injury space. So I said, Okay, I went back to Pei with a firm that was more of a volume based firm. And I didn’t want to do volume work, because I wanted to, you know, I enjoy having a very close personal relationship with my clients. And we were close personal, professional relationship. And so I was bringing in a fair amount of work. And I was at the point where, you know, I’m like, I don’t want to do what other people want to do anymore. I want to do what I want to do. And I have a specific idea for these cases. And I’ve got the ability to go out on my own. And if I keep it small and focused enough, I think I can do this. And you know, I have no plans to retire anytime soon. I don’t feel like I’m been out 34 years, I feel like I’ve been out maybe 10 or 15. But you know, that’s how things go. And so here I am.
I love it, you’re in a great position to have a great life and help a lot of people. I’m looking at your website. And I guess I’ve got some feedback, I want to give you real quick, and then I’ve got to ask a couple questions. First thing is, you’ve got an issue. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m on it through Chrome, I think that there’s some technical glitches on the homepage. But also, it says that the site’s not secure, because it’s that whole HTTPS issue. So I don’t know who designed this for you, or you need to talk to someone by getting that taken care of, because you’re going to turn away a lot of people with that part of it. And then under Resources for clients or referral partners, those are super easy to download. I saw the third one, if I were referral partner trying cases, understanding the mindset and trial platform needed to win. I think that that’s what, to me, I’m sort of a geek, when it comes to that stuff. I think it’s cool. My advice to you is, you have all these, like you’re giving me all this freaking valuable information and you’re not collecting an email address, I would make it way up to give you an email address so that you can market to them. Because especially, I mean, the people that are downloading that, that trial part of it, those could be potential referral partners, and you can market to them. So I would definitely change that. So anyways, I guess I want to ask you a question, because you’re an extremely competitive market. And you’re just both from a geographical standpoint, and from a practice area standpoint, and it’s, I mean, it’s expensive to do, but it’s just me, I think it’s pretty competitive. So I guess, how do you get those cases? With it being you’re not mean, you’re not in a big firm anymore? So I mean, how are you able to get those cases?
Patrick J. Higgins
Basically, it’s personal relationships, it’s referral attorneys. My practice is based on referral attorneys. And the clients that I do have usually are very high in terms of referring me other cases now, obviously, you know, with clients, you know, it could be a once once five years, 10 years thing, so it’s basically referral sources. I also do a lot of writing for the State Bar and put on seminars for the Trial Academy. So that kind of helps to, you know, get me more visibility, which assists in the, you know, in the referral based practice. So, but you know, it’s true, it’s very, it’s very competitive. And, you know, you really, as you said, in previous podcasts, you really have to hustle. You know, the business is not going to walk in the door for you. So that’s the plan. That’s, that’s it’s all referral based marketing, the web sight just went up about about a week ago. And I appreciate you telling me about the SSL issues. And we’ll get that fixed right away. But I’m planning to just to push out, start pushing out a ton of content on the website, and then just start to essentially, you know, once a month or once every 45 days, send all of my referral partners, updates in terms of case law, and in terms of, you know, all the things that will be important to them. And then after that, there’ll be a newsletter. And then hopefully, within six months, we’ll be we’ll be doing video online. So that’s the short term plan. Excellent. I’m glad you brought up the content creation piece. What are you going to do? How are you going to sit content creation into your busy day as a lawyer? I’ve got a clone. No, I’m just kidding. I’ve kind of cut out watching TV at night. So I figured that was like two hours, you know, wasted space. So what I do is I do a lot of running for the bar. So a lot of that can be pretty easily repurposed. And, you know, again, if you’ve been practicing for 34 years, and you’ve got a question, like, a simple question, like, Well, how long does a medical malpractice case take? You know, or what’s the statute of limitations, I mean, those you should be able to, you know, write in about, you know, less than a half an hour and, and get posted up. I mean, this is not, these are not difficult things. And one of the things I’ve learned from your podcast is done is better than perfect. And that’s my new motto. So we’re just going to just keep moving forward and keep posting. And I’ve got a lot of a lot of written material that is just sitting here that I haven’t, I just haven’t been able to, it’s already in the can. And I just got to, I’ve just got to post it. And so that’s all backed up. I mean, I’ve got probably, you know, four or five months of that, that I’m going to be pushing out. As with my experiences working with cancer and other young kids, if you can find an intern to help you publish out that content regularly, I think it’s going to be great for you to get that off your plate. Yeah, I totally agree with that. That’s great advice I have, my son is 20 years old. And he’s he’s got his own little, like social media thing going on. And I’m thinking of asking him to, you know, kind of learn, learn WordPress enough to, you know, start pushing product out on a on a schedule. So that’s, that’s one thing I’m considering. If that doesn’t work out, then I am going to go with an intern. I think that’s a great idea.
So you’ve been doing this? I mean, you’ve been practicing for quite a while, but you just started your firm in May, what do you think’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced? Since starting your firm?
Patrick J. Higgins
The most challenging thing has been to recognize what I need to develop as a skill set. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time on that. And I’ve kind of figured out that what I need to do is to work more on my vision, and my strategic goals, because that was not something that I really had to spend a lot of time on. So I’m reading traction. I’ve read, you know, a lot of the classic books, and I’ve listened to the podcast. And so, you know, I sat down, I’m like, Well, what’s my vision, and I write down on a piece of paper. And there’s really not much there, which I really haven’t thought about this. So what I had to do was I had to back it in and basically say, Well, what don’t I want to do? Like, what what is not where I want to be? And that was pretty easy. I mean, I started doing it that way, I don’t want to have a volume ti practice, because I don’t have the infrastructure. I don’t want to do construction work, I don’t want to do any other type of work, I want to have a close relationship with my, with my clients. And then so I started from there. And then strategic goals is is you know, I mean, it’s just been since May, and I’ve been working on getting, you know, the systems in place. And so the question is, well, you know, am I making the right choices? And are it is my vision clear enough? When I come into work every day, am I doing what needs to be done so that four or five years from now, I’m going to be where I want to be. So that’s a work in progress. And, you know, I read Jason sells books on your recommendation, and they’ve been excellent. I’ve been working on, you know, getting, you know, three things done a day or three things and getting one thing done a day and trying to make sure I’m focused, so I don’t waste my energy on, you know, 10 or 15 things. And, you know, I think that’s been good, but it’s a work in progress. So, you know, I’m considering whether I want to explore some strategic coaching or things of that nature to kind of jumpstart or make sure I’m on the right path in that regard. And I
really want to applaud the effort and the concerted, devoted time that you’re putting into this because I know it’s not easy to make that shift. I remember the first time we talked about you coming on the show you were sort of like well, I don’t know if I really have anything to offer. I think you’re offering a ton of good direction for people that are either just going out on their own or even just to refocus. I think that dedicated daily devotion to improving the content and the firm is just going to carry you a long, long way. Yeah, I
Patrick J. Higgins
mean, one of the things that really resonated with me was, you know, I’m sure you guys are probably read this book 10 times Good to Great by Jim Collins. And he talks about the flywheel concept, whereby, you know, you’re pushing this big flywheel and it’s not moving at all, and you keep pushing it. And when you’re starting, I think it’s very much like that, I think that you know, you keep doing things you’re pushing, or you’re putting things into the business, and you’re not seeing anything coming out. But you know, every once in a while, you’ll get a little bit of a movement, and then hopefully, four or five years later, you know, that flywheel is gonna be moving. And once you get moving, then, you know, that’s where you want to be. So that’s kind of my Touchstone when I’m having a bad day, I’m like, well, we just got to push that flywheel a little bit, you know, and, and that’s really what I what I try to come back to, and the fact that I’m not looking to retire any, anytime soon, I mean, I can, you know, I like working, this is what I do. You know, what I mean? I consider this to be one of my core purposes, is to serve clients, and so I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
So my question is sort of about that. So I mean, have you sat down and kind of thought about and written down what your vision is, and kind of where you see this thing headed?
Patrick J. Higgins
Yeah, I’ve written it down. And what I do, and this is why I’ve identified this is one of my struggles is, I’ve written it down, it took me a while to write it down, and it looks, it looks nice, you know, like, I want to work for at least another 10 years, I want to have, you know, make X amount of money, I want to serve just 20 to 25 clients, I want to go to three legal seminars like yours in June, a year with my wife, and you know, I want to have a fully automated top notch website, I want to have the best manage firm, and I want to be in control of my cases and words, I want to be the person who decides whether we go to trial, I want to have my demonstrative already, I want to have everything on board. And you know, we’re going to the races, and no one’s going to stop us. That’s it. So, you know, that’s what I want. And, you know, my challenge is, is I’ll write it in like June and, you know, I won’t look at it for another four or five months, because, you know, I get I get into the weeds. So, yes, I’ve written it down. But I think I need to get it clear. And I needed to get it more in the front of my mind. That was the shift for you to be out on your own and not necessarily have people to bounce things off of how have you compensated for that? Actually, that’s something I didn’t really see coming, you know, because one of the reasons I went out on my own was like, Well, you know, I want to, I want to make my own decisions, you know, and, and then when I got on my own, I’m like, you know, there’s like, there’s no one else here, you know, it was kind of interesting, because, like, I’ll spend eight or nine hours in my office. So it was an issue. And what I’ve done is, I’ve just, I reached out to a lot of people in my area. When I started, I went around to a lot of the people in in this field, who runs di cases and practices. And I said, Listen, I don’t know anything about running a practice. So can I meet you for coffee? And can we talk about what’s going to happen? Or where am I? What am I doing, basically, and everybody was great. I met with John Fisher, I call John, if I have questions, you know, I call other people I listened to the podcast, your podcast, I’ve gone to John Fisher’s mastermind, which has been really helpful. So I’ve tried to create almost like the same atmosphere as a firm. So there are people I can talk to, and there are people who will say, you know that I’m not really good idea, or you know what, try this might be better. And, but I think you have to go out. And you’ve got to create that if you’re on your own. Because if you just sit in your office, that’s not going to happen. So I’m still doing that. And I get a lot out of that. And you know what, because I like talking to a lot of people. Now I like talking about practice issues. Now I like talking about things I never knew about, which was I mean, when you guys talk about this, you know, CRM and all that stuff, it’s great to listen to, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I really enjoy it. Because I know someday, you know, maybe three or four or five years from now, I’ll get there. And so now I’ve got something to look at. But that’s how I’ve tried to recreate that to to handle that isolation issue.
What advice do you think you give yourself you’ve been practicing for over 32 years? So let’s say you just came out of law school today, what advice would you give yourself?
Patrick J. Higgins
I would start focusing on developing the client base much earlier, I would try to understand how little clients understand what you’re telling them and try to take efforts to change that earlier. And I would try to chart a little bit more of an independent course in terms of you know, when I when I got out, I went to a firm with 450 attorneys. All right, there was a very clear career path. It was just you know, you work in this big firm you work for 60 or 78 hours and you do well and you move up to get partner and then I guess you die or something you know, then, you know but as it went on and as I moved upstate in the firm’s was smaller you could See that? At the end of the day, you know, there’s no job security. And the only job security has is if you have clients. So then that brings up the question as well. How do you get clients? And that’s something you have to start looking at. earlier in your career. I remember when I was down in the city, they were like, Hey, you want to come to the ballgame? We’re taken from clients. And I’m like, Man, I don’t want to do that. I want to work on this brief, you know, I mean, so, you know, looking back, you know, the skill set you come out of law school with, which is, you know, essentially legal technical, is not necessarily enough for you to get where you want to be. So you’ve got to develop your communication skills, you’ve got to start understanding what motivates clients. And you’ve got to start looking at your own business development, and start thinking about what kind of lawyer do you want to be, you know, and do the strategic planning and start thinking about that as if you’ve got your own business, even if you’re in another firm, because even if you want to stay in your own firm, and you want to be a partner or something like that, you’re still going to need clients, because that’s what drives the legal practices clients. I mean, you know, I think that’s, that’s the bottom line.
That’s such great advice, Patrick, and I can tell how invigorated you are, I know, 2018 was a watershed year for you, and obviously, for starting your firm. But what’s been the biggest surprise this year for you as you went out on your own, the biggest surprise was,
Patrick J. Higgins
I figured that when I went on my own, then I could just concentrate on on the legal stuff, you know, like, I’d have more time to spend on my cases. And that would make me happier, because that’s what I love doing. But what I found out is that, you know, on any given day, I’m spending 50% of my time on things other than, you know, legal work, like setting up QuickBooks, like, you know, like, you know, creating templates, or, you know, another marketing and the website. And I also, which was very surprising me is like, I found that I’m like, you know, I can do this. I think this is not, I mean, it’s, it’s difficult, but it’s not unsurmountable. And I’ve been learning a lot of new things. And that’s been invigorating to me, you know, what I mean? Like, I think you’ve got to keep learning new things. And I’ve learned a lot, just, you know, about the about the business end of it, and I still got a ton to learn. And so that’s been fun. And that’s been surprising to me, that, you know, I come from a family of educators, like my parents were college professors, or, you know, high school, college professors, there’s no one in my family that has ever run a business, or even thought about it. So there’s no background in here, you know, I mean, so this is all new, but it’s all kind of fun. And, I mean, not that it’s fun all the time. But it’s, it’s exciting, and developing new skills that I didn’t have before. And for me, you know, that really has, you know, kind of carries you over the days where, you know, you walk in and nothing’s working and you know, that type of thing. So
you really hit the nail on the head, because the one of the most exhilarating things about running your own firm is just all the new things you do get to do. The new things you do get to learn, sometimes out of necessity sometimes because you want to do it, but it is really kind of cool. And there’s just growth within you. That’s really kind of awesome. But I do need to wrap it up because Jimmy is about to get on an airplane. But before I do want to remind everyone go to the Facebook group. I say this every time and it’s pretty awesome. Used to talk to people like Pat and while Bill you Mansky who’s gonna be on the podcast next week. That guy’s nuts, but awesome at the same freakin time. That can be pretty exciting episode as well. And then also, if you don’t mind, go to iTunes or wherever get your podcast and give us a five star review. It really does help spread the love. Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?
Patrick J. Higgins
Alright, so before I get to my hack of the week, gentle reminder that super duper early bird pricing is still available for the next slot con coming up June 6, and seventh, that’s going to be there. So we’re excited about that. For my hack of the week, I am on lawyer mode. These days, I’m arguing a case at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals tomorrow. And when we’re working on the briefs, we came across a hack that we’ve shared throughout the firm now and people really seem to like it. And that’s this and when you’re working on a long letter or a brief, or any kind of pleading or anything important that right before you’re done editing it when you think you’ve edited as much as you can change the font to a different font and make it bigger. And when you read through the brief again, you see things differently, because your eyes get sort of glazed over seeing it in the same font and everyone in the team really sort of likes that. That’s a great idea.
That’s really cool. I like that. That’s that’s a really cool. All right, Patrick, you know the routine. You’ve been listening for a while. So what’s your tip or hack of the week?
Patrick J. Higgins
My tip of the week is that is a client communication tip is that we almost go on automatic. When we’re talking to clients. We’re explaining things. The clients are usually very polite and some portion of the time they may not have any idea what we’re talking about and they want to tell you which can be can have its own issues. So my tip of the week would be to explain something you got to explain to a client, and then ask them to basically relay back to you what you just told them. And so there’s two things going to happen. One is you’ve done a great job, and you’ll get some very positive feedback. And two is, the client will really not really understand what you said, or that Andreas only understand half. And that’s important for you to know. And that tip came from Marjorie Corman, Aaron, who wrote a book called Client science, which is, you know, she’s I think she’s at the University of Cincinnati. It’s a good book. I’ve used it. It’s very practical, it’s really helped me in my practice. So that’s my tip of the week.
All right, so my tip is sort of a reminder to go in. If you want to reduce your tax bill for next year. I say the biggest sprint this year between you’re paying that pretty soon, get some expenses on the books right away, this is kind of like your last chance to do it to sort of lower tax notices. You don’t have a whole lot of time left. So speak to your accountant, and do it the right way. But this is sort of our last last chance. So just remember that part of it. So, Patrick, this has actually honestly been one of my funnest episodes we’ve done because it gets it’s kind of cool, because you’re kind of you’ve been doing this for a while, but your firm is still kind of raw. But I like talking to people that are just kind of starting out. And so this is this is great. I love it.