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In today’s episode, Jim and Tyson chat with commercial litigator, Jane Muir! They dive into the life of being a sixth-generation attorney, dialing into her practice, being active in the bar, and taking to the systems within her niche. If you’ve been thinking about how to get involved in your local community and setting your firm apart from others, check out this week’s episode.
Jane Muir is a Florida attorney whose practice focuses on business transactions and litigation. A sixth-generation attorney and fourth-generation resident of Miami, she grew up working for her father's firm and has done every job in a law firm. She founded her practice out of necessity after being laid off from her first position as an associate six months out of law school. She joined and became active in the voluntary bar and earned several leadership positions while seeking to generate business, including serving as president of the Miami-Dade County Bar Association. She has been following the Maximum Lawyer Podcast for several years and was an early adopter of the Maximum Lawyer Guild.
3:55 the family business
8:09 risk tolerance
10:16 the ten things
13:03 getting involved
16:53 setting yourself apart
20:33 rededicating time to your firm
24:54 finder, minder, or grinder
Jim’s Hack: Think about sending out at least one thank you note a day to various people who have been there for you or helped in some way.
Jane’s Tip: Find a college student that lives in your area and hire them to run errands for you. If you can’t find one, check out TaskRabbit.
Tyson’s Tip: Check out RingCentral. It’s much better than what it was and has come a long way from all those years ago. The user interface is easy to use, and it syncs with Zoho.
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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: Good morning, Tyson. How are you? Good to see you.
Tyson: I'm doing well. It's good to see you as well. It's been a very long week for me, I can tell you. My wife has been sick. My son has been sick. It has been-- I've been trying to keep everybody separate, and work, and keep everything together. So, yeah, it's been a rough week but we're getting through it. Everyone's starting. They’re turned the corner, so we're in good shape.
Jim: Yeah, that's good. We just had dinner with our sons the night before last. And that was the first time we basically saw them for a week because they both had Omicron. So, yeah, for sure. It's good to be getting back in the swing of things. It was funny to hear laughter around the dinner table.
Tyson: Yeah, no question. So, we didn’t have much laughter last night but this morning, it was people, you know, waking up saying, “I'm feeling a lot better.” So that's what I feel very good about. So, that's great.
Jim: Do you want to go ahead and introduce our awesome guest?
Tyson: Yes. Our awesome guest is Jane Muir. And I honestly don't even know if I've ever said that name right but, hopefully, I do. So, that's good. She's shaking her head, yes. So, who is a Guild‑ian but also a Florida attorney whose practice area focuses on business transactions and litigation, a sixth‑generation attorney and fourth‑generation resident of Miami. She grew up working for her father's firm and has done every job in a law firm. I'm not going to do the full bio because that's pretty awesome by itself.
Jane, welcome to the show.
Jane: Thanks for having me. I'm honored to be invited.
Jim: Well, it's long overdue. We should have had you a long time ago. And I was going over the list of people that we wanted to have on. I was surprised that we hadn't had you on before just because we've talked so much. But one of the things I liked in your bio is that you've done every job in your law firm. Talk to us about that because that'll probably help us flesh out your story.
Well, yes. So, I'm not very creative. I went into the family business. We're all lawyers. My mom is a Circuit Judge where she was-- she just retired at the end of 2020 but, for 35 years, she was a judge. My dad is a practicing attorney. And going all the way back to, you know, the American Revolution, all my ancestors on my dad's side were attorneys.
So, growing up, if I wanted extra money, I had to go work. And I started, 10 years old, going to my dad's office and filing papers for him. And as I got older, they gave me bigger jobs like I ran the switchboard. I was the receptionist and I would answer the call, you know, “Good morning. Dunwody, White & Landon. How may I help you? One moment, please.” and route the calls. During law school, I was a paralegal and I would help them with the things like billing or assembling tax returns and things. My dad is an estate planning attorney.
So, growing up, before I passed the bar, I did every job in a law firm. And then, I passed the bar and joined a small personal injury firm in Miami. And I got let go after six months. That was the bottom of the market so there were no jobs. And my trial partner, from law school, had also been let go of his job. And so, we figured, “Why not start a firm?” And we just didn't have any clue how to practice law or run a firm. It was just we were just doing our best reading. We read that book by Jay Foonberg, How to Start and Build Your Law Practice. But after about a year, he had to get a real job because we just weren't doing well enough. But he went to the public defender's office. And I just kept going along.
Tyson: You are the second person to mention that book in two episodes. So, Brooks mentioned it on the last episode. So, it's a legendary book. I mean, I think everybody-- or most people know about it, for sure.
I wonder-- I mean, to me, sixth generation attorney, it's hard for me to even fathom, right? So, being a sixth‑generation attorney, did you find it difficult to make your own way? Did you feel like you had to do what the people before you did - family members, before you, did? Or, did you say, “Hey, I want to do this and I'm going to blaze my own path”?
Jane: Well, my dad really encouraged me to go on my own because he followed the golden path. He was in the Army. And then, he went to law school. So, he graduated older. And he had worked for Florida Power and Light. And they were grooming him for management. So, he decided to go to law school instead of get an MBA because he thought that would give him more flexibility. If they let him go at Florida Power and Light, he could hang a shingle. But, instead, they got him hired at this very venerated law firm at the time called Steel, Hector & Davis and they said, “This new baby lawyer is our number one guy so you have to hire him.”
So, dad had gone in that direction, like big law, and he did not have a great experience. There were few times along the way, when he got politically screwed, and he just thought, you know, it's better to have your own practice where you have the control, and you have the flexibility, and you can bring in your own clients and run your own practice. So, he really encouraged me in this direction because I was really scared at the beginning. Like, I didn't think I was going to make it. I had maybe three clients and I would tell myself, “Okay, Jane. You can watch one episode of Sex in the City. And then, you have to go figure out what to do for this client.” And it was like an anxiety thing. I was like, “They're going to come and take my bar card any second.”
But, you know, I got tougher. I think it's like a muscle that the risk tolerance that you have to have to be a lawyer with your own firm is you just get stronger and like, little by little, things kind of level out. You start to feel the flow of how money comes in. Like, I know that January is usually slow and like the summer is usually slow but then that peaks around, you know, June and September, typically. So, you just start to feel stronger and more confident.
And I think that my family's influence really made me focus primarily on being the best lawyer I could be. And I'm really, just now, starting to focus on being a better law firm owner.
Jim: Well, I definitely want to hear about your law firm setup. And I know we've had a long history together talking on the phone. I remember talking and walking and those kinds of things. But I do want to ask you one question. So, as a household of lawyers, my wife and I, as you know, practice together. We have kids. And they certainly know the names of all the immigration forms. They know about motions to dismiss. They know these things. I'm wondering. What advice do you have for us, as lawyer parents, like, what advice do you have for us about talking about the law or about--? Like, what was it like to sit there growing up with your mom and judge and your dad, in private practice?
Jane: You know, they were very orderly. Like, we had a routine that was extremely predictable. Every night, seven o'clock - Star Trek, eight o'clock - Story Hour, nine o'clock - bed. Of course, I'm a big sci‑fi nerd. And we had breakfast every Saturday as a family. We went to church every Sunday as a family. And it was just like orderly and predictable. And I think that helps a lot. I think it makes you feel really good and I strive to be like that. And it's kind of an atomic habit, you know, like you spend time with your family in that kind of regular schedule then everything works out.
Tyson: So, tell me a little bit about the 10 things to do to become preeminent in your field. Where did you come up with this topic?
Jane: Well, when I first started practicing, I was at this firm, I wasn't very happy. And I was trying to like get my head straight because I felt like, for the first time, I didn't have an end in sight. Like everything you do up until you finished law school, it's three years - four years. You know, high school’s four years, college ‑ four years, law school’s three years. So, even if you hate what you're doing, there's an end in sight and you just have to kind of slog through.
So, I was feeling like not that psyched about my job. And I really was looking for something to help me face the future which was a 50‑year law career, where I was going to just be doing the same damn thing for 50 years and no end in sight. So, I was kind of blue about that. So, I came across an article which had “The 10 Things to Do to Become Preeminent in Your Field.” And I followed this advice and it has made me very successful in my market.
So, the 10 things are, make a logo, make a website, make business cards, go to events, talk about what you do, follow up with the people you meet, speak, write, get board certified, and become a leader in an organization in your area. And I was like, “This is perfect. This is the checklist right here. So, I'm going to just do all these things to the max.” So, that's what I did. And I've been published like dozens of times. And I've given dozens and dozens of lectures and seminars on all kinds of topics.
Typically, I'll find something novel, like something that just changed. Like the payroll protection loans, when they came out, bam, I wrote an article about it and I submitted it to the local business newspaper, The Daily Business Review. Or, you know, something changes in the law, like there's a new change to the Fair Labor Standards Act that enables a private cause of action for tip theft. And so, boom, I'll like research that and write an article about it. So, I always like to share that as my professional development advice because it's been super helpful to me.
Jim: Of every lawyer I know, especially those in small private practice, I don't know anyone who has been involved in the bar as much as you. Talk to us about how that's worked for you as far as referrals, the networking, and all those kinds of things. What tips do you have for people as far as getting involved in their local bar?
Jane: Sure. Well, so, Miami Dade County has 19,000 lawyers and the county bar is the voice of all of those lawyers. And I got involved with that because it was advice from my family, really. They said, “You know, you need to meet other lawyers because they will be the ones that are asked about you by Martindale‑Hubbell so you can get AV rated. And, you know, that's the granddaddy of all ratings and stuff like that. So, they felt that that was a high priority.
So, I got involved in the county bar, right out of law school, and I just threw myself in every committee that I was part of. Like, I was on the newspaper committee. I overhauled the newspaper - redesigned, changed the whole procedure so that you could upload your articles and not have to email them and assigning out editorial jobs, things like that. And then, I did the website. And then, I did-- so, all these things, in the county bar, for me, have been sort of like a sandbox to experiment with things I want to do in my firm. So, it's tremendous for that purpose. It's been tremendous for corporate governance education. It's been just a great way for me to gain experience and grow my practice because, whenever anybody thinks of a commercial litigation, a lot of times they think of me because I'm top of mind because I published an article or I ran into them at a networking event.
So, after-- I think it was seven years on the board. And every year, I was on the board, I was on the executive committee because I do everything a thousand percent. I ran for officer position, of treasurer. And, in our group, you sort of rise the ranks like a ladder. And every single election, I ran for executive committee, for officer positions, I was always contested because, I think, people think that I'm young and, you know, maybe not that smart. And then, I just destroy all my competition in elections because I really put the work in. And it's a lot like law firm marketing, you know, you identify your target audience which is voting members. And then you identify all the people who you know and you call them, and ask them to vote for you, and ask their friends to vote for you.
And then, another great tool I used was like email marketing. But you can't blast email 19,000 lawyers or else it's going to be spam, so I would divide up the list. I hired my stepdaughter to divide up the list of voters and divide them by firm. And then, I called my best friend at every firm and asked them to email that list and gave them a templated email. So, that kind of election experience is so valuable and it does bring you business because, when you're talking to people asking them to vote for you, they also want to send you work or, you know, they think of you when they have work to send.
Tyson: I think that's great because I think a lot of times people wonder, “Oh, is there an ROI on me getting involved with the bar and all these other things?” So, I think that's good to hear. And because it's not just about ROI. You know, it's about, you know, giving back. And it's about, you know, supporting your bar and everything else.
So, I want to ask you about you’re in a very competitive market in Miami, and especially with what you do, there's a lot of silk‑stocking firms that you're competing with. So, I'm just curious, how do you differentiate yourself? Let's say that, you know, a business meets with you versus someone else, or one of the silk stocking firms, like how do you set yourself apart? I mean, obviously, you've done a lot with the bar and everything, that's great, but what is it that you say to these clients that convinces them to come over to you?
Jane: It's a combination of value, client service, and care. And when I say value, the big firms they're billing out at, like, I think their associates bill at my rate which is 400 an hour. And the average rate, in our market, is 225. So, I'm above average but I'm below big law.
And I also don't waste time because, I have so many cases, I can't afford to grind a file that doesn't require attention, you know. I have to be really strategic about how we allocate our time and our resources. And that goes to the client's benefit because we're not billing up a file.
The average litigation, for us, earns about $40,000 in fees. And we always start with the calculus, whenever we do an intake, of How much is at stake? Is the defendant collectible? Do we have a basis for fees?
So, I basically try to talk the client out of litigation at the beginning. And then, if they're really seriously prepared for the possibility that they would not prevail, but they still want to proceed and do the best that they can, then it's the client‑service component which-- like I give out my personal cellphone. I am constantly available. The people who are nervous Nellies, I hold their hand, I help them feel good. And then finally the results like I never lose. I mean, you can't say that because it's a guarantee. And it's not ethical under the rules of professional conduct. But I either resolve cases favorably or, you know, I don't pick fights I don't think I can win. And the kind of clients that are attracted to me are the people who want to do things by the book. They want to follow the rules. They want to be fair. They want to be reasonable, but they want to have a big stick, you know, to be powerful in their disputes.
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Jim: We're talking with Jane Muir. She's a business litigator. A member of the Maximum Lawyer Guild and a great member. She's always giving good advice to the team and always pumping people up and getting ‘em excited and we greatly appreciate that.
Jane, talk to us a little bit. I know that you've had a bit of a journey the last year - year and a half sort of transitioning into a little bit more focused. Talk a little bit, if you would, about maybe things that you struggled with because I really feel like you've had a breakthrough here, say, the last nine or 10 months.
Jane: Yeah. I think that my 10‑year goal was to be bar president. And I really did dedicate 30% of my time to bar service. And, now, I've re‑dedicated that focus to my firm. Also, the Guild and you guys have been such an inspiration. Like, I listen to all the podcasts. I write down every book you guys suggest. I read all the books. And then, I really strive to implement all the advice.
Like, Jim, your Gary Falkowitz intake series, I listened to that carefully, and wrote all the notes, and I scripted my intake accordingly like just like that. And it's been awesome. And then, Tyson, you told me about Zoho and gave me some other great recommendations for service providers. And I've adopted Zoho. And I'm implementing it. And it's going slow but it's working awesome. It's saving me a ton of money in software. So, you guys and the weekly meetings have been tremendous for my practice.
So, my next goal, I've been stuck at the same revenue mark for like three years. And I think that's partly COVID. But I also think it's my own refusal to delegate, maybe. And so, I'm really striving to take the advice - Maximum Lawyer Minimum Time advice and, you know, amplify the clients that I'm getting, focus on the leverage activities. Like, Jim, you told me this, like over a year ago, I needed to be focusing on the activities that had better leverage. And your speech, at the MaxLawCon, on leveraging, like the difference between an asylum case and a citizenship case, in hours that you’d dedicate, that really crystallized it for me. So, I'm striving to build things that will enable that kind of leverage, like a course on how to start a business in Miami and things like that so that I can have different work. And they call it ELF activity - it’s like easy lucrative and fun, on the I Love Marketing Podcast. So, I'm working on ELF activities.
Tyson: It's funny. I have not listened to an I Love Marketing episode in a while. When you said ELF, I was like, “Oh, man, I haven't listed to the I love Marketing for-- because it's-- I don't know if that's an I Love Marketing term but that's where I've heard it the most is through there. So, easy, lucrative, and fun.
So, I know we're going to maybe run a little bit longer in time, but I want to ask you about that you said you were stuck and I want to see if maybe we can ask a couple of questions to kind of dig a little deeper on that. When you said your rate, compared to other firms, and you're definitely above the market and that's a differentiator, but I wonder if an easy way of raising your revenue is just by tweaking and increasing your actual hourly rate a little bit. And have you-- when's the last time you've adjusted your rate?
Jane: Last year.
Tyson: Okay. Was it--?
Jane: I was at 350--
Tyson: By how much?
Jane: --and I went to 400.
Tyson: Okay, good. So, is the 400 based upon the 350 or the new number?
Jane: Is the-- I don't understand the question.
Tyson: Yeah. So, you said you were stuck at right around, I think, 400, I think is what you said. Is that what you said before?
Jane: That's my hourly rate, yeah.
Tyson: Yeah. Okay. Have you seen a significant uptick in your revenue since you changed your rate?
Jane: No. It's been pretty much the same. But what I think is the issue is my own capacity. So, I can only generate so much work out the door and we bill hours. So, if I have to divide my time between running the firm, and marketing the firm, and rainmaking like they say that there's finders, grinders, and minders in the law, right? So, I've got to be all three. And that means I can only do a third of the grinding.
So, I have a new contract attorney that just joined this month who's going to be helping me grind out more work. So, that should double our ability to deliver service.
Tyson: Love it.
I was going to ask you, “So, what are you going to do next?” So, you've already done that. So, that's good.
Tyson: Good. Because I think that that's what you’ve got to start doing to kind of elevate this thing. I mean, you've got it. You've got the skill set. I mean, you're about to just pour the rocket fuel on top of it and just take off. I know it.
Jane: Thanks. Thanks.
Well, I'm doing my best. I'm putting the time in. I'm grinding it out and really striving to apply all the good advice that you guys give.
Jim: Of those three - finding, minding, and grinding, which do you like the most and which do you like the least?
Jane: Honestly, I used to think I was a finder more than anything like I want to go to conferences. I want to give lectures. I want to talk to people. I want to go to lunch.
But then, pandemic, I kind of retreated. I've become a less of an extrovert. Like I'm an extra, extra extrovert, 95% extroverted. And, nowadays, I'm like kind of more selective about how I spend my time and trying to be more targeted because time is feeling a lot more valuable now. So, I think I've morphed more into a minder. And I love like messing around with the software and, you know, tweaking our systems and really trying to develop things that will not require Jane to show up at every networking event. You know what I mean?
Tyson: I love it. Very good stuff.
All right, we do need to wrap things up because we’ve got to be respectful of your time and I know we're running longer. So, I want to remind everyone to go to the big Facebook group and join us. There's a lot of great activity going on there. We’ve got over 5000 members. Also, if you want a higher level conversation, join us like other Guild‑ian's in The Guild, maxlawguild.com, like Jane. And, if you want to go to the conference, we hope you do, go to maxlawcon2022.com to get your tickets.
Jimmy, what's your hack of the week?
Jim: So, a couple weeks ago, I went ahead and got some James O. Hacking III stationary. And I've just been doing one thank you note a day to different people who-- a lot of it was for my dad, for the, you know, people that donated to the Red Cross and stuff. But I've just been doing one note a day to people and it's just-- it makes me feel good and I know people really like to receive ‘em. So, it's just something simple.
Tyson: Very good. I love it.
Jane, you're up next.
Before I get to yours though, I did not ask people for a review. So, if you will, please, give us a five‑star review, we will greatly appreciate it. It helps spread the love.
But Jane, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Jane: Okay. My tip is find a college student that lives in your neighborhood and hire them to run errands for you. I recently hired a young lady who's an architecture student. She's 20. She's got her own car. And she'll take things to Goodwill, or Amazon returns, or pick up wiper blades for my car, like all kinds of little errands and it's super helpful. So, I highly recommend. And if you don't have one, like a college kid, then TaskRabbit is a great option.
Tyson: I'm curious. So, how did you find your student or whatever you're calling them?
Jane: She's my backup pet sitter. So, I have a very elderly beagle and a rescue cat who's missing a leg and his name is Trey and he--
Jane: So, we love our pets so much. And, whenever we go out of town, we want someone to stay with the pets and play with them and take care of them. So, our main pet sitter had this young lady as a backup pet sitter and she was in our neighborhood and so we hired her for errands.
Tyson: Very good. Okay, cool because I was just thinking like what I would call the person. I mean, I guess, you could say personal assistant but--
Jim: Backup cat sitter. That's what you call her.
Tyson: Backup cat-- yeah, backup cat sitter. I think that'd be a great job title. So, very good.
So, my tip is a tip reboot from a long time ago. A long time ago, I used to use RingCentral and we switched to Vonage. And we liked Vonage for a while but then we stopped liking it so much. And we switched back to RingCentral. And RingCentral is so much better than what it was. I mean, it is night and day from whenever I used it last.
So, if you've not used RingCentral in a while, I highly recommend it. It is so much better than Vonage, if you're using Vonage. And there's a lot of other VOIP options out there. But I will tell you, going from Vonage to RingCentral, night and day, and it’s way different than what it used to be. So, I highly, highly recommend it, so.
Jane: I use Ring Central, too. And, Tyson, it syncs with Zoho.
Tyson: Oh, I know. That's why we switched back to it. That big part of it. It's got so many integrations. We've got so many different options. It just-- it’s functionality. Its user interface is easy to use. It's great. They should pay us, Jane, to hawk their product.
Jane: I bet they would.
Tyson: I bet they would. So, for sure.
But, Jane, thank you so much for coming on. A lot of fun. I wish we could spend more time with you but thank you so much.
Jane: Thanks for having me.
Jim: Thanks, Jane.
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