Starting Your Own Law Firm with Jim Hacking


apple podcast
google podcast
iheart radio
maximum lawyers podcast

Watch the YouTube version of this episode HERE

Are you an attorney who is thinking about owning their own firm? In this podcast episode, Jim and Tyson delve into Jim's personal and professional growth as the head of Hacking Immigration Law. 

Jim provides some insight on how he grew his firm to where it is now. In order to have a successful law firm, it is important to invest in yourself and that of the firm. Jim emphasizes the importance of searching for people who have expertise and bring a different type of value to the firm so it can become the best of the best. Investing in yourself involves learning and coming to terms with things you are not good at. For Jim, that was getting comfortable with being confrontational when it is appropriate.

Jim and Tyson dive into the challenges of running an immigration firm. Many immigration lawyers struggle because of the nature of the business. Immigration law involves helping people with their status, which can affect their families and their futures. Jim shares how many colleagues in the field are wrapped up in just completing cases and don't think about why they are doing the work. It is important to understand the work you are doing as an immigration lawyer and why it matters because people’s lives are on the line.

Listen in to learn more!

Jim’s Hack: Read the book Objections: The Ultimate Guide for Mastering The Art and Science of Getting Past No by Jeb Blount for handling objections during client intake.

Tyson’s Tip: Recommended Rode Mini Mic and case for remote recording. 

Episode Highlights:

  • 05:28 Transition to immigration law
  • 08:46 The financial challenges faced in the early days of the firm and the turning point in building a successful practice
  • 12:41 The value of investing in personal development versus investing in the growth of the law firm
  • 14:18 Overcoming blind spots 
  • 17:21 The potential for Hacking Immigration Law to become a $20 million company


Transcripts: Starting Your Own Law Firm with Jim Hacking 

Speaker 1 (00:00:01) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the maximum Lawyer podcast. Maximum lawyer podcast. Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson metrics. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Jim Hacking (00:00:23) - Welcome back to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. I'm Jim Hacking.

Tyson Mutrux (00:00:26) - And I'm Tyson Matrix. What's up Jimmy.

Jim Hacking (00:00:29) - I've just been alerted that we can only go 2020 five minutes. And that's fine with me because I got my own things to do, but I've been put on notice, so we better get started.

Tyson Mutrux (00:00:37) - That's right. so I flipped the script a little bit today on who our guest is, and our guest is going to be you. What? Yeah. And I'm going to interview you today. I'm going to ask you I'm going to interview you about your journey a little bit. I'm going to pretend like I've never met you before, that I've got some awareness of you, and I'm going to ask you about your journey. So before I pretend all that stuff. How are you doing?

Jim Hacking (00:01:02) - I'm a little stressed.

Jim Hacking (00:01:03) - We got four episodes to record in the next, three hours. And then right when we're done with the last one, I'm getting on a ride to the airport to go to Charlottesville or to D.C. to drive two hours to Charlottesville. So it's going to be a long day.

Tyson Mutrux (00:01:16) - Yeah, well, tell people why.

Jim Hacking (00:01:18) - Oh, so my son Yusef, he's a he'll be a rising senior next year. And the English department, he's a dual degree major. He's computer science and English. And the English department has recognized him as one of the best students. And they gave him a scholarship, and they're having a ceremony for him tomorrow. So Monday and I are flying up for that, and I'm coming back tomorrow.

Tyson Mutrux (00:01:35) - Nice. Very cool. Congratulations to Yusef. Excellent stuff. Yeah. You and I were talking like we've been working like dogs lately. We've been working our butts off. But, All right, let's. I want to get into this. So, Jim, tell us about your journey and how you how you got to this point.

Tyson Mutrux (00:01:52) - today, I want to hear a little bit about that.

Jim Hacking (00:01:54) - You know, I just want to punch you in the face for asking me that question. I do, you do. I grew up in Saint Louis. I have an immigration law firm that is located, a nine minute drive from where I was born. And so it's very strange. I didn't have a passport most of my young adult life. It wasn't until I met my wife, who's originally from Egypt, who moved to Chicago when she was seven. She said, you don't have a passport. That's crazy. So during law school, I got a passport, and I grew up Catholic, and I thought I was going to be a priest before I went to law school. I thought I was going to save the world. And eventually I left the Jesuit novitiate where I was studying in Denver, and I moved back to Saint Louis. I worked for a plaintiff's law firm for two years, which I loved. It was the best job I've ever had.

Jim Hacking (00:02:40) - I was like the office guy, the runner I would. This was before the internet. So if we found a a product or a lawsuit against a particular defendant that some other person had litigated, we would send a fax to the American Trial Lawyers Association in DC, and then they would fax us back lawyers who had good documents on that defendant. And then I would drive. I drove to Birmingham, I drove to Dallas. I would go and pick up all the records. I'd go through all the records and man, I loved it. It was a great job when I, they, they, switched me from hourly to salaried because I was making too much money because they kept paying me overtime. And then when I left, we had a huge party. It was great. It was when I left to go to law school, had a huge party. I was in law school. I was on law journal with the money. My eventual wife, she was a managing editor. I was the editor in chief and that we graduated in 97.

Jim Hacking (00:03:34) - In 98, I converted to Islam and became a muslim. And then in 99 we got married. And then I was, I lost the job that I had lined up for right after our marriage. And then I went to work at a maritime firm for seven years, where I then became a partner. And then one day I had the Michael Gerber entrepreneurial seizure. And I said to my wife, oh, baby, I really want to have my own law firm. I've been thinking about it for ten years because that's funny, because you've never mentioned it. And so I just I was sick of doing barge work. I had referred a case to Amy Gunn, and I went over to see her in trial. And actually it was it ended up being a mistrial, but her client gave her a hug. And I thought, man, my clients never give me a hug. My clients are barges and insurance companies. And I said, EFF that. So in 2007, I told my partners that I had, well, actually, what happened was when I was a kid, I'd been abused by a priest, and I ended up suing the archdiocese, and we reached a nice little settlement after beating summary judgment.

Jim Hacking (00:04:40) - And I use that money to pay off my student loans. Then I went to my partners and said, I'm leaving. And that's when I started the firm with the money that I had left. Money worked at Saint Louis, you in the law school, and she had health insurance, and her salary was enough to pay the mortgage. And so everything else was on me. So in 2008, January 1st, we opened up and and then the rest is history. I sound like one of our guests who just talks for 15 minutes straight and doesn't let us ask any questions. So I'll pause there and let you ask me questions.

Tyson Mutrux (00:05:11) - All right. So I want to hear about the the early days, Jimbo. Like what was that tipping point where you're like, okay, I've got to do this and tell me what it was like in those early days. Is starting the law firm. Like, where did you have your office? Like, think about those days.

Jim Hacking (00:05:28) - The final nail in the coffin of me being a maritime lawyer was that I had to take the deposition of the mother of a plaintiff who had been involved in a boat accident sunk to the bottom of this lake in Oklahoma, and popped back up a week later.

Jim Hacking (00:05:45) - And even though my partners were great and one of the partners was sort of tired of the case, and before I left for the deposition, he said, you go crucify that be that's making us do all this work. The mother. And so I went down and I took the mother's deposition. I said, I am never doing this again. I was miserable, I didn't like doing discovery. I certainly didn't like working for insurance companies. And so so that's what I did. I went out on my own. We rented space from some lawyers. We had a little bitty office, and I hired a young lady from Bosnia. She was 18, working at the mall selling cell phones, and I knew that I was going to have a lot of Bosnian clients because there's a lot of Bosnian immigrants in Saint Louis, and we just sort of did whatever came in the door law. For a while, we didn't know what we were doing. We did. We did we? I thought I would be a lawyer for immigrants, that I would do all kinds of law for immigrants.

Jim Hacking (00:06:34) - But pretty quickly it became apparent that the real need was immigration. And so I eventually in 2012. So it took us about five years, four years to decide to just do immigration only. So since 2012, all we've known as immigration. And once I started doing immigration, I bought a Kodak High eight camera, and I started making these little YouTube videos with a green screen in my little office. So I would I had I put the camera on my desk over my computer pointing against the wall, and I would go over there and I would shoot a video and just for videos, I would either do something that I knew or I would do something that somebody asked me and I didn't know, and I'd go look up the answer. And I thought, well, if they have that question, someone else might have that question. So I'd make a video about the things that I learned. So really, I'm sort of self-taught with immigration. I didn't take it in law school, I didn't take administrative law.

Jim Hacking (00:07:27) - So I think that really helped me with YouTube, because I had to learn things in plain English so that I and then I was in really easy for me to teach it to other people in plain English.

Tyson Mutrux (00:07:36) - So you never had like this, like just desire to do immigration law. You, you, you had other, other plans, I guess, when you were in law school.

Jim Hacking (00:07:44) - Well, yeah, certainly when in law school, I thought I was gonna be a plaintiff's lawyer. Yep. For sure. But, you know, becoming Muslim and living through 911 and the aftermath of that was I did a lot of public speaking. They they touted out the great white Muslim to go talk to all these other faith groups and to go on television. And so that built me up a lot of goodwill in the community. And then plus, because I was a litigator, I fell into this little niche of suing the government for immigration delays because I actually felt more comfortable filing a complaint serving on the defendants.

Jim Hacking (00:08:14) - I had done that before I went to law school. Then I was like arguing some hyper technical interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, like some of these kick ass deportation lawyers do, and deportation court.

Tyson Mutrux (00:08:25) - So in the early days before you, before you decided to go over to the immigration and just do immigration only where you were kind of doing everything, you're doing threshold law, what was like, were you making money, like, were you were you actually making money, like bringing home money where you could actually pay the bills or were you struggling? I'm curious about that. Like that.

Jim Hacking (00:08:46) - Yeah, I know the first year the gross revenue of the firm was $60,000, 60,000 or maybe 80,000. I don't know, I don't know how I paid a dollar, but a dollar didn't start till August. So I had some savings. And like I said, I paid off my loan. So I think the first year we made like 65, 70, and then the next year we made like 120.

Jim Hacking (00:09:06) - So we were making enough. But it was it was tight for sure.

Tyson Mutrux (00:09:09) - And no doubt like that, especially if you're doing any P.I. cases. We're having to fund expenses. That's that's tough. I, like you, did some criminal stuff too, right.

Jim Hacking (00:09:17) - Well, that's what made me. That's what made me do the, switch to immigration only. So I had a referral partner, Dan McMichael, and he and his partner, they were sort of winding down their practice, and they would keep sort of the straightforward, easier cases and things where they thought there might be a little something they would send to me. And so one of them was about this African American guy who'd been arrested, and they misidentified him, and they kept him in jail for two months. And so I sued the Saint Louis Police Department, and that was on a contingency. And that got me some press. And because of that press, I got roped into doing a pro bono criminal defense case, which I had no business doing.

Jim Hacking (00:09:58) - I was always willing to try new things, but we lost on summary judgment on the police department case, and my client got convicted, although eventually overturned on appeal, the the pain of losing those two cases was exactly what I needed to say. I'm not dabbling in anything else anymore. I'm focusing on one thing, and I'm going to do it really well, and that's going to help me build out systems and learn it and and become an expert at it.

Tyson Mutrux (00:10:23) - So at what point did you start to see things were turning around where like you were like you were building actually something that was going to be successful.

Jim Hacking (00:10:32) - That's a good question. Well truth be told I'm a ten quick start and Adela is a pretty even keeled person. So it was she and I for a long time. And we would have little helpers and stuff. But it wasn't until Amani came in 2016 that things really sort of got back into balance, because I'm such a ten quick start and a lower follow through. I was doing all these things that I didn't necessarily always finish.

Jim Hacking (00:10:56) - Adela would say, hey, we needed to do an employee manual, or we needed to have meetings or we needed to have a schedule. And I was like, yeah, that all sounds good. I just don't want to do that stuff. I just want to go sign up cases. So when Imani came, Imani is a one quick start. It really brought balance to the whole firm. And so that's when we started getting procedures. And that's really when we started getting traction and making momentum towards where we wanted to be.

Tyson Mutrux (00:11:16) - Well that's interesting because that was like that's quite a few years into like the podcast. Like like so we, we started the podcast. It was what, 20 2016 right around there.

Jim Hacking (00:11:27) - I think July of 2015 and Imani came in May of 2016. Don't don't forget, I taught you that class at Saint Louis, you about how to run a law firm. I was fucking flat broke. So, you know, it was a it was a it was a great example of, you know, do as I say, not as I do.

Jim Hacking (00:11:42) - And actually, I think I learned some things teaching you that class that helped me make my firm better.

Tyson Mutrux (00:11:47) - How much of that do you think that there is going on in the legal space?

Speaker 4 (00:11:50) - Oh.

Jim Hacking (00:11:50) - I think there's a lot I think there's a lot. I remember Seth used to tell me. I remember Seth used to tell me about. He had seen the books of someone who held themselves out as an expert. He goes that that person's flat broke.

Tyson Mutrux (00:12:01) - Yeah. We see a lot of people like that are just giving, like, advice all the time. We kind of. I do have a lot of questions about a lot of them. But so, I mean, you have spent a lot of time on yourself. You spent a ton of time on the firm. Where do you think you get the most value? Is it investing in yourself or investing in the firm? I know that may be a really tough and tricky question to answer, but like if you were, if you were going to invest a bunch of resources in either yourself as the person or your firm hacking immigration law, where do you think you would get the most bang for your buck?

Jim Hacking (00:12:41) - I think we all come.

Jim Hacking (00:12:42) - We're all complicated people, and we all bring a lot of baggage to this. And there's things about me that have helped the firm succeed, but that have also brought a cost. Like I am compulsive about things like I made a video every day for a year and a half. Like I just get on these streaks and I, you know, how I get I get sort of determined and I'm like, so I have done a lot of work on myself and I've been in therapy, I've had coaches, I've invested a lot in books and reading, and I try to be pretty contemplative, and I think that it's sort of gone hand in hand that as we reached each plateau in the growth, I had to become better or else we weren't going to move off that, that plateau. And in fact, I feel like I'm on a plateau right now. So I'm really trying to dig deep onto some things that some blind spots I have and some, some things I tell myself that might necessarily not necessarily be true, and things that I want to work on.

Jim Hacking (00:13:37) - And like if I'm going to move us off this four and a half, $5 million plane to the $10 million plane, I really I have to bring in more people who have expertise that I don't have, and I have to become a better boss and a better leader.

Tyson Mutrux (00:13:51) - So you mentioned like, your blind spots. Like what? What are some of your blind spots? And I guess, what are you going to do about it? Because I like it is one of those things where you, you have invested a lot in, like your education because you do go to at least I feel like it's less than what it used to be. You used to go to quite a bit of conferences to to learn quite a bit. So I'm curious, like what those blind spots are and then what you're going to do about it.

Jim Hacking (00:14:18) - A big one that I don't like, the big one that I've had to work on, is that I don't like confrontation. Amani teases me all the time. You sue Donald Trump, you sue the State Department, but you won't take an $8 return to target for me because you don't want to talk to the to the cashier.

Jim Hacking (00:14:34) - And that's true, right? And I don't like conference, you know. You know, I don't like confrontation. You know, I don't even necessarily like hard conversations, but. I'm really coming to learn that when it comes to a firm of 50 people, that that's a great responsibility of people relying on you to be your best and do your best. And sometimes you have to do things for the good of the firm. And when I say the firm, I don't mean the, the, the net profit or anything like that. I mean the overall health of the firm to push yourself to tackle those things. So I'm actually practicing having hard conversations. I had a few this week, and I think that I've turned a bit of a corner. My therapist said yesterday that she's never seen me like this before, that I'm really sort of dialed in and focused, and I'm talking about what I want. And I think that's really ultimately, you know, you and I have an episode, you know, all about what Do I want? Which I think is one of my favorite episodes that we've done because we we focus on each word what and then do and then I and then want.

Jim Hacking (00:15:38) - And so I think that unless we're willing to say out loud and write down on paper what it is that we want and know that that's what we're working towards, if we don't do that, then we're just sort of farting around and spinning our wheels. And it's not until we really get purposeful and deliberate that things really start to change.

Tyson Mutrux (00:15:59) - You know, it's interesting you say that about yourself, because I've always viewed you as someone that has has been able to have those tough conversations. I've, I've been able to, like, listen to you like, because we've had to have had tough conversations with with people regarding the podcast and that's as far as I'll go with it. But I felt most like you nailed it a really, really well. And like, it's almost like you're like a natural at it. So I do find it kind of interesting that you struggle with that.

Jim Hacking (00:16:27) - I'm an introvert. Ultimately, I'm an introvert. I get my energy working on my own. Another big thing for me, I mentioned this to you the other day is that I really, really want to be light.

Jim Hacking (00:16:36) - And sometimes I'll do things that if I said to myself objectively, do you really want to do that? I would say, no, but do I really want to do that in some way of thinking that that'll make people like me, then then I'm more willing to do it. And so that what I'm trying to get to is a place where I'm operating from freedom, not from obligation or or want.

Tyson Mutrux (00:16:59) - I'm going to ask this question. This may be my last question, okay. But we'll just depends on how you answer it. And I and I know it's not going to be the easiest question to answer, but is, is hacking immigration over over the horizon? Could it be a $20 million company, and if so, what needs to happen for it to get there?

Jim Hacking (00:17:21) - My buddy Brent has been crunching numbers, and he says that the U.S. immigration legal industry is an $8.7 billion industry. Now, a lot of that is corporate immigration, which is something we have not done much of. But with the chances of Donald Trump coming back and other things, I think we need to start diversifying at the firm.

Jim Hacking (00:17:43) - And so the employment, immigration space is a place where we could really grow, and I so Brent says if it's an $8.7 billion industry, why can't you get 87 million of that? So I don't know. But I think that there's potential there. I think there's need there. I mean, not that we're doing deportation or much of it, but like 25% of people go through deportation with a lawyer, 75% do not. A lot of that's because of money. But there's there's a lot of need out there. Whenever someone says, I want to become an immigration lawyer, I said, good, we need you. Like like there's that's why. That's why I open up the firm. I would try to refer these Muslim friends of mine to immigration lawyers, and they said, oh, I'm too busy. I don't, I don't I don't need any more cases. Please don't send me any more cases. Like, that's crazy to me.

Tyson Mutrux (00:18:28) - And I think that there's a lot of bad, bad immigration lawyers out there too.

Tyson Mutrux (00:18:31) - And I'm not I'm not just saying that to just to disparage. And I don't know what about about the nature of why it is I've thought about this because I feel like you're sort of this anomaly that has really kind of put together a nice machine that does this really, really well. But I know a lot, a lot of immigration lawyers that are just bad at business, like just terrible business. And I don't know what it is about the characteristic.

Jim Hacking (00:18:57) - I think I think I do, I think part of it is that I think the big thing is, is they have a good heart, that they come from a good place and they want to help people. They want to, you know, it's a it's a nice practice area. Unlike like criminal law, when you are done defending a sex offender, they're not all that happy, right? They're not going to leave you a five star review. But immigration, you're helping change people's lives. You're giving benefits. So a lot like a lot of lawyers, they just get caught up in the thick of thin things doing the next case.

Jim Hacking (00:19:29) - And nobody has really thought about. I don't think there aren't many bigger family based or individual based immigration firms in the country because most, most immigration law firms are a lawyer and a paralegal. Who think they're too busy and they don't think about that other stuff, and maybe that's not what they want. But I do think when it comes to business, we've seen a lot in our group of people who've struggled. and I think it is ultimately that that I think some people feel guilty about making money as an immigration lawyer.

Tyson Mutrux (00:20:00) - All right. Jimmy, well, I wish I had another hour to talk to you, because I do. There's a lot more I would want to dig into. I think at some point we should do like a long episode where we interview each other. I'll let you interview me next month, but we're going to wrap things up before I do. I want to remind everyone, join us in the big group search, Maximum Lawyer. You can find us there if you want to come to one of our quarterly masterminds.

Tyson Mutrux (00:20:24) - We've got Charlotte and we have Vegas left in this year, which is pretty exciting. I think Jimmy and I are really excited about Vegas. We got a pretty good, speaker coming out to Charlotte, David. So that's going to be pretty awesome. He's going to come out to speak in, in Charlotte to with our guild members. So it's going to be really, really cool. Dave is awesome. Jim and I both loved hearing him talk. We've seen him at geek like a long time ago. just he's really amazing. We had him on the podcast. good stuff. But if you're interested in seeing Dave, it's exclusive to guild members. Max Law Actually, you know what? We open that actually.

Jim Hacking (00:21:02) - Right. I was just going to say it's not exclusive to your members. Yeah.

Tyson Mutrux (00:21:05) - That's when we did open up. I'm sorry about that. But I will tell you the tickets are almost are going to be sold out pretty quick already. Yeah, yeah. So by the time this airs that may be booked, but you should look into it Maxwell Guild com.

Tyson Mutrux (00:21:16) - All right. And if you don't mind leaving us, leaving us a five star review, we would greatly appreciate it. Help spread the love to attorneys that need it. But, Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?

Jim Hacking (00:21:28) - All right, so although lawyers don't necessarily think of themselves as doing intake, you are in fact doing intake. And when you do intake talking to potential clients, sometimes they have objections. And there's a great book by a sales guy named Jeb Blunt. Blunt just called objections. I've made my way through about a third of it, and if you or others in your firm are the ones talking to clients about things like price or speed, or when can you file or why do I need you? That objections book really is a good framework for how to handle and overcome objections.

Tyson Mutrux (00:22:07) - I like it, very good stuff. All right, so mine is a really simple one. I don't think I've given this one. But the podcast that we're recording now, I'm using on our mini mic that's for traveling with, because I got this so that we could, I could do remote podcasts.

Tyson Mutrux (00:22:23) - Sometimes I do like to record them from the house, but it is the road mini mic. It's. And if you're looking for it's mnt USB mini, I like it. It's really, really handy. Comes a nice little travel in case I can set it up in a in a matter of seconds. It's really, really handy. And so anyone that, needs a mic that you use with your laptop, I'm using this with a laptop, a little tiny USB cable. It's pretty handy, but, that is my tip of the week.

Speaker 1 (00:22:51) - Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. To stay in contact with your host and to access more content, go to Maximum Have a great week and catch you next time.

Guild Membership

Meet us in Scottsdale, Arizona! The first quarterly mastermind of 2023 has tickets available! Become a member to purchase your ticket.
Join the Membership

Love this Podcast Episode?

Share this on social media:

Free Access to Stage 1 of Maximum Lawyer in Minimum Time

Sign Up Today!

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5

Join Our Facebook Group

If you want to discuss current events or ask for help from other thought-provoking legal professionals, join our Facebook. Stay tuned for updates.
Become a Member

Enjoy Exclusive Access To Stage One Of The Maximum Lawyer In Minimum Time Course

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We only send you awesome stuff =)
Privacy Policy
crosschevron-up linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram