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Achieving Freedom w/ John Ting 424
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In today’s episode, Jim and Tyson chat with, John Ting! They dive into the journey of starting a law firm fresh out of law school and all of the nuggets that come with it. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of delegation, operations, and taking action, check out this week’s episode.

John is known as the Immigration Problem Solver™. His personal mission is to help lawyers be better professionals in the community and have more freedom in their law practice. He provides divorce representation for domestic violence survivors through CHETNA and DAYA on a pro bono basis. John was awarded the 2016 Pro Bono of the Year by the National Asian American Bar Association.

2:43 public interest minded mission

6:37 anticipating the future

10:09 video software

15:07 my goal is to exit

18:13 building that culture

22:07 use a call to action

Jim’s Hack: A reflection piece to ask yourself is, what questions are seeking your attention at this time in your life?

John’s Tip: Check out the shared inbox app called Missive. It includes email, social media messaging, and a live chat widget for your website. It offers all your tools in one place.

Tyson’s Tip: For those that enjoy gardening, check out the Lomi composter. It composts paper, food scraps, and even plastics within hours to put back into your garden.

Watch the podcast here

Join the Guild: www.maxlawguild.com

MaxLawCon tickets are on sale now! Grab your ticket today at www.MaxLawCon2022.com

Jim:                  Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.

Tyson:             And I’m Tyson Mutrux. What’s up, Jimbo?

Jim:                  Oh, Tyson. It’s a beautiful day here in St. Louis. It’s still chilly. I don’t know why, in the middle of April, it’s still so darn cold but it’s a beautiful day. How are you doing?

Tyson:             Doing well. I mean, I just, three minutes ago, got out– or four minutes ago, got out of an airplane. So, beautiful weather in Columbia, Missouri. I’ll tell you. No real winds. But you’re right. It’s crisp outside. Definitely colder than I want it to be but I think we just got over the hump, Jimmy. I think we just got over. I think the weather’s going to start to turn real, real nice.

Jim:                  I hope so. I hope so.

Well, let’s go ahead and get to our guest. Our guest today is John Ting. He’s a very fun, and exciting, and successful immigration lawyer out of Houston, Texas.

John, welcome to the show.

John:               Thanks, Jim and Tyson. Appreciate being invited on

Tyson:             You bet.

So, John, tell us about your journey and how you got to where you are now.

John:               Yeah.

Well, number one, I appreciate Brian Manning invited me on to the Maximum Lawyer and The Guild.

For my journey, so it started– I graduated 2011 from City University of New York, CUNY Law School, with a public interest mind and mission. And even– so, when I applied for law school, I already knew that I wanted to practice immigration law more so after under understanding that a lot of people don’t have the ability to exercise due process. So, I ended up just starting my own law practice straight from law school. A lot of people ask, I did not take the New York bar. I just went and moved back to Texas and took the bar there and started my own practice.

After about five – seven years, I had a– well, five – six years, then I had a partner for a couple of years thinking that was my ticket to set my freedom, I suppose. So, as you’ll notice, the theme of my talk this summer at the Maximum Lawyer Conference is about achieving that freedom. Now, of course, I’ll just do my little tidbit about that, in my own way, but I think I’ll be getting to that point. I’m along that journey with that intention in mind.

Jim:                  So not many people start a law firm right out of law school. What surprised you the most about that process and what you wish you had known when you started?

John:               Ooh. I wish–

Fortunately, I had mentors here and there in different areas, I suppose you can say. But there were really– there was not a group like this, as you know, because you created it. And for asking things like oh, well, conflict of interest‑type situation. Okay. Well– and then you look up the Texas Bar Journal, for example. And that’s all there is and they’re all old information. Sure, there’s a hotline but a group like yours has been very significantly helpful and I’m sure for many others.

Tyson:             So, I’ve got a follow‑up question to that. If you’re given the chance, right, would you do it the same way or would you have gone and worked for a firm first?

John:               I still would’ve started my own practice.

Jim:                  John, what did it look like in those first couple of months – those first two years, say? Describe for the audience what your firm looked like then, what kind of a person you were running that firm at that time.

John:               So, I do want to give credit to my parents for starting their own business. That definitely helped. But it’s not like I went through a training course through them. It was just on the job, post college, like, “Okay, help out since you don’t have a job yet.” So, just from that experience. They had a convenience store. So, it helped me. Even my mom, to this day, is like, “You need to be kind to your clients. They’re paying you to do work for them. Don’t get frustrated,” you know, things like that. And she always told me that anything that you’re experiencing now, at my store, you will experience something similar in your practice, so suck it up [laughs], essentially. Enjoy the ride.”

Tyson:             I’m just curious. With your practice, you and Jim both can practice all over the country and you can target people all over the country. Is that something you do or do you focus just in Texas?

John:               That’s a great question.

Yeah, immigration law, we can practice a set of clients really living from anywhere or they are living from anywhere as well. That’s the huge difference in intention from the first seven years until the last three years, I suppose you can say, is the ability to thinking about scaling to some extent not just something people in‑person. I mean, even that mindset started happening for me in late 2018 when my first child was born because I had to do everything remotely. My wife and I are co‑parenting from day one, essentially so. You know, even I was telling people, “Hey, you can just save time from traffic. You don’t have to drive to my office.” They were not really understanding that until, of course, the pandemic happened so.

Jim:                  And so, what are you enjoying about the practice of law? What’s sort of driving you crazy or that you’re trying to improve?

John:               Well, it’s about anticipating the future, right? So, as we’re growing the team, y’all know that I’ve been increasing the VAs. I also plan on hiring another associate, my second one, within the next one to two months, hopefully. With increased cases, I don’t have the bandwidth to do it myself anymore. Anticipate that and acknowledge it currently. And also, some things that I see in both Facebook groups and as experiencing hardships or conflict with employees, just getting ready for that.

So, before I joined Maximum Lawyer, I’ve been still part of EntreLeadership and that’s what I gained the most from that group, at least, is how to deal with employees, essentially. Resolve those [inaudible 00:07:19].

Tyson:             Let’s talk about that part of it though like the hiring part of it, getting over the whole– you know, the fear of hiring employees and hiring associates. Walk us through all that. because, I mean, there’s a lot to unwrap when it comes to hiring employees.

John:               Sure.

Well, I can tell you my context of why I delayed hiring an associate. And it can be very similar to most solos’, and that is, “I don’t know if I’m going to have enough money in the bank to pay that XYZ employee or if it’s even a paralegal, right? But once I started understanding, not so much marketing strategy, but more so like, how to anticipate revenue because before I always thought like, “Well, it all really depends on that one individual if they sign up.” But if you have a specific strategy, so it goes kind of hand in hand, right? Then, you know, I started realizing, after talking to marketing experts, essentially, expect to spend at least 10% of your anticipated revenue.

So, just building that budget, I realized, “Okay. Well, an associate in Houston may be like 60,000 to 80,000. And, of course, you pay higher than you’re going to expect a better qualified employee, you know. So, I think that was one of my mindset blocks a couple of years ago.

Jim:                  John, one of the things I’ve noticed about you is that you’re pretty systematic and that you do a lot of backend work to make sure that things are sort of organized and systematized. Talk to our listeners a little bit about your mindset when it comes to systems.

John:               Sure.

So, at first, I thought immigration practice is like a unique situation where things seem more systematized but after conversing with a lot of folks in the groups, it can be done really, in most, if not all practice areas. I still use some software called 17hats. And so, one feature they have is workflow. So, essentially, step one is, after they sign up, onboarding.

Step two, XYZ. It can send an email. It can send a questionnaire. It can be automated. You don’t even have to click go or send, or you can have it wait for your approval. And that also includes like emails, invoices.

So, when I stumbled upon 17hats, well, it came through Facebook feed like five years ago. I’ve been using that really since 2017 – 2018. So, all my former team members that branched off, because I moved from Dallas to Houston, they call me. They’re like, “John, help my current employer switch over.” I’m like I’m happy to do it like it saves me so much time.

Tyson:             So, let’s talk a little bit more about the systems, and the policies, and the procedures, and all that. So, as you begin to scale, as you add more employees, you’re going to have to teach people these things. So, how are you managing your systems, and your policies, and your procedures?

John:               Yeah, you know what, I’ve always known about loom.com, for example. That’s one of the video software, I think one of the more common ones. And then, I think, when I joined The Guild, that’s when I started realizing, “Holy crap! Like, yeah, I can use this for sales. I can use this for training the team internally.” And I use dub.com for sales videos and also for clients.

So, for Jim, for immigration, for example, I have like, I don’t know, five to eight video series, one minute each, just about how to prep for like (a) adjustment interview and one for naturalization. It has saved me what like minimum of 30 minutes to an hour per client. So, it’s just saved me a lot of time. So, I highly recommend that.

 

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Jim:                  You’re listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. Our guest today is immigration attorney extraordinaire, John Ting, out of Houston.

John, talk to us about business development. How do you like to focus on marketing when it comes to bringing in new clients?

John:               So, the past– before the pandemic, the first five years or so, it was like going strong in networking, going to bar events, things like that. Then, my wife was pregnant and it was like, there’s no time. This is before the pandemic, right? So, I just think of other ways. And, of course, Jim Hacking’s the guru on YouTube, so watched several videos of his. I was like– I was still hesitant like I’m sure many others.

Then, the pandemic hit. And this was like, “Well, I’ve always wanted to do know‑your‑rights type workshops.” I’ve done them in person, but I was like, “There’s got to be another way.” I’ve just got to get over my fear. And you know this, Jim, but like YouTube or any type of social media is really the best way.

I know people are like wondering, which platform should I use? Just pick one at least. You really can duplicate it. What’s this right in your phone anyway. All you need is a phone, right? We all have smartphones now. So, even when my internet wasn’t working at the office, one day, I just used my phone to log in to StreamYard. It wasn’t perfect but I just got it done. Then, I realized, “Okay. They’re calling”. Kind of like, you know, the old school yellow– what do you call that? The yellow book.

Jim:                  Yellow pages.

John:               Yellow pages. And I tried something like that. It wasn’t Yellow Pages, but I tried like the Spanish version of the Dallas Morning News, Al Día. Yeah, we got a lot of calls but then some people were like, “Oh, but you– it says free consultation.” Of course, back then, the first seven years, I was like, “Oh, yeah. We charge for that.” But now, predominantly, it’s free 15 minutes.

But, anyway– so, it’s– my summer talk at the conference will be similar to this. This topic actually is when you attract them through YouTube and other means, what do you do after that? And so, what we have is a free guide. It’s a document, a PDF. It’s everything you know already. It’s already [inaudible 00:14:16] items that people ask like common FAQs. So, you already built the trust through social media and, now, you want to sustain that. You want to show that your continued credibility, your knowledge, and share that with them.

So, it’s kind of like you go to the vet, right, in person, and someone hands you like a random flyer. This is essentially the same thing except, in that situation, there’s no trust built in. But if you have something to attract them like a landing page or your social media, that’s built‑in credibility. So, that’s why I’ve changed the past couple years in terms of marketing.

Tyson:             So, John, with you doing more of the marketing, I guess, walk us through your typical day. I mean, are you doing more running the business or are you more practicing law? Walk us through that.

John:               Yeah.

It’s sort of like 50/50 but my goal is– y’all probably already it in The Guild as my goal is to exit, okay? So, it doesn’t mean necessarily 100%. I know it sounds strange when you say it out loud but after going through the Goldman Sachs program, it was an intensive eight weeks, especially when my son was born around that time. I was like, “This is homework.” But the key thing, it was in the last week and that was the exit. I was like, “Lawyers can exit? That’s crazy. I thought we had to be a lawyer until we die.”

But, yeah, I’m not in the sort of thinking like sell 100% of law firm but to scale–  I guess, the point is the journey, to scale it to a point where you have the ability– you have the opportunity to sell it. And so, yeah, that’s just been mind blowing, just unlocking my mind blocks, essentially.

Jim:                  But then getting to Tyson’s question about what things look like now. Like, walk us through sort of your typical day, now, in 2022.

John:               Yeah, sorry. So, I always want to share context and I forgot the question.

Okay. So, yeah, I mean, I start my morning likely around– yeah, after the kids go to school. Then, it’s consults all day, really, because, the past two months, I’ve been training the associate to handle that – the new associate, but her skill set is more like an integrator because– and so, I had her take the assessment. So, with that in mind, like I’ve already created like a hierarchy chart and just anticipating needs. And so, I would say, 50% of my day is working on the business. It’s just– even though I preach about time blocking, I’m not as good as I would hope. I think that’s more so because my excuse is the little kids. So, my day pretty much shuts down 3:34.

So, now, I assign, for example, having an associate for those true solo’s (1) because we all– like some people think– I talk to my friends all the time and they say like, “Well, I can do everything myself.” And we all know we need to delegate, right? So, even simple tasks” like research, right? Jim, you know this, like we have a lot of immigration clients that just say like, “Can we do this?” but like some things can change but I don’t have the time to research it anymore. So, I just task my associate. And that’s a great learning experience for her anyway and for me because, after she does a grunt work of it, then I can double check it quickly. So, that’s just, you know, one thing off my plate, at least, in terms of my day.

Tyson:             So, I have an interesting question because with your plan to exit, right, and you– because you want to kind of, I guess, be out of the business at a certain point, what does your vision look like? And how do you– because we talk about vision all the time, and conveying that to your employees, and how important that is. But what does your vision look like and how do you express that to your employees?

John:               Yeah. So, I’ve been upfront with them. Y’all know I have a team of VAs (virtual assistants) that work outside of America. I’ve told them, “Look, this is a growing opportunity for everyone so as we grow–” I mean, I don’t share the numbers with them in terms of the dollars. And I don’t think they need to know that. A bulk of my VAs have been with me for about a year, so it’s just great to see their development and them actually wanting to– when they see someone is sick or out for any reason, they’re like, “How can I help?” So just building that culture is critical for scaling and exiting.

But, yeah, long term is integrating a– I guess, traditionally, we call it of counsel, right? So, something like that but for work‑from‑home workers. I don’t want to call them employees yet, but I imagine it to be more like 1099 contractors, where we’re more like the call center, the marketing hub, and call center/document gathering center, handle all the client concerns, you could say, the help desk. And then, the attorney handles all like the hearings – things like that.

So, that was part of my– through The Guild, I think the hot seat, I think it was in August for me or September last year. And part of me was like, “Man, I really don’t want to stop accepting XYZ type of removal proceeding cases. You know, that’s the reason I went to law school, really, to help people in that kind of situation – that bind, but there’s got to be another way. So, it took about three to six months to figure out a way. And I’ve talked to some attorney friends, who practice immigration, and they don’t want anything to deal with, as you can imagine, the client part of it, right? They just want– you’ve had that feeling of getting the work done, and they don’t want to go to an office at all.

Jim:                  Yeah. I think that’s a great point, John, about sort of finding what people like and what they’re good at. And when we talk about growing this firm, I always tell people that there’s plenty of work to be done and there’s plenty of growth to happen, that we need to find out what people’s strengths are and then play to that strength and sort of get other people to deal with things that everyone else is weak at. So, if one person’s really good at client communication then, you know, let them run with that and then find out what each person’s strength is. I think so often we just try to get so rigid about, you know, we have this position to fill and we have to find the perfect person for this position as opposed to really digging in and finding out what people’s strengths are, where their energy lies, and what they like to do, and building the firm a little bit more organically.

John:               Yeah, exactly. Like, for example, a recent example, is one or two weeks ago, we just created a TikTok channel per se and I already knew who would be wanting to participate in that array. And it confirmed with me who did not because I asked, individually, ”Who wants to be involved in this channel or not?” I don’t want to dump everyone in that group but– and I was right. After like, at least six months with them to a year, I have an idea what they prefer.

Of course, everyone takes the personality assessment but that doesn’t necessarily say like which specific role they would excel at or even be interested in. And then, once, when a couple of the VAs said, “Yeah, I want to help with XYZ,” like social media, for example, or calling clients for certain reasons. I was like I’d look back at their application, I was like, “Bingo!” like they actually selected that as one of the options. I was just so gung ho like you say like, as law firm owners we’re like, we just need to fill this position. But, after overtime, please, I recommend looking back at their application and see what they selected.

So, what I do in my part of my application is, I just list all the needs that you’ll continually need to fill over the years. And then– I mean, most people select like at least half of them, so that’ll give you a running start.

Tyson:             That’s great advice. We’re getting close to time but, real quick, I want to ask you, with TikTok, give us a few tips on starting with TikTok for people that have not started with it yet.

John:               Yeah.

Well, Tyson, you know, you’ve got a tip for me the other day.

Tyson:             Yeah. That was great.

John:               I was like, “Everyone can do that but not everyone can fly planes.” But–

Hmm. Yeah, I know. The one tip that people hear all time is be yourself, right? Like, one thing that stopped me is like, “Oh, I need to look a certain way.” Even my family’s like, “You need to shave.” I’m like, “No. I need to look a little older, actually.” So, just be yourself and use a call to action, okay? So, you may have a lot of subscribers and followers, people that watch, but they don’t do anything after watching your video but, maybe six months later, like, “Oh, you know what? I should’ve called that person.”

And one thing that reminded me of this, other than the algorithm and all those kinds of things is I rented from another attorney who, when I first started practice 10 years ago, and he talked to his neighbors. And he told me one of his neighbors got a personal injury lawyer, but he actually practices PI. And he was telling him, well, why didn’t you, you know, consider hiring me? He was like, “Oh, I forgot.” So, social media fills that gap. Even though you could be–

You might think like even content. There’s plenty of content. Like, I mean, at least, for immigration, we have, at least, I mean, many consultations a day which is why I need to hire another associate, right? But there’s plenty of– just one question from a consult is content right there, right? And Jim knows that as well. But even if you felt like you’re repeating content who cares? Because they might not have seen your other videos. They’re just the random– well, I guess, not random but the algorithm, right, the feed. So, don’t worry about content,

Tyson:             Such a good point. Great advice. Lots of great advice in this episode.

We do need to wrap things up. Before I do, I want to remind everyone to join us in the big Facebook group. There’s a lot of great free information in there. If you want a more high level conversation, join us in The Guild, people like John Ting in The Guild, maxlawguild.com. Make sure, if you want to go to the conference, go to maxlawcon2022.com to get your tickets before we sell out. So, make sure you do that. And while you’re listening the rest of this episode, if you don’t mind giving us a five‑star review, we would greatly appreciate it.

Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?

Jim:                  So, I’m getting ready to go to a three‑day retreat with other business owners and I’m excited about that. They gave us some homework to do. And one of the questions I found to be pretty provocative and I thought I would ask it here and let people sort of reflect on it as a prompt. And the question is, what questions are seeking your attention at this time in your life? What questions are seeking your attention at this time in your life? I really enjoyed doing that. And I’ve still been adding more questions to that. So that’s a nice reflection piece, I think, because it’s not sort of you’ve got to know everything. You’ve got to have all the answers. Just what are the questions that are getting at you or that you’ve been reflecting on or need to reflect on, so I thought I’d share that.

Tyson:             I love it. That’s good stuff.

John, you’re up next. What is your tip or hack of the week?

John:               I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. But my recent hack is missiveapp.com. It’s a shared inbox. It includes emails and social media messaging, for example, and even live chat widget on your website. So, imagine all your different tools like that you have in separate apps. This can pretty much do it all in one. It even includes, I think, WhatsApp. I need to sync that myself. But it’s called missiveapp.com.

Tyson:             Missive. Will you spell that?

John:               Oh, sure. M‑I‑S‑S‑I‑V‑E‑A‑P‑P.com.

Just to quickly explain one more thing about it, is so, for example, I start thinking about something like this really when a team member was out two weeks in a month for medical reasons. And so, I was like, “Oh, my goodness, like, yes, I have the password, but I have to log in every single time.”

So, missiveapp is similar to frontapp.com or something like that. And even this one, you can– let’s say the associate that you just recently hired, you know, you just obviously don’t trust 100% yet and you say, “Okay. Go draft the email. You don’t have to Google Doc it to me, or anything, or email it to me. Draft it in that app and tag me when it’s ready.” So, that’s just one simple way of checking without having to log in in different– using credentials.

Tyson:             I love that. That’s awesome.

I’ve got another shiny ball to go chase after. Jim might, too.

I just– you made me think of something. You should call your people Ting members like John Ting – Ting members. I think it’d be awesome.

Anyways, so mine’s non‑legal tip. So, we garden, right? We love gardening. And so, we bought a lomi, L‑O‑M‑I. And it composts paper. It composts food scraps. Plastics. It composts that stuff within like hours. It is incredible. So, I’ve been doing it every single day. And it like, within hours, it turns your stuff into compost and you just put it in the garden. So, that’s my tip – LOMI. It’s a non‑legal tip but, you know, sometimes we need that stuff for hobbies.

Jim:                  Cool.

Tyson:             John– yeah, thank you so much for coming on, man. Really, really appreciate it. There are a lot of great nuggets, so I think people need to go back and re listen to this because there’s a lot of great nuggets in here. So, hopefully, people get a lot out of it.

John:               Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. And, everyone, please come out this June for MaxLawCon.

Jim:                  Thanks.

Tyson:             Thanks for the plug, John. Appreciate it.

Jim:                  Bye, guys.

Tyson:             Bye, John.

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