Navigating the Challenges of a Law Firm with Jose de Wit


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Are you a new law firm owner who is struggling with running your business? In this episode of the Maximum Lawyer Podcast, Jim and Tyson are joined by guest Jose de Wit, an immigration attorney who shares his journey of starting and running his own law firm as well as the challenges that exist.

Jose shared the challenges that exist with owning a law firm. One challenge is finding people who are the right fit. Sometimes, it takes a few hires to find that one person that matches well with the owner and the goals of the firm. Hiring for a law firm is also determined based on how the firm will operate. It is important to decide if a front facing or virtual setting is what you want and hire based on that.

Jose provides some tips for those who are hoping to run their own firm. Due diligence is an important aspect when becoming your own boss. There are some things that need to be ironed out at the start. Some of these things include setting up a bank account to receive payments and pay bills as well as seeking advice from other law firm owners in your circle. Platforms like LinkedIn are the perfect place to find other lawyers and make connections. Success in the law firm industry is all about networking and establishing good relationships!

Listen in to learn more from Jose!

Jim's Hack: 
Let’s push back on the idea that you need to get hiring perfect every time. Make note of what went right and didn't go right and change your strategy the next time around.

Jose Tip: 
Read the book by Benjamin Hardy, which is about a layered approach to reading physical books and audiobooks, which can help you get through your reading list.

Tyson's Tip: Try playing the game “A Moth Presents a Game of Storytelling”, which includes cards that are great conversational pieces.

Episode Highlights:

  • 1:56 Challenges in running a law firm
  • 6:57 The use of LinkedIn 
  • 10:26 The decision-making process for hiring

Connect with Jose:


Transcripts: Navigating the Challenges of Law Firm with Jose de Wit

Jim Hacking (00:04.097)
Welcome back to the Maxim Warrior podcast. I'm Jim Hacking.

Tyson (00:07.887)
and I'm Tyson Mutrix. What's up, Jimmy?

Jim Hacking (00:11.395)
Tyson, my friend, we are going to be talking about immigration today, running an immigration law firm, and lots of things that I like to think about. So I'm excited.

Tyson (00:21.507)
You were doing the steepling thing as you were saying that. So I can tell you're excited. Yeah. And it's a guildy and it's someone that we like talking to. Jose DeWitt. Jose, how's it going? Welcome to the show.

Jose de Wit (00:35.714)
Thanks. Good morning. How are you?

Jim Hacking (00:38.563)
Great, we're great Jose. So tell everybody about you and your law school experience and how you came to own a law firm.

Jose de Wit (00:47.55)
It was a roundabout process. So I went to law school in the San Francisco Bay Area at Berkeley, and then I stuck around there for a couple of years. I started out at a big firm.

and then got into immigration by accident. I wound up in Florida for personal reasons. I thought it was going to be a short stay. So immigration, you can practice immigration in any state as long as you're licensed in any jurisdiction. So I thought I'd pick up a little bit of work while I was here. And one case turned into another, and then that turned into a book of business. And then I worked at a few firms as an associate. And…

a couple years ago decided to make a break for it and start my own firm.

Tyson (01:40.795)
So, is there anything that's surprised you from what you thought it was gonna be like compared to what it's actually like?

Jose de Wit (01:49.99)
everything. So yeah, in my, probably this is not unique for anybody who's done this, but I in my head this was I've been a perpetual associate. I'm used to grinding and pumping out the cases and I'm good at it and so it's going to be more of that except I'm going to make more money at it and maybe there's going to be some small percentage on the top of like miscellaneous admin work and occasional marketing and it you know it's been the inverse, right?

that was surprising to me. When I started the firm, I didn't have the benefit. I wasn't plugged into MaxLaw, for instance, or any of the other resources that I lean on now to understand what it's like to run a firm. So it was, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. And also I was surprised by how much I would like the…

running a firm aspect of it. I didn't see that coming. Everybody in my family is, they're all entrepreneurs. I was the black sheep so to speak in the sense that I was the one, the only bookworm, the only, the only, they always laughed at me because I was the one who wasn't practical minded and was just good at just sitting down and figuring out

cases and writing, but just not a people person, not a get things done person. And once I was in that seat, I was shocked at how much I liked it and that I actually wasn't half bad at it.

Jim Hacking (03:25.203)
Or those first six months, like Jose, how did you get clients? Was it just you? How did you sort of set things up?

Jose de Wit (03:33.894)
It was just me for maybe the first month or two. And then very quickly I hired one VA and one in-person paralegal, neither of whom worked out in the end. But it was…

Jose de Wit (03:55.454)
it was good to go through that experiment of hiring and figuring that out early on because at least I'd made a few mistakes and was ready to get into the hiring process with eyes wide open once we actually really didn't need people and were ready to grow a little bit more.

Jose de Wit (04:16.774)
So I was the only attorney, I still am the only attorney really. At first I was lucky in that a friend from law school, he's general counsel at a fairly large hospitality company and.

He I already had some cases lined up with them before I left my old job. So Um, I knew from the start that would be at least some um source of revenue. They were my only client at first and From there on um, it was it was slow going but that one client kept us afloat for a little bit. Um It I

The two partners I worked for a few jobs before I started the firm, they split right before I went on my own and I shared office space with one of them. So that was a really…

That was good at first. I had cheap rent from her and use of the copier and all those things that I wasn't ready to, all those costs I wasn't ready to absorb on my own yet. And she fed me some work, at least some contract work where she had overflow, so that was helpful also.

Tyson (05:32.251)
You know, there are things like that are really are, it is really something that helps out young lawyers that, I mean, I know I had the benefit of a lot of that whenever I first started out. And so like there are things like that where like just like use of a copier is just, it's such, it can be like such a really big thing. Are there like, what are some tips or some advice you might give to some young lawyers that are or older lawyers that are considering, you know, starting their own firm?

Jose de Wit (05:39.85)

Jose de Wit (06:00.962)
I was, you know, I probably wish I had done a little bit more due diligence before I did it. It was impulsive, but so I think it might have been a smoother ride if I'd figured out a few more things before I started because, you know, I was opening a bank account in a hurry because we didn't have a trust account and clients were ready to pay me and I just didn't have anywhere to put.

the money. So like very, very basic things like that, that I hadn't laid the groundwork for before I started, that it wouldn't have taken a whole lot of thought or effort to at least have in place. I think. So one thing that I started doing very quickly and that was

helpful was just ask for help, reach out, surround yourself with people who are doing this, have done this, and are willing to lend a hand and lend advice.

as a perpetual associate, most of my career I had been really cloistered. I was just in the office. I went to occasional, like AILA, the Immigration Lawyers Association, I'd go to occasional events and I knew a few people there and would say hi, but I didn't have a very strong network within the immigration sphere or outside of it. And so jumping in, realizing I was out of my depth.

and needing to figure it out quickly forced me to just build a network very fast. And so I think if you don't have one, start thinking about that right away, because it's been invaluable to see what others are doing, what mistakes others are making, how they figured things out has been huge.

Jim Hacking (07:49.663)
A lot of our members have consumer facing practices and I know you certainly do, but you also have part of your practice that is sort of more working with companies and corporate stuff and so a lot of the things that we talk about in MaxLaw might not necessarily apply and so sometimes people…

get frustrated with Tyson and I that we don't have more advice for people like that. So what tips do you have for people that sort of spend a lot of their energy working with corporate clients or, you know, repeat clients like that?

Jose de Wit (08:21.714)
So if a lot of what you guys talk about is video and social media and putting stuff out there and those types of channels and so I

dipped my toes into that and didn't have much traction. And then one thing I got out of the last mastermind I was in was, why don't you try LinkedIn? And I hadn't really given it much thought. And so it's, and that's been huge. Just in a few months, I've, you know, we've had a really good response. And so I guess, you know, a lot of what Max was about, it is applicable to…

corporate practice. It's just pick your platform, I guess. Know where the people you're trying to target are actually circulating and spend your efforts there. And then a lot more of my business development is still networking, networking. I think a lot of the kind of mass outreach type of marketing, we do it and we still have a lot of ways to go there, but it's a lot more about relationships.

Tyson (09:32.027)
All right, so I want to ask you a related question because Jim and I do get some pushback with the B2B people. We're different. I want your honest opinion. Do you feel like you all are different or do you think that many of the principles are the same? I'm super curious what you think.

Jose de Wit (09:54.122)
I'm still navigating that. So for example, intake. Intake is a puzzle that we haven't fully figured out yet. So with like the whole, Gary Falkowitz and the whole thing about not charging for the consults. And a lot of this is, it's not applicable for the types of relationships that we're building because a lot of our corporate clients, they don't.

they don't have a case they need help immediately with. It's more of they want help about how do we set up an immigration program at our firm? And that's something that we're gonna charge hourly for off the bat. And so the dynamics are different. So intake, for example, the mold you guys have set out doesn't fully fit us. So.

I'll report back once we do figure out something workable, but that. Other parts of it are, I think, a pretty close fit.

Jim Hacking (11:03.583)
I know that you are- Oh, go ahead.

Jose de Wit (11:03.882)
You know, like for example, I think that systems and money and all those things, they work the same at a consumer facing firm and at a corporate firm, right? But its intake is, I think, is very different.

Jose de Wit (11:23.794)
And to give you a concrete example, like, so we, I wave, we in theory charge for consultations, but I also wave.

Jim Hacking (11:24.099)
I know it.

Jose de Wit (11:33.006)
ton of them. But it really just depends on who's referring it. And I just kind of, at this point, have a you know it when you see it sort of feel for when this is going to be definitely the $250 I'm going to make out of this are nothing compared to what this relationship is going to be worth, even if they don't hire us, but just because I want to know this person, because they're going to not hire us, but they will refer us to others. And so figuring out how to translate

system that intake staff can follow is a nut I haven't cracked yet.

Jim Hacking (12:10.643)
You are on the precipice of hiring an associate and I'm wondering what, what was, what were the mental gymnastics you had to go through to finally make the decision to do that and, and what are you looking for as you go through this process?

Jose de Wit (12:25.026)
I think it in the back of my mind I've known I had to for a while now the two things that pushed us over the edge were a Good chunk of our revenue is seasonal and comes in at the end of the year so we wrapped up last year having money in the bank that Would let us absorb that salary even in the first few months that it'll take to get this associate situated so that confidence and then the other is

Okay, so we I opened the firm in early 2022. The first year went well, but it was just by the seat of my pants. And so I started 2023 with the idea that I don't want to grow or at least not grow much, but I want to just buckle down and actually

figure out systems and processes and get ourselves very organized before we are ready to push and grow some more. And 2023 went by without any of that happening because I was spending so much of my time working in the cases. And so just looking back at 2023 and evaluating why that goal didn't end up happening, I realized, okay, we're never going to…

be able to grow and get organized unless somebody else is really a good chunk of the casework, and I have time to work on the business.

Tyson (13:50.595)
Do you have an idea as to what you want the firm to actually look like? I mean, cause you're at the, you're at the sort of the bidding, beginning stages of hiring. So do you have like an idea in mind? Like, okay, I want, I want it to look like this. I want it to be in this number of locations. I want us to operate, you know, hybrid in person, virtual. I mean, do you, do you, have you thought about that? How you want it to look?

Jose de Wit (14:11.802)
Mm-hmm. So I want to grow just enough that there's some redundancy that I can take time off. And there's people who can take care of things. And if somebody's out, they have coverage. And it's not just one person in each seat. And if somebody's gone, everybody has to jump in and panic.

But about that much, I don't want our firm to get huge, really. So that's our kind of very fuzzy growth target. So maybe a couple of associates and maybe 50% to twice as much support stuff as we have now, and that's about it. We're at five full time to part time right now. So somewhere bigger than that, but not a ton bigger. And the…

I started out with the idea that we were going to be 100% virtual.

the immigration agencies have foiled us in that because they love getting these giant bricks of paper, you know, these substantial volumes. And so having a multifunction copier in my living room was really getting old. And it was my wife printing everything out. And then if we weren't home, then I couldn't have staff coming to my house to print out stuff, right? Or expect them to have a huge multifunction copier in their living room. So that has forced us to have a brick and mortar presence,

if it's a small one, right? For now, just to get the cases out and scan the stuff that comes in. But the vision when I started out was to be able to, I mean, we're in Miami. I've been in Miami for about six years now and I've lived here on and off my whole life. But.

Jose de Wit (16:04.102)
I'm a Spanish citizen as well, and also a Guatemalan citizen. And the idea was be completely virtual so that if we want to go back home to Guatemala and our son, who's two and a half, have him go to school down there for a couple of years and spend time with his grandma and his cousins, that we can do that. Or if we want to try our hand at living in Spain for a couple years, that we can do that. And business immigration facilitates that because there's not a huge in-person requirement.

USCIS are occasional, there's no court work. So that's where we want to eventually end up.

Jim Hacking (16:41.595)
Jose, Jose what stresses you out?

Jose de Wit (16:46.066)
everything. I'm a very tightly wound person. But I think one thing that I've struggled with from the start and I still do is I get excited about things. And so one of the things that prompted me to start the firm was that I…

I thought a lot of things were very cool to me and I wanted to try them in my practice, outside of my practice, and I wanted to have the freedom to do that. And so I have a tendency to jump in and try this and try that, and it's worked, and sometimes like our growth, right? Like we decided to get into traveling to Latin America to do speaking engagements and conferences, and suddenly we're putting together conferences on our own. And it was just kind of a, this would be fun sort of idea, and it's worked out. And now I'm…

advising a legal tech startup and that's building on a platform to build exceptional ability cases using AI and that's been a lot of fun and all that's well and good but it means that

our operations are kind of haphazard because I have a hard time systematizing. And that stresses, like that's of my own making, but it stresses me out to not have predictability as to who's handling what and how they're handling it and everything's just kind of as it comes right now. And if anybody who's spoken to me at length about

my practice and knows that this is just my struggle, right? That this is the thing that we struggle the most in my firm.

Tyson (18:30.056)
Have you considered maybe hiring someone to help you with that part of it since you struggle so much with it?

Jose de Wit (18:37.394)
I've considered it. It's something that I actually that the project of training myself to actually participate in building that out at the firm is it's a personal goal that I'm excited about and I want to try out before I say I failed and I want to hire somebody else at it.

just because I don't know, this has been a fun ride so far. Just building all these muscles I didn't know I had and this is one of them. Right? So you know it's like at some point…

When I was in high school, I tried skateboarding and I sucked at it, but all my friends did it and I had to try it and I had to fall on my ass a few times before I realized, okay, maybe this is not my sport. So, kind of, it's less fun than skateboarding, but this is, you know, something I wanna try before I delegate out.

Tyson (19:37.632)
I too tried to become a skateboarder and failed miserably at it. So I'm right there with you. I could see Jimmy on a skateboard.

Jose de Wit (19:41.698)
I'm going to go to bed.

I'm bad at most sports. It turns out I don't have depth perception. I didn't find that out until I was like 18, but it explained so much because you throw a ball of a set of keys at me and I'm just kind of flailing around. I figured it out when I was taking flying lessons and when I was gonna get my pilot's license, they gave us a test to test depth perception and it explained why I was really, I was good at…

taking off and navigating the plane but not so much as landing it because so fun fact.

Jim Hacking (20:23.863)
Ha ha. So.

Interesting. So how did you make the decision to join the guild and what were you looking for when you decided to do that?

Jose de Wit (20:37.134)
Um, well, so, um, like I said, it was, um…

Sorry, I clicked something here and lost the, lost my window and I can't see you guys. All right. Okay, so like I said, it was kind of drinking through a fire hose when I started out. And so I just started looking for resources wherever I could find them. And I can't remember if I came across the podcast first or the big group on Facebook, but I found one or the other and then,

Jim Hacking (20:51.684)
We can hear you.

Jose de Wit (21:17.05)
that was helpful and I just kind of lurked in the group and listened to the podcast and then found it valuable and jumped in. At the same time I was also joining a coaching program and I was also joining other groups and so I was just finding help wherever I needed it and this is one, so MaxLy is one of the things that just stuck, that clicked with me and I found helpful. And I just like, I like the people who participate

Tyson (21:47.891)
Yeah, I mean, like there's, that's my favorite part too. Like just, there's just like a lot of great people just, you know, they, they're so willing to share. They're like just, they're, they're sharers. It's, it's great. So very good. All right. Uh, Jose, we are getting close to time. So I do want to be respectful of your time. I'm going to wrap things up before I do. I want to remind everyone, if you want to join us in the guild, uh, with people like Jose who are fantastic, uh, go to We'd love to have you there. Uh, just a lot of great people.

Jose de Wit (21:48.855)

Tyson (22:17.219)
A lot of great business owners that are sharing all of their best tips and secrets, which is awesome. And if you want to, if you're not quite ready, join us in the big Facebook group, just search Maximum Lawyer and you'll be able to find us there. And if you've gotten something from this episode or from any of the other episodes, if you don't mind giving us a five star review, we would greatly appreciate it. Let's get to our tips and hacks of the week. Jimmy, what's your hack of the week?

Jose de Wit (22:47.042)
Thank you.

Jim Hacking (22:47.215)
Back in 2022, one of the greatest baseball players I'll ever see in my life retired, his name was Mr. Albert Pujols, el hombre. Albert Pujols had a very, very long career. He's going straight to the Hall of Fame when he's done. His batting average, 296. That means he got a hit less than three times out of 10. And I bring that up because I keep seeing people thinking that they have to get hiring 100% right every time.

And I really want to push back on this idea that you're going to get hiring right every time. And I think that the real lesson is each time you hire someone, if it works out, write down why it worked out. If it didn't work out, write down why it didn't work out. And then each time you go through the hiring process, do things a little bit differently. If you do it the exact same way every time, you're going to get the same result. But if you if you look at hiring,

way that you ideate with software and look at it as how do I keep getting better at this skill? How do I develop this muscle more? Instead of hiring becomes such a roadblock for so many of our members and such a scary, scary thing. It's not that it's not that hard. Just think of it as an experiment. Don't beat yourself up over bad hires. Just figure out how can I do better next time.

Tyson (24:09.563)
I like that. That's good. It's an experiment. Very good. Jose, you are next. By now you should know that you should have a tip or hack ready for us. What you got for us?

Jose de Wit (24:21.322)
Yeah, so I have a huge stack of books that I've been wanting to read and I can't get through them because the hours are long and then at home we have a toddler who demands attention. And this one's from Benjamin Hardy, the guy from what is it 10 how many X is easier than however many other X 10 X and two X, I think. Yeah, there you go. And it was he had this layered approach to audio books and then physical books where He it was on this podcast and it was like how I read some insane amount of books a year.

and it was first listen to the audio book and so as you're listening to it.

half of them he said like within the first 20 minutes I realized this isn't even worth my like background noise time and so it's out and I didn't waste time trying to read that book. Then others I listened through it and I just kind of absorbed at a surface level and then the ones that I find really potentially valuable I sit down and read and actually highlight and take notes and so forth because his point was if I try to read all of them then it's a lot slower and I'm taking notes on stuff that might not be all that valuable so it's kind of this like

process, right? That starts with the audio book and then going back to the… So I've tried it this month, and I already got through three books that had been on the waiting list for months and months and months. So it's working for me.

Tyson (25:41.027)
I like that a lot. I'm gonna steal that. Cause that's a, cause there are a lot of books where I like force myself to finish them. I'm like, oh gosh, this is like why, you know, just cause you do get the gist of it in the first third. So very good. All right, so here's my tip of the week. So I had mentioned a book on the potty that's before about storytelling, but I bought this game. It's called the Moth Presents a Game of Storytelling. So the writer of that book that I had mentioned before, he was like,

He'd spoken at the Moth quite a bit. I actually don't play the game, but it's, I like the cards inside of it. So it gives, it's like, they're, they're very thought provoking. It will, they're, they're really good conversation starters or they're really good questions you could ask on the podcast. There's, there's a lot of things you could do, but, or you can also practice your storytelling. Like for example, like, like on, I just picked a random card, like the, the one side of it says food, prepare a story about things you eat, Vittles, grub, cuisine, groceries, and it gives you some things that you could, that you use to talk about.

And then on the other side, it says, tell us about a time you bit off more than you could chew, a time you cooked up something special, a time when food soothes your soul. So it's just kind of a cool, they're just, it's, it's something to help get your, um, get your, get you thinking creatively. So, um, you can play the game. I've never played the game. I don't even know how to play the game. I like it just specifically for the ways that gets you thinking about, um, different things and also, um, gives you different questions you could ask people.

So I think it's pretty cool, good conversation starters. So if you want, if you're doing a bunch of networking and you want some conversation starters, it would actually be pretty helpful for you. But Jose, thank you so much. Really appreciate you sharing your story and coming on and being an amazing guild member. And we love seeing you grow and all the awesome things you're doing. So thank you so much for coming on.

Jose de Wit (27:25.822)
Yeah, this was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me on. Bye, take care.

Jim Hacking (27:28.291)
Thanks, buddy. See ya.

Tyson (27:29.223)
that. Thanks Jose. See you Jimbo.

Jim Hacking (27:31.735)
Bye buddy.

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