Are you a law firm owner who is overworked and needs more support? In this episode of the Maximum Lawyer Podcast, Tyson Mutrux discusses the crucial role of delegation in law firm management.
Watch the YouTube version of this episode HERE
In this episode of the Maximum Lawyer Podcast, Jim and Tyson talk with personal injury attorney Kevin Cheney about his Colorado law firm's evolution. They delve into the firm's staffing changes, Kevin's shifting role, and their unique bonus system.
The addition of Kevin's brother to oversee business operations is a highlight, along with their approach to identifying and rectifying process weaknesses.
Kevin emphasizes the importance of industry knowledge for decision-making and the need for new hires to immerse themselves in the firm's culture. The episode also touches on the nuances of legal business management, the life of a litigator, and the concept of radical responsibility.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Jim’s Hack: Read the the book ”Limitless”, by Jim Kwik, and follow him for great free advice.
Kevin’s Tip: Read the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, by Mark Manson, and embrace this idea of radical responsibility, which basically just means internally telling yourself that you are responsible for how you feel and everything that happens to you. I think it's great for business, but also personal life of just really understanding that you're in control of how you feel. And so if you don't like how you're feeling, you have the power to change it.
Tyson’s Tip: Read the book, “33 Strategies of War”, by Robert Greene. It gives you little tips on how to manage day to day life, like going into a difficult situation and how to address that.
Welcome back to the Maximum Warrior Podcast. I'm Jim Hacking.
And I'm Tyson Mutrix. What's up, Jimmy?
Oh, Tyson, I'm excited about today's guest. He's a good friend of ours. He's been a great member of the guild. His name is Kevin Chaney. He's a personal injury attorney from Colorado. We love Kevin. He's been lots of fun to have with us and in the Maximum Law Big Group as well. Kevin, welcome to the show.
Kevin Cheney (00:27.944)
Thank you, happy to be back and pleasure seeing you guys.
So Kevin, we've had you do your introduction, all that before, so I'm not going to do that. But tell us what's going on with you now. What's changed since you've been on the podcast and what's new in your world?
Kevin Cheney (00:45.404)
You know, that's a great question. So I think I was on about a year and a half ago. Since then, I think we've hired four new employees and probably the biggest change that's happened is my older brother who was kind of a silent partner in the firm, he had a law license but didn't really practice.
has rejoined us and is going to be handling a little more of the admin and business side, which kind of frees up my time to take up partial client load and do a little bit more litigating, which I had really missed over the last few years being focused on the business exclusively. So that's probably the biggest change that happened a few months ago. I'm really excited to see how that plays out in 2024.
Kevin, we wanted to have you back on the show just because there's this energy about you and an energy about your firm. I think people are getting excited about, and I know your team members are excited about working with you. Talk to us just a little bit about that momentum that would get somebody's big brother who had a law license he wasn't using to pull back into the industry.
Kevin Cheney (01:54.676)
Sure, so I really think it's about the culture. We were really fortunate that our firm was founded by me and my best friend from law school, Tim Galuzzi. And so we really had, I think, that energy from day one. And as we grew, it was really important for us to find great cultural fits. And we're really blessed to just have a top notch team. I think the other thing that we do that's a little different than most firms is
doing kind of individual performance bonuses based on employees or any type of eat what you kill model. We only, besides bringing in cases, we only pay one type of bonus which is we do 30% of our firm profit goes into a bonus pool and then that gets divvied up on a discretionary basis to all of our employees. And I think that really has created a team based atmosphere. It's created a lot of buy in from the attorneys all the way down to the receptionist.
to really be motivated and excited about our firm. And I think that's something that attracts top talent, which is always important in this day and age.
Yeah, I find that interesting. I'm going to stay on this topic for a second, because there's some other things I want to ask you about, but specifically about that. I'd like to ask you about the
Jim and I recently we were talking about I can't remember if it was on the Saturday show or on a podcast But we were talking about you know bonuses and salaries and all that and I've been I've been sort of in this Mindset where I want to shift towards I think just higher salaries Just pay people really well salaries and almost scrap the bonus system completely just by paying people really well
What are your thoughts on that and how did you, because I think right now our bonus system is probably way too complicated. And now how we do things, it's just a bookkeeping nightmare. So I just wonder how you came to the conclusion of doing the 30% on profit, which I think is a really simple and nice solution.
Kevin Cheney (03:58.109)
Um, it really kind of developed over time. So.
With personal injury work, as you know, Tyson, revenue and profit can be very up and down month to month or even year to year. So when we were smaller, we were trying to pay pretty good salaries, but we certainly didn't have the revenue to compete and pay best in town by any means. But whenever we would settle a really big case or we had a really good month, we would give each of the staff members a bonus or a small amount of money. And so we were kind of doing that.
that is not the best way to plan a business because if you're giving out all of this extra money when things are good, you may not have any extra money when things aren't as good or you have a couple of down months. And so we had a particularly good year in 2022 and we kind of looked at what we were paying as far as bonuses go and it ended up being around 30% and so we just decided to kind of adopt that as our formal plan. But we had a lot of discussions with our team members and we
basically said, look, we're happy to pay in kind of the upper percentile for your experience and your job position, and basically make it all guaranteed and not do bonuses. But in the personal injury space, particularly, you have the ability to kind of hit home runs every now and then. And I was like, you know, what I would feel bad, and this may be just kind of my political leanings, I'm a business owner, but I definitely agree with a lot more of the leftists of the world politically.
And I was like, I would just feel uncomfortable making seven, $800,000 a year and not giving bonuses to people making 40, 45, 50, you know, that just wouldn't sit well with me. And so I was like, guys, you know what I would love to do. I can't legally make you guys owners of the firm because you're not lawyers, but I can essentially get to the closest thing I can as a, as a partially staff and employee owned business by essentially putting over, putting this percentage into a bonus pool. Now,
Kevin Cheney (06:01.046)
Now the flip side of that is you don't get the reward without the risk. So in order for this to work, we have to pay more in the 50 percentile or kind of the middle or slightly under the middle range of salaries. So you guys have a little skin in the game, a little risk, but on the flip side, you'll then have the upside of essentially getting a share of profits. And I believe in the firm. I would hope you all the employees want to bet on us.
more profitable for you in the long run. And it was essentially unanimous. A lot of people had a lot of questions. They asked, they did some math. We went through some examples. But in the end, the employees basically were like, we'll take less guaranteed money if we have a percentage of the profit. And we also really are transparent with kind of a lot of the firm finances and things like that. And I think that has created a culture of buy-in and that has really helped people
volunteer to help cover people when other people are out of town, help out people who are particularly slammed either because of trials or new clients. I just think it helps breed a team-based approach rather than an individual-based approach.
I have two more questions on this topic, Kevin. The first one is, let's talk about that transparency. Do the people just receive their bonus or do they know exactly how much the profit of the firm is for the year and they get their piece of it?
Kevin Cheney (07:32.564)
So they know exactly how much revenue and expenses were and they know what the total firm profit is and then they know what the total bonus pool was. They don't know unless they share it amongst themselves and we totally allow that. They don't know exactly what every single person got as a bonus, nor do they know what every single person's salary is, just because I feel like that's their information to share and not everyone feels comfortable with it. But they know, you know, this is how much revenue we did.
how many clients we signed, how much money we sent on marketing, you know, this is how much we spent on rent. I mean, we kind of do a broad overview of all of the firm expenses because I also think that keeps people understanding that, okay, yeah, maybe we made $300,000 this month, but like running a firm is expensive. And when I was an employee, I often would see, you know, us making all the revenue because that was very visible, but there were so many
you don't know about, the cost of health insurance, rent, malpractice, case software, I just got my Filevine bill, that was lovely. You know, so I think sharing that information with employees and basically, you know, going over some basic details, helps them understand that like, you're not just hogging all of the money for yourself and that we're all kind of working together to help everyone.
My second question on that topic was, didn't you tell me a story about there was a situation where you guys were thinking about expanding and taking on more rent? And because the team knew that if you saved that money, that would be included in their bonus pool, that they were then more willing to sort of share offices with each other?
Kevin Cheney (09:17.908)
100% yeah and that's the kind of a great example of something that I think happens at our firm on a pretty regular basis. We were growing and we had a really sweet office space just right outside downtown Denver and we were basically lucky, a lot of most people had an individual office or maybe two people in a really giant office and we basically were like look we can rent a few more offices, this is how much it costs. Or we can add in two or three.
more people into our existing offices and all, you know, just get a little bit closer. And they were like, wait, you know, it's going to cost us 30 some thousand dollars a year to add on these extra offices. Let's just, you know, I can scoot over. It's fine. And I think that's something that if we hadn't talked about expenses and we hadn't talked about the bonus pool, you know, because that's a, that's a real consideration comfort versus revenue and expenses. And it was an easy one when they were like, yeah, we'd much rather.
the firm make more money, we're not completely full in our current space yet. But I think that's something that kind of happens on a regular basis at our firm, which I think is one benefit of kind of doing it this way.
That's pretty cool. That's that Jeff Bezos day one thinking that we were talking about the other day, Jim. I think that that's really cool. That's startup thinking almost where everyone's kind of working together to make sure that you're maximizing profits, which I think is pretty cool. All right. So I want to pivot a little bit and I want to talk about the transition of your role because that seems like a pretty massive transition.
Talk a little bit about the mindset of that and how things are going now with it.
Kevin Cheney (11:09.028)
Sure. So I think to kind of understand the mindset now, we have to understand a little bit of kind of how we got here. So, you know, traditionally when we first started out, it was just me and my partner and we were literally doing everything, you know, every staff role, every, you know, do creating all the products, signing clients, doing all the business side stuff. And over, you know, after about four years or so, and we were big enough and we kind of had some employees, we had a discussion about what our goals were, where we wanted
five years, 10 years, and the kind of growth that we wanted, we really felt someone needed to be focused on the business full time. You know, I think this is something we talk about on this podcast, but also in Guild Masterminds quite a bit, is that fear of stopping doing client work to just focus on the business. And so we made that decision a few years ago, and I transitioned, you know, I stopped taking new cases and basically started being the CEO.
and COO kind of full-time. And over the last few years, we've had a lot of growth. I've enjoyed a lot of it. I do like running a business. But the cool thing about being a business owner is you can kind of do whatever you want. And I realized that in my heart of hearts, long-term, I love the courtroom, I love going to trial, and that is really what I want more than anything.
And so, you know, we started having conversations about, you know, are we going to hire a firm administrator? Are we going to try to hire like a COO level, you know, maybe just an executive assistant. And that was actually one of my topics, I think at one of the more recent masterminds, I think the Miami one. And, you know, then it kind of fell into my lap that my older brother who had been kind of giving us business advice behind the scenes for several years, um, and had been working in the marijuana industry, gave me a call one
and was like, hey, I'm looking at leaving, I'm looking at going and being the number two at this legal software company, do you know anything about them? And I was like, wait a second, you're leaving the industry and you're looking to make a change? I was like, if you're interested, we were about to potentially hire someone to kind of run the business side of CGH, would you be interested in coming back? And he doesn't know anything about the personal injury world, he's run a lot of small businesses, so he has a ton of business experience. So it actually worked.
Kevin Cheney (13:34.902)
worked out really well because for the first couple years, he'll work under me. I'll still handle the vision and higher level issues while he really learns the industry. But right away, he was able to take a bunch of admin work off of my plate and do all of that. And then after a couple years, I think he'll transition into a COO role. And we're hopeful in four or five years, he'll be able to become our CEO and run the firm.
And that's great because it allows me to kind of do an easy transition back into litigation. So I don't have a full caseload, I'd say I have about a half caseload. So probably for the next two years, I'll be doing half client work, half working on the business, but then I hope to slowly increase the percentage of client work until one day I have maybe like an 80-20 split I think is my overall goal.
I always enjoy it when new people come into the firm and they bring their experience and their new set of eyes to the way that we do things. I'm wondering with your brother coming from business back into the law firm, what were his initial thoughts or suggestions that he had about things that you might try doing differently?
Kevin Cheney (14:50.76)
So one of the very first things that he realized, so I basically had him shadow every employee for a day or two, so he was really kinda getting a full experience and talking to a lot of people, was he felt that our…
processes while we did have a bunch especially within Filevine, he felt that we were really missing kind of a map of the typical case and kind of a map of everybody's roles. So that first month or two he spent a ton of time kind of making flow charts. His dad was in project management. We have the same mom, but his dad was in, we have different dads. His dad was a project manager for years and so that's really always been one of his focuses. So he created these really cool charts to basically
see the life of a case, you know, and in PI, the case bounces back and forth between like our paralegal and legal assistant a lot, like, so it was way more complicated, I think, than he imagined from, you know, like growing and selling marijuana was a really relatively straightforward flow chart. Whereas this was a lot more complicated, but it enabled us to really be like, okay, now that we can see it, where are our holdups? Like where are cases, you know, getting stuck? And then we can really
drill down into those processes. And we were able to identify a handful of things within the first month or two of him working here that really helped speed things up. And we were like, oh, this is a really important thing. Let's make that a KPI. You know, like this doesn't seem like it was important, but this one little factor, it was kind of related to something to do with medical records is slowing down cases by a month or two. And if we can fix that and get settlements or go file lawsuits a month or two earlier,
increase revenue and profitability. So I think it was, I think you're exactly right Jim, I think that fresh eyes approach of not having worked here for the last eight years allowed him to go in and be like I can start fresh, let's identify weaknesses and problem areas.
So this is timely for me and it's interesting so I'm gonna ask you about the, a little bit about the workflows because we just went through and remapped everything for our systems and we identified some pretty glaring gaps. I wonder what gaps that you all identified or maybe there's not gaps but maybe some areas where you all definitely needed to improve because I think maybe that might be helpful for listeners to identify gaps in their processes.
Kevin Cheney (17:23.556)
Yeah, so two of them, I mean, we identified a handful, but I'd say two of them that immediately come to mind were relating to medical records. So we essentially have three different roles that are involved to some extent in medical records. We have our case managers slash pre-lit paralegals.
that were identifying with the client, speaking to the client and identifying new treating providers and things like that, and essentially instructing our legal assistants to go order and get those records. And then the legal assistants were ordering them, but then a third person, our receptionist slash office manager, was paying the invoices and actually downloading the records. And I think that having three different people
that all couldn't do their job until somebody else did their job was really an inefficiency you know because it was so and they weren't necessarily I mean we they were talking on Filevine and you could obviously message each other but there's so many medical records as you know I'm sure Tyson in a PI practice that
even a little bit of delay magnified over all of our cases was really causing problems. And so what we did was essentially, let's remove the office manager person and just have the legal assistants pay invoices and download these records because they're the ones ordering them. That take, that's fairly time intensive. So then we had to transfer a little bit of work from the legal assistants to our office manager receptionist person to kind of keep it balanced. But that change alone has allowed us to get records.
We've only been doing it for a few months now, but I would say that we're averaging about five to seven days faster across our, just on that change, which again, magnified over hundreds of cases can be a real benefit. The other weakness we identified was when our, we have one person whose whole job is intake and that person sometimes would go on vacation or be out of town. And we did not have very good processes for like, people would cover that role.
Kevin Cheney (19:33.562)
But we did not have clear processes about how they were supposed to do it because they don't have the full training to essentially Be the intaker, but we needed them to do like 80% of it So that we could still try to sign those clients I mean that was a massive weakness and really anything related to intake is so important for any law firm Because if you're not getting clients then the rest of it doesn't really matter
Yeah, you gotta have two people. At this point, you gotta have really two people that can really do the job for vacations and things like that.
Kevin wanted to-
Kevin Cheney (20:05.82)
2024 goal right there. Yeah, we'll be 2024 goals to have two full-time intakers by the end. So that's definitely something we want to do.
Kevin, one of the things that I struggle with is patience. And I think it's interesting that you're taking such a slow approach with onboarding your brother and transitioning out of your current role into your future role. Talk to us a little bit about your philosophy in patience and in trying to build something to last.
Kevin Cheney (20:38.928)
That's a really great question, you know, I wouldn't necessarily say I'm the most and my wife certainly would not say that I'm not the most patient person but I do think especially at a For higher level positions, right if you're looking to hire a CEO and a CEO
You know, you want to, they need to know the industry before they are going to be the ones making a decision. So I absolutely think that like a relatively new person within a few months could…
you know, execute a lot of plans designed by somebody who's been there longer. But if you're talking about massive decisions, like the decision to switch case management softwares, for example, that would be a massive decision. I think, Jim, you've been doing that recently. It's, you know, can be really rewarding, but it also can be very difficult, and a lot of things can go wrong. And so much goes into that decision about, you know, what we really want out of our software, and what our goals are.
and what flaws we see in our current one. And I just don't think somebody stepping into the firm for a month or two or even honestly six months is going to have all of the history and knowledge about what's really important there. And so, you know, we just decided it was an easier transition. I also think it was good for learning the culture. I mean, I think my older brother shares our views and shares our culture and he would sit on the board and meet with us occasionally.
You really want someone to spend some time at your firm so that they know how the firm is currently running and what's really working well, so that they don't change that stuff. And they really can identify the weaknesses or kind of average things that the firm does and focus on improving that. So I think it was just a good transition. It also worked out well for us. My older brother had a few other side projects that he kind of wanted to finish out on and kind of see through.
Kevin Cheney (22:40.73)
And so, you know, not having him work 50 plus hours every week to get started also was a benefit to him. So it was just something that kind of worked out for us. Yeah.
Yeah, there's a lot of nuances people that have no legal experience need to learn like trust accounts, like licensing. Like there's a lot, just lots of little bitty nuances that are different than an ordinary business. I mean, there's a lot that's the same, but there's a lot like that they still have to figure out. Like you can't put money straight into the trust or into the operating account. It's got to go into the trust account. It's got to be divvied up a certain way and all that. So I think that that's important. I think it's smart the way you're doing it.
Thanks for watching!
We do need to wrap things up because we're almost out of time and we want to be respectful of your time too. I'm sure it's actually really early there. So thank you for joining us so early.
Kevin Cheney (23:28.496)
Yeah, I haven't gotten up necessarily in a while, but it's good. You know, I'm getting a fresh start on the day, you know, another extra hour on my work schedule. So no complaints.
I love it. Well, I noticed what time we were doing this with you. And then it was you. I was like, wow, I wonder why we're doing this so early with him. But it's good. I'm glad we're able to. But let's.
Kevin Cheney (23:48.573)
We had, it was originally scheduled to be a few hours later, and then I had court, and then we moved it to an even later time, and you had a deposition. So I think this is the only one that works for everybody, the life of a litigator.
Nice, that's how it works out. All right, well let's wrap things up. Before I do anything, I wanna remind everyone to, if you, make sure you just join us in the big Facebook group. You'll get to hang out with really cool people like Kevin, but if you want more access to people like Kevin, join us in the guild, go to maxlawguild.com. Just so many great people in the guild just sharing, like just brilliant minds just sharing a lot of their wonderful knowledge with us. So it's fantastic to have you, Kevin, and a lot of other fantastic people in the guild. And then if you don't mind,
If you've learned something from this episode, or if you get something from the podcast, if you don't mind giving us a five-star review, we would definitely appreciate it. It helps spread the love to other attorneys across the country. All right, Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?
For my Hack of the Week, I previously recommended the book Limitless by Jim Quick, and I recommend people checking that book out once a year, but he had a post today about prioritizing things in 2024, and I just wanted to… It was an Instagram post, and he just said, in 2024, prioritize mental health, prioritize mindfulness, prioritize whole food, prioritize connection, prioritize relaxation, prioritize hydration.
prioritize self-care, prioritize gratitude, prioritize outdoors, prioritize learning, prioritize exercise, prioritize reading, prioritize sleep, and prioritize you. Jim Quick gives away more good information for absolutely free if you don't have any money and you're struggling. I mean, Tyson and I try to give away all of our best stuff.
in this podcast, in the Facebook group, Jim Quick does the same thing. It's just a, a bound, a bountiful approach to life and sharing what you know. And I just think Jim is someone that everyone should, should follow because. Like I said, he gives away what a lot of people charge a ton of money for. And if you just listen to him, you'd be really, really good shape.
I love it. I don't follow Jim quick. So I'll have to give them a follow. Uh, all right. I'm going to recommend a book that I don't think I've recommended on the podcast yet. Um, if I, if, if I have, I'm sorry, but I know I've talked about it in the guild, but it's 33 strategies of war. Um, it is a, it is a really good book and it is, I mean, it's about what it sounds like it's about, but it allows you, it gives you little bitty tips on how to manage day to day life. Like going into a difficult.
you know, situation when you're having a conversation with someone, how to maybe address that. It is, it is, it gives you more, like it zooms in on like things like situations like that, like the one-on-one conversations, but it also kind of zooms out where you can, you know, big picture strategies sort of things. I highly recommend it. I've talked about it a lot recently, but I, it is, it is such a good book. If you've not read it, read it. What I did is I bought the physical book, but then I listened to it at the same time, I pulled a Jim hacking on this one.
And so this one especially, I think it's good with that because it does get some, it gets its dense in parts. And so it's nice having the physical copy to look at it and kind of revisit it, but definitely recommend it. All right, Kevin, as always, wonderful to get to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us again.
Kevin Cheney (27:26.2)
Yeah, it was a pleasure being here, guys. And my tip, I guess, for the podcast. You know, here's.
You gotta ask him for his tip. You forgot to ask him for it. Hold on, Kev. He forgot to ask you.
Oh, shit. I am so sorry. I did not. I was looking at the time. Yeah, Kevin, let me, let me redo that part. Gosh, damn it. I was, I was like, I'm looking at the time to get the huddle at 8 30. So I'm sorry. I hold on a second. We'll, we'll cut this so it makes sense. Um, all right, Kevin. All right, Kevin. Uh, so you know, the routine, uh, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Kevin Cheney (28:00.296)
You know, so something that I've been really working on the last few months, and it comes from several books. Mark Manson talks about it in The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F. A lot of stoic books on stoicism or Buddhism talk about it, but I've been really enjoying this idea of kind of radical responsibility, which basically just means internally telling yourself that you are responsible for how you feel and everything that happens to you. Now that doesn't mean that you're at fault.
for what happens or at fault for what's going on, but that every emotion you feel, you're responsible for. And my wife and I had a lot of ups and downs and kind of a tragedy relatively recently, which was really, really tough. And being able to take responsibility for how we were feeling has really helped been a healing and kind of cathartic thing. And so I think it's great for business, but also personal life of just.
Really understanding that you're in control of how you feel. And so if you don't like how you're feeling, you have the power to change it.
Yeah, I like that. And thanks for sharing that. And sorry that you've had to go through that recently. But yeah, thanks for sharing that. And I think that that's a really valuable lesson.
Kevin Cheney (29:19.464)
All right, so hopefully that clip, okay. You bet. Thank you. I gotta run. See you all later. Have a great day. Thanks, Kevin. See you, Jimmy.
Kevin Cheney (29:27.282)
All right, see you guys.
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