In today’s podcast episode Jim and Tyson joined attorney Nicholas Weiss. Nick opened his practice after years of practicing civil litigation and representing an international retailer as in-house counsel. A transplant from Maine, he happily calls Cleveland Heights his home, where he represents families, individuals, businesses, and non-profits throughout northeast Ohio. His focuses are on family law, real estate, consumer law, and probate. His business focus is in hemp and cbd law in Ohio, and he is the co-owner and founder of Ohio’s first hemp processor-extractor, Haywood Industries, Inc.
Watch the interview here.
2:50 cbd law
5:46 a second try at going solo
6:03 firm structure
6:58 lessons learned
8:57 if your niche became illegal
14:27 long term plans to merge
15:35 the struggle to delegate
Jim’s Hack: Outsource your inbox.
Nicholas’s Tip: Commit to taking something off your plate.
Tyson’s Tip: Caseanalysis.com / Book: Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas.
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Run your law firm the right way.
This is The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Mutrux.
Let’s partner up and maximize your firm.
Welcome to the show.
Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux. What’s up, Jimmy?
Jim: Oh, Tyson, I’ve had quite the corona adventure. As you know, I got exposed to my son who had corona. He went into isolation at San Diego State. Luckily, he’s doing well. He had very, very mild symptoms. He just got out of isolation yesterday.
I’ve been stuck at home for the last 10 days or so. And I’m here until Friday. I get to go back to the office. So, I’ve been surprisingly productive here at the house. And I have to say I’m sort of enjoying working from home because I have to. You know, it’s one thing to do it optionally but then to really go through it, where you have to, for basically two weeks. It’s pretty interesting and I’ve learned a lot.
Tyson: Is this where James O. Hacking III announces that he’s closing down all of his offices – no San Diego office, no St. Louis office, and he’s going to go completely virtual?
Jim: In fact, just the opposite. I was listening to a podcast the other day and a business owner was having that same discussion. And she said that she really is tired of talking to people through screens all the time. And she’s really looking forward to getting back into the rigmarole of the hustle and bustle of an office, and the spontaneity, and the serendipity of interactions that you have with coworkers. And I have to agree with her, especially having been isolated here for these last 10 days.
Tyson: Yeah. It really is interesting like what you miss, right? Like it is what you take for granted. And the whole idea of being able to go to the office space is taken for granted. The ability to go out and just see and talk to people, it’s just– like, it will be so nice whenever we can just walk around town and see people without masks, and actually talk to them, and stand next to them, and shake hands. It’s something that I certainly miss. I’m sure everyone else does.
We do have a guest this week. So, do you want to introduce our guest?
Jim: Yeah. So, again, we have such a strong connection in Northeast Ohio. I don’t know how this happened but it’s great. It’s great. I think we have more fans in Ohio and in Atlanta than we have in St. Louis. It’s probably because people here are sort of sick of us.
But, our guest today is Nick Weiss. He’s originally from Maine. Now, he lives in Cleveland Heights, where he represents families, individuals, businesses, and nonprofits throughout Northeast Ohio. His business focus is in hemp and CBD law in Ohio.
Nick, welcome to the show.
Nick: Thank you so much for having me.
Tyson: All right, Nick. So, I really want to know how you got into this type of law because it’s really interesting. It’s something that’s spreading across Missouri as well. There’s a lot of litigation going on with it in Missouri so you may have opportunities across the country pretty soon. But tell us about your journey and how you got to this practice area.
Nick: So that was almost completely random. Back in 2016, Ohio passed the medical marijuana statute that was going to go in place in 2018 and we were going to have a fully up and running medical marijuana program. And my then boss said, “You’re going to learn what’s in this and you’re going to go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and tell everyone what’s in this.”
So, I did probably three or four hours of research going through the statute and then did a presentation to all the Chamber of Commerce meeting, everyone who was present. And one of my co-presenters was someone who had gone to law school with and he was the dean of the Cleveland School of Cannabis and recruited me to come teach classes there, while we were working in the hemp and CBD area. And then, he eventually left the school and recruited me to be general counsel for his company that he was starting on a part-time basis and be a co-founder. So, I kind of snuck in that route. His name’s Jacob Wagner. And he pulled me into the hemp and CBD space.
Jim: And so, how about even before that? Like, when you were in law school, why did you want to go to law school? Why did you want to become a lawyer? And then, how did that transition up until you were working for that retailer?
Nick: So, for why I wanted to go to law school is my family, particularly my aunt and my mom. Both of them got taken for a ride in family law matters. And I remember even– you know, I was quite young for both of those things. But my thought was, we just didn’t have anyone who could advocate for them in the family or anyone that they knew. And so, that was my motivation. That’s why I got into family law which is actually the main practice area that I do and what I focused on, as you know, going through law school and then immediately after law school.
The retailer that I referenced was Sterling Jewelers. They have their international headquarters in Fairlawn, Ohio. They own Jared and Kay Jewelers and Sales, and all those guys. And I had done quite a bit of consumer law at my first job at Fanger & Associates. And so, they had me handling the defense there for consumer suits against different jewelers and some of the employment stuff, either doing the cases myself or managing outside counsel, that kind of stuff. And then, from there, left again to go to a firm in Chagrin Falls called the Gertsburg Law Firm, where I was back in private practice.
And then, went out and started on my own back in February, which is my second time trying to start my own firm and doing this. I tried once in 2017 and couldn’t get it to work. And so, went back in and worked for someone else. But we started again, and it seems to be working really well this time.
Tyson: So, Nick, tell us about the structure of your firm and like– so who’s in it? And then, do you bill by the hour? Is it flat rate? How’s all that work?
Nick: So, the structure of the firm is it’s just me sharing office space with my old boss, Mark Turner. We, technically, have separate entities but we basically do everything together. I do most of my stuff by the hour if it’s simpler probate or family law issues like a dissolution or divorce that I can pretty much predict where it’s going to go, I’ll do a flat fee. And from consumer law cases, I will usually do some kind of mixed representation or I’ll take a flat fee up front to write the demand or filed the complaint and then take a contingency after that. So, depending on the area of law, I’ve got a couple of different financial arrangements that I go into with clients.
Jim: Nick, you mentioned that you started your firm once before and it didn’t work. And I’m wondering what lessons you’ve learned, why you think it didn’t work, and what lessons you’ve learned that are maybe helping you now with the second incarnation of your firm?
Nick: So, the lessons I learned from the first one was that I had absolutely no clue how to drive my own client base. None, whatsoever. And I thought I could get by pushing for referrals, working for other people on the side doing like contract-based representation while I grew my own client base but it did not work what I was trying to do there. And, you know, we had bills to pay. We had other stuff coming up.
I think I tried it for about four months, trying to make it work, and was getting absolutely nowhere. And so, I think that that failure to market and that failure to put resources into that avenue was why that really trashed because the actual structure of the firm and the resources I work has not changed since once I did it the first time in 2017 using Clio, and LawPay, and a couple of the other different free programs and all that stuff.
And so, when I went back to work for Gertsburg, the guy was a marketing machine. I stole a lot of his ideas. Will Norman, who is another attorney here in Northeast Ohio, he’s a criminal attorney, and he’s probably the reason why you have such a big fan base in Northeast Ohio, pushes everyone he can to become a member of Maximum Lawyer. And so, he stole liberally from the ideas here and doing that stuff and it’s been far more successful since I started stealing other people’s ideas rather than trying to come up with them on my own.
Tyson: One of our most listened to episodes is actually Will Norman. And there’s two of them, actually. It was such a– we did two different episodes with him and they were very well listened to, so pretty interesting stuff. And he’s also a member of the Guild.
So, here’s my question about what you do. And this is something that I don’t know jack about CBD law, and hemp law, and all that kind of stuff. All I know is that some states are passing laws saying it’s okay, some are saying it’s not still. But I feel you’ve got like this big axe hanging over your head, with like the federal government, that could come down at a time and say, “You’re done. Quit playing around. We’re going to come in.” So, I guess, how do you practice in that environment?
Nick: With just a basic sense of terror at all times. I mean, you’re absolutely right. You know, hemp is not nearly as difficult to work with as marijuana is. We got the 2018 Farm Bill to give us all kinds of protections. And then, the different states gave additional protections after that. But even then, you’re not really safe. The DEA just came out with an interim final rule on extraction and processing of hemp where, if you read it literally, it makes the entire industry illegal. And so, that’s one of the things and one of the challenges we’re working with right now. So, you have to be aware that the asteroid exists that’s coming to blow everything up,but you also have to take that as just a calculated risk that this will probably get resolved. And so, it’s business as usual for now until someone comes and shuts us down.
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Tyson: Okay. Let me ask you something, Jimmy.
Tyson: We’re going to do this like Tony Kornheiser does it, they interrupt all the time during [crosstalk].
Jim: Yeah, that’s fine. I’m used to it now.
Tyson: –because I want you to memorize this thing at some point, if you could pull it off. But do you have them take payments for your clients?
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Tyson: Okay. Like, so how’s that work? Like what– like–
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Tyson: Use the code, people.
Jim: Yeah. I don’t know if anybody– I guess, basically, people use the code. I haven’t heard much about that lately.
Tyson: I haven’t either but use the code. Use it. You get free money.
Jim: So, Nick, you said that you’re doing– so, you’re family law and you’re doing the hemp and CBD work, how do you sort of balance the two? And is it hard to integrate multiple practice areas into an operating firm?
Nick: So, I balance those poorly. And you’re right, they have almost nothing to do with one another. And so, it’s a lot of switching gears. I refer a bunch of my family law clients to different medical marijuana practitioners and do that. We’ve got a nice referral source going through there but that’s about as close as I get to having any kind of overlap in those two practice areas.
Tyson: All right. So, tell me this, where are you headed with this, with your firm? Are you looking to stay small? Are you looking to grow? I mean, what are your plans long term?
Nick: So, my plans long term are to grow the firm by merging with a couple of other attorneys, who I’m already in talks to, to do that because we have complementary practice areas and I think we work really well together and try to take advantage of some of those cost savings. So, like right now, whether that happens or not, I desperately need to hire someone to do phones, do billing, that kind of stuff.
And, basically, everyone I’ve talked to, whether the attorneys here in Northeast Ohio, say that’s a lot easier if you’re splitting the costs, splitting the work with someone else. I’d really like to have the same size of firm that I left from. It was an eight-person firm. We had about six staff and that was really comfortable in that kind of organization where it was still small, it was still nimble, but we could handle some larger cases, too.
Jim: Like what’s the biggest thing that you struggle with? What could we help you with?
Nick: Oh, boy. So, I have got to figure out a better way to delegate tasks that either I shouldn’t be doing or don’t want to do. So, you mentioned Smith AI. For example, James Hux, who’s another member of the Guild and a practitioner in Northeast Ohio. Basically, every time we refer something to one another, he asks me if I have actually purchased Smith AI yet. So, that’s one of the things there. I’ve got to get someone answering my phones. I’ve got to get someone doing the mailing. I’ve got to get someone doing a lot of this non-billable stuff so that I can focus on fulfilling clients.
You know, with the marketing aspects, I’m actually fine right now. With my total number of clients, it’s actually being able to appropriately manage them and service them, where I’m struggling, because I’m spending too much time doing other stuff.
Tyson: So, here’s my question because you just rattled off a few different things–
Tyson: –which of those is the most urgent? That’s the first question. But what is stopping you from implementing those things? I mean, what’s holding you back? And you know, you’ve got to do it, so why aren’t you doing it?
Nick: Yeah. It’s one of those things where I’m like, “I’ll get around to it.” I look at the systems, I’ll do a review. And then, I’m like, “Oh, but I have to work on this brief” or something else and I’ve got to get that done. So, I think it’s probably just a mental block at this point where [crosstalk]–
Tyson: No, it’s a lack–
Nick: –other things.
Tyson: No, it’s a lack of focus. You don’t have your goals written down every single day and that’s why you’re not doing it. You’ve got to put them on your calendar and start doing it.
Sorry to interrupt you but that’s what you’ve got to start doing. You’ve got to start putting these things on the calendar so you start doing them because that’s what happens. Something “urgent” comes up and you set all the important stuff aside? Does that sound right? Am I right?
Nick: Yes, absolutely. Yeah.
Tyson: So, why do you think that is?
Nick: I don’t know. I feel like, you know, something will come up and I’d be like, “Oh, my God, I have to do this. I’m the only one to do this. If I don’t do it right now, it won’t get done.”
So, like in the past, so I’d try to set out time to do Google Calendar and all that stuff. And that works for like arranging phone calls and other things but, for some reason, when I set out time to do like two hours of work on X that seems to get less priority than the incoming phone call asking me to do something.
Jim: It sounds like you need some help. Like, you need some people. You need filters between you and the outside world so that you can– because, the thing is, only Nick can do that. Anybody can answer your phone.
Jim: Anybody can open the mail. Anybody can deal with an incoming client inquiry.
And, you know, I think that we’ve been kicking around a phrase here with my wife lately about being a victim to the tyranny of the urgent. Like, if you think about Stephen Covey and the four quadrants of things that are, you know, important but not urgent, that’s where you want to be spending most of your time. But, too often, we spend our time on things that are urgent, either things that are important that are urgent or even things that aren’t important but are urgent.
So, I think that it might be helpful to– Tyson would say, just block out the time and I do think that’s important. But I think there might be something more going on where, if you could get someone to act as a buffer for you. Like, literally, I’ve been talking to my wife about this because she jumps into the urgent too, like literally having someone outside her door, physically outside her door, to keep people from coming in and to keep phone calls from coming in and, also, what’s going to happen is to get emails from coming in. So, I think that really is going to help you find that space.
And now, just real quick, with me, Tyson often chastises me because I’m more comfortable doing those little hits that give me that dopamine right away as opposed to doing that long-term thinking, so it’s simple but it’s not easy.
Nick: Mm hmm.
Tyson: Well, does that resonate?
Nick: Yes, strongly. Yes. I like the phrase, the tyranny of the urgent. I hadn’t heard that before.
Tyson: So, I mean, let’s kind of work through this a little bit more. What are you going to commit to? Like, what are you going to commit to getting off your plate in creating that buffer?
Nick: I’m going to commit to having, at the very least, someone or something answering the phones for me, and taking messages, and doing that. I’ve been putting it off for, basically, since we started but it is easily my biggest distraction and time suck.
Tyson: What steps are you going to take this week to do that?
Nick: I’m going to look through the options on Smith AI, particularly, or another answering service and pick one and just do it. I can probably get all that done by Friday.
Tyson: All right, and I’m going to call you out. I’m going to publicly call you out if you don’t get it done.
Tyson: So, I’ve done it before and I’ll do it–
Jim: This is what we do in The Guild every week. So, this is a Monday, you tell us what you’re putting off, and on Friday we check to make sure you did it.
Nick: Got it.
Tyson: All right, Jimbo. Sorry. I didn’t mean to Bogart it. You’re up next.
Jim: No, it’s all good. I mean, I think this is helpful. I mean, I don’t know if you know, Will’s former partner, Zia, but Zia and I talk about this all the time. He loves to do too many things. And I honestly think that most of us, most law firms– and this is another quote that haunts me. And it comes from an old podcast that Tyson and I did with a guy named Oli Billson. And he said that most businesses do not have the capacity to meet their opportunity. And that, you know, we’re missing out, actually, by not having someone to answer our phone. We’re missing out by doing too many things that are just like right now, right now, right now, instead of thinking, “How do I grow the firm? How do I make my systems better? How do I give myself some space to get the important things done?”
Tyson: Nick, what are your thoughts on that?
Nick: Yeah. No, I can see that, particularly because all of this stuff is stuff I don’t actually want to be doing. I know I should be working on the bigger long-term stuff. Especially for right now, I feel like, if I don’t do it, I will miss out on that opportunity, on that call with a client, on something else. And so, I know I’ve got to get someone else to help me with that or I’m going to get a ton of small opportunities but miss on the bigger ones.
Jim: That’s right. What Dan Kennedy says, “you’re walking past diamonds to pick up pennies.”
Jim: Look at you, Jimbo, just dropping quotes left and right.
Nick: There’s metaphors all over the place. I love it.
Tyson: I know. It’s crazy.
Jim: Tyson, I think we need to go to Ohio. I think that’s all there is to it. We just need to go to Ohio–
Jim: –and have– we’ll call it the Will Norman Annual Mastermind. And we’ll just get Will Eadie, and Chuck Boyk, and all of our Ohio friends. We’ll get Nick to come. And we’ll just solve all the world’s problems.
Tyson: I like the idea of naming it after Will Norman. I like it.
Jim: I mean, hell, that’s where Dan Kennedy lives, in Cleveland.
Tyson: Oh, that’d be so great. That’d be so good.
All right. So, Jimbo, we do need to wrap things up. So, before I do, I want to remind everyone go to the Facebook group, get involved there. Join us in The Guild. If you’re interested, go to maximumlawyer.com. And, as you’re listening to the remainder of this episode, if you’ll just kind of go down into your app, whichever one you’re listening to, and go to the review section and hit five stars and give us a nice little comment. It would be wonderful. We would really appreciate it. It helps us spread the love.
Jimmy, what’s your hack the week?
Jim: Well, you know, I love coming up with hacks that achieve things before you, Tyson, think of them. And one of my greatest ones was finding someone to sort and process my email. You were banging your head on the wall for six months after I was–
Tyson: Longer than that, baby, 10 years.
Jim: Right. After I got out of the email game, you got all fired up one day and decided just to do that.
Now, we’re going to have a presentation in the big group, I think, towards the end of the month, where your email sorter and my email sorter, Lauren, are going to be on the call and they’re going to talk about how they do this. But I can’t think of a better system improvement for any of our members. I mean, when you and I talk about this in the Guild, people go crazy. Like, they’re like, “What? There’s no way. I’ve got to see my email. I’ve got to check it every hour.” Like Nick said, something might slip through, right? But if you set up your systems correctly, there’s no reason why you can’t be free to do email half an hour a day at the most.
Tyson: No. It’s your whole who-not-how thing. And what’s happening is, so, Natasha, she goes through my email and it gets to the right people. Like 99% of my emails are really directed towards someone else in my firm, that someone else in my firm’s going to be handling it. So, she gets it to the right person. And then, I address the things that I need to address.
They’re all labeled and coded the right way. So, I know. I can go look at a red or a green. It’s a red, yellow, or blue check in G Suite and see exactly what I need to address. The red ones I need to address right away. Yellow are just whenever. They’re more like just my fun stuff. And then, blue’s like you need to look at it but you don’t need to respond right away.
I think you’re right. It is almost as important as someone answering the phones. I’ll go that far. It is that important. So, I think, I’m glad you did it because it then pushed me to do it. Otherwise, honestly, I’d still be checking my own email and I wouldn’t be responding. I’d be getting emails, “Hey, did you see my email from last week?” And I don’t get that anymore.
Jim: So, I just looked it up on the calendar, it’s going to be September 29th, at 2:00 pm Central, it’s called Outsourcing Your Inbox. And you’re not even going to have to listen to that much to Tyson and I. It’s going to be Lauren and what’s your person’s name–?
Jim: Natasha, going through your emails. They’re sorting emails and sending them on their merry way.
Tyson: It is so, so fantastic.
All right. Enough about your hack.
Nick, what is your tip or hack of the week?
Nick: Oh, boy. I’m going to steal the one that I have been given which is commit to taking something off of your plate that you’ve been putting off to make your life easier.
Tyson: Yeah, it’s kind of like that– it’s like that item in your garage that you walk by every single day that you, you know, six months ago, you meant to do something with it but, at this point, now you’re just numb to it and you just keep walking by, and keep walking by, and keep walking by and nothing gets done. Just go freakin’ put that thing away, man. Just go put it in its place and you’ll never look at it again. So, yeah, I’m glad you’re committing to it because it will change your life. I’m not kidding. Having someone answer your phones, man, is going to be so much better.
You know what? You know what it’s like. You’ve worked at a bigger firm before. You know what it’s like. You’ve got that buffer so–
Tyson: Good. I’m glad you’re going to do that.
All right. So, I talk a lot about case analysis. It’s caseanalysis.com. They give all these free CLEs with really great trial lawyers. They had David Ball. David Ball’s not trial lawyer, but they have David Ball on this week for those of you that do criminal defense. They’re doing a lot of criminal defense stuff this week.
But, last week, they had someone on and I’m drawing a blank as to what his name was, but he recommended a bunch of books and I already ordered all of them and got them delivered by Sunday. And one of them was called Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas. And it’s Power Questions: Building Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. I actually thought it was going to be like a list of questions you could use. It kind of is that, but they also give the meaning behind it. And so, I haven’t any chance to read through all of it, but I did flip through to the point where I got a lot of really good ideas on how you can reshape some of the questions that you ask. And so, it’s a really cool book. And so, I really recommend it, Power Questions. And the reason why I wanted to use it is so, whenever I’m asking questions on cross or even on direct examination, I just want to get a better way of asking some questions because you can always improve and that’s why I got it and it’s really helpful.
So, Nick, thanks so much for coming on. This has been a real fun episode. I really appreciate you coming on.
Nick: All right. Thank you so much for having me, guys.
Jim: Bye, fellows.
Tyson: Thank you. See you, gents.
Thanks for listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
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