In today’s episode we’re sharing a presentation from MaxLawCon 2020. Our originally scheduled MaxLawCon 2020 speaker Pete Salsich presented LIVE to the Maximum Lawyer Guild community and today we share his talk: The Design Phase of Practicing Law – Mapping Out Your Practice.
You can also watch the video here.
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Transcript: “The Design Phase of Practicing Law – Mapping Out Your Practice” with Pete Salsich
Run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast, podcast, your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson metrics. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.
In today’s episode, we’re sharing a presentation from Maxwell con 2020 are originally scheduled Maxwell comm speaker Pete Sal sick presented live to the maximum lawyer Facebook group. And today we share his talk the design phase of practicing law, mapping out your practice. Let’s get to it.
Thanks, Becca. Hi, everybody is better to set. I’m Pete Saul sick. I am a intellectual property and entertainment attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. And I go by the name of the screen lawyer and I’ll explain that name. When I get a little bit into it. Because it’s a it’s a gift from Jim hacking, who you all know, but I’m here today. You know, a year ago, I went to the for my first rep max law conference. The second one for the group, Jim had introduced me and Tyson introduced me into the podcast, and then I gotten interested in the Facebook group went to the conference, and was absolutely blown away, like I know many of you were and so I couldn’t make I’m like I gotta speak next year, I gotta be up on that stage. I gotta I gotta be part of that. And so when I, you know, I pitched my talk, which I’ll explain in a second, I felt I had something to say that’s certainly true. But I gotta be honest, I mostly just wanted to be there and be on stage to be part of the energy and the people that I met. So obviously, I’m as disappointed as everybody else that we weren’t able to all be together last week. But when I got the opportunity to talk to you this way, it made me go back into what I was going to say and make sure that it really, they had something to say and then it meant something. So hopefully, that’s that’s what you’ll get out of this today. I get a lot out of every time I watch one of these videos from you all, or just share the the exchanges in the group. And what I want to talk about today is a little bit about my practice my journey. I am a transactional attorney, a counselor in the intellectual property and entertainment world. I haven’t always practiced that, in fact, my progress is really kind of wandered all over the place in a lot of ways. But over time, over the last 10 years or so I began to do more and more work with television production companies, film studios, I have done a lot of litigation with tattoo cases and comic books. And so in kind of gotten this entertainment, IP practice that grew or morphed out of the litigation practice. And then I got to be in house with a production company for a couple of years. And I really learned the business side, I realized that’s what I loved. So fast forward to a year or so ago, having a conversation with Jim hacking, who is my longtime friend, colleague, actually really a mentor. We were law school classmates, we go back that far. And Jim kept asking me, what do you do? And I’m like, Well, I did not know, what do you do? And I finally said, Well, my clients make things for screens. And he said, You’re a screen lawyer. And in Jim’s sort of brilliant way. He was exactly right. And I have focused on that ever since. And so what I want to talk about today is a little bit about being the screen lawyer, but it’s more about finding yourself by finding out who your clients are. So I’ll get to that. In my practice. As I said, I have the occasional one off occasional one contract or, and I still do some litigation in this area. So I have a case hidden. But really, my clients are relationship driven. And so when I have a new client or the opportunity to talk to a new client, I’m really focusing on building a relationship. And what I have learned over the last dozen years or so of doing this, is when I work with creators, when I work with entrepreneurs, a lot of the traditional way that I would run my business as a lawyer is completely out of whack with the way they run their businesses. And I’ll explain if I build hourly, there’s this constant tension in our relationship. So I began to think about, you know, what do I do? How do I, how do I improve that, and one of the ways I started to figure it out is whenever I would review their contracts, I would see their statement of work, I would see the proposal that they made to their clients. And every one of those proposals had a segment up front. And they might call it the design phase or the diagnosis when they get to know you. But it was some part of the relationship building where they couldn’t do their work. They couldn’t design the software. They couldn’t design the new website or the creative campaign, if they didn’t know the client if they didn’t know what they did and what really mattered. So they had to take a deep dive into the client to do that. And so they structure that process. It’s a diagnosis, they structure it in a, you know, maybe it’s three meetings and two interviews, maybe it’s 10 meetings, maybe it’s reviewing all the contracts, maybe it’s reviewing past work. It’s a variety of things depending on who your client is. But the point is, it’s a design process, it has a beginning, a middle and an end, it has a timeframe. And it usually has some kind of deliverable, a report and assessment, whatever. And usually, that report says, here’s what we’re going to do next. Now that we have found this out, we propose the fall. And I began to realize that’s what I need to do with my clients, I need that experience. But if I’m billing them hourly, they don’t want to tell me all that, I don’t have a way to ask all that take that time, because to them time is really valuable. And I’m not demonstrating value to them by billing for the time it takes to talk to them about themselves. So I began to think well, what if my business was aligned with the way they did their business. And that’s where this all got started. You know, this diagnosis, this design phase is, in fact, a fixed fee engagement. And so I began to propose that, hey, for this client, and it for one client, it might be $1,500. Another might be $5,000. The point is it the scale and the scope, I wouldn’t take my own time to learn enough about them to propose the level of this design phase. But then we’d agree. In two weeks time, I’m going to interview three of your people, I’m going to review all of your existing contracts, I’m going to do searches of all your intellectual property or whatever you have. And then I’m going to come back and give you some answers or whatever the issue is. And we’re going to agree that that’s going to be $2,500, or 5000, or whatever it is. And if we’ve agreed at that point on what I’m going to do, what you’re also going to do with me, when I’m going to give it to you, and what it’s going to cost, we don’t have any issues with the bill. The other thing that my clients often do in that environment, there, you know, they get paid a certain amount upfront, they get a certain amount on milestone deliverables. In other words, everything about the way they get paid. And the way they provide services is an exchange of value. And everybody understands it in the process, you have to be very careful and design your scope. So everybody knows what they’re getting. But the point is, you don’t have this conflict between the way I practice and the way they practice. And when I began to realize that I get that alignment, then it opened up all sorts of things.
Hey, guys, it’s Becca here. I’m sure you’ve heard Jim and Tyson mentioned the guild on the podcast and in the Facebook group. That’s because we’re seeing some really exciting things happening with guild members and their businesses. The Guild is this perfect mix of a community group coaching and a mastermind. Inside you’ll gain support, tap into a network of connections, and continue learning a common theme among successful entrepreneurs. There are so many benefits inside the guild, including weekly live events and discounts to all maximum lawyer events, head over to maximum lawyer.com forward slash the guild. Check out all of the benefits and watch a few testimonials from current members. Investing in a community is like the self care of business ownership. Being in a community with other people who get it is crucial when you’re creating a rock solid foundation to build your business on one that’s strong enough to withstand setbacks, transitions and growth. So head to maximum lawyer.com and click on the guild page to join us. Now let’s get back to the episode.
So I’m going to come back to that in a minute. But I sort of feel like in this group, we I have watched so many people just open themselves up Jim’s talk at the conference last year, Joey Vitalis, a couple of others were the vulnerability was palpable. And I felt goosebumps sometimes thinking a little bit about it, because it just opened up this notion that as lawyers, you know, we in order to be able to get up every day and do what we do and do it well. For most of us, it’s really important to believe in what you’re doing. And that why is different for all of us. Annika is presentation it virtually just the other day about finding your why really struck home because that’s what we’re talking about here. And it took me a while to sort of figure out my why. But it was in the process of trying to figure out what my clients wanted. I’ve gradually found out what I want. My goal was to align my practice with my clients interests. So Have you who know me know that I’m a, you know, below average guitar player who likes to play in bands around town and I once upon a time was a cartoonist, and I’m sort of done some of these creative things. And my talent level maxed out at a point where that was never going to feed my family or pay my bills with those efforts. But I love being around creative people. And so I gradually realized, I want my practice, if I if I can bring value their pro level, by being their lawyer, then I’m good to hang out with, guys, that’s a big part of what it was all about. So as I went through the process, I began to more and more realize, what do I need to know from my clients in order to help them and I turned that process on myself. So you know that the getting to know you started with getting to know me? So there’s a series of questions that I would ask my clients and I began to ask myself those same questions. So the first question is, how do you make money? boil it down to that, then be quiet? Listen? Do they sell a product? Did they provide a service? Do they use employees? Do they use independent contractors? Did they gather material from somewhere else and combine it and create something? Do they license material and hand it on? What did they do? Where does the revenue come from? And then you dig deeper, and little by little, you realize, okay, if you’re doing this, then you need these contracts in place in order for that to work. And then that helps me sort of design and search and figure out whether they’re doing things well, or where they have some gaps, etc. And there’s a follow on question to that. Which is, how might you make money? In other words, it’s one thing to know that I do this this way now. But is there something in the back of your mind you thought of well, down the road, this might be coming? You know, because we might draft a contract right now. That covers everything that exists right now. But if we’re not trying to imagine what the future might be like for the client, we might draft in and accept the provision that locks the door later that we just didn’t even think about. So there’s always this, this this part of continuing to ask, Well, what what else, sort of like a deposition? What else? But if the client is paying me by the minute, by the word, so to speak, they don’t want to talk about what else? So I kept realizing I had this barrier in these conversations to grow the relationships the way that I wanted them? Well, I don’t know what is the bottom of the barrier? So he said, Well, what do you turn that diagnosis? That design phase? On my own practice? How do I make money? What do I sell? You know, and, yeah, I have I gave guidance and counsel and advice and documents. But what I was really just selling was time. And if I’m only selling time, I don’t get to account for the value that it took me 15 years to know that these are the right contracts. And these are the provisions that matter. Instead, if I only get to sell you the two hours, it took me to adjust my 15 year developed contract to fit you, I vastly under sold my value. And you probably still think it took me too long. By selling time, I was allowing my clients and this is not their fault, by the way. But I was allowing my clients to essentially define my value. And it had nothing to do with what I was or what I was actually doing. You know, I have a standard billable hourly rate with my firm. And it’s based on the number of years I’ve been practicing in the practice area that I’m in. And it’s about a third of the hourly rate that I would have if I was on one of the coasts, and might be twice the hourly rate I would have if I was in a small town. In other words, it’s got nothing to do with the actual value that I bring to my client. And as I started to think about that, you know, I realized, wait a second that that is completely out of alignment with what my clients how they do their business. And it’s very unsatisfying for me, because I want to work with the entrepreneurial startups. I want to work with the creators. So I realized, in order for me to figure out how I should make money, I needed to better understand how they made money. And so I had to research you know, yes, this is a client that makes money in the television industry. They’re a production company, and they make shows and they gather rights and they film and then they produce and they send it to a studio that buys it. Well where does that money come from? How are they going to pay their lawyer because They need a lawyer, they need really good contracts. Where’s that money coming from? I didn’t know when I got started. I gradually learned, everything comes from the network budget. Guess what, in the television industry, legal is one of the line items in the budget. One and a half percent of the overall number of budget of the show is for production legal, very easy for everybody to understand, fits right into the economic mechanism of how the work gets created. I know where my money is coming from, because the client, it’s really just a pass through the client. And I can talk as often as we need, we get everything done, right. And I take some risks that if the client only gets a pilot, and I do all this work, I’m probably going to lose money on the deal for time. But if it gets picked up to series, and has seven episodes, I’m gonna make a fair amount of money on the same amount of work. Because it’s 1%, one and a half percent of the budget. Once I realized that it just opened up this entire, you know, okay, that fits in the television industry, because it’s well established. But why isn’t there a version of that, for everything that ends up on a screen. And since I’m, and these days, you know, I’m talking to you by staring at my, my iPhone screen with a laptop screen behind it. And I’ve got another monitor over here. And we carry screens in our pockets, and we consume content on our screens constantly. Every single thing that ended up on a screen has rights associated with it has copyrights has contracts, and the level of detail in the legal aspect of getting things onto the screen hasn’t changed. But the business models for the producers, extreme current content has evolved radically, it’s the Wild West, which means it’s going to be scary, but also has fantastic opportunity. So I realized I needed to figure out the design phase for all kinds of screen content. And I think this is this ends up being applicable to lots of clients, not just my types of clients. And maybe there’s a takeaway for all of you in this process. And it goes back again to that alignment of my practice with my clients practice. And so I will make a proposal to them, we’ll spend some time talking first, on my dime. And it takes a couple of phone calls, it takes a couple of phone calls, or a meeting or whatever it is, and some research on my end. But eventually I’m able to say, look, here’s what I would propose, let’s take a look at all of the existing contracts you’d have in place. What are the last three or four or five things you’ve produced? Let me interview is it two people? Is it four people who’s kind of involved in this aspect of the business. And depending on that scope, I’m gonna quote them a price, and then I’m gonna come back and tell them where their gaps are, and so forth. And we’re gonna agree on that initial design phase deliverable, and I’m gonna learn about their business. And then we agree there’s a price upfront, we’ve taken away the concern about the bill, you know, and I might find some things that I need to recommend for them in the next phase, that might have to be done hourly, there may be there’s a pending dispute or litigation or something that we’ve got to deal with. But that’s probably got to be built in a more traditional way. But what the client won’t have to pay for an hourly rate is me getting to know them. So we get an advance on that as well. So when we go into this design phase, go back to this process. So I know in the television world, how do you make money network budget, that question has already been asked, but the how might you make money is still evolving, even in that world? Here’s an example. Many of you probably had Skinnygirl margaritas, Skinnygirl cocktails, vitamin stores, whatever it may be a lot of people level. There was this stretch when they first came out that we my wife, we really went out and started getting Skinnygirl Margarita because of course we wanted to be skinny and we wanted to have margaritas. Well, do you know where that came from? If anything was real housewives. Back when it first started. Bethenny Frankel, one of the one of the first versions that show she came up with this brand on the show, launched it so to speak on the show. Several years later, she sold the brand to beam America for $100 million. But she didn’t get that whole check. I mean, there were other people involved. But you know, who didn’t get any method. Network didn’t get a penny, the production companies didn’t get a penny, because nobody thought this was a little piece of intellectual property that didn’t fit in the definitions that were in the contracts. And it was Hertz. And nobody had a piece of it. Well, every single television production deal from that day forward has merchandising and licensing language because now everybody knows one out of 100 shows are going to launch a brand I gotta get a piece of it. Well, bringing that forward into other types of businesses, other types of screens or whatever else is going on. Ask that question. What might be Next, is there a new sales channel that might open up? You know, maybe you’ve always made content for others, and they’re gonna own it, you’re just a fee for service business and you’re profitable, and it’s wonderful. But what if in the process of creating things for others, you’re really smart, creative people come up with a new plugin, or a new animation file or some new way to do it, you think, wow, I can actually sell my process, a license it again and again and again. Well, that’s a totally different way to make money. tirely different structure. But it also requires you to think about your copyrights in a different way. You can’t necessarily do everything for people that don’t want it because you might be giving away your own value. And so we go through this process of saying, how do you make money, and how might you make money. And when I turned that to myself, I realized, I don’t sell time, that’s the wrong way to think about it. I sell value, I sell counseling, I sell partnership, I sell brainstorming, I sell forward thinking, I sell my ears or my heart or my friendships sometimes. And it let’s be honest, I do sell it, I get paid for it. But if I price it in a way that fits to their value, or sometimes if I just understand where their revenue is coming from, I might propose to them something akin to the one and a half percent of the network budget model. In other words, you know, it’s not contingent, I don’t have an outcome, like a contingency fee lawsuit. But I can just work on the take the chance of getting paid, because I don’t know what the dollar amount is. But I might be able to structure a retainer, that pays a certain amount of month for me to give the counseling. And then in certain projects, there’s a success fee if something happens. In other words, there, you know, we all have our own versions of this and our practices, but by having to go through the exercise of imagining where the client might get money, because remember, the client is the one that’s going to pay me, if the clients revenue is fixed every month, then they got to pay me a fixed amount every month, if they can, because that makes their books work. If the clients revenue is variable, depending on what they sell, then they probably want to pay me similarly, particularly if I’m helping them create their success. So I have to be humble, I have to be proud, I have to be willing to put myself out there, I have to be willing to teach, I have to be willing to explore. In other words, I have to be willing to diagnose my client and their business. If I diagnose, then I can align. And then we can go from there, then we have a relationship that is built on something more than just, you know, here’s a little bit of my time and don’t want to pay the lawyers. Last thought, you know, what I realized in this process is that so much of getting to know the clients had to deal with getting to know myself. And I want to say thank you to the handful of people in this group who have taught me so much about them. Jim had mentioned Jim and Tyson together, what they built in this community is huge. But Jim forcing me by continuing to ask, what do you do was groundbreaking. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know and interact with Mitch Jackson and Joey vitality to people who are very different from each other, but are just killers in the space of being authentic, and creating their own types of practices in the way they communicate. They’ve pushed me in ways that they don’t even know and I just want to say thanks. And then some of the folks that have already done these virtual like I mentioned Anika before it her find your why that’s just like Yes, exactly. Right. So important. Billy’s talk about marketing, how personal it has to be. Even Bernard, I loved talking about Facebook Live because I watched his shows because it’s not about Facebook Live about how to be a lawyer. It’s interesting people, it’s people in his community. It’s just what’s going on. And it’s just, it’s kind of cool. I love that. So anyway, that’s just me, I want to say thanks to everybody. I’m really happy to be part of this program. I believe in the design phase. I believe in aligning my practice with that and my clients, and I look forward to more stuff in the future. So thanks, everybody.
That was great. Thank you so much. And I don’t see any questions in the group right now. But if someone later watches the replay and they want to connect with you, what’s the best way to do that?
Well, absolutely. So a couple ways. The on Facebook, I am the screen lawyer you can find me on Facebook that way. Happy to connect that way. You can also find me just I have my law firm escapes. SoCal, CA p s s o Kol. You can find me at Cape socal.com. We’ve started up Loading my screen lawyer videos on YouTube so you can find the screen while you’re there. And we’ve got some exciting things coming, you know, in homage to, to Mitch and Joey and others, you know, there may be some interactive podcasts and other things in in the work that the screenwriter is going to grow. So hopefully there’ll be more of an out there. But in the meantime, find me at the screen lawyer, find me at salsa Cape SoCal, and I’m happy to have a conversation.