Josh Rohrscheib is a personal injury lawyer practicing in Central Illinois. He is a partner with Bolen Robinson & Ellis, LLP, a 13-lawyer firm with offices in Decatur, Bloomington, Lincoln, and Sullivan. Josh is working on expanding his firm into new markets in Central Illinois, building a personal injury practice, and on finding balance with his wife and son.
2:55 branding multiple websites
14:30 marketing when you don’t own your own firm
18:55 ships passing in the wind
25:05 investing in personal development
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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: Tyson, how are you my friend?
Tyson: I am doing well. I’ve got a busy morning. Busy morning, getting a lot done. How about you?
Jim: Well, we’re recording this the day after Memorial Day, so it seems like a Monday even though it’s a Tuesday.
I’m very excited about our guest today. He’s one of our favorites from the OG Maximum Lawyer Guild. He’s been a great member of Maximum Lawyer. His name is Josh Rohrschieb.
Josh, welcome to the show.
Josh: Thanks so much. I appreciate you guys having me on. You’ve made an enormous difference in my practice and in my life. I just want to start out with saying how much gratitude I have to you both.
Tyson: Josh, you’re always too nice. Way too nice. You’re like one of the nicest people I know, but you’re welcome. Honestly, we deserve no credit. All the hard work goes to you.
Talk about just your journey, how you’ve gotten to where you are right now.
Josh: Sure. Well, I’m from Central Illinois. I love politics. I worked in the State Senate for a year and then went to law school. I joined a global firm, in their DC office, with the government affairs practice. I was there for about four years. I felt a strong calling to return to my hometown in Central Illinois, so I moved back home and I practice with a few small firms there.
In 2012, I hung up the shingle, became a solo. As my practice kind of slowly grew, over those years, eventually I needed a little bit more administrative support. And there was another firm in my hometown that had some younger lawyers that I really liked, really respected. I joined them. Fortunately, the founders, they’re both incredible lawyers, really generous leaders. They’ve shared a lot of opportunities with the younger lawyers, tried to help them build and grow their practice. I think, at that time, we had one office and six lawyers. Now, we’re up to 13 lawyers and four offices.
About a year ago, I moved to Bloomington, Illinois which is about an hour north of our home office. Also, around that time, I niched down to just doing personal injury law. We added a partner in Bloomington who I really think the world of. She’s an incredible lawyer, trying to build a practice in Bloomington, trying to support my partners in our Decatur office, and also kind of grow some other locations as well.
Jim: Josh, you do have sort of a unique relationship with your firm in that you have your own website, joshrohrschieb.com. Talk to us a little bit. Obviously, you don’t have to go into State secrets or anything but just talk to us, conceptually, how things work.
Josh: Well, we have a general practice. Of the 13 lawyers in our firm, we certainly have criminal, family–
If you go to our main homepage, you don’t necessarily get the sense that you’re in the right place for a personal injury lawyer, you get a great overview of our whole firm. Our leadership has sort of supported the notion of letting us kind of experiment, try new things, and see what works in developing leads and cases. So, I have a personal website that’s just geared towards personal injury clients. And then, for our Bloomington office, we have a separate website that’s geared just towards personal injury cases, medical malpractice cases.
We’ve also launched a website for our Lincoln office. It’s in Lincoln which is our newest venture. We started a satellite office there in January. We know that there are some unmet legal needs in family law and a few other areas, but we also wanted to not directly compete with some of the existing practitioners there. There are a lot of estate planning lawyers and things like that there, so we didn’t want to market to areas where they might interfere with developing referral relationships.
Tyson: Okay, Josh. So, you were in State Farm’s backyard. I’m just curious, does that affect your practice? I mean, you do PI. I mean, like you’re in State Farm’s backyard, Bloomington is their corporate office. So, how does that affect your practice?
Josh: Yeah, we also have Country Financial headquartered here. This is certainly an insurance town. It’s also university town. So, you may have some great jurors, but you also have to anticipate you’re going to have a few people on a jury who work for State Farm. That can be good or bad. So, I think, it just requires a little bit more caution with jury selection.
I think it also leads us to having a lot of knowledgeable PI clients who have at least some idea how the process works and some folks who come in and just need a little bit of coaching, who really can do it on their own because they may be working with claims, but it is an interesting dynamic.
Jim: Josh, talk to us about how your firm has grown since you started.
Well, I think in downstate Illinois there aren’t a whole lot of lawyers coming to kind of the more rural part of the State to practice. So, we have tried to be strategic. When we identify a really talented young lawyer that that has some hustle and who’s a good person, good values fit with our firm, we’ve tried to be very proactive in recruiting and approaching those lawyers. Our firm has a very generous kind of fee split model that–
Our founders have both been very successful. They don’t heavily leverage younger lawyers. So, it’s allowed us to be able to compete for lawyers that we wanted to bring into the firm. So, that’s really helped us.
We also added two lawyers in a neighboring town who I think just thought they could benefit from being part of a larger firm, where we might be able to refer some more to them and vice-versa. One of those two lawyers just celebrated his 80th birthday. I think one of the things he had in mind was having a little bit of help with a transition plan. I think that’s probably a strategic opportunity for a lot of your listeners, especially those who practice anywhere near a rural setting or is a chance that maybe help some senior practitioners who have a client base that they’ve grown, that they care about and want to make sure are taken care of into the future. I think there can be great opportunities to help aging solos and small firms with transition plans.
Tyson: So, Josh, I was I was really sorry to hear that, recently, your grandma passed away. You you’ve done something pretty interesting where you’re going to launch a scholarship in her name, or at least in her honor. I’m not sure if it’s going to be in her name or not, but do you mind talking about that a little bit?
Josh: I’m so glad you asked, Tyson. Thank you for that.
I mentioned I felt the calling to kind of return home, when I left DC. A big part of that was being raised by my grandparents. They were a huge part of my life and a very positive force. My grandma Mary was a teacher in rural Central Illinois schools for almost her entire career.
She was an incredible teacher. After she passed, I kept getting calls from people I’ve never met, former students of hers, who wanted to share a story about something that she did that touched their lives, that they carried with them. Several of them told me, “You know, I don’t remember a lot of my elementary school teachers, but I remember her.” It was very moving. I wanted to do something to kind of celebrate that legacy.
Honestly, it’s a little help from Anica because she kind of helped me massage the idea. What we’re going to do is offer scholarships to a few kids each year, from Central Illinois who want to be teachers. We’ll have an essay prompt asking them to tell a story or tell us about a special teacher that impacted their life and how they can carry forward lessons from that teacher in their own career as an educator.
So, I hope it’ll also give us a chance to kind of lift up some of the great teachers we have in Central Illinois. It’s a tough job. A lot of them are underpaid, but they make a big difference. I’m hoping to be able to both help some students and also tell some of these uplifting stories about some of the teachers that have kind of helped them along.
Jim: That’s awesome, Josh. That’s totally awesome.
What’s your favorite thing about being a lawyer and running a law firm and what’s your least favorite thing?
Josh: You know, I love when I’m meeting new clients. And I love– one very rewarding thing about being a PI lawyer is, at the end, we get to often give clients a life-changing amount of money and you can feel like you’ve like permanently changed the trajectory of someone’s life, or like helped a kid to go to college, or helped someone get medical care they need. I mean, that part of it is tremendously rewarding.
I think the least favorite part, when you do contingency fee work for a living, it’s inherently uncertain. And it’s hard to– I mean, I do hear some folks who– like Michael McCready gave a presentation recently in John Fisher’s Mastermind, where he explained how his data provides him a snapshot of his average fee, his pipeline.
And so, I think, eventually, the guys who are really doing sort of high level can build in certainty to their practice. But right now, I feel a lot of uncertainty. I think a lot of lawyers do with Coronavirus. A lot of uncertainty about, “Will the phone keep ringing?” I mean, it always has. And every year’s been better than the year prior, but that’s kind of the hardest thing is not really knowing when the phone will ring or not knowing what kind of year it’ll be because it kind of depends on what kind of cases come in.
Tyson: Josh, I’m going to ask you a question that might be really easy to answer or really hard to answer, one of the two. Why don’t you just start your own firm?
Well, I don’t really feel– I mean, I really like my partners. They’ve got a great firm culture. It’s fun to be able to build with other people and I’m happy. I mean, there are there are occasional things I wish were a little bit different like making decisions by committee can be frustrating. I’d like to be able to change up our practice management software. There are some things like that I don’t have the freedom to but, man, I’ve got a lot of support.
Right now, just my wife and I are going through a tough health issue. We’ve got a baby on the way who has some serious complications and it’s incredibly comforting to know I’ve got 12 other lawyers who have my back. And that if I need some support, while we’re out, my clients are going to be very well taken care of. I mean, I can’t say never but I really like the people I practice with so it’s kind of not broken, so I don’t see a reason to make a change.
Tyson: No. And the reason why I asked that is I thought you were going to say that because it seems like you really, really like your firm and that’s awesome to see.
Josh: Thank you. Thank you. I do.
Jim: Josh, I love your optimism and I love your positive attitude on things. That always comes through. And your gratitude for things. We’ll certainly be keeping you, and your wife, and the baby in our prayers and thinking about you throughout this process.
Josh: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: You’ve got it, bud.
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Jim: Where do you think are opportunities for growth for you, Josh, as a lawyer and as a leader?
Josh: Well, I think there are a few things I want to mention. One, about a little over a year ago, in February of ‘19, I had an exchange with Tyson that totally changed my practice. He challenged me to pick a date by which I could drop that date and, after this date, I’m not taking any cases but PI cases. And I said, “Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ll do that.” Then, three days later. He’s like, “No, really, what’s the date?” And that helped me a lot. So, I picked a date. I beat it by about a month. And it was about a year ago.
I think, niching down has helped me not be like a generalist going up against specialists all the time. It’s helped me grow an expertise. And I feel like I can really focus on educating myself in one particular area to become the best damn personal injury lawyer I can be, instead of trying to just stay afloat in a bunch of practice areas. So, I think that’s, that’s one thing I’m kind of working on to improve as a lawyer. I mean, I think I think that’s helped a ton with being able to focus the kind of content I’m consuming to improve as a lawyer.
As a leader, in the firm, I think there are a lot of opportunities to improve our systems. To develop process to make sure that every client has the best experience we can give them. You guys put out so much great content about how to do that. Without your podcast, a lot of us would be flying blind. So, I hope you know how big of a difference you make to so many of us.
I guess that’s the best answer I have, guys, because I think I could really grow a lot by working on improving our systems and then being able to focus my attention to developing as a trial lawyer, is kind of where I want to go in the next few years, just to kind of focus on sharpening of the sword, I guess– or the axe, whatever implement you want to pick.
Tyson: Whatever we’re going to call it. I did the same thing in my head. I’m like, “What am I going to call it?”
All right. So, there are a lot of other people who are listening to this that are working for another firm and maybe they love it or maybe they hate, it doesn’t matter, but they’re at that firm. You’ve done a good job of marketing yourself in another firm. So, do you have any advice for those people listening like because they may feel like they’re just sort of in handcuffs where they can’t do anything with marketing? Do you have any advice for them?
Josh: Well, I mean, I think it helps to have leaders who kind of understand that you’re wanting to be able to build a practice for yourself and to kind of sustain your family because the future’s uncertain for all of us. One thing that can help, I think, with your partners is trying to not just generate work for yourself but, where you can, try to generate work for other people in your firm, too, or try to help your partner’s chase work. So, if you have a partner who’s wanting to do municipal law and, you know, you can maybe support a candidate who, you think, will help them or support the clients that your partners would like to cultivate. I think it has to be rooted in being a team player or in sharing some of the work that comes in.
Jim: Josh, I know that you’ve been having some bigger cases settle recently. I’m wondering, where do your best cases come from? How do you go about getting new clients?
Josh: I’m sure, it won’t be a surprise to you guys that the best cases come from other lawyers or from other professionals. I just settled a couple motorcycle cases that came from an insurance agent who felt like some people that she really cared about were getting kind of jerked around by another carrier. It’s hard to develop referral relationships, perhaps, with insurance agents. I think some of the time they worry if you have a big like under-insured settlement, will it be a hit against their book? One thing that’s helped is applying John Fisher’s discipline and trying to take folks to lunch once a week.
My partner, Emilia, and I were doing that with a great discipline and great results until we couldn’t go to lunch anymore with people. I think that’s one of the best tips I’d have for other lawyers is, make the time to get to know other people in a genuine way. Take them to lunch, hear about their practice, hear about their families, and try to send cases to them. If you kind of do enough giving, then people will reciprocate.
Tyson: All right. So, Jim and I differ on the importance of vision. I think it’s extremely important.
I want you to project out, 20 years from now, and if you’re successful, what does that success look like?
Josh: You know, I guess, it probably would depend on the week when you ask me. Like, right now, I’m feeling the march of time and I’ve been playing with my son a lot. In 20 years, I’d love to not have to do a whole lot of work. I’d love to be able to have a small boutique practice of the cases I wanted to work on and then work with helping generate business for some other lawyers in my firm. I mean, that that certainly could change. That’s a long horizon.
So, Jim, doesn’t think vision is important? I’m kind of surprised. I would’ve expected some pushback from him there.
Tyson: Yeah. I was, too.
He said it the other day. I was like, “What are you talking about?”
Jim: That’s not what I said. What I said was is that– we were having a conversation in the Guild with one of our members. He had some issues that I thought he needed to deal with that were bigger than his vision. And I said, “Your vision will feed into the answers to these questions.” I think vision’s important but I think a lot of people use vision as a crutch to avoid doing actual work. So, I do think vision’s important. I think it has an actual place in figuring out where you’re headed, but I don’t think that it’s the be all end all and I don’t think it should be a crutch for people either. So, here, here to vision.
So, Josh, if you had a magic wand and could make the practice of law different, what would you do?
Josh: You know, I think, I wish I had more time to get to know some of the clients. It’s funny. I mean, Jim, hearing some of the stories from the people whose lives you’ve changed so radically, you know, you’re a huge part of these people’s lives. And I know, Tyson, as a PI lawyer, you are too. And then, at some point, their case is over and you go from having these people you become really invested in and you care about. I kind of wish there were better ways to stay in touch with past clients because you develop these friendships that– I’m not saying I want my past clients to get hit by a bus or anything, but I wish that the practice of law didn’t have this strange kind of momentum where you become really involved in people’s lives. And then, it’s so easy to then just kind of fall off of your grid, indefinitely. Maybe we’ll be out somewhere and see them and then reconnect. But that part’s kind of hard for me. You develop these friendships and then they can be kind of fleeting, sometimes.
Tyson: It’s just interesting you say that, Josh, because we’re trying to make an effort to have that not be the case and just really focus on it because it’s not easy.
You’re completely right. It’s kind of like ships passing in the wind, you know, you’re by each other. Everything’s great. Whatever, you’re dealing with. And then, they’re gone – gone forever.
And so, we’re trying to change that quite a bit. And so, I completely, completely get that.
So, let’s talk about that a little bit with you then. I guess, what are some things that you think you could do to kind of extend that relationship or make sure you keep it going?
Josh: I’m working on it this week, actually. I hope to send out my first newsletter on Fridays. And, at the end, I’m really going to very genuinely ask past clients to drop me a note and let me hear from them and let me know how they’re doing.
In this sort of strange time, it’s easy to kind of feel disconnected from other people. I think that’s one of the reasons I really wanted to start a newsletter now is to reconnect with some people who’ve been important in my practice and re-establish some of those friendships.
Jim: I think that the point you make about becoming friends with your clients, at least some of them, is important. I don’t think enough people– like my wife gets really rigid about giving out her cell number. I understand there has to be boundaries and all that stuff, but I think that there’s certainly some people, that are your clients, that can become really good friends.
So I think that we, as lawyers, like to think of ourselves sort of above it all but– I mean, there are people that you go to bat for. I mean, I’m sure if you had like a really complicated medical malpractice case, or a PI case, where you’re with someone for three years fighting in the trenches, day-to-day, you’re going to form a real bond with them. I have people that I have fought– like, hell, I’ve a guy that I’ve been trying to get him citizenship since 2014 and I stopped charging him three years ago. So, if and when, he becomes a citizen, we’re going to have one hell of a party, right? Obviously, you can’t do that all the time, but I think that doing it selectively is good for you and for the clients.
Josh: It’s definitely I think good for– you know, it feeds the soul. It reminds you what you got into this for. Thinking about the first– when you mentioned that, I was thinking this family, one of the first medical malpractice cases I was involved in. It was several years ago and I referred it out. I’m not sure– I try to keep in-house [inaudible 00:21:18], but it was a missed breast cancer diagnosis. A very young woman who’s married to a friend of mine. We became really like family. She asked me to come visit her in the last like day and a half of her life. I mean, I know that made a difference to them. I guess, that’s kind of the sacred part about what we do. If we think we’d all do well to try to hang on to that.
Tyson: So, Josh, I think anybody that knows you, knows you just like how nice of a guy you are and how– you have a great demeanor and it’s funny. So, Anica Kalousky is watching this right now. She sent me a message that– just how like your demeanor and how that really down-to-earth way of talking to adjusters has been able to even to raise your settlement values. But will you just talk about, in general, how it’s benefited you when dealing with clients, when dealing with settlements, whenever maybe.
Josh: So, you know, I worked for a lawyer for a while who was– he only like had one gear and it was just hard ass all the time. I think you’ve got to be able to switch gears. You can’t really start out as a hard ass and then be like, “Okay. Okay. Well, now let me– let’s hear it. Let’s kind of talk about your family.” You can’t dial that down.
I kind of think it’s always most effective with adjusters, just to start, by treating them as people who are trying to kind of get through their day with way too many files. Sometimes, you can make it so the negotiation is like, Can you get to a win for everyone? Something your client will be happy with that you feel good about and can you help the army adjuster with enough information to give you a decent offer?
Some of them are just the enemy and they just want to try to beat you and say no and don’t care. I’m seeing that more and more from– even the carrier that’s right here in my backyard. I don’t know. I think just trying to be human with these folks makes a big difference and trying to really listen, instead of just fly off the handle and getting mad, trying to understand where they’re coming from.
I just settled my first seven-figure case. And in that one, the adjuster, at one point in the negotiation, she just said, “I’m not even going to negotiate with you. We’re just on different planets.” It’s like she just said, like kind of refused to make an offer. Man, my instinct was to totally lose my mind and call her ranting and raving.
You know, I took a beat, I actually called one of our founding partner who was just like, “I knew I needed to talk her off the ledge. I knew if, I called her, it wouldn’t be constructive.” So, I think it’s about self-awareness to make yourself like pump the brakes and get into a better headspace before you make the call.
So, I called and I just tried to understand where she was coming from. I tried to help her better understand what my clients have been through and why we saw it so differently. And eventually, we had a breakthrough, but it would not have had a breakthrough if I would have just responded to her the way that I think all of us would want to.
Jim: That’s so great because I was just about to ask you, “When was the last time you lost your temper at work?” But I think that you don’t lose your temper at work, so we’ll move on to my last question, Josh, which is, you joined the Guild right out of the box. You’ve been a great member of Maximum Lawyer. You came to the conference. Talk to us a little bit and talk to our listeners a little bit about your philosophy on sort of self-improvement and continuing to grow, things like that.
Josh: You just have to invest in yourself. Joining the Guild or, certainly, joining John Fisher’s group, have been two of the best investments. Probably the best investment I’ve ever made in my practice was going to your conference. I mean it, it absolutely blew away so many bad assumptions I had or made me think about so many things differently. And, you know, the friendships that you can develop and build upon. One, I mean, some of the other folks in The Guild have become good friends, have been like sending me texts, checking in. Partly, they know my wife and I going through a tough time right now. So, I’ve developed some really meaningful friendships that I treasure through The Guild. So, it’s been an investment in self-improvement, investment in learning new ideas and tools and tricks. If you just kind of passively go through your practice without trying to get better, you’re not going to get ahead.
If anyone’s thinking about joining The Guild, they’re very welcome to give me a call. I’ll tell them about my experience and all the ways it’s helped me.
I think it’s an incredible value you guys offer. You’ve been so incredibly generous with all of us in bringing so many great thinkers together. It’s a no brainer. I mean, the amount of value you guys are packing in the Guild right now is incredible. I don’t know how you’re doing it while maintaining such successful practices. You guys are really making the sacrifice to do this for everybody.
Tyson: We get it done through two people, Becca and Anika. They make our lives a lot easier. I think Jim would agree with that.
I do want to wrap things up. We’ve got to wrap things up because, in about 30 minutes, Jim and I are going to do a Q&A in The Guild, so you’ve got to get ready for that as well.
I also want to remind everyone to go the big Facebook group. If you’re not ready for the Guild, that’s completely fine. Go to the Facebook group. If you’ve not joined yet, you’re missing out on a ton of value. I almost dropped the S bomb. But, a ton of value. And then, also, if you don’t mind, just taking just a couple of seconds. Give us a five-star review. That will spread the love. We would greatly appreciate it.
Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?
Jim: I’m really lucky that we have too much office space here at the office. And so, one of the things I like to do is to break up my day and that is to go to other parts of the office, usually the conference room or something. So, this morning, before we got on our Guild call for the Tuesday morning meeting, I went ahead and put on my Brain.fm on my headsets. And I did a 15-minute focus finder, where I just got a yellow legal pad and wrote out all the things that were in my brain that needed to get done. Some of them were as mundane as get the car washed to sort of big picture stuff. So, just sitting down and writing and letting that stuff come out on a piece of paper at the start of a week.
I sort of feel like you felt last week, Tyson, where I’ve already got a ton done today and everything else is just sort of gravy. My stress level has really come down.
Tyson: Man, anytime you can like knock at the beginning of your week or the beginning of your day with a bunch of work, you just feel so freakin’ amazing.
Brain.fm is amazing. It really is good. Who recommended that? Someone recommended that last week?
Tyson: You? Okay. It’s fantastic.
All right, Josh, what Is your tip or hack of the week?
Josh: This kind of feeds into what Jim just mentioned. I picked up this full focus planner. It has you lead off with the big three of the day. And then, the days when I list the big three, I get so much more done. That’s just sort of an aside, based on what Jim said.
The tip I wanted to share, another member of the Max Law Group recommended the book Running with the Bolts. This is probably more for the plaintiff’s lawyers listening but, man, it’s a great book. It’s a really powerful book. One of the real lessons for me, we’ve already kind of touched upon, it’s making a deliberate practice of spending time with your clients and getting to know them, getting to know their families, talking to their good friends about how the injury impacted them. It’ll make you a better advocate. It’ll make the process much more rewarding. It’ll help you avoid missing arguments you should make about damages. And it’ll help you develop more meaningful relationships with your clients.
Just, from a business sense, that will lead to more referrals but it also just makes the practice more rewarding.
Tyson: It makes you stop looking at your clients as a number. You know, it’s not a fee. They’re no longer a fee, they’re a human being. And so, it does definitely get you back to– I don’t know, that brings you back to center. It’s kind of nice.
So, here’s my tip. I’ve been noticing, as I go out and about, that I see less and less people wearing masks and not really following the social distancing guidelines and it’s driving me crazy. Just don’t let your guard down right now. We don’t know what the effects are going to be now that things are opening back up. So, my tip is to just don’t let your guard down. Just still be careful. We’re not through this yet. Okay. Hopefully, we’re close. But hopefully, it’s going to end soon but just don’t let your guard down because I want to make sure we see all of you next year at MaxLawCon 2021, I guess, because we really do want to see you all there and I want everybody to be healthy.
Josh, thanks so much for being a great Guild member, a great friend, and for being on the show.
Josh: Thank you, guys. Really appreciate the time with you.
Jim: Peace, brother.
Tyson: Peace, everybody.
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