Episode 34

Published on:

14th Dec 2023

How Attorney Jeff Kelly Built a Thriving Law Firm

From high school rapper to thriving bankruptcy attorney, Jeff Kelly's journey was no walk in the park. In this episode of Your Practice Mastered, hosts Richard James and MPS chat with Attorney Jeff Kelly about his transformative move from Atlanta to NYC for college, the struggles of starting his firm, and the key daily planning habit that saved him hours. 

Don't miss out on the hard-won wisdom Attorney Jeff Kelly shares—tune in if you're ready to elevate your law firm to the next level!

Jeff Kelly: [:

And so I went and met with her and I said, why am I getting a C with no markings? You know, I mean, that's the lowest grade in the class probably. And she's like, yeah, you're right. And she's like, can I be honest with you? I said, please. And she looked me straight in the eye. She said, I don't like you.

And I said. Oh, okay. Why don't you like me? I like you. And she's like, you are conservative. You're from the south. And I'm annoyed. You annoy me. I'm like, oh, and that affects my grade. She says, absolutely. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. If your professors don't like you, you're not getting a good grade.

you know, iron sharpens iron [:

They don't want you going in there, pissing them off. About your views or what do you think you got to get inside their head and figure out what is it that they think? How can I line that up with the facts from my case and do the best possible presentation?

MPS: Hey law firm owners, welcome to the Your Practice Mastered podcast. We're your hosts. I'm MPS.

ss. And Jeff Kelly, our next [:

He's one of the OGs back when we were at a Dave Ramsey conference together. And from there, watching his journey has been a lot of fun. So today's conversation is going to be a blast. I think, I don't know, I'm looking forward to it. How about you, Michael?

MPS: Oh, I'm pumped. And Jeff, we appreciate you coming on. So first and foremost, thank you for taking some time to be here with us.

Jeff Kelly: All right, my pleasure.

MPS: Yeah, no worries. Jeff, if you've watched a few of these, like I know you mentioned you had, you'll notice that at the start of each episode, we like to get to know you a little bit.

So why don't you start by sharing something that maybe not everybody knows about you.

from Georgia. And back in the:

back of the ingredients and [:

Richard James: as soon as you said New York City, that commercial instantly popped into my head, New York City, where's new York City? And then, but I thought what you were going to tell us, Jeff, was that you were a high school rap star. This is what I thought you were going to tell us that nobody knew about you, but maybe you didn't want me to tell everybody about that.

I don't know.

Jeff Kelly: I might over embellish any of my rap experience. I was not a rap star. I definitely was before there was Vanilla Ice, there was Def Jeff. I went to high school in Atlanta and I did used to rap, but, honestly. When I was in high school, people would walk up to me and they would say what would they say?

a long time to realize they [:

And then, every now and then I'd go for it. I'd get in the middle of the circle. Oh no, man, get out of here. Come on, Kelly, you mess us up. Stop it. It was fun. Good times.

MPS: Oh.

Richard James: You always had the courage to go for it though. That's what I love about you, man. You always had the courage to go for it.

MPS: That's the biggest part of that whole thing. Taking the courage, but look we went from rap star to attorney. So Jeff, we got to hear a little bit more about that journey. So why don't you tell everyone at least the high level, broad strokes of your journey from where you were to where you are now.

m filers and got my feet wet [:

It's all going to work out and sky's the limit. And when I first started, the way you became successful was to get a big yellow page ad. The problem was that you had to wait for people to die in order for your yellow page ad to move up. And first it was a full single page ad and then they change it to a double page ad.

And that was one way you could skip people. I went for it. As soon as I started my firm, double truck ad.

Richard James: Nice.

Jeff Kelly: We did really well starting out. I've had a lot of funny stories. I remember my very first receptionist, she was an old lady, about 70 years old. And I have a rule, like no smoking.

I'm allergic to [:

And she told this one client, he's got too many clients this month. He can't take any more click. And I'm like, what? What was that? You can't do that, like ever what's going on. And so we grew through the years. And funny story. I was praying really hard. And, when something big is coming in my life, I pray hard.

ire set and God would speak, [:

And this is where you're supposed to go to college. And I was a good kid in high school. I ran track and cross country. All I did was study and work and it came time to go to college. And, I'd gotten into Emory, I'd gotten into Furman and it was okay. I was toying between that Georgia Tech and I didn't have this burning bush experience.

And then about February of my senior year. My cross country coach called me and said, Hey how would you feel about going to Columbia, New York city? And I'm like there's just one problem. Your deadline passed in January. And he's don't worry. I can get your application in. You gotta do it.

hat's it's not going to work [:

Coming up for a visit. So I did. I went up there. Liked it. The whole first semester while I was up there, I was so afraid somebody was going to knock on the door and say, we are so sorry. We made a mistake. Your application got put in the wrong pile. And because everybody was in shock. I did well in high school.

I was, top 10 percent of my class, but I was not a valedictorian. I only spoke English. I got to Columbia and it was like, everybody's bilingual. Everybody's a valedictorian, everybody, they didn't just listen to music, they knew how to write music. You want to talk about a fish out of water.

southern accent and I said, [:

He's never even been to a symphony and I got to do extra credit

Richard James: Oh,

Jeff Kelly: and I got an A in that class. And when my friend from Colorado who was on the football team got a C, He was so pissed that he got a C and I got an A, right? Redneck from Atlanta gets an A and he got a C. Oh, I had so much fun with that.

But the lesson I learned was you got to ask, if you need help and you're struggling, you got to ask and sometimes you, you get help. And then my other fun lesson from college, there was a teacher named Miss Beauregard and we had a writing class. I'm a pretty decent writer, I think. And I would always get these C's with no red markings, nothing, no explanation, just C.

he's yeah, you're right. And [:

And I said. Oh, okay. Why don't you like me? I like you. And she's you are conservative. You're from the south. And I'm annoyed. You annoy me. I'm like, oh, and that affects my grade. She says, absolutely. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. If your professors don't like you, you're not getting a good grade.

And before I'd gone to high school, somebody told me, stand up for your values and, iron sharpens iron and, B.S. No, they want you to regurgitate back what they're telling you and that was a very valuable lesson, particularly in law, because no offense to judges, but they're the same way.

ure out what is it that they [:

And so one of the funny things I had happen once was, I majored in political science and it's oh crap, I had to give this presentation in front of the whole class and they wanted something to condemn the United States, which is totally against my core values and everything I believe in. It's like, how am I going to do this?

I've got to get inside this professor's head. So that I can get a good grade because I know if I get up there and say, God bless America, I'm sunk. And I did some research and come to find out in the first Iraq war, a lot of those bullets that were hitting our guys were made in America. We had aided Iraq before the Iran Iraq war, we had loaded them up.

are going to hurt us. And he [:

And, oh man, he ate that shit up. He loved it because they all hate Hitler. Of course, everybody does. And so I got an A in that class. So Columbia was so good for me. I got exposed to people of all walks, all areas. I desperately needed that. Even though I did come from a pretty diverse area of Atlanta. I learned so much about the world.

And I remember my first girlfriend from Long Island going home with her for Thanksgiving and meeting her family. And her father looked at me and said, we hate the Irish. And I said, what's the Irish? I'm from the South. That we don't know what that means. And he looks at me and he goes, you're the Irish.

Richard James: So

ly? I'm Irish. So, learned a [:

And then the Richard James thing. Let me tell you how I became part of this group. I was struggling after I started my law firm and I gave that poor lady a nervous breakdown and we had clients coming in at our ears, and, made money the first couple of years, but then we plateaued and it's good grief.

I've created so many headaches. And so I was praying and had four kids, young kids at the time. And I told my wife, I got invited to this Dave Ramsey Vanquishy event, and Dave Ramsey was going to change my life, and everything was going to be smooth sailing afterwards, and it was going to be radically different.

And I went to the event, and it was great! It was a great event, but I knew quickly this ain't it. This is not the change that I've been praying for, and no burning bush, right? And I had lunch with Miller, and for those of you who know Jamie, one of the nicest people on planet earth.

you, man. And so Jamie says, [:

I'm like, what? Seriously? How possibly, right? And we went to the event and you had that little cartoon thing going. I remember it, the little cartoon stick guy. And I'm like, holy shit, that's me. He's describing my life. The guy that's everybody's mad. Cause he's always coming home late and too many appointments.

And, the idea that you could live a better life with systems in place, heck yeah, sign me up. I was gung ho from day one. There's nobody in this group that loves this group more than me. A lot of people have honestly had way more success than I have. And not to make excuses or anything, but

ng part of a group like this [:

And yeah, the business is, I like that part. I like the fact that we've tripled our business in the last, 12 years or so since we've been part of this group, but that's not the big win for me is that, I'm still sane, or close to it. Way more sane than I otherwise would be.

Because I like what Blaine Elkridge said once when he said, You're surrounded by people who don't want to see you lose. Who want to see you win. And that is huge. And really hard to find as an attorney because,

edged sword to this because. [:

You don't just listen to them and blow it off. You listen to them and you do something about it. And so anybody's willing to help anybody else. As long as they're going to participate in being a willing participant, nobody wants to be, nobody wants to feel like they have to drag somebody or better said,

push a rope, right? And so Jeff, you get the credit for being who you are. And it sounds like it's been a, based on the journey you just gave us, we can hear where you learned how to become the, who you are, but I have a question for you. I'm going to take you all the way back to that moment when you left your firm you were working for.

ruptcy. That was your chosen [:

When you said. All right, I've got to do this. And so my question to you is what is it that drove you? Was it that, was it your desire to not want to be under somebody's thumb? Was it your witnessing that you could do it better than somebody else? Was it, you just didn't like that you weren't in control of your destiny?

What was it about your entrepreneurial spirit at that point that leapt you to open up your own firm?

at this particular firm is, [:

I did it man. I'm bringing on the bacon for the firm. Yeah And my co workers would look at me and like you effing a**hole Now I gotta do all this work and i'm like Are you kidding me? I'm like, I'm going to scream at you. And it was a culture that like, and that I just could not, I didn't fit well with,

Richard James: It's not unusual though, right? It's that operations versus sales and you're a sales guy by nature, by heart. That's who you are. It's what you're really good at. Whether you're selling a client as to why they should retain your firm or you're selling your teammates as to why they should be a part of your world or you're selling your compadres as to why they should try this new idea that you found or whatever. You're just a good salesperson in general.

Where do you want to go next?[:

MPS: Yeah, a big question, Jeff, is because we heard a lot of the highlights there. What was one maybe low point or failure point if you want to use harsh terms, and something you took from that moment?

Jeff Kelly: You're talking about like business wise?

Richard James: Yeah, probably.

MPS: Yeah. Yeah. We'll keep it business wise on this. Yeah.

Jeff Kelly: Well, you know I don't know if this answers your question or not. But when Covid hit. I was panicked.

Again, I'm really grateful. I was part of a community where people were going through the same stuff I was going through. And we did our PPP loan. I probably never would have known about PPP loans, if I had not been part of this group, I had everything lined up perfectly, smooth, dotted the i's, cross the t's I definitely have had failures some things that I've tried but it's been great to be surrounded by other attorneys who have also been through it, you just cannot.

And also in [:

And, when I was younger, the word failure was just like, ah, end of the world, and I've picked up from this group. Now. This is education time, now we know what doesn't work. Now we're this much closer to a higher level, to a better place. And that has been a revolutionary change for me.

o many lawyers struggle with [:

We don't look at failure at the end of the world. This is a life experience. It's an education.

Richard James: you again, I thank you for the kudos on the group. But look, and this is a message for everybody listening. So I love this message that you just deliver to them because attorneys yes, you're trained to find every little problem, but also you're trained to always get A's, like to be perfect, to get it all right all the time.

ecause it's this is learning [:

This is where we're really going to make a difference and make a move. Your mentor that you talked about spiritually, LD Holt, he would say it's, an inconvenience that's appropriate or an appropriate inconvenience, right? Something that inconvenienced to you, you learned the lesson from but there was some good on the other side of it.

And so whilst you give the credit to the group for supporting you, Jeff, you had to be willing to come to that rationalization on your own, that this was the truth. And yes, it was because you were plugged into these people, but as people are listening to this. As another attorney, man or woman like you, sitting here listening to it, stuck on the fact that they'd ever want to fail, stuck on the fact that they always got to be right, stuck on the fact that they can't possibly see the forest through the trees because they're in the middle of the war every single day.

What's your message to them about learning the lessons of failure and how to keep going forward? Because that's a really important lesson.

Jeff Kelly:

this group that was the most [:

Richard James: Action kills for you, right?

MPS: love it. Jeff, how about just. What do you do on a daily basis that contributes to your continued success? What are maybe some of the habits you've got on a daily basis or one key habit that you have on a daily basis?

but he's an estate planning [:

Richard James: Oh, James Jones?

Jeff Kelly: And yes, and it was awesome and I use that and I've tweaked it a little bit for myself, that eight minutes a day of write your journal, write down what you're grateful for as Jim Rohn would say, setting your sail for the day.

Now, I got to confess. I don't do this every day. I try to, I want to, I need to. When I do it, I probably do it half the time. My day is so much better. Oh my goodness. It is so much better when I get those eight minutes in the morning and analyze my day and plan the steps and I think Blaine.

I am a carefree, whoo, let's [:

Planning, be methodical, repetitive, compound interest. Good thing.

Richard James: Yeah, but give yourself if it's not who you are, give yourself some grace around it too. And so take the wins that you take. Okay. I did it 50 percent of the time. Maybe next week I shoot for 60 percent of the time. And maybe be a little bit better. But at the end of the day. None of us are going to be perfect, period. And there is no perfect answer to this. So be true to thine self, right?

my to do list and I meditate [:

And if I got some exercise in before that and I ate a regular good breakfast, boy, I tell you what, my day goes so much better. Everything about my day is better. Everything about it. I feel like I accomplished more. I don't feel like I get to the end of the day and go, man, I was so busy, but I don't know what I did.

I just feel like the day went on plan and I ended well, and then I get to dinner and really feel stress free. And starting the day right is a huge, great tip. Thank you for that. I think we're saying that because and no, I don't get it right all the time either but that's okay too. That's okay.

MPS: I love it. Jeff. I think that's super helpful how you start your day makes a huge impact gives you more energy to just starting better It gives you more energy throughout the day.

What's got you fired up jeff? What are you excited about could be business could be personal what's got you excited today?

ed about this for a while is [:

And I think we probably save, I bet we're up to 40 hours a week right now where we save time because when we get a court notice about the 341 hearing. Somebody's got to go in and type that date in. Somebody's got to type in. Now we have to do Zoom IDs. We have to do the zoom code.

And if you're one digit off, woof it won't work. So it's gotta be perfect. And then this fits right into automation where the mail parser just pulls that sucker out automatically, bam, spits into Zapier, emails it directly to the client. Beautiful. So that's something I'm really excited about. I can't, some people are scared to death about this whole AI thing, but I'm excited.

t think the world's going to [:

Richard James: Yeah, me too. Michael and I Michael has, forcefully dragged me into AI faster than I probably would have even though I'm fairly forward thinking and we use it in just over the last weekend when nobody was answering the phones, I think we scheduled two or three appointments that we never would have scheduled had it not been for AI.

And I'll dare say that I think if you're a small business owner now or a medium business, so it doesn't matter, if you own a business now. And you don't embrace the use of AI to save some hours in your team and to maximize conversion rates and all the things that it can do I think you're going to get behind the eight ball really fast, your competition, because they're going to be able to do things at a level that you're not going to be able to do.

than you think you can. And [:

Now, do you have to be the one doing it? No, you happen to like it. So I love that you do it. And I love that you've built a business that, can have the time to do it. But somebody in your firm has got to take charge of that. And somebody has got to start looking at it. In my opinion, it's probably a whole nother conversation for another time.

But I agree with you. I think AI is very exciting.

MPS: It sure is and yes, we could not only can it be a whole other conversation It could probably be a seven day boot camp and we still wouldn't touch enough of it.

So yes But Jeff look we appreciate it. Thank you for just the different insights is this was a great episode I really liked Going through failure because it's something that many attorneys have a negative mindset toward, and it doesn't have to be, there is other ways to view that and change the perspective.

rm you're on. If you enjoyed [:

So if you've got value and this isn't your first time listening or watching. Make sure you hit that subscribe or follow button depending on where you're listening or watching and comment down below. Show Jeff some love. Let us know if you got any questions. Jeff did awesome today. It was a pleasure having him.

So just make sure to show a little bit of love over there. But Jeff, thank you. Thank you again.

Jeff Kelly: All right. Thank you guys.

Richard James: All right. So Jeff, for those dedicated hardcore, I'm going to go with a PS after Michael's close. So they'd have to listen to all the way to the end, right? So now PS, Jeff Kelly, somebody sitting in their chair, car, whatever, on a run, listening to this podcast. And they were hearing you and they're looking for that one nugget.

And they're trying to figure out where do I start first? If you're going to start them in one place to start working on building these systems in their firm, where do you point them?

The very first place I think [:

And it was like, oh my gosh, how am I still in business? How have we made it with this person? I can't believe it. So the first impression of your law firm is the phones. It's the first place to focus on. And it, one little tweak can make a huge improvement in your appointments, which means then the number of cases, which means in the revenue, and it just like one domino after another, that's just good for you.

or sharing your time with us [:

Thanks again for sharing today. I appreciate you give my best to Barbie.

Jeff Kelly: All right. Thank you. Y'all have a good one.

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