Episode 60

Published on:

13th Jun 2024

How Non-Attorney James Hansen is Revolutionizing Law Firm Ownership | YPM Podcast

This episode is pure entrepreneurial gold! Discover how James Hansen went from insurance agent to thriving law firm owner. James shares hard-earned lessons on using data to grow, building a winning culture, and the power of servant leadership. Plus, a peek at the future of law firm ownership. If you own a firm or want to, this is a must-listen!

Our channel offers expert advice on law firms, entrepreneurship, and success strategies. Hit "Like" and subscribe to stay updated with our latest content.

Let’s Chat About Growing Your Law Firm. 


James Hansen: [:

like if they feel that they got value, It matters what happens, but it doesn't matter as much at the end of the case. Because if they look back and say, did I get more value by the way I was treated and how I was treated versus the money I paid? Well then yes, I'm a raving fan. Yes, I'm a write a review.

Yes, I'm going to refer people to you later on.

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

Richard James: And I'm Richard James. MPS, I'm so excited you're back. One of the last episodes I recorded, unfortunately, you were broken down on the side of the road and couldn't get in time for the episode. So, I recorded it without you. So now, they're going to get to hear you again. Welcome back, my friend.

y overheated engine will get [:

Richard James: Time for a new car. I know you're cheap, you still have your confirmation money but time for a new car.

MPS: Tax code.

so, Hey, Michael, I'm super excited today about the conversation we're going to have, not only because we're going to be talking to a law firm owner. But we're going to be talking to somebody that was an entrepreneur long before they owned a law firm, right?

Richard James: And they make the best law firm business owners. Because they understand the moving, that doesn't make them the best lawyer. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about being the best law firm owner of understanding all the metrics that is necessary. And so we're here with James Hanson today. And James really leverage the opportunity that Arizona presented and James, I'm excited to have that conversation with you today. Thanks for being with us.

James Hansen: Awesome, yeah. Happy to help anyone who's listening and happy to be with you guys.

Richard James: Great.

MPS: James, like to break the ice a little bit. What is something that not everybody knows about you?

ng not too long ago, Arizona [:

Richard James: You go up to Prescott or flat flag or where do you go?

James Hansen: Yeah. So the last couple of times, I've done it, is in the Santan Mountains.

Richard James: Oh, you have, okay.

James Hansen: Yeah.

Richard James: Yeah. What is that one call back there? Is it diamond back or diamond head or something?

I don't

James Hansen: So you have, yeah, dynamite, dynamite, goldmine.

Richard James: Yeah, we lived not far from there. We lived all the way down on rigs in Higley in Seville. And so, we would go back there on a regular basis. Maria and I would hike it and it depended on the day, whether she was happy about it or not but we did it.

I always saw dudes like you riding your bike on these trails, thinking to myself, oh my gosh, I'm such a whoosh. You know what I mean? Here I am struggling to walk up the thing and you're riding your bike, passing me at 20 miles an hour or 15 miles an hour, whatever it is. It's fun to watch you guys do that and realize that I don't have that in me.

g able to, did you tackle it [:

James Hansen: Yeah, a neighbor of mine had been going for several years and so, he invited me to go one time and I fell in love with that. I love the, life application of mountain biking is like, if you want to have fun and hit some cool downhill, like, you got to work for it and it takes work to pedal and grind uphill. But then the downhill is so fun.

Richard James: That is a wonderful grit life lesson. I love it.

MPS: Yes, very well put. I remember the one time my father in law, he walks into the house because he likes to mountain bike too and he lives in Arizona as well. He walks into the house and I hear, ah, ah, and then, I hear the dogs run to him. He walks in, just blood is gushing everywhere. And he just gashed open, got flipped off the bike into a rock and just bam!

And I was like, yeah, I don't know. Mountain biking is really for me. That doesn't look very fun.

James Hansen: Yeah.


more unique approach to how [:

James Hansen: Yeah. How I got into my entrepreneurial journey is, I think I, struggle with working for people or for organizations. And so, really early in my life, I realized that I was unemployable. The first couple jobs I had in my early 20s, got fired from them. And which ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.

So, I started doing from the from anywhere. I don't remember the age 8 to 10. I started doing paper routes and I did paper routes all the way up until I was 19. And then I started working for a bank when I was 21. And got fired from that job and that led me into an insurance.

working with law firms is, in:

So I emailed the wife of one of my insurance agents who built the website for free and it was nothing special. And a couple of weeks later, I had people walk in my front door asking me to get a quote through the AARP Hartford Product. And I was just, I was so confused as to why this happened.

And so someone's like talking to this person, I walk up to the front desk. I'm like, what's going on? Yeah, we want a quote from AARP. I'm like, I don't understand, I buy leads. I spend a ton of money to buy leads and my guys are like on the phones calling people all day long. No one has ever walked in my front door in my eight years of doing insurance.

Like, how does this happen? Like, Oh, we Googled it. Mike, what do you mean you Googled it? And so that led me down, that led me to really understand what digital marketing SEO was. And started kind of sort of really focusing on that in terms of, I control what the internet says about me. What Google says about me, I sold my insurance agency and had just started helping people.

ts there. This is during the [:

And so, he was the transactional guy behind the desk doing the work. And so, he went to breakfast one day and he asked me, Hey, can you do this for me? I was like, sure but you have to focus to one practice area at the time. He's doing any type of case he can get. And he's like, okay, yeah, let's do PI. And I said, everybody wants to do PI let's do something else. And so he asked me, he's like, well, what do you recommend? And I had done some keyword research and I said, family law is pretty not that competitive. Online, you can probably make a splash pretty quickly.

So we did that, I built him a website. And after a couple of months, he was killing it for keywords and so I, stopped by his office or called him, I don't remember which, and I said, Hey, Kevin, you should be killing it. Like, you're ranking on the top of Google for divorce attorney, Mesa, Arizona, second largest city in Arizona.

James. I don't have any more [:

Richard James: Wow. What a journey, right? So you knew, I think I had this conversation with somebody else the other day that entrepreneurs are born, not made. I think, we just have it inside of us, we just know that we can't work for anybody else and we want to go out there and kill it and drag it in. We don't want to do it for just a small piece of the pie. We want to be able to determine who gets the pie and we divvy it out. And so, that's I think an internal thing.

Would you agree with that? It's kind of You were born this way?

and you can't solve problems [:

you talked about was, in the:

It worked magnanimously well, right? It worked, It magnified what everybody else did by a multiple. It's a little bit more competitive these days. But back then, it was a lot easier than it is today. Agreed?

James Hansen: Yeah, looking back on it, it was definitely a lot easier. I would say like, in that moment, it was difficult. Because you're learning something completely new. And so it took a lot of time from a time perspective, it probably took as much time then as it takes today. Looking back on it, you're like, Oh, that was so easy.

e that. But in that moment in:

look, when I cut my teeth in:

your clients weren't selling [:

built the firm in Phoenix in:

And we could tell you what was working and what wasn't working because we were tracking. And so, did you learn the tracking because you own the marketing agency, or did you learn it because of your own business experience? And I guess the real question is, is, how important is tracking for all the law firm owners that are out there, that fundamental, foundational truth about tracking their leads?

James Hansen: Yeah. So where I learned tracking, I don't know specifically where. I just I knew, I wanted to know where my money was going. I want to know where my time or money was going. I needed to know where I could dump more money into. And so, to your point about tracking right now is so easy to do.

lly mining the data from the [:

Look at that data and then help you understand what to do with that data versus before. Yeah, it was super easy. You can just, pull it out but now there's so many channels where ads or leads are coming from. It's a lot of work to go through that data and mine out what's working and what's not working.

Richard James: Yeah, it's a new position in the world today for small business. That role, whether it's an agency role they can do it. There's not as many of them that do it really well but some of them do it. Well, or That individual in person that's in the office. I remember, when I, built the firm of Phoenix, while I understood how to digest the data.

the data. And they had a guy [:

And this was before the cool programs they have today and graphically and things like that, that you can measure things with. But agree with you that, having somebody can put it together and then having somebody who can educate you on to diagnose what that data is telling you. So you can determine what's working and what's not working.

But, it starts with a decision to make sure you're tracking everything. And as the business owner, that's the first step. Would you agree with that?

James Hansen: Yeah, totally. You need to understand that I need to do it. And why am I putting tracking on? What is this going to help me do? And I think if they can understand the why, then they're like, Oh, sure let's get that done. But even then, with the why it helps them figure out, understand later on 3 steps, 10 steps later of what, I can do with this data now that I'm tracking it.

Richard James: Cool. MPS, where are we going from here?

irm. What would you say was, [:

James Hansen: There's not a week goes by. There's not a low moment.

Richard James: That's a lesson of itself.

MPS: Yep.

James Hansen: know, So right now, we have this week, we got 2 offers accepted for 2 new attorney positions. So we'll have 21 attorneys at the firm. And we primarily do 93% of our revenue is family law. So we do a lot of complicated divorces, business owner, high asset divorces. That's what we specialize in Arizona.

The lowest moments that I've had as a law firm owner is, my team quitting or getting offers. like, I remember, this is like 9 months into having the alternative business structure. When we first started our first 2 hires, so my business partner, Kevin's been practicing for 20 plus years.

r, they both quit on us. And [:

Family law sucks. We're out of here. We can't. It's too emotional. It's too difficult. And so, they each have like 40 or 50 cases and they're not taking them with them. So guess who gets those cases is my partner. So now not only does he have all of his cases. and he, practices exclusively and so then he gets these cases too.

And at that point I was so low. Cause I'm, I didn't know what to do. Cause I thought I had done everything. I thought I had given them the cases. I thought I had tried to create a culture. I thought I was paying them well. And at that point, I realized that I hadn't been doing a good job of marketing. Just like you're always marketing for new cases as a law firm owner, you have to be marketing for new positions. And the conversion of that is exactly the same as it is for leads. If you want new opportunities, new consultations and you want to grow your firm, you have to build that funnel out and you have to build these same hiring funnel out for new team members. Because if you keep growing, you need new team members but you're also going to have some attrition too.

lized two things. First, you [:

So yes, they cost more money but we actually generate a lot more money from them and we generate that money a lot quicker. So those are the two lessons that I've learned that were low moments. That actually turned into be great opportunity, learning opportunities later on.

y recruiting and they didn't [:

They probably feel like crap right now because they're wondering where do they go from here? Now, they've dealt with adversity in their life and they've got to pick themselves up and figure out how to go forward. But that lesson that you just gave them hopefully short circuited the lesson they needed to learn on their own.

Which is, if you're going to grow a law firm, you're in a service based business. You have to have humans, at least for now, until there are robots and AI that can do a lot for us. And that's not any time soon. So we need humans to do the labor, to do the service, to provide the service to the client. And which means, if you grow and you grow more money on the sales side and the front side, that's great.

understand there's an entire [:

And we, as leaders have to get better. That's part of the job. I was a lousy leader 20 years ago. I got the job done through brute force but it wasn't the best way to lead. I'm a much better leader today because I've invested in becoming a better leader. And I'm guessing that little down spell for you, James, has made you a better leader too, is that correct?

James Hansen: A hundred percent, it makes you really look in. You have to understand where you're going and what you want to do. So, you can do a lot of good marketing and you can build out some great ads and you can get some good quality potential clients. And you can sign them up and you can service those clients.

legal service is not doesn't [:

it's that exact same thing with your team. Like, you can say that you have a great team to try to recruit new team members, new attorneys, new legal staff. But eventually when they joined the team and they find out that the marketing, what you told them you were going to have internally, isn't what it is internally, then that's when you lose them. And so just like you have to have a great legal service. And when I say great legal service, it's not the outcome. Attorneys think that, what makes good legal service is the judgment at the end. What happens at the end of a case, what it really is, is how the client felt all along the way.

, I'm a raving fan. Yes, I'm [:

And for me, that's been the biggest lesson that I've learned recently is, if you want to grow um, your law firm, you have to build an awesome culture and you have to have all of the things put in place. And I'm still learning a lot. Like, I'm not perfect. I mean, There's someone on my team may be listening to this right now and say, well, you know, this isn't aligned with what you're saying, with what you're doing. But we work on it.

We spend a lot of money. We spend a lot of time we reflect a lot on having one of the best cultures. For example, I got a call last Thursday from one of my attorneys, one of my, he was actually, so when these two, in the story I told earlier about these two attorneys quitting. I had done a phone interview with an attorney and he turned me down because I couldn't, I didn't offer him as much money as he wanted.

o are the old leads I can go [:

And so he calls me, says, Hey, James. I just, people go to church with like, they own a firm and they offer me this position. It's going to pay 150 grand more a year than what I'm getting paid at Genesis. He's like, I love working at Genesis, I don't want to leave, can we make something work? And at the end of the day, like I didn't have to come up, like, I gave him a fraction more than what he could get somewhere else.

Because he knows the environment that he's in, is one that he can flourish in and that he can grow in and that he loves to be in. And he gave me the opportunity instead of just going somewhere else. And I think people, for the most part, your team members, for the most part, if you have a great culture, they won't leave you just because of money.

enough experience out there, [:

MPS: And I'm curious. So talked a lot about culture there. What is maybe one thing, practically speaking, that a firm could do to improve their culture?

James Hansen: What Rich said is like, you have to be the leader that they want. like, It all starts with you. It starts and ends with you. Do you follow through on the things that you say that you're going to do? Are you leading by example? Are you giving by example? If you want your team to give, are you giving to them more than you're taking?

If you expect them to give more than they take, are you doing that? And I think, so it comes down to, there's a really good simple book I recommend everyone. It is called, The Motive. I forget the name of the author. but like,

Richard James: Lencioni.

ally, at the end of the day, [:

It starts with the leader, having the mindset of service. And if you're there to serve the team that trickles down and that's where it begins. Instead of, if the team is there to serve me and so I don't have to come into 11 o'clock, I don't have to come in until 10 o'clock, I leave whenever I want. And like, you do what I say, not as I do. I think that's where it starts.

Richard James: That's a great point. MPS, I don't know where you want to go but I have a burning question. I really want to,

MPS: Please. Please. So,

Richard James: James, the way, we have a Entrepreneurial Attorney of the Year contest and Jonathan Breeden was a finalist two years ago. And then he's a family attorney in North Carolina.

And his firm was growing pretty rapidly and all of a sudden, all of his team like quit almost all at once for various reasons. But a lot had to do with, he wasn't a great leader and he came to our winner's day where we Mastermind with him and he really, everybody there was like, okay, Jonathan, it's time for you to invest in becoming a better leader.

And here's some [:

So that's the background of the story that sets up my question. I noticed after 15 years of doing this with lawyers. They struggle to realize this truth sooner than other business owners do. You own a law firm as a non attorney under the Arizona structure that allows you to do that. And my question to you is, it's a two part question.

in the middle of to work on [:

James Hansen: Yeah, okay. do think that it has helped me because I'm not in the trenches. because I have a different vantage point, I care about the client experience I define that differently in my head than attorneys define client experience. And so I think, yes, absolutely, it has helped me for sure.

And there's some, I think one of John Maxwell's The 5 Levels of Leadership, I think level two is like experience, like you've done, you've proven yourself. And I think that's helped me, as my team has grown, they've seen the success formula we're using is working and I'm super upfront when I interviewed an attorney, like, Hey, listen, I'm a community college dropout. Like, you're going to be okay with that. You're going to get emails from me and things are going to be misspelled. I'm sorry, I use software but sometimes like on my phone, it doesn't work.

r part of your question was, [:

Richard James: Yeah. No, it's just, okay. So you have 21 attorneys working with you right now, congratulations. And my condolences all at the same time. I I, you know, we have

James Hansen: They're awesome.

Richard James: They're awesome. We have hundreds of them in our world too. They're awesome too. The ones who aren't as awesome, aren't as awesome. Let's leave it at that. The ones who are awesome are fantastic. The question I have for you is, knowing what you know about working kneecap to kneecap with attorneys. And you probably don't work with a lot of them that see themselves as business owners. That's why they're working for you.

They see themselves as great attorneys and that's great. But what advice would you give them to get out of their own way to become a better leader? If they didn't have this experience you had, what could they do?

James Hansen: Yeah,

I I think they need to have a lot of self awareness. And I think, that's one thing that I think attorneys in general struggle with, is the self awareness. Understanding that they don't have to be perfect. And I think because in the client representation, I think it's difficult to say you made a mistake, right?

ur firm, you may not want to [:

I think that's what, you need to have. so I, What I would say with attorneys, if you do want to grow your practices, you have to understand what are your weaknesses. If you say you want this and you're here, what is like, being really self honest with yourself? And then saying, can I do that? Can I go gain the skills, the education to build my firm? Or do I need to outsource that? Do I need to partner with someone? Do I need to find someone who has those skills? And I think that's where it starts is, either you have to do it? Or you have to find someone that you can partner with to do that?

Richard James: and I know Michael might have a question, he wants to wrap this with. But you are a representation of where law is headed. The non attorney ownership model is coming and for those attorneys who own a law firm out there who are in a state that don't have to face this yet.

business acumen and business [:

Now is the time, because at some point in the future and nobody knows when, but at some point in the future, it's going to happen. Non attorney ownership is going to be allowed and people like, James, who have great vision, have lots of background understanding of business, have a pure heart for the customer journey, are going to come in and are going to dominate in your market.

So James, congratulations to you. I love the story that you've shared with us. And I loved the knowledge that you've given. MPS, I don't want to take it away from you. I know you have another question you want to ask before we go.

MPS: Yeah, just what's got you fired up and excited today, James? Could be personal, could be business, could be both.

, it can help the legal team [:

Richard James: It's an exciting and scary time for as fast as AI is moving. All three of us could spend, every day, Michael sends me a new text just about, did you see this? This is happening and it's exciting and it's disruptive. And for those who aren't prepared, it's going to be a real threat. But for the prepared, it's going to be opportunity.

And so I, believe, James, for you, it's going to be opportunity. So I'm excited to watch what you're going to be able to do with that. And I, just want to say thank you for sharing your time with us today and the time with those that were listening, Michael, you want to wrap us up?

w button and turn those bell [:

James Hansen: Love it, thanks.

Richard James: That's the pod.

Show artwork for Your Practice Mastered

About the Podcast

Your Practice Mastered
Are you ready to take your law firm to the next level?
Tune into The Your Practice Mastered Podcast where we talk about specific problems for law firm owners as they grow their firms. A show that will allow you to learn how to build a law firm that supports a lifestyle that gives you personal and financial freedom. New Episode every Thursday 8PM EST.