When faced with a complex legal challenge, businesses search for law firms that can provide specialized solutions to their problems. By branding your law firm as a “jack of all trades,” you risk having potential clients lump your sophisticated law practice with other competitors.
What does that mean? You’ve just lost new business because you didn’t stand out. Casting a wide net can help expand your target audience, but it can also prevent you from being memorable in an extremely competitive market. Niching is a way to demonstrate to prospective clients that your team is uniquely qualified to represent them.
In this episode of Spill the Ink, Michelle Calcote King sits down with Robert Ingalls, the Founder of LawPods, to discuss the value of being niche-focused and how podcasting can be used to a firm’s advantage.
They discuss the process and strategy behind an excellent legal podcast, the value-add podcasting provides firms, and why defining and owning a niche area is a key to success — in both the legal business and podcasting world. Also, hear about how Robert took his years of experience as a litigation attorney and combined it with a passion for podcasting to start the company Lawpods.
Here's a glimpse of what you'll learn
- What is the value of starting a legal podcast?
- How does podcasting work?
- How does niching help law firms differentiate themselves from their competitors?
- How can firms define a niche and use it to boost a podcast?
About our featured guest
Robert Ingalls is a recovering attorney, professional speaker and the founder of LawPods, one of the first podcast production agencies for law firms. At LawPods, Robert and his team help some of the premier law firms in the world launch and grow branded podcasts that build relationships and drive revenue.
Robert’s path to podcast producer for the Am Law 100 was anything but direct. For years, he battled anxiety from the pressure, long hours and constant conflict of a litigation career. When he was finally ready to throw in the towel, he had no idea what to do next.
With no business or marketing background and only a love for podcasts he discovered while creating a podcast for his law firm, Robert decided to see if lawyers would pay him to help them launch podcasts. With very few takers in the early days, Robert spent two years in a corporate banking gig, grinding nights and weekends to finally bring LawPods to life.
As a speaker, Robot frequently speaks on topics including positioning your law firm podcast for success, prioritizing mental health, entrepreneurship and law office technology. In his spare time, he enjoys teaching podcasting at community events, spending time with his wife and daughters, skateboarding and snowboarding.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Sponsor for this episode
This episode is brought to you by Reputation Ink.
Founded by Michelle Calcote King, Reputation Ink is a public relations and content marketing agency that serves professional services firms of all shapes and sizes across the United States, including corporate law firms and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms.
Reputation Ink understands how sophisticated corporate buyers find and select professional services firms. For more than a decade, they have helped firms grow through thought leadership-fueled strategies, including public relations, content marketing, video marketing, social media, podcasting, marketing strategy services and more.
To learn more visit www.rep-ink.com or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Robert Ingalls [00:00] For most lawyers, you’re sitting down and your job is to help someone else understand the answer to their question and make them feel better. Make them say, “I’ve been here. We’ve been here. You’re in safe hands. This is the place to come because we understand exactly what you’re going through.
[MUSIC AND INTRODUCTION] [00:20]
Michelle Calcote King [00:38] Hi everyone! I’m Michelle Calcote King, your host, and the Principal and President of Reputation Ink. We’re a public relations and content marketing agency for law firms and professional services firms. To learn more about us go to www.rep-ink.com.
When a business is facing a complex challenge, they do what we all do: head to Google to start researching solutions. What inevitably happens is hundreds of search results come up. While casting a wide net is great for getting the attention of a broad target audience, niche marketing can offer a greater competitive advantage in highly saturated markets. And for the sake of today’s conversation, we’re talking about law firms, but this applies to other industries and professional services firms as well.
My guest today is Robert Ingalls. He's a strong believer that a key part of your firm’s branding and marketing strategy needs to be niche-focused. And I have to say that I strongly agree, but we’ll get into that.
We’re also going to talk to Robert about his transition. He made the transition from his career as a litigation attorney, and then in 2017 he decided to change gears and use that expertise to found the company LawPods.
As a new-ish podcaster, I’m really excited to talk to you about podcasting and that strategy and how it works for law firms. Robert, thanks for being on the show with me..
Robert Ingalls [2:03] Hey, Michelle. Thanks so much for having me. Any time that somebody puts a microphone in my face and lets me talk, it’s a good day for me.
Michelle Calcote King [2:09] Love it. Let’s start with what LawPods is. Tell me about your journey to starting that.
Robert Ingalls [2:16] Oh, that’s a big question. I was a litigation attorney. I initially went to law school probably because I wasn't sure I wanted to be a big kid yet. But, I’d also had a kind of a lifelong affair with just the pursuit of justice. I always found it very entertaining and certainly romanticized it. The idea of helping people was really exciting to me. So, I went to law school and became a criminal defense attorney. That was always the path. Once I got there and I started practicing, I found out very quickly that it wasn’t for me; that I am not built for that type of work. You know, people say attorneys have to compartmentalize. I don’t have it. It’s just not a muscle that I have, and it’s not one that honestly I think I care to develop. I take my whole self with me everywhere I go and that was really hard for me because the types of things I was doing every day — while completely ethical and the right thing and my job — they made me feel bad. I did not like what I was having to do and the way it made me feel. It was incompatible with good mental health for me and I discovered that pretty early. From there, I jumped into kind of general litigation, but also kind of jumped into what lawyers will call “Door practice.” You know, whatever comes in the door. And that was not great. Jack of all trades, master of none. I think we’re probably going to get into that later in the conversation, but I was stressed out all the time, overworked, very anxious. I didn’t have a word for it at the time because, you know, the idea of having mental health problems was, “No.”
Michelle Calcote King [4:15] Well and I’m sure it wasn’t in the lexicon as much back then as well.
Robert Ingalls [4:19] Not at all. The type of area I came from growing up, it wasn’t something that you admitted to either. It was a weakness. So, I’d never thought much about it and I thought this is just what life is. This is how life feels. Then, my wife came to me after we got married and kind of hit me with, “I want to have a baby. Like, now.” And up until that moment, that was tomorrow guy’s problem. All of a sudden it was like, someone might live here next year. That really caused me in that moment, and over the next couple of weeks, take stock of my life. And I said, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be this person who is stressed and anxious and was overwhelmed all the time. So, I started on a path of personal development, which I’d never been into before. That path of reading books in personal development led me to a podcast. The second podcast I listened to, just kind of, a light bulb went off for me.
Michelle Calcote King [5:30] What podcast was that?
Robert Ingalls [05:31] It’s different now, but it was called “Awesome Office.” It was a great podcast and it was about office culture, and I was running an office at the time so I was like, “Let me learn about this.” The guest was a guy named Tom Bilyeu, the founder of Quest Nutrition. He’s now gone on to found “Impact Theory,” a very good podcast about personal development.
And we’ve all heard this so many times in our lives that it’s: try. You can be anything you want; you can do anything you want. It was the first time I’d heard it because that was the thrust of the message: you don’t have to do what you’re doing. You can stop it now and do something else. I just heard it. “I think I can be anything I want. I don’t have to keep doing this.” That just gave me license in that moment to get out of that tunnel vision I had and explore. I think I told you before we got on that 30 days after I listened to my first podcast, I bought this microphone. The medium resonated so deeply with me that two people could sit down and have a conversation a world apart and it could be valuable to me.
Michelle Calcote King [6:41] How cool that you’re doing that.
Robert Ingalls [6:44] Yeah. Like, somebody right now is listening to this podcast probably two years from today when we recorded it and they’re gonna, hopefully, get value from it because we took the time here to sit down, have this conversation, put it out where people could hear it. And then it’s kind of got that evergreen status where people can continue to interact with it. So, that’s the short story of how I got where I am.
Michelle Calcote King [7:06] So much of what you just said resonates. I often tell clients that marketing allows you to take control of your firm in terms of creating a brand to attract the kinds of clients you want, you know? And I don’t think a lot of lawyers have thought through that. I’ll give you an example. A lawyer will often tell me, “Oh, well, all our business comes from referrals. We don’t get it.” And I’ll say, “Well, you’ve never done marketing. Of course all your business has come from referrals.” Until you start engaging in that and defining an ideal client and ideal business and then marketing for it, you don't understand the power that that has to really create the kind of practice that you want. Marketing is critical to that. So, I love how you said that.
Also, podcasting for me has been such a value-add as well. I've enjoyed every minute of it. And it's not just from the content creation; it's the relationships you build. Have you found that as well?
Robert Ingalls [8:05] Yes. When I first started, that was the biggest thing that was unanticipated for me, but for my clients as well. They overwhelmingly say the network effect of the podcast has been one of the most valuable things that they didn't even come in seeing as a potential ROI. And they’re having conversations with people like we’re having right now. We’re getting to know each other in real-time right now. They’re having these conversations with people they otherwise might not be having conversations with or connecting with. Those people turn into, potentially, referral sources; potentially clients, potentially friends, and certainly a member of your network, which there’s always value in that.
Then the relationships you make from the listeners that you connect with, people listen, they start to follow you, they start to reach out to you, you start to connect with them. I have become a guest on numerous shows that I started out as a listener, and I was like, “This is really good information.” And then I started to think, “I think I have something of value to add to this conversation.” Now I'm a guest on the show; now I'm developing relationships; now I have referral agreements with some of these people. It all starts from this beautiful medium that we're engaging in right now. That's why I went all in. That's why when I left my career, I started building this company. You know, I took a corporate America job just to pay for the kids I now have and started building the company. It was early, but I believed in it. I saw how powerful it was in all of these things we’re talking about. And I think the market is kind of proving me out here because every year we see that staircase go up.
Michelle Calcote King [9:57] Yeah. And COVID, I would say, probably definitely helped. I hesitated getting into podcasting because I thought I don't have more to share than what's already out there. There's all these sort of legal marketing and PR podcasts so I thought I'm not going to add anything new was what I hesitated. Then I talked to a consultant at a company that manages podcasts and produces podcasts for companies and he talked me through the networking value; and to view it as a networking tool.
Sorry, my dog is walking around in the background.
Robert Ingalls [10:35] I love it.
Michelle Calcote King [10:36] She’s my velcro dog so I can’t push her out while I do this.
But, you know, he really coached me around thinking about it as a networking tool first and foremost. Once I did that and shifted that, I’m still producing great content, but I’m making connections in a way that is really simple but has a lot of added value. That was kind of a lightbulb moment for me.
When you talk to law firms — we’ve kind of just covered it — but, do you give them any other reasons about “Why a podcast?” As we know working with lawyers, they’re busy people and they’ve got billable hours to meet. Talk me through the value proposition that you give them.
Robert Ingalls [11:27] The first one that we usually discuss is when people are showing up on your website, they have questions. For a lot of my clients — I have a lot of trial lawyers — when people show up on their website, something bad happened to them or someone they care about. And they're there not to learn about you, per se. You're not the hero of their story.
Michelle Calcote King [11:51] Right
Robert Ingalls [11:52] They're there to get answers.
Michelle Calcote King [11:54] About their problem. Absolutely.
Robert Ingalls [11:55] Right. That's why we're making all of the content we've been making. That's why SEO companies will never go out of business for at least…until they figure out how to beam stuff into our brain, I guess. We're creating content to answer questions and that is usually, depending on the type of law firm, that is usually the first thing we're thinking about: is they ask, you answer. Now let's answer in a way that could perhaps provide more value. Because we write all of this content. It’s very good. It's helping drive people to our site, but people don't love to sit and read content. And videos are good; I like videos a lot. I think that there's a very good place for them, but audio has exploded, I believe, because it does something that no other form of marketing can do: it sells you time. It doesn't say stop and read. It doesn't say look over here and watch. It says, “What are you about to do? I'll come with you.” You can learn, be entertained, and gather information — and on your own schedule, from your own app. You don't have to sit on my website and use the rudimentary players that a browser allows you. You can tap one button, leave the website, go to your podcast player, to my show where everything you could ever want to know about your problem lives.
Michelle Calcote King [13:17] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [13:18] So, you have another problem, then just scroll through your feed. That is also something. And I know they have that problem because I've been in thousands of consultations. I've heard every possible angle of a question asked to me. I've also worked on my SEO. So I know what people are typing before they land on my site. I know what they're typing before they land on my competitor sites; I know what they want to know. And so I'm creating content that when someone does land on my website, that will nurture them, that will cause them to get that know-like trust that we want. That is going to get past that friction point of getting them to pick up the phone.
Michelle Calcote King [13:55] Yeah. I love how you say that, that, you know, we're producing a piece of content that is giving time, that's respecting how busy people are and how they like to consume information. But what I found, too, about podcasting, is it's an easier medium for the creator as well. Do you find that? And is that part of how you coach law firms?
Robert Ingalls [14:17] One hundred percent because that is one of the biggest objections we get is, “Because I don't have time for a podcast.” And it's one of those things — I've told this story in presentations — I had a call with a law firm owner and they were in a very niche area. And he had two objections. One was, “I don't have time.” Two was “My niche is saturated. People are already doing it.” And so perhaps. Both of these things could be true, sure. Maybe. In theory. So, I did a little research after the call and went on to his website. He was creating a lot of articles and writing a lot of blogs, also creating a lot of YouTube content. You know, a lot of it was just like, “Look at all these books.” But still, that takes time and energy to create.
Michelle Calcote King [15:17] Absolutely.
Robert Ingalls [15:18] And then when you look at the saturation point, there were two other podcasts in his niche. It was super —
“Niche,” “niche.” I never know where to go with that. I will fluctuate as this conversation
Michelle Calcote King [15:31] Yeah, I do the same.
Robert Ingalls [15:33] And that was saturation to him. For me, the idea that someone else is already doing a podcast about my practice area and that means I shouldn't do one? That blows my mind because I see that the same way as somebody saying, “Well, they already have a website. Why would I have a website?”
Michelle Calcote King [15:56] Ah, yeah.
Robert Ingalls [15:57] Why would you want someone educating your prospects on their podcast? You think they're gonna listen to their podcast and then call you? No! They developed a relationship with that firm now. And I think some people think about their podcast as kind of like Joe Rogan, as well. “I'm gonna make a podcast about something somebody will want to listen to while they're mowing the grass on Saturday.” That's not the reality for a lot of people and I don't think it's the angle you should be pursuing. You are speaking to a specific problem, usually. That's usually what you're trying to do, you're talking about something that people want to know about. They don't really want to be entertained. There are a lot of really good entertainers out there. And if you're that good, that your law firm podcasts can be entertaining, it’s time to switch areas. It's time to go into entertainment. So the idea that somebody else is already doing it, I shouldn't do it is…I think that's misguided.
Michelle Calcote King [16:50] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [16:51] And…I'm trying to remember the other; I had a number two…
Michelle Calcote King [16:56] We’re talking about how easy they are to give time to compared to…
Robert Ingalls [16:59] Oh, the time commitment!
Michelle Calcote King [17:00] Yeah, exactly.
Robert Ingalls [17:01] Thanks for throwing me a life raft there.
Michelle Calcote King [17:02] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [17:03] And then the time commitment, I think you hit on it, is it ends up being significantly smaller than any other type of content creation. Especially if you're working with a team, your job really is to sit down in front of the microphone. It's a USB microphone that you just plug into your computer, it's not a lot of fancy gear anymore. This stuff is streamlined. You sit down. You have a conversation. You walk away. That's it. Most lawyers that have a podcast, that's the extent of their involvement in the podcast, because you're not sitting down creating content that is unique, really. For the most part, you're not sitting down and creating NPR content that has to go from here to here and create a unique and compelling, hooking story. You're creating content about things you are already the expert in. You're talking about things you know about. Like, when you got me on this call, I didn't have any expectations. I didn't prepare for this. We're having a conversation about something I understand deeply.
Michelle Calcote King [18:07] Exactly. Why would you do an interview about something that you don't know well enough to just speak casually about?
Robert Ingalls [18:14] Yeah, sure. Depending on the type of content you’re making, sure. But for most lawyers, you’re sitting down and your job is to help someone else understand the answer to their question and make them feel better. Make them say, “I’ve been here. We’ve been here. You’re in safe hands. This is the place to come because we understand exactly what you’re going through. It’s a tough position that you’re in. We’ve done it before. Here are some of our clients that have been through it.” Just getting them to that point. And they feel comfortable with you. The amount of time that takes is infinitely smaller than trying to sit down and put 1,500 words on a page.
Michelle Calcote King [18:57] Hmm. Absolutely.
Robert Ingalls [19:00] People try to get dressed up and take a thousand cuts for a video you want to put on Youtube.
Michelle Calcote King [19:06] We are a content creation firm and PR firm for law firms. When you’re producing written content, the amount of, you know, editing by committee that lawyers will do — you know, lawyers are word people so the tinkering of words…
Robert Ingalls [19:27] Tinker, tinker.
Michelle Calcote King [19:28] Yeah, the debate over oxford commas.
Robert Ingalls [19:30] Ha! I have bigger things.
Michelle Calcote King [19:33] Yeah, well, they all do. So, whereas podcasting takes that away. It takes away that whole process of that tinkering with the words and the back and forth. And I liked what you said about entertaining. I’ve always had a bit of a dislike for podcasts where they don’t jump into the meat of the conversation and there’s this banter and I’m thinking, “I’m not getting any value.” Because when I go into a business podcast, I want value. I want to learn something very quickly. So I’ve always stayed away from that myself as a podcaster. I don’t have a co-host that I sit there and chit-chat about the weather with. I get into it immediately.
Do you advise your attorneys similarly? It sounds like you do with the, “We’re not trying to compete with Joe Rogan.”
Robert Ingalls [20:27] Right. One hundred percent. But I also do balance that with bringing yourself to the podcast. But I don’t think that bringing yourself necessarily means a lot of chitchat, especially in the beginning. I think it means weaving stories in there that humanize you. That let them know…like, you’re not talking at them. You’re talking with them. And you can very much mention that you had a terrible golf outing on Saturday.
Michelle Calcote King [20:56] Right, right.
Robert Ingalls [20:57] Just weave in your life. And that’s very simple — well, simple is maybe the wrong word. But that comes naturally for a lot of lawyers. We are trained storytellers. Even for the ones of us that didn’t go into trial work. We still learn how to craft a narrative in our first year of law school. That was a big thing, persuasion. We learned how to communicate with other people. It’s just kind of natural communication. Just bring yourself out and tell some stories that make you a little bit more relatable.
Michelle Calcote King [21:28] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [21:29] But the chit-chat itself, the nonsense…that kind of stuff? I highly advise against it. And it’s one of those things where you know it when you hear it. Because I’ve listened to podcasts — somebody will say, “You should listen to this podcast,” — and the first five minutes, I don’t even know what the episode is going to be about.
Michelle Calcote King [21:47] Yes.
Robert Ingalls [21:48] And I’m sure that’s endearing for people who have developed a relationship with that show. And so maybe it’s the kind of show that that’s just how it is. It’s this one show that goes on for a really long time and people aren’t just showing up to get information. They’re showing up to feel like they know the host. Perfect. If that’s what your show is about, great. That is almost never what a show that I work with is going to be about right now because people show up to lawyers like they show up to plumbers. You don’t even think about them until you do.
Michelle Calcote King [22:24] Right, absolutely.
Robert Ingalls [22:25] Something happened. My house is flooded. What do I do?
Michelle Calcote King [22:30] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [22:31] That is how…. Plumbers shouldn’t be approaching their content with a lot of fluff. Water is rising; get to the point!
Michelle Calcote King [22:41] Right.
Robert Ingalls [22:43] And that’s how I think lawyers should be approaching their content.
Michelle Calcote King [22:46] When you talked about the extent of the lawyer's involvement is getting a microphone, plugging it in and having a conversation, tell me about the work that you do behind the scenes to make that happen. Are you assisting them with outreach and finding the right guests? Talk to me about that a little bit.
Robert Ingalls [23:08] Sure. To answer all of it, our commitment is you do the talking, we do the rest. And we learned that over years in business of “How do we make this…how do we lower the commitment as best we can while still delivering exceptional products?” And we discovered that really, lawyers are in a position to show up, talk, walk away, and we can do the rest. And so it starts with crafting the strategy for their show. We start on day one with “Who is our target listener?” A lot of podcasts that I start to work with that exist already, even at really big firms, have never answered that question.
Michelle Calcote King [23:53] Wow.
Robert Ingalls [23:54] I know!
And they just started talking about something they thought was interesting without thinking about who would listen. Who are we making this for? Because every time you make a content decision, it’s very arbitrary if you’re not making it with your listener in mind.
Michelle Calcote King [24:10] Absolutely.
Robert Ingalls [24:11] Our goals in mind. What’s our long-term goal? How does this become revenue? So that’s one of the first things we do is, “Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing it?” We work with a lot of PI (personal injury) firms. They’re not all created equal. And, you know, what areas are you focusing on?
Michelle Calcote King [24:26] Right.
Robert Ingalls [24:27] Some PI firms will have 50 different tabs as far as like we do medmal, we do car accidents, we do truck accidents…. And is there one of those that you’re doing the best with? Or is there one that you really want to hammer? If there’s one you really want to get into, that’s where you want to live.
Michelle Calcote King [24:48] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [24:49] Okay, perfect. Maybe that’s a good idea. Maybe we make content. We have a Utah attorney that we’re working with who does PI all over, but we have a truck accident podcast. That’s what our podcast is about: trucking accidents.
Michelle Calcote King [25:01] Love it.
Robert Ingalls [25:02] And so we want to think about that kind of stuff. What’s the strategy? Who is it? Because we have some attorneys that we work with who are much more interested in referrals. They handle catastrophic injuries.
Michelle Calcote King [25:14] Right.
Robert Ingalls [25:15] And they get almost all their work from other attorneys who took the case and said, “We need help with this.” So their podcast is created for attorneys. It is an educational tool that attorneys in their target referral market would want to listen to. It would be valuable for them. And then it’s branded by the firm, “Hey. While you’re here, if you have something going on like this, send it to us. We’d love to work with you.” So, their podcast is referrals. That’s the kind of conversation we have upfront. Just creating that strategy on why are we doing it? Who are we doing it for? Setting ourselves up for long-term success. And then from there, it goes, “We’re going to do voiceover intros and outros with professional voice actors so when people show up to your podcast it doesn’t sound like they recorded it in a wind tunnel.”
Michelle Calcote King [26:05] Mhm.
Robert Ingalls [26:06] It sounds professional because just like your website, when somebody shows up to any of your content and it’s bad, it reflects poorly on you. Podcasts are the same way. So, we want to make sure that when they first listen, it’s got a nice soundtrack. It’s got a good voice over. That your microphones are good. We’re going to ship you microphones to make sure that you’re getting good sound. You should be able to record in your office, at home, in Fiji, as long as you have a good wifi connection. And people really shouldn’t be able to hear the difference between the conversation we’re having right this second if you have the right microphone. But people will often buy the wrong microphone that they think is good. So, we solved that problem by shipping them a microphone.
Michelle Calcote King [26:49] Just doing it. I like it.
Robert Ingalls [26:50] Just doing it. It’s things we’ve learned along the way, it’s business ownership. And then, we set up a calendar for them, they find a time that works, they hop on, we’re on the call with them, we check their sound levels, check their guest levels, press record, they have a conversation while we’re in the background, and then they hang up and that’s it. We edit, audio engineer, cut the video up into a video podcast for Youtube that’s optimized with keywords. We write show notes, we post it to their blog, post it to Youtube, post it to Apple podcast, Spotify, everywhere podcasts go. We also cut it up into pieces of microcontent. Into little shot video clips on branded templates with captions that people will actually engage with on social media. And then post those things to their social accounts as well. So, it’s really getting that entire content marketing strategy from sitting down and talking for twenty minutes.
Michelle Calcote King [27:42] Love it. That trucking example was a perfect segue because I do want to talk to you about niche marketing. It’s what we initially planned but I’m so fascinated with podcasting right now. We started it last year and did it for about a year. I had to take a little bit of a break and I’m just getting back with it. But it was just such a great network builder and all these other benefits that you mentioned that I’m just a fan of the medium.
But! Let’s talk about niche marketing and where you think that falls in terms of strategy for law firms. How do you advise firms in terms of finding a niche? When I first started working with law firms, there was a joke about you know because branding law firms is the most difficult thing, the joke was this is just a bunch of professionals that the only thing they have in common is the shared HVAC system and the building that they're working in. As a brand person, you’re looking for what’s that unique value proposition and often these full service law firms really kind of form because of geography. They serve the geography, and as things have changed — obviously, COVID was a big shift but it was already happening with the internet — people are looking for exact experts in their exact problems.
So, how are you advising law firms with that?
Robert Ingalls [29:16] It’s something that comes up frequently and more so for us with medium sized firms. And that is a lot of times how they formed is people came together. They did this, they did this, well let’s just pool our resources. And then they became a firm. Like any other business, it is really difficult to establish yourself and scale when you do a lot of things, especially if you do those lots of things in lots of different ways.
And, you know, if you go to a networking event and you meet four different people. You meet one that does divorces for high-value men, that’s what they do. They introduce themselves, “I handle divorce proceedings for men that have significant resources.” And okay, that’s perfect. Then you meet another one who does estate planning. Okay, alright. Then you meet another one who does personal injury, some criminal defense, they’ll also do wills for you as well, but nothing too complicated. You know, it’s all these things. And then somebody comes in and they ask for something. If they come and ask me for estate planning, I’m not going to send them to that person because I don’t know what that person does — wills, but not too complicated. By doing all of those different things it can be really difficult to brand yourself.
Michelle Calcote King [30:36] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [30:37] And that doesn’t mean you can’t make a good living. I, having practiced for a long time, know a lot of attorneys that are making 80,000 to 150,000 practicing that kind of law. And for a lot of people, I think that that's a very good income, and they're very happy with it. I mean, most of those people I know work really, really hard to cover that — or maybe “hard” is the wrong word. They work a lot of hours.
Michelle Calcote King [31:00] Right.
Robert Ingalls [31:01] The potential to scale that is really difficult because it’s hard to systematize it.
Michelle Calcote King [31:09] Right. You’re not repeating processes. Yeah, it’s not only a great marketing strategy, it just makes your life easier is what I tell people.
Robert Ingalls [31:19] There’s an excellent book and this is focused on agencies, but the framework applies everywhere. It’s called “Built to Sell” and it’s about building a company in a way that it’s actually a business. Because if you leave your desk for a week as the owner of the company and things start to break, you don’t own a company.
Michelle Calcote King [31:42] Right. You’re a glorified freelancer.
Robert Ingalls [31:46] Yeah, you own a job because nothing continues to happen. And on my side, I think a lot about that. You know, my company is not huge yet, but I can disappear for days before anyone really would notice. And that's how it needs to be.
Michelle Calcote King [32:00] It’s a fabulous feeling, isn’t it? When you realize you’ve gotten there.
Robert Ingalls [32:03] Yeah. But I think any business owner needs that. You need systems and processes that are repeatable. That when something happens, everyone knows what to do. I read a book where he called it “fire killing.” So like your job as a business owner is not to be a fire killer. Your entire day becomes putting out fires for everyone. Everyone is at your door and it makes you feel important because everyone needs you and you’re busy. You’re so busy. And we feel like busy translates into value, which it definitely does not. By having the type of thing when you’re in a niche — and I think PI firms maybe, I work with a lot of them, but I feel like they do it the best of most of the firms I’ve seen. They have the systems, they have these processes, There’s usually one partner who doesn’t even practice anymore. He’s the face, he’s the marketer, his entire job is to tell the story. Then you’ve got the chief litigator whose entire job is to be really, really good at driving cases. They work up the cases under, they bring them to him when it’s time to go to bat and he takes them and runs with them. And then you’ve got the associate who does this, the intake team at these firms is huge. You’ll see four attorneys and then you’ll look and there’s 15 support staff. I love that because they’re creating a system where the attorneys aren’t filing paperwork.
Michelle Calcote King [33:25] Right.
Robert Ingalls [33:26] The attorneys aren’t drawing a lot of boilerplate stuff up. They've got an entire system where from the moment a client picks up the phone and comes through their system, everyone knows exactly what they're supposed to do next. And that's really hard to do if you're doing multiple things.
Michelle Calcote King [33:43] Yeah.
Robert Ingalls [33:44] I feel like I kind of got sidetracked with the business part of it.
Michelle Calcote King [33:46] Oh, no, no because I’m a big proponent of it from both of those sides. From it makes your business run more effectively…but what you were describing at the beginning of that was…. There's a concept about mental availability, right? The world is so much more complex, we're given so much more information, we have so much more information available, so the simpler the message, the more easy it is to recall it. So, when an attorney says to you, “I do a little of this, a little of that, a little that,” you're not going to remember, “Oh, he's the guy to go to for this friend of mine who is high net worth and is getting a divorce.” So it's really risen because of you know, the internet age and how much information we have now, and you've got to simplify your brand in order to kind of cut through.
Robert Ingalls [34:39] Yeah. The ability to get in front of people in the marketplace with that simple message of “I do this and I do it well.” And that's it. “This is who I am. This is what I do.” It is really easy for people to recall. It's really easy for people to refer to you.
Michelle Calcote King [35:00] Mhm.
Robert Ingalls [35:01] And any market you go to — right this moment, we could drop ourselves in Iowa and it would take us…within an hour, we would know who the PI people in town are. Just from driving around; just from watching television. And they're hammering, “This is who we are and this is what we do.” They're not trying to draw up your will for you. They're not trying to do these other things. A firm that is practicing like that is almost always going to be more successful in their ability to scale and turn a profit because it's a lot easier to make a profit when you're able to systematize. When you're able to automate a lot of things. There's going to be less errors, there's going to be less need for as many people. And I mean at the end of the day, I know we're here to help people and a lot of attorneys, I think we're driven to the profession to help people. We can't help people if we're not making a profit. We have to take care of our needs, we've got to do what makes us feel fulfilled in order to even show up. So we've got to get those profits and I think that some attorneys are still struggling with that and that's an area I love to help people when I can.
Michelle Calcote King [36:02] Wonderful. Well, I have really enjoyed this conversation. It’s kind of touched on things that I’m really passionate about. So, I appreciate you kind of taking the time and leading us through it.
We have been talking to Robert Ingalls of LawPods. If people want to get to know you better, where is the best place for them to go?
Robert Ingalls [36:24] I spend most of my time on LinkedIn. So, if you go there, you can find me. Robert Ingalls. There’s not too many of us. I think I’m the only one with any involvement in podcasting. If you type LawPods in any search engine, whether it be Instagram or Google or anywhere, you’re going to find us.
Michelle Calcote King [36:39] Love it.
Robert Ingalls [36:40] Feel free to reach out www.LawPods.com and email me directly if you’d like email@example.com.
Michelle Calcote King [36:46] Alright. Thank you so much.
Robert Ingalls [36:47] Thank you.
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