About Our Guest
Sonia Lakhany is an expert not just on trademark law, but personal branding as well. She’s building a successful practice while searching for the work-life balance that’s right for her. In this extended interview, Mark dives into Sonia’s firm, how she built it, why she chose trademarks, where trademark law can fit seamlessly in with your practice, and the right way to invest in yourself to grow your law practice. Like, Follow, Comment, & Subscribe! GNGF
– Thanks for joining us. This is our extended interview with Sonia Lakhany, an award-winning trademark attorney in Los Angeles and Atlanta, personal branding expert, speaker, and much, much more as you will find out. The first part of this video is from our GNGF Live, which happens every other Wednesday. The second part here is the bonus extended interview, where we delve into a lot more things, specifically how Sonia was able to grow her law practice without focusing on any search engine optimization or paid advertising. If you already saw the live, I’ll put the timestamp for the exclusive interview below. Be sure to like and subscribe to follow along with our great conversations on legal marketing and the business side of running a law firm. And to watch this video on the platform of your choice, you can find everywhere we stream at GNGF dot TV. Welcome to GNGF live, Your biweekly ask the experts about all things all from marketing and business growth. I’m Mark Homer, author of online law practice strategies and founder of get noticed, get found. We focus on the business side of growing and running your law firm on GNGF Live. So I’m excited to have today’s guest, Sonya Lakhany, award-winning trademark attorney, author, personal branding expert, and speaker. As always be sure to like and subscribe to our page, not just a video, so you can get updated when our next episode goes live. Of course, it never hurts for you to show a little love and give a virtual high five by clicking that like button on the video too. We’ve got moderators in the chat, so please ask questions and interact during the stream. If you’re watching this in the future, after the premiere, we do monitor the comments on Facebook and YouTube, and we’ll reach out to our guests for their input to answer any followup questions you have. And on weeks when we’re not streaming interviews, we drop a video as part of our GNGF tip series. These are in depth videos focusing on one topic at a time. Check it out on our YouTube channel. We’ve got links to our latest videos in the chat. Check them out, like I said, we drop a new GNGF tips video every other Friday. Okay, this is gonna be a great interview. Sonya Lakhany, thank you for joining me today.
– Thanks for having me.
– So we’ve met at conferences and got to know each other, but for the benefit of the audience, you know, tell us a little about yourself.
– Yeah, sure. So Sonia Lakhany, I am a trademark lawyer with my own practice. I’ve had my own practice for five of the 10 years I’ve been practicing and it’s a national law practice that goes across the entire country because I do trademarks. So we service clients all over the country, all over the globe at this point. And that’s sort of, kind of my main and first business. And from that sort of birthed a second and related thing where I have started teaching classes and trainings online, for other attorneys, mostly in the area of learning trademarks and kind of honing down their skillset and brushing up and stuff. But it’s expanded into helping other law firm owners grow their practices through marketing and systems and processes and all the kind of behind the scenes stuff that matters, you know, when you’re trying to grow something. So between those two, I suppose I have quite the whole plate, but it’s fun.
– So I definitely wanna dive into those other things. But before I do, just why trademarks? What got you into practicing trademark law?
– Yeah. So this is something that people ask me a lot, because from a lifestyle standpoint, trademarks is like this sparkly, unicorn. I call it the unicorn practice area. Cause it’s almost too good to be true. And people are like, did you do this intentionally? And I’m like, no, I did not reverse engineer this process. I went to law school because my mom forced me to go, I am South Asian and middle Eastern. We have to do what our parents tell us, especially at that age. And my mom was like, you got two choices, you can be a lawyer or a doctor, and I really think you need to go with the lawyer. She was really gung ho about this, and so she forced me into going to law school. I hated every minute of it. I couldn’t have been a worse fit for the structure and for the workload and all that reading. And I was like a fish out of water. And ultimately what happened was that I was trying to fill a gap in my schedule as a second year law student to have a four day weekend. And if I took trademarks as an elective, it capped out my Wednesday afternoon. And then I was done from Thursday and onward and I’m very transparent about this and you know what? I was like, okay, this’ll work. And it was the only class that I didn’t hate, that I didn’t ditch. I missed half my classes cause I didn’t enjoy it. You know when your heart’s not in something, you just don’t really give effort to it. And actually on the other end of the spectrum, I made a straight A+, one of the highest grades on the final exam. I loved every minute, I would come early, talk to the professor, stay late, was like front and center. And I was like, this stuff is so interesting to me, like branding and psychology. And you know, I was like, I like to shop. So all of that, it just went together and I realized, I was like, if I have to do this whole lawyering thing, it’s just gonna be trademarks. This is the only area of law that doesn’t make me want to exit entirely. And actually I couldn’t get into it. So that’s what started it. And then I discovered later, wow, I really picked wisely ’cause this is a federal area, you can do it from anywhere in the world, it’s paperless. It’s a great clientele. You get to work with really interesting business ideas and concepts and brands. And I’m like, oh, I chose wisely. But people think it’s the complete opposite and that’s not it at all. It was the least painful area.
– That’s funny. I love the fact that it was like, oh, I wanted the three day weekend, or four day weekend, so I could cap it off, that is great.
– And I still chase the four day weekend. I still chase a minimal work week. That is still part of my brand. I’m nothing if not consistent.
– So, and then you, and to be transparent with everybody, you can travel anywhere and do this cause you’re working and you’re not at your house right now. I think you’re at like a vacation home right now with the kitchen behind you, right? So you can do this anywhere.
– I feel like this bares an explanation. I am in a beach house in Malibu, California for two weeks. We’re recording this at the time of the Coronavirus situation, on the tail end of it. And so this is kind of right around the time people were starting to lose it. And I was in New York for the last two years. So you can imagine the high need for some sunshine. And so, yeah, I mean, but I was doing this well before the virus situation and working from home and remotely and virtually. My team has and always will be remote and virtual. We have a main sort of location in Atlanta, you can go there, you can, it exists. It’s not like a figment or anything, but no one, we just don’t really do the traditional brick and mortar thing, we never have. And before the virus, I was traveling from country to country, no one ever knew where I was unless you checked my Instagram. It’s like, oh, I’m in Switzerland skiing. Now I’m in The Bahamas, you know, on the beach. Now I’m in Spain eating, you know, drinking sangria. Like, it’s just like, what are you doing? But all the while I’ve had my practice and I’m able to just log on and just to kind of, you know, and some of that, some of those are working trips. I call those trips and some of them are true vacations where I truly turn off and there’s a big difference, but I love having the flexibility to just, you know, when you see those sponsored ads, well when you used to, for like 397 to China, I was like, or you know, 397 to wherever I’m like, I’ll book that. It doesn’t matter what day, I don’t have to talk to anyone. Like I’ll just book it and I’ll figure it out later. And aside from time zones, you’re clear. It’s pretty cool.
– Yeah. And I will say your Instagram is definitely something to make you jealous of wanting to be able to work anywhere in the world. So, thank you for that.
– Yeah, no, I mean, I feel like that’s, people may feel that way and it’s really just a way for me to capture. It’s a diary for me too to capture it but also to share, because I feel like I’ve entered the stage in my career where it’s so important for me to share what the possibilities are for people who may be newer or maybe just more advanced than me in terms of years of practice or older than me, but just never thought outside of the box that they were in. And so just to show, there’s also this option, you know, you could also go this route and it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, but it works and I’m happy. So it’s like, why not? So I really try to inspire by my lifestyle too.
– So, out of law school, so you figured out you like trademarks and you’re doing that. You went and worked for a big firm? Or you didn’t just jump in straight in your practice, right?
– No, the problem with being forced into law school and ditching half your classes is that you end up with a C GPA and I have always been very transparent about like, you know, what, when it comes to the good, yes, I’ve grown a law practice to over a million in revenue by myself, like every year, you know, I’m very clear about the goods and the winds being featured by Bloomberg and all these things. And then the middle, it was just like, okay, she’s traveling, this is awesome. And then there’s like, I was also a C law student who never made law review, never made new court. I had none of the sparkly bells and whistles that you’re supposed to have, right? And I think that’s kind of, it was always like my brand when I didn’t even realize it as a 23 year old, like this is my brand is that I’ve not gone through the traditional path the way it’s supposed to look that you’re told, the formula. And somehow even now it’s still completely off the reservation as far as what people have in mind. But yeah, I did not work for a big law firm simply cause I wasn’t given the invitation to do so. I tried. They definitely were not interested in hiring a C law student with no credentials from the pedigree standpoint. I did go to a really good law school. I went to Emory, top 20, but you have to have good grades. And actually it wasn’t even that I got an opportunity to even work in trademarks right out of law school. ‘Cause back then similar, now being more of a severe timeframe, but back then we were just fresh out of the great recession of 2008, right? I graduated in 10. So the job market looked really bleak for people leaving. And my first job was at a medical malpractice firm for $17 an hour as an Emory educated licensed attorney, answering phones, and maybe I got to look at legal documents if they passed over my desk. Like that was my starter. It wasn’t shiny or glamorous or anything. And from then I kind of left that to another sort of general practice firm, all the while just trying to soak up as much trademark experience as I could. And I can go into more detail about how I did that, but just doing a lot of pro bono and low class trademarks in the community and stuff like that. And then that finally landed me, not until year three, which was a trademark attorney position, actually the title of it, even though I had been doing it and from then on things kind of birthed. So yeah, it definitely didn’t look like it’s supposed to. Still doesn’t.
– I think as I talk to more and more people on the show and just around, there’s a lot of similar stories where it’s, you know, there’s a lot of people that don’t have the traditional path because I think the traditional path is becoming more and more reserved for like 20% of students or something, it seems. I love hearing these stories.
– Thank you. Yeah, when I tell people, I’m like mathematically, as lawyers, we’re lawyers probably ’cause we’re not great at math, but mathematically 90% of people are not in the top 10% of their class, right? Grade-wise so what happens to everybody else? You have to think creatively, you have to be open to something that doesn’t look like what you thought it might and you actually may end up happier. I can’t tell you how many times I studied for interviews and tried to network and I would go and hope that I got a call back and I’m like, this is it. This is a job I really want. I interviewed for several in-house positions and I just didn’t have the experience. It was a wonder that I was even in the room, but they saw how interested I was in trademarks and I had a Twitter and a blog that I was circulating at the time. It was very clear that this girl really, really wants to be in trademark law, she just doesn’t have the experience to back it up. And I could have sworn on any of those positions. I’m like, oh, this is it. This is the one I want. And now when I look back, I’m like, I’m glad that none of those panned out because the best job for me was the one I created to look exactly like I want it. It’s like buying a house just off, you know, walking in versus being like, here’s just a plot of land and you can design what it looks like from top to bottom, right? And I just, you don’t know what you don’t know. I had no idea that this would be the best job, you know? So I think it makes sense.
– So then let’s talk about that. So then you made a transition from working for another law firm to saying, I’m gonna start this on my own, right. What was that like? What was the decision process? What was the angst there? What was the excitement?
– Yeah, so I think, the brand is always, the personality has been consistent where I’ve always ached for flexibility and autonomy over my own schedule. I never liked structure and sort of rigid, you know, like I have routines even now, like things I like to do like morning coffee and whatever but I don’t wake up at the same time every day and do this, that’s not me and it never has been. And I think back then, I was against the grain, right? I was going through the formula of what I thought you had to do, which is be an associate at a firm and they have their rules, right? And their sort of structure too. So you have to be at work by 8:00 AM, with your coffee and ready to work. And if you’re not, then it’s like you’re a slacker, you know? And I was always like, okay, well I might be in at 10 tomorrow because I met someone who was X, Y, Z, and I want to take him or her out to breakfast. And that’s where I’m gonna be in the morning, and then I’ll come in and it’s like, that could bring the firm like a five figure retainer and like the work that eventually results from it or whatever, and I just felt like I kept struggling to find the fit where that was seen as also a valuable time spent. But really it was just like, unless the rear is in the chair from eight to not six or not nine to five, we’re talking like seven or eight to like, whenever, you don’t know. And I also hated that predictability, which is I was just stuck at work all the time having to bill hours and all that kind of stuff, which I’m sure so many listeners can relate to. And I’m sure you hear this all the time. Like just that billable pressure. And it was very clear that it wasn’t gonna be a firm that probably would be okay with that. At least at the time, I think that’s become much more of an accepted role now where it’s like, you’re remote. You can do what you want. You know? And I just thought, you know what, this is something that I’m going to have to figure out for me and design it. And really that was it. That was the extent of the planning. Like I had no plan, no like, oh, year five, I’m gonna resign. It was no certain date. I woke up one day and I was like, I just walked in and resigned. I just was like, I don’t want to do this anymore. And I’ve always been like very, you know, I’m from California, we’re very sunshine. Woo woo La La. But it is, you really do have to think about what makes you happy. It’s not a fifi kind of fluffy thing when you get that into it. So that’s kind of what happened. And luckily I had been networking really well and had notoriety in the community in Atlanta. ‘Cause I would always go to stuff, take people out, you know, for breakfast and lunch and meet with people. And I had a really well recognized name. So when I did resign, it wasn’t a matter of necessarily trying to market, although it took a different turn, you know, it looks different when you’re on your own, but people already knew who I was ’cause I had been doing that the whole time.
– So what was the first year or so like, starting your own firm, you said you had some network and stuff but what was, what was something that like, oh, I wasn’t expecting to be hard. That was hard. ‘Cause we talk a lot about the business side of getting a law firm going, not just the practicing side, right?
– So this is probably one of the things I share with people most often is that if you ask almost, if you survey a group of law firm owners, solo, small firm, and you say, what could I do for you today? Like what would you like? The high percentage is going to be like, more clients, marketing, get me more clients, right? And that is actually not always the answer. A lot of times, it’s not. It’s like if I turned the faucet on and brought you 2000 clients tomorrow, you do not have the infrastructure and the systems and the bandwidth, right? It’s like an an amazing restaurant on the block, they can only house so many people and serve so many people in a night. That’s just, you’re capped. I don’t know what the cap is for each person and for each restaurant or whatever, but there is a cap out there, right? And when I talk to attorneys who want to sit down with me and they’re like, I just want to know how you market, I’m like, I’m happy to share because it’s not a secret, right? But is that really the issue? And so similarly for me, I put so much energy into just bringing in the business and it was like a fire hose, just a whoosh of business. And people are like, okay, I’m not listening anymore. I have officially lost interest in this video. And it’s like, cause it must be nice. And I’m like, no, what I learned was that you really better be ready for that fire hose. Do you have systems in place? who’s answering the phone for all these people who are calling? Who’s answering all these emails, right? Because a lot of my business came from, hey, you did my trademark five years ago when you were at blah, blah, blah firm, you knocked it out of the park. I Googled you, found out you have your own practice, you know, I’m back again, or I’m introducing you to someone. I mean, I would get emails. Like I would wake up to 30, 40 of those. It was insane. Back then even, I mean you can imagine where we are now, but it was crazy And I just didn’t have the wherewithal to understand that. And I really had to stitch it backwards. So I had the opposite problem. I was prepared for the first kind, which is God, I really hope I can pay rent. I hope I have enough clients. And what I learned is the importance of systems and automations. You hear it all the time, but you see, you cannot manually be sending this follow up or confirming this or this, whatever. And you have to find ways to do that, whether it’s software or services. And eventually, you know, I got the hang of a virtual assistant and you know, team members and stuff very quickly. ‘Cause I simply had no choice and my reputation was on the line, right? That was what I was terrified of is, you know –
– It’s your brand. It’s your brand. The way you service a client, right?
– It’s my brand and if people start, and listen, I believe in complete transparency, things did slip through the cracks back then. ‘Cause I was learning and I was just honest. And I said, you know, like I really was not prepared for this much business. So I had to get an MBA almost overnight in management and learn how to lead a team. And of course I made mistakes there too where you have to, you know, being a leader and managing a team is a skillset of its own that people focus on first semester. So yeah, if I had to say any, I mean that was a huge surprise. I really, I don’t even know if I still mastered it, although we’ve gotten pretty good.
– Yeah. And I’m glad you said that because that, it mimics everything I hear. Right? You know, like we will talk to people who say, I just need more leads. I just need more clients. And one of the questions we asked, like when we’re first working with a client or even be somebody who hasn’t even become a client yet, a prospect or something, is how much can you handle? Like if we gave you 10 more clients tomorrow, can you do that business? You know, and what is the process and how do you even take somebody through that? So yeah, we’ve been, and we don’t provide that service, but that’s something we’re like, get that figured out and then let’s talk, right? ‘Cause it does, I mean, we talk about reviews and all that, kind of the importance of like the full life cycle. You talked about getting referrals, right? If you drop the ball on that process, that’s all gonna go away, you know? So –
– Yeah. I mean, it won’t overnight, you can drop the ball on something here and there and it won’t, you know, and clients are generally pretty understanding, at least in my area, which is why I touted as the best, you know? I mean, I might be biased cause I’ve been doing this for a while, but I think trademark clients are among the best to work with. They’re naturally tech savvy and business oriented, so they get it. But they’re just, I think, just a nicer group of people and they’re understanding, where they’re like, it’s not a big deal. Once in a while, obviously, there are exceptions, but yeah, that’s a really important thing is, you know, do you have the infrastructure in place, because I will tell you when I try to do business with other people and I email you and I don’t get an answer for a day or two, and then your first opening isn’t until next Tuesday, I’m like, you’ve lost the window. The window has gone. This happened to me two days ago, I was shopping for a vendor to do something and they didn’t get back to me for like three days. And they’re like, oh, well, our first opening isn’t until next Tuesday, I’m like I have, and it’s a true story I have already in that time researched, found someone else, retained him, paid him and he’s underway with the project already.
– [Mark] Yeah.
– You know what I mean? So, yeah.
– [Mark] I totally get it.
– It’s just those little things that you don’t think about.
– So something you mentioned earlier, I want to come back to that, you said you you’ve kind of switched gears into kind of teaching and teaching people getting their practice going and teaching about trademarks. Specifically around trademarks is like, you know, do you basically teach, ’cause trademarks, you think are an easy thing people can add to their practice, Is that kind of the gist here? Or –
– I can never say say easy. I like the word seamless. ‘Cause I’m a lawyer. We’re very careful with our words. I mean, if it was easy, everybody would do it, right? And there’s a lot of people that it’s not a fit for because you know, maybe you like litigation, maybe you are a fan of going to court or I mean the practice areas that stress somebody like me out, like I’m not cut out for family law or for immigration or for criminal law, it’s not a good personality fit for me. I get very emotionally invested in a person’s situation. Like I’ll keep thinking about it, you know? So it’s not a good fit for me. They may like that. But when it comes to somebody whose practice is something that’s not a good fit, if they are like me and they realize that later, that I don’t like my practice area, I want to not be in court every day, I don’t wanna be chained to a scheduling order and have to constantly feel like I’m working in billing hours and stuff. Or more, you know, just as equally, if you have someone who’s already doing business transactions, right? You’re already doing business law, forming entities for clients and reviewing contracts and kind of the gamut of the small to medium sized business stuff that you see, trademarks nestles into that, whether you know it or not, right? Because anytime someone is starting a business or forming a company, you got to call the thing something, it’s got a name, right? Like every baby has a name, you have to, so you’re naming it something. The conversation should naturally follow, what are you doing to protect this name? Have you cleared it? Are you even allowed to use it? Because you know, that’s a thing too. And so it is seamless to add in if someone were to be willing to teach you. And that is, I think a gap in legal education that I came along and helped to fill over the last several years, which is that sure, COEs existed before, but it’s very common for them to be theory-based statutory, like this is the history of trademark law, this is why we have it. Nobody cares. Tell me how to file a trademark, right? I got a client right now who wants to know, can they use this name? What do I tell them? I need to answer them today, right? And I think that that’s been a rare thing for someone to be willing to part with her knowledge and say, I understand that I’m teaching you the exact same thing that I do to earn a living. And I’m okay with that because there’s plenty to go around and give, no matter what, I mean, I don’t get all the the trademark business as it is. I can’t. So it’s okay for someone in another state or the same city or whatever to learn it. And it is, I have had people binge watch my classes like over a weekend, and by Monday they’re filing, they’re up and running and you know, my classes are lifetime access. So it’s like, you can, it’s like similar to Netflix. You can log in and out at your leisure, come back to it. And you know, I think I explained things in a really fun kind of, like I joke around, I tell a lot of stories. I cuss. I make it fun where you don’t feel like you’re in a classroom, you know? And I think we have seen a lot of success with people picking up the material when it’s a fit for them.
– So I think we’re running out of time for the GNGF Live show, but I have so much more I want to ask, do you mind sticking around? I mean, I wanted to talk especially about we’ve had a whole conversation, I saw you do a presentation around how you built your initial practice in the first few years with no search engine optimization and crazy paid advertising spend and everything, but just by what you call like the wow factor with your clients and referral partners and stuff. So I’d love to, if you stick around, and we talk about that more.
– Yeah. I mean, I’m at a beach house. I have the time, and I’m happy to share. I think it’s important context, so no problem.
– Awesome. And then we’ll post that to our YouTube channel on Friday then. That’d be great. Okay. So before we wrap up though, how can people get ahold of you?
– So the best and easiest way is if you’re an Instagram person I’m @ trademark lawyer lady. For those of you not on social media, more traditional law path, how to practice trademark law dot com will take you to that. And you can ask any questions, contact, anything like that.
– Awesome. So, definitely you know, follow her Instagram because it’s fun to watch.
– Okay. So one second and I’ll be right back. Thanks for joining us today, everyone. Be sure to like and subscribe to our page so you get notified when our next episode goes live. We’re going to keep going here in the GNGF studio so be sure to check out the extended interview with Sonia Lakhany on Friday. All right. Thanks for sticking with us, Sonia.
– No problem.
– So first of all, I wanted to wrap up one other thing on the trademark law before we dive in to some of these other things. So what would be some advice you would give somebody, like if somebody says, you know, the course sounds interesting or I’m thinking about starting, like, you did this, you started a law firm doing just trademarks and got yourself out there and have grown and done a great job to the point you’re teaching it now. What would be your advice to somebody who’s just starting out?
– So in terms of starting a law practice?
– In starting with trademarks.
– Oh, starting trademarks. So I think the most important thing is to figure out how it fits with what you’re already doing or what you want to be doing and create a brand around that. The beauty of branding and, you know, again, I’m biased because that’s the type of law I practice, so I’ve learned a lot along the way, but branding is a concept that transcends whether you do trademarks or not, right? I mean, if you are a law firm owner, if you’re practicing law in general or have any kind of business, you have a brand, whether you know it or not. So I think it’s really important to get clear on how it fits so that you know what your message is when you meet people, when you’re marketing, when you’re creating content even, right? Like, are you the go-to for online entrepreneurs who, I dunno, who have like e-commerce clothing stores, right? Is that your zone? Or I know an attorney who specializes in all the different business areas of law that podcasters and coaches and consultants who do podcasts will need and things that they don’t even know they need, right? But she’s developed something around that. So I think if you’re starting trademarks to understand how it fits or could fit for you, and that’s something that I talk about with a lot of my students, my programs have a range of, you know, the level of content and access that you do get to me, their core program is videos and the modules that you learned that take you through. And I screen-share, I show how I run my practice. I’ve had so many reviews over the years that consistently say the same thing, which is like, I can’t believe you’re willing to share this stuff, that you just tell me and literally screen-share, and I’m like, oh, I mean, it’s fine. And to know how that’s gonna work for you, right? But I think it’s really important to think about what you’re going to say in your messaging and have everything kind of go back to that so that you’re not all things to all people. But that is something that I go over with with students that are in, and when I say students, I mean attorneys, but you know, that are in certain of my programs where it comes with calls with me individually, where we sit down and actually hammer out a marketing plan for you, which is like, okay, you have kids, so you don’t have a lot of time during the day. We need to find marketing ideas that you can do, you know, if your baby is napping or at night or on the weekends, or whenever you can fit it in, right? Speaking engagements, right? Aren’t going to be a thing for you, maybe. Nightly going here and there might not be a thing, right? Versus, okay, someone’s like, all right, well, I don’t have kids and I’m single. So tell me what I can, you know, so just trying to figure out a plan, because there’s so many different ways to market and you don’t have to have a huge budget and you don’t have to have like, you know, 40 hours a week to do it. And people are always surprised by that, but I’ve got a lot to say on that.
– Yeah. And so let’s jump into a little bit of that. So we’ve, we’ve talked in the past, right? About how, you know, I’m an agency, we do marketing for people, but you know, you need to be at a certain point before you can get to the point where you’re hiring an agency, like GNGF or something, right? But there’s a lot you still need to do to grow your practice. And, you know, they talked about, you know, they said, knowing your target market, knowing what the right strategy for you is. One thing that you did really well, that worked for growing your practice was you talked about your wow factor and talk more about that so that people understand what it is and then probably have some more questions on it.
– Oh, this is probably one of my favorite topics because I credit my success almost entirely to this. Like, this is a huge part of the pie, no matter what I’ve done along the way, when I would get interviews now with big law firms, obviously, as I mentioned, but you know, small companies, firms, I worked in TV before law school. So, those opportunities and everything since then, right? Building the practice, getting referrals, growing it, growing my teaching business, it’s all been sort of tied back to this concept of you know, what do you do if you’re not, if you’re not at a place where running ads and investing in SEO and digital services make sense for you, whether it’s financially or a fit or whatever. And I think that is where if you are listening and you are a solo, small firm owner, and I wouldn’t even say new to it, you could be a couple of years in and you just haven’t cracked a certain level of revenue where you’re just like, I just don’t have that to spend right now at all. Like I haven’t. And I don’t see that happening. The way you get to a point where your revenue does grow is by taking any, work with what you’ve got, right? People always say, especially if you listen to Shark Tank and stuff, reinvesting back into the business, right? What you make, we all know that you shouldn’t spend everything you make and what does that mean to reinvest? And so when you do reach a certain point where you’ve got a cushion, you can take a chunk of that and maybe run some ads and do stuff. So then the question becomes, how do I add some extra cushion to where I’m not just worried about the baseline of paying rent and kind of the basics. And that’s where I feel like a lot of the stuff that I did and still do really comes in handy. So this is something I call the wow factor. It describes it really nicely. And it’s the art of getting and staying in touch with people in a way that is genuine. And that treats people like people, right? Not like leads, not like referral sources, not like cash machines, you know? Cause that’s not, I don’t want to feel like that. I’m sure you wouldn’t. I mean, no one wants to feel that way. And so, you know, it’s probably nothing that’s crazy in terms of the concept of it, but looking for opportunities that, hey, did somebody go out of their way for me this week? Did I drop a thank you card in the mail? Right? Handwritten stamped thank you card. Not an email, which you’d be surprised, I do a lot for a lot of people, I’ll send referrals all day because I only do trademarks. It’s a very narrow thing. So the opportunity is right to send business all over the place in a lot of practice areas, right? I hardly, I mean, now that I’ve started to teach this material I get more cards, but like, I don’t even get thank you emails a lot of the time. It’s like, okay, well enjoy the referral. Like, okay. You know, I don’t want anything in return. It’s just more of a acknowledgement, right? Treat people like people. And so did somebody go out of their way for you? It doesn’t have to be new business. It could be that they nominated you for an award or they forwarded you an event or a webinar that you might be interested in or whatever, as it makes sense. So the very base layer is like, am I sending thank you notes on a regular basis? Do I have stamps and cards ready to go that I can, you know, write a note, drop my business card in it, fold it and address it. That’s super base layer, right? You can buy thank you notes on Amazon, Papyrus, Target has really good ones. I mean, it’s not an excuse. Then you can get to the next level of having firm-branded ones. You can make them on VistaPrint or whatever, like put your logo. And that, you know, kind of goes to the next level of just having a non messaging card where it leaves it open for you to write anything from the desk of so and so like, we’re just trying to bring back the art of that, you know? And then there’s layers to this where maybe the next layer is, you know, someone has sent you a lot of business. They’ve referred you a lot of stuff the last six months. Not anything of it has panned out, right? Like none of it’s, for whatever reason, the clients weren’t a good fit, you were conflicted out, whatever. A lot of people don’t realize this, but like, shouldn’t that person get something from you? Like an acknowledgement? And something more than at this point now a thank you note, right? Like maybe you send them a bottle of their favorite wine because you know that they are a big cab drinker or their whiskey or, you know, whatever, you know, as you get to know people, and again, it goes back to that where you’re treating people like people. And if you work with people a lot, you should know that so and so’s got two kids and that they really, you know, they go to Disneyland every summer, right? So why can’t you send them something in advance, like a basket of sunscreen and little stuff before their vacation to just be like, hey, I’m acknowledging the fact that you do X, Y, and Z. You go out of your way for me, right? And go out of your way can mean a multitude of things starting with, but certainly not limited to sending you new business. And again, whether or not that referral pans out, I have like a tier system and things I think about when I get referrals and we keep track of this stuff, you have to, right? I mean, how busy can you be that this is not a priority? I mean, this is injecting revenue into your practice, so it’s crucial.
– Right. And you know that by doing this, you’ve gotten, stayed top of mind for a number of people, gotten probably more referrals because of that, had clients, you know, give you referrals that maybe didn’t and, you know, forgotten, oh yeah, trademarks. I talked to somebody else about that, right? And so just by staying top of mind, I think it’s great. We done some really fun things just with our clients, just to kind of say, thank you, right? Even like just a thank you, like, hey, don’t forget we’re here, and remember that we’re doing all this stuff for you. We had a creative one where, I’m also big on trying to do something for them, not just for us, right? So I try not to send too much GNGF branded things, right? But make it about them. Like you said, they’re people. Yeah, so we send like an ice cream scoop with their brand on it, you know, like, cause we do logos, right? For a lot of our clients that we have their logo, right? So we sent that, but we send it a day ahead of six pints of ice cream coming the next day, cause we have like a local craft ice cream place in Cincinnati that sells around the country in high end places. But it happens to be from Cincinnati. So, but it was like, oh, that’s kinda cool, I gotta have ice cream scoop, but we don’t have one on our office. And then the next day it’s like, oh, you know, so like those little, just a little extra thing to kind of, and I mean, the amount of people who called and just said, thank you. But then referrals started coming in. It’s like, oh yeah. Like we love this, we love this, our agency, we should tell somebody else about ’em.
– It feels like magic, but you’re like, it’s not. But, and it’s also, I mean, there’s an argument there that like, obviously there’s some part of us that’s doing it to make sure that we’re seen and remembered and stuff from a business standpoint. But for me, and I suspect for you too, and for a lot of people who do this kind of stuff, or who should be, it really is about the gratitude for what’s already taken place. And if you never send me anything ever again, it’s okay, ’cause you already trusted me with this or you forwarded me that,
– [Mark] Right.
– Or you put me up for this award or this opportunity, or, you know, you knew that I was coming to this conference and you stuck me on a panel last minute ’cause you had the pool to do that and you got me in front of the room now, right? Where I’m not just an attendee anymore. Like you didn’t have to do that. You don’t have to do these things. And the gratitude is like, hey, thank you. I’m gonna go out of my way and send you something or do something that I know is specific to you because you know, to show you that gratitude. And I feel like there’s that element of it, but it’s also the humanity of talking to your clients and the people that you’re working with, where if you do get ahold of a piece of news where, you know, someone’s like, hey, sorry, I’ve been MIA, you know, my mom has been sick or I just lost a family member. The next step in my head is we’re sending flowers, we’re sending some sort of condolences
– [Mark] Absolutely.
– You know, or I mean, again,
– [Mark] Absolutely.
– There’s so many versions of this, what it could look like, I’ve had clients come to me and say, you know what, I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. Things are crazy, one kid is sick. My husband is out of town for work and I’m just frazzled. And like we’ll look up like a massage or a manicure salon or something again, you know, appropriate with virus related stuff, but this was before all of that, you know, and we’ll continue to do it ’cause things are now reopening, but to say, hey you, I know you’re having a really rough time. You’re going through it. We went ahead and paid for a gift card for a massage. It’s attached to the email. And my team knows like we’re picking stuff where we can check out online and it PDFs you back the gift certificate. We’re not mailing any, you know, and it’s like an email it’s like, hey, please see the attached, we did our best to find something in a five mile radius with the address we have on file. If this doesn’t work, let us know. And I mean, to just treat somebody like a human being again is huge, you know? And I think that has made such a big difference. And so if you’re listening and you’re sick and tired of people telling you that you need to network to build your practice, this is what they need, right? This is one version of what that looks like, but it’s not networking. ‘Cause you’re building relationships because you’re treating people like they’re human, right? And that’s all anybody really wants in an era where liking something on Facebook or on Instagram is good enough, right? I don’t love that. You know, in an era where that’s commonplace, when you go back to the basics, it really is truly a wow factor. And I also want to acknowledge, I hear for a lot of people say to me later, they’re like, well, my handwriting’s terrible. Yours seems like it’s beautiful. Actually mine was terrible too. And I still write, and it has not gotten any better. It’s not like I do this and you know, and I don’t mean printed cards that are generic that you send out, like people do for the holidays and stuff. Handwrite them. You know, some things you don’t outsource. And I outsource a lot. My team helps with a lot of stuff, but I still hand write my cards in the same ugly chicken scratch sp you know, it’s me.
– Awesome. So, yeah, I mean, there’s so many ideas and opportunities and stuff, we could probably go on and on, on this, but I do want to wrap up with one last question, ’cause like, you’re pretty amazing, and how many things you seem to have your hands in these days from speaking and your courses and you still have a practice that’s thriving, right? How do you balance all this stuff? How do you do all these things?
– So, you know, I will refrain from the typical stuff of like, oh, time management and my role, those are all really important to you. And I teach those concepts to my students. You know, my attorney students who enroll in my programs, like you can’t learn any of the marketing stuff I do, any of the trademark stuff, you’ve got to learn how to manage your your schedule and your calendar. But I will share something that I think is really, really specific to how I’ve gone about things. And for me, it’s the following. Sometime ago, I made a list, like a handwritten, just a piece of paper from the printer, you know, sat down with a blank piece of paper and I titled it, my zones of genius. And you need to identify three to five things that only you can do that actually are responsible for moving the needle, pushing things forward. Things like if you’re wondering what those are, having consultations with new clients, interfacing with your current clients, speaking, connecting with people, having Zooms, you know, handwriting the cards. For me, that extends into thinking of the ideas for new trainings and new programs. Because to me, the success is useless if you cannot teach other people how to do it and no, the content is not all free, although a lot of my trainings are, I’ve got a mix of both, but what people walk away with is the knowledge and the skillset to build something like this of their own. Right? So there’s a huge ROI there. So for me, I’m like, okay, my responsibility, my zones of genius are to interface with new and potential clients. I’m reciting to you from the list I have, right? New and potential clients. Think of content ideas, you know, do Zooms and speaking engagements and attending conferences when that’s a thing, you know? Right, those are my zones. So the email to write back to someone like, hey, yes, we got your payment for the trademark, thanks so much, we’ll get right on that. That’s not my zone of genius, I don’t need, and I don’t, I’m not needed for it, right? So as you’re planning your workday, even before you get to the calendar and all that time management stuff, it shouldn’t even go on the calendar if it doesn’t relate to the zones of genius. So that’s something, and again, I have to like smack my wrist sometimes when I’m about to do something I’m like, is this, it’s like a voice in my head. I’m like, is this in your five zones of genius? I’ve got five. I went from three to five because the businesses have expanded but that is really what helps you understand what either just doesn’t need to get done at all, and there is some stuff that just doesn’t happen or you find somebody else to do it ’cause it’s just, you don’t need to be doing it. It’s not the best use of your time or you’re probably not that great at it. I see people trying to do stuff and I’m like, I’ve tried to do stuff. I’m like, I’m not even good at this. Forget trying to save money, it’s just like, you’re terrible at it. Stop it. So –
– And then, so you talked about reinvesting your business. Is that what you’re saying, like, and then reinvest in those areas that are not in your zone of genius? ‘Cause you know, at the beginning you still have to do those things. You just know that eventually you’re not gonna have to do them, right?
– Yes. So if I had to break it down into a simple formula, because that’s really part of my brand too, is like, get to the point, give me something I can walk away with a clear answer. Don’t tell me networking, tell me what you mean. Give me something I can actually do. So on that point, go to your nearest or online website, order a pack of cards, get a book of stamps, a couple pens and a pack of your business cards and put them in a shoe box, like a clean, or some sort of container and have it ready. So now, and visit that once a week and write to people that, since last Monday to this Monday, have done something for you, whatever, right? That’s your takeaway. You can do that and you can do it today, right? And it’s easy and actionable. So when it comes to, you know, what you’re asking in terms of like what people can do, just easy take away, what would you say? I feel like kind of the same principle applies, which is make your money, right? Get your clients, do the stuff I’m talking about that will bring you return revenue. I promise there’s no way you’re sending cards and acknowledging people and treating people like humans and you’re not getting new business. Like there’s no way, right? And the formula is, keep your overhead exactly the same. Don’t start acting all brand new and extra and getting a car and a house and a yacht and whatever the case may be. That’s not to say, don’t reward yourself. I’m talking to you from a Malibu beach house. So it’s not what I mean, right? But have goalposts, have benchmarks that are commensurate with the money you’re making, right? If you’re making such and such amount, sure, okay, you can buy a new bag if that’s your thing. That’s not really my jam, but that’s what it is for you. Or if it’s like a nice dinner or a trip or whatever item it is, right. Or whatever. But we don’t need to be adding all kinds of like, don’t start acting all brand new until it’s not commensurate. And then what you do with that extra amount is that’s what they call reinvesting back into the business. So then you take what you’re saving, you gotta save up to invest in your business. So then that’s when you might make a part time hire. If that’s all that fits, that’s when you may look at hiring outside services to do designing for you, right? Maybe you re-do your website. Candidly speaking, I started my firm on January 30th, 2015, right? And that was the weekend that I had a bottle of wine and my computer and I made the first Lakhany Law dot com website that I purchased the domain myself, made it on wix.com one Saturday night, well into 3:00 AM. The next morning, I had a website. That’s not what you see when you go to Lakhany law dot com, right, but it got me through the first year. It was just despicable. Like it really, it was embarrassing. And as I look back on it, there was no logo. I picked a color and wrote Lakhany Law. There was no logo, there was no, And believe it or not, that grew me to multiple six figures ’cause I was doing all this stuff. Like people were just like, okay, I’m less concerned with that. But at some point, things need to start matching up, right? So I hired a designer, he redid my website, you know, we got a logo going, whatever. That’s still not the one you see, right? And I did well from that, and it helped grow me to a level beyond that. And then I hired somebody again to redo. And that’s what you see now. So we’re in the third iteration of what that website looks like now. And we just kept, so it’s never going to be perfect and it’s not going to, it will undergo its changes, but that’s what they mean when people say reinvest into the business. And that’s where you become in a place where you can hire an agency to redo whatever you were, you know, was good enough in the beginning, right? If you then want to expand into paid advertising and leads and generation and stuff like that, right? Those are the next phases. But the formula really is start and keep your overhead as low as possible. Don’t start acting brand new and start creating all these cash obligations, but reward yourself accordingly, right?
– [Mark] Right, right.
– Use the extra money to pay people and services to keep that growing. And then you get brand new as you want to, you know, like that’s what I mean. That’s my formula.
– I mean, it is. I’m so glad you said that. I don’t know how many of these we’ve done at this point and we haven’t ever really talked about that topic. That’s something like, we just need to have a whole topic on that. ‘Cause it’s, even when we talk to a potential client, you know, like my whole thing is if you’re, you know, like the money that you’re going to have to invest in this needs to come out of a budget, not someone’s potential salary, if it goes wrong, right? It’s like you said, you have your baseline and then this is like when you grow up on top of that. Tools and systems and –
– Yeah. The best way to think about it that I learned was like, I had to save up for an assistant, right? I had to save up or whatever. And actually I will say also that that helps when you have, you know, you hear what’s your why, you know, you need a goalpost, you need something. And I definitely went through this, right? I started making more money in the first three months of having my own firm than any salary by a landslide that I’d had as a lawyer, right? So I’m like, oh my God, I would look at, you know, and I’m like, it’s really hard not to go out and buy a brand new car, not to do all, you know, start acting nuts. And I did really, you know, I started within reason, but that was always my sort of like thing is like, if you spend it all, then you’re gonna be back to where you were on day one. So in my head, I was like, what am I saving up for? And for me it was like the down payment on an assistant salary, right? Or like a VA or whatever and like, that was a big step for me to, you know, start getting this software or whatever. And I’m like, well now I’m just on the hook for this stuff. And this is also something that I feel like is an important thing to say is, ’cause I talked to so many law firm owners and on all ends of the spectrum, right? And they’re like, oh, everything you’re saying sounds great, but I literally don’t have the money in my bank account, right? That’s fair, you do have to wear all the hats because there was a point where I was, right? Like I candidly say when I opened the law practice in the same three or four days that I created the entity on the Georgia secretary of state and bought the domain name and like made the website,
– [Mark] Yeah.
– I also went to Verizon and got a second iPhone line. And that was my 404 number, that’s the number that went on the business cards and on the website and yours truly had those phones and she would, I was, they were glued to me at all times, right? And if I was somewhere, I’d be like, thank you for calling Lakhany Law, thank you for call… But it was inevitable, right? Calls are gonna come in after hours, I’m gonna miss one while I’m on the phone. So like, you just, you can’t do it all. You just can’t, right? And so it was very clear I had to hire a certain, like a receptionist service. I love Smith dot AI, they are just, they’ve knocked it out of the park for me.
– [Mark] We use that. We use them as well. That’s great. We’re big fans.
– Yeah. I mean, I’m one of their, their ambassadors. I’m on their website. So I’m very open about how much I love them. And that’s what I’ve done, you know, for a lot of the services and stuff that I’m a fan of, right? So you do have to wear all the hats in the beginning. It’s natural. But if you really keep your overhead tight in the beginning, then everything just becomes incremental ’cause what happens is now someone’s answering your phones. So it leaves you free to do other stuff. And they’re able to schedule consultations, which create revenue. So there was a point where truly, if you don’t have it, I understand, and that period really shouldn’t last that long. And then it becomes like you can’t afford not to because you’re leaving money on the table that you don’t
– Even know about.
– Right. I think that’s something.
– In terms of a retainer or new business. Cause like, no one’s gonna tell you, like, yeah, I would have hired you, but no, you didn’t respond to my email.
– Right. Cause that, and I think that’s the thing that people often miss, right? Is that I can’t afford that because you know, like I’m kinda stuck here, but if you implement some of these things, you know, like a virtual assistant to give you some time back on the things in your zone of genius, tools and systems and processes to make sure all that, everything works consistently, investing in that it increases that level you can get by multiple factors, not just the little addition, right?
– No, not at all. I mean, there’s software that I pay for or services or whatever that are like anywhere from $10 a month to 50 to 100 and something. But like, what that brings me back is like you said, multiples, right? I mean it’s beyond, and that’s a conversation I have with a lot of attorneys who are interested in adding trademarks to their practice where they’re like, okay, I understand that there’s no way you’re going to package up a decades worth of trademark expertise. You wrote a book on it, you did it. And like, you’re not going to just teach me how to do this area of law. Obviously there’s a price attached to it. I mean, people pay for COEs, It’s the same idea. And a lot of the concern is like, well, like, is there an ROI on this, whatever. And I’m like, well, you tell me, I’m teaching you a revenue stream, something new that you can offer that you will continue to make revenue back from. You will more than make up the cost of the course and the program in like one or two trademark clients. And then for the rest of your practice and career, it’s just profit, right? So really thinking like a business person, I tell people, they’re like, wow, you’re, you know, you’re like the best trademark lawyer I know. And I’m like, that’s actually not true, I can’t be because first of all, I mean, I haven’t actually been practicing as long as some of the other people out there, right? That’s just, you can see that when you look at me, like that’s not a lie, but I’m a business person first. I have to run the business as an entirety, right? And then it’s like a law practice. It’s it’s legal services, but you have to think like you’re a CEO and it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it’s the same idea as when I remember actually when I was in law school and Starbucks started offering breakfast items and it was like a dream come true ’cause I would stop at Starbucks every day on the way to school, because I didn’t like the coffee at our cafeteria, like, you know, whatever. And I’m like, man, I could really go for a muffin or some sort of pastry right now, something to eat, ’cause I’m hungry and I’m like a busy law student and whatever. And when they rolled out like, oh, now we’re offering baked pastries and then they rolled out sandwiches, you know, later on and the wraps and stuff, it was like, wow, this is genius. And you know, they were like, we got to spring back like a boomerang, but what that did was propel them forward and it really, I’m sure they had to sign a contract for certain amount of pastries to be delivered every month and hope that they were able to sell them. You’re not any different than a Starbucks or whatever. You have to think about your revenue streams, what you can offer. And now people come in for the coffee, leave with a pastry and maybe a mug, maybe a whole new espresso machine. Maybe they have the little milk things for your kids now. Like, I mean, that’s what you have to think about is like, what all can I offer? So trademarks can easily be the breakfast pastries and what you’re already offering. And it doesn’t really cost a lot to add, that’s a common question too. So if the startup costs are low, except for the fact that you just need to learn how to do it, I mean, it’s everything law school didn’t teach you how to practice, right? So we did that. You invested in a program and now you’re making the return on it. It’s the same idea.
– Awesome. Well, I think we should leave it as trademarks are the breakfast pastries of your law practice. So –
– I bet I get a call from Starbucks, like don’t you know better than to be dropping our name, like saying stuff like that, but I’m like, it’s not a violation, I’m complimenting you.
– Awesome. Well, thanks so much for hanging with us on this extended part of the interview. And that was awesome. I think we got into topics that should be like the beginning of every interview. The business side of things is where we try to focus and the fact that we got there in so much detail, just thank you so much. That was awesome. Awesome.
– Thank you for having me. Yeah, it was, it was fun. I love talking about this stuff and I could truly, as you can see, go on and on and on. And I think being thorough is probably what my students love the most. I mean, I’ve amassed so many reviews for just being real with people and answering the real questions people have, because just tell me how to do it, don’t skirt around the issue, you know? And I think that’s what helps when you have done it and are still doing it, right? To be able to speak from a real world perspective. I’m like, look, after I get off this interview, I also have to go back to doing X, Y, and Z and running my practice, like this isn’t something that I’m theorizing on. I know it actually works.
– Awesome. Well thank you. And we’ll connect soon. I’m sure at a conference once we are allowed to start being in person again, I will see you soon.
– Hey, what’s up? I’m Josh. Thanks so much for joining us. If you feel like you learned something today, think of how beneficial it would be to chat with myself or another one of our marketing consultants one-on-one. Go ahead and visit our website to schedule your free consultation. It only takes a minute.