There’s always something to howl about

Hiring a new employee. When your personal and business lives coincide.

I’ve written here before about my experiences with web marketing. In general, it’s been a resounding success. But getting 90 to 95 percent of my clients from the web puts a lot of my eggs in one basket. Sure, it’s a pretty diverse basket – the various search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo, the various legal-reference websites, Facebook, YouTube – are unlikely all to collapse at once.

But I’d like to be diversified. Fortunately the past year means I can add an employee. I’ve thought about the kind of employee: an attorney to handle additional case load? a legal assistant who can do basic administrative work and keep my Quickbooks?

Ultimately, I needed to think about what I’d ideally want. I’d ideally want someone who can be great on the phone. So much of being hired depends on the front-line person who can answer the phone in a welcoming manner, sort calls and provide basic information, and – this is key – identify the callers who need to speak to the lawyer. A great front-line person is precious. A lousy front-line person can actively drive away potential clients.

I also wanted someone who can appear in court alongside me, deal with paralegal issues, and handle filings. That paralegal work – keeping calendars, making sure clients show up for court dates, dealing with other lawyers’ and prosecutors’ requests and inquiries – is time consuming, but crucial.

Ideally, though, I wanted someone who could help me grow the business. Someone who could help me reach beyond the web. Someone who could help me grow my local referral network. Someone who could think about new avenues for expansion (adding new practice areas? how about consulting with other lawyers or professionals about how to grow their businesses? how about hosting seminars gear toward recent grads or lawyers about how to take advantage of the web and social networking?)

To find that person would be something special. But I was lucky enough to do so.

My wife – who is currently a senior consultant with a multinational corporation – has decided to take a part-time role at her company and join me. We’ve been talking about this for a month now, and what it would mean for the business (about which I’m confident of success) and about how it will affect our relationship (I think we’ll adjust).

But I’m very excited. Already in her first week – working in the evenings – she’s booked about $6,000 worth of business. I’ll let you know how it goes!

In other news, I’ve always been pretty skeptical about out-of-the-box web-hosting packages, especially those designed for lawyers. Various legal information networks have solutions for lawyers which allows them to pay a monthly fee and have a “customized” website created for them. These websites typically look the same, such that when I’m looking at a lawyer’s website produced by one of these companies, I can usually identify which company made it.

But when LexisNexis launched it’s LexisNexis Marketing Makeover for small firms and solo practitioners, I thought, what the heck. And so I submitted an entry, and lo’ and behold, was selected as one of five finalist firms out of hundreds? thousands? of entries nationally. I’ve been interviewed by a member of the LexisNexis team via Skype, and expect them to choose a Grand Prize winner in the next couple of weeks. If I win, I get a trip to NYC! And, of course, an estimated $50,000 in marketing help, which isn’t too shabby, for my Raleigh criminal lawyer website.


7 Comments so far

  1. Mike Mullin January 14th, 2011 11:52 am

    Damon – the first 6 MONTHS of working with my wife (I’m a long time originator, she was a new “Processor”) finally settled into a workable situation when I finally gave up trying to tell her what to do. It’s tough having an “employee” who doesn’t do what you tell them to do. 🙂

  2. Meg Hurtado January 14th, 2011 12:50 pm

    As I was reading this, I totally saw the twist coming – that you’d hire your wife/partner. But it’s a great example of looking at what your business REALLY needs. After all, what all employers REALLY need is someone who has the company’s future and best interest at heart – and who can do that better than your wife? So far it seems to be working out for you guys! Best of luck.

  3. Mike Mullin January 14th, 2011 1:34 pm

    Meg – it has worked out wonderfully for the reasons you mention. It’s also pretty hard to work any faster than we do because we’re coordinated.

    I forgot the downside – and it is considerable in a service type business – it makes “vacations” almost impossible. One or both of us is always tied up with the loan process. A great assistant would fix that but that’s for later…

  4. Chris January 14th, 2011 1:54 pm


    My wife and I have worked together on our own business for the past couple of years and it isn’t always smooth sailing. However, we always manage to get it worked out for the common good of the company.

    Meg – you are totally right about having someone on your team that truly cares about well-being of the company.

  5. Robert Worthington January 14th, 2011 4:30 pm

    Damon, way to go! You are making the right move! Remember, sometimes we have to submit even though we don’t want to. Little issues seem to keep my wife happy. Working together is good and bad, but overall when it really comes down to it, husband/wife is the best in the right situation.

  6. Thomas Johnson January 14th, 2011 8:41 pm

    why am I not surprised that this kennel is full of husband-wife business partners? Perhaps the proprietor’s partnership sets the pace?

  7. Brian Brady January 15th, 2011 9:42 am

    Working with my wife certainly has its challenges but Debra has been invaluable. When she returned to work (some 3 years ago) my hope was that I could dedicate most of my time to marketing to more agents. The biggest challenge was “letting go” and allowing her to take on more responsibilities. I think I finally did that sometime in 2010.

    I hope you get through that learning curve faster than I did. Much of it is setting aside ego and realizing that your wife is going to bring a lot of great things to the table. Letting her make a mistake or two will help as well.

    Congratulations on your advancement in the contest. Damon, you might expand this idea:

    “how about consulting with other lawyers or professionals about how to grow their businesses? how about hosting seminars gear toward recent grads or lawyers about how to take advantage of the web and social networking?”

    Consider “information marketing”. It could be a newsletter, a subscription-based learning website, seminars, etc. If you want to pursue this, I strongly advise you to signup for the GKIC newsletter (about $50/month, after the free trial):

    and attend these meetings:

    You might to be a bit put off by this group of people. Soldier on and understand that the information marketers in that group can teach you a lot. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly you develop another stream of income