Episode 8: It Sucks for Three Years
Jonathon Farahi emerged from the shadows of two of the most brilliant legal minds in Southern California to launch his solo practice in 2018. Now, just over three years in, he has 20 employees and a thriving personal injury law firm. This is the story about how the self-proclaimed “world’s worst associate” became a successful entrepreneur.
Pratik Shah (00:08):
Hi everybody, welcome back to Bootstrap Solo. My name is Pratik Shah. Today we’re going to be talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly about running your own practice and growing your business. This podcast is for those that want to know what it’s really like to start, run, and grow a practice.
Pratik Shah (00:25):
Excuse me. Today’s guest is Jonathon Farahi. He runs a 20 person practice that focuses on personal injury, and he started his practice back in 2018. It has been growing strong ever since. Jonathan, welcome to the show.
Jonathon Farahi (00:38):
Thanks for having me. I’m truly excited to sit down and talk to you, because from every mutual contact we know I’ve heard such unique things about your brain, and the way you practice law, and think about the law, that is unlike many attorneys. I’m really excited and grateful that you’re having me.
Pratik Shah (00:58):
Thanks, man. I’ve been able to fool a lot of people. I appreciate you saying that.
Jonathon Farahi (01:02):
That’s two of us.
Pratik Shah (01:06):
Yeah. We chatted a little bit before the show. I talked to you a little bit about your practice, and you told me you started your practice in 2018, is that right?
Jonathon Farahi (01:15):
That’s correct. It was in November 2019, I believe is when …
Pratik Shah (01:22):
2019, okay. You got licensed in 2018?
Jonathon Farahi (01:24):
2018, and then I started my career at ACTS Law, Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo in Encino where I was the world’s worst associate.
Pratik Shah (01:39):
That’s worst. That’s quite a title.
Jonathon Farahi (01:40):
Pratik Shah (01:40):
Jonathon Farahi (01:41):
I think Dave …
Pratik Shah (01:42):
Why do you say that?
Jonathon Farahi (01:46):
I’m an entrepreneur by trade. I got my undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship. Even before I went to law school, I worked in sports. I worked for the Lakers and the Miami Heat. I’ve never really been a follower. Been more of a do my own thing. Not because of ego or anything. For me was at least for the law was so stressful. If I’m going to carry this much stress, I want to be the one calling the shots.
Pratik Shah (02:16):
Jonathon Farahi (02:17):
It was nurturing to carry the stress but not have control.
Pratik Shah (02:22):
After you got licensed in 2018 and you decided to work for Danny Abir, Boris Trayzon, which by the way, friends of mine, I love those guys. Great guys. Great place to work. Danny and Boris are two of the sweetest guys for people that have had so much success.
Pratik Shah (02:38):
You decided to work there. Did you take that job? It seems like you had this entrepreneurship desire even in undergrad. Did you take that job because you were like, “Hey, this is kind of what I’m supposed to do as I’m supposed to have a job.”
Jonathon Farahi (02:53):
It’s interesting. I never wanted to be a practicing attorney even while taking the bar, even while taking the bar, I’m like this. I kind of …
Pratik Shah (03:03):
Were you writing in the bar, “I don’t want to do this?”
Jonathon Farahi (03:05):
I mean if anybody could care less about law school, it was me. I was just there having a good time. I knew my goal was to pass the bar. But I was never going to go into big law. I knew if I was ever going to practice law, it was going to be on the plaintiff side. I’ve known Danny Abir since I was 13 years old. We met through fantasy football where he’s never beaten me. Let me make that very clear on the record.
Pratik Shah (03:36):
I need to have Danny on the next episode and hear his version.
Jonathon Farahi (03:39):
You should. You should because you got to lock him in before the football season starts. Because once the football season starts, he’s fully plugged away in crunching numbers and reading stats. But Danny, since I was in beginning in law school kept telling me you need to be a trial attorney. You need to be a trial attorney.
Jonathon Farahi (03:59):
I kept telling him like, “Yeah. It’s not really for me.” My brother’s a PI attorney. My cousin’s a PI attorney. My uncle’s an employment plaintiffs attorney. I’ve always seen this side of it. Business was my first love. But eventually Danny kept chasing me and I had an interview with Boris. I’ll never forget this moment. Boris just starts grilling me. But I knew what he was doing.
Jonathon Farahi (04:28):
Just the way … I could see how his brain was working. Immediately I said, “I don’t care what it is. I don’t care what I do as long as I can sit and learn from that guy and have contact with that guy.” Lack of a better term, I fell in love with Boris.
Pratik Shah (04:47):
Yeah. That’s just somebody where you’re like, “I need to learn from that guy?”
Jonathon Farahi (04:50):
Pratik Shah (04:51):
I just be in that aura …
Jonathon Farahi (04:52):
It was in five minutes, I knew his brain works at a level of maybe two or three other people I’ve ever met in my life. I’m like, “Wow.”
Pratik Shah (05:02):
That’s awesome. You take the job. You’re working there. I think you had mentioned that about eight months in is when you left and decided to start your own firm.
Jonathon Farahi (05:11):
Yeah. We ended up … It was … Again, I’m lucky because of my history with Danny. Again, it’s about leveraging your network, knowing who you can reach out to and count on. I mean, I’m very fortunate for the people in my life who’ve opened doors for me. It was something where we structured it in a way where I still continued having a relationship with them as of counsel. But I was also allowed to go do my own thing. That was thrilling.
Pratik Shah (05:46):
Well, tell me about that. I want to focus on that conversation when you went to Danny or Boris and you said, “Hey, Boris, as much as I love you and as much as I’ve learned from you, it’s time for me to go spread my own wings.” Tell me about that conversation.
Jonathon Farahi (06:02):
It went two different ways. With Boris, Boris didn’t even like me. Boris just gave me a hug. He was like, “You’re ready.” That for me was so empowering to hear those words from Boris of like, “Okay. You got this.” Like, “Shit. Maybe I do got this.” Danny was different because of our relationship. But it was kind of nice because we had the AAF case was brewing. At that time, it was just the beginning of that case. I really wanted to bet on that case.
Jonathon Farahi (06:37):
That was my brain child. That’s my baby. I knew if I’d stayed there as an associate, I would be taken in other areas, other cases. But I knew the value of this case. I knew … Again, the cross between sports and being an attorney for me is like, “Wow. Where else would I want to be?” That case was incredible.
Pratik Shah (07:00):
Well, tell me about that case.
Jonathon Farahi (07:03):
The AAF was a … going to be a supplement to the NFL. It was going to be the D-league, minor leagues for the NFL. They were the first mover. Now we have the USFL, XFL. But the AAF was the first league to do it in recent times, creating a Pro-Am secondary league for professional football players. They had support. I mean, they had Hall of Famers. Steve Spurrier was a coach in the league. Hines Ward, Jared Allen.
Jonathon Farahi (07:35):
There was some real names in this league. Johnny Manziel played in the league. I didn’t watch the league. But I love sports. I love football. It’s my habit every night before I go to sleep is I read the ESPN. I would track the league. You see that the league’s first week kicks off and they beat the NBA All Star game in rating. Think about it.
Pratik Shah (08:06):
Jonathon Farahi (08:06):
It’s a springtime football league beats the NBA in All Star rating.
Pratik Shah (08:11):
Jonathon Farahi (08:12):
Then something happens with funding. They miss payroll. I’m just following this in real time off ESPN, just titles. I’m not even reading the articles. The funding slips for 270. They miss payroll. Then a week later, a new investor comes in and says, “He’s investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the league.”
Pratik Shah (08:36):
I think I remember reading about that. Okay.
Jonathon Farahi (08:37):
Yeah. Then six weeks later, the league decides to fold, still nothing on my radar. Then around April of 2019, I see headlines that players are being forced to pay for their flights back home. Given my experience with the Lakers and the Miami Heat … I worked in basketball operations. I was the guy driving players to the airport.
Pratik Shah (09:07):
Jonathon Farahi (09:08):
It was the most common courtesy thing in sports. Is that we choose your flight. We drive you to the airport. You tell us what city. It’s just what we do.
Pratik Shah (09:20):
Right. Right. I mean it’s common sense. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (09:23):
For me, that’s set off a red flag. Something’s not right here, especially after that a hundred million dollar investment. I still have the text saved. I sent Danny a text that night saying, “Hey, have you heard about this? This may be a pretty good case. Let’s look into it. My credit goes to Danny for having trust in me and sitting in the case, because a lot of people shoot on this case. I’m going to be honest with you.
Pratik Shah (09:53):
Jonathon Farahi (09:54):
That time of year, a lot of people told us “We’re fucking crazy. We’re not going to get a dollar.”
Pratik Shah (10:00):
Jonathon Farahi (10:00):
I don’t know if I’m allowed to curse.
Pratik Shah (10:01):
Yeah. Yeah. You can curse. Don’t worry about it.
Jonathon Farahi (10:02):
Pratik Shah (10:03):
You do anything you want. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (10:06):
People told us “We’re fucking crazy.” He empowered me to drop everything I was doing. One guy was lucky enough to send me his client’s contract just for us to review the contract to see if there was anything there.
Pratik Shah (10:20):
Jonathon Farahi (10:21):
I reviewed it then did team at ACTS reviewed. We were like, “Wow. There may be something there.” Then it was all system’s a go from there we. In that first week we signed 100 to 150 players. I spoke to almost every single one. I spoke to every single one of them.
Pratik Shah (10:40):
Jonathon Farahi (10:40):
If you do a poll of ACTS, I promise you they still remember my pitch to the players, because I would just walk around the office, call after call after call after call, just giving the same pitch. At that point, to me, once we had crystallized the case, we were lucky enough to get really good attorneys in from Texas at Thompson Coburn, because the case got transcript in Western District Texas Bankruptcy court.
Pratik Shah (11:11):
Jonathon Farahi (11:11):
Which you ever told me in law school, I’d be practicing in the fucking Western Texas District Bankruptcy Court. I thought you’re fucking crazy.
Pratik Shah (11:20):
Jonathon Farahi (11:22):
But it got to a point where for me it was … It ties into what you and I were talking about at the beginning of … before we started recording about being an entrepreneur and bootstrapping and going into your own business. Up until a year and a half, two years into my business, my business was my part-time job.
Jonathon Farahi (11:46):
It really was something that I was working two full-time jobs where that football case required my attention daily. But I also knew that I had to have an income stream because I no longer worked for ACTS that I needed to start bringing cases in.
Pratik Shah (12:03):
Let me stop you there. You bring these cases in. You helped close them while you’re still under the umbrella of ACTS, correct?
Jonathon Farahi (12:11):
No. At this point I only have two cases with ACTS …
Pratik Shah (12:15):
Jonathon Farahi (12:16):
… of counsel basis.
Pratik Shah (12:18):
Jonathon Farahi (12:20):
Now again, I’m lucky in the sense that I know people in the industry that I could call and say, “Hey, send me your cases.” Obviously, anyone who’s referring you cases early on in your career, it’s not sending you million dollar cases. You’re getting a lot of Prop 213s, a lot of crazy clients.
Pratik Shah (12:39):
Right. Yeah. Let’s talk about that. You start off your practice. You are talking to your friends, family, whatever you’re looking for business, they start sending you cases. ACTS is obviously a very reputable firm. The cases you must have been working on at ACTS are very different than the cases you started working on at your own firm.
Jonathon Farahi (13:01):
That’s safe to say. I think my first case at ACTS was a case where a guy lost the function of his hand because microwaves leaked out of an industrial microwave. I swear to you, Boris force me to become an expert in the different types of heating. I can tell you how a stove works, how a microwave works, how an oven works.
Jonathon Farahi (13:23):
Then I’m working on a Prop 215 case. It’s like … The one thing that I will tell you and I stress it to all my friends who are starting their practices right now is it doesn’t matter if it’s a 250K case or 15K case because it really is. Once you see one car accident, spinal injury, if you do the legwork up front and learn the spine, learn the biomechanics, and treat that 15K case as if it’s your 250K case.
Jonathon Farahi (13:57):
Eventually you’re studying it. You’re learning it. The next time you see the case and it’s worth 100K. You don’t have to put that leg work in.
Pratik Shah (14:06):
Right. Right. Invest your time in learning that medicine so that when that next case comes along, you can see all the things, the stuff that maybe took you two hours now takes you 15 minutes.
Jonathon Farahi (14:18):
Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely.
Pratik Shah (14:21):
I mean, we’ve all been through that. Have you ever run a business before your law firm?
Jonathon Farahi (14:26):
Pratik Shah (14:27):
Two. Okay. I can tell some sense of in your first few businesses, things probably took a lot longer to get going than in your law firm.
Jonathon Farahi (14:37):
I would say I don’t think so, because I think my background in business before was digital marketing, digital sales.
Pratik Shah (14:46):
Jonathon Farahi (14:48):
Never in the history of the world has it been easier to sell something to a buyer that’s interested in your product and you may not even know that they’re interested in your product. Sometimes they think of an air conditioning fan … I don’t even say it out loud. It’s on my Instagram notification.
Pratik Shah (15:03):
Jonathon Farahi (15:05):
I didn’t tell anybody anything. I didn’t search for anything. But somehow it’s here. With the law firm business one, again, I’m lucky because I had good mentors who told me what to expect. I was always expecting a 36-month delay on every case. I always tell people, “As a PI plaintiff’s attorney, every day you work, you make money three years from now.”
Pratik Shah (15:33):
Yeah. You have to have that mentality that you know that you’re going to have to put in the time for three years to get paid off on today’s work.
Jonathon Farahi (15:41):
Yeah. You have to be leveraged correctly. You have to have the right cases. You have to … If I could go back now, there’s so many things I wish I would’ve known at the time.
Pratik Shah (15:55):
Well, tell me about those things.
Jonathon Farahi (15:59):
I mean number one would be systems. I think systems …
Pratik Shah (16:02):
Jonathon Farahi (16:03):
… are the most important thing because even though you may start with one case or three cases or five cases, that’s not the goal. I think whether you want 50 cases or 1,000 cases, you need to start building for that on day one. Because when it gets to 50 cases, it gets to 300 cases, it’s too late to work backwards.
Pratik Shah (16:23):
Yeah. I think that’s …
Jonathon Farahi (16:26):
You need to start …
Pratik Shah (16:27):
Jonathon Farahi (16:28):
Pratik Shah (16:29):
I was just going to say …
Jonathon Farahi (16:29):
No, no, no. Go ahead.
Pratik Shah (16:30):
… to talk about and think about from day one. What is the firm that I want to build five years from now, 10 years from now? What’s the plan on when to hire, who to hire and what they’re going to be doing when they are hired, moving forward, correct?
Jonathon Farahi (16:49):
Yeah. Absolutely. Even more structured, what does that person’s day-to-day look like?
Pratik Shah (16:58):
Jonathon Farahi (16:59):
You know which doctors are you comfortable working with? Which doctors are no-go for you? In litigation, when do you want your discovery to go out? There’s so many different things that you can structure and systemize that you really should while you have the time with five cases, three cases doesn’t mean that you should be working less than the person with 50 or 1,000 cases. If not, you should be working twice as hard as that guy.
Pratik Shah (17:27):
Yeah. I think that’s super important. Because a lot of people, they start their firm. Maybe they got one client. Maybe they get a couple of friends referring them some Prop 213s and they’ve got three cases. They look at their three cases and they say, “Okay. All my clients are treating. Let me just chill and wait and see what happens.” I mean, what do you say to that?
Jonathon Farahi (17:54):
I mean, you’re lying to yourself if you think that’s a plan to success.
Pratik Shah (17:57):
Jonathon Farahi (18:01):
Again, every day you work in this business, you’re making money three years from now. If you take a day off three years from now, there’s a day that you’re not going to get any income.
Pratik Shah (18:11):
Right. Right. Right. That’s super important. Tell me about this. I want to go back to you. You started your firm in 2019. You left ACTS. You had some cases. You were still of counseling on them. You started bringing in some of your own cases. That probably weren’t A grade cases, we can say. You’re building in that year to now, and now you’ve got 20 people.
Pratik Shah (18:34):
But there’s a whole rollercoaster of stuff that’s happened between when you started and where you’re at today. You mentioned earlier that you just feel like you’re just starting to turn the corner. I want to hear about from 2019 through early 2022. I’m going to ask you a very direct question. What was the hardest day you had?
Jonathon Farahi (18:58):
The hardest day I’ve had? I can’t point to one day, but I can tell you there have been plenty nights where I’ve gone to sleep with “How the fuck am I going to make payroll tomorrow?”
Pratik Shah (19:11):
Jonathon Farahi (19:12):
Literally as simple as, “Wow. When my beat hit the ground tomorrow, I have 12 hours to figure this out.”
Pratik Shah (19:20):
Jonathon Farahi (19:24):
It’s both exhilarating and exhausting.
Pratik Shah (19:28):
That’s high stress. Because if that check doesn’t clear, all the people handing your cases are like, “Jonathon, why are we here?”
Jonathon Farahi (19:35):
Yeah. But the one thing that I try to do, too, as I’ve grown is I don’t hide the business model from any of my employees. I make it very clear to them. We do not get paid hourly. You guys are hunters. We are hunters. We eat what we kill. Literally your work results in when you get paid and how much you get paid.
Pratik Shah (19:58):
Jonathon Farahi (20:00):
It takes the right people and being honest with people, because you don’t want someone who’s going to come and loaf and not understand the model.
Pratik Shah (20:09):
Right. You need them to buy into what you’re doing.
Jonathon Farahi (20:12):
Yeah. Because it’s not for everyone. What we do, especially on this side is not for everybody.
Pratik Shah (20:19):
Yeah. Do you structure the compensation plan of your people in line with production?
Jonathon Farahi (20:27):
No. Everyone’s kind of flat. But I am very aggressive in when we succeed everyone succeeds. Whether that’s a form of knowing each employee and knowing what they like and maybe sending them to a concert just because that’s who they enjoy or whether it’s a bonus here, different people are motivated by different things.
Pratik Shah (20:51):
Yeah. Right. That’s right. You mentioned something about hiring the right people. That’s always a struggle and that’s a struggle for a lot of firms. Have you gone through a batch of hiring the wrong people and then having to learn the hard way about who the right people are?
Jonathon Farahi (21:09):
Yes. I’ll tell you. To me, that’s been the most difficult part of the job is hiring and managing people and dealing with people is a lot more difficult than I ever could have imagined because I think at least our office is completely remote. We have a few people in office, but having the right communication tools, making sure everyone has the right technology, time low first.
Jonathon Farahi (21:42):
I’ve had some people come into my office and steal my time. Literally say they’re working. Then I use my time tracking software to see. Well, the lie detector determined that was a lie.
Pratik Shah (21:55):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (21:58):
It burns because they’re costly mistakes. The time of training, your alternative cost, who could have been doing the job or it could have you been, and then the actual physical money that you spent on this person.
Pratik Shah (22:15):
Jonathon Farahi (22:15):
Because I think one thing that you and I haven’t discussed yet is cash flows. The cash flow aspect of our business, again, I’m lucky because I’ve spoken … I have people in my life who I can call who are 20 years ahead of me, 30, where I want to be. I say, “Hey. This is what I’m struggling through this normal.” They all laugh at me because they’re like, “It doesn’t get any better. It doesn’t get any better.” Like “Your cash flow number may be X, but my cash flow problem is 300X and I’m still dealing with it.”
Pratik Shah (22:53):
Right. Right. Yeah. The problem never goes away. I think it’s super important to have that person that you can rely on. I thought what you said was very important is identify the people that are in the position that you want to be in 15, 20 years from now. Don’t think you’re going to get there in three years. It’s got to be … You understand it takes 15 years. I mean, I had somebody like that.
Pratik Shah (23:14):
I remember when I started out, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about my cases and thought I’d missed something. I remember going to lunch with him and I’m like, “Man, I wake up in the middle of the night, stressed about my cases. When is that going to end?” He just laughed at me and he goes, “Dude, I’m doing this 25 years. It doesn’t end.” He’s like, “It just gets higher stress, because the cases go higher in value.”
Jonathon Farahi (23:39):
I saw a meme, which literally I think completely encapsulates the legal profession. Goes being a lawyer is getting paid to handle someone else’s anxiety.
Pratik Shah (23:50):
Jonathon Farahi (23:50):
Literally that’s what we do. That’s what we do.
Pratik Shah (23:51):
Jonathon Farahi (23:55):
We take on your anxiety for you. Don’t worry about it. We’ll deal with it. We’ll call you when we need you.
Pratik Shah (23:59):
Yeah. I want to backtrack because I thought the point you made about what speaking of anxiety is the anxiety of waking up in the morning and knowing that you don’t have payroll covered, what did you do?
Jonathon Farahi (24:16):
Start … Number one is you got to identify how much you need. You need to have clear communication with your employees. I’m lucky, some employees have said, “You know what? If you need an extra day, we’re good.” It’s a difficult conversation to have. I hated every single fucking time I had those conversations.
Pratik Shah (24:39):
Jonathon Farahi (24:40):
I had the hibbie-jibbies going in, had the hibbie-jibbies going out.
Pratik Shah (24:46):
Yeah. Because you don’t know who you’re going to lose.
Jonathon Farahi (24:48):
Yeah. Yeah. Not only that. It’s the social contract that you come in every day you bust your. It’s my one job. My one return to you is that I pay you on time. Again, my leadership, again, coming from sports is very responsive … taking responsibility. Stand up for your mistakes, address your mistakes. and let’s move on, but you got to own it
Pratik Shah (25:13):
You got to own it.
Jonathon Farahi (25:14):
You got to own it. I’m lucky that I had family that I could go to. I know that everyone doesn’t have … I’m blessed. My brother has helped me out big time, big time in ways that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank him enough or repay him enough, my uncle too, my cousins, my family. I mean one time I had to borrow money from a fucking girlfriend. That fucking sucks.
Pratik Shah (25:45):
Yeah. I can’t imagine. That was fun.
Jonathon Farahi (25:50):
You kidding me? That may have been my worst day. I’ll tell you. That may have been my worse day.
Pratik Shah (25:53):
That’s moving to the top right there. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (25:55):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe I’ve tried to suppress that.
Pratik Shah (25:58):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (26:01):
Not think about it. But again, if you want to be successful, you have to put your ego aside.
Pratik Shah (26:07):
You got to swallow your pride. I think that’s super important.
Jonathon Farahi (26:10):
You have to.
Pratik Shah (26:11):
Yeah. Moving forward, as you’re building your practice, you’re busting your tail. You’re having a call for help. I mean, now that adds more pressure because you’re like, “I got these employees relying on me. I got to turn a profit so I can consistently make payroll for them. Then I got to make sure I pay everybody back that has helped me and show them that this was a good investment and they took a chance on me and I appreciate that. Then I got to be able to at least make a little money for myself.”
Jonathon Farahi (26:40):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, listen, personally, I can’t carry the weight to that every day. Personally, that if I start focusing on that pressure, it’s a lot.
Pratik Shah (26:56):
Jonathon Farahi (26:58):
Really what I try to do and this is the perspective that PI has really given me is because we do deal in catastrophes. We do deal in death. We do deal is tomorrow is a promise. Literally, I could tell you project, let’s go have lunch on Friday. But God forbid, something happens to you and I tomorrow, what fucking good were our plans?
Pratik Shah (27:25):
Jonathon Farahi (27:27):
It’s about maximizing the 24 hours you have in front of you. I do that both not only with my plans, but I also do that with my emotions in that you celebrate your wins for 24 hours. You wallow in your losses for 24 hours.
Pratik Shah (27:45):
That’s it. It’s time to get back to work.
Jonathon Farahi (27:47):
But that’s it. The 24 hours is done. It’s a new day.
Pratik Shah (27:51):
Yeah. That’s a very sports thing, too. If you win a playoff game or you won the game, great. Enjoy the night. But we’re back to work tomorrow morning. It feels like that sports background mentality. You’ve brought it here into the business.
Jonathon Farahi (28:09):
Listen, I’m lucky. When I was working with the Lakers, Kobe was still there.
Pratik Shah (28:12):
Jonathon Farahi (28:14):
I didn’t to … I was in the D-league. I worked my way up from the team bus driver to the assistant general manager of the D-league team.
Pratik Shah (28:21):
Jonathon Farahi (28:24):
I didn’t get to deal with Kobe much. But obviously the stories would run around the building. There’s a video of him that I watch almost weekly, it’s Kobe after maybe game two or game three in Orlando.
Pratik Shah (28:40):
Jonathon Farahi (28:40):
An interviewer is asking him is that, “Kobe, why aren’t you smiling? You guys are up 3-0. You’re about to win your fourth championship.” Kobe just dead pans this guy. He goes “Job finished.” The guy is like, “No.” He’s like, “Job not finished.” “Well, I’ll smile when the job’s done.”
Pratik Shah (29:00):
Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Don’t celebrate in the middle, celebrate at the end.
Jonathon Farahi (29:05):
Pratik Shah (29:06):
The thing about what we …
Jonathon Farahi (29:07):
You should see.
Pratik Shah (29:08):
But the thing about what we do is there’s no end. But I think that’s why I think that 24-hour rule is so important because you’re going to be an attorney for 30 years. You do want to celebrate these things that are good and you may need to wallow when things go bad. But it’s not like a sports season where there is a definite end to what you’re trying to do that season. There’s a big difference there.
Jonathon Farahi (29:30):
I think it goes hand-in-hand with “I’m lucky.” I attribute this directly to my mom. She ingrained it in me. She made it okay to fail.
Pratik Shah (29:43):
Jonathon Farahi (29:46):
Failure is not a bad word to me at all. It’s not a bad word in my office. Mistakes are not a bad word in my office, as long as you learn from them.
Pratik Shah (29:57):
Jonathon Farahi (29:59):
If you fail or make a mistake and you don’t learn from it, it’s a big deal.
Pratik Shah (30:01):
That’s a problem. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (30:03):
But if you fail and you learn from it, then what am I going to do?
Pratik Shah (30:06):
Right. You can’t expect perfection.
Jonathon Farahi (30:10):
You can’t expect perfection. But the caveat to this is you can control your preparation.
Pratik Shah (30:18):
Jonathon Farahi (30:20):
You can’t control results. You can control your preparation. If you are as prepared … if you can internally ask yourself, “Did I do everything possible?” That doesn’t mean grinding yourself to the bone.
Pratik Shah (30:34):
Jonathon Farahi (30:34):
It doesn’t mean doing Adderall for 48 hours and not sleeping. Some attorneys do that.
Pratik Shah (30:43):
Right. Right. Right.
Jonathon Farahi (30:44):
But sometimes it is just taking an afternoon off and going for a walk off the beach, not having your phone and just chilling. But at the end of the day, if you can look at yourself and say, “Hey, did I do everything I possibly could to prepare myself for this moment?” Then you can surrender to the results.
Pratik Shah (31:02):
Yeah. I think that’s a really, really good way to center yourself and keep that mindset that, “Hey, look, this is the way it goes in business. It’s one step backwards. Two steps forward. Sometimes it’s three steps backwards. Four steps forward.” That’s just how it is.
Jonathon Farahi (31:21):
Yeah. Yeah. If you don’t have a control of yourself and your thoughts and how are you going to control your business?
Pratik Shah (31:31):
Jonathon Farahi (31:34):
At least for me, I am my business.
Pratik Shah (31:35):
Jonathon Farahi (31:37):
There’s no difference between Jonathon Farahi and the law offices of Jonathon Farahi when it comes to my brain. Then the way that I wake up in the morning.
Pratik Shah (31:45):
Right. Yeah. Sometimes I get in trouble with the family about this. But I constantly think about my business.
Jonathon Farahi (31:56):
How could you know?
Pratik Shah (31:57):
How could you not?
Jonathon Farahi (31:57):
I mean, you have kids.
Pratik Shah (32:01):
Jonathon Farahi (32:01):
You have kids?
Pratik Shah (32:01):
Yeah. I got two boys. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (32:03):
How old are they?
Pratik Shah (32:04):
11 and 6 and they hear about it all the time.
Jonathon Farahi (32:08):
But they like things, don’t they?
Pratik Shah (32:09):
They do. Of course, they do. Yeah. But I think it’s important …
Jonathon Farahi (32:14):
I don’t know …
Pratik Shah (32:15):
Obviously, the material stuff is nice and all that stuff’s great. But I think that the lessons that business teaches you in what you’re talking about and it’s okay to fail and just because something goes sideways. That doesn’t mean you just stop. You still got people to answer to you. You still have responsibilities. You still got to move forward.
Pratik Shah (32:32):
I think those are such important lessons that just … I’m transparent with my employees and I’m also transparent with my kids. If I had a bad day, I tell them, “Hey, this thing went sideways.” My 11-year-old’s at the point where he’s been motivated by that stuff. Now, he’ll bake cookies and go sell them to all the neighbors. There’ll be a day he doesn’t get any sales. I’m like, “That’s okay. That’s the way it goes.”
Jonathon Farahi (32:54):
Pratik Shah (32:55):
I think that’s important.
Jonathon Farahi (32:59):
I mean, there’s so many things that I … on this subject that I want to touch. I think the first thing that I’ll say is one thing that I think people, especially in today’s day and age are scared to admit is that greed is good. I mean, you don’t fuck people over. Don’t be a narcissist. Rational self-interest is okay. That’s not a dirty word.
Pratik Shah (33:29):
But everybody has self-interest. Sometimes people think, “Well as a business owner, your self-interest is worse than my self-interest when I’m an employee. But as an employee, you have a self-interest, too, because if your payroll doesn’t clear, you’re not going to work. You have a self-interest in getting paid.
Pratik Shah (33:46):
The decision you’ve made in that situation is that you don’t want to take on the risk and the stress and the tradeoff is there’s rewards that you may not get. That’s okay.
Jonathon Farahi (33:57):
Let me ask you this. What did your dad do?
Pratik Shah (34:00):
Oh, my dad was a bank teller. He hated that I started a firm.
Jonathon Farahi (34:06):
Okay. Was your dad born here?
Pratik Shah (34:07):
No. No. No. He’s born in India. I’m the first of my family …
Jonathon Farahi (34:12):
How old was he when he moved here?
Pratik Shah (34:14):
He was 35.
Jonathon Farahi (34:16):
Okay. Number one, he has a completely different hustler’s mentality than any of us. That generation is different.
Pratik Shah (34:24):
It’s different. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (34:25):
It’s different. But I promise you all that stress you carried, all that worry you do, even if you enjoy. The fact that you’re giving your kids a better life than you had, is it not worth it?
Pratik Shah (34:39):
Look. I love it. Right. There’s nothing I would want to … rather do. I can tell you, you feel the same way. But there’s no argument that there’s a ton of effort and thought process and commitment that comes with that. We were talking a little bit before the show is I think that social media has put this shine on entrepreneurship and this shine on going and starting your business that people have forgotten that it’s a lot of work and it’s a full-time.
Pratik Shah (35:08):
When I say full time commitment, I don’t mean 40 hours a week. I mean, it’s a full life commitment to this. There are things that get canceled. There are family trips that get canceled, because something goes sideways in the business. That’s just the way it works. I can’t take two weeks vacation and say, “Don’t call me. Everything’s your problem.” That’s just not how it works.
Jonathon Farahi (35:33):
I mean, where do I even go with it? Yeah. Listen, I’m an entrepreneurship major. I went to business school. I understand business. When I was coming out of ACTS, I’m chest puffed. Oh, running the business. I run into like, “Oh, I got this.” Let me tell you, the last three years have been so humbling in that while there’s so much to handle or know that no matter how seasoned you are every day in the law field brings a new challenge.
Jonathon Farahi (36:11):
Like you said, that may require you to immediately drop out. The social media thing, it is worse than that. I don’t think it’s just a legal thing. I think it’s maybe a societal thing where no one wants to acknowledge losses.
Pratik Shah (36:28):
Right. Right. I mean, what is Mike Tyson say? What’s that famous quote from Mike Tyson, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face?”
Jonathon Farahi (36:36):
A punch … Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m sure you’re on the same attorney chaps as I am where everyone just posts their wins.
Pratik Shah (36:44):
Jonathon Farahi (36:45):
Very rarely do you see … For every 12 to 15 wins, you’ll see one person who has the balls to discuss their losses. Funny enough, it usually is a woman who actually has the courage to be vulnerable and say, “Hey, this is what happened. This is what went wrong. But this is what I learned.”
Pratik Shah (37:06):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s been interesting to see that. I think there’s … I’m hoping that there’s been a shift and that’s part of the reason we started this whole thing. Like I told you, is I want to put those real stories out there of “What’s really going on? What do people expect?” You mentioned also earlier in the podcast that in the last month or so you feel like you finally turned a corner. What was that moment or why do you feel now you finally turned a corner. What happened?
Jonathon Farahi (37:33):
I’m reaching three-year mark on my firm. That 36 month timeline, I am finally starting to earn the money that I worked for three years ago. My paycheck from November 2019 was finally arrived in July 2022.
Pratik Shah (37:54):
Yeah. Speaking of that, what if anything did you pay yourself when you started your firm? How did you deal with that?
Jonathon Farahi (38:03):
Listen. I lived maybe two, three years without a car
Pratik Shah (38:09):
With a what? Without a car? Wow.
Jonathon Farahi (38:11):
Without a car. I’d rather put that money in my employee’s pocket. I’d rather put that money in my cases because, A, it was COVID you didn’t really need a car. But you have to sacrifice. Unless you are lucky enough and fortunate enough to have either family money or someone who’s going to come trust fund you, which I didn’t have the access to.
Pratik Shah (38:35):
Most people don’t.
Jonathon Farahi (38:37):
I wish I did. Yeah. But you have to sacrifice. Did I go on every trip my friends went on? No.
Pratik Shah (38:44):
Jonathon Farahi (38:46):
Did I not go out to expensive dinners at time? Of course, because it was something that was necessary for me to tighten my belt and sacrifice it because I knew what was coming to. The one thing that I will say to people, because I don’t want to be too doom and gloom of “Holy shit. Don’t do it. It’s too hard.” It sucks for three years. It absolutely sucks for three years.
Pratik Shah (39:13):
Jonathon Farahi (39:15):
But everyone who can survive it very rarely do you see unsuccessful plaintiffs?
Pratik Shah (39:21):
I was just going to say that. I mean, anybody that has ever talked to me about “I’m thinking about starting my own firm.” I tell them, “Don’t expect the reward for three to five years.”
Jonathon Farahi (39:33):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny. I went to SC for law school. I would say out of 90 … out of the entire class, maybe 2% went into plaintiff cycle. Everyone else went to corporate or defense. Three stories really stick out to me about what I saw about law students and people who eventually become attorneys.
Jonathon Farahi (40:01):
Number one is … I’ll never forget this. We had a class, our second semester of our first year. It was a business for lawyers. Pratik, I still have a picture of this fucking slide. Slide number three of day one of the class. If you’ve been in law school, you know the sound of the keyboards clicking in unison, literally verbatim. It’s a transcript, better than a court reporter transcribing. A deponent is a law school student transcribing a professor.
Jonathon Farahi (40:33):
The slide, the third slide was the purpose of business is to make money. People were writing this down as if this is … I looked around. I’m like … excuse my … I’m like, “If you motherfuckers don’t know this, you shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t even be pumping my gas. How did you get this far in your life? How have you not stuck a fork in an electric socket already? How is Darwinism not got into you yet?”
Pratik Shah (41:04):
The purpose of business is to make money.
Jonathon Farahi (41:08):
I swear I have the slide. I never went back to the class. I got the highest grade in the class. [inaudible 00:41:14].
Pratik Shah (41:14):
That’s … Going to be on the final. I’m good. Yes.
Jonathon Farahi (41:19):
Yeah. Yeah. I’m okay without this class. The second thing that I told these people is the people who go to … I would always tell them, “Oh, we’re going to go work for Gibson Dunn. We’re going to go work, Scott, and oh, yada, yada, yada.” Be like, “You guys are so dumb. You guys may be book smart. But I promise you every kid from Loyola, every kid from Southwestern give him five years. Maybe in the first five years, you’ll make more money than them. But 5 to 10 years from now, you’re going to be working for them.”
Jonathon Farahi (41:57):
To me, that lack of business acumen, which is why I was so excited to talk to you is because how many attorneys understand business? How many attorneys understand technology the way you do?
Pratik Shah (42:12):
Jonathon Farahi (42:15):
It’s a rare breed of people who just don’t … The purpose of business is to make money. They’re actually sitting there. I would say 90% of attorneys that would blow their minds.
Pratik Shah (42:26):
That’s another person that I think fits that mold is Danny Abir. That guy knows it’s tough.
Jonathon Farahi (42:34):
Yeah. Yes. Yes.
Pratik Shah (42:35):
Yeah. I mean, he’s been a pleasure. I’ve had a few great conversations with him lately. He’s been a pleasure to speak with because exactly what you’re talking about, which is he understands that. He’ll talk to some younger attorneys and I’ll see him have that conversation, the exact conversation we’re having here. He’s shocking them when he says, “Hey guys, we got to make money now.”
Jonathon Farahi (42:58):
Yeah. Listen. I was a little bit out of lines when I was in law school. But I would literally try to mentor people. I’d take people who wanted to go work in governmental law who have 200K and USC loans take them out to lunch and be like, “Listen. Let’s sit down and talk.”
Pratik Shah (43:19):
Let’s do some math.
Jonathon Farahi (43:20):
Hundred percent. Yeah. I respect you. I appreciate you. You’re a better person than me. I’ll even tell you that. I wouldn’t go work to go save the birds or the whales or whatever it is you want to do. My hat goes off to you. But if this is something that matters to you, if this is something you care about, wouldn’t it make more sense rather than you doing your 60K job, or how big of a difference are you making.
Jonathon Farahi (43:48):
Go into business, go make a half a million and donate 250K. Which one do you think makes a bigger difference than saving the whale?
Pratik Shah (43:57):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great point. I think that’s a great point. I think you’re right. Most people, let alone just attorneys, don’t see things that way. That mindset shift, especially if you want to go start your own firm is super important. We’re getting close on time. I want to ask a couple more questions before we wrap up.
Pratik Shah (44:18):
I asked you, what was your toughest day, your worst day. We got that one. I want to know your best day.
Jonathon Farahi (44:27):
Okay. My best day. I would say my best day was I think surviving the motions to dismiss in the AAF case. Because again, it started as a … I’m going to be honest. I was highest fucked when I texted Danny about the AAF case. It was 11:00 at night. I was ready to go to bed. It was just some high idea is like, “Wow. We finally got this.”
Jonathon Farahi (45:05):
It was just to me, it was … Because, listen, when you’re suing the billionaire, you’re suing the deep-pocketed defendants. There’s a team of 25 lawyers on the other side, who are some of the nicest people. I got to give my hats off to them. But there’s 20 of the best attorneys money can buy in. Me at that point, I’m like 18 month out of law school.
Jonathon Farahi (45:30):
For lack of a better term, I kicked their ass. Straight up 18 months out, kick the best attorney’s money could buy his ass with obviously the help of Boris, the help of Thompson and Coburn. But it’s like, to me, that was validation of, “Hey, I know what I’m doing.
Pratik Shah (45:49):
Yeah. Yeah. You need that. You need those moments of that validation. Let me ask you this now. If you could go back to 2019 and talk to younger Jonathon Farahi, what would you tell him right now?
Jonathon Farahi (46:05):
This is crazy. Because you know that this is literally my number one question to ask …
Pratik Shah (46:09):
Oh, really? Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (46:13):
… an Uber driver. Literally, the first question I asked an Uber driver is we could go to the 31-year-old version of yourself and give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Pratik Shah (46:19):
Don’t tell me by Bitcoin or something. Tell me something about the business.
Jonathon Farahi (46:24):
No. No. Of course. Of course. I would say be grateful for both the good and the bad. There’s positives in both.
Pratik Shah (46:39):
Yeah. There’s positives in both. You either learn something or you got something good.
Jonathon Farahi (46:47):
Next time you see things like, “I mean, I’m sure you’ve done and you’ve done hundreds of cases, but the first fuck up you did on a case.”
Pratik Shah (46:57):
Jonathon Farahi (46:57):
“You shoot yourself. Yeah. You didn’t sleep that night. Oh, shit. I didn’t check the box on a CMC statement. Oh my God, what am I going to do? You didn’t sleep that night.” Then you get to the CMC’s hearing and the judge …
Pratik Shah (47:13):
Yeah. You realize [inaudible 00:47:13] matter. Yeah.
Jonathon Farahi (47:14):
You wasted the night. Yeah. But that will keep happening. It’s not just the CMC statement. It’ll be a marketing plan fails or a higher burns out and you hired the wrong person. The problems aren’t as big as they seem at the time when you look back in them retrospect and you got to give yourself perspective in all that.
Pratik Shah (47:39):
I think that’s important is that when those mistakes happen, you don’t have perspective and you don’t understand.
Jonathon Farahi (47:45):
Pratik Shah (47:45):
Obviously, there are some mistakes you can’t really come back from blowing statutes, things like that, that you got to be really, really careful of. But yeah, little things like that, missing a box on CMC or whatever it may be. It’s not the end of the world and not beating yourself up too much or getting too scared to say, “You know what? That was too scary for me. I’m out. It is going to keep happening. If it’s not on …
Jonathon Farahi (48:14):
You’re a hundred percent right. I mean, that was my motto at the beginning of this year. I think for the first two years of my business, I was very conservative because I knew I had to wait till that third year. I knew that if I spent money in 18 months, I wouldn’t get to 36 months. But when I was getting to 28, 29 months, I said, “Okay. I can put my gas on the pedal now a little bit more.”
Pratik Shah (48:35):
You see the runway.
Jonathon Farahi (48:36):
That was my motto, scared money don’t make money. That literally was my motto for this year. Now it’s time for the gas.
Pratik Shah (48:44):
Right. Right. Understanding that timing and understanding that feeling of when it’s right, when it’s not, I think is super, super important. On that note, anything you want to tell the audience? Most of our audience, the three people that do listen, we have is mainly people starting off in their business, whether it may be a law firm or not.
Pratik Shah (49:06):
But people that are just getting started and trying to understand that these hard times are … They’re stuck in the middle of the hard times right now. It’s hard to have perspective in the middle of those hard times. What do you say to that person?
Jonathon Farahi (49:21):
I would say two things. Number one, don’t be afraid to take care of yourself. I think that’s number one, whether if you need therapy, whether you need exercise, whatever it is that you need to do to center yourself and make sure that you are a hundred percent. Fuck your business. Fuck everything else. The person are healthy, emotionally, physically, mentally is the most important thing.
Jonathon Farahi (49:50):
Number two is always, always, always open the door for people behind you, because I don’t know one successful person who didn’t have someone open the door for them.
Pratik Shah (50:04):
Right. Right. I’ve had plenty of mentors. I’m very grateful to them as well.
Jonathon Farahi (50:09):
Yeah. You can’t be successful without other people helping you. No human is that special that they can all do it by themselves. Always, always try to pay it back.
Pratik Shah (50:23):
I love that. I love that. That’s a great place to end. Jonathon, thank you so much for being on. Thank you to …
Jonathon Farahi (50:27):
Appreciate you, man.
Pratik Shah (50:28):
Thank you to all of you for listening or watching. We’ll see you on the next episode of Bootstrap Solo. Remember just because guys like Jonathon make it look effortless, it doesn’t mean that it is.