Fueled by Whiskey and $5 Footlongs
Episode 3: Fueled by Whiskey and $5 Footlongs
Bob Simon and his brothers rented a small office for $1750 a month, lived on a steady diet of Subway and held a celebratory toast to each measly $15,000 settlement. But they never would have built an 8-figure law firm if they didn’t roll the dice on going solo. Self-promotion and mentorship rule the day on the latest episode of The Bootstrapped Solo.
In This Episode
Bob Simon, The Simon Law Group
Pratik Shah (00:08):
Hi, everybody. Welcome to Bootstrapped Solo. I am Pratik Shah. And today, we’re going to be talking about the good, the bad and the ugly about running your own practice. This podcast is for those that want to know what it’s really like to start, run and grow a practice. Today’s guest is the legend, the one and only, Bob Simon. He runs the Justice Team Simon Law Group, a 70-person practice that focuses on catastrophic personal injury and products liability. I saw recently, you had a really great products liability settlement. He started his practice back in 2010. It has been growing strong ever since. Bob, welcome to the show.
Bob Simon (00:44):
P. Diddy, thanks for having me on. When you say bootstrap, for some reason, it makes me feel like some S&M type stuff with you. I don’t know [inaudible 00:00:52].
Pratik Shah (00:52):
I think that’s just the vibe I give off. That’s what you think about when you see me. But Bob, thanks so much for coming on. You’re obviously a legend in the game. Everybody knows you. Everybody follows you on Instagram, @planetfunbob. You’ve helped me a lot in my career, which I’m very grateful for and will never forget. But what I really want to talk about, and you’ve talked about this a lot on other podcasts, is how you and your brother, Brad, started off just you guys in a small office. Can you tell us about that?
Bob Simon (01:20):
Yeah, man. Actually, it was me and my little brother first. I worked as a law clerk at a firm right off the jump. Last final, first year law school, I was working full time pretty much after that. I worked at a small personal injury firm because I always knew what I wanted to do was hustling business, learning how things are really done. Then when I got out of law school at Pepperdine, rather than taking that big law job for over six figures guaranteed, I took, I think it was 55 or 60. I think it’s 55,000 a year.
Bob Simon (01:52):
This was 2005. 55,000 a year plus a third of what I brought in. By year two, I was making more than everybody that went big law, betting on myself. Year three, I made 250 grand. I go to the partners. There were two of them, and they were like … They thought I’d never leave, because it’s like three-year lawyer made a quarter of a million dollars. I had tried a couple cases done well. I was bringing in a lot of business and it was, hey, guys, I’m bringing in a lot of business, I’m trying your cases, can I have just 1% of the cases that I work on, on top of what I’m bringing in? And much to their chagrin, the answer was no. Yeah, so …
Pratik Shah (02:30):
I think it’s a-
Bob Simon (02:30):
… one guy wanted to-
Pratik Shah (02:31):
I think it’s a mistake a lot of partners make in law firms, right?
Bob Simon (02:34):
Pratik Shah (02:34):
They don’t … They think in terms of “I don’t want to give this part up” instead of thinking of “What am I going to lose if this person leaves?”
Bob Simon (02:42):
Yeah. And I think that’s … I don’t know. People get too caught up in having 100% of the pie rather than thinking about if you even have 50% of the pie and you’re just quadrupling or doing a 10X on it. It’s a lot more doing less. People just got to think a little differently. So yeah, year three, I went out of my own, started … I actually hired my little brother who just came, graduated from George Washington in DC, where we pretty much all went undergrad, my brothers and sisters. Rented an office for 1,750 bucks a month. Shared it with me, my brother, a copier. We spend half the day scanning all the mail, because we went paperless right away. This was 2009, mid-2009. Running a business, you’re answering calls, you’re doing the banking, you’re doing all the compliance shit, and you’re actually litigating cases, doing discovery. My first year out, I think I had tried three cases and done well in all of them, but man, it almost freaking killed me because you’re doing it all by yourself and-
Pratik Shah (03:44):
Let me stop you there. I want to jump in. So, you decide, you talk to your brothers, you talk to the partners at the firm, you say, you know what, I’m leaving, I’m going out on my own. Tell me about the first day. What’s the first day look like?
Bob Simon (03:55):
Oh, my God. The first day, it’s exciting. It’s actually really exciting. It was one of the best times of our life, eating Subway every day, doing a cheers every time we had a $15,000 settlement policy limits. It was just exciting to go in there, create your own website, figure out what brand you want to be, how you want to be perceived. How proud is it when you have your own … I never had my own business cards made and it would just have your own name on it. It was just very exciting times. And I was never really-
Pratik Shah (04:27):
But figuring all that out, and what I want to get out there is that figuring all that out, it is on your own, there is no playbook, right? You have to figure out how to get business cards. You have to figure out how to design your website. Because you don’t have 5, $10,000 to spend on somebody creating a website for you. And so, I think people underestimate how much time all of that stuff actually takes. Just in the website, how much time, when you look back, was spent figuring it out the brand design logo and then actually creating it, as an estimate?
Bob Simon (05:00):
It took a long time, dude. I had my cousin that I grew up with do it on the shoestring, of course. You just do what you can back then. You didn’t have the money to really build out a real website. It was just a credibility backdrop, just like a one-page thing just so people could find you. And then just getting a phone line. Right now, it’s a lot easier. You fast forward till today, there are playbooks. There are people that help you do these things. There are mentorship groups and people that put you in position to succeed and to cut all of your costs and do it efficiently. But when I did, I didn’t have that. My support group was just emailing listservs.
Bob Simon (05:35):
I was in an office suite where I rented from Mike Piuze, who was one of the most legendary trial lawyers who just passed away a couple years ago, unfortunately, of cancer. But that guy hit billion dollars against tobacco. But he was never there. I couldn’t really ask questions from him. And as a lawyer down the hall, that I might ask a question to here and there. But I was lonely or on an island. So you got to force yourself into networking, going to events, asking questions, making friends, looking up to people that you think have the correct answers, maybe they do, maybe they don’t. And then just really forcing yourself into the industry. And it’s one of those things, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Bob Simon (06:09):
I mentor a lot of lawyers starting their own firms now. And people often tell me, what if I don’t know what to do with that case? Or what if I’m intimidated by the work? I’m like, bro, that’s the easy fucking problem. That’s the easy solution. You find the specialist in the area, you can fee split. Learn on their dime, do it together, have a better product for your client and make more money. So, yes, it’s a lot easier now, but going back then, there’s a lot of life lessons that we went through. We can go through some of the ups, the downs, the early ons and how we model Justice HQ off of, taking away those struggles, and having people be able to come in right away, start their firm, be able to compete and do it very well. So yeah, [inaudible 00:06:49]-
Pratik Shah (06:48):
Yeah. And I want to jump in on something you just said that I thought … I felt the same way when I started my practice. It is very lonely in the beginning. I want to just touch on that for a second because I think people … There is a community of lawyers that will help you and there’s a community of people that are willing to support you and want you to succeed. But at the end of the day, there’s nobody else to do the work other than you. And there’s nobody that’s going to motivate you to wake up in the morning and get into the office and make the calls and show up to events. There’s no boss that has a threat of, hey, you’re going to get fired if you don’t do this. At the end of the day, you have to do it and you have … It is lonely because there’s nobody to turn to. Let’s talk about that for a second.
Bob Simon (07:32):
You’re 100% correct. And the first year, the first, probably, four or five years, it was got to get up really early before the phone starts ringing to get in some workout to have some balance. At that time, 2008/9, I was dating my wife at the time. We got married in 2010. So it’s having a relationship and we had a lot of discussions back then. And talk about maintaining a relationship, it’s like she knows that I have to put in all this work. At night, I’m either answering emails until midnight and still getting up at 5:00 a.m. Because that’s the only time you can really do a lot of those things, like do the networking, do the online stuff. I’d go on fucking Yelp and answer questions, or I’d go on Avvo and answer questions. I’d go on other people’s listservs where I was the only personal injury lawyer and answer people’s questions to try to generate business and get your name out there and self-promote. But you have to do those things.
Bob Simon (08:27):
Early on, you’re almost ever never not working. That’s just the way that it is if you want to be able to succeed and do it well. But when you’re alone, you have to put yourself in front of folks that you want to be around. Your support system, your network is critical in those early stages, because that’ll dictate whether you succeed or not. If you’re around people that are motivating you, that are like-minded, that have already been there, that can show you the ropes, that can help you and guide you and inspire you, that is everything. That’s why I think mentorship is a one, and today a lot easier, Pratik. You can listen to podcasts like this. You can slide into Pratik’s DMs. They can help you with these things. Back then, and I was talking to a law school yesterday about this, I had to literally go find out where Gary Dordick, who’s now my mentor and best friend, was speaking at an event and just hound him until he said hello. I had to physically go there, figure where he was, look at flyers. This is just a different time.
Bob Simon (09:27):
Now it’s a lot easier to surround yourself now. I have text message chains with like Brian Panish, who you work with, who’s one of the most legendary trial lawyers, and all these other trial lawyers where we shoot ideas back and forth. But it’s forcing yourself into those conversations. And then when I started feeling lonely again is when I would get a case that I would think would be maybe a little big or a little challenging or a little heavy on the costs, because again, when you’re a startup, you don’t have the money. That’s the number one problem, litigating these cases are frigging expensive. And trust me, hiring experts is not cheap. So what I did and learned early on is after I tried those three cases, almost killed me, I said, you know what, let me start partnering up with some of these bigger firms that have a bigger machine, learning with them and having them front all the costs. Gary Dordick, Arash Homampour, Brian Panish.
Bob Simon (10:14):
I did a trial with Brian where we got, I think my fifth trial since I started my firm, we hit for nine and a half million dollars. Paid, right? Unbelievable. He came in a week before trial, memorized everything, had a whole team, I’m friends with a lot of people over there, we tried it together. I had the best time ever, so much fun, less stress doing things together. And they fronted all the costs. And the client made way more than I would have as a third year lawyer or second year lawyer on my own. And it’s just a success learning tool. It’s like you have this ability to fee split in California, most other states, why not take advantage of it? Have somebody else front the cost for you. So you can take that money, it’s not sitting stale, and invest it in other things that you need. Hiring a paralegal and assistant or a virtual assistant or optimizing operations and spending money wise. And again, if you have a mentorship group on operations, it helps you talk about how you’re going to scale your firm, if you want to scale your firm, and what you’re going to do for different solutions. So that’s how I solved that early on.
Pratik Shah (11:19):
Sorry, say that again.
Bob Simon (11:21):
That’s how I solved it early on. And then creating chat rooms with other lawyers I was friends with and we could bounce ideas off of one another and it became very friendly. And that’s what we evolved in Justice HQ where it’s that on a massive scale where you have a lot of likeminded folks in different virtual chats, helping one another for different, whether it’s entrepreneurism or whether it’s a trial chat or whether the policy is open, these different things. But you have to put yourself in these groups virtually and in person in order to excel.
Pratik Shah (11:51):
Yeah. And you talked about some of the numbers and I think your results are pretty legendary out there. Everybody knows you’ve gotten multiple seven-figure verdicts, some eight-figure verdicts, just crushing case after case. Your firm is known as a big-time trial firm that comes in and handles huge cases and does great work for people. And most importantly, it’s what you said. At the end of the day, it’s experience. If I had a case starting out and I had tried cases at the DA’s office before I started out on my own, so it’s not that I couldn’t go into a courtroom and try a case, but spending 100 grand on cost was unfathomable. I wasn’t even … There’s no way. It’s just not going to happen. And an expert calls and says, “I want a $5,000 deposit to talk to you,” it’s like, what are you talking about? I want $5,000 too. We’re both in the same boat.
Pratik Shah (12:36):
But there’s just something that money can’t buy and it’s just experience. And watching the people that have done it, you, Brian Panishes of the world, all these lawyers that we work with and we see out there, watching them take a depo, how efficiently they can take it just because of experience, how they don’t miss the little details that you might miss if you just haven’t been there. And so, that lesson of learning is worth the price of admission, when the reality is not only do you learn everything, you then make more money because you got to see Brian Panish get nine and a half million dollar verdict.
Bob Simon (13:11):
That’s unbelievable. It’s the best learning experience you see behind the curtain, how things are done, how the associates are making PowerPoints and taking real-time transcripts and plugging it in. I still take that first PowerPoint that we did on that case and I plagiarize the shit out of that for every other trial and every trial we’ve ever done. We do 20 a year. And Panish always tells me I owe a royalty fee. “Hey Bob, you got to pay that royalty fee.” But why not use that? The wheel has already been created. You don’t need to reinvent it. And if somebody else can help you build the same wheel … There’s no other industry where you can do that, where you can go to like Ferrari and be like, hey Ferrari, can you do [inaudible 00:13:52]-
Pratik Shah (13:52):
Teach me how to build a car. Yeah.
Bob Simon (13:53):
Correct. It just doesn’t … Oh yeah, oh, I’ll teach you how to build it and I’ll pay for it. It’ll all be free for you. And then you’ll make a lot of money doing it. Sounds great.
Pratik Shah (14:01):
Exactly. Yeah. One of my favorite things I love to say is never let ego get in the way of making money, right?
Bob Simon (14:07):
Pratik Shah (14:09):
That was a big hindrance for me in the beginning, is that I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to pound my chest and say, I did it, I did it, when the reality is you still did it because you went and got the case and you learned, and you’ll do it on the next one. And sometimes, I think a big mistake I made, and a big mistake a lot of people make, is that they don’t work on a long enough time horizon. They look at things in quarters and in years, instead of decades. Like, we’re going to be lawyers for 40 years. So if the first five years are spent co-counseling and learning and learning, who cares? You got 35 years to go do it your way on what you want to do after you’ve learned how to do it.
Bob Simon (14:45):
Yeah. And sit in those rooms. That’s why we have all these free almost daily case collaborations at Justice HQ, because people just like to sit on other people’s cases and just roundtable them. It’s good to get that mental gymnastics and see how people want to do them. You learn. So I learn every day. Every day I learn something new, every single day. I do a crap ton of like fusion and spine cases and stuff like that. It’s kind of my niche. But I learn new stuff every day. There’s new technology I learn, there’s new procedures and things that are coming out there in the medical literature. And again, it’s a learning thing. People ask me like, what book are you reading now? We talk about it because we talk about scaling our companies outside law and things like this. But I don’t really have much time to read.
Bob Simon (15:25):
So I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m walking or running or doing something. I’ll put on the AirPods and I’ll listen to a podcast, but they’re learning podcasts. Whether it’s learning how to scale my other companies that I’m doing, whether it’s learning about the new medical procedures that are out there. And sometimes I’ll listen to interviews by defense doctors. If they’re out there in a podcast so I can learn who they are and a little bit about them. But you got to love it. I love this shit. But pick what you love. People over-sensationalize being a trial lawyer. Look, it’s hard, man. Six weeks out of town without your family and the grind and not eating and not taking care of yourself. It’s not optimal. It’s fun. It’s up and downs. I don’t do any illicit drugs or anything. Well, I do smoke weed here and there, but that’s not illicit. That’s free in California.
Pratik Shah (16:14):
Bob Simon (16:15):
Yeah, it’s legal. My only vice, really, is trying case and feeling that rush. And after that cross examination of just eviscerating a witness. That’s it for me. But that might not be it for you. The most successful, highest quality lawyer lives are the ones that litigate very well and can do it from anywhere. So don’t think you have to fit this peg of being a trial lawyer. You have to fit this peg of where you think it goes. Dictate what you think is fun. And then, that’s when I made an early conscious decision when I started my firm is I want a quality of life, I want to try cases, I want to bring in cases. That’s it. So I insulated myself right away. I didn’t want to put myself at the top of a pyramid where I had to try every single case. I made a cognizant effort to train every single lawyer that’s walked in my door. If they want to try cases, you’ll do it. You’ll do it.
Bob Simon (17:02):
I’ve had law students trying cases for me, very well. Train them how to do it. Do it second chair, third chair. Learn, learn, get out and do. And then I didn’t want to write, so we hired writers. Now we outsource writing. We have it at law and motion department. Specialize in what you want and then figure out what you don’t want. Early on, I just wrote down shit I don’t want to do on one side, shit I want to do on the other. And then on this left, hey, I’m going to outsource it. Like EsquireTek for discovery. I didn’t have it back then. I spent way too much time on discovery. But I started outsourcing it, like having paying a contract lawyer just to do my discovery early on.
Pratik Shah (17:37):
Yeah. No. And I think that’s the beauty of starting your own. The beauty of running your own business is you get to be the creator. You get to be the designer of what you want, of what you want the business to look like. And there is no obligation to follow any previous business model. There’s no obligation to follow what anybody else is doing. Now, I think you made some really great points here that I want to touch on. When you talk about never not working, that doesn’t mean you’re sitting in front of a computer 24 hours. What that means is that you’re always thinking about your business when you’re listening to podcast or when you’re listening to … You’re not listening to the radio and listening to the top 40. You’re listening to, hey, something to get my brain moving and move the business forward, even if it’s only a 0.1%, at least it’s 0.1%. And that times every day over the next 40 years, that’s how you get to the business level that you’re at.
Bob Simon (18:26):
Correct. It’s a weird term, never not working, but it’s almost like not working yet working at the same time.
Pratik Shah (18:32):
Yeah, yeah. Because it’s fun. You have to love it. There is no … A lot of people ask me about, well, what about work-life balance? And my answer to that is always the same, which is that assumes that work and life are two different things. But if you enjoy your work, it’s not separate from your life. And so, I’m like you, I enjoy working, I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy spending time with my family, and those are the two things that I do. I don’t do anything else.
Bob Simon (18:54):
Yep. I set it up where, on my watch, if I get important message or something up with my kids, it’ll ping me and I could do it, handle it really quickly and off you go. But don’t miss that opportunity. The worst thing I’ve ever seen people say like, if you have your own business and you say, well, I’m off the clock 5:00 until tomorrow morning, I’m not working weekends. It’s like, dude, you’re probably never going to be successful with that model or [inaudible 00:19:20]-
Pratik Shah (19:20):
And that’s fine. And my counter to that …
Bob Simon (19:22):
Pratik Shah (19:22):
… is that’s fine. That’s fine. You don’t have to work weekends. You could do whatever you want. Just don’t be mad if somebody else is doing it and having the success that you want. And don’t be mad if you’re not reaching the level that you wanted to get to. Because there’s a balance and there’s a tradeoff in no matter what you do. And if you’re trying to build something that not a lot of people get to build, there’s not a lot of people that get the opportunity to build their own thing. So you have an opportunity to do something not a lot of people do. You’re going to have to make sacrifices. It’s not just out working and all that stuff. It’s about what you’re willing to sacrifice as well.
Bob Simon (19:55):
Yeah, and that’s why we were talking about doing things on a shoestring or a bootstrap budget. My dad’s a truck driver. I had law school loans. It’s not like I had all this money or this financial back or angel investors, any of that shit. When I started my firm, I had none of those. I had no line of credit. I just saved money working as a lawyer, put it aside, and then off you go. I just self-financed everything. We didn’t … And then, when I brought in my twin brother as my law partner, who’s much more operations and business-minded, I like to do the FaceTime stuff and he does the operations and manages the entire firm until we started three years in. I think we started learning about getting lines of credit through Advocate Capital to do some case demands cost to free of capital because that’s when the rubber really hit the road.
Bob Simon (20:39):
So we were building reputations, getting good cases, trying cases. And every time we had a big pop, we would reinvest it into the firm. Get more employees. Who cared about our quality of life or how big our apartment was at the time? We didn’t own our own property at the time. It was constant in this firm. There’s no bigger cash cow that you could have with a bigger rate of return ever than a law firm ever, ever. But you got to invest it to it, right? So about year three or four, it reached this point where we started to have, or maybe four or five, where my brother and I didn’t take any salary for two years in a row. People didn’t realize this. We made no money, maybe years four and five. Because we were in a huge growth period and we had a lot of verdicts that were on appeal. So we were not paid on these massive results. They were just sitting there stale. What are you going to do?
Pratik Shah (21:29):
Nothing you can do. Nothing you can do.
Bob Simon (21:31):
Nothing you can do. You got to wait it out and believe in yourself. And finally, I think 2014 or ’15, there was four in a row that these big cases that were verdicts and then a few other big cases had finally paid and it was like this huge crest wave. And then it was finally where we were able to …
Pratik Shah (21:50):
So I think that timeline’s important and I want to jump in on that because you started your firm in 2010, and you’re saying that the moment you turned the corner and you felt like, okay, here we go, now we’re going, is 2014/2015.
Bob Simon (22:03):
That was in a big way. I knew this was a … It was the right decision day one. I knew that year two or three, that it was … We started to hit that wave. And then when we hit the wave so hard that whenever things were on appeal … You’re putting 150, 200 grand costs, that ain’t going anywhere, bro.
Pratik Shah (22:22):
Yeah. That’s stuck, yeah.
Bob Simon (22:25):
[inaudible 00:22:25] You don’t get that back until the case is paid. So that’s where we knew that there was this thing sitting there, we would get it eventually. But it was a struggle. But yeah, I think the timeline’s shortened now because you could do things a lot more streamlined and your overhead can be like … Our overhead was a lot higher then because you had hard wire lines and do other crap. You don’t have to do these things anymore. It’s a lot more virtual. Flex space is a lot easier to compete and do things. Three years is where it took to be really profitable and years four and five is where you fucking went astronomical.
Pratik Shah (22:56):
And that’s what I’m talking about. Because I think there’s a misconception just based on what’s out there and just people’s own romantic conceptions of things is that, hey, I’m going to start my practice and I’m going to make a million dollars. And then, in the first year you work 100 hours a week and you make 50 grand. It’s like, wait a minute, that’s not what I was told. I thought I was under the impression that I was going to be super rich after I start my practice. And I want to get that message out there that even the great Bob Simon, the guy who has built a practice that a lot of people want to model their practice after and build and learn from, I learned a lot from you, but it still takes time. Even then, great, talented trial lawyer, knows how to get cases already, has experience in PI, has all the tools to succeed, has saved money, had a little bit, not a huge bank grow, but at least something, and even then, it still takes three years.
Pratik Shah (23:48):
So, I guess, let me ask the question. Your firm is known for the seven-figure verdicts and up. And when was the first … After you launched your practice in 2010, how long did it take you to get your first seven-figure either settlement or verdict that was paid?
Bob Simon (24:04):
I think it was about two or three years in, and that was the first … Maybe I had one or two prior, but the first big one I remember was that one with Panish where it was millions. I think we made a million or two in fees alone off of that case. And that’s when we took it, reinvest it into the firm. Because we had a lot of cases. We had to put case advanced cost, hire some infrastructure, and then we built that inventory and then hit some big verdicts. Then I started trying myself, hit some big verdicts, and then that’s when they were all up on appeal. So whenever that happened, I mean we had million dollars’ worth of case advanced cost just sitting stale. Yeah. So that’s how crazy it is. You know you’re going to get it back eventually because you already won. It’s just going through the motions literally. But that’s where you know you have something, but it hits that the rubber meets the road. But three years, I think two, three years [inaudible 00:24:57].
Pratik Shah (24:56):
You’re white-knuckling it for two to three years.
Bob Simon (24:59):
Pratik Shah (24:59):
You’re just like, keep going, foot on the gas, we’re just going to do anything and everything until this thing turns a corner and then we’ll find help and we’ll figure it out and we’ll create the structure from there. And so, let’s say you turn the corner after three years, all this money comes in, things are finally going well. You’re like, okay, we’ve got a system here and it was just you and your brother, Brad, for a while, or Brandon.
Bob Simon (25:19):
Yeah. Well, my younger brother, Brandon, we started and then we said, dude, you got to go to law school. Brad, my twin brother, he went back to law school. My brother, Brad and I, and one of the first lawyers we hired was Tom Feher. We interviewed a lot of lawyers for an associate. He just had an it factor and trained him how to try cases. And he tried his first case his first month out of law school. Just teaching people how to do things. And then, my brother Brandon found some of the best lawyers ever that they all work at our firm through law school, just recruiting the talented personalities at Thomas Jefferson. And a lot of scumbags went there, including the host of the show. So, there goes that.
Pratik Shah (25:55):
That’s what they’re known for. That’s what they’re known for.
Bob Simon (25:57):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, but I mean, no one gives a crap where you went to law school.
Pratik Shah (26:00):
Bob Simon (26:01):
[inaudible 00:26:01] hire personalities and people that are willing to succeed and you can’t teach hungry-type aptitude. So, then it just started to expand very quickly where we … It just happened organically. I never thought we’d have a 70-person firm, multiple offices, trying a lot of cases all the time. I just never envisioned that. It just grew organically into it. Because we just kept getting big cases and kept getting big cases. Well, let’s just invest in the firm and hire somebody else and keep investing and reinvesting and reinvesting. I never, we never do digital marketing, no SEO. I don’t do the stock market. I just put all my money back into the firm and then we started acquiring office buildings for our firm and things like that, and that’s how we build wealth.
Pratik Shah (26:40):
So when you’re determining … Okay, let’s say the first five years, you have this big money coming in. It’s very tempting to then say, okay, well, I want to go buy that Ferrari. I see these other attorneys driving around. I understand that’s not your personality and that’s not what you want, and I’m like that too. But what do you decide? Let’s say a million dollars in fees comes in early in, how much of that million dollars in fees do you put back into the firm, in a ballpark, and then how much do you actually take home as compensation?
Bob Simon (27:08):
We almost put all of it back into the firm. Early on, especially. When you have those … Maybe I’m seeing 10% of that as it goes into my pocket to do different types of things.
Pratik Shah (27:21):
And that’s the key. That is huge, that people need to understand is that when these big things hit, it’s not just, hey, I’m going to go now chill on the beach. It’s you got to put it back in and double down on what you’re doing. Because you have to just keep betting on yourself. And what you said earlier, I want to reiterate, which is there’s just no better return than in the law firm. And so, go buying real estate to get $500 a month cash flow, that’s not what you want to do early in your career. Maybe later on, as you get older and you decide, okay, now I’m planning out my generational wealth or whatever. But early on, you got to get that business going and it’s not going to get going after one big settlement or one big verdict.
Bob Simon (28:01):
Pratik Shah (28:02):
You got to put it all back in, put more wood on the fire and just keep going. What’s say you to that?
Bob Simon (28:07):
I agree 100%. It started with that mentality and we were eating tuna and ramen noodles, dude. I mean, we were living in apartments, sharing one. Early on, I moved my brothers and sisters out from Pittsburgh. We all just lived together in an apartment for the first few years of me starting my firm. And it was fun. It was hilarious. My wife would-
Pratik Shah (28:28):
Right. And when you said early on, that’s not the first six months. That’s like two years of doing that and you’re having to explain to Christine, who’s now your wife, why do you live with all your brothers. Well, we’re trying to build something. And she understood that and good for her for riding that train.
Bob Simon (28:44):
It’s funny thinking back those first two years. We lived in a condo in Brentwood and it was me, my little brother, my sister had moved out with her best friend, and my wife was living there, before she’s my wife. It was like 2008, 9, 10. Oh, she was my wife. We did get married. We’re living there. But now, like full circle, my brother is now a partner at our law firm. My sister is the CEO of Justice HQ. And it’s just … Those were the days. That was the grind and it was nothing sexy. It was fun. I grew up one of five kids. We had fun all the time in small spaces and being together and it is what it is, but you got to invest in it.
Bob Simon (29:25):
So it took that time, two to three years, before your first seven-figure settlement where you’re paid on. Now, my firm, we see two to three seven-figure settlements a week. But that’s what it takes for that early investment and to organically grow. And if you have a … Look, if you’re listening to this podcast and you come, you have money or financial backers and you can put in …
Pratik Shah (29:43):
Go do it.
Bob Simon (29:43):
… 100 grand a month and [inaudible 00:29:45], go fucking go do it.
Pratik Shah (29:46):
Bob Simon (29:47):
Different model. I mean, you want a different business model, a different mentor. There’s people that can show you how to do that and scale it. And good for you, you will make a lot of money doing it. But if you’re not and if you’re like us and how to deal with just grit, inhibition and working hard and not being too flashy, that’s what it is.
Pratik Shah (30:04):
There’s an old saying and I want to say it because I think it’s important here is there’s no nobility in poverty, right? But what I mean it for is do not do a certain business model because you think it looks good or it looks bad. Do what you want. Do what you feel is right for you and your family and what the businesses that you want to build. I think Bob’s touched on that a lot here is that you figure out the business model that you want to build. And if you want to build a volume practice and do the billboards, do it. There’s no judgment from anybody. And anybody who’s going to judge you for doing it, that’s just because they’re not doing it themselves. So let them be. You do what you want to do and what makes sense for you.
Pratik Shah (30:40):
But importantly, I want to touch on is that first two to three years, that four years of reinvesting and reinvesting time, reinvesting money, reinvesting assets, everything you had, what you also had, which is really wonderful, is a nice support system. You had brothers and stuff and I think that’s what you’ve created in Justice HQ. I used to be … I’ve been a long-time member of JHQ. I’m a big fan of JHQ. I think it’s just growing and it’s just going to go to the moon. And I think what you’ve created there is that support system. Because when I started out, it was lonely. There weren’t a lot of people starting their own practice. There weren’t a lot … You were before me and it was probably even lonelier for you. There were even less people doing it. I relied on guys like you. You stand on the shoulders of the giants before you, and that’s what Justice HQ is.
Pratik Shah (31:25):
I think it’s really important to tell people. For those of you that are listening and think, well, I don’t have brothers, I don’t have people that are going to sit in an apartment with me, that’s fine. You don’t need that. That’s what Justice HQ is for. Can you tell us a little bit about JHQ?
Bob Simon (31:38):
Yeah. So, the whole vision of it was to have a membership-based organization that solves the solution for people to have their office-based solution, their mail, their social media, their media, their access to cases, their mentorship, their collaboration, all in one place. So, there’s locations that people can come in, 24/7 access to all workspaces with a membership. You go to LA, Orange County, San Diego, Torrance. Pop in, be in the mix with the lawyers, walk down the hall, ask a question to somebody else, but also do it virtually. So all of like Gary Dordick, Arash Homampour, like myself, a lot of people who are experienced in this field, they’re accessible digitally too on all of our channels. So if you want to hit us up directly or ping the whole group about a question you have, or you have this issue, we have a trial chat where people are talking live things that are going on. It’s very inspiring.
Pratik Shah (32:26):
And just, even if you don’t have a trial, like I used to jump into that slack all the time, just to see the issues that were going on. Because you’d see how a witness is going to react on the stand and how someone’s going to handle it or what the advice is on how to deal with a certain judge, making a ruling that you don’t like. And just seeing it and just hearing the way people think and learning the thought process and the mental framework of how to deal with this stuff is so invaluable.
Bob Simon (32:49):
Yeah. It’s like choose your own adventure thing. If you want to have a speaking engagement, you want to do a webinar, you want to do a case collaboration. If you have issues on a case, you just go into our app, ping it, set it up, it automates it for you and people will come virtually or in the space and just help you for free because people want that mental gymnastics, that energy, and it’s just something that has to be there. And it makes it really easy-
Pratik Shah (33:11):
I think another mistake that’s out there, and I made this mistake when I was younger too, is that I always just assumed that if somebody’s trying to mentor me, it’s because they’re trying to take my cases. But the reality is when I was starting out, I didn’t have cases anybody wanted. I took the cases nobody wanted. And the reason why people still mentor, even if they’re not trying to get something out of you, is because the best way to learn is by teaching somebody else. So like if I’m talking to a new lawyer and I’m explaining how something works, they start challenging me on stuff. They’ll say like, well, hey, what about this and that? And you’re like, you know what, I never thought about that. That’s actually a really good point. And it’s like, well, let me look into it and see if it’ll work or not. And not all the time, but every once in a while you hear something, you’re like, that’s a great idea.
Bob Simon (33:54):
No, I mean you’re 100% right. I probably do four or five just sit downs, either Zoom or person, with people to talk about, like coaching them on their firm, their journey, starting their own firm. And I learn something every day and we just spitball stuff. What if you did this, what if you did that? I had an epiphany with a guy. We met for lunch, ended up being for two hours. And he’s a lawyer that’s in his 40s like me. And it was just … Where he could pivot with this, he never saw and he just took us an hour of talking. You should go this direction with X, Y, Z. But yeah, you got to put yourself in the room. And it makes it really easy for folks just to go on the app and like, I want to reserve the podcast room in Orange County today, reserve it, set up for you. There’s the team there to assist you with it.
Bob Simon (34:37):
It allows people to have this whole, like the feeling of being in this big law firm and having all this collaborative event and having access to the most experienced lawyers in the law firm. But everybody be a la carte to have their own firm, their own identity. And if you want to work together, so be it. The both of you just sign a fee sharing agreement, you work on a case together. If not, it doesn’t really matter. We have a ton of out-of-state members that don’t even use the physical workspaces. Most members don’t even need the physical workspaces. They come in once a month, once a week, whatever, to collaborate, hang out, or if they’re in trial, for a war room. But it’s for that collaborative event, for accessing cases, these types of things that just makes it a lot more interesting and fun. [inaudible 00:35:18]
Pratik Shah (35:17):
And it’s actually not that expensive. I was pretty surprised at the pricing. I don’t want this to turn it to like a sales podcast for JHQ, but just seriously, I think it’s a pretty great deal. What is it now? Like 800, 750, something like that?
Bob Simon (35:30):
No, 700 a month is the base membership.
Pratik Shah (35:32):
Seven hundred? Yeah.
Bob Simon (35:34):
Look, again, when I talk-
Pratik Shah (35:35):
What you said earlier, your first rent on an office was 1,700. My first rent was … I mean, look, when I first started out, I was sharing a room with my one-year-old child and that’s how I started my practice. But after I settled my second or third case, I’m like, hey, this isn’t going to work. I can’t have a crying baby in the background. I need an office. And it was 1,000 or 1,100 a month for an office. So to get everything … I mean, I don’t know. That feels like a screaming deal to me.
Bob Simon (36:04):
Well, I mean, that’s the whole thing. Like 1,750 a month was paying and that didn’t include scanning, copy.
Pratik Shah (36:10):
Right, right, right. None of that.
Bob Simon (36:11):
Like locker storage shit. This is all included with that or media.
Pratik Shah (36:14):
Bob Simon (36:14):
Having access to media, mentorship, collaboration. And there’s also case exchange where you can case this from and to. And that’s because if you could do things on a scale and have everybody work together on the same platform and have efficiency systems … With EsquireTek, you can save a lot of time if you’re doing things on scale like that. And people paying for what they actually use or what they get. And I think that’s where things, if people learned anything through COVID, it’s that. Don’t waste … I was talking to a lawyer yesterday that has a 15,000-square-foot building that he’s just wasting. He’s like, why am I doing this? I was like, why are you doing it? You’re paying all this money a month for a building that you do not use because everybody’s virtual. It’s an expense you don’t need. It’s a burn you don’t need.
Pratik Shah (36:56):
You don’t have to fit into the cookie cutter of what anybody else is doing. You are the divine creator of your firm. You get to design it to look the way you want. And be creative. You have to be a creative lawyer. Be a creative business person as well in deciding how you want it to look. And how you want to pay people can be different from everybody else. You don’t have to follow just your basic structures of what everybody else is doing. Don’t be afraid to make sure people have opportunities and incentives to do great work.
Bob Simon (37:27):
Consumers don’t give a shit. They like a lawyer that pays attention to them, gets back to them, and has a bedside manner. People get intimidated, I’m too young. I used to have … My first big wrongful death case I ever signed up is maybe two or three years in as a lawyer. And I had to bring my wife to pretend that she was my paralegal to look professional. Because I was competing with all the big dogs. But I had already gained credibility with this because I helped their uncle out for free on a case, because it was a low case. Did it for free. Pay it forward and sure enough it did. And ended up 2000 … I forget when that was. But some of the case for like 5 million bucks and that was a huge deal for us on that one too. But it was because of those putting yourself in situations. But you also commented on don’t be adherent to pay structures or how you’re going to pay your employees. You can do things on incentives.
Bob Simon (38:14):
A lot of our lawyers, people don’t … All lawyers in our firm do not make a salary more than $100,000. But I have a lot of lawyers that’ll make over half a million, over a million dollars at the firm because you’re getting percentages, you’re eating what you kill. It’s the same type of mentality. I want people like me invested into the case. I want them to want to win or need to win. To encourage them to get out and generate business. And we can do a whole podcast on how to generate business. I mean, [inaudible 00:38:41].
Pratik Shah (38:41):
That’s a five-hour topic.
Bob Simon (38:43):
But I’ll tell this really quickly to all of your listeners. When you’re early on-
Pratik Shah (38:46):
There’s only six of them, so that’s fine.
Bob Simon (38:48):
Six, six. All six of you out there, spend 50% of your time early on has to be on marketing yourself or trying to acquire cases. You’re going to be in your office because the phone’s going to be ringing. Your office should be your home. You should be virtual, 100%. But when the phone’s ringing, you got to be doing things, otherwise, before the clock dings or afterwards, you are networking, you are hustling. You’re figuring out ways to make yourself more money, to put yourself in front of more folks. It’s going to freaking swap meets. It’s going to networking events. Answering emails, other things. A lot of things are virtual now. It’s a lot easier to do these things. The consumer expects it. But 50% of your time, it’s got to be like that.
Pratik Shah (39:28):
And just to jump in on that, everybody’s got a different strategy or a different funnel that works for them. You’ve got an incredible social media following and it’s done very well for you. I’m not a social media guy. I don’t know how to use it. I’m like an old man when it comes to the phone. I don’t know anything about it. I just repost if-
Bob Simon (39:44):
Your YouTube fan, your only fans page is really-
Pratik Shah (39:47):
My only fans is blowing up. But other than that, I’m not a social media guy. If somebody tags me, I’ll repost it. That’s about all I know how to do. But so like that isn’t for me. That’s just not who I am. It’s not my personality. The way I generated business, I took your runoff cases. I would call big firms and just cold call them and say, hey, just send me what you don’t want. And they weren’t great cases, but they were great for me. If I settled for 15,000 or 20,000 or 30,000, it kept me going for a couple more months. And so, don’t feel obligated to be like, oh, I have to do social media or I have to do this or I have to do that. Pick one that fits your personality, that fits who you are, and then just go all in on that one channel until you get to a point where you’re like, okay, this one channel has taken me here to a certain level, now I need to add more channels to get to the next level. When did you start with social media and start really posting a lot?
Bob Simon (40:40):
Okay. So, credit to Teresa Diep, who’s the co-founder of Justice HQ.
Pratik Shah (40:48):
Bob Simon (40:48):
You know who that is. Stop.
Pratik Shah (40:48):
I don’t know who that is. I love Teresa.
Bob Simon (40:50):
Everybody does. But Teresa … So, early on, we first did have some success. She’s now the co-founder of Justice HQ. She founded Outlier Creative Agency. She [inaudible 00:41:01]-
Pratik Shah (41:01):
She’s a VP of marketing at EsquireTek.
Bob Simon (41:03):
Correct. She’s a genius. So, Teresa was the manager of my favorite bar down the street from where I used to live with my brothers, my sister, my wife, that we used to go to all the time, called Q’s in Brentwood. We became good friends. Then when I started having success as a lawyer, we wanted to throw nice holiday parties, Christmas parties, the end of the year. And we hired Teresa just to plan some of those because she started doing some of that. She was managing a few other locations. And it was awesome. And then at one point, we’re like, can you help us a little more, doing more events? And it grew into her being our marketing director. And at one point, Teresa was like, you got to get on this thing called Instagram. And it was like, really? This sounds kind of cheesy. What’s going on? But she forced us to get on. She forced us to do the Justice Team podcast, forced us to do the Simon Law Group Instagram handle. That was before I did plan a thumb up. I was just doing everything through the firm.
Bob Simon (41:58):
She was like, you guys are young, you’re funny. Every lawyer here is likely was under 30 at that time, definitely under 40, trying a lot of cases, having a lot of fun and just doing things differently. And she’s like, you got to promote that. So we ended up having like huge success out the jump with social media and I get almost all of our cases through just organic social media, doing things with her team. And now we do things more sophisticated with having talk shows, Bourbon of Proof. I’m actually wearing my Bourbon of Proof T-shirt [inaudible 00:42:28]-
Pratik Shah (42:27):
Yeah. That was a great conference, by the way. I had a ton of fun.
Bob Simon (42:30):
Pratik Shah (42:30):
Learned a lot.
Bob Simon (42:32):
But Teresa, we would sit down with her team and she’s like, let’s talk about your brand. And the first question she always ask you is like, what do you love to do? And why is that not your brand? And I was like, well, I love like hanging out, spitball cases …
Pratik Shah (42:44):
Bob Simon (42:45):
… drinking whiskey, these things. Right, bourbon. So, she’s like, well, let’s just grow into that. So then we started doing like … We talked to you. Let’s do a conference called, no, a fun … That was the original [inaudible 00:42:55]. Let’s do a fun conference, where actually have the young people be able to share their knowledge with doctors and have a concert. And we originally called it Lawchella and we got a cease and desist. And then we called it Law-Di-Gras. It was before a board with some doctors and every year we do that. It was the brainchild of Teresa, you, and I of let’s put this thing together and make it fun. And now people wait every year for these types of things.
Pratik Shah (43:19):
Yeah. If you build it, they will come type of thing, right? Create an opportunity for people to come and be a part of you and experience like what you would like to experience. And what you’ll find is there’s a lot of people that love the same things you love, whatever it is. Whether it’s bourbon or whether it’s playing pool or something else or whatever it may be. Whatever you like to do, build around that. I think those are super important lessons is you don’t have to fit into the mold of anybody else. Whatever you are into and you like doing, build around that and a lot of people, you’ll find your circle and you’ll find your group that want to be a part of that as well, because that’s just the way it works. There’s no secret to it. That’s really what it is.
Pratik Shah (44:02):
I also want to touch on a couple more things and then we can wrap up here. But what I want to ask is a lot of people think that people that do really great things and have great success like you’ve had in the law and in business are doing these super-secret things that nobody else knows. And I want you to touch on that. What’s your position?
Bob Simon (44:24):
Dude, I give all this information up freely. That’s why we started the Justice Team podcast. Hey, there’s no secret sauce here. I mean, get it out. I want everybody to succeed. And that sounds silly, but it’s true. The more people that are succeeding on our side of the table, representing victims and consumers, the higher the settlements are for everybody. Because the higher the verdicts are, the more that the needle moves, the more fair it is for everybody. So if we share all of the secrets with everybody and show them how to do it and that’s … I want to do mentorship on a scale. Justice HQ for me is mentorship on a scale. I can show more people how to try cases. I can show more people how to do their business and have a quality of life. The more people that are able to do those things … Imagine 2,000 lawyers at Justice HQ able to do all those things in unison, we better bet every single consumer is going to have a better settlement because of that mission, because of that mission.
Bob Simon (45:16):
And I’ve seen firsthand people that struggle through chronic injuries or quadriplegic. This is how I got into the business and why. But it is better for everybody that old phrase, and I’m bad with phrases. I fuck them up all the time. It’s like make like a tree and go, what [inaudible 00:45:31] used to say. But it’s like the rise and tide lifts all boats or something like this.
Pratik Shah (45:35):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Bob Simon (45:36):
It’s 100% true. So, I freely give information. I give advice all the time. I help people to a fault. I think it is the best thing-
Pratik Shah (45:45):
I learned how to litigate … I never worked at a personal injury firm before I started my practice. I learned how to litigate from your documents because I’d email you and Brad and Brandon all the time and say, hey, you know any doctors that do this and can you send me sample motions? And like half of … Just like you were saying your PowerPoint is off of Brian Panish’s PowerPoint, 90% of my motions were off of your motions and no, you’re not getting a royalty. You don’t want a royalty. They’d be pennies anyways on my cases. But yeah, you’re not going to get a royalty. But I learned from you. And I think people have to find a mentor and find somebody that’s willing to help. And the question is, well, how do you find a mentor?
Pratik Shah (46:19):
Well, it’s what you said earlier. You got to show up to these events. You got to ask the questions. You’re going to find somebody whose personality fits your personality and that you like spending time with, they like spending time with you, and you guys can actually learn together and grow together. A couple other things I want to touch on before we wrap up. So let’s say, I want to give a hypothetical. Your family member, cousin, whatever, is starting a practice and they say, Bob, I want nothing from you, but I want three pieces of advice. I’m starting tomorrow. Tomorrow’s my first day. What are they?
Bob Simon (46:53):
One, put yourself … Find a mentor. If you find a mentor in that space and you approach them, you can have a good handle on even operationally how I set up my firm, all these other things. One, find a mentor. Two, put yourself in a group, a social group of like-minded individuals that are constantly challenging you to be innovative. They don’t all have to be lawyers. Most of mine are lawyers, but we talk all the time about those types of things. Three, I think you have to be willing to just think differently. Don’t use that old scale model. Four, be willing to collaborate. So, the more you’re working on cases with other folks, the more you learn. So I don’t do employment law, but if I could get a big employment case, I’ll bring on a specialist, do employment law and I’ll learn. You should be of that mindset all the time. Be the general counsel for your client. And five, just don’t be a dick.
Pratik Shah (47:48):
Yeah, yeah. That’s a good one.
Bob Simon (47:49):
If you’re a nice person, if you’re out there as a nice person, helping people-
Pratik Shah (47:52):
It’s true. It’s crazy how true that is. Because the reality is just in any industry, I don’t care what industry it is, there’s going to be people that have integrity and have ethics and do things the right way and people that don’t. And you want to be part of the former. You want to be part of that group and you will find and attract people that are part of that group because people very quickly recognize if you’re not of the upstanding character, if you’re not the person with integrity. And they’re going to just avoid you and they’re not going to want to spend time with you. And then the only people you’re going to have, if you’re one of these non-integrity folks, is other non-integrity folks. And that’s just not a way to live life.
Bob Simon (48:28):
Yeah. And it’s also being up to speed on legal tech and efficiency. Because if things are evolving and they’ll constantly evolve, that’s why you find a good mentor that helps you know what podcast to listen to or what’s on the horizon or what case management platform should I have or should I need one at this point? These are all things that people can teach you if you put yourselves in the right group setting of folks. And don’t waste … Keep your overhead low. Don’t waste money on shit you don’t need. People think they need this big flashy office or are they going to do all these things or hire all X, Y, Z employees. You don’t need to do that stuff. Some of the happiest lawyers I know are just true solos. You should start that way and, you know.
Pratik Shah (49:11):
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Awesome. That’s all the time we have, Bob. You and I are going to keep talking about other stuff. But I appreciate you coming on. And for everybody listening, thanks for listening or watching. We’ll see you on the next episode of Bootstrapped Solo. And remember, just because they make it look effortless, it doesn’t mean it is.