At 60-years of age, Phil Ryan has never enjoyed running his law practice as much as he does now.
Phil’s disability practice at the law firm, Ryan Bisher Ryan and Simons in Oklahoma City, OK, is experiencing an average of 50% year-over-year growth in its disability caseload, and just recently Phil was able to take a 2-week vacation with his wife, something he had not been able to do in over 10 years.
There are a number of factors that contributed to the renewed growth and success of the law firm, but Phil puts his relationship with Consultwebs right at the top of that list.
The firm was established by Phil’s father in 1984 and had seen the highs and lows of the legal industry over the years. At one point, the firm employed 23 lawyers, with offices in three cities.
Phil took over running the firm as the Managing Partner in 1996 after his father took a leave of absence due to illness. It was a time Phil calls ‘The Heyday’ of Workers’ Compensation cases. “Back then, there was enough money coming in, it was difficult to screw up running a law practice.”
Lack of Leadership
However, as Phil acknowledges, he was more of a managing partner in name only, rather than exerting any authority, and the firm didn’t really have anybody leading the way.
“The partners never met with each other,” said Phil. “We never discussed goals, how we were doing, numbers, what’s doing well, what’s doing badly, who’s signing up cases. The things partners should be talking about. It was just on its own trajectory.”
Revenues began to trend way down, compared with the heyday. The firm was looking out for the best interest of its clients, but less so for themselves. For Phil, the sleepless nights took their toll.
“We never got to the point where we couldn’t make payroll,” said Phil, “because I took out a line of credit on my house.”
But something had to be done.
“It was 2014 and we were running the law firm like it was 1984. We needed a leader or we weren’t going to survive.”
So Phil decided to step up and start exploring solutions.
“The money wasn’t coming in like it used to. Something had to change.”
Phil started to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the firm so that he could figure out the solution. Then he started to take action.
First Action Steps
“Tim got me to start thinking about the firm strategically, and I started talking to Consultwebs about the possibility of them taking over our online marketing.”
Phil’s big concern was the lack of cases, which he put down to the firm’s choice of online marketing provider at that time – a company that’s considered by some to be a heavyweight in the industry.
“We were paying 5 grand a month to our prior online provider and getting next to nothing in return,” said Phil. “They hadn’t updated the website in – literally – years. We did hear from them, but only when it was time to renew the contract, which is the complete opposite of our relationship with Consultwebs.
“Our prior provider had a big focus on selling us more services, like listings in their own directories. And they were engaged in promoting our local competitors who were also their clients.
“At the time we finally left the other company, we were opening around 10-15 SSD cases a month, around the same for Workers’ Compensation, and around 3-5 Personal Injury cases per month.
“Less than 25% of those cases came from the Internet. When we were with the other company, the majority of our caseload actually came from referrals and running some highly targeted and low-cost TV ads on specific digital TV channels.
“We’d get a monthly email from our prior online provider that was, frankly, ridiculous. It would say ‘You received 749 new leads last month,’ without any explanation of what, why, when, where, who or how. It didn’t match up to reality.”
Goal of Return on Investment
Phil decided to take to take action on his business and hire Consultwebs to overhaul the law firm’s website and online marketing.
“We started off with very low expectations, and a general attitude of ‘Please help us, we need some help,” said Phil.
“I really just wanted us to make a return on our marketing investment. Since we weren’t getting that from our prior online provider, if Consultwebs could generate a return on investment (ROI), that would be a substantial improvement.
“We actually pay Consultwebs more than we paid our prior online provider, but it’s really working out for us.
“My target for this year, 2019, is $720,000 in SSD case fees, $60,000 a month. To get to $60,000 a month, I average about $4,000 per winner, so I have to win 15 cases. That means I need to get 20 to a hearing which means I probably need to sign up about 25 cases per month. We’ve hit that goal three of the last four months or even exceeded it and I am actually exceeding my revenue goal.”
Putting The Law Firm Back on Track
Phil can’t emphasize enough how crucial Consultwebs has been in putting the law firm back on track.
“Fred Boettcher, my old mentor, just passed away recently, at the age of 80. I gave the eulogy at his funeral. For Fred, his big deal was always new cases. He would say, ‘If you’re not growing, you’re dying.’ Wherever we were traveling together, he’d call the office and his first question would be, ‘Any new cases? Any new ones you want me to call?’ The last two years, I’ve been driving everybody in the office crazy by saying, ‘That’s not how Fred would do it.’
“Caseload is the most fundamentally important thing for the survival of a law firm, mine included. While we’re growing the caseload with Consultwebs, I’m managing most of the other improvements to the firm, like implementing a new case management and dashboard system, so that we’re more efficient.”
Not A Typical Vendor-Client Relationship
Phil sees working with Consultwebs and his Digital Marketing Manager, Michael “Garney” Gardner, as more of a partnership than a typical vendor-client relationship.
“There’s an inherent trust with Consultwebs,” said Phil.
“Number one, Garney will make suggestions that we do things, even if they’re not going to make Consultwebs anymore money, but will work out well for the law firm. When I’ve talked to Garney about taking up a service that Consultwebs offers, for example pay-per-click, he’ll say, ‘Even though it makes Consultwebs money, you know, Phil, I don’t think you’re ready for that yet,’ or, ‘I think there’s ways you can do it better.’ He’s looking out for me in the long run. That’s pretty comforting.”
Although Phil’s only goal at the beginning was generating an ROI, Garney had other ideas.
“Garney immediately set targets for performance,” said Phil.
“I take a close look at a new client’s existing performance and case data,” explained Garney, “then I estimate what I believe to be realistic and achievable goals in the time-frame, based on what we’re going to do and my experience with other clients.
“Every client needs to have a regular conversation with us about how many leads are coming in, and how many leads are converting into clients,” said Garney. “That’s when you switch from being a vendor to being a partner with the client.”
“That’s not the industry norm, and the many sales emails in my inbox will attest to that,” said Phil.
The Difference Is Noticeable
Phil acknowledges that the changes in the law firm and in his attitude over the last two years have been profound.
“My wife has definitely noticed the difference,” said Phil. “She recently told me that there were two instances in my life when she could tell that I was just simply miserable. I don’t remember what the first one was, but it was many years ago, probably some family thing. The second time was around that time I had to take out the line of credit on the house.
“I’d go to sleep fine, but then I would wake up at 2 am and stare at the ceiling until 5 am.
“My wife said that she was just so worried about me at the time because I was unhappy, under pressure and always so stressed out. She said, ‘It’s a godsend to see you like you are now.’”
Taking time off away from the office is no longer a problem for Phil. He enjoyed that 2-week vacation with his wife a couple of months ago, but Phil remembers trying to do that during the ‘leaderless’ years and not succeeding.
“Once, I had scheduled two weeks off in Vail, Colorado, the same place we went on vacation just recently,” Phil explained. “At that point, I had never taken off two straight weeks in my life. Something happened at the office right before we left and instead of 14 days of vacation, I ended up coming back after six days and leaving my family in Colorado.
“It was horrible,” said Phil. “I now have arthritis in the toe I broke from kicking the desk, because I was so annoyed.”
Healthy Work-Life Balance
“When we went away,”said Phil, “I would call in and probably had at least two or three conversations on the phone with the office every single day, anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.
“Now I will probably only check in every other day, at around 4:45 pm, right before the office closes.
“It’s completely different from just a few years ago.
“In 2013, I was in the depths of despair,” said Phil. “I was taking boxes of work home every single night and every single weekend. It just had to be done.
“It’s all different now. Occasionally, maybe if I have a hearing at 8:30 am the next morning, I’ll take the case-file home if I didn’t get a chance to review it in the afternoon. That adds up to maybe an hour, a couple of nights a week.”
Enjoying the weekends is something else that Phil has started to achieve – and it’s all the more impressive considering it’s with a much bigger caseload than when Phil was under constant pressure.
“Now I play golf on Saturday and go cycling with my buddies on Sunday. Or sometimes the other way around. Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have had the time to do any of it.”
Growing From Strength To Strength
Having achieved a sensible work-life balance while building the law firm back up to its former glory, Phil has continued to make the law firm stronger.
“I’m rapidly getting to the point where I can only do so much and need help,” said Phil. “I can grow the caseload for the benefit of the whole firm, but I can also work on the business. I’ve been re-reading a lot of Michael Gerber.
“Social Security Disability has probably doubled in the last five years for us. I was just looking at the 2019 mid-year numbers. My fees for 2019 have already exceeded 2014 and 2015 for the entire year.
“I went ahead and hired somebody just for intake on Social Security and Disability, but now they handle the intake for all three practice areas.”
But Phil repeats, over and over, that he feels like he’s really only just begun to do things right. In fact, he wishes he’d done this 15 or 20 years ago.
“Building great systems enables the firm to grow and function at scale. It’s definitely important because I’ve only just begun. I’m 60 years old, but I feel like I’ve really come into my own in just the last two or three years. I realize that what I’ve been working on the last couple of years and what I continue to work on is going to allow me to scale.”
Steady and Dependable
It’s the steady and dependable flow of new leads and the growth of the firm, thanks to Consultwebs, that has helped Phil change his outlook.
“I’m within a stone’s throw of being able to hire another SSD lawyer, for the sole purpose of freeing me up to have more time to work on the business for all three practice areas.
“Scale allows me to be gone not just for an afternoon or a day. It’s going to allow me to be gone for a week, and I can foresee a time in the not-too-distant future, when I can do what I need to do without even coming into the office,” Phil explained.
“We’ll be helping more clients, and I’ll be making more money in the process.”
“Now, life seems doable, whereas before I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get it all figured out. I wasn’t sure that I was ever going to be comfortable.
“Now I’m comfortable in my skin. I’m comfortable at home. I’m comfortable at work and not only that, but I feel like, we’ve only just begun.
Planning For The Future
“My broad plan is to grow my revenue base in all three practice areas by another 50% in the next two to three years. The five-year goal would be to double our revenues.
“My goal is to be backed off cases and the day-to-day running of the firm in five years. And Consultwebs is key to me achieving that.
“I said to one of my partners, ‘You know, the deal is, what we made in the first six months, if we play our cards right, instead of being half a year, that can be a quarter, and then it can go from there.’
With that optimism, Phil is thinking about all possibilities for the future.
“I don’t know that I’d want to ever sell the law firm, but I’d like to be able to sell it. When you sell your law firm, the value isn’t in the building or the book of cases you have. The real value is in the systems that you have, and the great team of employees who work with those systems.”
Phil’s Digital Marketing Manager at Consultwebs, Michael “Garney” Gardner has his own perspective on Phil’s rapid improvement.
“When I first started with Phil and his firm as a client, he was absolutely buried under workload. Now I see him taking vacations and being much more relaxed. Just recently we were talking about how to take his firm to the next level. That’s a long way from where we started, around 18 months ago.”
Now that Phil feels energized to lead the charge with his firm, he has a new personal goal that he hopes to achieve in the next year or two. Phil plans to take an extended trip to Europe so that he can watch the Open Championship golf tournament and the Tour de France. Of course, that wouldn’t have been possible without his partnership with Consultwebs.
“I put my faith in Consultwebs and they are delivering for my law practice,” said Phil.
“I think I have the best-looking legal website in my market now. It gives me a sense of comfort that things have been done right and that I’m given numbers on a regular basis that actually mean something to me.”
“Garney and I touch base regularly, whether it’s him keeping me updated with a report or checking in on where we are on numbers. We track the progress together.
“Consultwebs aren’t salesmen,” Phil explained. “They actually care about the end result. They truly want to help you. They’re experts at doing what I need, which is helping a law firm generate more leads at a reasonable cost. I don’t know where we would be without them.
“I must get at least 5 emails a day promising to get me at the top of Google’s search results. If they could really do that, it would be an easy thing to achieve. I know it isn’t, and I work in a very competitive marketplace.”
“When I got to meet Phil in person at the 2019 PILMMA Summit,” said Garney, “he was so excited about his upcoming vacation. He was still focused on his goals for the law firm and we had a productive meeting, but he wanted to enjoy his time away from the office with his wife.”
“I’ve said to my colleagues that we get so caught up with the Google game, that you forget there’s a bigger story there. We focus on improving a law firm’s ROI and we don’t realize we’re helping the owner sleep better at night.”
“Consultwebs is working out just fine for me,” said Phil. “They’re delivering on their promises.
“Hiring Consultwebs is one of the best decisions we ever made.”