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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

me good afternoon everybody Welcome to the Bold lawyers show that was Matt kth my Matt good afternoon I was sorry I choked my mustache goodness sakes um so good to have you guys all here we’re we’re live we’re across Facebook LinkedIn and YouTube this week we we got Facebook back which is awesome um we’re doing the B lawyer show today which is focused on attorneys and you’ve got at least the two of us and we have backstage very special guest my brother Austin who been waiting backstage we’ll bring him on in just a few minutes um this show is for you the attorney the lawyer who is maybe in in a big firm maybe you’re thinking about hanging your own shingle or climbing that ladder to become partner and owner uh we’re interviewing owners of law firms entrepreneurial type attorneys from all different types of backgrounds um and that’s what the show is all about so pulling out kind of the you know how did you get started what what sort of brought you into the law what are you doing to grow your own practice um and serve more clients uh Matt anything on your mind this week you want to bring up I hired a new paral oh my gosh so that’s that’s super exciting so I have been like incredibly productive this week so yeah right she’s doing she’s doing great but I am super excited to meet your brother so yeah my dad always used to joke about my brother he said one of us was smart and the other one was good looking so my question to you is which one are you oh man ay’s pretty good-look guy we’re just talking let’s bring him on all right I I’ll let you know what I think awesome definitely better looking than you and and smarter oh thank you he’s got that nice little kind of that flannel going the fall fall colors out flannel yeah yeah he belongs up here in Minnesota yeah right lumberjacking lumberjack I’m actually thinking about being a cowboy for think for you know Halloween Halloween because I have nothing else that’s all I can do that works that works oh yeah happy Halloween guys oh thank you happy Halloween yeah how many people are watching this we’ve got one live viewer one live and that is we don’t get to see the LinkedIn streamers so got someone on on YouTube verified individual uh non AI on on Facebook uh so please oh we have two now we’re going up anyone has questions we ask you encourage you to ask questions here we’ll take that as priority as we go for sure yeah but Austin we are we are trending and this this might get dozens of views and listens excellent good to know glad I could help you Trend um congrats on your pargal hire that’s huge that means you must making something it’s my third pargal so hopefully this is hopefully I can keep around for you know quite a while pargal are amazing they’re a rarity and they’re expensive the good ones are so good for you yes well okay aie Austin counselor I’ll I’ll be sure to you know here the general guide here is we’re going to interview you we want to hear your story about you know what draw you to the law um and what brought you to your your the practice that you are now an owner part owner in Congratulations by the way thank you main partner at your firm tcd um and we’ll we’ll start there so let’s talk about your journey as an attorney so what what sort of draw you drew you toward the law and uh we’ll start with that well my degree my Bachelor of Arts was useless and so ending junior year at the Frat um I was like well maybe I should figure something out post graduation so you and I decided to do a night course in learning the elsat which a terrible waste of money we each cut a check for a thousand bucks this Fly by Night learn that the elsat situation yep we both took the elsat we both scored poorly you you were higher than me I’m certain Yeah by like a Nos and uh long story short uh I applied to ubb didn’t get in and my backup one of my backups was with lamit and they offered the scholarship well L’s actually a great place to go to law school down in Salem Oregon so I took that opportunity and I just went big I went bold in will lamit um basically like going to high school again because it’s just so small and Salem I mean what do you do in Salem other than study and drink um just kidding Salem Salem’s great um and so I did that for three years I lived in Salem and what was hot coming out of you know 2012 to 2013 of course was bankruptcy as you probably know you know we had session and kind of tail end of that but they had done a bankruptcy was hot and that was only private sector job and or Salem Morgan that was paying anything right DA’s office didn’t want me I actually prepped to do Public Defense because that’s I did some legal pre you know law s was doing I was a Public Defense investigator for a second but uh yeah I ended up working at a bankruptcy firm and I loved it you get a lot of exposure to numbers there’s some Accounting in there um Federal loss you get some you know state law federal law mix because you get State exemptions versus Federal exemptions versus Federal law how that applies and helping people you know hey you’re you’re going to be okay everything’s going to be okay we there is a path for you you’re not gonna have to lose your house like there’s no there’s no debtor’s prison anymore right no no I mean you if you don’t you know if you if you don’t show up to a debtor’s exam and you’re ordered to you could be held in contempt but that’s there you go I never had that but yeah it’s good I mean um there’s some sad times you know people losing everything and literally they you know we’re we’re advising them how they how to walk away from their multiple houses and sad but anyway that was fun I did that for three or four years and then you know getting out of law school my wife at the time was already back in California I decided California before my 3L year I’m going to California so applied for the bar took the exams a three-day bar and got a bankruptcy job in San Leandro which is in the Bay Area um working for Steve Jacobs um it was a struggling firm but he you know we we worked through I worked with him for a year I did some litigation so I got interested in bankruptcy litigation and then I got an opportunity to do insurance defense litigation with my current firm about 10 years ago so I started doing Insurance defense which for those who don’t know we’re paid by the insurance company to represent their clients when they get sued so that’s what we do we do a lot of Auto and do a lot of Auto premises some neighbor disputes boundary line stuff and we do some Insurance investigation work first part they call it first party where you’re just investigating a customer’s claim my car was scratched up for the fifth time what it was my my neighbor you know it’s like no dog like you’re just take you just want to check because you scratched up your car you know it’s like we’re gonna figure out what happened you know we’re gonna we’re gonna have someone with a camera follow you around and see how you see what’s up so you know I’m not I and first party insurance work is great actually I don’t mean that it’s it’s actually really good work and I did some of that but most of what I’d like to do is third party litigation so trials arbitrations you know litigation so that’s what I do and I’ve been doing that for about 10 years and you and I talk but just for maybe other people that are listening Insurance defense um another good example is it true that you’re let’s take Auto like an auto incident is it true that from most part the cases that go to trial when do they pull the trigger and hire someone like you what what causes a insurer to say you know what we’re going to go to bat well you um if you don’t have the file yet then that would come from an in-house Council and either they’re overloaded there’s a concern about conflicts or it’s just it’s the case is too hot to handle and they want to get it over to someone that does trials and that’s what we do you know we we do get referrals from in House Council late in the game we get an early game we do pre-lit cases where we’re just trying to settle it or find out the value or do we tender the limits or do we do we make an offer below it do we what are we doing and so you know we can we we injected it many different areas along the way but yeah we do we get files before trial absolutely we just we get in there and try it if we need to and try it to a jury all the way and you know we sometimes we’ve handled appeals in housee we can do we can send them out if there’s an appeal and you know as far as collection goes we’ll go as far as you know getting a judgment against the plan if and recording an abstract and then we shoot it shoot it back over to the company and say you need to find some collection attorneys because we don’t do this because we’re not gonna collect but yeah we’ve gotten you know we we that’s as far as we take it from pre-litigation all the way through trial monitor it we’ll do Post trial some post- trial work post-trial motions all the way through appeal and back down we’ve done we’ve been remanded before to do more stuff after appeal so the full freaking kitten koodle litigation yes these are not complex cases these are mostly Auto and like I said premist like slip and fall we’ll deal with those so that the the subject matter isn’t always as complex at first blush but when you get into the medical we have live you know Duty breach causation damages 99% of our cases are negligence so was there a duty was it breached are you negligent that mean that means is there legal liability and then causation did we actually cause injury oh my gosh this is going back to law school the my eyes just like hold on this sounds like real lawyer stuff hold on this is what we do so you you get like for so for liability you get accident reconstruction experts sometimes you know you’re getting other experts on liability and then you you know causation did we cause did we actually cause any injury at all you got to buy a mechanical expert to measure to check out the blackbox data in the cars help us arrive at the Delta V or the change in velocity of the plaintiff so some engineering gets involved then you have the medical side nature and extent of injury I.E damages we get doctors from all ilk of All Sorts to come in and you get some real even jurist quack doctors get in there get in there and and stay stay their peace about these crazy injuries people allege all sorts of stuff exacerbations of you know diseases that have nothing to do with traumatic injury they say oh you know my my ex YZ disease got worse because I was bumped from behind it’s like okay well now I have to hire an endocrinologist and I have to hire I have to have you examined by this quack and you know see what they have to say so that’s what we do okay so you you sir You’ have done something I certainly have not I don’t think you’ve done this made partner made ownership in a law firm can we talk for a bit about that we have some people that are listening and some folks that may follow this we got like three listening absolutely after the broadcast we’ve got so you not only made partner at at a at a firm you’ve also you know actually litigated in Federal District Court sounds like in said the magic words like may it please the court yeah I got to be in there I got to do that yeah yeah yeah it was fine I get SC just thinking about that oh I know but you know what it’s no I mean yeah I’ve done that and and it was a small firm and my you know it’s not I haven’t had to work up the the ranking on like a big firm which is a much greater time commitment but yeah no yeah basically I you know I did I put you put your dues in and you do your work and you you asked you asked for more responsibility and you basically know that’s what I did I kept asking hey I want this deposition looks like you’re busy why don’t you let me handle it I’ll do this motion I’d like to do this no I actually would like to argue it no please I’d like to do this I think you should do this and then you start you start suggesting other things to do you start suggesting more work you start rolling just take you just start taking the case from the partner and you’re like oh no I got a cover buddy just yeah I’m good you know and you just that’s how you do it it’s taking ownership just like you would take ownership as a solo you just start taking more ownership over the things that you can do and looking for the next thing that’s why I always tell Associates is like I don’t need you to task I need you to learn learn how to feed yourself and keep the ball rolling if I ask you to send out interrogatory requests and you Bill a point1 or point two for it that doesn’t help me what helps me is you review it review the responses when you come in you meet and confirm and you get really good quality responses from them so I understand what they’re claiming what is the wage loss being claimed what are the damages being claimed what do we what are we going to put in our report to the carrier in three months about what this case is actually Worth right and then the ne the best the better associate says not only I’m GNA do that I’m GNA start writing that report and you’re gonna just have a draft of it and yeah before it’s due there you go and that’s a [  ] ton of billing for them to do and you’ve just you just created value because you get to go you get to work on your trial you get to you get to take that PL of Depo you’ve been prepping for you get to do the fun stuff that you need to do because I still have to bill do in my firm so I get to build I get to do the things I really really really need to do and I have Associates creating value and learning the practice in invested in the practice y not in a way that’s threatening to me love that in a way that builds my value right when I was in law school I worked at a I worked at a big patent litigation firm and uh that’s exactly how it worked all the associates all the interns pargal externs whatever right all we did was the the day-to-day stuff you know and the partner his job was to be spoonfed information and stand all he did you know like he just like what do I need to know like spoon feed me right and then he’s the litigator he’s the big guy he’s the big shot right right right that’s you now now you get to be the big shot and people spoon feed spoon feed you right but I want my I want the the associates to do that so I let them do I let them do stuff I probably shouldn’t let them do and that’s okay because my practice is like I I mean I mean 99% of things can be fixed right right you know that’s not always the case in every little thing we do but like this isn’t a transactional practice you have to live the practice to do it these people have to take that positions or else they’re not gonna be they’re not it’s not sustainable value and they’re not gonna have any buyin and or I mean I guess if I could find an attorney that would just do discovery that loved it that would be great but humans humans aren’t like that like you know what I mean and I mean I wish I wish I could have a pargal just to Discovery and some firms do that but their billing rates lower and I need an attorney there’s some things an attorney has to do a lot of these Discovery the things you’re doing they’re asking for your legal contentions what are you contending and state all facts Witnesses and evidence why it’s like I can’t have a paralal do that right [  ] I can’t even have an associate do that because I have to look at that be like this is all under oath and it can be read to a jury at trial so this needs right so it’s about that trust but yeah you’re right I mean you know I hope I mean so is that why you went off on your own Matt so you could kind of break free no I went off my own because I I couldn’t get a job at the big firm you know I was working at this big Firm Minneapolis IP right and then you know 2008 happened basically right and there was no there was no jobs right so I did um when coming out of Law School in 2011 my first job I started my firm right kind of Tred to side hustle and build up my trademark practice but the second thing I was doing I was working nights doing document review from 4:30 to 1:30 in the morning Downtown Minneapolis you know coming out at night you know with all the homeless people you know all the drugs that was my life for a couple years until my my practice was big enough for for me to focus on that that’s awesome yeah I think I I I’ve always had an interest in doing being an owner and I took a the building a law practice class in law school actually and it was great wait they make those yeah like credit credit no credit yeah it’s like a credit it’s it was it was and then at the end you present your like law firm idea so let’s talk about the business of law a little bit Austin for a couple minutes we’re do a critique of a pretty cool show I like um so let’s do this you’re your partner um obviously I would like to speak freely if you can be a little vulnerable here’s the question do you see yourself you know eventually staying with the firm and growing it or maybe launching into your own practice and if so why are why not this is my practice I’m gonna be doing this until I’m not working anymore all right so why answer why is because I made this decision a while ago when when I got equity in 2019 I there were very specific terms and one of that is that we’re going to run the firm this way and we’re never going to go back we’re going to be profitable always we’re gonna you know we’re going to to make sure that we’re hitting our hours we’re going to deliver a quality product and this is what you know we’re going to try cases if we if we need to yeah gonna be that firm and so far it’s gone fine and so this is my firm that’s a lot of trust you said got other owners with you right so that’s a lot of trust in others it is but you know I trust my partners and that’s the thing is you know it’s it’s tantamount to a solo practice at this point for me um you know and so I mean but I I so I think you know it’s going from solo to this the side which is if I’m not solo then there’s you’re in a partnership that’s pretty much what you’re in you’re basically a solo um and the higher the more the further you go the more you’re seeing the fruits of your labor theoretically or the opposite you if it’s bad it’s your fault you know if things are good it’s I guess good for you right this is my solo practice this is your practice what are some of the things you’re doing to grow it or sustain the profitability what do you see yourself in five to 10 years uh I see myself having um maybe one or two more Associates optimizing cost control really um making sure that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do I think managing Associates is huge and managing costs um you know managing our lease our lease costs our overhead we’re L thank goodness we’ve gone remote we still have a brick and no we still have a brick and mortar in Pleasanton and a year on the lease so yeah you know we have things to I think I I think I’m I’m not a proponent of full remote quite yet I do think I’d like to have for my practice it’s good to have a conference room access so you can whether that be temporary full-time what to figure that out I would like to be fully remote I would but we have to have trial like the the the Superior Court of California which we do our trials in they’re still requiring paper binders and we still have some clients that are elderly that need to be seen in person so either you’re going to their house or you’re going somewhere that’s not at your office to meet them yeah depositions are 95% remote in California but some of them need to be in person so comp room’s nice got it anyway so these are the things I think about cost control I think in five years consistent profitability um more profit obviously um but you know we’re not we’re not a we’re not a Vegas type practice there’s not going to be some big contingent fee we get We’re not gonna have a million plus extra dollars some magic you know magically at the end of the year so you work for every [ __ ] thing you get in in this practice we are live it’s an hourly billing practice you only get you know no I appreciate your your cander you know that’s you know no that’s awesome that is so like you know yeah to to Marg the marginal value of each profit level comes that the sweat of like four people like because remember to build a mountain you got there’s dirt coming off the side so like you you build you get another associate yeah that’s potential x1,000 in Revenue but you have costs not to mention their salary payroll and it’s not like their assistants are providing any they’re not a revenue engine so you have this like you’re building the tree and you know it’s yeah you’re the revenue engine right and so it’s just a matter of freeing you up to grow the practice because you’re not going to count on associate or paralal to do that for you no I mean they need to hit their numbers that they’re out right that’s that’s what you say and that’s really hard to live that too it’s like well they’ve been doing well here but then they’re not hitting here it’s like there’s a human aspect to it as well but you’re right it’s like you know at what point do you you know and then recruiting like people don’t want to do what I do people Millennials and J zers don’t want to do insurance defense I don’t think you never know I mean for the right price you’re right not I mean yeah I mean it’s about Fair yeah pay being paid fairly fairly compensating your people you can figure out what jenzy wants to do period let me know I don’t know man I’ve interviewed so many pargal of that generation and I’m I’m I’m 38 you know but it’s a different deal man

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at