Podcast #91: Starting a Boutique Firm, with Patrick Palace

This week, Aaron and Sam discuss talk about the five reasons that your customers are leaving. Then, Sam talks with Patrick Palace of Palace Law about opening a boutique law firm and being president of the Washington State Bar Association.

Patrick Palace

patrick-palace

Patrick Palace is the owner of Palace Law. He is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer whose practice emphasizes workers’ compensation, personal injury, and civil rights matters.

He served as the Washington State Bar Association President for 2013-2014 and the Immediate Past President in 2014-2015. Patrick is also a member of the National Conference of Bar Presidents (2014-present). In 2016, Palace Law was recognized by the Law 500 as one of the top 100 firms nationwide for its growth and innovation.

He is a dedicated practitioner of yoga with his yogini wife, Lisa. Together they founded Yoga Palace, a yoga studio in Tacoma.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists and Xero for sponsoring this episode!

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Transcript

Sam: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.

Aaron: And I’m Aaron Street and this is Episode 91 of the Lawyerist podcasts where we talk with Patrick Palace about starting a boutique firm, serving as Washington State Bar President, and more.

Sam: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Xero, beautiful legal accounting simplified. Find out more at xero.com, that’s X-E-R-O.com.

Aaron: Today’s podcast is also sponsored by Ruby Receptionists. Ruby answers are phones at Lawyerist so we don’t have to worry about getting interrupted and we really think they do a great job. You can visit callruby.com/lawyerist to get a risk free trial with Ruby.

Sam: Aaron, I just got back from the converted conference. I say got back but it was just up the street in Minneapolis. This was a marketing conference put on by lead pages, which is a local but very popular company that has landing pages and call buttons and things like that that you can use to get people to buy white papers and webinars and sign up for things. Most of the conference was about clicks and page views and conversation and all that stuff but there was this one guy that I thought might be really valuable for our listeners to hear from and his name is Noah Fleming. He’s Canadian and he started out by saying he’s sorry, of course, which is what people at Clio do too, but he talked about the 5 core reasons why your customers are leaving.

Aaron: Or clients in this case.

Sam: Yeah, when I say customers just go ahead and hear clients. One of the things that I thought was interested is he was not in this online marketing world really. He sends out a weekly e-mail. That’s about as online techy as he gets and he sends it out with sort of a tip for his potential clients, or his current clients, something about himself. It’s a very folksy business model that he has and his customers are big businesses that do manufacturing, industry, traditional businesses, so he’s very much in the same vein as say a business lawyer or an estate planning lawyer who’s going after wealthy clients so I thought he was worth listening to. He has 5 core reasons customers leave and I thought it would be worth going over them and talking about how that is relevant in law practices.

Aaron: Let’s do it.

Sam: Let me preface it by saying a lot of lawyers think of their clients as one and done. Business lawyers maybe think of their clients with a longer life span, but part of what I would encourage people to think of is your clients can come back and you can think of them as customers over time. The first reason they leave is that you screw up. You just fuck up and they don’t want to come back because their angry at you.

Aaron: You should probably not get those people back though.

Sam: Yeah. I mean you can say you’re sorry, you can try to get them back, you can admit you screwed up, those are all important things if you can, if you want that client back, but there’s not a whole lot you can do and it doesn’t happen very often, hopefully. I mean if you’re screwing up a lot maybe you’re in the wrong line of business, but it shouldn’t happen a lot.

Number 2 is you solved their problem. A lot of lawyers probably think that’s what I do. I solve problems and then they don’t have problems anymore and then I don’t have to deal with that client anymore, which I don’t think is necessarily true.

Aaron: It’s certainly common if you’re a diverse lawyer or an estate planning lawyer that you got them the thing they came there for and done.

Sam: Yup, but estate planning lawyers, estate plans need to be renewed and I think we’ve seen statistics at some point showing that almost nobody comes back to the same lawyer when they need more estate planning work, which is probably a huge missed opportunity.

Aaron: Yup.

Sam: If you can’t have adjacent services, or followup services, fine, and maybe you solve their problem and they leave, but I think it’s worth considering can you get more out of those clients? Do they need more from you that you can provide? It’s at least worth considering that but developing ancillary legal services basically and that ancillary business. Number 3 is natural attrition. People die, obviously.

Aaron: Or move out of your jurisdiction.

Sam: Or move out of your jurisdiction, that’s another good one. Maybe they make friends with another lawyer who does the same thing you do and that lawyer becomes the person that they want to connect with. That’s going to shade into another one of the 5 items but yeah, people just sort of naturally move from one thing to the next and that’s okay. There’s probably not a whole lot you can do about that.

Number 4, though, is one of the big ones. He characterizes it as they fall out of habit. What he’s talking about is when you’re billing somebody monthly for a service, that’s a habit and they just do it because maybe they like you, maybe their loyal to you, but eventually they go while I’m not really getting the value from this, which is why it’s so important for lawyers to make sure that clients appreciate the value their giving. Part of what you do is solving a legal problem. Part of what you need to do is show them that you’re solving their legal problem.

Now lots of lawyers don’t bill by the month or by the week or by the year, lots of lawyers bill either flat fees or hourly fees, but during that time you still need to make sure that person sees values and if you’re going to have a relationship with that client over time, you need to make sure that they see value in staying connected to you or staying friends with you and maybe that’s as simple as doing a monthly or a weekly newsletter like Noah does, but you need to make sure that they believe that it is valuable to stay in your circle so that their ready to hire you when it’s time to hire you.

The fifth one is that they have no connection to you, that they lack loyalty to you. We’ve talked about this before. Lots of lawyers think that well the real value that we have that nobody can get from online forms is the relationship with clients, but the relationship in most cases is they’ve been to your conference room twice and they were annoyed by how hard it was to find parking and they couldn’t find your office in the building, that’s not loyalty.

Aaron: Yeah, I mean I think 4 and 5 in the context of a law practice can be related, which is it’s not just having someone on a monthly subscription. There are people who do that in their law practices, it’s an interesting pricing model, but it’s not that common. I think more likely it’s something along the lines of that newsletter, which is staying top of mind and maybe that’s an e-mail newsletter but maybe it’s cutting something out of the newspaper and sending it to them or mentioning something interesting and useful on their Facebook page or sending them a handwritten note so that you stay top of mind.

Certainly if you have subscription pricing then making sure you’re delivering on that monthly fee in some way is important but even if you’re not actively providing them any legal services 6 months after their will, staying in touch with them in a relevant way I think both makes sure you don’t lose that habit and that you stay relevant to them.

Sam: I think Noah made a really interesting, he gave an anecdote about his biggest customer ever, who had been subscribed to his e-mail, they weren’t friends but they had talked about business for years and after 2 or 3 or 5 or whatever years, the guy finally calls him and says okay I’m ready. This is the kind of client, he hopped on a plane for, flew down and they signed a huge contract for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars or whatever. I think lawyers sometimes get distracted by all the online marketing opportunities out there and we essentially treat our potential clients as if you drop by our website you’re a potential client but you have to nurture those relationships with your referral sources, with your people who might one day become your clients, so that eventually you can earn their business and they can become your biggest client. That habit is the habit of just being friends with you. It’s the loyalty because you have a relationship with that person and you’re providing value from them.

A number of people throughout the 2 days provided examples of loyalty that I think are cute but maybe helpful. Noah was saying like if he’s late with his e-mail people start e-mailing him to ask him if he’s okay.

Aaron: That’s a sign of a sticky newsletter.

Sam: It’s the sign of a sticky newsletter but also that people actually care about you. I think that’s one good thing. Yeah, and if the people who you are trying to add to your network of referrals and potential clients and stuff, if they reach out to you to schedule lunch, that’s another good sign. If you don’t have to go drag them off to a coffee shop all the time. If they are actually saying hey i haven’t heard from Sam in a while, maybe we should go get coffee. That seems like another good sign to me.

Aaron: Yeah, I mean I think one of the things that ties all these ideas together is that they have to be actual relationships, and that does not need to mean that you’re snap chatting with people or sending them pictures of your lunch but it does mean you need to know what is valuable to them as a person and what motivates them so then if you see a blog post or something, you could forward it to them and say hey this one made me think of you. Or to include such things in your weekly newsletter that their desperately waiting for.

Sam: I always feel like some people get so distracted by the gimmickry of marketing. Like what you need to do is send out an e-mail and it has to have stuff in it every week and that’s just gimmickry. That’s not a relationship. That’s maybe a way to stay top of mind with somebody you have a relationship with, but it’s a gimmick, and so I think what Noah was talking about is exactly what you pointed out. It’s making sure there’s something real there.

Another marketer talked about, he was actually really annoying, but he pointed out that all of their marketing efforts now are not geared towards getting people their downloaded white paper or click on a button. All of their marketing efforts are geared towards sparking a real response. What they really want is for someone to reply to their e-mail so that they can start a real, live person to person conversation with them. All of this online marketing gimmickry that they do is just trying to get somebody to have a real human interaction because relationships are really where it’s at and so I think that’s a really good and accurate observation of what’s going on there.

Those are Noah Fleming’s 5 things. I will add a link to, I think he’s got a book out there and I’ll throw a link to that in the show notes.

Aaron: Cool.

Sam: Now here’s my conversation with Patrick Palace, which is really fun and too short so I think you’re going to get to the end of it and I think you’re going to enjoy it and then you’re going to wonder when we’re bringing him back and we will.

Patrick: Hi, this is Patrick Palace from Tacoma, Washington. I have a workers compensation and personal injury firm. I have about 5 attorneys and 20 people and I’m the past president of the Washington State Bar Association.

Sam: Awesome. Thank you for being here today Patrick. You are also one of our TVD Law Attendees from our inaugural TVD law back in August, which is awesome.

Patrick: That was really an amazing program by the way. Thank you for that invitation. I walked away with just pages of information that we brought back to the office and began using right away.

Sam: Awesome. That’s so cool. I guess maybe we’ll touch on some of that today but I like to get the origin story of everybody’s firm so give me the origin story of your firm.

Patrick: Gosh, I started practicing in Chicago and I guess just kind of fell in love with blue collar law. When I moved here to Tacoma, it’s a working city, it’s kind of a gritty city, and so doing workers compensation fit in. I grew up in a blue collar background and so it was just an area of law that seemed to fit. I didn’t have to wear a suit and tie. I was out meeting everyday, dirty hands, hard working, real people in my community and I guess it was easy to fall in love with that area of law and practice workers comp.

Sam: So did you start out solo or did you start out with partners or associates, or how did it grow to 5 attorneys and 20 staff?

Patrick: No, I’m sure this is a familiar story. I started by myself. My wife was my office manager for many years and we just started growing year by year, day by day. You know the old story about it takes so many years to earn your first million and then the second million comes quick. I was by myself forever and then hired on a lawyer and a paralegal and the last couple of years have just been exploding. We’ve hired on 4 new people just this year alone.

Sam: If you had to point to something that clicked and made it work, what was the click? What was the moment that it all kind of shifted?

Patrick: I think successes come counter-intuitively. I think a lot of people think the more people you have in your firm, the more management, the less work you can do, the harder it is. I hear a lot of lawyers complain about that. In my firm exactly the opposite. The more people we hired on, the more it gave me the time to do what I wanted to do and focus the firm in a way that I thought was the most productive and so as we grow, each person that comes on, I hand off a piece to somebody else and then strengthen my concentration on how I want this firm to grow and how I want our success to come about. Every time I can hire somebody I do and it just keeps getting better.

Sam: It’s my impression, knowing you a little bit, talking with you at TVD law and just out in Washington when I came up there, you really do seem to focus on your law firm as a business as well as obviously trying to deliver great legal services. It seems like in order to get that efficiency from each new hire, you have to think about it in that way in terms of processes and procedures and making sure that you’ve got all of your organization set up. Was that something that you’ve always focused on or is that something that you gradually picked up when you needed to organize all those people?

Patrick: No, always been that way from the time I was just by myself I said I need to make a footprint that’s 10 times larger than I am so that as I grow, we’ll have space. I’ve always had a 5 years plan, I’ve always had to create an infrastructure for the firm that was much larger than the firm itself and it’s always paid off. I’ve never regretted putting in those extra hours and extra time, hiring consultants or reading books or trying to expand the firm. It’s time well spent, and you’re right. I really do figure this as a business because if I’m going to be successful, I need to be able to run a high-level business so I can have a high-level practice.

Sam: Do you find, because this always comes up when we start talking about law as a business, do you feel like there is a trade off between thinking of your firm as a business and the quality of service that you give to your clients?

Patrick: I don’t forsake what I do for my clients because I run a business. In fact it’s really the exact opposite. We had a management meeting, a retreat all day at Avol in fact, the other day and so one of the lawyers said well do we really want to get bigger and I said we absolutely want to get bigger because every time I can give a piece to somebody else who’s a specialist in something and take it off my plate where I’m a generalist, then we really can build a stronger law firm that can better represent people, we can do our discovery better, we can write our pleadings better, we can analyze things better, there’s no end to that. I think that the stronger we get as a law firm, the strong I am as a business, the more solvent we are, the more we grow, the more tech we add, the more strength we have to really practice law at a level that I don’t think I thought was possible 10 years ago.

Sam: Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought I caught a hint of like you’re actually trying to design your legal services in there. It sounded a little bit like you’re taking each piece and saying how can we make this the best service and you’re trying to bring in somebody’s who job is to do just that one thing or who’s job is to at least focus on that thing and deliver service there. I imagine you’re taking pieces piece by piece and trying to make each thing as good as it can be. Maybe I’m just blowing that out of proportion but I thought I kind of heard the suggestion of that in what you just said.

Patrick: No, that’s true. I mean but isn’t this part of a much bigger discussion. Everyone agrees that lawyers aren’t great business people. We’re not good accountants, we’re not good marketers. I mean there’s so many pieces that we don’t do well and as much as I try to do all of them well as a practitioner at a small firm, the reality is the more I can hire people who are really experts in this. If I want someone who’s good at communications, I’ll hire a communications director who understands social media so much better than I do and has all day to do it.

Sam: Let me ask you. We were chatting beforehand and you said ask me about the jobs that I have that you probably won’t find at most firms. So tell me about those.

Patrick: One of the things, I guess there’s a couple of stages here but I’ll make them short. One of the things that I had been doing for years as president of the Bar is running around state and telling people do you see what’s happening with tech? Do you see how the profession is changing? We need to retool. You need to pay attention. We really need to make this shift and I spent 7 years doing that and particularly the year as president doing that. Then once I stopped being president I could stop talking the talk an really begin walking the walk. The first thing I did was say now we’re going paperless and we’re going to bring in as much tech as we can and we’re going to walk away a little bit from the practice of law while we do this as much retooling as we can manage and keep the firm successful.

In doing that every time we brought in a piece of tech, we found jobs were disappearing. We didn’t need jobs. My firm was scared of that. We had 4 people who hated tech, like don’t do that to us, we’re going to lose our jobs, and so every time we added some new piece, we started transitioning people into other jobs. I was loyal to my folks and so we started finding new jobs for them. We had somebody who was a paralegal but had some tech skills and as soon as we went paperless we needed somebody who looked something like a docket manager but a docket manager with coding skills and so we had this docket manager coder who writes programs and creates zaps for us and integrates everything that comes in and out of this office into a database or into trello or into slack or into Clio or into a databox database or something. We have our coder, docket manager.

We needed someone who could help transition us through all the tech projects because it’s a big deal. We had 20 people to train and get on board and so we hired a tech project manager and so she didn’t know anything about law, never been in the law business before, and I was great with that and so now she helps create, train, and implement tech projects as they come into the firm. We have a tech management team that meets twice a week for an hour and a half and we go through this long list and work through projects and put them in order that we want to bring them out and develop them and train for them so she is head of all of that, so that’s another job that probably isn’t in many law firms.

We created somebody who is a client intake liaison and that doesn’t really describe exactly what they are. We had to create a whole program around taking in potential new clients, bringing them into the system and then training the clients how to use our system and so this person is that intake liaison that works with the tech clients so clients don’t get lost or confused or frustrated. We want their experience to be really as seamless as possible.

Sam: Very cool.

Patrick: We also brought in a full-time communications director and I think law firms do have that person. We use her for a lot of social media and some reputation management for the members of the firm to make sure we get reviews that people have great experiences at the firm. We have a lot of net promoter score data coming and going out of our firm, so she manages all of that and then we have one other person here who is doing some coding here, who’s a lawyer, and switches back and forth between lawyer and coder and having that person with those skills is really awesome. I think we have at least 4, maybe 5 positions that for a small firm like mine, maybe our unique. Maybe these are the kind of positions other people are finding they need too but they have been instrumental in our transition into this new world.

Sam: That’s really cool and I remember a while back having a conversation about the courts and how they’re trying to integrate tech to be more efficient and they were talking about similar things that you just did, which kind of seems crazy to me coming out of a court but it was because they wanted to be able to do more. They wanted to push stuff off their plate on to their tech and then get people in there that can really think intelligently about systems and organizing it and client experience and designing around, well in their case not clients, but court users, and I think that’s really cool and I wonder how many other firms are finding that they have room to do that. It does seem like you might be one of the few that really are.

Patrick: There’s really 2 drivers, at least for us. One is trying to create a seamless tech experience for our clients. I think that’s really important. The other piece of it is really maybe more practical or pragmatic, which is I just think, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this out loud to you, but I just think so much tech sucks. I mean I really really want some good tech for lawyers. It’s starting. It’s coming.

I’m thankful for Clio. They’ve started something so radically different and we use Clio as a database and it does good things for us but it doesn’t do everything we need. I liked Lexicata, they came in with a great idea but it didn’t do what we needed it to do, so we literally created our own Lexicata from scratch that does all the things that Lexicata does, only it’s completely made for our firm. If there were things out there that really catered to smaller, solo practitioners better, we wouldn’t be out there coding and creating and doing things for ourselves. Until that day comes I think that’s a big motivator for everybody just trying to get out there and create what we can, do what we can to make this system work.

Sam: That makes good sense and I think you’re right. In fact I think Lawyerist basically got started by me griping about how much legal tech sucks.

Patrick: Right.

Sam: It does feel like we’re at the middle of the beginning of that not being the case but it’s still happening.

Patrick: You know, Marty Smith the manager, I was talking to him the other night and he says everybody says lawyers are late adoptors and we’re the slowest to react and it’s all our fault. He says I don’t believe that. I think there’s not enough good tech out there and I’m 100% with him. Every lawyer that I know in my circle is doing everything that they can to make their firms better, to find tech advantages, to find tech solutions, they’re just hard to find right now, but you’re right they are coming along. We’re getting closer.

Sam: That’s a really cool observation. I’m going to take 2 minutes now for messages from our sponsors and when we come back I want to talk about something that I skipped ahead on, which was your experience as Bar president and what that was like for you going around talking with lawyers around Washington and we’ve already talked a little bit about it, but I want to talk about what that transition back into being a full time practitioner without being the Bar president was like for you. Two minutes and then we’re going to hit on those things.

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Sam: Patrick, tell me about being the Bar president. You mentioned 7 years leading up to being the Bar president, does that just mean you were really involved in the Bar or does Washington have a crazy on boarding process for that or what?

Patrick: I made it a practice from the day I got my license in Washington to always volunteer work and I think I volunteered somewhere between at least 10 hours a week and it just always been that way and it’s gone from different organizations, from the trialers organizations to Bar organizations to something, always. I just got used to having chunks of my time outside of the office doing volunteer work. But the 7 years was during the time I was on the board of governors, which was the 14 lawyers that oversee the practice of law for the other 37,000 lawyers in the state of Washington and as I made my way through that ascension, I ended up being treasurer and then president elect and then president so by the time I was doing with all of it, it was about a 7 year process for me.

Sam: Wow. Then you became the Bar president and you had a couple of personal initiatives. One is getting out there and talking about future of law practice and tech and the other one was mindfulness, which keeps cropping up on our podcast because it’s getting more and more popular.

Patrick: Yeah. I had 2 loves and I was a little torn between them. You only really get one focus point as president and I came in thinking that maybe the most important thing I could offer was better health for lawyers. There’s such problems among lawyers for stress and anxiety and depression and alcoholism and drugs and there’s people shifting out of the practice and being miserable at the practice and I just thought that’s wrong. We have a really wonderful practice and everyone should be proud to have their kids coming into law and should be making this a great place to be and maybe if we had a little more love. Maybe if there was a little more community. Maybe if people took some time to get a hold of their emotions, to have that pause, to look inward to realize the law doesn’t have to be eat what you kill, everything’s a fight, and so I thought mindfulness and good health, a little community, was a good focus.

We spent time doing that. In fact I made our governors take 3 to 5 minutes before every meeting and meditate. That’s all the liaisons, the judges and everybody else and frankly a lot of people just thought I was absolutely crazy but I got a lot of thank you’s over time and as we talked about it more, we get a magazine that focused on mindfulness and Jeena Cho, who you know who’s now published The Anxious Lawyer, was really getting some traction at the same time and it just kind of ignited and there’s been a lot of traction on mindfulness since then and I was glad to be at least a small part of that, introducing the lawyers in this state to mindfulness.

Sam: Tell me, are they still meditating before meetings?

Patrick: They are not. They are not. I had some tell me they were sad that was gone. It’s a tough thing to do and I’m not on the national council bar presidents, on their programming committee and so for example, we’re planning right now having a plan of recession about mindfulness. Mindfulness in times of crisis. Mindful leadership. We’re going to be training our presidents of Bars and across the country some about mindfulness when we come to Miami in February.

Sam: Cool. You are in the unique position of, maybe not unique, but you’re very tech oriented and you’re also very involved in the Bar Association, or you have been.

Patrick: Right.

Sam: Kind of still are through the national conference of bar presidents and so what’s your take on the whole do bar associations still provide value and what do you think that is? Because lots of really tech savvy, newer lawyers are like bar association, whatever. What’s your take on that?

Patrick: Boy, that’s really a good question. I think Bars do offer a lot of value. It does depend upon the leadership of the Bar, the direction that they’re driving the Bar. In our Bar my focus, other than mindfulness, was talking about the future of the profession. We formed a future of the profession committee and I chaired that for 2 years and we put together a panel of great people. This was a few years back now, Mark Britton was on that from Avo, Dan Lear was on that before he was part of Avo.

Sam: I suppose you had some unique opportunities to bring some pretty cool people on board there.

Patrick: We did. Marty Smith is part of it. Greg McClawson was part of it. Paul Littlewood, who was our executive director. John Grant. I think we all came up a little bit through this, all having each other to lean on where we didn’t know each other before. Tech had brought us together and we spend those 2 years talking about the future and trying to find solutions. We put out a couple of reports and I think that brings value to our profession. It’s helping people retool. Helping people find ways to practice more efficiently. Helping people reach out. Finding solutions for the access to justice gap by finding ways to decrease cost and increase efficiency and make law more accessible. At the same time helping lawyers make money doing it. There’s a lot of value there, not just for lawyers, but for the community around us, and looking on solutions to find ways to practice law better and more efficiently is better for everybody. I think that’s some of the value that Bars can bring.

Sam: Kind of bringing people together to have those conversations, which is harder to do outside that context, especially locally.

Patrick: It is. When you’re dealing with the rank and file, I probably said in Washington it was 37,000, trying to get a lot of people onto the same page is challenging. It’s hard to get a microphone that everyone listens to and so you push out a lot of information through social media, through magazines, through e-mail, through public speaking to try to get people to listen and to come on board and you offer lots of benefits for workers, or to lawyers around the state. There’s a lot of work to be done for Bars. It’s part of the reason, with national council Bar presidents, looking for ways to train presidents to be more efficient, to be more effective, to get the ears of their members and to show them what we can do together.

Sam: I like your answer because it’s more than just hey let’s offer more CLE.

Patrick: Yeah.

Sam: Which too often seems to be the solution is let’s offer more CLE and list servs.

Patrick: No, in fact I like your solution there. Let’s offer TBD. Anti-CLE, I mean that’s the answer.

Sam: Yeah. I like to think so. Let me take us, maybe not 180 degrees, but 90-degreeee digression, which is like many small firm lawyers that I know, you have some quirky interesting side projects. I think you own a yoga studio and a winery.

Patrick: Right.

Sam: Are there others that I’m missing?

Patrick: There’s others I’m dying to do but those are the two that are actually in existence at the moment.

Sam: How did the yoga studio come about? Or how did the winery come about? Which is earlier?

Patrick: The yoga studio came about first. I had been, probably like you and like everybody else, we run or we bike or live in the weight room or I did mixed martial arts for a couple years, and I was looking for a way that fit into my life a little better. Lawyers wear these two hats, at least a lot of people do, I certainly did, where you’re at home and maybe you’re kinder, gentler, softer, and you’re at work and you’re that worrier, fighting your way through the day and inconsistency of life didn’t work for me. I was happy to find that exercise, at least that’s the way I saw it, exercise was one of those ways of bridging that gap and so I liked yoga and my wife did yoga and as a way to have something in common we started doing it more often together, fell in love with it and said why don’t we create a studio? I think we can create a community from this that can be large and meaningful and bring this to them, and we did, and the community exploded.

21 people immediately said we want to be founders, we want to give money, we want to start this with you, and so we had 21 people in our community immediately on the first day buying a year long pass and becoming founders of our studio. Since then, I’ve lost track of numbers but I think we’ve probably had 800, 900 people through our doors in the last 2 years. It flows over into law. People in my office come do yoga. A lot of lawyers in town, judges. It’s true. I can be practicing yoga with somebody one minute and be in front of them in court the next. It’s a protective space so we don’t think about those things.

Sam: I try to tell people that I have never really put this together in a cohesive theory or post or something but there’s a lot of value in just doing what you love out in the community and you will attract people who are interested in what you’re interested in or who are just interested because you’re interested and it weirdly becomes sort of a networking or marketing opportunity, even though that is no where near it’s purpose.

Patrick: There’s a lot of people I’ve met that I would have never met but for having yoga studio. It’s all a funny thing. 2 things have happened, and I guess you know this, I grew a beard and on some day’s it’s a larger beard than usual and I practice a lot of yoga and talk about it and for whatever reason that’s made me accessible. The clean shaven guy in the suit and tie who’s a lawyer is just not as accessible as a bearded yogi.

Sam: I’ve been trying to convince Aaron of that for years.

Patrick: I really enjoy, nothing’s changed about me or my personality, but from outward appearances I make a lot more friends now than I used to being a suited clean shaven lawyer.

Sam: I mean it kind of worked on me. When I met you at the Washington State Bar Association [inaudible 00:37:09] convention I was like oh here’s just another clean shaven lawyer in a suit but the beard and the yogi thing totally worked on me.

Patrick: Well and you know and you throw wine into all of that it just gets that much easier.

Sam: Right. I was going to ask, so how does that come about?

Patrick: Everybody wants to be your friend I guess when you make wine but I had always wanted to do it and you know how you have those things, that bucket list, like I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that and somehow you get through the years and haven’t done it? I just sat down literally one night and I said, I’m going to do this tomorrow and I’ll be damned if doors didn’t just open up almost immediately and as long as there was a green light and a door open, I just kept running through it, and then ext thing you know I’m buying a couple of tons of grapes and I have a wine maker and I bought a building and equipment starts coming in, stainless steel tanks and buying barrels from France. All brand new stuff to me but crazy fun and you’re crushing grapes.

One of the most fabulous experiences of my life was driving from Tacoma to Eastern Washington at sunrise and getting into the vineyard just as the sun was coming up and the workers who had been there cutting grapes since midnight or just leaving and I just walked up to these giant fermenters, 4 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot containers of a couple thousand pounds of these beautiful grapes and it smelled fabulous. We were on the Columbia River and the sun was coming up and I thought oh my God, this is the happiest moment of my entire life and we’re going to make wine too.

Sam: What do you think it is about … Something about lawyers, starting side projects is a thing and one of my theories is that once you started one company it’s just way easier to start the second and third and fourth one. The other is maybe, I don’t know, do we get bored or something?

Patrick: I can certainly speak for myself. I think the ADD in my life is palpable sometimes. My staff knows that I have a great idea and I’ll give them ideas and I’ll say lets do this and this and this, here you guys go do this, I have something else I got to do now. Then they follow through and their fabulous that way and we get things implemented, not because I have some sticktoitiveness but because they do, and starting companies is the same thing. You get a great idea like wouldn’t it be cool if we did this and then all you have to do is start it and you go and do it and there’s another half a dozen companies I would gladly start but I’m trying to give these a chance to grow before I change my attention over to do something else. I mean you’re the same way, look at all the things that you’re managing in your life.

Sam: Oh, absolutely. No, I can’t point the finger at anybody else without pointing it back at myself. Well maybe we’ll have you back on the podcast in a couple of years to talk about the 3 more businesses that you started.

Patrick: Right, and we’ll do yoga, we’ll drink wine, and we’ll talk about law plus whatever else. I like the way this could shape up.

Sam: It sounds perfect. Well, Patrick, thank you so much for being with us today. This was a fun conversation and I loved learning more about your practice and your firm.

Patrick: Sam, thank you very much for the invitation. Wonderful talking with you too my friend. Thank you.

Voiceover: Make sure you catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist podcast, subscribe to the Lawyerist podcast in iTunes or in your favorite podcast app. You can listen to it at lawyerist.com/podcast. You can also subscribe to the Lawyerist insider, our weekly newsletter. Just go to lawyerist.com and look down the side bar or click on newsletter up at the top. We’ll remind you where to find the podcast whenever we release a new episode. Thanks for listening.

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  • TortsandSports

    I would really like to hear some more discussion about how exactly he uses the technology he referenced in the beginning. There were only vague references to using many people. Would be cool to hear exactly what each person is doing – e.g. why does he need a lawyer who codes? What apps does his app-builder person do?

    • Stay tuned! I plan to bring Patrick back to geek out on his systems and processes in a future episode.

      • TortsandSports

        Awesome! I love the nitty gritty detailed stuff.