Episode Notes

No one said hiring and keeping a strong team was easy, but it’s definitely possible. Sara interviews Lawyerist Lab member, Chong Ye, about the success he’s found in hiring great people and building a strong team, even in a down market.  

Links from the episode:

Pre-order our new book! 

For Better or for Work 

If today's podcast resonates with you and you haven't read The Small Firm Roadmap Revisited yet, get the first chapter right now for free! Looking for help beyond the book? Check out our coaching community to see if it's right for you.

  • 19:09. The benefits of a team who challenges you.
  • 32:12. Learnings along the way of hiring.
  • 37:40. Fostering the right environment.


Speaker 1 (00:04): 

Welcome to the Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice. In today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market, Lawyerist supports attorneys building, client-centered and future-oriented small law firms through community content and coaching, both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you the small firm roadmap and your podcast hosts. 


Stephanie Everett (00:35): 

Hi, I’m Stephanie Everett. 


Jennifer Whigham (00:36): 

And I’m Jennifer Whigham. And this is episode 430 of the Lawyerist Podcasts, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Sara interviews Labster Chong about how he was able to build his team in a down market. 


Stephanie Everett (00:48): 

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Clio, & Gavel, we wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support, so stay tuned because we’re going to tell you more about them later on. 


Jennifer Whigham (00:58): 

Stephanie, we have exciting news, like really exciting. 


Stephanie Everett (01:01): 

I think so. Aaron and I rewrote the book. 


Jennifer Whigham (01:04): 

Woo. That was a process, wasn’t it? 


Stephanie Everett (01:06): 

A little bit. I mean, I’m not going to lie. A lot of times people do a second version of their book and it probably just feels like a little light touch where they go in and change a few sentences, maybe add a paragraph or two and call it a day. This is not that <laugh> this. No, this is a lot more, I mean, I think a lot of the concepts are the same and similar, but I think we added a whole new level in this next version of the book. And we go deeper into some concepts that we touched on in the first book, but we talk about ’em in a much clearer way now, a deeper way. 


Jennifer Whigham (01:39): 

Yeah. I mean, I would say the mission remains the same, but you have kind of added some things for people to think about that maybe nobody is thinking about right now. Not to tease it. 


Stephanie Everett (01:50): 

Yeah, I think so. I think there’s new concepts. I think that if you read the first edition, you will still find a ton of value out of reading. Yeah. This new edition, if you haven’t read either, then why not? You should. 


Jennifer Whigham (02:04): 

I think <laugh> read both. Compare them side by side. Yes. Let us know what changed. 


Stephanie Everett (02:09): 

No, I’ll let you off the hook. Just read the new one. Yeah. It’s the small firm Roadmap Revisited. 


Jennifer Whigham (02:15): 

And is it available now? Or 


Stephanie Everett (02:17): 

You can jump online right now in pre-order, which is the best way to make sure it’s in your hands as soon as it’s hot off the presses. So pre-order link is open. Now the best way to find that is to go to Lawyerist dot com slash book. And on February 20th, the copy will release on Amazon and be available to you. And special bonus, if you’re coming to ABA tech show this year, bring a copy along with you or find us. We’re going to be doing a book signing event. I’ll have more details on that soon. But Aaron and I are both planning to be a tech show so that we can talk about the book and sign it for people, which some people like <laugh>. 


Jennifer Whigham (02:58): 

Cool. We’ll have to practice your autograph a couple times to get it ready. 


Stephanie Everett (03:02): 

I learned on the first edition there’s a particular page you’re supposed to sign on. It’s important. Oh yeah. 


Jennifer Whigham (03:07): 

I look forward to seeing what page it is because I actually don’t know that. So we’ll just wait. Come to the tech show to find out what page that you sign on. Oh, that’s exciting. All right, well, let’s listen to Sara talk to Chong. 


Chong Ye (03:22): 

Hi, I’m Chong Ye. I’m a personal injury lawyer here in Federal Way, Washington. I have two other offices, one in Bellevue and another one in Tacoma. And I’ve been with the Lawyerist lab. I’ve been a Labster for the past, almost a year now. 


Sara Muender (03:40): 

Yeah. I’m personally really excited to have you on the podcast today and have a conversation with you because just for context purposes, for those listening, when our podcast director reached out to us coaches in the Lawyerist Lab program and asked us, she said, we want to do an episode about hiring in a down market, and do you know of any Labster that have had a good experience with this and with building their team? And you immediately came to mind for me, and I’m like, we have to interview Chong. He’s the perfect person for this episode. And so we reached out to you and I’m like, Chong, let’s do this. And you are so humble in the sense that you were like, I just don’t know. Maybe we’ll do it in a year or two from now when I’m a little bit further along on my journey. I’ve reached some other goals and I convinced you to come on because you have done some amazing things in your firm over the past year since we’ve been working together. And I know that it’s going to help a lot of people who struggle with hiring or feel discouraged when it comes to hiring and building their team. So just thanks again for coming on here. So tell us a little bit about your team and what it looks like, maybe how that journey has come about. 


Chong Ye (05:04): 

Well, again, I really appreciate your recommendation. I am still learning, even after 12 years, I’m still learning to be a better lawyer, better business person. I mean, I think Lawyerist has had a great impact in the last year as I try to improve myself as a business person. And so I really appreciate Lawyerist. A lot of background just about my firm is that I started my law firm in Bellevue, and I live in the suburb of Tacoma and the outskirts by the water. And my wife encouraged, or I guess she persuaded me to get an office in Bellevue of all places. And without traffic from my house to Bellevue would be about 40 minutes, 45 minutes but with traffic now that’s two hours plus. And so I was commuting back and forth in my earlier years. I mean, I spent three hours on the road each day, and it got to a point where I was like, I can’t do this. 



But I was growing my cases, I was increasing my case volume, but I was really, really struggling to keep up with my case work just because I was spending so much time meeting clients and commuting back and forth. Fortunately, I met, talked to a friend of mine from church. I had known her and her husband for about a year, two years. And I understood that she loved writing. Her background is in writing, creative writing. And so I suggested to her, Hey, I need help. I know you’re a great writer. Would you be able to help me write my demand letter because I’m getting all these clients, but I’m really not able to help them because I can’t send out demand letters. I mean, I was working on Saturdays and Sundays too. And so she agreed. She took a gamble on me. And I am so appreciative of her because after 12 years, she’s still with me. 



She started out as a demand writer, but she basically took more and more off of my plate just because she is so organized. My staff who come from many other law firm, they say, Chong, you are blessed to have her because she really, really goes above and beyond what is expected. And they said they’ve never met a coworker who’s as dedicated to her to craft than she is. And they said, yeah, and then she’s so loyal to you. And I really appreciated that. And so as she was working with me at the firm group, I mean, she’s my trusted lieutenant. I don’t think the firm would be where we are at today without her. We butt heads at times. Cause I think this is a good case. Cause certain case is good and she’ll tell me, no, it’s not. And she’ll tell me why. And I think you need that. 



You need someone on your team who is willing to stand up cause she understands what my values are. Core values and mission statements are of the firm. And every time I try to do something that is not in line with the core value of mission statement, show up and say no. Yeah, challenge that. And at times do I feel my ego is being hurt. But I think many times I come to appreciate that because had I gone down that road, I would’ve found myself very, very miserable. I mean, she’s been with me for 12 years, so she’s seen this before. So she would remind me, remember that time? And I’m like, I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember, 


Sara Muender (09:00): 

But I trust you. 


Chong Ye (09:02): 

And my other staff in the office, they just love her. And they said, Chong, this firm needs her. And you found somebody that is very, very special and you know, don’t want to lose her. And I don’t want to lose her. And she’s helped me so much in the last 12 plus years. 


Sara Muender (09:25): 

Well, I hope she listens to this episode and shout out out to her. Shout out to your wife too. But we’ll talk about how she’s helped you in a minute. But there, there’s going to be a lot of good shout outs in this episode. 


Chong Ye (09:37): 

Yeah, honestly, I don’t know how we were able to do it. Cause when I initially started out, I had over 200 pi cases for some years and some years more. And she was the only one. She was my only paralegal at the time. And to this day, I’m like, wow, I don’t know how she managed to do it and how I managed to do all that. Cause it was her writing the demands, me working on the litigation part and negotiation and meeting cl new clients too. And so we caught up. I don’t know how we did it. Now the firm grew. Now I have my wife, her and a litigation paralegal, a legal assistant, a negotiator and a receptionist, front desk coordinator who really helped me work, basically allow the firm to function. Each and every one of them have a very important role, very vital role in the firm. And I don’t think the firm will survive without their expertise. 


Sara Muender (10:50): 

And I agree with you. I think that we have to have those people on our team who challenge us because they’re coming from a different perspective. And we look at the world and what’s possible through our own lens, through our own colored lens. And someone else has a different colored lens that they’re looking at things. And that’s one thing that I really admire about you is your humility in being able to admit that even despite your solid vision for your firm, you can admit that your perspective isn’t always maybe the right one, or maybe it’s not all inclusive. So you have this challenging perspective of her, your right hand person. And you’ve got your wife coming in too now, being involved. And what’s her role, Ben? 


Chong Ye (11:37): 

Well, my wife, her role in the firm is, she is the integrator. I’m the visionary. I’m the person who has the big picture. And she’ll always tell me, do we, she looks at the bottom line. And so my wife and I, we caught them a clash. And we sometimes do take it at home. And my two kids, they grew up watching us talking about business. We won’t talk about clients and so forth, but they really get tired of us bringing work, whether it’s in the car when you’re driving up for a restaurant or in the dinner table and they’re telling us, no, let’s not talk about your work. Let’s focus on the family. So I mean, I guess that’s one downside of having your spouse or work in the firm with you. But no like my trusted paralegal, I trust my wife, but she is the numbers person. 



I’m a risk taker. I want to expand my marketing, I want to do some new things, but she always challenges me. But can we afford it? And that’s a constant struggle that my wife and I always have. And I guess it’ll always be a challenge just because she and I think differently. But I mean, she compliments me because I have a tunnel vision and I don’t really think about other things in the office. She’s more nurturing. So what she does is I may be blunt or I may say things that I shouldn’t have said. I later regret. And she would basically be the mom in the office and cover the staff if I stepped out of line or if I said something that I shouldn’t have said. And so we really compliment each other. And my staff, they really, really love my wife. They really love her more than me <laugh>, because she is so nurturing and she is so understanding. 


Sara Muender (13:53): 

But I argue that they love you and appreciate you just as much, but in a different way. And you really are a classic visionary Chong. And as your coach, I’m so grateful for the role that your wife has played. I mean, she probably doesn’t even realize the impact that she has even in our coaching calls because of that perspective that she brings. It’s almost like as a visionary, we fly so high in the sky sometimes and we see things from a 20,000 foot perspective, which is critical. We have to have that perspective in a business. But we also have to have someone tethered to the ground that’s going, whoa, we got to remember what’s happening down here on the ground and how what’s going on up there is going to affect what’s happening here on the ground. We have to. And I think honestly, you have the ideal situation there with those differing perspectives. 



And maybe it’s not always ideal to work with our spouse. I know I’ve done it. I built and sold a business with my husband 10, 12 years ago. And there’s a book that really helped me through that and helped me navigate the boundaries of work and home. And I’ll just recommend it for those who are listening. I think I’ve even recommended it to you. And it’s written by, I forget her name, but she’s the co-owner of Stony Brook Yogurt Brand or Stonyfield, one of those. And she wrote this book called For Better or for Work For Better or for Worse. But that book was really helpful for me, and I think it’s even years later that is timeless. So I’ll just throw that in there. So you had these people who were incredibly value in your firm, almost just holistically, naturally come in and settle in and help you build this thing. But for the rest of the team members, was it as natural and organic? How did you grow your team? Slowly but surely to where it is now? Did you face challenges? Was it hard to find those people? 


Chong Ye (16:03): 

Yes, because I had such a success with my first hire, my friend, because she went above and beyond. And I thought I could just hire anybody off the street 


Sara Muender (16:19): 

Who would be like her, 


Chong Ye (16:20): 

Who would be her, basically, who would self-teach. Because I mean, I’m a couple years out of law school, first year out of law school, I didn’t know what I was doing when I was in law school, as you know, I went to law school kind of late in my thirties. I had a prior career. And so when I went to law school, I had a big ambition. Oh yeah, I want to work at top 100 law firms. But I realized more and more, cause I had a family back then, I realized I can’t compete with these 20 somethings classmates because number one, I couldn’t stay up. I tried that for the first month. And what I thought was I would doze off in classes. So I said, you know what? I can’t do that. And law school has a, it’s very competitive. And I’m like, I’m sure law, big law firms or competitive as well. 



So I kind of gave that up and I thought, well, I’ll work at a small boutique law firm or something. And that’s what my desire was or that’s what my goal was. I envisioned myself working in a transactional law firm, never realized I would go into litigation. But 2009 I graduated. And what happened, we had all those economic downturn. At that time, no one was hiring and I’m coming back home from out of state. So of course I have no network, no nothing. Fortunately I had a brother who was a chiropractor who kind of referred me to other lawyers in town and who kind of helped me network with other chiropractors. So that was kind of helpful. But it was very challenging. So I was learning on the fly. And my paralegal, I kind of gave her that assignment. Cause all I wanted initially, as I said, I wanted to hire her for her demand writing skills. 



But she picked up these other skills. I mean, she’s phenomenal and organization she’ll basically, once we bring in a case, she will go ahead and review it. She’ll come through all of the files and send me a one pager, an overview of the intake mean of the case. And it was a great summary because it was a great overview and I had a great idea, this is going to be a problematic case, or no, this is a very good case. So I thought, well, everybody’s just like her because she and I, we have the same work ethics. We go above and beyond. And I thought everybody else would go above and beyond, but that wasn’t the case. So I mean, I hired people thinking that they’re all going to be like her. But that was a mistake on my part. And I realized not everyone is like her. 



There was a lot of trial and error and fortunately we were big enough that I was able to hide. I needed help with litigation because I was not able to draft someone’s in complaint. And my pre-lit paralegal, she couldn’t do demand writing and also the drafting of pleadings as well, because she had no experience and I didn’t have the time with the bandwidth to teach her all of this. So I struggled to figure out, okay, what do I do? So I ultimately lucked out and hired a litigation paralegal who’s had experience as a litigation paralegal. And she worked for about two years and she went back to school for her CPA and she wanted to be an account cpa. So she went and got her accounting degree and she told me, Hey, I can only help you up to this point, because she was working remotely at that time because she said, I’m going to be taking my finals and CPA exam. 



And so said, okay. I was looking for an associate for a paralegal. And at that time I decided, well, I have a friend. Oh, well lemme kind of back up. I also was looking for somebody who was really, really well versed in marketing because that’s another area that I was really focusing on too, grow my firm. So a friend who’s been very, very instrumental in my life. So I hired him cause he’s an attorney. And I realized, number one, I realized at that point, number one, I’m not a good teacher. Number two, I’m not a good teacher because I didn’t have the time to teach him. I was doing so many other things. The mistake that I made with him was I overwhelmed him with litigation. Cause he wanted to do marketing and not so much on litigation or pre-lit, but that’s what I had him do. He wasn’t very successful. I mean, wasn’t very helpful I guess. And I didn’t recognize that early enough. 


Sara Muender (21:16): 

Yeah, sounds like it was the right person, but maybe not the right seat. 


Chong Ye (21:21): 

So what ultimately ended up happening was right before the pandemic, I reviewed my revenue and I realized for the last six months right before the pandemic started, it happened. The firm did not generate any money, any revenue, basically the firm was running on reserves that I had and it was almost depleted. And it got to a point where I said, okay, this cannot happen. This is not sustainable. And so I ended up having to let him go. I mean, it was a hard decision. And I mean if I could have done something differently, definitely number one, I would’ve made sure that I placed him in a position where he would succeed. And so that’s a mistake that I made. And to this day I regret. But as he was let go, I needed somebody to call the litigation file. Cause I was just, we were so overwhelmed at that point. Fortunately I was able to hire, find the litigation paralegal. 


Sara Muender (22:25): 

How did you find her? 


Chong Ye (22:26): 

It’s an interesting thing. I put an ad out 


Sara Muender (22:30): 

On LinkedIn or where 


Chong Ye (22:31): 

I think Indeed is where I put the ad. And I saw an applicant that I really liked, but she was working for a friend of mine’s first. And so I called her offline and I told her, Hey, this person is looking into working for me, what do you think? And she said, you know what? She’s great. But I have another litigation paralegal that I just cannot afford at this time because I mean with the pandemic. And she was really, really scared. She forwarded me her resume, and she came highly recommended. She’s got 35 plus years of experience in litigation. And I had another friend who told me, Hey, look Chong, I heard you looking at hiring. And so I’m like, yeah. And he said, do it. She’s good. When he was working with my other friend, my present litigation paralegal was very, very instrumental in the case in litigation. 



He said, you’re not going to go wrong. So that’s how I hired her. And she’s been very, very instrumental because of all of her experience. She’s been very helpful to me. She’s been very helpful to the other staff in the office. One thing you’ll know about me is I have very little ego. I tell all my staff, Hey, you do things better than I do and you have more experience than I do. You’re not going to hurt my ego. And if you tell me, Hey, that’s not how you do it or that’s not how I learned it. Cause I’m always trying to learn. I’m always to be a better lawyer, be a better person. And I think humility will go a long way because my staff, they love that about me that, Hey, look, I’m not always perfect, so tell me if you feel like there’s a better way to do this. 



And so she came in and she was helping me with all the litigation files. And one day I talked to her, I said, I hate negotiations. I hate arguing with the adjusters, but the merit merits of the case adjusters, they have their way of doing things. I have to basically make sure I cover my end as well. And we’re both doing our job. But there are too many times where I get my feelings hurt or I get so upset and my blood is boiling. I mean, I would come out after a heating negotiation. I would come out the office and I would be so because of the ridiculous offers. And I just said, if I do this, if I continue down this road, I think I’ve going to have a heart attack or stroke because I just can’t control this. Again, I have never had experience negotiating. 



So I’m learning as I go. I was honest. I said, do you know anybody who could help me with negotiation? Cause we have all these cases that I just, number one, don’t want to handle because they offer so ridiculous or we have to end up filing. And so she recommended me, a friend of hers that she’s known who’s who was retired at the time, but he called her a few weeks ago or before our conversation and said, yeah, he might be interested, so let me talk to him. And he was interested and I met him and he said, Chong, I do not want to come. I’m going to stay retired or I don’t want to work more than 10 hours. And I was like, perfect. Cause I was thinking, don’t have the caseload for you to hire you for 40 hours and so forth. He has 40 years with his experience. 



And he’s not only helped me with negotiating settling cases, but he’s also taken me under his wings because he’s worked for some of the biggest law firms in the state. And he would tell me, Hey, this is what I learned from this lawyer. Hey, this is what I learned from this lawyer, how they do it. And he’s just been a wealth of wisdom for me. I mean him and my litigation paralegal because he had such experience working for all these other well-known law firms in the state. And there was another, I had a legal administrative assistant who abruptly left towards the beginning of last year, and I needed to hire somebody to replace her. And they both recommended their coworkers from another law firm that they work together with. And she came in as a lead legal assistant. And oh man, she’s helped me so much. 



She retrieved records, medical records, and she kind of came in and saw how inefficient we were with that process. And she totally changed that around now. I mean, it’s so much smoother, so much efficient. And so she implemented a system that has really, really helped increase the firm’s revenue just because we’re able to get these much more quicker. And number two, she spoke English, which I did not have at the time. And before her where there were some backlogs, she would get on the phone and call the medical providers or the records company and ask, what is the hold? And we will be able to get that done. Whereas before it was, I was the one who the firm relied on to call, but <laugh>, yeah, that’s not a time very well spent on my part. And so I would never be able to call them just because I was inundated with so many other things. 


Sara Muender (28:26): 

And I’m so glad that you realized that. I think that that humility has gone a long way for you in you being able to build this successful team. We’re going to take a very quick break to hear from our beloved sponsors. And when we come back, I want to keep talking about what else has contributed to you building the team that makes this firm successful. So we’ll be right back. 


Zack Glaser (28:57): 

The Lawyerist Podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists. As an attorney. Do you ever wish you could be in two places at once? You could take a call while you’re in court, capture a lead during a meeting or schedule an appointment with a client while you’re elbow deep in an important case. Well, that’s where Posh comes in. They’re a team of professional, US-Based, live virtual receptionists available 24/7/365. They answer and transfer your calls, so you never miss an opportunity and you can devote more time to building your law firm. And with the Posh app you’re in total control of when your receptionist steps in. You can save as much as 40% off your current service provider’s rates. Even better, Posh is extending a special offer to Lawyerist listeners, visit posh.com/lawyerist to learn more and start your free trial of Posh Live Virtual Receptionist services.? 


And by Clio. What do solo and small firm lawyers with great client relationships all have in common? They use cloud-based legal practice management software to run their law firms. This is just one finding from Clio’s latest Legal Trends Report. There’s no getting around it… the fact is… when it comes to client expectations—standards are higher than ever for lawyers. Proof is in the numbers: 88% of lawyers using cloud-based software report good relationships with clients. For firms not in the cloud, barely half can say the same. That gap is significant. For more information on how cloud software creates better client relationships, download Clio’s Legal Trends Report for free at clio.com/trends. That’s Clio spelled C-L-I-O dot com/trends. 


And by Gavel In the next 10 years, 90% of legal services will be delivered online by lawyers. Gavel (previously called Documate) is the software platform for lawyers to build client-facing legal products. With Gavel, collect client intake, feed that data into robust document automation flows, and collect payments to scale your practice. Companies like Landlord Legal, JusTech and Hello Divorce are built on Gavel—for both internal and client-facing automation.  Sign up for a free trial now at gavel.io/partnership/lawyerist and get $100 off your subscription. Or book a time at gavel.io/partnership/lawyerist to get a free consultation on incorporating automation into your practice. 



Sara Muender (31:31): 

I’m back with Chong and we’re talking about how his team, if I had to boil it down, your success of building an amazing team has been a direct result of having good relationships with people. Because it sounds like you haven’t had to do much hiring from job postings up to this point in the conversation already. Would you say that that’s the case, that it’s kind of all about who, I mean, I know that you use the term luck a lot, but I like to give you credit for having those good relationships, seeking those relationships even in lab. You’ve made some amazing relationships with other attorneys in the program that have helped you. Do you think that that’s a big contributing factor? 


Chong Ye (32:20): 

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that my wife, she doesn’t compliment me a whole lot, but the thing that she does compli, 


Sara Muender (32:30): 

She’s selective with the compliments, 


Chong Ye (32:32): 

Very selective with the compliments. But one of the things that she compliments me on is the relational part. She has a very hard time making friends or carrying on a conversation in a new environment. But I don’t have that. I’m a people person. I like to talk to people I like to learn about them. Maybe it’s comes from my pastoral background, but I just want to have that relationship. And I think that’s what my clients appreciate too, is that I’m able to empathize. I’m able to listen to their pain. And that’s what the staff that I have now are result of that because my litigation paralegal should love working for me. She loves working for me. And so whenever I ask her, she’s not afraid to recommend her coworkers or her friends because she really loves the culture that I built in this law firm. And this is the thing I tell my staff, I don’t want cat fights in the office. I don’t have the patience to deal with that. I mean, I have patience to deal with mistakes. Mistakes are all fixed, but if you don’t like each other, if you don’t get along with each other, that makes my job very difficult because I have to manage that, I have to oversee that, and I don’t have the time. 


Sara Muender (34:01): 

I need to tell my kids that that’s a great conversation to have with my kids. 


Chong Ye (34:07): 

The thing is, they’re all professionals and that’s what I appreciate because of their background, experience and knowledge. They all share a little bit of me. They all say, yeah, you’re not going to hurt me with some criticisms. And we all are able to listen to each other’s criticism if we do have any, we don’t have, I think we fostered an environment where, or an atmosphere or workplace that fosters encouragement, Hey, we want to make sure we help you. I love coming to work and that’s really, really hard to say. I remember working for companies that I just tested going into work just because the drama involved. That’s what all my staff are telling me. Oh yeah. I mean, Chong, we love coming to work just because it’s so, it’s all great. And yeah, I mean, I think relational is my strength and the strength of this firm. 


Sara Muender (35:09): 

To kind of summarize the things that you’ve said that have helped you build a great team in even a down market. And I will say this, I’ll point this out, that in our coaching relationship over the past year or so, when other people were telling me that they were having trouble hiring because it was a down hiring market or that they assumed that it would be hard to find good people on the team, and they almost approached it with this attitude of, this is impossible. And meanwhile I’m telling them like, no, it’s not because I literally am coaching Chong over here and this person over here and this person over here who’s doing it and having good success and actually bringing, not just finding good people, but managing good people who stay on the team and actually contribute something valuable. So I think that for you, a lot of it starts with attitude. 



You know, just don’t really strike me as someone who really buys into the narrative of the media or the narrative of the economy or the narrative of this down hiring market and all that stuff. You’re just like, you have your vision and you’re, you trust that there will be a way and it will come about. And you have the humility to go, I don’t have all the answers, but I know that there’s someone who does. And you have the humanness about you to connect with people and nurture relationships. And that has caused you to attract the right people at the right time who either was the person for the job or even created a job, brought value to your team that you didn’t even know was needed or knew someone who could bring value to your team. And you’ve really created a culture in which it’s okay to, what I’ve heard you say is it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to talk about what’s not working. It’s okay to share your perspective and it’s okay to ask for help and you really, really, truly appreciate people. So that’s kind of my summary of what I think has really contributed to your success. Would you have anything else to add for people out there who are listening who maybe are a little bit discouraged with their team or they’re discouraged with the hiring process in general? Is there anything else you’d add? 


Chong Ye (37:40): 

I think you need to understand, I needed to understand who I was, how I functioned, how I worked. I am not a person who can do everything. I know a lot of solo attorneys who only has a receptionist and they do everything. I’m not one of those type of person I need to delegate as much as possible because I am not a multitasker. When I’m on the phone and my wife comes in or somebody else comes in and tells me, I, I put up my arm and said, don’t come in. Cause I can’t do, I can’t multitask. What happened in the past was they would tell me something and I’m doing something else and I would forget what they said 


Sara Muender (38:26): 



Chong Ye (38:27): 

And then I would go ahead and do something and they would wonder why I’m doing that. Well, that’s what I’m supposed to do. No, I just told you what last week or a few days ago, and it got to a point where I was just not able to function. And I told them, don’t barrage me, overwhelm me with stuff. Let me do my thing and bother me or let me know after I’m done with that. And so now they’re pretty good about emailing me stuff or not barging into my office. 


Sara Muender (39:00): 

We need to get you a sign on your door or something that lights up. You could just hit a switch and it’s like, don’t come in. Yeah, on air. 


Chong Ye (39:07): 

Yeah, on air. I think that’s what I need. So number one, you need to understand who you are. You need to admit, I think this is very important, at least for me, it was, you need to acknowledge what your weaknesses are and you need to be able to find people who will be able to build those weaknesses. Cause as I said earlier, my model in my law firm is don’t get in the way. A lot of times I would say, oh yeah, we should do this. We should write our demand letters this way, or we should negotiate this way. And they’ll say, okay, Chong, we’ll do it. And it becomes so inefficient. Cause they know now that it’s not worth them confronting me and saying, stopping me. They want to see me make my own mistake, <laugh> in my own words. So now I try to stay out of their way. 



So you need to understand your weakness, who you are. And number two, you need to understand, hey look, you can’t micromanage. You need to step back and get out of their way so that they can do their job. And that comes with trust. And I mean that trust is reciprocal. Cause I think if I trust my staff to be able to do their job, they trust that I’m a good boss. Every week we would try to have a weekly huddle where we talk about, okay, what are your wins? What are some of the things that you are working on this week? And what are you struggling with? And we’ll share that. And that really, that has helped really build a bond because we’re such a small firm. I don’t have departmental meetings. I just have an entire staff meeting that way. And so it’s been very helpful. I mean, I say when we first started that it wasn’t very encouraging. Cause my trusted lieutenant, she later will send me an email. She doesn’t like to tell me upfront, but she’ll write me a long email. And so whenever I get an email from her, I’m like, okay, 


Sara Muender (41:24): 

You got to prepare yourself. Yeah, 


Chong Ye (41:26): 

I have to brace myself. Right? Cause 


Sara Muender (41:28): 



Chong Ye (41:28): 

She’s going to tell me again. She’s going to be very honest. 


Sara Muender (41:32): 

And you need that. Everybody does. 


Chong Ye (41:34): 

Again, I test it. I mean, I get bruised when we’re meeting that, but I’ve come to accept that she, I, she loves working for, she thinks this law firm is her own baby as well. 


Sara Muender (41:49): 

Oh, I’d love to bring her on the lawyer’s podcast and get her perspective. That’d be so fun. 


Chong Ye (41:54): 

No, I love that about her. She would tell me, Hey, look, what is the purpose of the weekly huddle? We want to make sure we share our things, but a lot of times, all the times, you know, are talking over people, you are telling them what to do, you’re not listening. And so she really said something that I really needed to hear and now it’s gotten a lot better. And so it’s a lot more structure than before. And so again, I’m really open to suggestions, open to making sure things run better in the law firm. And I think that’s what the staff really, really appreciates. Is that okay? I appreciate your opinions. Feel free to let me know. And they don’t abuse that either. 


Sara Muender (42:42): 

Yeah, that’s beautiful. Beautifully said. I’m so proud of you and it’s been really, really cool being on this journey with you in growing your business and reaching your goals. And I know that you have a lot more that you’re excited about. Mean last year alone, you did some amazing things. You built a great team and you implemented some systems and you exceeded your revenue goal and just, it’s been so awesome seeing that journey For you, what’s next for you? What are you excited about? 


Chong Ye (43:14): 

Well, in the immediate future, I need to hire an associate. And I’ll tell you a little experience that I’ve had. I talked to some friends who recommended me, oh yeah, you should post your job on LinkedIn and do the paid services. So I did that, but I was stupid enough to post it during the holidays and I get a bill for a thousand dollars and I had zero, oh no applicants. And so I’m wondering what in the world I spent thousand dollars I think, anything. So I said, okay, I’m, I’m going to pause this. And I was talking to a friend of mine who said, yeah, why would you do that? Just go ahead and post it for free and see if somebody will go ahead and apply. So after making that mistake, I decided to post a job on LinkedIn and Indeed and I got an applicant that I’m really, really happy about. Really fits a culture. Culture from the resume and his cover letter. And as you know, you read through my job post and he was the only one. I mean I got applicants, but he was the only one who followed my direction down to the 


Sara Muender (44:31): 

Cheek. Yep. Got to put those Easter eggs in there and make sure that they’re paying attention. 


Chong Ye (44:36): 

Yeah, just, oh my goodness, I love this person. And I shared his resume to my firm staff and they said, wow, this is great. I mean, I hope this person works out. So my immediate goal is to hire an associate as soon as possible. My other plan is we’re kind of growing out of this office, so we’re moving into a bigger space next month. So I mean, those are two exciting things and I just want to continue to grow has been very, very valuable. Cause I have a lot of things in my head 


Sara Muender (45:13): 

As most visionaries do. 


Chong Ye (45:15): 

And Lawyerist have kind of helped me categorize and organize things so that I’m able to see things much more clearly mean everything was cluttered in my head, I just could not put it down into the paper. But you guys have really forced me to put things on the paper and get more organized and I appreciate that. 


Sara Muender (45:37): 

Yeah. Well, it’s been such a joy again, working with you and having you on the Lawyerist podcast. Thanks for coming on today and sharing your story about how you’ve built this amazing team. I’m excited to see what’s next for you. I have no doubt whatsoever that you’re going to fill that associate role with just the perfect person at just the perfect time. And it sounds like you got at least one promising candidate. So stay tuned. For those of you who want to connect with Chong and see how it goes, well you got to come into the lab program because that’s your only way. It’s the secret door in <laugh>. Thanks again for coming on here and all the luck to you, but I know you got this. 


Chong Ye (46:19): 

Thank you very much. 


Speaker 1 (46:23): 

The Lawyerist podcast is edited by Britney. Felix, are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next. Here are your first two steps. First, if you haven’t read the Small Firm roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist dot com slash book, looking for help beyond the book. Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities are right for you. Head to Lawyerist dot com slash community slash to schedule a 10 minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you. 


Your Hosts

Sara Muender

As a Lab Coach, Sara works with lawyers to build healthier law firms through workshops and 1:1 coaching. She makes sure lawyers have the guidance and tools to implement their ideas and grow their businesses.

Featured Guests

Chong Ye Headshot

Chong Ye

Chong Ye is a compassionate and dedicated personal injury trial lawyer serving the Federal Way, WA and neighboring communities. Growing up in an immigrant family, Chong witnessed the challenges faced by those without a legal background and was inspired to help those in need. With a mission to protect his clients’ interests, Chong fights tirelessly against insurance companies to ensure that his clients receive fair compensation for their injuries. 

Professionally, Chong is a highly respected member of the legal community, recognized as a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Lawyer and awarded 10 Best Law Firm by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys. When not representing clients, Chong enjoys spending time with his family and being active in the community. A devoted husband and father, Chong is also a committed member of his church and a board member of a non-profit homeless mission organization. 

Share Episode

Last updated February 8th, 2023