Personal injury attorney, a Board Certified expert in construction law, and Partner at Baggett Law Personal Injury Attorneys, Amanda Baggett has built a thriving practice with her husband Matt. She received an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell, an honor given to only 10% of all attorneys. She has been named to the Super Lawyers List every year since 2009, and has repeatedly been recognized for excellence by Florida Trend Magazine. Today, she covers how to convey a brand perception that balances friendliness with effective lawyering. How to stand out in a competitive market like Florida. What successfully onboarding a client looks like and where to invest in your firm – after SEO.
- Onboard your clients. Once intake is complete, the client journey has just begun. The onboard process should be streamlined, consistent, and documented in standard operating procedures. Send automated welcome videos so clients have a better understanding of your firm.
- Resumes should not be the bottom line when hiring. Most hard skills can be learned, but soft skills that align with your firm’s values – like friendliness – can not be taught. Build a team with your desired soft skills.
- To stand out in any market, reviews are critical. Make reviews part of the client journey and watch your practice grow.
Maria Monroy, LawRank, Baggett Law, Amanda Baggett
Maria Monroy (00:02):
I think if you can target that pain point, your referrals are going to go through the roof.
Amanda Baggett (00:07):
We have gotten several five star reviews from people that we’ve turned down because they’re so grateful that a lawyer actually finally took the time to explain to them why they don’t actually have a case.
Maria Monroy (00:17):
You want a person attached to the brand or a group of people.
Amanda Baggett (00:21):
We stopped hiring based on experience and resumes and we started hiring based on personality.
Maria Monroy (00:30):
In law school, attorneys are taught to challenge everything. Tear things apart, break them down. But the qualities that make lawyers agree can be some of the worst for running a business. At every stage of growth, running a business and practicing law can feel overwhelming. And what happens when you try to add life and family to the mix? It can feel nearly impossible. You don’t have to do this alone.
I’m Maria Monroy, co-founder and president of LawRank, a leading SEO agency for ambitious law firms.
Each week we hear from the industry leaders on what it really takes to run a law firm from marketing to manifestation, because success lies in the balance of life and law. We’re here to help you tip the scales
Partner at Baggett Law, Amanda Baggett is a board certified legal expert in roadway design and work zone cases. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Her firm has 60 years of combined experience and recovered tens of millions of dollars for her clients in Jacksonville, Florida.
Today, Amanda and I dig into conveying a brand perception that balances being friendly, real humans and effective lawyers. How to stand out in a competitive market like Florida. What successfully onboarding a client looks like and where to invest in your firm. Amanda is partner at Baggett Law and works with her husband Matt. How do they manage work and home life together?
Amanda Baggett (02:03):
Matt leaves it at the office. I feel like we have such an advantage… Matt and I have this kind of recurring conversation. He will say, “I don’t want to talk about work.” And I say, “But we are so lucky that we can talk about work.” That we can just over a cup of coffee or glass of wine whenever we want to. We can be making progress on the business. And so I always want to have the open door to talk about work. And Matt is more of a compartmentalizer. That’s a little bit tough. Because when I have an idea, it’s like I want to talk about it. I don’t want to wait. Then it’s driving me crazy. I just want to, “Let’s go.”
Maria Monroy (02:37):
Mariano and I have this conversation all the time, and for us it’s a bit of the inverse. I don’t want to talk about work. And he literally, the other day, paused House of Dragons at 10:30 to talk about work. And I was like, “I don’t want…” And it was a Sunday night. I was like, “I don’t want to talk about work right now.” But then he says that in his defense, when I want to talk about work, it’s okay, but when he wants to talk about work, it’s not okay. And we do two very, very different things. So sometimes I’m just not interested in the technicality that goes into SEO. So I’m just like, “Okay, great, we have great results. I get it.” I don’t want to know that much more high level versus this is how we do it. And he will figure something out and he is super excited about it. And I’m sitting there for 30 minutes like, “I’m not even contributing to this.”
Amanda Baggett (03:27):
Yes. I feel you. I don’t need to know how the sausage is made. I just want to tell you the types of sausage that we should make.
Maria Monroy (03:35):
If you have a disagreement.
Amanda Baggett (03:37):
Maria Monroy (03:38):
How do you handle that? A disagreement about the business.
Amanda Baggett (03:41):
As we have grown in our relationship as business partners, I think we kind of have reached a good way that we do handle disagreements. And a lot of that has to do with knowing exactly how we work. And we did… Have you ever done the Kolbe assessment?
Maria Monroy (03:56):
Amanda Baggett (03:57):
Maria Monroy (03:57):
I’ve done DiSC, but I haven’t done Kolbe.
Amanda Baggett (03:59):
Okay. So Kolbe, we did it as part of a work retreat and it almost kind of changed our marriage in a way that it was so spot on for both of us in the way that we work and what motivates us. And it’s true in our personal life, too. But the reason that I say all that is because I know that I’m a quick start. And so I know that I’m going to always have big ideas constantly. But I know that Matt is good for me to be the one that’s like, Wait, let’s think about this. So when we have disagreements, I feel like it depends on what the issue is. I defer to him on some things and he defers to me. He knows if it has anything to do with creative or the ultimate vision of the future for the firm, he defers to me. And for me, if it has to do with the budget and more of, he calls himself “the bean counter”, if that’s in his lane, then I defer to him.
Maria Monroy (04:49):
Got it. Now let’s talk a little bit about your brand because I think a lot of PI lawyers really struggle because they want to be seen a certain way, but then they want to market. And I think that they feel, or at least a lot of lawyers feel like there’s a fine line between advertising and still being taken, in their mind, seriously. I mean, I feel like the average person doesn’t really know, but I understand and I feel like you guys have done a really good job at having a very cohesive, very elegant brand. Were you the driver of that?
Amanda Baggett (05:22):
Thanks. I would say, yeah, I was the driver of that and thank you. That’s very kind. I feel like really what it boils down to is people really just want you to be authentic. And so I feel like for us, we can be nice, normal people and we can also be really tough lawyers. And I think… I hope that we kind of convey that to our audience, that we’re normal people, we’re parents, we’re nice, friendly, that kind of thing. But we’re also super tough when it comes to the lawyer side of what we do.
Maria Monroy (05:52):
And what have you done to get that point across? Because again, I think that there are two points that are really not odds with one another, but it is difficult because sometimes it can be perceived as like, “Oh, you’re too aggressive.” But also don’t want to be seen as not aggressive enough. And you are in a market that is so competitive. I mean, anywhere in Florida is very competitive, but what have you done to stand out from your competition?
Amanda Baggett (06:19):
Florida is crazy. I mean every other billboard is literally a personal injury firm and it’s a really, really, really crazy market for PI firms.
When I think about what makes us really great lawyers though, I don’t think it’s really necessarily being aggressive. I feel like that’s such a thing that people think like, “Oh, you have to be roll up your sleeves super tough and go in there.” What really you have to do, you have to be an excellent lawyer. And that starts from the day you get the case. And you have to know exactly what the trajectory is and really, really, really work up the case and highlight the strengths of the case and just know how to finesse it, know what’s going to ultimately happen so that you don’t have to be pounding your fists on the table at mediation because you’ve already done the work. Because we’re really good lawyers doing really, really top tier work.
And so I feel like we don’t have to have this persona of “oh we’re super aggressive” because we’re just really good lawyers.
Maria Monroy (07:13):
And you guys have utilized video to also… Because I think at the end of the day, people want to work with people, right?
Amanda Baggett (07:19):
Maria Monroy (07:20):
As much as we talk about brands and I think they’re all interconnected, but in your world, and I would argue in my world, you want a person attached to the brand or a group of people. And I know you guys have utilized video a lot. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Amanda Baggett (07:36):
Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, we have a lot of video content and I think it is really good because to your point, otherwise you’re seeing a picture of somebody on a website and reading about them. But even things like hearing someone’s voice, I think that kind of gives you a little bit of insight into who they really are, what they’re really kind of get a feel for their energy level. So we have used videos, we’ve done client testimonials, we’ve done FAQs, branding video, we’ve done a lot of video content. And the thing with video content though, I feel like you have to refresh it constantly. People seem to like the videos.
Maria Monroy (08:06):
Do you get positive feedback on them?
Amanda Baggett (08:08):
We get very positive feedback. I feel like it’s not only positive feedback from potential clients, but even current clients that enjoy reading this stuff. And we even have a welcome video that we send out as soon as the client signs with us, we send a welcome video that really kind of explains the process in depth. We’ve already talked about it of course with them, but kind of a little reminder and they have it whenever they want to reference it.
Maria Monroy (08:29):
That’s awesome. You send out a welcome email?
Amanda Baggett (08:31):
Yeah. Yeah, with a video. Yep.
Maria Monroy (08:33):
That’s amazing. And who’s handling sending out those videos?
Amanda Baggett (08:36):
You mean who…
Maria Monroy (08:38):
Internally, in your team.
Amanda Baggett (08:38):
Oh, internally. One of our employees is… That’s her kind of intake role.
Maria Monroy (08:43):
That’s awesome. So the intake person is onboarding the clients as well?
Amanda Baggett (08:47):
Yes. Yeah. So very SOP heavy. Matt is…
Maria Monroy (08:50):
That was my next question.
Amanda Baggett (08:51):
Oh my gosh. Matt… I mean, I joke with him, he has an SOP about every single thing. Which is great. It’s really good because I think that when you have SOPs then you are consistent. Nobody kind of deviates from the script because everybody knows what to do. And so that’s really been Matt’s thing and his focus and he is really, really, really good at that. And I’m not, so yeah, everybody’s… All clients are onboarded the same way and it all kind of gels.
Maria Monroy (09:16):
If you don’t mind sharing with us, what is that onboarding? I don’t think that’s talked about. How to onboard a client, right? I think a lot of people just wing it. It’s like they sign the case and then they’ll contact them when they…
Amanda Baggett (09:27):
Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. And I think that one thing, speaking of onboarding, that sets us apart a little bit is that lawyers handle our calls with potential clients. So we are not the type of law firm that signs potential clients and then they speak to a lawyer later. So on the front end, before you ever even see our fee agreement, you’re speaking to a lawyer about your case to find out, number one if you have a case. A lot of law firms sign up potential clients and then to sign…
Maria Monroy (09:50):
Then reject them.
Amanda Baggett (09:52):
Yeah! And then reject them. And that, to us, that just doesn’t feel right. And a lot of times too, people are so grateful if you just are honest with them and explain to them why they don’t have a case. We have gotten several five star reviews from people that we’ve turned down because they’re so grateful that a lawyer actually finally took the time to explain to them why they don’t actually have a case, rather than signing them up and then rejecting them later.
So on the front end, before anyone ever signs with our firm, they have an in-depth conversation with a lawyer to say either we don’t think you have a case and here’s why. Or we do think you have a case and these are going to be the next steps. And so we really try to educate our clients. That’s something we’re very, very, very big on, is making everything easy to understand for a non-lawyer. Our clients have usually never been in a lawsuit and so we use these words as lawyers that we understand, but to someone that’s never been in a lawsuit, they have no idea what you’re talking about.
So we try really, really, really hard to explain that process from the very first phone call really. And then once they do sign with our firm, then we send out an email and it explains the process again. We send the welcome video that goes into more depth about that and then we’re constantly communicating with them about certain tips. These are the things that are going to make your case more successful and these are the things that might harm your case. Just staying in close contact with our clients is… It’s crucial for success.
Maria Monroy (11:14):
It’s the biggest complaint that people have about their lawyer, that they’re not responsive.
Amanda Baggett (11:20):
Maria Monroy (11:21):
So I think if you can target that pain point, your referrals are going to go through the roof. Because people already have these ideas about lawyers, whether they’re right or not, whether they’re misconceptions or not, but to really change that misconception and actually even say to the potential client, This is not who we are. We’re not the firm that’s going to take your case and then reject it later. We’re not the firm that isn’t going to set the right expectations for you. We’re not the firm that isn’t going to respond to you when you meet us. I think that goes a long way.
Amanda Baggett (11:54):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think too that where a lot of law firms maybe get themselves into trouble with the lack of responsiveness, is they’re so focused on the intake. How many cases can we sign up? That they’re not focused on, “Okay, once we get these cases signed up, who’s going to be working on these cases and what’s going to happen to these cases?”
And so for us, we are not focused on the intake any more than we’re focused on doing the good work and communicating with our clients. And we’re always thinking ahead and we’re in this growth zone too. Do we need to hire another lawyer? Because we want to make sure that we’re not having such an influx of cases and then there’s no lawyer to do the work or to communicate with the client in a timely manner.
Maria Monroy (12:35):
Hiring is super, super tough.
Amanda Baggett (12:37):
It’s super tough.
Maria Monroy (12:38):
Yeah. I think everybody struggles with hiring right now.
Amanda Baggett (12:40):
I think so too. I think so too. And I think something with hiring that we learned years ago, we stopped hiring based on experience and resumes and we started hiring based on personality. Because we can teach people the content of their job, but we cannot teach a good personality and a good attitude and it’s everything. Two people on our staff are former teachers, but that teaching background actually is so relevant to personal injury because they’re really able to take things that seem complicated and break it down and explain things to clients in ways that I probably couldn’t do because they had room full of four year olds.
Maria Monroy (13:19):
So I used to work at AT&T, that’s where I met Mariano and AT&T’s always hiring. And one of the things that Marino taught me at the time, he was like, “Look, you hire for friendliness. You can’t teach someone to be friendly. So when you’re going to have someone that is customer facing or client facing and they’re not friendly, that’s not something you can teach. You can them so many other things. But that’s one thing you can’t teach.” And I always tell our clients when they’re hiring for intake, I’m like, “Just make sure that no matter what, they’re friendly.” Because you can’t coach to friendliness. And we’ve all had that experience where we go, whether it’s a hotel or a restaurant and someone’s just not friendly.
Amanda Baggett (14:03):
Maria Monroy (14:04):
And you wonder, “Why are you in a… Go do something where you’re behind a computer and you don’t talk to anybody.”
Amanda Baggett (14:10):
Maria Monroy (14:11):
But you can’t just be out in the world interacting with people if you’re not friendly. I don’t think that that’s good for anybody involved.
Amanda Baggett (14:18):
No, it’s not. I know, get another job. And it’s so true. The saying is, “higher slow, fire fast.” And that’s so true. And if you don’t want to be in your job, find a new one. Life’s too short, really.
Maria Monroy (14:29):
It totally is. And I don’t think we do employees any service if we keep them in a role that’s not for them.
Amanda Baggett (14:36):
Maria Monroy (14:37):
Because they have to go find whatever makes them happy.
Amanda Baggett (14:42):
Maria Monroy (14:42):
And wherever they’re going to excel. And I definitely think there’s a job for everybody.
Amanda Baggett (14:47):
Maria Monroy (14:47):
You have to find where you excel and what makes you happy. But yeah, we’ve been hiring slow now and we’ve been incorporating a task.
Amanda Baggett (14:57):
Oh, I love that.
Maria Monroy (14:57):
And what I’ve realized, sometimes they don’t even follow instructions.
Amanda Baggett (15:03):
Maria Monroy (15:05):
And I’m like, “this was an easy task.” And literally I had someone say why they did not do that task and then did a different task that they make up for themselves. And the task was to criticize our website with no background in marketing or anything at all. And I was like, “Wow, this was an easy…” And some people will take forever to do the task.
Amanda Baggett (15:31):
Oh my gosh.
Maria Monroy (15:31):
So I don’t give them a timeline, I’m just like “The sooner or the better.” But you figure it out.
Amanda Baggett (15:37):
Oh my gosh, I know. It’s really, it’s unbelievable.
Maria Monroy (15:40):
And then I get an email like, “I’m so sorry, I had a family emergency, so I haven’t.”So it’s like you already are…
Amanda Baggett (15:45):
Oh yeah, yeah. You know. You know.
Maria Monroy (15:46):
You’re already like, “okay, so this is going to be a pattern.”
Amanda Baggett (15:49):
Maria Monroy (15:51):
Right. Whereas I get people that send PowerPoint presentations that are within 24 hours and they’re amazing and I’m like…
Amanda Baggett (15:58):
Yeah, right. There’s no question. Well, and I say this and I was late for this today. Oops. But I know when you’re posting on Instagram about these people, it’s an interview for a job and then they’re not even connecting on the Zoom interview on time. Not even remotely on time. I think you posted, “How long would you wait?” And it was crazy.
Maria Monroy (16:16):
I don’t wait.
Amanda Baggett (16:18):
It was crazy. Especially in Zoom.
Maria Monroy (16:19):
I wait a minute. Literally one minute. If I don’t have an email from you or you’re not on. And I’m really looking because Zoom… I don’t know how you have your Zoom set up, but it alerts me. So it’s like…
Amanda Baggett (16:29):
Maria Monroy (16:30):
“This person has joined the meeting.” I’m looking for someone that’s on there five minutes early.
Amanda Baggett (16:34):
Of course. Why wouldn’t you be early to an interview?
Maria Monroy (16:36):
And it’s from home.
Amanda Baggett (16:38):
Right! I know. They don’t have to walk, like I did to get here
Maria Monroy (16:42):
Yeah. And in high heels.
Amanda Baggett (16:43):
Right, exactly. Yeah. I really want to know, for you being a mom of three, because we’ve talked about the mom work life thing. How do you travel as much as you do and still feel sane?
Maria Monroy (17:00):
I don’t know that I’m sane. I think it definitely requires a specific personality type. And I learned really early on that I was going to feel guilty no matter what I did. So if I’m a stay at home mom, I feel guilty because I’m not doing what I want to be doing. And then I feel like I’m not the best version of myself, as cheesy as that sounds, because I’m just… I’m not happy. I love being with my kids and I love them, whatever. But I’m like, “This doesn’t make me happy.”
But if I’m working, I feel guilty about it. So then one day just realized I’m going to feel guilty no matter what. I’m going to do what I want to do. And one thing I learned from Jen, Jen was saying to me, “Don’t tell the kids ‘I’m sorry I’m leaving. I’m going to miss you so much.’ Just be like, ‘I’m really excited that I get to go to this conference and do this thing and I’ll miss you, but you know can call me, but you’re going to be fine.'”
We also have a lot of help. And it was one of the reasons we moved to Mexico, because we wanted more help. And I mean, I definitely feel exhausted, I’m not going to lie. And I feel like I took a little too much on last year and I promised myself I wouldn’t do it this year and then I did it again this year. Yeah, I get FOMO.
Amanda Baggett (18:13):
Yeah, I’m sure. Especially with what you do.
Maria Monroy (18:15):
If I don’t go to a conference, I get FOMO.
Amanda Baggett (18:16):
Yeah. And then you see it and you feel like “they’re having fun without me.”
So what motivates you? What gets you up in the morning?
Maria Monroy (18:22):
I wake up ready for the day.
Amanda Baggett (18:24):
I’m like that too. I’m a morning person. I just, every day is a…
Maria Monroy (18:27):
I’m not a morning person.
Amanda Baggett (18:28):
New opportunity. Oh, you’re not?
Maria Monroy (18:29):
I’m not a morning person. But once I’ve had my coffee and I’ve worked out, I feel like I can conquer the world. I have a couple hour gap in the morning where I’m high on life, I’m ready to go. I mean, money for me is a… I’m not going to lie, I like money.
Amanda Baggett (18:47):
Money’s a motivator.
Maria Monroy (18:47):
Money’s definitely a motivator. Being able to do what I want, autonomy’s huge for me. Even though I was always a good employee, I was probably not the easiest employee to deal with, because I was very sure about myself and I wanted things done a certain way and my bosses would put up with it because I would perform. But I think I was definitely a more difficult employee. And Mariano was my boss, so he’s like… He’s not my boss now, but he was my boss. So he’s like, “You were not an easy employee.”
Amanda Baggett (19:20):
Maria Monroy (19:20):
Amanda Baggett (19:21):
But that’s what makes you a great owner. I feel like what makes you a good employee, it does not make you a good owner. And the converse is true too.
Maria Monroy (19:29):
Amanda Baggett (19:30):
So how do you handle having clients in the same area, in the same market? How do you do that?
Maria Monroy (19:38):
How do I handle having multiple clients in the same area? We like to focus on return investments. So there is room on the first page of Google for multiple firms to generate an ROI. And it really shouldn’t matter who is handling that. Obviously we can’t take on 10 firms, so there is a limit.
But the other thing that is really important is any SEO agency that is successful isn’t going to offer exclusivity. Because the problem is you inhibit your client’s growth. So if you’re in Jacksonville and you say to me, “Maria, we’re killing it. I want to go into Orlando.” Now I can’t take you to Orlando because I am exclusive in Orlando. So we started to have those issues and that’s why we made the decision to pull exclusivity from everyone, because we no longer felt like we could really support our clients.
And it’s not just us. Every reputable agency out there, with the exception of one that I can think of, has removed exclusivity. And the only reason the other agency has removed it is because they’re also in a different vertical. But any agency that only specializes in SEO that is reputable isn’t going to offer exclusivity.
Amanda Baggett (20:48):
Interesting. That’s good to know. So what, other than working with LawRank and SEO, which is awesome, what would be your number one piece of advice for a law firm owner? In addition to doing SEO. What would you say is “This is the number one thing, do it and it’s going to pay dividends”?
Maria Monroy (21:04):
The biggest advice I would give lawyers would be to really work on your brand. That would be one. I do think that it’s really important to have a brand, whether you are willing to do offline or just networking, but really having that brand.
The other thing that I would recommend that all lawyers do is get reviews. Get GMB reviews. Like you said, it’s not… It’s free.
Amanda Baggett (21:33):
Maria Monroy (21:33):
I mean, yes, there’s time involved and you need to have processes, maybe some tools in place. But it’s not going to cost you $10,000, $20,000. And it’s really, really crucial.
Amanda Baggett (21:46):
It’s amazing. I know people call us because on our intake form, there’s a section we ask every single caller, “How did you learn about Baggett Law?”
Maria Monroy (21:54):
Amanda Baggett (21:55):
Yeah, right. LawRank. But 99.9…
Maria Monroy (21:57):
Amanda Baggett (21:58):
Right. They say…
Maria Monroy (21:58):
Amanda Baggett (21:59):
Right. Well they say Google. Yeah. But then they say, if you push them like, “Well, what on Google?” They say, “We read your reviews.”
Maria Monroy (22:05):
And how do they get to your reviews?
Amanda Baggett (22:07):
They got to our reviews from LawRank.
Maria Monroy (22:09):
Once you bring in the cases, get reviews. Make the process part of your client journey. Streamline the intake process as well as onboarding so that each potential client gets the same level of care. Remember that even people who don’t sign on can leave a great review.
Thank you so much to Amanda Baggett for everything she shared today. If you found this story valuable, please share it with someone you want to see succeed. Subscribe so you never miss an episode and leave a five star review. It goes a long way to help others discover the show.
Catch us next week on Tip The Scales with me. Maria Monroy, President of LawRank. Hear how the best in the business broke out of limiting beliefs, overcame adversity, and built a thriving purpose driven business in the process.