For Ali Awad, business is common sense. At just five years old he sold collectible trading cards to classmates. And turned a profit. Hooked on the power of money, he never turned back. Thanks to his business acumen his firm, CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm is a take-off success. In his first year of practice, he settled over one million dollars for his clients and holds a success rate of 99.5%. Ali is a wealth of knowledge and shares with us how to become famous in your niche without spending money and why the drive to outwork anyone is internal. He shares his thoughts on why great trial attorneys are already incredible marketers and how perspective shapes every choice and ultimately our success.
- Perspective can change everything. We can not choose how we grow up. But we can choose what we do with the lessons we learn.
- Money can buy freedom. As a business owner, it is your job to make enough money to delegate away each task that you do not want to do and is below your hourly wage.
- But it doesn’t need to buy fame. When you are first starting out, leverage free or near-free platforms like social media to create a tight-knit base of supporters. Develop an organic community.
Maria Monroy, LawRank, Ali Awad, CEO Lawyer
Ali Awad (00:02):
Your job as the business owner is to make enough money to be able to delegate yourself away from every single task.
Maria Monroy (00:09):
Do you think somebody could do both? Be a great trial lawyer and a great marketer?
Ali Awad (00:14):
I promise you the charisma and the attitude and the passion and the grit and the focus, that’s easily transferable skills into trying cases to start, you have to understand you don’t need to spend money to make money. That philosophy does not exist anymore.
Maria Monroy (00:29):
You’ve been getting a lot of heat lately for not being a trial lawyer.
Ali Awad (00:33):
Yeah, that’s okay. You all can have that. You all can hate on me as much as you want. I get that high from watching other people’s dreams get fulfilled.
Maria Monroy (00:47):
In law school, attorneys are taught to challenge everything, tear things apart, break them down. But the qualities that make lawyers great 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.
Some people are born to do business. Ali Awad, or as many people know him, CEO Lawyer, has been running successful businesses since he was five years old. Today he operates many successful businesses including his law firm. His key to success is learning the ins and out intensely for 90 days, creating systems around what he has learned and delegating himself out of the business so that it can run without him. He takes what he has learned from decades in business and applies it to his law firm. Today Ali shares his insights, why the drive to outwork any competition is internal, how to become famous in your area without spending money, why great trial lawyers are already incredible marketers and how prospective shapes our every choice and ultimately our success. Ali tells us about his first business ever.
Ali Awad (02:29):
At age five I decided that I needed to make more money, and I printed off these pictures of Dragon Ball Z characters on my dad’s engineering computer because he worked as an engineer. I’d print them off, and I would cut the label off the bottom, the URL. So when you print something off of a Google image search, back then it was Yahoo, no one really used Google, when you print an image off of a Yahoo search, it’ll always print the source at the very bottom of the page. I would go on there, and I distinctly remember when I would search, there would be a limited amount of options there. I started printing off pictures of Dragon Ball Z characters and selling them to people in elementary school. And then I was either eight or nine, I was in third grade because I was in Mr. Kittle’s class in third grade, so I was probably eight years old, and I sold these five Yugioh cards. At that time we were into trading cards. I sold these five cards that combined to become Exodia. That was the character. I sold them to this kid named Lionel Renoso for a hundred dollars. It was like in fourth period when I made that sale.
And so when I gave him the cards and he gave me the hundred dollar bill, I put the hundred dollar bill, crumbled it in my hand and put my hand in my pocket. I kept my hand in my pocket for the rest of the day until I got on the bus, during the bus ride until I walked into the house. And throughout the day I’d keep moving my fingers around just to make sure that the hundred was still there because there was no way I was going to lose it. Then when I finally got home, I opened it up and there it was in all its glory Benjamin Franklin just staring straight at me. And then at that point I had to actually split the hundred. So my mom took her 20% commission. And that’s probably where I realized I love business, I love sales, I’ve got to do this for the rest of my life.
Maria Monroy (04:32):
That’s amazing. I wish I had a story like that, but I don’t. Not at five. And my kids are like, they’re just not like that.
Ali Awad (04:42):
That was the last year that I didn’t really start scaling. The interpersonal sales was fun because I love talking to people. But the year after that, 1999, I started my first eBay store. I would sell electronics. The first thing I ever sold online was a pair of 15 inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofers. I remember those speakers came in, the sub woofers came in on a trade in from another customer that had bought, like I said, audio bond speakers. And if you know anything about car audio, these are the brands; Audiobahn, Kicker, Rockford Fosgate, MTX, MTX with the 9,500 and the like. If you are a car audio fanatic, then I am speaking your language. I’ll tell you 10 years after this I actually bought with my brothers, we bought an entire car audio manufacturing company, and we built our own subwoofer brand that I actually designed with the rubber surround with the double stacked strontium magnet. The brand of the speaker, the model number was the SAIO-12, S-A-I-O dash 12, which stood for Sam, Ali, Ibraham and Omar, my three brothers.
Maria Monroy (05:51):
Oh, wow. What do your other two brothers do?
Ali Awad (05:55):
Ibrahim’s an attorney.
Maria Monroy (05:57):
I know that. But the other two.
Ali Awad (05:58):
The other two are entrepreneurs. They stayed in the car audio business, and then they expanded, added more stores, added more locations. They’re real estate investors, so they’re basically the same as me just without the law degree. Then there’s another story. When I was in law school, I had to decide if I wanted to stop doing the business of car audio and go all in on the law. I’ve had a lot of those pivotal moments in my life, but they started early. That’s why I feel like I’m like 60 years old when I have these conversations because people don’t believe it. So let me take you back a little bit, just a little bit. So at nine I sold my first pair of 15 inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofers, and I lost my shirt in them because when I made the posting online, I didn’t have a camera.
And so when you post something online, I just got a Google image of what I thought looked like the subwoofers, and I actually posted an image of a brand new looking subwoofer instead of my old raggedy ass beat up speakers that I was trying to sell. And so I posted them on eBay, sold them for like $75. Sold the first one for $75, and I put free shipping because I was like, “Dude, shipping is cheap.” Turns out it costs $32 to ship that subwoofer back in 1999, which now it’s probably even more expensive. And I had to package it up and get all this cardboard boxes and foam and stuff just so it wouldn’t get damaged. I did all this work, and it was so hard because I didn’t have a car. I had to convince my dad and my mom, “Hey, I need some foam, I need some packaging so I can package up the subwoofer. Please give me a ride down the street to the US Postal Service so I can mail the sub woofer off.”
And they’re like, “Fine, whatever. If you’re making money, that’s fine.” All of that for the buyer to make a claim with eBay and PayPal and ask for a refund because the speaker was not in the same condition, and I couldn’t afford having him ship it back to me because that would’ve been another $32. So I lost the $75 sale, I lost the $32 shipping fee and I lost a subwoofer. I realized at that point, if you want to do the online business, you should expect to fail. You should expect that you’re not going to be an expert at it from day one. And over the years I got a lot better at it.
By the time I was in college, I was consistently selling $5,000-$10,000 a week on eBay, and I was drop shipping. I was buying from auction websites and selling them on other websites. I was taking old merchandise from our stores and putting them online. And that’s kind of just the natural evolution. When I got my law degree, I was like, how can I use my online sales experience and translate that into my law firm? And that’s how CEO Lawyer was born.
Maria Monroy (08:28):
Interesting. But you said all of you are successful, all four of you entrepreneurs.
Ali Awad (08:34):
Maria Monroy (08:35):
Oh, and two sisters. And what do they do?
Ali Awad (08:36):
My first sister Malika is probably the highest paid PA in the entire country. She’s also in the personal injury business. She works as an orthopedic PA. And my other sister right now, Rheam, is studying for the LSAT to go to law school.
Maria Monroy (08:51):
Is she going to come join you?
Ali Awad (08:52):
We’ll see. She actually manages my TikTok. She’s my TikTok TikTok manager now. She’s got a video that got 25 million views, and I’ve never been able to crack that, so she’s pretty good at it.
Maria Monroy (09:02):
That’s crazy. You’re about to have some competition.
Ali Awad (09:05):
Well, I’m looking for a CEO. I’m looking for a successor. I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing right now forever. I want to keep growing and keep trying new things. I have a 90 day shelf life and a five year shelf life. Ninety days is about how long I can do something consistently, really aggressively without caring about anything else. I’ll do this for 90 days straight, but that’s all I’m going to give you because that’s all the energy that I can give you. And after that, I get bored and I have to do something else. So that’s probably why I have so many different businesses now is because I go in spurts. You how people talk about a work life balance? Mine is over the course of a year, I can only dedicate two to three months for this project, and then after that I should be good enough to create a system where everyone else can run it. I’m realizing that I can delegate my way out of pretty much every single role.
Maria Monroy (09:52):
I love delegating. Now, what did your parents teach you? Because it sounds like you’re all successful, you’re all hard working. Do you attribute it to something your parents taught you? I get it when one kid is successful, even two. But six?
Ali Awad (10:11):
The things that we learned growing up in the Awad household in many, many people’s perspectives today would think it’s child abuse, would think that it’s a reckless endangerment of children, would think it’s child labor, would think that it’s a toxic environment, would think that it’s unfair and probably illegal. I mean, my parents didn’t become citizens… My dad didn’t become a citizen until 2017. I said that preface because we started working in a mechanic shop at age eight, nine, 10. The first time I had a workplace injury was when a propane tank fell on my foot, and it swelled up to the size of a rugby ball. I remember my third grade teacher, Mr. Kittle, needed to carry me upstairs to the second floor of the building because it was on Marr Street, Moore Street School was the name of the school that we went to, and I couldn’t walk so he would pick me up and take me to class.
We would never tell them why I was injured. It was just like, oh, sports or whatever. But we grew up working all the time, and my dad had these very simple philosophies and sometimes they went to the extreme. The first philosophy is your children should never be bored. If you give them an opportunity to be bored, they will find things to do that are not in their greatest benefit. So children are not naturally going to pick up a book and read it unless they see you doing it all the time. Children are not naturally going to turn the TV off and say, “Oh, it’s time to do some pushups.” Children are not naturally going to get off the school bus and go straight into doing their chores unless you make it part of their schedule.
So by the time we woke up 6:00 AM, 5:30 AM, the first thing that would happen, my dad would turn all the lights on military style, start slamming the wall, “Everybody wake up. We’re going to Fajr prayer, we’re going to the mosque to pray.” That’s how the boys grew up in my house. And from age five to 15, I probably missed three prayers total ever in the mosque because we have… And I’m talking about 6:00 AM in the morning, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 pm at night. After the prayer we’d sit down for an hour every single day reading the Quran, reading our holy book. So we’re all fluent in Arabic, and we all know all of the rules of conjugation in the Arabic language because that was a schedule that my dad created.
Maria Monroy (12:45):
What if you misbehaved or didn’t want to do something?
Ali Awad (12:50):
We had a very famous 25 cent leather belt that came from the flea market. And so my dad would tell us, depending on how bad you acted, he would tell you to go get the belt from his bedroom. And they’re all hung up on the wall. He’s like [inaudible 00:13:07], go get me the small belt. [inaudible 00:13:12], go get me that thick belt that I like.
Maria Monroy (13:14):
And do you have trauma from that?
Ali Awad (13:17):
I don’t have trauma. I have discipline.
Maria Monroy (13:19):
Ali Awad (13:20):
Trauma is what people use as a scapegoat instead of just accepting the fact that this is how you grew up and you use it as a strength instead of a weakness. There’s no trauma. This is just how you grew up. It’s only trauma when you compare yourself to other people. I think it’s normal.
Maria Monroy (13:38):
In Mexico it’s very common, this whole concept of hitting children. I’ve had experiences with the famous belts, but I don’t think my parents used it in my opinion in the way your parents used it. Because your parents, it sounds like it was very disciplined and it was very much a family unit, and we’re going to go and we’re going to do this and now we’re going to go and do this. Whereas my parents used it like, oh, you’re misbehaving, but there was no necessarily sense of family unity or like a mini community.
Ali Awad (14:12):
You’d get the belt when you got a B on your report card. You’d get the belt when you disrespected your mom or your dad. You’d get the belt when… Any time you disobeyed your parents you’d get the belt. And that’s just how we grew up. And to continue in that structure of the day in the morning, if it’s a weekday, you’d go to school and you’d take the bus. Because we only had one car in the entire family so everyone had to get on the bus. And then if it’s a weekend, we go and work at my dad’s mechanic shop. That’s just how it was. I’ll tell you, let me tell how disciplined we were. When I was nine, we used to take Sundays off. I told my dad, “Hey, let me work with my two older brothers and we’ll open up the mechanic shop on 1803 Murray Avenue,” because I was getting really good at changing tires at nine.
At age nine, I was getting really good at changing used tires and plugging tires and fixing used cars. I told him, “Let us open the shop on Sundays, and whatever we make, we’ll give you half. And then the rest of it we split amongst us three.” It took three Sundays before my dad realized, okay, there’s no reason for us to take Sundays off. We’re going to work seven days a week every single day. And so that happened until I was about 16 when we took our first family vacation. It wasn’t because my dad was just obsessed with money. Not at all. My dad had the responsibility of raising his 10 siblings because his father passed away when he was young. He had a bunch of younger siblings that were all over the world. And so he saw it as his obligation to get all of his siblings over to the US and get them married and get their family started and make sure that they’re supported and taken care of.
My dad was like the grandfather of the entire Awad family. You’re talking about hundreds of Awad children are indebted to my dad. But what that did was it made us, us being my brothers and I, be the ones that worked to provide money to my dad so that he could support the rest of his family. So we’ve had this seven figure work ethic forever on a three figure budget because we’ve been working our whole lives. But at some point when you became cognizant of what’s happening, I’ll tell my dad, I can’t keep giving you all the money that I make and then realize we’re still living in a shitty house, we still have problems with debt, we’re still doing bad business deals. Why do we have such poor financial management? And that’s at that point where you become your own man.
And for my brothers and I, it was at a young age, between 15 and 20 is when we decided we just have to do our own thing because if we keep giving money to my dad, he’s just going to give it to everyone else in his family instead of us. And so maybe there’s a little bit of trauma in that regard. It’s like why didn’t we ever get taken care of? Why didn’t we ever live in the fancy houses? Why didn’t we ever have those really, really nice cars our friends had? Well, it’s because my dad’s obligation was to his siblings and to their children more than us.
I think that’s a benefit to us. It used to be a weakness, but now it’s a strength because I’ve been disciplined, and I’ve been trained to work for a very, very long time and not see the fruits of my labor. And so I can work and I can outwork you for decades not expecting any sort of result. I don’t need the money, I don’t need the fame and the glory. I can do it because I’ve been doing it for decades, and I’m just 32.
Maria Monroy (17:47):
I think that’s the secret to life is to take a weakness and make it a strength. And that’s why you and I have talked about this before, but I think adversity can be the greatest thing ever. You mentioned that your dad wasn’t obsessed with money. Are you obsessed with money?
Ali Awad (18:06):
I used to be, yeah. I used to put a specific value on people depending on how much they make and how much they’re worth. And then I realized that was flawed thinking because we derive value in so many different ways. I grew up as the middle child. And so one of the main ways you can provide value to the family is by figuring out how to bring money into the house. That’s why I did the online businesses. That’s why I would sell speakers online, and that’s why we started going to Vegas when I was 15 years old to the CES show so that we could learn how to buy wholesale and do big negotiation deals. The money always went to my dad, and whenever I could save up a little bit of money, I’d give it to him. I remember being 13 years old and giving my dad $13,000 because that was my entire life savings at the time just from working on Sundays at the mechanic shop, getting tips from people that are getting their used tires installed. I told him, “Hey, use this money so we can renovate our house,” because we bought a house. He got a great deal on it. It took him eight years to renovate it.
I learned a lot from about mismanagement of funds from my dad. So you get the grit, you get the discipline, you get the hard work, you get the tenacity, you get the scheduling, you get the religion, you get the language, you get the martial arts expertise. You understand life at a very young age, but you have very hard lessons that you have to learn along the way. I’m very thankful for all of those lessons because I learned them in my teens and twenties instead of in my forties and fifties like a lot of people experience. That’s probably why I’m at this point in my life now is because the way I grew up, I already had experiences that most people don’t even see.
Maria Monroy (19:54):
But don’t you feel like you missed out on being a child?
Ali Awad (19:59):
Yeah, I do. I feel like I missed out on being a child, and I made up for it when I got to college and could afford to travel on my own. I ended up traveling and doing five different study abroad trips in college and in law school. We all grew up as martial arts experts, so we trained and went to tournaments all over the country. The thing is at the time you don’t really know it because you can’t compare it to anything. We didn’t use social media to look at what other kids are doing. We weren’t allowed to watch TV. We didn’t have these distractions in life. The only thing we had was our siblings. And so when you have your siblings and you’re all doing the same thing, it becomes normal.
Maria Monroy (20:38):
Kids from school. You must have known-
Ali Awad (20:41):
I grew up in Dalton, Georgia. I grew up in Dalton, Georgia around a bunch of Mexicans, dude. Everyone was poor. There was nothing special about what I was going through. Everyone was poor, everyone was an immigrant. Dalton was the best thing that could have happened to me. But then when I got to age 20, 21, 22, I realized I can’t stay in Dalton because I’m growing at a rate like this where Dalton is going to stay like this, and at some point I have to get out. But no childhood but that’s only because I didn’t have anything to compare it to. You only realize that after the fact, which I think is very important.
Maria Monroy (21:16):
I think if we think back to pre-modern society, I feel like kids worked. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Ali Awad (21:26):
Yeah. I think kids are lazy now. I almost need to create tension and difficulty and adversity in my life to make sure my kids don’t grow up lazy. The lifestyle that you get now as one of my children, it’s nothing like what we had growing up. And so this is the struggle of my generation, my brothers and I. My parents used to tell us no because they had to say no because there was no other option.
Maria Monroy (21:56):
They couldn’t say yes.
Ali Awad (21:58):
I have to say no even though I know it’s very easy to say yes, it’s a different type of discipline.
Maria Monroy (22:04):
Oh, I’m right there with you. I grew up poor, and I have the most privileged children ever, and it’s a constant struggle. I feel you.
Ali Awad (22:13):
I would say we never had allowances, so that’s something my kids are never going to get.
Maria Monroy (22:17):
Yeah, mine don’t have allowances. They’ve asked and I’m like, “Meh.”
Ali Awad (22:21):
You want money? Go earn it. Here’s how you do it. Or you can give them, hey, for every book you read I’ll give you five bucks or 10 bucks. You can do things like that.
Maria Monroy (22:29):
My kids are good with reading. That’s because I read a lot, my husband reads. So it’s funny when you said unless they watch you do it, they watch us read.
Ali Awad (22:38):
The other thing we have now is because there’s money and we have the ability to pay for things, I can pay for private tutors to teach everything. I can keep your schedule packed from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and then I’ll come in and check in on you from 7:00 to 9:00, and that’s it. It used to be my dad would take us to the mechanic shop because if we stayed home we’ll drive my mom crazy, and we’d just be useless kids that are just causing a ruckus all the time. So that’s why he took us to the mechanic shops. But then we started getting really good at changing tires, we started getting really good at the wheel entire business, we started getting really good at car audio, and my dad was like, “Damn, I’ve created these sharks, I’m just going to let them take over the business.”
And then I had to make the decision when I was in college that I had to step away from this car audio and wheel business so that I could pursue my legal career, and that was difficult because that’s all I’d ever known my whole life. But I knew there was something bigger and better here. And I think that comes from having discipline and knowing that you can work for a very long time, and the seeds that you plant now you’re confident that you’re going to get that fruit from that tree five years down the road.
Maria Monroy (23:45):
Let’s talk about this bigger and better. So now you have your law firm and you’ve mentioned that you’re delegating, you have processes and I feel like that’s something that you’ve maybe learned preowning a law firm. What can you share with us about setting up systems and delegating? Because I feel like this is something that lawyers really struggle with.
Ali Awad (24:08):
I think money is extremely important, and your job as the business owner is to make enough money to be able to delegate yourself away from every single task. You start with the lowest level tasks that are not worth your time, and it is just a game of numbers. So if you make a hundred thousand dollars a year and you average working 2,000 hours a year, that means your time is worth $50 an hour. Anything that you can do that makes you more than $50 an hour, you should do it because that’s going to increase your overall income ability. Whereas anything that’s worth less than that, if you’re smart enough, you can delegate it to someone else and make that arbitrage. Because what people don’t realize is that your time is the only thing that you can’t get back, and you can’t create more of it either. There’s 168 hours in the week, you can probably say, “Hey, I’ll work 80 hours a week.” You can. It’s not sustainable, not for a very long time. And that’s why we have this 40 hour work week.
And mine is weird. I still put in a lot of hours, but it’s around my family and it’s around the things that I like to do versus here’s work, here’s what I’m going to do and everything else surrounds it. So the first thing is you have to learn how to make enough money, and that means you have to learn how to market yourself and you have to learn how to get the phones to ring. The gorilla style of marketing of going out and talking to people every single day and putting your logo on everything you wear and putting your name on your cars, on your notebooks, on your planners, on the pens that you carry, on your business cards, fucking tattoo it on your forehead if you have to. When you go to Starbucks, you don’t tell them your name, you tell them CEO Lawyer so they can yell that shit from the back of the room. You need to market yourself.
Maria Monroy (25:48):
Do you do that?
Ali Awad (25:52):
Not anymore. Now I-
Maria Monroy (25:53):
Can you please do it in a TikTok?
Ali Awad (25:56):
Look, you asked me what to recommend in the beginning. Now I do things to protect my privacy and my family. I don’t advertise as much publicly to people. When I go out in Atlanta, people always stop me and want to take pictures and recognize me from social media because if you come to Atlanta, you’re going to get targeted with my ads. We just blanket the whole city. I’m saying what you do to start. To start, you have to understand you don’t need to spend money to make money. That philosophy does not exist anymore.
Maria Monroy (26:28):
Well, look at Max. Look at Max Anthony. He took everything-
Ali Awad (26:33):
Max Out Lawyer.
Maria Monroy (26:35):
And he literally spent very little money in marketing and grew his firm in nine months from himself to four other employees and from 25 active cases to 125 or from 30 to 125.
Ali Awad (26:51):
So here’s the mistake that people make. They think that in order to grow you have to use paid ads and you have to use paid marketing. And at a certain point that’s true, but you can build a very strong organic infrastructure. And so your goal should be to build as strong of an organic infrastructure because you want to know how you get famous is when you talk to a lot of people and you end up talking to someone that actually has a little bit of influence, and that person starts talking to someone else about you. But it starts with the core. It starts with that critical mass of people that you actually connect with. I have tons of family and friends and people that I know because I spent time talking to them. It’s not because I became famous on social media that my brand grew, it’s because I started in a small local community and kept talking to everyone and passing out my cell phone number and educating people, plus the videos, plus paid ads later on.
So you can get to 50-60 cases a month organically on your own if you’re increasing your activity, and that’s the most important philosophy of life is if you’re not getting enough out of life, you need to increase the activity. If you look fat in the mirror, you need to increase the athletic activity. If you’re not happy with your bank account, you need to increase the level of activity in your business. If you’re not happy with your marriage, you need to increase the level of time you spend with your spouse. This is very simple.
Maria Monroy (28:17):
Why do you think people fail? Why do you think people… You say it, and you say it’s simple, but it’s not simple.
Ali Awad (28:23):
It’s because they’re lazy. That’s all it is. That’s all there is to it. You’re lazy and you lack discipline. That’s it. There’s no other reason. Now, if you have your limbs, you have your mental capacity, you have the ability to communicate with people, you have your phone, you have the internet, and there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not successful, it’s because you’re lazy and you’re not disciplined. That’s it. I can look at your schedule and tell you how many hours are you spending watching TV. I don’t watch TV. I love watching The Office. I love Family Guy. I’ve memorized every episode. Every comedy movie that I’ve watched I can memorize and regurgitate every single word in it. There’s a time and place for that. But if you’re in your teens and twenties and thirties, you should not be a movie buff. That’s not something to be proud of.
Maria Monroy (29:10):
No, I agree. I love when my friends are like, oh, I don’t have time. And I’m like, you binge watch so much TV. My friends will be like, how do you have time to read? I’m like, because I don’t watch TV.
Ali Awad (29:22):
I just want to be very clear though. I’m cognizant of mental disabilities. I’m cognizant of physical disabilities. I’m cognizant of people that have grown up with real, real trauma where they’ve watched their parents get murdered in front of them and they’ve had their house blow up in front of them. That’s the story of a lot of my family in Palestine and in Syria. I know those are the people that actually overcome adversity the most. So there are people that have real, real problems. But if you have all of your limbs, you have your mental faculties intact, you have the internet and you have your youth and your energy, you have no excuses. That’s the bottom line. If you want to know where you start, you replace every bad habit with a good habit. Every 30 minutes of TV, try to replace it with 10 minutes of reading.
And it seems so simple, and it is. You know I don’t have a budget? I’ve never budgeted in my life. You know why? Because budgeting is for people that spend their money uselessly. Budgeting is for people that are always going to Starbucks, they’re always shopping, they’re always blowing money and they’re like, oh, I got to figure out a budget. No, there’s no budget. If you only focus on necessities, guess what? There’s no budget. It’s just necessity. You need food. You can figure out how to save a little bit more money. Instead of going to Chick-fil-A every single day, you can figure out how to make grilled chicken at home. That’s maybe budgeting a little bit. But the reason I don’t have a budget is because I wear these $15 hoodies and these $5 hats every single day. I don’t need to look fancy in front of other people.
I don’t like to go to very expensive restaurants all the time. Now I like it. But when I was growing up, I was the cheap guy. And even that was my reputation before I got married. But that’s because I needed to focus on building myself up first. So if you’re not happy with your financial situation, look at how much you’re spending going out every single week, and why are you celebrating? If you’re 30 years old and you haven’t graduated from school, you don’t have a steady job, what are you celebrating? What are you going out and doing every single weekend? Just celebrating life? Life is fucking dominating you right now. Not the other way around. So what are you celebrating? And that’s why at my events there’s no alcohol. That’s why at my events, there’s no parties. That’s why we come and we get to work because that’s my life.
I don’t advertise all the great things that I have in my life, especially with my family and the things that we do because that’s for me. That’s the things that are private to me. But make no mistake, I have the ability to turn it off and on at any time. I take tons of vacations now. I live a very comfortable life, and I still have to create the adversity now because I’ve earned it, not in the beginning. And if you start by thinking, oh, I just need a three day work week, and your bank account, you have to check your mobile app on your bank every time you want to add guac when you go to Chipotle, you don’t deserve a three day work week. That’s the truth. You deserve to build and maintain something that you can be proud of five years from now, and five years you can look back and decide whether you want to continue going down this path or not.
Now I do have the ability to have these luxuries. I can go and drop a hundred grand on something and not really think twice about it because I have that luxury, but I don’t do it because now my obligations are to my team and their families. I get that high from watching other people’s dreams get fulfilled. And it’s like at some point you have to experience making a lot of money and being able to give it to other people so that you can realize how impactful money can be. If God gave you the ability to make sales, to be persuasive, to generate a lot of income, and you choose to not do it, you’re selfish because you have the ability to change other people’s lives and you’re not doing it. And so it started as a journey just for me to make money.
And then I realized how much I can impact other people’s lives with it. And now I feel like this is where the real fun starts. So I do have a lot of stress and anxiety that comes up from time to time, but I created it. And when I realized that I have family overseas that will never get this opportunity. They’re just as smart, they’re just as talented, they’re just as hardworking, they’ll never get this. They’ll never have my life. No matter what happens, they couldn’t even taste it. How can you not be focused and disciplined and just happy?
Maria Monroy (34:12):
I think a lot of people just don’t have that example. I was really, really stupid at some point in time in my life. And even though I had a green card, I didn’t want to apply for citizenship because I felt I was being disloyal to my heritage. It was so dumb. And then I came here, and by this point I’ve had my passport for a while, my American citizenship, but I realized, holy shit, I am so lucky. Everything that I hated at some point in time because moving here or moving to the US was very tough on me. We are so lucky. There is no Mexican dream. The American dream doesn’t exist. The culture here is very jaded because it’s almost impossible to move up within the system. And people, you see what that does to a culture, it really just kind of crushes them. There’s a lot of partying here because there’s no hope, right? But I think if you’re an American and you were born in America, you just don’t have that point of comparison, and we take a lot of things for granted. I know that I did because I didn’t really understand.
I thought I had the luxury to be like, oh, well I’m Mexican, but with all the benefits of an American. And now if you asked me, I would give up the Mexican citizenship in a freaking heartbeat. It doesn’t do much for me. Not like the US, the systems we have in place to get to where you are, to get to where I am. People don’t have that in other places.
Ali Awad (35:52):
I think that’s a good point is perspective because some people never leave the block that they live on. Some people have never traveled outside of the city where they lived. I did get to experience visiting my family overseas in some third world countries. I did get to travel and study abroad. I’ve been to a lot of different countries, and Mexico was probably the one that stood out the most because I’m fluent in Spanish. I realized speaking to the people and just getting connected with the locals, you’d have to work for 20 years to maybe be able to get close to affording a house. I’m not talking about 40 hours a week, I’m talking about cab driving from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM Monday through Saturday, [inaudible 00:36:40] on Sundays. And you’re right, they don’t have that perspective. And I think the best thing that you can do if you’re in college-
Maria Monroy (36:46):
Ali Awad (36:48):
… is to do study abroad and try to pick the most obscure country possible. Because the other side of it is when I went to the silk market in Beijing, the Chinese sales people there knew 10, 11, 12 languages. It didn’t matter where you’re from. They’d be like, oh, from Italy, oh, Germany, oh, America, and they’d speak that language right away just to establish rapport and sell you on things. I don’t condone the way that they force sell you and the way that they do.
Maria Monroy (37:16):
They make you look like you can’t sell.
Ali Awad (37:18):
But what they don’t have is American citizenship. So can you imagine how many people are so much harder working and smarter than us, but they just don’t have the opportunities that we have?
Maria Monroy (37:29):
Yeah, I think about it all the time. Ever since I moved to Mexico, I think about it daily.
Ali Awad (37:35):
You experienced that growing up. You have to create that experience for your kids in order for them to appreciate it. Because if they don’t, they’re just living in their own bubble where it’s just vacations and steaks and lobster. And that’s why I said earlier, I have to create the adversity for my kid. And that might even mean buying a small business that actually doesn’t really make much money, just like a car wash and just seriously-
Maria Monroy (38:06):
I know. That’s why I’m laughing because I can already imagine this.
Ali Awad (38:08):
I have to create it. I have to think of something where it’s like, hey, look, you need to go and run this car wash. That’s how you make money. And then at the end of week we tally it up, and I take my 90% royalty, and then you can have that 10% to do whatever you want. And then if you want to save up enough money to buy a car, then that’s how we’ll do it.
Maria Monroy (38:24):
You’ve been getting a lot of heat lately for not being a trial lawyer.
Ali Awad (38:29):
Yeah, that’s okay. You all can have that. You all can hate on me as much as you want. Why don’t we compare bank accounts and then we see who’s really hating.
Maria Monroy (38:37):
I want to hear more. Why do you think it’s such a sticking point?
Ali Awad (38:42):
Here’s the reason. People don’t like things that they cannot do. And the truth is not everyone can be a relentless marketer. Not everyone can put their face out on a billboard or on a bus or on a TV ad. And so you start seeing all those other people and they give you that appearance of success and it breeds jealousy because you’re like, man, look at all these people. Some people it inspires hope. For some people it motivates them to get better. But then there’s people that become jealous, and I think it’s because they know they could potentially do it if they worked hard enough on it, but it’s just so much easier to hate. And so we have this problem in our community where marketers are looked down upon as not real lawyers.
Maria Monroy (39:30):
Why do you think that is?
Ali Awad (39:32):
I think it’s embedded in our early 1970s, 1980s philosophies of lawyers not being allowed to advertise until that famous Supreme Court case. And so once lawyers got the opportunity to advertise, people just went crazy and started putting their money and putting their advertising dollars everywhere. Now, anywhere in the US you travel down a major highway or any major street, at least five of the 10 billboards you run into are going to be personal injury lawyers. And so there is that conception that these lawyers are not really trial attorneys, they’re businessmen. That’s what I am is I’m a business person, but I provide the ability for my trial lawyers to have access to the best quality cases possible. And so the trial lawyers that hate on business people are usually the ones that don’t have a successful business. You will never find a successful trial lawyer with a successful business that hates on marketers.
You know why? Because the marketers are the ones that are feeding them the cases. You’re disappointed because you’re not a successful trial lawyer nor are you a successful business person, so you’re not going to hate on the trial attorneys because those are the people you look up to. You got to find someone to hate, so you find the marketers. Why don’t you figure out how to get better instead of hating on people? I get that hate all the time, but I decided to embrace it.
And now you’re finding a trend where lawyers are embracing the idea of being CEOs and being entrepreneurs because it used to be no one wanted to talk about it because it’s a shame that all you do is just market and you just settle cases. Well, yeah, but I also provide for a fantastic job opportunity and career path for my trial attorneys, for my litigators, for all the attorneys that we co-counsel with because I’m a phenomenal marketer. I’m actually helping people because I’m also getting people that would have never come to you because you lack the ability to market. I still co-counsel with big name trial attorneys, and I still give them a ton of business. Well, if you had that name, you probably would be doing business with me instead of hating on me. So maybe you should look at how you can improve your own skill in your own craft so that you no longer have to put energy towards talking down on someone else.
Maria Monroy (41:54):
But do you think somebody could do both, be a great trial lawyer and a great marketer?
Ali Awad (42:00):
Yes, I intend to, but right now my focus is on marketing. I’m attracting the clients, I’m attracting the cases. I’m building my team, I’m building my business. But I promise you, I promise you, the charisma and the attitude and the passion and the grit and the focus that I have, that’s easily transferable skills into trying cases. The number one skill that trial lawyers have is confidence. I’m not afraid to ask for big numbers. I’ll go on record and tell you within the next two years I’m going to try a case, and I’m going to shove it down everyone’s throat just to let them know that I can do it. And there are lawyers that can do both for sure.
Maria Monroy (42:35):
So if you spoke to a trial lawyer that is a great trial lawyer, but they’re not marketing, and they feel that it’s beneath them, what advice would you give them?
Ali Awad (42:46):
Most great trial lawyers are already marketers. They just don’t want to be pinned as marketers.
Maria Monroy (42:52):
Because there’s a stigma.
Ali Awad (42:53):
Exactly. Because they think it’s beneath them. But the truth is they are already great friends with all of the biggest marketers in their areas. Every major trial lawyer you know in every major market is going to know the top five marketers in that town and have their cell phone number because those are the people that are going to generate those really, really big cases. And they also work on referrals. Trial attorneys get referrals. The funny thing is trial attorneys spend the most on marketing.
Maria Monroy (43:23):
Yeah, because they pay the referral fee.
Ali Awad (43:24):
Exactly. They pay 25-50% referral fee on an eight figure case. I’ve never had to pay a couple million dollars to acquire a case, but the trial attorney will gladly pay it because they don’t want to be pinned as that. So I’ll give you an example. There’s lawyers that do these events, and they speak on panels and they speak in front of audiences all the time. They’ll do like a thousand plus seminars, but they won’t ever take that content, repurpose it and post it on online. What they’re doing is they’re building an organic funnel through their speeches and presentations. So they’ll tell people, “Hey, here’s my number, here’s my email. Contact me, let me know if you have any questions.” And very, very few people actually do it. The problem is they’re not really taking advantage of their efforts multiple times over. So if you do a presentation, it should be recorded, it should be posted on LinkedIn. There should be bits and clips that are posted on Facebook and Instagram that send people to a YouTube channel. And you become the YouTube university for other trial lawyers that aspire to be like you.
And so you can digitize your marketing efforts. You don’t have to go and run ads on TikTok and shake your ass just to try to get some more views, but you can digitize the marketing that you’re already doing. And for the really successful trial attorneys that don’t need more cases, at the very least you’re educating the public. I know that I’m educating people with my content, and I don’t need everyone to become my client. I was just going to post earlier today how many international people follow me on social media, and they get in car accidents in other countries and like, hey, can you help me? And the only way we’ll find out is when they asks for the phone number and it’s like a 064 area code or it’s like some random plate. I’m like, dude, that’s not an American number.
They’re like, yeah, this accident happened in Australia. I don’t know the laws there. But that’s the reach, that’s the impact that I have. And if they’re getting that sort of value from my personal injury content, I can only imagine what they’re getting from the business and marketing and mindset stuff. I think trial lawyers have an obligation to also educate using technology.
Maria Monroy (45:27):
What do you mean by that?
Ali Awad (45:27):
You should record all of the content, all of your seminars, all of your speeches, and you should build your own media team in house.
Maria Monroy (45:35):
Ali Awad (45:36):
Yes. I think every law firm should have a media team in house. And if you don’t, then you’re always at the whim of the marketing agency that’s creating your content and posting on social media for you. Branding is getting more and more important, not less. And the reason that when you come to my event, you’ll see that the top lawyers, like marketing lawyers in the country are attending. People that are running 60, 70, a hundred million dollar a year law firms is because they want to learn how to use social media.
The moment they stop running billboard ads, they stop running TV ads, they stop running their traditional media content, in three to six months, it dries up. Those leads will not continue flowing like they used to. Whereas with social media, you own the content and you own the audience. And so people need that. And there’s a huge opportunity here right now with all the young lawyers that are coming out of law school and just starting their businesses. They have their group of couple hundred or couple thousand people that they know, and then there’s the huge, huge marketers that are spending tens of millions of dollars a year on advertising. And these people are actually doing better than these people. And I want to bridge that gap. I want to show young entrepreneurs that they have an opportunity to start their business, and I want to show the old heads, hey, you need to change. Either you absorb these young influencers and bring them into your ecosystem or you learn how to use social media ads.
And that’s why you’ll find such a diverse group of people at the summit. I do think if everyone just takes the main takeaway of build your own media team, learn how to bring in a videographer, give them specific KPIs that they need to hit and start pounding the pavement on social media content regularly, in five years time, I think you can cut out all traditional media with billboard, radio, TV because digitals just going to be so much better, and you own the audience.
Maria Monroy (47:29):
How is this year’s summit going to be different from last year’s? Because I have had people say to me, “Well, I attended last year’s, it’s probably going to be the same thing.”
Ali Awad (47:39):
This year we’re going to be focusing a lot more on TikTok, YouTube and podcasts.
Maria Monroy (47:43):
Ali Awad (47:45):
Yes. Because podcast is actually the easiest way to create a ton of content and get people to answer questions. You can answer questions about yourself and your brand and your company when you’re interviewed. And so podcasting is… I started podcasting a couple of years ago, but I didn’t create my own podcast until this year. It’s the easiest way to create tons of content with a one hour or two hour talk. So we’re bringing two major podcast players.
Maria Monroy (48:15):
Does anyone listen to podcasts regarding PI? I can’t imagine the average person.
Ali Awad (48:21):
But that’s the point. You don’t do the podcast to educate people about PI, you do it to create a brand that people can associate with. This whole conversation has not been about PI, but I know someone out there is listening that’s going to think, wow, I’m an immigrant. I grew up in difficult circumstances. I’m going to check out CEO Lawyer online and get motivated and inspired, and that’s someone that I’m going to support. And even if you’re not in Georgia or Tennessee where we’re located, we get cases all over the country from it. So when I get that follower to actually come to my page and give me that support when I hit them back with personal injury content, now they’re reminded of what I do. So it’s all about brand recognition, especially in the PI space. Lead gen is dead for PI lawyers. It’s very hard to just run lead gen campaigns if all you’re doing is just buying leads all the time. Unless you’ve been doing it for 10, 15 years, there’s no way you can compete in that space right now. It’s just as bad as billboard radio TV.
Maria Monroy (49:22):
So what you’re saying is having a podcast about something you’re passionate about, whatever it is, and putting the brand out there, right?
Ali Awad (49:29):
Right. I just started going to car shows again recently, and I just like hanging out with other car enthusiasts. And so when I talk about cars, I talk about watches, I talk about real estate investing, and I talk about business, I’m attracting people that also have those interests. But at the same time, now I have their attention. I remind them that I’m a personal injury lawyer. That’s the secret sauce right there is first you’ve got to give them the attention, get them to pay attention to you, and then you have to retarget them with your personal injury or specific legal content. And most people either do one or the other very well.
Maria Monroy (50:03):
So summit is going to focus on YouTube, TikTok, podcasts, some other stuff, but primarily those three things.
Ali Awad (50:11):
Right. Different platforms, all new speakers as well. So of the 15 speakers we had last year, only three of them are duplicates.
Maria Monroy (50:19):
I’m one of them.
Ali Awad (50:20):
And that’s just because people really, really loved your content, and they wanted you to come back and so you actually give value. I tried to eliminate all the sales pitch people that are just coming up there to give you, hey, here’s 20 minutes of how awesome I am, hire me if you need me. So we’ve eliminated all of those, and we’re just there to educate people. I don’t need to sell people on a product after this event. We do have a coaching program obviously, and we do have an academy and a boot camp, but I’m more excited about the people that just came to the summit and have actually implemented. I can show you at least 20 different law firms and law firm owners that went from zero to a hundred plus thousand followers that went from a small business that’s six figures to crushing seven figures all in the scope of one year. And that’s the kind of life changing work that we do at the summit.
Maria Monroy (51:08):
I think a lot of people find that you come across, you’re very intense, obviously, so am I, it’s not critique, but you come across such a salesperson and you’re very intense. But I’ve had a different experience since getting to know you in the past year when I talk to you one on one. So there’s a persona you have when you’re on social and when you’re on a podcast or on stage, but what are you really like?
Ali Awad (51:40):
I think I’m very similar. I’m the same exact person that you see online as you see in person. But I think I’m a great dad. I think I’m a reliable husband. I think I’m the favorite son to my parents. I don’t publicly advertise the philanthropy and things that I do for my community. I’m a religious person. I don’t talk about it that much, but I am. I’m a fighter, and the person that you see on social media is really my outlet for creativity. And it just so happens to fall in line with sales, persuasion and business.
I enjoy just hanging out with the boys and getting some Korean barbecue. I enjoy just spending time with my family. I’m a normal person outside of those things, but I really do have a strong desire and a strong passion for business. I’ve thought about when I was younger, I’ve thought about literally moving to Monaco and just staying there for a year and selling ice cream cones and just doing something so random just because I knew that I could do it at that time because I knew how important it was to build a financial foundation so I can do other things.
Like all the work that I’m doing now is to buy time in the future with my family. I don’t want to have to choose between going to my kids’ soccer game or this martial arts tournament and taking that additional Zoom call. So right now I’m intense. I’m in my twenties and in my thirties. This is the time to work and build and create that foundation. I am an intense guy, and I do work hard, and I do feel proud to be able to work. I feel entitled to be able to work, but that doesn’t mean that I care more about business or money than my faith, my family, my friends, or my fitness, because those things are a priority in my life, and I hope that’s the type of person that people remember me as.
Because on social media you need to grab people’s attention first. And the way I do it is by being exciting and over the top. And then after that I think you start figuring out the type of person that I am. But you got to have that attention first. And that’s probably what most people see and they don’t want to see anymore.
Maria Monroy (54:08):
Well, there is more. I definitely think that one on one you are different than on social, which is why I asked because I don’t think everyone has gotten to talk to you one on one. Everyone that I have introduced to you and that has had a conversation with you or even if I haven’t, they’re like, “Oh, he’s the nicest, so down to earth.” But I don’t think that that always comes across on social, so I just wanted to point that out for my listeners.
Ali Awad (54:37):
I think there’s a difference between the marketing style that I do because I am running a business and I am growing, so I do have to be a little aggressive on social. But it’s not that I have to do it, it’s that I get to do it.
Maria Monroy (54:51):
And you enjoy it.
Ali Awad (54:54):
I love it. I love every single day. I love it. I can’t wait to just see all of those light bulb moments happen at the summit. That’s my favorite thing to do is, and the stage… It’s really hard to stay motivated and post content on social media and just kind of reading comments because you don’t see people’s reactions when they actually consume your content. But on stage when you have a thousand lawyers in front of you and you just watch them look up and those light bulb moments come off when they’re like, now I know exactly what I need to do for my business, that feeling is incredible. And so, yeah, I got to market to you and I got to get your attention to come and know who I am. I think most lawyers that are on social media in the country know who I am, but if they don’t take the time to actually listen to my stuff or see who I am or just talk to other people about me, then they’re just going to get that advertising vibe.
Yeah, make no mistake, I need you to pay to come to my event because if it was free, you’d think it’s valueless. I need your attention, and I need you to care about coming here. So we don’t have $1 tickets, no one’s coming here free. Even like my friends and family, when they’re there, they’re working, they’re helping. That’s just who I am. We all have to earn it.
Maria Monroy (56:19):
For Ali, business savvy may seem to come naturally, but everyone begins somewhere. And for those who are still learning the ins and outs, his insights provide so much value. Here are a few takeaways that you can implement in your firm to help your business grow. Set up as many systems as possible. You, the owner, should not hold all the institutional knowledge in your mind. Record it and share it with staff. Implement, then delegate, to become famous in your local area. Start with who you know. Grow an organic central network by first grabbing attention and second retargeting to what you do. If you present at a conference, record the lecture, break it down to smaller content and post that on social. The best in the business are both incredible trial lawyers and excellent marketers. If you feel you are stuck in one area, embrace change and see how you can cross over. Let one help improve the other.
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 to 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.