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The Managing Partners Podcast

James Farrin

Episode # 230
Interview on 12.01.2022
Hosted By: Kevin Daisey
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About James Farrin

Representing: the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin

James Farrin is the Managing Partner at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin located in North and South Carolina.

James is a member of the American Association for Justice’s Leaders Forum, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the Public Justice Foundation, and the North Carolina Bar Association, and other legal and advocacy organizations.

He was honored with a 2011 Citation of Excellence Ebbie Award from the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and has been listed on the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers from 2013 to 2021.

Learn from his expertise and what trends are helping grow his firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!

Episode transcript

Kevin Daisey (00:01):
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the managing partners podcast. My name’s Kevin Daisey, and I’ll be your host. Also the founder of array digital. We help law firms grow through digital marketing today. I got a special guest coming outta North Carolina, also dealing in parts of South Carolina based on what I’ve I’ve looked at in the prior to the show. James Faren. Welcome to the show.

James Farrin (00:26):
Thanks. Great to be here, Kevin.

Kevin Daisey (00:28):
Yeah, absolutely. So again, thanks for joining us today to share a little bit more about your firm, what you’re doing, how you’re growing, what’s worked well. What’s not. And so for any attorney listening in you’re gonna learn a lot from, from James here today. But keep in mind we have episodes from spanning all kinds of different practices. Actually, James was talking about that in the beginning. Wanna know if this was specific to personal injury we’ve had plenty of people from on from all different areas, but we’re hoping that from anyone on here, you can gain some knowledge how you’re running your firm, hiring employees, marketing tactics, and things like that, that I hope will cross many different practice areas. So but today James specifically in personal injury, so we’re excited to learn more about what you’re doing and how you’re growing and how you’ve been successful to date. So without further to do my most important question is tell us about yourself personally, and then we’ll get into more about the firm and the work that you do.

James Farrin (01:29):
Okay. Thanks. I went to duke law school, which is why I ended up here in, in North Carolina. I had a journey to find my calling within the field of law. I started as a corporate litigator actually out in California. Didn’t like it. And after several years of floundering around decide, I found something that I love doing, which was personal injury work, started it working for somebody else in a very small shop here in Durham found I loved it. I loved connecting with people and I also liked the business side of things and that I wasn’t being paid by the hour, but by the results achieved. And that sort of motivated me and I felt like my rewards were aligned with rewards. I was achieving for clients. So I found I loved it and decided to go out on my own in 1997 with just me and one paralegal who quit shortly thereafter.

James Farrin (02:22):
So I didn’t start to try to do anything big just to hang out a shingle and do something I liked which, which may be relatable for, for, you know, listeners. And you know, once we found some success, it seemed to build on other success. And after a couple years, I kind of changed my mind to and decided the plan was gonna be to grow the law firm scale, the law firm. And it moved me from more of a, a role where I was working on clients’ cases into more of a exclusively, a managerial role where we sit today and right now, excellent. We’ve got, as you mentioned, 15 off 15 or so offices in North Carolina south one in South Carolina, we’re by far the largest plaintiff’s law firm in North Carolina, 64 attorneys, I think 280 people. And so it’s, it’s an enterprise

Kevin Daisey (03:13):
That’s impressive. Very impressive. And you didn’t start that way, right? You’re like, oh, I’m just gonna, you know, hang a shingle. Who’s going with me. It was like was it Jerry McGuire, you leaving the office and you had a paralegal go with you. So that’s excellent. So, but you know, you started by doing what you want to do versus being motivated by growth or money and, and, and, and revenue. But you naturally kind of took to say, Hey, if I can help more people I can grow. I mean, we need to grow.

James Farrin (03:44):

Kevin Daisey (03:45):

James Farrin (03:46):
My dad had an MBA and was a bus is a role model to me and he was just a businessman. And so I think at some point that DNA kicked in is like, okay, I’ve got something here. I, I am loving what I’m doing, but now the challenge might be how to apply business principles and serve as many people as possible.

Kevin Daisey (04:06):
Absolutely love it. Love it. Yeah, there’s so many other rewards too, out of growing a business. And and I can relate to you when I started my own business and, and left my corporate job years ago. And you hire more people, you help more people there, you, you, you know, help more customers you can help them in their lives. And then of course you, your family and, and your employees, family. So by continue to have a steady growth than your, your able to do more, any growth than you’re, you’re able to do more for everyone and, you know, have more opportunities for those folks as well. So there’s a, there’s a lot of good that comes with, with growing a business. So well, your success so far is, is amazing. So and then I’ll just put it out there that I’m in Virginia, just a stones throw away. So let me know when you decide to open an office over here. So

James Farrin (04:55):
<Laugh> keep that in mind. So far, we’ve gone around North Carolina and then south, not north yet.

Kevin Daisey (04:59):
All right. I’ll, I’ll hold you to it. Well, so let’s get in a little bit about how you’ve grown and, and what you’ve decided to do. So you have North Carolina pretty locked down. What has been something that’s worked very well or, or been successful at growing and from a marketing standpoint, or you know, what is that thing that’s really helped you get to the, where you’re at?

James Farrin (05:23):
Yeah, well, as, as, as I, as you know, marketing is really the key to driving growth. You have to in marketing has to be built on a foundation of substance in terms of the quality of the work that you deliver. So it can’t, I don’t, I, I, I think that just marketing and not, not being able to deliver wouldn’t lead to good results, but if just because you have good results, doesn’t mean you’re gonna be able to grow and scale at the rate you can, unless you’re really effective at marketing. And so I, I would like to think we’ve become effective at marketing. It’s really multifaceted with our firm. We advertise on television and have for years, we, we use that agency places, our syndicated commercials around this state, I think TV, you know, is still a strong medium, but it, you know, it’s being and it’s eroded, but just because the viewership is so many, there are so many cord cutters and with the rise of the internet.

James Farrin (06:19):
So we have to be strong in other ways. So we use do a lot of internet marketing with spend a lot of time on our SEO paper click. We were in local service ads, direct mail in, in is big for us in North Carolina. Not every state has favorable rules for in terms of access to public records for attorneys and being able to mail without a waiting list. But in North Carolina, the law is favorable and allows us to do direct mail, which has been a very effective vehicle for us. We also have an eminent domain practice, which so we’re when I say we’re personal injury, we’re actually more, I guess I, the way I think of it as a plaintiff’s practice, because that there we’re dealing with injured or damaged property owners, not, not with personal injuries. And so, but for the, for those cases, we use a lot of direct mail to, to reach them. We also have billboards, not, not as many as some of our competitors, but we have billboards. So, you know, it, I don’t believe that just one channel is enough that you, that you, they all compliment each other and you have to have a comprehensive marketing strategy that utilizes all, all channels to varying degrees. So that’s kind of what we’ve done.

Kevin Daisey (07:31):
No, I love it. And yeah, very good point there that, you know, I think it comes down to strategy, right. And, and not just the marketing, but how you’re gonna handle it, how you’re gonna grow and, and how to bring all that stuff together. Cause you be able, you gotta be able to service the folks as you grow and market and, and, and kind of balance that. Right. So also too, yeah, you don’t wanna just choose one thing and, and, and put all your eggs in one basket. It’s definitely a strategy in certain areas. Billboards might work. Mailers might work better. I know in Virginia, pretty certain you can’t do the direct mail.

James Farrin (08:07):

Kevin Daisey (08:07):
Correct. Yeah, cause I have a there’s a, actually a guest recent guest of ours. He’s a friend of mine too. He is in here in Virginia, Don Macari. He actually was you know, the movie a few good men was, was created after him. Right. So he’s Tom cruise basically. Yeah. So, but I know they have a big mailing in North Carolina, but they can’t in, in Virginia, so right. I remember that little tidbit. So, so yeah, you gotta be strategic and you have to look at new ways to market but not be always the first adopter necessarily. Right. So TV’s still working for you, you know, you didn’t just stop TV and go TikTok or one of those other things. Right. It’s good to try those things, but you know, don’t, don’t go cold Turkey on things until you know that they’re gonna be effective.

James Farrin (08:57):
Yeah. Yeah. And I think a lot of times your, your point is right about being the first adopter that you make a lot of mistakes along the way. And I it’s, I actually think a lot of times I’d like to be second or third out of the gate and with a more refined strategy, whether that be on a, you know, for, for any type of campaign.

Kevin Daisey (09:15):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s like R and D right. It’s good to have some maybe, Hey, let’s try this lightly. Let’s see what it does or see what it, you know, and you’re not wasting tons of money to resources, but maybe kind of seeing what the markets, you know, what’s happening with it. But yeah, to go all in on something brand new is is risky. And I think you know, once you see some other ones being successful, then you can start to say, Hey and I think, you know, it’s a lot on this podcast. There’s people that have, I got some older gentlemen that are crushing it on TikTok and you look at ’em and you say, Hey, they, how are they doing so well in TikTok? And, and they’re talking about legal stuff and, and they’re doing very well and they get a lot of clients from it, which is not, you wouldn’t think that normal, right. That you would get on TikTok and, and, and just be killing it. And but I think it’s for everyone, if you, if you dig in deep on a program or a platform you can do well, and all of ’em can do well, if you have the time and resources to spend on it. And so, yeah, I think some people just, they try they’ll push on Facebook once a week and, and say, yeah, this doesn’t work. Yeah. It takes more than that. <Laugh>

James Farrin (10:22):
Well, I personally, I’m hoping the TikTok phase goes away because I’m a terrible dancer. And I don’t think my wife would’ve would enjoy seeing me all over social media. So I’m, I’m hoping I can sit this one out.

Kevin Daisey (10:34):
All right. Well if I see you show up in my TikTok Dan, I don’t even, I think I have TikTok app. I don’t even never, I don’t ever load it. I don’t even post on anything on it, but yeah, I’m, I’m down with you on that one. <Laugh> so, but yeah, some people figure it out and they make it work and some people are just fearless and don’t care. They can just have fun and that appeals to some folks, but yeah, I’m with you on that. So I think podcasts are great and good, you know, share expert opinions and stuff like that. So talking about some of the, the digital stuff, you’re going SEO, obviously a big space. Just kind of think about that real quick. Like, do you guys have individual offices and you got your, your local SEO, like your business listings for each of those, is that how you have it set up?

James Farrin (11:23):
We have Google, my business accounts you know, for all of our offices, we do central SEO though. We, and we’ve used a combination of in-house resources and outside agencies historically. And we, that runs throughout our marketing department. We have a talented team in house. If I’ve got great people in house, I prefer, you know, I prefer that for, because I’ve got their focus and control problem is sometimes, especially in this environment, they move on to, to other pastures. And, and so I prefer an in-house solution, but when it doesn’t work, it’s, it’s great to have an agency step in and help us. So with SEO, we’ve, we’ve done both depending on if we’ve got a good in-house person, but it’s, it’s, it’s a fulltime position for us. Somebody just spends time researching and, and working with our content writers to, to make sure that the, that we’re putting out. Good, good content. That’s gonna drive up our search rankings.

Kevin Daisey (12:20):
No, that’s excellent. So well you got a huge advantage by having multi-locations because those local listings are very powerful and they, they usually give out a few miles, but on the SEO and the content, I mean, you guys are 60 some attorneys like, yeah, every client that we have, this, that size, they have internal, like you, you can’t just rely on agency at that point. Yeah. You have to have some focus.

James Farrin (12:43):
Yeah. And we, I think having multiple offices can be a benefit and it can hurt you because we, you know, big thing that drives a lot of a lot in the rankings, I believe these days is a number of five star reviews. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And what we are finding is, you know, as large as we are, we get a number of five star reviews, but we weren’t being strategic as to where we were allocating them. And so it made it, and since we had so many offices to spread ’em to, it made it look like in some areas like we were not busy or we were, and we weren’t doing well in the ranking. So we’ve had to really adjust our strategy to push out more reviews, to different, to different areas.

Kevin Daisey (13:23):
That’s a good point. That’s a very good point. Cuz I’ve definitely seen people open up multiple offices and then they’re gonna get a review back at their main headquarters or probably like their, their main office. And not even think about that. So that’s, that’s a good point. That would be challenging actually. Hmm. That’s a good 0.1. My camera’s gone blurry on me. <Laugh> that happened a minute ago. I’ll switch over to you and we’ll talk about, so I really wanna hear, you know, you guys are already crushing it you’re you’re in South Carolina. Is there any more future growth into South Carolina, other states what’s the next year to five years look like in your plan?

James Farrin (14:06):
I believe in growth because I think if you stop growing, you, you start dying. So we’re, we’re planning on continuing to grow. I’m a proponent of measured growth. As, as we were talking about earlier, you don’t wanna lose that foundation of quality work and if you’re growing too quickly, it can be a huge challenge to keep, you know, you have to have the staff and the systems in place to handle the case as well. And so we, what we try to do is grow at a targeted rate of 15% a year, which, which I think is aggressive, but it’s still something that historically we’ve been able to handle. So we we’ll what, so to grow 15% a year, we’ll just raise our marketing budget by say, 15% a year. And then how do we spend it? Will we go into other markets or new practice areas? It really depends on where we think the best opportunities are and, and good opportunities for us are ones that are consistent with our knowledge and resources and mission and have, you know, good economic potential for return on investment.

Kevin Daisey (15:14):
That’s a great answer. So very thought through, right. And the you’re very calculated in, in what you’re doing and what your approaches. So I think that’s important for people to hear is that you don’t just, you know, say, oh, I like this place. Let’s just open office there. Or I wanna add this to the practice area just because this person has that capability, but really having a plan and a strategy behind everything you’re doing.

James Farrin (15:39):
Yeah. And, and sometimes we’ll test something and go small, you know what the, the what’s the phrase, fire bullets and then cannon balls from Jim Collins taught us. But a small pilot test can, can give you a lot of information as to whether an idea is likely to be successful and then you can build, ramp it up. But I, I, I really like the idea of starting small with the, with anything, testing it, watching it, and if you’re encouraged, then you go big.

Kevin Daisey (16:05):
I love that. So another thing too, I got this from a, a previous guest that a young guy, not a large, you know, just a, maybe one staff member, very small, but he had spent the time to learn SEO because he was trying to grow. And he was the one person’s attor, you know, one attorney. And so he had done a lot of effort just to figure out, Hey, how can I get leads and how can I grow? And, and so he was actually using that knowledge he’d built up. And for you, you could just go to your marketing team to say, do the research on an area in the state or a city or a town, and look at the rankings and look at the competition. And then through some analysis you can kind of see, okay, you know, say if all the the, the personal injury firms have very low star ratings or they don’t have a lot of ’em, then you can say, well, that might be easy to scoop up. And what if what’s the organic look like? Are they old websites that don’t have a lot of good content, another, a good, you know, way to come in and, and rank easily for those areas. So he was kinda using that, that kind of research on SEO to, to decide on that next location, which I thought was pretty pretty interesting.

James Farrin (17:20):

Kevin Daisey (17:22):
Yeah. Versus just market data and, and things like that. Or office location, you know, what the traffic in the area is or, and things like that. So so I thought that was really cool. Actually, we’re helping a client open a fourth office and we’re doing just that. So it’s kind of, you know, where are they gonna put the office at? Where are they thinking we can do a little research prior to that, to to make the best decision possible. Yeah. You know, versus beside another high ranking, personal injury firm, maybe it’s, you know, a few blocks away. So really cool. So I love the fact that you’re, you really have down the strategy and plan ahead, and you can, you can kind of spit that out. So, you know, is there anyone that you’ve kind of looked up to mentors, you know, like, you know, Morgan and Morgan, I’ve read his book and myself and it’s, you knows, got a lot of good stuff in there. So is there, is there anything that you, how you’ve learned or anyone that you’ve looked up to along this journey?

James Farrin (18:23):
Well, I, I, I certainly have read John Morgan’s books and heard him speak and he, he’s certainly engaging and, and powerful and run runs a, a, a great firm in, in terms of who I would count as role models. You know, I, I’m a member of a mastermind, what’s called a mastermind group, and there are a dozen or so of us awesome. The criteria for this being in this group is you have to have recovered over a billion dollars for clients. So these and those folks, I, I learned something from them. We get together a couple times a year. And just because they’ve, <laugh>, they’ve got big marketing budgets have tried, lots of things had a track record of success. So I’ve learned a lot from the, my fellow members of that, that group.

Kevin Daisey (19:11):
That is awesome. So yeah, attorneys, listen in young attorneys find either a mentors or looked for mastermind groups. I’ve been in mastermind groups, myself. We are in some as well for what we do, or, or just in general entrepreneurs. So maybe it’s local, there’s usually local groups like entrepreneurs organization. So if you can’t find something like James has here, you least surround yourself with other entrepreneurs that you might be to learn from, but nothing is more powerful than being in a group of owners that also are in the personal injury space in non-competing states. Right. So that is probably the best thing you can do. If you can find a group or create a group that James, is this something that you kind of formed? Is this something that you’ve, that was established and you, you joined?

James Farrin (20:04):
I was, I was invited in, I was a joiner.

Kevin Daisey (20:08):
Okay. You got a black car sent to your house and a hood over your head. <Laugh> well, that’s excellent. So and is this a private group? Not, no one really knows about this kind of group.

James Farrin (20:20):Yeah. It’s a private, it’s a private group.

Kevin Daisey (20:22):Excellent. I know there are other groups out there for everyone listening there’s PMA, which I think is in the personal energy space. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and then you got how to manage the small law firm, which is a great group. It’s not a, not necessarily a mastermind, I guess they do have some coaching groups but nothing but good things about that group. And especially for those that are starting out in the $250,000 per year and up just a way to get your legs underneath you and, and they offer a ton of assistance there. So and then one day hopefully can be in invited to James’ group. <Laugh> well, that’s awesome. That’s, that’s a good point. Just before asking the next question, I was gonna let ’em know, check out James’s website, just to see what they’re all about.

Kevin Daisey (21:11):
You can see all their team members on there. You can see all the practice areas that they do cover but It’s www F a R R I N. Dot com. If you’re listening on the podcast, but go take a look at it, see what he’s built. I mean, it is really impressive. I know you’ve heard here what he’s been able to accomplish, but I think there’s a lot to learn by going there and probably, you know, take a look at what he’s done, content the things that they invested in. It’s it’s impressive. So so James, anything else you would really like to add to anyone listening? What’s something that you would tell them to say their young attorney they’re just starting their firm they’ve set up shop, you know, what’s something that you would would tell that person to, especially in the personal injury space

James Farrin (22:05):
Related to what we touched on earlier. I think it’s awfully important that you’re passionate about what you do, that you do stay in touch with the clients and their needs. And your heart is in, if, if my first five years outta law school, I wanted to be successful. I was trying to, I had ambition, but it wasn’t married to to meaning. And so I think making sure that if the, you know, if you’re in this space, I, I you’ll, I think you’ll be successful with the foundation is that you really like what you’re doing, and you’re passionate about helping clients. And then having done that, I, I think then to grow a firm, you you’re gonna have to apply business principles and, and marketing, which we’ve talked about today. And, you know, it’s the, the combination of effective marketing and, and good management plus passion for what you do can lead to great, great things.

Kevin Daisey (23:01):
That’s a good recipe right there. So you have to have all those things. Yeah. You wanna make money or you wanna be successful, but it doesn’t really come until you’ve, you start to give back and you, you care about what you do. And then, you know, your employees, your team, your clients, you gotta take care of all those things. So, and it’s a lot it’s overwhelming sometimes, but it, this has to be done if you want to really be successful and to have things organically grow. And you, you have 60 some attorneys, I mean, and why would they wanna follow you, James? Why would they wanna be behind you and, and grow and with you, right. That they believe in what you’re doing. They know you care and that you take care of the clients, but you’re also gonna take care of them.

Kevin Daisey (23:44):
So if you, if you do all those things, right, marketing is a lot easier too. If you can get those things in place, because your whole team’s marketing for you when someone does call and they, they hear that person on those other side and how they interact with you it’s just gonna, you know, it’s gonna come out from everywhere of your business. So <laugh>, yeah. I love it. Yeah. Well, I appreciate you sharing everything today. You know, you’ve had some great success, I’m sure you’re gonna continue to do that and crush those goals. And so I appreciate you coming on today to share with us. Anything else you wanna share James before, before we go?

James Farrin (24:26):
No, it’s, I’ve enjoyed talking about these things. I’m passionate about it. And I, I appreciate the opportunity if anybody has a question or if I can be of help to anyone, you, you can reach me by emails, probably the best. And that’s Jay far and F a R R I N. The letter J Faren,

Kevin Daisey (24:45):
Excellent. That’s pretty easy. So yes, please connect with, with James. I always encourage attorneys listen in connect with each other, you know, reach out to each other. James is happy to probably answer any questions you have. You might be looking for a mentor, maybe it’s James, maybe, you know, maybe not, but look at the episodes, reach out to these folks. We have a newsletter that goes out that everyone’s on. So the, these episodes will be shared every week. But happy to reach out. If you don’t know, someone’s contact information, reach out to me and I’m happy to connect with you. But you know, share referrals. Maybe you’re in a different state. Maybe you have someone that is in North Carolina or South Carolina that you can connect with James. So, and, and vice versa. So help each other, reach out to each other.

Kevin Daisey (25:31):
This isn’t a mastermind, but you can treat it as if you know, it’s a resource for you. So so James, thanks so much, again, everyone tuning in this episode will be edited and live soon. Obviously, if you’re watching it now, it’s already out. But if you’re listening to this, now you can check this out. Anytime you need to in the future, it’s gonna be on every single podcasting platform out there. It’s also gonna be on YouTube and our website, James will had a feature spot on our website to find him too, you can search the toggles. You can just filter by personal injury in North Carolina, and you’ll be to see him and others that we’ve had on the show. So please check that out. And if you need any help with marketing, James has already done such a great job. He’s got the in-house, he’s got agencies where he needs heavy lifting, but it’s the strategy that’s really important. If you have questions for marketing for us, me, reach out Ray, happy to help you and answer new questions you have. So, James, thanks so much. Anything else? We’ll, we’ll get you outta here.

James Farrin (26:36):
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Kevin Daisey (26:38):
All right, everyone. We’ll have a good day and we’ll see you soon. James, you stick on with me and I’ll talk to you backstage.

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