Ep. 15: Joryn Jenkins on Marketing "Courtless" Legal Services

Episode Overview

Joryn Jenkins is the founder of Open Palm Law, a Florida firm specializing in collaborative family and business law services. Her mission is to change the way the world resolves conflict, specifically when it comes to divorce. Joryn's area of expertise is in what she calls the “courtless practice of family law,” with a focus on helping people get divorced without destroying their families or their finances.

This time on the podcast, Joryn joins Rackham to discuss the benefits of courtless family law, as well as key marketing strategies to promote your practice.

Key Takeaways

  • “Families don’t belong in courtrooms.” The collaborative process addresses the emotional repercussions of divorce in addition to the legal and financial aspects targeted in litigation.
  • It is important to market the collaborative divorce process. Until courtless practice has a presence in the marketplace, people will continue to assume that litigation is their only option.
  • There is no silver bullet when it comes to marketing your collaborative practice. Joryn has developed a 52-week program with accompanying resources, but it is necessary to put in the work and implement a long-term plan.
  • Publishing establishes your credibility. You might begin with a blog, but work toward publishing a book or at least a chapter in a book.
  • Polish your pitch, then present. Take advantage of opportunities to get your message out there, be it one-on-one in an elevator or at a workshop with a larger audience.
  • Develop an app for your practice. Not only does the app help clients find your firm, it can also serve as a source of information regarding alternatives to litigation.
  • Consider joining a referral networking group. Not only does this give you the opportunity to practice your pitch, it also helps you build a cadre of other professionals who will help build awareness of your practice.

Listen Here

Resources Mentioned

*Amazon affiliate link

Episode Transcript

Rackham:  

Welcome to the ADR Initiative. This is the podcast where you’ll hear from successful mediators, arbitrators, collaborative law attorneys, coaches, and other alternative dispute resolution professionals about what they do, how they got here, and valuable lessons they’ve learned along the way. I'm your host, Rackham Karlsson.

Today I'm talking with Joryn Jenkins. Joryn helps people get divorced without destroying their families or their finances. A trial attorney with 36 years of courtroom experience, she’s now in private practice at Open Palm in Tampa, where she concentrates on what she calls the “court-less practice of family law.” Her mission is to change the way the world gets divorced, to inform folks of the alternatives they have when it comes to the process of divorce, and to enlighten them as to which choices will best suit their families and their finances. She is the author of several books, including War or Peace: Avoid the Destruction of Divorce Court and I Never Saw My Father Again: The Divorce Court Effect, both available on Amazon.com. She’s also put together the Open for Business TOOLKIT (Marketing Your Collaborative Practice), available at her website. Welcome to the show, Joryn.

Joryn:  

Hi, there!

Rackham: 

So why don’t you go ahead and fill us in a little bit more on what you do today in your business.

Joryn: 

Oh, wow. I’m not sure. It’s expanded so much. You know, I mentioned earlier to you privately that my mission in life is to change the law – to make new law – and I’m very single-minded about it. I loved going to court; I loved going to trial. I loved jury trials and court and judge trials and all of that. And then I morphed over into family law, and I realized over the space of time that families don’t belong in courtrooms.

I discovered not just mediation and cooperation and negotiation, but I also discovered collaboration which is a specific type of divorce process. Over time I’ve become very enmeshed in it and believe that because this is an approach that involves not just the legal aspects of a divorce – of course the divorce is legal – and the financial aspects – of course it’s two parties who’ve gotten married and combined their finances, combined their households... There are financial ramifications, but there’s also (any sane person knows this) the emotional repercussions from divorce – not just to the couple themselves, but to their children, to their in-laws, to their own parents (the grandparents of the children), their neighbors, all of their friends get caught in the middle. All those emotional problems are not usually addressed. A judge doesn’t care – I mean, he may care… But there’s nothing he can do to help with the emotional elements, and we address that in collaborative divorces.

I like to tell my clients, “You won’t just get a final judgement, you’ll get a bachelor’s degree in better communication, problem-solving, brainstorming, co-parenting skills.” My clients have given me testimonials where they said the most enlightening things about what they had learned during the process of their divorce. So I do that, but it actually has morphed…

You asked what else I’m doing in my business. I’m not just practicing divorce work. I’ve actually started focusing on marketing – the concept of bringing court-less divorce and especially collaborative divorce to the marketplace because so many people have never heard of it. If you haven’t heard of it, you just assume you have to go to court. You go to a lawyer, and you say, “I need a divorce…” This happened to me! I went to a lawyer, and I needed a divorce. I’d been married a brief time, and it was a mistake from the get-go. I went to this lawyer, and I said, “I need a divorce,” and he said, “Fine, I’ll file a petition.” I said, “What?” Here I am, in practice for – I don’t know – 14 years I think at the time, and I did not realize that you had to go to court to get divorced. I didn’t have to go to court to get married. So I had that conversation. In fact, we mediated very easily that divorce because we had no children and had not been married a long time. But for a lawyer to assume, “Why do I have to go to court?” Of course lay people don’t know. They just trust their lawyer to take care of it for them. If you go to most family lawyers, they head straight for the courtroom; they don’t think twice.

Rackham: 

Yes, the family lawyers and also the legal help websites. One of my pet peeves is that one of the big legal help websites here in Massachusetts… The first question is how do I get divorced, and the answer is, “You file a complaint for divorce.” I hate to think how many people had a disservice from reading the answer to that question. 

Joryn: 

Yes. Why are we set up in this country – I think most countries – to sue the person that we fell in love with? Even though we’re not in love anymore, or whatever the cause of the divorce is, why do we automatically assume that we have to sue that person? That’s the nastiest thing you can do to somebody – aside from kill them. I’ve been working very hard in the last four years trying to figure out… I’m a lawyer. I don’t know anything about marketing. I don’t know anything about social media. Well, I do now. But I didn’t then. I have made it my mission to figure out this marketing thing that so many people actually major in in college, and they go to work at it, and they spend their lives working at it. But I’ve learned a lot in the last four years, and I’ve not only done everything that I decided I needed to do to market the concept, but I’ve combined all of my information into a book. The last book that I wrote came out a couple of months ago. It’s called Changing the Way the World Gets Divorced, and it’s about marketing – marketing, specifically, your collaborative practice.

I also teach several trainings. One is the Marketing Your Collaborative Practice training; it’s a full day workshop. And I’ve now had non-family lawyers come to my workshop because they’ve heard how good it is about marketing. (I’m thinking maybe I might need to expand my baseline there.) I’ve got the book, and I’ve got the workshop which I’m taking around the country. I’ve also got the TOOLKIT, which I created. It includes all of the book, it includes all of the training materials, it includes – I walk people through the process they need to go through, so I include the weekly steps manual – it also includes pre-made PowerPoints and presentations and white board videos and pitches and regular videos and the video scripts (if you want to record your own) and the instructions for doing all of these things. I walk them through a 52-week plan. If you do everything I tell you to do, you will get collaborative clients that you would not otherwise have gotten, and if you don’t I have a money back guarantee.

Rackham: 

Wow, that’s huge.

Joryn: 

You know it’s funny, I was at a conference this weekend presenting on marketing and on another topic. Someone came up to me to find out what was in the TOOLKIT, and I visually showed him everything that was in the TOOLKIT, and he just goes, “Oh. My. God. How did you do all this?” It’s kind of impressive, but then if you think about it, I’ve spent four years doing it. It came naturally. I wrote my first book 22 years ago; it’s called Florida Civil Practice Motions. (I’m looking at a copy of it on my desk.) Florida Civil Practice Motions was published first by Butterworth and then by Lexis. Most boring book you’d ever want to pick up. But it’s a thing that I do. I take things that I create for my own practice, and I make them available. Why not share forms that I create so you don’t have to create your own? Why not share? I’ve taken that idea… Why not share the PowerPoints that I’ve created for presentations, or the videos that I’ve created, share those in the TOOLKIT? There’s so much material in that TOOLKIT. One of the pieces of the TOOLKIT – I call it the toolbox – and it’s all the intellectual property. I think it’s over 450 pages long, 8½  X 11. 450 pages.

Rackham:

Wow. Of course, what you’re saying about giving away materials or sharing materials or even, for a reasonable price, selling materials, that’s all consistent with good marketing practice anyway, right? To share what you know and develop that reputation?

Joryn: 

Yes, there’s no question. If someone calls me and says, “I really need a PowerPoint for such-and-such,” if I have that PowerPoint, all you have to do is ask and I’ll send it to you. I’m not going to send you the entire TOOLKIT because I sell that, but if you want a little piece of something, absolutely you share that. Because number one, you’re giving people a taste of what it is that you have, but number two, if you want to change the way the world gets divorced, the best way to do that is to help other people do that too. It’s going to take… I’m not doing it myself. Let’s face it. Rackham, you’re doing it, I’m doing it, that gal over there’s doing it, that guy over there in California is doing it. We all have to help each other because we can’t do it all alone.

Rackham: 

Yes. One of the things I love about what you describe is the 52-week program. There’s so many marketers or consultants out there who pretend that they’re selling silver bullets. You know and I know that you have to put in the time and have a long-term plan, and that it pays off. The things you did on day one, years later will still be paying off, but it is a long game.

Joryn: 

Yes. It’s unfortunate, but that’s very true. That’s why… When I first put the TOOLKIT together, I didn’t have the weekly steps. I had the book, and you could read the book and create the weekly steps yourself. I finally realized that it looks too big, it looks like an elephant. How do you eat an elephant? Nobody can eat an elephant. But if I broke it down for them – and I knew how to do that because I had already done all of that – so when I broke it down into weekly steps, number one, I could make them accountable. (If I’m going to give you a money back guarantee, then you have to show me that you did every one of these weekly steps.) I could make them accountable – and accountable to themselves. The guy I sold the TOOLKIT to yesterday said to me, “The reason I bought this was because of the weekly steps – because I know you, I’ve seen your presentations, and I know that if you hold me accountable, I’ll get it done.” Actually, Rackham, that was incredibly validating to me. He’s up in New Jersey. I’ll be emailing him regularly to check up on how he’s doing. So I’m creating a cadre of people all over the world… I was invited to go present in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday. I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to do that. I would love to go to Australia, but I can’t go for just a day. I’ve got to go for a month, and I don’t know that I can be gone for that long! Creating a cadre of dedicated people who are going to get this job done. If they’re willing to put in their time and focus on it, they will get it done. These are people who really, really care about changing the approach to how families get divorced.

Rackham:

Yes. The question you asked earlier, for anybody listening who missed it, you asked the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer, for those who don’t know, is one bite at a time.

Joryn:  

Yes, and that’s the weekly steps.

Rackham:

Yes. So you do collaborative, do you also do mediation and other services? Or are you exclusively collaborative now?

Joryn: 

No, I’m a certified mediator. I do mediation. It’s kind of shocking… One of the things that I talk about in my quick marketing presentation – we did an hour and a half yesterday morning, actually, in Las Vegas – one of the things I talk about is products. There are a lot of different ways to look at marketing. My program basically is the Five P’s of Effective Marketing: Pitch, Publish, Present, Profile and Partner. You’ve got to have a pitch; you’ve got to create your pitch first. It may not be perfect, but you get that down, you know it by heart. Then you’ve got to publish. You have to establish your credibility, and the way to do that is by publishing, not just blogs but probably a book – or at least a chapter in a book.

In this process, by the way Rackham, I forgot to mention that I started a press, Open Palm Press, which is focused on getting collaborative authors published to help them establish their credibility. So I publish other people’s books now, not just my own. I had to promise my husband I’d stop writing books, so the next thing I did was I opened a publishing company! I’ve got two anthologies going at the moment, which is very exciting. That’s 50 collaborative authors who are going to be published in anthologies. You’ve got to publish. And then presenting. You don’t just pitch one person at a time. Once you get it down, the best way to get the idea out there is to talk to rooms of 20, 30, 40, 50 people because those people – if you’re a good presenter – they will go out and they will be talking about you. They will be talking about this thing they heard about called collaborative divorce. Then you’ve got to work on your profile, and you’ve got to work on your partnerships. It’s a building thing.

But if you looked at it from a traditional marketing perspective… If I can remember all four P’s I’ll be surprised, but they are Product, Price, Place and Promotion. And product, for people who are service-oriented, and what we do is all services… We don’t sell products, right? The normal lawyer doesn’t sell a product. We sell a service. But our services are our product. The question is, do I only sell final decrees of divorce? The answer is no, I don’t. I sell prenuptial agreements, and I can do those either in a mediated fashion or a cooperative fashion or a collaborative fashion. I know a lawyer in upstate New York – in Syracuse – who is putting together a plan for collaborative marriage planning. Before you get married, let’s all sit down with some lawyers and some financial people and maybe a facilitator, and let’s talk about, “Gee, I’m Jewish, and you’re Catholic. What are our kids going to be raised as?” Or, “What are our spending habits? Are you a saver? I’m a spender. Is that going to be a problem for us?” We have lots of products.

One of the products I have… I don’t even know what to call it. Right now, I’m just calling it “collaborative coaching,” but I don’t like the word coach, so that’s probably going to go somewhere else. What happened was, I had a gal who heard my pitch, she heard all about collaborative divorce. She was in the middle of getting divorced in court, and it was extremely adversarial. Her husband was a trial lawyer, and all he understood was going to court. His lawyer was a trial lawyer, and her lawyer was a trial lawyer. Now her lawyer was very cooperative, if you will. His lawyer I knew very well, and I had tried to get him to be collaboratively trained, unsuccessfully. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to come, it was that he just couldn’t find the time (in theory). Anyway, she hires me. This woman, the wife, hires me to be the collaborative lawyer in the room. This was not a collaborative process case, but I showed up at mediation, and the mediator pushed back from the table and said, “Here, you take over.” I approached it from my collaborative perspective, which really – it’s a paradigm shift. I was not coming across that table as an adversary at all. I was sitting at that table, wrapping my arms around everyone at the table, if you will, in a figurative sense. Those two people settled. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. It was awesome.

Rackham: 

Well done. I see parallels between that and a couple of different concepts. One is the concept of settlement counsel, and you can have settlement counsel even in parallel with litigation counsel. One person’s job is to go into court, and the other person’s job is to do the negotiations. Then there’s also just a consulting role – you’re consulting through the process. Yes, I love that.

Joryn:

Yes, I like all those words. At some point, I’ll probably come up with a suitable… In theory, we don’t even have to call it something. I came in, I was collaborative in the room, I was settlement-oriented, and it worked. Product. You’ve got to think about what your products are. Is your pitch the same for every product? Probably not. The more specific you are in your pitch, the more variety of pitches you may need to have. There’s so much we could talk about if you want to drill down onto the marketing concepts.

Rackham:

No, that’s great. One of the questions I do have for you is… Well, a couple of questions. First of all, do you litigate at all anymore? Or are you done with that?

Joryn:

It’s a funny thing. The answer is yes, but no. We still have litigated cases in my office. I’m not happy about that, but I have – unlike many of the collaborative lawyers around are solo and very small firms – I have five employees right now, I’ve had as many as eight or nine. But I have five employees, and there’s not that much collaborative work yet. That’s one reason why I’m so into this marketing thing because I really would like my office to be entirely court-less. But we occasionally get clients who there’s no choice. Either they or their spouse are insisting on litigation. Those people deserve to have representation. The problem that I have now is my heart isn’t in it like it used to be. I’m still winning, but I’m not happy in court anymore, I guess is the way to say it.

Rackham:

That’s one of the benefits of having employees. I know Justin Kelsey here in Massachusetts has multiple lawyers in his firm, and he personally no longer litigates. But his firm can take litigated cases, and he’ll supervise and work with other attorneys in his firm on that.

Joryn:

Yes. I know that I’m not alone in this. Once you get a taste of collaborative, once you a taste of the magic that happens in the safety of a collaborative process… People apologize to each other; people tell secrets to each other that they had been afraid to share that had been poisoning their relationship. I’ve had ceremonies conducted at the end of a case, impromptu. Wife walks in, and she’s got a plan. She’s going to do a “thanking ceremony.” None of us knew it was going to happen, and it made almost everybody cry. When you see what happens in collaboration, it makes the courtroom very distasteful. I’ve been practicing 36 years. I loved going to trial. I started out in prosecution; I was a criminal prosecutor. It was exciting work, very exciting work. Then I was doing commercial litigation for years, and that was very exciting work. But what I’m doing now is even more exciting and more personally fulfilling.

You know, I’m a child of divorce. My parents were divorced when I was seven. I had three younger sisters. My mother loaded us kids into the van and moved us 3,000 miles away, and none of us ever saw our dad again, ever. And I’m not alone in that. I was sitting one day at lunch with six businessmen in a Mastermind Group I belong to, and I mentioned that. (I was giving my pitch a little bit.) Two of the other men at the table said, “You know, that happened to me too.” One of them never saw his mother again, and the other one never saw his father again. Out of seven people, three of us had had that same thing happen to us. There are now laws that there weren’t back then about relocating with the children. But how sad that divorce is so traumatic for people that they leave town and take their children away from that child’s other parent. It’s wrong, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Rackham:

It is wrong. It’s nice that we live in a time now where you and I and a number of other attorneys – I think a growing number of attorneys – are offering alternatives.

Joryn:

What’s amazing is it’s not just in family law. There’s a group that I belong to called the Verbal Collaborative Law Council, and it’s focused on all civil practice. I was talking to someone the other day who said to me – he’s an old civil practitioner – and he said to me, “I foresee a day when collaboration will start taking over litigation in the civil dispute arena.” If you think about it, in probate court… You have the same issues coming up in probate court. It’s very emotional there. “Grandpa loved you more than he loved me.” Collaboration in probate is a rising star. But also in employment law. You have someone who’s been working for a company for a long time and he’s been having health issues and he loses his job and he sues the company. That’s a divorce in an employment relationship, and that should be handled collaboratively. Then you’ve got partnership disputes. That’s a divorce which should be handled collaboratively. We like to think that there are no emotions involved in civil disputes, and those of us who have done commercial litigation know nothing could be further from the truth.

Rackham:

Yes. You mentioned this process of learning how to market, and you’ve come up with your system which you’re now sharing with people. Along that way, what’s one big mistake that you made, one thing that didn’t work, that you’ve learned from?

Joryn: 

I don’t know if you would call this a mistake so much… It’s become very clear to me that my pitch four years ago has morphed over time. When I created it four years ago, I thought it was excellent, but as I’ve watched it land – in other words, as I’ve been talking to people at cocktail parties or even presenting in a room – you have to watch how it lands, and you really have to pick and choose your words because certain words will work better for certain groups of people. If I’m talking in a room of financial planners, then I will say, “I help people divorce each other without destroying their families or their finances.” But if I’m talking to a guy who works in a steel mill, I’m going to say, “I help people divorce each other without destroying their families or their savings,” because “finances” doesn’t mean anything to him – “savings” is what it’s all about. You really have to pick and choose your words. You have to watch how they land. My basic pitch has morphed over time, and I have different pitches for different people, too. It’s all part of my personality now. I can’t talk to someone about divorce without talking about collaborative divorce. I got picked up in a Lift yesterday to take me to the airport, and the driver had been divorced. We had a long conversation about what collaborative divorce looks like because he’d never heard of it. Now there’s another guy out in the universe who didn’t need my services, but I don’t know who he will talk to – this is someone in Las Vegas – I don’t know who he will talk to when he’s picking people up in his Lift, and he’ll tell them all about collaborative divorce, and they’ll go look for a collaborative lawyer if they need one.

That’s not a mistake… I don’t know, Rackham, I’d really have to think about that. I’ve spent a lot of money trying things out. I’ve created, among other things, a bunch of posters that help you (if you’re a collaborative lawyer) communicate with your clients. Lots of people learn visually, so I’ve got a banner that walks you through the collaborative process. That banner I’ve created several different times, and I’ve thrown away the earlier versions of it because they were not as good. Those were mistakes, but they were learning mistakes, so that was good. I had to go through that process.

Same thing happened with the posters. I have one poster called Success Indicators. On one side was a silhouette of a girl, and then there are all these descriptors circling around her body that tell you what she’s successful at in the collaborative divorce process. On the other side was a man. I had this poster up in my conference room for the longest time, and people loved this poster. On the side of the man were all of the failure indicators: Someone doesn’t come on time, doesn’t come prepared, can’t listen to his spouse speaking. On the first side: Puts the children first (success indicator), comes on time, is prepared, does her homework. You get the idea. Then some guy says to me, “It just looks like you think women are successful and men are not.” I thought, “Oh my God, he’s right.” I didn’t do it on purpose, but I found a great silhouette of a woman in a dress with her arms up in the air, obviously victorious. I found another silhouette of a guy tearing his hair out, obviously failing. I just didn’t think much that one was a woman and one was a man. I had to go back and recreate that poster. I’ve recreated most of my posters because the first couple of iterations had one thing or another wrong with them. I had to change up words that I didn’t like and all that. Those were mistakes, if you will. But they were all mistakes that I happily learned from.

Rackham: 

What do you consider one of your best business decisions?

Joryn:

Funny, I don’t know that you could really say it’s a business decision, but the best decision I’ve made is to morph my practice over into court-less divorce. From a financially rewarding perspective, not so much – yet. But it’s just been so emotionally rewarding and validating.

Rackham:

Yes, it really does feel different. I interviewed Woody Mosten recently, and he said that because the collections model is different in collaborative divorce and court-less processes, that the year after he went court-less his – not his top line revenue, but his bottom line – went up.

Joryn:

Yes. You know, I haven’t checked that, but he could very well be right about that because it’s true. First of all, people aren’t spending as much in collaborative. I would rather do ten collaborative cases for $10,000 each than that one trial room case that’s going to be $100,000. And we do tend to get paid; we collect pretty much 100%, whereas in litigation you’re collecting anywhere between a third and half.

Rackham:

Yes, if you’re going to put in 100 hours, you’d like to get paid for 100 hours, rather than doing 100 hours and getting paid for – yikes – 30 or 50. That’s rough.

Joryn:

Exactly. I think that’s one reason why lawyers charge such a high hourly rate. Not just because law school costs so much and they’re in buildings with high rent downtown or whatever, but also because they don’t collect 100% on the dollar on the hour. I’m sure that’s part of the contributing factor.

Rackham:

My clients keep walking out with my pens, so I like to joke with them that I charge so much because they keep stealing my pens.

Joryn:

That’s funny.

Rackham:

When I was setting up my firm and put together my business plan, I was assuming – I was still litigating at the time – I was assuming, “What if I only collect 70%?” because you have to plan for that.

Joryn:

Right. Exactly.

Rackham:

One of the questions I like to ask people on the show is one tool that they recommend, whether it’s in your office, on your computer, in your phone, a tool that you recommend for people to have in their practice?

Joryn:

I am in the process of creating my own app, and I recommend that everyone do that, especially if you’re offering court-less services. When people are looking for “divorce in Middletown, New Jersey” you come up with your app and you answer questions on your app. One of the things that will be front and center in my app is “here are the different ways that you can get divorced” because I think it’s incumbent upon lawyers and I think the more statutes get passed – we now just passed a statute in Florida – I used to do legal malpractice work and I think it would be fair to argue that if you walk into a family lawyer’s office and say, “I want a divorce,” and they don’t say, “Well, you can mediate, you can negotiate, you can collaborate. We’ll explain all those choices to you, and then you can decide what you want to do.” If they don’t do that, I’m going to argue that they’re committing legal malpractice. My app is going to have that front and center: Here are the different ways to get divorced, and the first thing you and your spouse need to do is try to agree on how you’re going to get divorced. If you don’t agree, then you end up litigating. That’s the bottom line.

Rackham:

That’s going to help so many people. Here in Massachusetts, it is a requirement to tell people about the alternatives to litigation, but in my experience, people have their way of presenting that… “I’m legally required to inform you that mediation is an option,” and nobody’s going to take that seriously because you didn’t really present it as a valid option.

Joryn:

You made it sound terrible.

Rackham:

Yes, and I think a lot of lawyers are still doing that. Unfortunately, incentives are there for a lot of lawyers to litigate – or at least they think that’s the incentive.

Joryn:

No, there really is. This is something that I have tried to explain to people year after year after year. I once sued a law firm, one of the big four law firms in Tampa at the time – it’s been 20 years, because they had a client come in, and they had her sign a retainer agreement for doing hourly litigation. Then they got into the litigation, and they discovered that she had a really good argument, that she would probably win, and that she was going to recover $30 million of real property. They sat her down, and they put a new contract in front of her for a contingency fee. Now you’re thinking, “Okay, they were working hourly, but now they’re working for what they see as a really good shot at making $10 million off this woman.”

Rackham:

Oh my goodness.

Joryn:

But they already had the hourly, so when they put a new contract in front of her, they had an obvious conflict of interests because now they’re going to make more money off her. They did not say to her, “By the way, before you sign right here on the dotted line – See this dotted line where you’re going to sign? – take this to another lawyer and get some legal advice.” So we sued them. Of course, they realized the error of their ways, but the bottom line is that was just an egregious example. Someone comes to my office, and they want to hire me. I want to make money off them; they want to save money. We have a conflict of interests every single time I get hired, and I tell people that. I explain to them, “I want to make money; you want to save money. We have a conflict here. You need to take this contract home and think about it. It is my standard contract, but I want you to understand what we’re agreeing to.” I never let someone sign a contract in my office, ever.

Rackham:

I don’t know any lawyers… I may know them, but they haven’t spoken about it – who that are that up front with their clients. That’s really good that you’re doing that.

Joryn:

It doesn’t stop them from hiring me, but it makes them informed about what they’re doing. As part of the process, I explain to them, “Look, I will send you a monthly bill. It will specify everything that I’ve done this month. My bills don’t just say I called so-and-so; they say I called so-and-so, and this is what we discussed. Your bills aren’t just so you can see how much you’re paying for my services. Your bills are also so you can see what we’re doing, where we are in the process. So you can call me and say, ‘I don’t understand this. What’s going on? What does this mean?’ So that you are informed about your process.” I think that’s important.

Rackham:

It goes very much hand in hand with the tenet of transparency in collaborative law. We’re not just looking for transparency between the clients, but also transparency in the professional team and between attorney and client.

Joryn:

Absolutely.

Rackham:

I have fired a collaborative client before because I thought that it was no longer the right process for him. He wasn’t happy about it, but I was very transparent and I said, “I cannot give you the best representation right now because of the way this case is going, and even though you don’t like it, I’m going to insist that you go work with somebody else.”

Joryn:

Wow. Yes. It’s unfortunate that a few lawyers have given lawyers in general a bad name. I think that the more lawyers practice like that, the more younger lawyers will realize that that’s really the way it used to be done – and it should still be done. You remember Abraham Lincoln always said – he’s always quoted for saying, “There will be plenty of clients. We should not be promoting litigation. We should be promoting settlement.” That’s obviously not a direct quote, but you get the gist.

Rackham:

Yes, absolutely. I love that quote. We talked about tools, and you mentioned an app. Going a little bit more low key then, other than your own books, what’s one book that you think everybody should read?

Joryn: 

You don’t understand who you’re talking to. Is there such a thing as a “bookophile”? I adore books. I majored in English, and my mother always said, “You’re going to write novels.” I always said, “I don’t have a book in me, Mom. I don’t have a book in me.” Of course, as you know, I’ve written five books in two years because, gosh, I have a book in me. There are so many fabulous books on how to present, on how to speak in public, on how to refer business – on all of these concepts – on pitching clients – the things that you would not think are relevant to what you and I do providing legal services.

The first book I always recommend is Getting to Yes. That is the cornerstone of what collaborative practice is all about – negotiating agreements without giving in. Getting to Yes really, without talking about collaborative divorce, talks all about the collaborative divorce process. It’s a fabulous, fabulous book written 30 years ago by the folks who worked the Harvard Negotiation Project. Roger Fisher is now dead, but William Ury is still around. Every time you try and get in touch with him, he’s on safari somewhere to Brazil or China or Uganda because he’s on these peace missions, negotiating peace between countries. That’s what he does for fun. This book is just the bible of collaboration. It’s wonderful. Of course, they’ve written a number of other books since then, Getting to Yes with Yourself, Getting Past No, but the first book was the best, Getting to Yes.      

Rackham: 

I think if you’ve read that, and you’re familiar with the concept of principles of negotiation, then when somebody explains collaborative law or mediation to you, it’s going to make sense very quickly because it’s kind of the underpinning of the whole thing.

Joryn:

Yes, that’s exactly right.

Rackham: 

I know I said one book, but I want to push you on one other thing because you said in your marketing pillars, you mentioned speaking to large rooms of 20 to 40 people, and you did mention in passing books about public speaking… Is there one book about public speaking that you like?

Joryn:

If I had known you would ask, I would’ve gotten my lists out. I am one of those anal compulsive people who… Seriously, in my TOOLKIT is a list of recommended reading. I’ve got the list of marketing-type books, I’ve got the list of client books, I’ve got the list of collaborative books – three different lists. But I will say this: Before you go to a presenting book, you should go to TED Talks and find the body language TED Talk because body language is critically important when you’re doing public speaking – and not hard. The concepts are really straight forward. Then you need to read a book – Annette Simmons is the author. Is it Annette? Yes, Annette Simmons, The Story Factor. She and Doug Lipman… I think Doug Lipman was her mentor, and I haven’t read his first book yet. I happened to pick hers up first, The Story Factor. It’s remarkably well-read. It talks about how critical storytelling is in communications, in communicating with people. The Story Factor because if you’re marketing the way I think you should be marketing, then you’ll need to read it for your pitch, you’ll need to read it for your publishing, and you’ll need to read it for your presenting because the story factor to all of that is critical to communication.  

Rackham:

I know I put you on the spot there – I hadn’t prepped you for that question, but I think that’s really valuable advice. Thank you for that. Starting to wind this up a bit… For people who are just starting out or wanting to build their practices, what’s the best way that you have found to bring in new clients?

Joryn:

Get out into the marketplace yourself, learn your pitch… When you get on an elevator – I think for 30 years, I’d get on an elevator, and someone would say, “What do you do?” and I’d say, “I’m a lawyer,” and they’d say, “That’s nice.” I finally realized that if I really wanted to have people who were interested in what I do and why I do it and how good I am at it, I would learn a pitch. You have to have a pitch that invites questions. You have your elevator pitch, your 15 to 30 second pitch has to invite questions. Once someone starts asking you questions, then you’ve got permission to give your big pitch: Your name, your claim to fame, the problem, the solution, why you do what you do, what your clients say about you – all of that. The most critical thing to do is to learn the pitch.

The second thing that’s really a smart thing to do, and I didn’t know it when I was younger, but I figured it out when I became involved with collaborative: Join a referral networking group because that gives you the opportunity to give your pitch to rooms of people who are empowered to go out and spread the word about you. Many of these networking groups – I’m not sure that they were around… I think the first one was BNI, and it probably started about 30 years ago, but only recently spread like wildfire. These groups have 40 or 50 members, and there’s one person per occupation: There’s a family lawyer spot, there’s an employment lawyer spot, there’s a probate lawyer spot, there’s a contractor spot, there’s a plumber spot, there’s an electrician spot… Once you’ve joined one of these groups, and you’ve given your pitch a few times, you’ve got 50 people – all of whom know what you do and who want to refer you business because you refer them business. Lawyers are especially good members of these groups because we have so many clients who need help. Our clients tend to ask us, “Do you know a good realtor? Do you know a good plumber?” because we’re their counselor in more ways than one. They tend to ask us before they ask most other people that they mix with. They’re likely to ask us for a referral. Then you’ve got 50 salespeople working to help you sell your practice, and they send you business!

Rackham: 

So true. Joryn, thank you so much for your time today. Before we go, what’s the best way for someone to contact you who’s interested in your services?

Joryn: 

My email address is joryn@openpalmlaw.com, and it’s open palm, like open hand. Someone said to me, “Open Palm. Why? Because you want to make lots of money?” I said, “No, it’s because an open palm holds more than a closed fist, and we’re all about holding families together, even though they’re separating. We’re restructuring them – we’re not destroying them.” So it’s openpalmlaw.com, and then my website is the same, openpalmlaw.com.

 

Rackham: 

Perfect. Thank you again, Joryn.

 

Julie:

Thank you so much for your time.

 

Rackham: 

That’s today’s show. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review on iTunes. You can find show notes for this episode, including links to any books and other resources mentioned at zephyrlaw.com/initiative. I have some more great guests lined up, so be sure to join me next time for another episode of The ADR Initiative.