146. Joe Volta, Hull and Chandler – Mailbox Money: Building a Referral Network On and Off Line

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Building a strong referral network is a critical component to any successful firm. But where do solo attorneys and mid sized firms begin? Joe Volta, attorney at Hull and Chandler, fosters connections on social media prior to conferences to help fill out a robust network of trusted referral partners. He explains how anyone can break the ice before meeting in person and how to stay top of mind. He also gets into his social media strategy that keeps followers coming back for more.

What’s In This Episode?

  • Who is Joe Volta?
  • How did he grow a substantial referral network from the ground up?
  • Why does certain social content go viral?
  • What is the appropriate way to go about DMing potential referral partners?
  • What is ‘mailbox money’?
  • Once a connection is made, how does he maintain the relationship?
  • What is a better way to think about gifts?

Transcript

Joe Volta:

The law is very complicated. You’re trying to educate someone, make it fun, all at the same time within 30 seconds.

Chris Dreyer:

When leveraged correctly, social media not only educates and entertains your client base, but can help build a thriving referral network.

Joe Volta:

I had met these people in this two dimensional space, and so it was a little bit easier from DMing with these people already feeling like I knew them.

Chris Dreyer:

You’re listening to Personal Injury Mastermind, where we give you the tools you need to take your personal injury practice to the next level. Joe is a natural extrovert who leverages social media to build a strong referral network. He explains how anyone can break the ice before ever meeting in person, and how to maintain the network he’s worked so hard to create.
I’m your host, Chris Dreyer, Founder and CEO of Rankings.io. We help elite personal injury attorneys dominate first page rankings with search engine optimization. Being at the forefront of marketing is all about understanding people, so let’s get to know our guest. Here’s Joe Volta, Attorney at Hull & Chandler Attorneys at Law.

Joe Volta:

So I guess a little bit about my background, dad is an attorney, he’s been practicing since before I was born, he’s been doing asbestos litigation that entire time. And so it’s funny because people would always say, “Do you want to be like your dad?” And when I was younger I would always say, “No.” And then the older I got, after I had worked in restaurant industry a long time, interesting fact, I have a culinary degree, and when that lifestyle didn’t really jive with the direction I was moving, both mentally and professionally, I decided I wanted showers to be optional after work. And then also, my father provided a great living and upbringing for us, and so I wanted to live how I grew up. And I didn’t know any really tremendously successful people, and all those people that I did know were all attorneys and they got to help other people, and so that’s what led me to becoming an attorney and following in my dad’s footsteps.

Chris Dreyer:

A lot of individuals that I talk to that have good EQ and good communication skills have worked in the restaurant industry, I think it’s because we have to deal with, I too, I don’t think anybody knows this in my background, I was a server and a bartender for three years, so I worked full-time through college, and it taught me how to talk to people, how to deal with issues, and it’s just interesting, I think anyone that’s dealt with that has had some issue that they’ve had to overcome, and it’s hard work too.

Joe Volta:

It’s definitely hard work. I mean, I worked in the front of the house, back of the house, the one job I never was was a bartender, probably I’m still here and alive because of that, that was probably the worst job to have. But it definitely does give you those people skills, those salesman skills that a lot of personal injury attorneys need to have, or from the marketing aspect of getting cases, you need to be able to sell, and not in a malicious way, but you’re your own biggest fan, and that’s the name of the game. There’s a whole industry around marketing, whether it’s the legal field, or any other type of business.

Chris Dreyer:

I think the word sell, it has that negative connotation, but we do it every day, whether we’re trying to convince our employees or our clients or your spouse, and it’s not in a negative way, it’s like something that you want to do, or where you want to eat, or just how you’re going to deal with your time, so I think that there’s a lot to be learned there. So you practice business law and personal injury law, and so how come you didn’t shift and go to meso and asbestos? Why business law, and then of course mesothelioma is a subset of personal injury, but how did you focus in on those areas?

Joe Volta:

When I first graduated law school back in 2015, and then all through law school I was law clerking, and I did work in asbestos, I worked at the Law Offices of Peter Angelos, which was the largest, at the time, asbestos firm in Baltimore, for the state of Maryland, rather. As with anything, asbestos is on a bell curve, and it’s on the bottom of that bell curve because it’s a dose response disease, and asbestos was forbidden to be in the marketplace. Back around the 80s it got taken out of a lot of products, and so because it’s not in products people aren’t getting sick, if people aren’t getting sick there’s not really room for an asbestos industry, where it’s on the bottom part of the arc.
And so I decided with my wife to move to the Carolinas and just pivot into, I guess, the more typical personal injury realm, which is your slip and falls, dog bites, auto accidents, truck accidents, and then because the firm that I currently am at, we do a little bit of everything here, I do the business litigation for one of the partners as well.

Chris Dreyer:

Being fully transparent, one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show is you do a phenomenal job at networking for referrals, and putting yourself out there and creating original content and being really authentic. Do you consider yourself an extrovert? Is it natural for you to go and meet people and make these connections, or is there a little bit of stress and you got to decompress? How does that work, because I think a lot of people have challenges there.

Joe Volta:

That’s a great question, because I think people that know me would say I’m extroverted, and I am extroverted, but at the same time I think all extroverts, they still have that, you need your own time and you need to pull back. And with anything that’s new, it is challenging to really put yourself out there and make original content and things, but I find it easy to make friends, I always have, and it’s just, I don’t know if it’s a skill or if it’s something that you’re just born with and it’s just who I am, I enjoy going to parties, whereas some people that’s a drag and they drag themselves to the party, because they’re going with their spouse, or their friends, or they’re trying to be social. That kind of stuff, it amps me up, it makes me feel more alive, so I enjoy the networking aspect with other attorneys and people in general. So it came natural, but the being on video, that part did not come natural. I’m not going to sit here and lie about that, that’s really tough.

Chris Dreyer:

What’s interesting, and I know if Maria Monroy is listening from LawRank, she’s listening, she always tries to get me to go to events and I’m like, I have went to events and I struggle. So now having us talking on the podcast, if I saw you an event, it’d be very easy for me to speak to you, but before that, it’s really challenging.

Joe Volta:

Yeah, it is easier when some people. Going to a room of 100 people and not knowing a single person and having to start a conversation, I consider myself extroverted, but I still feel like that aspect is difficult. Now I’m in the process of quitting smoking, but I used to always find it was easy to meet people that did smoke because nowadays we’re pariahs and we’re outside off in the fray, so that gave you something to link you together that makes you similar, and so you can chat, and then you meet one person. And I didn’t really start going to these conferences until I got on Instagram, to segue back to IG, and so I had met these people in this two dimensional space, and so it was a little bit easier from DMing with these people, already feeling like I knew them, and meeting them at a conference, or something like that.
But to move into your original question of how I decided to dress up this flow, where I do a Jake from State Farm, and I think I’ve done a couple of videos with a gecko T-shirt making fun of Geico, I consider what I do very serious. A client being injured, or something like that, or a client being taken advantage of with a business contract not being paid fairly or compensated fairly, I take that very seriously because these people, they put their trust and faith in you to wade through the legal system, and I take that aspect very seriously.
But when it comes to myself, and if you know me outside of the law, I don’t try to take myself too seriously. I always say I can’t stand attorneys that think they’re better than people because they’re a lawyer. That’s just what you do, it’s not who you are. And so I like to have fun, and I feel like dressing up, making fun of these insurance companies, being lighthearted about it, that just came to me, and I got the gear and the swag off Amazon, so it’s just something extra to make fun of myself and try to give people some education along with it, and that’s how it all started, so it’s been fun.

Chris Dreyer:

So the interesting thing is, and how Instagram and all these social media networks work, is you have to get attention, you have to get engagement for your content to show up in your feed, and when you do this you’re getting a lot of attention and likes and laughs and comments, and then I think that’s how I even came across the video flow. I’m not aware of any legal firm, and I would ask you this, are you aware of any law firm that has a huge follower base that doesn’t have some form of entertainment that’s just super factual? Does any come to mind?

Joe Volta:

Well, I mean, I know there are some people they try to weave the entertainment aspect into the facts. The law is very complicated, and so you’re trying to educate someone, make it fun, all at the same time within, originally it was 30 seconds, and now I think Instagram’s the reels, they allow you to go up to a minute and a half if you want. But it’s very difficult to educate someone on every single aspect of any area or any topic in such a short amount of time.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah, and I think also just from a consumption point of view, I think that individuals like to consume shorter clips and just flip through the next if they’re interested, so I think that aligns there too.

Joe Volta:

I mean, they say you have three seconds to catch their attention, and then within the first seven seconds they decide if they’re going to watch the entire video. So I actually, I just had my first viral reel, if you want to call it that. I found that when you actually speak and have your own original content instead of doing trends, those ones have been doing better for me lately, where I actually step even more outside my comfort zone and do the talking, instead of with Flo, or Jake from State Farm, I’m doing a voiceover of a trending audio and then applying it to the legal field.
But with this one that just went viral last week, and it’s still, I had to turn notifications off on my phone because it was just nonstop going, and it’s hit half a million views today, and it was me actually talking about a video. And so I’ve actually found that doing real original content has been performing better for me. Now I don’t have half a million views on every video, but these other ones are getting over 10,000 where I’m actually speaking and putting myself even more out there.

Chris Dreyer:

Let’s drill down even more on this, because I think this is super interesting because this speaks to the type of content that you’re creating that is effective. And first, what is the video that went viral? Let’s break that down, how long was it? Why do you think this one, out of all the other content, because you’ve done a ton of content, really took off?

Joe Volta:

So it starts out, I’ve been doing a lot of these videos that seem to be working, so I’ll do, it’s a video of somebody else that I find, whether it’s a car accident, or a dirt bike, or a four-wheeler crashing into an individual, and then I talk about the legal repercussions of that from a personal injury standpoint.
So this particular video, it was a pedestrian on a sidewalk throwing a rock at a moving car, and he missed, and then he picked up a rock and threw it again at a moving car. That car then made a U-turn, almost got into an accident with another car, luckily missed that car, but then they drove on the sidewalk and ran over the pedestrian. And so the pedestrian went flying in the air, and so it has good optics, and you have a hook, it’s like wait for it, and then he almost crashes into the car, so then I say “Keep waiting, it gets crazier,” so trying to draw the audience in to be like, oh well what’s going to happen next? And then he runs into this guy, but then it automatically switches to me and I pose a question to myself of, is this legal? And then I think what got people going was I said, “You can’t defend property with violence.”
The next clip was this guy, while he deserved to get run over, jokingly around, not taking myself too seriously, because I love cars and if you’re throwing rocks at my car that’s going to make me very angry. So I say, “That guy would still have a case against the driver of the car.” And so it brought up a lot of issues, because there’s only 30 seconds, and I didn’t get into the castle doctrine, people are like, “You can protect your car in Texas,” it’s got over 500 comments and people were like, “You can protect your house.”
And my whole thing was this car, he made a U-turn to go and run over a pedestrian. What I found, it pooed on people’s, their semi knowledge of knowing that you can stand your ground, because you’ve had a lot of things like that in the media nowadays, and it just took off, because I didn’t really fully flesh out defending your property, and everyone attached to that, which is a criminal thing. What I was just really trying to propose was if you get hit by a car and you’re a pedestrian, you can recover on your uninsured motorist coverage for your own car, is really was the message I was getting out, and I had no idea it was going to strike a chord and go viral.

Chris Dreyer:

The funny thing is I know exactly what you’re talking about. I watched that video, I was one of your 500,000, or however many, views. I now can recall it very vividly. Did you go in, when people started giving their opinions, and they’re doing the status play to show how smart they are, and whatever, did you reengage and say, “Well, I didn’t have time to cover this,” and drive up conversation in the chat, or are you watching it eating popcorn, seeing what people are saying?

Joe Volta:

So, to take a step back, I follow a lot of growth experts or Instagram influencers, that they actually help you grow on Instagram. They’re not lawyers, I really only use Instagram for business and to meet and actually have real relationships. And so what I’ve learned from understanding about how Instagram works is you should engage with people that are engaging with you to be social, and I want to. And so in the very beginning I was, and I wasn’t defending myself, I would say, “You raise a good point,” and then I would answer it with the follow up, and then point them to what the insurance stuff was about. But then as the videos started taking off, there was just too much to where I couldn’t actually do my actual work to keep engaging with the audience, and then I saw a lot of the audience engaging back and forth.
And then I’d see some hateful comments, I would delete those, because I just don’t want that associated with my page, and then a lot of people, which I started just rolling my eyes after a while, was there was probably at least 10 or more notifications that I got of people saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” And I’m like, okay, it’s not that original, and I would stop engaging with them, unless it was something that was extremely funny or raised a really good legal point, I had to stop, just because it was just too much to actually live my life and engage with 600 plus comments.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah, fair enough.

Joe Volta:

I filmed another video based off of that video where I went more into the castle doctrine to one, let the audience know that, I guess selfishly, that I’m not stupid and I know that you can defend property. That video, interestingly, has like 14,000 views, so not all 500,000 people saw that, but I did go back and they gave me an idea for more content, because all these people were talking about, “You can defend your car, you can defend your house,” and I’m like, “Yeah you can, and these are the instances when you can,” and why, in the prior video, why I said, in my opinion, the driver of the car is still in the wrong.

Chris Dreyer:

When I think of a rainmaking attorney, I think someone that’s great at networking, that’s generating cases, business development, and you have one reel on how to go from zero to 50 referral sources, because it’s easier said than done, and you break down networking, Dming, and sharing fees, so maybe if you could speak on each of those, on how to develop referrals through those three pillars.

Joe Volta:

Yeah, sure. And it’s funny you brought that one up, most of my followers, until this last video, are all attorneys. Over time, I’ve been an attorney now for going on seven and a half years, and so I’ve come to learn that the people that are, everyone has their own definition of success, but in my opinion, in my definition of success, that are successful, they’re either really great trial attorneys, and they just fly all over the country, and they get called in and they just go and have awesome results and awesome jury verdicts, or they’re attorneys that just can bring in business, because you’re irreplaceable if you can do that, or you can go anywhere you want, because trial attorneys don’t have a case if there is no case to be brought in.
And so I go to conferences to meet other attorneys, and I’m lucky in the sense that I live in a vacation state, I’m licensed in the Carolinas, and people vacation here from all over the country, and so I sell myself to these other attorneys at conferences of, if you ever have any problems or issues, or even if you just need help on your case, give me a shout, I’m here to help you. And if you want to refer me a case, going to the last part of that reel, I can share fees in North and South Carolina, and so I’m real big on protecting other attorney’s interests and making it work their while.
And I joke around that I send them mailbox money, and I forget where that saying came from, but I obviously did not think of it. I guess maybe it’s from real estate, you have a bunch of homes, and you’re getting mailbox money from the BiggerPockets podcast. And so I think that’s where I heard it, and so I even have that in my profile so when other attorneys see it’s like, “Hey, send me some cases, I’ll send you money in the mail.” So that’s where that reel came from. I can’t take all the credit, my wife actually, I was like, “Hey I want to use this trending audio,” I’m like, “What can I do with this?” And she’s like, “Talk about your referral business.” So I got to give her credit and a little shout out for that.

Chris Dreyer:

Incredibly smart, and when I was doing the guest prep too, I liked how you did clips of you either sending referrals out to other attorneys, or you receiving a compensation, it made it more real, I think. And when I saw the mailbox money, at first I immediately went to real estate, BiggerPockets Podcasts, syndicates, whether it’s your Grant Cardone type of stuff, and I thought, oh, well that’s exactly right, that’s what it is, and that’s living the dream in terms of that passive. Let’s talk specifically the DMing. You’re DMing for this networking perspective, which I think is super smart, so how does that work?

Joe Volta:

Again, because I follow a lot of lawyers, the algorithm sends me other lawyers content, or the people that I already do follow, I’ll go in their comments, and maybe they’ll be a lawyer or two in there that I don’t follow or doesn’t follow me, so then I’ll start following them. And I know they say don’t do the follow for follow, like for like stuff, but in our business, most lawyers aren’t following you and then unfollowing you to build up their follower account and keep their following count low.
And so I’ll do that, and then I’ll strike up a conversation with them, I’ll go through a bunch of their videos on their page, or their photos if they don’t do reels. And just see what they’re about, and then I just start casually talking to them. I’ll find something that I have alike with, and even if it’s they post something about their favorite football team, I’ll joke with them and say, “Hey the Pittsburgh Steelers are trash,” and that I’m a Ravens fan, because I’m originally from Maryland. So that’s just an easy in, and then we start talking about the law, and then it’s just being social, and kind and authentic.

Chris Dreyer:

Yeah, so for example, if you were a Cubs fan you’d be telling me that the Cardinals are trash due to my hat that I’m wearing?

Joe Volta:

Exactly.

Chris Dreyer:

Of course, yeah, I like it.

Joe Volta:

So I’m a Orioles fan, and all the Yankees and Boston Red Sox people needle me because the Orioles, we’re on the fray this year, but traditionally we stink, and that’s okay, but I don’t have any hate toward any National Leagues.

Chris Dreyer:

Joe is constantly nurturing the network he’s worked so hard to build. I wanted to know how he does those one off cases that slide into his DMs

Joe Volta:

To maintain the relationships, I mean, I’ll end up getting the lawyers or the marketing people, I’ll end up getting their numbers outside of the platform, like in the DMs, “Hey, here’s my personal cell.” I mean, my personal cell and contact info is in my profile, but it seems like nobody ever clicks that stuff, or I’m just not famous enough for people to care. So I’ll give them my number, and we just continue that way, I genuinely just keep talking with these people. I post stories daily, and so we engage with stories, because it’s about your daily life and things outside of the law, and so that’s how I maintain relationships.
And then I need to get into having a better CRM software, now I just have a big Excel spreadsheet and then I send people gifts, and stuff like that, over the holidays, and what have you. And one trick I learned is send them a gift not during Christmas, because it just gets lost in all the other gifts they get. Send it to them 4th of July, and then don’t send them anything in Christmas because they’re not going to realize because they’re getting hundreds of gifts anyway. So that’s a good tip to stay at forefront, because who thinks to get a July 4th present? You’ll be the only person on that lawyer’s desk, if you send them a gift basket or a card, whatever, guarantee you’ll be the only one that sends them something.

Chris Dreyer:

Your gifting strategy, that reminds me of John Ruhlin and Giftology, because I think of Christmas, and I guess that’s the big one, everyone’s bombarding, you just get lost in the shuffle. What’s the process look like to do this? Because you’re practicing law too, do you have a routine, a morning routine? I’m checking my DMs, is it just, hey I’m obsessed, I’m checking them all the day when I get the red notification on the phone? What’s it look like from the content creation side to the engagement? How do you make this into a process and routine?

Joe Volta:

Sure. So I’m not the best at doing that, and that’s not just with Instagram, that’s with everything. I always want to have processes and routines, and then they fall off. So it’s actually very difficult for me, I know a lot of people, and the saying is batch your content, change your outfits, maybe change your background, and then you can put that, you only have to film maybe 12 times a year, and you can put it out every day of the month ,or however your schedule is. But it is good to stay consistent, that way The algorithm and whatever platform you’re using understands how you are, and your followers understand how you are.
I follow West Coast Lemons, and I know that she posts Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and so she always does that, it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I try to have a post, at least one or two a week, and I always try to post around 5:30 in the afternoon, and then I always try to do Instagram stories. And sometimes I let them run out on purpose, that way people wonder where I went, and then you get more engagement when you’ve had 24 hours without anything. So that’s my strategy of what I do, and then on the weekends I’ll batch film sometimes, and then I’ll have enough content for two weeks, where I can post two reels a week, I might have four or five reels saved in my drafts. And one thing, if you film inside the app, they say you should always download your video to your camera roll in case you get logged out, or in case there’s a glitch with the app, that way you didn’t spend hours creating your content and then it’s all gone. So that’s another thing that I do.

Chris Dreyer:

I wish there’s a piece of wood that I could knock on, because that’s my worst nightmare. For the attorneys, the PI attorneys listening, who’s your perfect referral partner? Who would be an ideal person to refer you cases? Who is that avatar?

Joe Volta:

It really is anyone that’s not in North or South Carolina. There’s a lot of specific laws to these states that can cause issues, and so it’s basically any personal injury attorney, it’s any attorney really, it doesn’t matter if you practice trust and estates, because I can share fees with you because you’re a lawyer. And so it’s any attorney that has a friend, family member, past client that was in the Carolinas that reached out to them, or any national big following attorney on social media that has hundreds of thousands of followers that gets DMs on the regular, they can feel free to hit me up and I’ll feel free to send them mailbox money, really, so any one of those people. All you got to have is a law license and I can share fees with you.

Chris Dreyer:

Perfect, perfect. And one final question here, what’s next for Joe Volta?

Joe Volta:

I just want to keep creating content, man. I really enjoy, keep meeting more and more attorneys, and keep growing out and building my network, and bringing in more and more cases, because that’s ultimately what I really enjoy doing. I get a rush when I see an email come through, or a text come through, and it’s an attorney that I’ve built a relationship with that says, “Hey, I got a case for you,” I really enjoy doing that, and I guess, to piggyback on that, the next avenue for me is really my own case generation. I love sharing the fees and making those relationships, but it’s better to have two thirds of nothing, but it’s also, it’s better to have a full attorney fee than having to share it as well, so I guess that’s something to be said. I am generating my own cases, but the people that are sending me cases, they’re the ones that actually generated the case, they just happen to know me and get their clients into the best hands in the Carolinas.

Chris Dreyer:

And then how can people get in touch with you?

Joe Volta:

They can either hit me up on my cell phone, and this is my real number, I never changed it, it’s 443-957-5226, send me a text anytime, or they can send me an email, which is Jayvolta@lawyercarolina.com.

Chris Dreyer:

Connecting with new people at conferences can be challenging even for the most extroverted among us. To help break the ice, begin with social media. Look through their content, find common interests or posts that you can relate to. Comment on posts, and when it feels natural, send some DMs. As you build and nurture your network, make referring cases easy for your partners, and send them mailbox money when they refer you cases.
I’d like to thank Joe Volta from Hull & Chandler for sharing his story with us, and I hope you gained some valuable insights from the conversation. You’ve been listening to Personal Injury Mastermind, I’m Chris Dreyer. If you liked this episode, leave us a review, we love to hear from our listeners. I’ll catch you on next week’s PIMM with another incredible guest and all the strategies you need to master personal injury marketing.

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