28. Neama Rahmani, West Coast Trial Lawyers – Digital Marketing, Medical Expertise, and Profit Sharing for Attracting and Retaining Elite Talent

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In this episode of The Rankings Podcast, join host Chris Dreyer as he interviews Neama Rahmani of West Coast Trial Lawyers about his top strategies for standing out and finding success in the personal injury niche. Neama shares his experience using digital marketing to grow his firm, how he improves his medical know-how in order to better represent his clients, and the power of the profit-sharing model when attracting and retaining elite talent. Stay tuned.

Transcript

Prologue

Welcome to The Rankings Podcast where we feature top founders, entrepreneurs and elite personal injury attorneys and share their inspiring stories. Now let’s get started with the show.

Chris Dreyer

Chris Dreyer here, CEO and founder of Rankings.io, where we help elite personal injury attorneys dominate first page rankings. You’re listening to The Rankings Podcast right feature top business owners, entrepreneurs and elite personal injury attorneys. Speaking of elite personal injury attorneys, I have Neama Rahmani on the show today. Neama is the president and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers a premier Los Angeles Personal Injury Law Firm Neama graduated from UCLA at the age of 19, and Harvard Law School at the age of 22, making him one of the youngest graduates in a 200 year history for the law school. Over the course of his career, he has handled thousands of cases In his has helped his clients obtain more than $1 billion in settlements and judgments, Neama, welcome to the show.

Neama Rahmani

Thanks, Chris. Glad to be here. Good to see you.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, great. See, I’m really excited to speak with you. So we have to jump right in. We have to talk about graduating Harvard at the age of 22. You know, what drove you to accomplish this feat at such a young age.

Neama Rahmani

So the super nerd growing up I still am I like to nerd out about the law. I like to nerd out about SEO. As you know, when I was a kid, I skipped some grade. So I was able to graduate high school early at 16. I went to college took a lot of APS, so started as a junior, even though it’s taken a minimum caseload graduate in three years, went straight to law school. So you know, I started law school at 19, finished a 22. And now I was working for big firms, you know, at the age of 20 people have done and then I’ll O’Melveny & Myers, some of these big corporate firms. And that’s where I got my start.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, Did you know just right away, hey, I’m gonna be an attorney. This this is my path and, and just kind of pursued it.

Neama Rahmani

Yeah, I’m from a young age. My grandfather was a judge, you know, I knew I was gonna be an attorney, prosecutor judge didn’t work out that way, at least for the last part. So that’s something I always wanted to do. I love being in a courtroom, even as a child, you know, I would, I was one of those like, guys with a sign. I mean, I’ll debate you about anything. I was one of those crazy people. So it’s something that was always planned. And it ended up kind of working out for me.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s amazing. And I so you just had your eye on the prize, he knew exactly where you’re going. So it’s you can take really intentional actions on everything that you were learning and hearing and, and just, you know, being surrounded by all of that. So, you know, after you graduated, you got a you work for a O’Melveny & Myers, you know, a large law firm right out of law school. So what was it like to jump right into the fire and represent clients, you know, like Disney and Marriott and these other huge organizations.

Neama Rahmani

Yeah, I mean a completely different animal. Right. So right now we’re representing ordinary people, oftentimes the first time they’ve ever even talked to a lawyer, right, you know, they’re scared. There’s a real sort of emotional component there. When these big, huge corporate firms, you know, entirely different, you’re dealing with a general counsel, Deputy GC, of a company, really sort of sophisticated clients, entirely different calculus for them. You know, it’s, it’s different, right? You know, we were representing some of the biggest corporations in the world, they’d been clients of the firm for 50 100 years, some of them and instead of having thousands of cases like we do now, I would work on only four or five cases at a time, really huge, multi million and multi billion dollar litigation. So it’s good to kind of cut my teeth on those massive cases. Even though I was handling just one aspect, as part of a team, instead of handling everything, like we do now, on smaller cases involving individuals, it was great experience. But, you know, it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like doing the defense work defending those companies. And one of the reasons I left the firm, it was challenging. We were hired to represent the Catholic Church in the sex abuse cases, not the individual priests, but the church. And when that happened, I just No, it was my time to go. It’s not why I went to law school or what I wanted to do.

Chris Dreyer

So let’s, let’s talk about that where you formed, you know, you’re the co founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers. So when you kind of came to this clarity that hey, this isn’t for me. I want to go on the upper on the other side. I want to go on the plaintiff side, I want to help these injured victims. You know, was it just all on done? Was there a planning aspect? how did how did you go about it? informing West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Neama Rahmani

So I gotta give credit to my partner Allen. So he’s the one that really pushed me to do it. I gotta give a little bit of the backstory. So once I left on Melvin he well let me start. Why joined? No Melvin sharp Gibson done my first summer, a second summers deciding between Latham and Watkins, O’Melveny & Myers. Those were at the time, you know, really considered the three huge corporate law firms in LA they called them the big three. Allen, my partner recruited me to O’Melveny. He said he was a young associate at the time. He left some years later to start his own firm, and he did everything but ultimately developed a pretty successful plaintiff’s practice. I went on, I became a prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office, and then was prosecuting public corruption cases in the city of LA. And I was being guided for a judgeship. That was always the plan. I wanted to be a judge. And I was well on my way. Well, couple of things happen, you know, two kids back to back, and my wife who is an attorney for foster kids, and I Were working for the government at the time, and we were broke. We just couldn’t afford to both work as government attorneys. So we just come to Jesus talk. And she sat down and said, one of us needs to get a real job and go back to the private sector, that one of us was mean. So I almost went back to the firm, as a kind of junior non equity partner to maybe generate a book of business to see how that went. But Allen, at the time, he had separated from his partner for a number of reasons, partner one to do billable cases. Allen wanted to only do plaintiffs work. So Allen approached me. He said, Look, let’s start a new firm. Let’s do plaintiffs work. Let’s do personal injury. My initial reaction was absolutely not. I’m not going to be that guy on a billboard or a bus bench. That’s just not me. He said, No, you’re really gonna like it. You know? Like, why would I like it. He’s like, you are going to help people or you’re going to go after the bad guy. This is the closest thing to being a prosecutor and actually Getting paid. And it kind of sold me on this vision of this different higher end personal injury practice. And I gotta give him credit. took them a while, but I’m glad he did. And I’m very happy with what we’ve accomplished so far.

Chris Dreyer

We’re like, during those early days was did Allen already have like a good stream of business from his marketing efforts? Or was it both of you really hustling to bring in the cases? Or was it you know, just the reputation reputation and you had those referrals? What was it like in those early days,

Neama Rahmani

Once we started, Allen’s former partner, I bought him out. So we didn’t have anything in terms of cases. And when we sat down to come up with a business plan, you know, and I knew all the folks in town that were doing radio and TV and billboards and so forth. You know, they, they’ve been doing it for years, and the market was saturated. And I said, Look, how can we compete with these guys, you know, they have a 1020 year headstart. So we decided to go into completely different direction, which was digital. So when we started, this was back in 2014, we made a commitment, we’re only going to do digital advertising, whether it’s obviously Google, organic, whether it’s paid Yelp, being Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, I mean, there’s Snapchat, there’s no digital platform that we do not advertise on. So that’s what went in that direction. It was a newer, more emerging market. And we decided to focus all our efforts on there. So in the beginning, it was challenging, as you know, trying to rank a site, especially in a location and demographic really as competitive as La. So it took a while took about two years for us to really kind of hit our stride. And you know, I’m glad that we made those efforts in investing because now they’re starting to pay off.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I think you had the foresight to kind of see where the future was going. You know, everyone’s got right in arms. Length their their mobile device. And now it’s probably just compounding because you’re one of those first adopters. And you know, I’ve seen your Yelp reviews. I don’t know how many you have right now, but it’s more than any other firm that I’m aware of. So

Neama Rahmani

it’s, it’s been a benefit for us. It’s good and bad. You know, I love Yelp. And you know that those Yelp reviews are very helpful. But, you know, we need to provide a sort of different level of service, we overstaffed our cases in terms of attorneys and non attorneys because you can’t write a bad review for a you know, TV ad or a billboard but you certainly can for someone that you found online. So we need to make sure that we provide amazing service otherwise, you know, it’s gonna affect your business going forward. So

Chris Dreyer

So is that is that still the focus today? Are you starting to experiment with some of those traditional forms of advertising billboards, you know, radio or Is it still just really laser focused on digital,

Neama Rahmani

laser focused 100% Digital. Obviously, things have changed over time. as, you know, Yelp used to rank organically. Number one, right? And that’s sort of fallen off. So it’s shifted within the digital world. As things have changed, obviously, as you mentioned, you know, everything is going mobile now. You know, I think when we started it was, you know, 7030, or maybe more, you know, in favor of desktop. Obviously, that’s changed. It’s still all digital, we’re just tweaking it within the digital world.

Chris Dreyer

So you’ve you’ve started to generate business and it starts to take off and let’s kind of flip it on the, on the other end. So you know, every very few successful business owners get to where they are without making a few mistakes or they’re there any mistakes that come to mind, that now you look back and those were great learning experiences.

Neama Rahmani

I mean, we made lots of mistakes. We invested in different digital mediums that just really haven’t worked out, I can kind of get into some of that. But when it comes to personal injury, you really want to be that first call, right? Because if you’re the, you know, unlike e-commerce right if you’re the the fifth business that someone calls but you close the sale, you know, you close the sale, or the fifth law firm, someone calls that’s the case that’s been rejected by for the firm. So, we’ve learned that not all calls are created equal, not all leads are created equal and to kind of focus on the quality and being that initial call is really important, as opposed to chasing, you know, recycled leads.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, and I think there’s a you know, from from my conversations, there’s a lot of different ways you can run a practice, you can run you know, super high volume or it’s a lot of pre lit stuff, or you’re trying cases and I think there’s different ways to approach it and you know, I think you can do it a number of ways.

Neama Rahmani

So what we’re doing, we do both that there those pre lit farms that are marketing machines and trying to set all their cases and what they can do i do some soft litigation. If not, they’ll send it out to the litigation firms and those litigation firms or marketing to the pre litigation firm. We’re doing both, you know, we keep everything in house for a couple blocks from the courthouse here in LA for, for better or worse. It’s worked for us and our clients, we don’t want to be sending them off to other firms and relying on those other firms to service them. That might affect you know, both the results and the client satisfaction. So we end up keeping everything in house.

Chris Dreyer

I think that’s really smart because then you can turn those clients who have a great experience into an evangelist and you know, certainly know how powerful reviews are for local SEO just for SEO in general and can social proof for conversions.

Neama Rahmani

Absolutely. I mean, it’s key right? You know, when folks are choosing associate personal injury firm, you know, that consideration period is so low, I like to compare it to medicine. Right, if it’s, you know, someone wants to get Botox or some sort of plastic surgery, they kind of think about it. You know, it might take days or weeks or even longer before they decide to do it right or hair restoration, whatever the case may be. But if you’re an orthopedic trauma surgeon doing rotator cuff surgery, no one’s thinking about that no one’s thinking about ever needing the person, when you need that service, you’re going to make a decision within 24 hours, maybe 48 hours. So it’s a very quick emotional decision. You need a lawyer, like yesterday, so that’s social proof is very powerful when you’re deciding from different funds.

Chris Dreyer

I couldn’t agree more and also that social proof when you have a high review rating, that’s when you can rank for those superlatives. Top attorney best attorney. You know, if you have a low review rating, you’re not going to show up just like if you went on vacation to eat it. You’re either the restaurant you type best restaurants near me, you wouldn’t see the the ones twos or the other restaurants with low amount of reuse. I also I kinda want to stick here, you lead me right into it. So So, in terms of the social proof, your firm’s worked with a lot of celebrities, you’ve got celebrity endorsements from Carmen Electra, Johnny or John Manziel. So how how have those impacted the firm or by congregating with these types of individuals? Does it kind of draw on other celebrities to work with you?

Neama Rahmani

Yeah, absolutely. So we’ll get different celebrities that will call us we don’t do any transactional work. So, you know, I’m not negotiating deals or writing agreements, but, you know, I have a lot of litigation experience. So once a celebrity is involved in litigation, we’ll take those cases. It’ll be a one off, it might not necessarily be a personal injury employment case, once, you know, obviously, I want to help them out. These are people that I know but to, it really does sort of resonate with others and people that are considering us they’ll say, Okay, well, this guy’s been on the news. He’s been on CNN, he’s represented these clients, and it helps on that conversion rate with with folks that are trying to make a decision between farms, they really don’t have a whole lot of information to distinguish us between someone else.

Chris Dreyer

You know, and I’ve caught myself on your guys’s social media because of that. So on particular on Instagram, I see where you’re commenting on cases in the news like the I can’t think of her name but the individual it’s in the full house. College. Oh, Lori

Neama Rahmani

Lori Loughlin. Yeah. So yeah, you know, criminal is always the most interesting for the public. And reporters, they like me because I wanted a few former prosecutors that doesn’t do any criminal defense work. So oftentimes, criminal defense attorneys that conflict it off or they they’re hesitant to say something because it might affect their ability to retain business, if it’s a pending case, but because I’m not chasing after the lawyer, law firms in the world, I’m always happy to talk about those cases. They’re, they’re interesting, and it keeps me still involved in relevant in the criminal world. I don’t like defense work because I don’t like being in a defensive position. I’m going to wrestle guy like been an offensive helps me at least hang on to a little bit of my former life as a prosecutor.

Chris Dreyer

So one of the things that well, that’s very smart, and that’s why I haven’t heard that approach. And that’s very smart. And I know your SEO team loves you. Because when you get these quotes in these big publications, that that just helps, you know, those great backlinks from the the quotes are looking for I’m sure that’s, that’s really beneficial.

Neama Rahmani

Well, it’s tough as a personal injury attorney, right. What how many cases are you going to have that are really going to get a local or national media attention, right, it can be this horrible, catastrophic injury, right, decades or paralysis, it’s amputation. It’s just, you know, those are very sad cases, but they just don’t attract the type of media attention that you know, someone getting arrested does just the reality the situation so,

Chris Dreyer

yeah, then that makes sense. So shifting kinda away. From from marketing more to more not like HR, so to getting to where your firm’s at now, you don’t grow to be the size you are and have the success here without a great team. So I like to ask this question, you know, so what’s the best way that you find and retain elite talent?

Neama Rahmani

What we do is I like to give our attorneys, you know, a really a piece of the action. When it comes to the law. There’s there’s two primary ways to make money. The first is your typical law firm model, the billable model, a leverage model, where the partners a lot the associates out at X dollars an hour, they paid on why and the partners keep the difference, right, the money flows upward. That’s typically how attorneys make money The other way is contingency, right? Where you handle the case you take the risk as the attorney or the law firm and when you win, hopefully when you get the rewards, the risk that you took, so What we do at our firm is we give our attorneys a piece of all the attorneys fees. So to the extent that we do well, they benefit. So we’ve had a lot of attorneys that have come in, they’ve embraced this risk, they have a little bit more of entrepreneurial mindset. They don’t mind taking maybe a little bit of a lower base salary, in exchange for this reward. So that model has been pretty successful for us and has allowed us to both attract and retain really amazing attorneys.

Chris Dreyer

There are so many nuggets here that I want to dive into. So first, you’ve got basically three pricing models input, output, and value so inputs like hours and capacity, that puts the most amount of risk on the consumer to get the result least amount of resist risk on the person building. And then you’ve got contingency that puts the least amount of risk on the consumer the most amount of risk on the attorney because they don’t get paid unless they win. Sure. And it’s interesting because I’ve heard I love the tying the the cases into your your team because everyone says they want someone with ownership mentality and to be empowered. Do you find that that gives them this empowerment this the sense of ownership mentality really give it their all? And it’s not just a nine to five type of situation?

Neama Rahmani

Absolutely. I mean, they have a vested interest in the case, not just, you know, in terms of some bonus they may receive at the end of the year or some discretionary, you know, reward that they get if they reach certain thresholds or numbers like some other firms do, they get a piece of every single case. Now, I can tell it’s not for everyone. It does give some folks anxiety, because lawyers by nature are risk averse. And to have a position like this where, you know, a significant portion of your compensation is based on performance. It’s not fun. Everyone, but for those that, you know, come in and jump in and do well, they’re rewarded. I think they should be.

Chris Dreyer

I want to ask one more question on a follow up on this, because this is so interesting to me. This is the first time I’ve heard where it’s kind of all tied in normally, it’s normally just the partners or the equity, that’s getting the equity. Do you find that doing this? And I’m kind of asking this for self for some purposes, right? Do I tie in the benefit of our business, you know, into a profit share like this? So do you find that by doing this, some of the non performers are kind of weeded out by the people that are performing that there’s a little pressure?

Neama Rahmani

I think so, you know, again, some firms you are profitable just by having a JD and a law license and showing up your billable, right. That’s just not how it is at our firm. You’re only profitable if you can perform and if you can settle or win cases. So for those attorneys Is that might not be as aggressive might be very smart, but they’re more sort of behind the scenes lawn motion types, it just not for them. So it does weed out attorneys that can’t move files and move cases. Number one, the only sort of challenge that we sometimes do you have to work with it. You know, obviously, there’s so much of the compensation is based on the cases themselves, we want to make sure that there’s a fair distribution of cases amongst attorneys. And one attorney isn’t getting, you know, the higher value cases while the other ones aren’t. So it, it can be a challenge to distribute cases in a fair and equitable manner. But other than that, once you get a fair distribution, everyone’s starting at the same place in terms of approximate case value and so forth and ends up working very well for us.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, no, I’m sure and we’ll have to talk about them right now. But I’m sure you’ve had some of those retrospectives conversations that were just like oh man, we should went a different direction here with the distribution.

Neama Rahmani

Absolutely, in terms of case value, I mean, things can swing dramatically, whether it’s a piece of evidence or a witness or insurance coverage, any number of things can dramatically affect the value of the case. So you make the best judgment that you can at the time in terms of taste value, but do you need to sort of be willing to play poker, right, you kind of get your first two cards and hold them, then you know, you get the flop and things can change. And you know, you got to adjust sometimes, you want to push forward aggressively. Sometimes, you know, ends up not being as good of a case as you thought you need to withdraw entirely so

Chris Dreyer

you’re speaking my language at the poker. I was a big football player before they see all the money there.

Neama Rahmani

Allen, my partner is placed in the World Series A number of times from an SEO perspective. When we started we would have to kind of, not to say that’s not a big accomplishment, but we wanted to rank them we know we had to get all those sort of card player calm and everything kind of kind of work its way down. And

Chris Dreyer

that’s funny. I’m gonna have to look up Allen after this actually, because I’ve got a lot of friends do that. So let’s shift back to your personal development. So you know, education, they’re very focused. Are there any books that have helped develop your progress early books that come to mind that you’d like to recommend in terms of personal development or, and also just coaches and mentors?

Neama Rahmani

No, I can’t do anything in particular that, you know, I’ve read a lot of books, but nothing that I would recommend. You know, one thing I would say and not to say it was a mistake, but I got into this business after I’ve been practicing for about 12 years or so and then started a law school. So my advice is if you’re going to jump into anything, whether it’s your own firm or small, firm Just to do so, a little bit earlier in your career, for me, the challenge was, you know, making this decision after I had two small kids. And it was just, it was just very challenging those first couple years trying to raise kids and start a new business. So don’t wait for your hand to be forced do it earlier, because the sooner you do it, you’re going to reap those benefits. The other thing I would say is, at least with respect to personal injury, if you want to do it, and you want to do it, well, not necessarily books, but you really need to understand medicine through a law and medicine intersect. So I spend a lot of time with doctors more than you could possibly imagine. Because I’ve tried a lot of cases. I’ve represented a lot of clients, but I did not understand medicine until I really started doing this. So if I spent any time learning it learning from doctors right now

Unknown Speaker

The one takeaway,

Chris Dreyer

I think it’s incredible takeaway, because not only do you form a relationship with these individuals, it’s also you can understand where there’s potential value that may have been overlooked.

Neama Rahmani

Absolutely. And I want to be able to describe, you know, how my clients suffered in his or her injuries to a jury. And unless I understand the human body and the mechanism of causation, and how a bone can break and how it can be repaired, and those types of things, I’ll never be able to really convey that to a jury, the judge so that that’s important, that’s something I would, you know, tell everyone to at least plan on doing if you’re going to travel down this path.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s incredible. And then you’re then you appear more trustworthy because you have expertise on the topic, and it allows them to just trust you even more Neama. So so one final question here. Is there anything that you wanted to talk about that we haven’t discussed?

Neama Rahmani

No, I mean I I gotta tell you that you are, you know the best. It’s always great talking to you when it comes to this field the fact that you and the firm’s that you work with have been so successful in the most competitive area by far and in the country or maybe even the world when it comes to Google rankings and everything. So, you know, I tip my hat to you, Chris. Great always talking to you, and I appreciate everything you do for you and your clients.

Chris Dreyer

Neama, that’s awesome. I really appreciate it. Guys, we’ve been talking to Neama, elite personal injury attorney of West Coast Trial Lawyers. Neama, where can people go to learn more?

Neama Rahmani

Check us out. Our website hopefully ranks well, www.westcoasttriallawyers.com. West Coast Trial Lawyers is plural.

Chris Dreyer

Thanks so much.

Neama Rahmani

Have a good one.

Conclusion

Thanks for listening to The Rankings Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

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