62. Rick Console, Console & Associates Tough Business Decisions for Your Firm & Meditation For Attorneys

subscribe NOW

Rick Console thinks personal injury practice is pretty enlightening! The successful New Jersey personal injury attorney started a firm right out of college, just him and his wife, and they built it from the ground up. But, Console & Associates started to grow fast. How could Rick make sure his values were resonating throughout every clients experience?

Today, we hear how Rick made the difficult but necessary business decisions in the strive for excellence. We discuss why he preps every case like its going to go to trial, and how meditation has had a profound effect on his personal and professional life.

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

Meditation mindfulness and self-care is all the rage these days. There’s an endless selection of books, apps, and programs to choose from, maybe you’ve even tried out a few yourself! But you don’t often hear a correlation between meditation and personal injury practice.

Rick Console

I love to move people from a state of suffering to a state of knowing that everything will be okay. And what better way to do it than with meditation and recognizing that the suffering is false.

Chris Dreyer

Today on The Rankings Podcasts, we talk to Rick Console of New Jersey’s Console & Associates about how to tackle customer care when your firm is scaling quickly, why your personal ethos should drive the area you niche down into, and how mindfulness and meditation could change your approach to your firm.
That’s coming up on The Rankings Podcast, the show where founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury attorneys share their inspiring stories about what they did to get to the top and what keeps them there. I’m Chris Dreyer, stay with us.
When Rick graduated from Rutgers University he knew he wanted to be his own boss, but the associates in Console & Associates would come much later on. In the early days, Rick’s firm had just two members – him and his wife.

Rick Console

Because we worked together from the very beginning, our work relationship was a pretty natural extension of our marriage. I know a lot of times when we tell people that we’ve worked together, they say how can you stand to work with your spouse? But since we did it from the very beginning, it was just very natural. And initially, we were just going by whatever happened to walk in the door or call on the phone, it was, we were doing just general practice and, you know, the phone rang and that was, that was exciting. And after the first couple of years, I realized I started gravitating towards personal injury, I guess, for a couple of reasons. One was I felt like I was really helping the clients. Because in some of the other things like bankruptcy and divorce, you know, there were people who weren’t exactly happy at the end of the case, generally. Whereas with personal injury, it ended with, you know, a check-in their hand and they seem pretty happy about that! But I think the biggest part that I liked was when I would meet with a new personal injury client and they would come in and they were banged up and their car was totaled and there, you know, they can’t work and they don’t know how they’re going to pay their bills and they’re worried about their family… and I would spend about an hour and a half with them at the initial meeting and I would explain everything to them about nature of the law and what they were up against and how the insurance company was going to do everything they could to not give them the money they deserved. And that meeting, that was my absolute favorite part of the practice, taking people from a situation where they’re in suffering and they don’t know where to turn to a point where, you know, by the time they left the meeting, they felt very confident that things were going to be okay.

Chris Dreyer

So, you know, speaking of personal injury and you niching down to personal injury, so one of the things, you know, what do you and your team do to ensure great customer care?

Rick Console

What I’ve tried to do over the years is instill a lot of that initial customer care that I had developed when I only had a small number of clients. I tried to train the staff to handle cases that way. So, so I tried to train them on the intake process and how to stay in touch with clients and how to, you know, just make sure that the client’s expectations were appropriate and that they were happy throughout the arc of the case but it’s not always easy to replicate that. I actually ended up, you know, growing the firm to over 30 employees and it was, it got to the point where it was almost impossible to keep that same level of – and I know there, there are firms out there that seem to be able to do it – but I wasn’t able to continue to maintain that same level of quality with that many employees. So we ended up scaling down a couple of years ago to about 10 employees and it’s a much more comfortable situation.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, and with that scaling down and to just feel like you’re more connected to the staff, you can pass on a little bit easier, your values and the way that you like to do things is that part of it?

Rick Console

Yeah, it was tough because I built a lot of close relationships with the staff and it was definitely not easy. Uh, I never like to terminate anybody. It always was the most unpleasant part of running the firm for the last 25 years, but it’s been so nice to be able to get down to just a core group of the best team that we’ve ever had. And I guess a lot of firms, they could look at their staff and probably there’s probably a bell curve and there’s people that are on there that are the best and the people that are so-so, and it was nice to be able to just keep the very best people.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. You know, speaking on that, I heard something on a podcast literally today, and I just thought it was so intriguing where there was a question that you ask yourself: would that person be able to do the job if their life depended on it? And if the answer is yes, and they’re not doing it, maybe it’s a motivation thing. If the answer is no, maybe they just don’t have the capacity to do it. And I thought that was really interesting. And I think the hardest thing is just dealing with staff because we have these emotional ties and then you kind of stress about the conversation, but then once you do it, it’s like that 48 hours of pain and then you’re like, okay, well, you know that stunk, I had to do this, but now it’s better.

Rick Console

Yeah, I think I took solace in, there was a book by Jack Welch – chainsaw Jack from General Electric – and basically the way it went was that if you’re keeping somebody in a job where, you know, they’re not doing well, they know they’re not doing well there, their fellow employees know that they’re not doing well, they’re probably not that happy to be there, but they’re just sort of twisting in the wind because you know, they’re not ready to take the next step. You’re basically moving them towards a situation where they are going to be able to find a good fit. And the longer that you keep them in that twisting and a wind type situation, it’s not really helping anybody, not helping you, it’s not helping the rest of the staff and it’s not helping them. So, I think that’s a good way to look at it. I think that’s a true way to look at it though. That might sound like a rationalization, but I’ve come to believe that’s accurate.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, absolutely. And let’s, let’s switch over to the, you know, on your website, you know, and just knowing your, from you, you treat every case as if it’s going to trial. Not all law firms do that, they don’t work up the case. They’re, you know, they’re happy with just going and doing the pre-lit and just settling and, you know, what does this mean to your practice? How do you approach a case that you work up like it’s going to trial?

Rick Console

Well, what we’ve realized is that years it’s been more and more difficult to obtain adequate fair compensation for clients without litigation. It seems that insurance companies have become more and more reluctant to put any sort of significant money on a claim without kicking the tires a bit and going through a discovery process. So, knowing that we’re going to have every single case in litigation in order to maximize the value, we just sort of gear things towards that from the very beginning, as opposed to you’re in for some quicker outcome that just won’t yield the best result for the client.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. I had a Harlan Schillinger on a previous podcast and he said that even the insurance companies keep a log of which firms in which attorneys take cases to trial. And even just having someone on staff with their name on the paper, may increase some of that value!

Rick Console

Right. Yeah! The insurance companies have been using algorithms like that for years and I imagine it’s only ramped up now that we’re in the age of the algorithm and artificial intelligence.

Chris Dreyer

So, you know, you’ve been running Console & Associates since 94, you know, so clearly you’re doing something right. And our audience who may be a little earlier, along in their careers, you know, they’re just starting off. Maybe they want to pursue being their own boss or entrepreneur. What do you know now that you wish someone had told you when you just started out?

Rick Console

That’s pretty interesting. I guess there’s a number of things. One would be to try to hire good people. That, I mean, for a lot of years, I would hire people based on what they could do in a legal capacity. And what I came to realize over the years is that you don’t just want somebody for their ability to do a particular part of the work that’s needed in a law office. It’s much better to hire people based on their values and their personality and how you get along with them and whether they’re actually good people. Because over the years, we’ve hired a lot of people that were excellent at what they did and then they would drive you crazy! You know, they’re super needy or they’re high maintenance, they didn’t get along with other staff members, stuff like that. And so that was one thing, I guess another thing would be the focus on marketing because you could be the best at what you do but if you don’t have adequate marketing, you’ll never get a chance to tell the world about it. So I think marketing is an important aspect that not all attorneys value.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. So let’s talk about niching. So you chose personal injury and before you started, you know, your general practice and you took kind of all the cases, you know, David Epstein has this book called Range, it says, you know, why generalists succeed in a specialized world or something like that, where he’s saying Nidal did all these sports and then find out, found out he was good at tennis. So, then he pursued tennis versus just going into one sport that maybe you weren’t the best at. So, do you think it’s important to start in a niche or maybe work in a number of areas first?

Rick Console

I think it was beneficial for me to try my hand in a bunch of different things early on. I think that was kind of instrumental in finding that personal injury practice was along the lines of what I really liked. You know, meeting with clients and moving them away from a suffering state and that I also really liked them being happy at the end. So if I didn’t, if I hadn’t tried personal injury and I hadn’t tried the opposite where people are very upset at the end of the divorce case or things like that. I wouldn’t have known. So I definitely agree. But I’ve heard a number of books that talk about, but this whole fox-hedgehog dichotomy between people that are, and I think that the book that originally talked about the fox and the hedgehog was saying he had a hedgehog and just focusing in on one thing the whole time, but if you don’t also have an eye across the range of potential activities, you could end up doing something for your entire career that really might not be something that you enjoy doing.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. It’s the Venn diagram, the three circles were what you think you can be the best at what you have passion in and what you can make a profit in for business. And I think that if any of those are missing, you’re in trouble, but especially if passion is missing, then what are we doing with our time? So from what I’m hearing from you, it’s like, well, your values really align with personal injury.

Rick Console

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. It’s a, especially versus a lot of these other potential fields.

Chris Dreyer

In shifting from a general practice to personal injury, did you see like an operational improvement with like efficiencies and systems being easier since, you know, you, weren’t doing a number of different things and now you can really focus and refine those operations? Did that have an impact, you know, maybe on just your time and how you’re working up a case and things like that?

Rick Console

Yeah. It was a huge help because you know, when you’re trying to do, you know, trying to be a general practice firm that just helps clients with whatever legal matter they happened to have in back. I don’t even know if that will be possible today, given the way things have changed. But the operational vantage of being focused has, was really huge. It was hard in the very beginning. When I first started transitioning from other areas of law at the terminal turn, the work away was a bit of a leap of faith, but you know, the economies of scale and the operational efficiencies of having people that are doing the same thing again and again. And that’s why sometimes over the years, I’ve not experimented as much as maybe as I might otherwise have done with other areas of law, just thinking, you know, I have a whole team that’s focused on this particular type of work. And then you start, it’s like you come up with an entirely different thing, then you’ve got to retrain everybody on how to do it. And there’s a learning curve and it can be really disruptive. So yeah, there was a huge operational efficiency and I got away from all the problems associated with billable hours. Which was, again, didn’t really jive well with my personality either. Like, right, turn on the timer when somebody calls and, you know, constantly be sending out invoices and then some people don’t pay. The billable work had another set of headaches as well. So, you know, this was, this was something that I think is a good area to focus in.

Chris Dreyer

Throughout his career, Rick has had a couple of very pivotal moments, particularly in choosing a niche and making the call to scale down his firm. The high level of focus and self-awareness required to make those tough decisions doesn’t come easily to a lot of people, so I wasn’t surprised at all to discover he’s a firm follower of meditation.

Rick Console

Um, up until about three years ago, I was always reading all these books and this seemed like a very obvious, fundamental thing to do to meditate; recommended by everyone. And it’s got all these benefits, but to actually sit down and do it, it was hard to get into a routine with it because it was boring and it was, you know, hard to just sit there and, you know, what do you do? Do nothing. And you try to think of nothing. It just seemed very tedious. And I was never really able to do much with it, but then about three years ago and it kind of corresponded with the time that I decided to shrink down the firm to a more manageable and I guess more of a close-knit type firm. And I was going through a period of a lot of stress and I started meditating every day for anywhere between like half an hour and 90 minutes and amazing things flowed from that. There’s like very like more superficial stuff where, you know, you can concentrate better, you’re generally happier, things sort of roll-off you, you know, things that, otherwise might bother you aren’t that big of a deal. But I also, and I guess this has sort of become part of the national conversation with Sam Harris and other people that are talking about the nature of enlightenment, but I had a pretty amazing experiences with the meditation. And I think it can be explained even if you’re only looking at it from a purely scientific perspective. And basically what I realized was that there’s an area in your left brain, it’s a module that’s been identified both by physiologists and by psychologists as this interpreter module. And basically what it does is it’s responsible for either the little voice in your head that’s like, oh, I shouldn’t be doing this, or I shouldn’t be doing that, or sort of like that second-guessing you, and that’s always judging. And really as a result of this brain area, many people end up in a suffering state because, you know, they feel like they can never measure up or they feel like they’re not good enough or they feel like they’re regretting something that happened in the past, or they’re worried about something that’s going to happen in the future. And what was really interesting is about 90 days into this daily meditation, that chatter all stopped – and not that it hasn’t come back every single day since, but it was an amazing experience because I was able to see a lot of things about reality without it being mediated by the left brain.
There’s a really interesting book it’s called ‘A Stroke Of Insight’. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it was a Harvard psychologist researcher, and she actually was actually a brain scientist. And she ended up having a stroke one morning and it happened to be in that same left-brain region that I’m talking about. And she said that when that happened, she had this, once that part of her brain was shut down, she went into this state, which is very much like the state that I achieved, the meditation, where the interpreter module or the, you go with mind, if you will, to shut down and the experience of everyday reality without that module going all the time, judging everything and saying, well, it would be better if this happened or, you know, it could be, you know, someday we’ll be happy once we get X number of dollars, these types of things. Once that’s not there, everything is actually perfect. And it’s really strange because people spend their entire lives struggling against the way the universe currently is and through meditation, you could actually arrive at a state where you recognize everything is perfect exactly as it is.

Chris Dreyer

So I read ‘Miracle Morning’, Hal Elrod’s book and he adds that to his more, you know, miracle morning routine meditation. But even when I tried it, it just felt odd, or didn’t know if I was doing it right. So what you know, for our listeners, you mentioned the book, you know, what, where would you start if they were interested?

Rick Console

There was a very interesting book that was pretty instrumental, it has a series of guided meditations by Sally Kempton and it’s called ‘Doorways to the Infinite’. And it’s a, it’s a series of guided meditations. And it’s actually, it’s actually based on this ancient Hindu text and so, I don’t want to scare people off because you know, it doesn’t, it’s not like you have to switch your religion in order to try and meditate, but this book it’s sort of like a tried and true method to attain higher levels of meditation. And I think if it wasn’t for that, it wasn’t for that book I’d probably be back to say I just can’t do it, it’s too annoying. And I don’t know, I guess because when you’re able to get that level of peace, you will eventually become kind of addicted to it. So it’s not so much finding a time to do it or disciplining yourself to do it as it is, you know, you realize how much different you feel when you skip it.

Chris Dreyer

Wow. Hmm. That’s really interesting. I, you know, I’ve always thought that it was a little fufu or, you know, a little, and so every time I tried it, I just wasn’t in the right mindset. And I just, I think that just hearing it so much, this is the second time I’ve heard it today about meditation, it’s like, maybe that there’s, that’s a sign that, hey, Chris, you need to take this seriously. And it’s really interesting because you’re right where I think so many of us strive. You’re like, oh, I hit this next level of wealth, I’ll be okay then. And then you hit it and you’re like, oh, then I got to hit this next. And then it’s like, I think part of what I’m hearing is like, you need to like, look at reality and like what your experiences you’re having right now and how perfect they are right now, as opposed to what would happen in the future lows, aspirational type situations.

Rick Console

Yeah. That’s exactly right. We spend our whole lives in a state where we’re like, well, it’s not great yet, but someday it’s going to be great. And if you think about it, you know, we’re postponing all of our happiness into the future and the future doesn’t exist. You know, it’s a mental construct that there’s a future and it’s a mental construct that there’s a past. So people are spending their entire lives regretting the past and worrying about the future or planning for the future. And you could spend, you know, your entire life in these totally false mental constructs and never actually experienced the bliss of the present moment. And then when I hear myself telling people that, and I look at it from, you know, the normal perspective of the everyday person going about their business and it just sounds crazy. What, everything’s perfect? How could everything be perfect? It’s not going to, I have this problem that my back hurts and this, I gotta do this thing, so, you know, I really recommend taking that journey to see beyond the illusion of the egoic mind, because otherwise, you’re just going to spend your whole life in this quasi suffering state, which kind of ties back to the reason that I got into personal injury law, right? I love to move people from a state of suffering to a state of knowing that everything will be okay and what better way to deal with them with meditation and recognizing that the suffering is false.

Chris Dreyer

I really liked that a lot. I think that’s incredibly powerful. You know, Rick, as we come to a close, we have a segment called our three for three. It’s just a quickfire round, kind of just go from the gut and, uh, number one, you know, which habit contributes the most to your success?

Rick Console

Well, I guess we covered that one, right? The meditation really does. I mean, there’s, I’ve read a whole bunch of books on habits and I’ve been trying to integrate a bunch of them as far as exercise and fasting. They’re all very helpful, but the meditation is definitely the number one thing.

Chris Dreyer

Wonderful. Which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Rick Console

I guess it’s probably a cliche now, but I really admire Elon Musk. I think that you know, he really is a visionary with regard to what’s coming down the pike and I also really admire that his, his motivation seems solely focused on trying to help the human race.
I mean, he’s already the richest man in the world, I believe, and could do whatever he wants, but meanwhile, he’s working 80 hour weeks to try and make us a multi-planetary species so we don’t wipe ourselves out. He just put a hundred million dollar X prize out for removing carbon from the atmosphere to help with global warming and just to be able to run all those companies. I mean, I, I have my hands full with, with a 10 person company that can’t even get my brain around how he does what he does.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I think he, there was an announcement when he became the richest person in the world. He’s like, oh, that’s interesting, now time to go back to work. I was like, geez, he’s got a different mindset. So, and then final question here, which is the one business book that’s changed your life or your career the most… or both?

Rick Console

I was reading a recent book that, I don’t know if this would be one of the best ones ever, but it’s been helpful lately, it’s called 80%. The author is Sullivan. And it’s funny because it’s like, it’s not, I thought when I first saw the title, that it was late, the 80 20 rule something along those lines. But basically what he said is that most people undermine their ability to get things done by being perfectionistic and wanting everything to be a hundred percent perfect when they do it. And then because they’re so worried about things being a hundred percent perfect, they end up postponing things until just, you know, until they’ve done the proper preparation and things are exactly right. And that the net long-term effect of this is you end up not really accomplishing a lot of what you could accomplish because you’re in this pattern of perfectionism and procrastination. And I’ve been implementing this in my life a lot lately and it really it’s really proven to be very helpful because you really don’t need to have things at a hundred percent perfection. And in fact, until you begin actually engaging in the task, it’s difficult to even understand what it would take to make it a hundred percent successful. So, that’s gotta be one of my favorite books cause it’s helped me a lot right now.

Chris Dreyer

I love where that interview went! Every successful attorney I speak to has their own approach to the challenging environment of growing and managing a firm. Meditation has been a grounding philosophy for Rick and that parallel between personal injury and meditation is one I’m going to remember for a while. Hey, maybe I’ll even give it a go one of these days myself!
You’ve been listening to The Rankings Podcast, I’m Chris Dreyer. A huge thanks to Rick Console for joining us and you can find more info as always in the show notes. And we want to hear from you! Got any meditation or mindfulness tips you want to share? Drop us a review and let us know. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

Get Our Best Personal Injury
Marketing Tips

Delivered straight to your inbox
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Comments Below

Let us know your thoughts

More Episodes