61. Robert May, The May Firm Tech Tools For Attorneys, Hiring For Excellence & Mentorship

subscribe NOW

Robert May thinks you should make hashtags from your core values! The Californian personal injury attorney and grew The May Firm to 8 offices statewide, and he bought his family along for the ride. Working with siblings can either be a minefield or a total home run, so how did Robert find the balance?

Today, we discover Robert’s tech-first, open-minded approach to running his firm. We discuss how to hire for excellence, why Slack is a surprisingly effective tool for boosting morale, and why company core values are more than just words on a wall.

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

Our first work experiences teach us way more than just how to earn a buck, they can give us our ethos for life. Today’s guest got his start the hard way, working with his father at his cement company – as he described it, digging dirt! Experiencing the value of a hard day’s work lit a fire under him, and he slugged it out to become the first kid in his family to graduate from college. His major was finance, but a suggestion from a new friend led him in a whole new direction.

Robert May

I thought I would be like a financial planner or kind of run my own financial planning business, but a little bit after school I made a really great friend who’s an attorney, and like two weeks into our friendship he’s like, what are you doing, you should be a lawyer? And I’m like, I should be a lawyer!

Chris Dreyer

Today, we hear about how Robert May of The May Firm not only carved out a slice of the personal injury pie for himself, but he brought along his family too. Plus, we talk about why Slack can be a surprisingly effective tool for boosting morale and why company core values are more than just words on the wall. 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.
Robert says he took a lot of his work ethic from his first experience at his father’s cement business, but it wasn’t only grit and hard work that he learned from his father. He also learned how to treat clients like family.

Robert May

When we were kids, I just saw how he interacted with people. And this is a funny one but he always kept a cooler of like drinks in his truck and so it would be awesome when he got home and be like, yes, we get a coke finally! But what he was doing is he would just go from job site to job site, but he’d always like to have something for everybody, not just whoever the project manager is, but like, everybody involved. That’s just like a little example of the way he, he would just care a little bit more and like do a little bit extra. And I just, I kind of always picked up on that and I try to do the same thing, not just with clients, but even just in my normal life. My kids always joke that if they go to the gas station with me, it’s going to take 10 minutes. Cause I’ve talked to the gas station guy.

Chris Dreyer

That’s like the Dale Carnegie, everyone knows them by their first name, the ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’. And it’s, I think there’s something powerful with that because I know when I, I meet an individual and they call me by my first name, then it like, I don’t know, like immediately gets my attention. So, let’s talk about implementing some of those at the firms. So. you know, what are some of those things that you do to try to, you know, treat clients like family and what do you do differently that from other law firms to make them feel comfortable in the environment they’re in, where maybe they just had a serious accident or something really terrible occur.

Robert May

The energy the client’s going to get is probably the same energy that’s in your office when the clients aren’t there. And from our perspective, it’s like I’m the way I am all the time at work or at home, meaning I want people to be their best, to be supported and be able to like accomplish everything they’re capable of accomplishing. And I want to push them just like I want to push myself and.All the different way. I try to do things a little bit better each day. But I don’t want to be like a fear-based motivation. I mean, I probably am a little fear-based because I want the client to have great results, I want the employee to feel supported and all these different relationships that I have, but the people around me, I don’t want them to live and like work under fear. I’ve been in that experience personally, and it just like takes a lot out of you and you’re just… you’re worried about just disappointing the person that’s above you in whatever capacity that is.

Chris Dreyer

So, would you say it’s like a more open environment and do you really look for, I know, you know, you have family that works with you and dive in. I got some questions about Garrett in a moment, but do you really look for those, those values? Do you believe in core values? Some people do some people don’t.

Robert May

Yeah, so it’s funny you say that. I feel like sometimes that they’re a little cliche, like when people would come up with core values and I’ve kind of changed my in on that. I think it’s because sometimes you might have a set of core values, but if you’re not communicating them and exposing the people around you to what you really truly believe in, like, what’s really important to you….they might know, like, Chris is awesome at his job, he’s informed, he treats people around him really well, but they might not know that these are like really significant, like it’s critically important to how you live your life. And so I’ve kind of done a little bit of a 180 on that. And then we’ve taken our core values and, you know, written them down and talked about them at the office. And they’re a component of some of the ways we recognize great work in our offices, on Slack with like hashtags. Our core values are our hashtags. When we see somebody like learn about something that they didn’t know about, bring it back to the office and say, hey, I just learned this, I just saw this, we should start doing this, this is a change we can make or if somebody just goes way above and beyond for a client, like that’s one of our core values. I thought it would be gimmicky and people would maybe think, oh, he’s just trying to do something business people do or something like that. But it’s something that’s really, I think, been a cohesive factor for our office. It’s like they’re going up as artwork and they’re going to go in the office and they’ll be on the walls in each one of our buildings. You know, it’s like a reminder. One of them is just a talk with a smile because, for me, I’m going to be feeling good on the inside. But if I’m, I’m just trying to get through our conversation on multitasking or whatever, like the energy you get might be like, oh, he’s not into this and that, that’s not what I’m actually feeling. So. Yeah, that would be an example of a core value for us.

Chris Dreyer

I think that’s an amazing core value. That’s something I haven’t heard, but it’s so true. You know, when you write an email or you’re doing even a message on Slack, either people may interpret things differently cause they can’t see you versus jumping on Zoom and they can read your body language. Yeah, I wasn’t going to go to the technology route, but you kind of forced my hand here because you’re talking about Slack. So, what kind of technology and tools do you find really effective at your job?

Robert May

So we, for our case management, we use File Line, which has a texting feature. I mean, it has a massive amount of capabilities to it. And we have our, our office managers, who’s like the CEO of Slack at our office, meaning she’s the one who is always learning the newest updates and then rolling them out. And we use Podium for texting individual clients, new clients, people that are on board. The main office numbers we can text from and receive information. Obviously we use Get Accept for electronic signatures.We used to use doc DocuSign, we changed to Get Accept because it was just visually I thought a little more, little more interactive, you can like attach videos, you can personalize it a little more. I thought it just had a little bit more of a personal touch. And the way that way things are going, not just with COVID, but just generally with technology, it’s like, you’re trying to find ways to still connect with people. I mean, this podcast, like a perfect example, you know, you’re trying to find a way to really connect with people, even though I’m not in your office with you.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. I really liked that cause you had your technology already kind of set up for this and Slack’s of course is perfect for the communication component and you know, introducing some personality with the GIPHYs or the emojis or whatever you want to do.

Robert May

And all that stuff maybe from, from my perspective, I think I undervalued maybe years ago and like, I really enjoy it. So, we have Slack channels that are literally like podcasts, or movies you watched, or vitamin D! Everyone’s taking vitamin D vitamin C, you know, we’re all trying to stay healthy. And so it’s fun to get, to share all these. I’m addicted to consuming information and just stuff people are learning and doing. So I like, I like having a place to go, hey, check this out. So it’s been, it’s a way for us because our office is a little bit segmented because we have offices in different cities, you know, it’s not 30 people in one building. People are segmented in different offices and so it’s been a good way for us to not just bring on new people, but stay connected with everybody even when we’re apart. We’ve been doing Zoom meetings for a few years now at our office and so we kind of were already a little bit familiar with the technology and we’re ready to go.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. First of all, I really love the specific channels on the different type of interest, because we made a channel just called lounge and it used to be called water cooler, but I changed it to the lounge because every time I think a water cooler, you automatically think of gossiping!

Robert May

I was going to say, too much gossip!

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And I wanted it to be more like a friendly conversation, not like gossiping. So, so that’s why we called it that, but I liked the idea of the, you know, the different channels for different interests and things like that. That’s awesome. So there’s a couple of things that you said about personalization. I like to switch from DocuSign because you said it had a little bit more personalization. Yeah, your Slack, you mentioned Zoom and this ethos, these values that you try to have at the office, but, you know, I, I’ve got a question here. So, you know, what is kind of the compromise between efficiency and those personalizations and bespoke and doing things a little different, you know, every firm has maybe their standard operating procedures of how you do X. You know, where is where’s the line? Where do you introduce those personalizations?

Robert May

So, where we introduce them as we kind of roll, like it depends, I guess, on what it is. So if it’s something that’s client based, we’ll usually roll them out ourselves first. Like, hey, what’s this feel like for you? Because my intended effect might be, some might be felt differently as a recipient. So a lot of times it’s really just rolling them out with, you know, Caroline, our case manager, Garrett, or Cameron. It could be, you know, like a new client document, just like, is this too much? If there’s a video saying like, hey, we’re happy you’re here at the firm. Rob, you’re going to be meeting this person and this person, they’re a team, they’re going to be at least walking you through the beginning steps of your case. You know, is it like weird? So it’s like, sometimes I’m like, is this, is that weird or is it nice? It’s nice, okay. Thanks for this is just a little extra something that I don’t know if it works. I think it works and it’s sincere. And so sometimes I’m, I should probably get over my insecurity and be like, yeah, this is a good thing.

Chris Dreyer

Having people at the firm to bounce ideas off or before bringing them to their clients is a great idea. But what happens when those colleagues are your brothers? Working with siblings can either be a minefield or a total home run, so I want to know how Robert maintains that family bond while also being a boss.

Robert May

It’s always evolving. In the last couple of years, you know, some of our conversations are like, it’s not just the three of us anymore. Like we have to do things a little bit…. things have to be done a little bit different. Like we have to delegate, you know, by virtue of other three of us starting a practice with a few cases, you know, you have a really specific way of handling it and learning how to scale. That was difficult. But generally how it works is Garrett really manages the litigation department, Cameron really helps manage the pre-litigation department – pre-litigation being like cases that haven’t been filed yet – and then I started managing the rest, all of it. And then we’re all kind of bringing in trying to bring in new ideas and, you know, I probably spend more, more time trying to find out what other people I really respect are doing and like good ideas they have and see if those are things we can bring into our office. You know, sometimes the two of them are probably so busy just day to day, with court hearings, depositions, trials, et cetera, that, you know, that’s the more my role at our office.

Chris Dreyer

Well, that’s awesome that you have individuals that you can trust with their department, their skills, and you mentioned a couple of things on values and taking ideas from other businesses and firms, you know, do you guys do you have coaching that you received, do you use a business framework? Tell me a little bit about how your business has continually improved to get to kind of where the point you’re at now with multiple offices and the growth trajectory you’ve been on.

Robert May

Yes. I personally, not just me, me and multiple members of the staff, we would do business coaching and it’s, uh, it’s one of those things you think like, oh, is this worth it? It could, I guess, be a waste of time and resources, but for us, it’s actually been really valuable recently. Like in the last year, I feel like our hiring process is a hundred percent better. No doubt in that, how we put out the ad for the position, how we screen for who we interview, how we do all these things. And it’s ended up saving us a lot of time and, you know, in the last, let’s say, in the last six months we’ve hired another four people, four awesome people that are just incredible. I don’t know if a year or two years ago, like, I don’t know if we would’ve found those people or maybe hired somebody else feeling a little bit like, oh, this like a good enough attitude versus an excellent attitude. And so some of that is just some of that’s been the benefit of the coaching that we had done.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. That’s wonderful. So let’s break that down a little bit on the hiring because I think that’s really interesting and I think it’s one of the most critical components because at the end of the day, when you start scaling, you can use technology, you can have, you know, amazing efficiencies and keep it simple. But at the end of the day, you got to have more bodies, you need more bodies, more utilization. So, you know, what were just a couple of those things that really improved your hiring process?

Robert May

One of the things we started doing is just if you wanted to respond to our ad, we had a dedicated phone line just for that position. And there might be three instructions in there that you have to follow specifically just to get your resume into our office. So I know if it came in, you’ve done these four steps. So it kind of just weeds out one just the amount of resumes that are like people that they want… somebody might want a job, but they don’t want to be a paralegal at The May Firm. It really trimmed down the amount of resumes are received. And then what we would do is put together, we had like a video platform where we would ask five questions and you couldn’t like record it and upload it later. Like candidate answer, you had to answer the questions live time, and we could just review all the answers you gave and, you know, effectively give it a score and go, and it would be pretty easy to go like, awesome person, probably not a great fit for our office. And then others really, this person’s like, oh, I wouldn’t have thought this person, you know… we just hired a young guy named Matt, no personal injury experience whatsoever, like three months in, he’s incredible. But if I just got his resume, I might say no. And if somebody else in the office had interviewed him and said, well, he doesn’t have the experience, like my first thought would be like, oh no, I don’t want to deal with it. Like, no, I don’t want to deal with it. But we had this channel where it wasn’t just me saying it was multiple people in the office. I’m like, dude, who is this guy? Like, I kinda like him, like. I think you’d get it and like, he’s got it. But the backup is you pair them up with somebody that’s incredible that I know is going to be good like that I feel comfortable saying is like, it’s going to be a good personality fit with him. So he gets a mentor that’s going to be a good personality like it’s going to be a vibe, I think that’s gonna work. And like, in a matter of months, it’s like, you almost have doubled the output of this person that’s really great that’s been with your office for few years because she has somebody that she can teach to do some of the things that maybe take up a lot of time in her day. So you’re kind of getting, you’re getting a ton of value to the client. The client’s getting great service and I’m not spending a year training somebody going, like, they’re not getting it, like, this isn’t working. So that’d be an example. I probably went on too long ago.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. So is that tool a Spark Hire?

Robert May

Yes. You know it?

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. We’re not using that ourselves. And I think Cameron Herold, you know, former CEO of 1-800 Got Junk, he mentioned that a few years ago. And myself, when I interview a lot of people, even if I take notes, they all start to blur together and I forget who is who. And that’s why love spark hire, I’ll also start feeling bad like maybe we should offer him a job. So it’s a good way for me to be more objective and less like emotionally, like willing to say like, no, maybe, you know, you start rationalizing, they’ll get it. And so it’s better for me if I have a little distance from it and I’m more objective, my own biases don’t play in class. And we put a question in there that’s kind of like a fast fail to save as time, like I instantly go to that question, I’m like, if they don’t get this one right they’re probably not the right fit.
So let’s kind of shift over to like operations. Is it more of a traditional hierarchy where maybe the attorney gets a paralegal or is it more of a pod where you have like a team? How are you guys most efficiently, you know, serving the client?

Robert May

We didn’t use to have a team approach, it used to be like one person is like, it depends on which department and the office will look for purposes of this. I’ll just start with like, pre-litigation, we’ve moved to a team model where you have two people together because it was a way for us to scale up and bring new people in that we knew would get like one-to-one assistance. I can’t send somebody who’s 80% there and just give them 30 clients right, deal with it. Because they’re going to mess something like it’s not good enough to the client. So we’ve moved to like a team system and it makes it just better. If somebody is out of the office, there’s like two people at a hundred percent know the case backward. And so, you know, I can go into the case if it’s something I’m not familiar with, you know, if I get a call in the moment I can pretty quickly get up to speed. There’s somebody there to answer a question and then I can kind of fill in and, you know, make a call, send an email, do whatever needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. And then our litigation it’s a little more of a team approach is how we are structured, it’s always been the same structure. So we don’t really do like a one-to-one paralegal attorney. Paralegals have different assignments, so like discoveries, we’ve kind of broken down the different components of a litigation case with different people. So they really start to specialize in just doing specific tasks in the litigation process.

Chris Dreyer

Nice. I like that. And I like kind of the, the, the senior attorney and junior kind of that mentorship and they basically indoctrinated and they get that whole feel of the right way to do things. And there’s a little of quality checking there too.

Robert May

Yeah. So if you just let someone go out on their own and I mean, there’s, there’s value to it with the right person, with the right person you’re like, oh, they’re doing incredible. But some people might just not feel comfortable being a hundred percent on their own and I’m not really totally comfortable with just letting people just fly.
Do you feel the same way? Like, well, I would like to keep an eye on everything.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, absolutely. So, kind of, switching over to personal. So, your family has roots set in the central California coast. You know, what is it about this area that you love?

Robert May

Well, I think as a kid, I don’t know if I loved it as much, it felt pretty small. But yeah, after college… I went to Cal Poly which is in San Luis Obispo and that’s where I live now with my family. But what I really like about it, I like being able to drive to the office in 10 minutes, I like going to the park, I like the school systems, I like being able to go outside and hike. It’s a pretty awesome place. It’s not super crowded, so it’s not the best for personal injury work. I mean, it’s a great place to live, but that’s how we ended up segmenting our office cause we, you know, I lived in Fresno for a few years, so we opened an office there because I had relationships there. I was down in San Diego, so they have offices down there, connected all of them together. And so at the moment, I don’t do as much traveling to all the offices as much, but usually, I’ll be like, kind of going up and back and forth to all the offices.

Chris Dreyer

As we come up to our closing segment, we do like a three for three. It’s just kind of a quick, quick-fire round here. It’s three questions, three minutes. So which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Robert May

My answer today is Ben Hogan, the golfer. And, and Hogan was, I just read his biography like maybe a couple months ago and I was just like blown away by this guy who came from nothing, had really some tragic experiences at his childhood and like, he worked so hard to become Ben Hogan, the golfer. But in the middle of his career at like the peak of his power, so to speak, he suffered this debilitating injury, he was in an awful car accident. Anyway, came back to him like majors and then started his own golf brand afterward. And like, he ran it like a really specific way, grew the brand, he had the best product, he like cared about it, it wasn’t like a licensing deal for him in the slightest. And recently, anyway, it’s probably because I’ve gotten into golf more than last year. I was like, yeah, I was just so like, I would totally recommend it really powered, like incredible guy.

Chris Dreyer

Amazing. Amazing. I’ll have to check that out. And so what business book do you recommend the most?

Robert May

I feel like when I was younger, I read more business books. I think if this, I feel like now I read, I try to find people I really like look up to and then that could be getting to know another attorney in California who I think like, wow, this person is doing something awesome like I’m going to reach out to them and just ask a couple of questions or somebody I really admire, you know. Started golfing a year ago and you’re like learning golf history, it’s like, oh, I wanna learn more about Ben Hogan. You know, like you could take a ton from all these people that do different things than you. So a lot of times I’m really just focused on like stories and people I’m most interested in like Ron Chernow’s biographies are like, they’re unbelievable, like Grant and Washington, things like that. I’d probably more gravitate to those.

Chris Dreyer

That’s that’s incredible. And I love that as well. And then the final question here. So what’s the next thing on your bucket list?

Robert May

I would like to shoot under 80 this year. That’s on my list.

Chris Dreyer

I think I’m a double bogey or triple book offer, so yeah, under 80 sounds pretty amazing.

Robert May

Well, I’m not great, I just started like a year ago. Yeah, that’d be that’s I don’t know if that’s technically a bucket list, but for me that feels like that’s the thing in my mind that like, outside of work.

Chris Dreyer

Thanks, Robert! With all the snow we’ve had up here, I’m just so jealous of the California sunny golf scene. Where other attorneys might find working with family difficult, it seems to have come pretty naturally to The May Firm. Having well-defined rules stops the brothers from stepping on each other’s toes, but they still get to make the most out of their strong bonds to let new ideas flourish. You’ve been listening to the rankings podcast. I’m Chris Dreyer, a huge thanks to Robert May for joining us today and you can find more info as always in the show notes. And we want to hear from you! What Slack channels are you putting together to help build your company culture? Drop us a review and let us know. Thanks for listening. 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