91. Russell Nicolet, Nicolet Law Building a Practice with a Purpose

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Having created his practices first website while waiting on his bar results, Russell Nicolet wasted no time in founding Nicolet Law. With a passion to help people and a drive to expand, Russell went from having just three office appliances, to leading three companies, teaching himself each aspect of the businesses along the way. Now surrounded by a first class team, Russell is able to step back and focus on the areas that invigorate him the most.

In this episode, Russell shares his motivations for founding his companies, along with his advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps.

Whats In This Episode

  • Who is Russell Nicolet?
  • What motivated Russell to found three companies, and how did he first market them?
  • Can working with family have a positive impact on your business?
  • How can you reassure staff and maintain morale during structural changes, and economically difficult times?
  • Why is having a shared mindset so crucial to building a strong company culture?
  • What should you look for when hiring external firms to work with?

Transcript

Russell Nicolet

I feel like the people that are here now, like I got to go to war for them everyday because they hung in here when things got tough, they’re super loyal and they are the most talented. And I don’t want to lose any of them.

Chris Dreyer

Company culture can make or break a business, so it’s important to ensure your whole team share the same ambitions and mindset.

Russell Nicolet

I’ve got to work on our culture to get back to my original focus, which was helping care for each other, care for our clients, and care for the community, and just build it up that way. Because rather than operate on the fear, I want people to come in everyday and feel like what they do here makes a difference for people.

Chris Dreyer

You’re listening to personal injury mastermind, the show where elite personal injury attorneys and leading edge marketers give you exclusive access to grow strategies for your firm. Russell Nicolet is a Wisconsin and Minnesota based lawyer with a mission to help people. As soon as he got his law degree in 2007, he got straight down to business with the founding of Nicolet Law, and 12 years later added two more companies into the mix, both aimed at helping local businesses and common issues Russell had faced himself. Russell joined me on the show to share his tips for growing a company, the benefits of working with family, and the importance of a strong company culture. 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. An important first step for any lawyer is to really understand the people around them, so let’s get to know our guest. Here’s Russell Nicolet, president and managing attorney at Nicolet Law.

Russell Nicolet

I wouldn’t say I always knew I would be an attorney. I think there were seeds planted by my family members over time, but you know, we come from a blue collar family. I was the first to go to college in my family, for four-year university. I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the Western part of Wisconsin, but I spent most of my life on the Eastern part of Wisconsin, Green Bay, Green Bay Packers. A real blue collar city. It’s a little different now. I was actually over there on Tuesday for depositions. I love it over there, but it’s a tourism industry now with the Packers, so it’s a little different. When I grew up over there, my mom was a nurse and my dad worked at UPS, almost his entire life. And she, I think had high hopes for all of us kids. And I remember, I had to be in grade school, she took me to a lawyer’s office in downtown Green Bay, and this is… we’re out in the sticks a bit. So this is a real fancy, and we sit in this law office and it’s got like the mahogany wood and books and the lawyers. I don’t even remember what they said. All I remember is we ate one of those cookies that’s shaped like a pizza, and I’m sure they talked to us. It was probably some lawyer marketing or outreach for the community. So my mom brought me down and that’s my first interaction or even knowledge or anything about being a lawyer. So maybe it started back then.

Chris Dreyer

That nostalgia. The giant chocolate chip cookie. Every time you go to a law office.

Russell Nicolet

I don’t even remember the attorneys. They might still have an office down there, but I do remember being impressed by just the way the office looked and felt. The problem that I had, and it’s self-inflicted, is I was not a studious child. When I was younger, I did pretty well in school, but I got to high school and I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wasn’t really focused on school. I was focused on having a girlfriend, doing what I wanted to, just whatever. And, my plan was to join the army. My grades weren’t very good, and my grandfather was a Korean war vet. And so he had told me stories and we had a history through his side of the family, going back to the civil war, of armed forces. And I thought, this is what I’ll do. And I think I was a little bit of a troublemaker, so I think also I’d been threatened to be put in military school or something that. I wasn’t a terrible kid, but I just didn’t… my direction in life was not where it needed to be. And so eventually what happened was I was with the army. They’re getting ready to… the recruiting guys are saying, Hey, you know what? They’re taking you out to McDonald’s or getting everything ready. You’re going to graduate. Yup. Yup. Yup. And my mom goes, can you just do me a favor and take the ACT for me. And I said, sure, mom. And I said, but I don’t even know where I’d go to college. She said, we’ve got to pick one. And there’s a little college in Stevens Point Wisconsin, central Wisconsin. And the only reason I picked it was because one of my teachers in high school would tell a stories about playing foosball and hanging out with his friends there. What the heck I pick that? Do the ACT. Forget about it. I’m going to go to the army. I’m pretty excited about that. And I remember, and this is probably the start of where I am today is I remember telling the recruiters, Hey, I want to be in the army because I want to see what I, I got to see what I’m made of. I want to push myself and find out what I can. And I’ve not been doing a good job of that. And they’re like, yep. Yep. We want you in any event, I got my results back and I got into this school Stevens Point. And so now I’m stuck here. Okay. I want to go to the army, but my mom really wants me to go to college. So I reached out to my grandfather who was a Korean war vet, just a really an old soul type guy. And he goes, what you got into college? You’re going to college. I think he may have barely had a high school education, maybe an eighth grade education. Most of my family members, and a lot of them turned out to do great things, but if you go back there rural Eau Claire, rural, Northern Wisconsin, and that’s, not a lot of educational background. Now, some of my aunts and uncles went to college and things like that too. But so he was super excited and I said, all right, I’m going to college. And, I told the recruiters that they are not happy with me, but I trusted my grandpa. He had fought, he was a veteran, he’s a smart guy, cared about us as kids. And I went to a Stevens Point and it happenstance a few things. One of my cousins ended up going there too. So I roomed with him and then something just clicked. I was like, all right, I’m here. I gotta earn my keep. I gotta do what I’m supposed to. So that started me in college.

Chris Dreyer

That’s amazing. And jeez, your life could have been so much different, right? If you just never went and took that ACT. And I like that you had the support of your family and they really pushed you. And of course you never want to let your family down. And I think that’s an incredible story and, jumping ahead, so you go to law school, you become a lawyer and then shortly after you’re first in again. You’re hanging your shingle in 2007, you launch Nicolet law. What were those early days? What was the trigger then to make that move, to hang your shingle?

Russell Nicolet

Some of the things started when I was in college. I joined this legal society and there was an attorney that volunteered through Stevens Point. For $5 or $10 and you could get a consultation and advice. She might even represent you. And she really helped out a lot of students. And so I got involved and this was my early days of marketing. I was just telling somebody this the other day now remembering this, I was out hanging up posters in the common areas, and I remember, just like these little cartoons, like we have legal services, $5. And so I made her probably busier than she wanted to be. That was an experience with an attorney where I saw someone just wanting to help. She had hardly anything from the school. That five bucks with nothing, it was just, she wanted to help people out. She wanted to use her law degree to help the community. I think that made me really think this is a good profession. She can help people make a difference and just be part of the community. And so when I got to law school, I’m like, I finally made it I’m in law school. A lot of the alumni were coming back the early alumni and, just graduated, just got their first job. And they’re telling us these stories about working at these big firms and, no offense to people that work in big firms, but it sounded terrible. And I’m like, I think I got in the wrong, I’m doing the wrong thing. This is not, I don’t want to work. And I went downtown Minneapolis cause I went to school in the cities. I can’t do that. I just can’t do that. And so my first semester I can still recall walking up to the front of the William Mitchell law school. I’m thinking to myself, I think next semester I’m outta this place, man. I gotta read calibrate. I gotta think about this. And so what happened towards the end of that year? I ran into, through a family friend, a solo practitioner, trial attorney in Hudson, Wisconsin, and she needed a law clerk. She had a back load of personal injury cases, had a lot of family law. And I got that job, and that transformed my thought of the legal field. Being a lawyer, working in the community. It was back to the original attorney that I met at Stevens Point. She had that same thing, but she had an office. People knew her in the community. Her clients knew her personally. And I was impressed because she ran a business and I was impressed with the way she handled cases.

Chris Dreyer

It’s clear that even before Russell’s career really got underway, he already had a great idea about what sort of lawyer he wanted. And so in 2007, with just a laptop, a printer and a scanner, he went all in, and launched Nicolet law. I asked Russell what those first few months of bootstrapping were like and how his experiences up to that point helped him on his way.

Russell Nicolet

Picked up a few things from her. When I left her office, I left her office right before I took the bar exam. I decided I had all my chips in and I needed to pass this bar exam. So I took off, I think, a month or two before the bar exam and went all in. Just like a job. I would get up and just study. And I had actually been clerking as like an internship for a judge. And I told the clerk there. I said, my goal is I’m going to get licensed in Wisconsin and I’m going to get licensed in Minnesota. because then I’m going to have enough work in both states. And she’s like that’s a tough thing. Don’t get your hopes up cause you got to score high enough. And I said, that’s my goal. I’m doing it. I’m going out on my own. And then I think between the two states I’ll have enough work to start. And so that was my plan going in and I did it. I passed the bar in Wisconsin and my scores high enough that I was able to waive in Minnesota. I didn’t have an office. I had the laptop, I bought a Dell laptop, like 500. I bought it from Jitsu scanner that I’d done all this research on, cause that’s a huge purchase. It’s about 500 bucks as well. And then I think a laser jet printer, which was a big expense. So I was like 1500 bucks, man. That was about it.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And you know that your story is quite a bit different. Cause most people they’ll start in their local city. They’ll own their territory there. And then they expand out. But you’re like, Hey, I’m going after Minnesota and Wisconsin, I’m going to have multiple offices and really expand, so you said, Hey, I learned PPC, I learned payroll, human resources. What were some of those early hires like? To take off some of those hats to really take it to the next level?

Russell Nicolet

I think the first thing what happened and I took the bar exam. And I didn’t know that I’d passed. You wait, everybody waits in anticipation. You hope to hell you pass. But I said, what am I going to do right now? I think I got a temporary job reading tests somewhere. And it was just like, I couldn’t do it because he, the whole time you get this thing hanging over your shoulder. And so I went there and I just, I like, you know what, I think I just got to go all in. So I created my own website during, back then you buy a template online. We’re talking in 2007, started learning pay-per-click and I put together the website and I didn’t put it live because I’m not an attorney yet. I can’t do that. But I get it all staged. And then as soon as I got that letter and I was sworn in, I put that thing online. And traffic eventually started coming in. Now that was not where we’re at today. The internet competition was nowhere near, I think pay-per-click was like 5 cents a click, so I could experiment and be wrong, and it didn’t cost a lot. Now back then, 50 bucks was a lot of money for advertising for, trying one game or another. But what I did, to answer your question, is I had a cousin who lived in Eau Claire, a friend of mine, almost like a brother. And I said, Hey, I am a lawyer now, I think you would be an excellent person to help me out. Just said, you like to help people. You’ve got that kind of the brain that just likes strategy. And I said, what do you think about going to the technical college down there and getting like a paralegal degree? He’s that sounds awesome to me. And I’m like, I can’t pay you a lot. So I’m just going to have to pay you like contract. If you work 10 hours for me, send me the bill for 10 hours. And he’s just that sounds good to me. And he’s probably living in his mom’s house at that time and I couldn’t afford legal research. So because of my time working for the judge, I knew there was a law library and the Washington county, which is 10 minutes, the Washington county courthouse, 10 minutes from where I lived. So I would drive them to the law library and do Westlaw, all this stuff, for free. I spent so much time in there. And then, so I started teaching him how to do that. He had learned some of this in his paralegal program. And so he was helping me. I’d say, Hey man, I got this new case, maybe it was a criminal, I got to figure this out. When you draft a memorandum, I need your help. And then he’d do it. Send me the bill. And that’s how I started shifting some of the weight off of me and doing that kind of first hire. But it wasn’t officially an hire cause one cousin and two is like an independent contractor, but that was the start. That was the first employee. He’s still here today. Now he’s a real employee, but we’re talking, that’s 2007. He’s been with me now, 14 years.

Chris Dreyer

Incredible. And I imagine that, the why, first of all, when you start a law firm, you start a business, you’re willing to take a lot of cases probably back then that you wouldn’t take today. You said criminal, you said probably everything came in the door. You’re like, Hey, we got to make revenue. So where did you reinvest in where did that, the heel you start to come on the other side where you start to develop that consistent pipeline. Was it. Still PPC, TV, SEO. What was the big change?

Russell Nicolet

So back then I had my website, I was still running it and I was doing what we do now. And I was just thinking about this this morning. I had the right idea back then. I just didn’t know exactly what to do. I was building content, built a lot of it, because I didn’t have the time to draft all of the content myself, you could buy content from I think it was no low or some other places. And we found out later that Google penalized and it was stupid, but I didn’t know that. So I was trying to make my website, this resource. Semi-truck accidents, car, everything that I did. I didn’t have to worry so much about family law and criminal law, because as long as you said you did it, the cases were coming in. I had that website. And the cases would just come in between the website and the pay-per-click was generating a pretty, fairly strong stream of work. And then what kind of worked for me and I didn’t plan on this was because I’m down in the cities area at my main office at this point is in Hudson back in 2007, I’ve still got this thing that I’m doing over in Woodbury, but because I’m in Wisconsin in Hudson’s considered part of the Metro. A lot of the folks that lived in the cities would have these cabins in Northern Wisconsin. So they would look for an attorney. They’d have land disputes issues up there, and then I would get hired down here to go up there and represent them. They were usually fairly well to do, doctors, other business professionals. And so I started getting into the civil litigation up in the north west realestate and that helped out it was fun to get going in. And that was the pay per click, the website that really worked well for me.

Chris Dreyer

You talked about your mother wanting you to go to law school. You talked about your grandparent wanting you to go to college. What’s like a proudest moment. You’re like, Hey, this is all real. This is I’m running a legit business. Like where is, there’s this proudest moment that comes to come to mind that maybe you had this experience that stands out?

Russell Nicolet

Yeah. There’s been a series of things. It’s hard because as you realize in business, sometimes there is two steps forward, one step back. And part of my personality has been a risk taker and always trying to get bigger and grow. And originally I didn’t plan it that way. I actually was doing like you pointed out general practice and I ran into in Hudson. I ran into an entrepreneur who now runs a really successful business. And back then I was answering my own phones. I’m doing everything right? And so he calls me up and says, Hey, I need someone to help me with my business, and it’s your lucky day because I called this larger law firm and he transferred me to a partner and he didn’t want to deal with me. And I said let’s meet. And so it turned out he had all this work, this growing business. And he asked me one time, Hey, what’s your plan? What is the plan? You’re going to have more offices you’re going to have. And I’m like, I don’t know right now. I just don’t know. My plan is to continue to make a living. I really wanted to help people. I really love the practice of law. I had quite a bit of courtroom experience because I was doing general practice. So I’d been thrown in family law, criminal law, and I was in and out all the time. Because I took any case that came in. I had certain criteria, but you know, if the person was a good person and they said, they’re going to pay me, sometimes he didn’t. I’d take a retainer, they’d say Hey, I got court tomorrow. I do it. I tried a non-compete case. I think two weeks out from the trial, I told the guy to call a more seasoned attorney, that attorney wouldn’t take it. So he called me back and said, I need to try this case. I said, we’re going to have to put together a retainer that says, I don’t think I can, even when I’ve done no discovery, but I’ll go there and I’ll fight for you and do everything he said, okay. So jumped into a trial. That stuff was, those were a lot of proud moments of I think getting clients and then helping them, that, that made me feel like I made it. Like I finally am doing, circling back to what the attorney that I met in college and then the attorney that I worked for in law school, I felt now I’m a real attorney. I’m helping people, I’m making a living because there was a point where I really wasn’t making a living. And I do remember sitting down at the river one morning going am I just going to wake up every morning and work and and not make money and then hope for the best. But eventually all of that, just working hard, answering the phone, doing pay-per-click, staying up when I get back from work, doing content, doing pay-per-click and finally, I don’t know if it was about a year in, the needle started to move. And I’m like, now I’m getting a paycheck. And I remember telling one of my friends when I saw him at a wedding, Hey man, I’m making X amount now. And he’s oh no, that’s excellent. And it wasn’t a whole lot of money, but I’m like I made that myself, I bootstrapped the office together. I’m getting a paycheck. I can actually contribute to the household now, because my wife’s been float me and she, wasn’t making a lot of money. She worked for Wells Fargo. It was her first job. She basically got into Wells Fargo is like an admin assistant, even though she had a college degree through a friend of a friend. So we were living on a pretty, really tight income. And so to answer your question, when I finally started paying myself, I’m like, man, I made it. I’m an attorney. I’m helping people. I’m winning some, I’m losing some, but I’m helping people. They work with me and I get paid. At that point, and I’m working with my cousin, I got to made. And I’ll just circle one thing too is just so that my cousin works for me and he still worked for him and he still does. And what I did then is basically my brother went to the army, he got injured and he was in Madison. He left school early to go to the army and we convinced him to come back, finish his degree. And then come and go to law school and work. And so it, we, I started bringing in my family members, and that’s how we grew and grew. And even though, like I told them that we wouldn’t have enough work, I’m like, we’re going to get you network. I want you to work here. So he works here. My one brother, then eventually my other brother now my sister, my mom actually even works there. Now she’s a registered nurse and now she evaluates cases. So I decided I want them all to work with me. And then they helped me build the offices. Cause I had these people that were really reliable, they’re hardworking. And not only did they want the businesses to succeed as employees, but they wanted to succeed, being my siblings, my mom.

Chris Dreyer

In 2019, Russell took his next big entrepreneurial step. In fact, he took two. Whilst Nicolet Law continued to grow, Nicolet Creative and Nicolet Tech joined the lineup. I asked Russell what drove his decision to found these new companies.

Russell Nicolet

I’ve got all these ideas and I’ve always had that as far as I can remember this kind of like explosion of ideas in my head. One of the guys. He was an early client of mine who now is my employee on the tech side. He basically came to me, and we did a little bit of bartering cause I had been working for him and he goes, Hey, I worked for a tech company and you could really use my tech cause I’m starting to grow. And I’m like, yeah, I got an it guy. And no offense to this guy, if he ever hears it, but he wasn’t doing a real good job. And I said, do you want to work on a deal? I’ll do legal services for you. You do its like deal. And so we started that. And probably one of the smartest guys, I know. No college degree or anything just worked his way up through apprenticing with his dad to become just this genius it guy and he’s works. He was working for larger firms. He was doing veterinarian, hospitals, all kinds of stuff. And I told him, If you and your dad ever, like you decide, Hey, my dad’s going to, he’s getting on and doesn’t want to do it. And you want some help eith running that business or you want to start new business. Call me. Cause I like it. I did it as a job. In college I worked for the university. I had these ideas of starting a new business. And so eventually he comes to me and says, Hey, you still want to do an it business? And I’m like, sure. And he said I don’t want to run it. I want us to work in it. And that started Nicolet Tech and now we’re doing it for, veterinarians., We do it for Nicolet law, but it’s an awesome job. Cause it’s this other area besides being a legal professional, now we’re helping businesses. And so it’s a helping and just taking care of these issues. And then I know, wait a minute, Ryan goes there. He’s going to fix these problems. And he’s going to come into a situation where people are like, man, my it guy said he can’t do it or this or that. And he just hammers it out. And they’re so relieved because when you’re running a small business, you’re dependent now on it. And so that started Nicolet Tech. It’s been growing and we’ve been, we started doing some work with your office, your company, but really that started off as a lot of word of mouth. It’s the same thing, hey, who’s your it guy? I got this it guy who saved my butt the other night. Can you give me his number? All right. And so now we’ve got a handful of veterinarian hospitals, probably more than that, we’ve got a large manufacturing plant in St. Paul we work for, and then keeping with the family thing, my sister helps out on that, but we brought in Ryan’s son and we’re going to apprentice him up. Now he’s going to school too. He’s working, Ryan’s teaching him the ropes and it just is awesome. Ryan is a great guy. He’s one of the best employees you can have. One of the best IT gues I’ve ever met. His son is just like him. And so we’re training his Son up and it’s just it’s a beautiful thing.

Chris Dreyer

That’s incredible. And that’s quite a bit different than most business owners. Most business owners are like, no, I’m not going to work with any family. I don’t want to, I don’t want to mix family and work and you’ve made the dynamic not only work, but it’s amazing what you’ve been able to do. It’s really helped you become that entrepreneur and you have these people you can depend upon. And I guess also, does it force you the mindset like, Hey, I got to grow because I now have. This family to support and we have to keep growing. I’ve heard people say, you grow or die. And so you just keep growing. Does it force that mindset of growth?

Russell Nicolet

It does. I feel the weight of a lot of these folks. Now they count on the decisions I make. And like a lot of businesses, 2020 was a little rough. I got pretty bullish in 2019, which kind of, then this is on the law office. And I had a bankruptcy practice going here. They’ve been doing pretty well. I had started that at one time. And. It was, I had done constant complicated bankruptcy trials. So I felt like we could be one of the best bankruptcy firms, because not only can we handle the run of the mill bankruptcy, but I’ll try the bankruptcy against these creditors. I tried, I’ve been successful when it gets banks. And I noticed that in that bankruptcy space, it was Hey, We’ll do the run of the mill bankruptcy for X amount. If you get more trouble, that’s your problem. And an RN, I always thought we’re going to do this kind of a volume, but when the price you pay is when some of these complicated one comes in so many needs help, then we’re going to litigate and they don’t have the money to litigate. We’ll make a deal. You’re litigating a case that usually would be maybe 30 to $50,000 in attorney fees. And, maybe we’ll go for five grand because that was the price that we need to pay to make sure that. The trustees, the creditors know we mean business, but then also that’s just, when you’re doing that handling of any bankruptcies, you gotta be prepared to help everybody. And some are gonna be complicated. And so I thought I created this bankruptcy blueprint. And so I had been doing some bankruptcy, same with my brothers, but we’re still doing the injury work. So we hired all these folks to just do the bankruptcy process and the attorneys, if that’s all they did staff, that’s. And surprisingly bankruptcy’s went down. At least what we saw during the pandemic. And what I realized too, is it just, if we wanted to be an injury law firm, we’re diluting our message. And it was a lot of sleepless nights originally creating a bankruptcy division, but then eventually it got to the point where like we needed to get rid of it. We had a pretty big thing going. I eventually parted ways with that whole division in 2020, beginning of 2021. And that was a little bit like I was talking about the couple of steps towards a few steps back and it made me reevaluate. Okay. What do I do? I gotta be careful with what we’re doing here, because some of these decisions, like I’m okay taking the risk. I gotta be careful if I’m going to let go of one at any, you get, let go of some of these terrible, but I’ve got all these family members and then I’ve got lifelong employees whose families depend on us. And so then we decided, Hey, we’re going to focus in on injury law. We really like it. And we’re going to build up the practice with a little bit tighter foundation rather than spreading out. Because we know, they’ve got to be paid, they’ve got to have steady income and they’ve just got to know job security. It’s one thing, getting a paycheck and paying your bills, getting groceries. But it’s another thing when you’re getting home at night and you’re just not, even if you’re getting a paycheck, you’re just not sure what your employment future is. That weighs on a person. And so my goal has been in 2021. Is to make sure that we are thinking five, 10 years ahead. So now that’s where I’m focusing. So that the folks that have chosen to work here, and many of them that have worked over five years, seven years, some even over a decade, they can rest assure, like we’ve got a plan and that we’re going to stick to that plan and that they can feel good about their career and their stability for their family.

Chris Dreyer

I’m going to ask a follow up question here, and this is self-serving. On a different end, when you see someone, maybe that’s not performing. And you have to do you have to terminate those individuals. And I’m the same way. Jeez. I, there’s nothing worse when you have to let somebody go and you end up say letting go a few people, like what’s the balancing act because I sometimes I’m like, I fired three people consecutively. I’m going to just put the fear and everyone else. And if they’re all fearful, maybe they’re not working at their maximum capacity. Maybe they’ll start looking for another job because of their security. So what’s like that balancing act. And how do you communicate that message to the rest of the organization?

Russell Nicolet

We did let go quite a few people and that, that was delicate because the question was, I think I’m most employees minds. Am I next on the list? Am I gone? And originally it was unknown exactly how far, because we knew the bankruptcy division is going to go, then that starts to go into even take another general staff. And my brothers helped a bit with that too. We started to think about what employees do we need now and what could we potentially keep, even though they weren’t necessarily bankruptcy. They were more in the support staff, but assuming we can get busier in the injury space, then we can keep them because they’re great employees. And can we do that? And so that was the balancing act of, okay. We know we got to get rid of bankruptcy and the folks that want to just do bankruptcy, that’s all they’re going to do. And that’s all they can do. Not that they couldn’t do something better, but that’s really what they’re focused on and what they want to do. We know that it’s got to go, but now the other thing is these other individuals, and I think what we came down to is. Who’s working hard here that even though they maybe were more needed with the bankruptcy practice, they will be needed. And they’re just so valuable and talented. We need to keep them regardless. And so that’s what we tried to do. And then to answer your question, I got a little bit, and I don’t know if the blockies, the word unfortunate, but some individuals also left at that time or shortly after themselves, maybe concerned for just what you said. And it made some decisions that I would have had to made to make myself much easier in. It’s hard to know now, you know what I have picked some of them to leave, but what it did turn out for us is that the individuals that did stay, I think are, and I no offense to people that have really bring place, but we do have some of the best employees. I’m not just saying from our group of employees, but if you looked at, in this area legal professionals as a whole, I think we ended up with a lot of people. Good employees. And then individuals that are like the loyalty that they have the office. If there’s any kind of litmus test, they pass that. So I feel like the people that are here now, like I got to go to war for them everyday because they hung in here. When things got tough, there are super loyal and they are the most Alison and I don’t want to lose the idiot. And so that helped me make the decisions, but I also don’t ever have to put the fear in them. I think what I found out now and what I’ve been working on is I get to work on our culture to get back to my original focus, which was helping like, and I have heard another attorney, andrew Finkelstein, it’s that caring. And I’ve always thought that’s really important. And so I really want to build the, that concept. And I know we all leave this. I need to portray this better to the firm. And we’re working on just that caring and care for each other who care for our clients. And we care for the community and just build it up that way, because rather than operate on the fear, I want people to operate on that I love this job and I think a lot of people already do this, but I want to make sure they know that this is why you’re here. I’m going to fire you because I think you’re, you may be slacking a bit. I want people to come in every day, excited that what they do here makes a difference for people that they help people. This is a noble and historic profession. And on top of it, like all your coworkers, when you come in and I think most everybody can say this. We feel like friends. If someone’s our family, obviously we can feel like friends. So when you come in, this is your group, man. People would rather be in maybe on vacation or hanging out with their kids or do this. But when they, if they’ve got a work, which you know, most of us do when they come here, this is a place they want to be. And so that’s, I’m working on the culture and we’re working on creating a situation where it’s not necessarily as room for moving up. Position-wise because we’re not that big yet, but there’s room for better benefits for each person better pay so they can see this is going to be the future for them. This is provide the groceries, the gas, everything for them and their family. And so that’s like where I’m at now. And I’m hoping, rather than the fear aspect, it’s just that we love being here. We want to contribute. We love the clients, we love each other. And that’s why we’re just gonna work here. And then when people come in to interview and want to see, or people just reached out to me, they’re like, man, that’s where I want over. I liked that place. Like my firm’s okay. But man, Nicolet Law, look at them. Everybody loves it there. And so that’s where I’m feeling. And 2020 or whatever, you know what happens? That’s reset it for me. And it was some sleepless nights, hard times, no family members at not at Joe’s throat. My brothers and I had some decent arguments. It was rough, but yeah, now I feel like not that everything happens for a reason, but we’re definitely getting better. We are better if we’re going to keep getting better because of.

Chris Dreyer

That’s so powerful. That reminds me I’m not sure if you’ve read the book, the hard things about the hard things, ben Horowitz book, it’s the shift from a peacetime CEO to a wartime CEO. So you went through this like war time CEO, where he had to make these tough decisions for really, for the betterment of everyone to get the focus back. And then, you got the culture back to where people enjoy, their environment and it’s really powerful. And I applaud you for that. On the business book front, are there any business books that come to mind that really had a big impact on you and your trajectory for growing the firm?

Russell Nicolet

It’s hard because over 2020, I read so many books. I decided to invest in myself and make myself better. One of the problems and we’re talking about the businesses I had hired a coach at one point, he got involved in handled wrong. Some other things that I had read. You as the president should focus more on running the organization. And I started to think about that and it got into my head. And then I realized after in 2020, that business needs me to do that, but it also needs me to be a trial lawyer. Cause that’s when I’m happy. Like when I’m trying cases, when I’m working cases, when I’m meeting with clients, just sitting in my office, sending out emails and looking at spreadsheets, I’m never going to be happy. I’m not at my best is going to be more stressful balancing. Yes, but that’s what I want to do. And so I wish I could tell you a book off hand, but man, I’ve read so many books in 2020. I joined trial school in 2020. I met so many great people, a lot that, which are your customers like I, and one of the things that really made me think about one, this culture. But I looked at when I started off office, what made me successful now, 50 bucks, an outsize was out of money. I had one laptop, but what was my focus? It was helping people. And it was using my knowledge of what people are looking for legal services. So then it’s been like, okay, I’m going to go back to that. We’re going to focus on that. Helping folks on, why did my cousin come here? Do you want to work with me? Cause you enjoyed working with me. We had a great culture, but. I had an idea back then what I need to do marketing. Now I’ve got to find the best of the best vendors to do that for me and rely on them based on my original thoughts, but doing it to another level. And so all of this stuff, whether it’s one book or one podcast or whatever, I don’t know if I can say that, but I can say that like a mixture of 2020, like just reading as much as I could listen to any pod. I mean before we started working with you, I was like, I don’t want to say a stalking you, but man, I was reading all your stuff and you had put all podcasts, you had put out blogs just things like that. I had been doing all of that and starting to come to these decisions of like I said, let’s find the best people to work with because I feel like we’ve got the best team internally. Let’s hire the best externally and then let’s go from there and then we’ll reevaluate in a year. And then on top of that, I’m going to invest in myself. I’m to become a better. I’m going to make, I’m going to leave from the front again. Cause I always believed in that, that you need to lead from the front and I’ll have athletes from the front. I think when I got pulled to this thought of me leading from behind and just general, some people can do that. That’s not my personality. I want to be providing the big revenue for the cake, for the client, the firm I want to. The one that’s coming back from trial. I A win or lose, but everybody sees that. They’re, getting in the trenches that’s what I want to do. And all of this stuff seems to be, it feels right. The culture’s feeling great. And now I’m just trying to figure out what the next step of okay. How do I project safely, but project for us to continue to grow. And so if you have books that you recommend, I’m reading them and just let me know I’m consuming as much as I can. I just love it. I just have this insatiable appetite right now. For knowledge. I have balanced that with my trial schedule and my cases, but man, I just, at night on the weekends, I’m reading, watching podcasts, check out your blog.

Chris Dreyer

Thank you for that Russell and the mindset that’s infectious. I’m like, I’m getting motivated here and you say that, so I want to go out on that, that, that tone as one final question here, and, do you have any advice for fellow personal injury lawyers looking to grow their practice, trying to grow a large successful practice?

Russell Nicolet

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I would say is you’ve gotta be true to yourself. So be who you are and don’t try to be somebody else. And then if you’re a person… I think most injury lawyers enjoy people. A lot of us enjoying what people would enjoy talking. We enjoy meeting people. Trust your instincts. You’re a social person. Get out there. If you don’t have the money to do marketing, get out and network and just do the right thing for your clients, do the right thing for your community. And you’re going to build a practice, but at some point, because of the personal injury industry and niche is so competitive, if you want to get bigger, you might have. And then you got to find the right people. And that’s what I found out the hard way is you need to find the vendors that do the same thing. And I heard this another, not only thinking about, I heard this on a podcast, not too long ago as well, but it’s just finding those vendors, those people you work with that that their organization, or they are the same. Because you need to find them otherwise. What you find is you’re shifting something that you actually have a good gut feeling. You have the right ideas and you’re giving it to the wrong person and they’re going to hurt you. And you’re not going to find out. And so a long time, you a lot of money and all of a sudden you realize, man, the last five years, if I would have found the right vendor, this would have been going on, I should have just been doing it myself. And so I would just. Trust your gut, make sure you work with people that have the same values, the same drive, the same ideas as you, and just look to find other firms that are doing well. So you they’re working. That’s what I’d have to say is just be careful who you hire, obviously internally, but more importantly for me, I noticed that be careful with who you hire externally.

Chris Dreyer

As the president of not one, not two, but three successful businesses, Russell isn’t a bad person to listen to when it comes to founding and growing your own company. Hearing Russell talk so passionately about helping others, be the clients, staff, or family, was so inspiring, and I think his advice about working with people and organizations who share the same values and goals are extremely important. I’d like to thank Russell Nicolet of Nicolet Law 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 take your personal injury practice to the next level.

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