Jimmy Doan founded The Doan Firm, P.C. in 2005. Since launching his personal injury practice, he has successfully been able to grow the firm by differentiating it from competitors—building what was a small boutique practice into a national powerhouse with approximately 20 office locations throughout the United States. Below Jimmy answers questions about how he managed to distinguish his firm in an extremely competitive field:
What inspired you to start your own personal injury practice?
I wanted to have the independence of being my own boss and to be able to instill my own creativity into a law practice. At the time, most law firms wanted to stick to traditional ways of marketing and advertising and I felt like I had to go out on my own to be more up-to-date with the rest of society and the world. For instance, the medical field had WebMD, but there was no WebJD counterpart. You just didn’t see lawyers changing the way they conducted business.
Was it difficult for you to open a new firm?
I really didn’t have a choice. I had to go out on my own. However, it was not too difficult to start a firm because right out of college I had established a lifeguard training and pool management company. I used the money I made from that company to pay rent and other expenses while I slowly opened my law office. Fast-forward to today and approximately 20 to 25 percent of my practice is made up of drowning cases from across the U.S.
How did you initially build your business?
I told all of my friends that I was a young lawyer who handled car accident cases, as well as posted a lot on Facebook and other social media sites. I liked owning a personal injury practice because I thought people would hire me since I didn’t charge anything—I only got paid if I won.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced initially?
Learning about the business of running a law office. When you go to law school, no one teaches you anything. They don't teach you how to hire, rent office space or what you should spend money on, so the business aspect of running a law firm was challenging. For that reason I asked owners of law firms for advice on how to grow my law practice. A lot of them would say keep your overheard low; if you don’t need a secretary don’t hire one. I followed their advice and still do.
What made you decide to get financing for your firm?
At a certain point I believed I was smart enough to manage money and could properly utilize a line of credit versus some guy that goes and buys a Ferrari and passes it off as a law firm expense. Plus, I felt like in order to compete with other firms, I needed the capital to be able to advertise on a larger scale.
What are some of the things you have done to set yourself apart from your competitors?
The main thing is being innovative in online marketing and advertising. I was one of the first law firms to have a website and was definitely one of the first to provide an online chat function. Now everyone has it, but I am continually finding and developing ways to keep in constant touch with my clients. I now employ new technology to keep the conversation ongoing with prospective clients beyond just my website and online chat box.
Another way is by providing superior customer service. In this society there is so much choice. It is so easy for people to go online and find any attorney. We all do the same thing, so to really differentiate yourself you have to deliver awesome customer service. I set myself apart by contacting my clients all the time and always being available. They see I manage 20 offices and are surprised that I am the one that is talking to them.
What is the most challenging aspect of managing your law firm now?
Making sure my staff is always putting the client first. It is important to me not to focus on the money, but on the client, and then I believe the money will come. I feel like a lot of lawyers are motivated to go to the courtroom and win large amounts, but really the key to success is customer service. One of the problems that I deal with is that employees don’t want to work around the clock, but unfortunately our clients do. So I would say maintaining great customer service and delivering what the client wants any time of day is the biggest challenge I face every day.
What is the biggest contributor to your success?
Really just hard work. It is not that the work is necessarily that hard, but it is being available when the client wants you to be available. I never tell clients “no” or “I can’t do it at that time, can you work around my schedule.” I always say yes and am available to them 24/7.
Outside of law, what other interests do you have?
I love fitness, working out, and teaching water safety. Before I was a lawyer I was a police officer and paramedic to the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. I was like Baywatch. Now I still teach water and pool safety because making sure we prevent drowning is really important me.
What advice would you give other attorneys who want to grow a legal practice?
Three things: (1) learn how to get cases because no matter which way you do so, whether internet or TV, when you get cases you are the king; (2) learn how to manage people and employees; and (3) learn how to be financially responsible because when you spend money wisely you can get the firm to grow.
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