Jordan Peagler of MKP Law Group: “Organizational Structures”

Streamlining inefficiencies should be a priority of every company. The first law firm I worked at was a traditional law firm that used paper files. The files could become so voluminous that it required multiple boxes to store all the documents and pleadings. Furthermore, there was no uniformity in how the files were stored and […]

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Streamlining inefficiencies should be a priority of every company. The first law firm I worked at was a traditional law firm that used paper files. The files could become so voluminous that it required multiple boxes to store all the documents and pleadings. Furthermore, there was no uniformity in how the files were stored and prepared (see lack of organization structure above) so the organization of the files varied. This led to confusion as to where certain documents were located and a lot of wasted time for the attorneys who had to search through the files. These sorts of inefficiencies cost companies time and money.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Peagler, managing partner and co-founder of MKP Law Group, LLP. Jordan is a trial attorney who handles complex civil litigation matters in personal injury, medical malpractice, and insurance bad faith. Jordan has handled all phases of litigation, from pre-litigation through mediation, arbitration, and trial. Jordan is a focused and dedicated individual who handles each of his client’s cases with organization and purpose.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I always knew I’d become an attorney. My mom says she first knew I’d be a lawyer when I was about two years old. I was digging in the garden with my hands one afternoon and she came out and told me to stop. The next day I was back digging in the same garden, but this time I was using a spoon to dig. When she came out to stop me I looked at the spoon as if to say “it’s not me digging, it’s the spoon,” a critical distinction.

In high school, I participated in mock trials and took law school type courses as in undergrad at the University of San Diego. After getting my undergraduate degree, I moved back to Arizona where I was born and got my law degree from the University of Arizona. After passing the California bar and moving to Los Angeles with my wife, my first job was at a personal injury firm.

I quickly realized I enjoyed representing injured plaintiffs against million-dollar insurance companies. Fighting for the “little guy” in this day and age of corporate greed just felt right. After gaining practical experience for several years as an associate attorney, I met my two partners and we decided to open our own firm. We felt we could improve several areas that large to mid-sized law firms often neglect, like client communication and using technology to streamline inefficiencies.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Due to the nature of personal injury cases, they often take at least six months to resolve and many times can take years to finally settle. Even after cases resolve, there are post-settlement issues that need to be resolved before the firm is ever paid a dime. Also, personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee, meaning that we are only compensated if the client receives a monetary award or settlement, with our firm advancing all costs prior to resolution.

This means that it takes a long time to see any return on my time. Plus, there are even situations where we don’t make any money at all.

These financial realities made the first couple of months after opening our firm the hardest. We didn’t have any money coming in and had no guarantees that the money we expected to receive in the future would be enough to keep the firm open. Not to mention, we were doing that while still trying to pay ourselves a liveable wage.

The uncertainty in those first months, about whether our business would be profitable and whether the risk I took leaving a salaried position would pay off, often led me to question my decision to start MKP Law Group.

During those initial months where the firm wasn’t yet profitable, I received a job offer from another firm and thought about accepting the position. However, I knew I could never live with myself if I gave up before giving it a full shot. Had I taken the position, I would have been left to wonder what could have been and that was not something I was prepared to do. Opening the firm was a bet on myself and one I had to see through to the end.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

As a plaintiff’s attorney, representing the interests of injured people, any mistake you make usually is not funny. Mistakes can have serious consequences for the case and the client. However, dealing with individual clients, who come from very diverse backgrounds, can require finesse and often provide learning experiences.

When we first opened the firm, there was a potential client who contacted us looking for a new attorney; her current attorney was lazy and not doing anything to move her case forward. After speaking on the phone several times, she decided she wanted to retain my firm as her new counsel. As a courtesy, I said I would drive to her house so that it would be convenient for her to sign all of the paperwork. A few days later, on the morning of the meeting, I drove to her house and knocked on her door. There was no response. I heard loud music playing and could hear the client singing, but no matter how loud I knocked she would not come to the door. After waiting for about 15 minutes on her front porch, I finally decided to leave with the music still blaring.

At the time I didn’t think it was very funny. I had driven all the way out to her house after all! However, I think we can all appreciate that she was certainly enjoying her time.

This experience taught me not only to be more organized with my calendar but to always confirm appointments with clients! We never know what they might be doing in their free time or how they might be managing the stressful time they are going through.

Clients are often dealing with the fallout of their injuries, trying to juggle doctors appointments and figure out how to pay off medical bills. Plus, they are still human and trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, like singing free-spirited ballads with the music turned up.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what makes our firm stand out is our relationships with our clients.

We are not a huge, national firm with dozens of attorneys and thousands of clients. At those types of law firms, clients are often treated as file numbers. There is no effort to get to know the client and how their injuries have affected them and their families personally. Clients are quickly lost in the shuffle and their files just sit on desks for months on end. As a smaller firm, we don’t have the luxury of taking our clients for granted.

At MKP Law Group, LLP, we take pride in making ourselves personally available to our clients and keeping them in the loop as much as possible. Most of my clients know my personal cell phone number. Instead of waiting for clients to call us asking for a status update, we ourselves often call clients to give them an update and explain the status of their case so that they are fully informed. I also try and get to know my clients individually, as this familiarity allows me to better represent them and speak to how their injuries have changed their lives.

For example, one of our first cases was representing an elderly woman who hurt her hand in a car crash. The client was very soft-spoken. Trying to get information about her injury and the impact on her life was difficult. Speaking with her on the phone was getting me nowhere so I asked if I could visit her at her home on a weekend. The client was not sure why that would be necessary but agreed to the visit after I persisted.

At her house, I met her family and got to see her world. For the first time, I could actually see how the injury had changed her life for the worse. I had kept asking how her personal life had been impacted and if there were any hobbies she could no longer pursue as a result of the accident, but she kept just saying “I don’t know” or “I can’t think of any.”

While I was in her home, I noticed a sewing machine in her living room and asked her about it. She said her hand injury prevented her from sewing, which was one of her greatest hobbies.

Eureka! Had I not gone the extra mile to visit the client at her house, I would never have learned about her inability to sew, which greatly added to the value of her case at mediation.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It all boils down to feeling invested in the work you do.

Getting to know clients personally invests you in the outcome of their case, and not just on a financial but on a personal level.

When I’m connected to a case because I care about the client, as opposed to just trying to get paid, it keeps me motivated to get the best possible outcome for the client. Especially in heavily litigated cases that can take years to resolve, being invested in the client helps prevent the burnout that can creep in over time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

When I started my law firm, I had a basic understanding of the business component of running a legal practice. A law firm is a business at the end of the day and needs to be managed and operated like any other business, which includes budgeting, hiring employees, and obtaining commercial insurance coverage. So while I had an elementary grasp of the business side of running a law firm, there were many things with which I was unfamiliar and needed guidance. Luckily I was introduced to an attorney who had built a successful practice who has provided a lot of advice for both the legal and business sides of running a firm.

This attorney has always made himself available to be asked questions about specific litigation questions and business questions. In particular, he shared his business strategy in regards to marketing. Personal injury is a very competitive field with large markets, like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. He taught me to target the less sought after localities like San Bernardino or Tucson as opposed to the larger, more saturated markets. This allows the firm to get more return on their marketing investment.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company is one that is well-organized and operates with the interest of their customers in mind so as to deliver positive results. Good companies deliver satisfactory results for their customers.

A great company is one that goes above and beyond what is expected of them by their customers. A great company has a strategic vision for growth while not sacrificing attention to detail in order to serve the needs of the customer. A great company delivers exceptional results for their customers.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Organizational Structures

Good companies have basic structures in place to carry out routine tasks, but oftentimes more detailed structures and higher-level organization is required to take a company from good to great.

Things like ensuring all clients or files are handled in a uniform manner, having contingency plans in place to deal with novel or complex problems, and having regular team meetings to ensure progress are all organizational structures that can help a company become even more profitable.

2. Streamline Inefficiencies

Streamlining inefficiencies should be a priority of every company. The first law firm I worked at was a traditional law firm that used paper files. The files could become so voluminous that it required multiple boxes to store all the documents and pleadings. Furthermore, there was no uniformity in how the files were stored and prepared (see lack of organization structure above) so the organization of the files varied. This led to confusion as to where certain documents were located and a lot of wasted time for the attorneys who had to search through the files. These sorts of inefficiencies cost companies time and money.

When we opened our firm we decided to go paperless, where every document is scanned and uploaded to the file on a cloud system, and each file is set up in a uniform manner. This allows us to not only access every file on-the-go but to know where the desired document is within the file without wasting time searching for individual documents.

3. Highlighting Strengths & Minimizing Weaknesses

Great companies should know their strengths and weaknesses and look to highlight their strengths while addressing their weaknesses.

When we opened our firm, we were small fish in a very big pond. We understood that one of our weaknesses was our inability to advertise on the same scale and with the same results as our competitors. We had to find a cost-effective solution to obtaining new cases and clients without putting our firm in financial jeopardy.

We realized that one of our strengths was that we are skilled litigators, a field most law firms try to avoid because it is labor-intensive and time-consuming. So we focused on increasing our networking efforts and then building upon that network to obtain referrals from other attorneys looking to avoid litigation. Because we are skilled at litigation, we were able to deliver great results which helped earn the trust of the referring attorneys and led to even more referrals.

4. Implement Client Feedback

Great companies ask for and then listen to their client feedback to improve their company.

Clients are the lifeblood of any company, so CEOs should value client feedback to make sure clients will return in the future and/or refer new clients.

If a certain policy or procedure consistently produces negative feedback, then that policy or procedure needs to be fixed, altered, or scrapped altogether. For example, if a company’s return policy makes it difficult for the customer to print a return label or properly package the product for shipping, it makes life more difficult for the customer and reduces the likelihood the customer will become a repeat customer. Improving the client experience allows a great company to deliver great results for the client.

5. Planning for Growth

Great companies have a strategic plan for growth and take the steps to accomplish that growth in a reasonable and cost-effective manner. Good companies can become and remain profitable without expanding from the initial location, office, or market, but great companies are always looking to grow and become bigger.

Growth should come at a metered and reasonable pace so as to not overextend and put the company in a risky position financially. This makes planning for growth crucial in making a good company great. For example, a restaurant looking to open a second location needs to budget for food costs, furniture, and other operational costs as well as doing plenty of due diligence in researching the estimated foot traffic and available parking at the new location when considering secondary locations.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

As a law firm that exclusively focuses on representing injury victims against huge insurance companies, having a purpose in what you do can mean all the difference. Having something that motivates your company and your employees to give their all in order to produce the best results for your clientele can only help propel your business. Having an overarching goal or social cause makes your employees more dedicated to the task at hand.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Sometimes the best way to improve your business is to take a step back. Oftentimes managers and business owners get so immersed in the fine details of the day-to-day aspects of running the company that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

Consultants can be expensive but having a trained set of eyes examining your company’s business practices, budget, supply chain, etc. can help finetune things. Delegating more minor and tedious tasks to subordinates, or hiring additional staff to do so, are also options business leaders can take in order to focus on the macro issues that will help restart growth.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Diversifying income sources seems to have been the best solution our company has implemented during the recent recession.

Because traditional income sources for many companies have become more inconsistent, diversifying the ways your company makes money is crucial. Most law firms rely on client referrals for new cases and new clients but they can be sporadic.

Our firm has recently focused on investing in targeted advertising and search engine optimization to get more traffic to our website and in turn more new cases. This has provided us with a new and multi-faceted approach to getting new clients.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

The most underestimated part of running a company is the pressure you feel. When you are the decision-maker and govern a business, the pressure is on you to deliver and you feel it because there is no one else to blame if things go poorly. If the company is stalling it’s on you to make sure things get back on track. If the company is doing well it’s on you to make sure things get even better. The pressure can be a good thing, though, as it helps motivate you to ensure the company succeeds.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Investing in your website to make it as user-friendly and appealing as possible is a great way to boost conversion rates.

If a visitor to the website finds it difficult to navigate or find what they are looking for there is a low likelihood of them choosing your company. The same goes for aesthetics. Looks matter to clients so if photos are old or the layout of the site is not interactive or appealing then it can look cheap.

Prompt responses are another key to boosting conversion rates. It seems obvious but delays in responding to inquiries or messages drastically reduce conversion rates.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

I think a great way to boost your reputation and brand is through client testimonials and reviews.

Clients often rely on internet reviews like Yelp! and Google reviews when selecting a business. Proactively asking satisfied customers to leave reviews helps others trust your company.

In addition to branding all correspondence and paperwork clients receive from our firm, we stay in contact with clients after their case has settled. Things like sending holiday cards with your brand on it, or sending branded promotional emails all help to keep your company on the minds of your existing clientele.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

In my experience, letting our clients know that we truly value and support them makes all the difference.

Picking up the phone and calling them to advise them as to the status of their case or work order keeps them informed and shows them that progress is being made. Making them feel at ease by explaining the process and what to expect contributes to a better customer experience. Addressing questions or resolving issues quickly helps ensure that the client feels valued and like a priority instead of a burden.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

The way in which you use social media determines whether or not it is a good idea for your company. We largely use social media to keep our clients informed about changes in the law but also do more basic social media to stay in touch with past clients.

I understand the concern if you are using social media aggressively or are promoting divisive social issues, but it depends on what your company is trying to obtain by using social media. Overall, I think social media is a good way to build your brand and get client feedback.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

I think one of the most common mistakes is underestimating the time it takes to become profitable.

I think if you open a business expecting to be profitable immediately then you have done yourself a disservice. When opening a business it is wise to budget as conservatively as possible in order to account for a delay in profitability until the company hits its stride. Keeping overhead low and having a razor-tight budget are ways to give yourself the best opportunity to survive the potentially lean first months.

I think another common mistake that increases costs is over-hiring. I think a brand new company should have only the number of employees necessary to have the business run smoothly. Founders should handle as many tasks as they can before hiring employees or parting with equity by taking on investors.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In Los Angeles and California in general, homelessness is on the rise with seemingly no end in sight. A movement geared towards not only building new affordable housing but civic training aimed at addressing substance abuse, aiding in drug rehabilitation, and providing basic education would help get people off the streets and give them the tools to then stay off the streets. I think addressing the homeless issue would have ripple effects that would decrease crime, lessen the strain on the healthcare system, and also benefit the economy overall.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Readers can check out our website to learn more about the team at MKP Law Group and what we do. We also have a Facebook Page or you can connect with me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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