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It Starts Here Podcast | Ep. 5: Bernard Lee on Lawyer Marketing

It Starts Here Podcast Ep. 5 | Bernard Lee on Law Firm MarketingMH: Hello, I'm Mike Hackard; I'm the chair of Hackard Law, a law firm focusing on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation in California's major urban areas. This is Hackard Law's podcast It Starts Here. This is an August 2017 podcast featuring Bernard Lee, a legal marketing expert, and you will see much more. We are going to discuss some of Bernard's experiences where he has helped others achieve their potential. I appreciate Bernard's presence here today; Bernard, thank you for being here and welcome.

BL: Thank you for having me here, I appreciate it.

MH: Yeah. So in this podcast, we're just gonna start with background like where were you born and where did you go to school. We'll go through that a little bit.

BL: Okay, yeah, I was born in Seoul, Korea. I grew in a military family. So, we moved around quite a bit, but I was born in Seoul, Korea, moved from Korea to Georgia to Florida, Oregon, then back to Okinawa, and finally settling back down in Virginia, where I went to high school and then moved to New Mexico and then went to New Mexico State for college. And in my professional career I have lived in California, Missouri, Colorado and now back in California, so...

MH: Yeah well, we're glad to have you back here in California. So, because I know a little of this, I'm gonna still ask it.

BL: Sure.

MH: Because our friends don't know. So did you play any sports in high school?

BL: Yeah, actually I played basketball and football, and we moved to New Mexico and just focused on basketball, and I was fortunate to go to New Mexico State. Unfortunately I wasn't good enough to play basketball at New Mexico State, but walked on to the football team and played for about a year.

MH: You told me a little about football and football conferences that I didn't know. Maybe talk about that a little bit. I mean, first of all, that's pretty cool you walked on. But tell me about that, about the games during that first year.

BL: Well, football is a lot different than it is today, and back then we didn't have these big five power conferences. So we used to be in what was called the PC2A conference, which basically Long Beach State, Pacific, schools like that. It's changed a lot, but what still has never changed is you have these body bag games, where if you were in one of those lower conferences, you know, you were the home opener for a major college, or you were the homecoming game, right? So, these would be what you see on TV today which might be a blow out game or you know they are just tougher. Sometimes the underdog wins, but for the most part the school is going and they are gonna play this major team and you get a big pay out, bigger than you normally would get. So, you might get, let's just say, a million dollars, but that's pretty big for a small school like New Mexico State or, you know, any of these schools today that are locked out of the power 5. But yeah, pretty brutal, I mean you're gonna hopefully not get too many players injured, but the common practice is what happened.

MH: So, that's an interesting phrase; "body bag game".

BL: Yeah.

MH: I guess I can imagine where that comes from.

BL: Yeah, a lot of injuries you know you're playing against, you know, football, it's a little different. One of the things that I don't think most people understand is, you know, the size of your O-line or your defensive line really matters. And if you're playing against another team, and they have people who are 340, and your D line is 280, then good luck with that, right? And so that's gonna lead to a lot of more injuries too. But yeah, you know, obviously very interesting.

MH: Yeah.

BL: A lot of fun.

MH: Yeah, so, after college...

BL: Yeah.

MH: Where did you go?

BL: In college I took a job with the pharmaceutical company Merck. As a matter of fact, I see it there in the news today because of something the CEO did; he withdrew, so it's a little political issue. But I took a job with Merck Sharp & Dohme; I worked for them for quite a while in Southern California. They moved me from there to Missouri, and I left there and took a job with a guy who actually owns Baltimore Ravens today; Stephen Bisciotti. It was a technical solutions company. So, I enjoyed that for a while, and I wound up back in California, and then I have had kind of a varied history. One of the things that you know, but I've worked for a distress asset hedge fund where we raised a lot of money; quite a bit of money from a foreign dignitary who is deceased because, you know, some of their policies. But we raised some money from Libya, and most people who are familiar with current events, you know, can understand kind of where that went for Gaddafi. So...

MH: Yeah. But let's talk about that a little bit.

BL: Most people would've never experienced some of the things you experienced there. So, tell me about that a little. Well, it's really interesting because you grow up and you never think things are gonna impact your life in a way that you can't see yourself relating to. And most people aren't gonna be familiar with it, but I think there was a lot of terrorism that happened way back in 1978 or somewhere around there. But essentially that regime was accused as a state sponsor of terrorism and they were removed from that list in 2002. And so we were able to work with them, go in, and try to raise capital for this program to buy assets in a public-private partnership with the government. But that all changed when they had their internal civil war there in Libya. But it was never less interesting dealing with Gaddafi and his sons, and that's not an experience that I think most people would probably run against.

MH: So did you actually...?

BL: It's something I never thought....

MH: Did you actually meet him?

BL: Yeah, yeah, we worked with him, his sons. But very private, you have to deal with a lot of back channels in that type of environment. And I just think just a tid-bit on him; I don't think most people understand that he had all female bodyguards. So, that's who protected him, an all-female bodyguard, and pretty interesting. But you are working through a lot of intermediaries and back channels until you actually have the ability to sit down face-to-face. But obviously at the time we had to get clearance from the government and things of that nature to work with that. But pretty interesting, kind of a sad ending, but it impacted us financially too. Because otherwise I'm not sure I'm sitting here, you know, with that type of capital and that type of program, it's probably a lot different now.

MH: Yeah.

BL: So you're talking about monopoly money.

MH: Yeah, a lot of money.

BL: Yeah.

MH: Okay, so you had this football experience, and you have more than one football experience, but there is another one that I think is pretty cool. Where you did some coaching, can you tell me about that?

BL: Yeah, I was pretty fortunate when I first moved to southern California, I went into coaching. And just voluntary, there is a guy who is a friend of mine in Huntington Beach, he owns ... If you're ever there, he owns this bar called Hurricanes. But he asked to come out and watch, and I did one day and then wound up being an assistant coach. The next year his son didn't move up, but the parents wanted me to coach, and they were all kids 10 years old to 13 years old. And the year before I got there, they got beat by everyone. And then we kind of had a Disney-movie ending, because essentially we were playing a lot of schools and kids from areas that weren't quite like Newport Beach. And so many of the kids that I coached, they would get a little intimidated going into some of the rougher areas in LA and stuff. But we were pretty fortunate, we lost the first game, that was my fault; we were up by 18 with 2 minutes to go, but there are certain rules that you have to follow and I didn't get all the kids in. but we came back and we ran the table, we met them in the super bowl, we won the super bowl. And that was kind of a big accomplishment; some of the kids went on to Ivy League colleges to play. One went to Colorado and at one point in time was the highest rated junior college line backer in the nation. It's the same program that Matt Barkley came in right after I started coaching, probably they coached him before I would've had him. But you know, the Mark Sanchez's of the world from down there and Matt Barkley, and you hear these guys. But it was that program, so it was really fun, and we won the super bowl. It should've been a Disney movie; I could probably write the script tomorrow. But the kids had a great time.

MH: Okay, what was the impression from the other coaches in the league when you first came in with a bunch of kids from Newport Beach?

BL: They all wanted to play us, you know let's face it; there are different areas of the world, and when you are in LA and some parts of Southern California, there is an economic challenge there. But you know, the part of the perception was, "We want to play those kids down there because they weren't going to compete or they are not quite as competitive, or they are really soft." But we changed that, and so the kids had a really good experience. I'm still proud; I keep in touch with many of them today, kind of like a bigger brother today because they are all grown men now. And some of them have gone on to accomplish pretty good things, like one of the kids wound up going to Florida where he was a snapper on the national championship team. So, you know, you have all these different things, it's pretty cool but what they learned is just how to believe in themselves and to never give no matter you know who you're playing against. But you know we are all human beings, and so you're going in there, and you are going to compete, and so they learned that, and it's been a great experience.

MH: Now I know we could spend 3 hours on it. So how did you get those kids motivated, I mean they have been losing, right for years?

BL: Sure.

MH: So you come in what do you did do? Did you just say, "I'm gonna win this year?" No, I think you told them more than that. So how did you get them motivated?

BL: Yeah, you know, I can't repeat everything, never inappropriate, but you know, here is one of the things that we did; I'm a big fan of John Wooden. So one of the things that I tried to get them to do is just buy into Wooden has a pyramid of success. And I tried to get them to build into this team concept, where everyone had to memorize one of the building blocks on that pyramid and in that practice we held each other accountable. So that's the first thing, and they just kind of bought into that and then after, you know, I just have this theory that, you know, it doesn't matter. You should never be less of who you are so someone else can be more of who they wanna be; be yourself, and then everybody rises. So they kind of bought into that philosophy and they took that when they competed. And at a little measure of success, they started believing in themselves, and then they would see the opponent quit or stop trying, and then they got stronger. So, we went through a whole season like that and at the end of the day, it was really unique. I'm telling you; if you look at Disney and they have the Mighty Ducks, they probably could have a movie based on this. It was pretty special and we had some pretty good experiences.

MH: So maybe somebody will see this, and they will think of a movie.

BL: You know what? There probably is a Little League football movie somewhere in there too. But it was pretty significant, because it was all of Southern California, and there were 20 somewhat teams; which is a lot for youth football league. After we finished, I think most people are familiar with Snoop Dogg, right? And so they have the Snooper Bowl in Florida, but I think our team would've won that thing. We were pretty good, but they started after.

MH: That's just you saying, "Yeah, I would've taken them".

BL: No we would, I feel pretty good about it. I mean I'm not trying to be cocky, but we had a good team. They were really good kids, they were humble, they worked hard. And here is the thing, so you don't get kids who are 13 years old who run a 46- 40. I had a bunch of kids like that.

MH: Wow.

BL: I actually had Pat Haden from USC; his nephew was a quarterback on the team. We had some really good kids, so we had a lot of talent and speed. We would've been pretty good.

MH: So, I think you're a great coach, and we've been working together for several years now. And frankly for any other lawyers out there, you don't know what you're missing.

BL: Thank you, I appreciate that.

MH: You know, Bernard is great; he helped us in many ways. So, talk to me about legal marketing.

BL: One of the biggest misnomers about legal marketing that I think is really tough, is it is really competitive. And I think that attorneys just assume because of their legal knowledge that people know who they are or are naturally gonna reach out to them. But the biggest thing that's changed is essentially the environment. I mean the practice of law, it changes a little bit. But it's how you find clients today, and I think for a lot of attorneys, the number one thing that I get when I walk into every office: "How do you find clients?" And most of them will tell me, "through referrals." They get 100% of their clients through referrals. But the reality is they are not getting all their referrals; many people don't even know who they are. I go through it every day in life, I mean, when I go into grocery stores or my kid's school and I ask people, "If you needed X type of an attorney, whatever the practice, here, name it?" They have no clue, they don't.

MH: Yeah

BL: And the other thing that I think that attorneys just kind of miss a little bit is people put their guard up when it comes to legal matters. Meaning they want to go to someone they trust. So even when they find someone, they have a family member or someone who interjects and basically tells them, "Don't go there; go to someone I know." And it could be someone who worked on their car you know at this body shop, you know. But people feel comfortable with that so you cannot combat that. I don't think a lot of attorneys really understand that. It's one of the things that you guys have always done really well. I mean when we started working with you, you had done really well and then your business had changed a little bit, you were changing the model. But you started with different base, right? So you started improving, you were showing up online doing all these great things, and now, I mean, you're just blowing the doors out of it in terms of everything you're doing. But I think that's really good for the legal consumer because most people don't get to find people like you. And you're doing everything that you can to expose yourself so they do find you. And for those clients who get you, they are in great hands.

MH: Oh, thank you

BH: No, you're welcome.

MH: Thank you. It's a little bit like, I think, that I don't know whether people know more about ... like when seeking out doctors, for example, you know, would you go to a general practitioner when you need neurosurgeon? And for the most part, there are so many, not even calling them specialities, but so many areas of law with people having more experience in one area than another. And that's maybe what legal marketing allows people to do is to talk about their experience, and I know how you helped in that and there are a lot of ... There are 200,000 lawyers in California.

BL: Sure.

MH: And you serve a lot lawyers in Northern California.

BL: Sure.

MH: And so I don't know, there is an art to listening, just like today I wanna listen to you as I have listened and learned. So what else would you...? What would you tell people that are seeking out lawyers? Okay, go ahead.

BL: Sure, one of the things that I would tell them is "Look when you're looking for an attorney; you want the best that you can get. But all attorneys aren't the same. And I think that you have to look beyond just the word attorney, someone might specialise in family law or probate and estate or personal injury law. But I think most consumers just think an attorney can handle all of those areas, whereas you really want someone who is really specific at what they do, who understands that and practices it and is known in the community for that. And I think that's where a lot of consumers kind of miss the boat, they just think just because someone is an attorney, they are all-knowing, and that's not true. I mean, there are people that specialise in various specific practice areas, like you guys do. You guys handle very complex probate and estate issues. You handle a lot of different issues, but you handle issues that not everyone who can handle a trust or a will is gonna be cut out for. But I think if you went to the average consumer, they are probably thinking it's all the same. And even scarier today is, I think, consumers will look at DIY-type situations where they are doing it themselves. They think they can go on to, you know, websites and get all this information. You want an expert and you might pay a little bit, but what you get in return is gonna be far greater. And especially you don't wanna play when it comes to the area for what you do, you wanna protect your family and people you know don't really get that. And I think consumers kind of come into this and they think that they can figure it out. Most people probably don't even a trust or will or know even how to protect their assets.

But you want an expert and that's one of the things that you've done, really, really well. I see this in other areas, I'll give an example; recently I had a family member who had something very tragic happen in their life and them; they lost a loved one and they just went to a common attorney. They are already behind the game if we're talking about competing. They are already behind the game, when they go up a major insurance carrier who is defending their client who has been wrong in a wrongful death situation. They need someone who is very good at what they do, who goes to litigation. They don't get it, and I think that's where maybe attorneys also miss the boat too. They have to provide that information as a resource so that when people do look for them, they are finding them where they look. People are on social media, they are on YouTube, they are online; there are all these different places. So it's somewhat their obligation to put that information out there in a way that educates consumers too.

MH: Yeah, it's great to help enlighten people. Not that we are the fountain of all wisdom, but we can share experiences.

BL: Sure.

MH: And I think that's what I think most people are interested in, like I love your story, it's okay. Because they are great experiences and they are also teaching mechanisms for me and for others. Like you talked about, I love your story of coaching because I can imagine that and these other coaches, you know, looking at you and your Newport Beach team and thinking, "Hey, bring them on."

BL: Sure.

MH: You know, and you brought them on, and you taught them a little.

BL: It was fun, there was a lot of self-gratification in there, I'm not gonna lie. You know, I could go back at home and we had a coaches meeting for those things, and you know, I remember every single coach, you know, who literally, basically said they wanted to play us. And you know you wanted to be a good sport, but afterwards, you know, you shake their hand but you know, in the back of my head, I always wanted to ask the question, "Are you glad you played us?" You got what you wanted. So...

MH: You took them to school.

BL: Yeah. But you know, in terms of ... I felt the same way about the clients that work with us.

MH: Yeah.

BL: Right. So you know, if they entrust Thomson Reuters to go out there and find clients for them, it bothers me if doesn't work. I want to find the solution; it's no different than when I was coaching. You know, if we were running plays that weren't working, I stayed up late at night trying to figure out, "How do we fix this?" You know what's gonna work, and so it's no different, but yeah, at the end of the day, you know, I've had some really unique experiences with people and blessed to coach people. So it's really been fun.

MH: Wow, fabulous. Well, I thank you for being here, and I'd love to have you back again. There are so many things I think that you can help and I hope you know that ... Just to be true, some of my competition realizes your talent; there is plenty of room for competition here. So thanks, Bernard, and now I wanna do my own little plug here...

BL: Absolutely.

MH: As to what we have done, and I want to let our viewers know that I recently wrote a book that's coming out in autumn of this year. And it's called The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. And if anyone would like a free copy of that, just a free digital copy of that, I would be happy to do that. So, when the book comes out, jut email us at hackard@hackardlaw.com. So once again, Bernard, thank you.

BL: Thank you, I appreciate it.

It Starts Here Podcast | Ep. 5: Bernard Lee on Lawyer Marketing from Hackard Law on Vimeo.

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