We report and write a lot about law firm marketing here at LawFuel (see here, for instance) and so when Forbes magazine carried their nterview with former White House aide John Corcoran about how he grew his law firm, as well as how he developed his online business site for small businesses, we were all ears.
Corcoran spoke with Dan Schawbel and explained how he got into law and what the obstacles were that he faced in building his law practice. He also provided some key advice on the future and his best entrepreneurship advice.
I recently spoke to John Corcoran, who is the owner of the Corcoran Law Firm. Corcoran was a former White House aide during the Clinton Administration and Speechwriter in the California Governor’s office during the Davis Administration. He also created a site called SmartBusinessRevolution.com where he shows small business owners and entrepreneurs how to use relationships to attract more clients, customers and revenues. He’s written for Forbes, The Huffington Post, Art of Manliness, Boost Blog Traffic, and Dumb Little Man.
John is active in the local Marin county community, serving as Chair of the Town of Tiburon Planning Commission, co-Chair of the Marin County Bar Association Business Law section, and as an appointed Judicial Hearing Officer for the City of San Rafael’s Campaign Finance Independent Expenditure ordinance.
Dan Schawbel: How did you get started in the law field and eventually start your own firm?
John Corcoran: I definitely didn’t follow a typical or traditional path. During college and shortly after college, I worked for DreamWorks and in the entertainment industry. Then I pivoted and went to work as a Writer in the Clinton White House. I was 23 years old at the time and it was a great experience working at the White House. I followed that up with a job as a speechwriter for the then-Governor of California Gray Davis, who today is probably most well known as the Governor who was recalled by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When I was working in politics, I had the privilege of working with many very smart lawyers, and I found when we were in large staff meetings that I would tend to lose arguments to them. So I thought, well maybe I should go to law school.
After law school, I worked for a couple of small firms but I always knew I wanted to start my own firm. I intentionally worked for smaller firms because you have to learn to do everything yourself, which I knew would be helpful when I went out on my own. Eventually, after I had enough clients who were being referred directly to me that I knew I could stay afloat on my own, I decided to launch my own boutique firm focusing on working with small business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s been 3 years and I haven’t looked back.
Schawbel: What were the obstacles to starting and growing your business? What did you learn from your mistakes/obstacles along the way?
Corcoran: Today I run two businesses — my law firm, and my website, SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where I write about how small business owners can use relationships, particularly with influencers and VIPs, to increase their income, attract more clients and advance their careers.
The two businesses are related in the sense that I am serving the same types of small business owners and entrepreneurs. But they are very different in terms of how they bring in revenue and the things you need to do to manage them.
With the law firm, one of the big obstacles was doing the billable work while also remembering to keep networking and nurturing relationships so that your funnel is full. Problems occur when you get busy and you ignore those relationships. Then you slow down and you have to scramble to attract more clients. Also, when you charge clients hundreds of dollars per hour you really need to learn how to manage expectations. That’s a skill that takes awhile to get good at.
With the website, there were many obstacles. One of the struggles was focusing on one topic which would attract an audience. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, but writing online is a different skill. I had previously written about legal topics but I found it was boring and no one wanted to stick around, so I switched to writing about how to leverage relationships to grow your income and your business and that has done much better.
Also, the way you make money writing online is counter-intuitive and I didn’t get that at first. The best way to earn an income with a blog is to grow an audience by guest posting for other sites for free so that you can grow your own audience, and then you can sell products or services to your own audience. The writing you generally give away for free but there’s very large income potential on the back end.
Another mistake was I didn’t focus on building relationships with other bloggers. I had built networks previously in the political world when I was working at the White House, in the entertainment industry when I worked for DreamWorks, in Silicon Valley and when I started my own law firm. But when I started blogging, I initially didn’t spend time building relationships with other bloggers. Once I realized that mistake and started connecting and building relationships with other bloggers, I started to see much faster growth.