How To Grow Your Personal Injury Practice
Darryl "The Hammer" Isaacs
Hello everyone. Thank you for joining another Case Work stream. We are joined today and I’m super excited to be talking to Darryl ‘The Hammer’ Isaacs. And we’re also joined by Dan Comunale, who is our VP of sales and marketing. So thank you both for taking time to connect with us and Darryl, as I was mentioning right before this, we’re super excited to be connecting with you and talking about just really your background and the firm and you’ve had a lot of success and I know that we have a large group of attorneys out there that probably are new, getting started in personal injury and would love to hear really, how did you go from where you were to who you are today and how everybody knows you as The Hammer, but I’ll stop there. And really, I want to understand if you’ll tell me a little bit about yourself and about Isaacs and Isaacs Personal Injury law firm and really how you got your career started.
Okay, well first thank you for are having me. So on one, one of 93, I incorporated Isaacs and Isaacs. I was law student who flunked the bar twice, came out, horrible grades. I had a lot of experience because during law school, when I should have been in class, I kept cutting to go watch, like my first trial, I watched Fred Doe try a case. And then first week, I set the wrong precedent. But ultimately I ended up after a year working for an attorney who did criminal law, and I sat through 22 jury trials before I graduated law school.
And he also let me work and settle about 300 car wreck cases. So came out, my father was semi retired and went to him and said, “I’m going to start a firm.” I knew a sole practitioner may not get the respect that a firm would. I still remember his face expression. He was laughing. So Isaacs and Isaacs was born. And really we kind of worked hard. I think my first year I had five, six figure cases. I was willing to litigate or take anything.
And when you’re young and energetic, I drove everybody nuts, all the defense attorneys. And so through the process, we just started working. I was taking cases from a lot of other attorneys and ultimately in 1996, I made the decision to go on TV. And that ended up being probably the greatest thing I could have done. So started with nothing, basically no job offers. And now I do this.
I love to help other firms. We have these legal mastermind groups and so anytime I get asked to speak or talk, or every day I take dozens of phone calls or it’s just want to help everybody. And like kind of like you, you’re providing a service. You want to teach everybody to do what we do because the world needs more better lawyers, people, and yeah.
So now I’ll have to ask, how did you get the nickname, The Hammer. It is one of the coolest nicknames of all time. How did you get that?
Well honestly, when I started, I was a heavy hitter and ultimately left the advertising firm. They had the rights to it. Believe not I’m a lawyer, I try to avoid lawsuits personally. So I don’t know. I really came up with the Kentucky Hammer, got it copyrighted and everything. And then we started doing it and then everybody kept calling me the Hammer. And ultimately there’s another hammer, Jim Adler.He is a good friend of mine. We basically kind of split the hammer across the country, but it just stuck. People remember corny things, stupid things. I’m always poking fun of myself. And so, but for whatever reason, everybody calls me The Hammer, so I live with Hammer.
Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Yeah. That’s cool. You’re right. It definitely sticks. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear your name or see your name without about “The Hammer.” So that’s pretty cool. What is it about practicing personal injury law that continues to inspire you?
Well, the attorney that I initially worked in law school, he was a fabulous, famous criminal attorney and he tried a capital murder case like over 38 states back in, I’m talking in the eighties. And I loved doing his personal, criminal law didn’t appeal to me but my father did a lot of personal injury. And when I came out, I just love helping people. We don’t work for the insurance company, we just represent people. I never apologize for this, we do make a lot of money doing it, but we’re able to help the masses. And its just something about personal injury that I, one of my first few cases,I got a girl $4 million and she lived in a house that didn’t even have running water or electricity. And we transformed her life. And I think from that point forward I just got the bug, I wanted to help everybody.
Yeah. That’s awesome. Things seem to be going really well. Your firm’s experience, significant growth over three states. What do you think is a driving force behind that growth and that success?
Well, so the one thing growing up, I was big in customer service. I flipped burgers when I was a kid, delivered papers, but I was always in the service industry. I would go door to door and sell things, but I love people. I have empathy. And I don’t think any business you can do if you don’t market. Everywhere I go and I tell my kids this, I don’t care what you’re in, if you’re an engineer, you’re a school teacher, everybody’s got to market. You got to market yourself to get a job, to get a spouse, to get whatever you want.
So I’ve just through the years, I’ve always used the same basic principles that I learned early on. And I was very fortunate, because the first, I say real job I had at Burger King, I’m talking back in the late seventies. They made us listen to Earl Nightingale tapes. And I didn’t know it at the time they did me the greatest favor in the world because there was like Earl Nightingale. Then I started listening to Zig Ziegler and I realized, Zig’s big motto, you can get anything in this world if you’re help enough people get what they want. But anything you do, you just have to give great service, if you want to be successful.
Yeah. No. I definitely agree with that. And you talk about service, it also kind of goes hand in hand with culture. And at Case Works, culture and our company culture is just so critical. And it’s funny, you mentioned service because I read Truett Cathy’s books about grow Chick-Fil-A and just how he built that empire. And it was based on a lot of similar principals you just mentioned. But if we talk about culture, what have been your major contributions to Isaacs and Isaac’s firm culture?
Well, first I got to respond. You mentioned Chick-Fil-A. I use them all the time. They are bar none of all the places I ever go, they have the best training. They are packed. I wish my staff could go and be like them. I got a great staff, but I don’t know what they do there, but everybody’s happy, smiling.
So the culture I’ve created, early on, we did a lot of litigation and then we started getting so much business, we couldn’t handle it all. So we started farming out and I noticed we were becoming more of a factory so to speak. And while I thought we gave great service, we weren’t completing the case. So I had a bad accident in 2015. And, you know, I had a second chance in life. I broke my neck, had 11 surgeries, I decided I wanted to change our culture again.
And I wanted to be a firm that could litigate and get the main our verdicts or just do everything. So basically went to my staff, so we’re going to start making changes, we implemented, you’ve heard about the traction, it’s real big Salesforce lesson. So we started doing something similar to traction and I’m probably giving you more than you want to hear, but I also thought if I’m going to going to do this, we have five buildings at our main location and we basically tore down 90% building and we built a courtroom.
I spent a million and five, actual courtroom and we started practicing. I started bringing in top trial trainers in the country and I had 31 attorneys, had 10 litigators, but just the end of November, we just got a 10 million verdict in a federal court that on a wrongful death that turned down a million and everything is possible because we changed the culture. And we had everybody believe in the culture.
So, I mean, anybody can and do this. You just have to decide what you want, but it all starts with me. So I have to believe in what I’m selling. If I’ve got integrity and I’ve got honesty, I can’t tell people to do this, but I’m going to do that.
No, absolutely Darryl. That’s one thing that like Susan has built a phenomenal infrastructure in Case Works and she’s built a culture that everyone not only believes in it and buys into it, but lives it every day. And that’s why I signed on to Case Works and Susan is a tremendous leader. One thing I wanted to ask you, you had mentioned that you have multiple operations, is it difficult to manage the law firm operations across the different states that you do and how do you do that? I would love to get a little insight there.
Well. Okay. Everything I do, I’ve stolen and learned from masters. In law school, they used to teach us, if you copy one person’s work, it’s plagiarism, but then you go to the courthouse, I used to live at the courthouse, copy every attorney’s files once they put in, it’s public, it’s research. So what I’ve basically done, why I think I’m an innovator, if you give me an idea, it’s funny, I got a good friend Gordon, who’s got a monster firm in Louisiana, and Gordon in the eighties, his father was bar none, the best trial attorney in the state. But Gordon, last week I was talking and he says, he calls me Hammer, “Hammer what I love about you, I’ll tell you an idea and then you’ll take it, make it three times better than what I can do.”
I feel like so many people have helped me and I’ve been so blessed and I’m so grateful that I just, like Jim Adler, I was calling him one day, we’d talk, my gosh, he’s a monster. He’s just so successful. So I’ll take what other people are doing, and then I’ll tailor it to fit our needs. But I wish I could sit and say our firm went from zero to $2 billion. So many people have helped me. And so many people have paved the way and that’s why I want to help others because so many people have helped me.
Yeah. Yeah. For sure. One thing I think we were talking a little bit before. You’ve certainly got marketing down and some great commercials we’ll talk about, but what was the marketing techniques that you used when you first started out in law and in your practice?
Well, it’s funny. I’m getting ready to go talk in a couple weeks. And I wrote my speech and I went back to the basics. When I started, I did a few things that I tell anybody starting on practice. When I set up my office, I didn’t want the landlord to be my partner, so I own. I bought instead of rent. I think the number one thing you can do in marketing is you have to get an easy phone number. If you’re going to spend millions of dollars, people got to remember. So like early on, I got this number 458-1000. And at the time KFC was 459-1000. We had advertising brand number so much. In our city, more people knew our number, then Colonel Sanders number. Since then I keep doing it.
I rebranded, I think it was in after my accident, wanted to change the culture. I needed a toll free. So I went out and got 800-800- 8888. You remember two digits, you remember our number. Or most recently I just bought, we win.com. So the domains, I mean, you want to advertise like IsaacsandIsaacs.com, it’s too hard to spell, everybody misspells it. So I think the most important thing we start doing marketing-wise is get an easy domain, get a very easy number to remember, and then just go brand the heck out of it.
You talked about, no. That’s great advice. You talked about the decision to go on TV and I’m thinking that was about some of your commercials and wanted to ask about when did you, made the decision to start doing the commercials and what is your favorite commercial?
Well, first question’s easy. I knew I needed to advertise for a period of about three years. I was doing an advertising firm’s litigation and we’d litigate the case, get it resolved, give them half the fee. And I thought, gosh, I could have done two things. I could have pitched about it, or I could have just did it myself. So I decided that the advertiser was doing nothing wrong. He didn’t put a gun in my head and said take my cases.
So I thought I’m going to go on TV. And honestly, at the time I think I was 27 or eight, I was young. My father, when we started, he was retired, he was 63. So we met with an advertising firm and I wanted him to be on. Cause I thought I’m a young kid and they wanted me because they thought he was much older and they thought I’d be doing this for a hundred years.
And he didn’t have that long to practice, and so I reluctantly agreed, because I thought, I’m a large guy, I’m a loud guy. You see all these super models on TV selling everything, no one’s going to want me. And I was shocked because I think within the first six months, I signed on two to 300 cases. I couldn’t handle them. So I decided, because I just decided I did not want to work for other firms, I wanted to do the stuff for myself. And that’s what led me to go on TV. Hammer with my favorite commercial, well, I’d have to say the one that got me 15 million hits was my Super Bowl of 19, I believe. But I enjoyed doing the commercials. You know, I take the opposite side. A lot of attorneys are embarrassed that they advertise.
I couldn’t be happier. I think to date our firm and I don’t say this to brag, I’m just saying I started this. I think we have had over 47 settlements or verdicts of over a million plus. And majority of them came from TV. Well, a lot are from referrals like this weekend, we had a great doctor friend who helped save my life and he’s thrown on my phone this week and he’s got a good friend hip by truck. You got to help him because I helped you. Well, I help everybody. I honestly think I’m proud to be on TV. I’m proud to do all the marketing. I look at it as a positive, not a negative. So, but I guess commercial wise, that gets the one super bowl.
But I like them all, a lot of them are corny. They’re stupid. I’m making fun of myself, but at the end of the day-
Yeah, but that’s what people remember.
Well, one thing I decided, I’ve had some other law firms poke at me with their commercials, I always say this about political candidates. Tell me what you’re going to do for me. Not what someone else is doing to you. So I do the same thing. I’ve had people run negative ads. I won’t run a negative ad. I won’t talk about anybody else. I just want to talk about what we can do for you.
Yeah. No. I think that’s great. Well, my favorite commercial was Hammer in space. Was that the 2019 super bowl?
Yeah. Because I can’t remember it’s 19 or 20. I think that was, that might have been the one that got 15 million hits.
Yeah. Yeah. it was awesome.
And none of these are my ideas, the adverts, my commercial person, Catherine. She’s amazing. I mean she sends it. I just okay, I rubber stamp it. Make sure it complies with all the legal ethics, but I’m not a visual guy. I can’t see it until it’s done and I just show up. They make me look good. I was mad at her on the set though. They had me in the air suspended like 20 feet. I’ve had lung surgery. They didn’t tell me they’re putting me in this straight jacket and a lot of stuff that is very challenging for me because of my injuries. But it ended up being a very successful commercial.
Yeah. I enjoyed watching them. One thing that you mentioned earlier, reminded me on your own, one of the podcasts I listened to that I thought was really great was that you talked about on the podcast, how you really stick to what you do best and that’s personal injury. You got buddies that call you and they want your help on divorce, so they want your help on this other type of case and you send them to other people that that’s really their area of expertise. And I was like, “Man, that’s really great.” Versus like trying to just do it all.
Well, I got that model from Colonel Sanders is from Kentucky, but he was told no 2006 times before someone gave him the money. But early on, he did one thing and we decided early on when we were going to do person injury, we just couldn’t do everything and be good at everything. So I just do what I feel is our area of specialty or, and a lot of times I know I make people mad every day, but I tell them, you probably know more about it than me, like when you’re calling about a divorce or bankruptcy or, so I just stick with what I know and what I think we’re good at and let everyone else do of the stuff we’re not.
Yeah. And you also mentioned about, one thing that Case Works, we do a lot of, working up the cases, it’s not the hard part it’s keeping these clients informed and engaged.
You mentioned that. You said you try to reach out to your to your clients at least every 30 days. And that’s just huge. Because a lot of people don’t, they sit on these cases, those cases become unresponsive and it’s just a lot of work to keep these clients informed and engaged and really go back to the service that you were talking about. And that’s the level of service that these clients need and they’re expecting. So I was like-
I’ll throw one more thing at you. Anybody watching this, if you’re building a practice, the number one thing you can do, and I do this, I’ve probably given my cell phone to 50,000 people, give your clients your cell phone. Because you want them to call you when they or a friend or know something. I can’t tell you how many million dollar cases I’ve got from my cell phone, and I don’t even know the people. Everyone gives my phone out. Now I don’t advertise that on the commercial because if everybody called me, I couldn’t handle the volume. But once they become a client, like all my attorneys, they have to give their cell phones. But I think that if no one else gets anything from this, get an easy number, get an easy domain and give your clients your cell phone.
Yeah, I agree. And that kind of speaks to, you were talking about not every client is the right client for you. If you want someone, if you’re talking to someone, you want to make sure early on, it might be a great case, but if their objective is revenge or just not in line with what your culture and what you’re trying to do, that’s definitely not a good client. And not someone you want to give your cell phone out to.
Way smarter than me. I can’t add anything. What you say is a hundred percent. Early on, I declined a wrongful death of a child that broke my heart, but the parent all he wanted, we’re civil lawyers, we can’t prosecute criminally. We can cooperate. When they say it’s not about the money, I kind of don’t take it because that’s the only thing we can do is get him money. We’re empathetic but, and I told him, I never forget this, it’s sad because we get so many wrongful deaths and you can’t bring him back but he wanted revenge. And he said that about three times and I just thought, I’ll never make this client happy and I can’t be his tool, so to speak, to get revenge. The Commwells attorney could, but I couldn’t. So I agree a hundred percent with what you said.
Yeah. And then do you remember, you were talking about your cases. Do you remember your first million dollar settlement?
Absolutely. Are you kidding?
Is that your favorite? Is that your-
I remember all the ones I did. I’ll never forget. I won’t say her name obviously, but we had a very nice lady that was a passenger in a van and a semi hit them and the semi driver went back, he told his company, he had a fender bender. Well, the funny thing is, the reason I got the case is, the lady was meeting with an attorney who did divorces and this attorney wanted to charge her an hourly fee for the personal injury case, which I didn’t know anybody did that, but they called me and I agreed. I came down, actually had to go to the hospital and gave her my typical, I Don’t Give A Hard Sell. This Is What We Offer If You Want Us. Well, her injuries was her leg looked like a chicken bone.
It was like a soufflé that got smashed. And it was sad, she didn’t lose her leg, but I’ll never forget when I called the insurance company, they said “we don’t even think we’re, there’s no damages.” So I decided and went out, had video made of the van and everything. And I just took videos of her leg and I sent to them, and they ultimately, they only had a million dollars, which Salesman paid me. But I remember that vividly because I got it because we did our normal course of business to a contingency fee and another attorney wouldn’t take it unless she paid him an hourly and she didn’t have the money to do that. So it was unique.
Hey Darryl, your firm websites place a lot of weight on helping people who have been in automobile and truck accidents, what are the most frequent, personal injury cases your firm traditionally sees in most of your personal injury cases?
Well, we obviously do a lot of truck litigation, a lot of car wrecks. We’ve probably over the years, we’ve probably done 50,000 plus car wrecks. I counted them once I don’t really keep up, but that’s, the car wrecks is what we do majority of and truck wrecks. We’ve had a lot of luck with dog bites and motorcycle and just that’s really what we know. So we try to stick to stuff we’ve done a ton of.
What is the one case that when you think about, I’m sure that that first case that you just mentioned, the first million dollar verdict always stands out, but is there any other case that you’re like, “This is the one that I’ll always remember.”
The first thing, it was the settlement, it wasn’t a verdict. Trust me, I would’ve loved to try the case, but they paid us. I guess it just depends. Our firm has had, we’ve had a lot of high profile cases. I’m opposite though. I don’t, a lot of firms will call news press and try to get more from it. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize the case. So I won’t do anything until the case is resolved. But there’s two or three that stand out. One obviously was the lady. It was a defective drug. And just knowing what we got her and how it changed her life, that stuck out. There’s another, it was just so tragic. A child was killed and I don’t know, you can’t help if you have compassion and care.
I always try to put myself in another person’s shoes. So I don’t judge anybody. I want to understand both sides. And sometimes it’s hard. I never forget the first time I hired a truck expert, I went to our vehicle and this was horrible, but I’m in the vehicle and I was looking up and I thought, I kept seeing this little stuff in the crevices. I said, “what is that?” And he said, it was brain tissue, the head exploded in the car wreck.
I could tell you a story after story of just tragic, but, you know what, whether it’s big or little, we love seeing people smile. You can’t undo the hardship, but you can make someone maybe a little happier or pleasant. So sometimes watching just clients come in, get their check and if they smile or hug you, it’s worth it.
Yeah, for sure.I mentioned a lot of attorneys watching these streams, some are new, starting out in personal injury and you already gave such great advice, but talking about service and different things, but what is one thing that stands out, advice that you can give new attorneys starting out in personal injury.
Get a mentor. Because I Came Out Of Law School And Already Did 300 Car Wreck Cases. He’s passed on his name was David Kaplan. He was a phenomenal lawyer. But get a mentor or because think about it, med school, they come out, you got to go to residency. I had so much help. And the other thing I would do, I would go to these summits. Like I know I’ve seen you all’s name. When different organizations put on, we do a ton joint. We’re a member of some truck litigation, we’re a member of like the American bars got, any kind of seminars, any kind of summits. I usually try to go two or three a year. And then you network. One of the things that’s helped us is we keep finding more ways to make our case efficient.
And there’s companies out there, like maybe someone does a great day in the life, or the more you can bring in to show. We’ll do reconstructionist or we’ll get a demonstrative video. And then lastly, I think everybody has got to market in some capacity. Not everybody wants to be on TV. Like I got these law groups and one firm in my group, they’re not on TV. They get like 150 case a month on a referral program. And so you need to get out there and just find people that are successful and ask them questions, maybe get involved. Like I don’t know a lot about, I’m anxious to learn about Case Works, but maybe like your company can help someone. You just can’t go at it alone.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. We found that out that really the practices that are growing and successful, they don’t want to hire and train a bunch of staff. They want to be able to outsource the case development to a company like Case Works and then just having the great partners. It’s not the vendors, it’s like, who are the business partners that you want to work with, that ultimately help to make you as successful as possible? I think that’s great advice. And I guess just one last thing is any attorneys listening to this that would love to either get your advice or maybe refer cases to you? What is the best way that they can get ahold of you?
Well, I’m going to give my cell. I give it to everybody. It’s an easy number. Well, I’m from Louisville, 502 is our area code. So I always tell people, my number is 502, 8 minus one is seven, 1000. So 502-817-1000. And our website is we win.com. But the other thing I will say, if you’ll forgive me or allow me we’ve been involved with, we have three different legal mastermind groups. And so they’ve all encouraged me. So we decided we’re going to put an advertising seminar in September, in Vegas at the Wind. And we’re going to probably cap at about 800 attorneys, but we’re going to teach everybody that wants to come and learn some basic marketing principles, whether they’re on TV or not kind as the way of giving back, because we’ve had so many people help us.
But I know there’s some great organization. PILMMA has got a big advertising and I’m getting ready to go to the net. What is it in Miami? I don’t know if y’all going to be there. The the trial lawyers. So many wonderful organizations that I just think everybody needs to go. And I will tell you, I do have an easy email if anybody, it’s my name, Daryl, D-A-R-Y-L @callthehammer.com.
Oh, cool. Yeah, that is easy.
That’s another way to get ahold of me.
Man, Darryl, I will remember your cell and I’ll remember your email. That’s easy. I really appreciate you taking time to, to join Dan and I today, this is great advice and feedback. Love being able to send this out into the industry for other attorneys. You said having mentors and such, but again, really appreciate your time. And if anyone hasn’t watched any of your commercials or listen to your podcast, they need to do that.
So I need to go out there and find it. Yeah, absolutely.
Thank you so much.
If you all are at the summit, we need to get together. I’d like to learn more about, next week, about what you all do.
I’ll definitely meet you there Darryl.
Well, you got my cell.
We’re going to be calling that number.
Okay, fantastic. Thank you Darryl.