Make Your Firm Fireproof featuring Mike Morse

Susan Barfield:
Hello and thank you so much for joining another CaseWorks stream. Today I’m super excited to have Mike Morse on. We’re going to be talking with Mike about his book Fireproof and how to fireproof your business and just really excited to have him on our stream today. Mike, why don’t you… I was going to intro you, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and about the Mike Morse Law Firm?

Mike Morse:
Thank you. Thanks for having me. Mike Morse Law Firm started in 1995. I’ve been a lawyer since 1992. Started out just me for the first several years, handling anything that came my way. Auto accidents, dog bites, truck accidents, and whatnot. And I slowly started treating my law firm like a business, but it took about 10 years and I was doing okay. I built up to about 25, 30 employees, just without knowing too much. And then in 2007, I hired Gino Wickman to be my personal EOS business coach, and he taught me why a law firm was really a business and how to treat it like a business. And ever since then, I’ve been doing that. Hired my implementer, my COO, the next year, John Nachazel in 2008, right after we had a fire in our building and it basically burnt down.

Mike Morse:
And since I hired John, my business went from 30 employees to 160 employees. We went from $17 million of settlements and verdicts to $160 million of settlements and verdicts. And I attribute all that to John, to Gino Wickman’s coaching. And over the last 13 plus years, we have turned EOS on its head and came up with our own system that we call Fireproof, and we wrote a book called Fireproof. I actually have a copy right here. And we wrote this book to help law firms. Didn’t know it was going to turn into a coaching thing. We actually recommend coaching.

Mike Morse:
And then lawyers started calling us from around the country and other businesses actually saying, “Will you help us? Will you hand hold us through the process so we can get there quicker? Because it took you 13 years, Mike. We don’t have 13 years. We want to get this done a lot quicker. Can you help us? And John and I looked at each other and said, “Sure, why not?” So we’re taking on a limited number of firms that we actually are hand holding through the entire Fireproof process. And it’s been a wild ride. It’s been just over a year now that we’ve been doing that, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Susan Barfield:
Yeah, thank you for that. Your book is… If anyone listening has not read your book, it’s a must read. I started reading it. I loved it so much. My husband is our COO and CTO. I told him he had to stop what he was doing and basically read… I thought I was going to read a little bit every night, and we got through the book in just a couple of nights. And I shared, before we hopped on that, we started doing EOS-ish, holding meetings and such at CaseWorks, And we’ve read Get a Grip and Traction, and how lucky you are to have Gino Wickman. But it can be a little overwhelming. And I just think that your book puts it into such practical ways that you can just… Instead of, like you were saying, the attorney said, “Well, I don’t want to wait 13 years. I want to get this started now.” But how can you do this? How do you start step by step? And I think that that’s the way your book really lays it out. Like, “You can do this and you can do that.”

Susan Barfield:
And just for an example, we can talk about this in a little bit about your people analyzer, because we do that, but when I read in your book about analyzing the people and if they have a certain score, in 30 days you meet with them, and if they don’t turn it around, you have people on a short leash. But I’m really excited and I can talk about a lot of things about your book, but I do… Why don’t you tell folks about, and you alluded to a little bit of one of the reasons why you named the book Fireproof when you were talking about the building that burned down, but maybe share for those that haven’t had the pleasure and the opportunity to read your book, why you chose the name Fireproof?

Mike Morse:
Well, it’s a good question. We believe that our law firm is fireproof. Lots of situations have happened to me in this law firm in the last 25 years, starting with… Literally… And not all of these are fires, actually, but they’re all pretty traumatic events. I went to law school to partner with my dad. He died in law school. I got fired from my first job of being a lawyer. A firing. My building burned down. Two years after that, the biggest person in my town who sent me 70% of my cases fired me and said, “I’m not sending you any more cases.”

Mike Morse:
And more and more and more things like that. But along the way, I realized how resilient our firm was, how resilient I was. And we started looking at that, John and I, and we really believed with the type of advertising and marketing we do, which is different than any other law firm in the country, the way we hire, the way we fire, the way we have an org chart at our law firm. Most PI firms that we meet and sit down with don’t have an org chart. They don’t have a leadership team. Don’t have core values. Don’t set good goals. Don’t have routine meetings every single week with every single person in the firm is in a meeting. And on and on and on. I can tell you 30 things that most firms don’t do.

Mike Morse:
And what we find is when they implement our five step process, they flourish. They learn how to delegate, they learn how to free up their time, they learn how to work on the things that are important and the things that they love to do and the things that they’re great at. And what happens when you do that? You can’t help but be more successful and be happier and less stressed and make more money. And quite frankly, that’s what everybody wants, and people, they just don’t get it. And Susan, you alluded to that you started a process and you’re doing it-ish. And I have a lot of friends who do that, and I have a lot of clients who say they do that.

Mike Morse:
One important distinction that I want to point out. EOS is a fabulous system. Gino Wickman is a dear friend. He wrote the forward to my book. So there’s no ill will between him and I. I still meet with him four times a year, even today. I’m meeting with him next week. But the thing is this, EOS, as you know, is a five day a year program. A certified EOS implementer will not meet with you more than five days. That’s it. They teach complete independence. Five days. They say, “All right, go set yourself up a scorecard, go find your leadership team, go do that, go do that, go do this.” If you’re really busy as a lawyer, as a business owner, as an entrepreneur like yourself, trying to run a really successful busy business, you may not have the wherewithal to hold yourself accountable and do it. And that’s not a bad thing.

Mike Morse:
It took me 13 years to get to where I’m at, because we did it the independent way. We followed the EOS model because we didn’t know there was another model. Well, after 13 years of doing it one way, John and I came up with a model that creates dependence. And we’re very aware of that word. So EOS creates independence. Fireproof creates dependence on our coaches to hold their hand through this process, meet with them weekly, making sure that everything’s on track, holding them accountable. Our fees are expensive. If we meet with you on a weekly basis and we say, “Do these 10 things by next week,” all of our clients are doing them. Because why would they want to pay us and not doing them?” They sit around our meeting on Tuesday morning and say, “Okay, John, did you get this done?” “No.” “How about this one?” “No.” “How about this one?” “Well I was really busy?”

Mike Morse:
That’s not happened because we’re there in the room, making sure stuff gets done. So all of our clients are happy. They’re reporting increased profits, increased happiness, less stress, more accountability in their firm. And we’re kind of… We are there to help with whatever it is. So if a law firm calls us in and they’re having massive hiring and firing issues or massive turnover or whatever the issue is we, we send our HR team in and we do a deep dive on this. Or if they’re having horrible… Things are down 80% in marketing and advertising and intake, we take a deep dive into that. If they don’t have core values yet, or they don’t have an org chart or they don’t have all the things that they need, goals set, we do that.

Mike Morse:
If they don’t collect their data and they don’t know their numbers and they don’t have a jumbotron in place, we implement one, we hold those numbers for them. We put it into context. Whatever it is. And it’s not quick. It’s not 13 years long. But we think that within a year or two or three, we’re able to get these firms up to speed a lot quicker because we’re teaching them the errors we made, the things that took us time. Our jumbotron, that EOS calls a scorecard, took us eight, nine years to perfect. We’re helping firms get it 90 days, 120 days.

Mike Morse:
So it’s a completely different model. It’s not just saying, “Go back for 90 days and come up with a scorecard and come back and let me see how it is.” We’re actually helping them implement it and craft it and come up with the formulas and figuring out what are the metrics they should be following and watching and why and we hold those numbers and we cull through the data and we create a jumbotron from them. And for certain firms who want to scale, who want to get there quicker, it’s been a really wonderful thing.

Susan Barfield:
Yeah. I appreciate you taking time to share the difference between the EOS model and the Fireproof model. I think, like you mentioned, the accountability is key and holding people’s hand, help providing the tools. I downloaded your jumbotron Excel spreadsheet. For a lot of firms, maybe they don’t know how to create that. They’re not sure, they just see they… They don’t know even where to start. So I think that it’s a great way. The tools are there. And like you said, if you’re investing this kind of money for a business coach, you’re going to show up to those meetings prepared, so it’s just going to get your firm headed in the right direction. I think the timing of when your book was released during the midst of the pandemic was great because that’s when a lot of firms that were not fireproof saw a lot of issues. So I would love to hear when the pandemic had really made its mark in the US, around the world, has there been any change in your opinions since you released the book?

Mike Morse:
It’s a great question, and I should have working this into my answer a few minutes ago. We believe after COVID hit was perfect timing because we proved to ourself that we were COVID proof. We’re tornado proof. We’re hurricane proof. And people who implement these systems, no matter what happens, if a big mega law firm moves into your town and you have implemented the Fireproof model, you’re not afraid. You don’t have that stress because you know that you are fireproof and that’s kind of what we want for our clients. That’s what I just said. The truth is I want it for everybody who reads the book. I didn’t write this book to become a coach. I’m still running a 165 person law firm right now. So this is just… It’s just a side biz to give back. The money is all going to charity. We’re able to buy more backpacks and do more things with pet events. We’re having a big one next month. So all the money is going to that.

Mike Morse:
It’s just our way of giving back and loving it, actually, and meeting new friends around the country. It’s been wonderful. But to succinctly answer your question, nothing changed after COVID. We have tested the systems and we weathered the storm. We actually didn’t take any PPP money. Every single business, every single firm in my town, all my competitors on TV all took a couple million bucks or something a little less. We didn’t. We didn’t need to. We didn’t want to. We didn’t like it. We wanted to save it for the other businesses. And it was just another tip of the cap to the system that it worked. I’m excited for firms like yours, even, to really understand the system, because anything that happens, you’re wiped out by something, a hurricane, a fire, a flood, a competitor, your main person in your business quit. Somebody takes a lot of business away.

Mike Morse:
You don’t panic. You have a team in place. You have processes in place. You have systems in place. And you keep on rolling. I’m going to say you’re not going to take an occasional dip, but the long-term outlook is good. It helps. It really helps me sleep at night. It helps our law firms that we’re working with sleep at night. We do forecasting for our businesses and they’re accurate. So you know what you’re going to do at the end of the year. So when there’s a lull in March or April or May, you’re not worried. You know you’re going to hit your numbers at the end of the year pretty darn close, because you have an accurate forecasting system in place. No law firm in the country has that. They just don’t do it. They don’t take the time. They don’t understand it. But we have it. The 23, 4 firms that we work with have it. And I’ll tell you, it’s just a game changer.

Susan Barfield:
Yeah. You know, I really appreciate it in the book. I think one of the messages that I took away is that this allows for firms and for businesses to be forward-thinking and not always looking at the numbers from last month and then trying to… You become this, like in a reactive state, like, “Oh, what happened last month and how do we change,” versus this model allows you to… You talk about John being able to come to such a… A 10th of a point as far as the revenue that you’re going to make for that year, or when you have paralegals that come to you and say, “Hey, we need more help,” and you’re like, “Well, do you really?” So you have the numbers and the metrics to be able to make intelligent business decisions that impact the overall business and company, and you’re making informed decisions based on the metrics. And so I agree with you that I don’t think a lot of businesses, firms, attorneys have that knowledge base to be able to make those kinds of decisions. They’re just reacting.

Mike Morse:
I agree. So we’re able to be proactive and it’s just… Like I said earlier, it’s just a game changer. I recommend everybody know their numbers. Susan, I’m so addicted to data and numbers right now, that I can’t make a decision without them. So my team will say, “What do you want to do?” I’ll say, “Well, what do the numbers show?” “Well we haven’t got to that yet.” “Okay. See you next week.” I can’t do it. I just can’t do it now that I know we have so much data and they can get me the data.

Mike Morse:
We’re upgrading our intake center right now, and we’re talking times of the day and times of the year and times of the week and Saturdays at 3:00 in the morning. And they’re like, “Well, how many people do you think we should have?” How many calls are we getting at 3:00 in the morning? What’s the average over the last two years? Don’t ask me a question if there’s data out there to help me answer it. I led my firm for 30 years, a lot of it through my gut, but when I don’t have to use my gut, I want the data. And I think everybody should think that way.

Susan Barfield:
Right. Well let’s talk about marketing just for a moment, marketing and advertising. What do you say to attorneys who are out there wondering real marketing and advertising cheapen my law firm?

Mike Morse:
Well, I would say if it’s done right, it won’t. And if you do the cheesy ads that are in every… There’s 200 markets in the country. If you turn on your TV, you’re going to come up with a cheesy ad. You all know what it is. And usually there’s five law firms doing cheesy ads. For a short period of time, I did cheesy ads until I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” And then I invested in my advertising, which any of your viewers, listeners can see it on a YouTube channel, the Mike Morse Law Firm YouTube channel. All my commercials are there. We have six or seven Superbowl commercials. And hopefully you’ll see those and say, “Wow, that’s not cheesy. Wow, that’s pretty funny or pretty cool. Pretty self-deprecating.” We do a lot of commercials talking about what we do in our community for backpacks and pet events and other things.

Mike Morse:
It’s just a different way to advertise. We like to call it Cherry Garcia versus vanilla. It’s in our book. We talk about that we want to be different. We want to work on our branding. We don’t want to sit up there and just talk about auto accident cases and no fee guarantee and put on boxing gloves and whatever it is. And I think the public appreciates it in my town. I’m not the biggest spender. I do believe I get the most calls, I get the most cases, I’m the biggest guy three, four, five times anybody else. And I believe it’s directly because of my messaging, my marketing. I don’t feel like it’s cheapened my brand. I have people come up to me no matter where I’m at, tell me they love my commercials, tell me they love my mom who’s in some of my commercials, they like my dog.

Mike Morse:
I’ve been with other TV advertisers, and nobody comes up to them and says, “I love your commercials.” They point at them and they say, “Oh look, there’s so-and-so.” But they’re not coming up to them and saying, “Way to go. I love your spots.” I get emails every day. “Thank you for making me smile.” They know what we do as lawyers. They know if I’m a personal injury lawyer, they know I do auto accidents, and dog bite… They don’t want to hear that every single commercial. I have some that I say it, but more than 50% of my ads and marketing are about me, my mom, branding, given back to our great community, things like that. And I believe it stands out. Our production value is way better. I’m not afraid to make fun of myself. Anyway, that’s my answer. I don’t think it… If you get that right, you’re good.

Susan Barfield:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s talk about your five step model that you described in your book. Would you share with everyone what that five step process is?

Mike Morse:
Sure. I’m going to reference it so I get it right. The five step model is basically, as a business owner, you’re either the visionary or the integrator. Susan, I just met you, but I think you’re probably the visionary and you have the big ideas, you hold the big relationships, you come up with 10 ideas a day and maybe one are good. And you’re real busy. And you’re just basically hitting the ceiling not being able to work your full potential because you and every other entrepreneurial business person hasn’t figured out how to fully delegate to get to where you’re at. So we figure that out, teach you how to delegate, figure out who’s the integrator.

Mike Morse:
Every law firm needs two people. Two. You can’t be both. You can be both to a certain period of time. But if you want to scale, you want to grow. So it took me to about 28 people, 27 people, and I couldn’t do it anymore. So I hired a COO, an integrator, we went to 160 people within a few years. So you got to know yourself, you got to know the org chart, you got to know which one you are, et cetera. Second chapter is talking about hiring and firing and paying correctly and using the right tests to get the right people, and learn how to hire slow and fire fast. Learning the people analyzer, making sure that they align to your core values, knowing what your core values are, and on and on. That’s a really important thing.

Mike Morse:
Chapter three is all about data. It’s a legal jumbotron. just like any sporting event that you go to. It’s a jumbotron. Why is there a jumbotron? Because the coaches and the players need that data to know how to win the game. My jumbotron, the year before I met Gino Wickman, was a blank screen. I didn’t know my numbers. 99% of the lawyers listening to this don’t know their numbers. They may know a number or two, but they don’t know the important numbers. And in the book we explain it all to them. As I’m going through this, I just want to be real clear. We wrote this book and gave it all away. There’s nothing that I can coach you that’s not in this book really. The book has it all.

Mike Morse:
And then four, run your business like your biggest case. Every lawyer, every business like yours has a big case, a big client that is going to pay the bills for a long time, that’s going to make you famous, that’s going to put you on TV. And you spend a lot of time taking care of that client, taking care of that program, the planning for that case, that client. You take a ton of time. You don’t just throw it over your shoulder and say, “All right, go handle it.” You plan. You spend hours and hours and hours. Well, what’s bigger than your biggest case? What’s bigger, Susan, than your biggest client? It’s your business, it’s your firm. And what we suggest in this chapter is take the time to run your business like a business and get out of the weeds. You might not be able to handle a hundred cases if you really want to grow and scale your firm and be happy. You can’t do both. I was doing both for very long time, and I will tell you, you can’t do it.

Mike Morse:
Chapter five is Cherry Garcia beats vanilla. We talked about that. You want to be memorable. Vanilla ice cream is everybody. Every law firm has got a vanilla commercial. I want it to be memorable. I want you to remember those cherry chunks and the chocolate chips and the cherry ice cream, and go reach for that when you go into the freezer section at your local supermarket. And when people think of an accident, I want them to think of me. And because of the ads and the marketing we do, I believe it’s working. And then we talk about the importance of having a coach. There’s been a lot of talk about that lately in the media and in sports players all have coaches. Even junior sports players. And you need a coach. Even the best of the best have coaches. We all need coaches. We all need somebody to hold us accountable, teach us things that we didn’t know. So find yourself a coach, read some great books, and that’s basically the bottle.

Susan Barfield:
And I agree with you that your book really lays it all out. There’s been so many things that we’ve already begun implementing from your book, but I think that’s only scratching the surface. It’s kind of like in January when everyone’s ready to get fit and they’re going to go to the gym and they sign up. If you don’t have someone there, a coach holding you accountable, in three to six months, that’s when all the gym memberships, people drop off, you stop doing it, the passion starts to wane a little bit. So you’ve convinced me for sure that we need a business coach, like I mentioned to you, so we’ve already reached out to your team because I’m excited to work with someone, but I just want to everyone else on that’s listening to this string, how can they find out about one of your coaches and how can they reach out?

Mike Morse:
So we have a website, fireproofperformance.com. My personal email, I can give it to you, you can put it in the show notes. It’s mike@855mikewins.com. I think I have a Fireproof email too, but that one’s easier. They come to my phone. And we’re actually coming up with a masterclass right now that’s going to be a much lower ticket thing for the smaller law firms, because, like I said, Susan, we are working with a limited number of firms and because of the coaches that I brought in, and because it takes up my time and John Nachazel’s time, we are not affordable for most firms. But we are putting together, which we’re hoping to launch this fall, is going to be a video class of John and I, I think it’s eight episodes, walking them through the system with lots of goodies along the way with office hours for us. And John and I are spending a lot of time on this because we realized we can’t help the majority of law firms and we want to help. So we are keeping a list of people who are interested in this type of thing.

Mike Morse:
Again, it’s not an expensive proposition. It’s a one-time payment and you get the… I think it’s eight or ten weeks. We’re actually starting to shoot next week. And I’m excited about that. So sign up for our newsletter. It’s on the website. Email me, I’ll get you on that list. So when it is being launched, I can get you information by somebody on my team. And if you are a a firm that that wants to grow and scale, we do have a few slots available for some law firms to be coached by John and me and Sarah and Anne and George and Michael, and we… That sounded like a rock band just now, I think. We do have a few slots left for firms who really, really want that handholding. But we’ll find you something, and if we can’t do it, we’ll find you somebody that can. And there is of course the other models that we’ve talked about, if you are somebody who is completely diligent and completely could do it on your own, there’s other ways to do it without spending loads of money.

Susan Barfield:
Sure. Fantastic. Last question. Any conferences that you’re going to be attending in the near future so I can get my book signed?

Mike Morse:
Well, first of all, I will personally send you a copy Susan, so don’t worry about that. I’m supposed to be giving an hour Fireproof talk in New Orleans in a month at PILMMA, but quite frankly, they’re supposed to let us know in the next couple of days… I hear the hotel still doesn’t have power, which is so sad. One of my favorite cities down there. I’m thinking about going… I might be in Vegas at MTMP. I’m definitely giving a big speech, one of my favorite conferences at the National Trial Lawyers in January in Miami, which is one of my favorite, favorite events. If you’re not a National Trial Lawyer member, I highly suggest you become one and come down to Miami and see me.

Mike Morse:
We’re actually partnering with NTL to put on a Fireproof conference, believe it or not, in 2022 and would love to have you, Susan, there, and CaseWorks there and maybe even be a vendor and we’ll hang out there. That one’s going to be in Phoenix, which is one of my favorite cities. That’ll be exciting. So lots of stuff, and I should probably put all this on my website, Fireproof Performance, and you just gave me a great idea. See, look at that visionary stuff right there. Yeah, it’s all good, and thank you so much for having me.

Susan Barfield:
Yeah, thanks so much, Mike. I really appreciate your time, and like I said, in the very beginning, if you haven’t gotten the book Fireproof, it’s a must read. It’s a quick read. It’s great. It’s very entertaining, and Mike, it allowed us to learn a little bit about you and how you got your business. So thank you so much for the time and appreciate all the wisdom and time that you spent with us.

Mike Morse:
My pleasure. Bye-bye. Thank you.