In this episode, Alay Yajnik and Scott Rahn, managing partner at RMO, discuss how RMO’s niche strategy and people strategy have driven its growth. Since its inception in 2015, RMO has grown to six offices from coast to coast!
- They have a Level 3 niche: Trust and Estates -> Trust and Estates Litigation -> Probate Litigation
- They focus their efforts on being probate litigation “ninjas”
- The Level 3 niche ensures that they can cooperate and co-counsel with other attorneys
- They are very selective about who they hire in terms of cultural alignment, skills, and ability to learn
- They are always looking to hire and grow
- “The single most important thing in building any business are the relationships you have”
- “Hiring is one of the single biggest challenges to any business”
Alay Yajnik: Welcome to Lawyer Business Advantage. This podcast is dedicated to helping attorneys earn more money, get better clients and spend more time with family. I’m your host, Alay Yajnik, founder of Law Firm Success Group. Smart business guidance for small law firms begins in 3…2…1….
Alay Yajnik: And I’m pleased to welcome to the broadcast my friend Scott Rahn, who is the founder and managing partner of RMO. Scott, thanks for joining us today.
Scott Rahn: Thank you for having me.
Alay Yajnik: One of the things I love about how you’ve built your firm, you grew very quickly, you have a really nice sized firm and also you have grown using a niche. So tell us a little bit about the growth and evolution of your firm.
Scott Rahn: We are in a very specific niche, as you’ve highlighted here at RMO. We are a probate litigation firm and that’s really all that we do. So we stay in our lane. We don’t deviate from that lane and get in other people’s lanes. And we focus specifically on probate litigation, resolving and litigating probate disputes. And what that means is handling will contests, trust contests, contested conservatorships, all the things that you think that might arise when a decision passes and family members have issues regarding their estate or pre death. If someone is having issues regarding a loved one and requires court intervention to address issues with them, their money, their health, et cetera.
Alay Yajnik: There’s so many trust and estate law firms out there. And there’s also some that are pretty focused on trust and estate litigation. Yours is the first firm I’ve heard of that focuses on probate litigation. So how did you come up with this idea and discover this niche and then choose to develop it and build it up?
Scott Rahn: So you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of firms out there that do trust and estates. There are some firms that do trust and estates that also have trust and estate litigation practices.All of that’s in the probate court. We are one of the few firms that is focused on just the litigation side. So we don’t do the planning, we don’t do the taxes. Our administration practice is limited to those matters that are tangential to the litigations that we’re handling. And what that does is that doesn’t create conflicts for us with the nice estate planning lawyers that we work with. So we’ll often co-counsel cases with estate planning lawyers, tax lawyers, corporate lawyers, other litigators who don’t do what we do, frankly, don’t want to do what we do. Most planning lawyers don’t like to go to court, certainly not over a contested matter, and they don’t want to be in the hot seat in trial. And most litigators don’t want to go to probate court because as I was told when I was a baby lawyer and got my first probate court case, it’s weird. It has its own set of rules. I came to find that it’s not weird. It’s actually very common-sensical and frankly, just a really, really nice place to practice. So we’ve focused on this. Like I said, my first probate experience came when I was a young lawyer and then had the opportunity to move into a department that focused on trust in the States. It was a full blown planning and administration and litigation practice where I focused on the litigation but got to learn the planning and the administration alongside and really to sharpen my toolkit.
Scott Rahn: And then throughout the course of my career, I just continued focused on that as I moved out of other practice areas and shed those because I really liked the probate litigation work. It’s one of the few practice areas where you really get to help people, you get to help families, and you really get to help them at a very challenging time in their lives. Everybody we work with is dealing with a situation where they’ve lost a loved one or a loved one is compromised and they don’t know what to do. This isn’t something that people go through often in their lives, hopefully, and they’re stressed, they’re vexed, and we get an opportunity to hold their hand and let them know it’s OK. And we have a path to get them through this, to get them a results and put them in a place where they can move on with their lives. And I think it’s that approach, the empathy with which we approach our clients and their cases. In addition to obviously the focus, the structure, the strategies, the muscle that we put behind those cases to get those results that really distinguish and differentiate us and have helped us to grow as a firm over these past many years.
Alay Yajnik: I want to ask you a question about how you grew your firm in terms of when you brought on the attorneys and how you brought in the attorneys. Because an area like probate litigation, it’s very interesting for me to hear about what experience you wanted when they came into the firm versus the experience and training that you gave them to be really good probate litigators once they joined your firm. So tell me a little bit about the size of the firm when you started. Now you’re much larger. How did you get through that process of adding attorneys and really finding and then bringing on talent and balancing that with training?
Scott Rahn: Great question. And I think hiring is, as you know, is one of the single biggest challenges to any business. Ours certainly is not the exception to that rule. I started the firm in 2015. Me, myself and I, we were an army of three being me for about the first month or so. I then hired my paralegal from my firm, Gina Rosales, who’s been with me prior to that and since then, and has been part of the backbone of the firm. She’s got decades of experience and is just a wonderful, wonderful person to practice with. But as we continue to get busier, as the market continued to to realize what we were capable of doing and more and more cases kept coming in, we needed to be able to obviously continue to do the good work that helped build that reputation. So we, like most small firms, started by going to friends and family to hire people that we knew, liked and trusted, as the old Provisors adage goes. And one of those first hires is my partner Sean, who runs our Orange County office. And as my co-managing partner of the firm, Sean and I were summer associates together at our first firm 20 years ago. And we went our separate ways when we both went from that smaller firm to big law and honed our practices. But we got the band back together, if you will, in late 2015, 2016. And he’s been an integral part of helping to to build the firm from that point.
Scott Rahn: And we really look for first, we look for good people. Fit is the single most important thing I’ve told anybody who would listen when I’m talking about who we’re trying to bring on that fit is the single most important thing, because if they’re not people who do their business the right way for the right reasons and they’re not genuinely interested in helping people, it’s just not going to work. There are plenty of lawyers out there who will lawyer the bejesus out of a case, generate fees, maybe even get results. But our clients are our people first cases second. And you really need to have that approach. And I think that that approach of taking care of people, whether it’s our clients or our employees, our referral sources, I think if you lead with that, I think the rest of it takes care of itself. So we always look for people who are first good people and second, good lawyers. And third, hopefully somebody with some probate experience, even if it’s just exposure and fourth, if they don’t have that, then someone who’s willing to learn and a quick learner. And we’ve been fortunate that the people we’ve been able to hire check those boxes. They’re good, smart, hardworking people who frankly just want to do a good job for their clients. And you combine all those things together and we get results.
Alay Yajnik: You started this firm in 2015. It’s 2021. So in six years, Scott, you now have fifteen people at least working for you, probably more than what’s on your website. What do you attribute that level of growth and scalability to?
Scott Rahn: It’s a great question. I think the growth and scalability is in part driven by the market because we are so niche. You know, we are not a competitor to many. We because we don’t do the planning, we don’t do the taxes, we don’t do the corporate work, the real estate work. You know, all the things that come out of a traditional estate planning firm, we’re able to shoulder up with a lot of estate planning practices and practitioners so we can bolt on with their firms. We can co-counsel and ninja assassin, if you will, the litigation piece of of a family dispute and then leave the client with the referral source for them to wrap up the administration, do the next stage of planning, do the corporate work, real estate work, et cetera. We come in, we get a result, we get out. But the referral source and the client are fat and happy and continue down their path. And I think that’s really something that being able to distinguish ourselves in the market and being known for what we do and being good at it and knowing that we’re we’re there to help protect the relationships of those who bring us into those relationships. I think really has helped us on our growth path, and we are going to be past the twenty five person mark here by the end of this month, we just hired some some new lawyers for our Miami office and some new paralegals and lawyers for the California offices as well. So it’s tremendous and we’re very, very proud of of everybody that’s here and what we’re what we’re able to do for people.
Alay Yajnik: Well, congrats on that growth story, Scott. That is fantastic. And if you’re listening to this, I hope you’re paying attention to what he’s saying and what he’s putting out there. I hear a lot of people talk about where should I specialize, my law firm and what three practice areas should I focus on. But I would challenge all of you to do what Scott has done, find an area of practice where you really good, where you can get really good and get really specialized, because if you focus on just that, you’ll be doing your best work. And to Scott’s point, you know, your referral partners are going to enjoy working with you because they know you’re going to come in and like Scott’s team does, they go in, they get their very specific job done. They get out the existing referral relationship between the client and the attorney. The other attorney is still in place. The other attorney looks like a rock star and a hero. Client’s happy. And the referral relationship is preserved. So, Scott, tremendous job of really leveraging the niche that you’ve built to grow your firm. One of the things we were talking about was personnel. And you mentioned that your co managing partner, Sean Muntz, has been with you for most of this journey. A lot of a lot of attorneys are out there trying to grow firms on their own, and I’d love to hear from you how Sean has contributed to the growth of the firm and how you two work together.
Scott Rahn: The trust that we have in one another, having shared an office when neither of us frankly knew anything and the friendship that was struck, then the foundation that we built that we’ve been able to build upon has been significant in what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far and for where we’re going. But I think one of the biggest reasons why we’ve had as much success as we’ve had and will have is because we complement one another. We both bring strengths and complement each other’s, if I dare call them weaknesses. Sean is a lawyer’s lawyer. I have always joked with him that he’s a much better lawyer than I. I always joke that he knew the code of civil procedure by the end of our summer by heart. And he was when when we were baby lawyers, after we returned to that firm, after passing the bar, you know, he was my go to associate when I would have procedural questions and he just continued to build his toolset and sharpen those tools in the time that we were apart.
Scott Rahn: So for me, it was a no brainer bringing Sean into the fold. And it’s something that he and I had talked about on and off over the years. So, you know, we’re lucky that we have each other and that we’re able to to leverage off of that and frankly, to be able to have the the new people that we have at the firm, like Matt Baker, our junior partner, and a lot of the other lawyers who frankly just pulled together. And we do work together well and complement one another. It’s really a wonderful team. It’s it’s an honor to work with them. And I feel lucky to have found each and every one of them.
Alay Yajnik: That is a wonderful, wonderful story and I love hearing, hearing those kinds of things because, you know, that doesn’t always work out. A lot of law firms break up earlier on and they don’t grow to the size that you’ve grown to. So congratulations to you and Sean and the rest of the team on doing that. Looks like you’re in six offices, Southern California, all the way across the coast of Miami and a few in between. One of the questions I always get asked is, “Should I open a new office here or should I open a new office there?” Love to hear how the additional offices came to be and what was the business reason and the personal reasons for setting those up?
Scott Rahn: That’s a question I get frequently. And as one of my mentors likes to quip, “some people fall in love with profit. Some people fall in love with overhead,” alluding to my affection for the latter, but the reality is that we, as I’ve said, our ethos is to help people and frankly, we have a better mousetrap. We take better care of people. We get better results sooner for less legal spend. And that is a market niche that is valuable and almost any market, and if there’s enough volume to support a practice and the market can use our services where we’re able to help people and provide them better results for, frankly, less legal spend, and that’s where we’re going to try to be.
Alay Yajnik: One of the reasons that people listen to this podcast is because they’re looking to build a successful small law firm similar to what you’ve built. And so for someone who’s trying to do what you have done, what what advice would you give them?
Scott Rahn: I think the single most important thing in building any business is the relationships that you have. If you don’t have those relationships, you’re going to have a hard time. You’re not only going to have a hard time finding clients that will support your business, you’re going to have a hard time scaling that business. I think one of the reasons that we’ve had the success that we’ve had in not only having the cases, but finding the personnel to support those client relationships is because of the relationships that we have. Our recruiter that we use. It came through a friend, an old classmate of mine, law school classmate. The marketing firm that we’ve worked with for the past many years is someone that I’ve known for a decade and so on and so forth down the list. And it’s really through those relationships and the people that you need to know that are going to help you build your business. That’s where the magic is.
Scott Rahn: I remember sitting down this was probably 15 years ago or so, sitting pre kids pre-marriage in Mexico for four New Years with the CEO of a publicly traded company. Just he and I, he was a friend of a friend, but he and I came down a little early for the rest of the group down there. And we were sitting there sipping a little tequila. And he had been a serial entrepreneur, had started a bunch of companies. And then I had them to myself and I was going to ask the million dollar question. So I did. And I said, “How do you do it?” And he said, “How do I do what?” I said, “How do you start all these successful companies?” And he just kind of shook his head and took a sip of his tequila and said, “That’s the question I get asked more frequently than anything else.” And I just looked at them waiting for the answer. He didn’t say anything else, is that. “What’s the answer?” And he said, “I don’t know. You just do it. You figure it out. You have a question you start asking people. Funny thing is, people want to help you. So the first person you asked may not have the answer, but they might have a friend who does.” So I only share that with you because it was illustrative to me that relationships and having these relationships, which I was building at the time, are the key to all of this. And what ends up happening is it brings the community closer together and it makes all of the magic happen.
Scott Rahn: You know, I grew up in a small town in rural Wisconsin, about 1100 people strong when I left. And, you know, that feeling of community that you get growing up in a in a small town, that’s what you end up getting when you focus on those relationships. And again, taking care of the people, taking care of the people ultimately who are going to take care of you.
Alay Yajnik: Thank you, Scott, for that and for that answer, that is a incredibly powerful insight. Oftentimes when we work with a firm, we talk about the operational components of the firm. We do talk about personnel. But it’s way more when you’re talking about is way more than that. It’s actual relationships. And the phrase it’s not it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, that doesn’t quite do it justice. Although it’s true. What you’re talking about is much deeper than that. It’s building a tight, close knit group of people that trust you, that you trust, that you can lean on for years and decades, and you can grow together and be successful together. And they may be acquaintances. They may be employees. They may be professional colleagues. But that group, that tight knit group that you can build, that’s going to help you and you’ll help them. So, Scott, thank you for that insight. So as you’re thinking about the future of Aamot, you’ve got six offices you’re going to cross. Twenty five employees this year. It’s a terrific story about building a niche law firm.
Alay Yajnik: I get the sense that maybe you’re just getting started, but what excites you about your firm in the future?
Scott Rahn: I’m excited about the people we have. I’m excited about the people who are coming aboard. I’m excited for the new markets that we’re exploring currently. But to get into those new markets and this is something that I think I failed to to discuss fully when we were talking about what the secret sauce is and expanding, you know, we have to find the right people. So we found the right people in Miami know San Diego, Orange County, et cetera. You know, looking at these other markets, you know, some of them we’ve been looking for a couple of years at this point because we want to make sure that the person who is going to be flying that RMO flag for us with us is the right person.
Scott Rahn: Again, the person who does their business right for the right reasons and cares about taking care of people. So I’m excited that we have these opportunities to look at these new markets and the opportunity to expand in these new markets to bring our better mousetrap to those markets. I’m excited to find those people because I know they’re out there. We found them in all of our other markets. It’s just a matter of unearthing them. It’s it’s challenging. As we all know, as we discussed at the beginning, hiring is is challenging for any business owner. But we’re committed to being in places where we can help people. And we know as soon as we find the right people, we’ll be able to do just that, hiring the skill.
Alay Yajnik: And the more you do it, the better you get. And you’ve certainly done your share of hiring and you’re continuing to do that. And being selective is so important, especially for geographic expansion. So if there is somebody who is listening to this, who thinks that they may know of someone who would be a good fit or maybe they’re a good fit themselves, how should they get in touch with you, Scott?
Scott Rahn: Can send me a message through LinkedIn. Give us a call at the office or you can shoot me an email directly either at the firm firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to me at email@example.com. It’s my last name, first initial and happy to talk to those people.
Alay Yajnik: Scott, congratulations on all your success. Best wishes for the future. And thank you for being on the program today.
Scott Rahn: Thank you so much. It was really fun.
Alay Yajnik: Everyone, that is Scott Rahn, founder and managing partner of RMO.
Alay Yajnik: And that’s a wrap for this episode of the Lawyer Business Advantage podcast. One thing that would really help both us and other new potential listeners is for you to rate this show and leave a comment in iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you tune in to listen. And I want to hear from you. So connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And if you are a solo or an owner of a small law firm and you’re looking to earn more money, attract better clients or reduce your stress, we would love to talk with you to see how we can help request your free law firm assessment by visiting lawfirmsuccessgroup.com. Again, that URL is lawfirmsucessgroup.com. We look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for listening. My name is Alay Yajnik. Until next time, remember: you can seize freedom. You can embrace happiness. You CAN build your perfect practice.