The Modern JD spotlight series is a feature on Lawyernomics that highlights attorneys that are using technology, their brand and marketing to connect with clients and their peers. These attorneys come from different practice areas across the country but have one thing in common: they have evolved with the times to meet the needs of their clients and practice. This week we are excited to share attorney, John Berry of Berry Law Firm.
What is your area of practice and why did you decide to get into it?
Berry Law Firm has three practice areas, veterans’ disability benefits, criminal defense, and personal injury. My father is a Vietnam veteran and a well-known trial attorney. In the 1970s and ‘80s, he represented many veterans charged with violent crimes, DUIs, and other matters. At that time, he saw a link between veterans’ military service and some of the difficulties they were having adjusting back into society. While my father was assisting these veterans with other legal matters, he began to represent some of them pro bono when they were denied VA disability benefits. Since that time, the law pertaining to a veterans’ ability to hire an attorney to represent him on appeal has changed for the better. This allows us to represent veterans for pay after their applications for benefits have been denied.
I was inspired by my father to get into this practice and as a veteran myself, I have enjoyed representing my heroes in their fight to obtain VA disability benefits. I’ve served in both the active Army and the National Guard and have been deployed to Iraq and Bosnia. I know what a lot of veterans are going through and I appreciate the opportunity to help them fight for the benefits they’ve earned.
How do you think your practice is unique compared to others? What is your firm’s secret to success?
Our veterans’ law practice is unique for several reasons. First, several of our attorneys and staff have been through the VA disability system, and we understand how the VA operates firsthand. Second, we are veterans ourselves and understand the struggles they have been through. Finally, most VA law attorneys are administrative lawyers. Our background is in trial law. My belief is that trial lawyers have a different attitude and a different approach to preparing arguments than those who solely practice administrative law.
Do you see yourself as a lawyer, business person, or client service first?
I see myself as a lawyer first and I have a duty to develop myself professionally to become the best that I can become. I also believe that if a lawyer wants to reach his true potential, he should be training other lawyers. There’s an old saying that the best student is the teacher. I spend a lot of time training our attorneys in hopes that they also will consider themselves lawyers first.
However, being a lawyer first does not mean that you can hide from the business aspects of a law practice. If a lawyer does not run an efficient and effective law practice, he or she will not remain a good lawyer for long. The business side of the practice should be efficient so the attorney can focus on the things that he does best and maximize time doing the things that bring the most value to clients and law firm.
How do you use your personality or brand in creative ways to connect with clients?
My father was great at using his personality to connect with clients. For years, my father had a paid radio show in the city where our office is located. He had a great personality which drove clients to the firm.
Because our veterans’ disability practice is national, we represent veterans in all states and territories. We connect through different means. A large number of our clients come from referrals from other satisfied veterans. However, because a large number of veterans are not aware they can retain attorneys to represent them on their VA appeals, we have used video for outreach and education. Crisp Video group put together a good brand video below with several FAQ videos that have helped us to reach out to veterans on a national level with Facebook, Youtube, and our website PTSDlawyers.com.
How has Avvo helped you connect with clients?
Avvo has helped our local criminal defense and personal injury practice. One reason Avvo has become relevant in the past few years is because people now have the ability to quickly research attorneys on-line. Avvo provides potential clients with the ability to learn about the lawyers they intend to hire prior to setting a face-to-face consultation. Clients seem to also like sites that provide reviews in addition to attorney websites to get more comfortable with the services the attorney provides and the attorney’s background and qualifications.
The legal consumer puts a lot of weight on on-line reviews. Many potential new clients tell us they not only looked at our website but also our Avvo profiles and reviews on Google and Facebook.
Where do you find inspiration professionally and/or personally?
Veterans are the heroes of our nation.
There’s also an interesting parallel between the representation of our veterans and our civil and trial practice. As an Army officer, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Our trial practice section lives by the same oath. Attorneys also take oaths to support and defend the Constitution. Having the responsibility of supporting the Constitution of the United States and fighting for a better future for my client is inspirational and motivating.
What kind of a role does technology play in your practice?
Technology helps us do our jobs better by allowing us to focus on what’s important. Lawyers are problem solvers and it’s better to have lawyers solving big, complicated problems and making difficult decisions than making routine decisions. Technology can make the easy decisions automatic.
Technology allows us to not only track our cases but see patterns in cases. Technology also plays a big role in our client communications. We are now using Infusionsoft and other software to more effectively and efficiently communicate with our clients.
The best tip or trick for balancing everyday work and life?
The best trick for balancing everyday life is to have priorities. I write down the three most important things I’m going to do every day on an index card and how long it will take to do each task. I require my staff to do the same.
Describe in three words the modern JD or the 21st-century lawyer.
Agile. Mobile. Personable.