THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 142
Interview on 11.23.2021

Hosted By
Kevin Daisey

Featuring Attorney

Chris Battista



Managing Partner of
Law offices of Christopher M. Battista

About Chris Battista

Christopher Martini Battista is the Managing Partner at Law offices of Christopher M Battista in Fairfax, Virginia.

In 1999, Chris attended California Western School of Law in San Diego, CA and graduated at the top of his class in administrative law, legal jurisprudence and criminal law. After graduating law school, he spent several years working for PADCO, a government contracting division of AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering firm that is one of the most prominent in the world. He is licensed to practice law in DC, Virginia, New York and Maryland, and currently operates in an "of Counsel" capacity for the Law Firm of Longman and Van Grack.

Learn from his expertise and what trends are helping grow his firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcript

Kevin Daisey:

All right, we are recording. What’s up everyone? This is Kevin Daisey, coming to you with another live recording of The Managing Partners Podcast. I’m also the Founder of Array Digital. We exist to help law firms grow and fill their pipeline using digital marketing. Today, I have a guest coming out of Pennsylvania. Chris Battista, welcome to the show.

Chris Battista:

Hi, how you doing?

Kevin Daisey:

I kind of give away your secret there.

Chris Battista:

Yes.

Kevin Daisey:

So Chris has been, I guess, out of Fairfax, Virginia, which I’m in Virginia, Virginia Beach, Virginia. So backstage I said, “Yeah, you’re in Virginia too,” and he said, “Well, actually, I’m not.” But I’ll let Chris explain that to you and some changes he’s had with his practice and, I guess, his life. First, before we get into that, Chris, give us, the audience, the Chris story. What was the journey like? What triggered you to become an attorney and kind of give all that, all the good stuff.

Chris Battista:

Okay. Well then I guess I’ll start with the beginning elevator pitch. A 15th year licensed attorney. I think it’s 15, maybe 16 now, and I’ve been in solo practice for pretty much the distance of it. I’m licensed in five states now: DC, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. I’ve always had a business focused practice. I started by doing the things that I needed to do to pay the bills and developed good relationships with government subcontractors all across the Dulles Toll Road. Mostly IT organizations and government pricing organizations, proposal assistance, and things like that, which were four or five man shops that… Four or five person shops. Excuse me, I’ve been corrected about that before. …That just basically specialize in very, very niche practices and have companies of, maybe, one or two million in revenue. Because the government contracting business on the low-end is so competitive and there’s so many joint partnership agreements, joint venture agreements, and mergers and acquisitions, and all those other types of things, as that business started to accelerate, I became very good at contracts, and I became very good at low-end mergers and acquisitions.

Chris Battista:

Yes, I’ve been doing that… I mean, I got licensed in 2006. I really started to expand the business practice around 2008, and it’s turned into a full fledged thing. But yeah, I never did go the firm path until around 2016. I have enough council relationship with Longman & Van Grack, a firm of seven attorneys out in Maryland. I mean, we can talk about that, but now what I’m doing is expanding my profile. I became a certified merger and acquisition advisor with the AMA. I forget what the acronym stands for, but The Alliance of Mergers and Acquisitions Advisors. Which, for an attorney to do that, since it’s so heavily financed-focused, is a pretty tough road to go down to get that certification, but I managed to do it.

Kevin Daisey:

You’re a [crosstalk 00:04:01].

Chris Battista:

Well, I felt a little bit of inferiority complex kind of thing, trying to learn what they teach in MBA school in a period of a couple of weeks in order to be able to pass the exam, but I did manage to do it. So, between the certification and the licensure in five states, I am now casting a wide net, and the way that I’ve divided my work is that my firm, Law Offices of Christopher M. Battista, will handle mergers and acquisitions of 5 million and below. And for ones that are 5 million and higher, those are conducted through Longman & Van Grack, because at that economy of scale, you need reach-back capability and the ability to bring in other lawyers and a much higher level of proficiency. So depending… It’s part of mastering the multiple boutique strategy, where you can… If, sometimes, business comes into the door, you can direct it in different ways where it specializes more towards what their needs are.

Kevin Daisey:

[inaudible 00:05:20]. That’s great that you’ve… It’s a good business model to have, I think, to work on the ones you can handle and do good work for them.

Chris Battista:

Well, yes.

Kevin Daisey:

That relationship [crosstalk 00:05:30].

Chris Battista:

The smaller firms don’t have the ability to do the billable rate that a multi-person firm has. And, in terms of this niche, it’s not a big niche, but the supply is greater than the demand. There are a large number of people, particularly in the government contracting toll road world, that really need legal help and expertise in doing these kind of things. They’re sizable enough that they can’t do it on their own. They’re not sizeable enough that they could pick up the yellow pages of DC and go contact Latham & Watkins to go do $600 an hour work in order to create some type of ironclad acquisition with… Particularly when there’s not millions of dollars of liabilities at stake. So I’ve kind of managed to fall into where that niche is, with the certification becoming more prevalent and the fact that lockdown is opening up. Longman & Van Grack is going to start doing a larger volume of these higher level acquisitions, and that will be accompanied by me doing more travel back and forth from New York, Philadelphia, and DC in order to sell that.

Kevin Daisey:

No, I love that you’ve kind of found your place, your niche, if you will. And of course, in the Northern Virginia, DC area, and then in my area, I’m in Norfolk area, Virginia, there’s a lot of government contractors that are around that size that are looking to grow and, for whatever reason… Do you work with a lot of like 8(a) or any kind of-

Chris Battista:

I’ve done some 8(a) work. Usually if that… Yeah. Yes, I’ve done [crosstalk 00:07:34].

Kevin Daisey:

[crosstalk 00:07:34] service disabled, veteran-owned, or something like that.

Chris Battista:

Yeah. I’ve done a fair amount of 8(a) work. Most of the intricacies of the 8(a) rules are well known by the guys who run the 8(a)s, so I don’t really need to focus on that aspect of it, as part of a niche. They bring to the table what it is they need to bring. What they really need is somebody who can really tighten contracts and think through liabilities and pitfalls and things like that. I think that that’s kind of what my core skill has always been, is that I can take a look at something that looks great for everyone, and I can come up with a list of six or seven things that could possibly go wrong with it. It’s a great skill to have for your career. It might not represent itself optimally on a personal level.

Kevin Daisey:

Well, you know, we have business attorneys. We went through a merger at one point, and we use our attorneys for lots of things and ask them what they think on this or that, and they come up with all the ways things can go bad or… And then options for ways to handle it. It’s invaluable, and we rely on their opinions. So I’m assuming a lot of people have counted on you, and you felt [crosstalk 00:09:09].

Chris Battista:

And that’s the thing. I mean, even when I did the certification for the high-level [inaudible 00:09:16] stuff, most of the guys that were in that room, they have experience doing this stuff, but they’re doing it at a level where they’ll close three or four large deals in their life. When you do small deals and you’re doing things along those levels… I’ll close four to five deals a year.

Kevin Daisey:

Much more actual experience.

Chris Battista:

I mean, in terms of having just raw gray matter of physically witnessing the number of things that can go wrong, that definitely informs my experience. And remember, if you are selling your company that is worth a million or $2 million and there are things that go wrong, your bandwidth to tolerate the loss or those things that go wrong is way, way smaller than what happens if a big company experiences some type of unpredicted loss. So, the level of scrutiny is actually higher-

Kevin Daisey:

There’s no [crosstalk 00:10:26].

Chris Battista:

…In terms of what your risk tolerance is.

Kevin Daisey:

Well, actually, I appreciate you explaining that. So, another question just goes… I mentioned at the beginning, it’s Pennsylvania.

Chris Battista:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Kevin Daisey:

What’s up with moving and-

Chris Battista:

Yes. I moved from Fairfax, Virginia to Media, Pennsylvania three days ago. I’m-

Kevin Daisey:

Hot off the presses everyone. You heard it here first.

Chris Battista:

Yes. I’m really thankful that web cameras have a very narrow perimeter because I don’t think you’d want to see the state of this office, outside of the scope of what’s covered by this camera. It’s not a pretty picture yet, but yes, I just made that move. As I said, it’s going to dovetail into the idea of Philadelphia being the concentric circle of my ability to pull down business and practice. With being licensed in five states, I have the ability to do that type of representation anywhere from Buffalo to Virginia Beach. If that’s the case, I want to be in the center of it, so as to minimize my travel time.

Kevin Daisey:

That’s awesome. So was that primarily a business decision?

Chris Battista:

Yeah, I think it was. I mean, I… Yes, it was primarily a business decision. The quality of life in Northern Virginia has gotten a little bit more difficult, between the level of construction on 66 and the pandemic lockdown. The tolerance for virtualized appearances has gone way up. The need to be in the place where the clients are is not as large as it was just two years ago. So, yeah, I did. I made an executive decision when I had a lot of time to think while lockdown was in operation, and this was the plan that I came up with, and I’ve just recently executed on it.

Kevin Daisey:

Love it. You’re a man of action.

Chris Battista:

[crosstalk 00:12:44].

Kevin Daisey:

It sounds like it’s really going to help your firm and your business-

Chris Battista:

Absolutely.

Kevin Daisey:

…And that’s the decisions you got to make when you’re running a business, right?

Chris Battista:

That’s correct.

Kevin Daisey:

So, yeah. So good on you. What are some of the ways you’re getting in the door with some of these clients? I mean, obviously word of mouth, doing good work. What else are you… Besides those things, I’m sure have went well, what else have you done?

Chris Battista:

The certification. I was kind of taking a gamble on the fact that if I was a lawyer that was M&A certified, that it would bring in more business, and as luck would have it, that gamble actually did pay off. I do get calls from the street. I do get calls from people who are just doing searches on LinkedIn saying, “We want a lawyer who’s M&A certified,” and that’s a small pool. When you exclude the guys who fall into that category who are a part of really big firms, then it’s an even smaller pool. There are a handful of guys out there who do that, but most of them are not free agents. So, yeah, it turns out that gamble actually did pay off fairly well.

Kevin Daisey:

Well, you kind of spoke… You mentioned LinkedIn, and I just connected with you on LinkedIn before the show. I’m huge on LinkedIn. It’s worked great for my business. The certification being a huge piece, but now you have a place that they can find that you have that, and your website is below too. Everyone listening, checking out the show, you can go check out his website at cmblegalanswers.com, that’s C-M-B legal answers.com. You can learn more about Chris and his practice, so that… I want to say, too, his LinkedIn is off there and other ways to connect with him as well. But LinkedIn has been huge for me, and I think, for you being in business law, it can be invaluable to have a profile up there.

Chris Battista:

No, I mean, I’ve tried a bunch of different marketing strategies over the year years, and some of them have worked, and some of them have not. The SBA database is a fantastic resource for the low-end, for the smaller companies, because you can pull down four or 5,000 profiles and you could just… Even sending a physical mailer. I know people have a dim view of physical mail. I know they do, but I’m telling you that if you believe that you’re just going to go out and reach people by regular spam emails, your chances of people seeing it are non-existent. But if you have a simple postcard that tells someone everything that you need them to know about you, and they can do it just by skimming it in five seconds, if it’s congruous with what it is they’re looking for, that’s a sale.

Kevin Daisey:

Yes, sir. Yeah. You’ll probably get a handwritten card from me shortly after this interview, at least to say thank you.

Chris Battista:

I mean, I did a lot of those big net types of activities, and some of them have worked, and some of them haven’t worked. But I think now, post-certification, I’m really kind of in the phase now where, instead of doing grassroots work, I’m going to be doing grasstops work. I mean, there are people in the M&A business, private equity, mergers, and acquisitions, venture capital, all those types of things. If I build a strong relationship with two or three of those guys, that’s going to make my book for the rest of my career. So, the shotgun approach is something that works to get me to this point in time, but it’s not where I see the future going.

Kevin Daisey:

Gotcha. Okay. Well, thanks for sharing that. I think that’s a good approach for you for sharing what you’re doing, and it is different. We have attorneys probably listening from all different types of practice and various by [inaudible 00:17:02] practice area too. Some immediate personal injury that’s… You got to show up when people look for you. You doing business law, it’s a little bit different. It’s B2B, it’s relationships, it’s referrals, and leveraging the… There’s different… Different things are going to work, so you got to do what works for you. So what is that? You say, maybe four or five deals per year that you might get through. What kind of… You’ve moved to Pennsylvania. You’ve kind of done that as a business decision. What is the next couple of years look like, as things are kind of changing and hopefully we come out of COVID.

Chris Battista:

Well, yeah. I think there’s going to be a focus more on the, like I said, the grasstops aspect of this. There are [crosstalk 00:17:58].

Kevin Daisey:

Grasstops? I’ve actually never heard that before, which is [crosstalk 00:18:01] that.

Chris Battista:

Yes. I [crosstalk 00:18:02] in my career on Capitol Hill.

Kevin Daisey:

In grasstops.

Chris Battista:

In grassroots types of things. And yes, that’s… Grasstops is the phrase they use of saying that you do want to throw a net out there, but you don’t want to throw a net out at everyone. You want to target the people that really do have the ability to have some influence and throw the net out just to that, and that’s-

Kevin Daisey:

Interesting. I like that.

Chris Battista:

So, yeah. I mean, as far as that goes, my future, I think, is going to involve really reaching out to networking groups of the people who aren’t doing this type of merger and acquisition work for a living and creating add-on support. Because, for the guys who were in venture capital, every single one of them needs a business evaluator. Every single one of them needs a CPA. They need a lawyer. They need a roaming staff. And if they have a project management professional, if they have those individuals as part of a working team, some of them have the ability to just do churn and burn, where they’ll go straight from one deal to the next deal and just roll over and do this. So, I think that, yes, the future involves me leveraging that to them, which is going to involve more trips to New York, more trips to… Trying to do these private equity chapters. I know that the AMA has a chapter in Philly. It has a chapter in New York. It has a chapter in Harrisburg, and it has a chapter in DC.

Chris Battista:

Leveraging the attorneys over at Longman & Van Grack will also give me the ability to go fill these hours and get this type of work done, even if I’m not going to be booking a hundred percent of the work. I see myself guiding more towards new business development and those types of skills. I mean, I’m just speculating. We’re coming out of a post-lockdown environment where I’m not confident that anyone knows what the environment is going to look like. Right now, it appears that it’s not a deal breaker to not physically be in the room. I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way. I think maybe… I’m speculating here, but I think that we may start to be spreading too thin on this whole concept of virtualization, in that it doesn’t provide the level quality control that’s really needed. I mean, it was something that we had to do when that had to be the circumstance, but we’re not… We might not be in that in the future anymore, and I’m wondering if there’s going to be a pullback and whether or not pressing the flesh and physical being in the room is going to be the kind of thing that is going to pull down the business versus not.

Kevin Daisey:

Yeah, I think you’re right, but I think being prepared as much as you can. We don’t know exactly what’s happening with everything, but being the best place and position you can be in. And yeah, I think being more virtual is going to be more prevalent. I think it will probably be more of a hybrid type of situation. I think, also with offices, people going back, people not going back, big companies saying you can work at home permanently. I think we’ll see a big shift towards more virtual, but I think you’ll probably have a follow-up shift that’s, “We want to be back face to face. We want to be trending back towards being around people again.” So, yeah. We’re back in the office.

Chris Battista:

Well, especially if I’m looking to cultivate a few relationships with some high volume people. I mean, that’s… You’re right. I mean, could you do virtualization for a volume business, a small one-offs? Yeah, you could, but I’m thinking that if there’s somebody out there who’s an investor who has a hundred million dollars that they’re willing to spend-

Kevin Daisey:

This ain’t enough.

Chris Battista:

Yeah. They’re not going to… I mean, maybe after the introductions are made and the relationship was built, then you can go into virtualization, but yeah, I don’t think they’re going to want to do that stuff by screen. When you’re spending other people’s money, nobody is interested in cutting corners, you know?

Kevin Daisey:

Yeah. Absolutely agree. They need face-to-face.

Chris Battista:

That’s my thought. I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s my thought.

Kevin Daisey:

Yeah, no, I’ve heard mixed things from different folks, and it depends on what, I think, what law you’re practicing as well. I know for some trial attorneys I’ve interviewed here on the show, and they want to be in front of a jury face-to-face, or they don’t feel like they have an advantage. And doing a trial over zoom has not been effective at all for them, so it’s to each their own, I think. But I like being face to face. I like going out and networking. I like meeting people as much as I can, so I’m on the same page with you, for sure. But there’s some efficiencies in this. I think once you have a relationship, then it becomes a little easier to do. Even, we’ll have a client like, “Hey, I’m going to come meet you at your office,” and then the next time it’s like, “Hey, we can just Zoom call, it’s cool. So it’s like, “we’re good now,” but you had to have that initial-

Chris Battista:

[crosstalk 00:23:38] If the worst crime in the world is that I spend two or three days in downtown Manhattan as a single guy, because I’m an hour and a half [inaudible 00:23:48] ride away, as far as the pain threshold goes, that’s not very painful for me. I could easily find a way to turn that in my favor, and so that’s just one of those things.

Kevin Daisey:

Yeah. I like traveling anywhere. People are like, “Where are you going?” I could go anywhere, and I’ll enjoy it. That’s awesome. Well, I appreciate you sharing all that. I would say, reach out to Chris. Connect with Chris. His website cmblegalanswers.com. He’s new to the.. Was it Media, Pennsylvania, right?

Chris Battista:

Media, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia area.

Kevin Daisey:

If you’re another attorney in that area, especially in what he’s doing, connect with Chris, he’s new to the area. I’m not sure how well you know that area, but…

Chris Battista:

Pretty well.

Kevin Daisey:

He’s going to need some new connections.

Chris Battista:

Yes, absolutely.

Kevin Daisey:

Someone to go hang out with.

Chris Battista:

Absolutely.

Kevin Daisey:

Okay, Chris. Well, anything else you’d like to share before we wrap it up?

Chris Battista:

No, I think that’s it. Yes, you can check out the website. If you need to talk to me directly, the phone number is on it. I stay on top of my emails, so if there is some desire for direct contact, make it happen. I will pick up the phone.

Kevin Daisey:

Excellent. Well, I appreciate you doing that. Please reach out if you’ve got any questions for Chris. If you’re someone in M&A space that could use Chris’ help, please reach out to him. Also, the episode will be up here on our website soon, arraylaw.com/podcast. We’re crossing the 150 mark, I think, for managing partners interviewed this year, so we got a lot of great content on there. Go check it out. Chris’ will be up there soon, where you can check him out. More information will be on there about him and his firm, and if you need help growing your firm, growing your case pipeline, we can possibly help. We do website development, SEO, advertising, and social media, so we help firms grow by getting the word out. Chris has a unique approach here too, I think. Was it, it’s a grasstops approach or something?

Chris Battista:

grasstops.

Kevin Daisey:

That’s awesome. I love that, so thanks for sharing that little tip. But for everyone else out there, thanks for tuning in. We appreciate you listening to the show. Chris, you can stay on with me for just a second, but everyone else, we’ll talk to you soon. Have a good day.

 

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