THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 153
Interview on 01.04.2022

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Michael Ricci



Managing Partner of
Ricci Partners, LLC

About Michael Ricci

Michael “Mike” Ricci is the Managing Partner at Ricci Partners, LLC in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Mike graduated from Louisiana State University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He later attended Loyola College of Law where he was a Moot Court Member. After graduating from law school in 2010, he was admitted to practice law in the state of Louisiana in 2010, while also being admitted to practice in all Louisiana federal courts. He continued his education in law by receiving his Master of Laws in Real Estate from the University of Miami School of Law. Mike’s work deals in all areas of Ricci Partners, LLC's practice, with an emphasis on real estate, professional liability defense and financial institution litigation and counseling.

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

Erik J. Olson:
Hey, everybody, it is Erik J. Olson, and I am live for another interview for The Managing Partners Podcast. This is where we interview America’s top managing partners to find out how they got started and what they’re doing to grow their firms. And today from New Orleans, Michael Ricci. Hey, Mike.

Michael Ricci:
How you doing, buddy?

Erik J. Olson:
Fantastic. Appreciate you making the time.

Michael Ricci:
Not a problem, man. Pleasure.

Erik J. Olson:
Cool. Let me tell the audience a little bit about you. So Mike Ricci is the managing partner of Ricci Partners, which focuses on real estate, professional liability defense, corporate law, and financial institution litigation and counseling. Once again, welcome to the podcast.

Michael Ricci:
It’s appreciated to be here, buddy.

Erik J. Olson:
Hey, man. Well, besides what I just told the audience, tell us a little bit about yourself and your firm.

Michael Ricci:
I’m born and raised down in New Orleans, basically went to school around Louisiana. Out of New Orleans, went to LSU, came back to Loyola Law School, got my LLM in real estate at the University of Miami, but have been practicing down here for almost 12 years now. Lucky enough to start my own firm in 2014. We’ve been able to grow year over year and have been really fortunate with that. We’re now six full-time attorneys, including myself, one of counsel. We have one office. We’re looking to expand slowly into Mississippi, as we have the chance, we have a couple of lawyers that are now barred in Mississippi and work that kind of synergistically fits with Louisiana, Mississippi as sister states. And we really focus basically on corporate law.

Michael Ricci:
Real estate has been a huge factor in my business. I got lucky enough to do a lot of work for brokerages and real estate agents and professional liability, which opened the door to a lot of connections for developers, banks, and different companies. And one door begets another door and it just really helped us take off. Nothing astronomical, but extremely steady year over year growth where every year has been our best year so far. And we hope we continue that as we grow. But yeah, basically it’s a corporate practice that deals with the stalwarts of business, especially in south Louisiana.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s awesome. So six attorneys, one office going to two offices in Mississippi. How far away physically would you be opening that second office?

Michael Ricci:
About an hour and 15 minutes. What we’re looking at is over the course of the next year and a half Gulfport, which is depending on the traffic, if you’re evacuating from a hurricane, it takes about eight hours. If you’re doing a normal trip, it’s about an hour. But that’s what our goal is. Again, we’ve been really lucky to have a lot of clients that are not Louisiana specific, but they’re regional and we know their business and we feel like we’d go in there, we’ve had discussions with them about expanding the work we do for them in other states, just on a general council basis, but also in the litigation. And I think that’s something we could do.

Michael Ricci:
So yeah, just probably about an hour, hour and 15 minutes change. Having another place, it helps a lot to have just a base operations, as you’re aware. It puts roots in the ground for [crosstalk 00:03:24] place that you’re having. So now that everything’s a little bit more digital and Zoom helps, obviously. As I told you earlier, you’re great at troubleshooting these Zoom things. It’s having feet on the ground is important still, in my opinion.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah, I agree. Boots on the ground is important, being part of the community. We were talking about your polo shirt earlier for kids and how it’s a charity that’s local and you get involved and you get to meet other people. Which kind of leads me into my second question, how do you go about getting new clients?

Michael Ricci:
So the first foremost way, and I know it’s kind of an old trope for attorneys, is referrals. Referrals is always the biggest thing on attorneys. You do good work for someone. It’s a weird thing that happens with lawyers. It feels like it’s almost, “This is my lawyer.” And people like to brag on their lawyers or just say, “This person will do a good job.” Because they trust you. So starting off a long time ago, you have someone, you do a good job for them, they’re telling other people. Especially if you’re in a certain type of industry, it grows off of that. And that opens doors to other industries at the same time period. So I think referral basis is always important because referrals are direct statements from people saying that you’ve done a good job for them in the past. That’s always going to be, at least in my opinion, first and foremost in what we’re doing.

Michael Ricci:
But other than getting your name out there, putting yourself out in the community, joining groups. I used to be a part of a credit union and it gave me a really good insight as a board member to learn about how these things operate, meeting the people on those boards who come from diverse backgrounds. It’s getting yourself out there and making sure your associates and the people that are working with you as they’re growing with you, it’s not just you as a client base, everyone’s their own client base and having them do that. But then it comes down to marketing, which is the hardest thing I think for lawyers, especially if you’re not a personal injury attorney, is figuring out how to best use dollars to market yourself online, in print, TV, and all those kinds of things. And you’ll constantly be learning that. I’m still learning that. We’ve tried multiple different things, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But that’s the third wave, I think, especially with helps you expand greatly way outside your referral network, but it’s also the hardest to really lock down and nail down.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah, I agree. I’m with you 100%. When I first started this business, all the work came from my network. But after a couple of years, I realized that I had kind of tapped into that whole network and the only thing that I could do was either expand the network or go beyond it. And you want to do both but expanding that network is time consuming and whatnot. So yeah, it’s good to do both, but you can only do so much. Especially you’re going to open a second office. You can’t be in two cities at once. That’s difficult.

Michael Ricci:
Yeah. And you need to trust the people that you’re working with too. That’s the biggest stuff is that it can’t just be you, you need to rely on your team to also be a part of it.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah, to kind of take their network and bring it into yours and expand, yeah. That’s a good point. That’s a great point, actually. Well, cool. So there seems to be a period of time in almost any business when you find out, whether it’s a referral or marketing or something else, where you find out about a potential client, and then there’s some nurturing that goes on, meetings or whatnot, and then they turn into a client. What are some things that you do during that period of time that you feel is a good use of your time and resources? And then also, how do you track all these things that you’re doing?

Michael Ricci:
One of the things that’s always, I think, has been benefited me well, or benefit more than not benefit me, is just being upfront on especially that first impression and connection with people. If it’s litigation especially, people come in, “I want to do X, Y.” Sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s very corporate like. But there’s usually some form of directed purpose for it. And if you have the experience to know what these things generally turn into being as upfront as possible to them at the beginning starts a good baseline with a potential new client, because you could… I’m going to try not to curse, but you could throw a lot of BS, is the word, to them about how well you’re going to do, but what’s likely going to happen is if you don’t do as well as you can do, or if you know it’s not going to be as clean or as straightforward or as quick, especially quick, as they’d want, it’s probably going to be a one-off case. You’re not going to make a connection with these individuals.

Michael Ricci:
And so it’s thinking about whether or not do you need this work now, or do you want to develop and nurture a relationship for the long-term? And that’s what I’ve at least tried to do in my time. And hopefully, I think, it’s worked. The second thing is staying in touch and being available. Especially if you’re an attorney that’s doing litigation or even transactional work, unless you’re one of those people, and it’s great if you are, that’s doing one or two files, you have one or two massive files that just take up all your time for a year, two years, et cetera. Then if you’re in that boat, you’re in your own world and it’s great because you have that high amount of work that sustains you, et cetera and that becomes your day-to-day grind.

Michael Ricci:
But for a lot of attorneys, especially people that are growing, it seems that there’s a lot of things that are happening. You have multiple cases, you have multiple requests, you have multiple individuals asking information, questions. “What do I do? What are we doing in this case, et cetera?” And just being available. And it’s hard because there’s just so many hours in the day, but time is the complete value of a lawyer to their clients and making sure that those people feel recognized, that they’re not just being pushed aside once they come in and provide a retainer, and staying in contact with them, either through email, phone calls, making sure they know that you’re thinking of them. Because you are, it’s just sometimes you can’t always get to them at every given minute. But to make sure they know, “You’re not getting pushed to the side. I do have to do X, but you are Y next in line.” And making sure they know that you’re focusing on them and what their problems are.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s great advice. I’ve definitely noticed that if I have to ask my lawyer or someone else what the status is, it’s usually because I haven’t heard from them, I have doubts about what’s going on. And certainly in our business, if a client reaches out to us to find out the status, that tells me clearly we haven’t communicated enough with them. Then I have this saying around here that communication is always the problem. It’s not that we don’t do good work. It’s not that you don’t do great legal work. Generally speaking, if we don’t do good work, we’re going to not go very far in the business world, all of us. But communication is that key thing. And so you need to make sure that you continue to communicate with your clients and let them know of all the good things that you’re doing for them.

Michael Ricci:
Yeah. Look, every lawyer that’s trying to grow, that’s growing a practice, that’s doing it, everyone knows there’s a lot of stuff goes on day-to-day. Things pivot and change day-to-day. You got tons of stuff going on. Sometimes you feel like you can’t manage it. And sometimes as a lawyer you think, “I wish my clients knew what I was doing on a day-to-day basis for them and for a multitude of other people to make sure that this works.” But you still got to put yourself in their shoes. They’re specifically coming to you to help out a problem. It could be personal, it could be business. It could be something extremely important to them. It could be not important, but they want to make sure it’s taken care of appropriately.

Michael Ricci:
And you have to remember, you’re getting paid money for your time on those things. You have to stay in touch, make sure they’re aware of it, even if it’s a stagnant case. And sometimes, especially in defense matters, if they’re going to let it go stagnant, it’s going to get stagnant and that’s a plus, it’s going to put you in a better position to negotiate. It’s going to put you in a better position in the court to get a dismissal at a later time period summarily. But you still have to explain to them why it’s gone stagnant, what the benefits of being stagnant are and what the plan is as it eventually becomes non stagnant, that you can hopefully use that as a benefit. And that’s especially something I’ve learned over the last few years.

Michael Ricci:
You know as a lawyer, in this specific case, if something’s tapped out for a little while, it’s probably a plus if you’re defending this thing. And sometimes plaintiff wise too, if going to go out there plaintiff wise and you’ve a multiple group defendant issue and they’re fighting it out and you’re sitting there saying, “Well, I’m going to let them go do this while I sit back and reap benefits from that.” That could be a legitimate strategy that works in the past, it could work in a case. But you got to let your people know about it so they’re just not sitting there hoping you’re doing something. Let them in behind the scenes because it’s important for them to know about.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s interesting. So even if there’s effectively no activity going on, let them know that there’s no activity. You’re aware of it and it’s part of the strategy, right? And this is a good thing, or it’s a bad thing. But it’s just the checking in, “What have you done for me lately?”

Michael Ricci:
Yeah, it’s not that stagnation is a good thing in every single case. But there are times where, “This is going to sit and it could benefit you in the short run.” Just let them know, because sometimes things are going to fall off a little bit. A court may push something back 60 to 90 days where there isn’t going to be an activity because that’s the log jam we have to get past for this case to really pick up. Let them know what’s happening. And like you said, keeping people informed. They’re paying you money per hour, they’re paying you on a contingency. They’re paying you for your time in one way or another. They are part of the case. It’s not just the lawyer. You need to make sure that they’re a part of it with you.

Erik J. Olson:
Love it. That’s great. And now going back to your future expansion into Mississippi, and I’m going to ask this question because I think there’s a lot of managing partners that watch or listen that want to do what you’re about to do. And I’m guessing, you’ve thought through the plans, maybe even looked at office space, whatnot. Do you anticipate that you’re going to basically take your existing office and duplicate it? Or are you going to have some sort of shared resources? What level of support do you think that you need either direct with lawyers or indirect with staff paralegals and whatnot in that new office?

Michael Ricci:
So I think to start off, like I said, this is a one to two year plan as we’re transitioning. Because we’re starting to do work in Mississippi on a regular basis now. And the plan is to slowly go in there, have a presence on the ground, et cetera. But I think on the beginning part when we’re starting, it’s more of, “We could do this from here as we slowly get our feet on the ground there.” But do I think that the goal is to have a permanent presence attorney or attorneys there? Yes. Do I think that we would need to have support staff that would start being there? Yes. Now the great thing about technology, look, as I’m learning technology too, because it’s constantly evolving, technology allows you to be here and also support someone there. It’s really simple. We’re doing this podcast simply right before another meeting, and I’m sure you’ve got a bunch today too. You could do a lot of things there.

Michael Ricci:
But I think you start off, make it organic, make money off of it, make sure you have your base there and you slowly expand. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do. But office space, yes, we’ve looked into it, trying to figure out the right city because there are a couple of spots along the way. There’s the city where we really want to be in, which I’ll tell you is Gulfport because I think that’s a nice hub for the area. There’s cities that’s closer, where we have more connections to. We don’t know yet, but since we have the work there and we’re establishing that work there, we think it’s the right goal. Because the whole thing is there’s just so much work you could have with the team that you have in a given area, and if you could expand it out, maybe you could grow that naturally and by hustling really.

Erik J. Olson:
I like the strategy I mentioned briefly, I have a lawyer, a business lawyer here in the Norfolk, Virginia Beach area. And they’ve done exactly that. Exactly what you just said, which is start off just visiting an area and then visiting for longer periods of time. And then they opened a virtual office and then they sent one of their guys out there and slowly but surely, and that was their strategy, and it seems to be working very well. I think it’s-

Michael Ricci:
[crosstalk 00:16:16] Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

Erik J. Olson:
I just think it’s a good idea to have the strategy, like you said, and then when you’re ready, execute each step.

Michael Ricci:
Yeah. Growing this firm, it took so long for me to get another attorney and then to get the second attorney after that took even longer. Gun-shy, gun-shy, gun-shy. And then you’re ready to go and then you get another attorney, and it’s probably a little bit too early and you’re growing into that. So you’re learning as you go. But that organic growth is the biggest thing. And that’s why I don’t think of it as a plan to have X amount of attorneys in a couple of years. But it’s a plan to where we’d have the work to support X amount of attorneys in a couple of years.

Michael Ricci:
And whether we have those attorneys or we don’t, that’s there, but is the work there to support that much for that growth, so you can make the determination as to growing or not? You have that business that’s in existence. And hopefully if you need the lawyers, you can get the lawyers. You hopefully find great ones. But it’s the work and growing that work that’s the problem. And that might make it stressful for a short time period. But I think you reap the benefits as you grow organically like that.

Erik J. Olson:
I think that’s fantastic. I really appreciate your time. We’re going to wrap it up here, because I think that was a really strong point that we ended on, how to grow and whatnot. If someone would like to reach out to you and ask more questions about your growth strategy or maybe they have a referral for you, what is a good way to get in touch with you?

Michael Ricci:
Our website is always the easiest thing, riccipartnersllc.com. R-I-C-C-I-P-A-R-T-N-E-R-S-L-L-C.com. You got the typical stuff in regards to the website. You have an info box. You can get my email address, shoot me an email. If you need to get in touch with me, I’m pretty accessible. Shoot me an email directly, shoot info an email directly, and I’ll be in touch quickly thereafter.

Erik J. Olson:
Awesome. Thanks so much. All right, everybody, if you would like to check out more episodes like this, you can see our entire backlog at arraylaw.com.podcast. We are also on all of the podcasting platforms where you’d expect to find podcasts, Apple, Google, and many, many others. Also, if you’re looking for digital marketing for your law firm, that’s what my company Array Digital does. You can find us at arraylaw.com, and we explain our services, which are website design, SEO, online advertising, and social media. Mike, appreciate it.

Michael Ricci:
No problem, buddy. Take care.

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