THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 163
Interview on 02.04.2022

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Michael Liner



Managing Partner of
Liner Legal

About Michael Liner

Michael Liner is the Managing Partner at Liner Legal in Ohio.

Michael is one of the nation’s top attorneys practicing social security disability law. The most rewarding moment of Michael’s career so far was at the completion of the first Liner Legal Largest Loser challenge in 2018 when a contestant informed Michael that because of his participation he was no longer considered diabetic by his doctors. He serves on numerous community and non-profit boards. He loves speaking and writing about the nuances of disability law and service-oriented legal practices.

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. I am Erik J. Olson. I am your host for this episode of the Managing Partners Podcast. In this podcast, we interview America’s top managing partners to find out how they’re running their firms, how they’re growing their firms and how they’re keeping their case pipeline full. And today I have with me Michael Liner. Hey, Michael.

Michael Liner:

Hey, Erik. Thanks for having me.

Erik J. Olson:

Well, thanks for making the time. I appreciate it.

Michael Liner:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Erik J. Olson:

Let me tell the audience a little bit about you. Michael Liner is one of the nation’s top attorneys practicing social security disability law. Since founding Liner Legal in 2013, Michael has helped his clients obtain billions of dollars in social security benefits through vigorous representation and unmatched customer service. While Michael loves being an attorney, his passion for helping those in need fuels his drive to provide a client experience that exceeds that of any other law firm in America. I love it. Welcome to the show.

Michael Liner:

Thank you for having me. Some bold claims there, but I think we try and back them up every single day.

Erik J. Olson:

It’s great. No, I mean the passion just comes right out in the bio that you provided and I love it. It is bold, but I would imagine it’s going to resonate with a lot of people. Where did that boldness come from? Can you tell us a little bit more about you, your history, and the firm?

Michael Liner:

Sure. As you mentioned in the introduction, we have a disability law practice, which I started back in 2013. After law school, I worked just for a few years for the largest workers’ compensation firm in the State of Ohio, and I really built up and started their disability practice before I left. Moved out all the clients that I had brought in there. Decided that I want to open my own practice. I was 27 years old at the time and thought I knew everything. I knew nothing.

Michael Liner:

I still know nothing, but I’m doing a really good job faking it every day. But I think that the boldness just comes from an ambition to really provide the best customer service possible. Even though it’s a law firm and what people do is they hire us to win their case for them, I believe that what separates attorneys is not even whether you win or lose the case a lot of times, because especially with what I do, I think there’s not that much variance.

Michael Liner:

I think we’re very skilled at what we do and we back that up as well. But what clients notice is, do you answer the phone? Do you return their calls? How do they feel when you speak to them? For me, it’s all about the experience. And I’ve tried to pass that off to the first people that I hired when I started back in 2013 and now there’s over 20 of us here.

Erik J. Olson:

Oh, that’s incredible growth. Good for you. It is a difficult thing to grasp that communication is important, and then also to teach it and instill it in the company. I have a saying around here that communication is always the problem. It’s usually not that we don’t know what we’re doing or we’re not getting results, but we’re not communicating properly or enough or the right way, right? Have you found that to be similar in your practice?

Michael Liner:

Absolutely. Communication’s not just the problem usually. It’s also the solution. You have to find where is that disconnect. It’s so hard to… Especially when you think about my clients are. If you are calling my office, you’re sick. You’re injured. You are fearful because you don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills for the rest of your life. You don’t know how you’re going to keep a roof over your head, food in your family’s mouths.

Michael Liner:

A lot of times we’ll have clients who call us desperate. They’re angry. They’re upset. They take it out on me. They take it out on my staff. The communication doesn’t match up with what they’re really feeling. They’re not angry with us. They know we’re doing everything that we can. I can spell that out for them without a problem. But it’s, again, going back to the first thing that I said, how did we make them feel? Did they feel validated? Did they feel heard?

Michael Liner:

That’s also kind of what’s turned into our USP, our unique selling proposition, to clients and really what’s allowed us to grow and make us different are some of even the positions that we have people… Things we have people doing the office, employees that I have who are doing things that I don’t know of any other disability firm for sure in America, but very few law firms period are doing some of the things that we’re doing here.

Michael Liner:

Clients respond in an incredible way that I’m just so proud of what we’ve been able to build in a relatively short period of time.

Erik J. Olson:

Absolutely. I think it’s fantastic. I love what you said. If it’s okay with you, I’m going to borrow heavily, communication is not only the problem, it’s this solution. I think that’s fantastic. You’re right. You can get yourself into a problem, a situation by not communicating, and you can get out of it by communicating finally.

Michael Liner:

The problem, Like I said, is that so often the words that people are speaking are not really what their intentions are. You have to find so many different ways to communicate. And that’s one of the things that’s changed for me so much over the last year and a half since COVID. I used to spend a lot of time meeting face to face with clients. I was the only attorney in the office that did that. I would go and do in-home signups for clients.

Michael Liner:

I literally would put 35, 40,000 miles a year on my car driving around house to house to house right before COVID hit. I had a job ad out there for a driver because it was too inefficient for me to be driving my car around all day signing people up. But now I don’t have that face to face contact with people anymore, so it’s a little bit harder to figure out what people are trying to communicate to me. This video is nice. It’s helpful, but I can’t see your hands right now.

Michael Liner:

I don’t know if… Which I can’t read people’s entire personalities like I used to be able to when I was sitting on their couch in their living room and they were more at ease. And now I’m left to detecting things in their voice and maybe on a Zoom call, being able to see what I can pick up from their face. But the point is, is communication has changed a lot, which just makes what we do even more challenging than before.

Michael Liner:

But it also so allows people who really focus on the importance of communication to take a step forward and separate yourself from everybody else, and I think that we’re doing everything that we can to do that.

Erik J. Olson:

So it sounds like pre-COVID a good portion of a good part of your week was driving around. How has that changed? I mean, I know you said it’s changed, but is it starting to change back a little bit more towards that? Are you meeting people face… Not yet?

Michael Liner:

I don’t think I can, just because I’m realizing the inefficiencies that were there before. I used to go house to house to house signing up. And me personally, I would be able to sign up seven clients, eight clients in a day, because that’s how many houses you would have time to visit, in addition to I would be doing 40 plus court hearings a month myself.

Erik J. Olson:

Wow!

Michael Liner:

So now, however, I’m able to do all of those same hearings, actually more than before, and I can probably sign up 12 to 15 clients a day because I don’t have that downtime in the car. For me to say, do I want to go back to it, yeah, I wish I could. I really miss people. I miss shaking hands. I wish that I could have that connection with clients that I used to feel and that’s been lost.

Michael Liner:

Now what I’m trying to do is figure out new ways to create that connection that wasn’t there before, which is really what we’ve done is we’ve created new verticals to our clients, new ways of communicating with them more frequently during their case. So even if I didn’t come into their living room and that’s the way that they built that trust with me, now they’re just going to hear from me even more because they’re getting a series of videos, a series of emails.

Michael Liner:

They’re getting text messages, just status updates on their claim. We’re providing trainings in the office to our employees on how they can communicate more effectively with our clients. I referenced this a little bit earlier. We’ve introduced a new position, which is called the client concierge. That’s what I don’t know that anybody else really has. And what my client concierge does, she doesn’t touch our clients’ disability cases whatsoever. Her entire job is to call up our clients and say, “How are you?”

Michael Liner:

That’s it. That’s her job description. She calls up our clients and asks how they are, and the responses that she gets are unbelievable. She finds out that people are losing their homes, that their, mother died, all these other life events. And now all of a sudden, we are getting involved with those things as well. It’s not in my contract. I’m not being paid for any of those things, but it’s new ways to build the trust that COVID kind of took away from me when I stopped being able to go house to house.

Michael Liner:

But because of the increased efficiencies of meeting with people this way, I just can’t go back to it.

Erik J. Olson:

Wow! That’s incredible. The concierge concept is great. I’ve done something similar here at Array Digital. We built up an account management team. And before are having one of that team, the communication was haphazard and now the communication goes through our account managers. It’s not quite as simplified and tight as what you have, but it’s effectively the same thing. How is everything going? Here’s what we’re doing for you.

Michael Liner:

It changes what you prioritize in the office. I know. I can tell you how much money the office is going to bring in in two years from now based on our intake volume and all the KPIs that we keep. I can do that pretty easily with a little bit of wiggle room. The new currency for me is the thank you notes that come in from people that we didn’t used to get before. I felt a lot of gratitude from clients before. But since we’ve boosted up how we are connecting with them… Her name is Jordyn, Jordyn Paratore.

Michael Liner:

I’m really sad. She’s about to have a baby in the next few days. We’re all on baby watch here, so she’ll be out for a little. But when Jordyn’s doing her job, I mean, the cookie trays that come in here, the thank you letters… And it’s not just thank you for helping me with my case. It’s I was homeless and you helped me find a roof over my head. Again, I didn’t get paid for that, but I sleep pretty well at night.

Erik J. Olson:

Wow! I bet you do. That’s really incredible. You mentioned the intake volume. You mentioned how many cases you could sign up in a day before COVID going house to house. Now it sounds like 12 to 14. If that’s consistent like five days a week, I mean, even if it’s not, that’s a tremendous volume. How do you keep up with all that? Tools, what kind of tools are you using to manage all of that?

Michael Liner:

A lot. That’s just myself. There’s several attorneys in the office that are keeping up with an intense intake volume as well. But we used to house everything in our… Intake wise, we used to house everything inside of our case management software. And after a while, I just realized that the follow-up wasn’t as good as it could be with the tools that existed inside of the case management software, so I went digging to find lead management software.

Michael Liner:

I hate having two separate programs, but it’s really allowed us to, again, not only just in the communication out to clients, because it automatically emails them, text them, reminds them of appointments with us, which are what keep them… I can schedule as many appointments as I want. But if we schedule 15 appointments and only 10 answer the phone, that’s a problem.

Michael Liner:

But because of all of the automation that’s happening inside of that software, if we schedule 15, I’m probably talking to 14 and a half of them.

Erik J. Olson:

Oh wow!

Michael Liner:

But internally, what it’s doing is it’s got reminder system for my intake staff. We’ve got an intake department here. And the intake department doesn’t have to think about what their next task is going to be. The lead management software… It’s called Lead Docket. It’s owned by Filevine now. It didn’t used to be. It was dependent until about a year ago. It tells them everything that they need to be doing and prioritizing throughout the day so that it does stay pretty consistent.

Michael Liner:

We have a very high call volume of new potential clients and I trust that Lead Docket is helping us get through those, to figure out who we can help, who we can’t help. And also, again, going back to that customer service piece, even the people that we can’t help, it’s never,” Sorry. Bye.” It’s here’s an action step that you could take so that maybe we can help you in the future, or here’s why we couldn’t help you to maybe boost your chances of success in the future and maybe keep us in mind.

Michael Liner:

We get a lot of referrals from people that we never even took their case. Our Google reviews from people that only talk to our intake department and never spoke to an attorney or hired us. We get a lot of those as well, which tells me we’re doing something right.

Erik J. Olson:

That’s incredible. Good for you. Speaking of different ways of getting clients, you mentioned two right there. Referral is always a big one for lawyers. Google My Business. It sounds like people are leaving reviews. They’re finding you on Google My Business. Are there other main ways that people are finding out about you? I mean, that’s a tremendous number of leads that you’re getting if you are signing up 10 to 14 and your other attorneys are doing something similar.

Michael Liner:

What separates us from other law firms in that sense is we don’t advertise. There’s no TV ads. There’s no radio. There’s not even Google advertising. I spend zero money on Google. I have people in-house that do marketing for us that are just full-time Liner Legal employees. However, in terms of what we are doing, it’s all organic. The initial volume that I built starting when I was working for that law firm that did workers comp, it was all education-based.

Michael Liner:

And I still to this day believe that that’s the best way to get a client. I would tour around to large community health centers in the Cleveland area, and then started spreading fur… Just kind of kept building on that and talked to case managers, doctors, nurses, therapists, anybody who would listen to me on the disability process. But it was never about I want to come in and talk to you because you see the type of clients that I see and I want those clients. It was always, what can I do for you?

Michael Liner:

My pitch to this day, which has been very successful, and I’ve changed it, tweaked it a lot over the years, but the baseline is it’s always been, “I know that you are getting questions about this process and I want you to have some knowledge so that you can feel confident answering some basic questions when your patients or clients ask them to you. I’m not trying to make anybody an expert here. I’m the lawyer, but I just want to come in, give you some information.”

Michael Liner:

A lot of times I’m able to help doctors get CME credits or therapists get CEU credits, which they need anyways. And that’s just for sitting and listening to me talk for an hour and I’ll feed you too. But in the end, I position myself as an expert. So whenever they get those questions and a lot of times they can answer them, but inevitably the referral stream that’s come to us for $0 has been huge.

Erik J. Olson:

What I like about what you just said is… I hear this all the time, referrals, referrals, referrals, and I get it. I love referrals just as much as anybody else, but you have a program in place. You’re doing the education, right? You’re feeding people. You’re giving them a reason to become part of your referral network, and it’s not just a fee. You’re nurturing it. That takes proactive action on people’s part. And a lot of times with the attorneys that we meet, there’s not really a program.

Erik J. Olson:

They know referrals are important, but they don’t have any way of generating them.

Michael Liner:

That’s just probably where I started. That’s what allowed me to get the initial volume to then build up my website a little bit. We have hundreds and hundreds of videos online. I’ve answered and the other attorneys in the office have answered just about every question that could possibly ask about a disability case, and we’ve shot a video about it. We’re releasing new videos onto YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, you name it, at least three or four days a week. I wish it was more than that.

Michael Liner:

There’s just only so much time. It takes time to edit them and there’s only so much time have to do it, but the number of ways that you can do it is unlimited. The one advice, because I get a lot of questions about our marketing from other people like, “Boy, you’re not spending any money. How can I do that too?” It’s don’t listen to everything that I’m doing and trying to do everything that I’m doing, because it took me…

Michael Liner:

I’ve been in practice for 11 years and where I’m at now is building year after year after year after year, and then passing a lot of that labor off to other people that work here with me in the office to help. If you’re just starting out by yourself and you’re trying to figure out how can I do this too, pick one thing and then do it amazing. Do it better than anybody else, and then figure out the next challenge that you can conquer.

Michael Liner:

I wouldn’t recommend starting a newsletter, which is one of the things that we have, and trying to have 20 lunches with people in a month and deciding that you’re going to release five videos a week. When are you going to sleep? When are you going to talk to your wife? When are you going to practice law? But if you do it little by little by little and you build systems out for these things, it happens, and I’m the proof that it happens.

Erik J. Olson:

I love it. I love everything you’re saying. I think that’s amazing advice, and I think a lot of people, myself included, will try to do too many things all at once and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed. I’m with you 100%. Do one thing. Do it really, really well. Try to automate it, hand it off, then start something else. But nail that first. Good for you.

Michael Liner:

Thank you. Thank you.

Erik J. Olson:

Well, thank you so much for being on the show. If someone would like to reach out and ask you questions, what is a good way to get in touch with you?

Michael Liner:

Sure. I would say that the best ways to get in touch with us, you can check out our website linerlegal.com. Give us a call, 216-282-1773, or just send me an email. My email is mliner@linerlegal.com. We’re on all of the social media that’s out there. But if you want to reach me directly, email is a great way and I’m happy to talk to anybody. Be authentic. That’s the most important thing you can do.

Erik J. Olson:

Are you on Instagram and TikTok?

Michael Liner:

Actually, we just shot our first TikTok video that I’m really excited about.

Erik J. Olson:

Is it out there?

Michael Liner:

No. It will be soon though.

Erik J. Olson:

All right, I’ll check it out.

Michael Liner:

I’m not dancing in it, but there are dancing videos of me on YouTube.

Erik J. Olson:

All right. Go check out dancing videos of Michael Liner. Michael, I appreciate it. All right, everybody, if you would like to check out more episodes like this, our entire backlog is at arraylaw.com/podcast. Our interviews are organized by practice area and by state, so you can drill down to find exactly what you’re looking for. And also, if you’re looking for digital marketing for your law firm, my company Array Digital can be found online at arraylaw.com.

Erik J. Olson:

You can find information about our website design, SEO, online ads, and social media there. But we don’t do TikTok, so we can’t help you with that. All right, Michael, thanks so much.

Michael Liner:

Thank you. Have a good one.

Erik J. Olson:

Same to you.

 

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