THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 171
Interview on 03.08.2022

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Louis Licata



Managing Partner of
Gertsburg Licata Co LPA

About Louis Licata

Louis J. Licata is the Managing Partner at Gertsburg Licata Co LPA in Cleveland, Ohio.

Louis was also the first attorney in the State of Ohio certified as a dual specialist after meeting the extensive requirements and high standards of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Specialty Board and The Supreme Court of Ohio Commission on Certification of Attorney’s as Specialists. Ohio Lawyer Magazine named him a “Super Lawyer” and Crain’s Cleveland Business’ inclusion of him on the list of “Who’s Who in Technology.” He has been a leader in the profession, starting one of the first internet law practices in the United States and implementing innovative firm management measures, including a paperless office initiative in 1998.

He was formerly an associate professor of law at Cleveland Marshall College of Law. In December 2006, Ohio Magazine named him one of Ohio’s Memorable Educators. He has written and presented on numerous legal topics and recently submitted a Chapter titled Legal Considerations for Entering Asia Markets to be published in an eBook by ExecSense Inc.

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, I am your host today for another live episode of the Managing Partners Podcast. In this podcast, we interview America’s top managing partners to find out how they’re running their law firms, how they’re growing their law firms, and what they’re doing to keep their case pipeline full. And today, I have with me, Lou Licata. Hey, Lou.

Louis Licata:

Hi, Erik, how are you?

Erik J. Olson:

I’m doing great. Thanks for making the time, I appreciate it.

Louis Licata:

My pleasure.

Erik J. Olson:

Let me introduce you to the audience bio here. So Lou is the co-managing partner of Gertsburg Licata, he’s focused on serving as the chief legal advisor to CEOs and business owners throughout the world. He has provided analysis and experience with complex issues including global strategy, new market entry, strategic vision, governance, risk management, crisis management, and day-to-day problem solving. Welcome to the podcast.

Louis Licata:

Thanks.

Erik J. Olson:

Well, besides what I just read, can you tell the audience a little bit more about you and your firm?

Louis Licata:

Sure. I was one of those rare people that had the disease very early on about being a lawyer, so that’s all I ever wanted to be. And I went right into law school and came out of law school and started working for firms. When I went to law school, I actually wanted to be an international transactional lawyer, but at that time, the cross-border private transactions really didn’t exist the way they do today. And come full circle, after I started my own firm in 1990, the internet opened up and so did a lot of other countries and all of a sudden, I started doing the international cross-border transactions that I like to do.

Louis Licata:

And so my firm’s 31 years old now. It was about 30 years old when I met Alex. And he was running a similar track to me, in terms of his focus, his client base, his values, his practice management, philosophy, and so we merged. So our current firm, Gertsburg Licata, has really only been officially in existence since April 1. But Alex and I have parallel tracks, so merging has really been the classic merger of one plus one equals three. And we represent entrepreneurs and their ventures, and we focus on what we call freedom and growth, the opportunity to provide owners with as much freedom as possible to do the things they want to do and as much opportunity to grow. We do that, not only through our law firm but through other ventures in the enterprise.

Erik J. Olson:

Well, congratulations on 31 years of business. That’s incredible.

Louis Licata:

Yep. Thank you.

Erik J. Olson:

I would imagine, after 30 years of running your own firm… Without any kind of merger or anything, doing that 30 years later, I would imagine there had to have been a little bit of shock. And now having a full-fledged partner, what was that like for you?

Louis Licata:

Well, I started my firm with partners, and that only lasted about six years. And then I had no partners, and then I had joint venture-type relationships. But I think with 30 years, you get a lot of perspective and maturity, and so you start to realize the things that make… Especially when you have clients who you’re advising on partnerships and ownership structures, you start to see the components and the elements of a successful partnership. And so it’s like one of those things that you look for that’s hard to find, but once you find it, you recognize it when you see it. And Alex and I, we met, talked, and both recognized that we had found, probably, the unicorn we were looking for. And so it really was more than about getting to the details of what it would look like to operate a business on the day-to-day basis and figuring out if the gaps were… Where the gaps were, if they were too wide to bridge or, if not, how to bridge them. And it was so easy, it was one of the easiest things I’ve done, and he has communicated he feels the same way.

Louis Licata:

So it’s still a little bit of a culture shock. I mean, you’re so used to making decisions and just running with them. I think we both had to check ourselves with, “You know what, I need to run this by my partner, or I should ask my partner for input.” But there’d been a couple times where I’ve done something or Alex has done something, and then we’ve gone to each other and said, “Hey, listen, I’m sorry I did this,” but it’s been nothing really too difficult. And I think the other part of any good relationship is the ability to problem solve and work through conflict. And so we’ve been together six months, and we’ve had a couple of bumps in the road where we’ve had to then say, “Well, how do we work through this?” And like most things, how you do it is sometimes more important than what you do, and so we’ve been lucky enough to have a good process and good ways to solve problems.

Erik J. Olson:

I would imagine that a lot of the managing partners that are watching or listening are considering partnering up. And it’s not like, with Alex, you had an associate lawyer that you then groomed on the way up, it was a merger, basically, of equals. So what kind of a top two or three things would you say managing partners who are considering doing this should look for in a partner?

Louis Licata:

I think the number one, and you hear about this a lot, and it’s really divided into two components, but it’s the culture and the core values. And I think that the core values are the most important because that’s what drives your culture. And the core values, what was interesting was I had four core values, Alex had four core values, two of them were the same, and the other two were similar, and we ended up… When we finished up doing our collective core values, we both knew they were consistent with what our merged entity would look like.

Louis Licata:

And then the follow-through with that, the culture is, what is it we want to, what are the priorities? What do we make important? What are the things that… You could talk about quality of work and performance and results, but it’s really… It’s a little bit more than that, it’s the idea that clients never has to ask us what’s going on with their case or their legal matter, it’s everybody sharing that philosophy of what’s important in the workplace. And so I think those two things have made us successful, and it made it really fun.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. And I’ve heard the phrase for that. Culture is the way things are done when the manager’s not watching, it’s just the way things are done. And I would imagine, when it comes to core values, you’re not looking for the same words per se, but you’re looking for things that are drastically different. So if one side, their core value is, “Help people,” and the other is, “Make as much money as possible,” and there’s nothing about helping people, that’s probably going to be a problem, right?

Louis Licata:

Right. Yeah, I think that’s true. And there are core values that aren’t… There’s an interesting guy I heard talk some time ago, he had a boat business, and long story short was it was totally unsuccessful. And he started over, and he started with core values, and he ended up hiring just on core values. And he got rid of a lot of people that were not good for his business, and those people all went to work for his competitor. And he said his business was successful, but so was his competitors. And when he looked at why, it was because his competitors had taken on all these people with the same core values, all they were interested in were certain things that were inconsistent with what this guy was talking, but it was… Again, it was agreement and alignment on how to do business. So yeah, it’s funny how that plays out, but it’s relevant.

Erik J. Olson:

So as a law firm that focuses on a lot of business transactions and business clients, referrals, I’m sure, are a huge part of getting new clients. Besides referrals, are there different tactics that you use to attract clients and to bring them into your system and then eventually convert them into clients?

Louis Licata:

Definitely. I think sharing content through webinars, podcasts, blogs, I think the two that we’ve used the most… I mean, Alex used to do a podcast, but the two we use the most are the webinars and the blogs. And so we push content out into those platforms, and they result in drawing people who have interest in those areas or issues in those areas. And we start to become thought leaders or content managers in those areas and, eventually, that leads to discussion and engagement. I mean, it’s just a natural byproduct of that. The other area I found is that there’s trade groups or business organizations that are compatible with our business practice. So we not only join those organizations, but we’re active in those organizations. And so I see a lot of firms place people in the small business organizations or in the entrepreneurs’ organizations. But those are placements, those aren’t membership activity. They’re not coming in as members, they’re coming in as third-party…

Erik J. Olson:

Vendors?

Louis Licata:

Yeah, vendors. And so there’s always… And here’s what I see all the time, guys show up and they try to work the room, and it takes about six months to really even get to know anybody, and then they’re out and somebody else comes in. What we have found is that if you believe in an organization and it’s consistent with the things that you want to do, you should show up, participate. And those opportunities then present themselves because people get to know you, and they get to know who you are and they get to know your values. They start to trust and respect you, and you’re the first call. “I’ve got a problem, I should call Lou,” and they call and they say, “I don’t know if you know the answer to this, but I trust that you know who does if you don’t” and that’s… We always talk about… We want to be the first call, we want to be the first call from our current clients and from prospects that think that we might be able to help.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. Now, on the networking, that is a good source, I agree with you. But it is also time-consuming, right?

Louis Licata:

It is.

Erik J. Olson:

[inaudible 00:11:13]

Louis Licata:

That’s the other reason why… By the way, that’s the other reason why it’s not just about being a placement because it does take time. So it should be something that is worth spending that time.

Erik J. Olson:

Agreed. It requires the commitment over time, and then each time you go, the time itself, two, three hours. And yeah, what I found is that you get, if you will, your biggest bang for the buck with a professional organization if you do something like join a subcommittee or the board. But that’s time commitment, right?

Louis Licata:

Sure.

Erik J. Olson:

[crosstalk 00:11:46] should be regular meetings, but that’s when you really get to know the people.

Louis Licata:

You do. I’ve also… It’s amazing. So those opportunities also provide value back to your client base. So for example, there’s a COSE, C-O-S-E, Council of Small Enterprises, they are connected to the National Small Business Association, NSBA. So if you’re active with COSE and the NSBA, you’re learning about all these political advocacy issues that are related to small business. Well, I could take that right back to my client base.

Erik J. Olson:

[inaudible 00:12:20].

Louis Licata:

I could say, “Hey, by the way, there’s stuff going on right now that you need to pay attention to that deals with your business or deals with regulation or deals with tax issues.” So it’s about being a resource back to your clients, too, if you’re in the right organization. If you’re just showing up to try to get business, you’re not connecting at that level.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. You need to be a resource and you need to be helpful and, really, almost a friend in a situation like that. If you go on with an agenda, you basically get one shot at trying to get someone’s interest to do business with you, and then you’re going to move on to the next person. But what you want is that continuing relationship.

Louis Licata:

Right.

Erik J. Olson:

The other thing that you mentioned was things like blogging. How are you going about handling that, is that something that you have… You’re writing them, you have other attorneys writing them, you outsource them somehow?

Louis Licata:

Yeah. So we have a very strong marketing director, and she’s responsible for coordinating, consistent with our marketing strategy, the topics that we want to write about. And she looks for either our younger associates to put in some time to write some content, which then our senior people will review and bless. And then when we post it, both get byline credit, but there’s also a lot of… Especially in our industry, there’s a lot of canned content out there, so you can access some of that canned content and then spend 30 minutes making sure that the revisions are consistent with the message and the locality or the jurisdiction that you’re trying to communicate. So reps and warranties, I mean, it’s the same across the board. You can find 100 articles on reps and warranties, but if we decide that we want to focus on arbitration as part of reps and warranties, and terms and conditions and we say, “Look, here’s the standard content, but let’s revise it just to make it personal or unique to our client base.”

Louis Licata:

That saves us some time, that content’s out there. But again, we rely on our marketing director to triage that. Here’s stuff we can just, out of the box, use. Here’s stuff that we need, and then we have… Part of that, of our blogging, is a topic we call fast law, and fast law is that a decision comes out… Let’s say when President Biden decided that he was going to do mandatory vaccination requirements, that was something that we thought, “We got to get this out. We don’t know where it’s going to end up, but it’s something to put on everybody’s radar.” And so we have our labor and employment people put it together very quickly. Here’s what’s going on, here’s the potential issues that you should be aware of, just start thinking about it going forward in terms of how you want to plan for hiring or COVID policy revision or whatever it is you want to do.

Erik J. Olson:

How do you put that out? Is that like a social media post and then your blog as well.

Louis Licata:

So it’ll be a combination of an immediate post through social media, LinkedIn, and then if it’s timely, it might be part of our newsletter, which we call THE FIX. And so that’s the other part, I would say, from a standpoint of success, is that our newsletter has been really successful, but I don’t think… I mean, 20 years ago, I had a great newsletter, and it was marginally successful, and the reason was is it wasn’t connected to anything else. And I think what makes our newsletter so successful is that it’s integrated with LinkedIn and social media and webinar and the podcast that we used to do or, now, the blogging, so it’s part of a bigger universe.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. That’s great.

Louis Licata:

Yeah.

Erik J. Olson:

It’d be cool to do a three-things-you-need-to-know-this-week video, put that out as a TikTok.

Louis Licata:

Sure. Yeah. I think we’re trying to head more towards… I mean, some of the things you play with and you’re like, “Well, how much video content do we want,” but that’s a really… Those are good ideas, to do things like that.

Erik J. Olson:

So you got the blogging, the in-person networking, all those hopefully would lead to referrals. What about in the last few years, what is something that used to work very well for you that just no longer seems to work anymore as far as attracting new clients?

Louis Licata:

Well, that’s a great question that I don’t know that I can immediately respond to because… I’ll tell you why, because it… When you’re younger, you take a lunch with everybody, and you show up at every event and you talk everywhere. But as you start to… Time is limited, you start to hone in and you start to see where your success is and you start to see what works, and then you keep doing what works. So in the last couple years, the one thing I do miss… And I think that even though our webinars are, I would call them, successful, they are nothing like being live in person. If I did an event live in person, I would walk away with at least two people every time who would need something that we would then turn that into a client relationship. And with the webinars, there’s so many of them, there’s just so many of them out there. We try to make our content very unique and specific, we try to drive buts to the seats.

Louis Licata:

But you don’t get the same interaction, you don’t get the same Q and A, you don’t get the same emotional connection that you do when you’re in person, and so I think there’s a longer timeline. If you do just webinar… And this is why having a marketing team is so important. If you do just webinars, I think it’s like shooting into the woods and hoping that a bullet hits something. You’ve got to follow up, you have to connect with the people who attended the webinar even if it’s just to provide them with the slides and find out if they have any questions, and then get them on your newsletter list or find out what, specifically, they’re struggling with. And we use Salesforce as part of one of our tools to gather information and to look for opportunities to connect with prospects. So I think that would be the one thing that has become harder, is the in-person dialogue on seminars versus a webinar has been more difficult.

Erik J. Olson:

That’s a really good observation because with a webinar, it’s much more efficient and, potentially, you could speak to a lot more people at the same time. But yeah, that connection is just not there quite as much. So as an example, I’ve been looking at you here. So I’m pointing down because you’re below my camera, so my eyes are having to go between the camera and your eyes. But I’ve been trying to look at your eyes this whole time, but you probably don’t feel like I have been, right?

Louis Licata:

Well, right.

Erik J. Olson:

And…

Louis Licata:

Yeah, go ahead.

Erik J. Olson:

But when you’re in person, when you’re talking to a group of people, I don’t know, but… You probably are the same way, but I’m looking… I’m having individual conversations with people and I’m connecting with them. And that’s how I feel most comfortable, is by looking at people in the eye, but when… I would imagine, because this happened to me in an audience, when you do that, you feel a connection there. You feel like [inaudible 00:20:27] is talking to you, not just broadcasting out, that’s a big difference.

Louis Licata:

Absolutely. And after the event, you always get three or four people who come up and actually have a conversation with you. You never get that in a webinar. You might get a little bit of dialogue back and forth after that, maybe some chatroom… But not like you do when you’re at one of those and somebody comes up and says, “You know what, I don’t know if you can help me on this or not,” and they start to tell you the situation, and then you say, “Look, we just had that situation. Here are the three things we thought, talked about, and did. If there’s any way I can help… And the next thing you know, you’re…

Erik J. Olson:

[inaudible 00:21:00] business card?

Louis Licata:

Yeah. And you’re talking and you’re helping them. And I miss that part of it, I miss that part of it a lot. I don’t know if we’re going to get back to that or not.

Erik J. Olson:

I think we will. And actually, I think now is the time. So we’re recording this at the very beginning of November. And the world is getting back to normal, the numbers are going down for this Delta variant. And I think that we all have an opportunity right now to, at least, start to talk to the professional organizations and throw our name out there, that we’re interested in speaking to groups of people as they come back in person. Now, the groups may be smaller in the very beginning, for the next couple of months. But certainly-

Louis Licata:

[inaudible 00:21:46].

Erik J. Olson:

… I would imagine by early 2022, January, February, assuming that COVID cases continue to decline and the vaccine continues to get out in the population, that’s going to be a really good opportunity for folks like us, to get in front of groups of people.

Louis Licata:

Yeah. I agree with you, and I hope we are right.

Erik J. Olson:

As do I. Well, Lou, that was really interesting, I appreciate it.

Louis Licata:

You’re welcome.

Erik J. Olson:

If someone wants to reach out to you, if they have questions or they want to connect or, maybe, they have a referral for you, what’s a good way to connect with you?

Louis Licata:

Well, you can, either through our website, gertsburglicata.com, or you can catch me on LinkedIn, louislicata. It’s pretty easy to find me on LinkedIn and send me a message or ask to connect. Those are the easiest ways.

Erik J. Olson:

And LinkedIn does work for him, that’s how we connected.

Louis Licata:

That’s how we met, right?

Erik J. Olson:

That’s right. Well, thanks so much…

Louis Licata:

Yeah. I’m pretty good at checking and following up, and there’s a lot… LinkedIn has been a nice platform, it’s worked well.

Erik J. Olson:

Well, it is pretty handy when they send you an email saying, “Hey, this person just sent you a connection request,” so you don’t have to go into LinkedIn too often to check [inaudible 00:23:04].

Louis Licata:

That’s right.

Erik J. Olson:

Well, I appreciate… Hey everybody, if you would like to check out other episodes like this, our entire backlog is at arraylaw.com/podcast. Each episode is tagged by practice area and by state, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. And if you’re a managing partner looking for digital marketing for your law firm, check out my law firm, I’m sorry, my agency at arraylaw.com. We offer websites, SEO, online advertising, and social media. Lou, thanks again.

Louis Licata:

Thank you, I appreciate it.

 

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