THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 191
Interview on 05.17.2022

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Maxine Weiss Kunz



Managing Partner of
Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC

About Maxine Weiss Kunz

Maxine Weiss Kunz is the Managing Partner at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC in Illinois.

Maxine has been recognized many times in the legal community for her achievements, including her selection as a Super Lawyer for years 2017-2021 and in 2019 as one of 40 Under 40 Attorneys to Watch by the American Society of Legal Advocates. She has sat on the board of the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois and is a certified mediator through the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Cook County courts. She is also on the board of the AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts), a professional group dedicated to education, research, and identifying best practices in family law systems. In addition to representing parties, she is also certified for appointment to represent children in her capacity as a Child Representative or Guardian ad Litem, in Cook County.

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

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcript

Erik J Olson:

Hey everybody. My name is Erik J Olson. I am your host for this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast. On The Managing Partners 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 Maxine Weiss Kunz. Hey Maxine.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Hi there.

Erik J Olson:

Well, I appreciate you making the time to join us.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really happy to be here.

Erik J Olson:

Let me tell the audience just a little bit about you. Maxine is a founding member of Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, a boutique family law firm with offices in Chicago, Elmhurst and Park Ridge, Illinois. Maxine started her law firm in 2014, after working for one of the most aggressive litigation firms in Chicago. Once again, appreciate your time and welcome to the podcast.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Thank you so much.

Erik J Olson:

So besides that short intro and bio, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your firm?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Yes, thank you. I concentrate my practice in family law. So that’s primarily divorce, postnuptial, prenuptial agreements, adoptions. I also handle an area of law called collaborative divorce, which you do need a certification for. And then I have a certification to do mediation, as well as be appointed to represent children of divorce in the capacity of a guardian ad litem or child representative. And that is the sole area of our law firms practice. As you mentioned, my firm, we started in 2014. I am a co-owner and founder, along with my partner who has an equal partnership, Amanda Oliver.

Erik J Olson:

Have you always specialized in family law or did you work your way into that over a couple of years?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

As a practicing law lawyer, yes. So in law school I tried a few different areas. I think it was inevitable that I would probably end up in family law, because I have a psychology background and family law is dealing with people and emotions riding high, but I did try a few different areas, but by the time I became licensed and was clerking, I knew family law was definitely the area for me.

Erik J Olson:

Nice. Well, cool. Well, what are some different ways that you go about getting clients?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Yes. So it sounds cliche, but certainly the best way to get clients is word of mouth. So either from a prior client that I’ve worked with or from a referral from a colleague, law school, fellow lawyer. I was initially, extremely active in bar associations when I first got out of law school. I am still active today, but a little bit more focused, so as not to be spread as thin. But one of the ways that I found was really a return was, working with bar associations throughout the state because somebody in Southern Illinois might refer me a case that their aunt or uncle calls them about, in an area that they don’t practice in the state. So I found that to be a very good way to get referrals. And then of course, there’s some of the usual ways of advertising on the web through the different legal offerings, Avvo, FindLaw, things of that nature. We dabble with that a little bit, but it’s not our primary area of business.

Erik J Olson:

So, referrals primarily, is that correct?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Yeah. And for example, when I first opened my doors, I made it practice to take one person out to lunch every single week. And they didn’t have to be lawyers, just somebody I would take out to lunch and of course I would treat them to lunch and I wouldn’t make the lunch about my business, but it would come up, I’d mention it. And I would tell them briefly what I do and how zealous I about my practice. And then, they always have it in the back of their mind that, okay, Maxine bought me lunch. And so I found that there was almost 90% return on people I took to lunch, who eventually referred me business.

Erik J Olson:

Yeah. I have a similar experience. When I first opened up the agency, I would do the exact same thing. I would take people out to lunch because I needed to eat anyways. And that was really good network marketing, and it worked. I got a lot of referrals, but as I got busier, as we got bigger, as I had other things to deal with it, I just stopped doing it. It’s nice, but it is one of those time consuming things, that it seems like most entrepreneurs, as they get to a certain point, they back off of those things and they’re sucked into the operations in other parts of the business. Was that what you saw as well?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

I totally agree. I would probably not be able to do that and be successful running my business at this point. That was definitely something to get me started. But now, once you hit your stride, you’re almost on auto drive, right?

Erik J Olson:

Yeah.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

The referrals are working for themselves. Your book of business probably has some of a return. In my case, if I get somebody divorced, they might have to come back for a modification if there’s a job change, or if a child emancipates or things of that nature. So that was definitely helpful in getting started.

Erik J Olson:

Gotcha. What about, you mentioned the listing websites where you’re listed as a lawyer, like Avvo and whatnot, or Super lawyers. Are those effective for you or are you not really sure?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

You know what I like about those, is that when somebody types your name into the internet, you come up in five different places, you have some credibility, some accountability. I think it’s really helpful in that regard. I don’t know that people initially find me there. I think there’s times when they do. And certainly we track that within the firm and I could probably pull up right, now if I have a hundred files, I’d say probably 15 of them came in organically, through a website search. But I think that there’s a lot of credibility that comes from having the same bio and the same picture, and having a picture on those different sources, if somebody does type in your name.

Erik J Olson:

That’s a good point. Because what you want to do is, you want to fill up that first page with all of your links. So you could run an ad, so there’s one, and probably other firms are going to be advertising on your name too, but you can certainly run an ad. You want your website organically, to come up to the top. You want the local listing, but then like you said, all those other references of you on other web websites, they should fill in as much of that first page as possible. But that’s for a branded search, for a service based search, like family law or something like that, divorce lawyer, ideally you could do the exact same thing as well. That’s perfect, if you can just take you over all of the first page or as much of it as possible. Yeah. That’s what we all want.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

And that was really important also when getting started, was coming up on the first page. We had lots of web developers talk to us about the importance of that. And I think it still is important, but a lot of these programs, if you don’t pay for some kind of advertising, you just come up with that blank, empty portfolio. And I think minimally, even if you’re not doing the push for the paper clicks or things like that, you want to have a genuine photo of yourself to show, you exist. You’re not just a paper cutout or-

Erik J Olson:

Yeah, you’re a real person.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Next lawyer in line.

Erik J Olson:

Gotcha. Well, cool. So, one of the things that we’re always interested in is, as far as operating the firm, what are some tools that are important for you when it comes to keeping track of these referrals that are coming in, keep been track of your clients and whatnot? What are some tools that you’re using for that?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Yeah. So within our firm, we use the management software, Clio, C L I O. I think a lot of law firms are familiar with it, if not already using it. It does give you an opportunity to track how a client finds you. So we can either indicate if they came in through a specific referral source, or if they came in through a website, things of that nature. It’s also really helpful for conflicts. And then that’s also our billing software, which as lawyers, we occasionally have to bill for our time, so we keep track of it there, and have our calendar.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

And then personally, again, a little bit further into the development of things now, I know for myself, who are my top 10 referral sources who send some of the bigger files. Some of the bigger clients. And so I try to always nurture and develop those relationships, whether it’s continuing to meet them for coffee or lunch or evening drinks, putting money towards a fundraiser that’s important to them, keeping them on the annual holiday list when you send out 10 bouquets of flowers or whatever it is. So I really try to narrow down, who’s the top 10 generators for me, and then concentrate on those on a personal level.

Erik J Olson:

That’s great. That’s a really good idea to identify those top referrers, and then treat them like the VIPs that they are.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Exactly. And it’s not fake. I genuinely care about these people. I am genuinely interested in keeping and maintaining those relationships, not just because they refer me business, but they’re referring me business because we have a history and I do care about them. And I think if you focus on who you’re connecting with, it’s more effective than sending out 200 holiday cards to every referral source out there. That’s generic.

Erik J Olson:

Totally agree. Exactly. Yep. Good point. And especially now. By the way, we’re recording this in December, of 2021, it probably won’t come out for several more months. But yeah, we’re all getting ready to get bombarded with those generic holiday cards, which may have just a scribble of a signature. And that’s the only personalization that comes with the card. And it’s not a great idea from a marketing perspective because it’s not personalized, and it’s just one of a hundred of these things that you’re going to get. And you probably won’t even spend that much time in the office over the holidays.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Exactly.

Erik J Olson:

So you don’t really care that much. So there’s better marketing efforts, than just being one of many that do the exact same thing. So I totally agree with you on that.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

And when I receive those personal cards or the, “I recall you enjoyed these toffee’s in my office, here’s five for you and your family.” That means something to me. And so I try to think about that when I’m putting myself back out there, how to connect with people on a genuine level, instead of just doing the same across the board.

Erik J Olson:

Yep. Yeah. Good call. What are your growth plans for the next few years?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

So my firm has been fortunate in the fact that, we have grown a lot since our start. So in 2014, it was just myself and my partner. At this stage, we do have six attorneys working for us, two partners and four associates. So at the present time, our goal is not so much to grow in numbers, but to really develop the attorneys and the relationships that we have here right now. So to train the attorneys that are here, perhaps promote more attorneys to partner and really make sure that our attorneys know how to properly manage the files that we ask them to run.

Erik J Olson:

I’ve heard that referred to as, a focus on internal growth rather than external, which is interesting. And yeah, I think a lot of firms, and just companies in general skip over that sometimes. But the thing is that, everybody wants to do quality work, and so you really need to focus sometimes, on the internals before you focus on the external. So I think that’s a really good idea. We’re actually doing the same thing here, making sure that the internal processes are documented and everybody knows their role and their responsibilities. And it’s one of those things, it’s a good thing to do, but it’s one of those things that you just push off, if you want. But I think it’s really important. So I think that’s really smart of you.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Thanks. Yeah. And I think that it’s easy to think once you’ve trained somebody, they’re just ready to hit the ground. And sometimes that might be true, but people are forgetful. Maybe they forget something that they’ve been trained on, or you realize over time, that there is a skill that needs to be honed. And if you don’t take the time to do the training and nourish the people here, then those referrals are going to dry up because our associates are not going to produce the work product that we’ve promised people.

Erik J Olson:

Gotcha. Yeah. Well, cool. What is something that is working especially well for you right now in your marketing?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

I do think that concentration on what I referred to as my top 10 group of referrals, is something that works really well for me. And when you develop the skills with your employees, like I touched on as well, then you’re able to reach a wider network of potential clients, potential referral sources, because it’s not just you now, that’s spreading the word of mouth. So I think the combination of nurturing the relationships that have helped build up my firm, as well as nurturing internally, the attorneys here, is really what’s creating growth for us.

Erik J Olson:

That’s a really neat point about, yes, it’s other people evangelizing what you do, which is probably a lot more powerful than you, evangelizing what you do, because most business people are going to do that. But certainly, if you could have someone else say something nice, it’s like getting a good review on Google or the internet somewhere, from someone else obviously, it’s pretty powerful. That’s a third party testimonial. So that’s a good point. Is there something that you stopped doing, in say, the last… I don’t know, year or two or three that just didn’t work for you? Maybe, and I don’t know what you’ve done in the past, but social media, SEO, PPC you’ve mentioned, even TV, radio, billboards, anything like that, something that used to work, but doesn’t really work anymore?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Yeah. We have actually cut back a lot on the internet advertising, the SEO. And I think that, that was extremely important when we were starting the firm. But at this point in the growth of our firm, if we don’t have those word of mouth referrals, the clients, the professional referrals, then there’s a real problem. And so we did notice when we went back through and looked at how we were receiving our cases, that the amount of money we were putting into the web advertising was not equal to what we were receiving from it.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

So we have recently cut back on that quite a bit, but it’s interesting that you just mentioned the Google review, because that’s something new that we have concentrated on, is taking the time after a case closes to ask clients to fill out a Google review. If we feel like there was a positive end to their case, which hopefully, is the majority of our cases. Which is awkward, it’s hard to go back to a client and say, “Now that your file is closed, can you please leave me review on the internet?” But for whatever reason, Google likes when people review you, perhaps, because it’s a Google review. So the more of those you have, the more likely I think you are, to get higher up on those first pages of the web, as you mentioned earlier.

Erik J Olson:

No doubt about it. I have read that, it’s somewhere between 10 and 15% of all of the factors that Google uses when it determines positioning on a search result, your reviews, the ratings, and they only care about Google reviews. So if you’re going to ask someone, I’m speaking to the audience here, if you’re going to ask someone for a review, always ask for a Google review. Now there may be some strategic reason why want to review somewhere else, but Facebook, probably not the place to ask for review, but maybe like we had mentioned before, Avvo and sites like that, you may want to have a couple there, whatever sites support reviews. But generally speaking, you want to Google review, it’s more. It’s more equal than those other ones.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Yes. And so that’s something that we had cut back on, is we used to divide and conquer equally between, if we were asking for a Yelp review, an Avvo review or a Google review. We’d evenly go, “Okay. Last time we asked for Yelp, this time we’ll ask for Avvo, this time we’ll ask for…” Now, it’s always Google. If somebody wants to it go the extra mile and go to a different site, thank you, much appreciated, but it’s always going to be the request for the Google.

Erik J Olson:

Yeah. And then a recommendation that I have on that is, make it easy. So give them the link. So I’ve received requests for Google reviews, where people will tell me, they may not even tell, “Oh, go search on Google for this company name.” And they may just ask for a Google review and provide no instructions how to do it, no link. But if you send them a link, you’re much more likely for them to click on that link and then provide the review, versus them having to do some work, to figure out how to do that, where that’s located. So make it easy for them and you’ll get the reviews. So I think that’s really smart to get those Google reviews and Google loves it. And they’re the ones that rule the internet these days. So as long as you do what Google likes, you’re good.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

It’s a great point to send them the link because sometimes people think they’re leaving you a Google review, but it’s not actually linked to your website. So for example, because we are associated with the Chicago office and Elmhurst office, and Park Ridge office, we have three different Google review accounts, but there’s one specific account that is linked to our website for whatever reason, because that’s what Google decided. So that’s the link we always want to make sure we’re sending to people.

Erik J Olson:

There you go.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

And likewise, I’ve tried to review peers in the professional community when they have not requested it, only to find out, “Oh, okay. I left them a personal review, but it wasn’t linked to their company.” So sending them a link is very smart.

Erik J Olson:

Cool. Well, awesome. If someone would like to connect with you, what is a good way for them to do that?

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

You can go through my websites, wkofamilylaw.com. We have a Contact Us, link which will email us, or you are also free to send me an email. That’s mwkunz@wkofamilylaw.com

Erik J Olson:

Awesome Maxine, thanks so much. All right, everybody, if you would like to check out other episodes like this, our full backlog is at arraylaw.com/podcast. Each episode is tagged by the practice area and the state. So you can really drill into exactly what you’re looking for. And if you’re looking for digital marketing for your law firm, please check out arraylaw.com. That is my company’s website. We specialize in website development, SEO, online advertising and social media, all for law firms. All right, Maxine. Thanks so much.

Maxine Weiss Kunz:

Thank you, Erik.

 

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