THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 213
Interview on 08.02.2022

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Robert DeRose, II



Managing Partner of
Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP

About Robert DeRose, II

Robert E. DeRose, II is the Managing Partner at Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP in Ohio.

Bob has dedicated his time and practice to pursuing the rights of workers, as displayed by serving on the executive committee of the Columbus Jobs with Justice and was formerly the President of the Greater Columbus Workers Rights Board. He has also served on the National Board of Directors for Interfaith Worker Justice, based in Chicago. He is also the former president of the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG), which is a national organization of lawyers based in Washington, D.C. committed to representing workers and their families. Further, he was formerly the president of the Ohio Association for Justice and a member of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and participates in the AAJ Leaders Forum. He is a co-author of 2005-2006 Ohio Workers Compensation Law, a Practice Guide, which is used by many of his colleagues in their Ohio Workers Compensation 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. This 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 what they’re doing to run their firms and to keep their case pipeline full. And today with me, I have Bob DeRose. Hey, Bob.

Bob DeRose:

Hey, Erik. How you doing? Thanks for having me this morning.

Erik J. Olson:

I appreciate you making the time. It’s first thing in the morning too for us, huh?

Bob DeRose:

It is. It is. Nice snowy, cold morning.

Erik J. Olson:

I got the cold, not so much snow anymore, but-

Bob DeRose:

Well, we have them both here in Columbus.

Erik J. Olson:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Well hey, let tell the audience a little bit about you. Bob DeRose is the managing partner at Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP. His practice consists of wage and hour/overtime issues, employment issues, and complex litigation. Bob is also the former President of the Worker’s Injury Law and Advocacy Group, served as the former President of the Ohio Association for Justice, and as a member of the American Association for Justice. Bob, welcome to the show.

Bob DeRose:

Thank you for having me, Erik.

Erik J. Olson:

You got it. Very impressive bio. You’ve definitely served in a lot of different capacities outside of just your firm. Has that always been part of the career path?

Bob DeRose:

Yes, it has. I enjoy being in leadership roles and I really enjoyed being in leadership roles and organizations and then of late, being the managing partner of a great group of lawyers here at our firm.

Erik J. Olson:

How long have you been the managing partner for?

Bob DeRose:

Since 2018.

Erik J. Olson:

Okay, cool. Cool. Well, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and the firm please?

Bob DeRose:

Sure. As you said, my name is Bob DeRose. I’m originally from Southwest Pennsylvania. Grew up immigrant parents. My father was a steel worker for 43 years. It’s sort of how I put myself through college and went to the University of Dayton and stayed in Ohio for law school and stayed in Ohio after that and focused my practice on representing employees. Started off representing them in workers’ compensation cases, then noticed that physically being injured wasn’t the only way they were getting hurt. Saw that there was a lot of wage problems and how they were getting paid and sort of diverted my personal practice to wage in our cases, although our firm continues to do workers’ compensation claims as well. The firm’s been in continuous existence since 1957. I’m just the last of a long line of managing partners. We have been an employee side personal injury, workers’ comp, wage and hour, Social Security Disability practice here in central Ohio. My practice is national. We represent clients around the country. But the rest of my partners, our practice tends to focus within the borders of Ohio.

Erik J. Olson:

Wow, 65 years. That’s quite a tenure for a company like this. It’s very impressive.

Bob DeRose:

Yeah, appreciate that. Yeah. It’s sort of special, especially on the plaintiff side. Plaintiff side law firms don’t tend to have as much legacy as some of the defense firms and we’re traditional commercial or employer side firms.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. How did you go about getting into this particular practice? Not the firm, but this practice area.

Bob DeRose:

So like I said, I came out of law school wanting to do workers’ compensation employment work, just given my background. My dad was in a union for 40 some years and that has always been what I wanted to get into. And just like every other probably lawyer listening to this broadcast, your practice and your clients sort of dictate the path in which you go. You might have an idea where you want to start, but where you end up can be a pretty fun journey. But like I said, I did work with workers’ compensation, tried workers’ compensation cases, and more and more, we were working on the wages. Started to identify that there were problems in how our clients were getting paid. One case led to another and then finally, I really decided that this is what I like to do. I really like doing the wage and hour overtime, minimum wage, when an employer misclassified an employee. It’s a lot of fun work. It becomes really complex litigation, which I enjoy.

Erik J. Olson:

Seems like a lot of the managing partners that we interview for this podcast, they take different routes to the niche that they’re in now, the specialization. Some of them start general and then very quickly niche down. Others, like you said, they have a sense of the area they want to go into. And still others, they’ll hop occasionally maybe one or two or three times in their career. But it definitely seems like the successful ones that we’ve interviewed here, all focus in and specialize versus being generalists.

Bob DeRose:

That makes a lot of sense. You have to be able… I think that’s one of the things you need as a managing partner is to be able to take in a whole bunch of information and sort of stay to the plan or at least a semblance of the plan you started with.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s a great point. Absolutely. Well, cool. Hey, so one of the things that we’re always interested in here at Array Digital, we’re a digital marketing industry and we work with law firms and so we talk about marketing a lot here, but what are some of the different ways you get clients?

Bob DeRose:

So one of the… The way we look at it, we have three buckets. We have doing well for our clients and have our clients refer to us, getting out information to our colleagues, given that we do some specialized work out to our colleagues that, “Hey, we’re pretty good at what we do here and we’ll take care of your clients,” so we get a lot of attorney referrals. And then the third is rather a large segmented bucket of we get clients from marketing, digital marketing. We do a lot of writing. We put a lot of seminars, a lot of blogging and writing on topics out there. And we have a marketing director, her name’s Mara Siegel, who’s wonderful. She runs that part of the ship. And so we look at it in terms of three different buckets.

Erik J. Olson:

Nice. No, that’s great. Yeah. So you have the referrals from clients, you have referrals from other attorneys and then you have marketing in general. You got a lot of coverage. That’s good. I like how you put that into buckets. I think that’s the first time that I’ve heard it referred to as these three big segments. Usually it’s just referrals, generally speaking, and then other stuff and [crosstalk 00:07:15]

Bob DeRose:

Yeah. We went to the bucket idea because each bucket comes with its challenges and rewards and so if you don’t, at least the way we looked at it, if you didn’t segregate them into buckets, you couldn’t measure how good you’re doing on your marketing in any one particular area. If you get too much where you have to spend on marketing and you’re not getting other attorneys referring or your client’s not referring well, you may be good at marketing, but maybe you’re not servicing the clients and that’s why you’re not getting. And then if you just rely on attorney referrals, well, that may have a cost you don’t pay towards the end, but you need to have referrals that don’t have a co-counsel fee or things like that. And so we broke it down to the buckets so that we can manage or monitor how we’re doing in terms of our intakes.

Erik J. Olson:

That’s really smart. So speaking of the buckets, and one thing working well or not, what is one thing that working particularly well right now in your marketing?

Bob DeRose:

In our marketing, I would say everything has to be content driven. I mean, you can spend a lot of money on marketing, but if you’re not adding content, if you’re not adding something new, if you’re not writing about topical issues, because everybody has a website these days. Everybody is paying for click ads. Everybody’s paying for what I call the easy marketing where you just write a check and hopefully someone does well for you or they don’t do well for you.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.

Bob DeRose:

But I think where you start to separate yourself is when you start to put your own elbow grease into it. I’ve found that… I’ve started a blog called The Paycheck Warrior and I put stuff out and then I have my other partners write. I’m the only one who’s willing to have a catchy name. All the rest of are a little more serious about it, I guess, but we have to do content. That’s the critical part. You have to engage in your own marketing.

Erik J. Olson:

I think that what you talked about in the very beginning of that answer was spot on. I think a lot of times business people, business owners, whether they’re a law firm or not, will opt for the easy solution, which is write a check. Now you may not have the funds for it, it may be difficult, but it’s a lot easier to write a check than it is to put in the elbow grease, like you talked about and roll up your sleeves and write an article and have your name attached to it like a lot of people, they’re hesitant to attach their name to anything that has to do with marketing, but it makes a huge, huge difference.

Erik J. Olson:

So if you have, and I’m with you a hundred percent, if you have a piece of content on your website that people are looking for and it’s authored to you as the attorney, Google will show that to prospective clients and it makes a huge difference. So it’s very valuable, but it also takes time, usually billable time and energy, which usually means you don’t really want to sacrifice the billable time, so you may be doing it nights, weekends, a little bit here, a little bit there. Squeezing an hour during the business day during your lunch and then finish it at night, but it’s worth it.

Bob DeRose:

Right. Yeah, it is. And also, and I will say that I make it sound easier than it was. I mean, one of the things about challenges about lawyers in particular is that we tend to write in a certain fashion. We aren’t educated on how to write content. We write persuasively, we write for judges and those don’t easily translate to content in the digital space and marketing. And so I will say that is also a challenge that a lot of people face. I know I faced it and had to sort of fight through it with a lot of coaching and pushback from Mara, our marketing director on, “This isn’t a brief. This is content.”

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. Spot on. Another great observation, because what we have found is when we write content for SEO purposes, in particular, it’s for a human to read, but it’s also for Google to use. We have tools where we are targeting keywords, we’re targeting your competitors, we’re targeting your geographic market and it’ll give us a grade. It’ll say, “Is this piece of content an F or an A++ based on the goals you want to achieve from SEO?” This happened on more than one occasion where we will write a piece, it’ll be an A++, but of course our clients’ attorneys want to review it and they’ll chop it up and then will take theirs, which just seems like normal edits, but it’s the edits that they want to make so that it’s perfect, and will put it back the tool when it goes from an A++ to an F.

Erik J. Olson:

We’ve had to coach, just like your marketing director has done with you, coach our clients and say, “Hey, if you’re going to make changes, you need to do it in this tool and you need to retain the A++. Otherwise, you’re paying us to do SEO and you’re shooting us the foot now.”

Bob DeRose:

Right. Yeah. No, I once heard it described to me that what you submitted was great, but it’s about the equivalent of a PDF just sitting on the internet, because it’s not going to do anything for you. It might read real well. Somebody might think that, “Hey, you’re pretty smart,” but it’s not going to do anything for you.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. I mean, it could be persuasive if the ideal perspective client gets ahold of it, definitely. And I think that there’s a lot of value in that too. So for our clients, we say, “Definitely continue to write, but don’t think that replaces SEO__ content.”

Bob DeRose:

Correct.

Erik J. Olson:

Usually you need both or in your case, it could do both, but it requires that extra training and whatnot and adjustments.

Bob DeRose:

Yeah. And what I found is it’s a different audience. I mean, when you’re writing as a lawyer, somebody is going to sit down to what you’ve written and is going to set aside an hour or two to take a look and see if you’re persuasive. When you’re writing for content, you have to realize that the person there is browsing. Maybe they don’t have an issue yet. They’re just browsing. Does it catch their attention? Or if they have an issue, they need their questions answered. They don’t need a long into it. They need to be informed. It needs to be credible, it needs to be reliable, but it’s got to get to the point.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah.

Bob DeRose:

Quickly.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that. We have a personal injury law firm as a client and his philosophy is when it comes to marketing in general, get people’s attention, especially the more of a broadcast kind of advertising is. You just got to get people’s attention so they remember your name. And then when they have a need and they search for you and you come up and the search results through organic or through paid ads, they’ll recognize your name, come to your website and then on the website, it’s business from there. No more catchy jingles and all that stuff. It’s let’s get down to business and give them short hits so that they have some information and they can come back to you to get the full answer later once they’re clients.

Bob DeRose:

Right. And that’s why I refer to that third bucket as a segmented bucket because there is the value for branding, name recognition, for remembering the name of Barkan Meizlish DeRose and Cox. Well, nobody remembers the last two. It’s always Barkan Meizlish. But then there’s the part where you educate and once the person is trying to get a question answered. That’s really what we look at when we say we write in that. I think that it helps your branding, but branding is something over here, at least what I’ve come to learn. Branding’s a little something over here, a different segment of that.

Erik J. Olson:

Yeah. Yeah.

Bob DeRose:

And the content is really where they want to be informed. They want a question answered. Then the branding helps remember who it was or starts to make the link. But I see those two things as just different segments of that third bucket.

Erik J. Olson:

Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah. So you have a different view you on content, the informational aspect of your marketing engine, versus getting them to that content. Is that-

Bob DeRose:

Right. That’s why my blog is The Paycheck Warrior. I mean, it’s a little bit of a chuckle, oh, that’s sort of a catchy name, but hopefully they’ll go and they’ll read the content and they’ll be like, “Oh, this answers my question.” And then the branding part will hopefully remember, because I’m not the only person that can answer that question. And the branding part helps you distinguish between which one answers your question that you’ll remember or connect with.

Erik J. Olson:

Interesting. No, I like that concept a lot. Another valuable point there, Bob. That was very, very good. I hadn’t thought of about like that before, but you’re right. There is a separation there, even within marketing. Hmm. Well let’s conversely to what’s working well, conversely, what is something that used to work well for you and maybe in the last year or two, you guys have stopped doing it? It doesn’t work quite as well.

Bob DeRose:

I think, look, it is getting to be a trite statement, but I think the pandemic and COVID has changed everything. I think you have to be into videos. I think you have to be into a younger space in terms, at least for my practice, for the people who are working, the people who may have a problem with their wages who will get hurt at work, or even to some extent, the PI business. I think it’s a younger market. I think we used to have a demographic in our mind, pre-pandemic, that I don’t think applies anymore. I think a lot of that demographic has either decided to stay out of the workplace or they’re sort of done or they’re retiring.

Bob DeRose:

They’re like, “You know what? I don’t need to do this anymore.” And so we’ve had to, I think for us, we’ve had to rethink who we’re going after, and we’ve done more branding than the traditional advertising and the concept. I would say I learned the phrase branding through the pandemic. You didn’t have a brand, a brand is something that can outlast your budget. Advertising needs a budget every day. That animal eats every day. Branding, if you do it right, can build on itself and hopefully not cost your budget as much, but that advertising animal has to be fed.

Erik J. Olson:

It does. It’s a switch, right? It’s either on or off. And if it’s on, you’re paying, whereas with branding, it’s an investment. I also feel the same way about SEO. It’s an investment. You put those pieces of content out there, you get the back links, they live for a long time. If you stop it, it’ll degrade over time and your competitors will continue. But it’s not a switch, right?

Bob DeRose:

Right.

Erik J. Olson:

It’s a gradual decline, if you just stop feeding it, whereas the brand, yeah, you have to feed it, of course. You have to make sure that it continues to be out there, but it’s an investment. So another good point. I read this book a couple years ago. I think it’s called The Death of Advertising and it was by an advertising executive and it was attention getting for me as someone in the field, but his whole point was that people were using advertising blockers.

Erik J. Olson:

They’re just not paying attention. On TV, for anyone who still watches linear TV through cable, which I cut that cord many, many years ago, and a commercial comes on, you’re either flipping or you’re getting up and going to the bathroom or something like that. People are not paying attention to ads like they used to. I will say though, it does seem like though when people search in Google for something, they have an intent and they pay a little closer attention to those ads, I would say, rather than the broadcast ads that are out there for the general public to consume. But you’re right, advertising generally is declining and marketing is increased.

Bob DeRose:

Yeah. And I think the way to get back to answering your question, I think my answer’s a little more broad, I think people don’t want to be sold anymore. They want to either be entertained or informed. And if you go into the advertising with, at least in my mind, with that sort of mindset that it helps the brand and those who are actually looking for assistance, that’s where the educational portion comes in. That’s what I think it’s changed about at least the way we structure our advertising, using that word the way we thought about it before.

Erik J. Olson:

You’re absolutely right, entertained or informed. And it reminds me of the really good Super Bowl commercials. They’re funny. They’re entertaining. You remember them. You talk about them the next day. But if it’s a boring commercial, you won’t mention it to your friends afterwards. Dollar Shave Club, they came out with that video commercial years ago. It’s entertaining. The guy’s walking through the warehouses, all these things happening, yet they’re selling, but they can’t just talk about shaving. That’s boring, right? Make it entertaining first and foremost, or informative. Great, great points. Yeah. Well, cool. We’re actually going a little bit long, so I’ve got other questions I’d love to ask you, but I’m going to cut it off to respect your time. I appreciate you.

Bob DeRose:

Sure thing.

Erik J. Olson:

Really good discussion. If someone would like to ask you other questions, or maybe they have a case for you, what is a good way for them to contact you?

Bob DeRose:

Well, they can look at our website at barkanmeizlish.com, call 6-1-4-2-2-1-4-2-2-1 or send me, easiest way, just shoot me an email at bderose@barkanmeizlish.com. And I’d be willing to entertain and talk with anybody. I love doing this sort of sharing of thought, so please feel free because I’ll pick your brain when you call me too.

Erik J. Olson:

This was great. Thanks, Bob. All right, everybody, if you would like to check out more episodes like this, you can go to our website at arraylaw.com/podcast. We have over 150 episodes and each is tagged by the applicable practice area and state, so you can really drill in and find what you’re looking for. And if you’re looking for digital marketing for your law firm, check out my firm, Array Digital at arraylaw.com. We specialize and websites, SEO, online advertising and social media. All right, Bob, thanks so much.

Bob DeRose:

Thanks, Erik. Have a good day.

Erik J. Olson:

Same to you.

Website Design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Online Advertising, Social Media & Digital Marketing.

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