THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 219
Interview on 09.13.2022

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Sam Allen



Managing Partner of
Allen Legal

About Sam Allen

Sam Allen is the founder of Allen Legal and prides himself on serving clients on a personal level. He has significant experience in handling different legal matters. He has been admitted to practice in South Carolina, Tennessee, the District of Columbia and Illinois. Attorney Allen has tried over 50 cases in multiple jurisdictions on behalf of individuals and businesses.

He started working at a very young age when he was just 14 years old. Since then he has worked in different fields and industries prior to becoming a full-time litigation Attorney in 2001. Sam Allen
is a graduate from Tennessee Technological University, where he was a Stalman Scholar and a founder of member of the University’s Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society chapter. He holds advanced degrees in History, Sociology, and Political Science. He has earned his doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2000. He over the years he has built a reputation for being knowledgeable, charismatic, and passionate litigation lawyer.

Allen is currently a member of South Carolina Bar, District of Columbia Bar and American Bar Association. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice. His political affiliations and beliefs are diverse, and he has handled cases in over 16 states. He has presented his cases in multiple National Business Institute (NBI) included personal injury cases, medical malpractice, ethical traps and trial presentation and techniques. He was listed as a Top 40 Under 40 attorneys by The National Trial Lawyers.

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, your host of this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast. In this podcast, we interview America’s top managing partners to find out how they’re starting their firms, if they are starting, and our guest is, how they are running their firms, and how they are marketing their firms. So today from Charleston, South Carolina, Sam Allen, welcome to the show.

Sam Allen:
Thank you for having me today.

Erik J. Olson:
You got it, man. I appreciate your time. Let me tell the audience a little bit about you. Sam Allen is the founder of Allen Legal, a personal injury law firm in Charleston, South Carolina. He has been admitted to practice in South Carolina, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, and Illinois. Attorney Allen has tried over 50 cases in multiple jurisdictions on behalf of individuals and businesses, now focusing on personal injury. Welcome to the show once again.

Sam Allen:
Thank you again for having me. I appreciate you giving us the time today.

Erik J. Olson:
You got it. So, hey, can you tell the audience a little bit more about you and your firm and, actually, where you’re at in the life cycle of your firm?

Sam Allen:
Sure. Me and Eric Brock have, as of 2017, took a general practice area from a larger firm by agreement. And we decided to spin that area out and start a practice of resolving the larger firm’s general litigation work, and then developing the law firm as a standalone personal injury practice and also doing some business tours. And that occurred around 2017, but continued on working with the larger firm in my capacities of counsel. But now we’re in a situation where we’re promoting and now developing the Allen Legal firm as a standalone firm.

Erik J. Olson:
Well, cool. What has that process been like for you to develop a brand new brand and websites and all that stuff, easy or a few challenges?

Sam Allen:
Well, I think the question is when you come into a firm, larger firms, and they already have what they believe are ideas, and the hard part of that is managing the different personalities and what they believe works, what they don’t believe works. And then when you take it all on yourself, you take what you hopefully learn from the mistakes we made as larger firms, budgeting wise. And when you’re trying to shrink that down to a smaller firm, what will work in a smaller firm and what won’t work? The main challenges are where you might have had more leverage as a larger firm, a larger budget and those type things, how do you now make that as efficient but also successful with a smaller firm?

Erik J. Olson:
I think that’s an incredibly good point that you’re making, right? Because whenever there’s a big company, there’s a lot of support for individual people. And I would imagine certainly for lawyers in a law firm, you have a lot of support staff, right? You’ve got people that can help you with administrative tasks. You have people that can help you with marketing, maybe your social media. There’s just a lot of stuff that this organization provides as far as support goes. And so you can really focus in on a specialization, whether it’s the law or being like a social media person, just has an example, but you can really focus in. And then you have the support of the rest of the organization that does all those other things.

Erik J. Olson:
But when you break off on your own and you start a small business, you wear a lot of hats, right? So like we were talking beforehand that just the name of the firm is something that you’ve had to work through, and the forming of it. That’s a lot of different things that you probably did not have to do in the past. Is that a decent assumption?

Sam Allen:
Yes, because we were doing general litigation and it had personal injury involved and it also had some business litigation involved, and as we were bringing out that litigation group, we tried, for example, we tried to start with a name that didn’t have law firm or a legal reference in it at all. And there’s an expectation in the world, there’s an expectation that it’s going to have either a person’s name, or it’s going to have an actual reference to a law firm or the legal field. By just using a general brand, it was really hard to get that off the ground. There was a lot of questions about why it would be that. Now, there are Bar Association rules and requirements, obviously, for law firms that are different than just general businesses, and you have to make sure you comply with those. But there is an expectation of the consumer that they’re going to receive some direction in the name.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah, I would agree with that. Certainly, when it comes to a law firm, you would think, like you said, it’s usually the main partners, the managing partner or maybe the founder’s last name, maybe a couple of other partners. That gets a little complicated when you start adding and removing partners. How far do you take this? So maybe just like if there’s co-managing partners, like you and Eric, and maybe it’s just that name, or there’s law, legal, law firm, something like that is in there, right?

Sam Allen:
Exactly.

Erik J. Olson:
Did you try a different name in the marketplace, or you were just kicking that idea around?

Sam Allen:
No, we actually tried a different name in the marketplace. I’d had the business for a long time because I was a contractor with other firms. And the multiple jurisdictional requirements required that we register, obviously, with firms, for example, in Illinois or in Washington D.C. If you’re going to place your name onto a pleading or something like that, they want to know which firm is responsible. So I had that separate business. And we tried a name that used the word professional services. And because it wasn’t specific enough, everybody assumed it wasn’t a law firm, that it was, for example, maybe a referral group or an advertising group or something to that effect. But it really had to have either legal or law or something in it to avoid those questions. Now, since we’ve gone to Allen Legal, we’ve had none of those questions or concerns. But professional services alone wouldn’t do it.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah. No, I think that’s a very valid point. And if you’re confusing your consumers, that is not a good thing because it’s incredibly difficult and cost prohibitive to educate all of the consumers, right?

Sam Allen:
Absolutely.

Erik J. Olson:
Maybe just your clients is different, but, yeah, we can’t confuse people with our company or firm names, Sam. So at this point, you’ve got the website stood up, you’ve got your partnership. What’s next in this evolution of starting your own firm?

Sam Allen:
Well, the next part of this is because we brought on… We came in with a large amount of general litigation work, from everything from small business work all the way out to white collar crime and criminal cases. We really are personal injury litigators. That’s where our specialty is. We have started to resolve those matters. As a matter of fact, I believe on Friday, I took a verdict on my last business litigation case that’s in the firm. And in being able to do that specialization, the next step is actually, now that we’ve consolidated down, is to how do we grow back into the firm that we expect to be in the future?

Erik J. Olson:
Sure, sure. Okay. Interesting. What are some different ways that you’re going about getting new clients right now?

Sam Allen:
Well, because for years and years and years the majority of our work has been relationship work, and what I mean by that is we have literally worked with other law firms, law firms who specialize, for example, in business client management, they may be accounting firms or they may be a law firm that does specifically only one type of personal injury work, for example, they may be a maritime firm, a worker’s comp firm or that type work, that is the majority of the work that is not direct work. Now, the other way we’re reaching out there is starting to refresh the website, bring our branding back into truly being a personal injury litigation firm and making sure that we’re not, again, confusing consumers, because they may see us out there trying a business case or see us out there litigating, for example, a business associated criminal case.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah. No, that would be if they’re familiar with your firm, right, like if they were somehow involved in that case, as an example? Yeah.

Sam Allen:
Well, I think one of the few things that law firms don’t do a good job of… Because certain states, particularly South Carolina was very restrictive about the quality of your work, but we forget that our actual trial work, the verdicts that are obtained and the actual work that’s done in the courtroom, is public record. And so law firms who actually litigate cases through trial, that information is public information. So I do believe we don’t give that information to the general consumer enough. They see the big headlines, they see the ones that make the front of the paper. What they don’t see is what’s going on in their community as regulars in a state. I think they should.

Erik J. Olson:
Sure, sure. Well, what about, especially in personal injury, that’s really heavy usually in advertising or search engine optimization, right? So like when people are searching for a PI attorney, they need to basically get front and center, with the assumption that whoever searched in the general public isn’t aware of things like previous cases or even where to go find that information. Have you tried to get in front of those people at all?

Sam Allen:
We have. And I’ll tell you that I’m still old enough, and I’m going to date myself here a little bit, that you thought if you owned the cover or the back page of the phone book, you were good to go. If you had the back cover of the phone book, you ought to be good. I will tell you, I think that in marketing you need three touching points. Your name has to be brought up three different times to get some level of name recognition. And so you have to have something in all those fields. I do believe that you’re correct that the personal injury world is so overwhelmed with television marketing, for example, that you have a hard time breaking into that, unless you’re going to throw a major budget at that area.

Erik J. Olson:
Right.

Sam Allen:
And so you have to be more selective about how you do it. But the success is coming in being selective, not, I think, in just globally throwing large amounts of name recognition advertisement out there.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah, another good point. I’ve read a couple of books by PI attorneys. John Morgan’s book Can’t Teach Hungry was one of them. And he spends an awful lot of money and Morgan & Morgan spends an awful lot of money on advertising. But they’ve done well for themselves. They probably have a little bit of advertising budget to go along with that. And so they can create that general brand awareness so that when someone says, “Morgan & Morgan,” or when someone searches for a PI attorney on the internet and Morgan & Morgan comes up, they recognize that name, right?

Sam Allen:
Correct.

Erik J. Olson:
They may not recall it, right? They may not be able to tell you what the name of that firm is that does all that advertising, but when they see it, they recognize it. But that’s one extreme. The other extreme is basically almost everybody else that doesn’t have that kind of a budget, like you’re talking about. And I’ve read recommendations from mastermind coaches, for PI at masterminds, that say, “Just don’t even play in that game. Don’t even play in the mass marketing. Just go a completely different route, because you’re not going to win that game when it comes to brand awareness and TV against the big budgets.” Is that kind of what you were saying?

Sam Allen:
I think you’ve summarized it better than I did. If Allen Legal, for example, tomorrow, budget wise, was to decide they’re going to compete with Morgan & Morgan’s advertising budget on television, it would be a waste, in my opinion, it would be a waste of money. And I think we learned that in even being the mid-sized firm. I think that if you’re going to do that, you have to decide you’re going to commit to being the top three or top two or three people in that particular marketplace. And those firms still, I think, do a good job, from a marketing point of view, of generating that work. You’ve got to be able to, I think, carve out why it is that a smaller firm may be necessary for you.

Sam Allen:
I think what people miss though is there’s also the anti-television advertising law firm decision-maker, that they don’t necessarily want to be associated with necessarily the firm that is a advertiser. And there is a niche out there where law firms are actually choosing to be the co-partner with the advertisers because they have somewhere to send that person who doesn’t want to be associated necessarily with the advertising name, because there is some back… Obviously, with the amount of time that people that are home are spending watching PI commercials on their television.

Erik J. Olson:
There’s a few of them, right?

Sam Allen:
Right, exactly.

Erik J. Olson:
That is interesting, not calling the firm that does all that advertising. And I hadn’t actually considered that before, but I probably would fall into that camp, right? And especially if there’s these obnoxious commercials that you see all the time and it’s like, “Nah, I don’t want to. I want a reputable law firm versus the guy who’s always screaming and there’s whatever,” whatever it takes to get attention. I think I would fall into that group as well, but I hadn’t considered that that was kind of like… Maybe because it’s beyond me. But I think you’re right. Yeah. You said co-counsel or like a referral kind of a system. So if one of those brand awareness law firms got a lead, they would send it elsewhere? How does that work?

Sam Allen:
Yeah. Yeah. A lot of the larger firms, and obviously from a marketing point of view, it’s not something that’s generally known, but there is a decision made out there a lot of times to say, “Listen, there’s a niche of work.” For example, it may be distance wise from one of their offices, or it may just be a volume control. Since COVID, we’ve had this overwhelming delay in the litigation process. And so there is a backlog of litigation. And that backlog is causing situations where a lot more cases are having to be litigated and which are obviously a lot more time-consuming. And so the clients need more hands-on control. And instead of those firms necessarily growing into a small area where they may or may not have a lot of business just population wise, they may partner up with a litigation firm that’s local counsel for them there and work with them at that location.

Erik J. Olson:
Interesting. Very cool. So what are your growth plans for the future?

Sam Allen:
The growth plans for the future are this. We have to have another attorney, or actually, even if it’s another small firm come in and decide they want to work with us. If it’s a small firm, or another attorney, or maybe solo practitioners in different areas, to grow their practice group. I was in trial last week and I was very pleased to hear a young lawyer that was on the other team respond and say, “We just don’t get enough litigation time. We don’t get enough cases in the courtroom. We don’t get enough time in the courtroom.” And I literally joked with him. I said, “Well, do you want some?”

Sam Allen:
Because the reality is is that with this backlog of litigation, there’s going to be a necessity to provide the best client services, to start bringing in these people that may not spend a lot of time in the courtroom. They desire, they think they do desire, to be in the courtroom a lot. Then maybe start bringing them in and partnering with them to add them into our team. Whether that’s another counsel role or if they want to maintain their own name because they don’t want to lose their branding or their marketing, but bring them in as somebody that will work with us. Because we do try to provide a very high level of service to our clients. We’re very, very, very responsible.

Erik J. Olson:
Excellent. Well, cool. Well, that was great. If someone would like to reach out to you and connect, what is a good way for them to do that?

Sam Allen:
They can either reach me directly at the office, 843-481-4000. They can reach us on the contact page at our website at allenlegal.net.

Erik J. Olson:
All right, everybody, go check out allenlegal.net, brand new website. Are you still working on that, or is that a done deal at this point?

Sam Allen:
It should be up and have the refreshed writing as of tomorrow.

Erik J. Olson:
There you go. Awesome. Cool. Well, hey, everybody, if you would like to check out other episodes like this, you can find them at arraylaw.com/podcast. Every episode is tagged by the practice area and state so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. And if you’re interested in digital marketing for your law firm, check out my website, which is arraylaw.com. All right, Sam, thanks so much.

Sam Allen:
Thank you.

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

© Array Law
Website Design, Online Advertising, SEO, Social Media & Digital Marketing.
© Array Law