THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 222
Interview on 10.06.2022

Hosted By
Kevin Daisey

Featuring Attorney

Philip Sever and Tonny Storey



Managing Partner of
Sever Storey, LLP

About Philip Sever and Tonny Storey

Philip D. Sever, Esq. is one of the founding partners of Sever Storey and has been helping individuals, families, and businesses as an attorney since 1996. He practices exclusively in the area of eminent domain and condemnation. He has represented commercial, residential, industrial, agricultural and mineral landowners in hundreds of large and small condemnations throughout the country.

Philip is the author of numerous articles and videos on eminent domain and condemnation and has taken the lead in educating landowners and attorneys about the eminent domain and condemnation process. He is also an accomplished trial lawyer with several multi million dollar jury awards on behalf of landowners.

Tonny D. Storey, Esq. is one of the founding partners of Sever Storey and has been helping individuals, families, and businesses as an attorney since 2001. Upon completion of law school, he served as a deputy prosecutor, where he practiced and honed his litigation skills. Currently he represents clients facing eminent domain or condemnaiton throughout Indiana. Through years of practice and the representation of hundreds of clients, he can quickly spot issues that landowners many times miss.

Tonny completed his undergraduate degree in Education from Purdue University and received his Juris Doctorate from Indiana University. He is a member of the Indianapolis Bar Association and currently assists on the bench bar conference committee. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Indiana, as well as in the Northern and Southern Federal District Courts of Indiana.

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

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Episode Transcript

Kevin Daisey:
All right, what’s up everybody? This is Kevin Daisy. Welcome to another live recording of the Managing Partners Podcast. I’ll be your host. I’m also the Founder of Array Digital, where we exist to grow law firms through marketing. So we’ll talk about a little bit of that today on the episode. Today, I got a really special episode because I have two gentlemen, as you see here on the screen, two good looking gentlemen here. They specialize in imminent domain. I was just talking to them backstage. I’m not aware that we’ve had an imminent domain firm on the show, even though we’ve had almost 200 plus managing partners on this show. So excited to dig into that, learn more about it myself. It’s not an area that I have as much knowledge in. So ready to ask them some questions about that. Tony and Phil, welcome to the show.

Tonny Storey:
Hey, thanks for having us.

Phil Sever:
Hey, good morning.

Kevin Daisey:
Absolutely. So real quick, tell us where you guys are located and where you’re coming from today?

Tonny Storey:
Out where? Where what?

Kevin Daisey:
So where are you guys physically located?

Phil Sever:
We’re physically located, we have a headquarters in Carmel, Indiana, which is Central Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. We have a couple other offices around the country too.

Kevin Daisey:
Okay, excellent. So you’re in the Midwest right now. How’s the weather there?

Phil Sever:
It’s not good.

Tonny Storey:
It’s not great.

Phil Sever:
It’s not good.

Tonny Storey:
It’s not great.

Phil Sever:
I mean, if you like snow and cold, it’s right up your alley, and gray, don’t forget the gray,

Kevin Daisey:
Lots of gray.

Phil Sever:
But if you like sunshine and warmth, like Tony and I do, because we’re men of a particular age now, it’s not as great.

Kevin Daisey:
Well, I’m sure you get some time to travel. Well …

Phil Sever:

A little bit. Yeah, a little bit.

Tonny Storey:
A little bit.

Kevin Daisey:
So again, y’all, I always like to focus on the individual. You guys are partners in your firm. But I’ll start with Tony.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah.

Kevin Daisey:
Really, tell us your story. Like what made you become an attorney? Then once we get through, let Phil tell his story, we’ll kind of talk about how you merged and started the firm that you have now.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah, sure. So went to undergrad at Purdue University, and I was trained as an educator. So I was a teacher for six years and a tennis coach. Had a young family and decided that I needed to actually take care of them. Education wasn’t quite the way to make that happen. So that’s when I started looking into law and went through that process. So yeah, after law school, worked with a plaintiff’s firm, downtown Indianapolis. It’s quite a wide variety of plaintiff’s work and some family law. With that background of litigation and discovery and things like that, Phil and I, he’ll talk about his journey there. That was a pretty good fit for us to merge together, and we did.

Kevin Daisey:
Excellent. Excellent. So why did you decide law over anything else? Do you have any influence there?

Tonny Storey:
No. Really I did not have any influence. My mother was a teacher, so it actually made me become a teacher. I remember the conversation I had with myself. I said, “Hey, my public service here is over.” It’s time to do something that matters for me. So it was good opportunity that I had to be able to do that. Had pretty good teaching staff around me that supported me through the process. I went to law school at night and taught in the day. Like I said, with a young family, it was tough. It’s hard to do three things well, but we made it through. It was a worthwhile adventure, I guess. At this point, I could say that.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Well, excellent. All right. Well, Phil, same question. What persuaded you to go to law school and become an attorney?

Phil Sever:
It was probably a lack of other options, honestly. I was an English major at IU back in 1992. They weren’t opening up any English stores or any type of English businesses. So I had a choice whether to go on and try to get a doctorate in English lit and teach or do something else. I thought the law paralleled my skillset, especially being a litigator. So I decided to go to law school after that. So as soon as I graduated, I took the LSAT. Well, we took it when we were seniors, right, Tony? Then straight to law school after undergrad.

Kevin Daisey:
So it was like both of you had no option, but to be attorneys.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Sever:
Well, Tony was a teacher. He was a teacher.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah. I was a teacher. I was a teacher. I had some choices, but none of them good, let’s just put it that way.

Kevin Daisey:
Really? Didn’t get done for you.

Tonny Storey:
I could have been an administrator. How much fun would that have been? Especially this current educational climate, so no. It’s definitely a good decision for me.

Kevin Daisey:
Okay. Awesome. Well, so you both go to law school. You decide to go that route. Tell us a little bit about how you came together, started the firm you have. Then I want to dig into what you guys actually specialize in, what kind of clients you help, situations that you’re dealing with on a daily basis?

Tonny Storey:
Well, Phil had a pretty successful solo practice in Ohio. He moved to Indiana because it was sick of snow. I guess it snowed in May in Ohio, and Phil had enough of that. So he decided to move south to Indiana. That’s where his wife would let him go. His office was right next door to mine, at the Plato Storm downtown in Indianapolis. First day he came in, he said, “Hey, you want to go get a beer?” That beer turned into about a 12-hour session. So we became fast friends.

Phil Sever:
From that, we realized that we had some synergies that we thought would work out. We were there at that firm probably for about a year ago. After about a year, I left to become a partner with a different firm. Phil left soon there after.

Tonny Storey:
I started solo practice again.

Phil Sever:
After about two or three years of staying in touch and working with each other on some various side projects, we decided that maybe we would give …

Tonny Storey:
Running a firm together a shot.

Kevin Daisey:
Awesome. Phil, how’d that work out?

Phil Sever:
Well, it’s worked out really well. We’ve had a really, really successful run. TI think was it been 13 years now?

Tonny Storey:
Yeah, actually it has. Yeah.

Phil Sever:
Yeah, it’s 12 or 13 years.

Kevin Daisey:
Excellent. Congratulations. I mean that’s … A business to get past five is few and far between.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. It had a lot of growth both personally and professionally during that period of time. It’s been a great ride. I think we’re set up for a lot of success going forward too. So it’s been awesome.

Kevin Daisey:
Well, excellent. For everyone to tuning in, listening to the show, while we’re chatting here, go check out their website. So LandownerAttorneys.com. Awesome web address. It actually makes sense. It’s clean. It’s easy. It’s not the two of your last names jammed together. So kudos to that whenever you purchased it. Good for SEO, and we’ll talk about that too in a little bit. But go check out their website. They have a really great video on there, which I watched prior to this because I like to get to know my guests a little bit. It’s a good video of these two guys talking about what they do for their clients and what they do to day to day, which I thought was really well done. Also I think a lot of firms need to do a better job.

Kevin Daisey:
People need to feel and meet and see who they’re going to be talking to so they know that they’re going to make the right decision when they give that phone call or fill out a form or whatever. But I think you guys on the site with the video and stuff like that, does a good job of building that trust and relationship with someone that hasn’t even called or talked to you yet. So tell us a little bit about what you guys really specialize in and what are the kinds of folks that you’re helping?

Tonny Storey:
Well, let me start with this real quick, just to dovetail into that. The structure I came from was very rigid, big firm type of stuff. The videos and everything, as far as marketing, the gorilla style of marketing that we have on the website, Phil really spearheaded that. He still does today. He’s done a really good job of transitioning us from thinking like these big monolith firms and being more nimble and trying to go to where the clients are. Find the cheese, right? You can’t get paid unless you find the cheese. So Phil’s done a really good job of making sure that we’re positioned to keep finding the cheese so that we can keep eating it.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Again, kudos. I think you’ve done a good job. Yeah. Feeling approachable and your experiences at the same time. Again, I think you accomplished a lot of those things when I just watched it and took a look at what your site has. It has photos of people. I think a lot of firms stay away from that, and they don’t want to, especially business firms. It’s just stock images everywhere and … So.

Tonny Storey:
Well, I will say that the one thing that we do have to sell because most people don’t even know what the domain is. Right? We have to sell ourselves. So we have to be more proactive on making sure they actually know us and hopefully like us enough to hire us. I think the videos do a very good job of showing that we’re actually people. Our whole philosophy in the firm is we started off wearing suits and ties to every meeting and being super formal. most of our clients are farmers or they’re small businesses, from a large degree. Those people just don’t want that person in their office all the time. They see that person and they think billable hours, and we’re going to get pounded into the dirt with a lot of this nonsense that Phil and I just don’t engage in.

Kevin Daisey:
Well, yeah. I mean, you’re potentially losing property that you thought you owned. Then you’re going to get a bunch of billable hours too by some guy in a suit.

Tonny Storey:
Right.

Kevin Daisey:
So yeah. Phil, tell me a little bit more like you mentioned farmers and small business. But why would I call you guys? Right? So what situation am I in? How do I even know, that I’m in the situation? Who’s the person giving you a call that’s like, “This is happening. I need help?”

Phil Sever:
Right. So if you think about the eminent domain process, it is land taken by the government for a public purpose. So typically, there’s some type of run up that occurs before you’re actually involved in the takings process. You’ve been notified. There’s been some public meetings. You’ve heard rumblings from your neighbors. If you’re a more sophisticated business owner, like a commercial property owner or somebody owns a big piece of industrial ground, you’ve probably had your finger on the pulse of this for a while. You’re also aware that sometimes projects never happen. So there could be a bunch of rumbling. Then that project stalls out for whatever reason, it never actually happens, right? Or it happens 10 years down the road. Really when you’re first at the point where you need an attorney is you’ve received an actual physical offer for a taking of your ground by whoever’s trying to take it.

Phil Sever:
It’s at that point that you’re well advised to go out and seek counsel, specifically to address the issues of compensation. I will say for your listeners, there is in the 50 states in America, the chances of you being able to stop a road project are very, very, very small. In almost every instance where a client, no matter where they’re from, comes to us and says, “Phil, I want to stop this major road construction from happening,” we won’t take those cases. We won’t charge them, and we won’t take their money. Because we’re interested in good outcomes for clients. I can’t in all … We can’t in all good conscience tell them they’re going to have a good outcome if we’re trying to stop a road taking from occurring. The name of the game is always about what comp compensation they’re going to get or I shouldn’t say always. But 99% of the time, it’s about what compensation they’re going to get. Is the compensation that they get from the state fair?

Phil Sever:
Hey, pro tip. It’s not. Or Tony and I wouldn’t have a practice. So okay. What is fair? Then how do we get to fair? What type of theories do we have to develop? How do we have to use the tools available to us through litigation to get to what’s fair at the end of the day?

Kevin Daisey:
Interesting.

Phil Sever:
I think that can be intimidating for a lot of landowners, especially people that aren’t very sophisticated with the legal process. That kind of taking on city hall attitude that you have to have to get just compensation can be intimidating. There’s a lot of misinformation that occurs at the level of which they receive offers, folks, landowners receive offers.

Phil Sever:
You had asked earlier kind of what our typical client looks like. Tony and I have taken clients from all walks of life in different type of landowners, whether they’re a farm landowner, a residential property owner, a commercial property owner or industrial, property owner.

Tonny Storey:
Universities.

Phil Sever:
I mean, we’ve represented major universities. So anybody could have a takings issue and have a different degree of sophistication of how to deal with it at the end of the day.

Kevin Daisey:
Interesting.

Phil Sever:
But it all comes down, no matter what their level of sophistication, I think it comes down a lot to what you’re looking at for compensation. Honestly, I think comes down to who you hire. I don’t want this to be an advertisement for eminent domain specialist or anything like that, but …

Kevin Daisey:
Bring it.

Phil Sever:
I occasionally see folks dabbling in eminent domain on a one off, they say, “Well, I can handle this. I can do this. It doesn’t look that hard. Here’s a statute I can follow.” Invariably, I feel like I have not seen those situations resolve for that client in a way that I thought was positive or maximize their return at the end of the day. It’s just like anything else. Tony and I would, if you came to us with the best medical malpractice case in the universe, we’d still turn it away and refer it to a medical malpractice attorney because I don’t do medical mal. Tony doesn’t do medical malpractice. We don’t do those cases every day.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. I love it.

Phil Sever:
I would argue the inverse is true with eminent domain. This is a certain specialty and a certain knowledge set that I think is really important to serve clients properly. You just don’t get that by doing one or two. Tony and I have done several thousand eminent domain cases and some extremely complicated the ones. So we have seen in all the issues you’re going to run into and fought the fights and had the jury trials and done the things that give us the expertise. I know it’s a long winded to response to your question.

Phil Sever:
But if I was going to say what really sets us apart, I think that was your original question, like why would they look at us? I’d say it’s experience. We’ve got a ton of experience doing eminent domain in different jurisdictions and all over the country representing all sorts of different types of landowners.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. So I mean, I love that. I like firms that niche. I think that’s … The way things I see, most new firms, if they start new, they seem to start with a very clear focus and niche because the old general law practice is kind of they’re around. They’re huge. They have a lot of people, but I don’t see a lot of those. That’s not the way forward. I think everyone’s like, “I need to niche and specialize.” Like me, like if a CPA firm called me right now and said, “Hey, we want to do digital marketing with you,” not happening. We work with law firms. That’s it. But you got to specialize. I love that. Then that brings a certain confidence and expertise to when you’re talking to somebody. If you said, “Well, yeah, I can do a little bit of that and a little bit of that.” Oh, divorce? Yeah, sure. No problem. We can do that too. I wouldn’t feel very comfortable or confident with my attorney if they’re like, “Oh yeah. I never done that before, but sure, no problem.”

Tonny Storey:
You’ll be amazed. You’ll be amazed. Well, full disclosure, Phil and I, we’ve done a lot of different things. When we merged our firm, we had a lot of different practice areas. But there was a aha moment somewhere early, probably about year or two or three, where we figured out, “Hey you know what, we can actually make money at this, A.” B, no one else is doing it. Once we figured out the law, once we figured out the marketing, which is the hardest part, getting the marketing together to find the cheese, the law is so nuanced.

Tonny Storey:
It goes to Phil’s point there, that you have a lot of these people who dabble on it, who end up invariably calling someone like us, asking for an assist or asking for, “Hey, have you ever seen something like this before?” We get phone calls and texts like that all the time. Most of the times, I want to tell this person, “Hey, I want to give you a referral fee.” You probably have much better success instead of trying to take a shot and potentially ruining your client to one opportunity to get compensated and work with someone that actually understands what’s happening. I don’t want it to sound we’re egotistical or anything like that. But it’s just a fact. This law is so nuanced. You can really have a lot of problems if you don’t pay attention.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think … It does take time. When I started my agency, 2006, I was on websites. I just had some law firm clients, but I worked with anybody. It took years and years and years to figure out we need to niche and focus. I think that’s natural. As you start a business, you’re like, “We need work. We need clients. We’ll take whatever we can get.” But then you start to go, “Wait a minute.” When you had that aha moment, we kind of had the same thing. I think that’s just a natural progression of most ventures that you start one way, and you start to narrow it down and focus on what you’re really good at. So yeah, I mean, that’s good. So you mentioned marketing. One quick thing, I heard you mention something about the more sophisticated clients, and one of the things I was thinking like cities put out like plans and things for 10, 15, 20 years in the future. I would think you’re more sophisticated. Clients are probably looking at that stuff. City websites, seeing what’s coming.

Tonny Storey:
Well, that’s cutting both ways, Kevin. I’ll give you an example. I-69, which is a major interstate that’s connecting Canada to the Southern part of the United States through Indiana and is connected from Indianapolis to Evansville in Indiana to Southern Indiana.

Kevin Daisey:
Okay.

Tonny Storey:
This is a interstate that was planned for what, 26 years. It just started being built about 14. No, actually about 12 years ago when Phil and I got together. So you can look at the websites and look at the planned use or the strategic planning. But there’s so much drag on a lot of that stuff that of have to let it go. Then it surprises you when they announce it that, Hey, we’re doing this now. There’s a lot of examples of where we’ve had clients who bought land with a plan to develop it here. About I-69, for example, 20 years ago, nothing ever happens. They said, “Well, it’s never going to happen. They go forward with their project, and now here it comes, we’re going to take your building.”

Kevin Daisey:
That’s terrible. Yeah, that’s crazy. Yeah. If it’s like property that just your legacy, your family’s land or whatever, that might be all you have.

Phil Sever:
Yes. That’s especially true with farmers.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah. We hear that story a lot.

Phil Sever:
That all their wealth is tied up in the acreage that they have. Then when a state comes through and does something with that acreage, it really hits home for those guys.

Kevin Daisey:
Another thing too I was thinking in my mind, but you can confirm. Hiring you guys, right, getting in early, a sophisticated client, one that’s looking ahead, but when it’s time to bring you guys and they bring you guys in versus like some generalist, right. Would it be correct to say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease? If you have 20 land owners that are all going to be affected, one hires you, one doesn’t, one’s not proactive, is there a different outcome potentially?

Phil Sever:
I would say that certainly if they don’t hire somebody that understands the domain, there’ll be a different outcome. So if they went and they often hired, as an example, like a large firm downtown with real estate attorneys and charging a thousand dollars an hour type of firm as opposed to us, they have very smart attorneys, highly qualified and competent counsel. They don’t do eminent domain all the time. I would argue that their way of looking at the case would be a lot different than our way of looking at the case, which is to maximize compensation on what we have to do to do that.

Phil Sever:
I’ve been involved with some of those firms as not necessarily co-counsel, but tangentially involved in the same piece of ground with a different property owner with a different interest. I’ve seen those type of firms really focus their attention on how the documents are going to look and how the deeds are going to look and how the title work is going to look and the closing documents. They lose sight of what I think the most important constitutional issue, which is how much money the client’s entitled to because they don’t understand that part of the equation. So-

Kevin Daisey:
So they’re more just accepting the offer and doing all the paperwork to finalize it.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. Certainly, I mean, Tony and I have not had a client that has taken less money or … I should put it the other way. Tony and I have not had a client that has not received more money than the initial offer.

Kevin Daisey:
There you go.

Phil Sever:
So that individual that is unrepresented in that context, I can almost assure that individual that they’re not getting as good a deal as somebody that’s represented by eminent domain attorney.

Kevin Daisey:
That’s awesome. So that’s …

Tonny Storey:
Just to follow up on that a little bit more without giving too many details. But there’s a one case that we had in particular probably about four or five years ago. It was a major hotel chain that hired a larger firm in downtown or downtown area and had the case for probably about nine months to a year. The hotel owner was just like, “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on.” The appraiser that was happening to be working with them referred us. We ended up in the case. When Phil and I got the file from this firm, we had just about two or three banker boxes full of documents. It was all title work, which has absolutely nothing to do with how much this property is worth and how can we maximize the value for the landowner.

Tonny Storey:
We were shocked. I mean, again, they have the reputation of being the professionals and knowing what they’re dealing. But a lot of times they’re serving their own interest, I think. I don’t want to paint that too broad of a brush, but when you have someone who is charging by an hour, and they’re kind of motivated to do different things sometimes, especially in cases like this. We’re trying to maximize value because that’s how we get paid. So our interests are aligned with the landowner in most cases.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Right? So they’re doing whatever they …

Phil Sever:
They know what they know.

Tonny Storey:
They know what they know. Yeah.

Phil Sever:
Nefarious in it, but they’re just doing what they know, which is looking at documents and title work.

Kevin Daisey:
It’s a real estate deal. They got an offer. We’re going to close. Do the title work.

Tonny Storey:
Let’s get a lot of paper.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. You guys, you get paid once the client gets paid?

Tonny Storey:
Right.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. So percentage of what we add value. So we’re an add-value firm.

Kevin Daisey:
That’s who I want to hire, honestly. Actually I don’t want to hire someone that’s just billing by the hour and hope I get a good outcome.

Phil Sever:
We like that type of representation. That really aligns everybody’s interest the same way, especially in these type of cases, which are to be very honest. They’re not document intensive except to the extent that you have expert witnesses. Most of the quote-unquote “title work” that’s accomplished is done as part of a judgment at the end of the day. So that usually takes care of itself. It’s really a focus on how do we maximize value for the landowner. Like I said, specific skillsets, specific way of looking and thinking about your representation of the client.

Tonny Storey:
It’s not always price per acres. Sometimes there’s other things you have to look at. A lot of people that dabble in this miss the ball and that type of stuff.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin Daisey:
Oh yeah. I’m sure there’s a lot of factors. What adds value, what’s in nearby, all that good stuff. That’d be fun to do. I’m in the process of getting more into real estate myself. So just interesting stuff. Okay. Well, I want to talk a little bit about some of the marketing you guys have done. You mentioned getting the handle on your marketing. We talked about how you guys are invested for the long term and SEO. So what could you share here about some of the things you’ve done that have worked well for you that you guys have been working at? Give us some idea, some outbound, some marketing SEOs, things like that, what’s really worked well for your firm?

Phil Sever:
Well, I think target marketing has worked really well. So identifying the potential clients, targeting those clients, I think that SEO has worked really well for us. I was actually going through our numbers for February. We’ve already had 10 SEO contacts this month.

Kevin Daisey:
Very nice.

Phil Sever:
Eight of which are actual folks that have eminent domain issues. That’s always a big metric for us is who. Do we get a call from somebody that actually has an eminent domain issue, not like a landlord tenant issue. I think three of which are probably viable cases. So that’s a pretty good strike rate out of 10, internet leads. So I think SEO’s been a big part of our campaigns. Yeah. I think we have a very strong presence in a lot of the states we do a lot of business sin. It’s just like anything else. We’re in a niche, right?

Phil Sever:
So where’s your target client at? How do we communicate with them? Tell them we have a service to fill a need. There’s some secret sauce here I don’t think Tony and I will talk about today. There is targeted marketing at your target, speaking directly to the person. I say, speaking directly, I’m speaking metaphorically. Right? Talking to that client type and their issues, whether it be through video, SEO, print advertisement of some sort. You’re speaking to that person and telling them you’ve got a solution for this pretty, pretty big problem that they have to solve.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, I encourage everyone listening to an end that … That’s why niching is so powerful or focusing, whichever we want to call it. Having those, those target profiles, personas, whatever. You can have Bob the farmer or whatever, but who are they? What do they need? What do they like? Where do they live? What are the issues that they-

Tonny Storey:
What are they looking for?

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Then you can tweak all your messaging as if you’re talking to them, which is super important.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. Talk to them about their problems. Tony and I, as part of our marketing strategy, do a lot of public speaking. I read a book way long, long, long time ago. It was called Speak and Grow Rich or Speak and Grow Rich.

Kevin Daisey:
Okay, nice. I think I read that one. Really good. Yeah.

Phil Sever:
It had a lot of, I think, really interesting points to make where the more that you speak and publicly speak, the greater sense of authorship you have or expertise that you have around a subject matter. So if you could say, “I’ve spoken at four CLEs and I’ve done hundreds of seminars talking to landowners,” that lends itself a sense of credentialing to you

Kevin Daisey:100%.

Phil Sever:
And expertise. There was a period of time where Tony and I barnstormed all across Indiana. We would speak.

Tonny Storey:
Not just Indiana, man.

Phil Sever:
Week after week every week.

Tonny Storey:
A lot of different states.

Phil Sever:
Lot of public engagement. A lot of that’s fallen off with COVID. We’re looking for ways to replace some of that. But I’m a big believer in getting the message out and talking publicly to people and throwing seminars and areas where there’s going to be projects and talking to landowners face to face about their problems at these seminars and answering questions. I think really effective strategy for us.

Kevin Daisey:
I see a podcast in your future.

Phil Sever:
That’s if we can get anybody to get on the internet. Right?

Kevin Daisey:
That’s right. Well, I mean, so we used to have in-person events too, marketing events. We did like a state of digital marketing. We had in our downtown city in Norfolk, Virginia here and had 200 people. We sold tickets. We made money on tickets, but we packed the room full of potential clients. This is before we niched. This is maybe four years ago, five years ago. I like it.

Phil Sever:
It’s a simple thing to say, but I would say to a lot of younger attorneys looking to build a reputation and a practice, get out and talk.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah.

Phil Sever:
Do CLEs, get out and talk.

Kevin Daisey:
Conferences.

Phil Sever:
To people in or would be influencers or people that are inside the area you want to practice, just get out and talk.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. I love it. The podcast could be a potential thing for you, especially with COVID, it’s been good for us. But I can say, I’ve interviewed 200 managing partners about how they’re running their law firm. Man, I’ve gained so much knowledge because get to learn what you need and what others need and what they’re experiencing. It’s just been huge for, for us to do this. But I’ve also heard other attorneys have their own podcasts and shows, video series where they just answer questions that clients might have. Right? Maybe that source of knowledge, which some people looking for help may find and say, “Wow, you guys have been really helpful. I haven’t even met you yet.” Just like the video on your website, I think it does a good job of representing who you are and makes them feel comfortable enough to fill out that form, the 10 that you got. Right?

Phil Sever:
Yeah.

Kevin Daisey:
So …

Tonny Storey:
Yeah. I’ll tell you one thing for sure is that most of the problem that a lot of people would have, if they’re going to try to dabble into this and mark into it, a lot of our clients, our potential clients don’t even know what to Google. They don’t know what to search. They never dealt with anything like this, and they probably never will again. So I mean, that’s part of the secret sauce too, where we’re trying to target them so that they know to target us.

Kevin Daisey:
Well, yeah. They’re not going eminent domain, like they don’t even know what that is.

Tonny Storey:
They don’t know what that is. Yeah. Yeah. Someone comes in our door and talks about condemnation, and they thinks someone’s going to board up their house. So there’s a lot of different inherent issues with the internet.

Kevin Daisey:
So I might search something like Evansville town trying to take my land or something random like that. Right?

Tonny Storey:
Hey, you never know.

Kevin Daisey:
Am I going to find you or not? Right?

Phil Sever:
Probably.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Probably will.

Phil Sever:
In Indiana.

Tonny Storey:
In Indiana, they’ll find us probably, but it’s a lot harder than finding a divorce attorney. That’s for sure.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. But I think even divorce attorneys, ane I have clients that are in personal injury, they usually fail. I think a lot of marketing companies too, they fail to … It’s not about the law firm. It’s about the customers of the law firm and their habits and what they search and what they care about.

Phil Sever:
Absolutely.

Kevin Daisey:
Not so much about the lingo that the law firm might use and say, “Oh, well, we need to be number one for this key word.” Right?

Tonny Storey:
Right.

Kevin Daisey:
No one’s searching for that. They don’t understand what that even is. There’s going to be a thousand ways that they do search for that type of practice area or problem they have. So yeah, you got to get really crafty and put out a lot of good content and start tracking those things on a monthly basis, which is what you guys are doing, which is great. See what works, what doesn’t work. You got to build that foundation up. SEO, yes. It’s an ongoing thing. It doesn’t happen overnight. Well, I love everything you guys are doing. Last question, I don’t want to hold you guys up too much. We probably have a lot of billable hours right here with the three of us.

Phil Sever:
No bill.

Kevin Daisey:
Oh yeah. I’m just kidding.

Phil Sever:
Ask as many questions you want.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah. We can be here all day. It’s fine.

Kevin Daisey:
Maybe I’ll bill. Yeah. So going forward, what’s the big plans for the firm? How many folks do you have too in the firm?

Tonny Storey:
We have a new partner that just he’s been with us since not quite day one, but pretty close too, as a law clerk. He’s been with us. He’s been an attorney with us for nine years, Jordan Walker. We have George Pageant, who’s been with us not quite long, but pretty close. They were best friends actually in high school.

Kevin Daisey:
Excellent.

Tonny Storey:
We have an attorney, Shila Dom in North Carolina. He manages our North Carolina office. So we’re pretty lean.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. He’s worked for me.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. Very subtle then.

Tonny Storey:
We’re pretty lean. There’s five of us. We spread the work that we get nationwide based upon regions of ventures and things like that and skill sets, and it’s worked out for us.

Kevin Daisey:
That’s excellent. I mean-

Phil Sever:
I think an interesting thing we’re trying now, if you have other partners from small firms on, is that we’ve recently decided to reorganize roles a little bit. So as an example, like Tony and I will take on a role where Tony and I will be focusing more on bigger cases. Tony will have a role where he is doing a lot more in the back office, moving the cases along. I will take on a bigger role or a more directed role marketing for the whole firm. We’ve talked to different consultants and things like this. Really the answer to a lot of our questions about growth had been, “You need to segmentize your business even further internally to put people and to maximize their individual roles to produce better, bigger outcomes.” It’s weird because I’m taking away some of my responsibilities of being an attorney. Right?

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah.

Phil Sever:
And doing other things, but that will be beneficial to the firm as a whole because it’ll drive more business. So it’s just a different way of thinking about it. It’s a way that’s kind of foreign to attorneys, the ideas that you go out, get your work and you do your work right. But I think that we’ve been doing a hybrid of that for a long time. This is just taking it to a higher level of segmentation. So I’m very hopeful that’ll lead to a lot more growth for the firm.

Kevin Daisey:
I agree. I think that’s the right way to go. I think it’s like graduating, right? I know I’m in the place of my business. I’m fairly young, but we’re focused mainly grooming a leadership team and not having to have our hands and stuff and getting to a place where if I disappear for a week, it’s not going to go downhill. But I think it’s a natural progression. You guys got to step out a little bit. You have to pull back, focus on some of those big cases, but start to delegate, start to put things in place, focus on different areas that more managing partners usually focus on a lot. Other things than actually practicing as an attorney, so …

Tonny Storey:
Well, as you know, most attorneys are pretty conventional about their cases. That’s something that we really try to get away from to a degree. That how about we put people in position that excel and be really good at what they’re really good at. Phil’s an excellent marketer. He’s really, really strong there. Not that he couldn’t manage these cases because he has, but he’s better at that than I. So why not have him do that? It makes a lot more sense for efficiency purposes to have him doing most of the marketing for the firm instead every attorney doing their own marketing. That just doesn’t make much sense.

Kevin Daisey:
No, 100%. We might make Phil an offer, a job offer over here.

Tonny Storey:
I’m pumping him up pretty good. You can’t take him from me.

Phil Sever:
We’re doing right here at Cedar Story. So might stay put. I did want to comment. You had said in the email you had sent earlier, there were some questions you’d asked. I did want to address one of those before we got off. In case-

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah, sure. Anything you want add, I’m all ears.

Phil Sever:
On the phone or watch. It’s the question, “What would I do as a young attorney,” is I think we’ve had young attorneys come interview with us and talk to us about starting their practice. I hear this kind of typical story. Well, I’m going to become really good at doing this thing. Then people will know who I am, and then I’ll have business. I think that you’ve got to shift your thinking there. Yeah. Be good at your job, but you need to be able to go out and get clients. Tony and I had an experience at a big firm. A guy there that’s a quote-unquote “partner” in name, he’s not bringing in clients. He gets cut right out of this firm. He’s on the street after working at a firm for 10, 15 years. He doesn’t have any clients. He doesn’t know how to get clients. So where’s that guy going at 48, 49 years old?

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. What value did you bring to the table other than just being good?

Phil Sever:
Yeah. So I would tell the young attorneys, sharpen your skills at getting clients. I think that you and our firm have hit the nail in the head. Figure out what your niche is, what appeals to you and where there appears to be a vacancy in the law, at least not as much competition in the law or there’s just a huge amount of work to be done and focus your attention on that niche.

Kevin Daisey:
I think that’s a great tip. So for me, like my company, I have a few people. Me and my partner is one. We do a sales training every morning, videos, test, stuff like that. We’ve been doing it for two years. I sell for the company. I do some of that. We have sales team members as well, but I think one of the things I’ve taken away from is we’re all salesmen. I don’t care what you are. In life, you’re a salesperson to some degree. Whether you’re trying to sell your wife on going on a date with you to getting your kids out the door on time and convincing them to do that.

Kevin Daisey:
It’s all about persuading and trying to get a better outcome. So if you can’t go get clients, you can’t sell, you can’t close. That’s a big issue. I think a lot of attorneys, you go work for a big firm, you might not be handed leads. You might have to go get every single thing. If you’re going to run your own practice on your own where maybe you’re used to getting clients thrown at you, what if that dries up? What are you going to do? So great tip. I think you need to be able to learn how to market yourself, network, whatever, to bring in clients.

Tonny Storey:
Well, I can tell you from direct experience, it’s very hard to do. That’s very hard to learn right away. Coming from a big firm and waiting for the phone to ring when you’re out on your own is not something that happens very easily.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Sever:
If you’re at a big firm and a partner gives you an opportunity to go to a meeting and say some words, man, jump on that. Right? You got to get your face out and have people know who you are. That would just be my one piece of advice. My second piece of advice is think carefully before going into la, if you’re a young fellow or lady. It’s not like the movies. Tony and I are in a good position now, but it takes a lot of work to get to where we are. A lot of work.

Kevin Daisey:
Tony, what you got? Piece of advice for that young attorney, “Well, I’m going to start my own company.”

Tonny Storey:
Yeah. Don’t. No. But if you do, you still want to that, to Phil’s point, you really have to get out and start talking to people even if it’s just other attorneys that do to do, that are more senior and may have some overloaded work that they’re willing to share with you, referral work with you. That’s something that’s underutilized, I think. Those relationships can go a long way with other attorneys, especially when you’re first starting out. I remember being in law school. I spent most of my time when I wasn’t in class or being a parent, in bars with the attorneys and judges to get to know them.

Tonny Storey:
That’s helped us in our practice today. I have a very good relationship with most of the attorneys locally that we work with. That’s because I cultivated relationships from the very beginning. I think if most young attorneys spend more time doing that as well as their social aspect. Sure. But that’s just as important, if not maybe more important than your studies because you’re not an attorney without a client. You need one before the other.

Kevin Daisey:
100%. Now I think it’s all good advice. I think some of the cool things I’ve seen with some younger attorneys that I’ve had on the show that just started recently, and they’re a year or two in, some, I encourage most to go out. You work for another firm. You first figure out what the heck you even want to do because I think most, they come out of school. You go intern here. You get thrown into … You think you want to be this attorney, then you get exposed to something else. I feel like I see a lot of managing partners here like they fell into eventually what they really wanted to do. So I think one, having experiences and experiencing a lot of different things. Figure out where you want to go. Then you pick your niche, then you go off on your own, that makes sense.

Phil Sever:
I would argue to be more directed. I’ll tell you a story, Tony and I’s story is that we both didn’t sit down one day and say, “Man, I just have a burning love for eminent domain.” No. We had a bunch of boys.

Tonny Storey:
We’re passionate about it.

Phil Sever:
Reached out to us from Arkansas and said, “A friend of mine just did an eminent domain case and they offered-”

Tonny Storey:
North Carolina, yeah.

Phil Sever:
Him a hundred thousand dollars, and he settled for $400,000. He made a hundred thousand dollars fee. Tony and I are both like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. $100,000 fee.”

Kevin Daisey:
Sign me up.

Phil Sever:
Let’s talk more about that. Then we started looking around. I don’t want to toot our horn, but we’re probably where at the genesis of the eminent domain bar at large really grew out of in the Midwest is our practice. We started looking around and seeing there was nobody else doing it in Indiana.

Kevin Daisey:
Wow.

Phil Sever:
Did a web search, and you found nothing.

Tonny Storey:
Not on our level.

Phil Sever:
13 years ago. We’re like, “Okay. $100,000 fees.” Nobody else is in the competitive space. Are there clients? Oh my God, look, there’s all these road projects, especially in Indiana at the time. I-69. Wait, there’s these huge pipelines, Rex pipeline, all these takings are happening in Indiana. So a lot of clients, big fees.

Kevin Daisey:
Future opportunity.

Phil Sever:
No competitive environment. Let’s do eminent domain.

Tonny Storey:
Well, another thing. They couldn’t afford to pay the big firms that had that one person that dabbled in it, their hourly rate. So if you have a farmer who didn’t want to pay that $500 to $1,000 an hour, where would we go? They had nowhere to go.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. They might not be worked up.

Tonny Storey:
That’s what they’re exacting for us.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah, I was going to actually get to my next point, Phil, which is exactly what you said is some of these people that I’ve talked to recently, attorneys, found something that firms around them did not do or want to do. They go, “Hey, I do this.” They’re like, “~Oh yeah. We don’t want to do that. Here’s a referral,” whatever. They just get started to get fed. So I thought that was interesting. I thought of a few attorneys that they found something that these other attorneys don’t want to do, they don’t specialize in, and they come and snag it up. So yeah. I agree. If you can be direct about it, what’s going to make sense for you, maybe before you choosing anything. Yeah. Is there a market? Is there a room for you or are there other firms that are just doing a terrible job marketing and you’re like, “I can swoop right in there and …”

Phil Sever:
Yeah. Take their keys, right?

Kevin Daisey:
Tear them up. Yeah, exactly. I got another there’s another young attorney on here is just a sole proprietor. He was really savvy with SEO, a new attorney and was setting up satellite offices in another city. But he based a decision on his SEO research on where he felt he could get ranking very quickly from a local perspective. That’s where he would choose his next location, if you will. So I thought that was very …

Phil Sever:
Yeah. You think about PI attorneys, we had a friend of ours, very clever attorney that looked at medical malpractice case clusters and said like, “This hospital’s terrible. Always has more medical malpractice cases than anywhere else in the country.” He just bombed that zip code with PPC and SEO.

Kevin Daisey:
I love it. That’s what I think more people need to be doing, attorneys, is getting more data, more research and more direct, like you’re saying, and look for those holes.

Tonny Storey:
Yeah.

Kevin Daisey:
Well, kudos to you guys for all the success you’ve had. Thanks for sharing your experience and your stories here on the podcast with us today. Anything else you want to share? Anything big coming up or any big plans for this year?

Tonny Storey:
First of all, I like to say, I hope we don’t come off as too mercenary.

Kevin Daisey:
I love it. No, it’s awesome.

Tonny Storey:
We do care about our clients quite a bit. We’ve had some very good relationships with most of them.

Phil Sever:
Yeah. We have very high standards. We’ve had a lot of success for our clients. I would say that we’re really looking forward. If you’re saying looking back, Tony and I just had one of our best jury verdicts ever back in November. We had a case where the State of Indiana offered a client $320,000. We got 3.8, almost 3.9 million from that jury.

Kevin Daisey:
Geez.

Phil Sever:
So huge return for the client, huge win for landowners. Looking forward, we’ve got a couple really interesting class actions that are out there that-

Kevin Daisey:
That’s interesting.

Phil Sever:
Huge. That are really interesting from a will these work perspective. What will the courts say about these theories we have on these class actions? They’re kind of exciting to see where those land. We’ve got a lot of good stuff in the hopper. So I’m just really looking forward to the next couple of years. We had a good team too. We should say that we got a good cultural fit with our guys and a good team of attorneys and smart people. It’s just a pleasure to work with everybody. Right? That’s really rare to be able to say that it’s a pleasure to work with everybody, but it really is a pleasure to work with everybody here, which is nice.

Kevin Daisey:
That was awesome. Well, kudos on that. Tony, you’re going to add anything to that?

Tonny Storey:
No, I agree with Phil.

Kevin Daisey:
No, it’s good when you can have a great team and everybody likes to work with each other. That just makes it all that much better. Right?

Tonny Storey:
Absolutely.

Kevin Daisey:
Yeah. Well, everyone listening, check out again Landowners or LandownerAttorneys.com. It’s at the bottom of your screen. If you’re on the podcast listening, you can go there. Again LandownerAttorneys.com. Again, guys, gentlemen, thank you so much for sharing what you have today. This episode will be out soon. If you’re listening to it, then it’s already out.

Kevin Daisey:
But if you want to find this episode, it’ll be up on our website, ArrayLaw.com/Podcast. You can sort by state, by law practice area. Again, as of this recording, we’ve almost a 200 attorneys on here. So there’s plenty of content. Lots of different attorneys. In the domain, might be the first one on the show.

Kevin Daisey:
So looking forward to that. Then of course, this will also be featured in our newsletter coming up, the Managing Partner’s Newsletter, where we share episodes, book. We have a book club where we share books that attorneys have either recommended or wrote themselves to help other firms grow. We’ll be sharing that out there too. Other than that, if you need help growing your firm, reach out to me. Go to ArrayLaw.com. Happy to help, just like these guys. We are experts. We niche. We know what we’re doing. We’re happy to even answer questions if you have them. So that’s it, guys. Say goodbye.

Tonny Storey:
Appreciate you. Thank you very much.

Phil Sever:
Awesome. Thanks for the time. Really appreciate it.

Kevin Daisey:
Yes, guys. Thanks so much. You can stick on with me for a few minutes. Everyone else, thank you so much for tuning in. Be sure to share. We’ll talk to you soon.

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