Erik J. Olson (00:01):
What’s happening. This is Erik J. Olson. I am your host today for this episode of the managing partners podcast. On this podcast, we interview America’s leading managing partners to find out how they’re growing their firms and what they’re doing to keep their case pipeline full because every managing partner wants a full case pipeline. So today I have with me Jeff cast, Hey Jeff,
Jeff Gostyla (00:26):
Erik, how are you? Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Erik J. Olson (00:30):
I appreciate you carving out the time. Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your firm?
Jeff Gostyla (00:36):
Well, I I am the new managing partner at haler and Sage. And we, we have seven offices five in Connecticut, one in Massachusetts and one in Washington, DC. I grew up in Berlin, Connecticut, which is a, a, which is a great town where I really truly learned how to be grounded. I mean, if you do something bad, you kind of, someone will kind of come and Scruff you on the neck and if you do something good people will congratulate you up and down. So that’s where I really I that’s, that’s my roots. And I, I then went to Villanova university for my undergraduate degree and then Puna Pak law school for my law school degree. So that, that’s my my background. I, I worked seven years at a small firm in new Britain, Connecticut before coming over with one of the partners who, who hired me that I’ve, I, I, I knew I, I, his, his younger brother was the best man in my wedding and he trusted me and he put his faith in me as, as did others here at the firm.
Jeff Gostyla (01:48):
And you know, I’m, I’m loyal to the end degree.
Erik J. Olson (01:53):
Best agree. That’s excellent. That’s great. So you said you’re a, a new managing partner. When did that happen?
Jeff Gostyla (02:00):
It happened in October of last year. And I, I didn’t know this when I, you know, when I lost my mind and dropped my, you know, there, you stuck my foot in the water to do this. But I’m, I’m only the fifth managing partner in the in the years, the firm has been in operation in that it goes back to 1935 it’s it’s.
Erik J. Olson (02:26):
Jeff Gostyla (02:27):
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a humbling experience. And so I’m I’m then I, I knew, I didn’t know, the three first managing partners. I don’t even think I was born yet, but I knew George Roy did very well and bill McGrath very well, and, and Bill’s been not, George is retired, but, but bill is still here and he’s been nothing but supportive. You know, I, I asked him at one point, will you train me? He’s like, no, I’m not gonna train you. You’re gonna carve your own path, carve your own niche, whatever the, I I’m picturing this, but it, he he’s like he, you have to just make decisions and you have to make decisions quickly on, on a day to day basis. And he’s right. But he’s always been a great resource. And, and my partners been, they’ve been fantastic. They they’ve been a great support staff. It you know, it, it, I call it a family here. It truly is.
Erik J. Olson (03:30):
Yeah. So you said since 1935 that’s yeah. Almost 90 years.
Jeff Gostyla (03:37):
Erik J. Olson (03:38):
And, and you’re the fifth managing partner, so four managing partners span 90 years.
Jeff Gostyla (03:45):
Erik J. Olson (03:46):
That’s, that’s amazing. So very long tenure. You’ve got, you got a a, a long job tenure ahead of you if you follow that path. Right.
Jeff Gostyla (03:55):
I, I hope so. I, I, you know, I, I just try to come in on a day to day basis and do the best job I possibly can. Some decisions I make, I regret others. I’m very proud of it. You know, that life is not perfect in that regard. Sure. But, but we’re, you know, we’re humming, we’ve, we’ve got, we’ve got seven offices, we’ve got almost 90 lawyers. We’re trying to, we’re trying to get up to a hundred, that’s one of my initiatives you know, we’re, we’re actively pursuing talent at, you know, the lateral higher stage, the associate stage and, and even staff. So we’re, we’re trying to build, and it’s fun. It’s fun to come in to the office every day. I, I jump out of bed at 5 45 without an alarm. I, you know, I really like the people that are here and I just try and do the best job I can for
Erik J. Olson (04:53):
Them. Good for you. That’s really impressive. So, so a couple things in our impressive seven offices, 90 attorneys, it’s a, a big crew the, the seven offices. So curious, how do you go about managing these different offices, especially the ones that are relatively far away, like Washington, DC and, and Connecticut, that’s Connecticut, that’s a decent amount of distance. Do you have people in each office that are running the office?
Jeff Gostyla (05:19):
Well, well, I mean, DC is a little smaller. I think we have two attorneys and two staff members and you know, they they’re, they’re not bashful about reaching out and talking to me. But Connecticut’s small Eric. I mean, I can get to any of our offices within 45 minutes of barring, you know, barring a traffic jam. And even Springfield. I mean, geez. I mean, our Springfield office is it it’s thriving. I mean, they’re they’re new, they’re relatively new to the firm. Yeah, but they’re, they’re humming and it just, I just try and stay out of everyone’s way, you know, I just try and let people practice law and do their thing.
Erik J. Olson (06:04):
Yeah. So what, what, what practice areas do you mostly focus on?
Jeff Gostyla (06:12):
Well, we were I mean, being in the insurance capital of the world we were, you know, the, the bricks and mortar of this place has been insurance and insurance coverage, but we’ve really branched out to other, you know, we’ve got other groups which are really, really thriving a while. And so while insurance is our typical bread and butter we’ve got commercial litigation, employment, law, environmental law is, is huge for us transportation. You know, I, I could go on, I mean, I think the only thing we, you know, I, I don’t know that we have like a tax expert here. But if, if a phone call comes into me, for example, I can just walk up or down the hallways or make a phone call and find the right person. And so we we’re, we try to be a full service firm.
Erik J. Olson (07:09):
Okay. And would it be a good assumption that, that the majority of your clients are other businesses? So you’re a, like a business law firm, generally speaking.
Jeff Gostyla (07:19):
Yeah, we do. You know, we’re, we’re, we’re not, you’re not gonna see me on a billboard anytime soon. I mean, we’re, we’re not a we’re and no one would want to, I, I would suspect, but no, I we’re. We,
Erik J. Olson (07:32):
We you get justice
Jeff Gostyla (07:34):
<Laugh> no, I say I have no good catch phrases, man. I don’t. But no, we, we are we are very rock solid with a lot of major insurance companies. They have been long time clients. I mean, going, going back to probably before I was born. And so I think our reputation is very, very solid there, but we also you know, trust in the states. We, we, we have a good thriving practice in that regard, both with, you know, just your basic, your, your basic estate planning and then probate litigation. Yeah, we, I mean, we, we cover a lot of ground and we, we have talented people who we’ve, who’ve, who’ve been here for a long time. I I’ll share a story a couple of years. I, I used to run our summer associate program. And one year I said, you know, I, I, I think I have a lot of longevity here.
Jeff Gostyla (08:35):
I I’m gonna look this up. And so I asked someone to see where I stood on the depth chart of longevity at the firm. I thought I would be like in the top 25, I wasn’t close. I barely made the top 50 people, whether it be attorneys or staff, people there are some people who’ve just made a life and a career here, and you know, that that’s where, you know, I must protect the house and, and try to keep people happy and, and you know, try to have them enjoy walking in the door every day for work.
Erik J. Olson (09:17):
Very nice. Very nice. Well, cool. So let’s, let’s shift a little bit to marketing. So a lot of the content that we cover here has to do with marketing. We’re a digital marketing agency, so we’re always interested to see how clients are succeeding when it comes to marketing some of their successes or challenges. So generally speaking, besides referrals, which I’m sure is a, a, you know, big in your practice and it is in, in almost all law firms, what are some other ways that you go about getting new business
Jeff Gostyla (09:50):
<Laugh>? Well, I, you know, let me preface it by saying that probably 80% of our business is existing firm clients, and then you gotta go and chase down the other 20%. So we, you know, personally I have, I’ve joined local bar associations. I have gone to these rubber chicken dinners. We, we yeah, we, we have we did something which I think is really cool as we, we have the holler and Sage cup. So it’s part of the new England collegiate baseball league. And so there’s five teams, you know, we, we were, we pay, we were a sponsor for it. It was not a very, very big investment, but we, we positioned it in the towns that are at, or near many of our offices. So and you know, we’re, we’re, you know, we’ll have the opportunity to take clients.
Jeff Gostyla (10:52):
We’re gonna have the opportunity to meet and greet with other sponsors of all of these teams, just to you know, just to try and make connections to certain people. So we, we, we, you know, we charity golf tournaments. We, we try to do as much as we can and, and give back to the community. And I, I find that giving back to the community, people appreciate that. And they, they realize that these, these are good people, these are good lawyers. And I’d like to work with them. They’re not cold, they’re not cold fishes.
Erik J. Olson (11:35):
Yeah. So, so community involvement it goes a long, long way, especially when you start talking about at the you know, it’s it’s, it’s one of those things where you it’s hard to measure like the results, but but you want to, you wanna show up and over and over again, right?
Jeff Gostyla (11:55):
Yeah. Yes. I know. I mean, but you see it. I mean, one of the responsibilities I have every day is to go through clearing conflicts and seeing who’s bringing in business and from where and what they’re doing and you can kind of connect the dots and say, okay, I know why this has come in. And it was because, you know, it, it was because Kevin Green, one of our, our employment law specialist did a presentation at the Connecticut business and industry association. And you see cases come in and it’s like, okay, okay. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I can take, I can make an educated guess that yeah, it’s because he made a connection with somebody who really, really liked him and wanted to hire him. So you know, I, I don’t know all the background data, but I can an educated guess and say, this is why we got it.
Erik J. Olson (12:57):
Let’s talk a little bit about what you were telling me about before we hit cord the professional organization you’re involved in.
Jeff Gostyla (13:05):
Oh, alpha it’s alpha international. Yeah, they, yeah, they it’s a great organization. <Laugh>, you almost have too much fun at these events, but they <laugh>, they they run a lot of really good programs. I’m presenting it one in June about marijuana and the law. And one of my colleagues here has done those presentations. So I’m the moderator, he’s one of the keynote speakers. And you just get to meet a lot of nice people who who, who maintain connections and they think of you you know, when, when something kind of pops up. So I, I’m becoming more and more involved in alpha. I was just in at the one in Austin, Texas, and, you know, met a few people who I, I, I keep in connection with. And they, they keep you busy. They, I, I, I never thought I’d sign up for a country line dancing class, but I was in a country line dancing class.
Erik J. Olson (14:20):
How’d you do?
Jeff Gostyla (14:22):
Awful. No, I’m too old. <Laugh> I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and it’s it. Wasn’t good. <Laugh> oh, no. So I was just trying to keep up with everybody, but no, it was fun. We, you know, we we took a group photo and then we went out to dinner and sat by our fire pit and just, you know, shot the breeze. So it’s they, they do a great job of keeping you intellectually challenged with programs, but also, you know, providing an entertainment aspect. So
Erik J. Olson (14:55):
Jeff Gostyla (14:56):
Yeah, it’s a great organization.
Erik J. Olson (14:58):
Cool, cool. So I have that on the video. If you’re listening to this, you go check out our YouTube and you can see the video, but the website address is alpha a L F a international.com. Well, cool. That’s interesting. Well, what are some of the things that seem to be working especially well for you right now in your marketing, you’ve mentioned a couple things, certainly referrals, a big thing. Are you, and let, let’s maybe dive into that a little bit, assuming that’s, that’s still working well for you. I’m sure it is, but is there anything that you’re doing specifically to try to get those referrals, to try to make those connections, to try to, you know, are you asking your clients for referrals, things like that?
Jeff Gostyla (15:41):
Well, I mean, just before this podcast I got a text from one of when I was actually practicing law, which is, you know, getting harder and harder each day than I have this job. One of my clients said, do you have five minutes to talk?
Erik J. Olson (16:00):
Jeff Gostyla (16:01):
Erik J. Olson (16:02):
Jeff Gostyla (16:03):
So I, I, I said, look, brother, in, in all honesty, I’ve got like a hard leave at 1225. Cuz I’m being featured on podcast. I think he thought I was full of it, but <laugh> now you, you pick up the phone and you trust in your partners because they they focus on their, their their companies and their clients. And it just generates business. I, I, I probably, I will probably have two hours of work to do to open new files. It’s been, you know, co COVID really, it’s been a challenge with litigators because you know, those, those two hour rides that you had to go to a conference are now on video in their last 20 minutes. And, and so it’s, it’s truly been a challenge for litigators, but we’re, we’re opening a lot of files. I’m proud of it. I, you know, I don’t know where I, you know, I dunno where they’re exactly coming from. I, you know, I guess the world is not gonna be short of auto accidents and slip and falls anytime soon, but we’re, we’re humming along
Erik J. Olson (17:15):
Good. That’s really good. Is there something that hasn’t worked quite as well in your marketing as you would hoped it would?
Jeff Gostyla (17:27):
Well we’re getting back into it, but I mean all of the things that we, that were staples for us, like golf tournaments or you know, dinner meetings, they all got, they all just got jammed into the COVID trap. Yeah, but they’re opening up a lot. I’ve, I’ve approved more requests for charity golf tournaments with clients than, than I ever expected would would happen. So that that’s been positive. It’s good that the world is opening up again. I hope we don’t have, you know, another, another round of this because that, that could be really, truly detrimental. But I guess you asked about challenges. The other challenge is we’re, you know, we’re actively trying to hire and I, I don’t know where these young attorneys, what these young attorneys are doing. It, it is. I mean, I got outta law school and I had debt. I had to work. I started working two weeks after I took the bar exam actually a week after I took bar exam. And I haven’t stopped since short of like a two week vacation. That’s been a real challenge, Eric. I, I don’t know how these students, how these, you know, young lawyers survive without, and we’re offering, we’re offering a very, very good salary and, and opportunities to become partners. So that’s been another challenge, but we’re
Erik J. Olson (19:09):
Trying to figure thing any idea if the graduation rate of new lawyers or, you know, like the rate of passing the bar has decreased? I don’t know.
Jeff Gostyla (19:19):
Yeah. That’s, that’s a really, really good question. One of my partners brought that up because I, I was just, I was apoplectic. I, I I’ve said, I don’t understand why we can’t hire anybody. But law school classes are decreasing and, you know, excuse me, not all of ’em are, are coming back to Connecticut to practice. So she brought up a really good point in that that may be why we’re sort of swimming upstream here.
Erik J. Olson (19:52):
Yeah. I know it’s definitely getting harder across the board for all industries to hire these days. And it is pretty shocking cuz you, you, you would, it’s not like one company is gobbling them all up or anything. Right. So
Jeff Gostyla (20:06):
No very interesting. It’s perplexing.
Erik J. Olson (20:11):
Yeah. To say the least. Well, cool. I appreciate your time. What is the best way for viewers to connect with you? If they have a question?
Jeff Gostyla (20:20):
It would be 8 6 5 2 2 6 1 0 3 or my email address Gass T Y L a H a L L O R a sage.com.
Erik J. Olson (20:38):
Awesome. Thanks so much for your time. All right, everybody.
Jeff Gostyla (20:40):
I appreciate it.
Erik J. Olson (20:42):
You got it. All right, everyone. If you would like to check out other episodes like this, you can see our entire backlog of over 150 interviews with managing partners across the firstname.lastname@example.org slash podcast. Those are organized by practice area and by state. So you can really drill down and find what you’re looking for. And if you’re a managing partner looking for something new for your digital marketing, check out my website, array, law.com. All of our services are up there and we love working with law firms. All right, Jeff. Thanks so much. Thank you, Eric.