EPISODE 1 — John Morgan — Building the Google Law Firm & Why You Can’t Teach Hungry
The inaugural episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast features a LEGEND of the legal profession: John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan.
As founder of America’s largest personal injury law firm, John has an incredibly unique experience when it comes to expanding a business and building a brand.
In this episode, Crisp Founder & CEO Michael Mogill and John Morgan discuss:
- The role that luck plays in everything we do
- The innate characteristics that make someone successful — or unsuccessful
- What it’s like to have so much competition from other law firms
- What the legal landscape of the future will look like
3:20 – Growing the firm in the early stages. “It was a way of thinking I used when I was growing out of Orlando. I call it the teacup. I got a teacup, and I am pouring water into the teacup. Once the water starts pouring over the teacup and we get to diminishing returns, I can’t grow this business anymore. In Orlando I’d kind of plateaued, then I would move to the next city. And then that was Tampa. And then it was Jacksonville. And then it was Fort Myers. So that’s the way I built it.”
6:11 – Life is luck. “Luck plays such an important role in everything we do from the girl we marry to the kids we have to just being born. The odds of being born are trillions to one, just to be born. And then to be born in America instead of somewhere else. So I don’t spend a lot of time, patting myself on the back. I spend more time thinking, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” Life is luck.”
7:24 – Defining success. “I define success by my relationships with the people who’ve been in business with me and people who’ve done business with me. And then they continue to do business with me because over all these years I did what I said I was going to do.”
8:11 – Competing with so many firms. “I can’t help them by just staying out of their market, but I can help them get better by going into their market. Because when I do go in, there’s a seminar that somebody does, I’ve seen it, and the topic is: What do you do when John Morgan comes into your market? There’s an actual seminar with CLE credits.”
12:04 – Those that give also get the most. “A bus in Jacksonville, Florida killed a child in the mother’s arms, in her hands. My investigator called me back and he said, ‘Hey we got this case I want to tell you how we got it.’ I go ‘Well, how did we get it?’ He said, ‘The woman was a waitress at Bob Evans in Lake Mary,’ where I live, ‘One Christmas Eve a couple of years ago you went in for breakfast, you paid your bill and left her a $100 tip.’
17:25 – We’re animals in the jungle. “In the jungle today, a lion will be born. And that lion is the king of the jungle, just because he or she is a lion. The same day, a sloth will be born. Same day, same jungle, same deal. That sloth is so fucked. He can’t even describe it. All he can do is barely muster up enough energy to come down the tree, grab some berries, go to the bathroom and go back up and go to sleep.”
21:28 – The fear of failure. “I have been desperate. I have been poor. I have been in a situation where I didn’t know where I was going to turn. There’s no worse feeling in the world than to have a financial crisis and not know how you’re gonna solve it. And the only way I ever knew to solve it was to work my way out of it.”
25:24 – What a competitor could do to wipe him out. “I don’t think anybody could wipe me out. I don’t think anybody works harder than me. I don’t think anybody has the imagination that I have. Look, there was never anybody on the back of phone books, until me. Before I went to law school I sold yellow pages and I thought, you know, that’d be the place I’d rather be because that’s a 50/50 chance of just being found right there. There were no lawyers on billboards until me. There were no lawyers on buses until me. I don’t think anybody could ever put me out of business. The only person that could put me out of business would be me. I believe that I’m the greatest legal marketer in the history of legal marketing. We’re going to do almost a billion dollars in fees this year. We spent 150 million dollars in advertising. So to totally put me out of business would be hard. Only I could hurt myself.”
28:00 – Calculating risks. “The way I calculate risk is with the concept of bullets before bombs. So before I go in and do something I go in with bullets and see if it works. I don’t go in with a bomb. Why would I go in with a bomb? I start running some mesothelioma ads on CNN, and it works. And I do some more bullets on MSNBC and then I do some bullets on Fox and all of a sudden, I let the bombs out. So my risks are calculated risks, and it’s bullets before bombs. Once I know the bullets are working, once I know what I’m doing is working, then and only then do I unleash. A lot of people make a huge mistake by going in before they’re ready.”
29:37 – What qualities are non-negotiable. “I value mercy more than justice. So I’m not as hard as some people are but a non-negotiable for me are liars and cheats and people who are unethical. I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I don’t want to be with them. I don’t want people who cut corners. That type of person, that’s the cancer that gets in your system and destroys it.”
30:48 – The only regrets you’ll have looking back later in life. “The regret you will have, if you have regrets, is that you didn’t spend enough time with the people you loved. I have a saying in life and it’s called ‘no regrets’. I had a mother who was terrible. Big time alcoholic. I can’t even describe how horrible it was. But at the end, I always took care of her even though it was so bad. And people would ask me, ‘Why are you doing it?’ And I said, ‘Because I want to be able to answer God that I have no regrets.’”
31:55 – The future of the legal landscape. “The future of the legal landscape is that one day law firms will be owned by non-lawyers and there will be a consolidation. When I look at many law firms like these big silk-stocking law firms, I look at them with great disgust, because billable time is really just pure out and out grand larceny everyday. Huge felonies are committed in big law firms everyday with billable time. They call it padding. They call it unit billing. They call it creative billing. Law is just about the only business in the world we charge by the hour. If you got a guy that mows your grass that says hey I’m going to charge you by the hour to mow your grass, you’d be like ‘get the fuck out of here I’m going pay you a hundred bucks and that’s it.’”
34:49 – The shift from playing a small game to a big game. “You know it’s really the same game there’s just more zeros at the end of it. One of the reasons that people don’t grow or die is because they start to make the money and they want to keep that money – they’re happy with that. I had a firm called Morgan, Colling & Gilbert. The reason Morgan, Colling & Gilbert went away is I had two lawyers, Colling and Gilbert, who were great friends. Stewart died and Rod’s still a great friend. But as I was moving to get more teacups, they didn’t like it, because I was taking profits, and moving it into other cities. Remember in the beginning you said my books said everything is about tomorrow, nothing is about today? Well that was that. Those two guys did not like that.”
36:42 – What does being a game changer mean to you? “Being a game changer means being disruptive, doing things that nobody else would dare do. If you look around the world In the 21st century, who are the people who have really been game changers? They’ve been the disruptors. And a lot of them just broke the law in doing it. Google, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, the marijuana industry. They did something that was either against the law or so far-fetched it seemed impossible. Game changers are disruptors, and even the law itself doesn’t stop them. They can’t be stopped.”
You Can’t Teach Hungry: Creating the Multimillion Dollar Law Firm
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Give and Take
Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
You Can’t Teach Vision: The Twenty-First Century Law Firm
The Second Half of Life
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