about this episode

"If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does them day in and day out." - Chuck Noll

episode transcribed

Todd Burnham 0:00
Hi, this is Todd Burnham. I am a licensed practicing attorney. But just because you're listening to me doesn't mean that I represent you. This is for informational purposes only if you're good with that, then let's roll

Chris Braden 0:23
What do you do when you move to a new state during a recession with no contacts, no job, no money, little experience and a family to support you? Lean on what you know you continue to learn grind every day and you keep getting better join Todd Burnham as he outlines how he started, Burnham Law in his basement grew to seven offices relying only on his experiences and inspirations from being a college athlete. His unique style of motivation and raw sense of humor are a welcome change from the business advice you're used to hearing. Whether you're a new or seasoned attorney, trying to grow your practice or an entrepreneur in any service industry, Todd's story is sure to inspire you to take action and follow your instincts. This is Deep Bench with Todd Burnham. Hey, Todd, how's it going, buddy?

Todd Burnham 1:12
Good, Chris, what's going on?

Chris Braden 1:14
So I just had Stephanie Randall on and she was amazing. And she said something during the podcast that really stuck out to me. When she was with the other firm, and you wanted her to come back, you said you told her that she was the heart of the law firm. And what that meant was, she wasn't the center of it. But she brought like the feeling and the emotions and things like that to the firm. How'd that make you feel when you heard her say that?

Todd Burnham 1:42
Well, I mean, I remember saying it to her. So it brought me back to when those moments were. And that was really a kind of a changing point. And the firm when she left, that was really humbling for me, because I always envisioned her being a part of the firm for a long time. And so it made me really kind of take a step back and evaluate what was important to me. And it's, it's kind of like bankruptcy versus family love for me. One is like, I'm gonna do this because I have to, and with family law, it's because I know it, and I have a passion for it. And I found myself without having that opposite for me. And what Stephanie brings often is that counter perspective, that often includes emotions, and having just a reminder about how passionate representation can be and should be when you're dealing with children. So I meant it. And thankfully, since then, it's one of those things you look for. And that's hard. What I meant is this, the passion and the commitment and resolve,

Chris Braden 2:42

Todd Burnham 2:43
to advocate for people that are less fortunate. And so I remember it, I felt it when she said it when I heard her, like the recording of it. And it was totally accurate.

Chris Braden 2:53
So we're talking about culture in this podcast, and you talked about maybe Stephanie being the heart, and that's kind of like the Yin and Yang is that kind of where we're going with.

Todd Burnham 3:03
I mean, like, I'm very passionate about life.

Chris Braden 3:05

Todd Burnham 3:06
And, and I'm passionate about this law firm and this business, and I'm not in court. So it was one thing to have passion and advocate for clients and children in particular. And when you take a step back from that, it's always refreshing to remember that the people that we have here are passionate about what they do, they have heart. And so if I tell you, everybody, every one of them has some form of passion, or commitment or something along the lines that drives them to get better. And so that's kind of the cornerstone is really what Stephanie was talking about. It's like having that heart, you know, you also have to have knowledge and a commitment to get better. But it's always nice. If you're not doing it to make the money. You're doing it that the money isn't an ancillary byproduct of it. But if you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life.

Chris Braden 4:03
So how would you describe the culture at Burnham Law?

Todd Burnham 4:07
Well, I mean, I think the first thing is, is we're not contentious. It's not the the standard kind of typical law firm feel of the mahogany everywhere and the leather bound books, and we talked about that. I want people to have a voice. I want people's opinions. I think that when you give people a sense of ownership, and they have a voice in how the place is being run and managed and the direction that it goes, I think that's empowering and that's a buy in. And so a culture is something that is that is established over time, and I'm a prime example of of learning about that. And it's can be one thing to invest in. You can be the best and also have grace doing it sometimes, right hopefully all the time or some level of professionalism that isn't just aggressive and aggressive is often present, especially with any Injury Law. Unlike family law, the the culture for family I think is more like emotional intelligence, being able to see the forest through the trees and know how to strategically get there in the most effective and goal oriented way possible with personal injury culture, I think is a little bit different. You're dealing with insurance companies who inherently don't want to pay your client. It's about winning full stop, it's the fight, it's the fight to get the client what they deserve, and what they're entitled to. You're not entitled to 5050 parenting time, you're not entitled to have joint decision making if you're an abusive parent. So the culture, it varies, and I don't think there's trying to win in family law as you're trying to win, and personal injury. But it's it's more along the lines of empowering people to live their best lives and the lives that they want for their families through their work as well. Also, having that work life balance is really important because we're dealing with highly emotionally charged concepts and ideas and fact patterns and human beings. But if you can have a balance, and be able to be in a situation where you can strike that balance and come in recharged and refreshed and have a purpose driven life, that makes sense to me. And it's a truth that speaks to me. So, to me, I think it's about collaboration, including people and their ideas, and not having this closed door policy have, these are the decisions that we're making. And in the end, the people that we want here are people that are not going to fold when things get hard, not going to quit when things get tough, and they are reflective of what we're all about now.

Chris Braden 6:43
From the outside looking in. When I see Burnham Law and kind of the culture here, I kind of feel that it really reflects you it does in a lot of ways. So you as the leader, how do you set the culture or or start the culture start the narrative or get things going as the leader?

Todd Burnham 7:03
Well, you know, it's it's, I think people organically are more inclined to be attracted, then be promoted to prayer. So it's attraction rather than promotion. It's another concept I learned. So it's kind of starts with me, when Stephanie left, there was that kind of transition that where I kind of started to look at myself a little bit more, and look at the weaknesses and the strengths that I have, the passion that I have, for the people here, the passion I have for the clients, the passion I have for my family, if I'm promoting a workplace that is collaborative and inclusive, and we're freedom to express ideas and ways of doing things differently. If that's looked upon, by me as positive, or if it's, you know, shut up, no one wants your opinion, there was this time recently, probably like a year ago, somebody wrote an email, and everyone was copied. And it was kind of like, system beat down of like, my decisions that I was making, right? And in the past it probably five years ago, I would have been like Off with her head.

Chris Braden 7:06
Yeah, exactly.

Todd Burnham 7:24
And I and it was really, it was a good moment for me, because I looked at it and you know, people were commenting and contacting me and saying that was completely inappropriate. I said, don't look at the delivery, look at the message, can I get anything from the message. And the benefit is, is that if you're communicating with your entire firm on a regular basis, you have multiple offices, those emails are important. And I can't really get everyone on FaceTime. At the same time. I don't know if you've ever tried to organize schedules for attorneys or paralegals, and it's crazy. But being able to communicate with everyone, in a way is, Hey, I hear what you're saying. Probably don't agree with the way that you said it. But I'm trying to understand the message was this the message that you're trying to get across. And I think that's an example. It's not a place of fear, even though is completely inappropriate, and all of those things that you just don't do. But it doesn't have to be this hierarchy of like, I am the boss, you do what I say it's, that's some valuable information. If you're talking about my weaknesses, try not to like spit on me when you're doing it. But I get the message. And I think that really kind of permeates that there's momentum that goes from that even though it wasn't a great experience. It was still a learning experience for me in this situation. And I think that people see those things and you get more and more momentum. And then people don't have fear of expressing ideas on the side to this individual. I said, Hey, listen, listen, I totally get it. I think you've got some resentment here. Some other things are happening. And I genuinely care about you. Like, is there anything I can do to help at the same time please don't say it like that. If you're gonna communicate and you're gonna like call me out on my decision making of the past which is what it was was like from a year ago. Please be more constructive. That's a learning experience that you can take from this and the person didn't really wasn't really receptive to it, but I think that's what you do. It's like in those moments, that's the only time you can build culture. It's not like, you know, we talked about growing pains, right? They don't call them growing happies. Right, I think you're constantly growing throughout. And if you establish a culture of growing, and be vulnerable and open to people seeing you learn on the job, that I think you engender trust, as your

Chris Braden 10:21
As your firm is growing, how important is it for you to find those attorneys or just employees that fit in with the culture of Burnham Law,

Todd Burnham 10:30
it's critical. It's the beginning and end. Like right now, you can make an argument that the number of calls that we have on a regular basis for all the different practice areas you could justify bringing on two new attorneys now, and I have been in the situation and I've learned, I'd rather slow down on bringing client new clients into the firm, and sacrifice the quality and assign clients or have these clients represented by new people. I just don't know. So I'm very hesitant to do that. It's got to be the right people. For what we've created. It's not about the bottom line of where we could make money doing this. And you've got to be the ultimate quality control for everything when you're running a business. And you're talking about culture, but you're also talking about how we do what we do. And it's different than everybody else, I think.

Chris Braden 11:26
All right, Todd, we're talking about culture. And we've talked about how important it is for you to find members of your staff that fit that culture. Let's bring this back to the NFL a little bit. I remember a story from back in my college days, Alfred Williams was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals very high in the draft. And when he got the phone call, he was in tears because the Cincinnati Bengals have been known for having a culture not only of losing, but of being like really, really cheap. Also in the NFL, you have teams like the Steelers and the Patriots, and you can throw the Broncos in their budget teams that have a culture of winning for the most part, what kind of team do you want to build here at Burnham Law?

Todd Burnham 12:06
Well, it's funny that you just said team. So culture really kind of defines the team, it's we're talking about, like, what's the culture of the locker room? How are people treating each other. And I think those are the things that I talked about, you want to you're not going to be pretentious, you're going to empower the people that you're working with to have their own ideas and to share them, you're not going to be surrounded by a bunch of yes men. And to have that work life balance, you also have to have a common goal. And so the goals that we have as a team, and that's really what we're talking about is like what I've done is really built teams.

Chris Braden 12:38

Todd Burnham 12:38
Different divisions. And based on what I think is my talent, which is identifying talent, and assembling teams based on principles from Bill Belichick, don't tell me what they can't do. Tell me what they can do. And that's what we have. Now we have all these different people. It's a team based philosophy and a law firm that I haven't heard before. I haven't seen implemented before. And I have experts in different designated areas who I think are the best at what they do. You can't have everyone be the best at one thing. That's not really a team. That's a one sided team, you've got all offense, no defense. And so for me, the culture is directly proportional to the talent that you have as teammates, and what their character is. So when things get tough, what do they do? Do they quit? Do they keep fighting? Do they push forward? Do they settle? Because they don't want to go to court? Do they settle because mediation is easier for them? That happens all the time in law. People are good at mediation, afraid of the courtroom, they're litigators. They don't want to mediate because they like the courtroom, who cares what you like, man, what's in the best interest of the client. And so if you have the right, team members, and the teammates, and they're all working together as a team with a common culture of the common vibe and the message of keep getting better, we're going to talk about service at some point and being of service to them, and not servicing yourself. That's easy to promote.

Chris Braden 14:06
Stephanie said another cool thing. She said that when she was at the other firm, she needed something to take care of. He needed something to do her job. What she said is Todd always gave me what I needed to get the job done. And when you're talking about cultures, when it comes to athletics, some teams are known for giving their players and staff everything they need to get the job done, whether it's the training table, practice facilities, anything that their team needs to compete. How important is that to you?

Todd Burnham 14:37
Well, I mean, I think you have to give everybody enough tools and the toolbox to use them. I think that that's just the obligation at the same time. And it's up to Stephanie and everybody else to also look out for the team and you're not going to be spending $5,000 for one case on some amazing software. You don't need that doesn't benefit the client. So it's more along the lines of I like to think that if you ask Stephanie, I'm confident that she would say that I am always on the side of my people. If there's a complaint, I'm always loyal to them immediately, because I trust them, and they trust me. And if there's something that we can get better at, then you're going to make it right with a client. But you're also not going to shame people into growth.

Chris Braden 15:21

Todd Burnham 15:21
You want to attract that. And by just giving people what they need, as an example of limited example, I think that that's just so support and it gives me it gives me more like juice to push farther. Because if people aren't giving your people that are working with you the basics, and that's my competition, and we've established that I'm really competitive, then I'm like, Wow, man, we can crush this. And that's how I think about it helped me help you. Right?

Chris Braden 15:50

Todd Burnham 15:50
So it's like, it's like Jerry Maguire.

Chris Braden 15:53
Good stuff, Todd. Hey, let's build the Yankees here. Let's do that. Give me the Astros.

Todd Burnham 15:59
I understand. I could cheat. Just give me a billion and we'll do it.

Chris Braden 16:02
Okay. All right, buddy.

Todd Burnham 16:04
Hey, thanks for listening. Make sure you subscribe and until next time, keep getting better.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai