Great Teams Build Dynasties

about this episode

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." - Michael Jordan

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 0:20
Season One was about how Todd Burnham started Burnham Law in his basement and built it to one of the most prestigious law firms in Colorado by thinking outside of the box and surrounding himself with the best lawyers and staff in the industry. Now during a pandemic Burnham Law is still growing. How you ask? You walk towards the storm and face it head on and you empower the people that help get you there, it's time to execute, it's time to make some lemonade. It's time to burn the ships. This is Deep Bench with Todd Burnham.

Hey, Todd, how's it going bud?

Todd Burnham 0:58
What's up, man?

Chris Braden 0:59
So we just talked about how amazing Kauai was. And so before you left, you had a plan of attack, you're going to be more kind of overseeing kind of a consultant role. Stephanie Randall is going to be running the day to day and you've got Aaron at some other people. So I guess the big question is, is how did the plan work out? Did everything kind of go the way that you thought it was? And I know that we had talked about this before we went on the air, you had some some really good growth while you were away?

Todd Burnham 1:33
Yeah, so um, you know, I didn't really have a plan, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do. And we're gonna see what happens with it. Right? So I go to Kauai. And what naturally happened is that I stopped doing the things that I normally would do, which is like, send emails out about marketing and, and I just let you know, in that realm, i i Let people grow into their positions, you know, like, so now, if, if I have a question about marketing, I'm really asking Sarah, and what's her opinion? And I'm gonna go with what she says.

Chris Braden 2:02

Todd Burnham 2:02
I'll have ideas, right? And then I in talking with, it's just kind of naturally evolved. So, you know, you go from being in charge of everything to delegating, and letting people come into their own, like my, the partners that I have in domestic relations led by Stephanie, who's also managing the firm, right? How do you interact with someone that is managing the civil department, which is growing exponentially? How do you transition to opening up different practice areas, which is part of our strategy, and when we just named Jessica Lasky, the managing partner of of criminal

Chris Braden 2:42
Because she's a baller.

Todd Burnham 2:43
She is a baller. And then you have two newer attorneys in van and Leslie, who were just exceptional, who were starting their own divisions made them part those two partners, and Rosie and Heidi, you've just been really exceptional attorneys for a long period of time naming them partner. So all of these things that we've done, and in growing, it really happened over the four months that I was gone. And to really let it happen, as it's supposed to happen was great. Because what my role now is, is, you know, not really knowing what my role would be. It's really I'm just consulting.

Right. So literally, I speak to Stephanie, and I speak to Aaron, usually on a regular basis. And I'm gonna speak to anybody else, really, because my and DR Partners, but I'm just you focus on what, what does this want to happen? This thing has its legs of its own. And what happened was they ran into growth problems.

Chris Braden 3:40

Todd Burnham 3:41
And then this whole season, I think, is really about growth evolving. What is it? What is this firm going to become?

Chris Braden 3:47

Todd Burnham 3:48
And, and so we came in we there's some, you know, points where we had to stop marketing. And that was Stephanie crying uncle on behalf of everyone that it's in, it's a valid point that people are overworked.

Right. The quality is everything. quality work is the most important piece. So if you don't have a plan of action, for the volume that is coming in, then you've got to make sure that the quality remains utmost priority. It's not about making more money by having people come in and pay more.

Chris Braden 4:21
Well, these are people's lives.

Todd Burnham 4:22
If you know, it takes a long time to get a reputation. Yeah.

And immediate to lose it. So

Chris Braden 4:28
We see it every day.

Todd Burnham 4:29
Every day, you know, people go after it, and it's not the right way. So and what we found is that you want to bring people in that share the core beliefs and values and, and you want to have someone that has experience, right? So we marketed for a while to find these like kind of mid level experience wise attorneys that have like five years of experience. They're plug and play people you can bring them in. They're going to be able to take a caseload, they're going to handle it the way that we you know want it handled and that is exceptional. And honestly we just couldn't find those people just couldn't find people that are like us.

Chris Braden 5:04
That would fit with the culture of Burnham Law?

Todd Burnham 5:07
Culture of Burnham Law, the way that they work the way that they're, you know, client centric people.


Chris Braden 5:07
And we found a couple. But by and large, we need we could add 10 lawyers right now with the volume. And and we just came back to the same principles, of adapt or die. And we said, what are our strengths? Right? What are our strengths we have and one of the strengths was Danielle Davis has a true mentoring spirit about her. And we decided that we are going to create a learning pod out of the Cherry Creek office. And we were hiring young attorneys some right out of law schools, some that have less than a year some that you know, right now they have experience in the public defender's office, but want to do family law. So we come in, and we we created this pod, where for the first 90 days, you're pretty much probably losing money on them paying salaries that are really competitive,


Todd Burnham 6:01
and, and investing in these young attorneys. And when they graduate from that learning pod, they are like a mid like a seasoned attorney, that has our kind of mindset about how to handle cases and with supervision of a partner at all times. So we adapted, we are able to take more cases, that and do and continue to do exceptional work by changing the way that we look at bringing people on.

Chris Braden 6:34

Todd Burnham 6:34
Right? So tell me about it. No, this is Belichick. We're just talking about Belichick.

Right. You know? And starting with the partners who's, who's good at what? Danielle is exceptional at training, and teaching. And so as you as you invest in these younger attorneys coming in, you're going to lose her billables. Right?

Chris Braden 6:54

Todd Burnham 6:55
it's not going to be transferring as much you're going to be losing income. Sure. And you just have to trust that this is going to work. Well. This is case of first impression. Like, I don't have a roadmap for this crap. And, and it ends up being this beautiful experience of watching people grow into their positions. And seeing how Danielle has created a unique and novel way of creating from scratch experience. Attorneys. Like it's it says, Hey,

Chris Braden 7:26
That sounds cool. So like, of course, you go out on a limb and faith that this is going to work. Yeah. How long was this going before? You're like, oh, yeah, this is it?

Todd Burnham 7:35
Well, I mean, listening in again, this is just talking to you know, Stephanie, in this regard. And for the same extent, you know, Aaron, you, you do it for a couple months. And you see the numbers dwindling, and you know, more cases that you know, coming in, and at some point, I said, Look, we are not turning off marketing ever that goes against everything really does, we're going to make this work or it's adaptive die, we're burning the ships, right? Like, this is what we're doing. This is not we're not trying to be comfortable. But you can't sacrifice quality. So I don't know about a month or two. And you see that some people were graduating early Christians. One example, who is I would put her up against several experienced attorneys. And today, she just gets it. She just understands it. She knows heart, man, he's smart. And so if we hire people along that vein, then just because you have 90 days of training doesn't mean it's going to take 90 days, maybe one person is going to take 120. And in Chris's situation, it took less than that. And now she's able to handle a caseload. She's able to communicate with partners about like, if she has questions or, you know, if some, she has a tough client, and she's like, I this doesn't work. I'm not, I'm not liking this. And I think that this person is just not going to be a good experience, like having her push through those boundaries and right, and those experiences and like quitting points, and then they grow, they grow. It's just a different way of creating experienced attorneys, if they have the same concepts that we've talked about, you know, working hard and never giving up and wanting to be great. And so and so in that regard, we've adapted in a way that no one else has done, we created a continuing legal education seminar on a daily basis out of the Terry Creek office. And Daniel runs it masterfully. In Aaron's situation, it's like he's growing his firm. And as I've told it talked about before that you have a bad hire. It's a sad fire. Right? Aaron hasn't experienced that, because I think he is taking the time. And he'll tell me all the time that you know, I think I'm doing you know, I think I think you're wrong here, Todd in no way. Just hire someone and then you can build them. Yeah. But if they're not the right person, then you're going to be going down the road of two months, realizing that it's not working, and then you're going to let them go and you're up there reassign all these people, you know, to different lawyers, and I'm happy To say that he's taught me that the way to hire people is the way that he does it. It's not the way that I've done it in the past, right. And it's a different situation because he can teach on the job. And so now he's learning now how to work in the business and on the business and transitioning to be that mentor of the department, while strategizing the cases, and also being involved in every case, so they get the benefit, which is his brain and his mind, and not necessarily his higher billable rate, because you're adding more value, right? So both, both of these divisions have grown differently, because they're really two separate real entities, right? So, you know, you need a learning pod, because the volume is so high with domestic relations, and you need Aaron's mind on things, and not his brawn. Right? I don't need him, he doesn't need to be cranking out like really quality motions, because if you hired correctly, which he has, you have smart people that know how to do these things. And he can oversee. And then he's training, just like I'm doing with him. He's working with Ashley to train her, and that kind of role as well. And so all of these things are working in different ways. And it's not a one size fits. All right. And so for that, I'm like, we would have stalled. And, and because probably, I was able to just consult and not have boots on the ground. And in it, I'm able to look at it from a 30,000 foot view and not give specifics on how to do it just to say, I think you need to go with this direction. And if they agreed or disagreed, we talked about it. But

Chris Braden 11:40
you got to look and say, Man, you guys did a good job. This was the idea. But you made it come to life, that that's really cool. In itself.

Todd Burnham 11:48
It's amazing. Because those are two people that believe in the message, believe in what I've started in the mindset. And we talk with the same language, right? We're not like, I'm not arguing with Aaron about like, the way to market. He's like, like, No man that you tell me which which stuff you have passion for, and we'll market that, you know, but and Stephanie is, you know, they both have drank the Kool Aid. Sure. And if they drank the Kool Aid, then I don't have to spend my time trying to sell them on my on my Kool Aid of choice. We're just talking about different ways to consume. And they're two different people. And I told them, this thing will work so long as you two primarily are able to coexist and figure out how to manage this thing together. And they're doing it and I'm just so proud of both of them and, and being able to be leaders in what they do based on excellence in action is just I'm so proud and humbled. You know,

Chris Braden 12:44
the cool thing about it is and I'm sure you've already thought of it this way, the way that Aaron and Stephanie and you kind of collaborated That's definitely how a sports franchise works. So like, right, let's just take the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example. Not only do does the Pittsburgh Steelers have a culture? You know what a Steeler is when someone says I played for the Steelers, you have an idea of what kind of guy that is. He's like hard nosed. Has the fundamentals right? No gives everything all the time. So you got that, but also on the you know, so that's the culture with Aaron and them got that going. And then with Danielle, the greatest franchises always know how to develop their play and develop the players. That's why the Broncos suck right now. They don't know how to develop players. I mean, Drew lock

could probably do really well, someplace. Oh, yeah. Everyone's like, oh, you

know, what if Justin Herbert came here, and I go, Yeah, well, I have a connection to him. Thank God, he didn't come here. Yeah, cuz he's such a good kid.

Well, no. And look, man, everything we've talked about, like, it all relates to sports, because it's the only thing I really know.

Right? Like my core, right? It worked out just like that.

Todd Burnham 13:53
Because Because the truth doesn't lie, right? It's just how you do it. Right. And so I get fired up. I'm like, Yes, this is exactly what we do. And it wasn't my idea. That's the beauty of this. It wasn't my idea to create this learning pot. It was it was Stephanie's and Danielle's and the other partners. They're like, let's do this. Because it's not because we can't make this thing happen. Like, you can't pay people like you have all these other firms that are paying these mid level attorneys way too much for and saying like, they're they reek of desperation. I want to pay people way too much because they are integral parts of what we're doing. And they've drank the Kool Aid in their there that we want them to hear and they want to be here, right, the rest of the team. It's like you bring in these free agents who then say, well, I'm not going to go to the voluntary minicamp right, because I don't have to because you need me too much. Right, right on any of those things. That all worked because it's the truth. And so I didn't create the idea this was you know, delegating to and giving authority and and control to Stephanie and Aaron in the partners, like they came up with this and they did Belichick. Like, tell me what Danielle is great at role our strength is developing attorneys. Right? Right who now all these people, these other firms are contacting them during working hours on the work email, trying to poach them from our firm. You know, like so.

Chris Braden 15:20
But now they don't want to leave, and they're on the team. And that's

Todd Burnham 15:23
the job is to make sure they don't want to leave, right, you know, so you've got to maintain your your competitive drive and being competitive on the salaries and the benefits. And really only want people here that want to be great anyway, you know. And so then like this one firm, a couple firms, like keep trying to poach our people. And we're like, I, if you don't want to be here, go for it. I'm just telling you, and all these other people in the law firm would that have experienced to say, look, I've been at all these different places, including those two firms, right? Like, they're gonna promise you this, and they're gonna stick you in a corner, you're never gonna get in the courtroom, you're ever gonna be part of a team, and it's going to be stressed out and politics, we just don't have any of that crap. And when you get reinforcement from people that are boots on the ground that actually know and have experienced these things, it's so much more powerful to hear it from people that have been there than me saying, We're the best. Why would you ever leave? You know, it's it doesn't make sense. Yeah.

Chris Braden 16:17
So now you're wearing pinstripes man.

Todd Burnham 16:19
Exactly. What are you doing? Right. So you have these. And so it's, it's, it's like, it's humbling. People want to poach our people, because we train really well. And we have a team based mentality. So if you, you come in and are successful in taking, you know, in persuading one of our attorneys to leave good for you. And it's going to be a learning experience for that person. That's just how it is. Oh, the

Chris Braden 16:43
cool thing, too, is, you know, I want to persuade everyone who's listening to this, maybe this is the first podcast, if you go listen to the rest of the podcasts, and even Stephanie Randles, you are set up to keep these people because one of your greatest assets left and came back. Yeah. Yeah. True story. The grass isn't always greener on the other side,

Todd Burnham 17:04
no, and she in the things that she's doing right now. And all of the benefits to her life and her family and her, her calling or passion are being met. Right? We are meeting all the needs, I believe, of the people that work here. And if we're not, we're asking what we can do to meet those needs, right? Where else would you want to be? The only other thing that you would want to do I tell you this all the time, you want to go off and start your own firm, and you've been part of us and what we're all about that I'm here to help, I'll help you do that. You won't you mean that I do mean that you won't make as much money, and you won't have as much time. So I don't know the benefit of that. Right?

Chris Braden 17:46
I'm gonna go listen to the podcast and start their own

Todd Burnham 17:48
it, I tell you what you can and people can emulate this, but you gotta you're gonna bleed for it. It's it's, it's not as easy. And so the benefits are hardheaded. That's true. I know. And I, but the benefit now is that these people have profit the partners, especially profit sharing to a certain extent, and they don't have any personal liability. Like I have all the personal liability stuff, right. So I mean, like, I believe in this 100%. And I'm willing to give the majority of it away. Because I want this to be the place where us, you are forever, not just for the next couple years, dude. So it was this success. Total success. Yeah. Because because of the people not because of me.

Chris Braden 18:29
And you know, the cool thing about just sitting here talking to you and seeing you just being really proud of your people. It's different than you doing it. Totally. Yeah, you're like, Oh, my God, I knew they could do it. Yeah, but they totally freakin proved it. To me. This is amazing.

Todd Burnham 18:44
I mean, I didn't talk to anybody for like a week and a half to two weeks. Right. As you were out playing on a surfboard, I'm just figuring it out. I needed a space, right? And then I'm when I'm consulting, it's like, I'm talking to someone the same language. I'm not trying to convince someone of what I'm saying. Like they're already doing what I've already talked about. So now it's like we're together trying to figure out something how to move forward in a direction that neither of us have been before. Sure. Now I have people that are with me, it's not a leading now I have leaders and that is success.

Chris Braden 19:14
That's good, man. Right, man, right. Good job.

Todd Burnham 19:20
Catch you later. Hey, thanks for listening. Make sure you subscribe, and until next time, keep getting better.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai