Episode 7 – Gerry Oginski: Attracting Clients with Internet Video

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Gerry Oginski

Gerry Oginski

The Law Offices of Gerald M. Oginski, LLC

Gerry enjoyed his solo practice and did a great job for clients. But one Friday afternoon his secretary/paralegal gave him a wake-up call he’ll never forget: she pointed out he wasn’t replenishing resolved cases with new ones. For the next five years, he scrambled and experimented until one-day in 2007, he posted a poorly-produced video on YouTube and within days, the phone began to ring. In the years since, he’s generated over 2,100 education videos that have attracted a steady stream of clients. And he’s having a blast.

Full Interview Transcript

Michael: My guest today is Gerry Oginski, a medical malpractice and personal injury attorney practicing in New York. I’m really excited because Gerry’s recorded over 2100 educational videos to market his practice and we’re going to speak today about how he managed to do that while practicing law and the impact it’s had on his firm and also he’s launched a separate business The Lawyers Video Studio and I’m looking forward to learning about that too. So, thanks for joining me, Gerry.

Gerry: Thanks for having me, Michael. I appreciate it.

Michael: Yeah, you bet, you bet. I think it’d be kind of cool to just get a sense of, maybe your story, what were you doing when you first started practicing law, what kind of firm?

Gerry: I was in a defense firm. I was doing medical malpractice and personal injury defense on Wall Street and I basically did, almost an internship and residency or as my boss at the time liked to say, “I gave four years of my life like in the Army,” but it was the best training ever. And then, I realized, you know what? I could better serve people who are injured and wound up going to the plaintiff side. And as my wife says, she says I went over to the dark side. But in any event, so four years of defense work which was great training, learned how to try cases in New York City. And then I wound up doing plaintiffs work representing injured victims, med mal and personal injury and that’s what I’ve been doing up until now. I’ve been in practice 27 years.

Michael: Right. I’m really interested, what were some of the shifts in your personal perspective that had to occur when you went to the other side?

Gerry: I’ll tell you, I knew in Law School that I wanted to do medical malpractice work, and I thought that the best way that I could gain the experience would be to go to a defense firm, because they just had such a significant volume of cases. So that’s what I did and while there I learned incredible trial skills from some great trial attorneys, and that was the springboard because I knew at some point in the future I would want to go ahead and actually represent injured victims plus it’s more profitable when you’re on the plaintiff side. And I knew from being a defense attorney for years, you’re a salaried employee that there’s nowhere to go after you reach a certain point in the firm and especially the firm I was in, it was run by one guy.

You might think that he’s a dictator, but the reality was, he owned the firm and he had family members within the firm and it was the best place to work in New York City, honestly, the best, because I got the greatest training from them. But at the same time, you knew that once you got your experience, there was nowhere else to go. You reached a pinnacle and that was it. And either you stayed there for years and years and never went anywhere else, or you moved on and the majority of attorneys there did move on after a number of years.

Michael: Got it. So, but here’s what I was getting at. I have this perception or this sense that, when you’re on the defense side and you’re visualizing being on the other side, that you have some thoughts about what that’s going to be like, and I’m interested in understanding when you actually made the switch what were the ways it was in fact different than you were visualizing.

Gerry: The one big observation that I made was that instead of handling 150-200 cases, I was now handling 20 cases. Huge, huge difference. So now I could actually know every single thing that was going on with each of my cases, with each of my clients. Before it was simply putting out fires all the time. You could never get a handle on every single thing that was going on. Always racing, always some emergency happening, but when I started plaintiffs work, I realized that there isn’t a mass volume of cases. You’re working on significant cases and you have to devote that time, and you learn each and every file and every aspect of it. That to me was very important, and very eye opening.

Michael: Did that enable you to get better results, because I think any defense attorney would fantasize that, “Oh, if I only had 50% of my case volume, I’d be so much better.” Did you see that actually have that impact?

Gerry: Yeah, because you have a different mindset now. Now, there’s no rush to constantly put out fires, you can be proactive and actually spend the time to get to know your clients, visit with them, get to know the file, meet with the experts, and literally spend the time to prepare your cases for trial, in the years leading up to it. And that’s really important that as a defense attorney, we never really had the opportunity. So, we would come in on a Monday morning and a file would be thrown at us and saying, “Fine, this case is going to trial on Friday.” Friday? What do you mean, Friday? And you’ve got a couple days to prepare and scramble, and you’ve got to go and try the case starting Friday. And that’s totally different now when you’ve got a smaller number of cases to work on, that you have the time to devote and it’s so much more liberating.

Michael: Well, let me also ask too and forgive me if this sounds like a dumb question, but how does getting to know the people behind the cases impact your ability to be effective, I mean, isn’t it just about the facts and the law?

Gerry: I’d say no. I’d say the best trial attorneys in New York, especially, are ones who, not just meet with their client during the initial consultation for an hour, but the ones who make the effort to go to their home to learn who they are, to learn about their spouse, about their family, their kids. What environment are they in? Because you begin to see things that you can’t see in a piece of paper on a file. You begin to get a sense of what happened to them, how these injuries have effected them on a daily basis and you can’t make that connection, you cannot see that at all simply by one interaction with them in your office for an hour. It just doesn’t work.

Michael: Well, so can you give me an example of some insight that you had because of that deeper knowledge that had a tangible impact on the outcome of the case?

Gerry: Yeah, I represented a gentleman who suffered a massive heart attack, young gentleman 37 years old. Actually, 34 years old, who his wife called me to see if I could come and help them, and I visited them. I remember very clearly, at their home in Brooklyn. And the moment I got to their home, I’m looking around to see what type of neighborhood they’re living in, are they well to do, are they not, where do they live, what type of car do they drive, all these are subconscious things going on in my mind. Because they couldn’t come to me. He was significantly disabled.

So I made the effort and that’s not a problem to go to them. But the moment you walk in the door, you begin to sense something that you can’t get when they come to you. You begin to get a sense of, what’s happening in the home, what’s happening right now, what’s the smell, what do I see. By making the observations of the type of furnishings that they have. Again, these don’t have direct impact on the case itself, but they give me a better understanding of who these people are, are they blue collar workers, are they you know the top of the food chain, what type of person are they. And now you can begin to get a sense of where were they before, where are they now, where are they going to be in the next few years because of this horrible disability. And how is this injury going to effect his life on an ongoing basis. And I could never have gotten all this information from a phone call, or from having them come to my office.

Michael: Okay, so how does that translate into value on the outcome of the case?

Gerry: Sure. Now when I’m talking to the defense attorney and talking to the insurance adjuster, and getting in front of a jury, or talking to the judge, now I can express to them, with empathy, who these people are. “Judge, this is a working class stiff. He now has come in. He was the highest paid mortgage broker in his entire industry. He got…oh, you should see all these awards that he’s got lined up in his study. He’s got 35 awards.” Again, it just imparts more useful information that brings it to a human level that you can’t get if you don’t make that effort. That to me was a huge difference and I find that really the best attorneys do that.

Michael: Yeah, and it seems like an important part of getting a good award is making it a story versus just dry data.

Gerry: Absolutely. And that’s what, one of the things that I use in my marketing messages because you have to tell the clients story. You have to give people a reason to get interested in your cause. What was the injustice, what was the wrongdoing that occurred, and why does it affect you, whether you’re a jury member, whether you’re the insurance adjuster, whether you’re the defense attorney. Why is this of interest to you? It’s interesting because all this stuff adds value to what happened to this guy, and to his injuries. So I think that’s really useful.

Michael: Now, do you find that it even helps you on the settlement side, and I don’t mean that like, “Look, this story is going to sell really well to the jury.” I mean that you’re able to actually affect the defense attorney’s perspective just on the value of the case directly.

Gerry: Yes, and I’ll give you a great example. So, I settled a case last year, where my client was not the most personable, lovely, wonderful, warm, cuddly guy. He had clear personality flaws. And they were very clear and obvious to everyone involved on the case and I had to almost like workshop to figure out what to do with this because I knew that a jury would not like my client if they learned all these horrible personality traits. I mean there were issues where he was abusive, aggressive, violent. All these things are not good when you come in front of a jury and ask for compensation for his disability. If a jury doesn’t like the client, they’re not going to like you and give him sufficient compensation.

So, with that information, I had to tell a story to the defense attorney. And the story was, here’s why this guy deserves this compensation. And the first thing they come back with, “Yeah, but he was an abuser. He was an alcoholic. He was this.” I said, “You know what, you’re absolutely right, and we make no bones about that, no excuses. There are none.” And so what I did by saying that was simply diffused that, simply said, “Yes, you’re right. Now, let’s move on to the real issue here.” And the moment I did that, that gave so much more credibility to what the story was behind the wrongdoing and his injuries and why the family should receive full compensation then if I were to turn around and say, “No, this was the best thing. He was a boy scout. He was a choir boy.” You can’t do that. So, had I not known those details and accepted it and used it to our advantage, we would have had a much worse of an outcome.

Michael: Right, and that’s a really good insight too. I’ve noticed over the years, a lot of attorneys like to fight every point on principle that, we’re doing battle here, and I’ve got to have a front you know that presents as opposing everything at all times.

Okay, so first four years at a defense firm and then you went over to the plaintiff side, did you go into practice for yourself at that point, or what was the next chapter for you?

Gerry: No. I went to a firm on Court Street in Brooklyn, a plaintiffs firm, small firm, two attorneys. They had a good influx of cases from their referral sources which there was really no advertising being done, it was mostly from referrals. And I was the junior guy now handling a lot of the med mal and PI stuff. And I got thrown into depositions and I got thrown into cases that the two senior attorneys didn’t want to try and it was again a great way for me to get more trial experience. And I had already gotten a tons of trial experience from the defense side, but now working for these two attorneys in a small law firm; it was a great chance to take on another role, more responsibility handle these cases from start to finish, which I wasn’t always doing in my prior firm. I would sometimes just do the depositions, do discovery, and then the case would go off to a trial attorney. Here I would do everything start to finish.

Michael: Yeah, okay. And so, how long did you do that?

Gerry: Four years.

Michael: Okay, so eight years into practice, is that when you went out on your own?

Gerry: No, then I wound up reconnecting with a friend of mine from law school who had a big personal injury firm in Queens. He and I got to talking one day. We met in court, and he said, “We would love the opportunity to do more med mal cases.” And I say, “Well, that’s pretty much all I’m doing.” And so, I decided I was going to go to this firm in Queens, but maintain a separate office for myself where I would handle all the firms medical malpractice cases, and that’s exactly what I did for the next six years.

Michael: Okay. So now, when did you start using videos to generate leads and referrals?

Gerry: Okay, so that brings me to 2002. At that point I realized, “You know what, I can do this on my own. The firm that I’m with, they’re great people, great partners, but they’re really the umbrella for me. They’re paying the overhead. And you know what, I can do the same thing and I don’t have to share my fees with the firm.” So I decided at that point, I’m going to go out on my own and so I had the itch to create and start my own practice. I wanted to be solo because the only people I wanted to answer to was my client. So, I was able to take all of my cases. We had a great arrangement with my partner, with my former firm, and I took all my existing cases. And I thought this is great and over the next two years things are going wonderfully. I’m handling these cases. I’m getting great results, great settlements, great verdicts.

And then all of a sudden, I’ll never forget this, it’s a Friday afternoon, and I had one secretary who was also a paralegal. As she’s getting ready to leave for the day she comes over to me and says, “Gerry, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’ve been getting some really good results, but you’re not replenishing the cases you are settling or taking a verdict.” She said, “If you don’t figure out a way to come in with some new cases quickly, you’re not going to be able to pay my salary. You won’t be able to pay the rent. You won’t be able to pay your bills.” I’m like, oh my god, that hit me like a ton of bricks because I had realized I’m having more and more free time because I wasn’t handling more incoming cases and I didn’t know what the hell to do. There was nobody…I had no mentor to teach me about marketing or advertising.

Michael: Can I ask you?

Gerry: Yeah.

Michael: Were all those cases that you had at that time, have they all been generated by the partners at the other firm or did you have a bit of a flow on your own?

Gerry: It was a combination. So, I would get referrals from other attorneys, from people that I knew, and former clients. And now, those cases would come to me and my firm would give me cases, so now the cases I did take, I thought, “Hey, because I’m a good attorney and I’m getting great results, I’ll continue to get great referrals.” Well, what I didn’t know at that time was that was that totally wrong. And I didn’t know that my referral sources could dry up, and I’m staring there in the room wondering, “Why isn’t my phone ringing?” And it was horrible for me because it was very frustrating, anxiety-provoking, and I didn’t know what to do.

So I did what most attorneys who, at least at that time, did personal injury work did. I ran to my Yellow Pages rep, literally ran. I said, “You’ve got to help me. I need cases coming in.” And she gladly sold me a full-paid page Yellow Pages ad in color no less, for $25,000. That was for one year, I had no money. I had no budget. I had no marketing budget and she told me, “All you need is one case.” And I remember that phrase to this day, because for the couple of years that I did run that ad, that’s all I would get, one case from that stupid ad. But here’s the problem, I didn’t know what it meant to be on page 9 of the Yellow Pages in my section. What I quickly learned is that the only people who would call me were someone who had been rejected by the first eight lawyers in the first part of the book, who are now calling the ninth lawyer saying, “Take my case, please.” And that was horrible, absolutely horrible.

So it paid for the ad, but that’s it. And I realized, “You know what, this is bad, really, really bad.” I can’t figure out how to get more cases in. So I started to go online to look for information about, “Somebody, please somebody help me. I want information how to market my practice.” And there was really nobody in the country who was sharing that information. I couldn’t ask my competitors, so I began to learn about this concept in 2004 called education-based marketing from two really smart guys. One was a guy selling pool and spa supplies to the industry, and the another was a legal marketer. And all they did was say, “Listen, why don’t you create articles to help your ideal client or consumer understand something about your business?”

At the time I had a crappy website that was very static and it had nothing on it. And I said, “You know what, I’ve got some free time. Why don’t I just start writing an article or two?” And so, each week, I’d write an article about something that I thought my clients would find useful and I’d put it on my website. And so, okay, that’s interesting. But I didn’t really notice any results. It wasn’t until many months later when I had put a good number of articles on the website, that I noticed that my traffic started to increase. And occasionally I’d get a call from somebody who said, “Hey Gerry, I saw your article on your website. Can I ask you some questions?” Okay, that was fine. But it wasn’t what I really needed.

So then, now, fast forward two years, it’s 2006, I’m still struggling. I’m still resolving my cases, doing a great job. I’m not improving my referral sources, and then I notice that there’s a new website that came online. And it had this crazy tagline, it said “Now accepting user-generated video content.” I didn’t know what that meant. And I decide to look around the website and I see, for lawyers anyway, that there were some marketing companies who took TV ads, a 30-second TV ad for an attorney and just threw it up on their website. And I’m watching this stuff and I’m looking at it saying, “I don’t understand. Why would anybody in their right mind voluntarily want to watch a 30-second ad of their life? I don’t get it. You’re not learning anything.”

And then I had this crazy idea. I said, “What if I were to take the information in an article I wrote and somehow,” I didn’t know how, “Put it in the form of a video?” Oh and by the way, the name of that little website was called YouTube. And there were no lawyers in the country who had put up a piece of educational content anywhere, nobody knew how to do it, nobody was teaching you how to do it. I just thought that maybe if I put it in a video, somebody who was searching could actually learn something. They might get to see me and hear me, and I thought, this is crazy and I told my wife this, and my wife said, “Are you crazy? Nobody’s ever going to watch an attorney on video.” And I said, “You know what, you might be right but I have to try. I’ve got to do something. I’m desperate. Because I need to generate more calls, and cases.” The problem was, I knew nothing about video, I knew nothing about audio, I knew nothing about lighting. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to say, I actually had to ask my kids how to turn on the webcam on my Mac computer because I didn’t know how to do it.

So I wrote out a whole thing of what I wanted to talk about. I’m shooting video actually right here, in my office here, my second floor of my home, but I was embarrassed, I didn’t want people to see where I was, so I put up a grey screen projector behind me. I’m in a suit and tie, just from the waist up. I’m wearing shorts. I’m sitting six inches in front of the computer and you can see the glare in my glasses. The video was the worst in creation. It was dark. It was grainy. It was pixelated, horrible, awful.

And then it took me a couple weeks to figure out how to put it up online, while I’m still practicing law, preparing my cases for depositions, handling discovery, dealing with going into court and conferences, and I’m up until all hours of the night. And my kids are asking me, “Daddy, come in and tell me a story.” And my wife said, “Come on, you’ve got other obligations.” I’m like, “No, no, I have to do this.” So I’m getting torn. Nobody’s supporting me with this idea. This video was six minutes long. The worst video in creation. I managed to somehow put it up online after weeks of frustration and over the period of weeks, I began to get phone calls, “Mr. Oginski, I just saw your video online, something similar happened to me. Can I ask you some questions?” “Can you ask me some questions? Of course you can. Please, what do you want to talk about?”

And that for me was the light bulb that went off, that made me realize, “You know what, maybe this concept can actually work, where somebody who is looking for information can really learn a piece of information they didn’t know, and get to know me and pick up the phone and call if they want more information. And I think that was the beginning of the attorney video marketing revolution. It was for me anyway in 2006 and 2007. And that prompted me to go ahead and start creating another video, and another and another. And it you fast forward nine years now, as you mentioned, I have quite a number of videos that consistently generate calls, generate cases, and have generated results all because of this small little concept called education-based marketing.

Michael: Right, I’m curious, is that first video, is that still online?

Gerry: It is. The title of that video is called, now this is something so simple, “How to Hire a New York Medical Malpractice Attorney.” So you can go onto YouTube, find that, you’ll watch it and you will laugh because you will see how horrible that video is.

Michael: Yes. The other thing that I noticed too, kind of poking around your videos on YouTube, is they all seem to be about 3 minutes, 20 to 3 minutes 40 long. Is that sort of a thing now, is that the ideal length?

Gerry: Yeah, I’d say the ideal length is two to three minutes. Okay, and I’ll tell you why, it’s because your goal with creating an educational message is to generate trust with someone who’s giving you some of their time to learn something. You can’t generate trust in a 30-second video. You can’t do it in a one-minute video. But by two minutes, by two and a half to three minutes, you can generate trust. And that can generate somebody to watch another video, lead them into your website, read an article, pick up the phone and call and say, “Hey Michael, I just saw something you have on your video. Can I ask you questions?” So, it’s all about generating trust.

Michael: But why not go longer than that? Is that the upper limit, you think?

Gerry: So here’s the answer to the question. There are many marketing experts who turn around and say, “No, no, you shouldn’t create such a long video. You should only create it like 35-40 seconds, a minute at most because most people don’t have an attention span.” And I say to that, you’re full of it because you can’t generate trust in such a short time period. On the other hand, somebody who’s got a problem is looking for information about what, about how to solve their problem. Now, if I give them information in a short bite-sized segment two to three minutes, they begin to recognize I have more of that information.

Oftentimes, I find that people don’t want to sit around for 10, 15, 20 minutes listening to an attorney drone on and on and on about that particular topic, separate and apart from them talking about themselves or how great they are. They want to know two things; how can you help solve my legal problems. And I don’t want to know everything you know. Just tell me enough so that I trust you, so I can call you, and then you can handle my problems. So that’s the long answer to your question.

Michael: Okay, okay. So, what sort of impact did that have, I guess, what was that, 2006-2007, that’s when you started producing these consistently, what impact did that have on your practice and case volume over the years that followed?

Gerry: It allowed me to begin, two things happened. When I would get people to come into the office, they would walk in look around and say, “Mr. Oginski you look just like you did on the video and your office looks exactly the same.” I’d say, “I hope so.” But that did a remarkable thing, because they started to develop trust with me, no longer would they come in deciding whether I was the right one for them. Instead they came in already with the assumption that already they wanted to hire me. Huge dramatic shift, I’ve never had that before in my life. Before what would happen was somebody would come into the office and say, “Hey, listen. I’m talking to three different lawyers. Why are you the right one for me and what can you do better that the other ones can’t?”

So now, I’m competing with everybody else out there, but when I started creating these educational videos, now everything shifted. The mindset of the person who is coming to me was, “Mr. Oginski, I saw your videos. You are the right one for me. I want to hire you.” And then I would have the luxury of telling them whether or not I wanted to accept their case. Huge, huge shift and that has continued till this day. People actually get offended when I tell them on the telephone, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” “But what do you mean. I loved your information you had such great stuff. I want you as my attorney. I said, “I’m sorry but I can’t help everyone,” and then get very defensive. So, those are the two important shifts that I’ve never ever seen before and it’s a remarkable change. And people who create these educational messages really, the whole goal is, get somebody to learn from you, they’ll trust you and now when they want information, they’ll call you and say, “Michael, you were so right. I have the same problem that you talked about that you were able to help solve this other person’s problem. You’re the right one for me. Please take my case.”

Michael: Right, right. Okay. So, at the start of that process of your having to market yourself, your paralegal was warning you that you were at risk of having to close your doors and then the dynamic changed, what did that do…I mean just how many cases were you handling once you were in that position where you got to pick and choose?

Gerry: Well, as a solo, you can’t handle more than anywhere from 10 to 15 cases, at least with the medical malpractice cases, because they’re very intensive and you just from a capacity standpoint, you can’t handle more than that. So it allowed me the ability to pick and choose the ones that I was interested in, and the ones that I thought I couldn’t handle or thought that I didn’t want. I would then make referrals to other attorneys. And that was another side benefit to generating these calls because now I was able to build up a referral network with attorneys not just in New York, but across the country because these people were calling from all over the place, every state imaginable even though I say that I’m a New York attorney.

They say “Mr. Oginski, I’m in California, I have this problem exactly like you talked about in your video, please help me.” “I’m sorry I only practice in New York. I can send you to this attorney who handles case.” And now we develop relationships with attorneys in other states. So that was a direct benefit of having these cases and calls come in. And it also allowed me to pick and choose which ones I wanted to handle. So the ones that were more significant were obviously the ones that I was ideally looking for, the ones that I could not handle or didn’t have enough value, then I politely declined them and send them off to somebody else who I thought might be able to help them.

Michael: So one thing I wonder about is, that is obviously a strategic approach. I’m going to pick the very best cases. But another approach could be, “Hey, I’m going to use all this business to start growing my empire. Start hiring people, getting paralegals, associates, etc. Why did you choose the one path versus the other?

Gerry: I like being independent. I like being solo. I’ve been in firms, defense firms, plaintiffs firms, a small firm. I’ve been in a firm with 20 attorneys. For me, I don’t like having to answer to anyone. The only people who I have to answer to are my clients, and I know I’m fully responsible to them and I’m accountable to them and I know I provide a good legal service. So I always prefer to handle these cases on my own, and it’s something that I enjoy doing. One thing that your viewers may find interesting is that, when you make the decision into type of practice area that you’re in, it makes a huge difference about whether those types of cases or that type of legal work is typically handled by an entire team, or whether you can handle it with just one or two attorneys. There’s a big difference.

So the Med Mal stuff, you should know, is very time-intensive, resource-intensive and I like digging into it knowing every single aspect of my case. For me, that was critical, and being able to have a small number of cases gave me that opportunity. And what’s really interesting is that for med mal, out of 100 calls I will receive, I will only bring into the office only one of them. So there is only 1% rate of people coming in, and then I have to vet the case. So now, I’ve got to spend time and money and energy to see whether we have a valid case. And of those cases that come in, two-thirds of them didn’t even have merit.

So a very, very small percentage of the cases that I would actually bring into the office actually turned out to have merit, and that’s typically 1% to 2% of all attorneys in New York who handle med mal cases. It’s not like a PI case where you get hit and you know exactly what the injuries are, you can file suit the next day. On med mal, you’ve got to be absolutely sure. You’ve got a valid case and you’ve got an expert to support your claim, because if you’re not highly selective at the beginning, you’re done. You’re going to be out of business very quickly because these cases are very intense.

Michael: I understand, right. So that’s why having such a wide net is so valuable?

Gerry: Yes.

Michael: Right, Okay. How much time were you spending once you got rolling with this concept, what was sort of the division of generating content, to the legal work?

Gerry: Okay, it started off where I was doing all my legal work then doing a little bit of marketing, and as I began to realize that the more marketing I did, the more calls and cases I could generate, then all of a sudden I began to do more and more of the marketing, because I saw the direct correlation. I’ll give you a great example, here’s a great little story that will clearly help your viewers understand how this worked. So, two summers ago, I’m sitting at my kitchen table eating breakfast, reading the New York Post and there’s a story that came out about a gentleman that died at JFK Airport. He was 47 years old, arrived from an international flight and collapsed in the terminal, terminal 4.

But the article said that the port authority officers and the emergency personnel couldn’t get to him in time. They were delayed because their swipe cards to get in there didn’t work, and it was a newly renovated terminal that’s why they couldn’t get in quickly. So the article suggested that because of the delay, that’s what caused this guy’s death. So I handle wrongful death cases, and I’m thinking, “Okay. How can I create information that will help somebody in that position?” Understand how these types of cases work. So I had an idea, I created a video that morning. I put it up online by the afternoon, and exactly four days later I got an email and a call from a gentleman who told me he was a family friend representing the guy who died at JFK Airport. And he said three things to me in the email and the voicemail that are really important, he said, “Mr. Oginski, we just saw your YouTube video. We want to hire you as our attorney.”

Wow, I had never before had such a quick response and I was not marketing for this case, I wanted people in a similar situation to learn how these types of cases worked. So, you might be thinking, “What could I possibly have said in a three-minute video that generated trust with these people who didn’t know me, who didn’t know an attorney, that prompted them to, number one find my video, watch it to the end, compel them to pick up and call, and here’s the kicker, they had the presumption that they wanted me as their attorney.” Not I’m interviewing three different lawyers, “You’re one of them? No, no, we want you as our attorney.” This works if you do it right.

So what did I teach them, I taught them, “Here’s what you would need to know if you were contemplating bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of New York or the Port Authority of New York.” I never mentioned the guy’s name, I said 47-year old gentleman dies at JFK Airport. Here’s what you would need to know if you’re in a similar situation. And I used the story to highlight what a family would need to focus on and to learn about in a wrongful death case here in New York.

So it all goes to generating trust and when you do that, people are interested, they learn. They say, “Hey Michael, I had the same thing happen to me. Please help me. I need your help. I see you’ve helped other people with similar things.” And so that’s what has been able to generate calls where people say, “The same exact thing happened to me,” and to me that’s just remarkable. So, the answer to your question was, I’m sorry for the long winded answer, it’s how much of my time, as I realized the marketing would drive traffic, more and more of my time would be spent marketing. And by default, I’d be spending less and less time with the legal practice to the point where now, at this point, I’ve actually removed myself from the daily handling of cases and are now focusing pretty much entirely on the marketing of generating of calls.

Michael: Right, okay. Well, and I want to ask about that, but one thing I wondered, so during that period were you 50-50, were you….

Gerry: Yeah, the majority of it. I would say it was more 70% handling the cases, 30% the marketing and then it slowly began to shift. But I still had to service my cases, service my clients, make sure I had everything done that I needed to and there’s nobody telling me, no partner, nobody else, telling me, “You got to get this done.” No, I’m highly organized and I know what needs to be done, and I know my deadlines I have everything organized. So, I’m never one to say, “Okay, this is slacking off, now I got to pick up the pace here.” For me personally, I know what has to be done and I always get it done.

Michael: Yes. So, and along those lines, do you have a routine where you maybe do the videos in the afternoon so that you get your casework done, or is it mornings or is it pretty much…how do you organize that, again going back to that period where you were doing both?

Gerry: I would find the time, at first, I’d start out once a month where I’d set aside about an hour, an hour and a half and shut off the phones, close the doors, have nobody in or interrupt me. And then I would go ahead and shoot a whole series of videos. I don’t know, I’d shoot maybe 10, 12, 15 videos in one sitting. And then over the next month or two, I would go ahead and start to edit those. And I would start to slowly begin in the interim’s when I had free time in the evening mostly, after the kids would go to bed, I’d now go online and start editing and putting them up online. And that’s how it started and that’s how it’s continued on a regular basis.

Michael: Okay, and I imagine over time you got more knowledgeable about how to think about keywords and all that sort of thing. Did you do anything specific to learn about that stuff?

Gerry: Yeah, after my first video disaster with the first one I had online, I started to look around for other people who would teach you, and ideally, I wanted someone to do it all for me because I didn’t want to do this myself. I didn’t want to spend the time. I want to learn another profession or another business, I just wanted somebody to do it so I could go back to practicing law which is what I enjoyed doing, I loved that. But there was honestly nobody in the country. Let’s see if I can find this. Ah, here we go. So I came across a guy online and I have this here, this is a COULD, actually a DVD, it’s called “Internet Killed the Video Star.” It’s a guide to creating video for the web. This is a three and a half hour, by a guy named Aharon Rabinowitz, great guy. But this goes back to 2007, 2008 and there was nobody in the country teaching anybody how to put video online.

So I figured, “Okay. I’m going to go all out. I’m going to spend the money, get a DVD, learn everything I can.” Well, I have to tell you, this…oh no, I’m sorry. It’s four and a half hours, the video tutorials that I watch, I’m reading it on the back. I will never get back theses four and a half hours of my life. I didn’t understand a single thing he said in this entire DVD. And I keep this here on my shelf as a direct reminder of how much time I wasted trying to learn how to create these videos. So for him, I thank him for trying to give me an education, but you know what, it just didn’t work because it was so technical that I just didn’t understand any of it. So, ideally, I would’ve loved if somebody just said, “Hey Gerry, let me do this for you.”

And if that happened, I probably never would have been on this journey, gone down this path. So it was all trial and error, all of it, and it was horrible because I pull out what little hair I had left. I’d spend countless hours figuring out formats and technical details and all the stuff about what camera to use and what microphone to use and what lighting, how do I do it, where do I go. Nobody taught you. The trial and error was very frustrating and the results were not good because I get crappy video, crappy audio, I couldn’t use it. I’d have to redo a whole video and it was just a lot of wasted time and energy. But with trial and error like anything else, you eventually learn what not to do. So now you begin good at learning what to do.

And over the course of two years, I began to realize you know what, I could put up more of these videos and here’s something that I might also be able to help other lawyers do too. And that was the impetus for me to say, “You know what, I could offer this as a service to other lawyers. And that’s what I decided to do when I created the Lawyers Video Studio. “Hey, I can do this. I’ve done it. Let me show you why it’s worked for me. Let me show you how you can do it, too.”

Michael: So is that a training firm or is that kind of a done for you thing or some of both, how is that structured?

Gerry: For a good number of years, it was simply a done-for-you service, where I’d come into your office and you’d say, “Okay. I want to do 50 videos and now we have a whole process for getting you 50 videos done in one day. And then we’d drip that content out over the course of six months or a year.” And then after a while, people would come to me and say, “Hey, I want to learn how to do this on my own.” I’d say you know what, I’m more than happy to teach you. So we created a training program to teach mostly small business owners and attorneys how to do it on their own, the same way I leaned to do it, but simply speeding up the process to teach them what to do, so they don’t have to do the trial and error about what not to do.

Michael: Right, right. You mentioned that you’ve pretty much stopped handling cases, and yet you’ve got all this, you’ve got this whole funnel in place that’s generating leads so are you primarily referring those cases out at this point?

Gerry: I do, that’s my entire goal. So now I’m continuing with the marketing, continuing with creating my own videos and my other stuff I’m doing online. And so now when somebody calls me, the whole point is, “Listen, I’ve now taken a step back from the day-to-day handling of these particular cases but there are excellent attorneys that I can refer you to, and here are a few of their numbers.” So now they have the best of both worlds. They’re interested. They’ve learned something they didn’t know. They now have a better understanding of how their legal problem works, and what solutions might be available. And now I can send them to somebody who is an excellent firm, an excellent attorney and who now can service the client and handle their legal problem.

Michael: Right. So I’m interested in how you made that decision, is it sort of creative fulfillment or is it, did you see a better business opportunity? I mean, why make that shift?

Gerry: It was a personal shift for me, one that I saw that I thought I could best help these clients do on a day-to-day basis where I thought that they would, I don’t know, how best to answer that. I think that it was really a personal view, that being in practice 27 years at this point, you reach a point where you say, “I love taking depositions of a doctor. I love doing cross examination of a doctor in a medical malpractice case.” For me, there’s nothing more exciting, being able to go up against that. But I’ll tell you, in all honesty, it is stressful. It is exhausting. It is time-consuming. It is all consuming and when you are a sole practitioner and now you’re involved in a case on trial, there’s nobody to answer the phones. There’s nobody to answer and take care of your other cases. And that’s the honestly the one drawback of being a solo attorney who also tries cases because you don’t have anybody else in the office taking care of all the other things that have to get done.

So, you asked the question earlier, why didn’t I simply branch out and hire associates and secretaries, paralegals. That was not the route I personally wanted to take. I didn’t want to be responsible for a big firm, have big overhead, have big offices, and I’m sure I could’ve tried to go down that route. But for me, from a personal standpoint, I wanted to be closer to home. I wanted to be able to get up and do something if I needed to with my kids and my family and I didn’t want to be held down, because I’d heard, I know a lot of attorneys who are in big firms, senior partners who love what they do, don’t get me wrong, but they’re held captive by this ball and chain. They are captive to their firm they are captive to their clients and everything they do revolves around their firm. And that was not the ideal situation for me personally.

Michael: Right, in other words, ultimately the business exists to serve you, not the other way around.

Gerry: Right. Correct. So for me it was a personal choice.

Michael: Yeah. My gosh, you’ve developed a lot of expertise. Looking at all the videos on your site, and on Lawyers Video Studio, there’s a ton of content there. But I just sort of wonder if you have any sort of guiding tips or suggestions for law firm leaders who want to use video to grow their firm or attract business, any sort of primary thoughts on that topic?

Gerry: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things to think about, and honestly I think as attorneys we actually have an obligation. I really truly believe this is an obligation that we have as attorneys, to teach and educate our consumers, our clients. And the more that you teach and educate them before they call, you do a number of things. You’re giving a great service to the community, because now they have a great resource where they can learn from. And remember you’re not giving them the law, but instead you’re teaching them how things work, and that’s a huge difference.

And the other thing is that by teaching and educating them with your specific area of law, in an engaging, exciting, enthusiastic way, all of a sudden people are interested who are searching for this information and you have to think about this standpoint, from the consumers mindset, your ideal client, when they’re going online and they want to learn about how something works, once they begin to find a source, a trusted source for more information, they’re going to keep coming back to it over and over and over again. And now when they want more information, if they can’t get all of the information they need, where do you think they are going to go for the rest of it?

They are more likely prone to call you, the person who’s given them that information and say, “Hey, Mr. Jones, I just saw this great information you just put up on YouTube, I’m in the same situation. Can I ask you some questions? I need your help. So, if firms approach it from that, and I know law firms that are big corporate firms, they have a hundred attorneys, two hundred attorneys and bigger, and they turn around and say, “No, we have to make these highly polished professional videos.” Well, I’m going to tell you something, you don’t because what consumers want, what your ideal clients want, is they want to learn from you how their case works. How does their process works, and the more transparent you are and the more you educate them and show them exactly how it works, you humanize yourself, your attorneys, your firm. And by the way, here’s another great tip, when you’re considering putting out these great videos, don’t talk about yourself, don’t talk about your law firm, don’t talk about all the great awards you’ve won.

Okay, here’s why, nobody cares about you, they don’t, somebody who doesn’t know you. Okay, I’m not talking about referrals, referrals are different. But somebody that doesn’t know you, who goes online to try and find information, they don’t give a damn where you went to school. They don’t care how many years you’ve been in practice. They don’t care what great award you’ve got, or whether you won Moot Court or Law Review. They don’t care. They don’t care what motivated you to become an attorney. I wanted to become an attorney since I was five years old. Who cares? The only thing they care about is, how can you help solve my legal problem? What can you do to show me, to teach me about my problem? And the more that you’re able to do that, the more people get interested. They’d say, “Hey, this guy Michael Bell, he has some great information. I want to learn more. Please tell me more. Where I can get more?” That brings them to a video, another video, an article, a blog post, a frequently asked question. “Michael, I just saw this great content. I have the same problem. Please, I want you as my attorney.” That’s how it works.

Michael: Okay, so, if you’re a practicing attorney or you’ve got your solo practice and you know you want to do this, and you know that you want to provide useful content, there’s still a shift that has to happen from the way that that person thinks about their world, and the things that the viewer would care about. So how do they start to perceive what type of content is actually going to be useful?

Gerry: Well, that’s a different question, because now you have to focus on, and I tell attorneys, in fact, I was just at the National Trial Lawyers Conference in Miami this past weekend, where I was lecturing on this exact topic. So I’m speaking to a lot of attorneys from across the country and the question that I was talking about was, How do you generate trust with someone who doesn’t know you, in a span of a two or three minute video? And it all comes down to, what is your ideal client or consumer thinking about? What’s going on in their mind? Not what do you want to tell them, cause there’s a disconnect between what you think they want to know and what they need to know.

And the moment you begin to understand what’s going on in their shoes and in their mind, now you can answer and begin to answer the questions happening for them. And that’s when you begin to start identifying, “Hey, I can talk about this topic and this and this and this?” And now next thing you know, you’ve got hundreds of pieces of content, you can now start putting out in the form of an article, in the form of a blog post, in the form of a frequently asked question, and a video. Now all of a sudden you’ve got huge numbers of pieces of content, when somebody does a search for that topic, they’re much more likely to find what you did, compared to your competitors. So you have to change your mindset, understanding, “Listen, for people who want my information, who need it, what do I have to think about? What is going on in their mind?”

Michael: Right, do you keep a notebook to generate ideas, or put in your iPhone or something like that?

Gerry: I have a spiral bound notebook, it’s in my other room, I call it the “Million Dollar Notebook” because the ideas that I come up with in that notebook, have been responsible for million dollar cases. Okay. Whether you use your iPhone or you use something else, you come up with an idea, great, jot it down because when you set aside time to create that video or that article, now you don’t have to think in your mind, “Okay, what do I talk about?” Now you have an idea you can talk about and just on the plane ride home. I came up with about 40 different ideas for my next series of videos.

So, always be thinking about, “How can I use this? What can I use about this new topic?” Okay, here’s a, you’ll appreciate this, I’m eating breakfast this morning in today’s paper it says, “Man gets $3.6 million for prank injury. This happened in Suffolk County, New York.” So this is a topic that I’ll be using for a couple of videos talking about different aspects of jury verdicts, of why damages in this case are so high, and this allows me the opportunity to focus on what my ideal clients and consumers are talking about. Now, what do you think about? This is exactly what people are thinking about for my point of view, for the cases that we handle. You just have to keep an open mind and begin to look around and you’ll get that information. But you have to honestly spend some time thinking about it.

Michael: Right, and I imagine there’s a feedback loop that occurs when you put something out and you either get zero response or great response, you start to perceive what are the things that resonate with people.

Gerry: Absolutely, but remember, not all the videos that you create, not all the pieces of content you put online will get responses. For example, if you are politically inclined, you can now take a position and stand your ground on that position and you are guaranteed to get definite responses and comments on social media. If you say the words, “I’m voting for Trump.” You know there’s going to be tons of people who either love you or hate you. On the other hand, you can take a position on a case that just came down from the highest court in your state and say, “Here’s why I think the court was correct,” or “Here’s why I think the court was wrong.” And now encourage people to engage with you, but at least you take a position, you take a stand and now you’re encouraging them to engage you. Don’t just put out content for the sake of, “Here’s another piece of information you should know about.”

Michael: That’s interesting because most of the stuff of yours that I saw when I was poking around was educational in nature, are you also putting out that position oriented content?

Gerry: Absolutely, so I did one the other day about an off duty cop who was given $15 million by a jury for injuries he suffered because or during the course of a false arrest, by other cops. And the New York Post article said that, and I found this very offensive, it said, “This off duty cop is now going to get rich off tax payer expense because of this huge jury verdict award.” And so I was offended by the fact that he thought this guy was getting rich off of the fact that he totally destroyed his hand when he was beaten up by his fellow cops. And I wrote a position, I did a video that was very aggressive and basically was an online rant talking about how offensive I found this article to be, and how it was inaccurate. So I was getting a great number of views on this video and people leaving comments and it’s important for people to take a position, take a stand. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on. Just take a position. Show you’ve got a backbone. And now, again, you show that you’re confident and people tend to like you a lot more regardless of which side you’re on.

Michael: Yeah, now, that’s interesting. Well, I want to thank you, Gerry. This has been a fantastic conversation.

Gerry: Thank you.

Michael: What’s a good way for people to get in touch with you?

Gerry: The best way is they can call me, or they can see what’s online. My phone number is 516-487-8207, or they can go onto my website, my med mal website, might be interesting for them to see what I do there, it’s, O-G-I-N-S-K-I, dash, law.com, oginski-law.com or lawyersvideostudio.com

Michael: Sure, and I’ll put links in the show notes as well.

Gerry: Great. Well, thank you for having me, Michael.

Michael: Yeah, thank you so much.

Key Links

Show Notes

  • Gerry started his career practicing on the defense side for four years [0:45]
  • The shift in his personal perspective that occurred when he shifted to the plaintiff side [1:45]
  • The impact of only having to handle 20 cases as a plaintiff’s attorney rather than 200 as a defense attorney [3:28]
  • How getting to know the people behind the cases impact’s an attorney’s ability to be effective [5:40]
  • How telling a good story can even impact the defense attorney’s impression of the case in your client’s favor [9:56]
  • Working for an established plaintiff practice for four years [12:20]
  • Working as a medical malpractice specialist with a PI firm in Queens for six years [13:42]
  • Going solo in 2002 [14:22]
  • Getting the wakeup call that his practice was drying up [15:20]
  • Spending a fortune on ineffective Yellow Pages marketing [17:03]
  • Experimenting with information marketing by writing web articles [18:15]
  • The inspiration to try creating videos with the kind of content he previously put into articles [20:38]
  • The first video Gerry created took weeks to produce and was horrible but he started getting calls almost immediately [21:20]
  • The ideal length for an informational video [24:32]
  • Clients who found him via video already trusted him at the start of the relationship [26:49]
  • The changed dynamic allowed him to choose to represent only those people with the strongest cases [29:20]
  • People called him from across the US, which enabled him to develop referral relationships with other attorneys [29:40]
  • Why not grow a big firm? [30:54]
  • Dividing his time between marketing and legal work [33:45]
  • How a specific incident inspired him to make a video, leading the client in that specific matter to call him [34:20]
  • How Gerry integrated the making of videos into his schedule [38:50]
  • Gerry launched The Lawyer’s Video Studio to help other attorneys do video marketing [42:48]
  • Gerry focuses exclusively on marketing now, referring any incoming cases to other qualified attorneys [44:11]
  • Tips for practices that want to use video to attract business [47:40]
  • How to generate trust in viewers over the span of a short video [52:25]
  • Gerry’s Million Dollar Notebook [53:38]
  • How taking a controversial stand can attract clients [55:32]