Bi-Coastal Law Firm Operations

  • 05 January, 2024
  • 35 MB

The Justice Team Podcast talks coast to coast! Bob Simon explores the world of bi-coastal law practice with Yanni Bohren. Yanni, who runs his law firm across San Diego and South Carolina, offers a deep dive into the nuances of managing a law firm remotely. He highlights the pivotal role of technology in streamlining operations, the criticality of employing capable virtual assistants, and the art of cultivating a reliable network of co-counsels. Facing the inherent challenges of handling mail, Yanni also underscores the advantages of integrating case management software and advanced litigation tools. Finishing off with a crucial piece of advice, Yanni stresses the importance of having an intentional, physical presence in a bi-coastal practice. 

Yanni Bohren, Yanni Law


Bob Simon (00:07):
All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this edition of the Justice Team Podcast. And today we’re talking about how to operate your bi-coastal law firm. We have Yanni here who is at 833-Get-Yanni.

Yanni Bohren (00:21):
That’s right.

Bob Simon (00:22):
Every time I see you now, I think of that.

Yanni Bohren (00:24):
That’s right. Then it’s working. Finally. Finally someone remembered the number.

Bob Simon (00:28):
And I know that because I see that all the time. But also whenever we’re in our chat rooms that we’re in together, I always see your logo. It just says South Carolina lawyer. So I always remember you’re also in South Carolina.

Yanni Bohren (00:40):
That’s correct. Yeah. So I put that in there so that there’s no confusion. ‘Cause people would be like, “Is there any South Carolina lawyers here?”

Bob Simon (00:47):
I know.

Yanni Bohren (00:48):
And I was like, Yanni. So I just did it as a joke. But it’s worked because I’ve gotten some good networking done out of it.

Bob Simon (00:54):
And I think what Yanni is going to teach us today is how he’s located in both San Diego, California, handles California cases, also ones nationwide, but also running… I mean, how often do you spend… How much time? Like six months in a day in South Carolina? What does that look like?

Yanni Bohren (01:08):
Yeah. Probably something like that. I mean, the last few years have been true coast to coast, and thank you for allowing me to say that because any chance I get to say it makes me sound really successful. But yeah, it is. The last couple of years, it has been a true fifty-fifty, sometimes every three weeks, sometimes every month, sometimes every two months. A lot of it depends on where trials are going, where cases are going, where I need to be, what events are going on, things like that.

Bob Simon (01:35):
So we’re going to educate our listeners, no matter their age or years of practice, how they can successfully have these two offices… I’m not talking two offices like they’re a 30-minute drive from each other. I’m talking about a six-hour flight. Actually, they don’t even have direct in South Carolina. You’ve got to go to Atlanta most of the time, or Charlotte and jump.

Yanni Bohren (01:54):
I need to move to L.A. because there’s a direct from LA to Charleston.

Bob Simon (01:58):
Oh, really?

Yanni Bohren (01:59):
On JetBlue. Yeah.

Bob Simon (02:00):
Oh, that must be new.

Yanni Bohren (02:01):
A little plug for JetBlue there if you want to send me some tickets.

Bob Simon (02:03):
JetBlue has that new first class that’s fucking awesome.

Yanni Bohren (02:06):
Do they? I haven’t tried it yet.

Bob Simon (02:07):
It’s like Limelight. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s great.

Yanni Bohren (02:10):
But so what I do is I fly Delta, Delta through Atlanta, and it does add about five hours to the trip on the way back. On the way here, I mean there’s no layover, so it’s not terrible. It’s just on the way back you lose the three hours. Plus you have the layover. Plus you have…

Bob Simon (02:25):
Yeah. But you’re working on the plane most of the time.

Yanni Bohren (02:28):
Yeah, I’m working. I’m thinking, I’m reading, I’m doing something productive.

Bob Simon (02:30):
Podcast, that kind of stuff. Okay. So when did you start doing two offices across the United States?

Yanni Bohren (02:38):
So it really started 2017, was when it really started to take off, when I really started to go back and forth, back and forth. And then 2018, it picked up a lot. 2019 was on steroids. 2020, COVID hit and I still went back and forth, but it was this time I had a 747 private flight for half the year because no one else was traveling. It was the safest time to travel was during COVID because no one else is on the plane. And last couple years, it’s been a true fifty-fifty. So five years roughly.

Bob Simon (03:08):
All right, let’s talk about for our listeners, how do you do this operationally? What are your on systems? What does your employee structure look like?

Yanni Bohren (03:15):
That’s right. So COVID happened and what it did was brought everyone to me, what I was doing. I was trying to be like, “Hey, let’s do a Zoom. Let’s do this, let’s do that.” And they’re like, “Oh, what is that?” Operationally, a lot of its virtual. I have an employee in California. She works remote. And my employee in South Carolina works remote. And then I have some VAs, which is a whole nother-

Bob Simon (03:34):
Wait, wait, wait, you’re telling me you’re able to run this whole operation, which to me seems massive, and you have two employees? And then VAs?

Yanni Bohren (03:42):

Bob Simon (03:43):
Oh my God. Wait, walk me through this. So you have two employees that are virtual that run each of your state offices?

Yanni Bohren (03:50):
They’re local. Well, they’re virtual, but they’re Americans, running… Yeah.

Bob Simon (03:58):
Do they work from office spaces? Where do you meet clients? What does that look like?

Yanni Bohren (04:01):
No. So they work from home and then I just leverage the JHQ locations if I need to meet clients here in San Diego or LA. So that’s been a great benefit. I think it’s all about leveraging technology, and also the power of co-counseling, right? You want to have the right partners on certain cases because if you have the partner case and they have an nice office and you go to there, or if you are in the depths of discovery or motions, you have the co-counsels. But at the end of the day, I think the work is the work. So you just got to get it done. And if you don’t care about coming into an office, why can’t you do it at home?

Bob Simon (04:35):
I mean, I’ve been a big believer of that forever. So tell me about your VA, your virtual assistant structure. What does that look like?

Yanni Bohren (04:43):
Sure. So on each side, I have an experienced case manager slash paralegal who knows how to run things and understands the ins and outs of the business. And so they’ll oversee the VA’s. And the VA’s, I mean, it’s an episode in itself. It’s very, very tricky to find the right VAs because these companies are always like, “Oh, get our VA’s, get our VA’s.” And then you get them and then you’re like, oh, they have no experience. You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t even know if they’re good. Right?

Bob Simon (05:09):

Yanni Bohren (05:10):
And so it’s just about understanding who has what role in finding what the people are good at. Identifying like, oh, she’s good at talking to people. She’s good at medical records, she’s good at-

Bob Simon (05:20):
But who’s doing all that identification and training? Is it you?

Yanni Bohren (05:24):
Yeah, for the most part, me. Yeah. And then my other employees will be like, “Hey, this girl’s good,” or “This guy’s good.” We should put him here. We should him there.

Bob Simon (05:32):
Wow. And so where are these VA’s physically located?

Yanni Bohren (05:38):
South America.

Bob Simon (05:39):
Wow. Yeah. Michael Sanchez, another friend of mine was texting me that he has a bunch of employees in Honduras. He’s got like 50, 60, and he’s down there right now training all them. And it just fascinates me because we’re trying to teach lawyers how to efficiently run their firms so they don’t have bad overhead or debt and be efficient. And it seems like you’ve mastered this because you have… You’re obviously getting cases through the 833-Get-Yanni. You have these different vehicles, but what does that workflow look like? ‘Cause if you’re going coast to coast, you’re doing meeting clients, you’re educating them, you’re litigating, what does that workflow look like?

Yanni Bohren (06:11):
Yeah, so right now the workflow is a lot. So right now I’m trying to taper off on some of the more litigation stuff and more of the day-to-day law stuff to manage more. But then I had to get more employees or bring on other attorneys or co-counsel. But I’m really selective with my cases. And I think that was a big thing for me is being able to say no, which was very hard when I first started any solo. You got to take everything because you want to build your stable, right? Because there’s a comfort in having 200 cases there, even if you’re not selling them right now. And then also understanding like, hey, these hundred cases I probably shouldn’t have taken, probably won’t take them again. So just managing that.

Bob Simon (06:50):
But what do you do then with those cases that you do not take but still may be profitable for another lawyer?

Yanni Bohren (06:56):
Yeah. So that’s where the co-counseling and trying to find the right referral partners. And that’s a big thing. I fumbled a few bags by having the wrong people associated on some cases. I mean everyone’s-

Bob Simon (07:09):
It’s a learning process.

Yanni Bohren (07:10):
Yeah, a learning process. So you create your tribe. Being a part of JHQ, it’s been great because I want to say everyone’s trustworthy. I’ve not had any issues with everybody. I know you guys do a great job at vetting people.

Bob Simon (07:21):
We just leave it to the membership committee and the members to do. People always think it’s like I get to decide, or our board. It’s like, no, it’s the members to decide the quality of the lawyer.

Yanni Bohren (07:30):
It’s a true democracy in terms of vetting process. So that works. And just making sure that the clients are taken care of, because if I can’t handle the case, I’m not going to sit on it and be like, “Uh.” It’s just got to get to the right person.

Bob Simon (07:43):
Yeah. Okay. So do you have any specific systems that you use for intake to use and find VAs to how you’re operating your systems?

Yanni Bohren (07:56):
So I try to leverage as much technology as possible.

Bob Simon (07:59):
Yeah, ’cause I see on our business help channel, you’re always up-to-date on a lot of this stuff. So that’s why I ask.

Yanni Bohren (08:04):
Yeah, so I went to the Chicago ABA Tech show.

Bob Simon (08:06):
Oh, you did go?

Yanni Bohren (08:06):
I did, in March.

Bob Simon (08:07):
I was supposed to go that one day in March and I fudged it.

Yanni Bohren (08:10):
I actually have the whole my 45-minute video that I need to get edited of going around talking to everybody, learning about a lot of the tech. And I mean, to be brutally honest, most of the tech is not great, and very few of it is zero to one. And so I try to identify now-

Bob Simon (08:28):
Peter Thiel, Zero to One.

Yanni Bohren (08:29):
Yeah, it’s a great book. Read that back in 2016. Really helped me open my eyes to the lack of legal tech. I just wasn’t a tech nerd, so I never vetted anything, but I knew it was coming. And actually I used to read it on the plane rides back and forth. It was one of my books. I did that. But you go to ABA Tech Show and you’re like, okay, how can I leverage my practice? What can help me just save time, save money, handle more cases? And so not every tech thing is viable for everyone. And I think that’s a big problem because it’s all marketing. It’s like, “Oh, sign up!” I’ve signed up for so many things that afterwards I’m like, this is not fit for me. Why did you sell this to me?

Bob Simon (09:07):
Yeah, [inaudible 00:09:09] for somebody else. Exactly.

Yanni Bohren (09:10):
Filevine is great for a lot of firms. Filevine is not great for me as a small solo. And I’ve heard it from other solos, but I’ve heard from bigger firms that Filevine is the answer. I have used all the case management systems from TrialWorks, to MyCase, to Clio, to Filevine, to you name it, and for me, CASEpeer has been the answer.

Bob Simon (09:30):
CASEpeer is usually good for out of the box. It’s very easy to use, friendly.

Yanni Bohren (09:34):
It’s not perfect, but it is good enough. And of course in our industry, perfection is the enemy of progress, correct?

Bob Simon (09:40):

Yanni Bohren (09:40):
So we just got to get it done. So systems wise, I use that. Intake. Our intake, I haven’t found a really good tech intake. I’m trying to work on one myself because it is also… I think it really is the person behind the phone.

Bob Simon (09:54):
It is. It’s the person. You can have systems… Like we’re on Clio now, and we use the Clio Grow product. We use the Ping alert if we’re overstaffed, but it’s all the person that runs… Like Eric Heath who runs our pre-litigation department, it’s up to him and his team and that’s usually the catalyst. Is he going to be the one that, he and his team, that picks up the phone, eventually talks to people? No matter what system you’re putting it into, that’s what it is.

Yanni Bohren (10:16):
And I think people still want to have that human connection and not just [inaudible 00:10:20]. I virtually do all my intake still, like me.

Bob Simon (10:24):
Wow, really?

Yanni Bohren (10:25):
‘Cause my cases come… I’m not a big volume firm. There’re over referrals. I’m trying to get the number out there. I’m trying to build that now, the new website coming and all that, but for now a lot of it is just me having that relationship ’cause that was what I built my firm on was the relationships, was that, hey, you’re going to have access to me. You’re just not going to get thrown into the ether.

Bob Simon (10:46):
So then what happens? New case gets pinged through. Does it automatically go into your case management software? Does somebody manually enter it? Where does the use of the VAs come in?

Yanni Bohren (10:57):
So it will go into the CASEpeer as like a new intake because I just want their information anyways for a couple reasons. Number one, if we don’t take the case, I need to send the drop letter, right? Number two, if we do take it, it’s already in there. And then also we have it in there to market to them later for whatever reason. So everything goes in there, and then it gets reviewed very quickly within 12 to 24 hours. If it’s a big case, they know just get me on the line right away. Let’s try to close it and get the people help.

Because that first 48 hours is so critical because you don’t know when they came to you. They came to you right away, there’s video surveillance footage you need to get… There’s all kinds of things. So it’s really just really important you get the client, then you have what you need to continue to prosecute.

Bob Simon (11:42):
And this all, I mean, again, you’re doing all of this virtually at this point.

Yanni Bohren (11:45):
Yeah, yeah.

Bob Simon (11:47):
Like client intake, call set up, VAs. This is all done on a cloud?

Yanni Bohren (11:54):
Virtually done on the cloud-

Bob Simon (11:55):
Or in the cloud, instead of physically for-

Yanni Bohren (11:56):
Yeah, in the cloud. If somebody wants to meet in person, I will. So in San Diego, like I said, I have the JHQ locations. In Charleston, there’s similar things where you can go rent a nice office space or use a friend’s office or whatever it is. So it’s not like I can’t do it, right? But I just find most people just don’t care. They’ll come to our house, Starbucks, whatever. They just want the attorney working on the case. They don’t care about a big fancy office. For the most part.

Bob Simon (12:21):
Whoever’s most convenient.

Yanni Bohren (12:23):
The convenience and just eliminating friction points. It’s like every day I wake up, I’m like, what friction can I eliminate today?

Bob Simon (12:29):
Let’s talk about… Again, these are solutions for our listeners. What do you do about your mail?

Yanni Bohren (12:33):
Mail’s a problem. I’m very lucky to have a really good neighbor who will go to my PO box once a week when I’m not here, if I’m gone, and get it and scan it in for me. Or mail it to me. That’s not really a scalable business model, but I’m very fortunate to have that on both sides.

Bob Simon (12:53):
There’s some places that can scan, OCR your mail for you, forward it to you, your VAs can pick it up, put it into your case management system, that kind of stuff.

Yanni Bohren (13:02):
I haven’t explored that yet because I’ve heard mixed results. ‘Cause I don’t want something to get missed. I’m just definitely afraid of an MSJ coming through the mail and it just being missed, or something, or a check getting lost.

Bob Simon (13:13):
But a lot of these court systems are moving to you got to email serve a lot of these too. Federal court, you have to. You have to.

Yanni Bohren (13:20):
Right, right, right. So that’s coming. So I have one central mailing, that way everything’s at least going there. And so [inaudible 00:13:29], we’re pretty stout. And then you really get in the weeds on litigation. So what litigation tools are there? There’s not a lot of great ones, but ABA Tech Show, one in the startup alley was Esquire Tech.

Bob Simon (13:42):
I would love… Yeah. We use that product every day.

Yanni Bohren (13:45):
I use it all the time, because I front load a lot of my work. So when I take the intake, that first couple of weeks, the clients are also getting discovery to respond.

Bob Simon (13:54):
You’re already getting it done on the way?

Yanni Bohren (13:55):
Oh, yeah. Because it takes them forever anyways.

Bob Simon (13:58):
Get it out of the way. You know what they’re going to ask.

Yanni Bohren (13:59):
I know they’re going to ask, on the frogs. I know basic documents, right? And so I’m like, just start now.

Bob Simon (14:04):
See, now this is… Well, I know Esquire Tech’s working on it. Do they already have integrations with CASEpeer?

Yanni Bohren (14:12):
I think they just did my case. They just did my case.

Bob Simon (14:14):
Okay. So I know it’s coming with Clio because we put them in touch. Again, it’s great to have it just pushed directly in your case management software.

Yanni Bohren (14:20):
Yes. And so that’s a thing where I think CASEpeer should be coming up soon. And I’m excited for that because that’s just one less step.

Bob Simon (14:27):
The automation of discovery makes our lives… And on our side, we’re getting paid perhaps not per hour. So we got to be efficient as possible.

Yanni Bohren (14:33):
That’s right, that’s right.

Bob Simon (14:34):
So talk to me then. Okay, we get through, you’re getting through discovery process. The big hiccup next is usually expert discovery, then the trial. What solutions have you found to be good for that?

Yanni Bohren (14:45):
Really, really good co-counsels, for me. I mean, that’s just straight up. I don’t think there’s any tech that I know of that can replace the human brain right now. Right? The Chat GPT, CoCounsel are all beneficial. CoCounsel, I just signed up for, and it does help me in my memos, but it still takes a lawyer to lawyer.

Bob Simon (15:03):
Yeah, you still have to lawyer.

Yanni Bohren (15:04):
You still have to lawyer, right?

Bob Simon (15:05):
You still got to take these expert depositions. You still got to do the physical trial. And I think that’s… The way that you have your firm set up, a lot of lawyers should have it set up that way because you must have a high quality of life to be able to live your life, to go to South Carolina, San Diego, and back.

Yanni Bohren (15:21):
Yeah. I’m very fortunate to have the best of both worlds. I mean, it’s not perfect, right? In the solos. Well I’ll be like, “I wish I had a partner.”

Bob Simon (15:29):
‘Cause you’re a true solo.

Yanni Bohren (15:30):
No, I know.

Bob Simon (15:30):
That’s awesome.

Yanni Bohren (15:31):
And I talk to my friends who have partners like, “Oh, I wish I was solo.” So, yeah. You know what I mean? There’s always like that give and take.

Bob Simon (15:36):
But you should have a partner, but on a case specific.

Yanni Bohren (15:38):
Yeah, I have a lot of partners, I say. I have partners on a lot of cases, right? In JHQ, I have a lot of partners in JHQ. And the great thing is, it’s fractional partners too. The concern is people are like, “Oh, you don’t have [inaudible 00:15:49] equity.” Well, first of all, in some cases, like you should because it’s the right thing to do and you’ll get more even after the equity, but sometimes I’m like, “Hey man, how about 20 points? How about 15 points?”

Bob Simon (15:58):
No problem.

Yanni Bohren (15:59):
Yeah. Come in, take these depos, come in, how many in discovery or-

Bob Simon (16:02):
Write this MSJ or oppose this MSJ.

Yanni Bohren (16:04):
And I use it all the time. I just wrote an MSJ on another case and I hired someone to do it on a flat fee basis, but it would take me all week.

Bob Simon (16:14):
Yeah, we do sometimes flat fee or equity points to do that kind of stuff. Why not?

Yanni Bohren (16:20):
When it makes sense. So just like thinking outside the box, getting creative and getting out of that mentality, which I think a lot of people are now as more things-

Bob Simon (16:25):

Yanni Bohren (16:27):
… more things are coming out. But I mean, what are we? We’re in the mid-nineties in legal tech. Maybe we’re hitting 2000.

Bob Simon (16:32):
I know. We’re not even in the dot com of legal tech.

Yanni Bohren (16:35):
Yeah. No, I really feel like that. And I think with the AI stuff, it’ll take a leap.

Bob Simon (16:39):
It’ll push it. We hope so. All right, Yanni, so we’re about out of time here. We just want to give people a snapshot on how to run and have a bi-coastal practice and have a quality of life and to do it as you. I didn’t realize you were actually a true solo. I thought you might’ve had bigger operations. That’s very impressive. Very impressive.

Yanni Bohren (16:57):
Thank you. Yes.

Bob Simon (16:58):
Any other just parting advice, last word here for our listeners here?

Yanni Bohren (17:01):
Yeah, I think the big thing is you have the want to do it. So it requires a lot of intention to do this. And if you’re going to just say, “Oh, you know, [inaudible 00:17:11],” go back and forth, you’re just going to be bouncing for no reason. And now I’m licensed in Texas now.

Bob Simon (17:16):
Oh, nice.

Yanni Bohren (17:16):
So I’m going to Texas next week. So you really got to be there. You can say all the virtual you want, but there’s no replacement for being there. So if you’re going to try and you’re going to do it, I’m happy to give you everything. But you really need to be there, not only intentionally in your mind, but also physically you got to be-

Bob Simon (17:33):
Physically be there. Yeah. We have offices in Austin. If you need extra space, we’re there. It’s pretty cool. Frank Pabst is there, too.

Yanni Bohren (17:38):
Yep, Frank’s over there.

Bob Simon (17:40):
[inaudible 00:17:40] is there too with us all in the same little beehive down there. But yeah, I think that’s good. I see you got your boots on, so congratulations. Getting ready for Texas or Tejas as they say.

Yanni Bohren (17:54):
Tejas. Tejas, that’s right.

Bob Simon (17:54):
All right, mi amigo. Hasta luego.

Yanni Bohren (17:54):
All right, appreciate it Bob. Thanks so much.

Bob Simon (17:54):
So thank you for this edition of the Justice Team podcast. Go to Any questions or concerns or if you want to be on the show. Thanks, Yanni for coming in. Get Yanni, get paid.

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