Hope is Not a Good Strategy for Growing Your Law Firm with Michael Duffy

Uncategorized Jan 07, 2021

Anybody who is an expert at what they do has to start somewhere. All of us will go through the early stages of our career, and it is not easy to create what we would like to do. We cannot merely hope to flourish; we must take action. This applies to growing your law firm, too.

In this episode, Michael Duffy joins us to talk about his experience in building his law firm along with the challenges he faced. He also discusses the importance of career specialization and his firm's direction under the pandemic.

If you want to know more about starting your career in law and building it up, then this episode is for you.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode

  1. What’s the importance of fearlessness and perseverance at the start of your career? 
  2. How can advertising and marketing produce the best result for your business? 
  3. How do you position your firm for the future?


  • The Law Firm Growth Summit is back! February 9-11, 2021 and it will be better than ever! You can purchase tickets today at https://www.lawfirmgrowthsummit.com. Hurry, prices go up on Monday.
  • This episode is sponsored by LawFundAR. The easy and simple way to add payment plans to your practice with no risk to you. Get paid up front and still add the value of payment plan options for your clients. Learn more at lawfundar.com/profitwithlaw.
  • Join the Law Firm Growth Summit’s Facebook community 
  • Get to know more about top New York medical malpractice attorneys helping victims seek justice through Duffy and Duffy Law Firm 

Episode Highlights

How Michael Built Duffy and Duffy

  • Being a finance major in a dire economic market offered Michael no jobs. He then decided to go to law school at St John's. 
  • He worked in a small firm and did mostly defense and general small personal injury work; he eventually left to start his firm. 
  • Michael went on a "stinky fish" tour, looking for cases he described as stinky fishes or those cases people did not want to handle. 
  • At Suffolk County, he began taking many trials. He tried and won a case for medical malpractice. This launched his firm. 
  • His father, a medical malpractice lawyer, eventually joined his firm and built it up to today.

Michael: “I had a mortgage and a baby and a wife and did what had to be done. Those are the things that every lawyer who has a small firm or a single lawyer firm does. We all do it—you do what is necessary to pay the bills.”

Starting the Firm with Little Experience

  • He started the firm but did not know how to continue with it. 
  • Things did not go as planned. It was very challenging, and Michael started with minimal staff. 
  • It took a lot of perseverance to stay on the course and eventually launch his firm.

How to Navigate the Stinky Fish Cases

  • Michael earned just enough money to pay the bills and build a reputation. 
  • He took the entire process as another learning experience wherein he had to put in his dues to earn the necessary knowledge and ultimately make what he wanted. 
  • The single most important thing to settle a case is to be ready to try the case. 
  • He did whatever was necessary to force a case into a jury room to generate enough profit to get through a year or two.

Focusing on Specialization

  • You have to be fearlessly moving forward and focusing on what you are good at. 
  • Perseverance, fearlessness, and ego should go into everything we do.

Michael: “One of the things that makes good lawyers, particularly good contingency fee lawyers, is a lack of fear.”

“In order to do what any of us do for a living, you have to have that ego within you that says: I am good enough to do this, I can stand in front of a jury and convince this jury that I am right and the other side is wrong.”

  • For a small firm to survive, it is best to focus on an area where you are the best. 
  • The key to a successful law firm is to say “no” to bad cases and those you do not have the expertise to handle.

Michael: “Believe in yourself. And if you do believe in yourself, ultimately, you will succeed.”

What Michael Could Have Done Differently

  • Michael focused too much on revenue without addressing expense, that he ended up with way too much-wasted cost. 
  • He hoped to have done how he does things now; wherein everything has to have a purpose. 
  • Know precisely why you are spending the dollar and what is generating out of that dollar.

Michael: “I would urge anybody who's going to try to build out their firm to understand what the purpose is for the expenses that they're undertaking.”

How to Find the Staff with the Right Attitude

  • Michael often looks for traits that will be helpful to him and the firm. 
  • He looks into whether the applicants will understand medicine and the legal aspect of medical malpractice.
  • It is also essential if applicants can focus their attention on the medicine's logical transition as it exists into law. 
  • Every medical malpractice case is an exercise in logic. Michael tries to determine a person's relative intellect and get a sense of how their mind works.
  • He always looks for a person who can handle a case from phone calls to jury selection.

What is the Best Use of Marketing Dollars Today?

  • AdWords is the biggest driver of Michael’s business. 
  • Be part of the dialogue in terms of referral relationships because people look for confirmation.
  • Anybody who becomes a client can write a review and give you feedback; then others can also get this useful information. 
  • Referrals are essential, but they are not predictable for your business. To grow a firm, you need to grow predictably.

Michael: “‘I hope people find out who I am, I hope I win this case, I hope that I get referrals.’ I hope, I hope, I hope — that's not a strategy for any business.”

The Pandemic and the Firm

  • There were already times where lawyers and staff were working at home.
  • They were already trying to move to less space and more remote work. Trends are moving in a particular direction, and the pandemic exacerbated the trend.
  • Michael encountered difficulties in not sitting in one physical space, getting clients comfortable with Zoom and telephone interviews, and getting authorizations remotely. 
  • Looking forward, the firm will not have jury trials for most of next year. 
  • Smaller firms have an economic advantage in today's world than larger firms due to limitations in resources. 

How the Clients are Affected

  • There is a lack of willingness to take cases due to a lot of requirements in resources. 
  • People will keep an eye out for significantly damaged cases and will continue to find lawyers.

Michael: “This is only one part of your life; you need to be really good at it… But I think if the pandemic has shown us anything, it's that there is a whole lot more to life than all the things that we're talking about today.”

About Michael

Michael E. Duffy, managing partner of the Long Island New York law firm Duffy & Duffy, is a highly experienced civil litigator with a passion for the law and a desire to represent victims of medical malpractice. Mr. Duffy concentrates his practice on catastrophically injured victims and wrongful death claims involving medical malpractice and personal injury in New York. 

Throughout his career, he has been actively involved in a number of professional organizations and has been repeatedly named as one of the best lawyers in America. He has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of his clients, and his landmark settlements have been widely publicized both locally and nationally.

If you wish to get in touch with Michael, you may send him an email at [email protected] or call him at (516) 206-4039. 

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