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How a Burnt Out Lawyer Breathed New Life Into His Profession and Helped his Peers Land More Clients

Think of all of the lawyers that you know. How many of them are earning a fortune but don’t seem, well, happy? Robert Ingalls was overworked and overextended, although he had an enviable position. He was a fledgling defense attorney, focusing on litigation in court and billable hours at the office. But when his wife proposed starting a family, he knew his life would need to change.

Robert was struggling with undiagnosed anxiety and stress. Burnout in law is common and has been for some time. According to a study conducted by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, “one out of three lawyers is a problem drinker and one out of four has some form of depression or anxiety.” 

Robert found release in listening to podcasts. It demanded little of him physically but allowed him to grow emotionally. He enjoyed the authenticity, the humor, and the connection to other people. This is the story of how one man’s love for podcasts turned into his full-time gig, Lawpods.

Why Podcasts?

After listening to self-help podcasts and financial advice talks, Robert bought some fancy audio equipment on a whim. Hosting a podcast seemed simple enough and he thought he’d try it. If nothing else, it would be a distraction from the long hours poring over legalese and consoling clients. He and his friend set up their recording booth in the office after hours, talking about everything but the law. 

Listening back to those first few recordings, Robert was stunned at how serene he sounded. Where was that stentorian courtroom bark? All trace of it had vanished, the stress too, suggesting that Robert had finally found his calling. But how does one go about becoming a professional podcaster? Giving up a lucrative career while starting a family wasn’t the most responsible idea he had ever had. But his wife supported his dreams of finding professional satisfaction, even if the road ahead was cloudy.

Enter imposter syndrome. Robert couldn’t see himself as an entrepreneur.  “My initial mindset was, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’m a political science and criminal justice law graduate. Criminal defense attorney, now that was my track. I had no marketing classes. But I had to leave litigation. I was overwhelmed and had to get out of conflict.” Robert was sick of fighting for a living, but he happened to have picked a contentious branch of law. Now what?

Robert decided to quit but not leave law for good. What if he focused on a less stressful area of law? Robert settled on estate planning. “It seemed safe and quiet.”  But it was too boring. Used to arguing in court, he was now behind a desk staring at mounds of paperwork. Wasn’t there something in between? Even better, something that could take his love of podcasting from hobby to profession?

Robert rarely wears a suit and tie anymore – podcasting permits a looser dress code.

When Pursuing Your Dreams Doesn’t Pay the Bills

The next few months were rough, financially. Robert continued to podcast for fun, but he wasn’t bringing in any money. Even worse, he ended up misfiling his taxes. His wife called to tell him that the IRS was garnishing her wages. “I know you’re chasing your dreams and trying to figure things out,” she said, “but something’s gotta give.” 

Soon after, Robert pushed himself to attend a law networking event. A fellow lawyer came up to him and said, “I see you’re doing something with podcasts.” The lawyer liked to experiment with new ways to engage clients. He was already doing videos, so podcasts made sense to him. He asked Robert for help.

Robert agreed to take on client number one, and he hadn’t even named his business yet, much yet procured an LLC. When the client wanted cover art, Robert taught himself Photoshop. “I couldn’t give any of the money away to hire someone. I spent hours and hours watching Photoshop tutorials. I cut out his hair pixel by pixel. It was a nightmare, but I figured it out.”

A Stop-Gap Job Brings Breathing Room

Around this time, Robert received a lead on a full-time job. It was not where he wanted to end up long-term, but it would provide him and his wife a financial cushion as they prepared to grow their family. When he received a job offer, he took a deep breath. He was an overqualified candidate and the scope of work wasn’t challenging. It would be much less stressful than his litigation days and give him time to pursue podcasting opportunities.

Soon after starting the new job, Robert secured his second podcasting client (another lawyer). He wanted Robert to help him create a podcast from start to finish. It was a big challenge, and Robert was unsure if he could do it alone. He called up the colleague that had helped him set up his first studio all those months before. They were good friends and Robert wanted to partner with him on a venture he’d tentatively named Lawpods. 

Unfortunately, after a few weeks, it became clear that it wasn’t a good fit professionally. They dissolved the partnership but saved the friendship. Robert learned that he needed to trust himself more. He was afraid to make moves on his own but had been doing so from the start – he just hadn’t realized it. 

Convincing Peers That Podcasts Drive Revenue

Why do lawyers need podcasts? SEO is a driving factor. Lawyers are looking for clients, and creating content drives prospects to their websites. A lot of lawyers use podcasts to answer questions that clients commonly ask. Robert explains, “You can speak directly to clients, give them answers but let them get to know you, hear your voice, and allow them to feel like they’re making a connection with you. Your personality comes through. This means that they trust you before they even pick up the phone.”

Lawyers are notoriously short on time, but in one brief recording session, they can unlock hours of content. When a customer of Lawpods sits down for a half-hour conversation, Robert can package up that content in many different ways. They can put the video on Youtube for people who prefer to watch podcasts. They can turn the audio into blog posts. They can splice the video into short clips for branding on social media. Each avenue helps Lawpod’s customers rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Finally Leaving the 9-5

Richard worked all the time. He had his 9-5, followed by his 5-9. But he didn’t want to leave his day job until he felt podcasting would sustain him long-term. When Robert acquired his third client, he decided that he was finally ready to leave his day job. He left in March 2020 and hired his first employee around the same time. He and his wife were preparing to start a family, so it was a busy time. When the pandemic forced everyone to work from home just a short while later, he was terrified. “I thought I’d made a huge mistake.”

Finding Time to Chill

Thankfully, Lawpods acquired yet another client and Robert relaxed (but only slightly). He used his free time to attend podcasting conventions that helped him stay relevant. When prospective customers asked for advice about podcasting, Robert could distill the latest information into digestible pieces, wowing clients with his expertise. 

With another baby on the way, Robert began offering free podcasting workshops at coworking spaces and networked in line at the grocery store. Everyone was a potential client and Robert needed to land a whale. And then, just as Robert hoped, business exploded. Robert went from working with smaller, boutique firms to working with one of the largest firms in the world. 

Customers queued up in droves after that. “We ended up making seventy percent of our annual income in just three months.” One big law firm could hire Lawpods to produce several different podcasts at once. Gone were the days of scrounging together loose change to pay bills. Robert was even able to hire employees to help him with the growing workload.

Lawpods later switched from lump payment to a subscription model to help the team manage revenue in the slower months. Robert reached out to other law podcasts and offered his editing services pro bono in exchange for the opportunity to advertise his services. Robert continues to add offerings by listening to customer requests and building appropriate solutions. 

Robert’s mental health is in a vastly different place than it was in his litigation days. Although he no longer practices law, his law-adjacent career is deeply fulfilling. Robert always struggled to believe in himself, but once he did, he made it a point to help others share their voices en masse.

References

1Pascual, P. (2016, March 1). Mental Health Crisis Plagues Attorneys Along with Alcohol Abuse, Study Says. Retrieved July 20, 2022, from https://www.calbarjournal.com/March2016/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx 


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Andrew Gazdecki
Andrew Gazdeckihttps://acquire.com
Andrew is an award-winning serial entrepreneur with three exits. He’s the founder and CEO of MicroAcquire, the world’s most founder-friendly startup marketplace, and its rebellious child, Bootstrappers, which gives voice to the entrepreneurial underdog. When not building businesses, he writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, and now, Bootstrappers.

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