EPISODE 17 — Glen Lerner — The Heavenly Hitter’s Guide to Building a National Practice
Glen Lerner, known as “The Heavenly Hitter,” has grown Las Vegas-based powerhouse law firm Lerner & Rowe into a national entity with offices all across the country.
And his success is no mistake — with his infectious personality, work ethic, and innate ability to win a room, failure was not an option.
In this episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast, Glen sits down with Crisp Founder & CEO Michael Mogill to dive deep into:
- How he went from a fresh-faced law school graduate to running one of the largest plaintiff firms in America
- Why the client isn’t always right
- What he really thinks about the controversy surrounding the way he’s grown his practice
- and much more!
2:59 – From attorney to businessman. “I think I’m no longer looking at myself as a day-to-day trial lawyer. I was actually a very good trial lawyer when I was a lot younger. I’ve been doing this — this will be my 30th year — but at some point you realize, you know, now that we have close to 500 employees and 28 offices in nine states, I start to realize I run a business now. I’m a businessman. I’m just in the business of law.”
3:55 – A unique upbringing. “I grew up differently than I guess a lot of other guys. When I was five years old, my daddy went to jail for double murder. So until I finished my second year of law school, the only time I saw my daddy was in jail. But I think it shaped who I was. It made me very tough because of it. You would expect the child of an inmate — especially a guy in jail for murder — to probably go down that same path. But my dad, even though he wasn’t at home, he was really on top of us. I had a great mom and got into Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Duke. I was one of the best soccer players in the country when I was young, and you wouldn’t expect that. That’s a tribute to my parents and how dedicated they were to making sure we didn’t become what everybody expected us to become.”
4:54 – Gaining vital perspectives. “How do you represent people, how do you take care of people, how do you work with people when you’ve never spent a day in their shoes? So I wanted to work these hard jobs to know what people really were going through, because most people work in jobs like this. When I’m a lawyer someday, how do I understand somebody, how do I talk to somebody, how do I communicate with somebody if I’ve never done what they’ve done? And you know they used to say I was the best garbage man ever. I was the hardest worker ever.”
6:21 – Gaining his first clients. “I went down and shot some commercials in August of 1998. And my first month advertising — ‘One call, that’s all.’ I spent $10,000 on TV in Vegas and I got 66 new clients. I wish it was the same rate of return now. But I was like, ‘Oh, I think you stumbled onto something here,’ and that was it. I just took every cent I made — I kept every cent I had in the world, and I stuck it into advertising. I started at $10,000, did that for a few months, then went up to $20,000 for a few months, $40,000, and it’s just skyrocketed. Now it’s $25 million a year. You know, it is what it is.”
8:28 – A master persuader. “Somebody saw me in trial and they said, ‘Man, how’d you get so good in front of a jury?’ And I said, ‘You know what man, if I can convince a girl down in the French Quarter to give me her phone number at 3:30 in the morning when I’m drunk, you don’t think I can convince a jury of eight people that aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty of anything I want?’”
10:37 – A new perspective on customer service. “I was thinking, if I’m always saying the customer’s right and taking their side, I’m throwing my employees out there to the wolves. I’m throwing them under the bus. What he said is that the customer isn’t always right. Nobody’s always right — that’s a fallacy. But what’s true is the customer always wants to be heard. That’s an important thing to recognize, and once we started changing the way we looked at it, that the customer wants to be heard, I think it changed the dynamic in our office. We’re culture guys, so I think that was a really important thing for us.”
11:30 – The need to keep going. “Unfortunately, I have what I think is called ‘faulty wiring’ — this need to always push it and never be satisfied. You know, I was doing better than I could ever have imagined in my whole life by the mid 2000s — 2004, 2005. I could pinch myself. I could never imagine the type of life I’d be blessed with, and going from the way I grew up and everything, and the way I was treated in Vegas — I just, I was treated so great here, but I had to prove to myself I could do it in another market.”
12:51 – How do you define success? “It’s certainly not money, gosh. It’s certainly not your business or practice. I think, you know, touching people. I think my success is my most fundamental relationship: my relationship with God. And I’ve been incredibly blessed. You know, I’m a Jewish kid who came to Christ on April 26, 2006, and what He’s done in my life in the last 14 plus years – what He’s done in my marriage, as a father — so that’s success. My marriage is absolutely a success. I think I’m a really good dad. Those are tantamount to anything else.”
15:50 – Cool in a crisis. “Like right now with the COVID-19, it is what it is. It’s hit every practice. It’s hit you, it’s hit me, and it’s — I mean, it’s colossal. What do you do? I mean, you wake up sometimes with a pit in your stomach. Everybody does right now. But we’re still open. We’re still grinding it out right now.”
16:57 – Glen’s mantra. “You know, my mantra involves two people on this planet: Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. Every time I speak, I talk about the two of them because I think they could be two of the greatest corporate CEOs of all time. They just run sports teams. But think about it, all they talk about is having a clearly defined process, getting people to buy into that vision, and then, ultimately, do your job.”
19:07 – The importance of an integrator. “I can’t do that. That’s just not me. I don’t have that attention to detail, but I’m good at seeing the whole playing field, you know? I think, why would I try to do something that I’m not good at? I’m better at doing that than he is — you know, seeing the whole playing field and the vision. So he trusts me to grow the firm and with the vision and the relationships around the country. I’m the relationship guy, and he stays focused on just the day-to-day. So, it’s a great partnership in that respect.”
20:10 – Marketing should be fun. “Commercials are about humor. That’s how you connect with people: humor. Nine out of 10 commercials involve some degree of humor. I said, ‘I got that personality. You know, let me just work with what’s me. I can’t come across as the mean guy. It’s just not who I am. I have a big smile. I have a big personality. I have nice teeth. Let me use what I have.’ And so that’s what we stuck with, and it works for us.”
21:01 – Trial and error. “I’m at a loss for words sometimes because I think so much of this has been trial and error until you finally get to that point where you realize this is what works. This is going to be our process going forward, and you just expand upon this. I think whether it’s 10 people or 500 like we have now, it’s the same thing. I think you have to give people a vision, though. You’ve got to have those processes in place.”
23:28 – Creating a different work environment. “When you guys are here, I’m going to try to make this the best nine hours a day you spend — you know, eight hours plus your hour of lunch. I want this to be the best place because I know the way we treat our people — the respect we show them, the way we make them feel important — that affects them when they go home. It affects their personal life, with their husband, with their wife, with their children. I mean, I never wanted to be that boss that was yelling at people and denigrating people. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at anybody in 29 years.”
24:59 – Stay humble. “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Too many guys drink the Kool-Aid, and they think once they’ve made a few shekels, they’re superstars or big shots. There’s always somebody bigger than you, always someone better than you. Just be thankful and treat everybody nicely and with respect.”
29:45 – Give back to those around you. “Get involved in your communities. You know, if we’re not the most charitable law firm in the United States, we’re certainly among the top. We don’t do it to brag about what we do. We do it because of our faith. You can’t just take from communities. You know, if you just want to keep taking, you’re not going to get anything back. We do it because we know that it’s just part of our walk — for me, it’s part of my walk with Christ, to give back and to be involved. I use it as an opportunity to evangelize because ultimately I think of myself more as an evangelist now than a lawyer. But nevertheless, if you don’t take the opportunity to get involved in your community, you’re going to miss out on something that’s so absolutely rewarding.”
33:16 – The future of legal advertising. “About five years ago, 60% of all marketing dollars were TV. Now it’s down to 50% of our marketing dollars on TV — and it’s changing. Eventually, there won’t be any TV. We know that within about 10, 12, 15 years, network TV advertising that’s made us all, you know, household names in our markets — it’s no longer going to be the name of the game. Everything’s going to be streaming, and it’s going to be everything online.”
37:08 – What does being a game changer mean to you? “I think one of the most important things is really understanding people. And you have to control the dynamics of a relationship, and it’s pretty difficult to do that if you don’t understand your clients and who you’re dealing with. It’s been kind of fun because I’m doing these business interruption claims right now, and we’re representing a lot of big places around the country. It’s fun when you’ve achieved a certain modicum of success — and I say that humbly — and you get to deal with other successful people. It’s kind of fun because for 29 years I’ve been representing people that are basically sleeping on benches I advertise on. So you’re dealing with a different type of clientele, but if you understand your clientele, you understand how they think, you understand people. So don’t expect your clients to just be exactly like you are. You have to just treat people with respect and just appreciate them and be thankful that they’re calling you. Be humble, everybody. You want to be a game changing attorney? Be humble. You ain’t that great — nobody’s that great.”
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