The Sterling Law Story
Understanding our focus and mission may make more sense if you know how Sterling Law started.
My name is Jeff Hughes. I started practicing at a small, community law firm in 1997 (McLario, Helm & Bertling, S.C. in Menomonee Falls, WI). I mainly practiced family law and with a little criminal/traffic. By the age of 30, I enjoyed a high level of success in the courtroom and with my practice. My compensation was excellent, and I very much enjoyed my work and my clients.
Despite my flourishing legal career, I always had a drive for entrepreneurship. The idea of building an enduring company/team captured my imagination much more than just building my own individual law practice.
I almost always had on-the-side business interests. When I was 25-26 and three years out of law school, I worked a good part of the year at night and weekends starting a dating website that focused on a large niche. That was the right idea and right time, but, in retrospect, I didn’t have the ability or maturity to get it done. That business never got going. (Later eHarmony.com did what I envisioned. They executed. I did not.)
I started another business with a partner when I was 28. That business reported on rapidly rising gas prices at individual stations. It failed.
On the day after my 30th birthday, I started another business. That one failed too.
At the age of 31 I had three failed business experiences. Ugh! (Oh yeah—that house painting business I had for three years in college and law school where I worked with my brother . . . that doesn’t count.)
So, at the age of 32, I did the natural thing for me . . . I started another business. This business was selling satellite TV service for Dish Network over the internet. It worked well—really well. Over the next eight years we grew that business to $23 million in revenue and over 200 employees.
Along the way we also started an online ad agency, RocketClicks.com. Today, that business helps Sterling Law and another 50 clients or so. It is thriving and growing.
Meanwhile . . . back at the bat cave . . . , my little brain was churning and scheming. I always thought law firms were mostly poorly managed and generally did a crappy job serving clients. I felt I had better ideas for how a law firm should be built around clients’ wants and needs.
In late 2013, I had a gut check. It was a moment where I finally told myself to “shut up and quit whining about how things should be and do something.” So, along with my long-time colleague, Tony Karls, we decided to start Sterling Law.
We officially opened Sterling Law for new clients on June 22, 2014.
Where is Sterling Law going?
So . . . “where is Sterling going?” you say. What is your vision?
Answer: We are building the most impactful family law firm on the planet. We strive to be “country mile” better than every other family firm that exists.
Yes. I am putting our goal on the “world wide web” for everyone to see. If we fail in our quest, all our detractors could justifiably laugh and sneer. We are obsessed with providing an amazing experience to clients and being far better than every family law firm. (That is a huge goal because there are some extraordinary family lawyers at other firms.)
We believe every family in America facing a legal crisis should have the opportunity to work with our firm.
I don’t mean to come across as arrogant. It’s just that it’s true. We are better than the other family law firms. The seed has been planted. We are just waiting for the tree to grow.
Our strategy starts with an obsessive focus on clients. Here are some examples of what I mean.
- Clients who know the difference HATE hourly fees. Hourly fees totally suck because they put the lawyer and the client on opposite sides. So, we killed the hourly rate. If we can’t serve a client with cost certainty, we don’t do it.
- The percentage of pro se family law litigants seems to increase each year. Therefore, we are pioneering concepts in mediation, limited scope coaching, and other virtual services. Most law firms have one or two old-school options for prospective clients. We have many with new ones on the drawing board. In essence, we are creating new services that most clients did not even know they wanted.
- We constantly ask and survey our clients to see how we can do better. Almost no firms in family do this. It is time consuming to do, and most lawyers don’t want to know when they stink. Conversely, when you are consumed with serving clients and getting better, we want to know every little way we can improve.
- There are a dozen other examples that happen every day internally because every system, every new hire, every new technology, every strategic decision is undertaken with the family law client in mind. We are not distracted with any other type of law.
In addition to our client focus, we are building new technologies that will serve clients in bigger and better ways. Our team is pushing into new media to offer clients more information in easier to consume formats. We are questioning every “that’s how family law is done” statement that we can find.
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