If you have ever done a Google search for “trademark lawyer” then you’ve probably seen this guy’s face.
His name is Josh Gerben and he’s filed more trademark applications than just about anyone (he’s ranked #3 according to Trademark Insider). And as you can tell from this picture, it didn’t take him 20 years to get there.
When the TheLawInsider.com had the opportunity to interview Josh last week, there was one thing about him that was abundantly clear: Josh is a good business man. He understands marketing, he understands customer service, he understands high quality work product and he understands a P&L statement.
Part of what allows Josh to flourish as a businessman is the structure of his practice. Gerben Law provides flat-fee trademark services and that’s it. For a business owner, understanding the cost-of-acqusition is very important and a flat-fee service allows that to happen. With a flat fee service, Josh is free to use more traditional online marketing techniques that are more commonly used by online legal service providers like RocketLawyer or LegalZoom.
So TheLawInsider.com went to Josh and begged him for the secret sauce that’s made him such a force in the trademark industry. He told us his secrets, but it turns out they aren’t really secrets at all.
At what stage in your career did you decide to open up your own law firm?
I decided to open my own business even before I ever started college. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My great grandfather owned a a junk yard and my great grandmother owned a bakery. My grandfather owned a land moving equipment franchise and my father owns a chain of automotive repair centers.
I knew from an early age that I would be working for myself at some point. I went to law school to give myself an edge in the business world. After a couple of years of practicing at a boutique firm in Washington, D.C., I decided it was time to strike out on my own.
How did you come to narrow your law practice to trademark law?
I realized that I had a unique skill set. I had run the marketing for my father’s business for a number of years. In that time, I developed a deep understanding of brands and what businesses needed to achieve with them. I also knew trademark law. The two began to seem like a natural match. After starting to focus on trademark work, I knew I had found my calling.’
Your website says that you’re the #3 Trademark Filer in the US. How were you able to achieve such success so early in your career?
I have not taken a vacation since opening my practice in March 2008. I work six to seven-day weeks and never stop thinking about ways to improve my practice. In my opinion work ethic is everything. If you work 9-5 then you will get 9-5 results. If you work hard (and smart) the results will be much different. I am far from perfect, but I am always thinking about my clients and ensuring the work product I deliver is as good, if not better, than that of any major law firm. This takes a lot of time and, sometimes, requires forgetting that weekends and holidays exist. When you offer high quality services at a fair price, good things happen.
We seem to see you everywhere online for trademark. How much of your time/focus is spent on building your online presence?
This has been an important piece of developing the practice. I do a lot of offline marketing, but do consider the Web to be an important part of attracting clients.
Do you think the flat fee model is going to catch on across the legal industry or is it something unique to trademarks?
I already see it catching on everywhere. Any time you have a defined project, a flat fee should be possible. Whether it is drafting a contract, forming a company, forming a non-profit, or developing an employee handbook, etc., I have seen client demand for flat fees.
Even before the recession hit, small businesses were just not using lawyers because of unknown aspect of how much it would cost. Now, lawyers are realizing that the LegalZooms of the world are making money because people and small businesses still want legal services — just at defined prices.
The good news for lawyers is that companies like LegalZoom cannot offer an attorney-client relationship. They give someone a form and say “fill it out.” A lot of people would prefer to have a lawyer’s help in important legal matters if they knew the cost was reasonable.
As I have discovered, if you can be upfront on how much a legal service will cost — and then actually deliver high quality service at that price — you made a friend for a lifetime (and hopefully changed some opinions about the type of people lawyers are).
Any words of advice for young attorneys who are considering striking out on their own?
It is not easy and it requires a lot of time— but it is incredibly rewarding. You would probably end up working less if you tried to make partner somewhere. Not only is your time the only resource you have to make money, you need to use it to develop business. Going out on your own certainly will not be for everyone. That being said, the rewards are there if you do get a good client base going.