For more than 30 years as a sole practitioner, Bill Berg has built a practice that covers more square miles than any other firm in the cj family of clients. From wealthy and urban San Francisco to the rural farmland of Fresno, he markets to a remarkably diverse and widespread group of clients.
Q: You may be the most hands-off principal of all the law firms cj serves. What’s your secret?
A: The secret is that I delegate as much as I can. There’s not one single thing that I can do that others cannot do better. There are people who can type a letter better than me, others who can try a case better than me, and so on. My job is to set policy, the direction of the law firm: What’s our marketing budget going to be; What kind of cases are we going after; What cases are we going to keep? My job is to be that guiding light, not managing tactics.
Q: This year, you started using Vista Consulting and Legal Monkeys. How are those entities helping to shape your operation?
A: Vista is valuable in that it provides an outside viewpoint of our operations. It can be extremely helpful to have an outsider look at what you’re doing and give you feedback. It’s important, though, to have an outsider who is knowledgeable about the industry. So often, you can be running an operation and get stuck in your ways and not realize there is a better way.
Legal Monkeys is just about outsourcing some work. Much of the work that is done by a law firm is specialized. So we have a lot of outside providers, whether it’s an advertising agency or a copy machine repair company or gardeners or a telephone provider. Collecting records and bills is one of those tasks that can be done by an outside company. Legal Monkeys makes life easier and makes cases easier, decreasing time on desk.
“Often, you can be running an operation and get stuck in your ways and not realize there is a better way.”
Q: You have a strong community profile in San Francisco and Sacramento, with successful Safe & Sober programs and Lawyers in the Library, for example. How do those programs and other community efforts play into your brand identity?
A: The short answer to how they affect brand is “I don’t know.” What I do know is that for me, it’s just the right thing to do. It’s a moral issue. To be perfectly honest, it makes me feel good about myself. One of the reasons we do this is to build the brand and create a positive reputation. There’s no direct payoff, especially with Lawyers in the Library. I’ve been doing that for 20 years and never got one case out of it. It’s basically volunteer work. Safe & Sober might result in some business, but I doubt that it equals as much as we spend. It’s not a for-profit enterprise. Mainly these programs put the law firm in a very positive light. Plaintiff personal injury lawyers don’t have the most positive image out there, and these are things that can help change perception.
Q: What does the Bill Berg brand look like in 2021?
A: I’ve never had a multiyear plan, and I don’t have one now. So 10 years from now? I don’t know that 10 years ago I would ever have imagined that we would be as big as we are. I did not foresee that. Twenty years ago, I did not imagine that I would ever be on television. There’s no firm or any other company that looks today like it did 50 years ago, whether it’s human resources or technology. What we do is continue to work on the law firm every single day. Change is constant, and it’s constant with us. Opportunities arise every day. Whether it’s a new market, a mass tort project, or a public relations program, we just make sure we’re paying attention to what opportunities might become available.