Elizabeth Yang is the Founder and CEO of Yang Law Offices, a law firm specializing in family law, business law, intellectual property law, and estate planning. Throughout her legal career, Elizabeth has received numerous accolades, including the “Top 100 Civil Lawyers” award and the “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40” award by the National Trial Lawyers Association. Elizabeth is the best-selling author of The Big Secret and Stress-Free Divorce.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Elizabeth Yang shares the legal services Yang Law Offices offers
- What encouraged Elizabeth to start her own firm — and the obstacles she has overcome
- Elizabeth talks about her transition from an attorney to entrepreneur
- How to generate clients utilizing marketing and branding strategies
- The turning point in Elizabeth’s practice
- Why Elizabeth is introducing mass torts to her practice
- Elizabeth’s advice for people who want to make a drastic career change
In this episode…
Building a successful law firm and embracing entrepreneurship may seem like a daunting task, but with resilience, determination, and adaptability, anything is possible. Even if your background is rooted in a dissimilar industry, you can leverage your expertise to launch your legal career.
Prior to owning her law firm, Elizabeth Yang was an electrical engineer. After gaining experience at a firm, she decided to start her own practice — and faced numerous challenges along the way. Elizabeth had to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship while continuing to establish her legal career. As her practice grew, she demonstrated her entrepreneurial skills by adapting to uncontrollable circumstances and evolving her services to better serve her clients.
In this episode of 15 Minutes, Bela Musits sits down with Elizabeth Yang, the Founder and CEO of Yang Law Offices, to discuss what inspired her to start her firm and how it’s progressed over the years. Elizabeth shares the challenges of her career transition, how to grow your clientele, and her advice for anyone contemplating a career change. Tune in to learn how Elizabeth’s entrepreneurial spirit and expertise have fueled her commitment to helping families through her legal services.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Bela Musits on LinkedIn
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- Elizabeth Yang on LinkedIn
- Yang Law Offices Website | Instagram | Facebook
- James Hsieh on LinkedIn
- Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association
- San Gabriel Valley Bar Association
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential.
To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition.
You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know, but likely don’t.
Bela Musits 0:13
Hi, listeners. I’m Bela Musits host for this episode of the 15 Minutes share your voice podcast, where we talk with top notch law firms and attorneys about what it takes to grow a successful practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help your law firm accomplish its objectives and maximize your grill to potential to have a successful marketing campaign. And to make sure you’re getting the best return on your investment. Your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Today’s guest on the podcast is attorney Elizabeth Yang. She is the founder and CEO of Yang Law Offices. Prior to practicing law, Elizabeth worked for the Raytheon Corporation as an electrical engineer. She is also a successful author, having written six books on a wide range of topics. Welcome to the podcast, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Yang 1:26
Thank you, Bela, thank you for having me today.
Bela Musits 1:29
Sure, can you tell us a little bit number one where your firm is located? And what are the different practice areas?
Elizabeth Yang 1:38
Yeah, we’re located in Southern California. We have offices in Los Angeles, Monterey Park, in Beverly Hills, and also Orange County.
Bela Musits 1:49
Elizabeth Yang 1:53
Yeah, we have about 30 people and the attorneys span across different practices, or different practices mainly, is family law, which is divorces, child custody issues restraining orders. But we also do estate planning, civil litigation and also intellectual property. Very nice. Very nice. So a nice broad spectrum of practice areas.
Bela Musits 2:18
So can you tell me sort of when you started the law firm?
Elizabeth Yang 2:22
Yeah, I started this law practice at the end of 2016, early 2017.
Bela Musits 2:28
Hmm. Now, you know, I can imagine sort of the typical route is somebody goes to law school, they graduate from law school, they just join a larger firm. And you know, they’re an associate and then maybe they make it to junior partner or something. And then I imagine there’s a fair number of people listen to this podcast, who are maybe contemplating starting out on their own and starting their own law firm? What words of advice might you have for someone like that?
Elizabeth Yang 2:54
So I actually did join a big law firm. When I first started out, when I first graduated from law school, I worked for this law firm called Howrey LLP, their an international 800 Plus attorney law firm. And in a few years after gaining experience, that’s when I decided to start my own practice. So for listeners out there, I would, I would encourage getting experience out of law firm first, before starting your own practice, because then you can see how a law firm is run how other attorneys do things and also gain experience by learning from a more senior attorney who can mentor you. There are however, attorneys that finish law school and just jump straight into opening their own law practice. That’s definitely doable, too. If they’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit, and then they can still learn from colleagues and friends who are in the legal industry, who are also business owners. So there’s many ways to go about it. There’s not a one size fits all track in the legal industry.
Bela Musits 4:04
Sure, sure. Was there sort of an event or a trigger point that that, you know, you woke up one day and you said, Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna start my own firm, or was it something that you’ve always sort of thought about?
Elizabeth Yang 4:17
There was a trigger point, I actually had kids, I became a mom. And well, my daughter was born during that first year when I was still working before big law. I barely got to see her. So big law, it pays well, but you’ve got to work the hours, it’s approximately 2000 billable hours every year. And in order to build that many hours, you pretty much have to work around 80 hours a week. And I was on call pretty much all the time we had blackberries back then. So my Blackberry sounded in the middle of the night or on the weekend and a partner was looking for me I had to make myself available because all the other associates work, and that’s why I got paid the big bucks, but then my nanny was pretty much in charge with my daughter that first year and I was like, You know what, if this continues, my daughter is gonna grow up thinking that my nanny is her mother. So that’s why I decided to come out, start my own practice to create the work life balance I needed, so that I can be there for my children and earn a living at the same time.
Bela Musits 5:23
Yeah, yeah. So it must be, you know, both exciting and sort of maybe a little scary to start out on your own because you go from this nice big salary to zero. And, and then nobody knows you, right? In sort of the, you know, your practice areas, you don’t have clients that are already built up. So what were some of the challenges in sort of getting going for you?
Elizabeth Yang 5:47
Definitely getting a stable clientele in the very beginning was challenging. But I learned that in a new business, advertising and marketing is the main thing to invest into. So we’re putting maybe 60% of our revenue right back into marketing and advertising in order to get our branding up in order to get our name out. So in the beginning, it was definitely very scary without a stable clientele. But within a short couple of years, after all the money, we invested into advertising and building up a reputation, that we got a steady stream of clients pretty quickly.
Bela Musits 6:27
Yeah, yeah, I want to come back to that advertising, and promotion stuff that you did in a second. But when you started, were you a solo practitioner? Or did you have a partner and when you started?
Elizabeth Yang 6:38
I actually did have a partner. So I started a partnership even earlier on back in 2011. And I ran that partnership for about five years. When I was running that partnership, we mainly did intellectual property. So IP law was my first area of law because my undergrad, my degree is in electrical engineering and computer science. Even when I was working in hiring, I was only doing IP in 2011. Basically, the same year I started the partnership, I also filed for divorce. And my divorce lasted four years long, even though my marriage was only a year and a half. And during those four years, even though it was very difficult and stressful. My bedroom was pretty much covered with court documents from my own case, rather than my clients case. But because of that experience, I gained a lot of knowledge about family law. And around 2015 2016, after my divorce finished, my friends started coming to me asking if I could help them with their divorce cases. And slowly, the cases for family law just started trickling in. And you know, people learned that I could help them with their divorces right after mine and family laws started getting more popular in my arena, than intellectual property. And then my partner’s side, he started expanding into immigration. And so we basically grew in different directions and decided to go our separate ways. So that’s why in 2016, early 2017, I dissolved a partnership, we separated and I started my own practice, and it was mainly family law. We still do intellectual property, but family law is just busier than ever, especially during the last three years of the pandemic. Quarantine has caused a lot of relationships to fall apart and the business has pretty much tripled in size because of COVID.
Bela Musits 8:48
Wow. Yeah. So what were some of its sort of the early challenges or surprises what what things surprised you when you started out on your own? You know, you’re like, oh, my gosh, I never thought of this.
Elizabeth Yang 8:59
Oh, so many things that it’s not even just starting off on my own. At the beginning. It was even now, you know, five, six years into my practice. There are still things that come daily that surprised me. You know, I think that’s just the life of an entrepreneur. Yeah. Like, in the very beginning, I had one associate. And then, as like, as we continued growing, and business kept booming, I had to hire more people. Well, as you know, after years of entrepreneurship, I’ve learned that hiring and managing people is more difficult than managing clients and their cases. I’ve learned that a lot of associates come into our firm because compared to big law, we are smaller even though we have 30 people but in the grand scheme of things, we’re still pretty small. And so people use us as a stepping stone. They’ll come they’ll gain experience. They’ll learn. And, and then their next goal is to be hired into a bigger law firm, you know, maybe a big law firm to where they can get better reputation, you know, or partnership or more money. So we ended up being the training grounds for a lot of associates. And nowadays, I end up hiring more senior attorneys. I feel like it’s, even though we have to pay them more money. But it’s, it’s more worth it because they’re, they’re stable, they’re not going to come just for a couple years, and then jump ship. So we’ve learned the hard way. But it’s all lessons learned along the way. And now as we’re growing, were learning how to put systems into place. You know, in the very beginning, I’m the main rainmaker people come because they want me to be their attorney. But as I grow, you know, I could bring enough cases to maybe feed five or six attorneys. But now that as we’re at 10 12 15, attorneys, its too much pressure on me one person to bring in of cases for all of those attorneys. So now, we’re putting an intake conversion system into place, so that we have more rainmakers, not just grinders and work or people working on the cases.
Bela Musits 11:18
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there is there is lots of policies and procedures, you need to start thinking about as well. How do we handle this? How do we do that? Right, as you grow bigger?
Elizabeth Yang 11:27
Yeah, we’ve gone through a lot of case management software too, a lot of CRM systems, we started off just using Dropbox, you know, sharing documents via Dropbox. And then we tried using Filevine. And I found that five, I was more meant for personal injury law firms and didn’t really work out for a family law firm. And so this last year, and 2022, we transitioned to Clio. And Clio has been very good for us, with Clio conference, you know, that was great. So it’s just a lot of trial and error over the years and lessons learned.
Bela Musits 12:06
I think one of the challenges sometimes entrepreneurs have is, you know, on day one, they’re doing everything, they’re making all the decisions. And as the business grows, you need to start letting go of some of those things, you need to start delegating things. Do you have any thoughts about, you know, how best to do that?
Elizabeth Yang 12:24
You know, entrepreneurs, a lot of them are Type A personalities and, and like to be in control, you know, I’m speaking from firsthand experience. And so, definitely what you said is true, being able to let go of the reins and trust the people around you, and trust your team and trust that you did do a good job hiring and bringing in the people. You know, and and I just learned this this last week, by the way is I’m learning things all the time, I just learned from my business coach that you have to be slow to hire and quick to fire. I was operating the other way around, I was quick to hire because I was like, Oh, we’re expanding. We need to be hiring, you know, not for what we need now. But for the next six months. And I was very quick to hire, and I was slow to fire because I wanted to give people another chance. Like I see the best in people. Maybe they made one mistake. You know, maybe they can shift, I can change them. But no, I just learned how to be slow to hire quick, the fire if the numbers are not there, you just gotta let go of people quickly. So it’s tough, you know, because I am looking out not just for my employees, but for their families, too. And I know every decision I make is going to have ripple effects into so many families. But you know, for the best of the business, I got to learn learn the new way. Yeah, so testing my team. And this last year, six months ago, my husband, we made the decision for him to leave the corporate world to join the firm. And so now I have a learn to let go and trust him with a lot of the things going on in the company.
Bela Musits 14:13
Yeah, yeah. Very nice. So when you when you think about generating, you know, clients, what has worked well for you, you we talked about, you mentioned this a little bit earlier on. So I want to dive into that a little bit better. What were the what were sort of the things that really worked well.
Elizabeth Yang 14:32
I think the things that are worthwhile is in the beginning, you put all your money back into advertising to grow that reputation and grow your brands because branding is so important. And part of branding is having a great reputation online because nowadays Everyone’s searching online for for law firms or any companies. And so we built up or reviews really quickly in the legal world, especially in family law. is sometimes very sensitive for people to write reviews. So we tell our clients, you don’t have to give the specifics about your case, you know, you don’t have to say that you’re going through a divorce, you can just talk about that we provide a general legal services for you and how satisfied you are with our law firm. And that we have to ask, if we don’t ask, they’re not going to give that review, because they don’t want to disclose your private information and their case to the world. So we have to ask, and by asking, and getting those reviews, that’s how he built a reputation on the internet. And those reviews brought in more clients. And then also word of mouth. Working with other attorneys, that also brought in more clients as well.
Bela Musits 15:50
Yeah. So the, you know, when you think about advertising, these days, there’s so many outlets for that. And you know, you see attorney advertising in newspapers, you see it on buses, you see it on billboards, you see it on TV, you see, you know, on internet, by AdWords, and you’ll and they also see very nice websites. Was there one of those in particular that worked very well for you?
Elizabeth Yang 16:15
You mean in terms of different review websites?
Bela Musits 16:18
Well in terms of generating clients, you know, yeah. Did you kind of keep track of where people came from sort of where they learned about you?
Elizabeth Yang 16:28
Yeah, so I would say the top two websites are definitely Google and Yelp. A lot of people don’t think that Yelp is for law firms. But it they think Yelp is for restaurants and for retail, but lots of law firms are getting business on Yelp now. And Google, organically people search on Google, we do SEO, we make sure our website has all the key terms. We created a blog on our website so that when people search, it will come up. And then we also have a newsletter that goes out to all of our contacts. So Google and Yelp are definitely are two big generators.
Bela Musits 17:07
Oh, very nice. Not did you hire a marketing firm to help you do this? Or did you guys kind of do this on your own?
Elizabeth Yang 17:14
We started off doing this on our own, but eventually we got the professionals. And so one of my good friends, James, he owns a company called Cybertegic. They do a lot of great Yelp, and Google Marketing. They’re actually a certified Yelp marketing vendor. So I work with Cybertegic.
Bela Musits 17:33
Got it. Got it. So you also mentioned other attorneys sometimes refer clients to you. So is was that a, an area that you kind of cultivated and developed?
Elizabeth Yang 17:45
Yeah, I’m a part of many different bar associations and lawyers, associations, some of them. That was like the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association. I was the 2021, president of SCALA. And then another one is the San Gabriel Valley Bar Association. So by going to these different networking organizations, you can meet a lot of other attorneys. And there’s so many attorneys in different fields, for example, we don’t do immigration. So I have attorneys that own law firms specializing in immigration, and I refer my immigration callers to them. And in return, they can either pay me a referral fee, or if they have a lot of family law clients. They refer family law clients to me, you know, same thing with bankruptcy law firms or criminal law firms. We don’t do those areas. And so we cross refer cases to each other.
Bela Musits 18:38
Right. And do you also, I know you have a blog on your website? But do you also publish articles in sort of other places as well?
Elizabeth Yang 18:47
I do. Yeah. So one of the important things to learn as a business owner is try to say yes, as possible, as much as possible. There’s actually a movie by Jim Carrey called Yes Man. Definitely watch that. It just shows how when you’re positive in life, and you say, Yes, opportunities just come up. So anytime I’m asked to do a webinar, to do pro bono work, to do a podcast like this one, I always say yes, and try to fit it in to my schedule and make it happen as much as possible, because you never know who’s going to be watching or listening and when your next opportunity is gonna come up. Anytime I’m asked. I say yes.
Bela Musits 19:28
Oh, very nice. Well, thank you very much for doing this one. You know, one of the things that we thought about those types of opportunities is unlike advertising, when when people see advertising, they already have a jaded opinion because they realize it’s advertising. What if they hear you give a talk someplace or they read an article you wrote, that sort of establishes a great level of credibility for you because it’s, it’s sort of another person or a third party has said, we’ve invited this person on the show or we’ve invited this person to give a talk or, or you know, the editor has read that paper and published it. So I always thought those those types of opportunities are really, really important in all professions, not just you know, in in lawyers.
Elizabeth Yang 20:11
It’s definitely very important because people like to see see authentic organic articles not just advertising. Advertising is like not 100%. credible.
Bela Musits 20:25
Exactly authentic was a good word you pick there. Yeah, very nice. So was there sort of a turning point in your practice where you know, something happened, and it was like, All right now we really, we really hit the accelerator, and we’re really taking off.
Elizabeth Yang 20:40
I think in the last five, six years, the main trigger that happened was definitely COVID. In the beginning, it was just growing a little bit at a time over the months and years. But then the minute the pandemic happened, we saw, you know, an exponential growth in family law. And you know, I’m sure everyone’s been hearing about it that divorce has gone up, but it’s not a rumor. It’s a true experience is true. And, and family law. Holidays and Valentine’s Day are busiest times to during. Yeah, stress levels are up everyone is there’s a lot of anxiety. And people are more quick to pull the trigger during that time and Valentine’s Day, or, or foes are off the hook, that people don’t get flowers. It’s like, okay, that’s the last straw. I’m calling the divorce lawyer.
Bela Musits 21:34
Oh, wow. Well, I better make sure I get some flowers for my wife then for Valentine’s
Elizabeth Yang 21:38
Yeah expectations are high on Valentine’s Day.
Bela Musits 21:45
Excellent advice. Excellent advice to all of our listeners. Yeah. So is there as you look out into the future. What what do you see? You know, for for Yang Law Offices.
Elizabeth Yang 21:57
Well, I foresee us continuing to grow and continuing to help families and family law. But one new area that I’m actually expanding into in the last year and a half is the area of mass torts. So I’ve I have two very close friends who are law firm owners, and they focus on personal injury and mass torts. And they’ve sort of reeled me in into the into the mass tort arena. I’ve attended quite a few conferences in the last year, specializing on mass torts, and most people don’t know what mass tort is. So I’ve been explaining explaining a lot. So torts is injury injury cases, any, anytime where someone gets injured is a tort case, class torts is where something happens, and a lot of people get injured all at the same time from one situation. For example, in California, we have a lot of fires year after year after year, multiple fires throughout the year. And sometimes these fires are caused by an entity, let’s say, you know, PG&E they were responsible for the fires in the last couple years. So we represent the victims who got injured, some people lost their homes, some people lost family members, some people lost pets, some people lost their vehicles. So it’s not a class action, people asked me is this the same as a class action? No, because a class action is where everyone’s dues together, they get certified as a class and they file one lawsuit, whereas tort cases, every person has a different injury. And so they all file a separate case, but it’s all against the same entity that caused the situation to arise. So we represent many, many clients against usually a big corporate entity. And, and we were able to help a lot of people at once you know, because of family law. You know, when I was starting off on my own, I can maybe handle one hearing a day, and you know, maybe two, maximum, I’m limited and how many people I can help. As I expand that I get more attorneys under me, I’m able to help. Let’s say I have two attorneys, I can hire, I can help now double the amount of trouble. If I hired three attorneys that was triple. But in mass torts, I can help 1000s of people, you know, by by because it’s the same case that we’re litigating, you know, in divorce cases, every case is different. It’s a different accent. People have kids and people have domestic violence, every case is different. But in mass tort cases I can, you know, file the same fact pattern before 1000s of people and get them their settlement. So I feel like it’s it’s a much bigger reach and a lot more rewarding by the number of families I can. I can help and touch that. That’s why I’m very interested in this area. And I’ve been expanding into mass torts.
Bela Musits 25:02
Oh, that’s great. That’s great. So I remember we talked and you mentioned that you have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, computer science. And so would you have any advice for someone who’s sort of thinking about going into law? You know, maybe maybe they’re like, you and I, they’re engineers. And and they’re thinking about a career change. And they’re considering law school? Do you have any words of wisdom for them?
Elizabeth Yang 25:31
Yeah, so for engineers, the natural progression into law would be intellectual property. I actually never knew what a high demand there was for lawyers with engineering backgrounds until I passed the bar exam. And I got that offer so quickly, but I always thought engineering and law were two completely different worlds, and they weren’t connected. But in order to succeed in IP, most of the lawyers have engineering backgrounds. In fact, in order to even sit for the Patent Bar, there’s a separate bar that patent attorneys needed to pass called the patent, you have to have some kind of technical requirement that you meet, in order to even qualify to take that Patent Bar, you know, people with a political science or English or History degree, they don’t qualify to sit for the patent, taking engineering or math classes. So for people with engineering backgrounds, I definitely encourage them looking into intellectual property. And within until that kind of property, there’s so many different realms, too. There’s prosecution, there’s litigation, you know, within those areas, you can choose between being doing patents or doing trademarks, or doing copyrights, you know, patterns. It’s like hard IP, trademarks and copyrights are more like soft IP and don’t really require an engineering background. There’s so many different fields within intellectual property you can look into. And then you know, if like me decide IP, there’s, there’s other areas, you want to explore it, you know, try a family law, try bankruptcy, try immigration and try personal injury, there’s so many different areas, I highly recommend law students getting internships while they’re in loss. Because it’s hard to determine what area you like just from books and textbooks a low, getting that hands on experience is very valuable.
Bela Musits 27:31
Yeah, that’s great advice. So Elizabeth, I want to start wrapping things up. If people want to find out more about you and your law firm, what’s the best place for them to go?
Elizabeth Yang 27:41
They can go visit my website, which is yanglawoffices.com. Or they can follow us on Instagram @yanglawoffices. We also have Facebook pages too, if they search out Yang Law Offices.
Bela Musits 27:54
Okay, that’s great. Is there something that I did not ask you that I should have or something else you’d like to say to our listeners that I haven’t asked?
Elizabeth Yang 28:04
You know, in the last couple years, what I’ve learned is trust the process. A lot of times, you try to plan things, try to do your one year plan, five year plan, 10 year plan, but God has a better plan than any human can ever plan. So I would say just trust the process and know that, you know, the best is yet to come. And a lot of times letting go and trusting the process is is better than holding on tight and be like, oh, I need to make my life a certain way. And I’m stuck to this. You know, that caused a lot of anxiety. Just yeah have the general plan. And you know, I would have never been able to plan COVID. And it happened and we just got to adapt and go with the flow.
Bela Musits 28:52
Yeah. Well, that’s great. So Elizabeth, thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Elizabeth Yang 28:59
Thank you so much. Thank you for all the wonderful questions, Bela.
Bela Musits 29:03
Yep, you’re welcome.
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