Chad Shifrin is a Partner at Laurie & Brennan LLP, a boutique construction law firm in Chicago, IL. With over 18 years of experience, Chad focuses his practice on litigating and arbitrating complex construction disputes and represents owners and construction professionals in a court of law. In addition to his litigation work, Chad regularly counsels clients in non-litigation matters, assisting in contract negotiation through project completion.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Chad Shifrin shares the law services Laurie & Brennan LLP specialize in
- What inspired Chad to pursue a career in the legal industry — and why he recommends working at a law firm before committing to law school
- The early days of Laurie & Brennan LLP and how they built their clientele
- The distinction between running a business and representing clients
- What problems does Laurie & Brennan solve for its clients?
- Chad imparts simple advice to improve your work
- What does a typical day look like for Chad?
In this episode…
Building a successful law firm focused on settling construction disputes is a challenging endeavor. It requires an understanding of the industry, the desire to build relationships, and the ability to navigate complex legal situations. For those willing to embrace these challenges, a fulfilling and impactful career awaits.
Chad Shifrin leveraged his experience working for an international law firm to build industry connections and solve complex legal cases. He discovered that the key to success in construction law was building trust with clients, effectively representing their needs, and finding practical solutions to legal disputes.
In this episode of 15 Minutes, host Chad Franzen sits down with Chad Shifrin, Partner at Laurie & Brennan LLP, to discuss his journey in helping build a successful construction law practice. Chad talks about the firm’s early days, how the team acquired clients, the challenges of running a law firm as a business, and the problems they solve for their clients. He also shares the advice he’s received from mentors and its influence on his career.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- Chad Shifrin on LinkedIn
- Laurie & Brennan LLP
- DLA Piper
- Ty Laurie on LinkedIn
- Dan Brennan on LinkedIn
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.
To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t.
Chad Franzen 0:12
Hi, Chad Franzen here. I am one of the hosts of share your voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth, growth potential. They 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. 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. Chad Shifrin is an equity partner at the construction law firm Laurie & Brennan one of the premier premier construction law firms in the country. He’s represented owners, contractors and subcontractors on nearly every type of construction project, including stadiums, arenas, high rises, hospitals, and food processing facilities. And he’s done so coast to coast. Chad, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Chad Shifrin 1:09
Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Chad Franzen 1:12
Hey, if you are a partner, as I mentioned, and Laurie & Brennan it’s a Construction Law Firm. Tell me a little bit more about the firm and what you guys specialize in?
Chad Shifrin 1:21
Yep. Sounds good. Laurie & Brennan is a construction law firm. We opened in 2010. About five of us left the large law firm DLA Piper and started our own firm Laurie & Brennan. So super exciting time for us. And 13 years later, we’re still doing it. So we got 13 lawyers, and all we do is construction law. So we provide that service to clients and anything that’s that’s not right in our wheelhouse. We refer out to our network of lawyers that we developed over DLA Piper and all the years since.
Chad Franzen 1:53
Tell me a little bit about your journey toward the legal industry. How did you, you know, kind of, where’d you go to law school? How’d you get into it?
Chad Shifrin 2:00
Yeah, I went to law school over Chicago-Kent. Ended up at DLA Piper because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And then met up with some really great fantastic lawyers, including Ty Laurie and Dan Brennan, of the founding partners, Laurie & Brennan for about five and a half years and knocked on my door and said, Let’s go into our own thing together. So that kind of how that ended up happening.
Chad Franzen 2:23
When and how did you know you wanted to be an attorney?
Chad Shifrin 2:27
Well, I have some family members who are lawyers. So for those of you listening that are interested in the law, I cannot recommend this enough is go work at a law firm before he went to law school. That’s just the key experience for him because a lot of people have friends that no went to law school weren’t sure they wanted to practice didn’t really know what they’re getting themselves into. Some didn’t practice some didn’t. But my advice to young people that asked me that question is go work at a law firm. So I worked at my uncle’s Labor Employment firm. My father was a lawyer, the just general practice. So he did a little bit of everything. So I really kind of got to know what that was all about when I went to work at both of their law firms.
Chad Franzen 3:09
What did you do there having not gone to law school yet?
Chad Shifrin 3:14
I mean, mostly clerk stuff. Just just I was in college at the time. And so summers, I’d go there and help out whatever it needed to be done, whether it was drafting some articles, whatever the you know, running to court for for for filings learned how to do that. You name it, whatever was asked for me at the office, I just wanted to be there and help people out and and really figure out if that was something that I was interested in or not. And soon enough, I figured out of sitting in on meetings and going to certain things that I this is, I just liked it. You know what I mean? So So I said, let’s, let’s go through this more, and that’s why we went to law school.
Chad Franzen 3:55
So I’m guessing some people you know, you mentioned some people go to law school, and then they decide they don’t like it. Some people decide that they do you. You worked there and decided you wanted to go to law school as a result. What was that about? What you saw, you know, your, your, some of your relatives doing or other people doing that was so attractive to you?
Chad Shifrin 4:12
Yeah. Well, what I would tell you is, I enjoy reading and writing. And that’s mostly what the law is. And so when I was there, and I saw the phone calls that they would get in giving that advice to clients, I loved the idea of you get the call, you figure it out, you read it, you write it, you do it for himself. That was right up my alley of my skill, set my interest, working, talking with people that that whole dynamic just made sense to me. It was a natural fit for me. I felt at home and a lot of people don’t but it worked for me. So I said let’s go do this. I went to law school.
Chad Franzen 4:52
So you say you went to law school? What was your first job out of law school again? Have you told me that?
Chad Shifrin 4:58
Well, I, in law school I worked for a couple of other law firms experienced that way. But then I, my first job was a first year lawyer and I summered. There was DLA Piper. So a large international law firm. So I got the experience of a very, you know, 3000 plus lawyer outfit over there. What was that, like? I was great. It was, it was like, in many ways going going to grad school, but getting paid for it, because it was, I mean, when you’re a first year lawyer, and you’re getting sophisticated cases, you’re really you’re doing the grunt work of the research and writing but reporting internally, to the more senior lawyers and learning from them and learning what to do, how to communicate with clients, how to analyze legal issues, how to strategize on litigation cases. And so there’s a lot of eyes wide, open learning, listening, figuring out what works, what doesn’t work for you, and having a lot of access to a lot of different lawyers and how they practice law in many different ways. And then you got to figure out what works best for you.
Chad Franzen 6:03
So would you characterize yourself as one of the founders at Laurie & Brennan?
Chad Shifrin 6:08
Yes, there are five partners that came over Ty and Dan, it’s, you know, they’re the name partners on the door, make no mistake, especially the seniority. But there’s there’s five of us that we all talk together, and we opened the doors on day one, and sat around and said, Okay, here we are, how are we going to make this work? And that was a really neat experience and really privileged to be a part of that.
Chad Franzen 6:28
Yeah, I was just going to ask you, what were the early days there, like?
Chad Shifrin 6:31
The early days were just figure it out as you go, which was it forced us to really stick to our founding principles, which was, okay, let’s provide excellent client service, who are the clients? What do we need to do? And then how do we get this done in an efficient way, so that we, you know, can can best represent their interests, and we don’t feel like the clients are losing anything by leaving the large law firm with massive resources to us, you know, and so that, that bridging that gap was was, quite frankly, a thrilling challenge. And then the results that we’ve shown over 13 years is, you can do it. And we have and we’re, we’re really proud of making it for 13 years and still going.
Chad Franzen 7:21
So it sounds like you didn’t have to like you didn’t have to scramble for clients, clients came with you, or you had clients when he started out.
Chad Shifrin 7:29
It was both we had we had clients, we opened our doors that we knew, we didn’t know but you know, that they came with us over to Laurie & Brennan and, and then we had to get the word out and start are just with without a marketing budget, you know what I mean? Just start talking to people in our networks in our context, and let people know what we’re doing, why we were doing it, letting them know that that we had the goal of being one of the premier construction law firms in the country, because we do a lot of national work. And we represent clients all over the country. And so that, you know, mostly by word of mouth, reputation, referrals, cases, coming in without a marketing budget, so to speak, you know, just doing what we’re doing and doing it well. And that’s that’s worked out for us.
Chad Franzen 8:16
Was there anything? Or maybe with five of you this is this is less likely to happen? Was there anything that all of you kind of combined with all of your legal background? Maybe didn’t know that you didn’t know when it came to? You know, running a business as a law firm?
Chad Shifrin 8:30
No, I, I’m not sure how to answer that, other than to say there was a lot we didn’t know it. We were not shy to say, we don’t know. So how do we do it? And who should we ask for. But the key to it, especially with five people, as you mentioned, is, and all five of us are still here. And all is the working together and making it work and making it work for all of us that at the end of the day, I tell people all the time that the law practice is still a people business. It’s a people business inside the law firm, especially in case the types of cases that we work on, which are team oriented cases, it’s very rare. There’s just one lawyer sitting there with the, you know, in front of the computer and a client and getting the job done. They’re usually working with others in our law firm. And so it’s the people business on the inside of the law firm working in a team atmosphere and working with support staff, especially in a small firm, keeping that culture in a place where everyone enjoys coming to work. And then, of course, the people business side of the law is we’re representing clients, and it’s people that have real problems that are there, they’re looking to be solved, and they want themselves in an efficient, sophisticated manner. And that’s sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to do. But you have to have the people skills to work with them identify what their problems are. A lot of times they don’t, they don’t see it, right. And so it’s for you to pull back and reframe and talk to your clients about ways to solve their issue so they can move on and do what they want to be doing which is not talking to their lawyers, but But writing it Working on their business. So that is my long winded answer for you for how the five of us kind of looked at each other, and how do we sell the running the business problem of the law firm, which was done, you know, without us even thinking about it over and over in a big firm, and that we had to do it ourselves and figure out how to do all of it. And here we are.
Chad Franzen 10:22
So as I mentioned in your intro, you’ve worked with owners, contractors and subcontractors on construction projects, including stadiums and arenas, what kind of problems are you solving as an attorney, when it comes to that maybe the people who just like to save big arenas bill wouldn’t know?
Chad Shifrin 10:39
Well, with a lot of construction projects, it’s usually time issues. There’s there’s delays is a constant theme on most of the stadium jobs in Arena jobs that we’ve worked on others defect issues, I mean, stadiums and arenas are ripe for disputes, because oftentimes, the largest such projects being built in that city are not the largest one of the largest. But it’s not something that the contractors and subcontractors have done repetitively, in particular, the subcontractors, those local subs that come out to build a stadium and arena, it’s usually a very large job for them to do oftentimes the first time that they’re building such a project. And so they were coming with their beds, and whether that’s a defect, issue, time issue, whatever it is, that all of a sudden was looking at each other, how do we solve this problem? And when they can’t figure that out on the ground amongst themselves, then then toggle lawyers and have us help them out? for better for worse, but But ultimately, depends on who you know, who we’re representing the goal always remains the same with the construction project, get it built, get it done on time on budget, to the extent you can.
Chad Franzen 11:47
Are there any milestones that you’re particularly proud of, during your time with Laurie & Brennan, that you’ve seen the firm kind of experience?
Chad Shifrin 11:53
Um, good question. I mean, I was really proud of several different milestones I was, I’ll go through a couple that come off the off the top of my head, I mean, two years. And I remember us having a little partner dinner, say we made it two years, and so that just just getting any new business, any new firm off the ground and lasting those two years, because you kind of do it, or at least I did it certainly at my age at that stage in my career. This sounds super exciting, you know, time data, and I’m with you guys. Let’s go and do this. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll go find another job. And a couple years, well, sure enough, two years eight, and we’ve got a lot of momentum, and we start hiring more lawyers. And so that’s milestone number two that I will just tell you real quickly came came to mind that when we hit the 10, lawyer, Mark, and right now we’re about 13. Lawyers who fluctuate 13 to 15, lawyers or so when we hit that 10 lawyer mark, and knew that we had really good depth and a good bench. And we could work concerned any longer about getting handed a very sophisticated construction project that was caused multiple lawyers to be on it. And how’s the firm going to manage that once you get to about 10 lawyers, you know, you can handle most, if not any type of construction project. So that was a big milestone for us that I’m not sure what year we hit that in, but probably between years five and seven or so. And yep, and then I say the last milestone was it was a year 10 When we knew we were 10 years, and we’re mature law firm. And our when I told you about that no marketing budget, no knew who we were, and you try to get your name out. Now you see people on the street and you talk to people in the construction industry. Yes, I know your firm you guys represented this person or that person. And that’s a really proud moment to know that people you don’t have any association with in your firm when your brand is getting out there. And people know who you are is a real proud moment for a law firm that starts from scratch.
Chad Franzen 13:48
You take a different approach to marketing in year 10, than you would in year one or two, or zero or one.
Chad Shifrin 13:54
Yeah, we probably should. But the, the way our culture is, we in many ways, we’re still taking the same approach that we are just always collaborating, talking, who sees what opportunity goes speak where we always want to be speak with people, we want to be in contact with clients. And quite frankly, at the end of the day, most of our business continues to just come from referrals or people who’ve worked with us before who seen our work and say yep, you have a construction issue have called someone over it Laurie and Brennan that continues to be where we’re most of our business comes from and how unique that as an illegal industry sounds like it’s probably pretty pretty typical. But that’s that’s what works for us.
Chad Franzen 14:36
Is what you’re doing now what you thought you would be doing when you decided to go to law school? I mean, like somebody maybe who is ignorant like me, sees things on TV and you think you’re gonna be an attorney like that guy you see on TV, would you say you’re doing now what you thought you’d be doing?
Chad Shifrin 14:50
So no, but but but I wasn’t so sure what I would be doing so so I’ll answer it this way, which is, I had the good fortune of knowing as I spoke Too earlier that being a lawyer isn’t what you see on TV. And I never aspired to do that. In fact, that just wasn’t, wouldn’t be something I’d be interested in anyway. I knew that I was interested in solving people’s problems. I just love that concept. I love providing that value to people. I love being objective, and just rational, logical, common sense. And let’s think about a good here. Here’s the issue, let’s talk about it. Here’s some past, here’s some ways we can resolve it, let’s pick what path makes the most sense. So in that way, I guess I am doing what I always thought I would do, but circle back and that in a way that I’m not doing, what I thought I would do is I never thought I’d be a construction lawyer. That was never my intent. That was not something I had a ton of interest in. But I’m here and I’m doing it because of people, which is it’s a theme that I talked about, often when I talk about my career, which I’ve already said, which is the laws of people business. And I ended up meeting great people over DLA Piper who said, Let’s firm, our firm, and all five of us get along great, they’re great people. And then the clients that I represent, I’ve made some great relationships. So it’s less about the construction, and it’s more about the people. And I think those that do this more, realize that once you kind of have a specialty and know that that area of law, it’s not as much about the law, it really is about the people in how you approach solving problems.
Chad Franzen 16:23
Thinking of people, do you have any mentors that? If so, who are they? And what what can you think of off the top of your head, that might be the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Chad Shifrin 16:32
Yeah, and I, the choice of mentors obviously timed, and that goes without saying, that I’ve worked with for the last 13 years and met on day one over DLA Piper, I go back to high school, some of my high school teachers that I think of as mentors, I think those are really, I mean, anyone who has a great high school teacher, they’re such formative years, and they just stick with you. So deeply of the kind of person that you want to be in the world. And so I had a great history teacher, where I went to Mr. Lyons over Stevenson High School way back when and he really inspired me to be a good person in what I do. And I try to do that. So he comes to mind, and then several other mentors I can think of, but I won’t name right now at DLA Piper that I think to myself that I took a little bit from each one to try to figure out how I wanted to go about practicing law and and representing clients. And so that’s that, I’ll leave that for that. As far as advice goes. To me, it’s always been keep it simple. Just do good work. I mean, it’s, it’s not that hard. I tell by my high school aged child and middle school, I mean, the best advice is just do the work. Just stop thinking about everything, do really good work. And then the other part is, once you do your good work, step back, come back to it and do one more thing to make it better. And so that’s that’s the way that I’ve thought of doing work and practicing law. And it’s helped me Well, in my 18 years or so that I’ve been doing it is just do a really good job, stop it, come back and add one more thing to it before you send it out. And having the discipline to do that. You know, using your brain to think about things not just put it out there, all those kind of simple, obvious statements. But but if you really think about it, we put them into practice. They cumulatively add up any wind up doing good work and surprising yourself along the way.
Chad Franzen 18:42
Sure, absolutely. Sounds good. Hey, I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more about Laurie & Brennan?
Chad Shifrin 18:50
Hop on up on the website lauriebrennan.com, which redid our website last year, I thought it was time back to your kind of your marketing question. And is one thing we did after your attendance, we made an effort to do that. But like I said, all we do is construction law. We do it nationally, we try to do it for everybody in the construction industry, subcontractors, contractors, owners and developers. We do super sophisticated stuff. And being the small firm that we are we’re we really pride ourselves in being able to help almost anybody in the industry to, you know, answer their questions representative if they need it, make a way to if it’s the right situation, figure it out. And if we can’t do it, if we’re not the right people to represent that we use our National Network to put them in contact with the right people. We’re really proud of ourselves for doing that.
Chad Franzen 19:38
Okay, a last question for you. What does the typical day look like for you? And are there any rituals that you find most important for you?
Chad Shifrin 19:47
Typical day for a lawyer, man. That’s a tough question that always depends on what’s going on, especially because I do a lot of dispute work. So that typical day can be as exciting as arbitration and trial and you’re Are there and you know you’re going full speed. And it can be as mundane as, okay, I document productions in and then I got to go through some documents today or make some phone calls or whatnot. So it really depends on on the face of where the dispute is if it’s in formal dispute resolution or if I’m just answering phone calls and I’m helping a client out with a quick question, quick answer or something more complicated than that.
Chad Franzen 20:25
Okay. Hey, Chad has been great talking to you today. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time fun conversation.
Chad Shifrin 20:30
Chad, great job. Appreciate the questions and thanks for the opportunity.
Chad Franzen 20:34
Thank you so much, everybody.
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