Gene Trowbridge is the Co-founding Partner at Trowbridge Law Group, assisting clients with federal security in all 50 states. Prior to becoming an attorney, Gene was a real estate syndicator developing mini-storage facilities using money from private investors. He served as a CCIM instructor and organized highly regarded intensive workshops focused on educating real estate syndicators on how to legally raise money from private investors. His book, “It’s a Whole New Business,” details the process of real estate syndication.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Gene Trowbridge explains how becoming a lawyer was born from a desire to grow
- How Gene used his commercial real estate and teaching history to found a firm
- Why education-based marketing techniques are successful
- Gene talks about building a legacy by empowering others to achieve
- Working with challenging partners and creating a better future
- Why you should set boundaries and be responsive to potential clients
In this episode…
When you’ve established yourself in your career, how can you double your business? What’s a guaranteed way to grow?
Gene Trowbridge saw a problem and decided to pursue law school. Since then, he has built his career by using a skillset built on experience in commercial real estate and working with attorneys. For Gene, building his business wasn’t part of a big elaborate plan. It was simply following education-based marketing — and responding to people.
In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen sits down with Gene Trowbridge, Co-founding Partner at Trowbridge Law Group, to discuss how education-based marketing can work for you. Gene talks about starting law school late in his career, how to generate lifetime clients, and why you should be responding to potential clients.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
- Gene Trowbridge on LinkedIn
- Trowbridge Law Group
- Trowbridge Law Group’s phone number: 949-570-1507
- Trowbridge Law on YouTube
- It’s a Whole New Business, Fourth Edition: The how-to bible of syndicated investment real estate by Gene Trowbridge
- Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself by Daniel H. Pink
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.
Chad Franzen 0:13
Hi, Chad Franzen here 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 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. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence machine learnings and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Gene Trowbridge is Co-founding partner at Trowbridge Law Group and has been connected to commercial real estate for 50 years. He went to law school at age 45. Gene, thanks so much for joining me today. How
Gene Trowbridge 1:02
are you? Well, this is great, Chad, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you.
Chad Franzen 1:07
Hey, thanks so much. I’m curious. You went to law school at age 45. What did you been doing up to that point?
Gene Trowbridge 1:13
Up to that point, I was fully in the real estate business commercial real estate, being a broker for a while being a teacher in an organization called CCIFM. And I was a syndicator. For 15 years, I put together syndication offerings, primarily focusing on building self storage facilities in the three county, Southern California area, we built the facilities, we got them 50% leased up and then we sold them to longtime operators, I wasn’t interested in operating storage facilities, we were interested in making a profit from building.
Chad Franzen 1:57
So you were kind of chugging along, and then age 45 hit and you went to law school, what went into that decision?
Gene Trowbridge 2:03
Well, it was a decision that was born out of facing a facing problem with growth. I was using broker dealers to raise all my money, stockbrokers. And they came to me and they wanted me to do larger offerings to raise more money. And at the time chat I had about about 900 investors that I was working with. And one year we sent out 18 100k ones. And I thought, well, if I’m going to you know, double the size, my offerings or the amount of my offerings, my Oh, my database is going to grow, my workload is going to grow and back then are in the middle 90s. There were no back office software programs to help you. So everything was done in house and we looked envelopes. We look stamps, we did that. And I just said, and I’ll say this all the time. So when the great decisions are made at the kitchen table, I I sat down at lunch with my wife one day and said I just don’t think I want the risk of doubling my business having to double my business to please a bunch of brokers who, as wonderful as they are, we’re doing everything on best efforts basis, no guarantee that they’d raise any money. So I said I’ve got you know, six or seven years of income coming in. From the funds that we’ve already done. I had a pretty good size net worth at that time. I said, I think I’ll just go to law school to be one thing to be a securities lawyer.
Chad Franzen 3:45
And off I went good for you. Where did you go to law school.
Gene Trowbridge 3:50
It was a small school in Southern California called Western State University. And the issue there I was 45 years old. And no major law school was going to take me and I was never going to work for anyone. So it didn’t make any difference to me, where I graduated. I just wanted to get through law school and pass the bar. So a Western State is a school actually, that has more attorneys practicing in Orange County than any other law school and we’re talking about UCLA and USC and Southwest and all the big schools. But Orange County is a place where all degenerates like myself would have gone to law school so that’s
Chad Franzen 4:35
so I’m thinking you probably went to undergrad at the kind of the time when most people would have gone to undergrad. How was it going back to school? You know, years if not decades later.
Gene Trowbridge 4:44
Yeah, I graduated from college Chad 1970. So I’m an old guy already right? Um, quite honestly, this was the one time in my life I was a good student because last School is expensive. The time and energy I had to put into it was, I think immense. And my wife was working with two kids in grade school. And it was a, it was a time, a time challenge. And I said, you know, I’m not going to do this. Unless I pass the bar, just one goal. I don’t care what my grades are in school, but I need to get out of pay for it all and pass the bar and the first test. And so I was good. I was in a study group. I studied constantly. And it all worked.
Chad Franzen 5:38
Great. That’s awesome. Tell me about Trowbridge Law Group and what you guys specialize in.
Gene Trowbridge 5:43
Okay, well, I went to law school to be an attorney in the world of syndication. And today, I guess I’d throw the word crowdfunding in there. Because that was my background, commercial real estate, syndicating and I had worked with a lot of attorneys, where I was their client, and I kind of knew what, what I needed from an attorney. And that was the only part of law that I was really interested in that wasn’t going to be a divorce lawyer, a family law lawyer, criminal lawyer at my age, I was going to do what I knew. So I’ve had a couple of partnerships with other lawyers. And the current one we’re in is called Trowbridge Law Group. They’ve all had the name Trowbridge generic because I’m the Rainmaker. And I’m kind of the organizer. And so that’s what we do. We do exclusively work on syndication. If I could delve a little bit, we do Regulation D, rule 506, B, and 506. C offerings. And sometimes we’ll do a Regulation A offering. And I would say eight out of 10 offerings have to do with real estate as the product but we do you know, we do the dreaded cannabis we do. Jonathan, my partner does some crowdfunding work where the product is alcohol, beer, Saki, whatever, people are brewing in their basement, and then they want to take public. So we do all that. But primarily it’s it’s real estate we work with I’ve done offerings where the amount of money raised is $300,000. And I’ve done offerings where the amount of money raised is 185 million. So we’re, we’re into, we’re into that business. Okay.
Chad Franzen 7:31
Did you start Trowbridge Law Group right when you were coming out of school,
Gene Trowbridge 7:34
I came out of law school. As a solo practitioner, I called the first firm Trowbridge and Associates because I thought I might have a couple of people I went to law school with, join me when they finally did pass the bar. And that didn’t work. So somewhere along the line, I ran into a woman who wanted to do the same type of law that I was doing. She was already a lawyer in environmental law. But she didn’t want to do that. So I brought her in. And after a couple of years, we formed a partnership. Then I thought three would be better than two. So I had an another lady. And now we have three partners in the partnership. And the first partner said, I’m out of here, I want to go to Florida and get away from California. So now I’m down to two partners. And then in 2020, I decided that I would not want to be partners with that particular person anymore. And the feeling was mutual. So I formed Trowbridge Law Group and basically took the company with me, there are six of us. And we were all in the previous, the previous previous firm, and the lady who had been my partner is now no longer practicing law.
Chad Franzen 8:59
Your story is a little different than a lot of people that I talked to, because you had already kind of lived a lot of life before you went to law school and started your legal journey over the early days starting out as a lawyer like for you, and how was it different from what you had been doing before?
Gene Trowbridge 9:14
Well, prior to that, I was doing the syndication myself. I was finding the properties. I was hiring an attorney to do the paperwork. I was working really as a wholesaler with the broker dealer community to get them to raise money. And now all I was doing is doing the paperwork. And it was interesting. I’ll give one comment that I have on the legal profession is that there’s age discrimination in the legal profession. In my first probably, well served in my first quarter in law school, I went to career night, and I was pretty high on myself knowing that I had done quite a bit of business in this field. And wouldn’t I be a wonderful catch for some attorney who had a practice area? Oh, syndication. And what I found right away is that no one was going to hire a 45 year old guy. And depending on what they’re going to pay a law clerk and expect him to work 80 hours, so I was not hireable period. So at that moment, I knew my my path was, I wasn’t sure about it beforehand. But at that moment, I knew my path was to go on my own and be be my own attorney. And maybe there’d be a partnership in the future. I didn’t really think that far. But I thought I’d go go on. So in answering your question, it was kind of funny, when the last quarter in school like took a pass fail course, on starting your own practice. And part of it was to write a business plan, I had to go out and find office space and figure out what the cost was to do a budget and figure out what was my business plan going to be what I was going to attract clients. And so I did all that, and I handed that paper in and and pass the course and then put that in the bottom of my file drawer. And lo and behold, Chad, I passed the bar. And first time I said, shit, I better find this that business plan. So the bottom drawer and found the business plan and went over in the space was still available. So I signed the lease, and I knew what the logo was going to be and I was off and running. And it was easy, because I have a huge real estate network. Based on all the years I was in the real estate business and the syndication business. So all I had to do is, is get out there and dial for dollars and talk to people who were already syndicating or were thinking about syndicating, and I couldn’t tell them that, you know, given my commercial real estate history, my teaching experience in this one particular program, the CCI M program, my experience of syndication, if you’re going to hire an attorney to help you do that, why wouldn’t you hire me? And that was my message, you know, given my background, and you know me, why wouldn’t you hire me? And away we went
Chad Franzen 12:21
And you were comfortable making those calls, because you already knew those people. And in your previous success, you were confident that you were able to do that again? Well, first
Gene Trowbridge 12:28
of all, I wrote a book. And now I’m in the fourth edition of the book, called “It’s a Whole New Business”, basically tell real estate people when they put groups together. It’s not real estate anymore. It’s a securities law. So it’s a whole new business. That was successful. And then some people came to me and he said, Well, we read the book, but why don’t you give a class because I was 40 years giving classes. And I said, Okay, so my marketing was, excuse me chat. Marketing Plan was education based marketing. And I’ve been an attorney for 30 years, and I still do education based marketing. Right now we’re doing, we’re doing virtual. As we talk, we’re doing a lot of virtual education. And I have a program out there called rookie camp, where we market and our marketing pitches, we want someone who’s never done a deal to come to rookie camp. And we try to keep experience indicators out because they’ve got crazy ideas about what they do. And I want, if I’m going to get a new client, I want to be the person to train them. So you know, pretty well
Chad Franzen 13:45
So you know, I talked to a lot of people on this podcast, and they tell me that when they started their own practice, they knew a lot about law, but they didn’t know anything about business, I’m guessing because of your path and your kind of unique journey that was not really an issue for you at all.
Gene Trowbridge 13:59
Not at all, because that’s because well, because I did this part of the law. It would have been different if I went into divorce law, but I did this part of law. And so I had I mean I had documents, I had the practical experience from from starting a deal to to finishing a deal. And that was valuable, valuable information. So I didn’t have any problems talking to people. And it wasn’t long before I got my first my first offering. My prices have changed over the year but I got my first offering and paid the bills and and the way we go and now now my firm Trowbridge Law Group which is a spillover from a couple other firms. We have about 800 clients that we’ve done business with solid moved on one day In my most prolific client, I’ve done 164 offerings since 2014, when they hired me. And so we’ve, we’ve done about 1700 offerings for those those clients in, oh my gosh, five $6 billion with the money raised. So we’re a very small, boutique firm. I’m a one trick pony Chad. That’s all I know. Let’s do it over and over and over again, I have a law partner now who’s been with me for six years, coming out to UCLA law school. And he I’m building him up to take my place as the Rainmaker, eventually I’m 75 years old, Chad, I think I’ll probably work for another four or five years. And until Chad, my truth is, someday when I stand on the podium, I’m going to sense that I’m not relevant anymore. When I sense I’m not relevant. I’m done with that. So I work hard to keep studying and learning things and, and taking a position where I am relevant. Good for you.
Chad Franzen 16:25
At age 75, what motivates you to keep learning
Gene Trowbridge 16:27
double motivations? Number one, my wife says I could never retire because I have no no other interest. work like crazy. And it’s all virtual now. So I have an office in the house and all six of us are we go from Boston, to Nashville, to San Francisco, to College Station, Texas, we’re all over the place. And that works. Well for us. Another motivation is making making a great living. Great living, and that’s good. And then my altruistic motivation Chad is helping people getting started in the business. I’m really, I mentioned my rookie camp, I have a goal of how many new clients, that’s the only really marketing goal I have, how many first time clients do I get every month? Because hopefully, they’ll become repeat clients. And that’s good for the business. But that will get some people into the business who shouldn’t be. And it’ll get some people who try it and say, Well, I don’t want to do that anymore. Well, that’s, that’s consumer protection. Okay. You don’t want to be a syndicator, which is very much a people business. You don’t want to be a syndicator. Let’s find that out. Let’s just do one deal and go away. You talked about when you were first trying to get clients, do you had some contacts that you would call them and ask them? How was your method of getting those clients now changed? Well, my method is still the education based marketing. And in the left since COVID, it’s gone totally virtually, we do six to 10 virtual workshops a year, where they’re there two days, either three hours, twice, or 90 minutes twice. And I go to a lot of events that other people who bring people together to talk about syndication, they do all that I just show up, and I’m on the podium. And so I get to meet those people I used to. We used to do 1012 live events, a two and three day live events every every year, all around the country. But COVID kind of stopped that. And I see that my business isn’t slowing down because we’re doing it all virtually. And I’m going to other people’s events, our our business actually has grown since, well, since 2016, where it went back to just one other partner, our business has grown every year.
Chad Franzen 19:03
Are there some milestones or turning points that you’re particularly proud of or that are memorable for you?
Gene Trowbridge 19:09
Well, that’s that’s a good question. I would say, I’m not going to mention them. But I’m going to say we have some income milestones that the firm has exceeded my partner Jonathan, getting out there alone, doing some events which might be live or, or virtual, is that’s a success. And we have one person in the company interesting, who’s our IT guy and he’s been with me for six years. He came to us last year and said that he wanted to be an attorney, and he wanted to work for us. Very smart guy. He was going to have a second baby and he said his wife wanted to move back to Boston where the grandparents are. And he was gonna take the LSAT and see what he could do and see if he To get into a law school back there, well, he did great. He got a couple of full ride offers. And so he’s going to the New England School of Law, I think that’s the name of it. And they moved to Boston. And he’s now in his second year. And that’s kind of cool. He’ll he’ll get out in another two years. And he says he’s coming to work for us. But you probably know how it is the world of law is, is expansive. And who knows, you may end up to be a clerk for one of the Supreme Court judges in Massachusetts, I don’t know. But right now, he just wants to work with us. And that would be important, because he’s young, all the people who work for me are in their 30s. So I’m building a legacy Chad. So someday, when I’m not full time working, the company will continue to grow, my name will still be out there. Because I don’t want to give up my name in the company. So all the existing clients. Don’t wonder where I am. In fact, my hashtag is not retired. Yeah. Because when my when my last partner and I split, she tried to do some marketing to tell people that the reason she wanted to leave is because she thought I was slowing down and I was retiring. So I give that, you know, hashtag changeover and I’m just not retired. So
Chad Franzen 21:32
why is that important to you to build a legacy to leave something behind that still going, rather than just calling it quits?
Gene Trowbridge 21:39
No, right now I have five people who count on the income from the company. And it’s a good, it’s a good company, it’s a good clean business, everyone is this happy doing it. So I don’t want to just close it down. So it’s important to me that Jonathan, and Tim, who would be the new attorney, are set to carry on. And that’s important to them. And there’s a royalty provision in the partnership agreement. So I’ll continue to get money really, until I die, and then there’s a life insurance provision. So I managed to keep it going.
Chad Franzen 22:18
Is there a big challenge that you’ve had to overcome, either personally or professionally?
Gene Trowbridge 22:24
I challenge has been working with partners. I’ve had partners who’ve? Well, when I had the two lady partners, it wasn’t me. But they didn’t like each other. So that was a problem. And I didn’t know how to how to resolve that. So one left, and then the other one had some, some problems with the practice of law that I thought were maybe questionable. And I thought I would divorce myself from that situation. And as I said, she’s no longer practicing law. So that might tell you something. And so that, that that’s it. And so the people part of running the practice has been somewhat of a problem. As my as my daughter said, My daughter works for me, she’s 14, she knows all of our social media. We have meetings twice a week, virtually. And she says, You know, it’s not always all about you. So maybe that’s a problem I create. Okay.
Chad Franzen 23:35
Is that a problem you’re worried about fixing at this point? Or is it just it is what it is?
Gene Trowbridge 23:41
I think is just what it is? Because no offense. It probably is all about me. You know, if I stopped today, I think the company would certainly go on, but it’ll go on a lot better if I continue to work and continue to build. Sure, sure. Sure, sure.
Chad Franzen 24:02
Hey, along the way, have you had some mentors or a mentor? And can you tell me what the best advice that you have received as?
Gene Trowbridge 24:11
Well, I really haven’t had any mentors in the legal field. I set out on my own because I knew what I was meant to do. And I didn’t need any help in the legal, the legal work. And I I generally didn’t think I needed any help in attracting clients. But when I was a syndicator, trying to raise money for my own deals, I knew about the real estate part, but they didn’t understand the people part of the syndication business. And so actually, it’s funny because I, I saw your last name and one of my mentors have the same last name out of Minneapolis and he was a high high powered syndicator and I’m from the Twin Cities that knew him for quite a few years and he always sat and talked asked me about my money raising capabilities and what I was doing what I should look forward in the future. So he was, he was a mentor to me in, in money raising but it really didn’t, doesn’t carry over to this.
Chad Franzen 25:14
Okay, I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more about Trowbridge Law Group
Gene Trowbridge 25:20
group Okay, Trowbridge Law Group that that’s the name of the website Trowbridgelawgroup.com. And the direct line to our office is 949-570-1507. So go to the website, get a free consultation with me and see all the things that are on there, you can actually go there and get a free a free PDF of my book, The fourth edition of my book, “It’s a Whole New Business”. I’m happy to send that off to you. And I think one of the better things people can do is go to my YouTube channel, Trowbridge law. And we do a lot of as I said, I’m in education based marketing. So I’ve got a lot of YouTube’s up there, I’ve got 37 interviews with my clients, who talk about how they got in the business and what they’re doing and advice for rookies. And then I have topics that Jonathan and I film and put in our YouTube YouTube channel. So it’s quite, it’s quite educational chat.
Chad Franzen 26:31
Okay, sounds great. Hey, last question for you. What is a daily routine or a daily ritual that is particularly valuable for
Gene Trowbridge 26:39
you? When I went on my own, okay. When I went on my own, I picked up a book and it was called free agent nation, and you’re gonna laugh at this, when I tell you this was important, free agent nation was written by a group of people who had been in the corporate world. And their theory was, there was a long time when loyalty in the corporate world was up and down. You were loyal to the company, the company was loyal to you. And then as things change in the corporate world, at work teams came about these people, their their premise was that loyalty is now horizontal, your loyalty is the people that you work with. And now they were running into issues as they left the corporate world. How did they find that? How do they find that loyalty? So they were reaching out to people that they knew and when projects came about, they were gathering them together. And I thought that’s very, very interesting. But that wasn’t what got me what got me is they said, We have trouble starting the day, and ending the day. Because we’re not going into the corporate office, a lot of them virtually. So their suggestion was, and I follow this today, and I’ve been doing this now for 30 years. I get up every morning, and get dressed for whatever I need. For however, I need to be dressed in the morning. Like, it’s morning here, I got a shirt on. Okay, I got a long sleeve shirt on for this. I get dressed. I get in my car. I drive up to the coffee shop, by my wife and myself a cup of coffee, and a newspaper and drive back into the driveway and walked into the driveway for coffee and walk into the office. And I’m at work. I have a sense of arrival. Every day. I’ve been doing it for 30 years Chad, the harder one is that night. Okay, well tell me dinner’s ready. I’ll come out of the office, I’ll go downstairs and have dinner. And it’s too easy to say, Well, I just have a few more things to do. So I’m going to run upstairs and finish it. What I need to do and what I tried to do is when I leave the office, I close the door. Okay. And I’m done for the day. But that’s, you know, part of that is being older and kind of slowing down and all that stuff. And that took me a long time to do that. But, you know, you asked me that question. I’ll tell you that it’s the most important thing in that book. There are million good things in that book. I don’t remember who wrote it, but it was called free agent nation. And that’s what keeps me and that’s what keeps me going. You know, in the old days when the kids were little, and I would close the door and come down. I remember my little daughter would say Daddy’s home. Okay. Oh, nice. I got it. You know, I got it. So that’s that’s what I think and then as far as the fire is actually doing business One of the complaints I hear about other attorneys in my field is they’re not responsive. You can’t get a hold of them. So I’m a responsive guy, you send me an email with a question that isn’t a yes or no question. I’m going to jump on the phone, I’m gonna call you and say, let’s talk about this. And if we’re working on a deal, and you have a question about your paperwork, I’m calling I’m calling, I use my email as really an introduction to phone calls. And I get a lot of I shouldn’t say a lot. I know what that means. But I get quite a bit of business, from people who use other firms who can’t stand the fact that they’re not responsive, and come to me, because they think I will be in an after profit. John is very concerned about being responsible.
Chad Franzen 31:00
Okay, great. Fantastic. Hey, Gene, it’s been great to talk to you. I loved hearing your story and getting your thoughts. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for your time today. Thanks, Chad. Take care. Bye. So long, everybody.
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