Erika Jurado-Graham was born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Monterrey, Mexico by a Mexican single mother. Following the 1994 economic crisis in Mexico, Erika’s mother and close relatives came to the United States in search of better economic opportunities. Erika was attending law school at the time her family moved to the U.S., and she stayed behind to complete her studies. Erika graduated from law school in Mexico, and came to the United States to reunite with her family. She later obtained her J.D. in the U.S. at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. She began practicing immigration law in Kansas City shortly thereafter.
Ruby Powers (RP): Where do you think you gained the skills to become a great rainmaker?
Erika Jurado-Graham (EG): I worked for an attorney as a legal assistant for eight years. I had a law license in Mexico but did not have a JD to be able to practice in Kansas. I could not practice for about eight years, so I worked as a paralegal/legal assistant. My boss was a great attorney, but he did not have a lot of marketing skills, so I started suggesting a few marketing ideas to him, ways of reaching and having a deeper connection with the Hispanic community. That was back in 1998. Marketing was basically TV, printed media, and radio, so that’s how I got started. I started doing his marketing, and I really, really, enjoyed that part of my job. Once I became an attorney in the U.S. myself, I began marketing through social media. I started just doing videos and preparing entertaining posts about immigration-related topics for Facebook users to educate them about their options.
I consider myself an attorney, an educator, an entertainer, and a communicator. My mom was a theater actress back in the 70s and 80s, so in a way, I’m also comfortable with the spotlight. I try informing people about immigration law in an entertaining way.
When I started practicing back in 2007, we just had TV, radio, and printed media. People were just getting started delivering information on websites and blogging. My audience was watching TV and listening to the radio—those were the platforms to be on before the social media boom.
RP: Where did you obtain your speaking experience?
EG: I’ve always liked communicating in Spanish, my first language. I feel really comfortable speaking it. I was always arguing and debating even minor things since I was little; interestingly enough, my daughter was nationally ranked in debate. She just graduated from high school and she’s a nationally ranked debater. She is a natural communicator too, but she does it in English.
RP: What are the top three tips that would you give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?
- Have a good work ethic and treat your employees with respect.
- Be consistent with your marketing efforts.
- Balance work and family.
RP: What is (or was) different, either about you, or your firm, or anything else, that has allowed or enabled you to become a successful rainmaker?
- I had a very clear idea as to what my niche was going to be (immigration).
- I understood my market very well (Spanish-speaking immigrants).
- I am passionate about marketing and communication.
RP: How much time do you devote to marketing per week?
EG: Ten to 15 hours a week.
RP: What types of activities are you engaged in for your rainmaking?
EG: Social media marketing and content creation.
RP: What type of support do you have from your firm? Do you have a team?
EG: I have graphic designers, social media managers, content creators, and social media strategists.
RP: You’re sort of ahead of your time with social media. How did you know when to get help, and when to hire what you couldn’t figure out?
EG: The moment my social media was demanding more time than I had available, I knew that it was time for me to seek help. I always wanted to do everything myself, but my social media efforts became a job in and of itself. I have retained control of the creative part, though. I still believe that no one knows my audience better than me, so I can’t let go of the creative part.
I realized that I needed help when I was investing about 20 hours a week in my social media channels. I realized that social media marketing was becoming a full-time job.
RP: That’s really wise, though. I think that the key point between people who stay small and those who are able to leverage assistance is that they delegate and let go of some of their control. I like to say that if you want to grow, you have to let go.
EG: The time and effort I have put into growing my social media reach have paid off tremendously! We get more calls and requests for appointments than we can handle. However, I have a very clear idea as to how much I want to grow. I am not interested in becoming a high-volume law firm. I don’t want the headaches that come with the added responsibility; I don’t want the stress associated with having 20 attorneys working for me, that’s not what I want. My ideal situation is remaining a boutique law firm, charging fair but well for the cases I take. I want a lifestyle that is a balance between work and family. I’ve always thought that we work to live fully, and not the other way around. I am in Puerto Vallarta this month enjoying time with my family and doing some remote work — that is the quality of life I am aiming for. I owe it to my family and to myself. I have worked very hard to reach this level of freedom.
RP: How do you balance all your family, social media, your law firm, and being a lawyer?
EG: We are a small law firm. I have an associate attorney who works remotely. We have about nine administrative assistants, including my office manager. Everyone has a purpose at my office. The key is process optimization and efficiency. The idea is for my staff to know how to make important decisions without me, to not depend on me so much. I have read many books and attended many law practice management conferences to learn how to make my firm run like clockwork so that I can spend more time doing the things I like. I have three kids and my husband has a late-stage pulmonary illness. It is like being a single mother to my children. My six-year-old twins are very demanding of my time, and we have a wonderful nanny that helps me do all the things I simply cannot do myself. I stopped blaming myself for not being a PTA mom, for not taking my children to school every day. I have accepted the fact that it’s OK to ask for help. I don’t have to be a super mom, a super lawyer, a super wife. I can surround myself with people who can help make my life easier, and that’s OK.
RP: If you could only engage in one type of marketing activity for the next 12 months, what one activity would you choose? What would that activity look like?
EG: Creating a strong online and social media presence:
- Creating content to show knowledge in a particular area of law;
- Understanding social media and truly knowing where my potential clients are hanging out online;
- Sharing my knowledge with potential customers to make them trust me before they even need my services.
RP: Why would you choose only that one?
EG: Because effective rainmaking requires a successful marketing strategy. Most attorneys are great at lawyering but fail miserably at marketing.
RP: If you could only choose one more activity, what would it be and why?
EG: Doing Q&A sessions on the radio. One-on-one interaction with a live audience is very helpful in establishing trust.
RP: How did you get your first client?
EG: From a referral. I took over a practice from a colleague. After that, from printed media and local Spanish-language magazines.
RP: How did you get your most recent client?
EG: Through social media.
RP: How did you get your best client?
EG: Social media again. They are die-hard fans!
RP: How did you get your most unexpected client?
EG: Someone from Switzerland who saw me on YouTube.
RP: How do you “close the sale” once you are in front/in contact with a client?
EG: I am not pushy, I use the consultation to educate people. I explain their options and why our firm is a better option. We go above and beyond the simple delivery of legal services. I think about every detail and what it means to a client to go through this process. I truly care about the process, including the most minor details. For example, I recently convinced my sister who retired as a teacher in Monterrey, Mexico to move to Juarez to open a B&B for our clients, the ones going to their consular appointment. I thought about this after seeing how fearful many of them were of going to Ciudad Juarez, how some of them would get scammed the moment they approached the U.S. consulate, papers in hand. I try to put myself in their shoes and take care of all the details. People appreciate that.
RP: What obstacles have you overcome to build your book of business? How did you overcome them?
EG: The local economy was a challenge. People locally couldn’t afford my services. They expected costs similar to a nonprofit. I began looking for my clients first in areas with more affluent immigrants in the state, then nationwide.
RP: Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
- Not focus on my local market but expand to a larger market.
- Never compromise on the true value of my services.
- Understand that there is a market for every attorney.
- Not compare myself to others.
- Focus on finding the ideal client.
- Never let clients push me around.
RP: How has the world of marketing legal services changed over the last three to five years?
It has changed incredibly. For example:
- New social media options are becoming available.
- Radio and TV are becoming a thing of the past.
- Printed media is now digital, and we can each own our own platforms.
- Ethical rules on marketing are evolving daily.
RP: What, if anything, do you plan to do differently with respect to marketing your services next year or in the future?
EG: I intend to own my audience, and find a way to capture my over 1.3 million social media followers to be able to communicate with them directly. Diversify—never focus on one platform exclusively.
RP: When did you start converting over to that, that you were able to monetize your social media efforts? Not just by getting clients, but by being an influencer or YouTuber.
EG: Facebook started paying for video views a few years ago. They began paying for live views a few months ago. YouTube has always paid content creators. There is such a thing as being a “YouTuber” and making a decent income off of it. I am at that level already. My YouTube channel gets over 1 million views every month. My ideal situation is becoming a marketing avenue for immigration attorneys to be able to monetize all the leads I produce. I am thinking about ways. It would be a win-win situation; the attorney would get the lead and I would get paid. Not as a referring attorney, but as a marketing agency.
RP: You’re sort of doing two jobs. I mean, besides the mom part, do you ever think about maybe just doing the personality social media influencer role more, and stop practicing law, or do you like having one foot in each?
EG: I like to have a balance because I could not be a credible social media immigration personality if I wasn’t practicing law myself. The things that I talk about on social media are my day-to-day experiences in my practice.
About the Author
Ruby L. Powers is the founder and managing attorney of Powers Law Group, P.C., an immigration law firm in Houston, TX. She also is a law practice management consultant and coach with Powers Strategy Group, LLC. Connect with Ruby on LinkedIn.