Mike Allbee is a personal injury lawyer who handles cases throughout the State of Texas. Despite his intimidating stature, Mike is one of the most congenial and thoughtful attorneys you will encounter. Mike manages to balance an excellent reputation with his colleagues and opposing counsel, while also working zealously on behalf of his clients. But, don’t take our word for it, just check out his impressive testimonial page which is filled with grateful clients. In this interview, Mike sits down and discusses running a practice and handling the normal nerves and anxiety that comes with personal injury law.
Lawyer Minds: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you ended up with your own law firm?
Mike Allbee: I have always been an entrepreneur. I have a sales background and I have had commission jobs in the past, and so I am willing to put it on the line and work on a contingency fee. I don’t mind getting up and hustling. It’s a good way to help me provide for my family and I get to run my own shop versus working for somebody else. My dad always said you can chase your own dreams or you can chase somebody else’s.
Lawyer Minds: And so you are chasing your own dream?
Mike Allbee: Absolutely.
Lawyer Minds: Did you work at other firms before venturing out on your own?
Mike Allbee: I worked at three high volume firms before I went out on my own. So, I tried a ton of cases for those guys and I felt confident in my legal abilities — I just had to take that leap of faith as far as paying my own bills and making it work.
Lawyer Minds: Has the anxiety of having your own practice leveled off or decreased over time?
Mike Allbee: Yes and no. I’ve got things stable –- So, I don’t panic about paying staff salaries and keeping things afloat. In fact, we are looking to expand to another office location in the near future, but I do always question myself by asking, “Is it the right move? Can we sustain this? Is it worth it?” So, it depends on where I let my mind go, but generally speaking, yeah, it’s gotten a lot better. When I first started the firm, I had $1,000 in savings and that was all I had and my wife was a stay-at-home mom. So, things have definitely changed and worked out for the better.
Lawyer Minds: Were there some lessons you learned from working for volume practices that you took with you, whether they were things you want to apply or don’t want to apply?
Mike Allbee: Definitely some of both. Some of the people who ran the firms were brilliant in some of the things they do. I feel like running the business is important and I want to be in a position where we could really kill it on customer service and be there more for the clients.
One of the biggest struggles with a large firm is losing that connection with clients –- some of them feel like they are a number. Whereas, in a smaller firm, we are picking the cases and developing the relationship earlier on and maintaining it even after the case is resolved. So, customer service is a big thing for me.
Additionally, some of those firms are really good at systems and compartmentalizing things and whatnot for the sake of efficiency, so I’ve definitely taken some of that with me. For instance, one firm killed it at paperless — they were amazing. So, I took that with me and we were paperless from day one.
Lawyer Minds: When you send documents, how do you send information to an adjuster, opposing counsel, etc.? Are those all electronic?
Mike Allbee: No. It’s a little hit or miss. For me, paperless doesn’t mean that you can’t use paper at all. For our firm — by way of how this works — I have had one employee who has worked remotely in another state for five years or more and so he can’t see what’s on my desk or my paralegal’s desk or anything like that. So, our first step is getting everything in the system so everyone can access it without having to mail documents to one office or another. However, when it comes to outside correspondence, some adjusters will want paper copies or a CD. So, we try electronic as the first resort. And then we move to faxing if we need to and snail mail if that doesn’t work after that. We also use Filevine which allows us to share links to documents. Also, Texas is an eFile state and it’s really on top of eFiling — so we can eFile and eServe opposing counsel, which helps a lot.
Lawyer Minds: What type of cases do you handle, Mike?
Mike Allbee: I do 100% personal injury but the vast majority of my cases are car accident cases. I got a few bicycle accidents, pedestrian accident cases sprinkled in, but mostly car accidents.
Lawyer Minds: When you are meeting with a client that comes in for an auto accident case, especially now (during the COVID pandemic), are you meeting with that person? Are you talking with them over the phone? What do your initial client consultations look like?
Mike Allbee: We do almost every consultation over the phone. I want to respect their time as well as mine, so I don’t mind spending some time in getting into the nitty-gritty with them to see if it’s a case that we believe we can pursue or maybe one that we can’t. If it’s something we can help them with, then I’ll send them an electronic contract and we don’t meet face to face until it’s much later in the process. There are exceptions for people who are non-native English speakers, sometimes they want to confirm they understand what I am saying as well.
Lawyer Minds: How has your fear, stress, and anxiety when it comes to taking depositions or stepping into a courtroom changed over your career?
Mike Allbee: I always tell my kids the only way to get better is to practice, and so very first deposition I ever did, yeah, I was nervous. I had a checklist and was going through it and making sure I had everything ready to go. It was probably overkill, which is fine — if you are going to err on one side, then being overly prepared is the way to go.
I still prepare for depositions. I don’t just walk in and shoot from the hip, and it’s the same with trials, obviously. But I think you get more comfortable as time goes on. With anything it’s just a matter of getting out and doing it. And also, I try and learn different things from different people. I went to Mark Lanier’s seminar that he did last year in the Woodlands (in Houston), which was great. And, I read books and watch videos to keep up with the practice. I’m just trying to always get better because nobody is perfect.
Lawyer Minds: Why is it important for you to keep up on things like Mark Lanier’s Trial Academy, reading books, and keeping up with CLEs? Why are things important for a newer lawyer to do?
Mike Allbee: It helps newer lawyers learn from other people’s experience and not repeat the same mistakes. Even at Lanier’s seminar last year — I have tried quite a few cases — but there are still times where I found myself saying, “Wow! I never even thought about it that way!” or “Why didn’t I think of that?” And everybody has something to offer.
So, get out and get some exposure. Even though it’s not the same as trying a case, it’s definitely a step in that direction so you can have more of an idea of what to expect, instead of flying completely blind.
Lawyer Minds: Why are relationships important? Why are building relationships important in your law practice?
Mike Allbee: I have always been aware that it’s a small world, especially in the legal community, and so I just try and treat people right. I had a lawyer tell me one time that we should treat every conversation as if it’s being recorded. So, just speak the truth and you don’t have to worry about what you said… You can move right along down the line. And, I know in the legal community reputation is important. I know some people absolutely despise attorneys on the other side. And are there attorneys that annoy me from time to time? Yes, there are some, but generally speaking, they have a job, I have a job, and I think it’s important to let the facts duke it out and not get overly emotional when it’s not necessary. I think just being honest and treating people right works out well in the end.
Lawyer Minds: You are a large guy, you got this large beard, and are known as “Big Mike.” Tell us about that.
Mike Allbee: My office phone number spells out 817-BIG-MIKE. The website is callbigmike.com. And the Big Mike thing, well… I am not exactly petite, although I have actually been losing weight during this coronavirus situation. I have lost about 20 pounds by eating healthier, being more active, and it’s just the beginning. For the name, we started having a couple of clients who didn’t know each other refer to me as Big Mike. So, it just kind of stuck and, actually, one of my favorite calls I got few months ago involved a new client where I was trying to really figure out how this lady found us and if somebody referred her or what, and she says, “You know, I just clicked on your picture and you had a cool beard and you were smiling.” And I love that. I don’t like the whole “mad dog stare down picture on the website thing”; it’s just not me, so I try to be me and smile and I like my beard and luckily my wife does too.
Thanks so much to Mike Allbee for sharing his thoughts and time with us. To learn more about Mike, you can reach him at callbigmike.com.