Jason Wiggam: [00:00:00] So from day one, I followed the. Method of, you know, you have to eat. Why not eat, with another human being. Right. I think I feel like I have a book on my shelf. Yeah. Never eat alone. I’ve ever, I’ve never actually read the book. People just described it to me and someone gave it to me and, I suspect if I read it, I’m probably doing a lot of what it says, but so yeah, I, I started marketing, like doing business development work day one, even though I was the primary producer.
You know, I just knew there was a long lead time with referrals and I wanted to dedicate time for that. Cause I knew at some point the clients I had would go away. Like our cases are. Typically project based like we, you know, do the representation and while some people have repeat tax issues, most don’t right?
Like we do a good job so that they don’t come back.
Jonathan Hawkins: [00:01:00] Welcome to the founding partner podcast. I’m Jonathan Hawkins, your host and excited about our guest today. We’ve got Jason Wiggum with us. Jason, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little about you and your firm.
Jason Wiggam: Sure. Thanks for having me, Jonathan. So I’m Jason Wiggum, founding partner of Wiggum Law. We are a tax resolution boutique law firm in Atlanta. And what that means is we help individuals, businesses, trusts, estates, really any kind of taxpayer resolve disputes with the IRS regarding a tax liability, or if there is no dispute about the tax liability and they just owe it and, you know, can’t pay it or.
Want to [00:02:00] negotiate some kind of resolution. We help them with that too.
Jonathan Hawkins: So we’ll probably get into this a little later, but I know you, you do represent a lot of lawyers too, right?
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, last time I counted over a hundred lawyers and that’s them personally, the law firm or, you know, both.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, we’ll get into that. So yeah, so tell us about your firm. So how big is your firm now? How many attorneys, staff, that sort of thing?
Jason Wiggam: Sure. So, we have nine attorneys, including myself for like paraprofessionals and let’s see, it’s 21 total. So, for a tax person, I’m pretty bad at math, but whatever’s left over the rest are, Admin support staff, office management, you know, things of that nature.
Jonathan Hawkins: So how many years ago did you start your firm?
Jason Wiggam: I remember it really well. So it was January, 2016. I’m a Clemson fan and we went to our first national championship game. So I delayed the, well, the first of my lifetime we delayed, I delayed starting the [00:03:00] firm cause I went to the game. So it was like January 8th, 2016. I think the game was like the 4th or the 5th, but yeah early 2016.
Jonathan Hawkins: So it took you a few days to get over that game,
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, it was unfortunately we didn’t take it home. Yeah, it was good story though. I took my first sales call while tailgating in the parking lot. I did not land the client as you can imagine why, but it was a good time and, you know, obviously things like that don’t come around very often, so I’m glad I went.
Jonathan Hawkins: So you started about, about seven years ago or so, maybe almost eight years ago. And so tell us how you got started.
Jason Wiggam: So. It’s kind of interesting. I was planning to start my firm, but the timing of it, I didn’t necessarily control I was working at another law firm and had been there maybe a year and a half or so, and realized that it wasn’t going to be a long term fit and decided to start my firm. I’m a planner, [00:04:00] you know, like the research things and, you know, I was.
Talking to all my buddies who had law firms and trying to come up with a plan and figure it out. And in my mind it was going to happen in, you know, six or nine months from that point, maybe longer. And I found out that most of the attorneys that were in the firm I was working at were leaving. I think we had like maybe 20 attorneys and 16 of them were walking out the door.
So I yeah, you know, I wasn’t sure if we were going to exist, right? So I quickly in 30 days figured it out and started the firm. Honestly, the pressure that situation created while stressful was a good thing is it forced me to move, it forced me to make decisions and figure things out and, you know, move quicker.
So I’m actually kind of thankful for it, even though it was a stressful time of my life.
Jonathan Hawkins: you know, I talked to a lot of lawyers that start their own firms and I’ve seen all types where, you know, they plan for it and it’s, you got months, [00:05:00] you have everything ready and then you do it. And then there’s others that walk in one day and for whatever reason they aren’t at their firm by the end of the day.
And they’re like completely panicked and they weren’t even thinking about it. You know, they had no. Thought of starting a firm and also they have to and I guess you were sort of in between, but it was good. You were at least already thinking about it, right?
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, you know, like, like the things I had to figure out quickly were like, software it just like process type stuff, but like I had already made the decision. But yeah, just how do you do it and what, you know, what are your systems and all that? So,
Jonathan Hawkins: so had you all always known you were going to start your firm or did that sort of come to be over time?
Jason Wiggam: You know, I’ve reflected on this. I think the truth of it is I knew I wanted to be an owner. I think I, I would have, if I had found a firm that was a fit, I, and could have become a partner, maybe I would have stayed You know so not really answering your [00:06:00] question, but I guess what I’m saying is I was going to be an owner and I was going to have control and I was going to be able to make decisions and my compensation was going to be based on all of that, I determined that in my mind, but you know, the.
The how part I was kind of open to sitting in the seat now, I would tell you I made the correct decision and you know, all Jason before I made the decision, even though he may be a thought differently, I you know, I would say now, yeah, I definitely always wanted my own firm, but back then maybe I would have settled for something differently.
Jonathan Hawkins: the sort of the decision or the timeline was sort of thrust on you sooner than you would like. When you went out, did you sort of already have clients or did you have to go figure that out too?
Jason Wiggam: interesting. I, yeah, I had a book of business. I had I don’t know, maybe like a three to 400, 000 book of business. So enough that I could like sort of do most of the work myself and support it. So to answer your question, yes, I had a book of business in my mind. [00:07:00] The plan was I needed to create that book of business before going out on my own.
Honestly I don’t know that you do. Yeah. Sort of knowing what I know now, but at the time I, you know, I was very conservative and risk adverse and, wanted to make sure that I didn’t take any unnecessary risks. So I, I was focused on building my own practice, but, you know, wanted to do it somewhere else before having my own.
Jonathan Hawkins: And so you went out, was it just you? Were you a true solo? Did you have any help with you?
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, it’s a good question. I so my first employee was my like legal assistant at the firm. I was at, you know, she was awesome. She was a rock star and I couldn’t imagine a world where I didn’t have her administrative support. I mean, honestly, like, I was losing sleep over like, how do I do a FedEx?
Package and, you know, basic stuff like that. And, so I just made the decision to take her with me and she could help me build things too, right? Like she set up a lot of the software and, I delegated a lot [00:08:00] of. That to her, but yeah, I started the firm with me as the only attorney and with a full time, you know, assistant and she did everything.
I mean, she did billing, she, I guess the nutritional law firm she wore all the hats, right. And she was like the office manager. She was doing AR. I mean, she would do anything, like anything to support me in that regard.
Jonathan Hawkins: You know, as I’ve been growing my firm, I’ve learned a few things here and there. And I have to imagine the fact that you guys had already worked together for some period of time had to be a huge advantage. I mean, having to go find somebody. Make sure it’s the right fit, get them in, train them up how you want them to get, you know, be, and then hoping it works out.
You’d sort of already gone through all of that, right?
Jason Wiggam: right. Yeah. I mean, I didn’t hire her. She, someone else at the firm did, and I figured out that she was great and kind of. You know, grabbed onto her and started using her. But honestly, if at that time I had never hired anyone, I didn’t know what I was [00:09:00] doing, so if I didn’t have her and couldn’t take her, I don’t know what I would have done.
I definitely would have been looking to my immediate network if there was someone, but I might’ve just gone out on my own without help. But I’m really glad I had her. I needed her. From day one, whether I realized that or not. And yeah, to your point, if she wasn’t already my legal assistant, I don’t know that I would have done that.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. So you’ve got nine attorneys now. Talk us through sort of when you hired your first attorney and how you’ve grown it.
Jason Wiggam: So from day one, I followed the. Method of, you know, you have to eat. Why not eat, you know, with another human being. Right. I think I feel like I have a book on my shelf. Yeah. Never eat alone. I’ve ever, I’ve never actually read the book. People just described it to me and someone gave it to me and, I suspect if I read it, I’m probably doing a lot of what it says, but so yeah, I, I started marketing, [00:10:00] like doing business development work day one, even though I was the primary producer.
You know, I just knew there was a long lead time with referrals and I wanted to dedicate time for that. Cause I knew at some point the clients I had would go away. Like our cases are. Typically project based like we, do the representation and while some people have repeat tax issues, most don’t right?
Like we do a good job so that they don’t come back. So you always need new clients. So my book of business grew quickly. I mean, it doubled like in the first year and you know, it sort of became holy crap. I’m going to commit malpractice. I need help and I. You know, the mistake that I would imagine a lot of new entrepreneurs and owners make I was cheap and hired law students.
I was like, okay, I’ll go hire law clerks, I’ll pay him 20 bucks an hour or, you know, whatever it was back then. And bill them out at like 1 [00:11:00] 50, 1 75 and. Delegate use them as a paralegal basically, right? Delegate a lot of the work to them and leverage that way. And then I want to say I had two of those law clerks working for me and I realized it wasn’t going to work.
I needed an attorney. It was my practice. You have to be an attorney, a CPA or enrolled agent to call the IRS. And, I was struggling to do all the IRS calls, even though I was delegating, like, the forms and, you know, prepping the briefs and all the work we do to them, I was still having to call the IRS and, I was like, man, I need somebody to call the IRS.
So, my first law clerk To this day, we employ law clerks, by the way. It’s a great way, in my opinion, to hire because you can see if the person’s a good fit
Jonathan Hawkins: And when you say law clerk, do you mean someone in law school?
Jason Wiggam: yes, like a law student working part time. Yeah, in Atlanta, we have Georgia State. They have a part time [00:12:00] program. So sometimes you get lucky and you can get someone that works, you know, 30, 40 hours a week. Most of them do like 15 to 25, but we typically have one or two. And the idea is the, you know, the ones who like us and we like them, they stay and become associates.
So my first associate was hired that way. Got her plate full and we were both still busy and pulling our hair out. So then it was like, okay, time to hire the next one. And then, you know, eventually I became more of a business owner and, started looking at numbers and, you know, maybe hiring more proactively basically.
But back then when I started the firm, that’s how it was.
Jonathan Hawkins: So did you get any guidance about sort of making the transition from, you know, pulling your hair out, doing all the client work to sort of moving more to sort of the mindset of being an owner? Or is that just, you just figured it out?
Jason Wiggam: Well, a little bit of both. Yeah. I mean, I’ve definitely sought help [00:13:00] and I think. I think that’s a great hack. Right. But so interesting story. My wife Allie you know, who’s obviously been an integral part of all of this, right? Like I couldn’t spend all the time building the firm, you know, without her support, but she worked for this company that did practice management consulting for dentists.
Okay. And the idea was you don’t learn how to run. A dental practice and dental school, and this company would teach you systems, processes, train your employees, whatever, to help you be a better owner and run your practice more efficiently. And, I was coming home, I was complaining, you know, I was bitching.
I was moaning about how, like, Oh, I’m making more money, but like my life sucks. Right. Like this is stressful. I’m probably like, hair’s turning gray, you know, things aren’t going well.
Jonathan Hawkins: At least you’ve kept yours, right?
Jason Wiggam: Yeah. Fair. It could be worse. [00:14:00] Yeah. So yeah. And you know, and one day she’s like, why don’t you find the legal equivalent of the company that you work for?
Right? Like, and I was like, you know what? That’s good. So I did seek out, coaches like that and utilize some of them. And I mean, at the end of the day, though, part of it is figuring out yourself because they’re just giving you information and teaching you things you don’t know, it’s still on you to implement and do the work.
So, I mean, at the end of the day it’s always about you, but you know, we don’t, they don’t teach us same thing as the dentist, right? They don’t teach us how to run a law firm in law school.
Jonathan Hawkins: I’ve hired coaches over the years. I’m a big believer, I think there’s sort of for me at least, and maybe for a lot of folks, it’s sort of. Two, you know, two main functions. One maybe is to help accelerate, teach you things you don’t know and show you things you don’t know. And then another is just to hold your feet to the fire on the things you do know that you need to do that you’re just not doing.
And sometimes you need that more than, you know, exactly
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, I [00:15:00] agree with you at most. I, and yeah, I’ve used a few different ones, different purposes, right? Like some of them do different things, but. Yeah, accountability, I think, is always a portion of it. And I think, I don’t know, at least for me, if I’m given a cadence and a process to follow, I’m likely to follow it.
So, there’s some, benefit when you get into a program of yuo know, Hey, we’re going to look at these numbers each month, review what’s going on and it requires, it basically forces you to spend time working on your business that left to your own devices. Maybe you other otherwise wouldn’t do so.
I’m currently not doing any of that. I’m a big fan of it. But just me personally, I think I’ve created systems where, I don’t need it, but at the end of the day, like when things come up, like, say I needed to develop something new, or if I had a, you know, a new problem, you know, I, that’s who I would look to.
I’d look [00:16:00] to friends, my network, coaches, consultants, and if someone can get you to a better place quicker and you pay money for that is definitely worthwhile in my opinion.
Jonathan Hawkins: so I want to shift over, you’ve done a lot of hiring over the last eight years or so, you know. Eight attorneys, at least, a bunch of staff. So what’s your process for hiring? Are you in charge of that? Or do you have somebody else that sort of does that for you? I’m curious how you’ve done it and maybe how it’s changed over the years.
I know in the beginning, obviously you were doing it all. And you probably. Had some missteps along the way. Tell us how sort of you do it now and how it’s better than it used to be.
Jason Wiggam: Like, I honestly don’t think you’re doing it right unless you have some missteps, you know what I mean? Like, to me, action beats inaction and I’m not saying like, you know, run into a burning building and, do like crazy things, right? Like, be smart and have good judgment, but like, the people who overanalyze things and never move forward.
Like that’s a problem, right? [00:17:00] So taking action and moving forward and potentially failing and then learning from your failure and improving and, moving forward is definitely, but to answer your question, yeah, I did it. I had no idea what I was doing. It started with me just like interviewing someone or like, frankly, like going to lunch or having a coffee with them to a more formal process.
Now that process has changed a lot too. Cause market conditions changed, but high level You know, you put out an ad or something to attract them, right? They apply or they get introduced to you. And then we do an initial screen. My office manager talks to the candidate and kind of explains who we are, goes over the position to make sure they understand what it is, for us, we are a like partially remote in person firm, but like, we’re not going to take a candidate that’s wholly remote.
Right. The little things, right? Like, Hey, you know, we go over our core values, kind [00:18:00] of who we are and make sure they’re still interested. And if so, we typically have a written test that they take and and then they do that and then we review the results and if we’d like them, we then move to formal interviews.
We used to do like personality assessments. I stopped that probably we’ll add it back at some point in time, but And then, yeah, after the in person interview,
Jonathan Hawkins: So, so real quick, let me cut you off. Let me, I want to go back. You said you introduced your core values. Talk about that. I mean, I know that’s I know you do traction. I know that’s part of the traction system. And I don’t know if you had developed that before. I imagine probably early years you didn’t have those.
And I’m curious if you’ve seen it. Number one, you sort of figure out what your values are and what you’re looking for, and then using those. As a weed out tool for candidates, you know, have you found it to be, well, number one, I guess, how long have you been doing that? And then have you found it to be an effective screening tool?
Jason Wiggam: [00:19:00] Yeah. So to answer your question, I was aware of what core values are, how to identify them and come up with it. I had no idea. So until I introduced traction and EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system I did not have them. And even then, once we, I started using the EOS system in 2019. So we’ve been doing it for what, like four years now.
We’ve changed the values, you know, you tweak and improve them. But on hiring personally, I don’t know how to use them in hiring the people who like do the screens and stuff. Do you sell more than me? But I think it’s, you know, you talk about them and you. sEe what the person thinks about him.
You do have questions, related to them, but you know, some of it’s just like, like, for instance instead of like a, we care or something like that, ours is give a shit. Right. And like, so why is it give a shit? Well. I mean, I frankly cuss a lot. Right. And and I [00:20:00] literally say sometimes to people, you really need to give a shit.
It feels like you don’t on this, you know, so I want them to be as close to authentic as possible. Another one of ours is always improving. And I mean, I literally just told you a second ago about, move forward with action, learn from it, try to get better and improve. So that, I mean, that’s real.
So I guess when. In interviews, I try to get people to talk, and you ask them a lot of questions, and you just listen, and based on their answers, does it seem like they would fit within these values? I mean, you share them with them and ask them to talk about it too, but, at the end of the day, I think it’s judging their responses, so.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. You know, I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve seen some folks that do this. They sort of build some of that into their job post ads. You know, they say if
Jason Wiggam: Oh, we put them in it, yeah.
Yeah, they’re literally in it.
Jonathan Hawkins: so I guess it would screen. Hopefully screen some folks on
Jason Wiggam: I think I have to remove shit in it, because like some of them don’t let you cuss, right? But, you know, we correct it pretty [00:21:00] quickly when, we’re on the screen. But yeah you know, I, honestly, so, so the other thing I’ve learned is we used to have, like, attention to detail test, right? Like, hey, write your name backwards, or even with our written tests, we would incorporate some things in that we still have.
But what I’ve learned from the post to that initial screen, it’s almost like online dating or something. People just swipe left real quick and they don’t review everything. And so we’ve definitely relaxed initially with the candidates. I also think a lot of people unless they’re like super interested in you, they’re not going to spend a ton of time focused on it, on the ad or whatever.
But I think it really is whether the person is a fit is more of the focus. Now obviously compensation and benefits and all that stuff matters, not trying to minimize them, but, we try to focus on more of that in the hiring and then just with the job market during the pandemic and till now you have to [00:22:00] move much faster.
So we did eliminate a lot of steps. Like we had like a multi step detailed process and, you know, if you continue with that process, you were going to lose a lot of people. We just weren’t moving fast enough. Right? So we’ve scaled it down.
Jonathan Hawkins: So, you, you get people hired. I’m sure you’ve, you know, you’re still learning. Let’s put one of your core values. What about sort of the onboarding process? Do you find, have you figured that out to retain them or do you have, you know, there’s some folks that have like a 90 day sort of, temporary period.
Do you have anything like that?
Jason Wiggam: I Mean, we have an onboarding process that is not as robust as I would like. I mean, honestly, I think with everything you’re figuring it out, like just to be honest, you know, I I feel like if you think you’re the best, you’ve probably are falling behind, so I think you should always stay humble and try to improve.
But yeah, I mean, we have a rubric. It’s like, Hey, here are all the [00:23:00] things, you know, here’s the procedures, they meet a lot of people. You know, we take them to lunch. I mean, there’s like a kind of a traditional one, but nothing. Not, I know what you’re talking about. People who have a very robust one.
No, we don’t. But we do have one. It’s not like I, the second job I worked at day one, they were like, here’s your desk and here’s how you turn on the computer. Here’s all their passwords. Have fun. And like, I like figuring stuff out. So it’s like, okay. But I thought it was very strange because no one else other than the office manager spoke to me for like half the day.
And so, yeah, I mean, I, based on that experience, it’s like, yes, you’re going to meet everyone and, you know, we’re going to be very nice to you and befriend you early on, because I found that quite odd that I had to, like, go out of my way to meet everyone.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. So maybe that’s not the way to do it. Right.
Jason Wiggam: Don’t do that if you’re you know, if you’re about to start your firm, maybe don’t do that, but yeah, I think you’re probably going to lose someone in the first 90 days.
So, I mean, you. Basically, [00:24:00] you will figure out if they’re not a fit and then if they were a fit, but they don’t like you, you’re going to lose them in the first 90 days. So I think that stuff’s really important. I think checking in with them, we do a lot of check ins you know, with them, but but no, nothing as wild as an agenda for 90 days.
It’s maybe like a week,
Jonathan Hawkins: you know, change changing topics a little bit. How much now, I assume you’re sort of the CEO role. How much, if any client work are you doing [00:25:00] nowadays?
Jason Wiggam: a little bit. And I actually went and looked at the data because I could have just made it up, but, I was like, let me go see. So this year I will bill like 325 hours. If I keep on the same track, I’m on give you an idea. That’s probably 10 to 15 percent of the total time that I spend. So it’s a small part of what I do.
And most of it is not like production work. It’s like conversations with clients, strategy sessions. Reviewing others work. That’s a lot of it. Meetings to discuss cases, like case reviews. Very little substantive work. Like, if I’m calling the IRS, there’s probably a problem. Or if I’m filling out an IRS form, like that’s definitely a problem.
You know, like we failed miserably. That is not the highest and best use of my time. Most of my time is spent running the firm. You know, working on the business development, sales, marketing, that’s [00:26:00] where I like to stay. I actually get more joy out of it too, frankly.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah. Tell us about that. What’s, what sorts of things do you do for business development?
Jason Wiggam: Well, you know, I still try to have lunch every day with someone else. Whether that’s a colleague or, referral sources, potential research, referral sources, friends. Some days I do the trifecta, right? I’ll get a breakfast. I’ll do a lunch and I’ll meet somebody for drinks. Early on in my firm.
I did a lot of those less now. So just sort of traditional business development stuff like that.
Jonathan Hawkins: It’s, you know, on that, I’ve done a ton of that in my career, especially years ago. And I did the trifecta a lot too. Sometimes I did more, I throw a coffee in there too.
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, why not?
Jonathan Hawkins: and you know,
Jason Wiggam: stay at the place all
Jonathan Hawkins: especially when you’re, you know, when I was an associate and I’m expected to do all this work on top of it, it was just crazy time, you know, but I just did it.
And it. It takes a while, but it pays off, and there are a lot of attorneys out there that just don’t do it at [00:27:00] all, which has always surprised me that, I mean, lawyers are smart. I understand some people just don’t like doing it, but sometimes you got to do things you don’t like and it’s, you know, why not just once a month, you know, even
Jason Wiggam: sure. Yeah. I think like dedicate time to it. Yeah, newsflash. You can’t earn these things by just sitting around like you actually have to work hard. Yeah. I’m being sarcastic, but yeah, no, you have to work. Now, I mean, I, with like EOS, we have a marketing team. So we’re meeting weekly.
We’re looking at the numbers. We’re plotting out what we’re going to do for the quarter. And we have a lot of different questions. You know, campaigns and things we do, right? I mean, I won’t go through all the little things, but but yeah I spent a lot of time managing those people doing forward looking planning.
I mean, we have an outside marketing company. I have to manage them, I manage half of our legal team. My partner manages half a lot of sales consultations. I’m one of three salespeople at the firm, [00:28:00] three attorneys who do sales, and then I have a non attorney salesperson. So.
Jonathan Hawkins: tell me about that. What is the non attorney salesperson? I mean, how do they help?
Jason Wiggam: How about, how don’t they help
Jonathan Hawkins: Are they knocking on doors? Are they picking up? Are they sort of support in the
Jason Wiggam: No. They’re not doing outside there, you know, inside sales is the, you know, if you want to add a sales role to it, but essentially qualifying leads. Right. So, I have a niche practice and we stay in our lane. I don’t, you know, if you call me and you’re like, Oh, I want to, Jason, I want you to do my will.
I’m great. You know, great. Let me refer you to this other person that does that. Cause I don’t do it. I’m not the type of person where it’s like, Oh, that could be easy revenue. I’ll figure it out now. It’s not what I do, right. I’m going to focus on what I do. So they qualify leads. A lot of that is.
people calling for property tax appeals, random stuff we don’t do. And then, you know, prospective clients, we just can’t [00:29:00] help. Maybe they have a small liability, maybe they have five or 10, 000. And it’s like, listen, person here is the. Georgia State Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. Here are some providers that maybe are lower cost, but, and look, if one of these people wants to pay to have a consultation with me, sure I’m happy to, right?
I’m not just like, Hey, we can’t help you. I’m a very helpful person, but you know, at the end of the day, I’m trying to add value when a client hires me. And if, you would have been better off just paying the government instead of me, like go pay the government, right? Like, don’t pay me 5, 000 if you owe five, just.
Stroke a check for five grand to the IRS, right? But she’ll literally sell people two options. They either do a paid consult with one of our attorneys. So we’re, we only do paid consultations. And so somebody has got to sell that. Right. And then she’ll sell clients directly, you know, like, Hey, here’s how we work.
If you want to sign a retainer agreement and pay a retainer, you can do so. And I think a lot of [00:30:00] attorneys believe and it’s ego based that the client only wants to speak with them and that’s just not the case, or they know they’re going to speak to the attorney, but they’re more than happy to sign up and get all that stuff out of the way before they have their first session with you.
Frankly, it’s better because when you’re talking to a respective client, you shouldn’t be giving them legal advice anyways, right? You’re not, you know, I would imagine Jonathan, that you would advise people not to establish an attorney client relationship until, you know, you’ve been paid. You tell me.
Jonathan Hawkins: Well, that’s ideal.
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, you know, why not get paid first?
So, that’s kind of how that goes. I mean, every client is different and has different expectations. We have different, choices and options for them. yoU know, referral sources have different expectations. Obviously, if someone’s trying to refer me a case and the paid consultation is prohibitive, it’s like, just call me.
It’s fine. You know, it’s 200 bucks, man. [00:31:00] It’s not like some great revenue generator. It’s more so. To make sure the person is serious and isn’t kicking tires or seeking free advice. That’s what they pay consultations for.
Jonathan Hawkins: So, so you brought up, the fact you had this niche practice. I’m a huge believer in developing a niche. I get a lot of questions from folks, you know, how do you develop a niche, et cetera. So how did you develop yours? Do you have a tax background? I mean, were you some sort of CPA or accounting undergrad?
I mean, how did you get into this?
Jason Wiggam: No. Yeah. So if you had interviewed one L Jason, right? Like first year law school Jason and you were like, you’re going to be a tax attorney. I would’ve laughed in your face. I would’ve been like, no man, taxes boring. Why would I do that? Right. So, so the story goes, I went to Georgia state. For law school, Georgia State has a low income taxpayer clinic attached to the law school and you can take it as a course as a student.
Right? [00:32:00] And I was in law school from 2007 to 2010. Recession hits job prospects take a dive and I needed to build my resume and you know, I obviously in law school grades are the end all be all to write. Everybody cares about the grades. So, you know, looking at this clinic, I’m like, Hey, I can get an a, I’ll just come in and work hard, right?
Like, okay, I’m supposed to work 10 hours a week. I’ll work 15. And unlike constitutional law or some other more esoteric class, that I might or might not understand, or it might just be mind numbingly boring. It’s just work. So I take the clinic. I I get the A, I ace it. Right.
And I really love the work. And My mentors at the tax clinic, they were like, Hey, we like you. We’d love to give you a full ride and you come work in the tax clinic for the rest of your days in law school. And I was like,
Jonathan Hawkins: Wow. Nice.
Jason Wiggam: yeah, for sure. Out of state tuition, student loans, paying the [00:33:00] way myself. Yeah, I will do that all day long.
And then the, I just had really enjoyed it. I I graduated with this highest pro bono distinction. And I didn’t even know what this was. Long story short I had worked so many extra hours in the tax clinic because like between classes and stuff, man, I was like, might as well go work on cases. I got nothing else to do.
I just, you know, I liked it. Right. And they were like, yeah, you work so many extra hours and we can’t compensate you for them, but you can apply for this award where all the extra hours are pro bono hours. And so I got this thing, which. Frankly, I think misleads people. I have frequently like when I interact with students and people who don’t know me, they think I’m like some kind of like massive do gooder volunteers their time often and unfortunately, I don’t.
I’m more of a, you know, I’ll give you a check right instead of volunteer my time. But, but yeah, so I was in this tax clinic, really liked it [00:34:00] and I’m working all these extra hours for free enjoying it. So why not do that for a living, right? I mean, if you’re going to work half of the rest of your life, why not do it on something you enjoy?
So, and then I think that Jonathan, the theory became, you know, I’m representing indigent taxpayers. Let’s go do it for paying clients and that’s how I got here.
Jonathan Hawkins: You know, there’s some lessons in there. A lot of the young folks, whether they’re lawyers or not, they’re like, you know, I got to find my passion. I got to find my passion before I can go figure out what to do. Which, a lot of people have called bullshit on that.
And I’m one of them too. I don’t think you find your passion, then follow it. It’s sort of, you know, you sort of do some things and then you develop a passion for it and then you really dive into it and I mean. The other thing is, people start law school thinking they’re going to do one thing and they never do it.
Like, I started law school thinking I was going to be a plaintiff’s contingency lawyer, and I’ve, never did that. And, I represent a bunch of them now, but I’ve never [00:35:00] really done it. And I like what I do, you know, I, I don’t regret, that I didn’t get to do it. It just sort of.
Jason Wiggam: Yeah,
Jonathan Hawkins: the stream of life took me in a different direction. And I love what I do now. Like you do. And then you get to grow and do other things within it. I mean, like you said you’re really not doing a ton of client work now.
Jason Wiggam: By the way, I frankly didn’t like doing the work. So I was like, Hey, how do I change the situation? But I mean, I would agree with you. That strikes me as overthinking. And I think attorneys many times Like, overthink things, worry about it, they’re like way too technical. At the end of the day, if, like, I was obviously full of shit, right?
Like, first year law school, Jason would have not told you he’d been a tax attorney. But I knew nothing about it, that’s why, right? Like, I started to do the work, I experienced it, I liked the way it felt. I, You know, it was statutory. I’m dealing with real people. You know, these are things [00:36:00] I had no idea about till I started doing it.
So I guess for me, it’s try to reflect on what you actually enjoy doing and what you like. I mean, I like, I frankly could probably be a different type of attorney at this point and, you know, run it like a business if I really wanted to. Right. But I enjoy what I do. Like, it’s fun.
Jonathan Hawkins: So I’m curious why did you go, why did you go to law school? Did you, are you one of those that you had nothing else to do, or did you know,
Jason Wiggam: Well, so yeah that’s probably a little bit of it. I think so. So I’m really into like personal finance. Like that was always a hobby of mine. So I was a finance major for like a semester. And then, you know, I had a little too much fun that semester in college and bombs like finance three Oh one, like one of the entry level classes.
And it was my first C ever. And I was like, man, maybe I shouldn’t do this. And, you know, my theory behind the finance degree was I’m going to. You know, try to be like a CFP or go [00:37:00] into some kind of financial planning. But if that didn’t work out, I could just go to law school. Right. And I guess why law school?
Well, I wanted to be successful and I hated blood. So, you know, and I really like arguing, like I. Not to say that it makes you an attorney, but I just, me as a human being, I was like, I think I’d probably be a better fit as an attorney. I do think I picked right. I do think many people go to law school for the wrong reasons and pick wrong.
And I am the. liKe alumni chair, like the guy that hits you up for donations for my class in law school. And so I get a roster of like where everyone’s at and like the amount of them that are no longer attorneys is kind of sad,
Jonathan Hawkins: wow. Wow.
Jason Wiggam: you know, I mean, like you see the statistics, right? But but yeah, I mean, I think I picked right, but
Jonathan Hawkins: So you mentioned something you know, I forgot about this your hobby of investing. I know you’re pretty good at it too, or you’ve had some success,
Jason Wiggam: say that again.
Jonathan Hawkins: [00:38:00] Your hobby of investing. I know you’ve had some success. Hopefully it’s just cause you’re so good.
Jason Wiggam: A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, Jonathan.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, so I can’t remember, were you, did you get on the crypto train for a while?
Jason Wiggam: So a little bit, I fortunately not too much. I knew there the Iris was targeting crypto and I was like, Hey, I need to like talk the lingo. I need to understand this and how it works. And, you know, having had a number of crypto clients now, I think that theory was correct because they are definitely unique.
People some, a lot of characters for sure. But no I put a very small amount of money in crypto and different things. I still have a little bit, but it’s not a big part of my investment
Jonathan Hawkins: So have you ever been paid in crypto? That’s the key.
Jason Wiggam: I have, yeah, we, you know, the always improving thing, right? I, the client’s like, I want to pay you in crypto.
And I was like, well, man, I don’t really take it. And I was like, you know what? That’s a limiting belief. I [00:39:00] was like, let me figure this out. And I want to say cash app or PayPal or one of these platforms. They can pay into that platform with their crypto. There’s like a decent fee for it, but I was just like, Hey man, I came up with this, so if you want to pay me to PayPal or cash app or whatever it is, I can then get the cash from there.
And that’s what we did. So he made like a 5, 000 retainer to like PayPal. And then I took it from PayPal.
Jonathan Hawkins: So if you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing? Would you be doing investing or?
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, I think so. I think I would be helping people. I’d be probably be like a CFP or someone who like I wouldn’t be like a hedge fund guy, like trading and investing and that stuff. I would be helping individuals with their finances.
Jonathan Hawkins: So I guess the law firm, it creates the cashflow for you to go then. You know, have your little investing hobby on the side, right?
Jason Wiggam: Yeah, effectively. I mean early in my [00:40:00] career it was Fire, right? It was, I saved a very large portion of my take home pay and lived frugally and at some point I would have a passive income that exceeded the active income. And I could just tell the boss to, you know, screw off. Right. Obviously I’ve changed a lot.
Now, yeah, I view my business as the passive income stream. I mean, I’m still doing that too, just to be clear, I’m developing both, but, at this point, I see no reason to stop working. Like I like my boss, he’s a cool guy. So
Jonathan Hawkins: That’s right. So, so back to the firm. So, you’ve been doing this for eight years. You’ve grown it very nicely. You know, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned, that if you could. Go back until 2016, Jason do this and don’t do that. What are some of those lessons?
Jason Wiggam: that’s a tough one. I think I was [00:41:00] definitely too risk averse with spending money. And I mean, the hard part is you’re afraid you’re going to blow the money, right? You’re like, maybe if you have it. You’re still afraid to use it. Cause you’re like, man, you know, this thing might cost 10, 15, 20, 30, 000.
And that’s, I mean, that’s real money, right? That’s not a an insignificant amount of money. I think I would have told him, when you know, something is the correct thing to do, make the investment. And I’m much more likely to do that now, if anything, I probably have gone too much the other way, but, I think I could have had a lot more growth faster. I was definitely a I am not a risk taking entrepreneur. I mean, I take risks, but I mean, I represent a lot of people who obviously are like, ah, I don’t need to pay taxes, whatever. Right. I’m not that person. I am the type of person where I want to do it like the right way.
I don’t want to make mistakes. I want to make good judgment calls. And I’m [00:42:00] still that person, but I think understanding it’s okay. If you make a mistake and
Jonathan Hawkins: I wonder if the fire your time with the fire philosophy held you back spending a little bit,
Jason Wiggam: a hundred percent. Yeah, for sure. No, I had to change. It’s, I mean, my parents and I love them to death. I mean, they are, they live in the moment. Right. And you know, so I think I was. It’s kind of a reaction to that, to be honest with you, but yeah, I would have said I would have told him, do not be afraid to take some risks.
I think I would have told him, your mindset and your beliefs will affect everything else. And so be very focused on that and be, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand myself and why I am the way I am and why I tend to do the things I do. And so, I think I would have told [00:43:00] 2016 Jason, do that sooner.
And then, I think I probably viewed sales a little bit negatively back then. Right. And I think it would be. You are literally a salesperson today, like whether you know that or not. And yeah, don’t be afraid to seek out help, right? Like that’s what you do for a living. So why not go seek it from other people?
And I mean, I eventually did all these things, but you know, I could have probably saved myself a year or two a heartache.
Jonathan Hawkins: you know, I’ll tell you. I think starting a firm takes a certain mentality. Sometimes you’re forced into it. You gotta have some confidence that you’re going to, do okay to be able to do it. And I think, you can have a lot of success, you know, solo, you can get real busy pretty fairly quick.
I mean, you were immediately. But then, growing it as a different story and, you know, that’s just a different mindset and a different mentality. And it sounds like you’re there now, right?
Jason Wiggam: Oh yeah, no, I [00:44:00] so we’re working on our budget for next year and the plan. And, on the low end, I think we’re going to grow 20%, like. And on the high end, it could be 30 to 50, you know, I mean, that’s going to require us doing everything correctly. That’s probably not going to happen. Like things that I don’t anticipate you know, will happen, right?
Like, people will leave or, maybe I have to fire someone or, whatever things will happen. Right. But yeah, I’m very optimistic. And, I’m not going to stop going. I mean, why wouldn’t you keep going? Right? Like you, I enjoy it and I can help more people and I can make my team’s life better, my life better.
Why wouldn’t I? So
Jonathan Hawkins: So, I know with EOS, you don’t have to tell us what it is, but I know it, it does have a part of that is sort of a longterm vision. And I’m sure that sort of evolves every year. What if you know, today, what’s sort of the vision for the firm over the next 10, 15 years?
Jason Wiggam: yeah. Yeah, I’ll talk about [00:45:00] that a little bit and I’ll answer your question directly too. But with the U. S. you set either 10 year target when you start initially planning and then you do a sort of a midway. So we did a 5 year and then you had to create a 3 year and then you’re doing a 1 year target every year.
So what I was just talking about was our 1 year. Like, I was looking at the numbers for next year and there’s some. Initially I was like, let’s just go big every year. Right. Like, like we can do this, let’s do a big number. And then the first year it didn’t happen. And, you know, the team got discouraged.
Right. And they’re not like me where they don’t really care if they don’t meet it. It’s like, Hey like I like the challenge, you know, I want to learn and improve. It was a good learning experience. Obviously employees aren’t like that. They would like some wins on the board, they, you know, so we’ve started setting expectations a little lower.
So even if I think I could do 30 or 40 percent growth, I’ll probably still go with the 20 just to be one, be realistic to let everyone feel good about [00:46:00] the health of the company and what’s going on too. But in terms of the long term vision, I think the five year goal we set at the time, which was.
Let’s see, this would have been early 2020. Because the goal is at the end of 2025. So we wanted to double the size of our law firm as it was in 2020. And we are on track to do that. We will probably exceed that. Long term goal. I think the, like, big hairy audacious goal we set at the BHAG was to be the top tax resolution firm in the southeast.
Honestly, I struggle with the BHAG because how do you really measure that, you know? Like, what, like I don’t think revenue is the way to measure that. It’s probably like reputation or something. But but, you know, I was like, let’s pick a big, hairy, audacious goal. Right? And per Jim Collins, his book and per what us tells you to do and so we’re just going to keep growing.
I think we’re going to try to open offices and other states [00:47:00] potentially.
Jonathan Hawkins: Yeah, I want to ask, let me ask you about that. So your practice, I guess you do mostly federal. Do you do, you probably do some state tax work, but because it’s federal, you can, you’re based in Atlanta, but you can work anywhere on a federal case, right?
Jason Wiggam: yeah, I probably should have mentioned that earlier. Yeah, so our clients nationwide federal you just have to be barred in 1 state to represent someone before the IRS and even most state agencies. We do state cases too. So if you’re a New York attorney, you can still represent someone before the Georgia Department of revenue.
They don’t care. They just want you to be an attorney. Most of them match the. IRS’s rules, the federal rules, yeah, so,
Jonathan Hawkins: So you can practice now pretty much anywhere, but you still want to open up offices in other states and what’s what’s the thought process behind that?
Jason Wiggam: Well, people, you know, SEO networking, brand building in those states. I mean, there’s, I think, a variety of reasons. Maybe at some [00:48:00] point I would want to live somewhere else, so I think there are a lot of reasons to do that. I mean, the office initially would probably be something very small, right.
You know, might even be renting an office from another firm or something, but, it is hard to get. talent in Atlanta. I mean, there’s a lot of it in Atlanta, but we also have we’re ground zero for syndicated conservation easements, which is this tax shelter the IRS is attacking. And I guess the better way to phrase that is it’s something the IRS thinks is a tax shelter.
sO everyone’s just busy here, so, and if we’re not going to take remote employees, you know, maybe we would need, offices there. I don’t know. Maybe we will move to taking fully remote employees again. I tried it during the pandemic and it was just a train wreck. So that’s kind of why I was discouraged from doing so, but you know, we’ll see.
At the end of the day, whatever it looks like [00:49:00] to continue to grow it’s going to require us to change. I think every time you hit a new level, whether that’s another million in revenue, another 2 million things change, right? You have more people reporting to you. You have to build different structures.
And it requires you to empower your team. It becomes more about building them up and less about you, right? So those are the big mindset shifts. So whatever it looks like to double or triple from here, I intend to figure it out.
Jonathan Hawkins: You know, I’m with you. I have, I’ve got plans and the vision to grow my firm to multi state and open up other offices and, you go through, you know, every time, I mean, you talked earlier about sort of making mistakes and learning. I imagine the first time you or I open a remote. Outpost in another state, there’s going to be a huge learning curve, just learning how to manage that because you’re going to be remote from that office. I mean, I [00:50:00] guess you’ll probably fly or drive there for a while, but
Jason Wiggam: yeah, it probably will be like Florida. It’ll be somewhere close, right, for that reason. But, I won’t mess this up because it’s what I do, but I mean, let’s talk attorneys and taxes, right? Like you open an office in another state, you now are going to be paying taxes to that state, right? And depending on which states it is and the facts.
But, you have now created contacts with that state, you have nexus with them and, you know, so I could totally see someone screwing that up. And the mistake you make is you get a little love letter from the, I, from that state agency in a few years.
Jonathan Hawkins: I’m going to have to talk to you when I get open another, are there certain states that are better than others? I mean, is that part of your thought for us? Or is it doesn’t really matter.
Jason Wiggam: mean, obviously a state without income taxes sounds, quite juicy Jonathan, you know, so Florida and Tennessee definitely are higher on the list for that reason. But for me, the. Economic [00:51:00] opportunity would be the driving force, right? Like, you know, are which area makes the most sense from a client perspective?
Like the tag IRS publishes the data. So like which areas are more fruitful, which one has more, you know, tax cheats, more people that have tax problems. And to be clear, I love my clients to death, I don’t, there’s no judgment or anything, but like, you know, who where are the larger tax liabilities?
Where is there more activity where there are more IRS offices? Those are the things that will probably drive the decision with taxes being secondary.
Jonathan Hawkins: Well, I hope I never have to hire you.
Jason Wiggam: Me too. I would never wish an IRS problem on anyone. They’re not great to deal with. So.
Jonathan Hawkins: Well, I appreciate it. We’re sort of been at this for a while, so I appreciate you taking time today. So, for everybody listening how can people find you if they want to find you?
Jason Wiggam: So, I mean, the easiest way to find me our website, www. WighamLaw. com that’s W I G A M Law. Or you can [00:52:00] email me at jwigham at WighamLaw. com and happy to help if I can. Thanks for having me.
Jonathan Hawkins: Awesome. Enjoyed it. Appreciate it.