Domenic Romano | Strategies for Scaling A Professional Services Firm

Domenic Romano is the Founder and Managing Partner of Romano Law. The firm represents entrepreneurs, stakeholders, and creative professionals from industries, including business and entertainment. He is a corporate lawyer and entertainment attorney who advises his clients on business structure, litigation, licensing, employment disputes, and film finance, to name a few. In addition to his New York office, he has locations in South Florida and California. Before founding Romano Law 20 years ago, Domenic worked as a corporate lawyer at multiple New York City and Toronto firms. 

Domenic is a legal commentator on mainstream media, including NBC, CBS, CNN, Yahoo Finance, and Bloomberg TV. He’s also been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Independent, Time, and Entertainment Weekly. Additionally, he’s an active member of organizations like the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where he served as president of the New York chapter.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Domenic Romano, Founder and Managing Partner of Romano Law, to discuss strategies for scaling a professional services firm. Domenic discusses the challenges of mixing law and entrepreneurship, how he transitioned from Big Law to his boutique practice, and why lawyers should embrace innovative technology.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [03:19] Domenic Romano reflects on his upbringing and how being raised by immigrant parents influenced his career path
  • [05:45] How Domenic transitioned from Big Law to his current practice
  • [07:42] The impact 9/11 had on Domenic’s new business?
  • [15:19] Domenic shares some of the challenges of growing his firm from infancy
  • [22:27] Why many lawyers struggle with entrepreneurship, and tips for embodying the business side of owning a law firm
  • [26:42] Should lawyers embrace Open AI and other innovative technology?
  • [30:05] The peers who have shaped Domenic’s life and career

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

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Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

Today we are talking about scaling a professional services firm. So if you have a professional services firm and you are struggling with scaling, adding more revenue and then fulfilling on the fulfillment side, we’re going to talk all about that. My guest today is Domenic Romano. He’s built a big professional services firm that is a law firm in the New York area. And we’re going to be talking to him in just a moment. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:25

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:42

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran. Here. I’m the host of the show. You know you if you’ve listened to this before, you know each week I get to talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, all kinds of companies, you can check out our past episodes with the the founders are CEOs of Netflix, Kinkos, YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, Lending Tree, all those different companies. And, you know, I also am a recovering attorney. I practice law for a bunch of years. And so I also really like talking to entrepreneurial lawyers. Yes, I know that sounds like it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. an oxymoron. That’s because it is it’s rare that you find an entrepreneurial lawyer. And that’s why they’re so interesting because they understand the law. And they also understand how to be an entrepreneur, which are two very different things. And of course, this episode before I get into it, brought to you by Rise25, our company where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships. We’ve done a few podcasts and content marketing, and you go to our website at Rise25, to learn all about how that works. All right, Domenic, such a pleasure to have you here today. And first, let me tell our guests a little bit about you because you’re an accomplished corporate lawyer, entertainment attorney, your expertise in business media and sports law. You’ve hold a number of different positions and you’ve done a lot of media. You’ve been on NBC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV, you name it, all those different places. You founded Romano law about 2003 in the New York area, now you have offices in South Florida and California, around the country. You also are just ending your presidency as the president of the New York chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization, EO, which is how we know each other, of course, and this episode, I should also mention is also brought to you by the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program, EMP, which is what we are going to be at in just a few days. It’s a three year long, highly selective training program for members of Entrepreneurs Organization. It’s a diverse group of 70 eo members on a three year journey. And you can learn all about that just Google it or look up Entrepreneurs Organization. You can you can learn about it. But Dominic Alright, let’s start at the beginning. So I love to ask people how entrepreneurial kids were or weren’t when they were a kid or people were when they were a kid. And you grew up in Toronto and you grew up, you grew up shining shoes in your father’s hair salon tells us right?

Domenic Romano 2:56

Yeah, but both of my parents are from Italy. Italian was the only language spoken at home. They came with a couple of suitcases. My father was a barber who became a hairstylist and he put me to work in his hair salon on Saturdays, and in the summers. And so I’d sweep the floors pick, up towels, and shine shoes. My first job at seven or eight years old.

John Corcoran 3:19

another great EO member from Seattle Charles Benders told a similar story growing up in Arizona, and had shined shoes as a kid and learned a ton from it. Now what I find sometimes, sometimes that leads people to run away from the family business as far as they can. And then sometimes it teaches great skills and and people will result in being more entrepreneurial and more crafty and more hustle. What was it like for you working for your father?

Domenic Romano 3:48

It was great. I loved spending time with my dad. He had. He was almost always in a good mood. He had good stories. But he kind of pushed me away from or dissuaded me from from cutting hair. He said you don’t want to be at a job where you have to stand on your feet all day for hours and hours. Instead, I ended up at a standing desk. Charles, we have something in common. I’ll have to ask him about it next time I see him.

John Corcoran 4:20

Yeah, yeah, no, it’s a really cool sorry to have to ask him. And oh, that’s interesting. So you know, sometimes that does happen also where people push them away, especially if they are an immigrant. They got some opportunities by him immigrating to a new country. How do you think that affected you growing up in a household of immigrants?

Domenic Romano 4:40

Yeah, well, so one thing he would say to me is, you know, stay away from certain things and just fall in love with books fall in love with the books in his thick Italian accent, meaning try to get try to get into a white collar profession because in his mind you His mind it was it was better than than what he was doing anyway. Yeah. Assumption.

John Corcoran 5:05

Yeah. So you go to law school, you end up working at one of the big firms. So you had your big firm experience. I’m interested to know what that was, like.

Domenic Romano 5:17

10 years and larger law firms. And I like military training. put you through the drills, long, long hours. Physically and mentally taxing but but in the long run, it makes you stronger. And

John Corcoran 5:35

when you form your own firm after that, did you make any decisions around this is what we’re going to be this was not we’re going to be, you know, I’m imagine you had thoughts on

Domenic Romano 5:45

you know, that is a great question. No, initially, it was, it was somewhat accidental, I was in transition, I knew I no longer wanted to be an attorney at a large law firm. And I thought, let me do this in the interim. And what I found within a couple of months, is I really enjoyed being a lawyer in a boutique or smaller firm, frankly, being independent back then, than I did being at a very large institution. So I started out with three clients, a modeling agency, a thermoplastics elastomers company and a small cosmetics company, as outside general counsel, and it evolved from there. My brother had been an has been a working actor since he was seven years old. And through him, I had quite a few contacts in entertainment, Film and Television mostly. And I had been, you know, peeking at their contracts as a courtesy. While I was a big law, and then I had an opportunity, when when I started my own firm, to actually help some of those people more formally, to provide formal legal advice to help them negotiate deals and get paid for it.

John Corcoran 6:54

So it’s interesting, because, you know, sometimes people emerge from an experience like working at big firms for 10 years, with a clear vision of, you know, this is what I want to build is how it’s going to be different. This is how it’s going to be unique. Other times, they have trouble even envisioning that they want to stay in that profession at all. Sounds like that was the case for you.

Domenic Romano 7:15

That that was me, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to stay in the profession. And I thought I had, and I did have some other opportunities. And I thought, you know, as I transition, let me keep using this law degree, initially, for the first couple of months on a part time basis. But then when I started to really enjoy it again, I started to get deeper and deeper into it, but this time, on a self employed basis, and eventually built a firm around it.

John Corcoran 7:42

You formed your firm, not too long after 911, which was hard to remember now, it’s been a while now, but quite a bit of an economic downturn. How did that affect things or was in

Domenic Romano 7:55

the immediate aftermath, the rest of 2001. By 2003, things had stabilized by the time I started the firm, but it was still, you know, still the relatively early days of digital digital marketing. We didn’t even have a website for the first year. Word of mouth. Yeah, word of mouth, early 2000s. Craigslist, believe it or not, was a was a was a potential source back then. But eventually put up a website and started to realize that content was king.

John Corcoran 8:31

So how did you come to that realization in the mid 2000s? What were you what types of Congolese

Domenic Romano 8:35

Yeah, it was, it was it was around 2007 2008. When I got to realize that, hey, there’s a potential here for discovery for clients, from essentially leveraging my time writing content, not for other, you know, speaking to other lawyers, trying to impress the legal community, but trying to be accessible and understood on demystifying the law.

John Corcoran 9:03

And we’re writing, like on a blog on your website, where you’re writing for bar publications,

Domenic Romano 9:08

it no initially, it was just website content, and eventually, on social media, but writing to be helpful, not necessarily to land clients. Yeah, and of course, increase visibility.

John Corcoran 9:25

And of course, the challenge with that with for many professional services, practitioners who are trading hours for dollars is that it’s hard to prioritize that when it doesn’t have an immediate payoff, versus doing some client work that’s going to pay you in the near term.

Domenic Romano 9:41

Yeah. But there’s time spent on billable work and professional services and there’s time spent on non billable work by that administration marketing. And the thing about, you know, going to a great meeting or going to a great event is when it’s over. Are you’ve either created some relationships or vanishes? Yeah, but a piece of well written clear content that people find helpful could bring dividends for 567 years after the fact. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. It can be, essentially just that.

John Corcoran 10:18

Yeah, yeah. Or podcasts for that matter.

Domenic Romano 10:23

And, you know, frankly, I think one must do both. Right. Yeah. So what they say about the, the rule of the 50% of advertising is a complete waste of time. Which half they are, and the answer is never the same from one year to the other. So right by Yes, right. Digital Content, attending events, speaking events. Yeah. Going to that lunch, going going for drinks, you just never know. And

John Corcoran 10:51

I imagined for you, it might have started with that written content, but eventually moved into more multimedia as as is the case now with audio, video, all that kind of stuff.