Today, we’re talking to Shannon Perri of Chris Perri Law, a criminal defense firm based here in Austin, Texas. Shannon runs the day-to-day operations of the firm, while her husband Chris does the lawyering.

Tell us about Chris Perri Law.

Chris Perri Law is an award-winning boutique criminal defense law firm based in Travis County and practicing throughout Texas. While our firm handles all criminal defense matters, such as DWI, family violence, and drug cases, we are especially passionate about trying to help people overturn wrongful convictions through writs of habeas corpus and appeals.

Chris and I run the practice together. It’s a small family business, so we both wear many hats, but essentially Chris manages the legal work, while I focus on marketing and operations. Along with other staff members, we all handle intake and case management.

What did you and Chris both do before opening up the firm? Were you scared of making the leap, or excited, or both?

Before we took the plunge to work for ourselves, Chris worked as an associate attorney for another criminal defense firm in Austin. After a couple of years, he left to pursue his master’s degree in economics with the intention of refining his critical thinking skills. Following his graduation, Chris decided to launch Chris Perri Law.

While Chris had some nerves about going out on his own, he was excited for the freedom and opportunity. By working for himself, Chris has also been able to take on some contract federal public defender work, which he finds especially rewarding.

Going from social work to teaching to running a company, what were you worried about and most excited about? Had you managed this kind of stuff before, and were you prepared to be the boss (or, if not the boss, then the business leader of the company)?

It was several years later that I joined the business, after the birth of our son. I was teaching writing at Texas State University before, and while I loved my students, it made more sense financially and timewise for me to focus on growing the business.

My professional background is rather eclectic, but honestly all of my prior experiences have aided in my role with Chris Perri Law. For instance, I have a master’s degree in social work and worked for a couple of years as a clinical social worker. At Chris Perri Law, we are often talking to people who’ve undergone extensive trauma. Few people imagine that one day they’ll be trying to find a defense lawyer after their brother or son or mother was convicted of murder. We try to treat each person with respect and dignity no matter their situation, and if we can’t help, we refer out to community resources. I think this distinguishes us from other firms.

Much of my work at Chris Perri Law involves writing. I write social media posts, responses to email inquiries, content marketing material, SEO articles, and more. I have a Master’s in Creative Writing and have freelanced for tech companies, newspapers, literary journals, and more. All of these experiences have come in handy with developing the voice of our brand.

Whether I’m talking to a potential client on the phone or writing a blog post, I often feel like my role is that of translator. My job is to explain complicated legal processes in a simple, clear, compassionate way. We want to empower people with knowledge, hope, and options.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Chris ran for political office several years ago. In that setting we worked closely together, and I also handled most of the writing and a lot of the strategy. That experience helped solidify that Chris and I work well as a team. While Chris didn’t win his election, he came in close second in a competitive field of many candidates, and he certainly shifted the conversation. The person who won adopted many of the policies he fought for. The political experience of working together gave me the confidence to know that when Chris and I come together professionally, we can do great things.

What did you and Chris not know when you started the law firm, but had to learn really quickly?

One of the first lessons I learned when I joined the firm was the importance of having clear, consistent systems of operations. Before I joined, Chris handled almost everything alone, so all of his systems were in his head. However, in order for him, me, and other team members to all work together, we had to develop best practices. We’re constantly tweaking our systems to ensure the company is running smoothly and efficiently.

What are some benefits and cons of going it alone, and what kind of support do you get from other law firms? Are there any limitations that would be alleviated if Chris worked as part of a larger firm?

The best part of working for ourselves is the freedom. The freedom to design a life that works for our family, the freedom to focus the firm on the types of cases we care most about, and the freedom to offer more resources and attention to our clients, and even to potential clients, than at a larger firm.

That said, there is also risk. We only get paid if we get new clients. There is no real time off. It’s a constant hustle, but it’s absolutely worth it.

How did you approach marketing before you began working with Mandel Marketing, and how has your viewpoint on that changed since?

Before I joined the firm, Chris’ clients came almost predominantly from referrals. Once I came on, I soon hired Mandel Marketing to help optimize our marketing strategies. In addition to helping us harness the power of digital marketing, Mandel Marketing helped us consider more deeply our target clients. Mandel Marketing empowered us to think about the big picture of the life we wanted – who do we want to serve? How do we want our business to look? Once we clarified our goals, we built the scaffolding to get there.

How important are reviews and testimonials to your business? What about content marketing, blog posts, and/or social media? What about good old-fashioned networking?

Reviews and testimonials are essential to our marketing. It can be overwhelming to try to pick the best Austin criminal defense attorney, so having positive reviews can help begin to build trust between us and a potential client.

Quality content marketing, in addition to bringing people to our website, also helps build trust because people are getting to learn about our knowledge, process, and their options. As I’ve mentioned, we want people to feel empowered and supported. Yes, we want them to feel confident that we will win their case and get them the best outcome possible, but it’s more than that. We want to establish that trust.

What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going into business for themselves?

Honestly, it’s the same advice I give to people about whether to have a baby, because, in a way, a business is a baby: build your village. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to run a business. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a ton of full-time employees, but it means outsourcing where you can, nurturing your professional community, and consulting with various experts as needed, such as Mandel Marketing.