It’s Tracy Merda here – Senior Project Manager at Jacobs & Whitehall.
Martin Asatrian, Esq., who you’re about to meet below, is a client of ours and a two-times “Speak-a-
Booker”. He is the author of Only in America: Case for Immigration and International Rights and The 10
Laws of Power: a Lawyer’s Manifesto. And we’re about to get the ball rolling on his third book.
A weeks ago, he came on our podcast as a guest – to talk about how he has leveraged his status as a
published author to become a “mini-celebrity” in his city and accelerate his law firm’s growth.
Here are just a few of the things Mr. Asatrian revealed:
Below is a full, unadulterated transcript of this podcast interview.
Hello and thank you for listening to The Jacobs & Whitehall Podcast. I am here today with special guest
Attorney Martin Asatrian and our founder and president Richard Jacobs. Welcome everyone!
How are you doing!
Hello guys! I am very excited to have you here, Martin. You have done two books with us which is
astounding and thank you so much for doing so. I’d love to dive into a little bit on the process and what
interested you into authoring books in the first place and then I want to break it down and talk about
what you’ve done with the books that you’ve created through the Speak-a-Book process.
Why don’t we start off with talking about why did you decide to author a book in the first place? What
was the idea and vision behind that?
It’s actually twofold.
One, I think it’s important to train your mind, going back to college and law school and graduate school.
I think whenever you put something in writing whether it’s an outlined form or something more elaborate
like a book, it can help you focus on what you are saying, and it actually tries your logic to make sure
it’s actually sound. So books are extremely good for self-discipline as far as the mental standpoint. It
focuses you on what you want to do and what your flaws are as far as your profession is concerned.
Two, I actually wanted to express things as honestly and as authentic as possible. Authenticity is really
important nowadays; it’s always been important but when you put word to paper and other people read
it and they call you back and they give you good input or bad input. Usually its good input, it really does
give you an enormous amount of insight about yourself, where you are going and what you are doing
So that’s kind of why I did it and there are a lot more intangibles that came up as a result.
I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s been nothing but short of superb, in my opinion. And one
book, two books, my goal is to do 20 books with you guys. I enjoy it and I think every book has to do
with a different area of law, a different area of motivation, a different area of marketing and just pure
honesty. I think that’s the key.
Martin, any anecdotes that you received from clients about the book that surprised you or made you
smile at the other end of the phone?
Thanks for asking me Richard. When I give – I have a lot of immigration clients – when I give them the
book, you see a lawyer, you see a suit, you don’t really see the person behind it or the story behind that
individual in the conference room. They read the book, they say, wait a minute, it makes sense to me
now why you are fighting for your clients whether its criminal immigration or just immigration or asylum,
it’s because you yourself are a refugee from the Soviet Union. I get it, I get your tenacity and your
motivation. It goes beyond just merely being a competent professional.
So that put a smile on my face because you don’t realize how important that is to them and secondly
you get feedback because you can relate to people. They understand what your life’s mission is and
your goal is without being too fluted about it but I think they realize that this is something that is really
important to you and that you are going to take their case in an important way and you are very
disciplined in your approach in doing that.
One thing, I don’t know if you are aware of this Rich, but it’s interesting working with Martin. Over the
past few years we’ve done two books together and one thing that I really enjoyed was that when I work
with Speak-a-Book clients, generally their number one goal is to use it as a marketing piece, push it
forward, elevate the business and get more cases.
With Martin, it was twofold; it was, yes there obviously is a great benefit but I think Martin, you can
probably talk a little bit more to this but you also had the goal of leaving a legacy in wanting to do
something for your son and just say who you are and what you do, not only as an attorney but as a
person. So I think that was sort of an interesting twist on the usual Speak-a-Book goals.
Yes, Tracy. That was actually the first goal. It’s fantastic to want to market yourself and get cases and
that’s a little transparent on the superficial side, that’s fantastic and it’s good and it actually does work
but I wanted to really write a book to an audience of maybe 10 or 20 or leave something behind for my
son. And it also had the other effect where people find out more about you as an attorney.
You are not just a faceless lawyer. You actually have a human dimension to you. And I think it makes
people gravitate to you more. Because some of these layers are looked at as… someone gave me an
anecdote, they said, “Well your lawyer died yesterday”, and they said, “What’s going to happen with my
case?” It’s kind of funny because I think clients should know not everything about your personal lives
but some important things that they could respect and appreciate where you are more of a principled
individual. So that was the added benefit that if people read the book…
I’m writing about my son and the legacy of my father. And they say he is a pretty nice guy. He is pretty
deep and he is kind of compassionate. He will be compassionate towards me and that’s where the
overlay was, I think that worked. But it was never by design, it was just purely… I’d like to have…God
forbid, I die, something left on amazon or something for my kid to read. But it did have added benefits
and I think and that was it and thanks to your quite frankly, because the way you handled it allowed a
lot to come out of me. It’s almost like I was in the therapist’s room and it was really good. It was so
therapeutic and it helped out. I’ll tell you what, any time that you are super real, it comes out in the
book, it comes out in person, yes. I can literally say that the growth of my firm has increased
substantially. The book has something to do with it but also the confidence behind it.
I love that.
How do you— you said that the confidence behind it has changed, so I mean it’s not like swagger but
when you speak to clients, you are sitting there thinking about the book the whole time, when you hand
the book to the clients, do you feel nervous and awkward about it or do you just feel happy and proud?
What is it like to you when you are speaking to a client, pitching them, seeing if they are going to work
with you, if you are going to work with them and then the book comes along?
What’s that dynamic like?
That literally happened 35 minutes ago when I was sitting with my Costa Rican client. There is a
swagger but it’s not like a rapper swagger, it’s more like a lawyer swagger because I think the concept
of a book since we were little kids is important.
Who takes time out to write a book in a busy legal career? Probably someone that has an added
amount of devotion to his craft. So the confidence you get is like, “Look, I’m not your average lawyer.”
You differentiate yourself from other lawyers because you are bringing something different to the table.
Clients are in a very vulnerable position when they come and see you and they want to see that not
only are you bright, competent, diligent and get things done – a lot of people can do that – but the way
you differentiate and create separation from other lawyers is that added thing.
That’s a book, it’s a podcast, it’s showing something that you are doing in your life that the other
lawyers aren’t doing, and I think that’s where the confidence comes from. Quite frankly, that translates
into loyal clients, people that believe in you and it’s almost like they root for you and they want you to
succeed – if that makes any sense.
Oh it does. Absolutely. Again, working with you, I got to know you pretty well. So I don’t suspect that
there is much in life that makes you nervous or makes you apprehensive.
Was there any part of the Speak a Book process that you weren’t crazy about or that made you a little
bit nervous? If so, how did you push through that? What was your remedy?
Quite frankly, my wife is disturbed about the relationship I have with you as my publisher. You know
way too much about me. No, there was nothing, it was all delightful. I’m not just saying that. It was fun.
Listen, I didn’t go into it saying, “This is going to be transformative”. But it was. It was transformative.
So it was a delightful thing. But I can’t think of anything that I consider to be negative.
It’s probably the best investment – and that is just a practical businessperson saying this – that any
lawyer can do. But it also has an investment that is eternal like a book is always timeless.
Most of our great philosophers, their fear of death made them write books. I’m not saying that I am in
that category, quite frankly. I’m just saying a book is always sacred. It really is. And you’ve made it
easier. The whole process is fun, exciting and when you are motivated, have enthusiasm as a lawyer,
it’s just that people can feel it and they want to do business with you. There is something there.
Martin, how do the clients interact with you differently? Are they more compliant, to put it I clinical
terms, or are they just happier to work with you? What are you noticing?
The clients, with respect to publishing the two books, what I’m noticing more and more is kind of what I
said before but to be even more detailed, it shows that you are not only an advocate, maybe a fierce
litigator but you are also, in a sense, a scholar. I think the book equates to scholarship even though it
may not be Oliver Wendell Holmes writing the book itself but it’s still you as the lawyer taking your time
out to write on the future of law, the problems with law. So if I am going to hire a lawyer, I’d like for that
lawyer to have some degree of publication and scholarship plus the tenacity and I think it brings those
two together which makes it a no-brainer to hire somebody like that. So it’s a scholarship that the book
brings to the attorney, it gives them credibility in that sense.
Martin, you did some exciting stuff with the books that I would like other attorneys to hear; with your
book signing parties that you’ve done. I saw some of it, a little bit. It looked amazing.
For the listener: When Martin first started with us, he did a book called Only in America and the second
one we did was called 10 Laws of Power. Sort of different types of books too.
I’d like you to talk a little bit about that book signings and also how you decided to do it?
Yeah, I’m on the Board of Directors for the Fort Lee Chamber of Commerce. I talked to the Executive
Director. She was a former publisher before she became our executive director. So she was fascinated
by it. And every chamber of commerce, I would recommend to a lot of lawyers, should get involved.
They actually set up the whole book signing at the River Palm in Edgewater and it’s a private room
upstairs. It’s not a bar or anything. It’s just a private room, a lot of my clients came, a lot of members of
the Chamber of Commerce came. I gave a speech, I invited some dignitaries to it and it creates a buzz
and it’s like, “Wait a minute. What is going on here?” It created a little bit of a positive thing and now we
are doing another book signing at the Donna’s which is another fancy restaurant here in Fort Lee and
the Chamber of Commerce is backing me with it and that exposes you to a lot of people.
People want to know what’s on your mind. I mean, to hire a lawyer is really a big deal. It’s not
purchasing milk at the Whole Foods or whatever. It’s serious business. So the more that you can put
yourself out there, that you are enthusiastic about your craft, where you are going and your philosophy
of the law, the more likely that people are either going to be, “I want that guy to work for me”, or, “He is
not my cup of tea.” But either way, it’s still good because you are putting yourself out there.
I’ll tell you what, the book signing is not only fun, you get to interact with people, they get the book and
they read about it and you could just do a whole marketing thing around it. I personally did it just out of
self-gratification but it really did yield a lot of results and podcasts are great.
You can do, like I said, the book signing. But Only in America was really just to only set up. My goal
with you after that was okay, this is going to be a 10 book situation.
So it’s almost sequential. The first one was like just what my background is and it’s Only in America,
immigrant background from the Soviet Army, crazy, living in Italy as refugees, coming to New York, my
Dad was captured as I said and I spoke to you about. But then The 10 Laws of Power is the post. It’s
lifted over the whole immigrant story and it’s done: “Let me tell you literally what my life is like today as
trying to be the best lawyer of all time and the way you do that is”, and I put certain hints in my book
about never let your competition outwork you, don’t be intimidated by your competition. You need to be
physically fit. I say things like don’t be afraid to fail and if you do just get back up again and all these
things that I utilize in my law practice today helps me. And I also wanted to help, because I was a
professor for a while, these young students that I think don’t understand the practice of law and I think
it’s a dose of reality.
It’s a little more on the darker side than the first book. I’m saying get intelligence off your adversaries,
who your enemies are. One of the laws of power is be paranoid. I don’t know, it’s a little bit darker than
the first book but I think it’s just where I am at in my life. As you get bigger as a lawyer, your enemies
get bigger as well and as you grow and you do better, you get more and more people that want to see
you torn down. So it’s really a self-defense book in that sense.
I wanted to ask you: I don’t know how much you interact with other attorneys but when you do, has that
changed since you have the book? I mean, have you told them about it? If so, what do they say to you?
Initially they think that you are weird. Initially they think that you are unconventional. But eventually,
when we are having drinks at the bar, they talk about it in that sense but then I get an email from them
that says, “Hey man, I didn’t want to say this when we were hanging out but can you help me out? Can
you get me that publisher that I got? I’d like to write my own book. Can you help me out?”
So there are a lot of people that maybe think that it is a little hokey. But I don’t think that it is hokey at
all. But at the same time they want to participate in it and do it. So that’s what I got from my peers and
these are my close friends. They are not being jerks or anything, they just sort of are just being who
they are. A lot of them, on the one hand think that it is unnecessary but on the other hand would love to
do it themselves but they do that privately.
They call me and say, “Hey, can you help me out? Hook me up with the people at Jacobs & Whitehall”,
and so forth. So that’s what I am getting. Vut a lot of them do congratulate you and say that’s pretty
cool and as long as it’s an honest book. I mean, you don’t want to come off as a used car salesman
and I don’t think I’m doing that and don’t think a lot of lawyers do that.
You just want to say, “Look, this is what I am doing and it’s good for me and hopefully inspires other
lawyers to talk about their areas of law that they do.” In the end, it’s just good for the public, it’s good for
their law firm and it’s a little outside the box and it’s very important.
If I could tell every lawyer, I think every single one of them should do it.
But just do what you care about, don’t write to an audience what you think they want to hear. Tell them
what you really want to talk about and I think that’s the only advice I could give all the lawyers.
Don’t do it simply for the sake of, “I think people want to hear this”. Tell them a small area of law that
you deeply care about and write about it. I think that is the recipe for success.
Going back in time, when you first found out about the Speak-a-Book program, what was your
reaction? Was it like, “Oh great. I’m doing it!”, or did you have reservations? What did you think when
you first encountered it?
I saw it on YouTube, where I learn about most things, quite frankly and I looked at you, I heard you and
I saw you on the videos and I said, “This is brilliant”. I said, “I want to get involved in this”, and I did it.
Everything you kind of said was true. All the conventional benefits are true but there is something that
you left out that you probably didn’t know about in your sense, the intangible benefits. Self-gratification,
it does create a buzz. People talk about you when you write a book. They are like, “That book sucks”,
or “That book is amazing”. But it doesn’t matter. You become relevant and it raises you to a level where
people will start talking about you. Would you rather be relevant or irrelevant?
So there are certain intangibles that you didn’t really discuss but you really could talk about.
You know what, it levels— it brings your profile up where you become a person that shows that they
care about what they are doing and you put controversial things in there. Then people love you or hate
you but if they are talking about you, you win it. Does that make sense?
Yes that was great, thank you.
I wasn’t being critical of you Richard. I was just telling you that there are some things other than the
conventional stuff that you ought to know about that really does help a lot.
Yeah, that’s great. That’s what I want to hear, all the juicy, the sordid details.
It’s my personal experience. Listen you’ve become a mini-celebrity. I’m known as a mini-celebrity in
Fort Lee, the dude that wrote the book. I know it sounds corny but it’s real.
So it’s good, it’s really good.
As a lawyer, you’ve got to be out there, you really do. No one is going to call you and want to hire you if
you stay at home and watch Monday Night Football. That’s just not going to work.
That’s right! Is there any other thought or advice that you would give either attorneys who are maybe
considering authoring a book? Or even us, as far as improving the Speak-a-Book program?
First, I think that all attorneys should try to understand what their identity is as a lawyer and then take
that identity and definitely do the book. I would recommend it to everybody. I have no dog in this fight. I
wouldn’t recommend it if I think it would be helpful.
But it’s so helpful because— everybody talks about this word branding that’s misused. You are not
really branding yourself. I don’t want to use that word necessarily. But you are definitely saying, “This is
my vision of law and this is my vision of how to handle cases and deal with clients”. If you are being
honest, it’s going to resonate in the books. So lawyers can bring that voice in a book and I have.
Every time that someone sends a retainer to me, I send them a book as a gift.
I’ll tell you people love that sort of a thing and if lawyers aren’t doing that sort of thing and they are
putting their faces on billboards, then they are kind of cheapening themselves. You are better off
investing on a book than putting your face on a billboard.
Billboard advertising is interesting, it’s controversial. But do you really want to go out there on a
billboard and expose yourself? Or, do you want to write a book and say, “Look, I can’t explain my
practice of law in ‘Have you been injured?’” What does that say about you or your firm? Nothing.
But a book goes in depth and it goes in deep as you want it to go. So that’s where the book is more
advantageous. And these billboards are way more expensive than the book.
So if you are going to invest your dollar, invest it in a book and not the billboards or other things.
You’ve got to be careful not to cheapen yourself as a lawyer and this type of book writing is classy in
my opinion, it does get your point across and it could be more exponentially more beneficial than some
of the cheaper ways of advertising out there right now for lazy advertisers.
Martin, I don’t know if you have admins or secretaries. Is it just you handing out the book? And have
you found any tricks – like, when is it better to hand it out, at what point in the conversation?
I recently went to a federal prison. I have a lot of clients out there. I brought my book there, it’s good
reading. I try to give it out personally and I also explain it and I write something on the inside of it for
them. And it sounds, again, corny. But it’s really not.
People take that seriously. They take that home and they read it and then they call me back and they
say, “Remember that quote you said about getting back to your clients in 24 hours?” Well, you are
violating it, so I need you to call me. I mean they are kidding but they are also real. They hold you
accountable to what you say in the books. So it’s great that they are interacting with you.
I hate to say it, but lawyers are talked about at dinner tables and parties. So you want them to talk
about you in a good way, in a scholarly way.
So I find that my assistants can give it out. But I like to give it out in person to my clients. I make sure
that they hire me first and then give it to them along with the retainer agreement. Some people have
said, it’s an extension of your business card. I think it’s a little bit better than that because it really is
giving them all the reasons why they should hire you or why your fit is perfect for them. So there is no
guessing. I mean you are putting your lives in their hands. Think about it, if a surgeon had wrote a
book, I’d like to read the surgeon’s book before I hire that person to do surgery on me. I’d like to know
what their worldview is and this is your opportunity to give your worldview to your clients.
I hope it’s not too high-minded, but I think it works. Did that answer your question?
Yeah that makes sense. Definitely. Yup! Tracy, have you any other questions?
I don’t think so. I think we covered a lot here.
So, I really just want to thank Martin for trusting us with his vision, and with the whole process and
letting us do what we do best. And also for being, honestly, one of the best clients I’ve worked with in
terms of his passion and getting back to me and setting things up. I mean it was just a really smooth
process and I look forward to doing the next 18 books with you.
I can put that in writing! And also, Tracy has been outstanding. She is great, the format is good, her
questions really do make your book, and I think she puts a lot of time into it and she makes your life so
much easier. But going back to other lawyers – they are missing the boat if they do not utilize this
opportunity of your publishing house.
I guess this is your baby, Richard. And Tracy has been outstanding. So it really is something I highly
recommend, I think everybody should get involved with it, at least talk to you about it. Its way better
than the other marketing things I discussed like Google AdWords and all that stuff.
Thank you, Martin. And thank you, Richard, for joining us.
Thank you guys. You guys are fantastic, a lot of fun.
Well that’s we like to do in here – have fun and actually create some good things to get you business.
It’s absolutely getting me business. And it’s also getting my profile up which is, better than getting
business. Because you become relevant.