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Building a Successful Law Practice From the Ground Up With Jonathan Bornstein

Building a Successful Law Practice From the Ground Up With Jonathan Bornstein

March 13, 2024   |   Written by Gladiator Law Marketing
Jonathan Bornstein is the Founding Partner at Bornstein & Bornstein Law Group, a firm specializing in personal injury, real estate, and insurance claims throughout the Bay Area. With over 30 years of experience in real estate law, Jonathan has built a reputation as a highly effective attorney known for winning cases across every county in the Bay Area. His practice areas extend beyond real estate to include corporate matters, personal injury, and insurance defense, representing both individual and institutional clients in litigation and transactions. Jonathan holds a BA from the University of Cincinnati in architecture and art history and earned his JD from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. A seasoned litigator, he has tried cases in several Bay Area counties, is a member of both the United States and California Supreme Courts, has argued before the California Court of Appeals, and has a published California Supreme Court decision to his name.
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How and when Jonathan Bornstein knew he wanted to be an attorney
  • Jonathan’s struggle finding clients in the early days of his solo practice
  • Why balancing legal work and business management is crucial in running a firm
  • The challenges of starting a law practice
  • Starting and running a successful law firm

In this episode…

Starting your own law firm can be a daunting venture, filled with uncertainties and challenges. How does one navigate the complex path from a solo practitioner to the leader of a successful legal practice, especially in the competitive field of real estate law? According to Jonathan Bornstein, a seasoned attorney with over three decades of experience, the foundation of building a successful law practice from the ground up is multifaceted, involving perseverance, networking, and a keen understanding of both the law and the business aspects of running a firm. Jonathan emphasizes the importance of mentorship, client relationships, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. His journey from starting out in his apartment to establishing his own firm showcases the value of hard work, strategic planning, and the crucial role of building a client base through trust and effective legal solutions. In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen is joined by Jonathan Bornstein, Founding Partner at Bornstein & Bornstein Law Group, to discuss the intricacies of creating a thriving law practice. They cover Jonathan’s early challenges and breakthroughs, the significance of specializing in real estate law, and strategies for maintaining strong client relationships.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01   You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t. Chad Franzen  0:12   Hi. Chad Franzen here, one of the hosts of share your voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to, where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. With over 30 years in real estate law, Jonathan Bornstein is a highly effective and sought after attorney. He has practiced in every county in the Bay Area, and knows how to win cases. His expertise is unmatched. And he gets results. Jonathan, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you? Jonathan Bornstein  1:05   Fine. Thank you. Thank you for having me today. Chad Franzen  1:08   Yeah, great to have you. Hey, so as we get started here, tell me how and when did you know you wanted to become an attorney? Jonathan Bornstein  1:15   Probably when I was my last year or two in college, and I had it figured out what Chad Franzen  1:22   I was going to do. What made it attractive to you at the time? Jonathan Bornstein  1:27   At the time, I will tell you, I was debating between business school and law school. And I figured if I went to law school and got a license, I could still do business. But it didn’t work the other way around. And so I’ve been seemed to be the best choice at the time. Chad Franzen  1:44   What do you enjoy most about practicing law now? And is that something you would have thought would be the case at the time? Jonathan Bornstein  1:55   I like working with my clients to the truth, I need a lot of different people. And so that’s always very interesting. And everyone has kind of a unique experience. And it’s local to the Bay Area. So I’m always learning new things from my clients. And so I like that a lot. I’ve always, you know, liked being a helper with people and their prompts. And the issue is to develop. So this has been, you know, a great choice for me. Chad Franzen  2:26   Was real estate law, something you were interested in, you know, as you kind of got started in, especially in law school or just coming out of law school, or is that kind of just the path you you’ve taken? Jonathan Bornstein  2:37   No, I originally was looking at a career in architecture. And so when I got into law law school, and came out real estate seemed to be the natural place for me. Chad Franzen  2:48   How did you get started in the legal industry? Jonathan Bornstein  2:53   I graduated law school, there was a horrible recession, there’s no jobs, and I just decided that I would hang my shingle out and tell people I was a lawyer. And, you know, one thing led to the next. Chad Franzen  3:08   So Bornstein Law is your first job, I guess. I mean, in the legal industry. Jonathan Bornstein  3:13   I you know, I had a partner before that we were practicing. And then I been with Bornstein Law Group now for I don’t know, five years, I think I don’t remember but with my current partner, Erika Bornstein. Chad Franzen  3:29   Okay, so you, you haven’t necessarily worked for like another firm as a as an associate or something. Jonathan Bornstein  3:37   No, I never had worked with anybody else. I was. I worked for a couple law firms waiting for my license. And then I went out and once I got my license, I started my own practice. Chad Franzen  3:53   Great. How can you tell me about the early days then of you know, being in charge of your own your own firm or working with a partner, you know, you know, starting out working as a as an attorney without without a boss, like, what were those early days like? Jonathan Bornstein  4:08   So I’ll tell you two things. It was very difficult because I had no idea where the clients were coming from, and worked for a law firm or have established client base advertised. And when I first started practicing the advertising was pretty new. That’s how old I am. But we were able I was able to put out ads. And actually, voicemail was pretty new. So they need a secretary and answering service of costs were pretty low as working out of my apartment, and just kind of anywhere anybody gave me eye contact up my business card. And it was very, you know, touch and go at the beginning constantly looking for work trying to meet people and network. I was very fortunate to make friends with them. Much more senior attorney who really provide me a lot of guidance. And I’d get a somebody would hire me for a case and can you handle the be like? Absolutely. And I was fortunate to be able to pick up the phone and call an older, more experienced lawyer and go, What does this mean? What is this? And he provided me a tremendous amount of guidance and help. So very important to find a mentor. At least for me, that helped out a lot. Chad Franzen  5:24   Yeah, I bet. How long would you say it took before you felt like, okay, we’re, we’re kind of rolling here? Or Did Did you ever feel that way? When you first started? Jonathan Bornstein  5:33   It took about, I would say, nine months, most of it started feeling like, Oh, I’ve got, you know, three months of work in front of me, right. And then it just kept rolling. And after about a year or so, it was pretty good. And then I decided to kind of stick with it. And part of the thought was, look, if you want to become a partner, move up a large law firm, it’s going to take maybe five years or so. And if you work real hard at your own practice for five years, you’d probably be about the same pay spot as that, but you’ll be in charge. Chad Franzen  6:15   And what would you say? What would you say was kind of a key to your success? Or was it was it basically just being successful and doing what you were doing? And then it kind of came to you? Was there some sort of key to you know, growing the growing the business, and then getting to the point where you felt like you were rolling? Jonathan Bornstein  6:31   Yeah, I think, you know, part of it was at the beginning, I just had a lot of different work until I was able to kind of focus in the real estate area. And it just was once I started getting referrals from people that I helped out, then things started moving along, and getting into networks, joining some of the bar groups, and talking it up and reading a lot. And you know, just getting out there and, and meeting people as much as possible. And like I said, back then handing out my card. I think you go on LinkedIn and stuff now. But it took a while. And then once I started getting referrals from clients that built up in there. And at one point I was I had a contingency case that worked out very well that that I thought it was a lot of money back then now I’m like, but that helped take a lot of pressure off. Chad Franzen  7:29   So you have been doing this for 30 years, as you mentioned, your your current firm has been around for about five years was launching this one a lot easier than launching the first one. Jonathan Bornstein  7:42   Yes, one a at some client base and more experience, and better understanding of what was happening. So yeah, at the beginning of tell you everything is new constantly was in the law library. Now you’re getting, you know everything off the internet, and a lot more access, and it’s easier to get started. Now the cost of starting up is much lower than it used to be used to be you have to pay for the books or go to law library all day. And it was very, you know, you had to have admin, Secretary typing things, those things are all gone. So you can get up and rolling with very little overhead and keep going without having you know to have a lot of fixed costs. And you can stay open longer. And the longer you stay open, the more likely you are to succeed. Chad Franzen  8:38   You mentioned that you were choosing between law school and business school and you figured you could still be in business if you went to law school, but not now vice versa. How much of a business aspect of running your own firm snuck up on you, if anything, as you kind of were starting out or or anytime. Jonathan Bornstein  8:57   No, it’s a lot even today running your own firm because, in fact, a lot of my time is not related to law. I sometimes, like how much of my day is spent having to have gone to law school. And you know, reading law articles and writing briefs and stuff are actually very pleasurable, because that’s what interested me is the law and I think every lawyer kinda likes doing law, you know, the real intellectual work of law, but there’s also running your business making sure you have a business license, maybe you have your taxes paid, make sure you know payroll is met, and HR and all kinds of other things that are not related to law. You didn’t have to go to law school but it is running a business and running a business is great because you’re your own boss so to say and you can control your destiny. Chad Franzen  9:54   If you could take the opportunity to brag a little bit why why out what You think is the best thing about, you know, being involved with with your firm as opposed to maybe a competitor or a different one? Jonathan Bornstein  10:07   Well, one, we have three clients, you know, I’m very happy for clients. And I think clients are a reflection of the attorney, the people that are there. And you’re ended up attracting clients who are very much see things the way you do, and the way you conduct yourself. And that’s always important, because you have to have a lot of rapport and trust, your clients have to trust you, when you tell them, You’re gonna have to pay this amount of money, or this is your position, they have to trust you, you know, we’re consular. So I do a lot of litigation, most of our work is litigation, but a lot of it is counseling through difficult spots for our clients. So I think people were going along for clients would would be very happy here and enjoy litigating and counseling together. Chad Franzen  10:58   As you look back upon your journey, has there been a, like a moment that was particularly challenging or a period of time that was particularly challenging that you really remember, you know, kind of struggling to, to get through? Jonathan Bornstein  11:13   Well, yeah, I’ll tell you, the beginning was tough, just getting money in client out, you know, I did early on, I tell people, I had to make, I think, 1500 bucks a month to cover my bills. And today, I have to make multiples of that per day. Now, it’s easier to make multiples of that per day, today, 30 years out, than it did back then starting at the very beginning. So that’s, that was difficult. At one point, I had computer problems where we had early on failure, and I thought, you know, two years of work had been wiped out. And we’d have to, you know, I’d have to leave the practice, because a lot of this data is stuff that you don’t have to repeat. Turned out, I was able to retrieve it all worked out. But I remember that was a point where things look very bleak. Chad Franzen  12:14   You’re what is there a moment where you’re particularly proud, you know, it was like a highlight like a, like, things are going, things are going great, like a time that you’re particularly proud of maybe you were very influential in a certain success for a client or something like that? Jonathan Bornstein  12:28   Well, one of the things is we’ve had some clients that were in very difficult positions that we’ve been able to help I had one client in a real estate matter, but it’s also a kind of personal injury mixed in there. And we were able to receive a very large award for for her that she had a devastating injury, and we’re able to help her, you know, write things. And that was very fortunate, we’ve had a lot of clients who are in a lot of danger of losing their property, losing their business, essentially. And we’re able to negotiate resolutions where they were able to keep that. Chad Franzen  13:10   I just a couple more questions for you what is the best or worst piece of advice you can remember receiving? Jonathan Bornstein  13:22   Ah, the best piece of advice I received was to always read the statutes. And I remember the expression, the way to become the smartest person in the room is actually the read the papers, read the statutes and be amazed that when people don’t actually read the statute, or read the papers in front of them, and you can become the smartest person in the room by doing that. worst piece of advice. You you’ll be able to enjoy your weekends. Chad Franzen  13:59   Not happening, huh. Jonathan Bornstein  14:00   Not happening. No. But those are the two things I would tell people read the statutes and read the law. And it’ll be amazed at how much smarter knowledgeable you become then other people. Chad Franzen  14:16   Very nice. Last thing from you. Tell, just tell me how people can find out more about Bornstein Law. Jonathan Bornstein  14:23   We have a website. Certainly you can contact me by email, or call. We’re always happy to help. You know one of the things we do for our clients is well we don’t bill for every item. So we try and make ourselves available because we don’t want our clients to get into trouble by skip being too scared to call. That’s always important. So please, you know, go to our website or call myself Jonathan or my partner Erika, and we’re always happy to help out and provide advice or whatever we can do because it always comes back. When people feel comfortable talking to you about their their problems, solutions. Are there issues and looking for guidance? Chad Franzen  15:02   Okay, great. Jonathan has been great to talk to you today. I really appreciate your time and all of your insights and thoughts. Thank you so much. Jonathan Bornstein  15:09   Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Chad Franzen  15:11   So long everybody Outro  15:14 Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes. Be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.

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