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For Ryan Bradley, YEC’s Vetted Community Is a Valued Source of Service Providers

Ryan Bradley doesn’t fit the profile of what you might call the “typical” attorney. As a partner at Koester & Bradley, he zealously represents his personal injury clients. But Ryan also gets very jazzed up about “streamlining the business processes and thinking about how we can get everyone more engaged and productive.”

When Ryan moved to his wife’s hometown of Campaign, Il, he landed a job at a local law firm, using criteria that his father had shared with him: “don’t go to work for any firm where there are three people in the business and they all have the same last name because you’re never going to own that.” Ryan’s law partner, Tom Koester, is in his 60s and was open to Ryan’s new ideas regarding business processes and digital marketing (and had no family members working with him).

“It’s worked out great,” says Ryan. “I allow us to run a leaner operation by leveraging all kinds of technology tools. I like doing things that are off the beaten path. When everyone jumps to paid, I’m jumping into newspapers and when everyone goes back to TV, I’m jumping into streaming.”

Ryan, who has been with his firm since 2009, also came up with ways to expand the practice’s range and enhance its local reputation, which he felt was important in a smaller, local market. “I figured out how to venture out into other areas of law but not do them in the traditional way,” he says. That included handling real estate closings for a flat fee and even offering simple services for free. “Is that a loss leader? Sure,” he says. “But I’m forever the guy that solved the problem in five minutes and didn’t charge anything and I didn’t have to spend $10,000 a month on branding.”

“Despite the fact that social media connects us all, we become more and more insular. Being able to reach out to somebody who is an expert in their field — that’s very meaningful.”

During COVID, Ryan helped the firm pivot to ensure new sources of much-needed revenue. His firm handles personal injury cases related to car accidents, medical malpractice, and defective medical products and drugs. But in the pandemic’s early days, lockdown meant fewer cars on the road, so fewer accidents. And COVID dealt a crushing blow to the healthcare system, so elective surgeries were postponed. Hence, the firm’s client base dwindled.

Ryan’s solution was to target clients who were starting businesses during the pandemic by offering to draft articles of incorporation, shareholder agreements, and the like. “We were able to experiment with those things because we weren’t so tied up on the other stuff,” says Ryan. Additionally, all of his efforts to modernize the office’s systems and procedures paid off. “It allowed me to transition from the younger guy who was trying to push everybody into technology to ‘holy cow, you’re right, we really need to learn this stuff,’” he says.

In addition to his legal work, which takes up 90% of his time, Ryan has launched a couple of entrepreneurial ventures. In 2013, he and a partner started a sport and tactical watch company called Smith & Bradley, which they sold four years later. And in 2015, he founded a side gig, White River Consulting, which focuses on helping small to medium-size businesses in the legal and other professional services industries improve their operations. He also leverages his knowledge of sports — tennis, in particular — for entrepreneurs in that sector. Recently, he helped an entrepreneur starting a pickleball business create infrastructure and a digital marketing plan. “I’m a firm believer that you can be the most talented person in the world, but if the phone’s not ringing, you don’t have a business,” Ryan says. “Everything is sales, and everything is marketing.”

A long-time member of YEC, Ryan values the community for its vetted, like-minded members and its publishing opportunities. “It’s hard to find wide-ranging communities out there these days,” he says. “Despite the fact that social media connects us all, we become more and more insular. Being able to reach out to somebody who is an expert in their field — that’s very meaningful.” Over the years, he has drawn on YEC frequently to find resources to grow his various businesses. “When we need something, I have my staff check the YEC directory first to see if there’s anyone there who fits the bill,” he says. “Being part of YEC is great because you know that there’s nobody in there who is totally full of BS.”