Tim Emery

Tim Emery was a small-town kid from Graham, Washington when he moved up to Seattle for law school. He defended corporations and corporate interests out of law school. It took several years for him to “find the light” and follow his passion fighting for workers’ rights. Through word-of-mouth marketing, and a talent for getting big wins for clients, the Emery Reddy team has doubled in growth each year for the past five years. Emery Reddy has become the premiere destination in the Northwest for workers who have faced illegal actions by their employers.

The firm handles disability, gender, and race discrimination cases, as well as workers’ comp, L&I and disability cases. Notable wins include changing Washington state law to require an interactive process for finding the right accommodation so that a worker can keep working after becoming disabled.

A regulation size shuffleboard that dominates the high-rise office in downtown Seattle says it all: this is a firm of smart people who know how to have fun and get results. The firm culture is key to the company’s success: a family-like atmosphere with resourceful people who really care about each other. Tim’s favorite expression is “I’d lay down in traffic for my team,” and you can tell he means it. That philosophy, coupled with a lock on the niche industry of employment and workers’ comp law, has made Emery Reddy one of the fastest growing firms in the Northwest.

Where did the idea for Emery | Reddy, PLLC come from?

A decade ago, there were no workers’ rights law firms in the Northwest. In 2004, I litigated a complicated employment case that required employment law expertise and also workers’ comp, SSD, and L&I know-how. I quickly realized that there were only a few people in the nation capable of handling the confluence of practice areas required to defend workers’ rights. After that case, Patrick Reddy and I set up a firm to help workers. We received a flood of calls as soon as we put up our website – the demand was just enormous!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I start the day with four shots of espresso, one after the other. Then I park myself in front of my office computer answering dozens of emails, dealing with litigation issues, and coordinating with our legal team. I’m fairly ADD, so I work best when I stay in one place, put my head down, and just hammer through work. My key to maintaining productivity is to eliminate all distractions.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We have such a smart, talented team that we have an endless supply of new ideas on deck. The trick is to pick the best ones and focus only on them. My background in project management has been really helpful in avoiding the “shiny penny” syndrome and sticking to tested, proven initiatives. Also, we AB test a lot of our ideas, and quickly. Our motto is “fail faster.” It allows us to move at break-neck speed to divide the good ideas from the bad, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Automated court filings. I recognize that few people in the world think technology in the courtroom is sexy, but I get excited about the advancements I’m seeing right now. As of today, in most courts, you can file online, use PowerPoint, and even interface with judges remotely. Being able to draft and file motions without leaving our desks saves so much time (and our clients’ money). It really levels the playing field.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The “fail faster” mentality of trying a lot of different angles quickly. I see so many people get bogged down by overthinking an approach. Oftentimes, the best thing you can do is test it quickly – just jump right in! If it works, you win. If not, your investment is minimal and there’s plenty of time and resources to try the next dozen or so ideas.

What advice would you give your younger self?

“Trust your team!” As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to rely on the smart people around me. I know I can’t do everything myself, but that wasn’t always the case. I used to run myself ragged with tasks that could be delegated. Now, I surround myself with smart people who are 100% reliable, and I trust them to get the job done.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Few people get their day in court, especially when it comes to employment law, workers’ comp, and L&I claims. The deck is stacked against the worker. Judges, many of who are conservative, often toss cases summarily, even before the worker even gets to tell his or her side of the story. And employers are expert at making truly wronged employees look like they were fired for cause – employers never admit out loud the true reasons why they illegally termed a worker. This environment makes it increasingly more and more difficult to make it to a jury trial. When people say, “I’ll see you in court,” it’s often just not true. Most people never get there, even when their employer has done something truly awful to them.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Ask better questions. If you’re not asking questions you’re not learning.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We market primarily by reputation. Thus, our strategy in the niche market of employment law and workers’ comp L&I law has been to deliver top-quality services. We treat every employee like they are the only employee. As a result, our word-of-mouth referrals are through the roof! We turn away far more clients than we could ever accept. Our challenge is to keep up demand with steady, manageable growth that doesn’t compromise the quality of our services.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I hired the wrong internet marketer. As soon as the new website was finished, and he had our marketing plan, he turned around and marketed our plan to a competitor. I’ve learned to vet vendors more carefully and to put in place confidentiality agreements for sensitive info. Live and learn . . .

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Employees need better recruiting platforms/options. Monster and its offspring are clearinghouses for bad data. As an employer, it’s impossible to find a good resume out of thousands. As an employee, it’s hard to get noticed. I’d like to see a higher-touch recruiting platform: one that performs personalized services that help employees find and focus on what they are passionate about, improve their image, then connect them with an employer looking to hire them. Currently, you have headhunters and more general platforms like Indeed. There is nothing in-between, but I believe there is a market for it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A professional paper shredder. It secures privacy, and it’s also very, very soothing to watch 20-pieces of paper go in whole and come out in tiny strips. It’s almost meditative.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Power BI! This software turns an Excel spreadsheet into a daily dashboard that gives you everything you need on a daily basis to run your business. It’s totally invaluable.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Any book by Zig Ziglar. After all, marketing is everything.

What is your favorite quote?

“Honesty and integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur. -Zig Ziglar

Key Learnings:

  • Before you leave work each day, make a list of everything you want to accomplish the next day.
  • Always keep a clean desk.
  • Take a finance course. Finance is the spinach of any business.
  • Treat your employees like family . . . even better than family.
  • Develop a good banking relationship. Choose a small, community bank, because the big banks aren’t in the business of helping small businesses.


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