The Business Side Of Law: Travis Krepelka Of Hoover Krepelka On 5 Things You Need To Create Or Lead A Successful Law Firm

An Interview With Eric Pines

Eric L. Pines
Authority Magazine


Know that you are better than your competitors, and act accordingly. You do not have to beg for business. You deserve the business. Act like it. Clients will notice and feel that and respond to it.

Law school primarily prepares lawyers for the practice of law. But leading or starting a law firm requires so much more than that. It requires the entrepreneurial skills that any CEO would need to run a business; How to manage personnel, how to hire and fire, how to generate leads, how to advertise, how to manage finances, etc. On the business side of law, what does an attorney need to know to create a successful and thriving law practice? To address these questions, we are talking to successful law firm principals who can share stories and insights from their experience about the “5 Things You Need To Create Or Lead A Successful Law Firm”.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Travis Krepelka.

Travis Krepelka specializes in all aspects of family law matters, such as property division, characterization, allocation, and valuation; reimbursement claims; spousal support; child support; breaches of fiduciary duty; business valuations; real property valuations and claims; post-judgment matters; enforcement of California orders, out-of-state orders, and international orders; contempt actions; all aspects of child custody and visitation; domestic violence issues; and prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements. He is seasoned in working closely with experts such as forensic CPAs, real estate appraisers, and child custody evaluators. He is a skilled litigator, handling numerous contested Family Law Trials of varying lengths. In May 2013, Travis Krepelka earned the prestigious status of Certified Family Law Specialist, an honor by the California State Bar bestowed upon only approximately 10% of family law attorneys. In 2012, Mr. Krepelka won the Avvo Clients’ Choice Award and has been accepted to the list of Northern California Super Lawyers 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are? Specifically, we’d love to hear the story of how you began to lead your practice.

I was raised with what I think has become an old-fashioned work ethic — show up early, stay late, and deliver more than they expect. I combined that hard work with a desire to make the firm in which I was working better. I worked within the system, while also pushing for it to grow and expand. My timing was fortunate enough that I was there at the same time and aligned with my now-partner James Hoover, who worked with the same principles. In time (about 9 years), we ended up taking over the family law firm in which we were working, and from 2013 onward it has been Hoover Krepelka, LLP.

Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?

My dad. So much I’ve learned from him. The importance of working for yourself. The importance of listening to all the smarter people around you. The reality that you have to spend money to make money. Probably the biggest of all — sticking it out. Don’t cut and run when things get tough — in any situation, personal or professional. Stick it out.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?

Learning to let go. I think a lot of high-achievers — in school, jobs, etc. — which I was and am — struggle to work in groups, because it’s hard to adopt the work-product of others. I had the same struggles in my career. I wanted to have ownership and complete responsibility for every single thing done on my cases. But that limits me, and my firm’s, success, to the hours I have in one day. By learning to let go of control, and to instead form a team where I can do what I do best, and trust others and let them do what they do best, we ended up growing by leaps and bounds in a way I never could have going it alone. Unfortunately, I can’t say I did anything specific to overcome my tendency to go things alone other than maturing. Growing up a bit. Something we are always doing, throughout life. That process is never over.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

It comes from the world of sports. Coaching youth sports has been one of the most amazing and rewarding things in my life — far more than I ever even imagined it would be. “Bad players don’t take anything seriously. Average players take games seriously. Good players take games and practices seriously. Great players take games, practices, academics, sleep, nutrition, health, relationships, seriously. And average to good players like to hear and talk about what they did well. Great players like to hear and talk about how they can get better.”

That is what it has taken for my own success. Trying as hard as I can to be great, as defined in that quotation.

What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

I work with divorcing couples. One of the most stressful things anyone will ever go through. Like any similarly stressful situation — grieving a death, dealing with a serious medical diagnosis — it is imperative that people have calm, confident, optimistic experts they can rely on to assure them, this will be okay. You will get through this. I know because I’ve seen it. I want to usher as many people through those stresses as I can. And of course I’m trying to show my kids what it means and what you can accomplish by working hard — and through my hard work to provide a legacy for them.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Well, the coolest answers to this question are unfortunately protected by the attorney/client privilege. But without disclosing protected information, doing what I do, where I do it (Silicon Valley), allows me to get to know many people who are working on really cool stuff — tech, startups, medical research, and more. I love those conversations with those folks. So I guess the most interesting and exciting projects I’m working on are my clients. And their projects.

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

We are a 20-attorney law firm, practicing 100% exclusively family law. We are the largest firm in California with that completely exclusive devotion.

Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Unflappability (if that’s a word). I do not get too high or too low. I take things in stride. This allows me to react to things, good or bad, by decision, rather than emotion. I am a firm believer that, with practice, we all can have complete control of our emotions. We cannot control what happens around us, but we can control how we respond to it.

Pragmatism. More lawyers need this. More clients, too. Forget about your “rights.” What good is a “right” to $50,000 if it costs you $40,000 plus two years of stress to get there? Take a breath, zoom out, and take the 30,000-foot view. What will it cost to litigate every “right” each side has? How about we look at what people have, instead of what they want, and figure out how each side can move ahead into a new chapter in the future, preserving as much of their hard-earned estate as they can for themselves and their children.

Hard Work. There’s no secret. I graduated college summa cum laude and law school magna cum laude. There are lots of smarter people than me out there. You must, must, must put in the work. There is no other solution, and no shortcut.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

Tremendous bearing, but not in the way this question asks. I worked during school, so I ended up settling in for long-term work in the area I went to school. My office is less than 2 miles from where I went to school — Santa Clara University. I do not think “top-tier school” matters at all. I do think most people will end up developing their networks, and living and working, where they went to school. That’s what I would tell someone applying to law schools — go to school in an area you want to live. Then get into the best school you can in that area. Let geography control. Not “name-brand” schools.

Managing being a law practitioner and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?

We sometimes describe our firm as a battleship. Everyone on it has a job. If anyone fails at their job, in time the ship will fail and sink. But no one, at any level of the hierarchy, knows what everyone else does, or how to do it. Not intentionally — if I had the time or bandwidth, I would know everything about my firm. But it quite simply is not possible. You have to accept that, and then work your ass off on the parts that are your job, and find other people working their asses off on the parts that are their job. And you’ve all got to trust each other.

Can you help articulate the entrepreneurial skills a lawyer needs to run and lead a successful law firm?

We’ve been rewarded for calculated risks we’ve taken. A law firm is not a start-up — we’re not introducing some whole new, gamechanging, product or service. In fact we’re in one of the oldest service industries that exists. But we’ve done some things that no other family law firm does — we’ve moved our tech and internal systems into proprietary places other firms don’t have. We have written structures and protocols for almost every bit of what we do, like no other firm does. We have consistently hired great people whenever we find them, whether they, or we, were looking or not. That’s probably been the biggest entrepreneurial aspect. Hire great people (“great” as I defined earlier from the youth sports analogy). Doesn’t matter if you have a spot open or were looking. Hire them. Get them around you.

When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?

Probably spend 40% of my time on business and management, 60% on practicing law. I don’t have specific times of day, or days of week, where I work on one aspect versus another. Rather, I take things as they come, and do what needs doing when it needs done, however long it takes. Maybe that’s an area for improvement.

Can you share some specific, non intuitive insights from your personal experience about how a leader of a law firm should:

  • Manage personnel: Hire great people and let them manage themselves.
  • Hire and fire: Hire great people whether you need them or not. Fire decisively and without hesitation, regardless of any fond feelings or emotional component.
  • Generate leads: Do good work. And have a marketing team out there showing the community, via testimonials and networking, the good work you’re doing.
  • Advertise: Hire great experts at it, pay them what they’re worth, and let them do their thing.
  • Manage finances: This I do take a big hand in. Know every penny that flows through your operation. Track everything (I use Quickbooks). Know where the money comes from and where it goes. And then have a great CPA look over, verify, and advise.

What are your “5 Things An Attorney Needs To Know In Order To Create A Successful And Thriving Law Practice”?

  • Hire great people, whether you “need” them or not. Hint — you always need them, even if you weren’t actively looking for them. A place for them will materialize, and they will make your business better. Once you have them, trust them.
  • Know that you are better than your competitors, and act accordingly. You do not have to beg for business. You deserve the business. Act like it. Clients will notice and feel that and respond to it.
  • Spend money on things that work, and pay for the best. Your website, your marketing department, don’t skimp. Spend it. Your great people…pay them what they’re worth, and then some.
  • Limit or eliminate employee turnover. Pay them what they’re worth and then some. Respect and appreciate them for what they do. Make your business the one everyone wants to work out and no one wants to leave.
  • For your clients or customers, for your employees, and for yourself, show up early, stay late, work hard the whole time, and deliver more than expected.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The Hard Work Movement. You have to work harder than anyone expects you to, with no sense of entitlement. You will get what you deserve out of that hard work, and then and only then, after you have it, are you entitled to it.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Hoover Krepelka, LLP’s social media.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.

While he and his firm specialize in representing federal employees from all federal agencies and in reference to virtually all federal employee matters, his firm has placed special attention on representing Veteran Affairs doctors and nurses hired under the authority of Title. He and his firm have a particular passion in representing disabled federal employees with their requests for medical and religious reasonable accommodations when those accommodations are warranted under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA). He also represents them with their requests for Federal Employee Disability Retirement (OPM) when an accommodation would not be possible.

Mr. Pines has also served as a mediator for numerous federal agencies including serving a year as the Library of Congress’ in-house EEO Mediator. He has also served as an expert witness in federal court for federal employee matters. He has also worked as an EEO technical writer drafting hundreds of Final Agency Decisions for the federal sector.

Mr. Pines’ firm is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. His first passion is his wife and five children. He plays classical and rock guitar and enjoys playing ice hockey, running, and biking. Please visit his websites at and He can also be reached at



Eric L. Pines
Authority Magazine

Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach