Autism Friendship and Dating Coach and Founder
My Best Social Life
New York, New York
Past positions include VP & Assistant GC, JPMorgan Chase
JD Cardozo School of Law
BA Brandeis University
Former prosecutor and bank litigator to autism and neurodiversity friendship and dating coach.
On becoming a coach after law and the unique niche he services
Listen to interview:
EXJ: Well, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I’m excited to hear what you’re doing as a lawyer who left practice to do something far more fun and with real value to people. So, tell me about your career path, how you started out, the work you did, and then how you ended up where you are now.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Yeah, I actually thought I would be a journalist when I was in college. I landed a really cool summer job with CBS News and became very friendly with the director of HR because she lived on my block. I thought that when I graduated college, I would probably be a production assistant for “60 Minutes” or maybe the investigations show “48 Hours.” But it was a kind of crazy time in journalism back then. There were massive shakeups at CBS, and the woman at HR who was friendly with me said, “Hey, you know, it’s probably a really good idea to go get another degree. And you can always come back to CBS.” So I ended up at Cardozo Law School because I wanted to be a little closer to home.
ex judicata: Did you like law school?
During my second year there, I fell in love with prosecution. There was a practicum at Cardozo where we spent most of the semester as a student at the Manhattan DA’s office with very, very little time in the law school. That was for me because the courtroom was where I belonged. I had been a high school debater. I did a little debate coaching for high school. That sort of combatant-like blood sport was part of the intellectual blood sport.
ex judicata: So, in a sense that love of debating set you on your career path.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Yes. I went into prosecution. I loved it. I spent almost seven years at the Bronx DA’s office. I did general crimes for a while, and then I went to the Financial Crimes Division, where I did some really interesting stuff. I did a massive wiretap centered around an identity-theft ring that targeted Chase Bank. We took down something like 30 defendants, maybe even more.
Somewhere around there, the universe kind of aligned. JPMorgan Chase needed somebody who knew the criminal world because it was found to have a deficiency in its anti-money laundering program. So the company needed to start this unit that used subpoenas as the red flag for potential wrongdoers within the bank. Guess who was the number one subpoena power of JPMorgan Chase in the prior year? It was me because we were doing that wiretap.
ex judicata: Well, that sounds like a great fit.
Jeremy Hamburgh: I went over to JPMorgan Chase and helped start this unit. We got that running, and then I went to litigation, where I wore two hats. I defended the bank in litigation, credit card stuff, safe deposit box stuff, wire fraud, and all that stuff. I was also a liaison between the bank and law enforcement because the bank receives an unbelievable number of criminal subpoenas and regulatory subpoenas every year.There need to be lawyers who watch over that stuff and make sure that the bank gets law enforcement what it needs within the bounds of the law. So I was one of a small handful of people who did that.
But in the background, for about 13 years now, I’ve been working with the autism and neurodivergent populations, though most of my clients are autistic. I’ve always had this coaching practice in the background because, especially when I was a prosecutor, I saw the worst of humanity on a daily basis, especially during a really hot summer back in 2010 when I was in the Grand Jury Bureau. There were tons and tons of shootings and stabbings every day. I just needed something uplifting to do. That ultimately led me to coaching and the autism population. And I’ve been doing that ever since. But now it is my full-time job.
ex judicata: That’s interesting because you clearly loved what you were doing. I can tell that just from listening to you talk about law practice. You were so excited about it. Looking at the progression of your legal career and then making the change you made, was it because you were getting burned out, or was it that you just wanted to do something good out there?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I really loved being a lawyer. Being a prosecutor was one of the great challenges and a great accomplishment of my life. I loved being in the courtroom. I loved sparring with other attorneys and judges who tended to be quite anti-prosecution. I loved my job. Then I went to Chase because being a district attorney in Manhattan pays nothing. I was getting married and starting a family. I needed to go someplace where I could contribute to a mortgage. Taking my financial crimes background to a bank enabled me to get paid significantly more, so it was a very natural progression. But I’ve always had this desire to be an entrepreneur while also helping people. This company I run now for autism isn’t even my first coaching company. When I was in law school, I had a coaching company where I helped first-year law students pass their exams. So, my coaching/teaching bug goes way back, but leaving the law to coach law students just wasn’t going to be the path.
ex judicata: Were any of your legal skills translatable to your new career?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I was able to take my legal skills, and I’ve repackaged them into friendship and dating skills. Now I use my trial law skills to help people on the spectrum connect with other people.
ex judicata: Which skills turned out to be the most valuable?
Jeremy Hamburgh: When you think about a courtroom lawyer, and you think about someone like Sam Waterston standing up in front of a jury, giving an opening statement or closing statement, you think about someone who has poise and confidence and good body language, asks good questions, tells a good story. Well, guess what? You know what makes people attracted to each other friendship-wise, relationship-wise requires the same set of skills.
So I have this saying now that winning over a jury of 12 is not much different than winning over a jury of one. It requires the same skills. But the important thing is I’m very good at taking large skills, breaking them down into smaller bites, and then teaching those skills to people whose brain wiring is different. All the skills I learned as a prosecutor and as a litigator are human skills, right? They’re human friendship skills. But what sets me (and my partner) apart is we know how to take those skills and make them digestible and understandable to a neurodivergent brain.
ex judicata: That’s something. It’s true that when you’re presenting a case to the jury and it’s something complicated, you have to explain it in a way that people can understand. You break it down into those bite-sized pieces. So absolutely, the ability to break it all down and present information clearly must be hugely important. Being able to do it, however, doesn’t mean you can teach it. So, it’s impressive that you could be at both ends.
For those who don’t know your company, tell us a little bit about it. What services do you provide?
Jeremy Hamburgh: My company is called My Best Social Life. We’re at mybestsociallife.com. We offer a free training program on our website for autistic and neurodivergent adults on the five steps to being more social, making friends, and dating. We also offer free training for their parents on how to help them do that. I also reach out across the country by Zoom and sometimes live to do this free presentation for different organizations. So I was out in New Jersey recently and delivered the presentation at the New Jersey Autism Convention. Then I went up to Westchester, New York, and I presented for the JCC. We have plans to give this workshop as far away as Stockholm, Sweden.
So we do it everywhere because it’s a really important conversation to have for a lot of families that have an autistic or neurodivergent young adult. There are some very concrete priorities that oftentimes are just there in front of your face, like independent living, finishing school, getting a job, and keeping a job. Those are all very important things, and they tend to consume an autism family’s energy and the underlying skills that enable them to be good at that and also enjoy it. Those social skills are oftentimes kicked down the road because they just feel like softer skills. So that’s where we come in. We start this conversation about the importance of working on those social skills and friendship skills. Because if you’re a good friend, you’ll probably be a good employee, right? If you know how to talk to people at a social event, you’ll be better at interviewing for a job.
ex judicata: Oh, absolutely. I think it really is important to be able to talk in an engaging way, whether it’s on a date or it’s in an employment context. So that’s an important skill. Being likable is hugely important in the workforce. If somebody likes you, that person is more willing to listen. You get more opportunities because people want to work with you.
How did you specifically get involved with this particular group of people as opposed to just coaching generally? How did you connect with the autism community?
Jeremy Hamburgh: They invited me in. I had very little knowledge about autism until I was in my twenties. I have a cousin who is profoundly autistic, and that was my concept of what autism was. I had no real idea about how wide of a spectrum autism is or how different people on the spectrum really are. So when these special needs organizations came to me and said, “Hey, our young adults are already coming to your workshops at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center, you should come and do them for us specifically.” I said, “Sure!” But I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
ex judicata: So what was it like when you started making those special presentations to that community?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I love to tell the story of how I did my first workshop for the Adaptations program, a well-known, well-regarded New York City program at the Silver Center for Special Needs at the JCC. I did this workshop for them; one guy was on his phone, and another was twirling in circles. One woman was staring up at the ceiling. After the workshop was over, I went up to the office of Allison Kleinman and was like, “Whoa, that was a failure of epic proportions.” And what she basically told me was, “No, that was not a failure. You’re used to a jury that kind of watches your every move. And when you pace back and forth, they listen to you and track you. People who are neurodivergent pay attention differently.” It was as if my head popped off my shoulders. I just didn’t understand what I was seeing. I had trouble processing it. This group of people enjoyed listening to me when it looked to me like they were just in their own world. I realized that there was a group of people who badly wanted a connection, and there was no really good way to help them with that. There are lots and lots of well-meaning therapists, nonprofits, and social groups, but nobody was actually solving the problem of this loneliness in a scalable way.
At the time, I was a 20-something-year-old, tenacious New York lawyer. I thought to myself, “I’m going to be this guy. I’m going to be the guy to crack this code.” And I have literally spent every single day for the last 13 years refining and refining and refining how to help autistic people be more social. And now I get to do it full-time.
What I didn’t mention is that we offer free help in the form of a workshop. What’s really meaningful to my business partner Ilana and me is that for the people in the families for whom the message really resonates, we actually give every family with an autistic young adult 90 minutes of our time at no cost.
ex judicata: I was reading about that on your website. How does it work?
Jeremy Hamburgh: We call it a Strategy Session, and we get on the phone with mom, dad, and the autistic young adult, assuming it’s a traditional family, for about 90 minutes at no cost. We dive into what their young adult wants in terms of a social life, friendships, relationships, where they are, and where they’re getting stuck in the process. With the understanding gained from that discussion, we are able to see a path forward. We discuss that with the family, and if that resonates with them, we talk about joining our program, Social Life 360. If it doesn’t resonate with them, that’s totally cool.
That 90-minute conversation is our opportunity to learn about a family, figure out what’s going wrong, what the path forward is, and whether we are the right people to solve the problems.
ex judicata: You can learn a lot in 90 minutes. You have a background, you understand, so you can really hear what they’re talking about and grasp it. Tell me about the Social Life 360 program.
Jeremy Hamburgh: It’s an absolutely phenomenal, one-of-a-kind program in the autism community. It doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. We’re so proud of it and happy to talk more about that. But we try to be cutting-edge and do things that everyone else in the autism community isn’t. And that gets me up every morning. All of our clients learn how to be more confident, where to go to find their tribe, how to build a mental library of things to talk about, and how to bring that into the real world and try to bring people into their world and into their life. They learn how to plan hangouts and dates and create momentum in a relationship.
ex judicata: What’s the most challenging aspect for you of the work you’re doing?
Jeremy Hamburgh: Well, there are the business-side challenges and the coaching-side challenges. On the business side, I have to do my own advertising and marketing. I have to do the Strategy Sessions, which can be sales calls. If a family wants to join and is a good fit for the program, then it essentially becomes a sales call. That’s 90 minutes of my day. Sometimes I’ll talk to two or three families a day.
I have to do all my coaching also. I have to make sure we’re teaching our clients the most cutting-edge, up-to-date strategies we can possibly give them because they are trusting us with their social lives. And we want to honor that by being as great at what we do as we possibly can. So that’s a lot of things. We are two people, and I started out as one person. We’re doing the whole funnel, right? We’re generating business, we’re creating business, and we’re servicing the business. We’re looking for new opportunities to get our message out. That’s a lot of work. And then, on the coaching side, although the skills are the same for everyone, every person’s brain works differently. So helping all of our clients make the skills and strategies stick is obviously a real challenge because all of our clients learn differently.
ex judicata: And then their personality and how their brain functions come into play. So what do you love most about the work you do?
Jeremy Hamburgh: What I love most is that I literally get to see my clients’ lives change. Sometimes that happens in the span of days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes a few months. We do a weekly community call for our clients, all of our active clients. Many of their moms, dads, and sometimes siblings join our weekly Zoom get-togethers. We do the call on Wednesday evenings and celebrate our clients’ progress and victories from the past week. We had one client who didn’t talk the first week he joined the program. He didn’t even want to be on camera. You know, he just shied away from the camera and was visibly uncomfortable. Then, like two weeks later, he is so excited by the progress he’s made in the program that he was just ebullient on the call yesterday. He was smiling and talking. And when he was done, he was like, “Okay, I’m done.”
We very frequently get to see people’s mindset shift. These are 20, 30, and 40-year-old people who’ve been going in this one direction their whole life and have been lonely and frustrated. Then we get to see them in a totally different light. They’re motivated, excited, making progress, and celebrating. Their parents cry. We cry with them. It’s just so rewarding.
ex judicata: Wow. That sure is rewarding. But then there must have been challenges in changing from a lucrative law career to start this business How did you prepare for the change? You don’t make money on day one. So how did you prepare yourself? How were you able to pull that off?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I started small, and I started the way that many coaches do. I traded my time for money. I did these workshops at the JCC for free. I didn’t know I would become a coach, certainly not a coach for people with autism. Then people started coming up to me after these workshops and asking if they could work with me. I’m like, “Okay, 60 bucks an hour or whatever.” I’m pretty sure that was my first price point. I would work with these young adults, and it was really fun. I really enjoyed it. Then Adaptations started paying me to do workshops for them and be their in-house friendship and dating coach. Then other organizations started paying me to do workshops for them. And I thought to myself, there’s something here. Then more people wanted coaching.
But the problem was, especially once I was working at Chase, I couldn’t get away. I couldn’t get away from being a lawyer. They call it the golden handcuffs. I was making way too much money to walk away from that and charge 60 dollars an hour. I was getting married and starting a family. The hardest thing for a coach is there’s a ceiling on what you can make if you’re trading time for money. How many hours are you willing to work, and how much are you willing to charge? No matter how many hours I was willing to work or how much the market would bear in terms of an hourly fee, I would never be able to replace my bank salary.
ex judicata: Right, you’re just one person and the market will only bear a certain cost for services. So what was your solution?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I had this epiphany one night back in 2016 or 2017. I had a buddy, Jeff, who had gone to business school. In business school, you learn from case studies. I thought to myself, I wonder if there is a case study of coaches who make real money. I scribbled something down on a notepad at like three in the morning about finding a case study.
The next day I woke up, and I started doing research. Ultimately I found my way to a company that focuses entirely on helping coaches create more scalable businesses. So I invested in that. I invested a lot of money in that, and it worked. I now have a business where I don’t trade time for money. My clients, for the most part, pay me upfront.
ex judicata: Tell me a bit about that business model. I think that’s going to be hugely important for those who face that sort of problem.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Instead of working with clients every week for a set amount of time, a lot of what I teach is done by an online tutorial. It happens to be even more effective than the one-on-one in-person coaching I used to do because many neurodivergent people like to read what I’m talking about. Some of them want to listen to what I’m talking about. Some want to read and listen, and some want to watch the tutorial over and over until they absorb it.
I don’t need to say the same thing to every one of my new clients because I share a lot of the basics through my online tutorial, and then I get to coach about the nuances, which is a lot more fun for me. So it’s a much more scalable model for me. And that’s how I prepared. I worked with this consulting company that taught me that there’s a better way to do what I do so that I can reach more people, have more impact, and not get gray hairs fast.
ex judicata: That makes a lot of sense. And because you’re just one person, you can’t be everywhere at the same time, and you only have so many hours in a day. You have to find a way to allocate your time. So what surprised you the most about running your business?
Jeremy Hamburgh: How fast I became successful. I’ve been coaching for 13 years. I’ve been running the Social Life 360 program for five years now. But I was doing it in my spare time. I was working a seven-day week because I was a lawyer too.
ex judicata: So all this time you were working as a lawyer and building your business.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Right. I didn’t make the jump to full-time Social Life until late 2021. The first month was brutal. I relaunched as a full-time coach in December 2021 and lost money that month. I remember marking a date on my calendar in June. That mark was when I would reconsider whether I should take the bar out here in California, where I live now. I moved out to California in 2020, and I figured if it kept going this way, I’d have to do something else.
I was going through a divorce. I had no corporate salary. I have two kids that I need to support. So that June day was my drop-dead date for this. Either the business was going to work, or it wasn’t. I lost money in December. My first strategy session of 2022 was on January 3rd. It was with a mom and a son. I really thought that the turning of the calendar would be the turning point for the business. The mother started cursing at me because her son really wanted to be in the program, but it just wasn’t financially possible for them, no matter what ideas I came up with. That was incredibly painful. And I thought, man, maybe this isn’t for me. And then something clicked. The next day I brought in two new clients on the same day.
Then, in February, I enrolled seven clients. Because I got to serve more people, I made more money in February than I had ever made as a bank lawyer in a month. Then March was good, and every month after that was good. I had this target for how many families I wanted to serve in 2022 and how much money I wanted to make in 2022, so I could decide if this was a viable path. I almost tripled those numbers.
ex judicata: Unbelievable. Well, there’s really a need. It’s genuine. Finding the clients and then making the business scalable made your business not just sustainable, but truly successful.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Need is important. But people have told me over and over again that I ooze passion for what I do. I think about helping autistic people be social from the very second I wake up in the morning until the last second when I go to bed. It’s all I think about seven days a week. There’s just something about cracking that code and helping people live up to their potential that motivates me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I think that has helped a lot. All I think about is how to be better at what I do.
ex judicata: Well, the passion certainly comes across. It’s hugely important. How long did you work both as a lawyer and on your business?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I worked 18 years to the day as a lawyer. I started at the Bronx DA’s office on September 4, 2007, and my last day at JPMorgan Chase was September 4, 2021. I knew when I left Chase in September 2021 that I had a business that, if I did it full-time, would be viable. I tested the hypothesis part-time.
ex judicata: What do you wish you knew before you started your company?
Jeremy Hamburgh: How much work it would be.
ex judicata: It’s an awful lot of work. I think anything you want to succeed at is a lot of work if you really want to stand out, do the best job possible and succeed.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Yeah, it’s a lot of work. Marketing is a lot of work alone, and I spend a lot of time networking with other autism professionals and practitioners. So we spend two or three hours a day talking to other practitioners. We spend five or six hours a day doing Strategy Sessions with families. That doesn’t count for even one moment of the private coaching sessions we do with our clients, the coaching we do over email and text messages, and the running of the business side. It is just relentless. I start thinking and triaging at eight in the morning, and on many days of the week, I’m not done until 10:30 at night.
ex judicata: But you love what you do. Do you ever miss practicing law?
Jeremy Hamburgh: I really enjoyed practicing law. I loved being a prosecutor. I’m still friends with some of the guys I was at the DA’s office with many years ago. I really enjoyed Chase. I loved my bosses. I loved my colleagues. I’m still friends with many of them. Two of my paralegals texted me yesterday. So, yeah, I miss the law, but what I’m doing now is so rewarding. One of my clients got married, and I was invited to the wedding.
ex judicata: Right. I read about that. That must have been amazing to experience, to see the results of your work in helping your clients.
Jeremy Hamburgh: It was. There’s something in Judaism called the sheva brachot, the seven blessings.
ex judicata: Yes. I know. We did that with our daughters’ weddings.
Jeremy Hamburgh: You deliver those to the bride and groom under the wedding canopy, under the chuppah. It was quite a religious wedding. There were six black-hat rabbis who were delivering the blessings, and then there was me.
ex judicata: Well, that reflects the fact that you were so meaningful to them. So wow. I was going to ask you for the high point, what you were happiest about or most proud to have achieved. But clearly, that must have been it.
Jeremy Hamburgh: It was incredible. That client still texts me. We’re in touch all the time.
I can’t reflect on my life and think about how many trials I won. I want to look back on my life and think about how many ways I made a difference.
ex judicata: What advice do you have for those who want to start a business that’s really focused on individual client needs, which is what your business is?
Jeremy Hamburgh: Number one, as my mentors told me, you have to solve the bleeding neck problem, right? If you’re going to coach people and you’re going to make money doing it, you have to solve a problem. It has to be something other people want to pay for. A lot of people coach in the health space and the wealth space, and the relationship space. You have to find something that people really need, and you have to be good at what you do.
One thing that is sort of scary, especially when it comes to the autism and special needs space, is that there are a lot of people out there who are more than happy to hang out a shingle and charge money for coaching but don’t have the methodology. They don’t have a track record of success. I hate to use the term snake oil because that’s not what it is. It’s like the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A lot of people feel that if they do something, it’s better than nothing, and that’s kind of not true. You can actually do a lot of damage by making people think that they’re taking the right action when in fact, they’re just kind of spinning their wheels.
So, find a bleeding neck problem that you can solve and actually be good at it. Then there are lots of ways to go about it. I wanted to test the hypothesis before I stopped being a lawyer, and I hired my own consulting company so that I could take the fastest route to where I wanted to be. It was the best investment I’ve ever made.
I’ll never forget my first client. It was my ninth strategy session, and he said, “Let’s do this!” I’m still great, great friends with him today. I love that client from here till the ends of the Earth. He was great because he allowed me to test the hypothesis that I could do this and help people achieve outcomes. So, I tested the hypothesis before I left the banking world.
ex judicata: And you spent a lot of years building your business. You didn’t simply leave law and jump right in.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Right. I learned a lot of lessons over the years while I was doing it part-time. I honed my craft. I learned about marketing. I learned how to be a better coach. But ultimately, what I learned is that it was a viable business.
ex judicata: Right and some things aren’t, and you need to know that. So it’s a good idea to test what you’d like to do before you go out there and potentially fail. Put yourself in a position to succeed.
This has been really great and interesting. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk.
Jeremy Hamburgh: Thank you.