The “Try It Before You Buy It” Enrollment Strategy: A Unique Sales Approach That Could Skyrocket Your Lead Conversion Rate
I am really excited to share this episode with you. This is an interview with Anthony Saunders who is one of our provider attorneys out of Salt Lake Utah. I’ve worked personally with Anthony for a number of years, even before we launched Unbundled Attorney, he and I have worked together personally outside this episode. I was the one that introduced to unbundled legal services, but Anthony has really taken the ball and run with it from there and brings to the table here a completely new way of looking at unbundled, the way he describes it is try it before you buy it.
It’s one of the classics, what you would call the puppy dog close in sales, which gives people the opportunity if you imagine going to the pet store, and the pet shop owner says, “Why don’t you take the puppy home, keep him for the night, and then come back in the morning? If you don’t want the puppy that’s okay, but if you do want the puppy, then you can purchase him at that point and keep it from there.”
Inevitably people come home, bring the puppy home, they get really comfortable and enjoy, and develop a connection with the puppy, and then when they come back the next day of course, they don’t want to give the puppy back. That inevitably happens, and that’s always, the kids are saying, “Can we bring home?” And then, of course, the kids two-three days later, couldn’t care less, and you are left taking care of the puppy.
It’s the idea of giving clients an opportunity to get comfortable with your services. Get a sense for what you can do for them, and do it in a way that doesn’t cost them a whole lot of money, and is no obligation, and gives them the opportunity decide from there if they want to continue getting more services.
Essentially what Anthony is doing, and his conversion rate, by the way, he shares it on the episode, he’s converted in July for example, out of 33 leads he’s converted 27 of them into paying clients. That’s I think better than eight out of 10 conversion rate, so this is unheard of, and when he’s doing this, he’s leading with unbundled, which means that he explains and every single client, with very rare exceptions starts working with him on an unbundled basis and doing one segment of the case, and then transitions from there. And he says, 90% of the clients that retain him eventually go to full representation.
Just giving people an opportunity to try out his services, get comfortable, and then take things one step at a time is a huge game changer in what your potential conversion rate can be with leads. This is going to be just a hugely valuable episode for anyone that’s been doing lead generation with us for a long time. Anyone that’s looking at unbundled legal services, maybe he’s been offering on the side and wants to really get the nuts and bolts of how to do this, how to explain it to the clients, how to sell it.
He also goes through a suite of about 15 different unbundled options he offers for various types of issues, and so it’s all here. Let’s get right into this interview with Anthony Saunders one of our provider attorneys out of Salt Lake city Utah.
Dave Aarons: Anthony, welcome to the show.
Anthony Saunders: Hi Dave. How are you?
Dave Aarons: I’m good man! I’m really looking forward to this conversation. We’ve been working together for a long time with a break in between but I think since the early days it’s been at least two, three years since we first started working together with a hiatus in between. I’m looking forward to captioning it all up and sharing the story of the massive growth of the Anthony Saunders Ault Firm Empire.
Anthony Saunders: Sounds good.
Dave Aarons: Thanks for taking the time today. Maybe what we could do Anthony is if you could start off just by talking about, I think you originally started with your own solo practice. I’m not sure if that was straight out of law school or shortly after. Then you decided to transition to working with a firm, I’m not sure if it was a counsel or an associate, but maybe we can just talk about how you got your starting to practice in the two different ways in which you’ve worked, both as a solo and with another firm.
Anthony Saunders: I did start off solo right out of law school, just immediately passing the BAR. I opened my own shingle out there. Immediately began trying to find clients, I was having a really hard time finding them originally. I used a lot of those referral-type services and never really was happy with any of them. And then I actually stumbled across Unbundled Attorney Services. I think I actually had an old name before that but stumbled kind of into them, and since that point in time in my solo practice I used them, and they by far the lead generation that they gave me was just phenomenal, it beat any one of those referral services, the lead based system worked a whole lot better for me in my own practice.
Using that lead service I actually developed kind of my own practice was ongoing. I decided a couple of years ago to just kind of move into a law firm at some point but wasn’t really happy with anything out there. I think that’s about the time we kind of took a break when I started looking for more of a firm based thing. I joined the Ault Firm, beginning of this year January 2017, and since that point in time, I got back in touch with the unbundled services for their lead generation. We’ve been using you guys since them, the only exception that we did have to take up a couple of candidates for a brief period, while we hired another attorney.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, due to some good challenges of growth and a number of cases that had been coming on. That would be interesting for us to unpack a bit, as far as how you’ve been having to make the transition to bring on more lawyers so they handle the volume of cases.
Anthony Saunders: Yes.
Dave Aarons: I’m curious, what was it that motivated you to go work for a firm as opposed to just continuing to run your own practice? If you are able to explain it, what is your relationship in the firm, are you a counsel or an associate, do you get paid on results? Maybe you can share a little bit about what made you make the transition and then the structure?
Anthony Saunders: I am associate here with this firm. There is one partner in the firm Chris Ault. He is the managing partner here. We do have one other associate who recently joined us. Other than that, what really brought me here was, I’ll be honest with you: it was my own divorce, I didn’t want to have to report my income to my ex-wife.
I was trying to find a better way to show income that was actually stable, and everything with her, for child support and alimony purposes, and actually joining a firm actually made more sense than trying to get my own books in order to the pint where I was comfortable enough to divulge that information to her. That’s really what brought me into a law firm.
Dave Aarons: How has it been different for you, or has it been somewhat similar to work within a firm as an associate as opposed to running a sole practice and how has that dynamic been different for you?
Anthony Saunders: For me, it’s really been the same. The lead generation that I get, I’m responsible for all those clients when they come into our office from the initial phone conversation all the way through the end of their case with us, depending upon what needs to they have or where that case ends with us. I’m responsible 100% for all of those. The only real difference is, is I do have other cases that get referred to me through the firm that I also work on as part of the partner’s caseload. Other than that I do my own lead generation and really handle the cases that way.
Dave Aarons: One of the things that you and I have been working together closely, ever since the early days, because back in those early days I was the only one that was the only representative of the company as far as on the sale side and supporting attorneys. You and I have worked together personally for a very long time.
One of the things I’ve been really always impressed about is just, not only are you excellent at converting the leads, but you’ve also been really creative and flexible in the way in which you’ve been structuring the unbundled payment plans, and just the ways in which you’ve been able to work around your client’s budget, and seem to meet people where they are at, in a way that few attorneys or at least the minority of attorneys have been successful and able to accomplish that, certainly is more common amongst, in our network.
Overall, if you look at the marketplace and certainly in Utah and other states, there is very few attorneys that are being as adaptive as you are. Maybe you can talk about what initially motivated you to start offering unbundled services and working with folks in the way that you do, and maybe we can start to talk about some of the options you offer and the price points and so forth.
Anthony Saunders: To begin with, what really brought me into the unbundled services was actually my initial conversation with you. I’d never actually thought about that before. I’d heard other attorneys do it, I looked into it through the BAR and make sure everything was okay, and I could do things like that, but other than that I hadn’t really thought much about it. Our initial conversation when we first spoke about, when I reached out to you long ago was really just a driving point.
One of the things that brought me into law was my own case, my custody case when I was 18. What I wanted to do was help people. I didn’t want people to feel like I felt back then, and that’s kind of been what my driving point is. Taking my own experiences and putting them into my conversations with these leads as they come in, to try to drive home that there is a much more personable aspect to them coming into the office to talk to me, or them even talking to me over the phone about their case. At the end of the day, there is a lot of personal feelings that go into family law cases. I try my best to accommodate at least reaching out to that side of it as well when I approach the leads that I speak with.
Dave Aarons: What was it about unbundled services and working with clients, with these types of options that you found to be in alignment with your desire to help people in a way that maybe … I don’t know if it was because you wished you could have been helped when you were going through the cases, or you sincerely just wanted to have a desire, because you could empathize with people? Maybe you could share that, but what was it about the way in which you are working now that aligned with your philosophy and your desire to serve?
Anthony Saunders: What I found was essentially by being able to unbundle those services and break it down into different segments of a case instead of handling an entire case upfront for a client. I did a couple of things, which I felt really comfortable with. One of my biggest approaches since day one with unbundled services has basically been, it’s kind of a try it before you buy it type of scenario. People are very apt to spend a lot of money or want to spend a lot of money when it comes to legal cases. Especially going back a couple of years, money just isn’t the same as it used to be for a lot of people.
By offering the unbundled services, I actually felt that I could reach out to more people and help more people in that manner, by offering them even, you just want me to handle a temporary order hearing for you or do you want me to just fill up your documents? I was able to walk people through all of those steps and what they needed to know, to help prepare them for the case ahead of them, which I actually found to be very calming for most people, which I actually converted more of them actually to full time retaining clients as a result of that.
Dave Aarons: It’s an interesting way of looking at it, that kind of try it before you buy it, because obviously a lot of clients are hesitant about making sure they hire the right attorney and obviously there is a lot in line for them as their rights to their kids, there is a lot of fears and a lot of understandable concerns around them making the right choice and decision to get there right attorney on the side to help them.
That ability to try it before they buy it or experience, what it’s like to work with you, and to get comfortable as an initial step, I can only imagine that must make people feel a lot more comfortable with engaging with you at the outset.
Anthony Saunders: It has. And I’ll be honest, of the people who have retained me for even one part of their stuff, I would say 90% of those actually end up becoming fully retained for the rest of their case, just because I emphasize a lot on that try it before you buy it. If you like what we do and you feel more comfortable by the time we are done, you might want to think about having us do the rest of your case. If not, we can still do bits and pieces here and there, if you are at least comfortable with us doing that. It allowed people a lot more flexibility in each of their cases. Some people really just need with that temporary order hearing, and then they feel like they can do meditation on their own, and they end up resolving it usually after doing the temporary orders because they kind of think that’s where they are going to end up at the end.
It gives them a better idea and being able to answer their questions, and even just having the ability to call when they have those questions, even if they are being billed something for it I found was a lot more helpful to people, and people were much more reactive instead of going back into a shell-
Dave Aarons: More responsive! I think that’s such a really, really important point, and it’s a distinguishing factor I think. And the attorneys we work with that convert, do you know roughly Anthony what your conversion rate is? Out of 10 leads, how many you are converting into paying clients for some form of a service?
Anthony Saunders: I can tell you this. I’ve been tracking them since we came back on board with you guys. In the month of July I had approximately, and I haven’t seen the numbers yet for August. I can tell you, for July we had approximately 33 leads come in and we signed up on either a partial or full retainer, 27 of those.
Dave Aarons: WOW! That’s basically nine out of 10, almost nine out of 10, basically, eight or nine out of 10 are retaining your services out of every lead you receive?
Anthony Saunders: Yeah. August was a little bit low. I know those numbers are a little bit lower. It’s still greater than 75% I know.
Dave Aarons: Greater than 75%! What you were getting at here I think is such a distinguishing factor. From attorneys, we have a lot of attorneys that do extremely well with our leads and are having a lot of success and are converting maybe one out of four, one out of three, one out of two. One out of two would be amazing. That’s incredible, 50% conversion rate on a lead, average client value is $2,000 to $3,000 at the end of the day.
Attorneys are paying whatever, 50 bucks a lead or something like that depending, 55 or so. It’s incredible conversion rate, and return but there is this level from one out of three or one out of four to something that is significantly higher. I think one of the distinguishing factors is leading with unbundled services?
Anthony Saunders: Yes.
Dave Aarons: Maybe we can unpack that Anthony, because I think there is a big distinguishing thing between offering unbundled and saying, “We can either do unbundled, but most people really want a full representation.” We can do unbundled or we can do full representation. They kind of offer the unbundled, but they really move people towards full representation right away. It’s offering it, but they kind of go straight for the full representation. At least they feel like, that’s most ideal, whereas, your approach is, let’s start with unbundling. Why don’t you start with just one aspect of the case?
We can handle just one piece of this, whatever that initial segment is, get a feel for it the way we work together, whether we are a good fit with, were you comfortable working with us? Then if you want more services you can enroll from there. That’s a complete strategy in alignment with what you are talking about here, try it before you buy it. Can you unpack a little bit further on why you feel like that’s been so successful for your firm?
Anthony Saunders: I can. Our biggest thing, and I can tell you, from the initial phone call, when I talk to people on the phone. Generally, my first question is, where are you at in your case? I want to know where they are at so I can talk really about that portion of it first. I want to even start with the unbundled just in our initial conversation as far as … You are heading into temporary orders, let’s talk just about temporary orders, and this is what we can do for you, just for the temporary orders.
I really start unbundling it really with that initial phone call, and carry that through when they come into the office with the onset, I generally try to prepare enough when they come in we can just talk about that one aspect that they are concerned about right now. When they contact me, generally what I find is, I want to sign over my rights for custody of my kids. Where are you at in the process, what have you done? Have you researched anything? Do you know whom you want to sign them over to?
Where is it at? That allows me to focus the conversation really on that first unbundled aspect of saying, “All right, here is the first thing we can do for you is we can draft your petition or we can draft your motion for temporary orders. Or give us a chance to do the hearing for you.” Start unbundling that really all the way from the outset, and then what I generally do, we don’t even talk about full representation until after that initial portion is done for them.
Dave Aarons: I can only imagine that there is some attorneys that would say there are some cases that are fit for unbundled legal services, other cases aren’t, they are more complex, they are more complicated. How can you break apart cases that are contested or there are some complex issues? But what I’m hearing from you is that you look at, where are you at right now, what needs to be filed, what’s the next hearing, what’s the next order? Because regardless that person is going to have to keep moving forward and they are going to have to do it, one step at a time no matter what?
Can you just talk about how you are able to work with people where they are at? It seems like in the vast majority of cases you are able to find a way to unbundle, or at least start working with the unbundled, obviously a lot of transitioning but how are you able to work with people as one step regardless of the complexity to a certain degree?
Anthony Saunders: What I’ve generally done is depending upon where they are at. I’m very open and honest with them and say, “If you’ve already filed your papers for your temporary orders, and you want us to do the hearing it is going to take this much prep time, so you know.” I kind of let them know that ahead of time, so that they know that I’m not just going into this, great you sign me up, I’m just going to show up to the hearing and repeat everything that you said.
I focus a lot on their one issue that they have before them. The reason for that is is, most people that come into our office at least here in Utah, they are teary eyed, they are crying, they are upset about a lot of different things; by allowing them the opportunity to really kind of focus just on one thing instead of the whole picture. The whole picture is still in their head, and it’s still in mine as well, but by allowing them to focus just on that one thing, their comfort level seems to come down. And by their comfort level coming down to, we are just going to talk about meditation today, and what’s going to happen, what we can do for you to at mediation, why you want an attorney with you at meditation.
Let’s just talk about that, sure you are still going through the divorce, you are still going through a custody battle, but let’s just focus on one thing. Generally, what I have found tends to calm people down more to where they are more open to listening to what you have to say and be willing to give you more information. And that comfort level really is the one thing that I use as kind of a springboard into a full retainer is because, all right, I’ve already got them comfortable with me here on this meditation thing.
And we attend mediation, and they like what happened there, but they didn’t resolve their case, so they need something else to start preparing for trial. What they do is they generally come back to me and say, “You made me feel really good about this. I felt great about what happened there.” It’s all about laying that comfort level with them, because of people nowadays shop, especially the younger generation, the so called millennials, tend to shop around for what’s comforting to them.
My focus along on that initial comfort level, and turning that into a retainer in our office. By focusing it on that, we’ve just been able to generate more turnover. When I first started out I was only getting one out of five, one out of six sometimes. It wasn’t that great. That’s when the try it before you buy it thing kind of hit me, and from that point on, that’s the way I focused it is let me show you this, and what I can do for this. Now that your comfort level is good, let’s do the rest for you.
Dave Aarons: Let’s talk about some of the different options. I’ve always appreciated the way you segment things, and you have a lot of different options and you can segment almost any type of, you got the limited parents issue, you’ve got doc prep, you’ve got a review and many other different things you can do. Can you share some of the different ways, the different types of unbundled services you could provide as a segment, and maybe we can finish up on something like that, run through the options and then we can start talking about how you would transition?
Anthony Saunders: Yes. I’ve got a broken down. We have about 20 things total with regards to our family law pricing here. We have our initial petition of course, that includes the filing fee. If they’ve already been served and they are the respondent, you have a flat fee as well for answering the counter petition. We offer flat fee services for just amending it for you. If you come in and ask us to review it, and we … If you come in and ask us to review it, and we think that there is things that should change, and you just want us to make those changes for you, we have a flat fee broken down just for that for them.
Dave Aarons: As you are going through this Anthony. Every market is going to be different. Attorneys have to take whatever pricing you may share, if you are practicing in Manhattan, you might have to have different pricing because of your overhead than you would in say Salt Lake or Lansing Michigan. Would you be open or mind sharing example rates? And I know it’s going to be a bit of a range depending on what needs to be done, but can you give a range on what these flat rates might be to help someone when they file their initial petition or doing a response, kind of petition or doing an amendment of these types of things? I’m trying to just get an idea of what a typical price range might be if they want to start off with these options.
Anthony Saunders: Our initial petition including the filing fee is 1,300. Utah’s filing fee right now is $360. That puts it down to about $990 in attorney time that they are allowed to use. Essentially, we don’t limit that time for them. I’ll answer in a counter petition because the filing fee is a little bit less, it’s only 1,200 on that one, and amended petition, for example, we only charge 750 for that. The initial discovery, if you just want us to handle your initial discovery in Utah, where we have financial declarations that are required, there is a lot of financial documents to fill in, and they are extremely confusing for even most attorneys who don’t get them right. We do charge 1,500 for that, but that also includes the other initial disclosures as required under the civil procedure.
We do have a breakdown for a motion for a temporary restraining order. I don’t think we’ve actually used that one, as those don’t come in very often. Then we do have a motion for temporary orders or opposition to a motion for temporary orders. In this, we’ve actually bundled this to include some things that we are going to need for the motions. We include in this initial discovery up to 10 hours of motion, and exhibit preparation, drafting, and revision of any orders as well as preparing of the hearing. On that one, just because of the time in that we actually have that one set at 4,500 for that one.
Dave Aarons: Did you say 4,500?
Anthony Saunders: Yes. That’s actually the most common one that people actually end up retaining us for. Usually, under these unbundled things that’s where people have come in, and that’s their first initial fee that we end up charging them for that. We do also offer, if you just want us to do the temporary order hearing itself, we do that at a flat rate of 500 if you are going to do everything else and you just want us to prepare it and be at the hearing, generally with about 500, unless it’s extremely complex, then we charge 750 for that, just for the hearing alone.
We do have discovery issue if there is a statement of discovery issues that are needed. If a client comes to us, they trying to get this stuff, and they are having a really hard time getting a response from the other side, all the way through sanctions and request for attorney fees, we do charge 1,500 on that. We have review hearings; we charge $750 on just the review hearing for them. If there is a parent time dispute we charge $600 for that, meditation. It ranges anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 depending upon the case and what the issues are on that.
When it’s extremely complex, divorce is going to be more in the 4,000 range, but It really is client specific on that one. There is kind of a wide range on that. Moreover. We actually breakdown costs for them if they want us just to do a trial. We actually have a half-day trial flat fee of 2,500 or a full day at 3,500. Then afterward I f they want us to draft and review their findings and decree we charge 625 for that as well. Just kind of a breakdown, it’s not everything that we do, but it’s a smaller version of our flat fees pricing that we offer.
Dave Aarons: Before we can unpack that further a little bit, flat fees, why do you believe in offering flat fees versus hourly as just a general billing model for most of these services?
Anthony Saunders: When it comes to the unbundled portion, the reason why we like the flat fee pricing is, the client knows exactly what they have to come up with for that aspect. If they know they are having us do all the work on their motion for temporary orders, and they have to come up with $4,500 for that, they know exactly what that fee is going to be. They know they are not going to see a bill from us for 5,000 or 6,000 or whatever if they are just doing a hearing, for example, they know exactly what that’s going to cost in advance.
Even if we end up being late on the calendar, they are not going to be charged extra for that. What I found is by offering a flat fee pricing for this unbundled section, before we moved to a full retainer, in that try it before you buy it a sense of mine that I carry into these types of cases is, “Now you’ve seen what we do on your initial petition. It was 1,300, here is our retainer for everything else, but you saw what you got for your money before. Knowing what they are getting for their money I think tends to help make that decision, later on, to move into full retainers.
Dave Aarons: I really like your comments on the flat fee pricing, clients knowing exactly what they are going to get. There is no ambiguity. I think that’s one of the major complaints, and probably I think reasons … I remember hearing some statistics about, the primary reason clients not retaining an attorney is not necessarily that they couldn’t afford it, but because they were uncertain about how much it was going to cost in the end. There was ambiguity about that, and so many people have had the experience where they retain an attorney and then they get some bill they weren’t expecting, and it’s way more than they thought, and they run out of money, and then the case gets dropped.
That’s a real fear. Statistically, a lot of people have that concern. So not only, the flat rate pricing being really transparent and very clear and easy to understand, but also do you find on some level that when you are working on a flat rate, that it breeds a certain degree of efficiency in your firm, as far as trying to find ways to be more streamlined, or more efficient in the way you are handling tasks and getting things done?
Anthony Saunders: it does for us. From my standpoint, the way we came up with our flat fee pricing is we kind of averaged out a bunch of cases over the last couple of years about what the average cost was for each aspect of those. It took a lot of time to do, don’t get me wrong; it was not an easy task to find these numbers. This is kind of the median range of where we fell on all of this stuff. By finding out what those prices are, and we know, this client is doing a full temporary order hearing, and he’s going to get $4,500 worth of service from us, what are we going to do? If it makes it a little bit easier for the attorney, that we have assigned to it, to focus purely on just that aspect of the case. They are not looking into if we brought a new attorney in on the case.
We just recently like I said, had to hire a new attorney to come help with the caseload that we are getting right now. In just being able to bring him in, he was up to speed within 30 minutes at the most, because he knew of these unbundled cases, his flat rate ones, exactly where he was at, and what he was required to do, which made his efficiency go up starting from day one. He was able to just pick it right up and go right into it without spending a lot of time trying to get himself caught up in our cases, and our caseload. The overall efficiency of it, it’s much more of a streamlined process for us.
I take your case, and we are just doing your initial petition. I can generally tell a client what day of the week that I’ll have it to them for review at this point in time now. We’ve got at least that efficient to where I know how long it’s going to take me to draft that initial petition for them.
Dave Aarons: Are you guys using any form of document automation software or do you have a paralegal or any form of intakes off where that allows you to either have the client complete an intake form themselves or to have the information you’ve inputted into, your case manager software or intake software, populate into the forms, or anything like that implemented so far?
Anthony Saunders: We are actually looking into Lexicata right now. I’ve had a couple of conversations with them about their process and what they can do for us. I think we might be moving towards that, but we haven’t moved there yet. As of now, it’s all an initial paperwork that gives the client when they come into the office. We do have a paralegal who works on the cases, but lately, with the amount of work that we’ve had, he’s not been able to keep up as well. We kind of get back to that, the more streamlined we can get the process, the more people we are able to reach, and the more people we are able to help with their cases.
Honestly, that’s been our driving factor is what can we do get these? We know that these are our average numbers over the last couple of years, but what can we do to make those maybe even lower in the future? That more people would want to come in and get with our office, and that those referrals that our client sent out are even better than what they are now.
Dave Aarons: Maybe we can talk about that just because you brought it up. You are providing services to a lot of people. Maybe the average firm, if they’ve got 33 leads, they might convert six, which would be pretty good, one out of five, one out of six conversion rate, that’d be like decent, that’d be pretty solid. They’d still see good ROI. But You’ve got 27 people that have retained your services in one way or another, had an opportunity to work with your firm, and now can potentially become ambassadors or referral sources for you, because you are just dealing with a high volume of people, getting an opportunity work with you.
Can you talk about how that’s led to more referrals? I also commend you for thinking along the lines of, how can I even bring the cost out even more as opposed to maybe see a much bigger margin or something like that, by building efficiency but actually being able to serve even more people, by being even more affordable, by developing more efficiency and technology.
Anthony Saunders: Part of our margin in this is that we determine based on those prices, but the more we can bring them down, and keep the margin roughly the same, that’s our ultimate goal is to get more people willing to try us. What we’ve done with our referrals, people have come into our office, they have tried our services, they like those, and they end up moving to a full retainer-ship. The biggest key to that isn’t necessarily them being a newly retained client. That’s great, and we love it.
However, what we love most about that is that that person now goes to work and they tell people at work what’s been going on, what’s happened, and they hear about somebody else’s divorce or child custody case and they say, “Hey look, these guys did really good for me. They’ll let you kind of try them before you actually decide to retain them. They’ve got a whole lot of surprises,” and we get a lot of referrals back in now from people who have tried just one aspect of it, and want other people to be able to try just one aspect of it.
Those referrals come in based upon just the motion to wave, a 90-day waiting period or an initial petition. We can sometimes get, depending upon the clients. I’ve had one client whose actually sent me four referrals from her work in just from the last 30 days from this. It’s because of that try it before you buy it mentality that I try to empathize with the people who come into the office, talk to me about this that look, even if you are not happy at the end that’s fine, you are not stuck in this long term commitment where you feel like you are stuck. You can always go out and find other counsel if that’s what you want to do, but let us show you what we can do, and let us prove to you that we are the ones that you want to have for your whole case.
By doing that, those people take that and refer their friends, their family, their coworkers, and say, “Look, I tried them just for one thing, you should give them at least a try on one thing for you, and see what you can do.”
Dave Aarons: That’s kind of makes it an easy sale for people to refer you, right?
Anthony Saunders: It does. That’s why all the referrals come in and say, “Hey look, I heard you just did this for them. I want to know what you can do for me. This is where I’m at; I haven’t been able to get my decree signed before the court.” I just recently took one of those cases. That came through as a lead for us. And that lead we generated, we just did the divorce decree for her, but she went back to work, and she is the lady who has referred now four people to us. She said, “Look, they did it quickly, they did it fast, they did exactly what they were telling me they were going to do. And they only charged me what we were told.”
Just that word of mouth to me is more valuable than before retention clients who, because most of them will end up retaining you fully. This has been my experience, but more so than that is getting those new people who just one lead generated not just one lead, it generated four or five.
Dave Aarons: There isn’t a better lead that you can get than a lead that becomes a referral. That refers you someone else, there is no better lead than that one referral.
Anthony Saunders: Exactly, and that’s what we bank a lot of this on, that’s why we offer flat fee pricing specifically for certain aspects of it, because the more people feel like they’ve gotten value for their money, the more likely they are to refer us out.
Dave Aarons: It’s a longer-term view of offering services. We actually had this conversation with Brian Picarello, he had the same perspective; He was on our recent podcast episode as well. He’s the social worker attorney, practicing attorney that episode, and he talked about this, he says, “This is the lifetime value of these clients. A lot of these folks are first time parents, first time single moms, single dad in their 20s or early 30s. They are going to have continuous types of challenges over the course of years. They are going to come up inevitably. They can also become a lifetime referral source for the firm.
If you look at people as, you are still cultivating relationship, but if you really take the time to really think through what each individual person can mean if treated well and offered really valuable services, flat rates, and you are overcoming a lot of the initial concerns that people are going to have around hiring an attorney, there is so much, I don’t want to say backend money, but it’s probably the easiest way to say it, that a lot of I think attorneys just don’t take into consideration.
Anthony Saunders: No, I don’t think a lot of people do. I’ll just a line from my really the way I close most of my client meetings that I have is, “Look, nobody goes into divorce or a relationship with they are having kids and thinks, in five years this is going to turn bad. I need to start saving money now.” I’m expecting in 10 years to be divorced, or I’m expecting our relationship is not going to work out. And I’m not going to be able to see my kid. You just don’t plan for that.” Because people don’t plan for that, this unbundled service, this flat fee thing that show you what the prices are going to be, is the best option for them, because they can feel better value for their money, they can’t try it before they buy it, and they are able to focus purely on that aspect first to allow that comfort level and calmness to kind of take over and see what having an attorney retained for them can actually do. Not just for them financially or through their case but also emotionally.
Dave Aarons: I really appreciate you just breaking down and giving example of price points, of just all the different, a lot of the different types of services, that’s really helpful for I think attorneys to get examples of the various different things that they can structure, how they can segment things, by various different parts of each different type of case, and offer flat fees for each segment. At the same time, every one of these services is, with the exception of one, the temporary order, discovery motion drafting, the revision, everything that was 4,500, the vast majority of them are in the 500 to $1,500 range, just kind of that range that we find most attorneys are offering unbundled services as a good fit for clients at that budget.
There are still some clients that may not have the full 1,500 upfront or 2,500 depending on the type of option you are offering. Do you, depending on the scenario and the timeframe, do you offer them, you can break it up into two, three, payments or do you do it on lay a way that you can file it if it’s a petition or do you offer additional flexibility for folks that can’t afford that full flat amount upfront?
Anthony Saunders: What we’ve done is, is lay away type of option, where they pay, and I know attorneys around the valley that have done that, and a lot of their clients actually end up in our office, because they are not happy with where they are at. What we’ve done is say, “All right, you need to put up at least,” depending upon what range they are in, and what they qualify for,” anywhere from 50 to 75% upfront. Then they can pay the remainder within 30 days. By doing that it has allowed people more flexibility. The $1,300 petition, if you come in and you pay us, $750 on that, I’ll get started on it, and I’ll get your work going for you.
We’ll bill from that for that portion. And then what we do is we just don’t actually file it until we actually the full amount, but we let our clients know ahead of time, that that’s what we are waiting on. We’ve billed for our time at this point. Now we are waiting for the remainder of that time, and your filing fee to come in and we can pay for it, and we can file it for you. By doing that, we actually have been able to work with more clients, which has probably helped with the retention that we’ve had in the last two months on this quite a bit, because we didn’t use to offer that, and we just recently started doing that, probably about June of this year.
Dave Aarons: It’s helped a lot as far as people being able to overcome that initial price barrier, and just put something towards their case to get it started, just give you something that you can start working on, and then just not filing. I think that’s one of the main concerns of a lot of attorneys in offering flat fees or these types of options is that they are going to file the case, and then the person will, the issue will be resolved, and they won’t get paid. What you are saying is, in the majority of cases when it’s possible, you’ll take the initial 50 to 70%, but you just don’t quite file it until the full amount is actually paid, but the work is done in the meantime?
Anthony Saunders: Yes, exactly. And then we at least know we are getting paid something on it, because we’ve got at last that initial $750 towards it. Even if the worse come to worst, we don’t end up filing it, so we don’t pay the filing fee out of our own pocket, which really is the bulk of the rest of that $550, for our time-wise, we only lose a bout $140 roughly for our time, which isn’t that bad. That’s why we structure it that way.
Dave Aarons: That’s the real difference between layaway, where layaway is like, “You’ve got to pay us, pay us, pay us, pay us, pay us, pay us until the amount is paid, and then we’ll do the work.” Whereas you are saying, “We’ll put 50 to 70% down, I’m going to go ahead and start working on this thing, so that by the time you have the money together we are filing it.
Anthony Saunders: Yeah, my initial experience, and the reason that keeps us from doing this is, even through the unbundled services, people who come to use, who have been on layaway plans with other attorneys, the client tends to not be happy, because in their mind it’s taking longer than they think it should. We are upfront and honest with them and say, “It’s going to take, a while.” We are not going to file your petition, until it’s paid in for, but we will scan it, and I can show you the work that we’ve done, and generally those clients tend to be happier, because they can see something happening in their case, even if it’s not actually filed yet. Just that knowledge that something is actually being done for them tends to be one of the biggest factors that turn them into a retained client.
Dave Aarons: Obviously that’s … You are able to work with folks that don’t have a pressing time factor in that manner because you are not getting in a position where you are filing something before the full amount is paid. If you have a case where there is a response or a deadline, do you have to be a little bit stricter about them being able to pay the full amount, either upfront or by a specific deadline, or otherwise it can’t be filed type of thing? How do you communicate that and work that out with the client so that you are not getting behind in the case of clients that don’t have time for a longer term payment arrangement?
Anthony Saunders: Our initial thing is probably the answer in counter petition, that’s the one that generally has the closest time; there is only 21 days in Utah for that response time. What we’ve done is we’ll do it and we’ll file it for you, but you do need to make a payment at that point in time within that 30-day. We actually indicate that in our fee agreement with them the day that their payment is due. It’s a simple contract, after that the attorney fees interest will accrue and all of that stuff. We point that out to them to let them know that we want them to avoid all of that stuff.
We generally are really flexible if they can’t make the payment on time. It’s usually going to be like a week later or something, but for the most part, if you have a timeframe, and you are not able to come up with it at all, it’s the same philosophy that we have is, you haven’t planned for this for the last seven years of your marriage, you’ve planned for this for the last two years of your kids’ life. We want to help you; we want to show you what we can do. Now after we’ve shown you what we can do, we’re more likely to turn them into, especially if we are flexible with them, have payment portion more likely to retain them as full clients.
Dave Aarons: Can you speak about how that’s worked out? I really love the fact that you guys will file it anyway. Even if they don’t have the full 100%, if they have a deadline, they only can come up with 50% in time, you’ll file it; obviously, you have an agreement with them. It could become a collection, who knows? That may not work out, but can you speak to what has actually been your experience in working with clients when you are offering that type of option and filing it for them, before you’ve paid the full amount and whether that’s become a problem if so, how often?
Like you said maybe is eventually offset by a number of people that retain you for full representation, because you were able to offer that good will to them at the beginning?
Anthony Saunders: We haven’t had a lot of problems. Maybe one or two cases this year where it’s actually been a problem where they haven’t paid it by the date it was due. Generally speaking, they usually come back because they are happy with, and I’ll be honest, I call this a closing party syndrome where now that the closing party has seen what their response is, they are really mad, and our client is extremely happy and pays us even sooner than what our agreement was for, just because they are glad that their ex is now upset about whatever got filed.
I found over the time that I’ve done this, I haven’t had very many of these go to collections for that, just them knowing what that flat rate is, and the interest rate on it when it comes due. Generally speaking, we just haven’t had a lot of problem with them paying it by the time that they were supposed to. The longest we’ve ever gone is 60 days from the time we took their initial retainer from us, but usually, it’s about 30 days, and they’ve almost always been able to come up with it between now and then.
Dave Aarons: I appreciate you sharing that. I think that a lot of attorneys are afraid that that’s not got be the case, but it’s really helpful for attorneys such as yourself that are taking that leap of faith in a way, and doing that consistently that that’s continued to work out for you, and that obviously you have a number of clients that are electing to pay for more services beyond that, probably in part due to the fact that you are willing to be flexible like you said, and that leads to more business, simply because you are willing to work with people on that basis.
Anthony Saunders: It’s been very beneficial for us here. Like I said, we just recently had to hire a new attorney. I did have to drop two counties recently because we just could not keep up with what we were getting business-wise. We just recently hired a new attorney because of it, and training him on unbundled side as well, and how we handle these cases, just the overall client side of this. Like I said, probably 90% of them turn into fully retained clients right now, of the ones that we do, at least one thing for.
Dave Aarons: I’d like to unpack that just briefly, that transition point, the full representation. We can talk about just that process of hiring a new attorney, and what’s worked well for you, and then we could wrap it up. Maybe you could just talk just a little bit about, the offer, the unbundled service. The initial segment is complete, maybe talk about what happens at that point and how the discussion leads to, do you want more services, do you follow up with them, do you have a follow-up appointment after the hearing or whatever needs to be done? How does that next step transition to full representation, what does that look like and what does the arrangement typically look like as well?
Anthony Saunders: What we’ve done is we do have a paralegal who drafts a kind of a timeline for them about their case; when everything is due, to kind of give them that anticipation, an idea of what’s coming up, what’s still left to do in their case. In one hand to let them know that you are not done yet, you still got more to go.
On the other hand, to let them know we are still here, and we are still willing to work with you. In fact, we put this timeline together for you for that reason to show you everything that’s available for you. Our paralegal usually emails that out within 24 to 48 hours after our last thing that we’ve done for them. In the case of an initial petition, after we file it for them or in case a temporary order is after the entry of the orders are signed by the judge.
And then we always follow up with them at least within the week, not more than five business days out to say, “Look, how is everything going? Did you like what we did?” We talk with them a lot about what we offered them and see if they were okay with it and what they liked about it. If they don’t retain us, we just want to know what the pros and cons were that they saw in it. If they do retain us again, it starts that initial conversation, they are like, “Yeah, I really liked what you said about this when we were at the hearing. I really like what you put in my petition about this, because I never would have thought about that.”
Then we can start focusing on what those things are during our conversation with them. Yeah, there is a lot of things that people don’t know about their case when they are going into it, and they just want to sign things over, and now that we are focusing on, you didn’t think about this. Now they are thinking to themselves, what else don’t I know, what else do I need help with down the road? Almost always we end up with them coming back in and signing a full retainer.
Dave Aarons: Once they’ve worked with an attorney it kind of highlights or brings to light for them what they don’t know they don’t know is involved in their case, right?
Anthony Saunders: Exactly. I still got one client now who we just finished up her case, and this is actually the third time she’s retained me. She was an initial lead coming from you guys. She was probably in the second week that I was with you guys. I’ve done her custody case back then, a divorce action for her now, and a modification to her custody as well. She’s just, she’s been thrilled with it, she loves looking at the flat fee thing, and knowing what she can and can’t do with her case. That’s just been really beneficial for her. I would recommend that to anybody being able to offer that.
Dave Aarons: This has been really great! I really love the philosophy and the way you are approaching this, I think from a sales standpoint, from a client comfort level, especially in lead generation when clients haven’t had an opportunity to meet your firm yet, they don’t know who you are, ways in which you can make things, make the decision easier, a little that try it before you buy it, that comfort level. There is no obligation, you can start with one small service, we can do this for you; you can get a feel for it, just like going to the puppy shop. You can take the puppy home, hang out with you, and bring him back. If you don’t like him, that’s okay. It’s the most classic close in sale. That try it, no obligation, try our offer, but it’s still a service.
It’s a still a specific fixed fee service. The number still pencil out for you financially, and so it’s just a really conducive approach to both lead generation and I think for clients that are, especially if they are first time hiring an attorney to feel really comfortable and be able to make it really easy for them to take that first step.
Anthony Saunders: That’s exactly the way I look at it.
Dave Aarons: This has been really helpful. I think the last thing we can just touch on briefly because you’ve just gone through it is, you’ve brought on 27 cases, new clients in just from our lead generation, plus your own sources of course in July. You probably got something in the twenties or tens or a lot coming on since August. You’ve obviously had to hire an attorney, another attorney to help you with that. I don’t know if you’ve been leading the charge in finding that new attorney, but is there anything you could share about the process of bringing on a new associate as opposed to … We’ve had some attorneys talk about contract lawyers, where there is kind of a fee split, and they have an independent contractor relationship whereas, in this, you guys have brought on a new associate. Is there anything you can share about the process of sourcing, hiring, or training that new associate on providing unbundled services within your firm?
Anthony Saunders: It’s not much different in the hiring process. We wanted somebody that fits in with our firm quite well. On the training side, because we do offer this unbundled thing, and a lot of attorneys out there, and a lot of firms don’t offer it. Trying to streamline him and train him in that. We focused a lot on breaking it down for him and monitoring kind of what that looks like, because most attorneys when they come in right out the gate, tend to have that feeling like, “I’m doing everything for this client, everything.”
We have to know, “Wait a minute. That’s not what we are hired to do on this,” and focusing more on, we are just doing the initial petition. It’s good that you are looking ahead and take those notes, but that’s for us to talk with them about after we are done drafting their petition. It’s not stuff we are going to bring up right now. Let’s just focus on showing them what we can do first. The training on that’s been really just kind of narrowing their focus back down to just one aspect of the case and walking through one step at a time in these cases as they come through.
Dave Aarons: Exactly. Just looking at it as segments as opposed to … What is trained in law school is to look at things from A to Z, take a retainer fee that’s going to take you two-thirds all the way to the end, and you’ll handle everything from start to finish. That’s the traditional way. Training attorneys on a new paradigm, when offering pay as you go or one phase at a time is certainly a little different. Attorneys may not be as familiar with that. And I know in a lot of states there is CLEs, starting to come out on unbundled services, Massachusetts has a limited assistance representation certification.
I know that there is more education becoming available every day for attorneys to get up to speed on how to effectively and ethically offer unbundled services, and that’s certainly one of the ideas behind this podcast is to provide ways to do that. Attorneys don’t necessarily have that perspective. When you are hiring, are you more focusing on their philosophy and their belief around why they became a lawyer in the first place, and making sure they have that same desire to help people and then from there describing how they are practically going to do within your firm?
Anthony Saunders: We do, philosophy is key to do these types of cases is, you can’t have somebody whose mindset is bill every dollar possible in this because if you have that philosophy while you are doing this, your margin goes down significantly. An attorney who is going to spend every time researching every new case, and doing all this stuff with regards to what should be just a simple petition for divorce, your margin part ends. And then the clients themselves end up getting frustrated because the timeframe that we are giving them ends up being extended and extended and extended, and then we have to potentially lose that client on the back end.
We focus a lot more on the backend than we do anything else, and we use margin of a, basically a median for our pricing point, not so that there is some margin for those people who don’t retain us. Our ultimate goal is to turn these people, and these leads really into full time retain clients, who love our services, and after they are going to refer us out to their friends, family, and coworkers. If you don’t have that mentality, that mindset that you can just do a temporary order or just do discovery in a case, and you want to expand that so much. That mindset is going to be there, and that’s going to end up hurting not only client but the firm as well.
Dave Aarons: That’s true. That’s really what we’ve been trying to share. I think a lot of attorneys don’t realize that that actually they could lose money by having a very rigid mindset around having to have the full representation retainer up front. There are just so many more clients that are not in a position to afford that, and would be turned away as a result, and so many more clients that would be so pleased, and so happy to have the opportunity to work with the firm at a rate they can afford, one phase at a time, in a way that they can deal with is manageable mentally for them. That they are going to become ambassadors and fans of your service and want to enthusiastically share that with their friends, family, and neighbors.
Anthony Saunders: The biggest selling point that I’ve had has been with these unbundled things is the referrals that they end up generating, I don’t know who their friends, I don’t know who their family is, I don’t know what their income levels are. You may end up finding that one so called golden goose or whatever you want to call it out there as a client, who just came from a referral from somebody who you only drafted a petition for, and now you are doing a three year divorce case where every month you have a set amount of income coming in from this client because they pay their bill on time, and they have the money to do it and their divorce is extremely complicated.
By turning people away, and by keeping that, I’m losing out on those referrals and I just, I can’t find myself, I can’t fathom doing that, I didn’t want to just draft a petition for somebody.
Dave Aarons: This is it man! This is how lawyers make more money charging less in today’s era.
Anthony Saunders: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: That’s it! because you are appealing to the vast majority of the market. You are being transparent, you are overcoming their fears and working with people in a way that they are going to fee comfortable like you said. People are really appreciative of that and are happy to sound the alarms and share that with anyone else that they care about that is going to have the same concerns, if they are trying to the custody of their child or dealing with a family issue such as the ones that their friends did.
Anthony Saunders: Exactly, and I don’t know who their friends and family are. They may be the best clients that I can ever hope for. And turn into a long-term relationship, not just doing family law stuff, but other areas of law that we are practicing too. Overall it’s just way more beneficial for us to offer this type of service, which is why we do it.
Dave Aarons: Last question Anthony. When you do full representation if they make that transition, do you continue doing segments on a flat rate, or do you transition to a billable retainer at that point, hourly or is there a different arrangement once they make the decision to go full representation?
Anthony Saunders: We actually offer both. We let them know these rates are kind of a median range for us. We’ll be honest with them and tell if we think that it’s going to be worth it for them to keep on a flat fee, or not and by being honest with them, generally most of them end up being hourly, but we do have just in the last two months, we’ve done full representation at a flat fee pricing on probably close to 17 clients that have come into our office. Not all of them were leads from bundled, but we’ve taken this model and used it in other areas as well, and by doing that just recently we finished a divorce case that overall we were, the problem originally for us was extremely high because she did the unbundled portion and ended up settling through mediation.
Dave Aarons: That’s awesome. That’s where you green efficiency, you are looking at the flat rates, you run the numbers, every now and again you are going to have a case that maybe you spend a little bit time than you had expected it, and don’t as greater margin, but you also have the opportunity to see really great margins if you are taking the time to run the numbers. I think you mentioned that earlier that you guys really did take the time to run the numbers. These fee structures are based on past history, so a lot of attorneys may not have that luxury, as far as the amount of time they’ve been working with clients and know what those fees should be, but certainly if they start working with the flat rate model and being creative and testing this out, surely is a lot of room for higher margins and more efficiency and a lot more clients wanting to pull the trigger with you.
Anthony Saunders: This is my advice to anybody who says they don’t have the time to do it, have an accountant do it if you need to. Have somebody go through your documents because it will benefit you and your clients both in the end knowing what those prices end up being.
Dave Aarons: Anthony, I want to thank you again for taking the time and sharing so openly the way in which you’ve been working with the clients. I am just so excited and appreciative that we have had the opportunity to work together for as long as we have, and that so many clients we are sending you are getting helped because of the way you are working with them. I really appreciate everything you are doing. So many more people are getting legal services because you guys are doing what you are doing and it’s just been a lot of fun working with you, and I thank you for sharing everything so other attorneys can start to consider offering these options in their firm as well.
Anthony Saunders: Thank you, Dave.
Dave Aarons: Thanks again. For everyone else who is listening to the podcast, of course, we appreciate your support, check out our blog as we have transcriptions of each episode, you can read along, and read episodes as well, go back and reference and get notes and follow links to the things that are mentioned and so forth. Check out blog.unbundledattorney.com or just come to unbundledattorney.com and click on blog, and you’ll see all the transcriptions for all the episodes. If not, by this time you’ve heard this, very, very soon we’ll have all the transcriptions up there. With that, we’ll go ahead and see you all in the next episode. Thanks so much for participating.
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