Building Blocks for Great Relationships with Clients, Mobile-Lawyering, and Strategies to Convert Estate Leads
As always, very excited for today’s episode we’re interviewing Bill Fix, one of our provider attorneys out of Knoxville Tennessee and Bill is actually one of many attorneys actually that had a life before law. Essentially had a profession and was in the marketplace and didn’t become a lawyer straight out of law school and as a result got a lot of different experiences through college and some other professions that he’s now brought forth are parlayed into his law practice.
Such as selling books door to door for South Western Company, a sales training company where he would spend a couple of summers selling books door to door and a lot of things that he learned in that as far as relating to people, not pre-judging and a lot of other sales and mindset strategies that we talk a lot about in this episode that I think an overarching perspective and is unique and consistent with all of the providers in our network that convert really high they’ve got great relationships skills, great communication, they relate well, they empathize with people’s situation so talk a lot about that. He also began his practice working from home, he didn’t have an office for a long time. Only till recently. He talks about mobile lawyering and how he could create places that he could meet the clients whether it be Panera bread or sometimes even in his house which he is happy to be transitioning now to having his own office.
Then we also talk finally about estate leads and the success he’s had with fielding estate leads, how it’s a little different from family law and how he approaches those calls and some strategies that he’s developed in order to convert those effectively too. This is a great interview, can’t wait to get into it with Bill Fix is one of our provider attorneys out of Knoxville Tennessee.
Dave Aarons: Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill Fix: Thank you, Dave.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, really happy to have you on here today and looking forward to our chats. You paid quite a number of transitions in the months and time that we’ve been working together. We’re looking forward to diving in and exploring how you’ve been able to do them. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.
Bill Fix: You bet.
Dave Aarons: Maybe as a first step here where you can share a little bit about your background. How you got your start in the practice and the focus of your practice nowadays and a little bit about you.
Bill Fix: For me, I’m one of those lawyers that did not go to law school straight out of college. I was a political science major and I had … I’ve had folks say, “Why don’t you go to law school? Why don’t you consider it?” At the time I thought the last thing I want to do is spend another three years in school. I’m ready to get out into the workforce and do something. Anyway, when I graduated college in 2001 with a political science degree and having worked on some campaigns and stuff in 2000 when I got out, it really wasn’t the best time to get some political jobs, some political opportunities. I couldn’t really find what I was looking for. I wound up branching out a little bit and took a position with Edward Jones as an investment rep. Even though I didn’t have a business background, had not studied business in college, what helped me get that was I’d had two summers in college where I had sold books door to door working 80 hours a week.
That’s really fit in with the Edward Jones style of getting out and building a business. For me, the way it worked out is while I was studying for the series 7 test is when 9/11 hit and even though I passed the test I just didn’t have any confidence and I knew what I was doing. I’m here 21, 22 years old thinking, “Why are people two and three times my age going to trust what I’m going to tell them about retirement planning.” Especially with such a volatile market that we had at the time. Anyway, I just preface this with all that because I think today, working as an attorney, especially as a solo practitioner, you’ve got to know the law and you’ve got to know what you’re doing. But if you don’t know how to sell yourself and how to relate to people, it’s really difficult to build a business.
Some of those opportunities that I had in college and after college helped me just understand how to relate to people while I never really did work as an investment representative I think some of the things I did learn through that training had helped me in sitting down with folks and looking at their plan for the future. The biggest part of my practice is estate planning. While I’m not licensed to sell securities or anything like that, it’s something that you try to look at the big picture with client and help them look at what they’re doing while they’re alive here and try to make plans for the future and planning for their families and so on as well as making plans for once they pass away and how they want things to shape out. Anyway, after my failed time with Edward Jones or my resignation or however you want to look at it.
Dave Aarons: Hey Bill, can I ask you about something before we move on from there. You mentioned that you used to sell books door to door. Did you do that for South Western?
Bill Fix: I did, yes.
Dave Aarons: I had a good friend of mine that sold books door to door and he tells me about it all the time, as far as how great of an experience it was for him actually. Can you talk a little about what that was like and what you took away from that experience?
Bill Fix: Sure, yeah. I don’t know what that company is like today because nowadays the internet and technology have really taken over. For me, it was the summer of ’98 and ’99 but what they do the company recruits college students and they get them into their sales training program I guess is what they call it. You go to another state for the whole summer and you’re selling books door to door. Educational books that help kids generally with their day to day homework. It’s not encyclopedias, I don’t even know if encyclopedias are still a thing nowadays but these were books, so just study guides for the older kids, there were some other things geared towards younger kids learning to read and learning basic math principles and things like that and preschool and elementary school. When you’re out working we started … The first knock on your first door was going to be before 07:59 am.
Dave Aarons: Right, 05:57.
Bill Fix: The last time we left was going to be past 09:30 at night, six days a week. That’s over 80 hours a week. That’s all you’re doing, you’re 100% devoted to doing that and I certainly was not the best salesman in the world but the bottom line is if you’re out there doing what you’re supposed to do, knocking on 100 doors a day you’re going to get three or four customers at least in the day and you’re going to wind up having a decent summer. That’s kind of how it worked out for me. It wasn’t really my ideal thing that I wanted to do for the summer but it was a good opportunity and I saw that it was an opportunity for me to learn how to really work hard. When I looked out at my freshman and sophomore years in college for me I’d always succeeded just based on being able to coast.
School always came easy to me, I didn’t have to work hard to make good grades but I saw that as something, hey, if I want to pay $10,000 a summer I can do it doing this but it’s going to force me to work hard and really see what that’s like.
Dave Aarons: For a lot of people having sold boos door to door. You’re dealing with you mentioned 100 doors a day, you might get two or three customers so that means you’re getting the door either slammed in your face or get nos 97 out of 100 times. Can you talk about, again I’m looking at it through the frame of a good friend of mine who did this? Some of the self-talk and whether some of the principles you had to learn to get through that rejection and keep your confidence high throughout the day and day after day after day. Like you said 80 hours a week 07:00 to 09:00 pm and maybe how that maybe even play out to how you run your practice and if there are any parallels between what you earned then and how you do that now.
Bill Fix: Well, sure. Some people just don’t understand what you’re doing. Why is this college kid with out of state plates running around my neighborhood?
Dave Aarons: Literally running right?
Bill Fix: I was driving, I was in a rural part of North Carolina in ’98. But me being from the south I grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee I finished college in Missouri. I haven’t been all over the country but it does seem like the south is a place where folks tend to be a little nicer. It’s a little more laid back. I can count one maybe to hands at the most. The number of people that were totally rude and slammed the door in my face over three months that summer. As long as you’re out there I guess not being too creepy. If you’re out there doing what you’re supposed to be doing you got a good attitude folks are going to be nice. They might not buy what you’re selling, they might not want to spend time with you but basically, they said if you show your books to 30 people a day you’ll do all right. Some of those are just a quick, “Hey this [inaudible 00:10:31] know what I’m doing, let me show you what I’m doing.” You’re just showing it to him at the door for two minutes.
They’ll say, “Okay, that’s nice. But that’s not really what we need or what we’re looking for.” That’s fine, that’s cool. And go on about your business. Other people look at it and say, “Wow, I can see how that is helpful.” I remember there was one girl, high school girl that looked at it and she said that’s really going to be helpful to me and she talked it over with her folks and I think she was the one who paid for at least half of them. She saw the value in it and just knowing that you can be out there and make a difference in somebody’s educational career, they’re educational outlook maybe helped them make some better grades and go on to better things after high school, you’re making a difference in somebody’s life. Despite knowing how to relate to people and how to have fun, you mentioned a minute ago self-talk.
Some of the other guys that I worked with who were even more energetic and fired off about it than I was and sometimes you’d look at these people and go, “Wow, some of these guys are a little crazy, they’re a little out there for me.” Just running around, this is a great day, this is a great day, it’s a great day.
Dave Aarons: Best day ever, right?
Bill Fix: Yeah. I will admit, I was never quite that over the top with it but one of the things that still stick with me is that bad things are going to happen to you. You’re going to run into problems and that’s the biggest take away from this I think was you really wanted to have to solve problems. For me, I was out in a rural county in North Carolina and there was no way I was going to be able to do that without a vehicle. There were some students that would go do this and they didn’t have their own car. They would be in a more urban area where they could do it walking and still get by. There was one day that my car broke down. A ball joint broke when I was backing out of somebody’s driveway. Here I am, I’ve got to get a tow truck, I’ve got to get my car out of this person’s driveway and then my car was in the shop for a couple of days getting worked on.
Regardless of those issues, I know that I still need to get my 30 demos in for the day. To get 30 demos that means I’ve got to talk to 70 people which means I got to knock on 100 doors. I still got to get my numbers regardless of getting my car into a shop and making arrangements there. This being 1998, I didn’t have a cellphone on me and so the world is a little bit different today. Still, at the end of the day, I got my car in and I just walked the neighborhood around where the auto shop was. I don’t think I made a sale that day but at the end of the day, I felt great just because I didn’t let that problem stop me from doing what I was supposed to do that day. One of the things that I remember him saying was regardless of any problem you run into it may be something that totally sucks but come up with three good things that you can think of about that problem.
That sounds crazy to say but when you sit there and you think, “Okay, hey well now I’m going to get a little more exercise because I’m out here walking or jogging trying to knock on doors to get my work done. If you spend five minutes you’ll come up with three positive things out of a negative experience and it helps you build toward the next day or the next call or the next potential client that you’re running into.
Dave Aarons: Man there are so many things I could take from that! Can you draw some parallels from those years and those lessons and how that informs the way you run your practice nowadays?
Bill Fix: Sure. Well, I’ll say the first few leads I got from Unbundled Attorney. I came away with the impression that some of these folks just don’t have enough money to hire an attorney, that’s why they are looking up a service to try to find unbundled services. Sometimes it may be more difficult to pitch legal services to somebody that doesn’t … They can’t really afford them. It’s like in the movie [inaudible 00:15:24] Glen Ross. These are bad leads these are bad leads, we can’t sell any of these leads. Well, that’s not the case, there’s going to be good leads there’s going to be bad leads you’re going to get some of both. It’s just finding the right hook or the right way to connect with that person, and finding a way to work with them. Yeah sometimes people just absolutely have money and there’s not a whole lot you can do unless you want to take the pro bono or really cut your rate.
Selling books in Pamlico County in North Carolina there are a lot of parts out there in the county where there be a nice house, and then next door might be a rundown trailer. You’d go up to that trailer thinking I might be wasting my time here but knock on the door, and it’s a nice family and they pay cash upfront. You can’t really prejudge things accurately 100% at the time, sometimes folks will surprise you. The nice house that was next door, they may have a big mortgage and not be able to afford anything else. It’s just, you got to give everybody a chance and find whatever way that you can to relate to them. If they believe in you, and they believe what you’re … Believe your story they trust in you that you can follow through, then the hard part is already done.
Dave Aarons: Bill, given what you just said. You are not going to believe what I’m about to say but, there are some lawyers that look at the lead and based on what it says on the lead, they will call it. can you talk about that and maybe, it’s a great analogy when you think about some books, you look at the house and go it’s run down, there’s no way they’re going to be able to afford, [inaudible 00:17:26] help the cost of books a $1000 whatever it is, and then, sure enough, you’re surprised that someone pays cash or you find a way to look at it so, how do you … Do you not look at the lead description? Do you look at it briefly but then you call them anyway and you try to come objectively, how do you overcome when someone says living the leads, I don’t have any money or I’m on a fixed income or something like that?
Bill Fix: I will admit, I’m probably one of those that I look at the description and think, “Man this one isn’t going to be too great.” Yet there are still times I find myself being surprised. There was one guy that I talked to a few months ago, that when he first called me, I just … It took me a while to understand really what he was getting at because I don’t practice in criminal defense. My practice areas now are estate planning, probate, and family law. There might be an occasional thing where I do business organization or something else. It’s really estate planning and family those are my two main buckets that I work in. This client was talking about getting a DUI and having some ongoing issues as a result of that, and I was telling the man, I don’t practice in criminal defense you need to get a DUI attorney. Once I understood that as a result of the DUI a separate issue was that he … DCS had stepped in and didn’t allow him to have interaction with his children temporarily. Okay, well that’s what I’m trying to work with you on.
I met with him and he tells me that, he’s not working, his wife is not working and the main reason they’re both not working is that they have a special needs son that eats up … It requires both of them to take care of him all day. The attorney that wants to make sure that all the work you do is getting compensated accordingly you think, how is this guy going to afford anything? One way or another, he came through with cash in hand and we’re making progress in this case and doing everything that the court is required him to do in order to get back into the house and do what he needs to do and work with these kids again. That’s certainly an example that immediately comes to mind as somebody that … If you judge a book by its cover, I wouldn’t have been working with him today if I’d stuck with my original gut feeling on that. He’s a nice guy and he made some mistakes and he’ll admit that, but he’s trying to do what he’s supposed to do now.
Dave Aarons: Maybe that’s a good point to take a look at some of those options because your attorney is not going to go okay great there’s an example but, you’re obviously finding really flexible and creative ways to work with folks and fit your services into the budget and that’s what a lot of this is all about and so forth. Can you talk a little bit about those types of options that you have offered and developed over the year and time we’ve worked together and even before to work with people that maybe don’t have 5k right now to plop down but you still have ways in which you can be paid well and still serve them.
Bill Fix: Yeah, for me a lot of what I do is this is basically how I was trained when I was working at a law firm my last year of law school. I went to law school in San Antonio Texas at St. Mary’s University, and I worked at a small firm there. My boss was Javier Oliva and he’d been in practice I think for 20 years. You hear folks charging up to $5000 on divorces and more as retainers. I never saw him charge anything like that. A lot of times his retainers would have been something that the average person could afford. I remember him telling me, “Hey I try to price my services where the average person can work with us on that.” I just carried that through to my practice because that’s how I learned, and at this point, that’s certainly what I’m comfortable doing. If somebody doesn’t have that upfront and they need to make payments over time, I tell them hey I’m happy to work with you, and I’ll borrow from a financial strategist that I partner with them on some things. As long as you are nice, I’ll work with you.
The last thing any attorney wants especially in a family law case is that the client that’s calling them up every day and complaining and they’re asking what are you doing in my case? And basically getting an ear full from an agitated client who really is just emotional about that case. If you set the tone upfront that as long as you’re nice, I’ll be happy to work with you. I’m certainly not as detailed as … I listened to a podcast from a week or two ago I don’t remember her name but the farm in Oklahoma. They were really detailed about the payment plan that they set out and so on. That’s something I’m going to be borrowing and trying to implement a more organized system in my practice. It’s something where … If somebody can do half down or if they can do at least a chunk, and go on a pay as you go on a monthly basis. I’m happy to work with them. I think at this point there’s been one person that I went to a hearing for and they weren’t paid in full.
Here we are a year and a half later and I never saw the second half of it. Occasionally it comes back to bite you, just knowing that you can go out there and do a good job for somebody, try to help somebody out in a bond. If 1% of it doesn’t pay out, that’s your … That’s your good deed that you can put in or count that as pro bono hours or ride it off on your taxes or something, just let it go.
Dave Aarons: Do you find … Because there’s a couple of things that I needed. Do you find that it is more like a 1% or you can just write off that option? Do you find most people when you’re offering these options or maybe even get a little bit more about the specifics of how you structure and so forth but that’s it’s an anomaly for them to not come through on paying you for your time?
Bill Fix: Yeah, I remember the … Going back to a podcast from a week or two ago, they had basically said the initial consultation would be a certain amount but they would count that in with the retainer or whatever, I typically don’t even do that. I’ll consider the consultation being for free and sometimes that means when I set an appointment date, they don’t show up, they didn’t have anything invested in it so sometimes I get set up on appointments. I was talking to Graham the other day, he gave me some good tips on how to try to overcome that which I’m going to be implementing which is basically hey, let me get your credit card number and believe it or not I’ve had some few folks that didn’t show up for me when we scheduled the time and that time that I could have spent with another client or working with another client.
Basically, I charge $50 for a no-show fee. At least if the client thinks that that’s … The potential client thinks that’s a possibility, they’re definitely going to be there or at least call to reschedule if they’re not going to make it. For me, it’s only been one or two people that I’ve put on a payment plan and we get to the end of the case and they don’t want to come through with the rest of the money. There’s been a few more though that I’ve sat down with, we had our initial consultation they signed a contract, and they didn’t have any money the first day, and I never saw them again. I don’t feel that bad if they never paid so I never did any work for them. I’ll try to reach out and say hey if you want to get this going, we need to do something here. Sometimes for whatever reason, you can’t get a hold of folks again, but most people will show up.
Most people will either pay upfront or put something down and understand that it’s a process and as you work through the process, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and if they are making payments along the way or it’s a second payment that finishes it out, whatever it is. Most folks will keep up their end of the bargain as long as I’m keeping mine.
Dave Aarons: I don’t want to jump around too much here but I want to go back to the gentleman that you were trained under in the law school in San Antonio Javier … What was his last name and what’s the spelling of his last name?
Bill Fix: Oliva, O-L-I-V-A.
Dave Aarons: So many attorneys come out of law school, and I don’t know if it’s what’s going on in the most recent days where we had some lawyers that are brand new practitioners and come straight to working with us and go forward but, most of the lawyers that we hear, what they’re trained in law school is the traditional full representation and big retainer upfront and so forth, and so it’s unusual to me that coming out of law school you had the philosophy of already offering options that could fit into the average low middle-income family’s budget. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things you experienced with Javier especially and how that informed in addition to working with people on that budget or what that experience was like?
Bill Fix: Yeah, his practice was a little bit different from mine today. He was a general practitioner so he did wills and estate planning, probate, family law, criminal defense, personal injury and some business side interest. He had a few business clients who pretty much had him on retainer. Sometimes there was … Some months there was a lot to do with one of those, other months there wasn’t. I’m not sure how everything really worked out for him as far as payments go, it may be something that he had … He had some … He may have had some clients that basically covered all of his expenses and so that gave him the flexibility to be more flexible or to be more affordable for other people. He was also teaching some classes at UTSA University of Texas San Antonio, and he had a lot of other interest and community activities going on. I think it’s just the idea of being community-minded, and certainly, there are attorneys out there who are working on the book and that’s all that they’ve got going on.
I think there’s a lot more that we don’t … The general public doesn’t really hear about that are interested in doing whatever they can to help their client and to give back at whatever ways they can. Whether it’s pro bono or just putting … Setting their fees at a reasonable amount that regular folks can work with.
Dave Aarons: Yeah I really like that idea of being community minded. We just had an interview with Richard Shannon who been practicing for 50 years in the last podcast episode. He talked about the importance of understanding being an attorney and counselor of law, and he thought of himself as a healer. There was a quote he made I think it was Warren Berger, let me see if I can find in my noted but, I think the call was something like, our profession is about healing human conflict by Warren Berger. He thought of himself as a healer, and so in a very similar vein, we are talking about your being community minded and thinking about how you can serve your community obviously, make a living, make financial … Do well financially but also serve those in your community and how that would … How you could instantly start thinking about how that would change your perspective on the way you serve each person in front of you.
Bill Fix: Definitely-
Dave Aarons: Just found that to me really-
Bill Fix: Another thing that’s helped my practice is partnering with a few local businesses that make sense. The insurance agent that I use, we swap referrals and I also work with a financial strategist and there’ve been times that I’ve pulled him in on consultation. Where it’s on estate planning consultation, but he’s there to also give some guidance on retirement planning. The insurance agent specifically that I partner with here in Knoxville, they are the most community-minded insurance agency I’ve ever seen. They do a number of things with the children’s hospital here, with special need folks they’ll do fundraisers for them, they offer … They’ll host a Christmas party for their clients every year and a summer picnic. I just never heard of an insurance agency doing stuff like that. It makes a big difference to the clients and to the community. It gives them a lot of goodwill and name recognition in the community. It certainly makes me feel better about keeping my business with them and referring them to other people because they’re doing so much good that they don’t have to do.
Dave Aarons: Just having a perspective you can see that, just having those events people feel really great, get to connect with everyone, keep those relationships about because, I don’t remember that last time I saw my insurance agent or heard from him or got a card or a call or anything, and so not to mention when you get to hang out with him, but at the same time, it’s good for business. It’s a good practice to get referrals and have them reconnect. The more quality of a relationship you have with the folks you are serving, the more that you are top of mind and they are going to feel comfortable to referrer those that they know that are in need of their same services.
Bill Fix: Right and they’ll offer to do annual reviews and when folks come in for an annual review and go over the changes of this year, and then look at what all their needs are. One of the questions eventually that they’ll get to is: do you have a will, do you have a power of attorney do you have a living will? stuff like that. If they say no, well then they’ll handle my business card and that’s one other way that helps me out. Whenever I’m talking to folks if they’ve … Depending on their situation maybe they are looking for other insurance. I’m more than happy to refer them to my friend because often they are going to be the most affordable place for them plus you’re going to feel good about doing business with them.
Dave Aarons: Right absolutely so that’s a good point to start talking a little bit about estate planning. We really focused a lot on family law in this podcast but haven’t really talked about the estate planning leads which is something that we release a while ago but and we’re still ramping up but, can you talk about the estate planning leads and if there’s anything that you do differently at all as far as calling them or emailing them or on the initial consultation or meeting with them relative to family law leads and just overall how that’s been going because I know you did also just to expand your region for estate planning and from what I’ve heard it’s been going pretty good.
Bill Fix: I’ll say I’ve been in business now three years. I said I went to law school in San Antonio, but my wife and I we moved back here to Tennessee three years ago this was home for us, and it’s one of those things when you go to law school in one state and then you move back home when you haven’t been there in 10 years, it’s hard to get on with the law firm. If you didn’t go to school there or you didn’t even go to the same state and you don’t really have any connections. As a result I’m a solo practitioner, and when I started out on my own trying to find a way to generate business, I went to the local bar association and they’ve got a referral program that helped me somewhat, but at this point just comparing the local bar’s referral program to what you guys do, your guys are way better and I don’t even participate in the local bars referral program anymore.
I had signed up for basically whatever I could sign up for, which meant I was spreading myself way too thin in the areas that I don’t think I was the best equipped to handle some of those things. Now I’ve cut back to when I’m just doing estate planning probate and family law. To me, estate planning and probate those are things that I thought I learned pretty well when I was working as a law clerk in San Antonio. There are some things that tie in with what I’d learned 15 years ago Edward Jones. Again it’s just talking to people. If somebody signs up or goes to the website with Unbundled Attorney are they are reaching out asking about a will or a trust or whatever, that’s a pretty easy call. They’re interested, they want that or at least they want to talk about it and see what’s going to be best for their needs. I’ll bring them in and ask several questions trying to see where they’re at, look at what they want to do, and ask them what their goals are.
If their goal is to get a will and leave some thing’s for their family, then wonderful. If they’ve got a bill of wanting to avoid probate, whatever way possible for their family, that sounds like a trust maybe along the lines of what they’re looking for. There was a unique call a unique lead that came through from you guys a few months ago, and there was a lady who wanted to set up a trust for some animals that she had. Ones that she had inherited from her sister, and she had basically gone from having one cat herself to now up to 15 cats from her sister. She had called around several attorneys in the area and she said nobody would touch that. Nobody felt comfortable doing something like that. It wasn’t something that I had done before either but no one how trust work. Once you sit down with somebody and understand what it is they want to do, you can find a way to get them there.
She was a really nice lady we had … Just sat down, found a good way to relate to her. Even on the initial call when I was talking to her I told her hey, I’m happy to meet with you, but jokingly said just don’t bring any of your cats with you because I’m allergic to cats which I am. She laughed and it was all cool. She came in, she’s a really nice lady, and we got everything set up for her just the way that she wanted. I think she left feeling really good really positive about everything going forward. Those are the clients that I love to find. The ones that number one I don’t have to go to court for. For me, my wife and I have a three-year-old and there are a lot of days I’m working from home because I’m with him. If I can avoid court I’m happy, but aside from that, there are ones that you can sit down relate to, build a connection with, and just feel good that you are helping somebody accomplish the goals that they want to accomplish. That’s a good say for me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and it might be hard to quantify this on … It might be something you just do naturally because you’ve all this training from your background and these great mentors you’ve worked with and [inaudible 00:38:49] Jones but, we talk about relating to clients, can you … Is the anyway you can isolate some of the things that you do that makes people feel comfortable and obviously you’ve got humor in there, you are just trying to think about the relationship do you think in your mind about that person, do you picture them when you talk to them on the phone, do you tell stories? Can you isolate that at all?
Bill Fix: It’s hard. To me, I think a lot of it just comes from probably just from personality, but a lot also just from work experience. The eight years I spent in between undergrad and college, most of that time I spent working in politics in government, and then in marketing communications. I spent four years working for the Missouri lieutenant governor as an assistant communications director, and on his statewide campaign in 2004. When you’re going around, county to county trying to put up signs or network with folks or try to build some support, or talking with constituents on a daily basis those were things I did for four years. You can’t away from that experience not finding ways to relate to folks. I think your body language says a lot. Just showing genuine interest in what somebody has to say certainly means a lot. A lot of times you hear … Attorneys get bad raps for all sorts of things that they lie that they’re scumbags that they don’t return phone calls or whatever the case might be.
Certainly, some of that is warranted at least by some of our brothers and sisters in the practice. If you just present yourself as a real person and just trying to help them reach the goals that they are trying to reach, I think sometimes you may even wind up as a client is a friend and sometimes that happens too.
Dave Aarons: It makes you think about the interview we had with Michele Bernard. I believe the title of the podcast is bringing a holistic approach to the practice of law. And she just said, “I love my clients, I love what I do.” She talks about how if someone submits something in the middle of the night, she tries to text him first thing in the morning and let him know hey I’m here. She’s thinking about them, she’s empathizing with what they’re dealing with. That informs everything that she does and I think people feel so good just knowing that she cares and she generally understands or at least tries to understand or appreciate what they’re going through, and they feel really comforted by that. It can be, and that’s why I think it’s so shocking sometimes when the leads get a call, there is this stigma that the attorneys are all for themselves and so forth and there are examples of that.
When you share the opposite with that it’s almost like it shocks them to the point where they feel like wow, this is completely different than not only what I will expect to be a normal human being to relate to me but also a lawyer to relate to me in this way.
Bill Fix: Yeah and I’ve had folks they come in for a consultation and they’re really nervous. There can be a number of reasons why they might be nervous, but a lot of them is, who’s comfortable sitting down with an attorney? If you got to meet with an attorney a lot of times it’s for bad reasons. Number one estate planning isn’t quite the same way, but there have been times I said dude, and that’s another thing. If you can use is in the south, being in Tennessee if you use the word folks, that’s one way to relate to folks. Yeah sometimes just using the term dude, it calms things down. Helps people see that we don’t have to be, you’re not meeting with some stuffy attorney that’s up on the 20th floor of some big office building downtown. I’ve got my office out in West Knoxville which is more the … That part of town where a lot of folks live it’s a nice place. Smiling and being friendly and cordial goes a long way even in a legal practice.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and again I guess I’m doing a lot of this podcast interviews that reminds me of the conversation with Sue, the episode was the turnaround episode, how one changing approach can pump your results. She talked about how people … Originally was like how can I get this person to enroll and then it shifted to her to realize, there’s a lot of control here that people have to give up. It’s their kids or it’s their future and everything in estate planning, everything they built for their entire lives, through giving up control to someone else that they’ve never met in many cases. Sometimes you are referred but, in the cases of the leads a lot of times they’ve never met you, they don’t know who you are and they have to give up that control, or something that’s so important to them which is their rights their kids, or all the assets they’ve had for their whole life, and recognizing that and understanding that really can also change the whole dynamic and the way in which you relate to someone that … Like you said, it’s going to be nervous.
It’s going to be nervous meeting with a lawyer for something that they can’t-do themselves and they need you to help them.
Bill Fix: There was a fellow that I was talking to last week. I don’t remember how he found me I think it was through one of these attorney sites where you set up a profile. This lead wasn’t particularly from you guys but it’s still exactly what we’re talking about. He left me a message I called him back, I talked to him a little bit. I explained that my schedule may be a little more flexible, I can meet with you in the evenings occasionally on weekends I’ll still do some of that. Basically, he told me, I’ve got an appointment already scheduled with another attorney but it was like a county away. He said I don’t really want to go down there and the way that you’re talking to me on the phone I feel really comfortable with you. What did he do? He canceled the other appointment with that attorney and came and told me. We worked through all the issues, figured out what he needs to do, he signed a contract, then I came into my office today and he had dropped off half of the retainer in cash for me.
That’s somebody … Whatever it was I did, I’m not exactly sure but I related to him in the right way where he was comfortable enough with me on the phone to come in and still built on that rapport in person, and now we’re ready to get rolled him on his case.
Dave Aarons: Yeah gosh, what really comes up for me when you share that is we have so many lawyers and have so much success with these campaigns, but there’s a few here and there that just … They take a few leads and they’ll just go yeah these leads are … They just have a bad attitude towards it, just like you’d have a bad attitude if you looked at a certain house and so forth. It’s really important to realize that these are people with unique circumstances, and to try to just communicate and relate and, I think that’s really the common threat. We can get into some of the practical options you’re offering and being able to do unbundled and lower price points that work with people’s budget, that’s a big part of it too no doubt. We’ve got some great interviews so far talking about the ways in which you can craft these creative options to do that, but above everything else it’s the relationship.
It’s how can you make people feel comfortable, empathize with what they are going through and understand how you can make them feel comfortable that you’re going to be the one to shepherd them through that. That to me from the lawyers that do outstanding with these leads that seems to be one of the most commonalities among all of them is that they really are great at empathizing and understanding their clients and communicate that.
Bill Fix: Sure and for me when looking back in preparation for this and I must have signed up with unbundled attorney back in May. I’ve been working with you guys for about six months. It was probably a combination of things. Getting away from the local bar association referral program, going [inaudible 00:47:40] with you guys, and the partnerships with my insurance agency and my financial strategists and doing things together there, and just … If you do good work it will happen sooner or later, all those things put together, but I think working with unbundled Attorney is another big piece of it that by September, I finally got into a full-time office. Before that, I had been primarily working from home and when I would set an appointment with somebody, most often I was meeting with them at a Panera Bread which it works but it’s not ideal.
To be able to get to the point where I could get into an office, establish a more professional environment which is what I wanted to do, you guys were certainly helpful in helping build my business up to where I could make that jump into a full-time office. Again, I’m still not here forty hours a week there are still some days I’m working from home but, what I know now whenever I’m scheduling an appointment with somebody, I’ve got a convenient place to meet with him whether it’s in my office or a conference room. That makes a big difference to people too.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and it’s interesting I’m so glad you talked about that because that transition from basically be a mobile lawyer to having a full-time office it’s usually almost the opposite where most lawyers are working from the office and then they’ve been learning now with their cell phones and they can do things from their house and [inaudible 00:49:25] to transition to the mobile. You get in the other direction here and now you have a full-time office and so forth because of the volume of clients that are coming in and amount of folks that have been retaining you. Can you talk about your experience working from home and some of the things that you’ve done to make that work? One of the things is meeting with people at these locations but also just dealing with things electronically and maybe working with people, I don’t know if you do Skype of video, and then also how that shifted for you now that you’re working in the office as well.
Bill Fix: Yeah. It’s been a learning process for the last three years. There are something’s that I looked into at least to enough to satisfy myself, to begin with and I feel like some decision I made did work out pretty well. Other things I’ll change as I go. Again for us, I got sworn in as a Tennessee attorney I think it was a week after our son was born. My wife has a full-time job. Her job has our health insurance on it and frankly, she was making … Her salary was paying out bills and it wasn’t me. We were in a spot where I haven’t gotten a job with a local firm, I’ve got the flexibility. If you’ve got a law degree you can practice law if you know what you’re doing, and you can do it from anywhere. Dude, I can do it from home, watching my little boy. It was a little bit easier I would say when he was an infant than now when he’s three years old.
It’s something where my wife, she’s had a lot of flexibility with her schedule so will go in late early way earlier and I didn’t even want to get up and get off like 3:00 or 3:30 which gives me more time than the afternoon and the evenings to do something. What I did was a lot of times you need fax at least for serving other attorneys that’s an easy way to meet the service requirement is having a fax. We don’t even have a landline at our house. Nowadays seems like half the people don’t have landlines they’ve got cell phones only. I signed up with an eFax service ring central is what I use. It’s basically 100 bucks a year and I’ve got a fax line. Any faxes I get they go right into my email. It’s really easy for me to send faxes however I need it and I can do that from anywhere. That knocks out that for me. There have been a few times that I’ve had folks come by my house for a consultation.
That wasn’t ideal I tried to prevent doing that whenever possible if that’s how it worked then that’s how it worked. There have been even a few times I made had house calls and I can’t remember ever hearing of attorneys really making house calls unless it’s a personal friend. If it’s one little detail that makes somebody feel that much more comfortable with you then hey I’m happy to do that. like I said now I’m making the transition into a full-time office that certainly makes me feel easier. I don’t have to try to pick a place that’s convenient for me and the potential client. Try to figure out where they live or give them directions to my house or whatever. I can just tell them here’s my office it’s right off the interstate over here, and then they can find it easily enough. There were times two years ago where occasionally I had my little boy with me in his car seat he might have been eight months or whatever, but he went with me to a few consultations and a few will executions.
Especially when he was younger he was content to just sit in his car seat and observe and he was quiet and it was awesome, but now that he’s three years that’s not happening. It’s just something that as I’ve worked and as I’ve built my practice and as I’ve been able to actually keep some dollars in my business account now, I’ve got the flexibility to do some things and to build upon what I’ve got convenient around my practice. I still got a lot of growing to do. My boys are in a preschool that’s one day a week now, and so I can’t help but think when he finally gets into kindergarten and I can be in my office five days a week. How much more time I’m going to have and be able to do things a lot better as opposed to trying to work on stuff at midnight like I’m still doing now.
Dave Aarons: Well you want to talk about being relatable to clients when you sit down there with an eight-month-old and you’re dealing with family law and they’re dealing with custody you’re like, “Hey man I get it alright. Here is mine. I don’t know what the heck I would do if I didn’t have time with him.”
Bill Fix: Yeah and there are clients that maybe they saw my son once, and now here it is six or eight months later, and they still remember seeing him. I don’t know how many other attorneys would get their clients sending them a friend request on Facebook. Then even if they do, how many of them will accept those I don’t know. I get a fair number of clients who will do that. When you are working with them ongoing basis, they’ll say “Hey, that was some great pictures that you had up of your son doing X, Y, and Z.” I think it just gets back to that building their relationship and they look at you more as a real person and as a friend as opposed to just somebody that you got to pay in order to get your legal matter dealt with.
Dave Aarons: There was one other attorney we had on the show her name is Marsha Styles I think the episode is, how to expand your practice statewide serve more clients, cultivate referrals. That’s right. She talked about the in-home appointments she would do. As a female lawyer, there was a couple of things where she might have to come and have someone come with her in a couple odd situations but, for the most part, it was always … If someone had trouble coming to the office, she would go to them and she wasn’t even charging it. People just gosh they just really appreciated it. Just having a lawyer come to them and they didn’t have a car it’s just … She had alt of other things that she did. That was just unusual but really … She gets so many referrals because of it because people just really appreciate how she’s willing to just help people out and do it the way that they need it.
Bill Fix: I remember when I was in college and got a speeding ticket there was an attorney that run an ad in the school paper all the time about tickets so I called him. He worked from home, he had a nice home and he had a home office it was right out the front door. His setup was perfect if you are going to run a law office from home. My home is not set up that way and it would be nice if it were but it’s not. For me, my office inside my home is far from the front door as possible and you got to go all the way through the house to get there and it’s just not ideal. On the times that I have had folks come over, we’ll just use the kitchen table. That’s down-home folksy type of way to do it too. Still, regardless of the location, certain locations are going to set a better tone and give a certain expression.
Regardless of where I feel like I can still talk to folks, see what their need is, address what that is and help them craft a plan of action in order to get their goals met.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and as fun as it is to have people come to your own home. It’s certainly just as welcome to have them come to your office as opposed to that and there’s a certain amount of credibility as well with … Tara talked about that is or come into your office, you’ve got an office you’ve got books on the wall law books, you’ve got … That makes people, “Okay I’m in a lawyer’s office now. There’s some amount of professional clout in having a law office you can work from and there’s a certain degree of confidence and credibility that that communicates. One thing I want to just briefly shine the light on before we wrap-up today because I think it’s really relevant is again just talk a little bit about estate planning. You’d mentioned there was something’s that you learned with Edward Jones obviously that’s an investment position you had where you were looking forward to the future.
You talked about how you asked people what their goals are, was there anything else that you learned specifically from that training with Edward Jones that you apply in your practice doing the estate planning leads and just say planning in general that you could share?
Bill Fix: It’s not really something that helps you learn how or what to include in the will or things like that, it’s more just in that overall consultation and understanding do you guys have a life insurance. Do you know who your beneficiaries are? You may have filled out that policy that application 35 years ago. Has anything changed and just understanding whether it’s that or your 401K or IRA’s whatever other investments or assets that they have within their portfolio. Understanding what some of those are how they work, it’s helpful. If they bring in copies of that stuff and double checking who the beneficiaries are, you can explain to them, “Look, you’ve designated your beneficiaries on this and this and this, that means we don’t have to include that stuff in your will.” And some people don’t understand that. They don’t get the concept of non-probate assets versus probate assets until you explain it to them.
Like I said there have been sometimes when I’ve had my friend who is a financial strategist sit on a consultation. There you’ve got two professionals with different licenses with different areas that they work in but they’re related. He understands a lot about wills and trusts even though he’s not an attorney. I understand a lot about some of the retirement things that he’s talking about I’m not licensed to do that anymore. It helps for someone to see the total package, to see as they progress through life they’re making plans for retirement, but you’re meeting with an attorney for estate planning purposes for the times when … When you pass away and you want to make sure that those things go the way you wanted them to go or even before you pass away if you become incapacitated or you can’t make certain decisions for yourself what’s going to happen in the interim there?
I would just encourage other attorneys out there if you’re not all ready working with a financial planner and swapping referrals and things like that it’s certainly a good way to help build a practice and a great way to help your client out. There’s one client that I introduced to my financial strategist plan just two weeks ago. When I sat down with him talking about one thing, he had asked about … It was not an estate planning issue. He asked about wills and I’m like, “Yeah I do that, that’s a number one thing I do.” We talked about that and then he also asked hey do you know anybody who does retirement planning? I’m like you bet. I’ve got a great guy who does that. It’s another way to continue building rapport with your clients. If you can pair your clients up with a good professional who’s going to help them conserve the money that they’ve got instead of losing 40% of it, like sometimes happens in a bad market, your clients are really going to love you.
Dave Aarons: Yeah absolutely, well gosh Bill this is been just a fine … I feel like we can keep going for hours here but I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing and I think we’ve really … We can talk tactics and tips and options and all that kind of stuff all till the end of time. I think we’ve really touched on something that overarches all of that and that’s just building that relationship with a client being a real person, thinking about what they need. Like you said, it’s tough to quantify these things but you’ve done … I think you’ve done a wonderful job at it because it comes with experience it comes with training and so forth. Being a good relating communicator Richard Chanon talked about being an empathetic listener was one of the things he talked about on the last episode. This is what it’s all about you’re in a service-based industry helping people.
People are people they’ve got the same challenges, similar conflicts and they want to know that you care about what it is that they are trying to accomplish and being able to convey that effectively is a really key part of certainly having a successful practice. I just really appreciate what you’re doing the way you relate to your clients and thank you for taking the time to really share this, these principles.
Bill Fix: Well thank you and I will be the first to say when Graham first mentioned hey, you might be a good person for the podcast. I thought I was thinking what are you serious? There’s so much room that I have to grow in all this different areas with my practice. It’s one of those things that I think what you do well, if you can excel in one or two things, that can help cover other inadequacies in a number of ways. Maybe that’s where I’m at. I was flattered to have the invitation extended to me to participate in this. The other attorneys that I’ve heard on the podcast have been in my opinion far more knowledgeable and successful than I am. It’s a great opportunity I’m happy to work with people. If we can get my folks where they’re trying to be at the end of the day then I’m happy.
Dave Aarons: Yeah absolutely and I got to say success is measured in a lot of different ways and gosh throughout this interview I was taking notes going, “Man we got to cover that, man we’ve got to cover that.” As much or more than any interview I’ve had and there are a few things I’m looking back to and when you talked about doors versus people versus demos and understanding the numbers, the law of averages, there’s so many things, so many other things we could have covered too here but, it was a great conversation there’s so much to learn. I’m sure we have plenty of room for round two some other time as well, and I’m really looking forward to your growth now that you have the office and you are expanding your estate planning practice and we’re going to be bringing yin more clients there. I’m sure from a traditional success standpoint [inaudible 01:05:26] and so forth that will be coming really soon as well and I just thank you again and appreciate you for taking the time to join us it was a really great call.
Bill Fix: Well I appreciate it, thank you, Dave.
Dave Aarons: Yup, and so to everyone else who’s listening, thank you for participating in this podcast, we certainly appreciate we hope you’re learning a lot, we love to hear your feedback. You can leave us a review on iTunes of course and reach out to us if you’d be interested in being interviewed for the podcast, you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. With that, we’re going to wrap-up well see you in the next episode thanks so much.
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