Fundamentals of Fielding Leads and Offering Flexible Payment Options
Hello everyone and welcome to the Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. And this is our inaugural podcast episode. We couldn’t be more excited about podcasting and the power it has to be able to deliver ideas, best practices, strategies. We’re going to be interviewing many of our provider attorneys in our network as well as many other experts in the industry to help you become as effective as possible. In not only working leads and the lead generation model but also delivering unbundled legal services to your clients.
For many attorneys offering unbundled legal services is still a very new option. It’s really come about in the last maybe 10 years or so and it’s been popularized due to a lot of pressure on the courts to be able to address a growing populous of clients that are filing pro se. About 10 years ago we had about a third of clients representing themselves, two-thirds of them going represented and nowadays, two-thirds of clients representing themselves, only a third are being represented by attorneys, so it’s been a complete shift in the marketplace. We have a lot more clients that are filing because they don’t have any other way to turn and just kind of afford the typical retainers that traditional firms are going to offer.
So, the ability to be creative and find ways to limit the scope of your involvement down to specific tasks and make the service options that you offer more affordable, more approachable and fitting into the average lower income and middle-income family that maybe since 2008 can’t come up with $10000 right up front or $5000 right up front is really a key variable in, not only your ability to be effective and profitable in your practice, but also to make a significant difference in impact on people’s ability to gain access to attorneys. And to be able to afford them and work with them and get the legal assistance they need critically to be able to defend their rights. Whether it be family court, immigration, estate planning, criminal defense, bankruptcy. These are all critical areas that people need attorneys to be able to guide them, to give them advice and represent them. And it’s imperative that in this new age, in this shifting market, that we be as effective as possible in delivering options they can afford.
So, this first episode, we couldn’t be more excited about because we have one of our veteran attorneys, Mr. Brad Latta. He’s been working with us for a number of years now. Literally, has taken hundreds of leads from our company and over the years has developed a very streamlined and effective process for contacting, connecting with, meeting with and then converting the clients that we sent him into paying clients. Whether that be for traditional full representation or unbundled legal services. And in this episode, he’s going to talk about some of the most important keys to being effective with a lead generation business model. It’s very different from clients that are calling you out of the phone book or clients that are being referred from a friend or family member or lawyer referral service. These folks are going online. They’re searching for attorneys and they have a lot of options out there. And there are very specific keys to being as effective as possible in succeeding with this type of business model.
Some of the things you’re really going to want to pay attention to in this episode are Brad’s comments on how he contacts the client and how important it is to be very quick to the punch, to be in touch with the clients. He also talks about how important it is for him to meet with each client as soon as possible. He actually is one of our attorneys that don’t do a phone call station unless the client’s a little further away or there are extenuating circumstances when a client can’t come in the office. But it’s very important to him to meet with the clients and have them a chance to build a relationship, to get to know him, know where his office, see his office and that’s one of, also, the keys to being effective with more of a cold market, internet lead generation strategy is being able to connect with clients, give them a chance to meet you, get to know you.
And then, of course, he also talks a lot about the flexible types of payment options that he offers. He does a pay as you go. He has unbundled legal service options and then he also does the traditional full representation. And he talks a lot about how he crafts solutions to be able to work within people’s budgets.
So this is a great call for us to start with for this podcast because it gives you great example of the ways in which you can be creative around offering these types of unbundled legal options and how they can really help you with being able to work with more clients and make sure that each client that comes in the office, you have the best chance at getting them started with some type of option with your firm. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode with Mr. Brad Latta, one of our provider attorneys in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dave Aarons: Brad, welcome to the show.
Brad Latta: Thank you for having me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah man, I think just before this we were talking about how long it’s been that we’ve been working together as a team here, Unbundled Attorney and your firm. And I think we were looking back, it’s been almost a couple years now, right?
Brad Latta: Yeah, back before it was even Unbundled, not sure what year, but its at least a couple of years.
Dave Aarons: Yeah back in the Family Legal Help days. So yeah man, you’re considered definitely one of our veteran’s and I really appreciate you jumping on and being open to sharing a little bit more about how you been doing and some of the processes you’ve developed over the years to be effective in fielding leads. So thank you for your time here.
Brad Latta: Sure I’m glad too.
Dave Aarons: Alright so, maybe a good place to get started, you’ve obviously been fielding leads for two years and what’s the region that you currently service?
Brad Latta: I’m in Jefferson and Shelby County’s in Alabama, those are both right in, directly in central Alabama. The main city is Birmingham.
Dave Aarons: Birmingham, okay. And maybe could you give a little bit of context on roughly how many leads you field on maybe a weekly basis? I know it kind of fluctuates depending on the season and what we’re doing on our end to dial in the lead generation for you. But maybe most recently, how many leads you receive and maybe share a little bit about the numbers and how you’ve been doing with the leads.
Brad Latta: Sure. Since January 1st of this year we’ve gotten in 42 leads, I guess that’s in about 8 or 9 weeks, so that’s an average of 5 or 6 a week. From those 42 leads we’ve had 20 scheduled consultations that have been completed and we’re still working on roughly 5 or 6 that have said to call them back that we’re kind of working those. Some of those 20 completed consultations we’ve gotten 8 new clients and it’s going really well.
We offer a mix of the unbundled and the regular representation and everybody that we show it to seems to like it.
Dave Aarons: Awesome, awesome. So that’s about 8 new clients out of 42 and you said you have maybe a few that are still working on getting the funds together, it’s tax season so some people are waiting on their tax returns, so you can’t always help that. Even without those folks coming in, 42… that’s… gosh, about 20%?
Brad Latta: Yeah that’s about right.
Dave Aarons: 20, 25% that’s right, so about 1 out of every 4 leads or so is pulling the trigger and getting started for you on either an unbundled option or full representation option, so that’s great numbers. So perhaps what we can do is just dive in and learn a little bit more about your process for fielding the leads and maybe about the options.
But perhaps before we do that, could you give maybe just a brief background on how you got started in family law and why you do what you do and why family law in Birmingham?
Brad Latta: Yeah sure. I went to law school, Birmingham School of Law, which is here, in Birmingham. And lived here my entire life, my families from here and my wife and I have lived here forever and it was just kind of where we were going to settle down. And [inaudible 00:08:39] family law was my favorite class that I took in law school, I decided that that’s what I wanted to do. My professor was a practicing family law attorney and I really just fell in love with the work when I was in law school and I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I graduated and passed the bar exam.
So I opened my firm in 2008, fall of 2008. I passed the bar exam in July of 2008 and I opened my firm that fall and I’ve done almost exclusively family law since 2008. There is a mix of some other things as it comes but primarily divorce, family law cases, in Birmingham since 2008.
Dave Aarons: Awesome, okay. So why don’t we start from when the leads come in and they get delivered to you, now first of all, do you receive the leads via, primary via email or do you get the text messages, or do you access the app? How do you receive the leads first of all? What notification method are you using?
Brad Latta: I do them right now through my email and I have a paralegal that works for me about 20 hours a week and she primarily is the one that works the leads, that schedules the consultations. I like her being the first contact with them because a lot of times she handles the scheduling and if they need directions, if the need to move, she’s kind of the first contact with the firm before they meet with me.
The leads come into my emails, soon as they come to my email, which I’m kind of addicted to, I kind of monitor 24 hours a day with my iPhone, I’m able to get it anywhere in the world and I’m anal about getting my emails down to zero, I don’t like having a lot in my inbox. So soon as they come in I forward to lead directly to my paralegal Molly, and as soon as she gets it, wherever she is, she’s in law school right now so she does that, she works out of the office and in the office sometimes. And as soon as she gets the leads she will immediately shoot them an email from the lead, she will also send them a text message from the lead and then we also start trying to make phone contact that same day. So the goal is the day that the lead comes in to have three touches, three modes of trying to reach the lead, whichever way they respond back to us is how we continue going forward.
So some people will quickly write us an email back and we’ll just go forward and schedule them in that way, some people will text message back, they’ll get it, it’ll pop up on their cell phone and they’ll text us back. And then some people we’ll be able to reach by phone, or they’ll call us and we’ll schedule them in that way but the goal is to immediately start working the lead those three ways the day it comes in and to get the people in for an office consultation as soon as possible.
Dave Aarons: Okay, so Molly, maybe we can talk just a little bit more about that initial contact, so the lead gets to Molly, she then emails them, you have text messages, do you guys have kind of like a template that you send them that say’s dear client name we’ve received your request? Yeah.
Brad Latta: Yep. Yeah, we have a template that we use for the email and the text that just says we received your inquiry from unbundled attorney online and we’d like to schedule you for a free consultation just let us know your availability. I don’t have it memorized, but that’s the jist of it, of what it says.
Dave Aarons: Okay so the initial goal in these contacts and also Molly reaching out to them, so that next step would be, they’re going to respond with maybe some availability, they’ll send you a text back, email, and so her main job is to schedule them, for them to come in the office, is that said accurate?
Brad Latta: Yeah that’s right and I just found that’s just the best way that works for me. I don’t know the particular reasons why but it’s something about coming in, physically coming in an office. I think it just gives, it gives you credibility, you’re not just a name on the internet, you’re actually physically in a building with a staff and an office and it looks professional and I just think it gives a lot of credibility.
So every person that we’ve made contact with, that we’ve been able, that they’ve responded one way or the other has wanted a consultation, so that’s 100% of that. It’s just a matter of physically getting them in the office. And then pretty much everybody that comes in the office, for the most part, ends up becoming a client at some point, either the unbundled or regular representation.
So we have 80 to 100% success when we can actually make contact with the leads, we’ve had some trouble recently with actually getting people on the phone or to respond, so she and I, we meet at least once a week, just to go over the leads, we have a detailed meeting with spreadsheet that I use and she gives me a status on where things are with this contact or this person or, we just kind of filter them out that way, the new leads, the old leads just where everything is, and so it’s been working really well.
Dave Aarons: Awesome. Was there a period of time over the years that you would actually be calling the leads first yourself and be doing the consult over the phone? And if so, did you transition to doing them in office and what have you noticed from doing that transition if that was the case?
Brad Latta: Yeah we did. I don’t know if you remember but we, my wife and I moved from Birmingham to Mobile two years ago. Mobiles about four hours south of Birmingham, we wanted to live near the beach and I’m only licensed in Alabama so it was an easy transition, and we just wanted a change of pace, we moved back from there to Birmingham this past November.
But it was very different down there, the demographics and the logistics were very different down there, it terms, my geographic area down there was a lot more spread out, I was getting clients in Mobile, at least in Mobile and Baldwin County, which are two huge counties, and so the geographic area was… To some people, it was over an hour, where they lived to my office. And so we would try to do a lot of telephone consultations, a lot of phones, where I would actually make the contact and do the consultation, if they were available, or live, as soon as I got the lead in I would call them and get their story and kind of go from there.
I just didn’t have a lot of success with it, for whatever reason, it was very hard for people to follow up, it just… I don’t know what it was unless it was not seeing physically me or the office or whatever in person and it was just hearing a faceless name on the phone, or something. But everybody was appreciative of the consultation and we did get some clients from it, but it was very… the follow-up from it, actually getting people to write the cheque and hire the firm, we just had a hard time going from the consultations, the phone consultations to that next step.
So it’s just something about physically getting people in the office. Because then if they need a week or two to come up with the money or the funds or whatever they’re going to do, they know where we are. A lot of times… We have a lot of people that will do the consultations and they’ll just drop by our office now, a week or two, or even sometimes months down the road, they’ll say “hey, I got your money, I’m ready to go” which you can’t-do if there is no physical office that they’ve been to that they remember.
It’s impossible, they forget the phone number, they don’t know where we are, it just becomes impossible to actually connect that from the phone call to becoming a client. With a physical office, it kind of anchors them down, they know where we are, this is the physical location, they can drop by anytime with a piece of paper or a question, or a cheque for the funds or whatever they’re going to do. So that’s worked a whole lot better.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and it really lends itself well to this model of client generation, basically, clients going online and finding an attorney. Whereas it contrasts quite significantly, and I think this is important to mention, that this is very different from getting a referral from their friends, family, and neighbors because they already have… they’re borrowing on the trust of their friends, family and neighbors saying, “Hey I worked with Brad Latta’s firm, he’s excellent attorney, he got me custody.” Or, “Helped me resolve the divorce, he was very affordable” and so they’re coming in with already 80% of the way to hiring you.
Whereas when someone comes online, like you said earlier in the call, they don’t know your firm yet, they haven’t had a chance to meet you. You don’t have that tangible office, that real relationship, that trust built yet and so we often recommend, as soon as you possibly can to build that relationship, get them in the office, so they can get a chance to meet you and get to know who you are, get to know your philosophy and the kind of work you do. And that also plays itself into the unbundled options getting them started with working with you and that type of thing, which we can talk about a little bit later on the call. But anyway, you can build that trust and build that relationship on that initial meeting and those are first steps, is really, really going to help with your ability to have those clients that make the transition to retaining your services.
Brad Latta: Yeah and because people online, a lot of times I’ve found, they’re looking at a bunch of different firms. They might do inquiries online to 5 or 10 different places, it’s very rare for them to physically go into an attorney’s office and so once they do that, that’s in their mind. They’re not going to 10 different lawyers doing a consultation, they might do 1 or 2 to shop around but if they come in the office, they almost always become a client. If we can get them in, which is the hard part is getting them in, if we can get them in, they like us, they appreciate the free consultation, I give them, I have a packet of information, I have a packet for my firm that I give them to take with them, something physical that they can keep in their car or whatever they do with it.
So it just seals in their mind, this is the guy that I want to use, that’s the goal for them to think this is the guy that I want to use, so they don’t go and shop around a bunch of different other attorneys. Like I said they’re not going to drive all around Birmingham to five different law firms like they would online to five different websites.
Dave Aarons: Right. Right exactly. Right and the numbers that you just shared are a perfect example of that, out of 20 consultations you’ve got 8 that have already pulled the trigger and you got a number of them that are still coming up with the money and I’m sure a large portion of those folks are going to come back and retain you. So that’s a perfect example, that if you can get them in when they do come in the office, they get a chance to meet you, a great majority of them are going to make the decision to move forward. Just because not a lot of them are going be wanting to hop around and when they do get a chance to meet you, they’re certainly going to feel a lot more comfortable with working with you.
Brad Latta: Yeah. That’s it.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Okay so, lets kind of fast forward a bit. So now they’ve scheduled for a consultation, they’re coming in the office, maybe could you talk a little bit about what that initial consultation looks like, what are some of those initial goals and maybe talk a little bit about the types of options you offer because I think you mentioned that you get a mix of unbundled clients, clients that are beginning on more of a limited scope basis doing unbundled option.
Maybe you can talk about what those options typically look like and how you adapt them? And then obviously the full representation and what maybe the typical fees of each might be.
Brad Latta: So once the consultation is confirmed and scheduled, however, whatever medium we used to do that, either email, text or phone call. Then we have an online case management system that we use. Molly will update that on the calendar that’s cloud-based and shared with both of us, so it will pop up on my calendar, anywhere that she is, if she’s in class or I’m in court or whatever, we always synced it up together, so I know that she’s booked a consultation.
If it’s going to be that day or the next day, then we don’t do anything we just wait for them to come. If it’s going to be more than a day or two but then we always confirm the consultation the day before. So, for example, if she scheduled someone today for a consultation on this Friday, we would send them a text or phone call or email tomorrow, just reminding them, giving them directions, giving them a way… another touch to confirm that they’re coming. Because of some people, somethings come up and they didn’t know how to get back in touch with us and they need to reschedule, and that’s fine as long as we know that. We don’t want to be sitting up here at the office waiting for them to come and they don’t show up. So we always try to confirm them if they’re more than a day or two out, and then once they confirm we just [inaudible 00:21:21] to wait for them to come. I’ll always budget in an hour-
Dave Aarons: Sorry just jumping in real quick, because I think that’s a really important point, that doing what you can to limit the no-shows. I just want to shine a light on that, so maybe a day or two before you’re sending a text and an email and she’s giving them a touch base call?
Brad Latta: Yeah. If we can’t get them by text or email then she’ll physically call them. If it’s been more than 24, 48 hours since we talked to them, we reach out just to confirm the appointment. And that works pretty well, most people confirm and if not it’s not an issue. We do have people that say, “oh I’m glad you called because I’ve had something come up, I need to reschedule” and so it keeps things, and keeps us being efficient with our time, [inaudible 00:22:10] show up.
Dave Aarons: Awesome. Okay Great. Yeah, I appreciate you filling in the gap there. Okay so, that they’ve come in, they didn’t no-show because you’ve confirmed with them, so now they’ve come in the office, what’s the next step from there? And we can kind of jump into the options a bit.
Brad Latta: Yeah. We try to schedule when Molly’s going to be here, around her schedule, because I like her to be able to greet them as they come in, we just do standard, we offer them water, coffee, or some kind of beverage if they need. Usually, there is no waiting time, so they just come right to my office. And always budget about an hour of my time for the consultations so if she’s going to book two or three in one day, we’ll have 10, 11 and 12 or 1, 2 and 3 or something like that. Sometimes we’ll put some space in there because sometimes they’ll run long, people will run late, things like that.
But for the most part, we budget about an hour for the consultations. And every once in a while they’ll be some that I’ll want Molly to sit in on, if she’s going to be doing a lot of the drafts and paperwork in the case and I’ll want her to know what’s going on, so I won’t have to repeat everything they told me, she’ll sit in on some. Not very often, but occasionally.
And usually we just will do the consultations, and like I said I always give them a folder with information about my firm, with our logo, business card, I go and give them the retainer contract, and we have a five-page information sheet for them to fill out with their contact information, their name, their data address, how we can get in touch with them and then some information about their case.
And then I always have a sheet in there that gives some information about my firm, when I started, kind of what we do, my philosophy on things and the bottom of that sheet breaks down the two options. First is full representation, and its got a blank space what I quote them for their retainer for that case. And the second option below that has got the unbundled services, where it talks about how the unbundled works, it’s kind of a pay as you go system, so that they always have all that information, the next day if they forget, what did he say [inaudible 00:24:20] about an unbundled, they can go to that packet and its got all the information in there.
And I really like it that I go ahead and give them the contract and information sheet, I’m already trying to walk them to take the next steps to hiring us, I like them to physically be able to see that, they can read it and when they get ready to hire us, I basically say I mean we can get started today, you’re welcome to hire us today, or you can take this and we’ll follow up with you and you can let us know.
And invariably, almost everybody, there are some that hire at the consultation, but 70% of them, they’ll take it, take it home, look at it, come back and within a week or so, they’ll either have the initial retainer or they’ll have whatever we discussed on the unbundled. And they’ll have the paper work filled out, they’ll have the contract signed, the information sheet filled out ready to go. They’ll bring that back to usually Molly if she’s here, if not then I will, then they’ll give that to Molly, she’ll open their case and go from there.
Dave Aarons: Right, okay. And so you’ve got the sample agreement that already has the pay as you go, can you talk a little bit more about how you determine whether, I mean obviously, the cost, their financial capacity is going to be a major consideration into whether they precede more with full representation or taking more of an unbundled kind of pay as you go approach.
But there are also going to be some other factors, well case factors, complexity, whether is contested, does the other party have an attorney. So maybe can you talk about how you interact with the client to identify what their legal needs are and then start to figure out the best approach from a more traditional full representation or unbundled strategy to meet their legal needs, but also work within their budget.
Brad Latta: Yeah, it’s hard because we don’t ever know what their budget is. I’ve had people that I’ve kind of tried to ask and based on things they’ve told me and their situation and I’ve been completely wrong both ways, and so you just never know what somebody’s kind of thinking when they come in. And so we always kind of approach that at the end of the consultation, every single person always asks, “so how much is all this going to cost?”
Because its kind of selling our services for the most part and getting their questions, figuring out what we need to do on their case and then showing them how we can solve their problem for them. We can take them from the problem that they’re having when they come into hopefully a good resolution and we’ve got the tools and the experience to do that. And everybody wants it, its just a matter of coming up with the funds and so we try to give… I always tell people, I said, “I’m not a big firm, I’m a solo practitioner, I can bill whatever I want to bill.” I want to help people and so there are no… I don’t have any higher-ups telling me what I have to bill, I can be flexible.
And so people kind of appreciate that we’re not a big firm, that I don’t have to charge them a $10,000 retainer, that I can be flexible with them. So we just kind of hope we have a conversation, I always quote them the full representation retainer, if you want the services that we talked about then I can really get involved in the case and I can do the thing, enough funds in the account well I can do the things I need to do to give you the best representation whether that’s discovery, deposition’s, experts, going to court, subpoena, all the things that we need to do to really try to fix the situation the way you want it, this is kind of what we’re budgeting for the initial retainer.
And then kind of see their reaction and kind of go from there, if they say that sounds good then always tell them we also have this option for unbundled, which is kind of pay as you go. We do as much work as you kind of pre-paid for. So there are a couple of options even with the unbundled we can do straight flat fee services, which is if they need a document draughted, one court appearance or something like that, that’s just negotiated to one flat fee.
Or we have some clients that wanted pay as they go, where they say I don’t have a large initial deposit to put down as a retainer but I can pay it every two weeks and I can give you part of my cheque that I get every two weeks if you can accept that, and so we set that up. We let them know, we can only do as much work as you have to your account. So we’re going to be limited if you do this option and the things that you may want us to do and the things that we can do just based on the funds and they understand that as long as we’re all on the same page from the beginning then it’s not a problem.
But for the most part, people want the full, that I’ve found, people want the full representation. Unless it’s going to be a straight uncontested divorce, the parties agree on everything or they just don’t have the funds to do the full representation, but most people want the full representation, it’s just a matter of coming up with what that’s going to cost and how they’re going to get their hands on it.
Dave Aarons: Right and so that sounds like more of the… sometimes they’ll pay the full retainer upfront and so on for those that can afford it but for those that don’t that’s more of that pay as you go option. Could you share a little bit about how that’s structured? Is it usually like some kind of a payment plan where they’ll put down, maybe you can give an example, like a smaller retainer that you accept, I mean every case is different, so if they’d be like $500 to start and then 250 every two weeks or 250 every month and how does that usually look like and how often… and how do you determine how often it needs to be paid as they go.
Brad Latta: Yeah that’s exactly it. It’s generally a $500 initial payment and I tell them, cause I bill 250 an hour, so I tell them, you’re essentially paying for two hours worth of legal work, that’s better than nothing, but it’s not going to be enough for me to really do the things that I want to do. So we’ll set up either 250 every two weeks, something like that. And then I have some people, I’ll just say this is… but they know from the beginning and they sign a different retainer agreement if they’re going to be doing this type of representation because Alabama offers limited scope for representation. Most states probably do but it’s a neat thing here where we can actually file paperwork with the court to let them know that we’re going to be representing… it’s limited scope representation, based on our state bar association, they’ve come up with that and its treated differently than regular representation.
So I’ll let people know, I’ll do as much as I can do, I’ll do as much as you can afford, I can’t let you have a large bill that accrues, that we’re losing money. And they understand that, so it’s not a problem as long as we communicate and everybody’s good on the front end, they understand, if I bring in $300 because they get a billing statement every 30 days. We send all the clients, every 30 days, an updated statement of the work that’s been done in that 30 day period and what’s left in their account, in their trust account.
So they know, if they’re on the limited scope or their unbundled representation path, they understand that I can’t go to court for five hours for them, they can’t call every single day and ask questions about their case if there are going to be something that comes along with that. And I always tell them, the more you can keep in your account, the more that we can do, the more representation that I can give to you. And they understand that, so it works, its working fine. But like I said, I don’t have many like that, this year I’ve probably gotten maybe three or four that have been like that.
Dave Aarons: As opposed to them just doing the full representation up front, where they’re paying a traditional retainer and then you’re billing it by the hour, and it’s more of a non-issue.
Brad Latta: Right. Yeah.
Dave Aarons: Gotcha. Okay and so you’re getting some clients here and there were… so you’ve got more of the pay as you go because they want the full representation but you have to work out the payment arrangements to kind of get around their limitations financially, then you have the full representation. But then you also have the clients where it’s pretty clear that either because of the choice, if they want to handle parts on their own to save some of the money, or that just because of limited finances they couldn’t even… they may not be able to keep that pay as you go going, or maybe for whatever reason it’s more of a limited scope approach.
How is the strategy different for you to work with a client where you’re maybe prepping their documents and then giving them some guidance or some instruction on how to proceed, potentially pro se, it sounds like Alabama might be one of the states that offer the capacity for you to do a limited appearance, some states can and some states can’t, but how does that become… how do you adjust for the client that’s proceeding unbundled and in many cases, in some cases maybe handling a lot of these tasks pro se?
Brad Latta: We just take off from the consultations that are really what it comes down to, its just fact-finding on our end, trying to figure out without coming out and asking them what’s your financial situation look like. And so sometimes [crosstalk 00:33:18] its very case by case a lot of it will come out in the consultation. But I’ve asked people before, what is your budget look like for this case and that kind of starts a dialogue of well I don’t have… I can’t-do the full representation but I can do $500 today and we kind of just go from there. So like I said its just case by case in the consultation, it’s just a feel for what they’re looking for and what their financial situation looks like.
So if in the consultation someone says that they’re not working, if they’re in between jobs, that doesn’t mean that they can’t-do the full representation but that is, not a red flag, but is a ding to me, it just kind of tells me that I need to at least offer them the option because they may not have income coming in. And so that’s one… or someone that’s not been getting child support for example and they need it as part of their budget and we’ve got to take somebody back to court, that is a notification that they may not have the funds to do the full representation. So they’ll get offered other options.
And then another way is that at the end of the consultation when we offer them the full representation option we quote them whatever that retainer is, I mean I’ve had some people that have been like there is no way I can… they’ll just come out and say it, there are no way I can do that, so that’s obviously an easier way to shift gears into the unbundled when they come out and say, “I don’t have that kind of money, I’d love to use your services, but I don’t have that kind of money, do you have any other options?” And we do, so that’s the most obvious way if they just come out and say, sounds great but I can’t afford it, then we can easily switch gears to the unbundled.
Some people do, some people are not comfortable saying that, so that’s fine. The ones that… So [inaudible 00:35:13] consultation we’ve quoted them the unbundled and the full representation and then I always, if I don’t hear back from them within a week, I always follow back up with them, I usually send an email, follow-up email, just reiterating, we have a lot of different options if funds are the issue, because its always the issue, if money is the issue, communicate with me, let’s see if we can give you the full representation, because some people are embarrassed that they don’t have the money to do the full representation and I understand that so we try to give them easy ways to… We can help you, we still have other option I’m not a huge big firm with a bunch of overhead that only has, here’s your price take it or leave it, we have a lot of different options.
So we give people who would love to have the services, to hire our firm, but are too embarrassed to come out and say I don’t have that kind of money, we kind of let them off the hook a little bit with a follow-up email a week later. Just as another touch, another follow-up, it’s just something that we started doing recently that’s a newer thing that we’ve started doing.
Dave Aarons: And that’s helped with some of the clients that you’ve met with that, I don’t know, maybe come clean that yeah I mean it’s tough for us, we don’t really have the resources, and it kind of reopens that dialogue and addresses that concern so that they feel comfortable to reopen the discussion on other ways that you could potentially structure something that could work for them financially.
Brad Latta: That’s right, yeah and [inaudible 00:36:39] another contact, it’s just one more, I’m trying to stay in their mind, because a lot of them are looking for… they’re asking family and relatives for money, they’re looking at ways they can come up with the funds, so its just one more reminder. It’s more of a thank you for coming in than fishing for money, its following up, making sure they didn’t have any more questions and its just one more way I’m trying to get it into their memory when they do go forward and want to hire an attorney they’ve remembered, I’ve met with this guy, he followed up with me, they’re diligent about stuff and they’re flexible and they want to work with me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and on that note, is it one email that you guys a week later? Or do you have some type of a system, maybe once a month or every couple of months when maybe you’ll just send an email to the previous clients, or maybe give a phone call, how do you look at doing the follow-up and do you have some strategies there?
Brad Latta: Recently its just been about a week after the consultation if we haven’t heard from them, we’ll just send a follow-up email, thanking them for coming in and just reminding them that we have a lot of different options, we’ve been doing that really since we moved back, since probably November.
So before that we weren’t really following up at all, unless we had a dialogue, or had a dialogue going by email, I’ve been emailing someone and they’re emailing back and we can do a lot the physical office consultation yes, but a lot of the answering questions and moving towards actually going forward with the representation, I try to have a dialogue going by email, which is easy for them. So that’s how I’ve been doing it, but starting when we moved back in November we started doing the follow-up emails a week after the consultations.
Dave Aarons: Okay so then one of the things that’s very clear about offering unbundled legal services is that there are a number of scenarios and circumstances where it’s just not a fit, there are just certain types of cases that are too complicated or the other party has more representation and sometimes you can still assist people in some of those types of matters but CPS and certain types of cases that you just really need an attorney representing you in the court of that litigation to really make the difference.
And people are going to have to proceed pro se anyway but, how do you evaluate that, what are the type of cases you look for that maybe you don’t get involved with on more of an unbundled basis, or maybe what are some of the pick falls that you’ve kind of learned in offering these options, you know whether it be the type of client you’re working with or maybe their ability to process information and handle tasks or maybe their case factors that you have to be really careful about, or just diligent about not offering those types of options in these types of circumstances?
Brad Latta: Yeah [inaudible 00:39:30] I’ve kind of gotten a feel for doing this a while, just kind of get a feel in the consultation of what seems to be involved with their issue and for the most part, most people that have a highly complex case that’s going to require a lot of fees and a lot of going to court, and it’s going to be awhile, they generally understand that it’s going to cost money. They have an idea in their head that I know this is going to be… it’s going to dry out for whatever reason, so they come in with the expectation that they’re going to have to hire an attorney and pay a retainer, so that’s great, but all that work is already done and all before they even come in, they’re just looking for the right attorney. So, that’s not even an issue.
I guess people that have different types of cases, it’s just a feel during the consultation for what else is going to be involved, I usually go ahead and tell people what the steps are, here’s what we need to do, here’s the first thing that I need to do once we do this, kind of give them a timeline for what we need to do to help them and get them from where they are today to the good resolution. And so once we do that timeline they understand that there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
And that’s when they always ask, well what is all that going to cost? And that’s when we give them the options, you can do full representation, which is where we just kind of take over, we take all this burden off of you, we do it all. You don’t have to worry about anything, we do pretty much everything for you. That’s a great option that we offer people and that’s for the most part what people are looking for and what they like.
But then we say that we understand that not everybody is in a position to do that, and we understand that and unlike a lot of firms around here, we offer people other options, we have an entire other solution, way that we can help people and that’s when we go into the, shift into the unbundled or limited scope representation option and just ask them, what are you thinking, you give me your feedback now that you’ve heard both options.
I’m wanting them to think it’s a foregone conclusion that they’re hiring the firm it’s just a matter of how we’re going to make it all work. So yeah I just present the options and then ask them, what do you think and that just keeps the conversation going, then we’ve shifted from we know there is a need to be met, we know hopefully that we’re going to be the firm that does that for them, now it’s just a matter of picking the right plan for their situation and their budget. And so it’s been really good because we have different options, we have a lot of flexibility with people we don’t lose a lot of people just based on the money anymore like I used to before we had this option to do that.
Dave Aarons: And what was it originally that made you make the transition, or what was maybe the original reason that you started offering these options, the unbundled options, the pay as you go and how has that shifted as far as the way clients responded? It sounds like with the number of options that you’re offering, people can feel really comfortable that its pretty much going to be something that they can work out or fit in their budget even if its pay as you go or unbundled.
So it really seems like, especially with the approach you’re taking as far as, you’ve explained to them who you are and what you do, why, the steps that need to be done and then it just assumed at that point that they’re going to be working with you now it’s just a matter of resolving the approach right? And figuring out the options and they’re just choosing and that presupposes that they’re going to be working with you at that point, so having those options really makes it… its kind of like an either or close, would you like the blue car or the red car? It’s like okay well you figure it out.
But what was it that kind of made you make that transition, was it you were turning folks away or you kind of really had the desire to reach down to some folks that weren’t able to move forward or what was it for you?
Brad Latta: A little bit of everything. There is definitely a need for that, because I was working [inaudible 00:43:44] from the very beginning. What separates my firm from all the other divorce lawyers in Birmingham and there are a bunch of them. A lot of solo practitioners, there are a lot of big firms with a lot of solo practitioners that do exactly what I do why would someone hire my firm over all those other people and this is one way that can really just differentiate yourself because there are not a lot of people that are doing this.
We get people that have been on other consultations with other attorneys, where they’ll talk to them and they just quote them a retainer and it’s basically here’s what I need to get started and sometimes they have it sometimes they don’t, but if they don’t that’s a nonstarter, you don’t even get off the ground. And so I didn’t like the all or nothing approach, I do a free consultation with my firm and so if we did 20 consultations so far this year, that’s an average of 18 to 20 hours of my time that I spent hearing these peoples problems and giving them legal advice and I don’t want to waste that.
I don’t know when people come its I want to say rare, but it’s such a big deal to get people physically in the office, everybody that comes in the office physically, I want them to become a client. And so it just became a necessity, I don’t want 20 people coming in and 2 of them become clients, even if the money is about the same, I want more turnover, I want more activity and more different types of clients because there are more people that are out there potential giving you referrals, talking about your firm, you reach more people that way in my opinion, so I’d rather have 8 to 10 clients like I have now than 1 really, really good one all year.
And so it just evolved into… I mean I can’t lose money, I’m running a business but what can I do to people that come in to make them become the client and giving them different options, but its all the funds. It’s all about the money. Everybody that comes in, after they’ve talked to you for an hour and you’ve told them the ways that you can definitely help them, everybody wants to go forward, there is nobody that says well I’m still shopping around or I didn’t like what you had to say.
I mean every single… 100% of people want to hire the firm, so that’s not the issue it’s just, well I definitely want to do it I just got to find a way, we have to kind of find a middle ground that everybody can live with, I got to find an about that I don’t lose money but an amount that they can afford, that they feel like they’re getting good value for what they’re paying. But that’s also enough for me to be able to help them the way that I told them that I want to be able to help them.
Its just communicating on the front, I’ve gotten a lot better over the years at taking peoples before they become an issues as far as the retainer, the contract that they sign, we send an engagement letter once they become a client, we send an engagement letter that clearly spells out, everything spells out the agreement from the very beginning there are no ambiguity, there are no, “I thought you were doing this.” And there are no surprises down the road. Everybody knows from the beginning, what the deal is. And so its made things a lot easier, we don’t have a lot of conflicts with the clients, we don’t have a lot of chasing after money.
People just kind of know, this is what the deal is and if the payment plan and if they don’t make their payment we have to work around that and so we’ve had people that have run out of money, that have said what happened in their case and they’ve said I’m just out of funds, I don’t need more than I can spend on even unbundled or even on scope I’m just going to have to go represent myself going forward, and that’s fine. I mean we would prefer to go all the way to the end but we understand that and these cases can be expensive and not everybody… Everyone’s in a different situation so we decided to be flexible and whatever come whatever we do to their situation as much as possible.
Dave Aarons: Right, actually this kind goes back to what we talked about earlier where, when they’re first coming in they want to get a chance to get to know you, you got to… it was your very, very good point earlier, having them come in the office, get a chance to meet you, get familiar with the office and so forth, but also when you have these types of really flexible… and a lot of these options you’ve talked about are very low starting price points, 500. And that’s, a lot of attorneys might go, “Wow, 500 that’s nothing. How can you do anything with someone’s case.”
But especially when it comes to cold market internet source leads, or leads that you’re reaching out to with an advertising effort and so forth that don’t have that experience working with you yet, that gives them the opportunity to start working with you and I would assume from the experience we hear from the attorneys, once someone begins working with your firm and makes that initial investment to start working with you then they tend to keep working with you, isn’t that accurate?
Brad Latta: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Right so its just really getting them in the door, getting them started, getting them something that they can… a target they can hit right away and just start working with you and out of the people that maybe start with the unbundled option, do some of those clients and what portion maybe, then make the transition that maybe when they get a little over their head or it gets contested or things get difficult that actually do also come up with the full amount later on or just make the transition to more of a full representation approach?
Brad Latta: [inaudible 00:49:16]
Dave Aarons: Yeah, there are a good majority of the folks that then transition to having your kind of handle it all or come up with more of a full retainer from there aye?
Brad Latta: Yeah, yeah. I think, especially in tax season, when people get their tax refunds that, that’s fairly common for them to come up with larger amounts at one time. But you just never know, everybody’s in a different situation, I’ve had people on disability with no income who have rich parents. They sell a car that they didn’t need, people just come up with ways to get the money if it’s important to them and so, that’s what we try to do in the consultation is solve, certainly they have the need or they wouldn’t be there, we can fix the need, and then why would you use us over anybody else.
And I come from a sales background before I was an attorney I was in insurance, 100% commission insurance sales and so I learned the hard way from cold calling people, from driving all around all through the state of Alabama that if we didn’t a cheque from people we didn’t get paid, it really sank or swim, all or nothing. And so that approach serves me well now, I didn’t realize at the time but its more sales than anything else, I tell people its sales and then occasionally I get to practice law, because it’s selling the firm, its selling them on how we can meet their needs, why they would use us, here’s our success record, our track record and my goal is everybody that leaves, they want to hire the firm like I said. Selling them on the need is done before they come in, it’s just a matter of why would I use this guy and what’s this going to cost me.
And that’s what we spend the majority of the time on. I’ve handled this kind of cases, I’ve been doing this here in this jurisdiction for seven years, we know the judges and we got a bunch of healthy clients. And we can fix their problem, for the most part, its just a matter of getting us the funds, getting us the tools that we need to do it. And so it’s sending people out into the world and saying this is what we need to fix your problem come up with a way to do it and people do.
It’s just the weirdest thing, some people within a week some people say, “hey I got the funds.” Some people… I’ve had people a year, that a year after I did the initial consultation that will call and say, out of the blue, “hey I have the money.” I have to go back and pull their notes from the consultation, I don’t even remember what retainer I quoted these people. So it just happens, they remember how they felt when they left the office, man that guy gave me an hour of his time. Now it’s just kind of their goal to go and find the funds and people do, people borrow it, people get tax returns, people come up with the funds and that’s the goal to send them out, if they don’t do it at the initial consultation, to send them out with the goal of finding some way to get the funds. And people do, not all of them but enough so that it’s working pretty well.
Dave Aarons: Yeah sounds like that’s great. And you mentioned… it kind of raises the point, we’ll have maybe a couple more questions and then we’ll wrap up the call here, really appreciate you taking the time and just sharing so generously what’s been working well for you, it has been really, really informative. But for example, it was just brought to mind when you said you pull the file maybe you could share if you use any type of technology, I think we, before we jumped on the call we were talking about Clio because we just had the Webinar we’re going to be integrating in with Clio’s platform.
But do you guys use any kind of client law practice management software up until now, do you use Dropbox, google drive, are there any tools that you’ve been using that you’ve found have been helpful in your process?
Brad Latta: Yeah we use a program that I found a few years ago called MyCase. It’s very similar to Clio, I actually used Clio to start and then I don’t remember why I changed. But I’ve been using MyCase for about three years now, it’s a cloud-based management program for calendar and billing and all that stuff. And we use Dropbox for the forms so everything is shared, but I’m very tech savvy I think, I can run my practice on my iPhone.
But for the consultations and the notes, I still work off of a legal pad and I always print out the lead, physically print out a hard copy of the lead and that’s what I take my notes from the consultation on, so I remember their name, the date they came in and I will always try to remember to put the retainer about that I quoted them on there. And then I’ve got a file, just a physical file in my cabinet that I put all the consultations ever completed, just the sheets of the leads that are completed, so if anybody calls three months down the road, I can go to their file, pull their consultation, I can see the date and try to get a list of what we talked about or what we quoted them. So it’s a mix of very tech savvy cloud-based with still old school physical hard-
Dave Aarons: Some old school yeah.
Brad Latta: Yeah, I like it, I like writing it down, with a pen and seeing my notes and jogging my memory of what we were talking about at the time. And it keeps a record of conflict checks down the road if that becomes an issue, I just always like having a record of all the consultations ever done. And I been doing that since I started getting the leads, and so I’ve gotten, it could be years worth of all that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah and… no, I don’t think that matters much, I was going to say I’ll make a guess how many leads there are been since the beginning but I’m sure it’s in the many hundreds or even thousands. Oh yeah and I’m the same way, pardon?
Brad Latta: Yeah actually I added it up at the end of this past year, I wanted to see how many came in and what I spent on them and what the return on the investment was, just for my own record keeping. And if I remember correctly I got 160 leads all of 2015 because the majority of that was Mobile and Baldwin Counties, which the volume is just not, the volume was just not as much down there. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to move back. So 160-ish total leads from last year, so that and I’ve already got 42 by March 2nd of this year, so it’s going to be substantially more this year.
Dave Aarons: Well we’ll keep doing what we do to keep ramping those numbers but that’s pretty awesome, that’s 42 in two months so you’ve already gotten a quarter of what you had and a sixth of the year, that’s awesome so we’ll keep bringing them. So I guess maybe the last question I have is just, you been working with us for almost two years now, maybe you can just, whatever comes to mind, what kind of lessons or strategies have you developed over the last couple years, either from mistakes or things that didn’t work or things that worked really well and you just started implementing a general strategy that you feel really makes the biggest difference or, we’ve talked a lot about the options and the flexibility and so forth, so you could shine a light even more on that aspect because I think that’s definitely a huge part of what helps you serve so many clients.
And really what we’re all about as an organization and a company is empowering attorneys such as yourself to start learning how to be flexible and offer unbundled options so that clients aren’t getting turned away and handle these cases on their own, which is probably the reason we’ve got two-thirds of folks in the courts filing pro se in most family courts throughout the US and the law clerks and the court records are backlogged [inaudible 00:57:05] and if every attorney or huge majority of attorneys was offering these options we probably wouldn’t have that same kind of an issue, because they’d be getting the guidance and support and help and advice from qualified attorneys to get them through the process and not make this poor procedural errors that a lay persons going to do.
So maybe just over the last couple of years, what is it that maybe you’ve learned or implemented that has a broad suggestion that really has made the biggest difference for you, in not only fielding leads but being effectively working with the clients?
Brad Latta: Sure yeah, I guess the main thing in terms of the leads, is just having a system, being organized. When you get an average of, I’m getting an average of five or six a week you’ve got to be really organized, you’ve got to have a system of calendering, of following up, every one of the leads is in a different stage some come in the next day for a consultation, some need you to call them back in two weeks, you said you’ve got to have a system in place, because if yourself or a staff person that can manage that as part of their job. Part of Molly’s job is managing that and she understands that.
And I would be very aggressive, I don’t want to say aggressive, might be the wrong word but just very diligent with the leads. Because they can’t sit out there for more than a couple of hours, these people are out there shopping with a bunch of different sites and if you wait, that’s where we were a little bit lazy about it in the beginning and we would wait sometimes a day or two to call them and they’ve already hired another attorney. So you’re just kicking yourself that you’ve got to get them as quick as you can.
And then everything is steering them into coming into the office. We’ll work around their schedule, I’m very flexible as far as my time, except for weekends, I don’t ever do anything on the weekends, that’s my family time, but people can’t get off work until 5 o’clock and they can’t meet until 6, I’ll stay at the office and meet with them.
So we want to give them all the opportunity in the world to physically come in the office and then booking them on the calendar, booking everybody on the same page, following up and like I said if it’s going to be more than that day or the next day, confirming them, sending them a confirmation text or an email, cause booking them on the calendar doesn’t mean anything. The goal is getting them physically in the office, and so everything we do is geared towards that, and then once they come in its just standard attorney stuff, having a presentable office, a good staff, meeting the expectations for going to an attorneys office.
I think we do a pretty good job of that and giving them an hour of your time and selling yourself, selling the firm that’s what I’ve had to do from the beginning and I’ve just got my standard speech, just what we say to everybody, down and everybody’s excited, its just a matter of molding what we do to their situation. Instead of just giving one price to everybody or take it or leave it, if they come in the office and I’m going to give them an hour of my time, I want them to become a client, otherwise I’m just giving out free legal advice all day and that doesn’t help anybody, so the goal is to get them in and the goal is to once they come in it’s my job to sell the firm and to actually physically sign them up as a client.
And so we try to be as flexible as you can and give people as many options, as many chances in the world to be hired on, with an eye towards we can’t lose money, we can’t fully represent someone if the funds are not going to be there to do that. But they understand that people that are shopping for attorneys now, with this kind of cases, like I said, for the most part, they understand it’s going to cost them money. They don’t expect anything for free.
But I’ve had to deal with, they know it’s going to… And they know their situation and they know, based on the other party or whatever’s going on, people will say, I know this is going to be a battle just because my wife is crazy, or something, so they already know from the beginning, it’s going to cost them money, it’s just a matter of what attorneys going to get that money. And that’s why you’ve got to get them in and sell yourself on why they need to use you, so they don’t have to keep shopping around. There is no need for them to go call three other attorneys, they’ve already met with one who’s, in their mind, given them a game plan for how they’re going to fix their situation and if it’s a rate or retainer that’s in their budget they can afford, there is no reason for them to wait.
Dave Aarons: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, that’s huge. Yeah and I think that’s a great place to end, those were really, really awesome suggestions and I think that, that flexibility and the just professionalism and also having a process, I think like you said about having a system and a process for getting in touch with the folks as soon as possible, reaching out to them, even just getting a call, an email or a text, using three different methods.
We’re constantly reminding attorneys to use text as well because that really makes a big difference, most people have smartphones today and all these little… All these things add up, building leads is a business model it’s not the same as picking up the phone, people calling you from the yellow pages, or being referred by friends and family member’s, it really requires a refinement of a business system but when you refine it, the leads are the leads of the leads.
Every case is different, every person is different. But they’re coming In the same way, it’s the similar types of issues and so you can gradually refine and improve that system over the time, and once you’ve got those systems dialed, then you can really begin to rely upon the law of averages and that source being extremely consistent in what you can expect it to produce for you.
Brad Latta: Yeah that’s exactly it.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Well so with that, Brad I just want to thank you for taking the time today, we really, really appreciate the work you’re doing for the folks that we’re sending you out in Alabama, the feedbacks been excellent from them as well and I just really appreciate where your heart… I can tell that you’re there to serve, you’re there to really help these folks and get them through the process in any way you can and that deals with addressing, of course, their legal needs, but working around their budget and being flexible and finding ways just to help these folks and its attorneys such as yourself that’s really paving the way for creating a new possibility for the way in which attorneys can be offering services in this country and certainly for clients to be able to obtain the help they badly need to resolve these types of issues so, thank you again for everything you’re doing.
Brad Latta: Absolutely, my pleasure.
Dave Aarons: So with that, and thank you, everyone, else for listening and participating in the calls, thanks so much.
Brad Latta: Thanks, Dave.
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