Are you struggling with perfectionism in your career? In this episode of the Maximum Lawyer Podcast, Jim and Tyson discuss the damaging effects of perfectionism on law firm owners.
Today we’re sharing part two of a six part series on Intake. This isn’t your regular podcast. In this series you’ll get to listen in on actual strategy sessions between Gary Falkowitz and Jim Hacking as they dive into Jim’s intake processes.
Gary Falkowitz advises law firms, attorneys and legal organizations on the importance of creating, utilizing, managing and maximizing the intake process. He has worked with managing partners, associates, paralegals and all other support staff to assist law firms in improving their intake process and, importantly, increasing their conversion percentages.
Through his years of experience, Gary has realized that accountability, implementing strong internal procedures and responsiveness are three of the most important factors to ensure a successful and efficient intake process. It doesn’t hurt that his passion for the subject matter is unrivaled. In short, Gary believes that the key to maximizing a law firm’s revenue is strongly dependent upon the ability to appropriately prioritize and adequately scrutinize the intake process.
Gary is also the author of the book, “The Complete Guide to Law Firm Intake: Powerful Strategies To Maximize Retention and Increase Revenue”.
7:30 get them to where they want to be fastest
10:30 determine why they’re calling
13:17 reassure them
18:50 looking for free advice
21:00 maximize your revenue and profits
26:05 qualifiers and disqualifiers
27:02 conveying the opposite of urgency
28:03 opportunity to sign electronically
31:45 should you list your fees on your website
Want to hear more from Gary?
Or, listen in to episode 93 with Gary as a guest on the Maximum Lawyer podcast here.
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Jim: Yeah. My question was, you know, when you deal with-- when you come into law firms, are you seeing that a lot of lawyers-- I mean, just-- you know, with everyone having to shift to home, do you think most law firms were ready for this? Do you think that they-- I mean, I'm hearing stories about big firms that sort of had an old hard-wired phone service and sort of had to scramble on the fly? Can you talk about that?
Gary: Yeah, I think-- I don't think anyone was really ready for this, no matter what they say. As the owner of a call center, we were not immediately ready for this, so we had a lot of work to do in about a 72-hour timeframe to move things appropriately. And we did, thankfully. But I think the reality is, I do think that the productivity, at this moment, from what I see and what I hear from other law firms, is dropping.
I think that employees - intake specialists, human beings are not necessarily set up to be as productive at home, unless they've done it before, as they were in the office. There's less accountability. There's less management. There's less stress on the employee to ensure that they're focusing on their work.
So, I think, from a from a logistical and possibility standpoint, people were able to make that shift but, from a work product standpoint, it probably went from - if you want to call it 100% that what it was and everybody was in-house, it probably came down, I'd have to get too close to 65% or 70%. I think people are hurting and taking a drop. I think, for follow ups, people are having a hard time because they're not sure how to make outbound calls. They do it from their cellphone? Do they? Did they set something up technologically so it seems like it's coming from the law firm?
And I think it's going to be-- you know, interesting, they're going to have-- people are going to have to-- the law firms that flourish will take a few steps back but then take a lot of steps forward over the coming month or two.
Jim: I think it would be helpful because, for one, I don't really understand and I don't know how logistically your company works. So, talk a little bit about that. About like-- not just about the service that you offer but then sort of how, mechanically, a call is routed through your system?
Gary: Sure. So, I mean, I assume you're talking about my call center.
Gary: So, mostly what we do is case types or your typical personal injury, or auto accident cases, a lot of mass tort, a lot of the higher volume stuff because the way we charge is a cost per signed retainer. We put the carrot in front of us, whereby, we only get paid if we're successful. If we stink, and you give up a lot of leads, and we're on the phone for a long time, and we're making a lot of follow-up efforts or attempts and we're not able to convert a qualified lead into a signed client, we don't make any money. So, we keep the carrot in front of our team and in front of our company to be successful.
How it would work? Because I don't want to make this call all about that, I really want to jump back into your consulting aspect here. But how it would work is if you said, “Hey, Gary, my intake team is falling apart, or I'm about to jump into the new Zantac litigation that everyone's talking about. And I know that if I go on TV, or if I do a digital campaign, the volume and the response is going to be significant and I don't have those resources to handle the response, the qualification, the follow up, and the retention to ensure that I'm maximizing the return on my marketing dollars.” That's when you have this ability to say, “Can you, Gary, can your team handle those four aspects and I'll pay you a flat fee for every case you get signed that meets mine, Jim's, qualification criteria?” So, our team will make sure, using your criteria, you're signed, your retainer. And then, everything is automatic. If they sign electronically, you get notice of that right after they sign.
But it's really-- it's an economies of scale offering. So, when a law firm is-- say, they have this big settlement. And then, all of a sudden, they want to throw a million dollars or a half million dollars into a new campaign or into more new marketing efforts, but they don't have the internal resources to handle that. And that's the only thing stopping them from moving forward with a large campaign. That's where a company like mine can help out.
Jim: And then-- but are those people generally in a call center, when the virus is in here, and then they had to all go home?
Gary: For the most part, yeah, the majority of my staff was in a call center outside of my window. Now, every one of them is working remotely. And quite frankly, it might be that way forever. So, we're happy with where it is right now. We are hiring. We're growing. We've grown since coronavirus started and, you know, not-- well, I'm lucky and grateful that that happened. And I know that that can stop at any given second but, given the demand that’s being asked of the company, we need to make sure we have the staff available.
Jim: All right. So, that's all very helpful and that's good information.
Gary: Thanks, Jim.
Jim: All right. Well, do you want to dive in? Do you want to dive in?
Gary: Thank you. Let's jump in. I have something I see with the question. Go for it, Jim.
Jim: I have the questionnaire here and I can pull it up on the screen.
Gary: I have it. If you want to do that, go for it and we'll work on what's on the screen. That's perfect.
Jim: All right. Can you see it?
Gary: Not yet. Now, I can.
Jim: You can see it. Okay, good.
Gary: Alright. So, the first thing I'll tell you is I'm not so concerned about how long this is. When we first spoke, one of your concerns and one of my concerns, quite frankly, was, “Are you asking way too many questions?” And I don't think the answer is yes. However, what we need to do, as an industry, is understand something. We need to understand that we may not have a second bite at this conversation. We have to understand that we have to put all of our efforts in determining whether this person qualifies for representation during this conversation.
What we don't want to ever do, during the first conversation, is have the claimant go back to do some of their own research to get back to us because, quite frankly, most claimants, whether it's smart or not, are going to pick the law firm that gets them to where they want to be fastest rather than the law firm that might be the most appropriate for them. So, if a claimant speaks with two law firms and one says, ”Hey, Mr. Jones. It looks like it could be something we can help you out with, but I just need to find out what the results of that that application that you sent was, or we need to find out what the doctor said your injury was. Was it fractured? Do you need to have surgery?” And the claimant says, “Okay, I'll get that for you. I'll look into that for you.”
And then, in the meanwhile, he has this other law firm that already told him, “Hey, this is all we need to hear right now. You've qualified for representation. Let's get you signed up. And then, we’ll tell you what else we need after you’re our client.” He's going to take the latter, or she, because it's faster, it's easier, and it takes the responsibility of their case off of their shoulders and puts it on to those of the experts.
And I always bring that up. And for anyone else listening to this call, is be careful about all the questions you're asking at intake because, quite frankly, right now, what law firms are doing is they're using this time to investigate. They're using this time to get a head start on what they're going to do with the case once it becomes retained, if it becomes retained. What they don't realize is they're actually leaving a lot of clients on the table - a lot of money on the table, because they're trying to get a head start.
What they should be doing is saying, “Okay. Let me get this qualified. Let me get some basic information to get started. Let me get it retained. Then, I'll work on some of the other information” because, guys and Jim, what's the worst thing that can happen most of the time if you retain a case that you don't want? The worst thing that can happen is you have to reject it. And you just have to have the resources and the know how to reject it appropriately. But the reality is, that's okay. Let that be okay.
So now looking at your question. “Hi, thanks for calling the Hacking Law Practice.” Now, let's go over what this-- is this for an inbound call or an outbound tamp on a digital campaign or it’s the same?
Jim: I was thinking it was the same but this is basically the information that we want to know.
Gary: Okay. “Thanks for calling the Hacking Law Practice. This is Gary. How can I help you?” So right there, “How can I help you?” Do we know the likely reason why they're calling?
Jim: Yeah, like what immigration matter can we help you with? Or--you know- can I ask a question about this?
Jim: So, here's something I've been thinking about. Clients don't call up here and say, “I want to fill out an N-400.” Clients call up and say, “I want to become a US citizen”, right. So, how do you the questions in a way that are not overly lawyerly and that's more in their language as opposed to ours. I assume you think that's an important thing to pull off.
Gary: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. I think sometimes they want to hear that you're a lawyer and there's nothing wrong with it. I think the most important thing is for you to figure out why they're calling without prolonging the call unnecessarily.
So, when I say, “How can I help you?” You are opening up the opportunity for the claimant to give you a five-minute soliloquy about why they're calling. And then, unfortunately, what we might have to do is interrupt them which might come across, maybe, rudely or, if we don't interrupt them, we're wasting a lot of time on a potential call that doesn't really help and, on a call, we may not be able to help out on.
So, I would say-- and, again, I'm not very familiar with the immigration practice. So, you're going to have to help me with the substance here. But I would say, “This is Gary. Are you calling about an immigration claim or something?” Like, let’s get a yes-no out of it. Let's direct - this is a direct examination, as we all know, you know, as lawyers, right. So, we should know the answers to all the questions here. So, let's ask yes-no questions in the beginning. You know, you’re calling about-- and where you say, “Are you calling about an immigration case?” Great. Let's go to the next step, right? The next step is - okay, what-- I'll tell you, Jim, someone says, “I'm calling about an immigration case.” What's the next question you ask him?
Jim: It's down a little bit. It's about, “Are you calling about an immigration benefit for yourself or for someone else?” That's sort of one thing.
Okay, so here's what I'm going to tell you to do, “Are you calling about an immigration case?” They say no. Is there a possibility you can help them or no?
Gary: Okay. If they say no, you still want to get a basic summary as for the reason for their call because it might be a referral, right? It might be a case - you can refer the case out to another law firm [inaudible 00:11:39]. So, basically, you get a basic summary. And, at least, at this point, assuming you don't have a system in place, the warm transfer of that call to an auto accident law firm in another state or to a Worker's Comp law firm in your state, it doesn't matter. Let's get that basic summary. And that's another. “We might be able to find-- you know, unfortunately, it's not something we work on internally. But we work with many law firms throughout the country on all sorts of case types. We're going to see whether we can find a law firm to help you out. Does that work for you ma'am or Mrs. Jones?” And they're going to say yes, likely. And then, you're going to ask for their contact information and let them know that either you or that law firm, with their permission, will reach back out to them.
Jim: Yep. That makes sense.
Gary: Now, if they say, yes, this is the best part of the call right off the bat. Right off the bat. “Are you calling about an immigration case?” “Yes, I am.” “Mr. Jones, you did the right thing by calling. We handle immigration cases every single day.” Right? What I just did there, as silly as it sounds, is I just provided some reassurance to somebody that is going through a potentially stressful time, looking for assistance from someone with experience and they just got it within the first 20 seconds of the phone call.
Now, what that does, when you give them that reassurance, is it provides them comfort and it allows them to exhale - to share their story with you, so that you can determine whether-- not only that they did the right thing by calling. So, you can determine whether you can help them or not.
So now they've become more comfortable speaking to you. “Mr. Jones, you did the right thing by calling. We handle immigration cases every single day. May I have some of your contact information before we get into the specific immigration issue you may have?” We get the name. I wouldn't worry about the city and the state yet, right? Let's assume-- are you a national practice? Remind me, Jim.
Jim: Yeah, [inaudible 00:13:58] practice. We are.
Gary: You're a national practice. Okay, fine. Name. You want to get the state and city, that's fine. It's not going to take too much time. You want to confirm their phone number and email. You did the right amount of contact information. No need to get the mailing address at this point. Make sure you repeat everything. I cannot hear so much of what I say. We all know. But, yeah, we don't implement in our everyday dealings because we think it's obvious.
I cannot tell you how many times we take a number down wrong, or a name down wrong, or we spell the name wrong. They get correspondence. They go with somebody else because we spelled it wrong or we never called them back. We never able to get them back on the phone because we had the wrong phone number, okay? So, it's the easy stuff that can really hurt us.
Now, you're going to-- okay, you're calling about immigration [inaudible 00:14:47] for yourself or someone else? Great. If another, don't worry about the name, [inaudible 00:14:52], email, city and state for that other person yet because we, now, have to get to the point where we need to figure out, “Are we going to want this case or not? Are we going to want to represent this claimant or not?” Remember, not, “Are we going to be able to earn a fee?” Not, “Are we going to be able to get their money?” but “Are we interested in representing them to determine whether we can help them get some money?”
We’ve got to get there as fast as possible. We’ve got to figure out what those qualifying questions are. And then, after we figure that out, we've got to figure out how many more information-gathering questions we have to ask before it becomes too investigative. With me?
Gary: Now, let's assume they say they're calling on behalf of themselves. The next question we have here is, “Are you seeking benefits, currently, in the United States or overseas?” And that's a qualifier, correct?
Jim: That is a qualifier.
Gary: What percent of people would say overseas?
Jim: Probably 30%.
Gary: Okay, and if they're seeking it overseas, you're going to disqualify that case?
Jim: No. We can help either one. Yeah, we can help you the one, so maybe it's not a qualifying, I guess--
Gary: It’s not a qualifier. You just need to know. You just want to know.
Jim: That's like more different funnel. Different-- yeah.
Gary: Understood. So, you can help either one. So, then, let's move that question down a little bit just because it's not a qualifier. Let's get our qualifiers out so we know not to waste our time on callers that we can help with. With me?
Gary: Okay. So, let's go to the-- I can only see what you're typing. I can't see below that line.
Jim: What is the person's current immigration status?
Gary: Okay, so you set the drop down. What are the dropdown options there?
Jim: Well, it would be US citizen, lawful permanent resident. It's sort of the pipeline of where people are in the immigration process - anywhere from entered without inspection or visa overstay, to student, to on a work visa. Like, everybody we help once to get from one immigration status to another.
Gary: Understood. So, again help all of them?
Jim: This isn't cutting people out because we can help most of these people that would be in that drop down so it's not a qualifier, the way that you are defining qualifier.
Gary: Got it.
Okay, good. So, we're going to hold that question for a moment as well.
Tell me where the next question you have where the yes or no determines whether it's a disqualifier or you're going to keep moving forward. Like, let's talk about the disqualifiers. What here would disqualify? What answers?
Jim: Well, I'm, I'm looking at the list.
Gary: I mean, they have an attorney, right? Isn't that the next question? They already have an attorney. Is that likely a disqualifier?
Jim: Yeah, that's a likely disqualifier. We do take over cases from people sometimes but usually those are not the best kind of cases.
Gary: Okay. So, what we need to do here is we put that question up on top. Right after we tell them thank you for-- you know, you did the right thing by calling. We want to ask them, “Are you currently represented by an attorney for your immigration issue?” Now, if they say yes, I assume we have a follow-up question to determine whether we want to move forward when someone is currently represented or not. For instance, what's the reason you're looking for a new lawyer?” And based on what they say, right there, that might dictate whether we say, you know, “Sorry, we can't help” or “You know what, we could probably help you out.”
Jim: Got it. That makes sense because like if they say, “Oh, my attorney’s an asshole and I hate him. I call him every day. I call him three times a day and he never calls me back.” That's going to be like a disqualifier.
Gary: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. Okay.
Jim: Yeah. Okay.
Gary: So, now, we asked about whether they have a lawyer. Do you have any other disqualifiers here or do you basically want the overwhelming majority of people who contact you?
Jim: Well, here's one, Gary, would you say you're looking--- Dean Jackson told me this question is too helpful for me and not helpful enough for them. “Would you say you're looking to hire an attorney or just seeking information?” That's going to be a qualifier because remember our disqualifier. For us, the way that we have things set up right now is the leads team is pushing people to a consult, but you and I've been talking about having sort of a pre-qualifying discovery, 15-minute, with a non-lawyer kind of a questionnaire before they get to the lawyer but that's a question that's important for us. I don't know how important it is for the client.
Gary: Okay. So, let me ask you that question. Oh, let me answer that question. They say I've just-- if they seem to want some sort of free advice and they're not looking to hire a lawyer, would you-- what do you do?
Jim: Right now they would be put into our funnel and we try to later convince them that they need a consult. But those consults aren't generally so helpful because I don't want to spend a half hour of a lawyer’s time with someone just explaining to them all their options, unless they're going to hire us or unless it's likely they're going to hire us, you know, so that's a real tricky one for me, Gary.
Gary: All right. So, I'm going to give you my gut response here. Without knowing the percent and--
No. Let me change that. Let me preface that differently. Assuming that the minority of people that are contacting you are just looking for some free advice or some free time, it's a waste of your time. I do think. I would assume that the minority of those people that you're doing consults with, that have told you upfront that they're just looking for some information, I'm assuming the minority of those people ever hire you as a lawyer, anyway.
I think you have to make sure your bread and butter stays your bread and butter and we don't look to be everything to everybody. For [inaudible 00:21:13], you have a high-volume practice, Jim. A lot higher and more significant than I had known which is wonderful. And I don't want you-- but you're leaving a lot of money on the table because you're trying to be super lawyer and trying to help everyone that calls you.
You're running a business though which means you have to maximize your revenue. You have to maximize your profit. You have to find the holes and plug them. You have to find the inefficiencies and make them efficient. It seems to me like it would be very inefficient for you to spend any time with somebody who outright tells you, “I'm not looking for a lawyer. I just want to know if you think what just happened is fair for me or whether I should do something differently, or they're treating me unfairly,” and thinks that, quite frankly, you probably came and give an opinion to until they become a lawyer anyway. So, you're walking that thin line anyway, trying to be a really nice guy but also potentially giving legal advice. And I'm not saying you're doing anything wrong. I'm saying you're trying to be a super lawyer.
Gary: So, my gut is saying, ”That's a great question to ask because it's a qualifier. It’s a disqualifier.” So, at the outset, we should say, “Do you currently have a lawyer?” “No, we do not.” “Are you looking to hire an attorney for your immigration issue?” And if they say maybe or yes, you move forward. If they outright say no, you can ask why they're calling and then maybe have someone call them back later, Jim, and see if you can help them out but that's a waste of everyone's time at the outset to try to convince someone who didn't even call to have a lawyer in the first place but rather was just hoping to get confirmation that whatever’s going on is the right thing for them.
Jim: So, you're right. You're absolutely right that we're trying to be too helpful to everybody. That I am trying to be a super lawyer for everybody. And there's this sort of thing with me, Gary, where I've been reluctant to not help people whenever I can, right. So, that's a good trait but it can go too far. And so, you know, I have 500 YouTube videos and I have a thousand pages of content. So, you know, we can point people-- I think that would be where we point them, right? Is that what you're thinking? You're nodding like a [inaudible 00:23:34].
Gary: 100%. And I hate coming across as such a [inaudible 00:23:41] if that's even a word.
Jim: You say hard [inaudible 00:23:43].
Gary: [inaudible 00:23:45]. Perfect. You know, but I also know how much money and how much time you put into your business. And I also know that when you spend time on something that's not going to make you money for your business, that you might be losing an opportunity that will make you money for your business. And I don't think that's the right way to run a business. I think it's an excellent question.
I just think you're handling it in an inefficient manner. I think you can easily say to them, “Hey, Mr. Jones, have you seen-- have you been to our website? We have over a hundred videos that provide some guidance to people in your position. I'd love for you to go check it out. Here's our website. If you could briefly summarize for me what your issue is, I'll also share that with our legal team and have someone call you back, if they think they can help you out.” Now, you did two things. You've guided them and you still took their information, but we're not putting them on some sort of calendar. We're not spending more committed time to them at that moment.
And then, by the way, we feel good, right? The intake specialist or whoever's picking up your calls should get that brief summary, three to five sentences, why they're calling. They're not looking for a lawyer. [inaudible 00:25:01] you, you might see something and they go, “Oh my god, like, no, no, this is-- they don't realize they need a lawyer for this.” Then, we call them back right now. And that's got to be in place. But if someone's telling me, “I'm not looking for a lawyer”, I start to get all anxious that they're wasting my time because someone else might be looking for a lawyer.
Jim: That's fair. That's cool.
Gary: Yeah. So, I think we could use that as a disqualifier for you big time.
Jim: Okay, so we’ll move that one up.
Gary: Okay. So, we put that question. We move that question up. We, potentially, disqualify the ones that outright tell us they're not looking for a lawyer. Any other potential disqualifiers?
Jim: Um-- no. Okay--
Jim: Let me just make sure, Gary. Let me just make sure real quick.
Gary: Go for it. Let's go through them together.
Jim: Okay. So, we move that down--
Gary: We have immigration status.
Jim: Yeah, so-- yeah, the immigration status, that’s just--
Gary: [inaudible 00:25:56]. Tell me.
Jim: Yeah. That's just information that we need. That’s not a qualifier. Does the person have a current deadline? That's not a qualifier or disqualifier. When would you like to get started on the process? So, that's another one that, I think, is sort of--
Gary: Why do you ask that question?
Jim: Well, um, because there's some-- people think about applying for immigration benefits for a long time and that was just sort of to rate, on a level of urgency, how likely they are to hire us soon. But, other than that, there's nothing from being a lawyer standpoint. That's more of the business side of it, probably.
Gary: So, my thoughts are-- and tell me if you think I'm wrong, because I only speak from experience and my own conclusions. My thoughts are, if they're calling, they've already made an affirmative step to potentially move forward. That's the first thought I have.
Gary: The second thought I have is you might actually be opening up an opportunity, when asking that question, where you're conveying the opposite of urgency but rather conveying a sense that the caller has some time to wait on this or sit on this. The whole point that I try to make, when I speak with any law firm or any intake specialist for that matter, is if we only have one bite at this apple, which we have to assume we do, we have to assume we only get one bite at this thing, then part of our job is to convey urgency. Part of our job is to get them over that bridge, from claimant to client, as fast as possible. I would suggest let's remove that question. Let's assume that they're calling because they're interested to move fast and let’s double down on that assumption by-- and I was going to get to this in the moment, by actually offering them the opportunity to sign with you electronically, while on this call, if they qualify. So, I want it to be consistent. I don't want to throw that question in there because then it might give a caller some pause and also is not consistent with urgency.
Jim: That makes a whole lot of sense, so, yeah. All right. So, that's all my questions. We've gone through all of them. Everything else is just details about the case itself.
Gary: I mean, this is wonderful. This is short. A lot shorter than I thought it was going to be. You have a loose criteria which I never-- that was up to you. I never told you to make it looser or tighter. You happen to be in an industry, it seems, where you can help a lot of people because the only real disqualifiers are “Do you have a lawyer?” If you don't want a lawyer, you know. I mean, you basically can help everybody who has an immigration issue that wants to move forward. So, after you get this information and I think your information gathering questions, but you only have like five or six of them, that's fine. You can even add a few more if you wanted because they are mostly never yes, or no, or one-word answers. So, the next challenge for you is-- yeah, go for it, Jim.
Jim: Before you get to that, are there any other qualifying questions that you customarily see that you think I'm missing?
Gary: The qualifying questions usually pertain to the following. Currently represented. There might be usually an age group issue. Do you have any age issues? I mean, I'm assuming you're not going to represent minors when minors are calling you to represent them when they're representative or rep [inaudible 00:29:53].
Jim: The age isn't a problem for us.
Gary: Age isn't a problem. Location’s not a problem for you. You do national, even international teams or, at least, international issues. Those are usually your basic qualifiers. Then, it becomes qualifiers associated with a specific case type. And you're saying that, with immigration, there's no specific limitation right now that would disqualify a claimant. There's no status. Is there a status that you hear from a claimant you go, “Yeah. No, we can't handle that. You already became a citizen or you--”
Jim: So, in immigration, Gary, you know, right now in America, there are probably about between 12 and 15 million people walking around without immigration status and, like, one-third of them are people who had a visa and never went back home. And the other two-thirds are people who came without inspection. So, those people still might have options. Their options are just a whole lot more limited than other people.
So, like, I wouldn't tell someone who entered without inspection that there's no reason to meet with us if you think you have a legal issue because usually they know like that means they're in deportation, or that means they're trying to get some immigration benefit based on marriage to a US citizen. They might not know all the in’s and out’s of it, but they know enough to know that they need to call a lawyer. So, I don't think, based on status - immigration status, that we would necessarily-- just I wouldn't want intake people to disqualify those people.
Gary: No. I hear you. And remind me, Jim, if we don't do the-- I think it was $100-- What was it? Was it $100 that we were charging for--?
Jim: That was. Yeah, yep.
Gary: Right. If we don't do that, how are they paying you? Is it contingency fee or is it hour?
Jim: No, it's flat. It's flat fee. So like, if someone's in deportation, they're going to pay me $3500 for the initial pre-trial stuff. And then, like $6500 or $7500 for a trial.
Gary: Okay. So, let's talk about that because that's a qualifier and disqualifier for you. Do you retain-- do they give you their payment information? At what point?
Jim: When they sign the contract, they usually pay half up front. And then, we put them on a payment plan for the rest.
Gary: Okay. So, I would think your next questions here is explaining your fee. It’s explaining your feet of the caller, right? I mean, this is--
Jim: Okay [inaudible 00:32:22].
Gary: [inaudible 00:32:22] Mrs. Jones, based upon [inaudible 00:32:23].
Jim: Let's talk about that because my wife and I have a difference of opinion. And I think a lot of lawyers come down in varying shades of this. Do you think that we should put our fees on our website? Do you think we should let our intake team know what the fees are? Because some of the lawyers in the office don't want to be bound by what our fees are because the case might be more complicated and sometimes we make the fee higher based on the circumstances of the case, or the difficulty of the client, or those kinds of things. So where do you come down on that?
Gary: Yeah. So yeah, the first one, let's go through a bunch. There's a few questions I got to ask for to tell you what I come down with. So, do you have a lawyer to speak with? If someone called right now, Mrs. Jones. And it’s Mrs. Jones. I'm sorry to pick up Mrs. Jones today, the Jones family.
Yeah, if this person qualified, based upon the questions we just went through, what would be your next step? If we're not going to do any in-person because we’ve got to move away from that in-person meeting just before retention. I want to get that case retained, and I somehow convinced you, “Hey, Jim, we’ve got to get these callers retained.” What would be your next step?
Jim: What I'm envisioning-- so, historically, as you know, it's been intake team try to push towards a consult - a half-hour consult with a lawyer for which we charge $100. You want us to get away from that I want to get away from that. So, what I was envisioning is like a 15-minute discovery call with someone on our intake form, where we really go over these questions with them and do sort of more of the basic fact gathering
Gary: And who would that call be within your team?
Jim: There's Katie, Daniel, and Marwan. So, those three people will be doing this.
Gary: Are they lawyers? Are they case managers?
Jim: Yeah, they're just intake right now. They're not working on cases. And they're not lawyers.
Gary: But who's taking-- who just gathered this information? One of those guys?
Gary: Okay, so one of those guys get this call--
Gary: --you're hoping that they then have a 15-minute discovery call?
Gary: On another call? Or, why not continued?
Jim: It'd be this. it'd be this, if we're the one doing the actual intake call, but Smith answers our phones. And then, we get the basic background data. And then, we go after that.
Jim: And this might be all convoluted. This is just me trying to move away from maybe our half-hour consult approach.
Gary: I get it. No, no. No, no, this is-- it’s not convoluted. And for those of you who are listening to this, I might be repeating myself, please note that we haven't spoken in a couple of weeks, so I needed to refresh my recollection on some of the stuff that Jim’s sharing with me. My goal is to have Smith AI when they-- it’s Smith AI, right?
Gary: When they go through this basic qualifier, if someone qualifies, it seems like the majority of callers you're going to get are going to qualify. My goal is to have them-- I don't know if you have the resources to handle a warm transfer every time somebody qualifies. I don't know if you have enough people.
Jim: We probably don't.
Gary: So, the next question might be deciphering which one of those callers justify a warm transfer. And I would argue, without knowing much more, that if you asked a call-- what percent of your callers don't realize-- walk away, do you think, because there's any real fee up front, because that's a lot of money, and then, “Oh my god, I don't have that money”?
Jim: So, based on my experience now, meeting with people in a consult who’ve paid that hundred dollars, and then, when they hear the fee, I would say, at least, 30% to 40% walk away because of the fee. So, if you want me-- if you're really drilling down so that I have the most efficient use of our time and that we're maximizing every moment, then maybe not-- I mean, I think publishing our fees on our website might be a little bit too far for certainly my wife, but I think allowing people to share that information in the call, with a range, to give us a little bit of flexible to say, “Look, you know, that kind of a case usually costs somewhere between $3500 and $5500.” Is that what you're envisioning?
Gary: That's exactly what I'm envisioning. I agree we should not put it on the website but I also think that what we have to do is we probably have to tell-- you probably have to ask them, without talking about a number, I think we should have a disqualifier and say, “Listen, immigration cases can sometimes-- but immigration cases are-- the way the lawyer gets paid is a flat fee and that number can range between $3000 or $4000 and significantly more, depending upon all sorts of factors. “I think, before we move any further, I want to make sure that you're aware of this and that you'd like to still have a conversation with someone from our legal team about what the cost would be to get started.” Now, I don't know about those particular words--
Yeah. Tell me, Jim.
Jim: So, that's brilliant. And so, let me just say a real quick story. So, back when I was a baby lawyer and I needed a new website, one of the companies I called was Foster Web Marketing and I had my little sales call, after I’d gotten their funnel and the whole thing. And I'll never forget that when they were talking about building me out the price of a website, the sales guy, Ken, said to me, “So, you know, typically our websites cost around $10,000.” And then he paused, and he said, “I wanted to make sure you're aware of that information. And I want to know, do you think it's worthwhile for us to continue the conversation?” And I said, “Well, yes, I would.” So, I went ahead, right.
But so, that-- I mean, I see what you're doing, Gary. What you're doing is you're-- and this might be a-- this might be a thing with me, it might be a thing that other people can relate to. It's almost like we want to hide this part of the discussion until we hook them, right? First, you hook ‘em, then you tell them this. But you're sort of turning that on its head and saying, “Why waste your time with the people who are never going to hire you? So, why not share that information early on?”
I mean, just so you know, my mind is now blown. I understand everything-- I understand everything that you're saying and I'm glad we're doing this.
Gary: Awesome. And so am I.
You got me thinking differently than how I normally think. I'm thinking out loud, so I apologize sometimes the words don't come out as clearly as they should. But I do know, I would think, in your position, and in claimants who are calling you, I would bet a lot of people, because they don't see the pricing on your website, because they don't see the pricing on TV, but they know they need an immigration lawyer, they're going into this blindly.
And I would bet that a lot of people are hoping that you're going to do some sort of civil service and voluntary work for them to help them. And that's unfortunately not-- you know, that's not something you can do for your business. And if you could take out those people who have already convinced themselves, I don't have-- I'm not paying anyone money. I'd rather just keep gambling on whatever I'm doing. Then, stop wasting your time with them because you're not going to-- you can't go from zero to $3500 very easily. You can't go from someone who says, “I don't want to pay a dollar and have them pay $3500. That's not zero to $100. That's a big jump. And so, by the way, is $100 to $3500 as well.
So, I think let's figure out who has no interest in paying you money and let's move them to the side. You have a high volume to work with you.
Jim: Well, that's what we thought the hundred dollars was going to do. That the hundred dollars was going to mark those who might be willing to pay that higher fee later on.
Gary: I get it. And I think that that’s a big jump too, right. But $100 to $3400 or $3500 is not an easy give. It’s not $100 to $300. And I think you’re probably-- like you said, 30-- so, you think 30% to 40% of the people who pay $100 are too intimidated by the total price and they walk away?
Gary: Okay. And that wasn’t working for you. You already told me that the $100, for those people, that’s not what’s making you a lot of money--
Jim: That’s right.
Gary: I think, let’s do a better job at getting rid of people who are likely not going to want to pay us to be their lawyers earlier.
Jim: What about people on [inaudible 00:41:41]?
Gary: Let’s keep there.
Jim: What about people on the fence? Like people who might be willing to pay $3500 but might not? Is that going to push them away or do you think that’s going to-- I mean, if it’s not costing them to keep going, I would imagine they’d keep going if there’s sort of [inaudible 00:41:54].
Gary: Right because you're selling-- right. So, here’s the thing. I don't want your intake team-- I would rather-- what are your thoughts on this?
Wow. Okay. Something in my mind. I don't know if it’s going to work but-- what are your thoughts on retaining a client for a free basic investigation, giving them and managing expectations that there’s going to be a cost. If you determine it, you can help. The cost could be between X and Y dollars. “But we want to get you signed so, at least, we could put some thought into what that number is.” And then, once we get you signed, we then tell them, “Listen, cost is going to be $5000. This is why. Let me explain to you.” So you're actually-- you're saving the sales pitch on why you cost money and why they should move forward until after they’re retained and they go, “You know, I just can't do it.” If they want to negotiate with you, that’s up to you. But they say, “I just can't do it. I was really hoping you’d tell me that it’s 1500 bucks.” And you say, “You know, unfortunately, I can't do it. It’s too much work as we get into this.” And now, you end the relationship but at least you hooked them in to become a client and not look elsewhere which is what you do when you create that attorney-client relationship. And then, you talk about the actual cost after they sign that retainer. What are your thoughts?
Jim: That sounds like you're reversing yourself.
Jim: Well, because I thought we were going to let the leads team sort of share what the fees are going to be and--
Gary: We could and we're going to. My point is why-- I want to get these clients signed, if they qualify. I want you to make sure you're not leaving money on the table. So, once they tell us, “Listen, I want you to bring up the numbers. [inaudible 00:43:46]. The cost can be anywhere from $3500 to even sometimes as much as $5000, $6000, $7000 to $10,000. That’s what it could be. We don't know yet, specifically. I have to do a little bit more investigation. In order for me to begin that basic investigation, which I will do for you for free - at the outset, I'm going to have you sign a basic retainer with me that just allows me to review, basically, your case, basically. And then, come back to you and tell you what the cost will be.”
I didn’t do anything-- I'm not saying anything inconsistent here. They might say to you, “Nah. No, no, no. I thought this was going to be for free? I do not want-- I'm not going to be able to pay any money. I'm not interested in paying any money.” Well, good, we don't want them signed. We don't want to sign them.
But the other ones that say, “Okay. Yeah, I'll let you look into this.” And then, you now bought yourself actually some time because I do believe the majority of people, although unfortunately, you see, sometimes, it goes the other way. But the majority of people, once they sign a retainer with you, they’re not looking [inaudible 00:44:45].
Gary: So I want to put you in a position where you have these people who you now need to get back to and give them a specific price rather than-- here’s what I'm concerned about, Jim. Here’s why I'm saying what I'm saying. I'm concerned that right now, we go through this basic intake-- and by the way, I always get stuck looking at your face and not at the camera so I apologize, but I'm concerned that we go through this basic intake. We think we want the case. We tell the client that we want the case. And now, we’ve pushed them off to another day and another time with another person.
Gary: I don't want to do that.
Gary: We lose contact with those folks.
Jim: For sure.
Gary: So, I don't know. Maybe, you could tell me, “Gary, you're crazy. No one does it that way. I wouldn’t do it.” Maybe I'm wrong but I would think, You know what? Let’s tell these folks what the cost could be. Let’s also give them something for free, assuming they qualify, which then that free is time - “Become our client right now. No cost. Just sign with us. No cost to have us begin an investigation. But once we determine that we need to move forward with your case, we can move forward with your case. Here’s what the cost will be and here’s where you have to sign to have us to do this.”
Jim: I’d probably feel more comfortable doing it without the signed agreement. I know that’s counter to what you're saying but I'm just worried about taking on responsibility for all these people, especially some with deadlines or things without--
Gary: So how do you decide--
Fine. Let’s forget that. How do you decide what the cost is going to be? Who makes that decision and when?
Jim: The lawyer during the consult but--
Gary: I don't get that decision--
Jim: But I'm willing to do what you're saying and figure out a way to not have that be when it happens. In other words, I think that we're probably-- let’s say that 9 out 10 cases are $3500 and one is $5000, right? That we're probably losing many more cases by sticking to that late date of filling them in on the fee and maybe we can even build in a little bit of cushion for ourselves, you know. And the final determination by the attorney might lead to extra cost if your case is, you know, untraditional or we figure out a way to better train the team on spotting the problems that would cause it to jump up in the fee.
Gary: Okay. So, here’s what I'm thinking. I'm thinking-- I didn’t realize-- good. That’s a good answer. I didn’t realize there’s most likely $3500 and I thought maybe in my mind I made up all these different scenarios that it could be anything 35, 5, 6, 7. So, if that’s the case, then yes, we should bring up the number on the call and if they’re at least maybe-- if they give us a maybe, at the very least, we should warm transfer that to a lawyer.
Gary: The lawyer should be the closer for you. And then, we need to get it signed. So, ideally, it would go - your intake or AI. And AI too will them. “Hey, there’s going to be an upfront cost of approximately $3500 and that what you get with that, from that cost, is the following.” And you and I can work on some of the terminology and the wording there - is the following. So, before we move forward, we need to make sure that you're comfortable with that. If they are, we move that to the lawyer. The lawyer closes, reassures them why that cost is what it is. And then, tries to get that-- [inaudible 00:48:34] back to the intake specialist to get it signed so that the lawyer is just staying on the phone for an electronic retainer.
Gary: Now, how about the payment though? How do they give you-- is it 99% credit card?
Gary: Okay. And who gets that information? The lawyer?
Jim: No. No. The intake, or Smith, or whoever. I mean, right now, Smith is your digital [inaudible 00:48:57].
Gary: Okay. Okay. Smith is getting that, too, the credit card information?
Jim: Yeah. But that was for consults, not for cases.
Gary: I mean, yeah, it sounds to me-- it sounds to me like-- like we just have to-- our intake needs to include this information. We’ve got to speed up the process from lead to client. That’s what we have to do right now. And there’s nothing you’ve told me that makes me-- believe you can't do that. You know, you need to have a lawyer available. But how many lawyers do you have on your team, Jim?
Gary: Okay. And they all get involved in this aspect of things, to talk to claimants for consults or things of that nature?
Jim: Three of us do. One of ‘em’s brand new.
Gary: Okay. Let’s say, three. And how many--
Jim: [inaudible 00:49:49] so you know--
Gary: --how many cases?
Jim: I would love to be that role. Like, that would make me happy.
Gary: I'm sure. So, it’s a fun role?
Gary: How many cases are you trying to-- how many cases are you now signing per week?
Jim: Uh, per week, we're doing-- so, we're doing, uh, 50 cases a month, so.
Gary: Okay. So, you're doing about 12 a week and mostly weekdays?
Jim: Yeah. I do a fair number on Saturdays but mostly on the weekdays.
Gary: Okay. It’s going six then. Six days. That’s two a day. If you do six days a week, that’s two a day. That is-- you have enough staff to get on the phone-- and by the way, I'm hoping the number increases.
Gary: Like you have enough staff to get to the phone for a warm transfer so that we can close these cases faster.
Jim: I love it. I love it. For sure.
I mean, right now, Gary, the lawyers are spending-- I mean, I'm doing probably 15 consults a week at a half hour a pop. And the other attorneys, between them, are doing 10. So, we're doing 25 of these consults or 20. I mean, I don't remember the numbers that we looked at last week but-- yeah, we were doing about a hundred consults-- yeah, because we were doing around a hundred consults a month and we're signing up about 50 cases. So, that’s 50 hours of attorney time versus what you're proposing of, you know, 15 minutes for each serious contender. We're going to make out like bandits, right, with time.
Gary: With time. I mean, so, just to go through this again, we have had to hop off here for a moment or-- [inaudible 00:51:39] today but we have intake or AI doing a basic qualification criteria and we're disqualifying people who are not serious, or have a lawyer, or not looking for a lawyer. Right? Those are our three disqualifiers, for the most part. I have a lawyer and I call him eight times a day. I don't know why he’s not calling me back. I don't want a lawyer. Or, there’s no way I'm paying any money because I didn’t realize I have to pay money. Those are our disqualifiers.
Gary: Assuming they qualify, we gather their basic qualification information. We then tell them, “Hey, based upon everything you just told us, you qualify for representation. We think we can help you out. The next step is for us to begin an investigation on your behalf. In order for us to begin an investigation in your behalf, we need you to hire us as your lawyers. Now, let me tell you what that means. That’s going to cost you upfront approximately $3500, give or take, and we could talk to lawyers about that. Is that something you're comfortable with? Because, if you are, we can get started immediately for you. If you're not, then we have to figure out whether it’s worth your time and our time to continue the relationship.”
We could say it nicer than that. But that’s our sort of qualifier so that, at the end, where they go, “No. That’s crazy. I want to-- I'll pay you 500 bucks, no more.” Okay. Well, now, we know we're not wasting any time. If they say, “Eh, it’s a lot of money.” Boom, that’s fine. Give them to the lawyer. They say, “Yes. I'm okay with it. I just need my help.” Boom. Fine. Give them to the lawyer.
The lawyer then has the responsibility of comforting them why that cost makes sense, also tells them, “Listen, based on everything you just told me, the lawyer, we could start working with you right now. I'm going to send you back to my intake specialist. She’s going to get your credit card information. She’s going to have you sign a retainer. And by the time we hang up this call today, we're going to start working on your behalf.
That’s the goal. Right? That is the goal. After we're done with this whole consulting, I want to see you guys start signing cases on the first call. That’s doable stuff right there.
Jim: I love it. I love it. I'm going to want to roleplay it out with you and, you know, we can work on it again, next week, the exact language. But the overall approach, I think, makes a whole lot of sense for a whole lot of reasons. I think it’ll take less lawyer time. It’ll make us faster. It’ll make us smarter. And it’ll cut out a big chunk of people that we're spending too much time with right now.
Gary: It is. Then, we're going to, in fact, listen, not everything is gold the first time you do it. So, you’re going to have to keep an eyeing it and track it because we're going to need to figure out why. Say, the numbers come down in the first two days. Why? Are we scaring them? Are we using the numbers too fast? Are we signing way too many cases that we don't want? We're going to have to figure-- we're going to have just track it so we can manipulate it to what we want it to do for us.
Jim: Awesome. Gary, this was awesome. Thanks, man, so much.
Gary: Thank you. [inaudible 00:54:47] have yourself a fantastic day my man, all right?
Jim: All right. I’ll try and work on a little script based on everything that you told me. Obviously, I recorded it so I can get some of the language out. And then, I'll send you a draft before next Thursday.
Gary: You got it, Jim. Thank you, my man. I'll talk to you next week.
Jim: All right. See you, buddy.
Gary: Bye, guys.
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