Building a Law Practice from Home: Virtual Offices, Legal Tech, and Enrolling Clients Over the Phone

September 9th, 2016

I can’t wait for everyone to hear this episode. Today we interviewed one of our provider attorney, Ms. Zoe Garvin, who is basically fresh out of law school. I mean she’s had her solo practice started about three months ago. She had some experience working as a paralegal and in the family law arena prior to her graduating, but she’s a new solo. That’s not easy to do in today’s marketplace. There’s a lot of competition. It’s a scary proposition to go out on your own shortly after you’ve graduated.

She has, combined with the efforts of our bringing her lead, she talks about what it’s like to be a new solo and some of the resources she’s had to tap into to get comfortable, the mentors she had to access, webinars, podcasts. You know there’s a lot of resources out there now that make this a lot more feasible to do. Then on the side of her fielding the leads. I mean she’s been working with us for, at this stage, only about three weeks, but it’s been incredible to see the results that she’s been able to produce literally in this short period of time right off the bat.

Also, how she’s utilizing virtual offices to be able to have a local office in regions that are quite far from her. Her office is in San Francisco. She’s now serving Alameda County and Contra Costa, which can be up to two hours away. She’s been able to use virtual offices to be able to meet with clients there without having to have a huge expense and has also developed a system to be enrolling a large percentage of her clients right over the phone from the initial lead call. We get specifically into the process that she’s developed in order to do that. This is a really helpful episode. There’s a lot of great ideas in here. A lot of great strategies you can take away from this. Can’t wait to hear your feedback. With that, let’s get right into it. This interview with Zoe Garvin, one of our provider attorneys out of San Francisco, California.

Below is the transcription of this episode from our Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. You can listen to the entire episode by clicking here.

Dave Aarons: Hey, Zoe. Welcome to the show.

Zoe Garvin: Hi, thank you.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, really happy to have you on. Welcome to the team. I know you’re a new addition to the Unbundled Attorney family, but couldn’t be happier to have you on board. From what I’ve been hearing, you’ve had a stellar start so far.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s been great. It’s been much busier than I expected. It’s been going great.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. We’re really happy to hear how well things have been going. Maybe a good place to start is just to share a little bit about your background. I know you’re somewhat new to the practice of law, so maybe you can talk a little bit about where you went to school and how you’ve got your start so far.

Zoe Garvin: I am very new to the practice of law. I went to Golden Gate Law School in San Francisco. I graduated about a year ago. I started practicing in June, so about two months, almost three months ago. I’m very new. I started my practicing as a solo family law attorney right away. I had a lot of family law experience before getting my license so I was very familiar with that practice area, but June is when I started practicing as an attorney. I’ve been practicing solo since then and was just getting started when I found out about Unbundled Attorney and started working with you guys. I started at the very beginning of my practice.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, can you talk about as someone that’s just coming out of law school and looking at the legal marketplace and the job market and the opportunities of going solo. What was it for you that led you to make a decision to go solo and what it is like coming out of law school in 2016 with the internet the way it is and the market the way it is. How did you come to the determination that you personally wanted to just go almost straight into being a solo practice six to eight months after you graduated?

Zoe Garvin: Sure. I guess the thing that made it the most appealing to me was that I realized that I could … I felt really comfortable with family law because I had done work as a paralegal, as a law clerk, before law school I had done work … worked with family law firms. That was a big thing was I felt like I could … I felt confident enough to try as a family law attorney because I was familiar with that practice area.

Then also, I realized that I could probably make more money practicing independently than I would if I was working in a firm as a new attorney getting a salary in the first year to three years out of law school. That made it appealing to me. Then I also have a consulting background, so I was familiar with working by myself and kind of running a small independent consulting business. I think all of those things together made me … drove me to do it right off the bat.

I also had been planning on working at a family law firm that I’d worked with in law school, and because of financial constraints, they had a hiring freeze around the time that I was going to start, going to come on full-time. That was the final thing that really made me decide that I should just start rather than waiting and keep looking for a regular full-time job.

Dave Aarons: Well, sounds like it was a blessing in disguise.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, definitely.

Dave Aarons: Maybe can you talk a little bit about this solo coming out of law school, does it … I’m sure you know some other students that graduated maybe the same year. Do you see more attorneys going solo or more getting jobs, and has it been difficult for a lot of solos to land employment? What’s the marketplace been looking like and what do you see your fellow students falling into, and the direction they’re having to go in today’s market?

Zoe Garvin: Sure. I guess I would say I don’t know a whole lot of people that graduated at the same time as me that went solo. There’s a few, and most of them planned on doing that in law school and had a practice area that they knew they wanted to go into. A lot of people that I went to school with are doing either something like a practice area that they didn’t really plan on or that they may not be totally interested in but it was where they could find a job. Then others have gone into other types of … They’re not actually practicing because they haven’t found a job yet, so they’re doing a related position but not as a practicing attorney. I think this is definitely a big issue for people coming out of law school is to be able to practice immediately because you find a job that lines up with when you are ready to start working is difficult.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and I would assume coming out of law school and starting a new solo practice must be pretty intimidating on some level.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, no and it’s still kind of is. I mean I felt a little bit more confident because I felt comfortable working by myself and that sort of thing, but I was still very intimidating and still is. It’s scary to know that everything is … whatever happens is all up to you to deal with. Whether it’s a business issue or a legal issue, like a legal question that you don’t know the answer to. It’s different than when you’re working with a firm and you have people that you can ask. I think too important for me to utilize mentors and other people in the profession so that I still have support even though I’m practicing solo.

Dave Aarons: Have there been some resources, mentors, podcasts, or anything specific that has helped you with that transition to make sure … I mean we’ll get into, obviously, the leads we’ve been sending you and so forth, how that’s helped you grow your business. Outside of this, have there been some resources? I know that Legal Talk Network has a new solo podcast. I don’t know if you’ve listened much to that, but have there been specific resources that you’ve found have been really helpful for you to make this transition on your own?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. I have a couple mentors from family law firm that I worked with in law school and where I was planning on working when I’m planning on going as a full-time attorney with a firm. That’s been very helpful, especially with just checking in with someone on a legal question that you’re not totally sure of or getting someone else’s advice on how to approach a certain issue. That’s been great, and I think really important if you’re going solo, especially right early in your career.

Then in terms of other resources, I have utilized … I’ve listened to a lot of webinars that are like from the state bar. Some of them are things that give you [skelly 00:09:44] credit, but they’re just … I didn’t do it because of that. I did it because it was covering a topic that I really wanted to know about like trust account management, and like technical things that you just don’t know automatically even if you studied some of it for the bar exam but getting into the nitty-gritty details of firm management. That webinar and podcast kind of thing has been great.

Then it San Francisco Bar Association has a solo attorney section that I joined. There are resources that I get through there. Those have been helpful.

Dave Aarons: Are there any specific podcasts or webinars, off the top of your head, that you found particularly helpful?

Zoe Garvin: The ones that I … I don’t know the exact name off the top of my head, but the trust account management webinars on the state bar website that just come up under the ABA Continuing Education section of their website. I looked into probably like three or four, like as many as I could find on that topic so that I fully understood how to set up my bank accounts and that kind of thing, and how to handle billing. Those are very helpful. All of them.

Dave Aarons: Right. Yeah, and there are also technologies like LawPay and so forth that kind of handle that aspect as well and make it easier. Have you been using a payment processor like that yet?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. I use LawPay and I found out about it because I started … I got a practice management software called Zola Suite and they were integrated with LawPay. That’s how I found out about it. I mean I was planning on just using a credit card processing company like through the bank that I was using, but then started getting concerned about how the fees would be handled with the trust account and that kind of thing. It worked out that I realized that I could use LawPay instead and avoid a ton of issues.

Dave Aarons: Absolutely. I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear that. We’ve gotten some great feedback from some other attorneys as well that that’s made that really easy because they handle that within their platform.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. Yeah.

Dave Aarons: Okay, so let’s dive into how things have been going. I think we’ve been working together for maybe just a little over two weeks. Maybe coming up on our third week here, so it’s been an early start. We wanted to get you on at this stage just to get a little bit different perspective on an attorney that’s … I don’t want to say fresh out of law school, but as a new practicing attorney, and also just getting started with lead generation, how that’s been for you. Can you share maybe just a little bit about how these first couple weeks have gone and maybe just from a contextual standpoint? Then we can dive into the aspects of this process that have been helpful and maybe what’s been working and what hasn’t been working.

Zoe Garvin: Sure. Yeah, the last two weeks have been great. I went from having … When I first started I had just started my practice like about a month before and so I had about two clients and was really in the early stages of setting everything up. Now, two weeks in, it’s increased dramatically. I have 10 clients and I’m getting leads every day. You know it’s like tripled and increased four times in a very short period of time. It’s been very busy and very exciting.

The great thing about it is that it’s helped me put a lot of things, systems and things into place within my practice that probably would’ve taken a while to build in because I wouldn’t have needed them immediately. It’s kind of forced me to think about stuff that is really helping me to manage my practice and to scale up sooner rather than later.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, exactly. Systems are really important, especially when you’re fielding internet generated leads and so you have to really think from a systemized standpoint how to reach people in real time and so forth. Can you talk about the onboarding process, or at least the things that we’ve shared with you that you’ve found to be especially helpful in the early stages of learning how to be effective at fielding leads and getting them started working with your firm?

Zoe Garvin: Sure. Yeah, so I think the thing … There are a couple things that stand out that were really helpful in the beginning. One was spending a lot of time on the phone before even getting leads just to go through the process of how it works, like the logistics of it, and then going over stuff like a call script and getting kind of a template for responding to emails and texts immediately. Having all those things made it much easier for me to actually respond to leads immediately from day one rather than having a learning curve before I could build up speed with doing it because I had templates and a script and everything. Not every call required following a script completely. It still made me feel like I could start immediately without really thinking about it, and just respond to people. You know? That was very helpful.

Then listening to the some of the podcasts was also helpful because just in terms of figuring out how much, how to structure the services like the unbundled services and the range in terms of fees and how to figure out what things should cost. That was helpful. Listening to the podcast was helpful for that.

Dave Aarons: Great. Yeah, it’s something we’ve worked really, really hard on is so that, especially attorneys like yourself that haven’t fielded internet generated leads before having template email responses, template text responses, know exactly the importance of calling and fielding leads in real time, understanding the strategy as far as the different ways in which you can structure the unbundled and full representation options. I’m really glad to hear that you found that to be really helpful so that you could feel comfortable from day one and lead one feeling like you had a really good strategy to be able to approach it.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, absolutely.

Dave Aarons: Maybe we can talk a little bit about what that strategy has looked like for you. Maybe we can start with how are you currently receiving the lead? Are you getting it via email notification? Are you getting the texts? What’s step on there?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, so I’m getting the texts, so I barely even look at the emails that I get because I get the text and I start responding and working on it just from that point. That’s been great because I can respond much quicker since I always … I don’t check my email constantly but texts you get right there, right instantly. That’s been great.

Dave Aarons: When a lead comes in, what’s the first thing that you’re doing in order to reach the client and get them initially on the phone?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, so if it is during the day. Depends on the time that the lead comes in. If it is between eight AM and eight PM, then I will call them immediately. If they don’t answer, then I’ll send a text and an email. If it’s before or after those times, then I’ll text them and email them immediately and say … just kind of modify the template that I’ve been using a little to say rather than I just called you. So rather than it is because they’ve missed the call, it starts with I received your request for legal services and I will be in touch tomorrow or later today or something. In the meantime, if you want to contact me, you can text me or email me and let know the best time to reach you. It depends on what time of day it is, but either way, I do some combination of text and email and a phone call.

Dave Aarons: Right. You know and that way at least the clients know that you’re there, you’re available [crosstalk 00:18:32] system because clients that need to hire a family law lawyer, a lot of them have time-sensitive issues. If they don’t have someone that’s responding to them right away, they’re going to hire someone and it may not be you. You know?

Zoe Garvin: Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah.

Dave Aarons: Letting them know that you’re there. You’re ready to assist them. And even if you’re in the middle of something else, just a quick text saying, “Hey, we got your request. We’ll be in touch with you shortly,” can really make a big difference. Then, obviously, you’re combining calling, emailing, and text. From what I’ve heard you’ve had a really good contact ratio. That’s critical when you’re fielding internet leads to make sure that you’re reaching out on those three different platforms to be able to get eight, nine, 10 of the leads up on the phone. It sounds like you’ve been able to accomplish that. Is that accurate?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. The texting is really effective. I get a lot of response through text, but I definitely think that the combination of all three makes a huge difference.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Okay, so now let’s suppose we get them on the phone. From what I’ve heard and seen from the results, it’s been going really well from that point forward as far as clients electing to retain your service. Maybe you can share just a bit about how many leads you’ve received since you’ve gotten started with us. How many of those have elected to retain you? And if you have a general idea of what that’s turned into, but just to give a little context on how well that’s gone so far. Then we can start to dive into the strategy that’s made that possible.

Zoe Garvin: Sure, sure. I would say that I have received about 30 leads that are good leads that I’m actively either working on securing or I’ve been retained by them. So there are about 30 active leads, and that’s for two counties. The second county I just started doing within the last week. I have I would say about 60% of those I’ve actually signed and the remaining 40% I’m either in conversation with and in the process of working out a retainer, some sort of arrangement, some representation arrangement, or I’m … I actually have a meeting scheduled within the next week to sign a retainer agreement and collect a retainer. There’s probably only about five people, a very small number of people of those 30 leads that have just kind of dropped off. I haven’t heard from them at all or weren’t interested. I could tell from the beginning they weren’t interested for whatever reason. But the rest are all signed or almost there.

Dave Aarons: Wow. So out of maybe the 30 leads, 60% that means you probably have about 16, 17, or 18 of the leads that have hired you already.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. The thing that works great for the unbundled services is that you can … For me, I feel like the volume of clients that I can have, it’s much larger because you’re not doing something for all of them all the time. So of those 15, 16 some of them were just short-term things where it was a flat fee and I have … They have hired me and I’m finished even though it’s only been two weeks since [inaudible 00:21:57]. Yes, I’m working with about 16 or 17 of those.

Dave Aarons: Wow. Can you talk about the spread as far as whether they’ve been hiring you for presentation? How many of those maybe are unbundled? Then maybe we can start to talk about what happens on the initial call the types of options you’ve been offering and how they make those determinations. What’s been the spread as far as the amount, what people have been hiring you for of those 16 or 17 so far?

Zoe Garvin: Of those 16 or 17 only one has hired me for full representation from the beginning. The rest are all unbundled services. It kind of ranges from very low level like just coaching and very much behind the scenes with a smaller retainer up to limited scope where I’m actually having to prepare documents and appearing for them in a specific hearing.

Dave Aarons: Right. That’s a really great insight into … That’s very different numbers than many other lawyers where you only have one of them going to full representation. The rest of them of the 16 or 15 are all starting on an unbundled basis. You’re handling very specific tasks. Can you share maybe your perspective on why so many of the folks have been electing to start with you on an unbundled basis and work with you on that? What’s been the reason you feel that’s been more comfortable for those folks or has been the direction that so many of them have been heading?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. The biggest reason I think is that a lot of the leads that I get are people who have … very few of them are people that are planning on filing for divorce or something or going to have a case in the future. Most of them are people that have an existing case. They have already started the process. They’re either midway through or towards the end of their case and they have a very specific issue, an immediate need for service and that’s why they are contacting me. They want to just … Even if they express an interest in full representation, and a lot of them have, some of them have even said, “I definitely want to hire you for more or to be my regular attorney, but just for now I just want to do this. Let’s take care of this thing.”

I think a big reason is that they just want to feel like this issue is going to get resolved. They had an attorney before. They started their divorce with an attorney and for whatever reason, whether it’s financial reasons or something else like they’re not working with them anymore and they have this attitude about wanting to not … maybe they feel like they didn’t go as far as they thought they would with their previous attorney or they spent so much money because it’s just expensive to pay an attorney in a divorce and so they just want to take a break from having an attorney where they’re paying someone $2,500 retainer and then replenishing $2,500 again and again. They just want to take a break from that so like they’re resolving their problem that’s the biggest issue for them in that moment.

That is my impression. With clients from all different income brackets that’s the common theme that they just want to first get this one thing and then they want to look at the bigger issues and see what we can do from there.

Dave Aarons: Right. Exactly. It really just gives them something that they know is a specific rate. This task is going to get done. There isn’t any question about if they’re going to get billed hourly from there. It’s really just easy for them to feel comfortable with getting started with you because they know exactly what it’s going to cost, what the service is being done, and then they have the choice from there whether they want to continue working with you or not. It just seems like for them it’s very low risk. Given that this is a lead generation, it’s more of a cold market where they don’t know you very well, it’s a great way for them to get a chance to experience the way you work and get comfortable with you and then transition if they want to more service from there.

Zoe Garvin: Right. Exactly.

Dave Aarons: Yep. Can you share a little bit more about … I mean these are … You’ve obviously been doing amazingly well. There’s an incredible amount of people bringing you on for the amount of leads you’ve received. We’re going to dive into your process as far as what that consultation looks like, but can you talk a little bit more just about the various types of options you’ve offered an example price points to get an idea of what that’s looked like? Then we can kind of dive into how it is that you have shared that with the client on the actual call to have them enroll in those services. You mentioned that you do some coaching where you walk them through certain steps. Maybe you can talk if that’s hour by hour and then you’ve got the doc and preparation and then you got more of the limited scope where you’re doing documents, making an appearance and so forth. Can you maybe expand a little bit more on what those options look like and an idea how that’s been billed and so forth?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. The way that I explain it prospective clients over the phone is that I … Basically, I explain that there are two types of representation I can do. There’s full representation, which is the traditional arrangement where it’s going to be a retainer of approximately $2,500 and then it’s replenished when that gets spent or there are unbundled services. That’s where I break down the three levels of unbundled services that I provide.

The lowest level is around $500 and that is for coaching. Most clients want to know how much coaching or how many hours does that $500 get me? I base it on my hourly rate, which is $200 an hour. And so $500 is about two and a half hours of coaching and explaining, helping them navigate the process. If it’s a divorce, helping them figure out how to file or what to do next. And then directing them to the forms they need to fill out. If we don’t spend a lot of time with the coaching over the phone, then I can look at the forms that they fill out and give them suggestions. That sort of thing. That’s the lowest, like the least expensive option.

Then the mid-range is … I usually say that it’s about 750 to 1,000. That can be some combination of coaching over the phone or in person, but usually, people want it over the phone. Coaching and working behind the scenes with them to navigate the process, but a little bit more involved than the $500 level. I can prepare documents for them, but they’re filing them. You know they’re self-representing them or filing everything themselves but I prepare them. It’s kind of up to them how they want to spend the time that I have. Some people want to have it very focused on just prepare all the documents for me and then I’ll take it from there. Some people just want to talk on the phone regularly so that I’m walking them through each step of the way.

Then the third level, kind of the highest level of the unbundled service option is limited scope where it kind of encompasses the two, the first and middle level of unbundled and then includes appearing in court as well for a specific hearing or on a specific issue. That is 1,000 to 1,500. It depends on how much time they want me to spend. That kind of determines whether it’s on the low end of the higher end of that.

I present four options. Three of them are unbundled.

Dave Aarons: Right. It really gives them just a lot of different options to choose from that no matter where they’re at financially or where they’re at in their case, I mean they really have something that can fit into their budget. Like you said before, some people probably want to go more the full shebang and have you representing the down the road, but as a starting point this is a great way for them to have somebody that’s in their budget and know they have a specific amount of time and that you’re going to walk them through things that might be confusing. I think a lot of clients with the proper guidance, do you feel like many of them have been able to get through the process when they have you guiding them through it and preparing things? Has that really helped them with navigating the process?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. I am finding that it’s been hard to get people to cover what people want at the $500 level so far. I’m still new, so I don’t have a huge sample that I’m basing that on. But so far the $500, a couple of clients I’ve actually billed for that. You know, finished the time that they’ve bought so far and they’re wanting to continue, so they’re replenishing with another $500. I think that it really depends on the issue that they’re having how much time they really need. I think it’s hard to cover it in that amount of time unless the person it’s a very narrow issue and they are kind of familiar with what to do already.

That mid-range and then the limited scope level, that seems to be working really well for people. If they’re already comfortable doing, retaining me in that way without having someone … without full representation, then they are … Most of them kind of understand that they are going to be handling aspects of the case themselves and they’re not surprised when that actually ends up being what happens.

The other thing is that I try when I’m explaining the options to people, I try to … I either have people who are like know for sure that they want limited scope because they want to do as little as possible within the unbundled option. Or they know for sure they want to spend as little as possible so they immediately go with the lowest option. I try to explain to them if it’s something that I know is going to require more time even though they don’t want to retain me for more yet, I try to map out for them what the other things are going to be, that need to be done are so that they can be making an informed decision. Like I know that I’m retaining you to just do this small amount of work and I realize that whether it’s you or someone else that I hire that I have this whole other list of things still need to be done so that there is no surprises.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Well, even if that’s the case, if they start out with the 500 like you said, then when they want more time they can replenish and keep working with you.

Zoe Garvin: Exactly. Right. Exactly.

Dave Aarons: Maybe as a kind of like a pay as you go, one step at a time. As they need more, they can just redeposit and keep going.

Zoe Garvin: Right. Explaining it like that it seems like people feel less pressure and it doesn’t … I’ve even had people say it feels like … They don’t feel as much like I’m just trying to get them to pay me as much as I can, you know, as much as they’re able to pay. This feels more like they’re driving the process.

Dave Aarons: Okay. Great. Another thing that I’ve heard from our team is that … and a lot of these clients have actually been retaining you over the phone and haven’t had to come in the office. Can you share of these 15, 16, 17 clients, how many of them did you meet with in order for them to retain you and how many of them just retained you over the phone without an in-person meeting?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, so I have met with … I would say about half and half. Maybe a 60% of them have retained me just over the phone and the rest I’ve met with in person. In the beginning, I didn’t … a few clients just ended up … they asked to do that and that’s why it happened, but it didn’t really occur to me to try to present that as just an option right from the beginning because I assumed that people would want to meet in person but that’s not really true. I mean a lot of people have been relieved to hear that that’s an option because they don’t have time to meet in person. They’d rather not meet in person. It’s definitely something that people are interested in, and it makes it a lot easier for me as well because some of these people live really far away from where I am. It just makes things more efficient on some.

Dave Aarons: Absolutely. Certainly, with the traffic I know that you have the Bay Area, that’s got to be a plus as well that you don’t have to be driving back and forth and neither do they.

Zoe Garvin: Right. Exactly. I recently started doing a second county, Contra Costa County, which is a very large area in the Bay Area. So that’s becoming even truer because within that county you have people that may live an hour from where you are or two hours from where I am. For those clients, I would say it’s like about 80% of the clients that I’ve signed that are from that county have retained me just over the phone.

Dave Aarons: Right. We’re going to kind of dive into the actual call and how that’s gone for you, how long you spend with them and so forth. As a new practice, I believe your office is in San Francisco and then these are counties that can be an hour or two away. For those that have met with you, can you talk about how you’ve been able to line up office space and a place to meet with these folks in these counties? How you’ve been able to manage that without taking on too much overhead and still making sure that you have a suitable work environment, office environment to meet with those clients in those specific counties and also make that worth your time, you know, the batching? How have you been able to overcome that challenge?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, so I’ve tried to schedule people back to back on certain days. Now, two weeks into it, I’ve kind of decided that I’m going to just have about two days a week where I schedule consultations that are in person because that’s been the number of days that I’ve needed in the last weeks to do it. I try to get everyone on those two days. I’ve been using an office in the East Bay in Oakland that I rent by the hour. It’s a building with lots of offices that people either rent monthly or hourly, but it’s all like startup companies and people that run solo practices. Not necessarily law practices, but all different kinds of businesses.

It’s very easy because the booking process is easy. I can do it in advance or last minute. It’s a professional environment. It feels just like a regular office building. Then I have an address to give people. This particular one that I’ve been using actually can use as a virtual address as well so you can make it your actual business address. Then I book them like an hour at a time half an hour apart. Yeah, I mean I think that’s been working well because then if one person doesn’t show up, which has happened a few times, then it’s not like you’ve wasted the trip going over there and paying for space and that kind of thing. This particular one that I found is expensive so even if the person doesn’t show up it’s not a huge loss and it usually makes up for it because someone else does show up and they sign. It’s worth your money that you paid.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, that concept of these virtual offices. It sounds like it’s either a virtual office kind of setup where you pay hour by hour or there are even co-working spaces, co-working offices depending on the way they’re set up. It’s really interesting. It’s still somewhat of a new concept where you don’t have to pay a monthly, you know, get into a lease or a monthly office bill just to open up into a new region. Can you share a little bit about how that’s worked and if there are any specific companies you worked with or just generally speaking how that’s helped your practice to able to expand into these regions that maybe would’ve been unrealistic if you had to purchase and lease an office yourself in each of these counties, which probably wouldn’t have been feasible.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, definitely. I am based in San Francisco, and so before I started doing this I was not planning on going after clients in the East Bay primarily. But because my leads are all coming from counties in the East Bay, 95% of my clients now are from there. The biggest reason that they’re comfortable hiring me I think is because I have an office in the East Bay, I can tell them that right off the bat. Even if they don’t want to meet in person, still just knowing that I have an office over there seems to make a difference. The place that I’m using now is a co-working kind of environment. I actually don’t remember the actual name of the company but it’s set up like a Craigslist sort of or like an Air BNB where you choose from a bunch of different places in the ZIP code that you’re looking for. Then you could do hourly, daily rent or monthly.

I’m also looking for something in the county that I just started handling, the second county because I’m finding that clients are less comfortable moving forward with me because I am based in San Francisco and have an office in a county that’s one county over from where they are. They feel like it’s too far away. I think what that really shows is that it makes a huge difference to be able to have these remote offices where I was able to come to them without, but you’ll have a designated place where you’re going to meet rather than just having it be up in the air.

Dave Aarons: Right, and even though you’re only paying for an hour at a time, maybe you can share how much that costs in a sec here, but paying an hour here, an hour there, you can still share with the clients, “I have an office in that region.”

Zoe Garvin: Right.

Dave Aarons: To rent an office might cost 1,000, 1,500, even 2,000 dollars a month. How much does it cost for you to be able to reserve a couple hours or maybe four hours a week at one of these virtual offices to be able to actually have an established office and be able to share that with your clients? Say, “Oh, no. We actually have an office in that county.”

Zoe Garvin: Yeah, so this office that I’m using, which is in Oakland, is $25 an hour. It’s a conference room. It sits up to six people. They have wireless that you can use. They have a printer. That kind of a thing you want to. I haven’t used that. Then you can pay more if you want to actually have a mailing address there and that sort of thing.

The other thing is if you’re … This particular place has a membership option where they’ll give you access to the building, like a key card so you don’t have to wait for it to open in the morning. You can come in before it opens. It’s more flexible. It’s really easy to manage and really affordable at $25 an hour.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and you’re also only paying for the amount of time that you’re actually meeting with clients potentially.

Zoe Garvin: Exactly. Right.

Dave Aarons: Not only is it only 25 bucks, but you know pretty much, except for the no-shows here and there, that you’re only spending time when you’re actually meeting with an attorney. It’s just like a small cost out of the amount that they’re paying you to hire you.

Zoe Garvin: Right. If people don’t show up, then I can use the time to actually get something done. I mean because it’s a quiet work environment. It’s great.

Dave Aarons: Wow. That’s awesome. Let’s dive into that call because you’ve obviously got a lot of people retaining you. They’re doing it right over the phone. Can you maybe do like [broadard 00:42:45] strategy. Once you get them on the phone, what you’ve been doing to take them through that process? How long have you been spending on the call? What’s been your goal with that initial call? And then we can talk maybe the next question being more around how you break down the bundle and how you explain that. We could do a bit of a role play before we wrap things up.

Zoe Garvin: Sure. I would say that I’m spending about 45 minutes to an hour with people on the phone usually, most people. In the beginning I was closer to 30 minutes and then I found that it ended being more effective to let people talk about what’s going on for them in the beginning for longer, a little bit longer, just to get them comfortable, to build rapport, and so I can get a good sense of whether or not it’s something that I want to handle and that I can handle. That’s made the initial call longer than I was planning on doing it in the beginning. I think it’s important so that those people feel … I feel comfortable and they feel comfortable by the end of the call and know where to go from there.

Since I’ve increased the length of the initial call, the number of people that have retained me over the phone has gone up. I think that there’s definitely … It’s helped with that. In terms of the format and structure of that first call, immediately I ask them to bring me up to speed on what’s going on. Then I just let them talk for a while. I think maybe 99% of the people have just gone straight into and haven’t needed me to ask questions to get them going. But if that happens, a couple people haven’t been as comfortable, then it’ll be more like a back and forth conversation in the beginning where I’m asking them questions. But almost everyone will just go right into it and just start talking. If it goes past, maybe after five or 10, probably five minutes, if it’s getting off topic and I’m not getting information at all about what they actually need, then I’ll bring them back by asking questions that are related to what I understand the issue to be.

Usually, the information is helpful, even though it’s not completely on topic. It’s helpful for me to understand the bigger picture. That goes on for about 20 minutes or so. Then I’ll ask them some clarifying questions. Really the first half of the call I think is spent on getting information about their case and background information.

Dave Aarons: And really being patient.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah.

Dave Aarons: Like letting people chat and just share their story. I think that’s very different and maybe why a lot of attorneys haven’t been trying really, but we haven’t had as many lawyers enrolling so many people right over the phone sight unseen because they don’t necessarily take that time on the front end and they bring them in the office. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because if you have an office, it’s local, and you don’t have the travel time and so forth, then people feel really comfortable meeting people in person as well. But if you want to be able to have the opportunity to have clients really paying you and enrolling right over the phone, it seems like that’s a very important core component of that is allowing them to really share and get comfortable with you.

Zoe Garvin: Absolutely. Yeah, and I’ve had everyone that has actually hired, retained me right after the call without meeting and even without having any plans of meeting either. All of those people have actually commented on that they feel really comfortable talking to me and that they are like thankful that I let them talk for so long. They’re surprised that they were able to talk for that long and feel like they actually got something out of the call even though it was just consultation. I’m not necessarily giving them legal advice either at that point. They’re venting about their issues and feeling like they’re doing it with a purpose because they’re going to get help to resolve the issue.

That’s huge. Sometimes in the beginning of the call I know … You can immediately tell what kind of information is going to be a helpful sort of at least relevant to what they’re going to need you for. But a lot of times at least, like I said before, at least five to 10 minutes of it, it’s just them talking and I’m just allowing them to talk. It makes a huge difference.

Dave Aarons: Right. Okay, so at that initial phase where you take time to listen. You might direct them a little bit if they start going off topic, but a good 15, 20 minutes or so, at least half the call they’re just sharing what’s going on, what their concerns are, the situation, what they’re trying to accomplish. Then from there, what’s the next steps?

Zoe Garvin: Well, it goes one of two ways. Depending on what kind of issue … If it’s something that has a very specific solution or very clear solution and it’s very more like black and white, like I know for sure what needs to be done, then I explain to them what they is. If it’s something like a divorce where there’s tons of things and it’s not a matter of taking action to resolve one issue, then I jump into explaining the types of services that I provide.

In the first scenario, where there’s a specific way that the problem they’re having needs to be handled, I transition from them describing the issue to me explaining to them based on this issue, this is what would need to be done. Then transition into the conversation about so now I know what has to be done and depending on what your budget is and how much you want to manage that process I just described and what needs to happen, you can choose from these various options, representation options.

Dave Aarons: Okay, so you give them some specific feedback on based on what you’ve shared with me, this is essentially what needs to be done.

Zoe Garvin: Right.

Dave Aarons: Then the next phase is how are we going to go about doing that if you’d like me to assist you that.

Zoe Garvin: Right. Exactly. Yeah.

Dave Aarons: Okay. Maybe you can just share how you explain breakdown to the client. Generally speaking you say, “Okay, look. This is exactly what I kind of need to see happen. Here’s the different ways that I can help you.” Can you just walk through how you’ve shared that? Then maybe towards the end of that piece just talk about how you talk about whether they have the option, do you want to come in the office? Do you want to do it over the phone? Just to shine some light on those options and then whether they can choose to either hire you right then and there over the phone or if they want to come in and how you talk about that with them.

Zoe Garvin: Sure. I’ll give an example of someone who is wanting to enforce a custody order. If that’s what their issue is after they’re telling me about when they got this order and how long it’s been since the other parent has been breaking the order and not cooperating and how this problem has developed. Then I explain that if you want to ask the court to intervene and enforce the order or make a change to the order because it’s not working anymore, we would need to file modification. There’s several forms that get filled out. You request a hearing. You have the hearing about a month later. You organize the things that you want to present to the court. You file some statements outlining what your reasons are for wanting to make this change. Then go to court.

I lay out what needs to be done. Then I explain that the way that I could help with that is in one of two ways. One, I can be your … you can hire me for full representation where I handle the entire process from start to finish. It’s more like the traditional arrangement that you think of when you think of hiring an attorney. You pay a larger amount up front and then you replenish that when it gets spent down, if it gets spent down and we’re still not done. Or you can hire me to do what’s called unbundled services, which means that you pay a smaller amount up front. It’s more focused on a specific aspect of what you need to do. You have a better sense of what it’s going to cost overall based on what we know is involved now. Then we reassess when that’s done. If there’s more that you want to do, you want to keep going and ask for something else, then we can reevaluate and figure out a different arrangement at that point.

Then I explain what’s in the unbundled service option, the three levels, which is like in the example I gave about the custody modification.

Dave Aarons: Okay, so if I ask what are the unbundled options? You say full representation is this cost. Then if I said what are the unbundled options? Maybe you could just explain that to me.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. The first, kind of least expensive option is to provide coaching, about two and a half hours or some sort of coaching with you either on the phone or in person and helping navigate the process. So I would explain what needs to be done. I’d answer questions you have. I’d direct you to the forms you need to fill out and answer questions about those. Then depending on how much time we spend on that, there may even be time for me to actually look at the forms and the documents that you are going to file, give you feedback before you file them, and help you get ready to actually bring the documents to court, file. That starts at around $500 and covers two and a half hours of my time.

The next level up from that is coaching, but for more time and me preparing all the documents for you. I would help you navigate the process and answer your questions, but instead of me just directing you to forms, I’d actually get information from you and then prepare them for you. Then you would file them on your own. So you’re still self-represented, but you’re not doing the document preparation yourself.

Then the third level is the highest level within the unbundled services option. That’s closer to 1,000 … It starts at 1,000 and goes up to about 1,500. That’s where I actually appear for you in court for a specific hearing on a certain issue as well as preparing documents for you, helping you navigate the process, answering questions, and everything else that’s included in the options that I just mentioned. So they gradually increase. My assistance increases at each of those three levels with the price increasing.

Dave Aarons: Okay. Then at that point you ask them what do you think is best fit for you? Then how do you [inaudible 00:54:26] they make a selection. Let’s say they chose the middle ground. Well, yeah. I mean it seems like I’d like to get some help with the preparation of the paperwork and have you take a look things and draft that out because I’m not so comfortable with the argument or so forth. You say, “Okay, great.” Then maybe you can just walk them through how you enroll them from there whether it be over the phone or the office, and the options you give them from that point.

Zoe Garvin: Sure. Yes, so usually instead of saying which price point they want or that they are comfortable with, they’ll say which level of representation they want. Like they’ll say, “Yeah, I definitely want someone in court with me.” Or, “I definitely want someone doing my documents.” So then I’ll say, “Okay, so does 750 to 1,000 or does 1,000 to 1,500 sound manageable to you? What is your budget for getting an attorney, for getting some kind of legal assistance to deal with this issue?”

Then sometimes they’ll just say, “Yeah, I can do that amount.” Sometimes they’ll say, “Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure I could afford 1,000. I could probably do more like 500.” So, if there’s an issue around the price, then I talk with them about whether or not they want to … We kind of explore again what the representation options are and talk about whether maybe they are going to … whether they want to start with something smaller and then increase it as we go. So that they don’t have to just do all or nothing. You know? They can start small and then we can add to it.

The next step is then I ask them, “Okay, is this something that you want to get going on immediately? Or do you feel like you want time to think about it and check in again when you’re ready to move forward?” Almost everyone says that they want to do it. If we’ve gotten to that point in the conversation, we’re talking about the price and everything, then most people want to do it. They want to start talking about the issue right then and want to start talking about what we’re going to do immediately.

When they give me a sense of how ready they are to get going, then I’ll say, “Okay, if you want to get started immediately I could … One option is to actually work out a retainer agreement now. I can email it to you to sign and you could even pay online with a credit card and then we could schedule another phone call to get going on whatever it is that I’m going to help them with. Or if you feel more comfortable meeting in person, we can set our next appointment and I will bring the retainer agreement with me so that we can get it signed and get things going from there.” That’s how I explain what the next step is.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, and since you’ve been offering those two options where you can just send the retainer agreement right now. I’ll send it to you online. Then you have some kind of a link that’s set up through LawPay, right?

Zoe Garvin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly. Yeah.

Dave Aarons: Yep, and so they can just make that payment right then and there.

Zoe Garvin: Right.

Dave Aarons: If they take that option, you just schedule the next call either later that day or the following day?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. I’ve been trying to schedule the call, the next call, before we get off the phone from the first call because I have found that if I don’t and we just plan to talk again. I’m supposed to email them an agreement with the payment link, then some people kind of drop off from there. But if we have our next appointment scheduled, then it feels like we’ve started working on the case. Even if they don’t pay immediately, almost everyone sends back the signed retainer agreement pretty quickly. But actually making the payment takes a little while. It seems like it happens more quickly if you’ve got the next meeting and first step figured out.

Dave Aarons: Right. Yeah, and so since you have been implementing those two options where you can either do it over the phone, send them a payment link, get them started right then, or come in the office you said originally it was maybe half and half. But then you realized you could start offering that option, how many of the folks have actually just been going, “Let’s just do it over the phone and we’ll get started there. See you in court if we need to from there”?

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. Since I started doing that, I would say about 60% of people want to just do it over the phone.

Dave Aarons: Right.

Zoe Garvin: It’s increasing now that … it’s happening more that I’m working in a second county that’s further away from where I am, although that might change when I … I still need to find a virtual office over there, so that might change things. I would say it’s about 60% of people want to just do it over the phone because of work, schedule, that kind of thing where they just don’t want to have to … especially once we start talking about when our next meeting is going to be. Like even some people who have said they wanted to meet in person, when we actually try to schedule it, then they change their mind and they’re like, “Actually, why don’t we just do it on the phone. If we end up needing to meet in person, we can figure it out then.”

Dave Aarons: Right. Then from your standpoint, I mean that’s got to be really nice to be able to … If you don’t have to go over to Contra or Alameda, if you’re working with them over the phone you can potentially … Have you done some of the calls from home?

Zoe Garvin: Oh, yeah.

Dave Aarons: At that point you really can work from anywhere and just work with folks hour by hour in that sense.

Zoe Garvin: Yeah. I’m based, my office is in my home. When I’m working with people completely over the phone, it’s the most convenient option because I’m at home and then I can work on other stuff immediately before and immediately after. There’s no commute time. It’s great. It’s also great for them. The people that do that are people … No one that is hesitant about … No one who is concerned about not having met me in person agrees to doing it on the phone. I’ve found that the people that do that have like no concerns whatsoever about not meeting someone in person. It’s way more important for them for it to be convenient.

Dave Aarons: Wow. That’s just really incredible. I mean you must be feeling pretty amazing. In today’s age with the internet and just the way everything’s evolved that … Even in our company at times we work from home as well. You can basically providing great service and practice of law, but doing it potentially in your underwear or commuting to your office in your house.

Zoe Garvin: No, it’s been great. It’s so great. Yeah. It’s really good. I think that a big part of it is that by that point when we’re talking about that, how they want to move forward, they’re really comfortable would be then they feel like I’ve really listened to them. If I’ve told them what needs to happen in their cases, then they even feel like they’ve … I’ve started giving them basic level advice and they feel like they’re going to get something out of this. And so they’re even more likely to just want to start.

Dave Aarons: Right. Wow. This has been fantastic, Zoe. I really appreciate you sharing how this transition has been for you and the way you’ve been working with the folks. You know, the virtual office, working with them over the phone the way you have, taking the time you do on each call and how people have been responding so well. Its great feedback. We certainly couldn’t happier with the way things have gone so far. We couldn’t be happier that you’ve had such a great start. Just really appreciate you taking the time to share so openly about how this has gone for you. We’re certainly here and going to continue supporting you anyway we can to continue to help you make that transition from new practice to thriving solo attorney.

Zoe Garvin: Great. Great. Yeah. Thanks for having me. I’m happy to share. It’s been great so far, so I’m looking forward to continuing.

Dave Aarons: Absolutely. Okay. With that, we’ll go ahead and wrap it up. Zoe, thanks again for all your time today and sharing. For everyone else that’s been participating and listening to the podcast, we certainly appreciate your participation. If there’s lawyers out there you think could benefit from any of these shows or think could be helpful, please share it with them. If you have any feedback or would like to leave us a review, go over to iTunes and leave one there because read every single review and really appreciate your feedback and the way that it’s helped your practice if it has. With that, we thank you so much of joining in on the call and we will see you all on the next episode. Thanks so much.

For more information about how our lead generation services can help you grow your practice, visit our website at If you’re enjoying this podcast, please, be sure to subscribe so you get each new episode as soon as it’s available. Leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Once again, thanks for listening.

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Episode 14: Building a Law Practice from Home: Virtual Offices, Legal Tech, and Enrolling Clients Over the Phone

Zoe Garvin joins our show today and shares her journey from college graduate to opening her own solo practice, including resources that helped her make the transition. She has also been able to generate over $10,000 in revenue from Unbundled leads in her first two weeks. Her success is even more remarkable because one-third of her Unbundled clients enrolled over the phone, without ever meeting her in person, and she shares the exact process she follows to accomplish this.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why Zoe decided to go directly into solo practice shortly after graduating law school
  • The resources she used to help the transition into a new solo practice
  • How Zoe uses virtual offices to help expand her practice’s footprint into a wider geographic area while avoiding higher overhead costs
  • The exact process Zoe used to generate over $10k in revenue from her leads in the first two weeks
  • How she converted more than ⅓ of her leads over the phone without first meeting the clients in person
  • Details of the payment processing platform she uses as well as other technology tools that are important for managing her practice

Resources Mentioned:

Legal Talk Network San Francisco Bar Association Law Pay Zola Suite

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