How Cultivating a Deep Understanding of Your Clients’ Emotional, Cultural and Political Context Can Help You Deliver Exceptional Service and Build a More Profitable Practice
This is a wonderful interview with Moises Kaba who’s one of our immigration, family law, and estate planning provider attorneys out of Miami, Florida. He also serves the Naples, Florida region, Broward County, and some of the surrounding areas which he’s expanded to. Which is one of the things that we talk about towards the end of this episode is how he was able to leverage virtual offices to expand to new regions. But this is a really interesting episode. Moises comes from Cuba and immigrated here as a young boy, and talks a lot about being an immigrant himself allows him to have a great deal of empathy for what immigrants go through in trying to establish their rights and attain residency in the United States. And that’s something that threads through his communications and helping him understand their fears and concerns and some of the uncertainty that has been arisen from this change in administration and that really impacts the way he communicates with his clients, and also threads into the types of options that he offers.
He talks a lot about the unbundled services he offers, and also how important it is to have flexibility in the payment plans that you offer too. And a lot of attorneys have concerns around, “Oh if I offer payment plans, I don’t get the money up front. Won’t the clients … We’re going to default.” And he speaks directly to that, but that has not been his experience at all. He offers very flexible payment plans, does not take the full amount up front, and very very rarely has he had a client that does not come through and pay for his services. And additionally, there are a lot more clients that he’s able to serve as a result. So we talk about the economics of payment plans and how that’s worked out for him. And a whole lot more. So let’s just get right into it. This interview with Moises Kaba, one of our provider attorneys out of Miami, Florida.
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: Moises. Welcome to the show.
Moises Kaba: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Really appreciate you taking the time to share this story of this relationship that we’ve had working together over these past number of months. I know it’s been quite a process with a lot of adjustments and improvements along the way. So really looking forward to diving in and exploring what it’s been like for you to take all these leads and serve all these clients. So thank you for taking the time today.
Moises Kaba: No, it’s my pleasure.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, so maybe a good place to start … Moises, I mean you have a very unique background coming from Cuba. Maybe you could just share a little bit about that story and how that’s informed your practice over the years being someone coming from Cuba, like myself being a fellow immigrant. Being originally from Canada and you from Cuba. So maybe you can talk a little bit about your background and how you got your start in the practice of law.
Moises Kaba: Well it’s kind of an unusual story, but I’ll tell you the best I can. I was born in Cuba back in 1965, which gives you an indication of how old I am. I was a young kid of two and in Cuba, there was a.. sort of like what happened in 1980 with the Mariel boatlift. Back then it was called Camarioca, and a lot of Cubans were trying to leave the country. It just turned Communist and people were sending boats to pick up their family members. But to leave you had to go through an immigration process with the Cuban government. And that required you to go see a lawyer, and fill out paperwork, and all that. All the necessary documentation. So my mom tells me that at that time she would take me to this lawyer’s office, and the lawyer’s office always had candy. And I loved the candy. It was kind of hard to get candy on the island at that time.
So I said, “This is it. This guy’s wealthy. Look at all the candy he has.” And I just would love going there and I started saying that this is what I wanted to be when I grew up, is a lawyer. And so she says that since I was two years old I’ve been saying that I wanted to be a lawyer, I guess over the candy. And I never recall ever changing my mind. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do since a very early age I always said that I wanted to be a lawyer. And I was lucky enough to fulfill that dream. Became a lawyer at a rather young age. At 21 years old.
Dave Aarons: And I’m envisioning a very large bowl of candy on your front desk when people come right into the office, correct?
Moises Kaba: Two bowls. Two bowls of candy.
Dave Aarons: What was the type of candy that was so hard to find at that time?
Moises Kaba: Who knows? I was two years old. These are the stories that are recounted to me from my family. I don’t remember that far back, but I do remember … The youngest age that I remember talking about being a lawyer is like, kindergarten. So that’s when I started. I just loved the law and I thought it was a cool profession and was a people profession. And that had an impact in people’s lives in so many different ways. So I never wavered from that goal of becoming a lawyer. I’ve been blessed. It’s going to be in June I turn 31 years practicing law. So. Turned out to be the right choice for me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Absolutely. And while we’re on the topic, can you just talk a little bit about the difference between the legal environment in Cuba versus the United States? Obviously a lot of people don’t have the same property rights and so forth down there, and what it’s been like for you being able to serve your fellow Cubano citizens in immigrating to the United States as immigration is one of the things that you do, and Cubans being among the folks that you serve.
Moises Kaba: Well the Cuban legal system and the American legal system are night and day. Everything there is owned by the state. There are no real private property rights other than what the state wishes to convey to you on a limited restricted basis. The legal system is, you don’t have a right to a private attorney. It’s all done through government, so they’re government employees which they take great care in not offending the government in the way that they handle the legal representation. So it’s not like you’re going to get a lawyer there that’s going to stand up against the government on an issue that the government has filed against you. They’re going to basically negotiate a plea for you on those types of cases.
So the representation is totally different. The rights and entitlements are totally different. So from my perspective, to be able to have the privilege of practicing law here where there are so many freedoms and rights and entitlements, and to be able to serve my community, whether it be Cubans, or other Latinos, or Americans, or Native Americans, whoever they may be. It’s just been a great privilege and an honor, and a very satisfying profession for me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I can only imagine what comes up when you share that is coming from a country that doesn’t have these same rights and freedoms, I can only imagine that it must help you feel very grateful and humbled to be able to serve clients in the United States, given that you’re able to offer them these types of freedoms. Can you … How has this informed your experience of dealing with the Cuban legal system versus the United States and then being able to help people gain these rights and maybe some … Do you have a different level of appreciation when you’re helping someone gain immigrant status in the United States or become a citizen or green card in your ability to convey some of the freedoms that are available to them in the United States? And what would be the things that you would … If so, are the things that you typically stress or really convey?
Moises Kaba: Well I think you hit something keen, that I think is important in the practice law and to be successful. You have to have empathy for your clients. And to have empathy you need to be able to relate to what they go through. So in my particular case, on immigration matters and other matters, I always try to have that empathy. I try to put myself in their position. It’s hard. If you’re born here, you have the rights of the citizen automatically by birth. You don’t appreciate all the heartaches, and troubles, and the stress, and the worries, and the fears that these people go through trying to leave a country like a Cuba, or some other country that’s either Communist or dictatorial or anything of that nature where you don’t have those natural rights and freedoms.
And then you come here and you don’t really what to expect. Are you going to be accepted by our society? Are you not? Are you going to be rejected? How do you feed your family? How do you gain work if you’re illegal? So all these things are things that a typical immigrant goes through that, as an attorney, if I strictly analyze it with the numbers and I go by the letter of the law, it could be a very cold process. But to take the clients and demonstrate some empathy and hear them out sometimes, even if you can’t-do anything. Sometimes I just lend an ear to them and tell them … Try to assist them as much as I can, but the fact of that they can actually talk to me about it makes the process better. So that’s what I’ve found.
Dave Aarons: And I’m curious, do you take time for the … Obviously, you’re very familiar with the Cuban system, but when you’re working with clients from other countries, have you taken some time to look into what their system looks and what their legal system is from that so that you can have a better understanding? Or at least better understand their culture? Have you done anything for folks that are from other countries to be able to better understand where they’re coming from and so that you can relate in the way you’re describing?
Moises Kaba: Well I like you because we’ve had some private conversations on your love to travel. I’m the same way. I travel often. I travel abroad to many different destinations both in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa. I’ve gone to an extensive amount of different cultures and countries, and every time I go I really try to get submerged into the real day to day living, and the culture, and not just the touristy things to do. So I do try to figure out what the differences are because that’s what I do on a daily basis. So I love to see how different cultures deal both, not just from the legal side, but also from the day to day side. The economics, the politics side and how that handles, and how all those things interact with each other.
So I do try to keep that in mind, and it gives you a different perspective when dealing with people from different nationalities and ethnicities and things of that nature. And my household as well is mixed because I’m Cuban, my wife is Colombian. We have … From each other’s side of the family, we have Italians, we have Syrians, we have Spanish, we have from Ireland. So it truly is a melting pot of our family and it gives you a unique perspective on things.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And really like you said helps relate, and I can certainly voice that or can echo that traveling really helps you have a different perspective and understanding how people live and what’s important to them, and different kinds of value systems in various different countries. Especially family and where they’re coming from. And also especially for immigrants some of the fears that they have and uncertainty that they may have in hiring a lawyer especially, and their concern for their safety, and their safety of their family, and that this is a new land for them. And so being able to really put yourself in their shoes like you said really can help them feel a lot more comfortable because they can understand that you get them. Right? And I’m sure that threads in your communication where they relate to them in everything you do. Correct?
Moises Kaba: Without a doubt. I mean I’ll give you a brief example, something that happened to me just the other day. I get a woman who calls me and she’s going through a divorce. And it was a simple divorce. It was an uncontested matter. She had already filled out every paperwork in the court. Settled it, but had a court hearing for the final hearing. And she wanted to hire me to attend the final hearing on her behalf. And the reason why is that she was afraid to show up to court because she was an illegal alien and she thought she would get arrested and deported. So here she’s willing to pay me to go on her behalf and basically just sit there and say, “Present,” not do any legal work, just because of the fear and the paranoia that if she goes into a courtroom that she’s going to get arrested.
And that’s very typical in the immigration community. They don’t really know what to expect, especially now there’s been a change of presidency, a change in the political climate. Everyone is really uncertain and insecure about themselves. And these are things that as a lawyer I deal with on a daily basis, and not just in immigration. In many other areas where people, not knowing what their rights and remedies have an innate fear of the legal system and what could happen. And that’s what I work on trying to counteract every day in the last 31 years is to put people at ease. Tell them the legal system’s not there to work against, but for them. Try to get them to understand the process and become part of the process, not to live outside of the process. Because that’s where the danger zone really lies. When you have a part of our society that’s totally outside of the legal system, the legal structures that are built in for the society. Because those are the people that when they feel they have no other recourse, that turns into crime, violence, and other things because they have to live in that outer parameter, and we need to be a society of inclusion not excluding people. And that’s one of my challenges on a daily basis with my practice.
Because that’s where the danger zone really lies. When you have a part of our society that’s totally outside of the legal system, the legal structures that are built in for the society. Because those are the people that when they feel they have no other recourse, that turns into crime, violence, and other things because they have to live in that outer parameter, and we need to be a society of inclusion not excluding people. And that’s one of my challenges on a daily basis with my practice.
Dave Aarons: Right. And you mentioned the change in administration. Can you talk about your share what, if anything has changed in your practice either in the way clients are feeling about, like you said the uncertainty, and also just what you’ve had to do to keep up to date if anything with whatever changes have been going on in the immigration system and laws as a result of this change in administration.
Moises Kaba: Well I think it’s been a substantial change. Just the approach and the attitude that the immigration services have adopted since President Trump took office has been night and day. There’s more pressure on the prosecutors and the judges to uphold the letter of the law with immigration. You’re finding less willingness to exercise discretion on some of these areas that in the past have not been really fully enforced. Now they’re seeking full enforcement, and it’s scaring people. It’s scaring people to the point that no one wants to travel because they’re afraid if they travel they might get deported or not allowed to come back to the US. It’s scaring people coming into the country because they think that, “Well if we get arrested, it’s not going to be so easy to get out.”So you’re seeing a drop in the border crossings and this even without a wall, which is
So you’re seeing a drop in the border crossings and this even without a wall, which is the mere deterrent of the change in attitude with our immigration policies. Now some people believe it’s a good thing. Other people think it’s not. Everyone has their own beliefs, and I don’t get into anyone’s beliefs, but I do see the changes that are very clear and present in our immigration system and it’s affecting a number of people that are even wanting to come to lawyers seeking immigration alternatives because you have a lot of them that are calling and saying, “What can we do?” And if there’s nothing that can be eminent that you can do, then they just withdraw into the crevasses of our society because they feel abandoned. And that’s what we have. There are no options available to a great majority of our immigrants in the US.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And again, understanding those fears and those uncertainties and just the challenges of people are going through now. Even coming from Canada … I’ve been a citizen of the United States and Canada for many years, but my own mother is only a permanent resident at this point and she’s been living here for 20 some odd plus years, and she’s starting to question, “Well maybe I should get my citizenship because anything can change.” It almost feels like anything’s up in the air, and nothing can be relied upon in the way it was before. Even for folks that have lived here for years and normally would never have any concerns to worry about.
Moises Kaba: Sure. And anything can change because let’s take your own mother for example. She’s a permanent resident, but if something were to happen, I don’t know. I don’t know if your mom would do this, but let’s say that she’s in a state where marijuana’s not legal and she’s using recreational marijuana and they stop her, and they arrest her for possession. Okay? If she gets convicted on that possession charge, now she becomes deportable. Okay. And her permanent residency will not be renewed. So on a simple matter. So criminal issues can affect the permanent status this person has an alien in the United States.
So more and more people are becoming conscious of this and are seeking to transition to citizenship that otherwise would have because they were comfortable with their residency, but now they have that fear. And they are coming to us lawyers and saying, “Hey. I don’t feel comfortable. Get me full citizenship status before anything can change.”
Dave Aarons: Right. Exactly. So there’s this theme of empathy and putting yourself in the client’s shoes. Something obviously you’ve worked hard on and you put a lot of attention and energy into, and I’m sure that threads into the way you run your practice. So what I’d like to do is maybe shift gears and just talk about the evolution since we started working together towards the end of last year, and how there was a number of different changes … You’ve had to adapt and initially when you first started you tried different approaches. You didn’t feel that that was quite working for you, and then you tried a couple other different approaches, and then over the period of time in working the leads that we’ve been sending, you’ve adapted until it’s something that really works well for you personally that you really own. Can you just talk, maybe share what your approach was at the beginning, what you adjusted and then changed those couple different times and where you stand now. We can start to dive into your practical strategies for working with the clients we’re sending you here.
Moises Kaba: Well I think I’d first like to preface it with the fact that … Why did I even come to your services? I mean I had an established practice for about 29, 30 years by the time I came to your service. So it wasn’t to build a practice, but it was more I was looking for a way that I can provide more stabilized income flows for the firm through some additional marketing and not just depend on word of mouth and referrals which I had done practically all my practice. And I had experimented with different services. So it was not the first service. I found that the quality of the leads was not very good with the other types of services, the vetting was not very good either of those leads. And I would waste a lot of time on leads that really didn’t lead to anything.
And so I came with that mindset into your service. When I started, there were different approaches and I heard different lawyers through the different podcasts that you offer and how they did things and some charged initial client interviews, put reservation deposits just to make sure people would come in, and I tried those approaches initially and didn’t find it very successful for me. At least for my area. I live in a large metropolitan area with a lot of choices available to people as far as legal counsel and most of them offer free legal consultation. So it’s tough to draw people in when you’re requiring payments up front. And that’s what I found.
And I spoke with a friend of mine once, and he said something … And he’s not a lawyer, but we were talking and says, “People nowadays expect not only things that are free, but things that are free that have value. And those are the types of businesses that people tend to gravitate towards.” And that really stuck in my mind and I said, “Yeah. Yeah, it’s true.” And if I were a consumer I would like … Who doesn’t want something for free and it’s of value? And when you get something for free that’s of value, you tend to appreciate the company, or the entity, or the individual that gave it to you. So that really started changing my mindset on how I approached these leads, and what I offered.
So I adopted a position that it’s great if I can capture the client, but that’s not my goal when I speak with these individuals. It’s really going back to the empathy thing is A, try to be empathetic to their situation, Their needs. B, try to offer them as many options as possible, some that are favorable to me, and others that are not. But still they’re the correct options to present to the client. Okay. And then at that point, offer the client as much assistance as you can over the phone, which is your initial impression and contact that that client’s going to have with you to show him that you’re professional, and knowledgeable and concerned not only with their pocketbook but also with their particular issues and needs.
And then the rest would work itself out. Whether it’s on that lead or potential referrals you get later on. And that’s the approach that I’ve adopted, and it’s worked well for me at this point.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And can you give a rough estimate of usually how long you spend on that initial call? And obviously every case is a little bit different, and you may take a little bit more time to understand it because you have different complexities versus maybe an uncontested divorce or something like that. But can you give a general idea of how much time you put into number one, to listen, establish empathy? Number two start to convey and offer … Explain the different options you offer, and we can get into what those options are in a minute. And then obviously provide that guidance and advice so that person is in a better position as a result of the call either way, whether they hire you or not.
Moises Kaba: Yeah. My typical call may take around 10, 15 minutes because I listen to the facts of their case and unless it’s something that’s obvious from the get-go that there’s no case, and I tell them and explain to them why immediately, but I generally give them more time than most attorneys that I know that handle these leads and try to do them in five minutes or less. But I don’t want to push the client. I want them to feel that they’re being taken care of and that we’re addressing all their issues because like I said, my emphasis is to capture that person as a client, but also one thing that I do is I say, “Maybe I’m not the right fit for you here.” And I give them the options.
You know I give them the full legal representation option, I give them the unbundled services option. I give them some free options if they’re available as well. And I say, “If I can’t serve you in this matter, please keep me in mind for you, or your family, or friends. Anything else that you might need. Here’s my number. Feel free to contact me at any time.” And I’ve gotten actually clients that have been referred by some people that never signed up. So it’s really you’re setting up your building blocks for a bigger, broader marketing of your firm.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And it’s an important perspective to see the long-term of each individual client. And it’s tough to look at it from that standpoint. “Oh well, what’s the monetary of each individual client. Serve that for financial gain later on.” It’s about empathy, it’s about serving each individual client on that call. But a lot of attorneys may not take the time with each person if they can see, “Well this person’s going to turn into a client for me because they don’t have the money or something,” and immediately off the phone without necessarily thinking about that person as a potential ambassador for your firm and be willing to take the time to connect with that person and try to serve them regardless.
Moises Kaba: Yeah. Absolutely. And your typical client, as soon as you get on the phone they are so anxious just to blurt out everything about their case. Things that as a lawyer may be insignificant for my legal case, but it’s important for them and if I cut them off and don’t let them express it sends a bad message to them. Like I’m not interested in what they have to say, and how they feel about their case. I’m only interested in the money, let’s get to it. So I really try to give them … That’s why like I said, my typical interview lasts ten minutes, maybe 15 minutes. Some are in that line because the first five has just been talking generally. And the next five or ten minutes is me explaining what their options are.
Dave Aarons: Great. Exactly. I appreciate you emphasizing that because that’s really important that people feel heard and feel understood, and that you’re willing to take the time to understand what’s going on for them and allow them to express that. It’s really key. We mentioned some options here. Would you mind going over some of the different options you offer? Typical price points. Like I know that varies depending on the service and so forth, but maybe give a general range and whether that changes for … Because you do immigration, family law, and estate planning, whether those options would adjust based on those three areas of law.
Moises Kaba: Well yes. Obviously, each area is unique and has different billing options or payment options that you give them. It doesn’t … I found more and more that it’s not so much what you offer, but how you offer it. Because most people recognize that there’s a value to the services that you bring, but some of them may not be able to pay that value, at least not immediately. So the key is to be able to offer some flexibility to be able to retain your services. And often people will do that.
So for example, if I have a divorce case that I know is going to cost at least $3,500 to do that case, I’ll tell them, “Listen. I’m going to need a deposit of $3,500,” and if they can’t afford it then what I will offer them is a payment plan on the deposit. And that way many people say, “Okay. I couldn’t afford the representation if I had to give you the $3,500 up front. But by giving me this flexible payment plan, I not only can afford it, but I want it because it’s a lot better than me having to do it on my own. So those are the things that we offer in addition to the unbundled services.
So we always start off for the full legal representation, explain what that would cost, and then we say, “As an alternative, you also have the unbundled services.” And I explain to them in detail what that entails, and how they can control their own budget if that’s what they choose to do. And on occasion, if it’s something like for the family cases, if it’s something that … Let’s say child support, and they’ve been getting state or federal benefits for the child, one option might be to go to the Department of Revenue and have them institute child support actions which is free. And I don’t hesitate to tell them that is an option.
You can go ahead and do that. However, the downside is that you may be put on a waiting list, it may take them a long time to get it done. So this is a downside of going through the government, but it is absolutely free. Or you have the full legal representation option, or you have the unbundled service option. And I find when you give everyone the options and you explain the pros and the cons of each option they value that, appreciate it, and they become more at ease because they know you’re not out there just to sell, sell, sell yourself to make a quick buck, but you’re giving them alternatives and people appreciate that. And that’s the approach that we take with the cases. So we always give them flexible payment plans, and we try to be realistic with what the expectation will be for the fees on the case so there are no surprises. And we’ve been very successful.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Yeah, you sure have. There are two things here. What would be really helpful I think if you talk about how you explain unbundled services, and how they can control their … Not destiny, but the amount of services they’re going to pay for and so forth. Would you mind maybe … We could do either a quick roleplay whatever’s easier, but could you describe how you explain the unbundled service options you offer and then maybe we can unpack what those options are. But how you would go about if I was a divorce client for example, and need help with filing for divorce and so forth. I don’t know if it would change maybe if it was contested or there are kids involved, how you would convey to me … Educate the client, how do you explain to them what unbundled legal services are, how they work, what they cost, what the unique benefit is or not so that they understand that option.
Moises Kaba: Well I explain to them that the unbundled legal services is basically like going up to a buffet. You have all these different foods available to choose from, and you decide what foods you pick and how many times you go back for seconds. So you control the budget that you’re going to be spending. That’s, in a nutshell, what unbundled legal services are. And I explain to them some people feel very comfortable with that because they feel that all they need is a little guidance. And with guidance that they can proceed with the case on their own. Or if they just need me for a particular hearing that they feel uncomfortable with, they can hire me in a limited capacity and pay for that particular hearing.
So it’s a way for them to be more cost-effective and conscious about their budget. And people like that. They like the fact that they don’t have to pay the full legal representation bill if they don’t have to. So that’s how I try to explain it to them. At the same token some people I find, and I find this a surprising majority of the time, because of the flexible payment plans that we offer, that they say, “You know what? Maybe I didn’t have the money for the full legal representation, but because of the flexibility on the payments that you offer, I’m willing to do the full legal representation.” So I capture a client that normally would have been strictly an unbundled service client and am able to get an increased amount of revenues from my client because of the full legal representation.
Dave Aarons: Right. Exactly. And can you talk a bit about if your typical retainer would be, let’s say $3,500, how you would determine what that initial starting fee would be with them? Obviously it’s a conversation. Do you kind of go down? “Can you afford half? Can you afford this? Or what can you afford to put down? What can you afford on a month to month basis?” And then also do you use any kind of software or anything like that to automate that billing systematically so that you don’t have to be managing the payment plan every two weeks or whatever it might be.
Moises Kaba: Yeah. Number one, we use … Our software database is Clio so it’s online. We provide clients with access to their client portal so they can see what’s going on. Ever payment plan is automatically calendered on Clio, and it spits out reminders that we have to collect. And then that, in turn, goes in conjunction with our accounting software which we use QuickBooks. So that’s how we follow up on the payment plans. The actual setting up of the payment plan it is sort of an art because you need to understand the person’s position financially, where they’re at. And this was a mindset that initially was difficult for me because when I started it was … My practice, I did defense work for many years. So I was used to just billable hours, billable hours. And when I did plaintiff’s work and the private sector then it was contingencies or hourly rates that I would charge to the clients with large upfront deposits.
This type of client is unusual from the normal type of client that I had before because you do have to be willing to be more flexible. And I found that the prevalent mindset is that, “Get your money up front because then clients … Once you do the services they stop paying, and then you’re stuck with all these receivables. So far I haven’t found that to be true. It’s been totally opposite. Not only do they pay, but they’re very appreciative and grateful that you gave them the opportunity for the representation and providing those services. So like I said, I try to be as flexible as possible to capture that client. It has to be something that is so unreasonable when it comes to the financial terms that I can’t just accept it. So I work within their budgets, I ask them about, “What do you feel comfortable that you can do?” And then I try to work within what they tell me if it’s at all possible.
Dave Aarons: Right. Exactly. And you mentioned … You’re doing your best to be as flexible as possible, and I think attorneys that, like you said, are more rigid or more tied to having that money up front have an understandable fear, or at least they perceive that if they don’t get the money up front then they’re not going to get it later and you shared, which a number of our attorneys on this podcast have shared, that just hasn’t been the case. And maybe can you talk about that as far as maybe one of the concerns is that they’ll get ahead in the legal work, and then once the legal work’s been done they may not get paid. Does that happen a lot? Or do you find that most of your clients are able to keep pace with the work as it’s being done so that you’re not falling behind, and what do you think contributes most to that not becoming an issue where clients are not paying ultimately on their plan?
Moises Kaba: It depends on the practice area. For example in family law, I find that clients are normally behind. Why? Because everything has pretty strict deadlines. Petition for divorce comes in, or petition for paternity comes in, I have to file an answer and I have to do my counterclaim. And then I have to do the initial discovery to the other side. So that’s a lot of work that gets done right off the bat. So unless I got a large enough deposit, they might be behind the eight ball so to speak on the fees. And then if they respond with discovery, I have no alternative but to respond, so I can’t pace out the work. I’m limited to the time period set by the civil rules and procedure and the family rules and procedure.
Now, with immigration though that’s not generally the case because that we can work. We set our own time schedule. Basically, when we file things fast, we’re going to file things … The time periods for response are typically longer because by the time you send something out and then get a reply, and you give it some additional time to respond, it normally works out pretty well. Okay. Estate planning issues, that’s a totally different story because of that, you basically control when and how often you get paid before you finalize your product. So I can start it, but not finalize it until we’ve had the full payment. So like I said, every practice area is different and you have adjusted your payment schedule according to the practice area.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And so in family law at least, maybe not so much immigration because you have more control over time factors generally speaking, I mean obviously there’s certain cases like deportation matters and things like that where there might be a deadline, but there’s usually more often than not time to be able to structure out a plan and have that be a longer term payment schedule. When you have family law cases where there’s a lot of work that needs to be done up front, do you only take on a case if they can pay a certain amount to cover that? Or do you take it on faith and deliver the services even if they can’t afford everything that’s being delivered up front and then have them pay out afterward? And if so, has that worked out for you?
Moises Kaba: Really what I’ve done is I’ve taken it on faith that they will pay because personally, I hate to start a case and not finish it. That just professionally rubs me the wrong way. I like to finish my cases. And secondly, I’m already vested in the client’s case. I’m vested in the client. And like I said, initially, the reason why I gave them a flexible payment plan was not only because of the money, because I want to build and expand my practice through referrals that that client can lead in the future. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow that client wins the lotto and becomes my multimillionaire client. So that’s how I view it. If I’m in it, I try to stay in it.
And so far it’s been pretty successful. Most clients even after the fact do pay me because they’re appreciative of what I did for them and how I assisted them. So that’s my philosophy on it. Once I’m in it, I’m in it to the end and I’m not looking for just the money for that client, for that case. I’m thinking long term, what that client can produce to me in recommendations and in goodwill for me and for my firm.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Absolutely. And that’s a good perspective to see that. Again that long-term value of each relationship and by serving that relationship and being fully committed to helping that client, there’s a lot of other things that can come from that whether it be referrals or goodwill or good reputation and that leads to a lot of other benefits for the firm long term. And also, I think you’re hitting on something that others … I’ve heard before that the default rate of doing this type of thing is very very low.
And maybe it’s 2% or 5%. If you offer this type of payment plan and get behind on it, on 50 clients maybe one or two will end up with some form of an issue, but it seems like what a lot of attorneys fail to factor in … They go, “Oh I had a client that I offered this option but then they didn’t pay me,” but they don’t necessarily factor in how many more clients they were able to actually have come on, and afford, and retain their services, and all the additional revenue that they were able to generate from all those clients that otherwise would not have been able to afford them and they would have turned away, and how much that offsets this small minority percentage of clients that may not end up paying in the end. Which again is just a very very small number. And once you really start to factor that in, how many more clients you can serve just like you described here the numbers really start to pencil out a lot more profitable in offering these options.
Moises Kaba: And that’s absolutely correct. But one other thing I factor in is I try to do a certain amount of pro bono work per year. And most bar associations require attorneys to do pro bono work. So any client that doesn’t pay me for whatever reason, I treat it like my pro bono work for the year. So I would have done it anyway. So it all factors into that. So that’s just the viewpoint that I have on the subject.
Dave Aarons: Right. Absolutely. It’s your opportunity to give back which is part of also … Every attorney is doing some that in their practice as well. One final thing on unbundled services I wanted to unpack it, you mentioned that there was a few different. One was you offer guidance, and is that hour by hour? Maybe kind of unpack that a little bit. And then you have, I heard limited appearances where you might attend for one hearing. And then I’m assuming there must be some form of document preparation component in there, whether that’s either client driven where they bring you what they prepared if it’s you preparing for them. Would you just unpack a little bit those options within that and what that would look like from a cost perspective and how you would convey that?
Moises Kaba: Well obviously we always start with offering the consultation. And I tell the client if they want me to sit and review documents and meet with them, and generally, I give them an hour of my time, then I give them a flat fee and say, “This’ll cost you,” for example, “$350 for the consultation.” And I try to guide them as much as possible. That’s a starting point. From there, the client can determine, what if anything else they need. So part of the services is review of other documents, preparation of documents or pleadings, attendance on a limited capacity in a court hearing. Those are basically the general categories that you normally touch upon, and you tell them that each of those categories has a different price depending on what their needs are and the circumstances of their particular case.
So you try to … When they leave, you try to give them an idea of what those fees would be now that you have a better understanding of what their case is going to need.
Dave Aarons: Do you typically offer those at a flat rate? Like do you have packages? “Well, I can do doc prep for this? These things, and then one consultation, and I do all that for 750,” or do you do all your unbundled on hour by hour based on how much you think it’s going to take you as far as time?
Moises Kaba: I try to do a flat rate for the services only because it’s a lot easier for clients to understand and digest. When you do hour by hour, they automatically are insecure as far as what their total fees are going to be in the case. And that makes them uncomfortable. And anything that makes them uncomfortable I like to eliminate, so I try to … Sometimes it works out for my benefit, sometimes it doesn’t. But the whole point is to give stability to both sides and know this is where we’re at. There’s nothing to guess. There’s nothing to figure out. No hidden surprises. And that’s how I try to structure my fees with the clients.
Now I can’t tell you that I have a fixed amount that I charge per document because it depends on the type of document. It’s not the same for me to fill out a financial affidavit than it is for to me to … I don’t know. Do a request for production of documents. I have to go through documents and figure out what’s responsive and what’s not. So everything has a different time period and based on my knowledge and experience of the area, I try to determine more or less what it’s going to cost me time-wise, and what’s the minimum amount that I can do it to keep that client happy and bring them in as a client, and that’s what we charge.
Dave Aarons: That’s right. Yep. I appreciate you expanding on that a little bit further because I think that offering a flat rates is something that’s been really effective for a lot of attorneys and being able to offer something that clients can see and they understand what it’s going to cost and it removes a lot of the uncertainty that they otherwise would have had about hour by hour and so forth and those concerns a lot of clients have about attorneys running the meter and not having to worry when to cut off and so forth. So that’s really helpful.
And then also it you gives you the capacity to start becoming more efficient, whether it be leveraging the time of a paralegal or a staff member to help you with preparing these things, and if you have a flat rate and you’re getting, let’s say 500 for a specific task, now it becomes how quickly can you get these things done, and that’s where document automation technology and leveraging the help of other staff members can start to streamline the process and impact your effective hourly rate from there.
Moises Kaba: Right.
Dave Aarons: So the last thing we will cover here, and then we’ll wrap up Moises because we’re short on time. One thing I wanted just to touch base is, you originally started out I think in Miami and then you’ve expanded out to some other regions. And I think there were some … I think at some point you had some virtual offices set up, can you just talk just a little bit about how you’ve been able to serve some of the other counties that we’ve served in the past and some of the strategies you’ve been able to implement to make sure that you’re able to serve people that are a little bit further from your office in Naples and so forth I think is one of the [inaudible 00:49:24] is one of the counties your servicing right now.
Moises Kaba: Yeah. What I wanted to do is expand the scope of my practice, but to expand it I guess organically. So the cheapest alternative for me to do that was to create virtual offices in the different counties that I wanted to provide services for. So we expanded our services to Collier County, we did it to Broward County as well, and we did that through virtual offices. Allows me to have a location to see clients. Someone will answer my phones, forward my calls as well. And for clients that normally would say, “Well you’re in Dade and I’m in Naples, you’re too far.” I go out to them. What I do is I try to schedule one day a week in each county to see clients.
So I’ll see them let’s say Tuesdays in Naples, which is our Naples office. And maybe I’ll do Thursday in Fort Lauderdale which is our Broward office. And then the other days I’ll stay in my Dade office which is our main office. And this way I’m able to expand my scope and my client base. And it’s been very successful until now.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I think an advantage of working with leads is that it gives you the capacity to test out other regions and also start taking clients. The virtual offices really allows attorneys to be able to test out a new market without having to invest in a brick and mortar office and spending a thousand, or $1,500 a month and you know, pay just for the time they’re using that office space and test out a new market.
When we first started you didn’t know if Collier County was going to be a region that you wanted to serve. There were certainly some advantages it seemed like. There was a lot of leads available, but you were able to take some leads, get some clients in that region, set up the virtual office, and I think most offices are maybe $25 an hour. Something like that. And meet with some clients and see how that works out. And then obviously if there are a lot more clients coming in those regions, then you can start to expand that out, and if things are going well, you can get whole other office set up there, whatever you might want to do. But it allows you … We’ve had a lot of attorneys utilizing these types of offices to be able to bridge that gap and do it really cost-effectively and test out new markets.
Moises Kaba: Correct.
Dave Aarons: I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share so openly about the types of options you’re offering. The way you’re serving your clients. I really appreciate the level of empathy and concern, and presence you bring into relating with each of the individuals that you’re serving. We get a lot of great feedback on the clients on how much they appreciate that and we certainly appreciate that work. So I really thank you for everything you’re doing and we certainly look forward to continuing to cultivate this relationship and helping you serve more clients in the future.
Moises Kaba: Oh, I want to thank you for the opportunity you’ve given me to expand my practice in areas that I would never have done it on my own. So you showed me a new way of doing things, and I appreciate that and it’s been good for men, and good for my clients. So, thank you for your service.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. You’re welcome. And thank you again for joining us today and for everyone else that’s listening, we certainly appreciate you participating in the podcast. For those of you that really value this show, one of the things you can do to support the show is leaving us a review on iTunes. Actually, the easiest way to do that is if you have iTunes on your computer, just go into iTunes, do a search in the iTunes store for Unbundled Attorney Mastermind. You’ll find the podcast right there and you can leave us a review. We love to hear your feedback, and certainly, appreciate the positive reviews if they are. Or not.
And also if there’s anyone that you know that could benefit from listening to these episodes please share with them because that’s how we grow the show and impact more attorneys and more legal communities. So with that, we’ll go ahead and wrap up. Thanks again to our guest, Moises Kaba for joining us on the show. And we’ll see you all on the next episode. Thanks so much.
Moises Kaba: Thank you.
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Episode 32: How Cultivating a Deep Understanding of Your Clients’ Emotional, Cultural and Political Context Can Help You Deliver Exceptional Service and Build a More Profitable Practice
Originally from Cuba, Moises Kaba has been providing immigration, family law, and estate representation in southern Florida for over 30 years. Today, Moises joins us on the show to talk about the importance of cultivating an understanding of the cultural history and emotional fears of your clients. He explains how this empathy helps you become an exceptional communicator. This is one element of Moises’s three-part service philosophy which not only dictates how he relates to clients, but also determines the types of flexible payment options he offers. He breaks down the profitability of intelligently structured payment plans, and explains why so many attorneys not currently offering these options could be missing out on a tremendous amount of additional revenue.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Major differences between the Cuban and United States legal system
- How having a basic understanding of the laws in your clients’ countries of origin can help you better serve them
- How Trump has impacted the immigration system, and how to adapt to these changes to better communicate and relate to your clients
- Why Moises chose to use lead generation, and how Unbundled Attorney compares to the other companies he has worked with
- The importance of understanding your local market to better position and price your services
- Moises’s 3-part service philosophy, and how incorporating his tenets helps you instill trust and credibility with your clients
- The value of letting clients vent and express their feelings and concerns on the initial call
- Useful analogies and suggestions for how to explain unbundled legal services to your clients
- How Moises uses Clio Payments (LawPay) to automate the billing of his clients’ payment plans
- Why Moises believes customizing payment plans for your clients is an art and requires a great deal of practice and attention
- Some important questions Moises asks clients to better determine how much they can afford to invest in their case
- Why Moises believes in having faith in his clients when it comes to making good on their payment plans
- The benefits of quoting flat fees whenever possible, especially for Unbundled service options
- How to leverage virtual offices to expand into new regions without taking on a lot of new overhead
- And much more...
If you enjoy this podcast, please head over to iTunes, subscribe to the show, and leave us a review. We love hearing from our listeners and look forward to reading your feedback!
For more information about Unbundled Attorney and how our Lead Generation services help grow your practice, visit: https://www.unbundledattorney.com