Moving to a New City: How to Close Your Existing Practice and Start up a New One from Scratch, Tips for Hiring Staff, and the Benefits of Layaway Payments
We have another fantastic episode of the podcast to share with you. We interviewed Aaron Walsch, who’s one of our provider attorneys out of Nashville, Tennessee, but he’s fresh to Nashville within the past year. Moved his whole practice, which he’d been running for, I think it was 10 or 12 years or so in Columbia, South Carolina, to Nashville, just this last year. He walks us through the transition. You know, a lot of attorneys have often considered, boy, I sure would like to live in another city or another state or another area, but hey, I’ve got this practice to run, and maybe don’t really make the transition because of that. He’s here to say it is possible. It can be a lot of work on the front end, and maybe some travel time.
He gives some great tips on maybe how to avoid some of the headaches that he’s had to address, but there’s a lot of ways to do it, and he gives some real-world examples of how he has done it in the past year and is even still running a few cases in South Carolina at the moment, but he’ll soon to be wrapped up with those. For those of you that might be considering making a transition to a new state or new city and opening up a new practice there and winding up your current practice, this is going to be a really valuable episode.
We also talk a lot about layaway. Layaway is a new option that a lot of our attorneys have been offering, and that’s just the ability to get clients moving forward with making payments on their case, even if they can’t afford the full amount up front, and just making payments towards the balance, and then filing it, once the payments reach a certain threshold. We’ve had a couple of lawyers that have come on the show and shared that they’ve been offering that option to a great degree of success. He really unpacks that today and shares exactly how to explain it to the clients. So far, it’s been working extremely well for Aaron. We also cover a lot of other tips, so let’s get right into this episode. It’s wide-ranging, and lots to take away from. This interview with Aaron Walsch, one of our provider attorneys out of Nashville, Tennessee.
Dave Aarons: Hey, Aaron, welcome to the show.
Aaron Walsch: Hey, thanks, how are you?
Dave Aarons: You know, I’m good, man. I’m really happy we’re getting a chance to connect today. I think we’ve worked together for a number of months now. From what I’ve heard, things have been going real smooth. Certainly, have sent you a lot of clients, so I’m really looking forward to hearing more about the story and how things have been going and the types of options you’ve been offering the clients. I appreciate you taking the time today.
Aaron Walsch: Sure, my pleasure.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Maybe what you could do, Aaron, just to start us off, is just give a little bit of background to how you got started the practice of law, and the region you serve, and also the areas of law you cover.
Aaron Walsch: Sure. I started, let’s see, I went to law school from 2000 to 2003. I had been for a little while after college working in sort of intermodal transportation, containerized shipping, and things of that nature, which took me from Nashville, Tennessee, where I’m from and am now. In the steamship industry, I had ended up working in Charleston, such that South Carolina had become my home state. After a few years, I applied to and ended up going to South Carolina School of Law. Got out in 2003 and practiced exclusively in South Carolina until, oh, 2016, when I returned home to Nashville, Tennessee.
My practice here is a solo practice focusing on, pretty close to exclusively on family and domestic law. That was true of my practice in South Carolina as well, with the exception that I had a larger criminal law component there. I guess that’s how I got to be here.
Dave Aarons: Yes, so what made you make the transition from working in the steamship industry and working with containers and so forth, to becoming a lawyer, originally. Do you remember?
Aaron Walsch: Sure. It was a number of things. Law school had always perhaps been a bit on my radar. I’m not sure how many political science majors never at least thought about it. There are some lawyers in my family. My undergrad experience, it took me five years to get through with a GPA that, ahem, it was fine, but I got better in law school. It probably was best that I spend a little bit of time working, but to some extent, I knew I would probably go back to school, whether that would be a Master’s in public policy or law school. That part I guess I was not sure about until it played out. I kind of knew I would go back there. Three years working on a truck yard will make you want to go back to school if trucking is not in your blood. And it’s not in my blood.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, fair enough. You were practicing in South Carolina. Did you say Charleston, or what part of South Carolina were you from, or not from, but practicing in?
Aaron Walsch: Well, I lived in, yeah, I started out practicing in Columbia, which was where the law school is. Somewhat traditional, I worked for a mid-sized insurance defense firm for a couple of years, and when that turned out not to be the best match for me, as probably many insurance associates discover, I did something completely different. I took a pretty big pay cut, became an assistant public defender, which I loved, to be honest. If I kind of was a trust fund guy, I would probably still be a public defender. After a couple years of that, so at this point, I’m four or five years out of law school and somehow decided I would do the single thing.
What you learn when you hang a shingle is a huge amount of the calls that come are going to be about family law. I spent about a month saying, “Well, no, I don’t really do that,” and then my training from trucking years, honestly. Whether we had a truck or not, we always had a truck, we always took the load, we’d cover it. I guess that experience got into my head and I just started saying yes to the family law clients, and now, close to 10 years later, I say no to about everything else.
I once had a smart but cynical older lawyer tell me after about seven or eight years was how long it took before you got over whatever it was that made you not want to call yourself a divorce lawyer. It’s true. All the young lawyers are like, “Well, I do divorces, but I’m also this.” After about eight years you’ll get over that, and you’ll be like, “Yep, I’m a divorce lawyer,” you know, custody, whatever, all those things. That is about me. I did try a murder last January, but I really think I’m kind of done with that, for various reasons.
Dave Aarons: What is it about family law that draws so many folks away from all these other areas, and everyone never [inaudible 00:06:20] ends up doing family law, and what is it about it for you that has you being more specialized in it these days?
Aaron Walsch: Well, I think the real answer is just that, for a retail lawyer, not someone who gets clients from an insurance company or has some other amazing way to get clients. If you are just out there, it seems to me that pretty much the calls that you will get or the focus, you can be an injury attorney, you can do criminal work, or you can do divorce laws, because, in candor, when businesses need a lawyer, they kind of know who to call. I’ve done some business law, but family law is what people need, and they need it every day. They need it in a recession, they need it good times and bad times. If you embrace it, I know very few decent family court attorneys who really struggle so much with finding people that maybe want to hire them. It’s more a matter of finding good clients matching up well and trying to represent, you know, clients that you can get along with and help.
A flipside I know for a lot of attorneys is that, you know, in an insurance firm or something, I mean, my complaint with that, and it’s certainly a good area of the law, as I helped either corporations or wealthy people sort of fight over piles of money, and I had a relatively small part in it. It can be fairly hard to feel important. I can think of 20 areas of law that I would guess are kind of the same, but even the most broke, or kind of the least appealing client in a way, their family court case is very important to them. That can kind of help with motivation, or at least in my case.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and it allows you to really develop a relationship with someone and serve them on a very personal and human level, with issues that are very personal to them.
Aaron Walsch: And very real and very important, and in candor, I mean, a lot of lawyers, I think, although we’re trained to speak, I think a lot of us in a way are kind of introverted and are not crazy about getting to know the clients, but ultimately, you kind of do when you learn, you learn to, you know, if you’re an introvert, you still learn a way to talk to them. When you really can help somebody with a custody thing or get them some alimony when they didn’t know how they were going to survive, you know, it can be pretty rewarding.
Then like every kind of law, a lot of clients turn out to be jerks, and you wish you’d never met them, but that’s the job, and you do your job, and you do it as best you can. You don’t do it because they’re going to thank you. You just do it. I like helping people, and helping Allstate sue Traveler’s for indemnification was never going to give me that feeling. Again, for people who do that, that is wonderful, but it was not going to be for me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, we’re going to get a call from a bunch of Allstate lawyers here in a minute, going, “Hey, man [crosstalk 00:09:00].”
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, I know they’re going to be mad, [crosstalk 00:09:02] singled out, of course.
Dave Aarons: No, I’m just kidding.
Aaron Walsch: Subrogation, indemnification, all those words, I recall them from law school, but I deal with them rarely.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Well, you’re hitting on something that I think is important, and that is unless you’re going to be at the country club and working with businesses, and the old boy referral network, individuals, and families, they need family law, immigration, bankruptcy, and estate. I mean, these are the three, four areas we’re going to be working on.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, sure.
Dave Aarons: These are everyday life events. This is what the family and parents and all kinds of, any average working family is going to be dealing with day-to-day. When it comes to serving the average folks, these are the type of things they’re dealing with.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah. The flip is that the lawyers that do advertise tend to mostly be injury lawyers, so even the people that are out there being pressed at potential clients, largely don’t do the area of law, I mean, if you happen to get hit by a car, great. There are a hundred lawyers fighting for that injury case. You don’t, at least in my market or smaller markets, you don’t see divorce lawyers or most criminal or bankruptcy, these areas, not a lot of advertising. It’s word of mouth, but if nobody you know knows a good attorney, you really don’t know where to go.
That’s more you guys’ side of it and connecting people and making that connection is, as you know, there’s a lot of companies that try to do it and offer leads, but you guys also know your numbers and that you’re pretty successful with it. The way you do it is working for both a lot of clients and it appears a lot of attorneys. That’s a good niche, and there we go.
Dave Aarons: No doubt. Well, and you’re in a bit of a, you have I guess a unique story. I mean, you were practicing in South Carolina, you got a lot of experience running your own, like you said, opening your own practice and running that in South Carolina. Then you had to essentially kind of start from scratch in a community you know, but essentially maybe you had a few relationships here and there, maybe you get your foot in the door, get going a little bit, but you had to start again.
Aaron Walsch: I did, I sure did.
Dave Aarons: What would be really interesting is if you could walk us through what that was like to have to, to come back, and I’m curious also what brought you back to Nashville if you want to share that. Then also, take us through what you did to get your practice up and running again in a whole new city.
Aaron Walsch: A bit of a combination of things. The move back, of course, I grew up in Nashville, and my family was here. My mom and stepdad were certainly getting older. Their health was not so good. It was useful for them to have me and my family come back. A hundred-something people a day, according to various statistics, are moving to the Nashville area every day. It’s a place people want to be, and I had watched its growth, and certainly, my wife would sometimes kind of ask me, half-joking, “Why don’t we live in Nashville, exactly?” But when you’ve got one bar down and an office and all these things, it can be very daunting. Ultimately, we just decided we were going to do it. We’ve got three kids, but two of them are fairly young. It was just a matter, and as it turns out, not to get into the morbid, after about a year of being back, my mom did pass, about a month ago. We got back just in time to do that.
For all those reasons it was good. Also, even with, Tennessee has several more law schools than South Carolina, and I think have even added another one or two in the last few years that maybe it didn’t need. There is still a demand, just because of the growth. Again, not to, any lawyer who’s been doing it for a while will tell you there’s never really a lawyer surplus. There’s a competent lawyer shortage. I’m not knocking everybody, but there’s a lot, the fact there may be these many lawyers, this many law schools, doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a demand for a good and qualified people.
I had a very hard time at first, absolutely, because you know, chicken and egg, based on shutting down a fairly successful practice, packing up and moving. I basically went from good revenue to like no revenue. I mean, one old friend from high school hired me on a case for his wife. Couple things trickled in, and I got a couple fees, but it really was, I mean, I didn’t literally eat ramen noodles, because I can’t stand them, but it was very tight for a minute. Then things pick up a little bit, and then in candor, well, an Unbundled relationship started at a pretty good time, and those leads picked up our revenue, you know, a good bit.
At the same time, I was having some organic revenue growth, but certainly, in my case, the Unbundled referrals were a little bit of a shot in the arm. We’ve been kind of cranking along at this point. It enabled me to get out of a kind of a virtual and home office scenario, which not to knock it, I know that’s increasingly popular, and if you know how to do it, you can do very well that way. I’m just old school enough, I like an office and a receptionist and a desk and all those things.
We got the revenue, we got the office, we got the sign on a busy road. The Unbundled thing is still growing and just being back and being in the community is growing. Lots of new relationships, as well as, the fact that you went to kindergarten through eighth grade with somebody is great, but if you haven’t seen them since eighth grade, it does very little for you. If you then over a year or two see that at either event or even just on social media, like, oh, yeah, well, she’s on Facebook, she’s back. I like that Friday afternoon Farmers Market, too. He’s a real person.
You know, people are reminded of you, and that process is ongoing. But it was tough. My first reaction would be to say, I would never advise anybody to pack up a ten-year-old practice and move it. The flipside is, you know, if there’s somewhere you really want to be, maybe you should. Because my smaller county in South Carolina wasn’t home, and it was fine, and I was making good money, but I was never going to really, really love it. Possibly someone listening to this is somewhere they don’t really love and maybe they’ve got a bigger market in mind. It’s hard, be prepared for your ramen noodle period, so to speak, but it can be done.
Also, in candor, if someone was planning a move and had a, you would think, an Unbundled lead generation, but some way to get leads and things when they opened up, it can be done, although if I hadn’t made it, I’d be dispatching trucks somewhere, cussing about how it didn’t work. I think you know, so long as somebody is looking at a growth area, one of many of the great cities in America that are growing or great markets. If you’ll work hard and get some good leads, I think people can do it.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, we had another gentleman we’ve been working with, gosh, a long, long time. He was out of El Paso. His name was Charles Skinner. He came on the podcast back in the middle of January. The episode was called, I think, how to relocate a law practice to a new region.
Aaron Walsch: There you go.
Dave Aarons: He talked a lot about how to unwind a longstanding practice. He was going back and forth, because basically his wife moved, got a job in Dallas, pretty quick. Didn’t have much notice. He was ready to move the whole thing, he had to go back and forth and manage it. Maybe you could just kind of walk people through what it takes to, because I think there are a whole lot of attorneys out there that, maybe they kind of like the city living, but there’s somewhere else they may really prefer to live, but because of the fact they’ve built up a practice, and they got the referrals and they got all the things you got going, they could be really reluctant to make the jump.
Certainly in your case, and certainly in Charles’s, by being able to tap into a lead generation service, it makes it a lot easier just to flip the switch and have clients in a new area. But there’s a lot of steps involved with that.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Maybe you could unpack just a little bit further what you had to do to unravel, unwind your practice in South Carolina, as far as wrapping up cases, if you handed them off to some other attorneys you worked with. Then how long that took, and then maybe what you had to do to get it going in Nashville again.
Aaron Walsch: Sure. It’s still somewhat taking. Kind of the pro tip, which maybe this is not exactly what I did, the pro tip is plan it far enough in advance that as you’re saving whatever money you can save for your move, you can save some money either to, you know, I mean, of course, if people have unearned retainers, you should be able to refund them out of trusts. You know, some people, however, are working on earned upon receipt retainers. That’s hard. The pro tip would be, have enough money to terminate everybody, give them their money back, and on good terms and cleanly. Probably nobody does this, myself included.
Mine was sort of a hybrid. I sent a letter to everybody, I gave them lots of notice about my plans. I said, and what I did, and it has to do with me and it violates the pro tip. Because I kind of told people that, so long as you have paid your bill and you’re willing to pay your bill, I’ll stay on your case if you want me. I pretty much-advised people, you may be more comfortable with someone whose office is in the same state as you, South Carolina. But we’ve come this far together, and if you really want me, I’ll stay. As a result of that decision that perhaps I would make differently next time, to be honest, I still have I think five or six South Carolina cases.
In fact on Monday, of all things, I will appear in front of the South Carolina Court of Appeals for oral argument. This is a money-loser, I will never really get paid for that time, on any of these cases, because obviously even if I’m charging for what I’m doing there, I can’t charge people a 12-hour round trip, and I don’t. It’s a money-loser, but reputation matters and though I’ve left that place, I didn’t want to leave it as the guy who left people in a lurch. That was difficult. I have been up and down the road to South Carolina. It was bad at first, but at first also, I was still getting revenue in South Carolina, and not so much in Tennessee, and I was really up and down the road.
As those cases sort of closed out and closed down, that ratio really switched. At this point, every time I go to Tennessee, pretty much it’s kind of a money-loser, but I’m just wrapping it up ethically. It helps for me. My wife and her family are all from there, so at least I can usually tack it onto a weekend or some way makes it not just a 13, 14-hour round trip for a two-hour hearing. Which is tough, but realistically, an in-state move, I guess for most states, that wouldn’t that big of a deal. Dallas to El Paso is probably about as far as South Carolina to Nashville, and I’m sure that guy sort of said the same. The back and forth was more of it and more difficult than he probably expected.
I would have liked to have planned that a little better, but you do what you have to do, and if you got court somewhere, you either cover it, or you appear yourself. If appearing yourself means you drive six hours to do it, you drive six hours to do it.
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Aaron Walsch: Anyone listening that practices law knows this kind of [inaudible 00:19:40]. I mean, no CPA would do that, but our business is a little different. That was a great question because that is really a difficult part of that. I’m lucky to be about done. Like I said, I think I have five or six South Carolina cases and probably three or four of them have trial dates. Just wrapping them up. The smart and short answer is, get out, refund people their referral, get them a new lawyer and leave as cleanly as possible is the advice.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and try not to keep the cases going.
Aaron Walsch: Try not to do what I did. Do what I say, not what I did, yeah.
Dave Aarons: Well, I mean, I commend you from an integrity standpoint, being willing to go to bat on your word and continue to help those folks, even though it’s a real schlep to get down there and do it. But you’re doing it and so that says a lot about your willingness to honor your commitments to folks.
Aaron Walsch: Certainly. I mean, not to, obviously not by name, but having some good friends in the market you leave who, you know, they’re not going to try their case for you, but at least stand-in on a five-minute status conference helps a lot. Again, anybody who’s probably in a spot to move, hopefully, they’ve made a few friends, because you will either need a lot of retainer money to pay people or some friends who will help you out, certainly in the place you’re leaving, ideally in both spots. That again, it’s just a matter of doing it and being careful with your scheduling, which we’re supposed to be anyways. I don’t know. No magic advice there. It’s kind of the same as running a small practice anywhere. Just your different courts are much farther apart.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I mean, and this is good advice because you’ve done it. There’s the way to do it, it was clear to you, and then you’ve done it a little bit differently. You’ve had to go the extra mile to make it happen, so attorneys can really now think through, when they’re going to make that transition, how to do it and hopefully do it in the best way possible where they’re maybe not having to take so much time to maintain a previous practice. It’s a lesson learned either way.
Aaron Walsch: That’s right.
Dave Aarons: If they do, they know what they’re in for.
Aaron Walsch: That’s right. I mean, it’d be hard for me to picture someone, even the most, best planning, I mean, it’d be hard for me to imagine not having to go back and forth for three or four months. I have probably done it now for a little more than a year, and that was perhaps a bit of an aspect of some poor planning on my part. But also the nature of the case. Maybe you can go to trial in a year, maybe not. Maybe you can control that and push it along and take your deposition, and maybe you can’t. That’s, it’s certainly ethically, so long as I’d given people retainers back, I wouldn’t have gotten in any trouble for backing out of a case that I was three file boxes into, but I just, that to me …
I would have done it to an insurance company client, but to a real person who’s been working with me for three file boxes, I just, me as an individual, I couldn’t tell, I couldn’t send them on their way if they didn’t want to go on their way. That’s the choice you make, and as long as you do it ethically, there’s no wrong choice.
Dave Aarons: Yep. Yeah, it just means you’re going to be, you might be spending a little more time in a car than you might have envisioned, but hey, you can catch old Unbundled Attorney Mastermind podcast episodes while you’re in it.
Aaron Walsch: Absolutely, because there are several good ones to listen to, there you go.
Dave Aarons: Exactly. Maybe the one about how to relocate your practice without having to do that.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, a good place to start.
Dave Aarons: All right, cool. Well, hey, you’ve made the transition. I mean, it sounds like you had some slow times, but certainly with the efforts you did to get it up and running and our partnership and working together, sending you leads has certainly helped a lot. Let’s talk about how things have been since you got in Nashville, and then we started working together. We can talk, start to unpack how it is you’re serving the clients that we’ve been sending you. I believe we started, so when was it that you moved to Nashville? You said about …
Aaron Walsch: Probably showed here, you know, kind of as a presence, from about April of last year. I would say more towards the middle of the summer is when the switch really got flipped. I think maybe July or August, I just absolutely refused to take anything new in South Carolina. I guess that’s, that would, and I’d have to look and see when I actually got sworn in in Tennessee, probably December of ’15 or January of ’16. That’s a whole different process, obviously. I’d say at this point, I’ve been here full-time about a year, would be close enough, close enough for government work, as they say.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. From the legal side, as far as getting licensed in Tennessee and getting familiar with the local courts? Were you researching and kind of getting ready? Did you have to, first of all, retake the bar for Tennessee?
Aaron Walsch: I did not. I was able to be admitted by motion, which was, that was really fantastic. You had to have a bunch of referrals, and you have to do the whole application again, and list everywhere you’ve lived for 20 years like you remember your college addresses and all that stuff. I was able to get admitted by motion, although don’t quote me. Someone actually told me that very soon after I did that, Tennessee maybe changed their rule, and maybe you can’t-do that anymore. Although again, don’t quote me. My joke, of course, is that they did that because of me, although I don’t believe that for a second.
Every time I cross up, I think I kind of said something earlier before we were talking, that 12B motion in Tennessee is a 12.02 motion, it’s completely different. Every time I kind of say something wrong, or sort of accidentally arguing a rule the way it is in South Carolina, I always kind of have a joke with my wife. I’m like, “You know, they really probably should have made me take a bar exam.” Although, you know, 15, 13, 15 years in, you learn to research the differences, but I was somewhat fortunate they did not make me sit for another two-day test.
Dave Aarons: Well, yeah, it’s a good thing to look into, if you’re looking at making a move to a different state or a different local bar, if there’s a possibility of being able to be admitted by motion, or if you’re going to be stuck sitting the test again.
Aaron Walsch: Sure. It makes it if you’re going to do the motion thing, I mean, I just sort of, fortunately, or unfortunately, I joke about the insurance defense practice, but I had a couple of wonderful, wonderful teachers in that firm. One of them, he just, every single year, when we’d get that new rulebook, he would just sit there in his office and he’d read the rule book. He’d make the associates do the same. I pretty much still do that every year, which you know, maybe not as close as the first year. Between that old partner and my contracts professor with his quote of, “If you don’t read the footnotes, your children will starve.” I’m just always reminded of that, and I’ve won plenty of hearings at this point because I knew the rules just a little bit better than the other guy. I’ve lost some because maybe I didn’t know them quite as well.
Ultimately, I guess the substantive law is more interesting and more like the exciting memos of law you get to write as a clerk, but at least in my area of work, the rules are probably more important than the substantive law half the time. If they don’t make you take a bar exam, you can be weak there. Again, kind of the pro tip. If you’re able to get in by motion, boy, learn those rules, because the lawyers you’re up against will have been dealing with them every day for 10, 30 years. They’ll club you with them if you’re the new guy, whether you’re really new or just new to …
Tennessee is great, too, because they allow local rules. South Carolina for whatever reason really didn’t. Tennessee has some amazing amount of counties, like 90-something, because of the hilly topography and there’s all this kind of reason that it has so many counties, and they allow local rules. You gotta everything to dabble. Again that’s the job, and if you’re going to go to Smith County, you better learn the Smith County local rules, because again, the guys that live and practice every day in Smith County, they know them, and they’re waiting for you to come down from the city and not know their rules.
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Aaron Walsch: That’s, those tips have very little to do with my Unbundled experience, just kind of general tips, which anybody could give.
Dave Aarons: Well, nothing wrong with that. I mean, we’ve been on the topic of how to get up to speed in a new region here.
Aaron Walsch: That’s right, that’s true enough.
Dave Aarons: That’s certainly a factor of it, and learning the rules is part and parcel, especially, like you said, when you’re working in a region in which local rules are an important aspect of the law there, you know, and the way cases are going to be heard and decided. Certainly getting up to speed, and that’s something that Charles talked about, is he went in and met the judges and got to know the clerks and really took some time to get to know his local, that new local court, and everything that was [crosstalk 00:28:07] upon it, and he talked for a while about the value of that.
Aaron Walsch: I’m sure El Paso and Dallas, I’ll bet El Paso and Dallas seem like they’re almost in two different states. Just from some limited childhood time in Texas, you know, they’re different regions, and the vastness of that state probably puts Tennessee’s 96 counties to shame. He’s exactly right, but the reality is, if you have clients and you are, you know if you got two cases, nobody wants to sit and read that rule book. Maybe they should, they don’t want to. If you’ve got 20, 30, 40 cases with rules you need to look up, you’ll be in there regardless. You don’t need some hypothetical advice to read the rules if you’ve got clients.
Again, finding the right lead source and in my case, I’ve been successful with Unbundled. Not to knock anybody else, but I can speak for me, and I’ve been successful with you guys in that. That’s real-world motivation. Uh-oh, I’m in juvenile court tomorrow. How do I file this financial declaration? I better look. You know, and that’s, that will get you there too.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, it has a great way of motivating. You know, late in the evening, when you realize you gotta file something, and you’re going to be there in the morning to figure out what the heck you’re doing as you go along and try not to make it seem like you did it.
Aaron Walsch: I got to figure something out for a motion to compel tomorrow that’s a little bit of a wrinkle. I’m going to eat some dinner and then put in the evening hours that I’m sure almost anyone listening is pretty familiar with.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, no doubt.
Aaron Walsch: You’re at home, maybe you drink a cup of coffee, or if you’re so inclined, maybe you have a single cold beer, you do some research. It could be a lot worse.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Okay, so you get kind of settled in in the summer. I think we entered the fray early November of 2016. We start sending you some leads. Maybe walk us through maybe what was different for you, if anything at all, in the way in which you were working these leads, as opposed to what you’d been used to up til then, and some of the strategies you started to implement to start to have some success, based on either our suggestions or what you found to be working well for you.
Aaron Walsch: Sure. I mean, I just think the biggest thing that probably was not necessarily a surprise to me but a change, and it’s probably something you all hear regularly. It’s a pretty good volume, and at least in my market, I don’t necessarily get some number per day, but it’s a pretty good volume. If you are used to, even kind of in a very busy, sort of organic growth situation like I had in South Carolina, where in candor, I really had no organized marketing, I just knew a lot of people, it seemed like. You know, you get a certain pace of calls and clients and meetings, and if it’s a satisfactory pace, you probably look into it.
I would anticipate that for all but just the very busiest solos or small firm lawyers, the pace of Unbundled referrals, or not referrals, leads, is faster. That probably, and so you’ve got to adapt your daytime, whether you set a time to call people or whether you try to just call them immediately. I mean, there’s different ways to do that. I’ll be honest, I’ve tweaked several of them. I’ve gone from being a “gotta call them within 15 minutes if possible,” to, you know, people really only answer certain times during the day, at least employed people, and that’s probably most of them. Back to, oh, yeah, I like calling at lunchtime and five o’clock, but I’m missing a few people that I didn’t call in the first 20 minutes.
Now I’m probably a little bit of a hybrid. I try to call them very quickly, and if for whatever reason, I’m not able to, then I go for kind of what I’ve found to be kind of the sweeter spots which are maybe 8:00 to 9:00 a.m., lunch, 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., you know, kind of when people are maybe not sitting at a desk or in a factory line or in a restaurant, or wherever it is they are where they’re not really supposed to be on their cellphone talking to a lawyer.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Aaron Walsch: I’ve combined those two, but I think that pace, I mean, if you, again, outside of the very busiest solo, getting three, four, five leads in a day, people who want to talk to a lawyer is probably a big adjustment for anybody. In candor, you’ll have days, if you’re busy, if you had 30 calls last week and you signed up 15, 20 people, and you got 20 new cases and you’re doing pleadings, you know, if you get that kind of leads the next week, you know, you might miss a couple. You just, you keep on working with your sort of internal, you know, if you’ve got assistants or whatever you’re doing. I would, certainly, my Unbundled [inaudible 00:32:35] has had some really good suggestions, been able to share other people’s experiences that, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel.
Just like, who in the world writes their own brand-new complaint? You ask around, “Hey, anybody got a complaint about this?” You make it fit for you. Similar, he’s had some great advice, and then in candor, he’s suggested a couple of thing for my particular little niche, I just didn’t find to work as well as the rest. Overall, I think the biggest things are reaching people fairly quickly. They don’t expect you to call them in five or ten minutes, but if you’ve waited five or ten days, you might pick up a scrap client, but they’re going to be gone. You gotta call them timely, and you gotta be able to connect with them a little bit on the phone and go to the next step of either a longer phone interview or having them come to your office or whatever is next. Some of that probably you can’t teach, you just learn it.
I mean, I don’t, no offense to say, I may have a couple closing tricks that a brand-new lawyer doesn’t have, but on the flipside, I bet there are some brand-new lawyers who are killing me because they probably just are. I have no doubt of that. It’s just, you have to make it work for you. I think just reaching these people and being knowledgeable enough. I mean, you don’t have to know the detailed answer to every question, because honestly, if you’re getting into the detailed questions on your first call, you need to tweak it anyway. It’s deeper than you need to go. They want to know that you have the decent knowledge of the area of law you’re talking about, you know, whether you tell them a war story or you just tell them a little bit about yourself.
My way, I kind of when they call, if I don’t have 30 minutes, I try to set them up for a pretty quick phone call back and get, not necessarily the 30, 40 minutes, not necessarily a phone consult, but a little bit more of a phone call. Then from that, I see if they’re probably better suited to a real phone consult. I again, if it’s convenient for people, I like to get them in my office, just I’ve kind of got a feeling that it’s a little harder to say no to somebody in person, and not in a salesman sense. If they sit in your office and meet you for 30 minutes, I just find they may be a little more likely to take the next step, than being on the phone with you for 30 minutes.
That said, people are busy, and if they just want to talk on the phone and use a computer or an email and PDFs, because it’s 2017, you want to be able to respond to that guy, too. “Well, no, there’s no real need for you to come here. I make that available to you. A lot of clients want to see my face. If you’re good, I’m good. I’ll send you a retainer agreement, we’ll send you a LawPay link. Let’s go.” You certainly want to be able to go both ways. I like the face-to-face, but I have no doubt that there are people who have really refined their phone consults to the point that probably hardly anybody comes to see them. Nothing wrong with that either, if it works.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, it’s interesting. We certainly have a mixed bag. A lot of folks that they like to work from home, and kind of mix up where they’re at, working from a location, and do a lot of the [crosstalk 00:35:12] over the phone. Then a lot of other lawyers that, like you said, they just, they want to have them come in the office, and they want to meet the person too, and the people like to meet them. I think it also has a lot to do with the locale and the region, and like you said, the business of the folks.
Aaron Walsch: Right, right.
Dave Aarons: One of the things, and how much traffic there is on the roads in the city that you live in.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, a 27-year-old network engineer is probably cool looking you up online and looking at your reviews and everything else. A 57-year-old line cook, or something, he wants to look you in the eye. That’s just, you start to get a feel for that, and I’m sure I still get it wrong some, of course, but you try to get the feel. You try to give them the option, really. That’s how I handle it. It’s like, “You know, sir, I’m old school, I kind of like to meet people in person, but I understand traffic is bad and you got these kids and a life and if you’d rather get started, I’m not going to drag you in here for nothing.” Some version of that. I’m sure everybody has got some version they use, and that’s about mine, I guess.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, we had Bob Muehlenweg, who is one of our providers out of Albuquerque. He’s an estate lawyer that’s been actually for I think 36 some-odd years or something like that. He talked about how he kind of evaluates what he would call the old school clients versus new school, and based upon that, makes a determination whether they need to come in and sit down and kind of have that belly-to-belly interaction, versus like you said, the 30-year-old that’s had a cellphone, a Smartphone from basically from when they got out of high school. They like to do things quickly, click a button, make the payment and don’t necessarily need to make a decision in person.
Aaron Walsch: That’s it.
Dave Aarons: Evaluating that aspect is certainly going to dictate, if you can effectively evaluate that aspect, it’s going to dictate whether you need to have them come in the office or not.
Aaron Walsch: Right, yes. That’s, a segue to that, maybe not the perfect one, but pretty good, I think that one thing that I noticed as I got more into working with the Unbundled leads and getting into this, I was never a big fan, I mean I don’t think by itself, I don’t think a website or a Facebook page or SEO, I’m just not a big believer in any of that. In a larger sense, the way that Unbundled moves their search results up, that’s fine, but on an individual basis, I’ve just not found it to be that useful. What I will say is anybody who signs up for Unbundled, what they will see, once the switch gets turned or whatever, if they have a website, Facebook, their views will go through the roof.You’ve got to have enough of a good online presence that when people then look you up, they say, “Oh, yeah, this looks pretty good.” Which is different from like, “Oh, my website is going to get my clients” It won’t. You definitely, once they get there, you want them to have enough information to make a good decision. It’s although a bit corny, the very, very kind Facebook testimonials that so many people have written for me. I mean, people come in, they’re like, “Oh, I quit reading after 10 good reviews,” or whatever. That’s great. Takes a little time to build that up.
Kind of as a separate thing, you never want to ask clients for testimonials, but at the end of representation, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying, “You know, I’m not asking you to do this, but should you want to say something about your experience, here’s a link. If not, hey, great. Thank you so much.” A lot of people will, at least if they’re happy. If you’re pretty sure someone is leaving your office two-thirds ticked off, maybe don’t give them the link, but that should always be small, that should be a small percentage of your clients. If not, you’ve got a bigger problem than marketing.
I think that my experiences, that even coming through the lead generation, these people when they get my information, the first thing most of them do is look me up online. You do want to have enough of a good online presence that you don’t lose people. But I think to focus on that, I don’t know if a website ever got anyone really a client, at least not, again not in the solo, small firm world. Maybe somewhere out there, but not for me.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, I mean, it does, it is a very specific skill set. What you can do is you can get traffic, but I agree with you, that doing the SEO, which is basically getting better positioning organically in the search ranks, you don’t have a chance to compete against Avvo and lawyers.com and guys that have been around doing this for 20 years and spend 10,000 plus, $30,000, $40,000 a month to stay where they’re at.
Aaron Walsch: Right.
Dave Aarons: I think you’re absolutely right, the website, the reviews, it’s like a checkmark. “Okay, there’s some social proof this guy is a solid guy, cares about his clients, and he’s reasonable and so forth.”
Aaron Walsch: “Oh, look, this kid is cute. Look, he’s got a cute kid.” You know, or whatever, whatever you have on there. I don’t have my kids.
Dave Aarons: And they can relate, they relate.
Aaron Walsch: That’s right, sure. The testimonials, I think some people really read those. If they see somebody, you know, on Facebook or your website who kind of looks like them, I don’t necessarily mean physically, but you know, in some way, looks like them, saying, “This guy is all right. He, I didn’t want to hire a lawyer, this process is terrible. And you know what? It’s still terrible, but Walsch was okay.” That’s a great recommendation. I mean, somebody who says, “Oh, he made this whole thing painless.” What a lie. There’s no painless divorce. I never made anybody’s divorce painless. I never claimed to. But can I make it as smooth as it can be? I hope so. That’s the pitch, I guess. If you’re selling painless, you’re lying.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, no doubt. It’s more just, its credibility. Like it’s helping them in the decision-making process, but it isn’t necessarily closing the deal for sure.
Aaron Walsch: Right, right. I love when clients reconcile. They’re like, “I hope you’re not mad.” I’m like, “No, that’s great, you’re working on your marriage. I’m not pro-divorce. It doesn’t really matter, but if you’re going to do it, you got a right to do it, and you have a right to have someone help you through it. But if there’s a way around it, that’s also, that’s great.” I think people pick up on that. I’m not, it’s not about me or how I feel about anything. I’m happy when people stay married, but it’s not always possible.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I want to circle back on something you touched on, which is, we’ve had a lot of lawyers that have come on the podcast and experienced I guess what we would call very rapid growth. Because, like you said, when you come on board with a lead generation company, certainly like ours, I can’t speak for any others, but we usually are going to bring some volume.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, sure.
Dave Aarons: Especially if it’s a region that we’re opening up and so forth, and that happens overnight. I mean, the next day, I’m looking at your account real quick here, and you’ve got something like 340 or 360 some-odd leads in five months. Doing a quick bada-bang, that’s about 60, 70 leads a month.
Aaron Walsch: I bet, I bet.
Dave Aarons: Or about 10, 15 leads a week. They’re coming quick and they’re coming in from day one. What are some of the things that you’ve had to do? You mentioned some staff and some support and so forth. We have, there was another episode, “Scaling up your practice,” small solo practice, practitioner to a small firm, in less than three months. Great episode, but it was, man, they were knocking down the walls, they were hiring new lawyers. I mean, it was crazy, and I don’t know if you had to knock down walls, but certainly, you got to adjust.
Aaron Walsch: Well, you do.
Dave Aarons: Because quickly you kind of figure out: man, I’m going to get swamped and I can’t-do this all myself. If I’m going to keep bringing in 15 this week and then 15 next week, and then another 15 the next week, they really start to stack up, and you gotta serve the ones from the first week, and then serve the ones from the second, but you got new ones coming in. How have you made that, got over that hump?
Aaron Walsch: Well, you know, some of it, little things, kind of in no particular order. I mean, one thing is, if you can, although I will tell you, I still believe that more people will no-show for appointments a week out than appointments two days out. You know, the reality is, if you’ve talked to them, and you’ve kind of locked them in, use your scheduling, use your time. Don’t, if you can’t get someone in the next day, it doesn’t necessarily do you any good to get them in the next day, and then not be able to do something. It helps you in the short term, but I also, I believe in staff.
I mean, if you don’t have funds, I mean, you do what you have to do, but to me the idea, like I believe in, even if it’s, I mean, not minimum wage anymore, but even if it’s just a receptionist to get the phone in a physical office, I just think that helps a lot. You can be virtual, you can be at home, you can be wherever, but the flipside of that is probably you will be missing things. You know, again, train your staff, don’t have them give them legal advice, but the reality is, a lot of people would just as soon talk to your assistant as you in the first place. It’s cheaper, and all they want to know is, “When is the court? Did that paper go out?”
They don’t need you, but if you don’t have staff, you have to take that call. Sure, I mean, you can maybe still bill it as a point one call or whatever, even though really, you just kind of did something clerical, but you’re better off being freed up to do what you can do. That’s chicken or the egg. I mean, you got to get some revenue to hire somebody, but I don’t see, and again, if I listened to some podcasts, I’d probably pick up some tips, and say, “Oh, well, that’s a great idea.” I don’t see how you can maintain much revenue without some staff at some point. You just, you have to them, whether that’s kind of a full paralegal or more of a receptionist.
I find an area where most either solo or newer attorneys really probably could use some help, don’t be a bookkeeper. I mean, look at your books, but if you’re not a bookkeeper, don’t be a bookkeeper.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Aaron Walsch: Be a lawyer. You maybe could be a legal secretary as a lawyer, but you can’t be a bookkeeper, not unless you are one. You’ll get in trouble, and you’ll have IRS liens and things that will stop you before you get started. That’s, you have to have help in place for that. Again, it is that chicken or the egg, but if you’ve got leads, now I mean, if you don’t have anyone calling you, maybe you can’t make that gamble. If you’ve got 10 people coming to see you in a week, that’s the week to hire a receptionist. Take a chance. Do an $8 an hour probationary, $9, four or five hundred bucks for the week, you might have to come up with that money because you will close, I don’t know, you might close an extra two or three out of ten people, being properly staffed. The numbers, they fix themselves, but you do have to get there.
Yeah, it’s nothing against a satellite or home office approach. At the very least, I think you must have a virtual receptionist. Somebody has got to answer that phone. I hate voice mail. The firm where I started, partners didn’t even have voice mail. They just wouldn’t allow it. Again, that’s a little bit old school and probably not realistic. As little as somebody has got to leave you a voicemail message, I think the better. Have a person who can write it down and email it to you, but at least they know they’ve talked to Kathy or Bill or whoever it is.
You know, adding attorneys, I mean, that’s a bigger step, and I’ve kind of decided not to, but it’s certainly not a bad idea, if you feel comfortable supervising someone, either also doing your work and supervising, or if you’ve got so many calls that you think you can really rain-make all day and supervise a team. I mean, don’t be scared to try it if you think you can do it. To me, I’ve kind of resisted partnering up and things, and maybe that’s a mistake and maybe not. I like the flexibility. I don’t want to worry about dividing up revenues. If there’s profit I pretty much know who gets it. I mean, if realistically, if somebody has got 10 or 15 appointments coming in per week, that probably is a person who quickly needs an associate or a partner.
I know you guys have done some previous things about how to really go about staffing up, and I’m probably not the best expert in that. I mean, my paralegal is also my wife, and we got, someone does help with the books. I take my own advice. You’ve got to have office staff, I think, because if you are doing the copying and stuff, even if you are billing somebody at your rate, which maybe you shouldn’t be, you just can’t get enough done in the day, I don’t think. Unless you want to work a 12-hour day every day. I have three kids, I do not want to do that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Aaron Walsch: At least, you know, give me a job in the State Department, fly me around the world, maybe for the excitement. But solo law firm, 12 hours a day, to me it’s kind of, no thanks. Not to say some days you don’t do that, but that’s, I think, not having enough people to help you is how lawyers get stuck in that rut. I’m a big believer in staff, even though it cuts into your short-term profits, and maybe you keep the used car an extra year or something, but I think it’s a better choice. Although everybody has got to do what works for their economics, you know, and even if you’ve got a little bit of staff, to go from two, three calls a week to 10 or 15, you’ll have to make some changes. I really try to kind of have a process that the leads come in.
Although largely paperless, I do print mine so I can make, and I just put out my notes right on there. “Called, left a voice mail, emailed.” Also in my practice management software, I create a contact for each lead and can kind of log that call. That’s some extra time, right? Anyone who’s ever worked with one of these softwares, it’s like, “Oh, every time you create a contact and phone call, it’s an extra …” True, it is, but again, if at the end of the year, I mean, if I looked at mine, I’ve got 300 and whatever number you said, 300 and something contacts now in my Unbundled Attorney file matter.
I can, I’m not going to say that every phone call necessarily makes it in there, though it’s supposed to, like every file. You just keep up as best you can, whatever method. I’m a believer in management software. You know, some of the older attorneys, other people, they’re like, “Oh, you could do that in Word and Notepad just as well.” Okay, great, if you can, that’s awesome. I like to have one place for it, again, to each their own. But have a system and just, you know, then the red is … It’s like professor said, “Read the footnotes,” whether that’s the law or whether that’s people’s problems. Just get down in the details, you know, that part, now you’re back to the old, “Work hard, get up early advice,” which is still true.
Dave Aarons: Yep, no doubt. Yeah, and systems are important, especially if, one of the things about lead generation specifically is, you know, it’s very consistent. You’re going to get roughly the same amount of leads. It gradually goes up as we continue to do what we do well. That’s going to keep improving, you know, you can pretty much rely on it. The lead, they come in the same way, very similar types of issues, and so you can start to develop a system for getting the clients in. You’re going to have very similar templates over time, similar types of documents. You can start to develop a process that you can have staff learn how to implement some of those components.
I think some attorneys, depending again on economics and the volume of clients, it kind of does cost you money if you’re not having staff handle business tasks that are low value, because that just means that you’re not able to handle more of the higher value tasks, that you went to law school to be able to bill at those rates.
Aaron Walsch: That’s right.
Dave Aarons: If you’re stuck answering the phone or doing faxes and so forth, then it just takes away from your capacity to be able to serve more clients or grow the firm or scale the firm to another level, so even if, where you’re at, you’re doing all that stuff, you’re limiting, I would think that you’re limiting yourself, if again you can tap into leads or build up your clientele to the point where you’ve got enough people coming in where you can keep growing it. Sage advice, and we’re certainly, one of the things we’re working on in the back, and I don’t know by the time this podcast episode goes out, we’re going to be integrative with Lexicata here pretty soon, which means that all the leads we’re going to be able to automatically post right into a Lexicata account, where all those contacts are immediately created and you got the matter and all that stuff.
Aaron Walsch: Okay, sure.
Dave Aarons: That’s key because it’s all there, you’ve got templates and emails that can go out automatically, and then it goes right into Clio, you can keep track of all your stuff. You can set reminders and really start to keep things organized. It does take a few minutes here and there to maintain it, but that way, you’re not missing, making mistakes and missing deadlines and all that kind of stuff. The more you streamline the practice and the more you streamline the doc prep, and you have assistance from staff, usually, you’re moving in the direction of having a higher effective value rate, or you know, your average billable time is going up. That’s, nowadays, that’s certainly a direction you want to be going.
Aaron Walsch: That’s it. Well, it was pointed out to me, very obvious, very early. You can either increase your hours or you can increase your rate. And the effective rate is key. I mean, you can say you charge $350 an hour all day long. If you collecting 150, you charge 150. You know, and so that effective rate, and for me, I would just as soon like to work on that effective rate more so than the number of hours, because of past 40 or 50, you about hit a wall there. Absolutely, that really is the key. Then if you really are at a point when you’re billing 40 or, close to 40 or more hours per week, at your desired, if you’re really at your desired rate, you know, 250, 300, 200, whatever, then absolutely, I think, then you really got to look at staffing up.
I would say, even as busy as I am, realistically do I bill 40 quality hours, week in, week out? Not necessarily. You try, but that’s kind of the target and that’s, for me, a goal, and whatever that comes to in revenue per week. Like at that point, it would be pretty obviously time to look at another lawyer, and possibly, had I not moved, I would be there. That was not necessarily a setback, but a change. I could pretty easily see that coming in the next 12 months or so, based on where the numbers are now.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, well, it seems like you’re going to have two bonuses. One, you’re going to eventually be in a position where you’re killing [inaudible 00:51:53] level in your practice, and also, you’re going to be in Nashville. You’re going to have both of those birds [crosstalk 00:51:58].
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, it’s nice to be home, it really is.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. Well, hey, this has been just a really great exploration. It was really interesting, too, because it’s so fresh to unpack, how you’ve been able to make that transition and staff up. I’d love to get into detail some other time on exactly who you hired and at what point, the secretary or the paralegal. So maybe we can do around to some other time.
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, that’d be good.
Dave Aarons: I guess one of the last, yeah, maybe the last question I’ll just ask. You know, 300 some-odd leads, you know, certainly, in the beginning, you have a specific process and then you gradually make some improvements and make some adjustments. Is there anything that sticks out to you after six months of doing this or so, six, seven months, where you look back and was a real kind of turning point for you or something that you took away or learned in the process that you feel was one of the biggest leverage points for making this thing work better than it did before, if anything?
Aaron Walsch: Yeah, it was a little thing and it was almost, probably in terms of one decision that maybe had the biggest impact is I’d been working with people and trying to quote payment plans or looking at Unbundled, but there was a population of people who just never could get their numbers right. By making the simple switch to allowing people to kind of more or less layaway that initial retainer, you just agree, “I’m not filing anything until you hit whatever number.” It’s a small thing, and you keep putting it in a trust account. That ability, let’s say you’re getting $1,000 minimum retainer for representation, you know. “Oh, there’s no way I can do that. I can give you 500.” Probably without thinking, I sent a few of those people away, before I said, “No, well, fine. Give me 500. Then next week give me 100. When you’re at a thousand, keep giving me the hundred a week, and we’ll go ahead and file your papers.” Then they’re on a payment plan.
You know you got to be careful with that. You don’t want to get into a $10,000 contested custody case for somebody who couldn’t come up with 500 bucks because you know how that’s going to end. But you know, like I say, you can move a case along or you can, I won’t say, put the brakes on, I don’t know that that’s ethical, but you don’t have to rush everything. If through that process you think somebody is going to be able to keep making those payments, you can probably pick up some clients on the margin that were going to say no. You know, a grateful client is, in my experience, is more likely to give more organic referrals. I can love a lead service all day, but I still kind of believe, no lead can match someone telling their cousin, best friend, church mate, “Man, Aaron Walsch is the best lawyer you can hire. He’s great. He did me right.”
That’s just a totally different thing. It’s not a matter of comparing apples to apples, that’s apples and oranges. The clients that had a hard time getting you, if they really feel like you went out of your way to help them, they’re great referral sources. Unfortunately, those referrals may also again be people that kind of struggle with cash, but part of this whole system is figuring ways to try to make it work for those people, not just the $2,500 people that every lawyer will make it work for. Everybody knows how to take a $2,500 retainer and do work. That requires no particular process. That’s, I guess that’s kind of my, that’ll be my closing thought on that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, well, and those leads then become referrals. The layaway is a, we’ve seen a lot of lawyers, you know, I think it was Andrew Burgess that came on. Law school graduate to 65 new paying clients in three months. He literally like just exploded his practice. We’re going, “What the heck?” One of the things he said was, “Look, if the guy comes in the door and he’s got $250 in the pocket, and I know it’s going to cost at least a thousand to get all the documents done and pay the filing fee and get done, why turn that gentleman away? Give him the structure on how he can start paying towards this process.”
The reality is, and we all know it, folks that have challenges with finances and are limited means, usually they’re not so good at managing money. So if you’re able to give them a structure on, here are the payments. Also, I don’t know if you’re doing this in LawPay, where you set up the automatic payments and it just kind of comes out. Tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like people are really grateful for knowing that every day, even if they’re limited means, they’re moving toward getting something done.
Aaron Walsch: They seem to like it, and we do LawPay. We like the secure link and the recurring payments. We’ve been really happy at that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. So just to finalize that point. Basically, if you’ve got a flat rate, if the person doesn’t have the amount right then and there, rather than saying, “Okay, well, just give me a call when you get the funds.” Just say, okay, well … Can you just maybe walk through, what do you say to that person? We’ll just unpack that briefly, and then we’ll wrap her up for the day.
Aaron Walsch: Again, like I said, so let’s say it’s a thousand, and maybe it’s a full retainer case that what you wanted to get was a thousand down and a hundred a week. I don’t know, let’s say. The hundred a week, maybe for me more of the paradigm is they’re like, “A hundred a week? Well, that’s part is no problem. That thousand, man, I don’t know. It’s not tax time, that’s not going to work. I bring this home every two weeks, never going to have a thousand extra dollars.” “That’s fine. Are you ever going to have 250 extra dollars?” “Probably.” “All right. Bring me that. We’ll start the hundred,” and what I do is just put in my retainer agreement, they’ve got to hit a certain number, whether it’s a thousand, or you cut them a little break, eight, nine hundred. At that point, I’m going to file your papers, we’re going to move on with this.
It’s really just a matter of letting them, instead of saying, “Well, I’m going to save my money up and call you back.” “Well, why don’t you save it up for me? I got a trust account. That’s a better account than you got. I promise. I’ll hold it and if for some reason you can’t pull the trigger, I’ll give it back to you, except for I might bill you for the time we’ve spent and just have that in your retainer. You know, the hour you sat with them, whatever. I’m not obliged to do that for free, but there’s no real risk, again, as long as you keep it segregated. There’s no risk for the lawyer, the worst thing you do it give it back. I don’t know that I’ve had anyone ask for layaway money back, to this point, knock on wood. Like you said, they’re happy to be working towards something.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, I mean, how many lawyers in Nashville or any region are doing layaway? I mean, one out of a hundred, if that?
Aaron Walsch: Very few, very few, I’m sure.
Dave Aarons: I mean, one of out of 25 tops lawyers are doing Unbundled or even offering a payment plan in the first place. One out of a hundred are doing layaway, and it really just, a lot of people, like you said, are just so grateful to have an opportunity to start working with a lawyer with only a few hundred dollars to get started, and they’re just making payments towards where they need to go.
Aaron Walsch: I mean, they might pay you forever, but if you get a good feeling about them. That’s something you learn, too. I mean, yes, with payments, maybe you set up a risk that you’re getting burned at the end of some cases, and you can try to do certain things. That again is part of growing as a lawyer, whether you’re with Unbundled or not is, who is going to stick it to you at the end? And trying to avoid that person, being able to sniff them out. The single mom or even the single dad who is, you can see them, they’ve got two jobs, they’re not great jobs. They’re working all the time. That guy will probably pay you. You know, the person accused of being a drug addict and seven addresses and has a Child Protective Services case, probably don’t layaway them, right?
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Aaron Walsch: But that’s the same, that’s everybody. You got to get some gut for it, or there’s probably some engineering undergrad who says, you don’t need a gut, you can do a 12-point checklist. Fine, my 12-point checklist is I think in my gut. This guy is going to pay me, this lady is not going to pay me. I’m not always right, but I’m right enough that I can be profitable doing that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Again, we’ve said this before. What most lawyers fail to take into account is not the ones that don’t pay, but it’s all the ones that do pay now. You know, it’s like [crosstalk 00:59:01], we’ll get …
Aaron Walsch: Sure, yeah, that’s right.
Dave Aarons: You take a lawyer that’s $5,000 retainer up front. He’s going to probably convert one out of 20 leads. Well, if you offer Unbundled on a payment plan, you’re probably going to get three, four out of ten, but hey, if you do layaway too, now all of sudden you got, five, six, seven, eight of out ten pulling the trigger. That’s a lot of increased revenue. When you start to, even if a few clients start to pull out or don’t make the payments, it’s a small fraction of the folks that now can. Again, when you talk about referral sources …
Aaron Walsch: When you get, if you got 20, 30 people paying you a hundred bucks a week, even with, you know you got a week or two with nothing new, that’s something different that I like. I wasn’t in that spot before with the regular retainer structure, and now I am. I got all kinds of people on payment plans. Tuesdays and Fridays I think pretty much our money comes in. You know, you see it, and you know, a few of them fail and a few people’s things bounce every week, but most people pay you and you’re doing work and they got money coming in. It’s pretty nice.
I’ll be honest with you. I’m starting to have some crying children. I know we were going to wrap this up, I’m going to let us go ahead and do that if it’s all the same to you.
Dave Aarons: Let’s do it, man. I really, I am glad that we got to wrap up layaways.
Aaron Walsch: Okay, wonderful, yeah, of course.
Dave Aarons: Thanks again for taking the time to jump on today, Aaron, and for everyone else who’s listening, thanks so much for participating in the podcast. We certainly appreciate your support. Share with folks around that might benefit, and we’ll see you all on the next episode.
Aaron Walsch: Sounds great, thank you.
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Episode 33: Moving to a New City: How to Close Your Existing Practice and Start up a New One from Scratch, Tips for Hiring Staff, and the Benefits of Layaway Payments
Have you ever considered moving to another city, but haven’t because you are reluctant to start a new practice from scratch? Maybe you want to be closer to family, or live in your dream community, but the pull of existing clients and income makes it difficult to pull the trigger? Last year, Aaron Walsch, took a leap of faith and moved from Columbia, SC to Nashville, TN after building a successful practice for over a decade. Today, Aaron shows us how to wind down your existing practice and launch a new one in a different community. We also discuss the importance of hiring great staff, how lead generation helps you grow a new practice, and the value of offering a layaway payment option for your clients.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The steps involved in winding down an existing practice and then starting a new one in another community
- Why so many lawyers gravitate towards family law, and how it compares to the other areas of law Aaron has practiced
- How Unbundled Attorney lead generation helped Aaron launch his new practice in Nashville, TN
- How he was able to avoid taking the Tennessee bar by being admitted by motion
- The value of becoming familiar with local rules, and continuing to review them each year
- How to adapt your practice quickly after taking on a high volume of leads
- The best times of day to call leads, and how to identify those leads which need an office appointment to retain them
- The true value of an online presence and positive reviews
- The importance of hiring great staff, and some examples of the day-to-day tasks you can assign to them
- Why Aaron encourages lawyers to hire staff or contract out bookkeeping responsibilities
- Systems you can use for keeping track of all your clients
- What “layaway” payments are all about, and why Aaron feels offering this option is the single greatest improvement he has made to his practice this past year
- How to explain “layaway” to your clients, and examples of how he has offered it in his practice
- And much more...
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For more information about Unbundled Attorney and how our Lead Generation services help grow your practice, visit: https://www.unbundledattorney.com