Strategies Developed from Fielding More Than 50 Leads a Week: Text Messaging, Layaway Payments, and Relating Well with Clients

March 24th, 2017

I’m thrilled to bring you this interview with Sean Lynch, who’s one of our attorneys out of Fort Worth, Texas. And we really cover a wide range of topics, but one of the things about Sean’s firm is he is serving a very high volume of leads from our company in the Fort Worth metro. He received as many as 100 leads in the past two week period. So, close to 200 leads a month. So, he’s had to develop some systems and tactics and strategies in order to field such a high volume of clients, which he shares on this podcast. He also talks about some of the flexible ways he works with people’s budget, such as the traditional lower initial retainer on a payment plan, but he also talks about lay away payments, which is the second time one of our attorneys has shared how they use lay away, which he’ll describe, which basically is payments towards initial retainer before he actually files the case.

So, he’ll talk specifically when and how he offers that option. And then, we also talk about the importance of just being a good guy and relating well with your clients and what he learned from his father, who was a great sales person and had to adapt due to some changing technology in his marketplace, mainly email. And just some core lessons, core philosophies that make a practice work, help you get lots of referrals, and feel good at the end of the day. So, this is a great episode with a solid guy out of Texas that’s been seeing a lot of success with the leads we’ve been sending him. So, let’s get right into it, this interview with Sean Lynch, one of our provider attorneys out of Fort Worth, Texas.

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

Dave Aarons:  Hey, Sean, welcome to the show.

Sean Lynch: Hey, how are you?

Dave Aarons: I’m doing really good. I’m really looking forward to this conversation today. You’ve certainly been one of our higher volume lawyers, we’re sending you a lot of leads in the Fort Worth metro area, so I’m really looking forward to hearing about the process that you’ve developed because obviously, you’ve been doing extremely well and diving into that so that other attorneys can hear what it is that you’ve developed over these many months of us working together as things continue to ramp up. So, I really appreciate you taking the time to shine a light on everything that you’ve accomplished so far.

Sean Lynch: Yeah, that’s great. I’m excited.

Dave Aarons: Okay, great. So, maybe a good place to start is so everyone else can get to know you a little better, is just share a little bit about your background, how you got your start in the practice of law and the focus area and region of your practice.

Sean Lynch: Yeah. I went to the University of Oklahoma for undergrad in law school and in law school, I had no intention of being a lawyer. So, everyone else was learning how to practice law, I was learning how to run political campaigns. And I had my wife, my wife now, she was my fiancee at the time, kinda took a look around and decided that she did not want to live in Norman, Oklahoma for the rest of her life. So, we came back to the Dallas, Fort Worth area and I set up in Fort Worth. I kinda bounced around from some civil … Some in-house counsel jobs and I had a friend practice family law and knew I was kinda, I wasn’t happy where I was at and he told me to … He said, “Well if you want to try it out, come on down to the family law courthouse and take a couple child support cases and see if you like it.”

And so, I started off, that was 2000 … The end of 2012 or 2013 and we got … Started taking cases and just building from there.

Dave Aarons: Okay, so you’ve been doing family law for about the last three and a half, four years, out of the Dallas, Fort Worth area?

Sean Lynch: That’s right.

Dave Aarons: Yep. And so, what originally … So, that was kind of serendipitous to kinda draw you towards family law, what’s kept you continuing to work within the practice other than, or maybe it is just that it’s very lucrative financially.

Sean Lynch: No, I enjoy … My prior lawyer experience, I was in-house counsel, so it always felt like I was doing homework for a living, reviewing documents, reviewing discovery, things like that. With family law, there’s the opportunity to go to court, just, we’re in court every single day and you also get to see a … There’s an instant view of what you’ve done. So, you know if … If you had a good day, you know at the end of the day. If you had something, that it went sideways, you know then and then, you get to make a determination about how you can help these people out going further. As opposed to, in prior, where it was just like, alright, so that’s another case between two entities. Nameless, faceless entities that like, “Oh, okay, that’s done. Well, move on to the next one.”

Dave Aarons: Yeah, you really get a chance to meet the folks, understand their situation, and then, also see the outcome of how you’re able to serve them.

Sean Lynch: You have to ’cause that’s what people are looking for.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. So, there’s a certain degree of fulfillment in being able to see … Take someone from point A to point Z and whether that be reuniting them with their kids or getting them more time with them or resolving various circumstances, it’s very tangible and real and these are real challenges that people are going through, so I’m glad to hear that you take a specific interest in finding a way to help these folks. And certainly, you’ve been helping a lot of folks. Since we started working together over the past six to eight months, I mean, you serve Dallas, Fort Worth, can you give the listeners a bit of an idea of how many leads, roughly, that we send you and roughly how many of these clients are becoming cases out of a handful of 10 or 20 or whatever makes the most sense, so that people have an understanding of how many you’re working with here.

Sean Lynch: Yeah, so out of every 10 leads in the area that we cover and we cover Tarrant … We cover several … Tarrant County, which is where Fort Worth is at and several counties surrounding it. Out of every ten leads, eight of them are generally cases that we can do something with, that these aren’t people looking for … It’s not the wrong jurisdiction or the wrong type of case for us, or wrong legal … If they’re looking for a probate instead of a family law attorney, but out of every ten, eight of them is something we can do and on average, we’ve been signing up for one form of representation or another, about four of those.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, so about 50% of the folks you talk to or about four out of ten can become new clients and then, I looked at the last cycle here, I think we sent you about 100 leads in the last two week period alone. So, things have certainly been ramping up on our end, but it gives people, folks, an idea. So, I mean, you’ve got … If we just do some simple math, four out of ten, 100 leads, that’s 40 new clients potentially coming on board and gradually, there’s also a bit of cycle, sometimes, folks take a couple weeks to come on board and so forth. But, 40 new clients, so you’re really building up a high volume caseload here.

So can you talk about how you’ve had to shift your focus or your practice in any way, if at all, either by bringing on more staff, implementing technology or how you’ve been able to … Have you had to adapt in order to serve such a high volume of cases?

Sean Lynch: Well, the most … The biggest thing we’ve had to do is we’ve had to, and adapt, is being available, generally, all the time via text, or phone, or email. Our office line, the number that our clients have for our office also receives text messages and I’ve just made a decision that I’m gonna answer those when they come in. During the day, we have people covering the phones and covering the text messages, but after five and on the weekends, I make it a point to respond to text messages as fast as I can. And then, phone calls and things like that, phone calls and emails within the day. People want to be up to date or if they have an issue, or if people are looking to set up … If a lead is wanting to come in and talk or just has one question about the case, I find that being available is very important.

It’s that thing where just half the … Nine-tenths of it is just showing up and that’s what we’re doing.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. And people are often surprised … Are people often surprised when you’re able to get back to them so quickly and they’re actually speaking to a lawyer right off the gate?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, most times, you’d think if I answer the phone after hours, they’re gonna assume it’s an answering service of some sort. So, I usually get this where I’ll answer the phone and they’ll ask, “I’m calling for … I’m so and so, I’m calling to set an appointment with Mr. Lynch.” I’m like, “Well, I’m Sean, you got a minute to talk right now?” And still, at least give them a little bit of information as soon as I can ’cause I always feel like they appreciate that.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. And you mentioned that the text messages are also coming into the office line, are you using a system like or something like that so that the text messages are not your cell phone number, but are actually the office line? Or are they …?

Sean Lynch: We use Ring Central, which I’ve liked quite a bit. So, we got one number that gets all our faxes, text messages, and then, it serves as our office line.

Dave Aarons: Okay. Gotcha. And have you developed any form of systems of dealing with the text messages? I know when we first get started working, we send you some templates that you can use to respond to the text messages, but has that been enough, or do you have ways in which you interact? And with text messaging, is the primary goal of those text messages to set appointments, to have them to call you, or to come in the office? I mean, what are you trying to accomplish with each text message?

Sean Lynch: The primary goal of the text messages is to set up some sort of contact. So, just to either have them respond to the text message so I can respond back, or have them call the office or call the office line. In the process of trying to turn a lead into a client, it is just all about making contact and then, getting either a firm time to speak over the phone or have them come in the office, that is the … That’s the most important thing for text … That’s the most important use of text messages in our office. And then, we do have a couple different scripts we put out. If it’s the first contact or if I’ve called prior and they haven’t been able to answer. Or, maybe they see … I always assume they see a strange number and so, they’re not gonna answer it and we send a text message so they know who we are and so they know what number that is.

Dave Aarons:  Right, right, exactly. Yeah, they don’t necessarily recognize the number, so they may be screening the initial call and so, by sending that initial text message, a lot of people like, “Oh, that’s the attorney calling me back for my request, that’s right.” And so, then they can respond from there. And so, that text message really is just inviting them to call the office or set an appointment through text message, but mainly, to get them on the phone or do you also … Would you ever invite someone into the office straight off a text message? Or is it always text message to the phone, then you talk to them on the phone, then you have them come in?

Sean Lynch: I kind of play … Everyone’s different. If it’s … And some people want to text and set up an appointment by text and so, they’ll go, “Well, I’d like to come in to talk to you and what’s your address and what time?” My calendar’s on my phone, so if someone asks for that directly and I go, like, “Okay, this is the next available time and here’s our address, let me know if you can make it.” Other times, people just … I call with my information and they return … I’m sorry, I text with my info and they call and set up an appointment. Or they call and they ask to talk to me and if I’m in the office and not with a client, well, I’m trying to make time to speak with them.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. But, mainly, that’s that first bridge just to get them either in the office or on the phone so you can have a chat with them. Alright, and so …

Sean Lynch: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Dave Aarons: Okay, so let’s say, for example, you’ve set up the call and you’re on the phone with a client, what is your … What does that initial phone call station look like? How long does it typically take for you? Obviously, you’re converting a really high number of clients, is your goal to spend a lot of … So, let’s just talk a little bit about that phone call and do you have all or most of the clients come into the office, or do some of them enroll? So, maybe you could just talk a little bit about what your initial goal is on that first call.

Sean Lynch: So, the first call, it’s to get a thumbnail sketch of what’s going on with their particular situation. Are you getting divorced? Is there a … Is someone trying to get a modification of a prior order? Are they fighting over possession and access of a child? Get a thumbnail sketch of what’s going on, get a name, get maybe a case number if it’s an ongoing thing so I can look it up on the online records of, say, Tarrant County. And then, after we get to look at it for a little bit, get them in the office. And then, once we get them in the office, after about a half an hour interview or consultation, we’ll ask them to fill out some information about themselves, the other party, what exactly has led us to this situation, and then, we’ll sit down and we’ll talk through their options at that point.

I prefer for them to come in because that way, they can sit down and take time and write out the information they want to give me. And so, it gives them time to kinda focus on what they’re wanting to talk about and that gives me the … It makes it easier for me to provide them the advice they’re looking for.

Dave Aarons: Right, okay. And so, when you’re doing the initial call, is it about 10 minutes? 20 minutes? 30 minutes? Does it range, or is it usually, get that information, ask a few questions, get an idea of what’s going on and then, invite them to come in from there?

Sean Lynch: That first call can run anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes and then, the … Even at that point, I’ll still ask for them to come in because of the face to face encounter, I think, is tremendously important. They can see … They see me, they see my office staff, they meet the other attorney that works in my office, and then move things forward like that. So, they get a sense of the people that are gonna be working with them and I think that’s quite a … That helps quite a bit, too. We’re a small office, two attorneys, three support staff, and when you come in, you meet everybody and these are the people working for you and I think that that is something people look forward to. I think it helps.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. And when you spoke to the … When you talk to the client on the phone, that next step, that in-person meeting, is that also a free consultation as well?

Sean Lynch: It depends on that phone call. If I’m on the phone with you for half an hour or more, there’s … We’ve run out of stuff to talk about with your case. So, at that point, it’s like, “If you want to come in, come in and we’ll get ready to go. Let’s move … Let’s either file the suit or file our answer or let’s get the ball rolling.” If we’re on the phone for five minutes to ten minutes and it’s just a getting to know you and what your initial concern is, the next consult is always free. It may be a little shorter just because we’ve covered everything, but yeah, if I’m on the phone with you for five minutes, I’m not gonna charge you for the next consult.

Dave Aarons: And how do you gauge that? How do you decide whether this is gonna be someone that you’re gonna chat with at length on the phone? Do you kinda decide to talk to the client about, well, do you want to come in the office? Or do you want to just have this chat over the phone and I can get into all the details now? So, how does that … How do you end up deciding whether it’s gonna be a long call or if you’re gonna touch base and then have them come in?

Sean Lynch: I try to work with the client if they … If I got a referral just now while we’re on the phone and I turned around and made the call and they’re like, “Well, I’m going on my lunch break so I can talk right now.” I’d say, “I can talk here in ten minutes and I have a bunch of questions for you.” Yeah, that’ll be … We’ll end up talking on the phone for 30 minutes at that time so they don’t have to try to take off, take off from work, come in on a Saturday when maybe that’s interfering with family time, things like that. Try to work around the lead’s schedule any way we can, as much as possible, to let them know that … Just to work with them and be able to at least have a conversation with them.

Dave Aarons: Right. Yeah, exactly. Okay, and so, can you talk about … I mean, obviously, to be able to have as many of the folks enrolling as they are, 40% if not half, just ’cause you’re talking about 80% of the clients, you must be offering some kind of flexible ways in which you’re working with the clients. Can you talk about some of the either unbundled, or limited scope, or the various different types of options that you’ve cultivated or crafted to be able to work with people within their budget in this area, in this region?

Sean Lynch:  Yeah. The unbundled package is by far the most popular. Texas … The Supreme Court in Texas has forms that they put online that are free to people. So, I have very limited people coming in and wanting us just to draft anything because they can get the forms for free somewhere else. Generally, what happens is people either will come in and ask about us representing them and the unbundled package is the thing that is the most appealing and it’s … We have the initial retainer and then, our contract is explicit about the cost per service provided and just per item. It’s the … A hearing, a temporary orders hearing costs X amount of dollars, for us to draft [inaudible 00:18:14] costs a set amount, and when they come in and they sign up, we go over the contract. We explain to them, “This is what it is. So, when I tell you we’re going to a temporary order hearing next week, you know exactly how much that’s gonna cost. So, be prepared.”

We also work with people on making payments ’cause, just, often times, we have people who come in every other Friday with a payment. We keep up with that, but yeah, I mean, that’s, by far, the most popular. I’ve found that the limited representation stuff just … It’s not as much here, at least in the metroplex, and I think that’s mostly due to the, you can go online just about anywhere and find Texas forms.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, okay. And so, when you talk about the unbundled package, usually what you’re talking about is not just document preparation, but also preparation and an appearance for a specific hearing. Can you talk about what that typically will encompass?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, I think … If they come in and they don’t want to … They’re not asking about forms or us to do some sort of limited representation there. I mean, most times, it’s at the beginning of an issue. They either just got served or they want to go get divorced and we tell them that it’s gonna end up being a full representation because we’ll get it done faster than they will. That’s the long and short of it. We’ve had people hire us at the end of a hearing, or I’m sorry, say, end of the divorce before the trial, just to make an appearance and do the trial. But, by far, most people want us to come and handle the entirety of their case.

Dave Aarons: Okay. Okay, so it’s more of a full representation service that the majority of clients are electing to move forward with. But then, you’re just being creative about the way in which you’re working with people’s budget so that people don’t have to come up with something that they can’t afford all the way up front.

Sean Lynch: Yes, that’s absolutely right.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. So, can you talk about the different ways in which you structured that initial retainer? Or maybe you can be specific about some of the arrangements you’ve had with clients, the types of payment plans you’ve offered, so that attorneys that maybe haven’t offered these as frequently can get a little bit more feedback or ideas on ways in which they can be more flexible as opposed to being really rigid about the full upfront retainer.

Sean Lynch: Yeah. Well, I mean, it depends on the type of case you have. If it’s a couple of 20-year-old kids who got excited and went to Vegas and got married and came home and realized that was a mistake and they both agree they need to get divorced, we obviously … We’ll charge a flat rate for that plus the filing fee and that’s one example. Or, if it’s a really contested matter and someone’s wanting to hire us, but they don’t have the full retainer just yet, we’ll let them make payments on the retainer and then, we just set that aside until they’re ready, essentially lay away. And the other parts are … We actually have quite a few people who come in every other day … Or, every two weeks on payday and put down some … Put down a set amount of money that we’ve agreed to.

I spend a lot of time in ours, once people do sign up, I spend a lot of time asking people about what their work schedule is, how much money they’re making, looking at what debts they have, ’cause if it’s a mom, it’s a wife and mother who just got served divorce papers and she hasn’t worked outside the house ever and she has limited funds, I’m not gonna … It makes no sense to me to try to squeeze everything out of her right away. That sounds terrible, but I don’t want to squeeze anyone. I don’t want to make life harder for someone going through something that’s hard, to begin with. So, we kinda … Not kinda, we customize our billing and our agreements to an extent for each client.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, this has been something that’s come up on a few different podcast episodes and something that we talk about with a lot of attorneys that come on board is this … A lot of attorneys having a lot of success in offering payment plans and being more flexible with clients on the front end and how this enables them to have a lot more clients retaining them. And that’s really kinda the upside, is that you have so many more folks being able to take that initial step because it’s just not a … It becomes a barrier that they can jump through, they can overcome as opposed to $5,000 or something that’s a lot higher than the average working family would have a lot more trouble coming up with.

Obviously, you have the upside of so many more clients being able to afford it and so, that obviously means more paying clients to the firm. How do you balance out structuring payment plans when you have time factors or when you have folks that need a lot of upfront work? Or do you find that the majority of folks, even if you’re not … Do you find in the majority of cases with family, you’re not actually following behind in the payment plans? Or is that something you have to kind of balance out and some clients get a little behind? How has that worked out for you in offering that kind of flexibility, generally speaking?

Sean Lynch: Well, generally speaking, we have support staff who watches it. And we keep a calendar and a list of when people are supposed to make payments and what’s due. And we send our bills out and then, we send out a reminder and then, our contract talks about how if you owe us a certain amount of money, we need to discuss whether or not we’re going to continue on with representation. And we use that as a way to get someone in the office to discuss, okay, what’s going on? What can we do? Depending on where we are in the case, like if we’re almost done with it, what can we do to help you move this on and we can agree to that. But, it’s trying to be … You gotta be mindful of everyone’s particular situation, but we also have to be mindful of just making sure that we hold people to what they said they were gonna do. And that just requires us to watch … Manage these files and watch when payments are coming in and take a note of who’s doing it like they’re supposed to and who do we have to call and remind?

Dave Aarons: Maybe it would also be helpful, could you give an example? I mean, obviously, every case is different, you got custody, you got visitation, you got a contest of divorce, but general custody, visitation, contested matters, these types of things … What, maybe a full representation upfront retainer would be and then, some of the example options you’ve offered as a more flexible upfront fee and typical payment plans, what that might look like as far as amounts that you’ve offered in the past that have worked out well so there’s a bit of context.

Sean Lynch: Yeah, sure. So, say, someone’s account comes in and they just got served with a petition for divorce and there are children involved and they have a hearing in two weeks on temporary [inaudible 00:25:33] where they’re gonna decide about access and possession and temporary conservatorship and child support and things like that. They’ll come in and say … Our retainer for something like that would be, upfront retainer would be $1,500 and if … And did our standard contract that has the price per service provided listed in it. They come in and they’re like, “Well, Sean, it’s two weeks away and I can’t … I don’t have it all today.”

It’s like, “Okay, what can you do today? If you can do three payments of five, that’ll be perfect before the hearing. And then, after that, if you need to be on a payment plan, we’ll take a credit card from you or a debit card and we’ll call you every other week and let you know what the balance is and let you know what you need to … What it is and you can make a payment. Or we can just agree that you’re gonna pay, say, 250 every other week to keep everything on the straight and narrow and that’s up to date.” Those are generally what … How those end up working out.

Dave Aarons: And do you use any form of payment automating services like LawPay or something where you can code in the amount of money that you guys have worked out, whether it be 250 every couple of weeks or something like that so that payment automatically deducts, or not yet?

Sean Lynch: Not yet. We … A lot of our clients … Actually, I’ll be honest with you, a lot of our clients are preferring to pay in cash and checks for whatever reason and then, the people who do give us credit cards, they sign an authorization for us to run it and then, we’ll send them a note that, “Hey, we’re gonna run the card for this amount.” Or, they’ll agree ahead of time to those payments, but we haven’t quite gotten into doing anything online with payments with anyone like LawPay.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, yeah, it’s just a way to automate and streamline some of those payment processes so it doesn’t have to be manually each time. But, obviously, you’ve got the authorization form completed, either way, so you can … I’m sure it’s been working well just fine in the way you’ve done it as well. Okay, so a lot of folks are being … Opting in, and I’m sure, it’s Texas, so a lot of folks probably like doing that belly to belly, using cash and so forth. It’s a little more conservative, a little more old school in Texas, isn’t it?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, it is. And then, our particular office, we’re on a … We’re kind of, it’s exciting, a lot of the clients, the leads that we’re getting are coming from the diverse areas of Fort Worth. And so, I’ve found that for whatever reason, it’s just, people have cash faster for whatever … People always have cash and some people are leery of putting stuff on a credit card.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so, once you kinda get people enrolled in the service, get them moving forward in the process, obviously, you’re taking on a lot of cases and so, have there … In the last six months, have you had to bring on staff, or you mentioned that you have another attorney in the firm, is that a contract lawyer? Is it a full-time attorney? Is it your partner? How have you been able to manage such a higher caseload as this has grown over the past few months?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, the other attorney is a full-time attorney and we brought on some support staff and it’s just, we handle every case as a team, so when people call in, they want to know what’s going on with their case. We have our paralegal and then, our two support staff are able to give them updates and then, when they need any hearings or court date’s coming up or a hearing’s coming up, myself and the other attorney in my office, we keep up to date on everyone’s cases and make sure that we’re able to either answer their questions, or often times, we’ll show up and work the case together. It’s a flat rate for showing up at a hearing, so people like it when two lawyers show up.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. Do you, when you enroll a new client, do you make a decision on whether it’s gonna be someone that you’re gonna be representing or your partner? For example, we’ve had a lot of attorneys that initially started out as a solo practitioner and then, obviously, started getting a high volume of leads and so, then, they brought on contract lawyers where they did the enrollment and got the person in the office and then, that case was assigned to that contract lawyer and they just had a split where the contract lawyer got paid X and then, the firm got paid their full rate minus X. And they had kind of an arrangement like that and then, they just provided all of the staff, all the overhead, and all that kinda stuff. Do you have that kind of contract relationship with the attorney? Or is this person, an attorney, a partner? In which case, how do you determine which client goes to whom and so forth?

Sean Lynch: Oh, well, it’s a … She’s an employee and to be honest with you, it’s by feel. So, if we get involved … Say, if someone hires us for a divorce and we show up for a first hearing and we’re both able to be there and the other, the client clicks more with her than they do with me for whatever reason, it’s kind of a natural progression. They’ll start calling for her or they’ll call me instead and then, go from there. We let everyone know at the beginning of their contract, “Hey, we’re both here, we’re both here for you. We’re both working on your case,” so, if they have a preference, it ends up sorting itself out.

Dave Aarons: So, it becomes … So, the way you’ve approached is more of a tag team approach where you have your, basically, an associate attorney that’s doing some of the legal work as opposed to contracting the entire case to one attorney or another, you guys are just working together on it and then, she’s doing some of the work, you’re doing some of the work and you both work together on each matter depending on, obviously the client?

Sean Lynch: That’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s exactly how we do it.

Dave Aarons: Yep, yep. So, obviously, you’ve been … One of the things you mentioned a little earlier is the importance of responding to each of these clients in real time. You have, at the amount of leads we’re sending, it’s … You’re getting six, seven, eight leads a day coming in throughout all the different times of the day. How do you balance out the process? Are you always the one that responds to each lead? And if so, how do you balance out, obviously, working with the clients throughout the day and also being able to respond to all the new leads that are coming in at the same time and finding that balance?

Sean Lynch: That has been the trick. I feel it’s important that if they see Law Office of Sean Lynch and they’re calling, they need to talk to me first. And the way that balances out is that our support staff, which has always been great at just picking up the load in regards to day to day work in the office, whether it’s just getting notice out, drafting pleadings so I can review them, setting the appointment. Say, someone, the lead, calls in and wants an appointment, my office gets it set and then, that really has freed me up to make the initial contact with the leads. And we just work it out. It’s been something where it’s … We’ve hit a nice little sweet spot where everyone’s busy all day, but it’s a good busy, so it’s worked itself out.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. So, when folks call in and they just want to set up an appointment, your staff can handle that where they just come on in if it’s an inbound dial? Or, does the staff always get them on the phone with you first and then, you might just hand them off to do the booking on the calendar for example?

Sean Lynch: They’ll … If I’m in the office, what they’ll do is they’ll hand them to me first, then I’ll send them back to do the appointment. If they are calling and I’m either in court or talking to … I’m on the phone or just otherwise busy, they’ll get the appointment information and I always make sure to follow that up with either a text or I’ll call them myself.

Dave Aarons: Yeah. So, you’re always making sure you have personal contact with the lead initially, even if it’s the staff member that takes that initial call first?

Sean Lynch:  Yes, that’s exactly right.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, to kinda help them take the next step and so forth. Okay. Now, and I wanted to circle back on something you mentioned a little earlier, which we just kinda breezed over, which was, you mentioned layaway? Can you talk about, a little bit more, about what layaway is? And I know it’s a relatively new concept that you’ve started to offer in your practice since we’ve talked, but can you describe how layaway is different from, say, just an initial retainer and a payment plan?

Sean Lynch:  Yeah, layaway is just … It’s, someone comes in and they have a case and they don’t … They can’t even do the retainer. They can’t-do the retainer, I was like, “Alright. Well, what can you do today? And how can you pay on this retainer?” And we’ll take that, set up the payments on the retainer, and then, once that’s paid, we can get started. That money goes into a trust fund … Trust fund? Trust account and it’s sitting there, waiting for them to get started when they’re ready to go or when they have the money to proceed with the divorce or whatever else they want to do. It’s just, we sock it away and they make payments. I kinda leave it up to the lead. I ask them kinda some basic questions about what do you do? When do you get paid? Who’s living at your house? How many people you caring for?

Then, alright, can you do this? And that’s three weeks or a month or whenever and then, if they agree to do that or if it’s something they can do, we do it that way.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, so in other words, there’s basically a threshold that they have to meet or come up with before legal work is getting done on their case? Let’s say it’s 1,000 or 1,500 dollars and so, you basically … ‘Cause what a lot of attorneys would say, okay, let’s say the initial retainer is 1,000 or 1,500 or something like that. Not only do they not break it up into three payments but if the person doesn’t have resources today or maybe they only have 100 to 200 dollars, the average attorney would just turn that client away and say, “Okay, well once you have the 1,500, give me a call.” So layaway is different in the sense that you’ll make a payment arrangement with them for them to start making payments towards the 1,000, 1,500 and then, once that full payment is … The full balance is covered in the trust account, then that’s when the legal work is basically executed and filed. Is that right?

Sean Lynch: That’s right. Yeah, they’re just … They’re making payments on, they’re essentially making payments on the retainer and once that happens, we get started. And then, the client’s aware of that. Then, they know that they come in, they can say, if it’s a $1,500 dollar retainer, “All I have is 250,” that’s like, “Okay, that’s fine. We can get started with that and let us know … Let’s set up this payment arrangement to get us up to the $1,500 and then, we can get started.” And most people are very … People who find themselves in that spot are very receptive to making payments like that because they understand that there are filing fees and the cost to have someone served if that’s necessary and things like that. So, they’re more than willing to … If I’m willing to work with them, I find that most people are willing to stick to what they say they’re gonna do.

Dave Aarons: Absolutely and I think, to some degree, if you’re doing layaway, then they know that their case isn’t gonna get filed until they come up with the amount. But, do you find a lot of people, and again, I know this is still somewhat new, but do you find that people appreciate having some structure, like a structured payment plan towards whatever that balance is as opposed to being left to their own devices to have to save the money on their own.

Sean Lynch: Yeah, essentially, it’s a bill that they’re paying on or it’s something they can budget for and I think people appreciate that quite a bit.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, I can only assume that folks that are … That has had somewhat of limit means in the past, I mean, a lot of folks that are struggling financially, there’s always other bills that can really get their attention first. They get paid and not everyone has great spending habits and so, I can only assume that it just must be nice for them to know that they’re putting that money away and it’s moving them forward towards getting their custody case filed or visitation rights because maybe left in their own hands, the money might get spent, you know?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, exactly. And that’s … Yeah, I mean it’s just like I said, if they’re used to paying for everything on a weekly, bi-weekly period, that’s just something else they can add on and it makes sense, that 250 every other week or 400 dollars every other week is a lot less scary than 1,500 dollars right now. I think people appreciate … I think people also just appreciate you working with them and it doesn’t seem like … They don’t feel like they’re just a number on a file. They’re a name and someone’s trying to help them in a situation that, while we see these things every day, it’s new to them and it’s … They’re about to go through a big old change in their life and I think they appreciate someone understanding that and trying to help them move through it.

Dave Aarons: I’m curious, in your own opinion, I mean, this is something that it seems like you’ve naturally embraced as far as just being flexible with folks and working within their budget and finding ways to meet their legal needs in a creative manner that they also can afford and trying to limit a number of folks you have to turn away. Layaway being one of the creative methods you use, more flexible initial retainer fees. But, even in the courts, you go in and certainly, maybe college, there’s a lot of attorneys that don’t necessarily offer this type of rigid … These types of payment options and are a lot more rigid in the way they do it. Do you think that, to a large degree, it has more to do with attorneys just not realizing the opportunity of being able to work with more clients in this way or maybe they’re just not aware of it? Or is it just that that’s just the way they do it and they don’t feel flexible?

Why do you think there’s still so few attorneys that have embraced this type of way of working with folks that you have up until now?

Sean Lynch:  Well, I just, I think the whole legal community, in general, is slow to change, slow to move on to … Keep up with either technology or changes in business and I think that’s part of it and it’s ingrained in people that you need to talk about how much you make per hour or how much you charge per hour, or get that big retainer or else, and for me, personally, where our office is and where I live, it’s a pretty diverse area and it’s … You want to be able to help everybody who comes in the best you can and I find that doing it this way … Running this business as we have, provides us the opportunity to help more people than if I just said, “Alright, it’s three grand and then, if you don’t have 1,000 dollars in my trust account every month, you gotta pay up to that. And then, I’m gonna bill you at 250 an hour and that’s it. We’ll talk to you next time we gotta go to court.”

There’s something off-putting to that and I just don’t think I could … I don’t think my personality could work that way.

Dave Aarons: Well, yeah, I agree. I’m not sure … Did you have a kind of more working class up bringing? Or what was it for you that has this compassion for folks that otherwise don’t have the ability to shell out the three grand and work with attorneys in such a manner?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, it is. We moved to Texas ’cause my dad sold envelopes. We moved here so he could work here in the early 90’s, right before everyone figured out how to email. So, it was going from … Learning from that experience and his experience of having to adapt and being able to relate to … And being a salesman, he was having to relate to everybody. So, whether it was the executive or the guy on the … In the warehouse, who’s the guy who kinda controlled access to things, you gotta be able to relate and you gotta be able to find a solution that makes use of money and divides they need and I think that’s just what you’re supposed to do. Also, for every time you’re reasonable with somebody, that person’s gonna tell other people what you did for them and that helps. It’s a natural, organic way to build referrals to get more people in the door.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, what a concept, if you treat people well, they might actually want to refer more people to you, huh?

Sean Lynch: Yeah, I know, right? Sometimes, we lost that. We talk about … Yes, I agree. I think doing that’s just a good business model.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, you know, Sean, it’s something that Graham has shared with me as well in him communicating with you and working with you over these past few months and certainly, what I get from having our conversations as well is just that you seem like a down to earth guy and you relate. You’re a good communicator, you relate well, is there anything that maybe your father taught or just growing up, you just learned, that allowed you to just make people feel more comfortable? Or just … Kinda, maybe, it’s hard to look at yourself from a kind of an overview standpoint. But, I don’t know if you came through some sales training or something like that or what, but what is it that … What energy or what feeling do you try to bring in or what is your philosophy about the way in which you treat clients?Is it things that you hold in your mind? Or you try to picture them, do you just sit down with them, do you remember how it was like when you were struggling? How do you … Are there any things that you can think of that allow you to relate better to your clients and help them feel more comfortable like you’re describing?

Is it things that you hold in your mind? Or you try to picture them, do you just sit down with them, do you remember how it was like when you were struggling? How do you … Are there any things that you can think of that allow you to relate better to your clients and help them feel more comfortable like you’re describing?

Sean Lynch:  I think it’s just that … Well, I’ll tell you, some of it is probably stuff I learned from watching my dad be a salesperson. And then, my mom works for the school district personnel, so watching her as well. Learning how to … You gotta read somebody pretty quick, both of them for that matter, you’d learn to read someone quickly and figure out what’s the best way to approach their problem or the person themselves. But, I just find that people want someone who listens and then, responds to what they said. And if you take the time to do that and then, you’ll … If you take the time to listen to people and then, watch them talk to you, you’ll figure out what they need and then, what they’ll … How they respond to you. So, every client’s different. Some clients need a shoulder to cry on and some clients need me to shake them sideways to get the idea through their head and figure that out pretty quick.

Dave Aarons: Where you have to kinda give them straight talk or you gotta really just be a good listener to someone that can kinda feel into the struggle that they’re dealing with and be more of an emotional support?

Sean Lynch: Right, yeah. I mean, like I said, they’re all … Every case, you have to abide by the same rules, right? It’s the same laws and statutes and local rules applied. You just have to figure … You have to make a determination for yourself how you’re going to communicate this to the client and yeah, and so, you can’t … If you take everyone as one size fits all, then no one’s going to be absolutely happy with what they get.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so I guess, maybe the final thing I’ll ask you just before we wrap up and again, I appreciate you just jumping on here and just sharing something about the ways in which you’ve been relating to folks, the types of options you’ve been offering, the flexibility, the lay away, I mean, everything you’ve been doing to just try to meet people where they’re at and give them an option they can afford and then, help them out any way you can. I think that’s really what this is all about. So, I guess, just with the sheer number of clients and leads that you’ve worked over these past six, eight months since we first started working together, is there anything that you take away as a lesson or any mistake that you made early on that you’ve since fixed that you could see a lot of attorneys making if they haven’t taken enough leads or just getting started with the process, that you’ve adapted to and implemented in your process?

Sean Lynch: I think at the beginning and the thing I had to learn and to get … Be very emphatic about is, once you get the lead, make the call. Make the call and then, even if you find out that this person, they live in Tarrant County, they live in Fort Worth, but it turns out that this divorce that they want to talk to you about is happening in Cleveland, you still gotta … Instead of going, “Okay, I can’t help you, bye.” You stay on the phone, you talk to them for a while, you provide whatever information, or at least a little … An ear for them let loose on for a minute. And then, that, inevitably will … Even if you can’t help them out, they know who you are and they’ll come back later. I know we’ve had people call when we first started, they’d have something that we couldn’t help them with.

But, we took the time to talk to them, or I did, I took the time to talk to them on the phone and listen to them, hear them out, and provide what little assistance I could. They come back and they made referrals, so I think … I don’t know, I think that’s the thing I had to learn is just spend more time. Even though there are more clients come in, spend more time than we were prior with each and everyone that takes the time to look us up or become a lead.

Dave Aarons: And that’s probably the easy pitfall of when you start getting a lot more leads coming in or a lot more clients retaining, is to forget what it was like to get that first lead and hey, then you call them up and you take the time and you really put the energy in. And that every new client, it’s still the first time they’ve ever heard from you, even though you’ve been doing all kinds of work for so many other people. To almost have that kinda beginner’s mind and really give that person the time that they deserve from the very first get-go, it’s really easy to get away from that.

Sean Lynch: Yeah, it is and that is something that every day I strive to avoid doing.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, I remember that from many years of working in the legal access plan and taking a lot of leads every day. You gotta remember that every single person is brand new to what they’re dealing with the first time they talk to you and so, you have to bring the same energy and commitment to every single call even if it might be the sixth call you did that day or the 30th that week to a new lead, really staying diligent about communicating and listening and taking that extra bit of time. I think that’s a really good point. That extra bit of time, that extra bit of attention, so that the people feel really heard and understood and cared about.

Sean Lynch: I agree. I think that helps more than anything.

Dave Aarons: Yep. And it’s also good to hear that treating people leads to more business in the back end as well, which we talked about earlier, which they come to that as a surprise to some, but it’s good to know that the universe or whoever out there, when you treat people well, it comes back and pays you in dividends in the long run. It’s good to hear that it’s set up that way.

Sean Lynch: Yeah, that’s … I’m just … And also just, on a personal level, a little bit more satisfaction in my employment and doing this job that people appreciate what you’re doing when you … And it just takes a little effort.

Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. Alright, well, speaking of appreciation, Sean, thanks, I want to appreciate you for coming onto the show and sharing so openly about the way you’ve been working with folks. I couldn’t be more excited and pleased to hear a number of people you’re being able to serve and the success you’re having working with us and beyond us as well, and so, I just thank you for taking the time and sharing what it is that you’ve been doing.

Sean Lynch: Hey, thank you, I enjoyed it.

Dave Aarons: Absolutely. Alright, and so, for everyone else who’s listening, we certainly appreciate your participation in the podcast. If you’re a family attorney or know of any other family law, immigration, or estate planning attorneys that can benefit from listening to these episodes, please feel free to share it. That’s how this podcast has grown and how these messages and options are shared with many others, is a word of mouth. And so, we certainly appreciate that. In support of the show and in support of serving more clients through these types of options, so thank you for that. And until next time, thanks so much for listening, we’ll see you all in the next episode.

What did you think of the interview? Do you have any questions or comments for Dave Aarons, or our guest Sean Lynch? 

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Episode 28: Strategies Developed from Fielding More Than 50 Leads a Week: Text Messaging, Layaway Payments, and Relating Well with Clients

Sean Lynch currently receives about 200 leads each month from Unbundled Attorney. Not only has he been receiving a high volume of leads since first starting back in September 2016, he converts over 40% of our leads into new paying clients. Today, Sean joins us on the show to share some of the strategies he has developed, as well as some creative payment options he offers that enable him to provide affordable services for so many of his leads. Sean explains when and how he offers “layaway” payments for clients who cannot afford his flexible up front retainer. He also shares some valuable lessons learned from his father that he uses to communicate effectively and relate well with clients.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Sean uses text-messaging to set up initial phone and in-office consultations, without disclosing his cell phone number
  • The process Sean uses on initial calls to leads that produces a high number of office appointments
  • The flexible retainer and payment plans Sean offers to clients who cannot afford to pay a high up front retainer
  • How he manages payment plans, and the importance he attaches to staying in close communication with clients
  • How he and the other attorney in his firm manage their heavy case-load, and how they employ a “tag-team” approach in their work with each client
  • How to find a balance during the day between working on active cases and responding to new leads
  • What “layaway” payments are, when Sean offers this option, and how this helps his clients that otherwise could not afford his flexible starting retainer
  • The lessons Sean took from his father on how to adapt to changes in the market and relate well with clients
  • The long-term value from taking extra time to listen to and assist each client thoroughly, even if it doesn’t appear likely they will hire your services
  • The importance of staying diligent in making calls to each lead in real time, especially when you are receiving a high volume of leads
  • And much more...

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