Streamlining Your Family Law Practice: How to Leverage Legal Technology to Serve Your Clients More Efficiently and Profitably
Welcome to the Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast!
Dave Aarons: Hello and welcome to The Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. My name is Dave Aarons, and I’m the founder and CEO of Unbundled Attorney. In this podcast we interview our unbundled attorneys as well as the leading experts in the industry to identify the best practices for converting leads into paying clients and how to ethically and profitably deliver unbundled legal services and other affordable options in your practice.
To learn more about how our exclusive unbundled leads can help you rule your practice, visit our website at https://www.unbundledattorney.com.
All right. Excited to be sitting next here to Bryan Crone, who’s a relatively new attorney. We’ve had some veteran, long-term attorneys coming on in recent episodes, so this is going to be a little bit change of gears. We’ve been working together probably about eight, nine months or something like that since he first came online.
Bryan Crone: Coming up on a year.
Dave Aarons: It’s been quite a journey of adjustments that needed to be made, infrastructure that needed to be established, a lot of systems that needed to be put into place that I’m really looking forward to unpacking maybe one step at a time as far as starting to understand how much delivering unbundled legal services effectively and profitably really is a business system. It’s one thing to understand and be able to read a Wikipedia that says “Unbundled legal services is limiting the [inaudible 00:01:20] in a case down to specific agreed upon tasks and offering document services to clients.” It’s a whole other thing to be able to put your firm in a position where you actually have a system that’s geared towards delivering those services really efficiently at a high volume and at scale. That’s something that Bryan has put a lot of time into developing, to the point where we’re at today where we’re really on the brink of being able to execute on that.
Really appreciate you taking the time to join us today, and looking forward to unpacking the saga.
Bryan Crone: Thanks for having me.
Dave Aarons: Yep. So maybe a good place to start, Bryan, we could just kind of rewind the clock. Maybe you could tell us where you graduated from law school, I think you’re … how long ago was that you came out of law school?
Bryan Crone: 2014.
Dave Aarons: ’14? Okay.
Bryan Crone: I was licensed in May of ’14. I graduated right here in San Antonio at St. Mary’s. During law school I clerked for, I had the wonderful, wonderful opportunity to clerk for an excellent civil litigation attorney here in town. There was a group of like 20 of us that were hired for a very short-term project, and I just kind of kept coming to work. Eventually, other people fell off. That ended up kind of parlaying into four years of working in his office as a clerk during school, and then as a contract attorney just after I was licensed. I was going to have the idea that I would ultimately go out on my own. That’s what I ultimately did. Soft launched in September ’15, but 2016 was my first full calendar year on my own without any sort of buffers to my revenue, and I’ve been full on running my own practice ever since.
Dave Aarons: Did you always have the idea in mind that you would maybe get some of the experience, work under him for a while, but that you were kind of in the direction of wanting to start your own practice?
Bryan Crone: Yeah. That was always the way I kind of conceived it. It’s kind of difficult when you go into law school, you don’t really understand what your choices are. A lot of times where you end up is kind of either happenstance or you didn’t think that you’d do that, but then it turns out to be really something you like. You tried it, or the second thing you tried was what hit. Because I remember I applied for two jobs back-to-back. I applied for a job with this guy who had just come out and he was kind of running his own deal, and then I applied to George’s job. Had I gotten the other guy’s job first, which I didn’t get, and I was really bummed about that, my whole trajectory would have been different.
So I didn’t get that, and then I did end up getting the chance to work with George. So I got a very good exposure, an excellent exposure into how to practice law in a very detailed way and a very, “meticulous” is the word that comes to mind, but it’s doing excellent work. He had a very, very high standard of work and it was difficult to meet. But it was a wonderful way to learn, because now I had that similar high standard of wanting to do the best work at the best level that I can. That’s really been kind of the foundation I’ve been able to build upon. It was a wonderful kind of springboard to running my own practice, because I was able to take so many things from my experience there.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I can only imagine if you’re starting to get into a high-volume practice, which is the direction, the trajectory you were heading, making sure you have those kinds of standards as an underlying principle, really make sure that you’re finding that kind of barometer of, yes, you want to grow, but we also need to make sure that we grow things one phase at a time so things aren’t starting to get out of hand and [crosstalk 00:04:47]-
Bryan Crone: And you never want to sacrifice the quality of your work. I mean, I’m very-
Dave Aarons: It’s a challenge not to, right? Because it’s like you’ve got one client after another and you’re not able to provide that same level of service. You have to be able to pull the reins back. That’s been part of what we had to do here, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah. Fortunately, I’ve never had any real issues with that, because I’ll always stay up the extra hour or prepare the extra day to make sure. My goals for what I want to do are going to be higher than whatever the baseline standard is. I’m not going to commit malpractice, but that’s not the standard. I don’t want to just not commit malpractice. I want to do good work for people, I want to bring good services to the marketplace, I want to solve people’s problems, and I want to do that efficiently and effectively.
I don’t want to bill you extra money just because I can. I mean, if you really break it down money-wise you can always find ways to bill money. That’s not the point. The point is if you come to my office with a problem, I want to solve your problem so you can get the lawyers out and you can go live your life.
Being able to do that effectively at scale and efficiently is … efficiency is the name of the game, because it’s a service industry. We have 24 hours in a day that we can make use of. You have to sleep some chunk of them, you have to eat, you should go to the gym, and you should probably not do work some other little percentage. So your total number of hours is just whatever that subtraction is. And you don’t want to be working 19-hour days if you don’t have to. I mean, get things in place, but ultimately you want to be able to do good work and then go home. It’s a lot of work on the front end, but well worth it, well worth it.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, I’m looking forward to unpacking a lot of the work that you’ve been doing to build those efficiencies because, you’re right, I mean, a given number of hours per day. You can either improve things by becoming more efficient yourself, or leverage your time through business systems technology, or leverage your time through help of other people, their time.
Bryan Crone: Correct.
Dave Aarons: So there’s only a few ways to do it. But if you want to grow and serve more clients beyond what you can individually do, either things have to get more efficient, systems have to take over some of that, or you’re going to need some help.
Bryan Crone: Yeah, I mean, I was a solo, one human being law practice for effectively my first two years; 23 of my first 24 months, where I’m 100% responsible for everything, I cannot delegate anything. If it’s getting done, my hands are doing it.
The good side of that is there’s no question about the work product, because I’ve done it. I know it’s done correctly, and if I mess it up, I’ll fix it, because I did it. There’s no question about, “Oh, did … I think so.” No. “Okay, great. So everything’s good.” But there’s a limit on what one human being can do.
So I grow my practice organically through referrals through my first two years. I had a three-year business plan that I was executing that I ended up getting divorced in the middle of, just as it happened, and that business plan was based on the assumption that my wife’s income could handle our domestic bills while I reinvested revenue and profits back into my business to arrive at month 37, which would have been January of ’19, with a very stable and robust income because I had reinvested that into the systems and the actual business that I was building.
So I actually got kind of thrown for a bit of a loop without too much heads up, because life happens that way. That’s when I got a cold call from Graham the following three weeks or so after that. That happened. So I’m just trying to come to work and keep my head off the table, like, “Push through. Man, you’ll figure it out. Just work hard, you’ll figure it out. Things work out.”
At that point, I fielded enough vendor calls or cold calls of, “Hey, I’ve got a service.” Or, “Hey, this brand-new thing is going to help grow your practice. Have you ever thought about … ” and I’d listened to them enough to know that, “Generally, no. The answer’s no, and I’m not going to give you six months of commitment or money or whatever.”
For some reason, I listened to Graham in that initial call. I tried to call him once on this stuff and I tried to [inaudible 00:08:59]. And he had a perfectly substantive response to my questions. So we ended up talking for an hour. He was a big jump on the overhead commitment, because it radically increased my overhead. But from literally the first 90 minutes I was live the volume was just overwhelming, where it’s been, since basically last November until now, a real intensive struggle to get the systems put in place, because that was year three of my business plan, was to finally put and optimize the systems, get those in place so I could take a jump in volume year four. It was to get them fully built out and finished and optimized and tweaked and run stuff through them so that I could know how the flow worked.
So when I jumped on board with y’all last year, that was partially done, and not the good parts. You know, it was just 30% built out. I wish I could have had … another 30% would have been more effective. So I’ve just been kind of working through getting those completed this year.
Our deadline was December 31. We’re probably going to make it by about mid-January. We’re currently able to roll all of our business through a systematic procedures intake to practice management, and building the systems has been a very big endeavor, but it is the whole end game. It’s been incredibly fun, actually, because I really enjoy the business part sometimes more than the law.
Dave Aarons: This is what I wanted to lead with. We can just get right into this [crosstalk 00:10:37]. But what we can do is maybe unpack it one step at a time, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: So you come on board, day one you’re getting leads, I think your second client you landed the retainer and so forth, so things are already moving forward really fast, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: I mean, that’s kind of what happens. You turn on an account with us and then the leads are coming in tomorrow, and then the next day, and then the next day, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: So take us through how you handled those first few weeks. Obviously, you’re trying to manage those deals. Then, when was it that you kind of realized, “Okay, I really need to get some help”? Take us through some of the steps you’ve taken.
I think at some point what we can do is we can start to unpack what are the different aspects of the system that need to be optimized, what are different ways in which that can be optimized. But just take us through your experience and kind of what you went through phase by phase.
Bryan Crone: Initially, when I first signed on with y’all I actually was taking leads from multiple [inaudible 00:11:31]. I think it was Behr, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays. That was so overwhelming so immediately that by, I think it was like a Thursday that I got the leads from … like, by the next Monday I called Graham, I was like, “Graham, bro, something. We’ve got … I can’t even … ” And he was like, “We’ll zero you back into Behr, you’ll be good. That kind of immediately curtailed the intake to a somewhat manageable-
Dave Aarons: Do you remember how many leads roughly you got in the first four, five … and that was including a weekend. I think it was like 10 or 15? Something like that?
Bryan Crone: It would double digits for sure. So I’d gone from growing my practice organically through referrals where I had maybe … I think I had 27 cases on the shelf totally, leftover from ’16 and ’17 at that point that come in at the kind of irregular pace that they do. If I got four new cases in a month, that was a, “Wow, that’s a pretty rapid month.”
So when you’re dealing with that kind of volume at that kind of rate, the intake process can be a lot less formalized, right?
Dave Aarons: Well, [crosstalk 00:12:29], right? Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bryan Crone: So I didn’t really have an airtight intake process. Even though I had a developed system … I know what information I need to get and I know how to get that information, but I definitely didn’t have that packed down into a 17-minute phone call. So dealing with the first … just this overflow of people to contact and to get back to and to set meetings for, my scheduling and my agenda and my immediate to-do list, to say nothing of the actual work I’ve already got on the shelf, it went 0 to 100, where I was not used to or prepared or could kind of expect to deal with so many things immediately. My next five days are now being booked up way, way more packed in than they’d ever been before.
So the initially thing was figuring out … and I was pretty terrible at this for several months, because I’m a talker, I’m a people person, I want to know the details. When someone calls my office, step number one is figuring out what their situation is. I can’t even begin to determine if I can help them until I know what their situation is, because every case is different. I do organically, honestly care about what’s going on. People hire me, but I also hire them. I want to know who I’m working with and I want to know who I’m helping, because that’s when you’ve got to stay up late and do the work when you’re tired, knowing that it’s not just a file number, knowing it’s Melinda and her kiddo. That’s what lets you stay up late to do your best work, right?
Dave Aarons: Right.
Bryan Crone: So I would just have … some of these calls I think back on and I’m just like … I can’t even believe it. I would talk to people for 82 minutes. I’d look down at my phone and I’m just like, “Why am I so tired? I just talked for over an hour. I know all the things about this person now. I know all the stuff. I told them exactly what they need to know and we’re going to move forward with it.”
But ultimately, the information I got out of that I could have obtained in about 20, which is where I’ve got my intake call down to now, after having done hundreds and hundreds and really cutting to the chase of, “I need to ask you … I can talk to you at length, but I need to ask you these four kind of subject matters. I need to address those in sequence. Then, if we need to talk more, we can. But we don’t need to talk more about that right now, because right now I need to get this information to determine what we’re going to do.” And that’s just repetition and continuing to whittle it down.
I don’t know if there’s a way to proactively prepare for that. I don’t know if you were going to design this … in a perfect world, could you do this the most optimized way? I don’t really know if you could just do that from scratch, because I think a part of it is doing it and just feeling yourself out.
A lot of the way that I operate is building in my experiences into kind of my data bank of information and decision making. More experiences, more data informs my decision making and hopefully refines it for the better, so that as I move forward, the decision making or the system or whatever is continually being optimized with that new information and outlook.
So it probably took several 80-minute phone calls and the, “Uh,” afterwards to get it down to where I can pretty much … usually I can clock in under 15, but really 20, so I’m not just like, “Hey,” taking information out of you. You can still have a nice, conversational exchange, because that’s also … we’re in a service profession. You have to get information and [crosstalk 00:16:03]-
Dave Aarons: Form a relationship, [crosstalk 00:16:04]-
Bryan Crone: You need to form a relationship, because there’s that foundation. And to me it’s worth it to develop that rapport with the client on the front end, because that just works better for me as a person, and I’ve found that that’s-
Dave Aarons: They’re going to feel more comfortable, appreciate the time.
Bryan Crone: It’s a feedback loop into itself.
Dave Aarons: So let’s kind of pack this down into phases, right? This is like initial intake, which I would think encompasses the initial consultation. From a process standpoint right now … and we could talk about how things have evolved. But initially, and I think that’s probably still the same to today, you receive the lead, you make the calls at this point?
Bryan Crone: Yes. Yeah, and that’s … I’ve listened to every podcast that y’all put out, and I know that people have had success doing several kinds of different systems. I don’t think there’s really a better or a worse. I tend to have a little bit of reluctance, I’ve just noticed this overall as I’ve brought Grant on board and prepared to hire a paralegal and started to build structures where I’m going to have to let, you know, “That is that person’s job description. They’re going to do that 20% of work. That’s no longer going to be under my umbrella, well, that’s no longer going to have my fingertips on it, so that’s going to have to be on them,” and kind of letting that work go. I’ve been reluctant to do that. It’s kind of been difficult to each stage that I’ve put that over, “That’s on your task list. Cool.” And it’s just ultimately trusting your people and building that out and training correctly and getting the systems properly installed and trained and developed so that everyone’s on the same page about how it works.
If everyone knows how it works, then we can all see that it’s working and being done correctly, and it self-checks, right? But initially, I haven’t … I sell myself very well.
Dave Aarons: It’s a bit of a challenge too as well.
Bryan Crone: It is.
Dave Aarons: To kind of let go of the reins a little bit and put a little bit of faith, a little bit of trust-
Bryan Crone: Which I ultimately want to-
Dave Aarons: And faith is easier when you have training and you have experience working with them and helping them. But if you’re solo and you’re used to doing everything yourself, to then, “Okay, I can’t do it all myself,” and you have to-
Bryan Crone: And then there’s kind of the lag time of, “It is going to take me 3X time to teach you how to do this thing that I could just do myself,” however, investment in the long-term.
I got incredibly lucky with Grant, being able to hire him when I did, because he is my best friend from law school, and that law school designator should not be there, but he just was in between jobs when I was just getting started with y’all. I was like, “Hey, come to my office for like-”
Dave Aarons: [crosstalk 00:18:40] that phone call, right?
Bryan Crone: “10 hours, 15 hours a week, just get your feet wet, get you back in the game.” And by the second day I remember looking him straight in the eyes and being like, “I will figure out the money. Don’t you ever leave. Let’s do this.” Because it doubled my capacity just having another human being there, to say nothing of someone you’re already close with, is already in your inner circle of people, you can trust, you know their … I mean, he crushed law school. He’s excellent. And we’re so symbiotic in our … it’s a Batman-Robin thing. But neither one of us are over … we just work so-
Dave Aarons: You compliment each other well.
Bryan Crone: Oh my God, it’s amazing. So that’s a very easy person to invest in. You know what I mean? So I will take all the extra time to … “We didn’t do it right? Cool. Let’s do it … ” he can’t mess up with me because there’s just the mutual respect and appreciation for the fact that it’s my hard work, but it’s also his now, that we get to just practice law together every day. This is one of my best friends. We just kind of do this together. Like, yeah, I made it, it’s my name on the door and I’m the one that has to … if one of us is not going to get paid, it’s going to be me. His paycheck’s always going to cash, right?
Dave Aarons: Sure.
Bryan Crone: But it’s not like a superiority thing. It’s just like, I am so thankful that he didn’t have a better job right then when I had him come to my office that one day. Things work out.
So getting back to the original point about the intake, we’ve done a little bit where as he’s gotten further into subject matters … he had no experience in family law getting started, so we started from scratch back, basically in December. So first of all, it’s like getting the subject matter downloaded into him to where he’s comfortable riffing on the stuff. And that’s just time and [crosstalk 00:20:25] eyeballs.
Dave Aarons: And listening to a bunch of calls?
Bryan Crone: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: Was there some things that you could help with, let’s say a solo that’s in a similar position where they’re not able to handle the amount of leads that are coming in or amount of business they have, which is a really common problem in our network as far as that scaling process, where they’re going from solo and they’re hiring a new associate, a new attorney? Was there some things that you did to help expedite that training? Was there things that you did together? Did you have him shadow you? Did you listen on some calls? What was the way in which you guys approached … and what were the things that maybe you delegated first?
Bryan Crone: Yeah, that’s kind of how I was going to approach that question, because ultimately I have not delegated the client outreach and the client engagement, especially the initial client engagement. I have not delegated that to another individual yet, and that’s been because I’ve been very effective at handling that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, we have a lot of lawyers that never do, and a lot of them that it takes a while before they finally do. And it’s only because they have to, right?
Bryan Crone: And ultimately I would like to be able to divide that task up, just for a matter of utility. It’s always better if more people can do more things, because then there’s more options, right? Even if Grant could do all the intake calls, I’ll probably still do 85% of the intake calls, just because I’m particularly good at that. Not that he can’t do it, but I’m successful, we’re already putting these resources, we’re committing it to this endeavor, and that maximizes our return.
What I would say on training, so much of that … sales, like, I don’t have any formal sales background, but I’ve got plenty of background in language and theater and not being nervous or whatever, so I don’t suffer from the initial, “I’m not sure how I should execute a sale.” I remember reading sales books at a previous job and it was breaking down the process and I was just like, “Well, I mean, I get it. I follow it. But why don’t you just talk to them?” So a lot of it’s kind of natural thing for me. And I’m selling, ultimately, myself, my services, not some widget, right?
So I don’t know yet, and we’ll figure it out as we grow and I am a little bit more separated from the office. For so long, it’s like my office is me. Now, Grant is basically at … he’s at court [inaudible 00:22:48], we’re kind of two heads to the same coin. So as we add people where you can engage with our office and it might be me 30% of the time, as we get that space then it becomes a little bit easier I think to have those conversations. But ultimately, it’s training your people to know the subject matter, because you have to be able to answer the questions of the client in real-time. That’s kind of the point.
Dave Aarons: And that’s going to depend on the experience level of who you’re bringing on and how much training they need on-
Bryan Crone: Right. And so that’s ultimately a function of what they’re able to do with the subject matter. If this is a family law operation and you’ve got five years of family law experience, yeah. I’ve got a friend in Austin, Lisa, she could come in and do these calls in a heartbeat, because she runs her own practice up there and does it, because she knows the subject matter.
Then, it’s just client interfacing. One thing that has been cool is on the back end, and this is probably how we’ll end up doing it, is kind of backing into it, Grant is now doing a good amount of client management. So even if I’m the initial point of contact with the client, one out of three or two out of five ultimately get put onto kind of his docket where he’s the main point of contact for the whole rest of the deal.
So that’s been a really good engagement with him to where I’ve noticed the same thing him doing now that I did eight months ago where it’s like he starts to whittle down the conversations and it’s just, “I don’t need to talk to client X for 45 minutes. I need to talk to them for 10 minutes right now because I need this information. And I know she wants to talk about it for 35, but she doesn’t need to pay me for that and I don’t need to be on the phone for that long.” And it’s just that process. So that’ll probably ultimately wind its way back to, “Hey, it’s this kind of case.” “Boom, that’s going to you. You’re on it.” “Oh, it’s that kind of case? Boom, I got it.” “Oh, you got the last two? I’ll take this one.” You know?
And hopefully when we get a paralegal in here to handle more of the client interfacing in general, they can do an initial just bare bones intake, and then kick to one of us for a more deep dive on specifics. And that goes hand in hand with the forms built out in Lexicata, because ideally we would send them, “Hey, thanks for contacting our office. Before you call our office, please fill out this online form that gives us the information we need on the front end. Do you have a prior order? How many kids? Names? Date of birth?” Little tiny details that will help us, A, be more informed when we have that call initially, and, B, make that phone call shorter and more effective, because we’re maximizing 100% of the time on the phone with the client getting relevant, substantive details and information communicated about how we can help solve their problem.
So that’s kind of a lot of steps in it, but it’s just knowing the subject matter and being able to build rapport your clients, which I think you’ve just got to jump in and learn over time.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And you at this point have the most experience in doing that. You’re representing your … you’re speaking for your firm. And it’s a big jump I think. We’ve had a few unbundled attorneys that have had to make that jump because they’re getting six, seven, eight, nine leads a day. If they had to keep doing that, all they would do is be calling leads every day. They did that for a while, and then had contractors or associate attorneys they were handing cases off to.
Bryan Crone: And that’s a very attractive thing. I listen to people doing that. I would love to get there.
Dave Aarons: But that’s down there, right? So in the meantime, there’s some training and there’s some time and investment involved to make sure the person that’s doing that call that would step in is capable and is able to get them in the office at the same rough rate, roughly, than if you were doing it on your own. And that’s no easy task. So that’s usually a later step that you’re going to take. So it’s not surprising that you’re still doing the initial calls. And a lot of our attorneys will always be doing the initial calls because they want to have that interface with the client, they want to develop the rapport.
Bryan Crone: There’s an underlying thing with me too.
Dave Aarons: And it’s your firm too.
Bryan Crone: Ultimately, the older I get, the more I sound like my dad. My dad runs his own business. It’s my name on the door. At the end of the day, it’s my credibility, it’s my work, it’s my reputation. That is something I take very seriously, and it’s something I care a lot about. I don’t want people to see my name on a pleading and be like, “Oh, that lawyer’s garbage.” I want people to see our office and say, “Oh, they are good people to work with. They are reasonable people. They do very good work. They’re going to be prepared. They’re going to represent their client well, but they’re not going to be the worst. They’ll call us back. They will be good counterparts to work on this.”
That is what we’re trying to build, and that takes a long time to build and can get really undercut very, very quickly. So it’s all of those points of contact, with even people that don’t hire us.
I tell every single client that comes to my office, “Look, my goal is to … I’m going to get you as accurate an estimate of what work is involved to get to your solution. I want to get as accurate an estimate as I can of what amount of money that costs and what timeframe that is. It’s not going to be perfect, but I want to give you data so you can make a decision on whether to hire me.” Then, I want to try to get the case done a little bit more quickly than I anticipated for a little bit less money than I originally anticipated, because even if it’s just $50 and I’m giving them $50 back at the end, because that’s what [inaudible 00:27:47] said, that is such infinite residual value, because that demonstrates honesty, that demonstrates integrity. I could have easily changed my billing to keep $50, sure. But if you’ve already given me $4,500, what is … and the math comes out to, “There’s $50 left,” that’s what you’re supposed to do.
And that client, when they go along their way, if anyone for the rest of time says, “I’ve got a thing … ” they’ll be, “Oh, call Bryan or call Grant. It was great, because … ” So that to me is like, if you do good work the money will follow. That’s been kind of my underlying theme of building this practice, is like, “Do your best work for people and be reasonable and honest and-”
Dave Aarons: “And do it as efficiently as possible so that you can give people back money.”
Bryan Crone: [crosstalk 00:28:27] that’s where you pull that-
Dave Aarons: That’s a really, really good idea, really good focus.
Bryan Crone: The efficiency is what allows any of what I just talked about to happen. Without efficiency … that is 100% at the heart of being able to do all of the stuff, because you will be limited in your 24 hours in the day. [crosstalk 00:28:43].
Dave Aarons: So let’s talk about building an efficiency business system. Because you got to a point, even with Grant coming on, that it was like, “Okay, this fire hose is going to keep going. We can’t handle it. We need some systems in order to build to a point of scale and all these things are going to be … some are things we have to do over and over, so the more systems we have that can help to streamline these processes, the more people we can help, the more we can keep our costs controlled,” and of course be able to expand to whatever your goals of, you know, the amount of people you’d like to serve, right?
Bryan Crone: Yep.
Dave Aarons: So let’s talk about some of the systems you’ve been working on putting into place and maybe you could finish the story a little bit about, “Okay, so we got Grant involved, I started training him up on subject matter, he started taking over a few cases.” But I think we had to get to a pause point again, right? And be like, “Okay, we really need to look at what are all the steps involved with how a client flows throughout our firm?”
Bryan Crone: And all of this happened kind of simultaneously, because I did not anticipate hiring person number two until probably some point in this year, but really maybe not until next year.
Dave Aarons: We kind of mess with lawyer’s plans. We kind of just throw them off.
Bryan Crone: And it’s great, because it’s been a great outcome. So thank you.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, sure.
Bryan Crone: But I have had very … overall in my work history, I have worked at small businesses where I’ve always been connected to and interfaced with the actual head dude, the owner, the person who signs the paycheck, the CEO. So I’ve always been able to ask questions of that person. I’ve always been able to recognize them as a human being, and I’ve had firsthand experience with the different impacts of what good management is and what bad management is.
Overall, I’ve had good managers. And that is a very valuable thing I’ve always had in the back of my head, is that, “Okay, when I’m the top guy and I’ve got people under me, I take that almost more seriously.” Like, I frequently comment that I care a lot more about Grant’s development as an attorney than my own, because I can go be good. I can put the hours in and just … anyone can devote the time to be good at a thing. But it’s a much more challenging task to learn and adapt to how to best put your team in a position to succeed based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Dave Aarons: Well, see, that’s leadership, right? That’s going from managing to even leadership, and that’s a whole nother-
Bryan Crone: Which I take very seriously. Yeah. So my point in bringing that up is that hiring Grant when I did was not thought out. There was no forethought. There was no chance to preemptively make some decisions about how I was going to go about this. I had been absolutely just gripping it and ripping it on how to be an effective leader, with the goal and consciously knowing what my objective is. I want to not … I want to do everything I can to learn my employee …
I remember, it was really funny, this is a great anecdote. Grant and I work so symbiotically it’s amazing. We are very yin and yang. The certain strengths that I have are weaknesses of his, the certain things where I fall short he really comes and gets the detail. So there’s an easy mesh, right? But for the first maybe month or two when I was kind of downloading subject matter and we’d do a new thing every couple days and it was a little fast but he was getting it, he would do this thing where I would go back and I’d review the concepts. We just did a thing, you just know … “Okay, so now tell me.” For me, it’s like old-school theater. You just run your lines until you know the lines, and you just say them.
That’s what I was trying to do, and it was on something small. It was like five lines and he was getting frazzled by it. He kind of couldn’t get it. Then, he started talking about it, like, this random, out of nowhere, on Mars, freaking anecdote, possible, theoretical, for like 10 minutes. I remember being like, “Bro, there’s so much to do I can’t … what are you … this doesn’t apply to anything. What are you even talking about?” And it was incredibly frustrating for like four or five weeks when he would … every time we’d do a new subject he would go on these real odd, random rabbit holes.
What I finally figured out was that that was how his brain programmed it in in his framework. So that’s how he confirmed that he internally understood it and could then communicate it back to me right how I needed. So we had to develop kind of a signaling system where I could know that, “Oh, you’re going to do your little talking thing. I don’t have to listen, great.” That was really kind of a light-bulb moment in terms of [crosstalk 00:33:13]-
Dave Aarons: Like, just mapping it out in your mind by talking about it.
Bryan Crone: Right. It’s like, “Okay, you need to do your thing. I’ve just got to sort of listen to make sure you don’t really mess it up. Okay. But I can devote 10% and I don’t have to pay attention to this ridiculous thing you’re saying, because in seven minutes you’re going to come and tell me exactly how it is. Boom, got it.” And we can confirm that we’ve got it, right?
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Bryan Crone: So I remember learning that I was learning how he learned, and having to figure out how his brain worked. And I’d never thought about it at that level. I remember that was kind of a light-bulb thing of like, “Man, this leadership game’s a little bit more complex, because I ultimately want to do everything I can to make him … give him the best opportunity to crush it, and the next person that comes in and whatever their job is, let them maximize their ability. I mean, I want to build this system to let us live comfortable lives and do good work for people.” Leadership is tough like that.
So that’s going to be kind of the last thing after we get our … we’ve got our systems basically in place now and we’re going to get those tweaked through the end of the year and we should be running full steam with those by mid-January, February at the latest, which is unbundled through Lexicata, through Clio, and everything being streamlined and automated through each of those systems for a very continuous intake flow to our ultimate case management software which is integrated with Google and stuff on the back end for our email and will ultimately tie into our website when that gets finished getting developed here in the next couple of weeks to all have kind of a seamless integration of information that flows back and forth, which I think is a really great thing y’all have done, working with the other programs to connect and integrate. Because when I originally got on … I didn’t initially get on Lexicata, which you absolutely should get Lexicata whenever you start this. It’s a little bit of money, but it’s so, so incredibly valuable, because it let’s you keep track of stuff.
Dave Aarons: Well, now Lexicata and Clio are all in one suite, right?
Bryan Crone: So go ahead and just do Clio too. Because I did my case beforehand and it was totally effective. They met my needs for two years. Then, I kind of got to a point where it didn’t kind of fit. “I’ve got these two things [inaudible 00:35:17], boom, it just isn’t going to fit. Oh, Clio it all fits.” You know? That synergy is just really … I mean, it’s not priceless. It’s a big number that Lexicata shows you, exactly how big it is. You know what I mean?
And that’s why you should get Lexicata, because that will … when you get your head around the fact that, “Oh my God, I’ve got literally $1.2 million of case value from January one until now, me, literally, this person right now, my practice, that is unrealized business, that’s already right here. So the task is just getting better at capturing what’s already right here. The system is already completely set up.” So just get in a better position to process what you can. Then, the money will work out. The money’s not even a thing anymore, because the numbers will … it’s more of an objective of, “How can we accomplish this objective of there is information and tasks being … how can we divvy those up and just handle them?”
That’s the real thing, because if you just do that with moderate success, my God. I think our conversion rate right now is 11% on the year and, hell, 80% of those are ultimately unrealized. Like, they couldn’t call back, I couldn’t get to them soon enough, their thing lapsed or whatever. We just couldn’t … because we just didn’t have the capacity. That’s why for being still in student debt, I have no retirement, I’m still basically a pauper, money doesn’t matter, because we’re here at work every day and we’ve got so much work to do and we’ve got … everything’s right in front of us. The money will be fine and it will serve to grow the whole system, because it’s just about processing things, getting your work product, the language of how you want your documents to be, getting your contracts for separate things.
I’ve got a contract for full representation, I’ve got a contract for a full representation payment plan, I’ve got a contract for a limited scope representation, I’ve got a contract specifically for uncontested divorces, which is sort of limited scope because it contains these specific services, but it’s kind of a hybrid because if it gets contested we just bill the additional stuff after, [inaudible 00:37:28] afterwards hourly. But that’s become better to have a separate contract for that specific scenario, because we’ve encountered over here-
Dave Aarons: [crosstalk 00:37:37] involvement. “For this, I can do all these things. If this happens, then we need a separate agreement,” right?
Bryan Crone: Right. Right. But originally I had one contract and it was two pages. That worked fine, and I’ve never had really a contract dispute, because it’s pretty clear I do ethical business, and if there’s a break one way or the other I’ll break for the client for sure. Money is not the end all be all, and it’s certainly not worth fighting with your people you’re trying to help.
If it’s the one client that paid $1,500 with her uncle’s credit card and then he contested it, “Okay, well, I did that divorce for free. Okay.” But money’s just money, man. If you’re doing good work, it’ll be fine.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Okay. So I think what we should do, Bryan, is we went really fast on all of those business systems and integrated with Lexicata, then it goes to Clio, then you have document automation, then you have Google, and-
Bryan Crone: Do you want me to kind of break down … yeah, [crosstalk 00:38:30]?
Dave Aarons: I think what we should do together is just, “Okay, so for those of you that haven’t worked on these systems, maybe you’re just starting to listen to the podcast or you’re just starting to follow, or even just learning how to implement unbundled legal services in your practice, there are systems that you can put into place that are going to make it a lot more efficient. And with efficiency comes a little bit more margin, higher effective hourly rates. And that’s what takes the business model of unbundling and makes it lucrative, is being able to deliver things task by task, potentially under flat rates, but there’s different ways to do it, but oftentimes it’s done by flat rates, because then you can take advantage of the efficiencies such that the clients are happy to pay one rate because other lawyers won’t even offer something close to that.
Bryan Crone: Flat rates are great.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, so flat rates task by task are really great. And it also lends itself well to building efficiencies, because if you can do something that took you three hours before, and let’s say it’s $900, three hours to do that, that’s $300 an hour. If you can cut that in half, if you can do it in an hour and a half, now all of a sudden your effective hourly rate went from $300 to $450 or $500 an hour, right? So efficiency is key for taking the unbundled services business model, or working with clients on this kind of basis and being able to do it profitably so that obviously the clients are happy, and if you’re profitable and you can afford to then hire other people to serve even more clients, then the sky’s the limit as far as how you can take it.
Maybe what we could do for simplicity sake, for those that are newer to the business models, let’s unpack each step of the process. There’s going to be a lot of different … at each different level there’s a few different tools that could be used. We could talk about the ones you’ve implemented. I’ll try to highlight some of the ones that are available as well so people can choose.
Bryan Crone: I’ll run through my system and you can supplement with whatever other options there might be at that stage.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. So let’s go maybe one phase at a time. Then, for those of you that are watching, take notes. You can do the research online. I’ll put the links in the show notes to all the different tools that we recommend, or that we recommend that we … that you’re implementing, and I’ll kind of lay out some other options as well. That way if you’re serious about delivering unbundled legal services, you’re going to have a good, solid toolkit of all the different things that need to be involved.
Bryan Crone: So when a lead comes in through Unbundled, Unbundled generates basically a small little data point, which is name, phone number, email, and then a little blurb that the client has typed in about whatever their situation is. That can be “custody”, or it can be a paragraph. It varies. But typically from that kind of blurb I can get a general idea of what type … “Under which umbrella is it going to be. It’s going to be one of these four or five kind of cases probably. Okay, it can go there for now. We can get a general categorization [crosstalk 00:41:09].”
Dave Aarons: So you have, like, divorce, you have, like, contested custody, modification.
Bryan Crone: Yeah, it’s like divorce and modification and enforcement, CPS involved, OAG involved, adoption, then there’s some other more detailed. But those are the, you know, 80%-
Dave Aarons: Yeah, it’s like establish, modify, enforce, custody [inaudible 00:41:24] support, divorce, right?
Bryan Crone: Bingo. Yeah. Actually, at that step I don’t even subdivide it. I did originally subdivide it down by subject matter, custody in a custody and possession, what specific term. But then when I plugged everything in together, that ended up having so many custom fields that it just actually made more sense to kind of narrow it back down, because it ultimately doesn’t matter if the case is an enforcement about possession, you know, did kiddo not go where they’re supposed to or did child support not get paid, you’re kind of doing the same basic thing and detail-
Dave Aarons: Same intake fields, right?
Bryan Crone: Bingo. Bingo.
Dave Aarons: So it’s really at the level of-
Bryan Crone: It became more effective for me to have less detail at that initial step, and then to add more detail later further on in the system, because at that initial stage, if it’s an enforcement, cool, if it’s a modification, cool. It doesn’t matter what the specific detail on that is.
Dave Aarons: With the exception of some of the forms you might fill out, but then as you bring up the forms, all of that information is going to data enter anyway, right? So that’s at a later step.
Bryan Crone: That’s a later step.
Dave Aarons: You’re right. Okay.
Bryan Crone: So Unbundled will send that data if you use Lexicata, which is a client relations management software, which I highly recommend, because it, number one, keeps everything in one space for you to have as a global idea of tracking … Unbundled is giving you all these stacks and stacks and stacks of potential people, and if you try to print those out or try to do them manually or make an Excel sheet or something, you’re creating a lot more work in ultimately handling that data, determining, “Am I going to hire this person? Am I going to talk to them?” Lexicata builds all that in right there in front of you and it lets you categorize each of these people through the whole process of, “I’ve called them. It’s their decision. We have a client meeting set. We are pending engagement. They are ready to rock and roll. I’ve sent them a contract.” There’s kind of like four or five different-
Dave Aarons: Yeah, it’s like phases of the enrollment process.
Bryan Crone: Bingo. Bingo. Exactly.
Dave Aarons: Like, new lead, step one.
Bryan Crone: Bingo.
Dave Aarons: Right? That would be a phase. Then you have-
Bryan Crone: That’s literally-
Dave Aarons: “I’ve called the person once,” on contacted: 1. “I’ve called them twice,” on contacted: 2.
Bryan Crone: Exactly.
Dave Aarons: “I’ve called them a third time and sent them a final email,” on contacted: 3.
Bryan Crone: Exactly.
Dave Aarons: Three phases. “Okay. Now we’ve made contact with someone,” next phase, right? So it takes where the person’s at in the funnel-
Bryan Crone: Bingo.
Dave Aarons: And makes that clear in a visual sense, right?
Bryan Crone: I mean, you can literally drag and … you put them in the initial stack of, “They’re a new contact.” Okay, and you call them and they didn’t answer, you call them again. Oh, and they call you back two days later. You go right back to the thing, which that’s already autopopulated from Unbundled.
Dave Aarons: Just move it along, yeah.
Bryan Crone: And you can get them over here-
Dave Aarons: Or you can even tag it.
Bryan Crone: Bingo. And you can add-
Dave Aarons: Or just adjust the-
Bryan Crone: I haven’t even gone micro with tags yet. I will get there on the back end. But right now it’s just functionally moving them along. Because when I didn’t have that … I held out on Lexicata for maybe four or five months. Then, I remember when I got it I felt so stupid for not doing it, because I was like … I was kind of backdooring a manual thing that was 1% as good as this thing that’s right here. It feels like a lot of money, especially if you’re averse to additional overhead. But it tracks your pipeline value, it tracks your money, and it puts it in perspective.
It’s one thing when it’s like, “God, man, I’ve got three more calls. I don’t know if I can do … ” I mean, there’s been some days where I’ve spent 8:45 a.m. until 7:30 at night, literally back to back calls. Not all on new leads, but opposing counsel, where it’s like, “I want to throw this cellphone in the ocean right now. I can’t do one more minute.” But when you look at it in the aggregate, which Lexicata is very, very excellent at doing, and you’re like, “Okay, well, if I want to just not make three phone calls-”
Dave Aarons: It’s a common expression [crosstalk 00:45:02].
Bryan Crone: Yeah, it’s like, $11,000 I’m going to just set on fire. Like, that’s $11,000 I could try to put into the system, or I can just … In aggregate … maybe on a Friday you want to make that choice. Sure. But in the aggregate, it really makes it very clear, number one, what you’re doing overall, but number two, where it is in terms of getting to your onboard and hired as a client, which is where we transition into Clio.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. You can visually see the value of accomplishing each task in the process. Because if you didn’t have a system to track it, a lead would come in, you might make one call, and then it goes into a folder, and then you’re onto the next one. Right? You don’t necessarily can see what was lost there by not following up with that person, right? And you can assign values to that, right? So you start to be able to see it visually, then it’s motivating and clarifying, like, “Where are the areas that the system is falling out? Where are we not-”
Bryan Crone: We were able to, within the first, like, three weeks of … well, I should say when I initially got … and I don’t recommend doing this either, when we initially got Lexicata I did not pay for the … it’s like $79 or $59 or some additional fee to have it automate with Unbundled. And I was like, “No, I’ll-”
Dave Aarons: [crosstalk 00:46:16], yeah.
Bryan Crone: “I’ll manually do it, because it’s no big deal. I’m already kind of … ” and after, like, three weeks of that I was like, “This is so dumb. I’m spending time and I can just have these … it doesn’t make any sense.”
Dave Aarons: Yeah, so we have an integration with Lexicata which basically means leads generate, post right into Lexicata so that you don’t have to data enter it into one system.
Bryan Crone: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Then, Lexicata has the integration with Clio.
Bryan Crone: Bingo. With Clio.
Dave Aarons: Obviously, those two companies are coming together.
Bryan Crone: Which, that removes all duplicate work. Right? The only thing you have to do is when the initial lead comes into Lexicata you make sure that … and you can mirror your fields in Lexicata and Clio so that they match up. So that way you make sure you get your data you’re going to need in Clio later right here initially, as much as you can, and you can build that out from your phone call, from your client call. Ultimately, if you need to finalize and finish it out later, you can. But you can get as much of that up front, boom, that’s going to populate right over here into Clio if they do hire you, so you’ve already got that pre-done.
But when you get into Lexicata and it starts automating … I remember the first time that I actually got a snapshot of a month, of like what the actual scope was. I was flabbergasted. I was like, “There was $116,000 of case value in this month alone. If we just … how do we miss eight divorces? If we just got all the divorces,” I remember doing the math, “if we just got all the divorces, that’s it,” and it was maybe 20% of the [inaudible 00:47:40], it was like, “that puts our revenue at 3.5X, 4X of where we were.” I mean, it was that kind of scale. Where it’s not like it moves a little bit and it gives us a buffer. It’s like, “That changes … how many … that’s two employees. That’s a buffer on operations. That is stability I’ve never even thought about yet.” And that in and of itself feeds back into more capacity to better facilitate all of this.
Because if you can, shoot, outsource the first parts of that transition from Unbundled into Lexicata, if you could have just your paralegal manage that Lexicata and divide out which people to call back or who’s called back and connect them back to me, have some sort of outsourcing of that within the office, that would severely optimize that kind of built in lag time of, you know, maybe you get back to them, maybe you don’t. You’re never going to capture 100%, but, my God, if you can … Lexicata makes it very easy to see where you can make gains, and those gains are substantial.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. And there’s a couple online client conversion platforms. I think Lawmatics is another one that’s I think recently come about who was established by the founder of MyCase. Then, I think Smokeball has some-
Bryan Crone: Smokeball’s a really cool program.
Dave Aarons: So when we talk about intake and conversion, Lawmatics, Smokeball. Practice management software is Clio, Practice Panther, MyCase was one you used for a period of time, Smokeball being another one. So these are all systems that you can look into. As far as the integrations that we have right now, that’s into Lexicata, which is becoming part of Clio as well. We can explore some integrations in the future if attorneys request that we create them.
But isn’t it amazing though when you can actually see, “If only we had gotten to these people. If only we were a little bit more efficient.” Because then you can see the value of, like, “If I know that there’s $80,000 that we lost there,” you can really confidently hire, you can really confidently invest in people, in systems, in skills to … because you know the money’s sitting there. It’s always there. It’s just most lawyers don’t see it. They don’t see that opportunity gain. And it’s hard if you can’t see it to spend the money, to invest the money, to invest the time.
Bryan Crone: I mean, assuming you have the capital, yeah. That is the most accurate assessment of my current and future financial condition and expectations I should have accordingly.
I knew intuitively and just based on volume compared to last year, so I knew I was handling … interacting with a lot more dollar value overall. But until it was able to literally … I mean, that’s hard data. That’s not pretend. That is the actual data. It’s all the things. It all lines up perfectly. If you were to pull the Lexicata and pull the Unbundled it would just go right down the list, right?
So when you can look at that objective data and see what exactly … I mean, the scope of it. Like, even until today I still have some back from before I started automating. I just got the last of them put in, you know, outsourced that to just an office tech. Two days ago was when all of my Unbundled leads forever are in Lexicata now. And even knowing that there was a lot of money, it was just, like, over $1 million of case value. That is a very-
Dave Aarons: It’s, like, sobering, right?
Bryan Crone: It’s just like, yeah.
Dave Aarons: And also exciting, right? Because you’re like, “Wow, we’re doing this well, and look at what’s on the table,” right?
Bryan Crone: Unbelievably exciting, because we can see … you see how small you are right now and how much there is to capture. When you’re already working towards that and you know exactly what to do to get into position to do that, it’s just a matter of getting there. Which is just, you know, put the hours in. Hell yeah put the hours in, because there’s so much to gain and so much to … we’ve got so much progress that is right there. It’s called 2019’s revenue. It’s going to be … I thought my graph kicked up this year, because it did, but next year’s going to be even … I mean, it’s a hockey stick, man.
Dave Aarons: Well, that’s one of the things I appreciate about you as well, is that you do look at the numbers.
Bryan Crone: Oh my God.
Dave Aarons: You do, like, track these things.
Bryan Crone: Yeah, meticulously.
Dave Aarons: A lot of lawyers don’t. It’s powerful when you look at the numbers. There’s transparency, there’s a clear chart ahead, you know what actions you can take that are going to be the most impactful in your business, what are the things that are worthwhile, and you can make really informed decisions. They inform the decisions.
That’s, unfortunately, what I think a lot of lawyers aren’t necessarily taught in law school. They don’t get the business side of it, right?
Bryan Crone: Law school doesn’t teach you anything about running a business at all. That’s a shortcoming. I mean, a goal of mine is to develop a curriculum and teach at St. Mary’s, “Hey, if you’re going to be a 3L and you want to build your own law practice, here’s 12 classes over a semester that will actually kind of give you some actual information in real life about how you might go about doing that,” because that’s not really available in the traditional law school curriculum.
That’s, I think probably ultimately a disservice to the public, because if you … you’re coming out to do a service for people. If that is inherently limited by your ability or inability to provide that service, then you’re only going to reach a limited amount of people. That’s why we always have a shortfall and we have more people that need representation and they can’t get it and there’s this gap.
I think that’s a really cool thing that Unbundled effectively kind of helps to narrow, because I’ve got clients that they would not … they don’t have $1,000. And I get that. The better example is $5,000. If someone needed me to give them $5,000 today, I would have to figure that out. I don’t just have that around. I’d have to make some moves and do some stuff. Right? So I live in the same world my clients do. But they don’t have $5,000 today, but they’ve got $1,200, and we just need $1,200 for right now. Then, four weeks from now, or five weeks from now, or six weeks from now, we can get there. But that helps you get your thing taken care of right now, and then we’ll live to fight another day. I think is the phrase?
Dave Aarons: Yeah, sure. Yeah, we’ll get there, right? So we need to unpack that part of it too, which is some of the Unbundled service options you’ve offered and how you’ve kind of broken things up, pay as you go on the horizontal plane. So let’s get there.
Let’s finish out this kind of business [inaudible 00:54:05], because right now what we’ve charted out is, “Okay, a lead comes in, obviously you get your leads coming into one place, and then get it into some kind of an, ideally, online system that gives you an interface to track it, and we talked about the different systems you can do that with. Because that way when you do your intake and you capture the person’s name, phone number, email address, where’s the county, who are the children involved, what court orders have been filed and all these different things, once you capture that information once, then that information can then, once you set up your system-
Bryan Crone: Transition.
Dave Aarons: It’ll go from one system, which you’ve now intaked and retained that client, and now it’s going to go into the practice management software, ideally, if you can build that kind of streamlined … some systems have it, some systems don’t, but the integration from Unbundled Attorney to Lexicata and Clio, that has that system … I think if we did integration with Practice Panther, maybe worked with Lawmatics, that would probably work. I don’t want attorneys to feel like they have to go with any specific platform.
Bryan Crone: Because there’s a lot of good options that use different price points.
Dave Aarons: There’s just a lot out there, right? And there’s different [crosstalk 00:55:09]. So we’re going to work to be able to have integrations with all these platforms as much as we can so that you can choose. Right now we don’t have these integrations, but we’re certainly not married to one particular solution.
Bryan Crone: And I think a point to make is that you don’t necessarily have to have an integration over to your practice management software. I operated for a year without having that final link. In my experience, I would strongly recommend that you do have that link, because it does radically increase the amount of efficiency. I mean, it just takes a whole … you’ve got one data transfer from Unbundled to Lexicata to your practice. You’ve got two transfers. It takes out half of that work. So it’s like you are eliminating-
Dave Aarons: You collect the information once-
Bryan Crone: Yep, and you’re eliminating extra steps. So the whole end game is getting the product provided and the service provided in as few steps as necessarily. And sometimes-
Dave Aarons: And eliminating [crosstalk 00:56:04], right?
Bryan Crone: Sometimes it’s 15 steps, and sometimes it takes 15 steps, but you’ve got it to 15, because you know it can’t be 14, because number 15’s important, but you don’t need 16, because 15 gets you there. You know, and it’s-
Dave Aarons: And you don’t have to repeat it again, right? Yeah.
Bryan Crone: So once you can literally get the flows of work down for each, you know, start number one, a case, a divorce case, what is it globally? Okay. Then you can subdivide it down to there, “Okay, when we’re going to file this motion, what notes?” Make sure you do this, make sure you check that, make sure you file here. Pull this copy. Go into it here. Make sure you always have this. Make sure you take that, and make sure … we internally like to have this summation of data. Whatever it is, start big and then you can kind of work your way more micro, because you can always get more micro, but it’s a little tough to kind of go the other way, which I instinctually kind of did in reverse.
Dave Aarons: You went micro, and then you had to kind of like-
Bryan Crone: And then I kind of … I was like, “Eh, we should back out. We should back out and get-”
Dave Aarons: “We shouldn’t be there. We can just zoom that out.”
Bryan Crone: Because you can work with bigger picture, and you can kind of add the more detailed-
Dave Aarons: “So what are the big general categories? Okay, let’s separate those out.”
Bryan Crone: Bingo. Bingo.
Dave Aarons: “Then, what are the characteristics that are inherent of these ones and not these ones?”
Bryan Crone: Bingo.
Dave Aarons: This is getting a little bit into the weeds a little bit, but it’s the way you start to organize the system, right?
Bryan Crone: It’s how you organize the system.
Dave Aarons: So there’s a few things, right? You’ve got the intake phase, like the phases of the enrollment process, which is lead, advertising, track those leads until you actually convert. Once you convert, then it gets into practice management software. Now, I think that’s along the lines of what we’re talking about, which is now we’re looking at each individual type of case. “What are all the tasks and steps that are involved with each of these different types of cases?”
Bryan Crone: “What are the deadlines? When do you want to do it? What order do you want to do it in?”
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Some cases are going to have similar types of things. Other cases are not. But just to finish the point from before, once you’ve captured the contact information for the client and the relevant details, once you move into the practice management, which is the delivery of services and preparation of services phase, and essentially you’re preparing documents and so forth, the information you captured in phase one can autopopulate into forms. It can autopopulate into documents. It can autopopulate into tasks and assignments, right?
Bryan Crone: Your contacts [crosstalk 00:58:12] over here, which each case is going to have its own number, right? You have a numbering system. That all gets built out with a couple mouse clicks. Whereas prior to the setup I have right now it was a whole other … I had to basically take this … it stopped Lexicata, and then I had to go … which was not a huge deal because I was doing 10% of the Lexicata leads, that was the conversion rate, I was only putting 10% of these things over here getting hired. Right? But as that number increases, that was going to just expand my work. That’s manual work. You want to cut out manual work. That’s what that bridge from Lexicata to Clio is. That’s why it’s so amazing, because when it comes in from the get go, you ultimately are going to land over here, which is you’re going to be operating in this practice management environment and space for the majority of the time you’re going to be interacting with this information.
The intake initially is very quick. The waiting to get signed or not signed or talking to them or whatever, that’s going to be maybe a period of a week or two or three, or they’re going to fall off, but then you’re going to be over here for four or six months on a case. That’s where you have your calendar managed and your billing and your document creation. Every case needs a contract. Every case ultimately will need a conclusion of representation letter. Every case, more than likely, I mean, 95% of cases will need an order of some type. So there’s basic, essential things that are kind of universal, but they need to be tweaked to whatever level of detail you want to divide it out to. You know?
Dave Aarons: Right. Exactly. Okay. So then that’s where having all these systems in one place is going to help a lot, because all that information you’ve collected kind of seamlessly flows into whatever it is you’re doing, calendar, tasks, billing, documents, all these types of things. Right?
So then that’s like the delivery of service. So then those are the overall systems. I think there’s a lot of plugins that maybe we can just kind of riff off a few of. You’ve got Google Drive or Dropbox, all the ways of storing and sharing files.
Bryan Crone: There’s several online things that you’re probably very familiar with. I mean, Dropbox and Google Drive, I think Microsoft One Note might be the Microsoft version for … I don’t use that. We use Google Drive and Dropbox. Dropbox and Gmail is really our two main-
Dave Aarons: That’s for sharing files-
Bryan Crone: Sharing files, yeah. We maintain … and what I’m the most excited about with Clio is that they will automatically sync with Dropbox to where when we scan documents in we can scan them directly into Clio now. It used to be we had to scan them and then move them over somehow. We can now take that step out and scan it right into Clio, so it goes right into the client file, which will then put it over in Dropbox and those will mirror each other. That used to be three more steps in that process to get those two documents where they are. And that’s just a little tiny, micro detail that’s like-
Dave Aarons: Yeah, there’s 10 minutes.
Bryan Crone: When you take those three steps … Bingo.
Dave Aarons: “I just saved 10, 15 minutes every time I do that with each individual client.” Yeah.
Bryan Crone: And then you just multiply it on the aggregate and you’re like, “That is hours of … not just hours [crosstalk 01:01:07], it’s hours of your life you can not be at work and you can go be outside or listening to music or getting the fruits of the labor of all this hard work we’re doing, right?
Dave Aarons: That’s right.
Bryan Crone: And that’s kind of an important thing to keep in mind, because it’s very easy to work yourself down to the bone in this job, because there’s always work. There’s always a million things to do. And keeping some sort of balance, that’s got to be kind of the objective. Efficiency allows you to do that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. That’s what gives you those choices where, “Hey, I could take on more clients, or I can get the billing to a certain point where I’ve bought back some of my time or I’ve built in efficiencies that I can now choose whether I want to do more work or if I want to take more time.
Bryan Crone: And that’s where Unbundled, it works with Unbundled, because an Unbundled situation is the same idea, only the task is limited to one or two things or three things. So instead of having a full on case with all of its general tasks and subdivided tasks, you’re doing one little portion of it. So there’s going to be a little bullet point of two, or three, or four, and that’s going to be, boom. And that might not be a large number, but that number for the amount of minutes that you’re doing that thing versus hours, you multiply that out, that’s where you get to your actual effective hourly rate, which is the true metric if you’re talking about actually trading your time in terms of business and profit. Because if-
Dave Aarons: Do you want to break that down, the difference between, like, “Okay, I used to bill by the hour, my hourly rate was this”?
Bryan Crone: Yeah. This is where flat fee-
Dave Aarons: Contrast the difference between that and effective hourly rate as far as your delivering services, especially as it relates to Unbundled.
Bryan Crone: I’ll use an example of a responsive document. Let’s say the other party has filed a pleading of some type and they’re asking the court to do something, so your client comes in and says, “Hey, I’ve got these papers. I’ve got this paperwork.” So you need to file some document that is responsive to whatever that pleading is.
That document is probably a document that you’re familiar with or you know exactly what you need to go figure out to know what you need to do. Okay? So you’ve likely either done it before and therefore have general language or familiarity with what the form should look like, what the document should look like or what it should try to achieve. It’s not going to be something brand new. Most likely you know kind of what the answer is and what you need to make.
Well, if you’re just going to do an hourly rate thing, the first time you get that document your first time in practice, it’s going to take you five and a half hours, because you don’t know how to do it. The more you do it, the more efficient you’ll get at it: four hours, two hours, 30 minutes. If you can get that down to where you know exactly what that document is and have your language defined where you can just plug in values for the actual client, instead of starting off with a skeleton, you’re basically starting off with a full fledged document that you’re reading through to proof and maybe edit in a minor way, which makes your overall time in creating this document, which is the only thing … the client’s not going past the document. That’s our only thing, is just that document. Right?
So if we get $500 for a round number on just that one document and that document only took us an hour to make, because we’ve done it-
Dave Aarons: Because [crosstalk 01:04:02] systems, you’ve done it over and over, the data entry, you didn’t have to do it again.
Bryan Crone: If we were charging that at our hourly rate of $200, that would be a $200 charge. But the document itself being charged $500, which is looked at in the overall function of where it is in the case, that is oftentimes a very reasonable charge.
Dave Aarons: That’s a great value, right.
Bryan Crone: That’s a great value to the client, because that does a lot more than $500 worth of value in terms of their case, right?
Dave Aarons: Yes.
Bryan Crone: But then on your end you only spent one hour. Your hourly rate billing is $200, but you just got $500 for this one document for the same one hour of time. So that increases. Your effective hourly rate is $500 for that one hour you spent there.
You can get micro with that or you can get macro with that. You know, you’re preparing for and doing a hearing, that costs X amount of money, probably a little bit more than if you were doing the hearing in the context of the whole case, because in that context your client’s giving you a significantly more amount of money. But if it’s just right here and we’ve got eight days notice because you didn’t call me two weeks prior, and so I’ve got to now arrange things, that’s going to be this amount of money. And when you just do little chunks, your actual time spent when you multiply it out to the hourly rate, the effective hourly rate, it ends up greatly exceeding what you would typically bill at in a traditional hourly billable setup.
So that’s where you start to realize the benefits on the profit end. And it’s also a benefit to the client, because, getting back to the original point, they don’t have $5,000 sitting around to pay for the whole thing right now, which is still the prevailing business model for a lot of the other attorneys that they’re going to talk to before they call you.
So it’s been a really easy selling point when they come in, “I talked to three other lawyers and they said they needed $7,500.” I’m like, “Well, maybe you might over the next chunk of months, but right now you need $1,000 to do step one. Then, step two is this, and step three is that.” And you can just kind of break it down into more bite-sized chunks. I’ve had a lot of very, very positive feedback on that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, exactly. We’ve been to a number of different conferences. This discussion is quite common amongst the Bar Association and so forth. We have this huge access to justice problem, right? I think it’s like 75% probably on average across the United States of clients that are representing themselves pro se, and a huge component of that is it’s just too expensive. They can’t afford it.
So this is a major problem. At the same time, these are the same kind of folks that you’re dealing with every day that would otherwise be turned away and would become part of that statistic, but are no longer going it alone, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: And I think the myth or the issue … we bring this up all the time on the podcast, as you know because you’ve heard all the episodes, it’s like, attorneys think, “Well, if I’m serving this 75% of clients that can’t afford $5,000 to $10,000, I’m probably not going to make very much money doing that. I don’t want to go after that. I want to go after the big fish that can drop $10,000 at a whim and get started with me.”
But when you really look at the actual numbers, there’s a huge market of people, and if we really break it down one phase at a time, you can actually become even more profitable delivering these unbundled services. And they may not be able to get the full scope, a lot of times they can.
Bryan Crone: Yeah. And another thing that I didn’t really realize is that you handle enough client management, you get to a point where you understand this, like, there’s also, as an attorney, there’s some value in knowing that you’re only going to be involved in this thing for a certain amount of time. Because we try to get the cases … we want to move your ball forward down the field. We don’t want to just have things hanging around.
A lot of times the timeline gets out of our hands, we don’t control it, the other side’s doing this or that and we’re struggling. So that’s part of the deal. But when, okay, Ms. Johnson is going to … we’re going to do these two things for her and that’s going to happen on this date, and on this date our file gets closed out and it’s going to be that much money on this date. It really quantifies the work and puts it into, “Okay, so that money can go to this month’s deal.” Or, “That money’s going to come in here. That can go to that month’s expense,” or whatever. You can start to make better use and planning of your actual revenues, and you cannot have that obligation going.
Because maybe you do the first thing for Ms. Johnson and it’s fine, and you do the second thing for Ms. Johnson and it’s fine, but then something goes sideways and you elect not to want to do the third thing. You don’t have to offer. You’re not obligated to do that. So there’s kind of that freedom on your side that’s a value that I didn’t recognize initially until you kind of get into doing it. You’re like, “Oh, that’s awesome to be able to close the file.” That’s always a good day in our office. We closed a file today, literally. Grant had to come back and meet you and I was like, “Dude, you’ve got to go.” Grant took it out and he closed it up and we went to court today and we closed a file today. And that’s good, because that means our clients are moving on with their lives, and that’s kind of the point, you know?
Dave Aarons: Right, exactly. So once I think lawyers start to understand how to deliver these services, these are all clients that would otherwise go unrepresented, unhelped, and be part of that statistic, that are no longer going to be part of that statistic.
If more and more attorneys, which is really one of the major purposes behind this podcast, can start to embrace these systems and also start to realize that this is a really lucrative business model and there’s a lot of clients-
Bryan Crone: [crosstalk 01:09:23]-
Dave Aarons: It’s a win to them, because they’re really happy. Like, when you say they come in, they’re like, “Oh, that attorney wants $7,500, $5,000,” you’re like, “Oh, okay. Well, we can start it for $1,000 and we can do these specific tasks, and then if you want to hire for more, you can.”
Bryan Crone: [crosstalk 01:09:35].
Dave Aarons: What are the reactions you get?
Bryan Crone: That’s where I’m the weakest. I’m trying to get hardened on it. But there’s a very legitimate … I mean, I’m very straightforward with people to begin with. I’m not going to waste your time. I’m going to tell you if I can do something for you, if I can’t. Because we don’t have time to just [inaudible 01:09:55] fire. I respect my clients’ time, just like I expect them to respect mine. Their time’s important too. I don’t want to sit there and talk to them for an hour if I can’t do something.
But when I do take the 25 minutes to talk about their thing and I haven’t asked them for money and I’m just demonstrating that I care about learning what their situation is and seeing if I can do something to fix it, because you’re not coming to me if you don’t have something to fix, and so if … I just have a basic, general, consistent concern for, “Hey, you’re the human being I’m talking to. Here’s what I can do for you. Here’s how we can make it happen,” and I just demonstrate a little bit of flexibility to show that I can work with you … I can’t give you all the services for $0. I can’t just let you not pay until forever. There’s parameters.
But that willingness to say, “Look, I hear what you’re saying. I want to do something if I can for you. I’m here to be on your team.” That and being able to, “The last time he did this … Oh, I knew I needed a lawyer. I’m just … ” it gets me kind of like, “Please don’t tell me this.” Because it’s like, “I’m so happy I talked to you.” You know, the hyperbolic language of, like, “You’re a godsend,” and all this stuff. It’s just gratitude, and I appreciate that gratitude, especially if money is delayed, which can sometimes happen. But, again, money’s not the ultimate end goal. Do good work, the money will follow.
Dave Aarons: That’s right. That’s huge.
Bryan Crone: It’s the single mom who’s got the couple kids and who’s already strapped, or it’s the dad who’s been rolled over the last three modifications and Mom’s just really got him over a barrel and, dammit, he just wants to see his kids because he’s a good dude, trying his best, not making bad decisions. It’s those kind of, I don’t want to say “stereotypical situations”, but they’re familiar situations that you encounter all the time.
Dave Aarons: Common. Common challenges, yeah.
Bryan Crone: I took a case that my client owes me several thousand dollars, and he ultimately will probably pay that money. But that’s not important. What’s important is that even taking money out of the picture, I was able to … he wouldn’t have had a lawyer but for me. I was able to work with him, and I won his kids for him, which was the right decision. Not that either parent was really bad, but that was the right decision for the context. He was so … he couldn’t tell me how grateful he was, because he was facing the prospect of not having a lawyer, Mom having a lawyer, his kids getting yanked. And no matter who you are, that is a significant situation.
So when people are facing that and they don’t have access to an attorney when that’s the time they need one, it’s incredibly rewarding on a very just human level to be able to just do good work for people, man. Like, that’s my objective. That’s what I want to do.
Dave Aarons: And work that they would otherwise [crosstalk 01:12:54]-
Bryan Crone: Not be able to have done [crosstalk 01:12:54]-
Dave Aarons: What a game-changer for them, right?
Bryan Crone: [crosstalk 01:12:54] all of the possible outcomes.
Dave Aarons: Game-changer for those kids, game-changer for the parent, the family.
Bryan Crone: Yeah. So, I mean, I don’t-
Dave Aarons: And still doing so in the sense … and maybe on that one case, maybe you’ve still got funds outstanding and may ever not get paid-
Bryan Crone: Oh, I’m not writing it off.
Dave Aarons: But also being able to do it and still have it be a win for you financially. That’s the best part about with Unbundled, that efficiency.
Bryan Crone: Yeah, and that’s more of an outlier case, because Unbundled is a different deal where it’s like, in Ms. Johnson’s case, yeah, that got her situation taken care of for right now, and then maybe she has something in the future, maybe she doesn’t. But right now she’s not facing some situation. Boom. And I was able to do that in a contained, easy … not easy, but a very contained and efficient way, which you just do it in the aggregate. The money will take care of itself.
This system was a game-changer for me. I’m honestly a little bit scared of what this next year’s going to be like when I start to harness the actual thing, because I saw what the jump was and what just the activity was just from last year. This year, doing it inefficiently, fighting over not being able to have enough time and just kind of fighting trough this structural thing. But now that we’ve got it built and we’re just going to run the playbook, money is a dumb metric, but it is an obvious metric here and it’s necessary. We all have student loans. We all have to live somewhere. We all have to drive cars and buy food and we want to go on some vacations.
Money’s necessary, but it’s not like the end all be all. But it’s just like, the money will take care of itself. The system itself works. The system y’all developed, for me in my experience, if you listen to Graham on your initial phone call and if you take the majority of his recommendations sooner rather than later, you will position yourself to be in a very good spot to take advantage of what y’all are setting up to work with.
I won’t say I fought with Graham, but I did push back here and there. And in retrospect, I should have just not been dumb. I should have just … but I just had to have blind faith. It’s like, “You haven’t led me wrong yet and I don’t think you’re going to, but I just don’t know.” I should have got Lexicata in January, I’ve got to admit. You live, you learn.
Dave Aarons: That’s right, man. Yeah, you get to a point where things become necessary and all in due time. But one of the things I wanted to make sure we covered though is we’re talking about doing a pay-as-you-go one phase at a time. This is something … we just interviewed Clay Wilkinson. He’s one of the attorneys we’ve worked with for a long time. We talked about these planes. Horizontal plane of unbundling is one phase at a time. “You are going to handle this [inaudible 01:15:31] case on a limited scope basis, and then if you want me to handle the next phase I can, we’ll do a separate agreement.”
Then, there’s also, during this phase there’s the vertical plane, which is I can do just these parts of it. Then you can do some of the tasks on your own, right? So there’s kind of a combination where you can get creative around both the horizontal, these aspects of the case versus vertical, these tasks within those aspects, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: Can you talk about some of the … and you might have just been working on the horizontal so far, but [crosstalk 01:16:01]-
Bryan Crone: Yeah, my commentary’s kind of along those lines on that. The system is set up exactly as you described it. That’s exactly how I explain it to clients, depending on what they’re … there’s usually kind of a range of understanding or comprehension of what Unbundled is, like, they’ve read the website, or they sort of know, or they don’t know quite exactly right. But when I explain the breakdown of it I explain the difference in that where I can do a task or I can do partial things or prepare you. I haven’t had a scenario where it has been in my view advantageous for the client to … like the-
Dave Aarons: Handle some things on their own?
Bryan Crone: Right. Because ultimately … and that’s not to say that they couldn’t because I’ve had [crosstalk 01:16:46] clients-
Dave Aarons: It happens, but it’s less common. Because if they can find a way to afford you to have you do it for them, then they don’t want to, right?
Bryan Crone: It’s like if you’re going to get a lawyer, in some respect, don’t you need the lawyer at court when the stuff happens? That’s kind of the time you need the lawyer the most. And, yeah, I could give you the best outline and tell you exactly what to look for and I could give you color-coded everything and flagged and so prepped up, and you’d be so ninjaed out. But would the client be able to effectively use that in real time when they haven’t had the training or know what the systems are to pull-
Dave Aarons: Yeah, it’s all [crosstalk 01:17:15].
Bryan Crone: Maybe they could. Maybe they could. But then to kind of get that ready you could have probably just paid me to just do it. So then there’s that kind of balance where you don’t ever want to charge them more for what ends up being a potentially less effective outcome. So I always … and that gets back to not wanting to offset … hand off my work. If a client believed that that’s what they wanted to do and we were very clear about, “I think it’s better to go this way, but if you want to go this way that’s fine.” I would do it, because that’s their election. It’s their choice. But I-
Dave Aarons: Sure. So the majority [inaudible 01:17:47] doing is we break it up, so you allow them to pay for each segment at a time, rather than just needing, like, “I need the full A to Z now upfront.”
Bryan Crone: Yeah, I’ve got a-
Dave Aarons: “Okay, cool. We’ve got this phase. Then we’re going to have this phase. If you can pay me this, I can have [crosstalk 01:17:58].”
Bryan Crone: The client that’s coming in this afternoon, we are doing temporary orders only. That’s going to happen on November the 2nd. Then, maybe something happens after that, maybe not, I don’t know.
Dave Aarons: Could you break down an example case? And we want to wrap up here in just a minute. But let’s just do a quick example case, you know, establish custody order, like, lay out the five to six phases that are common in that case, and then how you might break up a case one phase at a time.
Bryan Crone: Yeah, well-
Dave Aarons: So like on a custody case, first, you’ve got to file a petition, then there’s the hearing, there’s that.
Bryan Crone: Right, we file a petition, we contact opposing counsel, serve the responding party or the lawyer, try to figure out what they think needs to happen on their side, compare that against what we need to happen on our side, see what our true issues are. That’s a little bit of the internal work.
Then, we typically have the temporary orders hearing sooner than later, if there’s some urgent thing or whatever.
Dave Aarons: Yep, [crosstalk 01:18:49] phase five.
Bryan Crone: Maybe there’s extenuating circumstances, maybe we have a young kiddo, so we need to have a parent facilitator for a certain amount of time because the kid’s two weeks old, as opposed to a seven-year-old. That’s kind of a different analysis, you know?
Dave Aarons: Okay, so let’s just look at that right there. So in those phases there’s a number of things that had to take place to make it happen, so how about you break up just those few steps?
Bryan Crone: If someone wanted … typically if someone-
Dave Aarons: So there’s the drafting the petition, and then filing it, right?
Bryan Crone: Yeah, typically if someone comes to me to draft a petition to initiate legal action, they’re kind of wanting to go sign up for the full deal, because they’ve got an objective in mind. But when you just get some papers served on you one day and you’re not expecting it, don’t know, “Ah,” and then you’ve got a deadline all of a sudden and it’s court and you’re just … a lot more of those calls are like, “Well, I’ve got a hearing and I’ve got to go to court on … I don’t know what to … ” “Okay, here’s what we can do. You need to have your answer filed by the date on the front of that paper, it says, “Monday after 20 days” thing. That’s going to be this date. So here’s our date. Wherever you were served, boom. By Monday the whatever, you’ve got to turn some paperwork in. All right? That’s thing number one. Now, it says also you’ve got a court hearing coming up, and what does that … does that say “Temporary orders hearing”? Yep, that says “Temporary orders hearing” on that …
Okay, so on Thursday … on Monday you’ve got to turn some paperwork in. On Thursday you’ve got to go down to court and we’ve got to talk about it with the judge. All right? So let’s figure out what’s going on in this case. Are you just going to be the only person talking on Thursday? Is grandma coming? Is aunt and uncle? Is person who watches kiddo? Is cousin who knows about the thing, who does the thing with him? Figure out how many people were involved. Do you have any documents?
Well, if you want to hire me to just do the answer, we can do that. Make sure you don’t risk anything on the front end. Make sure you turn in your paperwork on time.” “Cool, I can do that.” “If you don’t want to … because it’s going to cost more money to go to court and do it and prepare this, those are two different things. But you don’t want to not turn your paperwork in and then go to court, because then they’re going to say, “Where’s your paperwork?” You know? So we can do just that.
Then, if you want to do that on your own and then you just want to pay me to go to court, we can do that. So that’s going to be this way. If you want me to just go to the hearing and you can bring the documents and just tell me what documents you’re bringing, but I don’t need to mess with them beforehand if you’re fine not … we don’t have to do witness prep if you don’t want to. If you’re fine with me just kind of walking you through you telling me what you just told me,” because at this point they’ll typically give me kind of a narrative of what’s going on and what they feel like should happen.
And I can say, “We can meet the day before and I can write out a really specified, basic, direct list of questions and give that to you so if you’re nervous about it you can take it home and study it. I can do that for you. That’s going to cost more money because it’s more work. Or, if you want to kind of do a little bit more condensed version that’s not expensive, but also you’re going to have to kind of trust me a little bit more. If you trust me to go in there and get that narrative you just told me, get that out on the stand and get that in front of the judge for them to consider and then supplement that with any documents you bring, well then we can go do that. I won’t do the extra thing beforehand, so it’ll be less money.”
So I kind of try to build in some of the differing little micro deals. It might just swing in $100, it might swing $150, might swing me $50 here and there, but it at least shows how you can kind of … I don’t want to say it’s kind of infinitely customizable, but really-
Dave Aarons: It gives them options, gives them some control.
Bryan Crone: It gives them options and it communicates that, “I’m willing to work with you at whatever level you want to work with me.” That’s the overall thing.
Dave Aarons: And, [inaudible 01:22:06], what you could afford, right? Because it’s all within the context of, “This is someone that would be part of the 75%.”
Bryan Crone: Money is finite.
Dave Aarons: You’re sitting across from someone that would be part of that statistic, that 75% statistic that doesn’t have the $5,000. So unless you’re offering these options, they’re going to receive no service. So would they be better off getting some of these services if they can’t afford them all, or no services at all? It’s within that context that we have to evaluate this, right?
Bryan Crone: Would the function of justice at the courthouse every day be better if people had lawyers when they went to court? I mean, there’s cases we come upon where we’re having to unwind … it’s like, “Well, I didn’t have a lawyer, I did this last time.” “God dang it. And that’s why y’all didn’t do that. Okay. I can’t be mad at you because you didn’t have a lawyer, but it would have been a lot better if you did, because then you wouldn’t be paying me money right now to fix it. We’re happy to fix it, and that’s fine. But it serves the whole system better if people can go to court represented by … even if it’s just for today. Going to court one time with a lawyer for one day is way better than stumbling into court and not knowing what you’re trying to do and being at the mercy of the system, or at the other side who’s going to railroad you, or just gumming up the thing and causing some paperwork to get filed or something that is not properly filed through, because you don’t know, you’re not a lawyer. You don’t know what you’re looking for. That’s why you hire one in the first place.”
But for a lot of people they can’t do that. So understanding and respecting the fact that their money is limited and respecting their money and not … I feel like there’s probably some inherent judgment in, “Oh, you’re not worthy enough to get involved because you can’t bring me the money I need.” It’s not intentional, but that could come off like that to someone who’s got $1,000 and a problem and someone’s telling them $5,000. It’s like, “Well, I’m not going to be able to fix your whole problem, but we can work with what you’ve got to try to do the best we can. We can try to do the best we can. I can’t promise you anything ever, but I can promise you I can work my hardest with what we’ve got to try to give you some help. It might not be all the help you need, it might not fix your whole problem, but we can do something, which is better than nothing anytime you’re going down to court with something important like your kids on the line.”
So that just gets back to doing, even if it’s in bits and pieces … and, hell, man, if you’re doing a hearing for $1,000, you’re probably not in there for whatever the number of hours that your hourly rate is anyway.
Dave Aarons: I’m not going to take five hours, yeah.
Bryan Crone: Right. So you’re probably coming out ahead on that if you’re going in … you had a two-hour hearing, you’re done by lunch. I’ll take $1,000 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00. That sounds like a great day, because then we get to go back to the office and do some more stuff.
So in the actual time, that gets the effective hourly rate … you’re still ahead of your … which I think $1,000 for a hearing is a very reasonable thing. “I’m showing up in court and I’m making sure your kids don’t get yanked, lady.”
Dave Aarons: Yeah, they’re super happy about that. Yeah.
Bryan Crone: Right. And, sure, maybe-
Dave Aarons: Relatively speaking, especially, to what they’re looking at as far as their options, right?
Bryan Crone: And maybe that costs different in different circumstances, but-
Dave Aarons: And the possibility of having to go it alone if they didn’t have that available to them, right?
Bryan Crone: But being able to work with them is the main thing. That’s the main kind of differentiator I think, is that this system positions you, just by the way it’s designed, to bring those services to clients and really, I mean, the amount of people that utilize this that are … let me just say it is so much … I don’t want to say “functionally infinite”, but it kind of is. For the amount of people that are working, the amount of attorneys you’ve got, like, if you’re a lawyer and you decide to say, “Hey, I’m listening to what Bryan says. I’m going to try to do that,” and you come and put yourself in this seat right now and do what I’m doing, you will absolutely be able to pay your student loans.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Well, I think the last thing we could just touch on today is you have some goals, some goals to scale, some goals to ramp this up to be able to serve a much higher volume of clients in this same model, because-
Bryan Crone: To an extent, yeah.
Dave Aarons: Because there’s a lot of people that we’re not serving in San Antonio because we’re literally holding back the avalanche of volume of clients that otherwise would be able to be served. We just don’t have the attorney power and so forth. So maybe you could just give us kind of a snapshot of what your next three to six months to a year looks like once you have this system in place to give people an idea of what’s possible as far as where you think you could be able to take this.
Bryan Crone: Do you want, like, hard number projections based on where I currently … because my limiter on growing a law practice is I will … it is incredibly unlikely I will ever be involved with a law office, attorneys and support staff of greater than 10 people, so 9 or fewer people total. And really, in the near term I would … there will be me, there will be Grant, a paralegal will be hired within the next three to four months. That’s a real slow play. If I could hire her in January, I absolutely will. After that, probably another support staff, followed by an attorney, maybe the other way around. That represents kind of the functional limit of what I could see in the next three or four years, being that’s the maximum staff.
But really, I could roll with those three, provided that paralegal is someone that’s investible, meaning that if you’re going to be here for a chunk of years and I can teach you right and I can pay you well and you can perform for me and you’re not going to [crosstalk 01:27:31] law school … if you are, that’s fine, but that just determines how much I’m willing to invest in that person. If that person’s investible, then it could be me, Grant and that person for the next two or three years.
For perspective, I grossed $28,000 my first year in ’16, I grossed $57,000 last year, that was on my own. Got involved with y’all, I should land about $175,000, $178,000 by the end of this year gross, and then next year I expect to exceed $300,000 as a conservative estimate, but that’s a very conservative estimate based on my Lexicata numbers, and that doesn’t really account for the additional productivity built in by hiring that paralegal. That just accounts for her overhead cost. That actual productivity of taking things off my plate and Grant’s plate and enabling us to do additional billable stuff, that is not accounted in that projection, that’s just kind of basic numbers, which should …
I’m very hesitant to say that we could eclipse $500,000 in gross revenue by 2020, but the data suggests otherwise, that that seems to be the relevant goal. I mean, there was $1.2 million of business value from January 01 of ’18 until today that is funneled right here, it’s fishing in a barrel, man. So it’s just about capturing that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. I mean, I just appreciate you sharing, because we’ve had these conversations about your goals, and obviously you’re coming at it from a standpoint of service, how you can do work, good work, help as many people as possible. But also, I think it’s important that attorneys also hear that this is a really great financial opportunity as well to really take this seriously. This is a huge market of people. This is a real business. People are making really good money with that. And they can have the confidence to invest into learning this business system-
Bryan Crone: It pays for itself.
Dave Aarons: Because if more lawyers do it-
Bryan Crone: It pays for itself.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, because the reality is, we’re sitting here on more leads than we can possibly handle, more clients, and obviously, you’re in a position where you’re like, “I can’t handle the amount of volume that’s coming in.” This is the same story that we have in at least half of all the metros in the United States, and we haven’t even gotten to the next level of all the things that we’re going to be doing to promote what it is we’re doing. I have to hold it all back.
So this is a call to arms. Attorneys that are watching this, attorneys that are listening in, if you went to … most of you I think went to law school because you wanted to make a difference, you wanted to serve people, and if you’re inclined towards family law, immigration, estate, [inaudible 01:30:07], these areas of law, these are real, live consumers, everyday people that need access to these services that otherwise aren’t receiving it. And it’s not because they shouldn’t be or couldn’t be. It’s really just a matter of attorneys getting educated on how to deliver these service options in a way that you’re describing, with these systems in place. If you do that, you can make great money doing it and make a substantial impact.
So in many ways this is a request. This is a straightforward ask. If this is something … and it’s helpful for you to be sharing this, because then attorneys can get that perspective to reach out to us, talk to us about what your goals are. Let us train you, let us give you the systems that you’re describing. Because we’re going to need a lot more lawyers in order to really cover, and ultimately shift these numbers on a national scale. But it’s possible.
Bryan Crone: Totally.
Dave Aarons: This business model has been proven over and over and over again. I just appreciate the fact that you’re on board with it from a heart standpoint, for desire to contribution, and from that space you’re also going to be able to benefit significantly financially and accomplish your goals.
Bryan Crone: You can’t do it without the [inaudible 01:31:16] of finances.
Dave Aarons: We’re not going to do it. Attorneys, you shouldn’t have to volunteer our way … we can’t volunteer our way out of access to justice. It has to be a business system that works, and it has to be profitable so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Bryan Crone: Because that’s what makes it sustainable. That’s what makes it sustainable.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, that’s our natural desire, is we want to be successful, we want to live our ideal lifestyle, we want to live according to our own individual goals, and we want to help a lot of people at the same time. So really, you know, I’m enthusiastic, I’m excited about this next year, man. I know you are, because you and I both know what’s on the table.
Bryan Crone: Yeah. I mean-
Dave Aarons: Anyway, thank you for sharing, man. I appreciate it.
Bryan Crone: Thank you so much for having me on. I really, really appreciate it. Wonderful talking to you.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. So for everyone else that’s listening, this next year’s going to be a big year, and it’s only going to continue to rise. So if you really resonate with anything that we’ve shared and are interested in working with these types of clients and finding ways creatively to serve them, we can teach you the business systems, get you connected to things that Bryan’s implemented. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s worthwhile in the end. We certainly look forward to and welcome the opportunity to work with you.
As far as keeping up to date with the podcast, of course we have the YouTube channel at youtube.com/unbundledattorney, or just search “Unbundled Attorney” on youtube.com. We’re going to be releasing a new podcast episode every single month. We had a little bit of a break in the fall, but we’re committed to continuing to provide the education, the support, the resources and ideas, so you can implement these systems and do it with a lot of success.
Thanks so much for participating, thanks so much for being a part of this movement. We certainly look forward to seeing you on the next episode.
For more information about how our exclusive unbundled leads can help you grow your practice, visit our website at unbundledattorney.com. You can watch each new episode of the podcast on the Unbundled Attorney YouTube channel, or if you prefer to listen you can find us on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. And be sure to subscribe so you get each new episode as soon as it’s available, and remember to leave us your review on iTunes. We read each and every one of them and really appreciate your support of the show. Once again, thanks for listening.
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Episode 57: Streamlining Your Family Law Practice: How to Leverage Legal Technology to Serve Your Clients More Efficiently and Profitably
In the two years since launching his practice in 2016 Bryan Crone has dedicated himself to building a highly efficient and optimized practice. He’s an ambitious guy who is driven to have a significant impact on many people’s lives by engineering his firm to be able to serve a high volume of clients. What makes Bryan truly unique is his investment in learning and implementing legal technology into his practice. He has also been dedicated to learning how to effectively provide unbundled services, which he believes is a key part of bringing his vision to fruition. Bryan’s firm is now on a growth path to double revenues every year, and there are no signs of slowing down. Most importantly, he has put the systems, technology, and team in place that will enable his firm to continue to scale. Today, Bryan joins the show to share the specific systems and technology that enables him to serve a high number of family law clients efficiently and profitably. We identify the exact tools and services he uses, and how they impact daily workflows. We also discuss the creative ways he provides flat rate unbundled services and share some real-life examples of how he delivers them to clients.
To read a complete transcript of this interview, click here
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- An overview of three main ways you can grow your firm, and how to implement all three
- How Bryan’s approach to calling his family law leads evolved during the first few months, and the process he now follows to book in-office consultations in 20 minutes or less
- The importance of having a streamlined and efficient intake process, especially when you are responding to a high number of prospective clients
- Some clear guidance on how and when to bring on an associate lawyer, including what tasks and cases to delegate and which to manage yourself
- Valuable lessons Bryan learned from CEO’s and mentors he worked with in previous positions and how these lessons inform the way he runs his practice today
- The importance of having all your software tools integrated together, and how to effectively implement these tools in your practice
- The importance of taking time to run the numbers and assign average monetary values to each case type so you can identify the areas where you have the greatest opportunities to grow revenue
- The value of delivering unbundled legal services as a flat rate, and how building efficient systems to deliver flat rate services can make them the most profitable part of your practice
- A complete breakdown of cloud-based practice management software systems he researched and how he settled on the platforms he now uses
- How to engineer your intake system to auto-populate forms and documents you will need for your clients, and how this saves countless hours of administrative time and substantially increases profit margins
- The value of breaking cases down into “bite-sized” chunks by billing one segment at a time
- Bryan’s thoughts on how unbundling positively impacts the affordability of legal services, and helps lawyers build a more profitable practice
- Examples of the gratitude his clients express for providing services to them when they otherwise couldn’t afford it, and the fulfillment he feels from making a difference in people’s lives in meaningful ways
- Bryan’s revenue numbers during his first two years of practice, and conservative projections for growth through 2020
- The overwhelming number of clients that Unbundled Attorney is capturing and the opportunity this offers attorneys to build their practices, plus a direct invitation from our CEO for lawyers to become part of this movement
- And much more ...
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
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For more information about Unbundled Attorney and how our exclusive, unbundled leads can help grow your practice, visit: https://www.unbundledattorney.com