The Modern Solo Practice: How to Leverage Internet Leads to Ramp Up a New Law Firm
This is going to be one heck of a show because we had a conversation with provider attorney, Austin Andenmatten. He is a newer provider attorney for Unbundled Attorney and a newer attorney, graduated a couple years ago as of the day of this recording. We had a really wide-ranging conversation. We cover a lot in this episode. But one of the things that we talk about is the options he’s offering and the potential that he has to start offering more options to serve more folks. Up to this point, he’d only been offering full representation to clients that have contested matters and unbundled only for uncontested cases.
One of the things that I invited him to consider and to look into in his state, which is Massachusetts, is the limited assistance representation training because state bar offers a program in his state that allows him to get more information about the types of limited assistance unbundled options that he can offer to clients that may not be in a position to afford either a full retainer up front or if they can afford that, in order to bring the case fully to fruition from A to Z. So, as a result, some clients run out of money somewhere in the middle. And so unbundled really is a way for client and attorney to limit the scope of the involvement so that from the get-go they can reserve a lot of the funds by allowing the client, empowering the client to handle some parts on their own.
The next episode’s going to be interesting as a contrast because the next provider attorney we’ve interviewed really focuses on unbundling the services, just like a couple of the other most recent episodes with Matt Beach, Ardy Pirnia, Marcus Torigian, and some of the other episodes. They’ve really focused on leading with unbundled legal services, and as a result, the majority of the folks have been retaining them for unbundled, some then transition to full representation, but so many of them start with unbundled because it’s a more affordable price point and in the early going, they can do some of the legwork. The client can do some of the legwork to cut down on the cost so that they can save up those resources that can sometimes be very limited for the aspects of the case that they really absolutely need help with. Because many of the clients, the 67% on average of clients that would be normally filing and representing themselves in the court can’t afford an attorney to handle the case from start to finish, and that’s the reality of the situation. Many, many of them. So this is a way for attorneys to get involved, assist them, provide advice, provide guidance, but the client to take on some of that as well so they can save those resources and have the potential of being able to take a case from A to Z with the most assistance possible.
So that’s why I invite Austin to listen to some of the previous episodes and, also, we opened up more conversations with him from there, so it’s an opportunity for you to also think about the options that you’re offering. There isn’t a right way to do this. There’s obviously the ethical considerations, and you need to research for your local state bar what you can and can’t offer, of course. But there’s only one way for you that’s going to make sense strategically.
One of the things that Austin does is he meets with every client in the office. That’s just the way he feels is the best way to really flesh out exactly what’s going on with the case and how to serve them, whereas in the next episode we’re going to be talking to a provider attorney that over half the clients retain her right over the phone. She spends more time on the initial consultation on the phone and, as a result, clients retain her over the phone because there’s also a commute involved and she’s serving a larger region. Less than half actually come in and meet her to sign up. You can start to think about what’s the right approach for you, and so this is a great episode to create that contrast and that discussion. With that, let’s just get right into it, this interview with provider attorney Mr. Austin Andenmatten out of Boston, Massachusetts. Hope you enjoy it.
Below is the transcription of this episode from our Unbundled Attorney Mastermind Podcast. You can listen to the entire episode by clicking here.
Dave Aarons: All right, Austin, welcome to the show.
Austin Andenmatten: Hi, how you doing, Dave?
Dave Aarons: Really good. I’m excited to dive in with you because you’re one of the attorneys that’s been offering both family law and immigration leads, and from what I hear, it’s been going really well. So I’m glad that we’re going to get some time to chat today and dive in on how it’s been going.
Austin Andenmatten: Yeah, happy to be here.
Dave Aarons: Yep. So maybe a good place to start, Austin, just to give a bit of context, is maybe share a little bit about your background, how you got started in the practice of law, and maybe the area you service and the areas of law you focus on. So hang in with us. Let’s see if we can get to know you a little better.
Austin Andenmatten: Sure, I’m 32 years old, but I was barred in 2014. If you do the math, that means I took some time in between undergrad and grad school to try to figure out what it was I wanted to do. I eventually settle on the law just because first off, it worked very well with my undergrad degree, but also because I realized I liked advocating for people and helping people. I went to law school. I graduated in a market that’s not very forgiving for new attorneys. I couldn’t really find a firm that was looking to pick up an attorney that was just graduated. However, I did have a lot of clinical experience in my third year doing defense work. So when I decided to open my own practice, I became a public defender, which would help subsidize it. The pay isn’t that great, but it supports the business model.
Unbundled actually reached out to me, which was great, because they like my website. I hadn’t even heard of you guys before that. The result of just over the last couple of months of doing it has turned my basically public defense practice into having a really solid base private practice.
Dave Aarons: And I’m happy to hear that. One of the nice things about working with lead generation and also just having the technology available is that attorneys such as yourselves that are just getting their practice going can immediately start to see some new clients and bootstrap the business into something that becomes a steady stream and so forth. So that’s one of the real benefits of these types of models, is that you don’t have to build up an FCO presence, you don’t have to build up a referral base. You can start seeing clients from day one. So I’m really happy to hear that that’s been the case for you.
Maybe you can talk about how you started with immigration and then evolved into doing family law. Then maybe we can dive into some more specifics on all the differences in which the way which you work with both. One quick question, maybe, is just generally speaking, how’s it been going for you? Do you have an idea, recently, of what your conversion rates are? I know at the very beginning sometimes is you learn the ropes and get up to speed, but generally speaking, how many clients have you been able to bring in on average or so, and has that evolved somewhat over time?
Austin Andenmatten: So, generally speaking, recently … In the beginning, my conversion rate was very low. I was not handling the leads properly. I was sending out email correspondence from a court or something like that and was not creating that personal touch. When I was actually speaking with Graham and going over my structure, when I changed that up, I had a much higher success rate.
I get, I would say, 99% of the people who send me leads on the phone, at least. I get them talking to me. And what I do then is I just provide them a quick consultation over the phone, not so much in depth, but just outlining what their rights are, generally speaking, what their current situation is, where they’re heading, what needs to be done. Then I get them into the office. I have had, I would say, 60 to 70% success rate of getting people into the office. Out of those, I would say I have closed at least two-thirds of them, half to two-thirds of them. But with a lot of people saying, “well, we need to raise the money,” or there being [inaudible 00:08:13] … It’s not a dead end. Most of the time, if someone comes into the office, it never really ends with a dead end. Usually, they’re interested in trying to hire me, but they need to manage something in their life first.
Dave Aarons: Absolutely. So that’s … We’re talking maybe two, three, four out of ten have been hiring you already from a straight conversion. Then you’ll have, obviously, like you said, a lot of times, you have to build up the pipeline, come up with people working on getting the resources together, and then they come back later on once they’ve been able to do so, especially in family law for when they have support of family to assist them with moving forward and then in immigration when you don’t have as strict of timelines necessarily or the immediacy as often as you do in family law, where people have to move forward immediately unless they’re getting deported or something.
Austin Andenmatten: Right, right.
Dave Aarons: Okay, so … You’re a sole practitioner, Austin, or do you have some support staff?
Austin Andenmatten: I’m a sole practitioner, no support staff. I have actually gotten to the point where I’ve asked for help from people at times, but I really am … It’s just me. I am my practice.
Dave Aarons: Yep. Well, we just did another episode with Mr. Les Sandoval out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he’ll get some part-time help here and there, but he loves as a sole practitioner and thinks it’s a great value to his clients because the person sitting across the desk when they meet with him is the person that’s going to be handling 100% of the case, being there with you in court, and that’s not necessarily true in some of the bigger firms where you’re getting passed off to an associate or so forth or having other individuals doing some of the work on the case.
Austin Andenmatten: Okay, what I do is I give them my personal cell phone number. I try to be there for my clients, try to answer them immediately when things come in because that’s the type of attorney-client relationship that’s going to be valued by a layperson, is knowing that when they have a question for their attorney that they’re going to get a response back from him. There are times when I regret doing that, but most of the time, it works out pretty well. And text messages are very effective ways to just give a client an update on what’s going on and just have that immediacy.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, you mentioned your contact ratio is 99% or way up there, which is awesome, or something close to that. But maybe you could shine a light on … I think you mentioned before, the process you had wasn’t quite optimized, and then you made some changes. Can you share a bit about what those specific changes that you talked with Mr. [Schott 00:10:36] about that started to make a difference in the contact ratio and your ability to reach more clients on the phone?
Austin Andenmatten: Sure. First off, I call them right away. I also do a double call, which is if I call up and the phone doesn’t pick up, I don’t leave a message. I’ll hang up, and I’ll call back immediately right after again. Usually, when someone sees a number call that they don’t recognize twice – maybe they’re not recognizing it because they’re not realizing that’s it just from the Internet search they did – they’ll pick up the second time, and usually they’re pretty happy just to be talking with me because they’re surprised that the attorney that they just contacted just got back to them. I have heard many times, “Whoa, that was quick,” and that’s a really nice thing, to know that the person who’s looking for an attorney just got an attorney to call them back. I just have a conversation with them. It’s a very unassuming, undemanding conversation. I just try to find out what’s going on, let them talk. People who are having legal issues are feeling lost, and they’re looking for help. Even just having a reassuring voice tell them, listen to them first, is merely starting to create a rapport and what could be the seeds of a client-attorney relationship.
If I don’t get in touch with them, when I call back, I will leave a voicemail. I’ll follow up, also, with an email. But, surprisingly, the immediate call is so much … I tend to get the person on that. Now, there are times when I can’t call immediately. There are times, like if there’s something going on with me where I just can’t get to that person immediately, sometimes the client will contact me. They’ll send me an email, and I’ll respond to that email and then a phone call. Other times, if I haven’t heard from the person, and I had that lead, if it’s been a couple of hours, I won’t call them. I will wait till the next day around, say, lunchtime and call them then. I do that because if four, five hours have gone by, they’re probably no longer on the computer. They’re not actively in the attorney mode. They might be doing stuff with their own personal life. So I think it’s more of a success rate if you call them when they’re on lunch hours and people are off work.
That’s been how I’ve been handling it. I cannot remember the last time I was not able to get a person, at least, on the phone. I’ve been able to talk to everybody since I’ve done doing that.
Dave Aarons: By the way, do you receive the text message real-time SMS alert when the lead comes in?
Austin Andenmatten: I do, I do, I get that. At first, I was not really … I was like, “Well, I don’t know if I want to pay for this or not,” but there’s an advantage because I get a lot of emails. I’m on a bunch of different email servers. As a public defender, I actually had to direct my emails from the lists that I was on through that into little files that I’d go through when I had some free time because, otherwise, I just get, “Bzzt bzzt bzzt bzzt,” all day long. My email notifications are not the quickest way to get in touch with me, but with these leads, you’re paying for them. It really makes sense to have that immediacy so you can immediately reach back out to the person. So I’ve been happy with the text messages.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, this is a really important point that I think a lot of attorneys maybe miss because they say, “Well, I get the leads. I get emails right to my phone, and so the text messages aren’t important.” You really hit the nail on the head there that not … I don’t know anyone on the planet who wants to be checking their email or having every single email notify them the moment it comes in, and if they are, I would argue that’s a problem. You don’t want to have to be constantly looking at your phone every time an email comes in. And when it comes to being effective at contacting clients, literally, there is a window there. It’s one to three minutes that literally makes a tremendous difference in a number of folks you can reach on the phone, and every minute that goes by after that, that number goes down quite significantly, at least on that first call. Kind of like you talked about, where the clients go, “Wow, that was quick.” So the ability to get the text message on the phone is really important because it makes it so that you can have emails coming to your phone but you don’t have to have the push or the pull notification where you’re getting notified all the time and be able to make that real-time callback, which, like it’s shown for you, can really make a difference in improving that contact ratio over time.
Austin Andenmatten: And, Dave, I would say this, is that they can be almost a bit alarming for the person, like, “Wait, what’s going on? I can’t believe the attorney’s already calling me back.” So, sometimes, what I’ll do is when they go, “Whoa, that was quick,” right, if it’s that type of time, I’ll say, “Yeah, you know, I got your information based on the website search you did. It comes to me directly, and my experience when people have legal issues and are looking for an attorney, they’re definitely needing to talk to one immediately because they don’t know what’s happening. So I’m just calling you up and seeing if we can talk and maybe get a chance for us to meet and talk face-to-face with that. And I never charge for first-time consultations.” That immediately takes away a lot of the hard sell or pressure. I don’t think attorneys should do hard sells anyway. But that takes a lot of that anxiety a person might feel that “Oh, an attorney’s contacting me of a web search I just did.” Sometimes a person will have a bit of anxiety from that because if you call them back so quick, but just by saying that, letting them know I’m just here to talk to you, is really important, I think.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. In other ways, I think it almost exceeds their expectations in the sense that, “Wow, how quick this service worked that I was able to fill out the form and then, minutes or even seconds later, I have someone calling me to address my needs.” What a lot of our attorneys will say when they say, “Well, that was quick,” and he says, “Yeah, well, it’s very important to us to respond to the needs of our clients as quickly as possible.”
Austin Andenmatten: Sure.
Dave Aarons: And they go, “Wow,” right? So you have an opportunity to exceed their expectation from moment one, and that puts you ahead. Then, also, in that hot zone, they’re still in the state of mind and in the emotional state that incited them to have the motivation to take action and actually request assistance. Because it can be scary to go on the Internet and reach out for assistance with a case. A lot of people, that’s uncomfortable for them like you’re describing, and so when they’ve gotten to the point where they say, “You know what? I need help with this. I need to do something and take an action to do that,” that’s a really good time for them to continue … For you to be able to make the connection, discuss their case, and move them forward because that’s in the position when they’re feeling the most empowered to do something about the situation that they’re dealing with.
Austin Andenmatten: Right. And I’d say I’ve had a much higher success rate in closing when I got rid of consultation fees. I tried to do consultation fees in the beginning because I was thinking in terms of, “Oh, well, I’m paying for the leads. I got to try to cover what was spent.” I think that is a penny-wise, dollar, foolish approach in retrospect. Just to get the person in the office and speak with them, it doesn’t even matter whether they sign with you or not. I mean, it matters, but the fact that they’ve had that experience is something that’s going to translate into referrals down the line and sometimes can translate into increasing your network and your exposure within communities that are underserved. I think that that’s the proper way to go about it, is just to give a little bit away at first, a soft touch, and then when the person’s ready and has the financial means to go with you because they’ll appreciate the fact that you were just able to listen to them.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, absolutely. Most attorneys that we’ve worked with over an extended period of time have moved in that direction, and a lot of attorneys have tested, “Do I have an assistant just call them for me, or do I charge a consultation fee?” We find most will evolve towards, certainly doing the first call, giving the client an opportunity to speak with the attorney, and also many of them offering that free consultation because they start to see the long-term value of each client, not only in the ability to, first of all, build a relationship first because they don’t know your firm yet. It’s not a third-party referral. But also that client’s going to be a long-term relationship, and then, later on, you start getting referral business from these clients. There’s so much, I don’t know if it’s the right phrase, but back-end money in the clients that so many attorneys may lose or may not fully take into consideration because, like you said, they’re focused on that short-term, getting the return on their investment so quickly in the short run and not investing properly in the long-term relationship and building a relationship with the client up-front. So that’s great that you see that, too.
Okay, maybe switching gears, so you make that first call, you make contact. If you can talk to us just a little bit about … You get into the situation. Do you typically go into the types of options that you offer and make quotes over the phone, or is the main goal just to get them in to meet with you for the first consultation and let them know that that’s no charge and then you discuss fees later? How do you balance that out?
Austin Andenmatten: Yeah, I don’t quote money over the phone. I tried doing that once, twice. It’s too much for a client to deal with without having then seen what you can do for them. The first thing you want to do is lay down what it is that you do. People aren’t attorneys. That’s why they’re looking for one. The average person does not really know what a lawyer does or doesn’t really know what situation they’re in. They just know that they’re in over their head. You wouldn’t want a doctor quoting you a price for how much your knee surgery’s going to be without him first explaining to you why you need it in the first place and why you shouldn’t try to do it yourself. So I try to get them into the office and the bait or the incentive for them to come in is because they’re going to get to talk to a lawyer for free, and that’s why they do it.
There’s a lot of lawyers out there. The ones that are charging consultation fees are … They’ve been around forever, and they feel like their time is that precious, and they don’t want it to be wasted time. I understand that thinking. But, for me, it’s you get them in the office, you talk, and I try to find out what’s going on with them. I’ll get a sense of what’s going on with them first.
I’ll be like, “Okay.” Talking with them, they’ll say, “Oh, the mother of my child won’t let me see her anymore.” I’m like, “Is your name on the birth certificate?” “No.” Like, “Okay, so this is a parent in action.” We have a person who has not been legally declared the father yet in the eyes of the court. We got to first get that first, and I just tell them that. I say, “Listen, you’re in a situation where the state doesn’t know you’re the father. The money you’ve been paying to her is not based upon a court order. You’re now going to be going into the court system, and you’re going to first have to establish your parenthood. So why don’t we come in? We’ll talk about what’s involved with that. I’ll talk about what I can do for you.” Then you get them into your office, you get them to talk more, get more facts. People want to talk about their problems. You let them talk about their problems, you’re going to get a lot of the facts you need to know what’s going on with the case.
Then, afterward, I’ll let them know, “Okay, listen, maybe you need a separation agreement to be drafted up, and I can do that for you as an unbundled attorney service. That’s a different thing. If you want to hire me as your attorney to get on the case, to go to the court and handle hearings, well, now we’re talking about a retainer situation.” “Okay. What’s that going to look like?” That’s where I’ve gotten creative, and I’ve either gotten creative smart or I’ve gotten creative stupid – we’ll find out in the long run – but what I have done is I’ve actually adopted a strategy that I saw on one of the podcasts from Unbundled. I’m trying to remember the gentleman’s name. I think his first name is Michael, but … I don’t try to get the money for the entire case up front because most people just can’t afford that. This is not economically reasonable. I’ll take enough money to cover the initial filings and court appearance, or I’ll take about 3000 or something like that. I’ll try to take enough to handle the upfront work that goes into a case, with monthly payments into the retainer afterward. So far, I’ve had a much higher success at getting people to hire me.
There are pros and cons to that. The cons are that you are, to an extent, extending the person credit. Just because the person stops paying you, doesn’t mean the court’s going to allow you to withdraw, so there’s always a chance that you might be stuck in a case where you will be earning a balance towards that client will have to pay back down the line. Whether or not they’re going to get that’s a question. For me, capitalization right now is key to my practice. Just having that initial amount come in is very important. I see it as a situation where if you develop a good relationship, the client if you see them starting to make monthly payments, you’re in a pretty good situation.
What my experience is, when the client realizes down the line that they can’t afford you, if you explain to them that this is monthly payments, this is going to cover initial work, and then they see, “Okay, this is what an attorney costs,” they’ll be just so happy that you did the initial filings. They’ll be so happy that you got the ball rolling that they’ll just say, “You know, I think I can take it on my own. I think I can handle the situation on my own. I think now you’ve filed what was filed, and now I’m going to go in and argue.” They’ll just say, “Thank you so much for what you’ve done, but I don’t want to be paying for an attorney anymore,” and then you withdraw, and they assent to it. I’ve had that a couple times, and it’s always on good terms. They appreciate what you’ve done, but they just really can’t afford you anymore and they don’t want to be paying the monthly payments and they don’t want to be getting into debt, so they ask you to leave.
That’s great. That is, in a sense, a quasi-unbundled attorney service, you know? So that’s the model that I’ve developed as far as family law goes. It’s been working. It’s a bit of a risk, as far as whether or not a client will not be so understanding and not paying their bills. Yeah, with that, if I find out down the road that I’m getting into situations where there are large balances that are being unpaid, then I might have to rethink that. But so far, it has helped me bring in clients that otherwise would not be able to retain an attorney because they just can’t raise $5000 upfront.
Dave Aarons: Great. Exactly. Maybe we can get a little bit more clarification, and I know you’re still evolving the options that you’re offering both on the unbundled side and on the retainer side, but maybe you can be a little more specific about when you actually meet with the client, how do you go about determining … Do you explain to the client, “Okay, well, we have two different paths we can go here, either I can perform some work for you, do these tasks, and then you can proceed from there or you can here me to do A to Z and so forth?” Or do you first determine where they’re at financially and then suit something to that? How do you figure out whether it’s going to be an unbundled service or full representation services in the initial consultation? Maybe we can talk more about the options from there.
Austin Andenmatten: Sure. After I get a sense of what the case is about, I will just say, “Well, let’s talk about the different things that I can do for you and the different options that you have.” I pretty much do that with every client. If a client’s financial situation is really tough, then even raising $3000 or $2000 for an initial retainer is gonna be like, “What? I don’t think I can do that.” You’ll get a sense of that. I haven’t gotten set up to do credit checks yet. That’s something I’m looking into. This a new process for me, so that’s something that might help me mitigate my risks a little bit more. But, generally, I’ve just been going based upon … I try to find out what the person makes. I try to find out what the person’s income is. Based upon that, I’ve been making decisions on that.
But what I’ll do is I will offer both. My experience is that once they come in, they sit down, they talk with an attorney, they realize there’s somebody that is competent going forward, they will … And because I’m a new attorney, my rate is a lot lower than other attorneys. I’m competitively priced at my hourly rate, so they’re … I let them know that’s why it’s lower is because I’m a recent attorney so that they understand that that’s the situation they’re getting into. It doesn’t really matter for a lot of the people that I represent because they’re coming from an income bracket that has made the assumption that an attorney isn’t for them, that they can’t afford one, that they’re just out of luck and they’re going to have to deal with the situation on their own. When they realize that they’re taking to attorney, that he’s going to work with them financially, I usually find that people are very willing to enter into that relationship and they prefer to be in a retainer A to Z representation, even if later on they decide that they can do the rest on their own.
And if a person’s going out on their own, I’ll give them some going away tips. Like, “All right. Well, this is where you’re at. This is what you need to do going forward, and if you just change your mind down the line or if you want to come back and hire me again, that door is always open.” I actually have not had many unbundled representations. Most people, after they talk with me, they want to hire me. They don’t want to hire me just to draft something up. After speaking with me, they decide they want me talking for them in court. That’s just been my experience. I always offer that because that’s part of what drew them to the representation in the first place was the idea of, “Oh, I won’t have to pay for the full representation. I’ll pay for a little bit.” But when they realize that, “Hey, man, maybe it’s manageable. Maybe I can make this work,” they will do that.
Dave Aarons: Yep, yep. We found that to be the case for most attorneys. It’s two-thirds, three-quarters. Usually, once they realize what’s involved with bringing their case fully to fruition, they start to realize that maybe they really need to do what they can to come up with the full amount. That’s where you can start working with them within payment confines or payment budgets or arrangements that are more creative, to allow them to continue to do so. We can talk a bit more about how you’ve been doing that.
One of the things that’s interesting about the region you’re in, in Massachusetts, is they’ve been on the forefront of promoting, in Massachusetts, unbundled legal services referred to as “limited assistance representation.” There’s a whole division of the bar called LAR that trains on these types of things. As far as, to your knowledge … I don’t know how much you’ve looked into that or if you’ve gone through the training yet, but what are the types of options that you would typically offer someone on a more limited assistance or unbundled basis? Is it docket and preparation? Are you given the opportunity to do a limited appearance? Or maybe you can share a little bit about what those options would be if a client is to choose to limit the scope of the involvement down to just specific paths.
Austin Andenmatten: One of the things that I would offer is document preparation. If it’s an uncontested divorce where both parties are looking to stipulate and jointly file, that’s something that is very easily handled by an attorney as limited assistance representation because you get the separation agreement together, you get what’s needed, you get all the paperwork, and then you just hand it to the client and say, “Okay, listen, you go to court. This is what you both are agreeing to.” You talk to your client and say, “This is what rights are given up. This is what rights you’re projecting. This is why this agreement can work for you, or this is achieving your goals that you told me your goals were.”
Sometimes, you can even meet with both parties, explain to the other party that you’re representing your client and your client’s interests, but this is the agreement and you can take this to your own attorney to get a look at it. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. You get that together, and you send them on their way. That’s maybe what people need. They just need the documents put together, need the proper filings, and they can go in and say, “Yeah. We’re not really dividing much. We have a kid, but this is how we want to do it. We both agree, and everything’s in agreement.” The court goes, “Okay, you agree, you agree, you agree. Okay, I’m looking at the child support guidelines. Okay, they’re good. Looking at the custody arrangement. It doesn’t seem to trigger any concerns. There are no criminal records for either party. Boom.” You process it. That’s something that can work for people.
I haven’t had to do that yet because my experience, so far, has been that people want to hire me as their attorney for to handle the case. I have one lead that very well might be that type of relationship, but he needs to first make sure that it is an appropriate case for joint filing, so he hasn’t hired me yet. Because I explained to him what joint filing means with everything as to all the issues have to be in agreement. He’s going to speak to his spouse, see if she’s open to the idea of having me draft it up. He’d pay for it, and then she could come in and look it over, see if she agrees. Obviously, she’d have the right to go get her own attorney. That is something that might come down the line. But I haven’t had to do that yet. I’ve been hired, which is a great, great thing.
Dave Aarons: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. And so you haven’t, also, done a limited assistance representation yet in a contested case, where your.
Austin Andenmatten: You know, I actually have to look into how that works with family law and the courts. Some courts, you just write LAR and it’s clear that you’re just representing them for the day. I had a case in Bristol County where I was looking at the potential of doing a limited assistance representation [inaudible 00:32:17], and that court, they required you to be certified LAR. So the court systems are all little microcosms. I’ve got to look into how that works so that I can make the most of that. That’s something that’s in the pipeline, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
Dave Aarons: Well, you’re fortunate because you’re in one of the few states that actually has a certified program that trains on these types of things as well. Then, of course, with our podcast and all the other attorneys that we’re interviewing and all the attorneys in our network that have a great deal of experience offering these types of options in an ethical and effective manner for folks that are of limited means, just handling parts of the case and then advising folks on how to handle the rest from there, there’ll be a lot of opportunities for you to start exploring those options as well.
But let’s talk a little bit about the folks that … Maybe you can get a little more specific on the ones that hire you for full representation. Let’s say that they maybe don’t have the 3000 upfront. Typically, you would normally ask for around two to 3000 as a full representation retainer, somewhere in there?
Austin Andenmatten: I’ve been asking for 2000, and recently I’ve decided that I’m going to make it more per full representation just because the initial costs can very quickly get up to about $3000, and that’s what I’m trying to cover, is the initial work that gets a case started. Because once you’re in the court systems and once your case gets rolling, the initial filings happen. Then there’s a period of time where the case has gotten going, there’s a here and here, there’s a here and there, and then, eventually, there very well might be a big trial. That works very well with the system where a person is paying into the retainer on the monthly basis, but you got to get over that initial hump.
If a person doesn’t think they can afford you after that initial hump, they’re going to ask that you get off the case. That’s just financial reality. They’re going to be like, “Oh. Just to get to this point, the retainer’s been diminished, and now I’m paying monthly, but I’m going to be in debt to my attorney.” Some people will accept that and understand that they’re making an investment. Others will just decide to handle it on their own from that point, and that’s fine.
The issue for me is just I need to get that initial amount, they understand it, and there’s really not … Either they have that money or they don’t. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m open to any other creative ideas as far as trying to help them raise that money, but I don’t think you can take loans out to pay for legal fees. I don’t think anybody would back that up, so that’s what I ask for, is for that initial amount for full representation.
Dave Aarons: If the client doesn’t have the 2 to 3K, have you offered a lower retainer or starting rate for specific steps, or is it that’s what you need to get started and then they pay monthly from there if they’re going to continue to work with you?
Austin Andenmatten: I am willing to get … If there’s work that needs to be done on the case prior to filing the complaint or filing … Like if entering a notice of appearance, I’m willing to take less in order to try to do the initial work to figure out first … Sometimes there’s work that needs to be done before a case even gets filed just to know if the case should be filed. There are situations where a client doesn’t know how they got into the situation they’re in. There’s document request that you have to do and institutions you have to get information from. DCF investigations, for instance, are things that aren’t necessarily for the courts, but the DCF is now engaged in the family and doing an investigation. Maybe they need an attorney to step in between them and DCF and protect their rights. That’s something that’s very open to a lower retainer type of situation.
But if I’m entering a notice of appearance and it’s not on a limited basis, I need to know that I’m covering the cost of those first two court dates and the work that’s going into drafting the documents for that. It’s easier if they’re in an answering position if they’ve had things filed against them and now you’re answering on that. But if you’re the one drafting the complaint and you’re taking all those first steps … You also have to cover the cost of filing. That’s the other thing. Those filing costs are coming right out of the retainer, so you got to take all those things into consideration.
Dave Aarons: What’s coming up for me, Austin, at this point is I think there is some room for … And it’s great that you’re already doing so well up till now with the model you’ve been utilizing because if you were offering all these different other limited assistance representation options and you were showing the numbers that you are, that would be awesome. But you’re doing primarily a full representation retainer on every contested case and then offering limited assistance only in uncontested. I think what we’ve learned from the attorneys that consistently convert 50, 60, 70% of the clients is there’s a very common in-between, which is where they’re evaluating and conversating with the clients on what it really takes to bring a case to fruition and then structuring an arrangement from the get-go that takes that into consideration so that they’re never in a position where they have to then go off the record because the person runs out of money.
That would be quite unusual for most attorneys that you work with because the idea is to work with the client on such a basis that they can afford to bring the case fully to fruition. And sometimes that’s not always possible. You have trials. You have highly contested matters, and these things go on for a lot of hours. But, I guess, the way in which attorneys have found it possible to do that is empowering the client to handle as many of the initial tasks, if it’s determined early on that finances are going to be a limitation, so that they can preserve those resources in the short run so they can last further in the long run and potentially still have some gas in the tank to have the attorney do the litigation in the end of it when they need that lawyer to make the difference for them in court.
So it’ll be really interesting for you, for the LAR, and listening to some of these other podcasts. I think there’s probably even … You’re having two, three, four out of ten retaining you and some more in the bank, and that’s excellent, but if I were to guess, there are probably another three to five clients still on the table that are unable to come up with the two to 3K up front. That would be probably the first barrier. Then the second barrier would be that they’re realizing they can’t afford it just to go all the way through and therefore not starting, right? And maybe that doesn’t come in the communication on the phone or with you, and they go, “Okay, well, we’ll think about it,” but … So it isn’t immediately identified as that, but that’s …
The characteristic we find for most of our attorneys that convert so highly is that they’ve found ways to even work with the contested clients, the ones that have issues where it’s clear that they’re not going to make agreements, just to have a partnership between the client and the attorney and work with them on a limited assistance unbundled basis and have that client be performing some of those tasks pro se, especially in the early goings, to preserve the resources financially until when it’s really needed.
Austin Andenmatten: That’s really interesting. I’m learning as I go the whole system, and so, of course, I’m always open to any suggestions you might have, but –
Dave Aarons: Well, this is great, man. I’m really glad that we’re talking on the phone right now because this is what we’re all about is not only providing the leads and giving you guys a great stream of business but also providing the resources, the community, and the network and these calls so that attorneys such as yourselves can get experience from attorneys that have been doing things for years and learn the best strategies for being effective at offering these options, not just in family law but in immigration. So that’s one of the things that makes this network and this community great is that you do have these resources and all these other attorneys available to learn from and, in your state, even the state bar has its programs that can educate you on it as well.
So we will continue, certainly, to explore this further and be in touch. The podcast episodes we’ve just released with Marcus Torigian and Les Sandoval and so many others that come out, that are coming out soon here, will also be super helpful as well. Maybe what we can do is switch gears a little bit and talk about … Because we were talking about family law, let’s talk about immigration.
Austin Andenmatten: Sure.
Dave Aarons: Just draw a comparison between the family law clients being more of an emotional type of situation, obviously especially if they’ve been served paperwork and so forth, versus the immigration clients and what the time factors there are and what you’ve found are the main differences between the two and how the process you’ve developed, that differs depending on the type of client.
Austin Andenmatten: Sure. So when you get on with immigration, the first question is what agency are you dealing with? Are you dealing with USCIS? Are you dealing with ICE, Immigrations Customs Enforcement? People who are dealing with ICE, who are dealing with removal issues, they’re going to be just as emotional and upset and distressed as a person dealing with family law, if not more so. But I have not actually seen a lot of referrals from unbundled for cases dealing with ICE. That’s not surprising. A lot of people who are facing deportation just are not plugged in enough to know how to obtain attorneys, so that’s why the para process exists.
The majority of people that I get through unbundled are people who are looking for help with marriage applications, looking to petition for a family member that’s abroad. So the way I handle that situation is I first talk to them, and, of course, the goal of the first call communication is to get the person into the office. However, I do notice, with marital applications, they want to know more upfront. They know that there’s a white market out there. You’re also, in a sense, competing with a black market, which is the notaries, who do service a lot of communities, albeit illegally, but they do serve a lot of the communities. So you are, in a sense, being undercut by them on that specific issue, which is marital applications.
With those cases, and I’ve gotten quite a few or a good couple of them from unbundled, I’ll try to bring them into the office. I explain to them the process. I try to … The first immediate issue is just to grind through a series of questions to determine whether or not there are any admissibility issues. That’s key. I’ll do that on the phone first. If they’re demanding a price, and sometimes they demand a price, I’ll first, before I even get a price, say, “Well, it depends on whether or not there are any complications.” “Oh, there’s no complications.” “Well, let me see this. How did you come into the country? Did you come in through a visa? Did you come in” … I try to get that feel with those admissibility issues first so if I can … There are no admissibility issues and that the marriage has been together for a little bit of time. It’s not like, literally, they were dating a month and then got married because that will usually result in a request for further evidence.
At that time, I will give them a quote. I try to make it about $1100 on those type of cases. Flat fees are the norm in immigration practice. What I do to try to work with the clients, sometimes clients can’t afford $1100, $1200 up front, I’ll ask for half the money at the opening of the file, at which point there are responsibilities upon the client to obtain lots of the documentation that’s going to be needed. And I’ll let them know what that is. I give them a little to-do list, a little homework list. I can get the I-94 easily from a passport, but they want birth certificates, translations of birth certificates. There’s a lot of stuff that I put on the client.
I’m able to get translations for them, but my experience has been, and I always tell clients that are from immigration populations here, is that they’re actually able to get it cheaper than I am. They’ll know somebody that can do a certified translation. The person that I use or the people that I use will give me lawyer prices, and my experience is that people who are in immigrant populations will know somebody who can do a certified translation and will get a cheaper price because they’re not the business. So I give them that option and that opportunity or if not, if they don’t know anyone, then I’ll do it. I’ll get out to a person that does a certified translation for me. Get the certified translations, all that, and then I’ll ask for the second half before I file the application.
Dave Aarons: And this is something that you mentioned briefly, is that when they’re calling in, a lot of times the immigration clients are trying to get a price. They want to know the price. Some other attorneys have said that they’ve had to deal with that because that’s a lot of times what the person’s asking for immediately. So one of the things it sounds like you’ve done is or had to resist against is quoting until you really have an understanding of what’s going on. But then it also sounds like you have to be pretty direct in exactly what it is going to cost, correct?
Austin Andenmatten: Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s like. Again, the lead’s going to dictate that. Some people will be okay with the idea of coming and talking with you and figuring out the price later. But the person goes, “Well, how much is this going to cost?” I say, “Well, it does depend” … So they are just like, “Just tell me how much it will cost.” Like, “Well, for a non-complicated case, and there are many different things that can make it complicated, for an uncomplicated case where I don’t see any issues for admissibility, for that [inaudible 00:46:04]. We’re great.” I’m like, “All right.” And those type of cases, this is how much it would be, and I just pick that flat rate because I look at how long it’s taken me to do other cases.
It’s funny, there are great discrepancies in how much legal time you put in from case to case. Some cases are so easy, and the people just get you exactly what they need, and other cases turn into complete nightmares where you have to … I had a case where the marriage fell apart in the middle of the application and that became a nightmare because of everybody’s … I had to withdraw from that case, and that does happen. Your clients don’t understand this, but when you’re paying flat fees, you’re not only paying for your representation, but you’re paying, in a sense, for everybody else’s representation that came before and the calculus of what that estimate is. I just pick a flat fee, and I try to get $1200 per marriage application that are not complicated, and that’s just the amount that I settled on based on the amount of time I averagely will put in.
Dave Aarons: Yeah. Have there been times when you’ve had to say, “Look, I really have to find out more about exactly what your situation is before I’m going to give you a quote because there can be some things here that” –
Austin Andenmatten: Oh, absolutely.
Dave Aarons: … “are going to be really prohibitive. Yeah, you have to come in the office. We need to meet. We need to talk.” And I think Sue talked about that as well where, for their protection, you can’t get into the details specifically in certain cases until they really take a closer look at what’s going on.
Austin Andenmatten: Well, I’ll give you a classic example. I’ll say, “Well, have you ever been arrested by police?” “Yeah, I was arrested, but they let me go.” “Okay, so what was it related to?” “It was a drug thing, but it was dismissed.” Well, dismissed can very quickly mean CWOF in Massachusetts, and CWOF, Continuance Without a Finding, is a factual finding that results into triggering removal provisions within immigration law, which means you need a waiver before you can even ask for any benefit. In fact, the person might actually be deportable right then and there. You can’t quote a price on that. You can’t quote a price on that.
In fact, in that type of situation, that’s a great opportunity for unbundled representation where I bring the client in and I say, “Listen, you got these outstanding issues. We’ve got to find out first off what’s going on with you. So I need to go down and get the docket from the court. I need to look at the docket. I got to look at the immigration law behind it. We’ve got to decide whether or not, first of all, you’ve triggered any removal issues and whether or not you qualify.” And I say that a little bit less legalese and a little bit more generally.
That’s a great opportunity to do a flat-fee representation, just to help the person understand their current legal situation. Just because you marry an American spouse does not necessarily mean the gates of immigration benefits open up to you if you’ve got other issues with you. So I use that as an opportunity to do a fact-finding representation first and then be able to advise them later. Because that’s what they really need at that point, is they need to understand what they’re dealing with.
There’s another issue with immigration representations. Immigration is one of those areas where … It’s very interesting. Family law, the courts are cultural, so you’re dealing with culture when you go into court, but when you’re dealing with a client, you got to explain to the law and the idea … There’s a rapport there. Immigration’s the opposite. The law is very categorical, but the client is where the culture has to be dealt with because there are just cultural differences. You’ve got to manage expectations, and there sometimes is an effect that the idea that the advice you’re giving sometimes has to be, “I can’t help you.” That does happen a lot.
In fact, that is a bit of an issue sometimes with … Unlike family law leads, where there’s always something you can do for the client, with immigration leads, sometimes there isn’t you can do. Sometimes, they have all those clients coming in, they’re like, “Yeah, you’ve been deported twice, and not only can I not get you the benefit you’re seeking, but you can go to jail and then get deported.” There’s nothing I can do for that person. For me to do anything for them, at that point, would be, in my opinion, malpractice because at that point, I’m putting them in danger unless they can qualify for some type of waiver. So often, a lot of times, that has to be the answer, like, “You don’t have a benefit, it’s categorical.” But there’s this idea like, “Well, maybe you’re just not the right attorney for me. I’ve got to find somebody who will tell me what I want to hear.” And with notarios or just generally unethical attorneys, that’ll happen a lot, is where the money will be taken and nothing will be done, and it’s unfortunate that people prey upon that way.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and it’s almost like … There are two steps in immigration, it sounds like. Step one is to get the information together and is there a yes or a no? Of one or a zero, do you have a path or do you not? In a sense, it’s more transactional, a little bit more clear-cut, whereas family law is there’s a judge, [inaudible 00:50:49], there’s a lot of different variables. Usually, you can improve the situation in some way, shape, or form depending on the facts of the situation. But in immigration, it’s like, yes, no, okay, yes, we continue, no, we have to stop there, right? Because you can get them [inaudible 00:51:02].
Austin Andenmatten: Right, right, yes. The first part of the representation is just determining whether or not there’s even need for a representation.
Dave Aarons: Right.
Austin Andenmatten: It really is. It really is. I mean, there’s a lot of wiggle room, and I’m still learning the ins and outs of it. But it is a statutory scheme. It is a codified legal system. It is categorical in its outlook. When you get into removal issues, yeah, there’s a little bit more play there. You can try to use asylum. You can try to use convention against torture. These are tough things to prove, but they’re fact-based and they’re evidentiary-based, and those are some things where now you’re dealing with substantive rights of a person being removed. Well, to the extent that they’re substantive.
But the issue with … When you make an application, I did a call for that. People come in, they want to know if they can apply for their sibling. “Oh, yeah, I just became an American. I got a sibling. I want to apply for him.” Yes, you can, but it’s not going to be like when your spouse applied for you. You’re talking about around a 10-year waiting period. You’re talking about trying to get them into a preferential category, but they’re not entitled to immediate relief. So that’s an honest conversation you’ve got to have with someone. You got to explain to them the timeline they’re looking at. If their brother’s 56 years old and has cancer, then they’re not really looking at getting him in 10 years. Maybe that’s not something that’s realistic. Maybe what they’re really trying to do is get him over on a tourist visa and have him get some medical treatment or something. That’s something that is an honest conversation you’ve got to have with the client and try to find options.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, and then when you can get the yes/no and then you can proceed from there, it also sounds like immigration lends itself well to breaking things up into steps, and it sounds like the billing arrangement can mirror and be billed in broken-up steps because each step takes time. You do step A, and then there’s a waiting period, step B, waiting period. So it sounds like you have room to be more creative in breaking up each step, the full amount into different payment rates as well, right, different blocks?
Austin Andenmatten: Absolutely, absolutely. Especially on applications that go to the state. And keep in mind, when you’re applying to USCIS, the representation ends when you mail that application, right? Then, if there are further issues down the line, then you pick up and deal with that down the line. So that’s where there’s a really good … All that stuff that leads up to before you mail that application, different little blocks that can be broken up. While on the one hand is that yes or no and that’s what makes immigration leads just a little bit more tenuous because it’s like, “Okay, maybe this is a no. I’ve gotten this lead, but I can’t-do anything for the person.” But once it’s a yes, there’s a lot of different variables and ways you can help a person or ways you can break up the payments so that a person isn’t hit, can actually decide they can afford you.
So you’re absolutely right about that, especially with USCIS applications. A little bit tougher, to an extent, with removal because removal is very much like a criminal defense, quasi-criminal defense issue. They do allow bail-only representations, but once you’re handling a removal issue, you’re in for a penny and a pound.
Dave Aarons: Yep, okay, right, exactly. So you have a little bit more creativity with the way you structure things. So the finances almost become a non-issue because they don’t have a need to come up with a huge amount of money because there isn’t a huge amount of work that needs to be done in a short time basis unless you’re talking about a deportation case or something that has an immediate time factor, right?
Austin Andenmatten: Right, and if it’s a deportation case, I would ask for everything up front anyway. I would just because whatever you’re not getting, you’re never going to get. Because if a person’s being deported, hopefully, the family puts the money together or something like that. But if it’s a $5000 case, and they’re like, “Well, we’ll pay you 2000 now. We’ll pay you a thousand dollars month after month after month.” Well, if the person’s getting deported, they’re not going to be able to pay you. [inaudible 00:55:17]. The deportation cases are all or nothing type of situation normally anyway.
Dave Aarons: Definitely. Yep. Then, one last question on immigration is, and I’m not sure how many of these leads you’ve worked with yet, but have you had some clients or do you have some experience working with clients that speak other languages other than English? And if so, how have you worked around either working … Do you work with a translator? What strategy have you used to work with folks where English either isn’t their private language or they don’t speak English at all?
Austin Andenmatten: My immigration cases outside of unbundled tend to be within the Brazilian community because my wife is Brazilian, and I speak Portuguese working proficiently, and I will use sometimes my sister-in-law, who is fluent in both languages. She’ll come down and help with the translation with the confidentiality agreement between me and her. Other times … Because you can use people to translate, it doesn’t have to be a certified translator for purposes of legal consultations. It’s only when you’re in court that they have to be a certified translator. People will bring family members. They’ll bring friends that can talk for them.
For my unbundled representations, I have not had that happen as far as a person not being able to speak English. I imagine it’s because, in order to go on unbundled and filling out the application, you’re already having some type of language proficiency. I don’t even know if unbundled has little language links on its page for, say, “Hey, here, click here for Portuguese, click here for Mandarin.” I don’t think that it has that. Maybe I’m wrong about that.
So for the immigration clients, generally, they’re immigration clients that have some type of command for English. I do get a lot of Brazilian … What I would do, and I haven’t had to do it yet, is if I had a person that didn’t speak my language and I didn’t have anybody that could translate – I had one person that was Spanish-speaking, but, again, my wife’s sister speaks Spanish fluently, too – is I would use a translator service. But the issue with that is, if you’re going to be hiring a translator, well, that’s a situation where I would want to have the client have some type of compensation for that because that can be very expensive. That can be a hundred dollars. Now your gratuitous consultation has turned into you’re paying a hundred dollars to meet with a person for free. That’s very difficult.
So I usually put it on the client to find somebody to translate for them. Usually, somebody knows somebody that speaks English, and they’ll bring in a friend or a family member. That’s just been my general MO.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, I would say you’re right. The vast majority of the clients that we attract and are immigration are English-speaking because there are language settings in the site and so forth, and that’s what we focus on. But there are sometimes clients that’ll come in with different languages, and there have been similar strategies that other attorneys have used where they had translators involved and made that as part of the arrangement as part of that initial meeting. Sometimes, even on a three-way call with a translator, to then have them come in and meet and work around that. Marcus talks about it on his podcast as well, where he talks about how he’s built relationships with translators in the courts and kept all their cards and had them literally a phone call away for various different languages. So it’s interesting to see the ways in which you work around that in the immigration courts.
Austin Andenmatten: That’s definitely something that sounds really interesting. I’ll have to look into it. I’ll have to check out Marcus’ podcast. Again, I’m always open to suggestions, so definitely looking into that. But –
Dave Aarons: [crosstalk 00:58:53].
Austin Andenmatten: … it just hasn’t been an issue for me yet. It hasn’t been something that has come up, not off unbundled and not even in my private practice. If they do have a lot of … Usually, somebody who, in just my experience within the immigration community, who was fluent in both languages, they’re good. They get enlisted by their friends and families to help speak for them, and it’s a sense of pride that they don’t want to … So I do find a lot of immigrant clients who don’t even speak a word of English will find somebody who can speak for them.
Dave Aarons: That’s right.
Austin Andenmatten: In my experience so far, but then I can see how that won’t be the case all the time.
Dave Aarons: All right, well, I have one or two more questions. Then we’ll go ahead and wrap it up here. These are quick questions at the very end.
Austin Andenmatten: Sure.
Dave Aarons: One of the questions would just be is there any technology that you’ve used, whether it be a client management software, payment processing solution, Dropbox, or anything like that, that you’ve found to be really useful in your ability to manage the clients? Obviously, you’re still getting your feet wet, get the practice going, but do you have any technologies that have been helping you with streamlining your processes?
Austin Andenmatten: I have taken Graham Scott’s advice on the two issues. One, I got Clio. Clio has been a much superior system than what I was using before. It works very well with unbundled, first of all, but also just I really, really like how it operates as a software, and it’s very cloud-friendly. I’m the 21st-century attorney. Even though I have an office, I try to keep myself mobile if I can be so I can keep doing things and be able to bill time, and the app on the phone is just like, “Okay, I just had a 12-minute conversation. Recorded.” That’s really nice to be able to do that.
I also have LawPay. LawPay has helped me close clients, where if I have a client who they don’t have $4000 in the bank account but they do have a good credit line and they want to use that towards their retainer, I’m right there to do it. That’s a really nice feature to be able to utilize, so the LawPay’s been excellent. And the fact that I can operate, use both …
I was using PayPal before for the flat-free representation to take credit cards. Well, PayPal works fine with the flat-free representation. It does not work at all with the trust account. So you can’t use it. At that point, it’s like, all right, I have to … Give me a check or give me a cash and, sorry, I can’t take the credit card. PayPal works with operating accounts, and it works very effectively. So those two things have helped me immensely as far as those two types of systems I’ve been using. Outside of that –
Dave Aarons: Because LawPay can distribute the payment to the appropriate account. So that helps out with the operating account, right?
Austin Andenmatten: Yes, and I like that, and my license likes that, so it’s really important. Can’t be co-mingling funds. That allows me to take credit cards for the purposes of retainers, and that is so important.
Dave Aarons: Yep. And also from an app right on your phone, too, right? So similar to Clio.
Austin Andenmatten: Yeah, yeah. I can actually do that … I haven’t learned how to do that as far as for my phone. I guess you would just enter the information. I just swipe it right into my computer. It’s so much quicker. I have this little swipe thing from PayPal, and I just have done that. But that’s interesting. They’ve got a LawPay app. I’ve got to get that on the phone. Wow, this has been a –
Dave Aarons: Yeah, with your mobile and your –
Austin Andenmatten: This has been a good learning experience for me. A couple of good pointers. I’m taking notes, so that’s good.
Dave Aarons: Well, everyone else that’s listening has been taking notes, too, so it’s a tit for that. So I’m glad that everyone’s getting value from the call.
Austin Andenmatten: Yeah.
Dave Aarons: Yep. And so I guess the last question I’ll ask if you’ve been working at it for a couple of months here, but just generally speaking, if you look back at what you’ve learned, is there anything else, generally speaking, that you’ve developed? Either from mistakes that you’ve made or successes you’ve had with fielding a lead that you found to be very useful, either for attorneys who are just getting started or just generally speaking, that you think is a strategy that’s worked well for you over the last few months of working on this project?
Austin Andenmatten: Working on this project and practicing generally, you’ve got to be strategic in what you spend your money on as far as reaching out to clients. I’m now networking and in a sense, unbundled operates very much like a networking approach, in the sense that the client comes in and they’re looking at what the services are and they send the information and the lead comes in. That is a really, really nice feature, that this person’s being directed right to you and then you can come into contact with them. You have to be very … Make sure you’re using things that work for you, that you’ve got to spend money on advertising.
I think unbundled, initially, I had some reservations about it. I had certain areas that I was trying to take leads from that I realized weren’t working because they’re too far away from me right now or too far away for the client to want to pay for travel time. So look at what’s working, and keep doing what’s working. Double-down on what’s working, and what’s not working, cut it loose. So unbundled has been working for me. So far, networking organizations I’ve been part of have been working. It also helps that I work for the state, too, so that’s been a really helpful, steady stream. Low, granted, low-income stream, but a steady stream that’s been able to subsidize my practice, so that’s been a really nice … And I get to help a lot of people. I’ve been helping a lot of people, and it feels really good to be doing that.
Dave Aarons: Yeah.
Austin Andenmatten: I’m just very happy where I’m at right now. Talk to me when I just graduated from law school. I was pulling my hair. I just had a kid and just had a baby on the way and no job prospects. So to be where I’m at right now, it’s really nice, a really nice turnaround.
Dave Aarons: Awesome. Well, we’re certainly glad to be a part of that turnaround and getting that off the ground as we’ve done for many other attorneys, and we’re happy with the work you’ve been doing for the clients so far and excited to continue the relationship for the long-term and also sharing all the other resources we have available and the community and the network as well. So we’re glad to have you on board, and I certainly appreciate you taking the time and sharing openly with the processes you have developed.
Austin Andenmatten: You guys should have a convention or something like that, get everybody down, so everybody can meet each other face to face. That’d be a nice thing to do.
Dave Aarons: Funny you mention that because we’ve actually been thinking about doing an Unbundled Attorney Conference or Mastermind Conference where we host an event for two, three days and have everyone get a chance to meet each other. That was really the idea behind the way we used to do the Mastermind calls, was have people participate live on live webcam and so forth. But, certainly, in-person as well where you do some kind of retreat and also just share ideas, share concepts or strategies, just the way we’re doing it for the podcast. Because, ultimately, for us to really, as a group, make a difference in a number of folks that are able to access legal services in the country, we all have to work together, share ideas and share resources and share strategies as a cooperative alliance so that we can all utilize the best strategies to serve the most folks. That’s basically all about –
Austin Andenmatten: And the exclusivity aspect of Unbundled makes that very easy to do because you don’t feel like you’re helping … The people that are helping you are not your competitors, so that’s a really nice place to be coming from. That’s very effective.
Dave Aarons: Yep, absolutely. Well, it was certainly one of the reasons why we use them all, right from the get-go, from day one. Also, it’s one client, one attorney. You’re creating that one relationship. You don’t have to worry about four other lawyers calling them at the same time. You’re scrambling, competing and so forth. You have the opportunity to really dial in that relationship, build that relationship with the client, and also you’re talking about starting to connect with the other attorneys we have on our network as well and continue to hone the craft.
Austin Andenmatten: Absolutely.
Dave Aarons: Yeah, well, hey, thanks again for jumping on today and sharing ideas and, again, looking forward to continuing working with you over the coming months and so forth and dialing things in. For everyone else that’s listening to the call, I want to thank everyone for joining, and we will see you all in the next episode.
Austin Andenmatten: All right, Dave, thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.
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Episode 13: The Modern Solo Practice: How to Leverage Internet Leads to Ramp Up a New Law Firm
Immigration and Family Law Attorney, Austin Andenmatten, sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Austin Andenmatten, joins our show today and shares his success story after opening his practice just a couple years ago. Austin became certified as a Bar Advocate in 2014, graduating with honors from Suffolk University School of Law. After graduating law school, Austin served as a public defender prior to expanding his practice area and today he serves clients throughout the commonwealth of Massachusetts. He has achieved significant success and impressive conversion rates since he began using Unbundled leads to grow his practice. Today, Austin shares the methods he uses for converting those leads into paying clients and the marketing strategy he employs to great effect by using Unbundled Attorney leads.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The changes Austin made to generate a positive impact on his lead conversion ratio
- Why he decided to stop charging clients for consultations
- The strategy behind his decision to not to talk about service rates and fees over the phone with clients
- How he structures fee schedules
- How he decides whether to offer an unbundled service or a full representation service
- Why offering unbundled services for contested matters can lead to a significantly higher conversion rate
- How working with immigration law leads differs from family law leads in his practice
- How he handles language barriers that are often present in immigration law cases
- The technology products and software programs he uses and recommends
If you enjoy this podcast, be sure to subscribe and receive new episodes as they are published.
For more information about Unbundled Attorney and how our Lead Generation services help grow your practice, visit: https://www.unbundledattorney.com?t=podcast