Brad Clark created Unconvicted to help Kentuckians figure out whether they qualify for an expungement, and recently launched Driven...
In this episode, former public defender Brad Clark explains how he started his own firm, powered by a criminal expungement web app that lets him start helping people before they even contact him. He also talked about his access-to-justice efforts, from mobile legal clinics to financial aid for criminal expungements.
Voiceover: Welcome to the Lawyerist podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week Lawyerist brings in advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market, and now here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street and this is Episode 98 of the Lawyerist podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today we’re talking with Brad Clark about building a for-profit firm on top of websites that increase access to justice.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Xero, beautiful legal accounting simplified. Find out more at xero.com, that’s X-E-R-O.com.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is also sponsored by Ruby Receptionists and its smart, charming, receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit callruby.com/lawyerist to get a risk free trial with Ruby.
Sam Glover: Aaron you sound different today.
Aaron Street: I know it, it’s so cool, we’ve got new microphones.
Sam Glover: Yeah if we’re sounding a little bit different to you it’s because Legal Talk Network shipped us a big box of gear, so we have new microphones and we’re also in a new office so there’s a little bit different sound and for the first time ever I’m sitting next to Aaron. The interview will be the whole microphone and so it will be a couple weeks before we catch up with the new microphones so just go with it.
Aaron Street: Okay. Microphone talk, inside the podcast.
Sam Glover: Today we’re talking with Brad Clark about a couple of things but one of things he does is he does an excellent job of something that I talked about which is using your website as a tool and sort of beginning to help people through your website so that it’s not just a marketing billboard. I don’t know, do you get what I’m talking about?
Aaron Street: Yes, the online brochure business card.
Sam Glover: Yeah, and I think we can do better than that and you’ll hear about how Brad does it but maybe another example is the way I used to use my website which maybe people are tired of hearing about now but I let people download a free answer and discovery request to debt buyer lawsuits from my website. My idea is that I would have helped them before they even walked through my door and that’s kind of what Brad’s doing too. Another example of that would be maybe something like what’s the best business form for a new startup and lots of lawyers websites have that in text, like they have an article about it, but I’m thinking maybe you could actually start someone on the process of answering the questions that you’d ask at your first meeting with them through your website so that the bar is lower to get them in the door because that’s kind of what this is all about, is making it easier for people to have that first meeting with you because they’re not actually meeting with you.
Aaron Street: Yeah I mean one of the things I think is really cool about what Brad’s doing is that it’s not just a marketing tool, it’s not just him trying to figure out who that goes to his website can be a client and how he can get them to hire him, he’s also trying to actually solve people’s problems who otherwise aren’t going to hire him and aren’t going to have their problems solved, so he’s got, as you’ll hear in the interview, he’s got this cool expungement project that actually helps people get expungement’s separate from him trying to get them as paying clients.
Sam Glover: Yeah. The way you just said it maybe suggests the approach, which is how can I solve this problem for anybody who wants this problem solved, not just how can I solve it for people who want to come to my website and pay me, but he’s also trying to differentiate, how can I solve it for people who pay me versus how can I offer slightly different solution or a different answer or a different level of service to people who can’t. I think there’s a lot of different types that you could do that with but you did raise a good point, Aaron, about being careful about those who you help, right?
Aaron Street: Yeah I mean I think this can be taken too far, so if you had an example like Brad where he only represents criminal defendants and therefore there’s no risk of him having a conflict come through the site when he’s getting actual information about actual cases, but you could see in a litigation, let’s say a family law lawyer, if their website were trying to collect information to provide tools as both an intake and access to justice solution that you potentially run into tremendous conflicts of interest problems there and I think obviously any lawyer considering pursuing this for their firm should think through the implications of their particular situation, but I think what Brad’s doing is awesome in the context of his criminal law practice and I think there are versions of a similar model that could be used in something like your debt collection defense practice or a small business startup practice or an estate planning practice, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a model that should be replicated by every lawyer in every practice.
Sam Glover: That’s kind of, maybe we should give that as a blanket disclaimer because every time a new technology comes out, everybody says, “Oh well it won’t work for this,” okay fine but it does work for other things. Fair point, if this is going to cause conflicts don’t do it, it’s not the right tool for that but in some cases it’s kind of a cool tool. Maybe that’s a good segway let’s hear from Brad about how he’s doing it and how he’s built the tool and how his partnerships work. I think it’s a cool podcast, you’re going to like it.
Brad Clark: My name’s Brad Clark, I’m a criminal defense attorney in Lexington, Kentucky and my law firm, Clark Law creates web apps that help solve consumer facing legal problems.
Sam Glover: That’s so cool and thank you for being with us Brad. I am excited to have you hear. Tell me more about your firm because you just described it as creating web apps, but there’s a law firm and a practice behind that so what does it look like?
Brad Clark: Absolutely, so my firm consists of me and my associate, Caroline Allen, who’s a first year out of law school. She started back in August and she’s doing fantastic work but we do criminal defense work, primarily expungement and traffic and DUI in central Kentucky, northern Kentucky and the Louisville area.
Sam Glover: How long have you been doing this?
Brad Clark: I have been a criminal defense lawyer for seven years. I started out of the public defenders office and then I went on and I did death penalty work for two years specifically.
Sam Glover: Wow, and so when did you actually start your firm?
Brad Clark: My firm has been going since May of this year.
Sam Glover: Fantastic. It’s just the two of you guys now and you’re doing most of that criminal defense work it sounds like, so cool. Where does your business come from?
Brad Clark: You know it’s almost 100% generated online, using social media, ad words, we do get referrals from my older public defender clients, we do get referrals from new clients, but most of our marketing strategy has been online and through earned media. We’ve got some really good media attention too.
Sam Glover: I haven’t checked in with some local criminal defense lawyers lately to see if this is still the case but it used to be that the assumption was that you had to get yourself in like the jailhouse phone book, hear I think it’s called the blue book, and that’s the book of lawyers directory that is available to people who’ve recently been arrested and that was like the whole thing, is you had to be in there, and everybody kind of poo pooed online advertising because I guess they don’t think people who’ve been arrested are able to search, how does online marketing work if that’s true?
Brad Clark: Well, a lot of our business is expungement, which are people that have been out of jail, have been out of trouble for five to 10 plus years and so that doesn’t apply to that but then as far as like DUIs, there will be some people that do call lawyers that night, you are provided time to call a lawyer when you are arrested for DUI but then there are a lot of people that they bond out the next morning and they’re depressed and they’re sitting on their couch and they’re trying to research things online and that’s when the marketing happens, that’s when the connection happens, and the client contacts you.
Sam Glover: Gotcha. Maybe it’s a misconception that the time to do it, the time to strike as it were is basically when they’re sitting there looking at the phone wondering who to call. You got time in other words.
Brad Clark: I think that there’s merits to both and I mean we have chosen this strategy because quite honestly it’s what I know and what we’re good at.
Sam Glover: It always seems to work if you go with what you know. One of the things I wanted to talk about is unconvicted, which is unconvicted.com which is your website. Is this just your firm website or is it the front end for more than that?
Brad Clark: Unconvicted is a service that’s offered by our firm and we have kind of a for-profit arm to it and a not-for-profit arm and they kind of serve two different functions. If I could have just a minute. Kentucky passed kind of sweeping expungement legislation in the last year and for the first time, basically ever, in Kentucky, people with old, low level felonies and almost any misdemeanor can apply after a certain period of time to have the conviction vacated and then expunged, meaning the conviction will be voided from their record as though it never happened and then it will be removed from the public databases and presumably it’s not supposed to show up in private background checks as well for pre-employment screenings.
What unconvicted was was it was my attempt to make the process as easy as possible for people with old convictions to be able to vote, be able to get their firearm rights back, be able to serve on jury’s, more simply and more down to earth, just be able to get good jobs, get access to federal funding for school. I’ve had people who couldn’t go on school field trips because of an old conviction or even a dismissed case. We had a client who couldn’t go on her daughter’s field trip because she had a bad check case dismissed 10 years ago. It’s a real opportunity to help people who have been kind of outcast from mainstream society because of old criminal convictions and things of that nature.
Sam Glover: Very cool. There’s two pieces to it, a for-profit piece and a non-profit piece, so what’s the for-profit piece? What’s the business model behind this?
Brad Clark: For-profit we’ve developed a web app that allows people to go in and basically, imagine Turbo Tax for expungement. It allows people to go in and answer questions in natural language about their convictions and then based upon how they answer the questions they’ll be asked different questions and it kind of walks them through a decision tree and at the end of it it makes kind of an assessment, not a determinative legal assessment, it’ll say you know we think that you’re probably a good candidate based upon your responses but we’re going to double check it. The basic premise is it’s kind of a lead generation tool but it also helps people find, am I headed in the right direction or not.
After they get that assessment, we pipe that information into our CRM, we use [Zapyear 00:10:30] for that and we screen the records manually and we give them a call back if they qualify or if they don’t qualify and we just kind of explain to them, here are your options, we can draft the paperwork for you in an assisted pro say kind of format or we can also represent you full stop including drafting all the paperwork, meeting with you, notarizing the required documents, filing them in the appropriate place, and appearing at hearings on your behalf.
Sam Glover: So you’re kind of doing it as, the website is basically triage for people who want to find out. At our TBD Law conference there was something maybe similar where lots of people need to know if they qualify to be a dreamer under the dream act but that’s not something that immigration lawyers can really charge for so some lawyers there actually built a Q&A tool to help people figure out if they qualify and it sounds like you’re doing sort of the same thing. You can’t really charge somebody $100 or $1,000 to tell them whether or not they’re entitled to an expungement so you just sort of automate that process as much as you can, right?
Brad Clark: Right, I mean the idea is to make the process as simple on both the client and the attorney as possible and in exchange for them using our tool and allowing us to contact them we give them a free screening by an attorney and tell them basically, we think you’ve got a good case or we don’t.
Sam Glover: Which is obviously everybody’s first question is can I even do this?
Brad Clark: Right. It’s a way to basically offset some of that time that a lot of people traditionally would have spent driving downtown, finding a place to park, waiting for the lawyer to just be told no, and we can do consultations much faster remotely and at a much larger volume.
Sam Glover: That makes a lot of sense. Would you call it a successful driver of business? I mean you said most of your work comes from online so I’m kind of wondering is this where it comes from?
Brad Clark: Yes, I would say 90% of our business comes from online, from our ad words campaigns, our Facebook campaigns, and from the earned media, the Courier Journal, the Paper and Record, Molville ran us on the front page. USA Today picked it up, so we’ve gotten some really good press on it and it’s been … We do pretty good on YouTube too surprisingly.
Sam Glover: Huh. If somebody called up your firm and wants to know if they qualify for an expungement, do you direct them to the website or do you run them through the tool over the phone?
Brad Clark: Well, generally what will happen is I’ll just ask them. At this point I’ve pretty much memorize the entire statute front and back having done it so many times so I can walk them through it myself much quicker if they call it up. It may be the fasted way to do it and I tell people sometimes that, like if they’ve got a friend like, “Hey, I’m going to tell them to go to the website and see if they’re eligible.” I’m like, “Just have them call me.” If it’s not business hours obviously it’s a great way to make it accessible and we want people that have that idea that, “Hey, I need to find out if this is something I can do,” to have it as accessible to them as many hours of the day as possible.
Sam Glover: The reason I ask is because one of the traps I fell into, and I see lots of lawyers falling into, is you come up with a really neat tool and you want everybody to use it and you try to force everybody through that tool and not everybody wants to do it that way. Some people are really happy to just be able to click some buttons and fill out some forms on a website, but some people want to call and have somebody talk to them, so that’s why I was kind of curious. I always ran into that where I was trying to force people to do things my way dammit.
Brad Clark: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, it does make it easier on us because when they are inputting their information, we’re keeping that information in a database and we do have it streamlined enough to where we can use some of the client data entry to generate the forms but at the end of the day we’re about customer service and we want people to have access whatever way they want to have access.
Sam Glover: You’re adding things to your toolbox, not subtracting things.
Brad Clark: Exactly.
Sam Glover: What’s the non-profit element to this then?
Brad Clark: This bill is an incredible piece of legislation. It gives lots of people a second chance and it was passed bipartisan and one of the sticking points that got it passed was we have budget problems in Kentucky. We have a pension system that’s massively under funded and one of the things that the legislator looked to do is they stuck a very hefty filing fee on these. It’s a $500 filing fee to file a felony expungement in Kentucky. It kind of goes without saying that people that are least likely to have $500 are the people who have to check the box that identifies them as a convicted felon every time they go to apply for a job.
What we find is, while there are a lot of people that meet the federal poverty guidelines or likely to qualify for informa poperish relief to have that fee waived, and that do qualify and we do take those cases pro bono because I think that’s the right thing to do. There are a lot of people that well they don’t meet the guidelines, they still can’t come up with $500 but we’d still like to do their case pro bono but we’re kind of stuck. How do we get there? How do we get it done? We’re trying to start raising, we are raising money to help people, provide scholarships more or less, to get this done and pay the filing fees for them in cases, or pay parts of the filing fees for them where they can’t necessarily just come up with the $500 ahead of time.
Sam Glover: How do you get started building a pool like that? Who’s contributing to it?
Brad Clark: The really interesting thing is we’ve actually had a lot of people approach us about doing it. This was always part of something I wanted to do, but people came out of the wood work and said, “Hey, we want to help you raise money to do this.” There’s a group called Leadership Lexington here in town that they’re raising money to do this same thing. The Unitarian Church actually approached me and said they want to do a fundraiser for me and we actually work out of a co-working space that’s designed for non-profits and social enterprises and so the director of that space is actually a good friend of mine and she’s done a lot of non-profit fundraising and non-profit development kind of stuff in the past and she’s helping us put a lot of it together so we don’t actually … It’s been great.
Sam Glover: We kind of skipped over this but I ordinarily like to geek out on this stuff. How did you build the tool? I know you said you’re connecting a couple things with Zapyear, but did you hire coders or is it built in something more simple and easy to use? What’s going on back there under the hood?
Brad Clark: Okay, yeah. I have kind of been, I guess, serial business starter my entire life, other than my short stint as a public defender. I was actually a web developer way back in like 1999 when I was 15 years old so I developed the site myself but the actual application is built in a software service platform called type form, which is a really cool way people that need to make really pretty, really complex logic flow forms can use this service online and it’s relatively simple. I think most people could learn how to use it but it’s quite powerful also. Type form has an API that allows it to integrate with Zapyear, without getting too techy.
We could use Zapyear to basically pass the data that we get from the forms submittal after we build the form into a number of different places where we use it. We were using Cleo for awhile and it works beautifully to import the data into there, but we actually switched so we do almost everything in CRM software, client relationship management software, customer relationship management software called Capsule just because it’s very cheap and it has an infinite number of custom fields which is what we need and so those are kind of the tools we’re using. Then we have a hat together, acrobat java script that does all of our document automation because we have to use these court sanctioned PDFs, I don’t want to go into that, but anyway.
Sam Glover: You figured out how to take the courts forms and input data on to them?
Brad Clark: Yeah.
Sam Glover: Very cool. Wow, that’s a lot going on. That’s neat, but it sounds like it’s … Sometimes the answer is oh I invested $50,000 of my own money and hired a development team from across the state or something like that but you just kind of put it together yourself, which is awesome. Lawyers who do that, I think it’s cool for lawyers to know that there are tools out there that don’t require them to either hire a team or become a software developer, just adventurous I think.
Brad Clark: Yeah. I think that’s right. Having some development background definitely helped but I think that this is the kind of tool, and we use it for a lot of different intake stuff. I think people should really look at it and see what it is because it may fit their practice in ways that they know that I wouldn’t.
Sam Glover: Okay, so we need to take two minutes from our sponsors and when we come back I want to talk about two more of the things that you’re working on, mobile legal clinics and a new partnership that you’ve launched to driven law groups, so we’re going to hear from our sponsors and we’ll be back to talk about that.
Voiceover: Billable hours are the life blood of a successful law practice. Problem is you still have to bill those hours. If your law firm has an accountant, tracking hours, clients, rates, preparing invoices and collecting on those invoices, is time you never get paid for, and writing notes to yourself in court or on the road is inefficient and error prone. Run your legal practice better with cloud accounting software and see why over 600,000 small businesses love Xero, including Lawyerist. Get our free trial at xero.com, that’s X-E-R-O.com. Beautiful accounting software.
This podcast is supported by Ruby Receptionists. As a matter of fact, Ruby answers our phones at Lawyerist and my firm was a paying Ruby customer before that. Here’s what I love about Ruby, when I’m in the middle of something I hate to be interrupted so when the phone rings it annoys me and that often carries over into the conversation I have after I pick up the phone, which is why I’m better off not answering my own phone. Instead Ruby answers the phone and if the person on the other end asks for me, a friendly, cheerful, receptionist from Ruby calls me and asks if I want them to put the call through.
It’s a buffer that gives me a minute to let go of my annoyance and be a better human being during the call. If you want to be a better human being on the phone, give Ruby a trial. Go to callruby.com/lawyerist to sign up and Ruby will waive the $95 setup fee. If you aren’t happy with Ruby for any reason, you can get your money back during your first three weeks. I’m pretty sure you’ll stick around but since there is no risk you might as well try.
Sam Glover: Okay, and we’re back. Brad, you just hinted to me when we were talking beforehand about your working on some mobile legal clinics, which is interesting because I’ve always wanted to just drop in and be a lawyer for free in a neighborhood or a park or a library or something. Usually it always seems to make sense to do it with more structure behind it so I’m kind of wondering how are you doing it and what’s it all about? Tell me what you’re trying to do first.
Brad Clark: What we’re trying to do is kind of raise awareness of our mission and also just ultimately create a fundraising tool for our not-for-profit side. What we’re doing is we’re going to do kind of drop in legal clinics in five or six different cities in Kentucky, starting next year where we’re just going to open up in an abandoned storefront or some kind of space that we can find, very inexpensively, and we’re going to just do pro bono expungements all day. We’re going to do what we can to advertise it through Facebook and our contacts with local media, chambers of commerce, those kinds of things, and we’re just going to set up basically a mobile expungement clinic. We don’t need much. We can tether our phones to get to the database we need. All we need is a printer and we’re there. That’s kind of the plan.
Our plan is, I have a good friend who shoots documentary films and he’s going to kind of follow us around and put together some web videos we can use and things we can use, hopefully to fundraise some more for the not-for-profit side. We may do a crowd funding campaign once we get the video and those kinds of things put together but just kind of get out in the community and the parts of Kentucky that people don’t normally think about going to and hopefully make people more employable, bring jobs back, those kinds of things.
Sam Glover: Are you basically partnering with local organizations to do that?
Brad Clark: That’s the plan right now. The University of Kentucky has an ag extension office who we’re talking to too about potentially working with some of their local spaces that they have there. We’re still trying to feel this out 100% but it’s just finding the right opportunities, the right fit, the right places, to get the right publicity so the right people in the community turn out for these things so we can help as many people as possible. That’s our goal.
Sam Glover: You mentioned your mission and your non-profit side a couple times, is that kind of baked into the way that you conceive of your firm? That you’re going to be doing civic stuff as well as for-profit stuff and how do you decide how much of each to do and all that kind of stuff?
Brad Clark: That’s a very good questions that we’re still trying to answer. You know, obviously right now we’re doing almost 100% for-profit stuff, the startup phase. It scaled very quickly and I had to hire another lawyer to bring them on full-time. Now that we’re adjusting to that we’re kind of seeing what our revenue stream looks like. We’re getting and idea of where we are. As I said before when people would come in and they would meet the IFP level we would do the cases pro bono just because but we haven’t had a huge number of people that qualify for that.
I think primarily because of how we advertise and how people find out about us being online, you do have to have some sort of device that can complete the form. It doesn’t have to be an iPhone 7 or the latest Android phone but on some level it’s not going to be everybody that has access to it and so now that we’re in a position where we’re profitable and I’m paying myself and I’m paying my employee and we’re really looking at some of these questions about how can we really fulfill that kind of double bottom line we have. How many people did we help and how much money did we make? How can we stretch and kind of give back for what the state and what the community has done for it for taking on this kind of mission for making this as accessible and affordable as possible for everybody.
Sam Glover: I love what you just said. How many people did we help and how much money did we make. There are lots of different ways to increase the first number, how many people we helped. Do you have targets or are you just sort of looking at it now and trying to figure it out?
Brad Clark: It’s kind of funny but I kind of went back and I thought about how many people that I plead guilty to felonies when I was a public defender and I added it up and I’m like I want to do that many in the first year. Now I don’t think we’re going to get that number, unfortunately, but it’s some kind of weird public defender karma kind of goal that I have. No, I think we’re trying to see what’s the first year look like, what’s the base line look like and how can we do better next year? That’s I guess what I would say. What our goals going to be.
Sam Glover: Very cool. Let’s touch on your more recent project that you launched. It’s drivenlaw.com. It sounds like you’re trying to take the same general idea from unconvicted to a different practice area, right?
Brad Clark: I think that’s fair to say. It’s another kind of lead generation tool where we offer free consultation remotely, very easily, to potential clients for traffic cases and DUI cases. It works very similarly. It’s also built on type form. Kind of the hook to it is though anyone that’s charged with a traffic offense or a DUI can simply snap a photograph of their citation, upload it to us, and then we’ve kind of made some report generation tools on the backend for the lawyers to use where they can basically create a report very quickly that will say well these are the possible penalties, these are the elements of the offense, this is what it will do to your insurance if you plead guilty, this is how many points it will put on your license, based upon our experience this is what we expect the outcome might be, here are some possible defenses that we may try and things we would investigate and things like that.
We provide that absolutely free of charge and then it allows the potential client to then, they can schedule a phone call or a video conference with us and then frequently we’ll just followup with them over the phone too.
Sam Glover: Type form is robust enough that you can incorporate things like taking photos on a phone?
Brad Clark: Yes.
Sam Glover: Wow, that’s super cool. I kind of want to just start playing with it. I noticed that this is a partnership between you and another lawyer, how do you structure something like that?
Brad Clark: We have it as a separate LLC and we’re contracting with each of our law firms right now. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to do it but that seemed to be the simplest, in the beginning, minimal viable product, what does this look like? Is there a product customer fit, market fit? Do we have that here? Are people going to use this? The answer seems to be yes. It’s only been a week but we’ve already got three paying clients from the app and it’s a good opportunity to reach out to other people in a different kind of practice area.
Sam Glover: Are you partnering up because you think there was going to be just way too much work to handle, was it their idea? What’s the justification for partnering up on this or what’s the rationale for doing it?
Brad Clark: My friend [Ralph Kazee 00:27:00] he came to me and he said similar what we’re doing with the unconvicted app he thought it would be really cool to help people with traffic problems and let them know that there are things that can be done, you don’t just have to pay your speeding tickets. He came to me with it and I realized that quite honestly I’m over extended as it is.
I do have a book of criminal cases also that I keep, on top of all this other things I’m doing and so I knew that I was not in a position to hire someone else to work for me as an associate at this point, I wasn’t ready to make that jump, and he was willing to come in and make an investment into the front end, getting it launched, getting the advertising done, and doing more of the cases, more of the legwork on it, so it was an attractive situation for both of us because he wasn’t going to be able to develop it himself and market it and I wasn’t going to be able to do all the work myself and so it made sense to work together.
Sam Glover: You got started you said in May of 2016, so about six months ago, and you’re already talking about being profitable, which is pretty impressive. I struggle with this, how do I ask people how they’re doing without just getting out an income statement and hiring an accountant to assess the numbers but I’m curious, you’ve been doing it for six months and obviously you’ve been a lawyer for much longer, but how do you kind of assess the success of things and how do you look forward and say where you think you’re going to be at this time next year even?
Brad Clark: Well, I’m in a lucky situation. I jumped and I did this entrepreneur thing and my wife has a good job and she’s able to support us, but we are successful and I think that I expect that I’ll make every bit as much money as I did last year being a capital defender but ultimately what’s really been the most rewarding thing about this is just been getting to go do really cool stuff like this show and meet really cool people online and just kind of make new things and build new things and that’s why, don’t get me wrong, there are 20 hour days, there are weekends where I wish I was with my son and I wish I was with my wife, but overall just getting to make the law firm that I would most want to work at. Getting to make the job that I most want to have. The value in that is immense, it’s undefinable to me.
Sam Glover: You obviously feel like you’ve proved the concept with unconvicted and it sounds like you’re optimistic for drivenlaw.com. Do you think you’re going to expand the same model to other areas of practice or have you kind of found the two criminal areas that it probably fits best with?
Brad Clark: We’re always looking for other opportunities. I think that we picked these two primarily because how cheap it is to acquire the traffic for it, quite honestly right now, and then also the expungement just the time was right. The timing was just perfect.
Sam Glover: Wait, how is it cheap to acquire DUI traffic? Isn’t every criminal defense lawyer out there buying up all the ad words?
Brad Clark: Not in this market.
Sam Glover: Really?
Brad Clark: Yeah. It’s not too bad actually. It’s one of the things that we did when we were deciding, were we going to try to acquire DUI clients as well is we kind of went and looked at what was cost per click expected to be.
Sam Glover: You actually sat down and did a business model for the site. Obviously you think in those terms so you put together here’s what we think we can make, here’s what we think it’s going to work out to and it’s going to make sense.
Brad Clark: Right. We basically looked and we said what is it going to cost to acquire a customer at this conversion rate and then what’s our return on marketing investment and then does it make sense to do that and we said yes. So far our assumptions have beared out.
Sam Glover: Help me get my head around what does it cost to produce something like unconvicted or drivenlaw. I know lawyers are going to be listening and they’re going to say, “Oh, that sounds neat.” Maybe they’ll check up type form and maybe they’ll be adventurous enough to play with it but the question is is this all going to be worthwhile? How do you value the cost of producing the app, the website, maintaining it, and then how do you balance that out against what you can expect to do?
Brad Clark: Well, if you can do the work yourself, like we have, it’s actually not very expensive at all. I mean, type form I think we pay $70 a month or or $700 a year for if you buy it a full year. We use it across both sites and then we bought WordPress themes and I did a little bit of custom PHP and HTML work on them but it wasn’t anything that someone couldn’t learn if they wanted to in a short amount of time. I don’t know. We spend $20 a month on Zapyear and then $8 or $9 on Capsule and then we also use YesWare, which I want to give kind of a plug for if people aren’t using YesWare or haven’t checked it out. It’s really cool e-mail marketing software. Are you familiar with it?
Sam Glover: No, I’ve never even heard of it. Tell me more.
Brad Clark: It lives inside of Gmail and if you use Google apps it’s great. It allows you to kind of do drip campaigns and also you can do blind read receipts. You can see when people open e-mail, you can track when they open it, how many times they’ve opened it and you can automatically send follow ups and you can do all sorts of cool stuff with it. YesWare is great. Check it out.
Sam Glover: Is it free? Is there a price for it?
Brad Clark: I want to say it’s like $8 or $9 a month per individual user. There are multiple scaled plans. I can’t remember exactly what we pay for it but it’s worth every penny.
Sam Glover: I mean that’s cool because I’m always looking for other options because infusion soft and HubSpot and Salesforce are just these big massive programs that are really expensive and they’re really geared towards like sales. While I think it’s totally valid to talk about converting potential clients to clients as a sort of a sales process, it’s just not the same as building leads with cold calling and all that kind of stuff. They always feel a little bit too much and kind of geared towards the wrong thing so I want to check this out because it sounds like it might be a little bit easier to use and incorporated into the tools we already use and so you don’t have to have this big overblown sales platform.
Brad Clark: I agree with that 100%. I mean it’s great for templating e-mails. If you have a lot of the same e-mails you send over and over, price quotes, even retainers if you send them electronically, you can generate them very quickly using YesWare just inside of Gmail. It’s great.
Sam Glover: Which sort of reminds me, so you mentioned Capsule CRM which I think [inaudible 00:33:13] uses as well and likes a lot, what are some of the other? We talked about type form of Zapyear, are there any other apps or tools, utilities, software, that you just can’t live without and that really power your practice?
Brad Clark: As far as for project management, we really like Trello. We use it as a team. My own associate and we’ve had interns and we’ve had contractors as well just as far as when we’re going to do a revision on the site or kind of like a big picture project idea we kind of like using a [inaudible 00:33:42] type board technique for what’s done, what needs to be done, what’s assigned to who and those kind of things and we find that it kind of gives you a really good 20,000 feet view of what the project is and what needs to happen when.
Sam Glover: I am staring at your picture on my podcast [inaudible 00:33:57] board in Trello right now too. There you go. Anything else?
Brad Clark: That’s really kind of the core stack of what we’re using right now. Obviously the blog and the sites all run on WordPress, which I don’t think needs my plug. I think everybody knows about WordPress, how great it is. That’s really it. Those are the major things that we use here.
Sam Glover: I’ve been noticing that there are people who are engaged in technology that strive to use as fool tools as they can for the job and they’re those who try everything and can’t stop playing with new utilities and you seem like the former type where you’re striving for efficiency, not to know everything about everything.
Brad Clark: I mean, I’m one of those productivity nerds. I like trying different things. Don’t get me wrong I’ve tried and quit Omni Focus I don’t know how many times. We ran Mail Chimp for awhile and it’s good if that’s what you need it for. We’ve tried a bunch of different solutions and anything that has a free trial I’m always willing to try it and give it a chance. We used Cleo for a long time for storing client data. We just realized we didn’t need anything that heavy duty for what we were doing. We could do 90% of it in Capsule and Google Drive so that’s where we dumped it.
Sam Glover: I suppose maybe you fond this, or maybe you just forced your associate to be accommodating, I found that the more things I ask people to try, the more resistant they are to the next thing but also, you have to be careful about asking people to learn too many different systems. Every new system that you ask somebody to learn, there’s at least a mental block or a mental slowdown for many people there so I try to limit things.
Brad Clark: I think that there’s a really good philosophy to have about it. I think that, we experimented for three or four months. For a long time we didn’t have a CRM at all, everything was in a Google sheet and it was a nightmare and that made a big difference just switching from dumping all of our data input into a CRM which, if people aren’t using some kind of form of that, I definitely encourage them to check out anything. Whether or not it’s Lexacotta which I think is geared towards lawyers, we looked at that too, or just something as simple as capsule because it’s very flexible.
Sam Glover: Let me close with one question that I think will be interesting to hear from someone who’s been practicing or been solo for a fairly short amount of time, what’s the biggest struggle, challenge that you’ve had to overcome so far this year?
Brad Clark: I think it’s mostly mental. It’s yourself. It’s learning to be patient. It’s learning not to be hard on yourself. It’s learning to be resilient and just to remember those things and try and take a minute to not work every minute. That’s really been my biggest struggle. We’ve been very fortunate in that we got a lot of great press and that we’ve had a lot of clients and a lot of paying clients an things have gone very well but at the end of the day, even when you’re very successful, or reasonably successful, I shouldn’t say very successful, reasonably successful.
Sam Glover: Yeah, you’re not allowed to be very successful within a year.
Brad Clark: Right. Reasonably successful, it’s just learning to breathe for a minute and be with my family and be with the ones I love and see my friends once in awhile and not, you know I used to have hobbies, now my hobbies are reading about ad words. You’ve got to take a minute and put perspective on it. Life is bigger than just business.
Sam Glover: Brad thank you so much for being with us today and I just really appreciate it. Thank you.
Brad Clark: All right. Thank you Sam.
The Lawyerist Podcast is a weekly show about lawyering and law practice hosted by Sam Glover and Aaron Street.
Boutique general counsel law firm owner and lawyer Kim Bennett talks about her approach to flat/fixed fees, adapting and responding to client needs over...
In this episode with Joey Coleman, we talk about what client experience really is and why it’s important—especially during the first 100 days.
In this episode with Conor Malloy, we talk about some of the technologies Conor has built into his firm, and how those tools have...
Paul Spiegelman talks about how developing an internal law firm culture is a recipe for success.
Mitch Jackson discusses augmented reality with Sam, including what it is and how it can be useful in the courtroom.
How to prepare to hire, find the best applicants for your law firm, and set up a new employee or independent contractor for success.