Erin Levine, founder of Hello Divorce, joins Conrad and Gyi to explain how her innovative tech platform streamlines and demystifies the divorce process for clients while allowing lawyers to practice law – not schedule appointments, manage clients, and waste time with administrative tasks.
Entrusting basic drafting, scheduling, and filing work to a robot, though, does have one obvious conclusion––fewer tasks to bill for. But if you’re worried about your bottom line, don’t freak out just yet. Levine says Hello Divorce isn’t built to put you out of business but, by allowing clients to only use lawyers for what they need, to open up a broader pool of paying clients and improve the process as a whole.
Hello Divorce and services like it may be harbingers of the future legal industry, so it’s time for you, dear lawyer, to start thinking about how to adapt your practice and messaging to fit in.
Special thanks to our sponsors Alert Communications, LawYaw, and Clio.
Conrad Saam: So Gyi, yesterday, I asked you, what is what I believed to be the oldest most obvious lawyer joke and you came up blank. So I’m going to ask you again. Why is divorce so expensive?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Because lawyers spend a lot of time doing stuff that they shouldn’t be doing?
Conrad Saam: Wow! This it’s almost like you’re offering an intro to our super star rock star, guest who will be introduced in just a moment. No, it’s because it’s worth it.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Boom!
Conrad Saam: Yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Where’s our sound effect?
Conrad Saam: There you go.
Gyi Tsakalakis: There it is. Just on cue.
Conrad Saam: Fortunately, my wife does not listen to this podcast so I can kind of make that joke. Anyway, today, we’re going to talk quickly about some acquisition news that is a beautiful Venn diagram of all things lunch hour, legal marketing. And then you want to share who’s going to be joining us?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, I’m so excited. We are going to have a fantastic conversation with Erin Levine from Hello Divorce, lawyers, buckle up. You want to talk about the evolution of the law practice? This is the episode for you.
Conrad Saam: The last episode was very much a downer. We’re talking about, you know, the legal Zoom coming to eat your world. This is possibly the most optimistic show we’re going to have because Erin is an optimistic person and has a very beautiful vision, not only the legal profession but of lawyers within the legal profession.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And how lawyers can make that money in the future. Hit it.
Intro: Welcome to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. Teaching you how to promote, market, and make fat stacks for your legal practice. Here on Legal Talk Network.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Welcome to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. Super excited as always, but particularly excited for today’s episode. But before we get started, we would love to thank our sponsors. Alert Communications, Clio and Lawyaw.
Conrad Saam: Wow, so did you say Lawyaw?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Lawyaw.
Conrad Saam: Alright. So in what is a very strange turn of events, Clio has just acquired Lawyaw. This is their second or third acquisition of sponsors of Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. Is that right Gyi?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Something like that. This is Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. It’s the place to make deals happen.
Conrad Saam: It is the place. So, Adam Lockwood would like to talk to you if you would like to be acquired by Clio. In a completely separate news, our advertising rates have just tripled.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I have no comment.
Conrad Saam: Hey Gyi, is there any more newsworthy items coming out of the legal practice right now?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, we’re not going to go deep on this one today but we felt obliged to at least for folks that haven’t seen this that the ABA has issued a new opinion about lawyers passively investing in law firms that include non-lawyer owners, right? Because we know that alternative business structures are happening. And the ABA has recently responded to this or have weighed in on this. And so it’s worth checking out, we’ll probably go deeper on this in a future episode but we thought we would not be covering the news if we did not imagine this at least in passing.
Conrad Saam: So lawyers, you may now invest in non-ownership of law firms, non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So I got a really nice email the other day from a lawyer that was, you know, we were talking and it mentioned like hey, I’ve listened a lot of legal podcast and yours is the one that I keep coming back to and that really enjoy and keep it fun and stuff. So I’ll thank you to that lawyer who will remain anonymous but thank you for reaching out and as always, if you are enjoying Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. We really, really want to hear from you whether you want to email us, whether you want to get on the hashtag on Twitter, LHLM, or leave a review wherever you listen to podcast. Now, can you leave reviews on other podcasts except for Apple? I don’t know. If you’re on Apple, leave us a review. We really appreciate it. Now let’s dive in to the Clio legal trends report minute. Here’s a little tidbit that I think might be intuitive to us and we get your reaction that’s kind of it. But according to legal trends report, the majority of consumers, 69 percent of consumers surveyed prefer working with a lawyer who can share documents electronically through a webpage, an app or an online portal. Many electronic document systems now offer seamless email and e-signature services as well. How does that number strike you?
Conrad Saam: It’s strikingly low although perhaps if you were to demographically profile this out. You know, there are still people who write checks at the grocery store checkout.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, we get checks from lawyers.
Conrad Saam: So, I mean think about the lack of efficiency in going somewhere to sign something, right?
Or mail something that you have signed or the fax machine which is still prominently in use by many members of the legal profession. And perhaps only the legal profession.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah. No, I’ll tell you, it’s not just the legal profession. I get people send me attachments to sign all the time and I’m like, can we do this in DocuSign? The other one that always did when we pulled this number that really jumped out at me is you know, you and I we look at a lot of law firms CRM, intake, back office stuff. And you know, it jumped off the page at me that so many of the client stages are stuck at the sign retainer stage, because the law firms like you got to come inside. Now, look, we’ll talk about this in the episode today. Some places, you got to do it, got to get it signed, but it just seems like there’s just so many people that are still operating in a way that’s just not great for what consumers are demanding. So I’m always like send me the document, I’ll put in our DocuSign account and sign it. But in any events, I digress. To learn more about these opportunities and much more for free, download Clio’s legal trends report at clio.com/trends. That’s Clio, spelled C-L-I-O and congratulations again to Clio and Lawyaw for a match made in heaven. So, super excited to welcome Erin Levine of Hello Divorce to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. You know, the word rock star is thrown around so trivially these days, but today we truly do have a legal tech lawyer rock star on the show. Erin Levin, welcome to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing.
Erin Levine: Thanks for having me. It’s really fun to be here. I’ve been looking forward to it. I think was I on this podcast a while ago or was that a different podcast that you hosted?
Gyi Tsakalakis: It was a different podcast that I hosted. Unless you were with former host Jared Correia who is formerly our favorite friend of the pod, but now you’re our favorite friend of the pod. It might have been a different podcast, but we’re so glad to have you. Congratulations on raising your seed money and the success with Hello Divorce and also a moment of silence for your laptop.
Erin Levine: Yes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Losing a laptop, that’s serious business these days.
Erin Levine: It’s pretty major. Thank you.
Conrad Saam: So for those of you who don’t know, Erin in an attempt to not have to share her secrets with you today, drove over, not only her child’s iPad, but also her laptop. So we have suckered her in here. She’s going to spill the beans and you’re going to learn so much in the next 20 minutes.
Erin Levine: Yeah. I tried to get out of it, but your producer was not having it so.
Gyi Tsakalakis: He’s very tough. He likes to meet those deadlines.
Erin Levine: But here we are and I’m excited to chat.
Conrad Saam: All right Erin, Gyi introduced you as a rock star. For the few people who are unfamiliar with you and we’re talking about venture capital and rock stars. The easiest way to ask for the intro is can you give us the Hello Divorce elevator pitch by way of introduction to introduce yourself to our listeners?
Erin Levine: Sure. I’d love to. But I’d also like to tell you that one of our members of our founding team prior to going to law school and joining our team. She was the manager for the band Green Day. So I don’t consider myself a rock star, but we are like, you know, almost related to a fantastic band so.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s awesome. It’s additional rock star points I think right there.
Erin Levine: It’s pretty cool. Great perks for us. Definitely.
Conrad Saam: Yeah.
Erin Levine: But at Hello Divorce, what we do is we run a legal tech company that educates consumers on the divorce process and then provides affordable easy-to-use software and services for achieving the divorce of their dreams. No, not really. Nobody wants to get divorced. You don’t get married thinking that you’ll get divorced but it happens. And so the goal here is to have people get divorced with peace of mind. To take out some of that stress and mess and help them to thrive in life before, during, and after divorce. Because the more comfortable that people feel, the more peace of mind that they have through the divorce process, the better they are going to do and the better their families are going to do post-divorce. So we facilitate a quicker, a healthier and an easier divorce and try to help by providing an on ramp into life post-divorce.
Conrad Saam: Okay, so I want to get to the easier better approach because that’s really the guts of what we want to talk about but we can’t talk about that without at least covering the elephant in the room.
You said that you are a legal tech company. You did not say that you’re a law firm. Can you very quickly wrap up for us how you’ve dealt with the ethic side of this? Why it’s not a law firm. Like we know this is a question, so can you really quickly and succinctly give us that overview?
Erin Levine: Absolutely. And this is a moving target. We are currently in the moment working with both lawyers and one of the best regulatory minds in the industry, Crispin Passmore to shift our model a bit and maybe at that time it might be a great opportunity if you’re open to it to having me on again. But in the moment, no, Hello Divorce is not a law firm. It can’t be a law firm. We can’t accept investment money. We can’t add people to the team outside of legal who have an ownership percentage if we were a law firm. So, Hello Divorce itself is a corporation. However, in the moment we are a two company model. We have a law firm that works directly with Hello Divorce clientele. So if a Hello Divorce user wants to meet with a lawyer, they can. However, through our system they are retaining a lawyer from that law firm.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Got it. Okay, super helpful. Appreciate that description and you know, and like Conrad mentioned, we have to at least talk about it because you know, lawyers, they’re listening to this. They’re going to be wondering that themselves. But you know, really amongst many reasons I think the thing that I think is that the insight and experience that you can share that’s like particularly valuable is you’re a lawyer. I’m presumptuous. You’re still a lawyer, right?
Erin Levine: I am. I’m a certified family law specialist and have been practicing law for 16 years.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yup. And so I think a lot of folks that, not a lot, some. The few folks that listen to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, you know, they’re sitting there. They’re practicing some practice area. Probably solo small firm lawyer, maybe with some big law people. If you’re a big law person, send us an email. We’re really curious to hear from you. But, you know, you’ve gone on this journey from practicing law and I loved the way that you did your elevator pitch because what I heard in there was like a lot of client-centric, client-focused, you know where we’re going to call it user focused. If you think of Hello Divorce that way. Language in your description but tell us about that journey. You’re practicing law and you’re like, you know what? I just imagine you’re running into situations where either potential client is like, gosh this is too expensive or you’re running to clients that are just like, I’m frustrated because of X, Y and Z. I think that that’s part of the conversation that I think even for lawyers that are listening that aren’t going to be legal tech entrepreneurs, you know, building their practice around these issues that the clients are facing. That just seems so part of your story and so tell us a little bit about that journey that, you know, it’s the origin story or whatever, but I imagine at some point you’re like, there’s just got to be a better way, right?
Erin Levine: Partially, yes. I definitely felt there was a better way especially for resolving conflict, for moving people who had a relatively uncomplicated divorce through the system. But I also saw through I believe at Legal Trends report that the vast majority of people can’t afford a lawyer. And I took a look at what options were out there for people doing it themselves. And it was clearly not working for most people. Particularly because law is so localized. And so what might happen in one state doesn’t happen in the other and what might happen in one county doesn’t necessarily happen in another county. There might be different documents. There might be a different way of filing. How the signatures need to be and when the documents need to be submitted. It’s that localized. So I became really interested in how we can make the experience a lot easier on consumers. I also saw that some of the most well-intentioned lawyers, like I’d like to thank myself. We’re having a really challenging time getting these divorces through the system because in many ways, when you hire a lawyer, you expect that lawyer to fight for you. You expect that lawyer to go to court, to resolve conflict. That’s really the only way to do it unless you happen to live in a jurisdiction that requires mediation. And that wasn’t working for people. The average clients spend in divorce in California was over $25,000.00 per person. At our firm alone, it was $17,000.00 and these were divorces in many cases that weren’t that complicated. And we were trying. But once you get caught up in that system, it’s really hard to pull people out.
And in a lot of ways we were really helping to ramp up people’s arguments as opposed to solve problems. And we were perpetuating that you have to win at all costs. So yeah, it became really interesting to me, it became a passion. We started trying out different practice models through the law firm because you have so much more flexibility when you’re working in a law firm. And it was clear that consumers were very interested in it, which didn’t surprise us. Because in addition to the trends report and other statistics, we had done a huge design survey and sprint where we interviewed consumers to see what it was that they might be interested in. But it also became very clear to me that we weren’t going to make any money if this wasn’t high-volume.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So go really tactical. What was the one or two tactical things or surprising things from that research that was like, wow, this is really, really completely not working for the consumer.
Erin Levine: I was very, very surprised how many consumers either just before the divorce process were actually in the divorce process or had already completed the divorce process who felt that it was absolutely necessary to have some kind of connection to a human throughout the process. Because what we had always seen in the past was either the lawyer up sometimes maybe collaborative divorce, but for the most part lawyer up or the straight DIY. And so I was surprised that it wasn’t all tech that people were asking for. That they really did want to connect with a human. You know, that was that was exciting to me because I’m a non-technical founder. I’m a lawyer and I wanted to incorporate that into my model, especially because I didn’t have the money to go out there and build this platform that was going to work for everyone.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, and so, you know, again, it was why I think it’s so grateful to have you and so valuable to share this story, you know. It rhymes with the episode we did with George Psiharis and his big thing. One of the things we talked about was, you know, it’s not about automating everything, right? It’s about automating the things that you can automate and having the person come in for the things that the person does better. And I think there’s a broader story here that we — it’s not just specific to legal. But, you know, everybody’s scared of the impending, AI doom of professional services. And, you know, this is just such a great example of, you know, not to use a bad pun for Hello Divorce, but the marriage between technology.
Conrad Saam: You’ve been waiting on that one haven’t you?
Erin Levine: I know he has.
Gyi Tsakalakis: No. It just came to me.
Conrad Saam: Yeah, I’m sure, it’s on the whiteboard behind you. I can see you right now.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It just popped to my head. But it is. it’s such a valuable story, because again, you know, for the lawyers that are out there listening to this and they’re like you know, I’m struggling to get by. I’m competing. We’ll talk more about this later, who Hello Divorce is competing with. But I’m competing with a lot of different players now. There’s demands, there’s cost demands and pricing demands and all this kind of stuff going on, but it’s a story about how you can actually marry these things or integrate these things.
Conrad Saam: There he goes again.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And also, I think that there’s a lot of applicability for this way of thinking about serving clients that applies even outside the divorce context. And, you know, even the fact that you were doing like user research, market research, understanding your audience, your clients. Like, that’s the message that we’ve been trying so hard to get out and we’re kind of talking about this all the time in the marketing context but it’s really, it’s firm design. Its practice design. And anyway, it just resonates with me so much.
Erin Levine: Well, I mean I’ve learned a lot from you over the years too, it goes both ways. I mean years and years ago you were talking about premiums and content and making it in a way that people would resonate not marketing, capitalizing on people’s fears but empowering them. I mean these were all things that you were talking about, many of us were chatting about and the exciting part to me is that we’ve been able to share with the world that it actually works. The other thing is, is that you know, I love lawyers. I want to elevate the profession. I know we’ll get into it, but I just want to start off there. Like that is very, very important to me and one of the things that I had a few initial goals. One was that we could create something that would actually work for consumers. The second was that we could actually make money because I have a family to raise too.
And the third was that we could prove out a model that maybe won’t work for every lawyer, but that would work for a lot of lawyers. So that would give them quality of life. Ease of practice and enough money to make as much as they’d like to make. So yeah, just wanted to throw that out there.
Conrad Saam: No, I love it. So when we come back after the break, we’re going to put the hard questions to Erin about how this has changed for the positive or the negative and we won’t just let her gloss into the positive. The lives of her lawyers, and the real go over of these questions is what does this mean for you dear listener? If you do not work for Erin, what lessons can you learn about changing your life, changing your practice, changing your future with the lessons that Hello Divorce has brought to the family law industry. So with that, we’re going to take a short break.
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Gyi Tsakalakis: And we’re back. So Conrad mentioned this before we went to break, but let’s think about it. We don’t have to actually close our eyes but let’s pretend to close our eyes and think about divorce lawyers in California. Divorce lawyers in other areas that Hello Divorce serves consumers and what’s the message for them? Like you had mentioned, we talk about this all the time. We have tons of empathy for solo and small lawyers who are in the trenches fighting the good fight. But you know, for some of them they see something like Hello Divorce come around and they’re like, well now Hello Divorce is just eating up the market, right? So, you know, and maybe there’s some truth to that or maybe that’s just frankly the world is changing and there’s some truth that the market share is going to change with players like Hello Divorce. I mean, you know, we’ll get into more of the bigger competitors that are maybe a similar model or you can argue that they’re not. But what’s the message for divorce lawyer in California?
Erin Levine: Well, yeah. I think it’s especially critical in California because we have a pretty high volume. We’re still building in the other states, gaining pretty quick momentum but California is our largest state by far. It got a two-year advantage over the others. So I think, you know, there’s a couple things. So number one is the vast majority of the people that are using Hello Divorce are people that would have never hired a lawyer to begin with. And usually by the time they’ve hired a lawyer, if they do it all, it’s too late. They’ve really, really screwed up their matter. They’re really frustrated. They’re angry. They blame lawyers for where they went wrong.
Conrad Saam: And Erin, can I ask a clarifying on this?
Erin Levine: Sure.
Conrad Saam: The immediate answer to me is it’s the classic technology bringing more consumers into the legal market from a cost perspective. Is that the primary answer to that question? It’s because you’re doing things more efficiently or is there something else to that?
Erin Levine: I think that’s accurate. The vast majority of our consumers and who we want to help and target are people that cannot afford a lawyer or could afford a lawyer but not without going into significant debt or at having it affect some other, you know, major area in their lives. There are a lot of people that are now like they probably and likely would have hired a lawyer. I mean we certainly do mediation. We help people that don’t necessarily have an agreement going into the divorce but expect to get there.
Conrad Saam: Right.
Erin Levine: So to that extent I could see how lawyers are like concerned or frustrated. I do expect that the more we grow the more lawyers we will employ and or contract with.
And most of the lawyers that we work with use Hello Divorce as a way to supplement their practice and their income. It’s something they can count on. You know, we don’t discount legal fees that much. If somebody gets to the point in their divorce where they really need to speak with a lawyer, then it’s going to cost them money because lawyers work really hard to get to where they are, to be able to provide the advice that they need to give. But what we don’t have lawyers do is all the stuff that nobody should be paying lawyers to do to begin with.
Conrad Saam: All right, let’s get into that. Go deep.
Erin Levine: Yeah. Yeah, I think that it’s so hard because we are taught that based on applicable regulations, based on our education that we can’t and should not collaborate outside the law. And so we spend a lot of time solving legal issues in a vacuum. And because of that, or maybe in addition to that, we spend a lot of time doing the things that we think we need to do to help consumers. Like giving a lot of financial advice, helping consumers in divorce determine which financial settlement offer might be in their best interest. But like really is that something that lawyers should be doing on their own? And then of course there’s more granular things like filing a document or asking for specific information from the client or scheduling appointments. I mean these are all things that lawyers have historically build to do that lawyers just shouldn’t be doing because A, we’re not great at it and B, customers don’t want to pay for it any more. Customers are getting a lot more savvy and I’m starting to see that because I also still have my law firm. To a certain extent we have a small brick and mortar practice and the questions our intake team gets are very different now than they were 10 years ago.
Conrad Saam: Right.
Erin Levine: Do you have a fixed fee option? Do you charge your paralegals at the same rate? Is there anyone who is not a legal trained, you know, administrator at your office and what can they do for my case? You know, so like things are changing.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And that’s the other thing that I think is such an important message to hear from someone like you as opposed to people like Conrad and I is that the legal services consumer is changing, right? You know, we go to these conferences and lawyers are frustrated like, you know, people don’t want to pay for it and there’s only tire kickers. And that’s the thing that if I can press upon people listening is that it’s not in your control, right? The internet technology, communication technology, they’re democratizing not perfectly, but moving the direction of democratizing access information and so the sophistication level, the questions they’re asking. I mean we see it in search all the time. That’s something that’s changing and so, you know, our message and I think validated by what you’re talking about is that you got to adapt to the legal service consumer and spend more of your time delivering the things that you know, technology can’t. Which brings us to another question, which I’m super curious about is like, you know, so the lawyers that are most successful on, Hello Divorce. They must be embracing this mindset, right? Of like, I’m going to focus on the lawyering things. Talk to us a little bit about like what that looks like as a lawyer member of the network.
Erin Levine: So yes, our lawyers can set their own schedules. They can work as many hours as they want and when they want because as you can imagine, lots of consumers would prefer to work after work or after their kids go to bed and the same thing goes for lawyers. Especially parents. So they can set their hours however they want. They can take as much or as little work as they want. We don’t take contested cases through Hello Divorce. So back to the are we stealing cases from divorce lawyers. I would never — you didn’t say that, but that’s kind of like the implied thing.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It was in the show notes but we didn’t say it.
Erin Levine: Right, right. There are always going to be people that have a spouse with a substance abuse issue or a major mental health issue where like you absolutely need a lawyer to represent you. And those are not the types of cases that we have. And that is so great for the lawyer who is working with us, because if they choose let’s say to do 10 hours a week or even 10 hours in a month. Those are 10 hours that they know they’re going to get paid well. They know they are going to be talking to consumers who actually want to work with them and they’re really working on solving problems that have solutions as opposed to having to break the news to them that they’re going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars litigating an issue that we really don’t know which way the judge is going to rule.
So a lot of what our lawyers tell us is that they enjoy the type of work that they’re doing. And I love that. And that’s partly like why I went into this. I didn’t expect that I would become a legal tech founder that I would raise venture capital that we would think about expanding outside of the divorce silo. I went in because I didn’t like litigating day in and day out and I wanted to try something new. Find a way to have happier more present consumers who are actually going to pay their bills.
Conrad Saam: So Erin, you just answered two of my three key questions.
Erin Levine: So I’m just like don’t shut up is what you’re saying?
Conrad Saam: Listen, if we’re just podcasting with shy people, that’s no good. No, so are they working with customers that they want to work with? Yes. Are they doing the type of work that they want to do? Yes. The last question that I had is are they making more money?
Erin Levine: They’re making the same or more. Many are making more.
Conrad Saam: Why? How does that work? So, like this is the really key thing because most lawyers said here and they hear about technology and they’re like, oh shit, you’re coming for my livelihood, and you just told us the opposite. They’re using technology to make the same or more. I want to get into that because that is like a mindset shift that we cannot seem to get in the legal industry.
Erin Levine: Okay, fair enough. Well, they’re guaranteed payment, right? Like Hello Divorce, the corporation, collects the payment but deposited into a legal law firm account. And so the lawyers are guaranteed payment.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So you know more. That’s a game changer right there for them.
Conrad Saam: Right. And now you can turn off your podcast, right?
Erin Levine: Right. And Hello Divorce itself can’t collect legal fees, right? So the law firm has to. Well, in this moment, things are changing and we’re part of sandboxes and this and that. But in this moment, the law firm pays the lawyers directly. And as I said earlier, we charge a really reasonable rate for legal advice, but we don’t — we can’t and don’t heavily discount it. So our goal is to help people get as far as they can without legal advice unless it’s something that they want right from the beginning. And if that’s the case, and there are people like that, then they have lawyer’s available to them right from the start. So, I think the fact is that they might make a little bit less per hour than they will make in their practice. And this is the part that gets me so frustrated. Lawyers will come back to me and they’ll say but I bill at $350 an hour. I bill at $400.00 an hour and you can’t meet that. I’m like, yes, that’s true, but you don’t have to do anything except show up for that call, log the hour and I will pay you. Like they don’t have the calendar. They don’t have to market. They don’t have to do the administrative work. They don’t have to review pleadings because they will bill for that if that’s part of what the client is hiring them to do. Not the admin stuff but the reviewing
Gyi Tsakalakis: They don’t have to spend the money to acquire the client.
Erin Levine: Right. Great. There’s no cost of acquisition. There’s no billing, you know, like everything is taken care of for them. And because of that, you can say, I’m going to work for, you know, with this company for three hours a day and you’re absolutely getting paid for those three hours. And how many lawyers can actually say that? Because when I think about running my small firm all of these years, I think about all the hours that were spent where I didn’t have the opportunity to bill. So, I’m not saying that this is the most efficient model out there. I don’t think that it is. I think that it is constantly evolving. But what I can say is that it’s very important to me that people get legal advice when they need it and that it is very important to me that we continue to evolve the profession so that lawyers can make a living but do it in a way that gives them work-life balance and that comports with their conscience.
Conrad Saam: Love it. And that’s kind of where I want to go to the next part of this conversation is, you know, you’re on the very cutting edge of the evolution of the profession at least from my perspective. Where do you see the world going? Right. We’ve got the ABA just had their recent opinion about lawyers can invest in non-lawyer owned law firms in the states if that’s allowed. We’ve got, you know, non-lawyer or law firms coming. We’ve got big VC money coming in. We’ve got some of the major platform players probably looking to find ways to help evolve the practice.
What kind of insights, what are you seeing if you had to prognosticate? What are the big takeaways for folks who are, you know, again been practicing law 20 years? Maybe they’ve got another 15 to 20 years left to practice. Where do you see this all kind of going? Tough question. Predict the future.
Erin Levine: It is. It’s a tough question because you could ask me today and I’ll feel differently than I feel tomorrow. I can tell you what I want to see.
Gyi Tsakalakis: What do you want to see?
Conrad Saam: Let’s start there.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Because honestly, you’re a hopeful optimistic person. And this is really corny, maybe it’s too corny for podcast. I do believe the practice is moving in a hopeful optimistic consumer-centric direction. And so you’re probably right and that your orientation is in the right place.
Erin Levine: I do. I’m hoping that models like mine are more validated. The fact that we always are constantly having to worry if something that we’re doing is unauthorized practice of law is not fair to our consumers or us. So as an example, the mere fact of telling a consumer, hey, this is kind of complicated. You should consider talking to a lawyer can actually be considered unauthorized practice of law in certain states. That is devastating to me. I mean we are really holding lawyers back from being able to provide services in a way and software that that will solve their problems. If we add a new position in our company, we have to be very careful about what we call them or it can be confusing they say to the legal profession. Even though we are more clear and transparent about what we do, what our fees are and what our products entail than any lawyer that I’ve ever seen or most lawyers I should say. So that’s really frustrating. So I am hoping that we continue to evolve into a profession where we collaborate and encourage an interdisciplinary approach to how we resolve legal problems. I am hoping and I think this is a very far off unfortunately. This is the one area that I definitely struggle with being optimistic. But at some point I’m hoping that we see some real meaningful change in the legal system itself. One of the reasons why it is so complicated and hard to move through the system and one of the reasons why we see conflict ramp up so much is because of the frustration and the confusion around the processes and the distrust between the parties which is all further exacerbated by the system itself. I think the shift in models, the ability for us to do more serve more is going to be incredible, I also am very concerned about how complicated it is to even access the system right now, and there’s only so much that we can do until the system, the court administration, how we resolve conflict changes. I think that you know, keep in mind a company like mine has taken years to build. And in most states, even the states that we’re in, most consumers don’t even know we exist yet. This is a huge opportunity for lawyers to continue doing what we’ve started to have them do which is really think about the client experience. Legal consumers want to experience law the way they do any other app or any other product that they might purchase or subscription. So the more tools we can give people to feel like whatever legal issue in front of them is being managed, the more you’re going to stand out. The more in some cases you can charge and the more people will be referring cases to you. So I think as the system changes and as the legal climate changes, the way to stand out, the way to continue to build your practice is to put the consumer first in every way that you can and sometimes that means B minus lawyering instead of A plus lawyering.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You know, my thing too, these are tough questions or even tougher questions when you’re under the scrutiny that you’re currently under.
Erin Levine: Yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And as you mentioned, it’s an evolving landscape. You know, the thing that I’m always and I can also maybe — I’m still a licensed lawyer, so maybe they can take my license away because I’m always beating down the regulatory thing. But I’m always — and you brought something up that I probably don’t give enough deference to, which is like the systemic access problems. Like it doesn’t matter if you have a lawyer or you don’t have a lawyer.
The system is like this really old system that just doesn’t like, where it just doesn’t line up. It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. But then the thing that always comes up and the one that I’m less sympathetic to, less empathetic to is the guild mentality, right? Like, well, you know, we got to make it hard because that’s what people pay us to do. And that’s the story that I think the internet communication technology, you know, automations, platforms. They’re circumventing it whether the guild likes it or not. You know and again, feel free to pass or plead the fifth on this, but, you know, you’ve lived the pressures, the resistance to this kind of evolution of the profession. What’s your best sense of where most of the resistance comes from?
Erin Levine: The resistance from the lawyers.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Is it the lawyers themselves? Is it the regulatory bodies? Is it just like the structural system? Is that the court system?
Erin Levine: I don’t think it’s the court system. I think that they have their own challenges. Any time they become more efficient, it sometimes knocks down their budget and then they have problems on other places. I do think that it’s the legal profession. I mean, when it comes down to it, anything that even appears to threaten our livelihood sends people into fear. And fear is the worst response and worst emotion to have to control you and help you to make your decisions. And that’s why it’s been so important to me from day one to reach out to the American Bar Association, to reach out to Clio, to reach out to other lawyers, to tell people exactly what I’m doing in the hope that they will see that A, it’s not going to destroy the profession and B, we have the data to prove that consumers really like this approach and feel comfortable with it. When they can talk to someone normal human sort of conversation, when big legal concepts are broken down into easy to understand language and when we shield the consumer from all the headaches of the system, I mean that is just gold to the consumer. Consumers will pay for that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Totally. I know and I’ve got to interrupt you there but or break complex concepts about divorce into awesome flow charts which you have on your site, which I would tell lawyers go check out because again for me, like I think a lot of this from the marketing lens on and the competitive advantage stuff. Like that’s the stuff that we tell lawyers all the time to be creating and you know, again, you’re validating that that’s attracting consumers.
Erin Levine: Yes. Absolutely. Like some of our most valuable downloads or worksheets and resources, not necessarily from an SEO perspective although it is helpful with SEO. Our worksheets and checklists that help people wrap their head around some of the issues that might come up in our case divorce, but if can do it in other legal areas, that’s fantastic. I find myself doing it too. When I have a legal issue that comes up or a friend has a wrongful termination thing or a landlord-tenant issue. I find the lawyers that are putting together these worksheets or flowcharts so at least I kind of understand the general picture and then I can dive deeper if I need to.
Conrad Saam: So with that, I want to end what has been I think since I came on our most optimistic podcast ever. I think that is a fair statement. Erin, thank you so much for joining us. You are fairly easy to find online. So for those of you who have not spent the time, I would recommend go get some inspiration. Go check out Hello Divorce. Think about your own practice area, where you are, what you do, how you put the consumers first or not and make the world a better place. There is optimism in a bottle. Go.
Erin Levine: Thank you.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Erin, thanks again truly for lending us your mind and your voice. Keep on evolving the profession for the better. We are all grateful for it. Folks, thanks for listening in today. If you just stumbled upon Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, please do subscribe their favorite podcasting thing. It’s Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, and until next time. Conrad and Gyi Tsakalakis, take care.
Outro: Thank you for listening to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. If you would like more information about what you heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Subscribe via Apple podcast and RSS. Follow Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, and or download the free app from Legal Talk Network in Google Play and iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Conrad Saam: So Gyi, the other day I asked you what I believe to be the most common oldest and well-known lawyer joke and you didn’t know the answer.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Dude, we’re not doing the banter now.
Conrad Saam: This is the banter. Did I bungle this completely?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yes.
Conrad Saam: Was I not listening?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Talk about following directions.
Conrad Saam: Does not listen to instructions. Jesus.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I’m like, what are you doing?
Conrad Saam: See, I heard Lock would say, you’re going to introduce Erin and then I was like all right, I totally blew that.
Erin Levine: It’s Friday.
Conrad Saam: It’s Friday, Fri-yay.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Conrad does this every week though. How often do we do this?
Conrad Saam: We should totally use this as our intro.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So on brand for Conrad.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com