Josh Team, president of Keller Williams, addresses how lawyers can play an integral role in helping companies keep pace with the rapid pace of tech innovation.
State Bar of Texas Podcast
Josh Team joined Keller Williams in 2016, serving as chief innovation officer and leading innovation labs with a focus...
Rocky Dhir’s dual interest in innovation and the law prompted him to establish Atlas Legal Research, LP in 2000....
Smaller firms and solo practitioners may think big companies like Keller Williams Realty are out of their reach, but these companies are more eager for their help than they realize. State Bar of Texas Podcast host Rocky Dhir sits down with Keller Williams Realty President Josh Team in front of a live audience at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2019 to discuss the impacts of disruption across all industries, why an organization like Keller Williams needs attorneys to help them keep pace with changing technologies, and the best ways lawyers can get noticed by large corporations. This episode qualifies as one hour of self-study MCLE credit for State Bar of Texas members. (To claim self-study, attorneys should log in to My Bar Page at www.texasbar.com and click on the link to “View/Report MCLE Hours.” From the MCLE homepage, click on “Add Attendance” and go to the tab to add self-study.)
Josh Team is the president of Keller Williams.
Special thanks to our sponsor, LawPay.
State Bar of Texas Podcast
State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2019: Josh Team and the Adaptable Lawyer
Intro: Welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, your monthly source for conversations and curated content to improve your law practice, with your host Rocky Dhir.
Rocky Dhir: Hi and welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast. Those of us who grow up in the 1970s and ‘82s will remember hearing that All in the Family or Who’s the Boss? or Happy Days was “filmed in front of a live studio audience.” I recall wishing that I could one day be a part of that studio audience and today that wish comes true, sort of.
We’re coming to you from this 2019 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Austin. Our podcast today is being sponsored by LawPay, trusted by more than 35,000 law firms to accept legal payments online. It’s the only payment solution offered as a member benefit by the State Bar of Texas.
We’re in day two of the annual meeting and our guest today is the keynote speaker for the Adaptable Lawyer Track. He’s a president of Keller Williams Realty, he’s not a lawyer. So you might ask why is he here? Well, sometimes, many times, we can learn from innovators across industries. Today’s guest is just that kind of innovator. His name is Josh Team. Please help me in welcoming him.
Rocky Dhir: Well Josh, thanks for being here. So, I must admit real estate is not exactly the first industry that comes to mind when I hear the word innovation, right. We usually think about technology, maybe we think about some kinds of consumer goods, I watched Shark Tank, there’s nice innovations on there sometimes, it’s change a foot in the real estate industry, talk to us about that?
Josh Team: Yeah. So, absolutely. But I think it’s not just the real estate industry. I think, you know, if you look around the entire — in all industries right now, every habit that consumers have is being challenged for to create new disruptive habits for consumers, whether it’s telephonic taxi, whether it’s how you find where you’re going to stay on vacation, whether it’s medical procedures, whether it’s financial advice and real estate.
And what’s happening is there’s a lot of private equity money that’s going in to try to take market cap from any of these verticals and so, any industry right now that has a large portfolio of revenue opportunity, if you will, is up for grabs to being disrupted. And real estate is one of the largest asset classes in the country and so, there’s a lot of money in the tune about I think three to four billion dollars a year going in just to try to disrupt and create new habits in real estate right now.
Rocky Dhir: Now, you’ve not always been in real estate, so you’ve had a — you’ve had quite a path getting to here. So let’s talk about how today happened. What was your professional journey, what got you to Keller Williams as you chuckle?
Josh Team: Yeah. So, it’s funny because when you ask the question, real estate doesn’t come to mind when you think of innovation and technology and I agree. Four years ago, when Keller Williams reached out and we started having conversations about me potentially joining Keller Williams, I didn’t — I had the same first thought which was real estate.
Because prior to that, I was a the Chief Innovation Officer for a company called RAPP which is basically the Omnicom, a large conglomerate of advertising agencies and you work with Fortune 50 companies. But to roll all the way back, I’ve been programming since I was 12-13 years old.
Rocky Dhir: You mean like source coding.
Josh Team: Yeah, yeah.
Rocky Dhir: Actually programming a computer, okay.
Josh Team: Absolutely. So my friends were into Marvel Comics and these other things I just was really passionate about writing software and became —
Rocky Dhir: You must have been the coolest kid on your block growing.
Josh Team: Yeah something like that. The — so when I was almost 13-14, I became one of the largest open source contributors in my area and that get me able to get into more projects and so that kind of self-fulfilled itself into I went to college again, I was — I couldn’t watch a rated R movie when I first went to college and so, you’re not the coolest kid in college when you can’t see rated R movie. It was just — I was too young still and so —
Rocky Dhir: So people say I like the maturity to watch rated R movies, so maybe we’re on the same page.
Josh Team: So I was — so I coded even more in school and then long story short my life got into a crossroads where I had to decide which path to go and a company — lenni.com 00:04:38 recruited me out of school, so when I was 16-17 I went to start working for lenni.com building software that got me into building software for large companies and then I went to the consultancy route, and long story short, went and created the first kind of innovation division if you would, where we’d go to Fortune 50 companies and helped them with digital technology innovation on how to take market share or defend against disrupter or whatever their business challenge was.
Keller Williams who was knee-deep, an evolving industry that was being challenged again billions of dollars pouring in to try to disrupt everything and they were asking question how we reinvent ourselves for the next decade and so that was interesting business challenge. And so, I joined about four years ago and it’s been pretty awesome, right like I said, and we’ve climbed to number one in every category of real estate.
Rocky Dhir: So let’s talk for a second about the impetus at Keller Williams for the innovation. What kind of got them to start scratching their heads, was it just the fact that private equity money was going into the space or was there some other business reason behind it?
Josh Team: Yeah, so and this is where I think this applies specifically to any professional services rather it be legal or marketing or anything, we fundamentally believe that — I mean not just we like the collective we is like, the Harvard writes about it, we’re in what they’re calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution, meaning that there’s only been three other in the history of the planet where data, technology and AI is infused into every vertical, every category and you can see whether successful or unsuccessful, there’s organizations money energy trying to use the technology and data to create new consumer habits and new business habits.
And so, that’s happening across the spectrum. And so, Keller Williams was asking the question, given this to be true, how are we going to play in that space and what will the impact be into how contracts are written on homes and how consumers are finding and evaluating their offers and like what are the impacts that this is going to have — the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to have in real estate and then specifically with Keller Williams and then how can we position ourselves to be at the forefront of that change.
Rocky Dhir: So let’s again focus on Keller Williams for just a second. What types of innovative solutions has Keller Williams been kind of toying with or at least what can you talk about that Keller Williams has been toying with and how successful has it been because that might give us a blueprint for talking about law and lawyers? So let’s talk for a second about Keller Williams’ journey along that path. Where have you found changes and disruptions and which of those have been successful or at least appear to be successful at this point?
Josh Team: Yes, so well now you’re going to get into — there’s different strategic views of this, but I’m a firm believer that data is the fuel of creative new experiences. This is what makes Uber so powerful. This is what makes Netflix so powerful, this is what makes Spotify even Facebook in all their bad press they are getting right now, it said, they have so much data that they can create curated individualized experience for the consumer.
I joke for — when I speak there’s two things, two ways of looking at data and the truth is we all talk about the idea these companies are collecting all of our data, we talk about how creepy that is, but the truth is the difference between creepy and cool is value.
So the fact that when I get in my car in the morning and Apple says, hey it looks like you’re going to work, here’s the fastest route to go to work. It’s kind of creepy that they know like I’m going to work and they know where I work and they know all this information I never told them that. But because they’re going to show me the best way to get there, that’s also kind of cool and so there’s value there and so it’s when that value exchange isn’t equitable is when that data collection turns into consumer issues.
And so, long story short to say this, is that, when I first got to KW we went on a data — we completely re-engineered our infrastructure to support more connected data. We went out and built data alliances with companies like Google and Nextdoor that were in adjacent verticals, that were not direct competitors, but had more data on real estate as a whole. And we’ve started to connect all of that data together to create better experiences for the consumers.
So one of things we did is if you’re not familiar with Nextdoor they’re a basically a — they are a social media site for neighborhoods. So they’ve mapped out 230,000 neighborhoods in the country. Well Keller Williams has a relationship with MLS is that looks at cities, so we took our Nextdoor data plus the KW data, plus the MLS data and we mix all that together so that we can allow the consumer with one click to see what’s happening in their hyper local neighborhood.
So that was a small innovation that allowed the consumer to ask real estate questions in a different way and see insights like I don’t care what’s happening at the city level or the zip code level, my two block neighborhood, what our home price is doing in my very specific neighborhood, and what are other homes like mine doing based off photo recognition.
So that’s one example of innovation that we’ve seen a lot of really good success from, but ultimately, what we’re doing is we’re trying to collect and accumulate as much data as possible around the transaction in the real estate and to create new consumer experiences.
Rocky Dhir: Okay so, we’re talking a lot about collecting data. Now let’s just let’s just do a straw poll with the folks that are in our live studio audience. How many of you guys are with large firms, big firms?
Okay, so we’ve got about I think three or four hands up. How many of you are with small firms? Okay we got a few more hands up. How many of you are solo practitioners? Okay, about an equal number of hands up there. And how many of you are not with firms, you guys might be in-house counsel with companies? Okay, so we got a few of those.
So the in-house lawyers might be working at entities that could call up Google and get a phone call returned. I know if I called Google and said I want to share data with you they probably would laugh and then hang up the phone if they even pick up the phone.
So how do we — let’s talk about lawyers and the practice of law, how do you think your experience at Keller Williams and innovation and data collection, how can we as lawyers try to harness some of that or do we need to look at innovation from a different perspective in your view?
Josh Team: Yeah so I mean there’s two ways to answer that question. I absolutely believe that like every other industry data will empower fiduciary service providers such as attorneys to make — to be better consultants, better fiduciaries, because you can leverage technology do more things faster, but that’s a different conversation.
I think what I think a more apt to talk about is I actually believe we just — we’ve gone through and evaluated our firms and are in relationship with different partners, I actually firmly believe that smaller shops have a unique opportunity for the next several years to take more large clients off the table from larger firms.
Rocky Dhir: Okay I think that’s going to get people’s ears perking up. A lot of folks looked up all of a sudden that were in the audience. They were checking their phones and they looked up, like smaller firms have a bigger opportunity. So let’s get into that a little bit because our audience here is mixed and a lot of times at these we have mostly solos and small firms. We actually have a very healthy mix of people across the legal spectrum.
So, talk to us about what is the opportunity for the smaller firms and the solo practitioners?
Josh Team: Yeah, so in my mind there’s two types of legal issues. So when I’m working with my general counsel and my leadership team, there’s two types of legal issues that come up – arise, the longer tell the class-action lawsuit type stuff that’s a multi-year project and I think the bigger firms are still positioned better for the top companies to work in those cases when they’re long predictable, you’re going to want as much firepower as possible as a large corporation.
However what’s happening is on all these other projects which is these companies — so again, billions of dollars across every industry is coming into “disrupt everything” and their cycles of innovation are getting more compressed. So what happens here is that puts immense pressure on incumbents. So imagine — and this is one of the advantages that startups have, this is one of the advantages the smaller companies have, is that their risk threshold and their speed to market is so incredibly fast that they can outmaneuver the larger companies.
So the larger companies are trying really hard right now to combat these disruptor and incumbents. So rather it be Disney trying to compete with Netflix, rather it be Hilton and trying to compete with Airbnb, and the cycles of innovation like a month is a really, really long time when you’re looking quarter to quarter.
And so, I believe in those — in that context, at least at Keller Williams, we find that it’s easier sometimes to partner with the smaller shops in those regards because they have a – they are more nimble and they have a faster response time and they’re more adaptable to a more integrated relationship versus a more traditional – we will come back in 60 days with the analysis or we will come back with this brief and it’s — the smaller shops seemed to be more nimble, if you will.
An example I think that illustrates the Delta best for me on the these cycles of technology versus the cycles of the legal field, is when the recently — as it was made obviously a lot of headlines when Congress was interviewing Mark Zuckerberg about how does Facebook make money, and here this is a Fortune, I don’t know the exact number of company, but one of the largest companies in our economics with billions of users and the lawmakers aren’t even familiar with the business models.
And I think that that shows you the cycle and speed that technology and data and the cycle and speed that the law traditionally as a whole are just — those are two different velocity tracks. And so, any shop that can operate more in that capacity, in that speed is going to help be a better strategic partner for large companies needing to make quick moves here in the next two or three years to win.
Rocky Dhir: So it’s interesting, because when you’re talking about Keller Williams and I’d say maybe peer companies, ones that are at that size level, you’re talking a lot about studying data, collecting and studying data and figuring out how to use that data to better the user experience.
When we’re talking about lawyers and law firms, and I guess Keller Williams is a consumer of legal services, you’re talking more about response times.
Josh Team: Yeah, oh yeah, so and this is — you and I had spoke on the phone before this, but this is where from a client, a lawyer to me in the legal firm is not a whole lot different than my advertising firm or my accounting firm or these are all just shared services that helped me achieve my business objectives.
And I’ve got a P&L on how do we achieve my business objective as fast as possible to the highest degree as possible to win. And speed right now is one of our metrics because we’re getting pressure on lots of fronts. And so, when we talk to and evaluate our legal partners, that is an extremely important metric, whether it be our IP attorneys, whether it be —
And here’s an example, so for instance, the Boeing is in the news recently because they had software that convinced the plane that it needed to go down and that created catastrophe. We’ve got technology going into autonomous cars and that autonomous cars, the software made a decision that ended up killing someone.
We’ve got technology going into pacemakers. We’ve got technology that’s doing open-heart surgeries, we’ve got technology that’s going like in every parts of our life. Behind each one of those decisions was billions of dollars of capital investments to try to leverage technology to take market share, these were features people were building. These are new products people are building.
We need an attorney in that or a legal presence in that decision-making so that we can make eyes wide open decisions. And so, if you imagine you’ve got five companies all trying to build the autonomous car right now, there’s an arms race on who is going to get there first. The people that get there first, it’s worth upwards of tens of billions of dollars of market capitalization for them.
So the value for and from a legal consultant to that organization is, who is going to be the best partner to move at that pace, to help them achieve the best product possible, understanding the pros and cons and the legal risk of these decisions, and that’s speed to market.
If you could do across every vertical rather it be in the aircraft, rather it be medical, rather be in real estate, like there’s a massive push at every vertical in industry right now to create new products, new services, averaging new data and the organizations that can partner in a strategic way to help them make those decisions quickly will win.
Rocky Dhir: So let’s talk about brass tacks, what we as lawyers can do and let’s try to get some concrete takeaways in terms of how we need to kind of maybe rethink or reevaluate or study our practices. So we talk about response times, kind of saying look, we don’t have a month to consider this, we have maybe a week.
And so it sounds like we as lawyers need to compress our analytical time and come back to you with faster decisions, is that fair or unfair?
Josh Team: Yeah I mean I think every business case is unique. I think one of the things that was — most recently we had a business problem and we went out to three firms and we offer recommendations and they were of all different sizes, there was a small, there was a solo practitioner, there was a small firm and a big firm.
And we given all the same problem and what was interesting was the larger firm spent a lot of time talking about when we first met, talking about their credentials and their process. The small firm kind of a hybrid did an analysis of what we were doing, plus what they were doing and the solo practitioner who we ended up awarding the work to and are still in relationship with came back and actually changed the whole conversation.
They said what’s your business objective? What are you trying to accomplish in the first meeting? And so, we had a whole conversation in the first meeting around what we were trying to accomplish and then they came back and talked about how they were going to be a member of that team, how they could be our team helping us achieve that objective.
And so we awarded the work to them because they were able to — we felt, best position and to join us on our journey of being a — achieving our business objective.
So I would say response times of course, but I think every client always universally, will always say they want faster results. So I think that’s going to be a maximum. I think the one thing that I would say from my experience that is as the world is getting hazier and hazier around data and technology and innovations, the firms or the attorneys that can actually partner as a strategic adviser and help you navigate this very murky area and help you make calculated decisions as almost like an extension of your team and understanding your business objectives are going to win.
And I think that’s my personal experience.
Rocky Dhir: So let’s maybe talk about the difference then between say a lawyer versus a business partner. It sounds like that’s kind of the terms we’re using there. So you’ve got a lawyer who kind of gives you legal advice and you’ve got a partner, who’s using their legal degree to help Keller Williams further a business objective, right, that seems to be the two sides of the coin.
So let’s say you went with a business problem to a lawyer and then you took that same business problem to a partner using that terminology. What do you expect to be the difference between the two responses that you’d get from them? I mean you alluded to it earlier, but let’s try to drill down into that.
So at least I’ve heard it many times that oh, I don’t want to go to my lawyer because my lawyer just tells me what I can’t do, the lawyer tells me what my risk is. Are your business partners doing something different?
Josh Team: Yeah I mean so in my very one perspective of this, someone going back and doing research and telling me the legal risk is one thing, and I think — that’s a very transactional functionary role in my opinion, where it elevates in my opinion is someone who’s actually applying strategic thinking in alignment with your business goals and objectives.
And so, the thing I would challenge there is, I want a legal firm to be my partner. I want my partners to be baked in their domain expertise. So if I’m talking to an accounting firm then I want to tell the accounting firm what my objective is. I don’t want them just account, tell me where I spent the money. I can do that relatively easily.
I want someone come back and give me strategic guidance on where they think I could be doing this better. The law firm to come back and do the exact same thing. Whatever the professional services that I’m in relationship with, I want them taking their expertise, which is law in this case, and then applying it to be my strategic partner to help me achieve my business outcome. And that’s where I seek out.
Rocky Dhir: Okay we’ve got some questions of the audience, yes sir. Let me repeat the question for those that are listening in. The question is what did Keller Williams use, what kind of data they use to narrow down on the big firm, the smaller firm and the solo practitioner in the story that Josh had told us earlier. Is that a fair summary? Okay, yes Josh.
Josh Team: Yeah so, we looked at two KPIs, the first was we asked them to benchmark what they believed the run rate would be every quarter to achieve the engagement. And so, we looked at what we thought that would be a blended hourly rate would be and so we evaluated the cost for its deliverable.
And then second —
Rocky Dhir: And KPI for those that don’t know means.
Josh Team: Sorry, Key Performance Indicator.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, Key Performance Indicator.
Josh Team: So if we basically — we say, here’s this project, and here’s the funds we have to fund this project and here’s the timetable we have and here’s what the business outcome is, so then when we talk to each firm as any business will do, we evaluate what the cost analysis was of using each one of those firms.
And there was little bit of a price discrepancy but not much to be candid. The second one which was the one that was the burn rate if you are — how much we were spending every month wasn’t going to change very much. The difference was the deliverables we were going to get each month for that spend, and the smaller firm was able to — I mean a material impact give us more throughput of work product alpha same spend.
So that’s why we felt we could go faster, move faster with the solo practitioner.
Rocky Dhir: But how did you determine that upfront, because you don’t know yet until you engage — unless you’d engaged all three, you wouldn’t necessarily know which one gave you the best deliverable. So how the best –
Josh Team: Well the best deliverable is different. So we didn’t obviously have quality, we didn’t have a quality measurement, so we did the typical stuff we called references and we looked at their past work product. The only two metrics we had to make a decision was the price per hour blended rate type calculation and then based off of the estimate of what they believed they could get us on a monthly basis for the first quarter, we could look at the — how much are we getting in the first quarter with each partner based off their estimate and what would that blended rate look like and so we can evaluate. This is — we’re going to get this much work product for this much money.
And then we looked at their past work product and we looked at references to try to determine quality,
Rocky Dhir: And how did you determine the quality of what their work product would be, because with most lawyers, we pride ourselves.
Josh Team: Our General Counsel did that. I mean our General Counsel and legal team looked at their past work to evaluate standards.
Rocky Dhir: And how did you figure out who you were going to invite to kind of bid on this work?
Josh Team: Yeah we were all references. So we went out and our legal team had references, so we reach out and we’ve got three names, we buy them all in, we gave them all the exact same question and then we went from there.
Rocky Dhir: We’ve got another question over here, yes sir.
Male Speaker: What you are going to talk about to build more clients?
Rocky Dhir: Okay, so the question is, how do we take all these concepts that we have been discussing and how do we use that to help us build our businesses to get more clients?
Josh Team: So I will tell you, this is slightly hard for me to answer because I’m not a in the practice of finding clients to service from a legal profession. However, I will tell you what I would do because it’s very similar to what I did at Omnicom where I created a division around innovation.
I would recognize that every single company right now across the planet is trying to figure out what they’re going to be doing with technology and you see this in fancy words digital transformation, AI and data-driven, connected consumer experiences, you see all of them moving this play, the startups are trying to figure this out, the SMB is trying to move up, the Fortune 50s are trying to defend against disruptors. And so I would pick a vertical that you’re comfortable in or that you have some-some in if you would, and I would — I figure out what the case studies are, or what those implications are going to be for that industry and then go and partner with those firms around navigating those very tricky issues.
So for instance, here’s the question that every company is asking right now from a legal perspective. Every company is on an arms race to get as much data as possible.
What’s the liability of holding that data? What’s the regulation that California is trying to push right now around data rights and privacy and that just happened in the Europe? What are those ramifications, implications going to be on me and my business? What do I should I be doing right now to mitigate my financial and legal risk over my next two or three year plan that I’m having where I’m wanting to still acquire more data to create better experiences either to — if I’m B2B, to find better clients and service them better, if I am B2C, to help create better consumer experiences.
That’s — these are the problems and challenges that every large organization is facing right now and the companies that can actually help you navigate that and have a line of sight — here’s what we believe the implications are going to be in your industry and on your company, are the ones where I was saying earlier, I think that’s where the smaller shops will have some of an advantage for a few years until I believe like in most things, in a few years every large firm will have it practice dedicated to this, that is mature and robust.
And I think that there’s just — there’s just a great area right now where all these companies are moving really fast to try to get into space. There’s a lot of uncertainty and risk and that that they need consult, they need professionals help on.
Rocky Dhir: So do the lawyers need to start learning more about data collection, data privacy and the legal issues surrounding that? Is that, is that kind of a hot area that you think most corporate consumers are going to be interested in or is it – are you talking about a different skill set?
Josh Team: No 100%. Number one hires right now in our legal team at Keller Williams is people that have technology background who helped understanding the — what data collection is like and this is really — some of the hardest attorneys to find, like we are in desperate need for really smart legal minds that understand as the world is moving into this world, what are all the legal implications on that and also it’s such a gray area right now, there’s so much legislation happening in so many different areas, we need someone who can keep track and a pulse on that and tell us what the implications are and I feel pretty confident saying, I believe that’s happening across every sector, every industry right now. And I think that’s unique to Keller Williams or to real estate.
Rocky Dhir: Oh we’ve got a question in the back.
Male Speaker: To follow upon this gentleman’s question, can you explain may be finding clients out there how are you using some the data and tools that are available?
Rocky Dhir: Okay. So the question is, how is Keller Williams using the data that we’ve been talking about at the agent level to try to go out and find more clients or customers for Keller Williams and then maybe from that we can try to glean something that we as lawyers can take home with us, so Josh.
Josh Team: Yeah. So one of the first things we did was we allow agents, each agent has their own kind of database. If you think of an agent they have their own business, their own kind of SMB business, so the average agent has about 330 people in their database that ranges obviously, but that’s like the average, and we allow them to tag who in their database is an active client versus a past client versus they’ve never done business, and then we’ve actually allowed them to upload that database into Facebook and then we actually do what they call as a look like model.
So we can say people that are this old in this area that have these characteristics based off of your database are more likely to answer your phone call, answer your email, get back to you and then ultimately be in relationship with you, and then we buy programmatic ads on Facebook on behalf of that agent to people that look most like people they’ve done business with in the past, if this makes sense. And so this allows them to get a really efficient advertising spend. So instead of having to spend $50 for just random impressions, getting your ad out there on Facebook, that same $50 can go very targeted to people that are statistically much more likely to be in a relationship with you as an agent.
We’ve also had done a data — I don’t know this one is applicable or not, but we’ve also done a lot of data work with up third-party firms that collect things like buying behavior or life events so we can understand — we’ve mapped it back and says, these are the three things that are most likely to trigger someone being in the real estate market and so that we call that the kind of the moment of truth, or the Moment of Zero, which is they’re going to start the process and so we want to trigger our advertising campaigns on those events so that they can be — because our like anything, right. The closer you get to the transaction and the more likely that person is like other people have worked with you, higher your conversion rates are going to be.
Rocky Dhir: All right, so Josh another question we have from the audience is that in the legal profession, you know you’ve been talking about data and how in the business world outside of the legal industry there’s a lot of data being collected, and in the legal profession we can get access to data. You can go to the courthouse and you can see who has filed cases, whether those cases are settled, which cases are going to jury. If you’re on the criminal side, you can figure out who’s been indicted, what have they been indicted for, there’s is data out there. So is that the kind of data that in your view you think lawyers should be using when trying to harness data for purposes of their businesses or are you talking about something maybe a bit different?
Josh Team: Bad answer I know, but kind of all the above, and what I mean by that is there’s two — I mean, and here it kind of two themes, which is depending on if you’re trying to get better demand generation or conversion, so you’re going to use data in different capacities. I’m going to talk about the conversion, because that’s the simplest, the simplest one to talk about. I believe that the partner that shows up with the most insights from the data, wins the deal and a magnitude above the competition.
I think a lot of organizations, I’m going to guess a lot of firms are going to be what I consider data rich but insight poor, and that is I think a challenge that the world is facing as we are being inundated with more and more data. So when we have reams and reams of data, the big question is so what, and who can answer that question meaningfully related to that business or industry, I believe is what I was alluding to earlier saying that now you’ve entered into being kind of a partner, helping me understand what’s going on and I think your conversion rate to go up with the opportunities that you get.
The second part of that question is demand gen, like how to use the data to get in front of more people, and I think that’s a very nuanced answer depending on you know what your – what type of law you practice, what market you’re in, what channels you’re in, but I would say again the related here is this is a cheesy example, but I think it illustrates the point.
The Fitbit is just a pedometer, right. It’s just count your steps, and no one actually believes that it counts every step right, but my wife wears her Fitbit religiously every day, because it answers a question, does she walk more today than she did yesterday and it made her smarter about herself that’s like that quantified self.
Zestimate with Zillow, since I’m in real estate, no one actually believes that dollar amount is right, but what they do believe is that the trend is right and that it whatever it’s wrong, it’s wrong across all their homes. So they all, we all check it, we all look at it, because we want to see is my home worth more than my neighbors? Did my home value go up or less, and so it made you smarter about yourself.
Whoever can use the data to make you smarter as a business person is going to win and I would use that strategy to get more business, to more appointments and to help my conversion rates. How, what data used and how you derive those insights and how you deploy that to do those things, they’re going to be very dependent in my opinion on the type of law you practice and where you practice that law, but that’s how it answer that question.
Rocky Dhir: So what I love here is that, is people always complain when lawyer say, it depends, but you’ve said it depends, it’s dependent on so many things. Okay, your honorarily one of us now. So we’ll give you an honorary adaptable lawyer JD.
Rocky Dhir: So another question that popped up, and I think it’s related to what you just said is lawyers have these rules and we’re not allowed to go and solicit business, we can’t just go off the street and say, hey, you look like — I did some research on you and your neighborhood and it looks like you might get sued, so here’s my card if you ever do, or you might want to sue your neighbor, we just weren’t allowed to do those things.
So if attorneys cannot ethically solicit clients, how do we use this type of data, and I’m not asking you to give a legal opinion, but kind of thinking as a business person — we’re not allowed to go and tell people, hey, we can make you smarter about who you were until they come to us effectively.
Josh Team: Yeah.
Rocky Dhir: So that’s a challenge I think for this industry.
Josh Team: I actually think like in this case and I actually do believe that if the attorneys that can — or the firms that can put together quick easy reads on what this stuff will have as an impact, or if someone can take that data and turn it into insight and say here’s the so what at a high level, as a white paper, or as a one-pager and send that just as a hey, here is some information you may want to know as a business, like I’ve received a couple of those recently and that actually, like I personally stopped and read them because —
Rocky Dhir: You actually read them?
Josh Team: I did, I mean —
Rocky Dhir: Okay.
Josh Team: Because I’m looking to get smarter about this very hazy space, and I believe that to be a universal truth. I believe every company is looking to get smarter right now about this very — very evolving space. Like I understand the technology at a high level, I understand the consumer impact at a high level, I think we as an organization are still trying to figure out what the legal ramifications are going to be, and what’s happening across the country with other real e-state companies, or other companies like us similarly situated doing these things. I think that’s — I personally think that there’s value there.
Rocky Dhir: So we were talking earlier about data privacy and the data privacy laws, so if somebody was to go do some research and send a white paper to you and your general counsel that says, hey, look there’s something coming down the pike, or there’s — I’ve been doing some research on X, Y and Z methodology and I think there’s a lawsuit brewing and so here’s what — here’s what I think the basis of the lawsuit would be, here’s how I think you’d possibly defend against it, please call me if that ever happens. Is that something that you’d be interested in seeing, because you’ve just talked about data — I mean is that kind of an example that?
Josh Team: Yeah, and I think it even be more high-level than that. I mean to be honest like, for instance, here are four cases that you maybe want to know about, and how it could impact, and what the impact could be to the real estate industry as whole, or here’s three things that other companies trying to do like, that is material and then our general counsel would have a conversation with them and they would go from there.
I think that, but that’s a real — again, we are number one legal hire right now, as it is trying to staff up technical lawyers, we’re looking for partners that help us show of that side, like that is like a real need we have. So, and I think that’s not going to be just us, I think that’s across every —
Rocky Dhir: Because here’s a fear that I think a lot of lawyers have is, I write this one page, I do all this work, give you this one pager, and I send it to you and your general counsel says okay, that’s interesting, puts it away in his or her drawer, and then when the time comes Keller Williams just calls up its law firm that it has on retainer and says oh here’s this white paper by the way. So go ahead and build up — build-off upon this, it sounds like you’re not saying that, you’re saying you’d go to this source, the person who sent you the white paper and talk to that person.
Josh Team: Yeah, so but this is it’s all — I mean of course you’re not going to have a 100% conversion rate.
Rocky Dhir: Right of course.
Josh Team: So there’s going to be a — depending on what that company is, and what relationship that company has, you are going to have a different conversion rate. That being said that white paper is going to be also very valuable when you’re actually in front of someone and so I wouldn’t think it’s wasted because when you’re actually in front of a client talking about their needs, then you can pull out, saying well we’ve done a quick analysis of this and here’s what we found in that first conversation. Well now you’re turning that same data, that same insights and now you’re trying to help your conversion rate.
Again, as I have said before, I just believe that any company is looking how you need to go from data rich, insight poor and to get to that kind of so what and people that can translate that it’s better. I don’t want to let myself off the hook though there was a gentleman asked the question.
Rocky Dhir: Yes, yes.
Josh Team: He asked about why am I getting solicited and spammed by realtors and so I will answer that one, because I’ll take it every question. The answer that is that realtors are very creative, and they’re very aggressive. And that being said Keller Williams — we’re just a franchise, so we every kind of like McDonald’s, like every real estate office independently owned and operated and then every realtor is an independent contractor within that independently owned franchise.
So I can’t speak for all Keller Williams agents much or less every realtor, but I will say that real estate is an aggressive field and that’s probably why that gentleman is –
Rocky Dhir: I think the concern there is that for lawyers we can’t be that aggressive, there are rules in place that kind of regulate how “aggressive” we can be when it comes to that. So it’s going to be food for thought. There’s a question in the middle of the room.
Rocky Dhir: So the question and this is actually from Joseph Jacobson, so shout out to Joseph. He was on the Advertising Review Committee for the State Bar of Texas. And he’s given us is this very good example of years ago, there was a plane crash in Dallas, I think it was at Love Field or it was at DFW but it was a big plane crash and the rule was that as opposed to going to the hospital and trying to look at plane crash victims and saying here’s my card, everybody might remember that from the movie ‘The Rainmaker’ with Matt Damon, you can’t Matt Damon them, you can’t go out and do that.
What you could do though is take out a big ad in the Dallas Morning News and say, I’m a plane crash lawyer. I specialize in that. Now, getting back to what we’ve been talking about Josh, it sounds like what Joseph is suggesting is that maybe what we do is when we know that there’s an issue brewing, you can always send out a targeted letter perhaps and say, look I know you’ve had this happen to you and if you need help, call me.
Josh Team: This is the perfect example so again, I don’t know all the rules around advertising or being an attorney so to take this with that context but for instance —
Rocky Dhir: Many of us don’t either.
Josh Team: For instance, the idea that I want to get into more will business without knowing that business well, I would be extremely surprised if there was an early indicators on life events that trigger people to go I should have a will such as marriage, birth, grandparents dying, parents dying, like I believe there’s going to be life events that would trigger that thought.
Facebook is basically the centralized source of truth around the life events. And so, I would absolutely have an advertising campaign and I would create four different campaign inside of Facebook around those different life events targeting people by those life events, with specific copy and messaging that says and then this is where I would use the data insight.
So I would have a campaign that said, did you know some insight from the data around being the expert, around wills, targeted to people that just had children. Around how much money gets lost that doesn’t transfer down to their children because they didn’t have a will. I don’t know I’m making this up.
I would do the exact same thing across all those segments, and I would go to where I could get that data and I would completely have a targeted campaign around those moments of truth.
Same thing with SMB so if I was looking in the SMB area, I would target companies in LinkedIn with LinkedIn ads, and then I would try to cross-reference that in Facebook to those same people. So you can actually — again I’m just kind of geeking out for a quick second, but that you could easily within 15 minutes guys yourself.
Just setup a campaign in LinkedIn that says, I want to target these types of people that have these types of roles in my area, and then you can cross-reference that same list into Facebook. So that because of that same general counsel also checks his Facebook Feed or her Facebook Feed and you can be putting your message in front of them around things are happening in their industry or companies similar to them, and again, they aren’t getting a 100% conversion rate but I believe you’ll get a better ROI from a campaign like that than traditional segments.
Rocky Dhir: So the innovation there is about how you target people that might be germane to your law practice. It sounds like as opposed to changing how you practice law, it’s really a matter of how to get your message in front of the right people. Is that fair?
Josh Team: I mean that’s what every company right now is trying to figure out to do is how they use data to use their marketing dollars more effectively and more targeted to get better conversions.
Rocky Dhir: We have another question in the back.
Okay so this is more of a comment about how — if it’s informational, educational, it falls outside of the advertising rules. So effectively, it’s agreeing with what you’re saying Josh. That you can reach out to somebody if you know that they had a major life event, they just bought a house and so you say well here’s some things you might need from a legal side to protect it, whether it’s a will or if it’s an insurance agent saying hey, have you — did you have the right protections for your house whatever it is?
Josh Team: And that’s the consumer. I think it’s just as applicable to B2B. If you’re focus on businesses again, at the end of the day, those are just the same people and they’re going through the same thing. But instead of those life events, you’re going to look for industry events or business events.
So there’s going to be early indicators across every event that says, this company whether it be a growth pattern, a decline pattern, more press around them, there’s going to be early indicators that will give you some inkling that these people are going to be relatively more willing or less willing to talk to us based off data like that’s a universal truth.
The question and then what where people win or lose is who can derive that data for their segment and apply it in the most meaningful way against their competitors.
Rocky Dhir: So it’s interesting because really I think for most lawyers, we tend to be a bit shy about coming off as salesy, right, we don’t want to come across as salespeople. And so, when you talk about a LinkedIn campaign or a Facebook campaign, at first blush, and I am not saying you’re doing this, but at first blush, it sounds like — it sound like we’re trying to do cold calling with people.
We have all had that experience I think where you connect with somebody new on LinkedIn, you don’t really know them and then within seconds, you get a message in LinkedIn that tells you to buy their product, right? Say oh, well listen can I have a quick 15 minute call to tell you about why you need my Internet marketing or whatever it is, and most people I think kind of tend to ignore those.
But we don’t want to be that. As lawyers, we want to be the person that feels — we want the recipient of our LinkedIn message to say, oh my gosh, this is such timely.
Josh Team: Yeah.
Rocky Dhir: So how do you think it can get through that needle?
Josh Team: What you’re asking is different demand generation strategy. So I was answering specifically the question of how do I go find new business clients.
Rocky Dhir: Sure.
Josh Team: The only way to find new business clients that aren’t in your sphere of influence or in your referral network is you’ve got to have some cold introductions in some case and then, I personally would try to do mitigate my wasted energy and increase my conversion, use data and digital, because it’s cheaper advertising costs, and it allows you to have higher target messaging, which gets you better conversion.
So that was — now whether or not that’s the right lead generation strategy, that’s a fair conversation.
Rocky Dhir: Right.
Josh Team: With real estate it’s actually a low performer. The best performers referrals and warm referrals, I think that’s probably going to be true in most fiduciary relationships.
Rocky Dhir: We still need people. You still need human beings talking to other human beings.
Josh Team: So again, I’m not — I don’t run a practice, but in the real estate field which is a highly, highly considered transaction, that has a fiduciary, money spent and then growing and nurturing your database or your current client and your referrals to those clients, outperforms every other lead generation by magnitude of 10.
And so I would imagine real estate is probably similar, which is again, if you have someone and doing something to invest and making them more inclined to introduce you, that’s going to be a really good lead generation strategy, but again, I don’t know everyone is — where they are on their business.
So whether or not cold, direct marketing and cold advertising is the most effective strategy, that’s a different conversation.
To answer the specific question of how do we use data to find new clients, that’s the only answer to that. I think those are two different questions.
Rocky Dhir: But it’s interesting, because when you talked about how you identified the firms that you went out to and that KPI study you were doing earlier, you mentioned that your General Counsel had gone out, reached out to people that he knew and got names.
Josh Team: That’s true.
Rocky Dhir: So at the end of the day there were warm referrals that led to that process. So –
Josh Team: That’s right. And I believe that to be true. I believe that to be true in every highly considered transaction. I believe that people like doing business with people they feel comfortable with, and referrals has social proof.
So another way you could use the same strategy within your referrals is use the same data and then identify who you’re connected to, right, obviously that works at companies they’re similar, using that data that they would be triggering.
So I’ll again — I think there’s two different conversations here. One is how do you — what’s the best way of actually growing your business and the second one is how you use data to find new clients, and I think those are slightly two different conversations.
Rocky Dhir: Well this is — this is definitely food for thought, but unfortunately that is all the time we have for today. I think we could go on and on, but I want to thank my guest Josh Team for joining us, and I of course want to thank you for tuning in, and I want to thank our in-studio audience for being here. Let’s give yourselves a round of applause everybody, yes.
Rocky Dhir: We had some great questions. This podcast is brought to you thank to the generous support of LawPay, so ye, LawPay, go check them out.
If you like what you heard today, please rate and review us in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite Podcast app. Until next time, remember, life’s a journey, folks. I’m Rocky Dhir, signing off for now.
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The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by the State Bar of Texas, Legal Talk Network, or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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