Looking at the numbers, Isaul Verdin sees the impact of employing online software tools in his law firm. His firm, Verdin Law, has seen 100% revenue growth three years running, with profit margins upwards of 40%. Such numbers raise eyebrows, especially among firms more than 10 times his size. His firm, after all, is composed of only three lawyers.
“The last few years have been great,” said Verdin, who is based in Dallas, Texas. “We’ve become dominant players in this immigration practice because of our use of the latest technology tools.”
A three-lawyer firm, with such revenue growth and high profit margins that is becoming a dominant player in the immigration sphere raises the obvious question: what’s the secret?
For Verdin, the secret is paper, but not in the way you’re thinking right now.
Look around any office and you will find paper. A notepad. A pile of unopened mail. Magazines. For an immigration practice, paper is a given. As Verdin explains, “Immigration is a very document-heavy practice. It’s very administrative in nature, dealing with government documents, with packets of paperwork inches thick. And to add to that, we need to be able to represent clients throughout the US and throughout the world as well.” Moving paper around a three-lawyer law firm doesn’t sound difficult. Moving all of that paper around the country, to other countries and communicating with clients everywhere, however, is another matter. Having to carry all of those documents is a burden, whether getting in the car to drive across town, or getting on a plane to fly across the country. In 2010, with the Internet, smartphone and laptops, Verdin was convinced there was a better way. In 2010, there was a better way, albeit unorthodox for the time.
Unorthodox is a weird term to apply to technology in 2010, but consider the following:
- Apple debut the iPad
- Apple releases the iPhone4
- Sony released PlayStation Move
- Microsoft released Kinect
- Daimler-Chrysler launched car2go
In other words, things we take for granted today, like reading on an iPad Mini or checking mail from an iPhone, signing up for ZipCar instead of buying a new car or playing WiiFit instead of going to the gym, were just beginning in 2010. So even though the push to go paperless has become increasingly popular in the last few years, in 2010, wanting to move your law practice to the nebulous thing called “the cloud,” was unorthodox.
“In 2010, when I pushed to put the practice online and eliminate paper substantially, there were few practices doing this,” he explained. “Vendors were actually surprised they were dealing with a law firm interested in their product. Our peers were surprised, too. They had no idea what we were doing at first, but over the last couple years it’s definitely becoming the trend.”
Four years later, his push to put his practice online continues to pay off. So, what then, are the tools he uses? For one, a secure client portal his clients can access from his firm website. That makes it easy for his clients to track the progress of their case, communicate and share documents. For an immigration practice, however, there is more than just dealing with clients. Let’s take a look at what other tools Verdin Law uses.
- Box: used to store and share documents.
- Google Calendar: used to coordinate appointments
- Quickbooks Online: used for accounting
- INSZoom: used for form filing
- Salesforce: used for customer relationship management, including tracking and managing clients, past, present and future.
- RightSignature: used to get documents like onboarding letters and retainer agreements signed.
All of those tools are web-based, meaning that he and the two other lawyers in his firm can access the same information, from any Internet-connected device, and so can firm clients. The biggest time saver, however, for the immigration firm? Digital signatures.
Think about the steps required to sign a document, even today. There’s the sending of the document, either in the mail or by email. There’s a time lag, especially with regular mail. The client may not be in a position to read the document right away, or unable to sign it either by printing and signing in ink. Then the client has to file it, either by scanning and uploading the document, or storing it in one of those musty dinosaurs we used to call “filing cabinets”. Those are steps, and steps take time. For a growing practice, let alone a dominant industry player, time is money.
Using RightSignature digital signature software, along with other cloud-based tools, Verdin Law saves time. RightSignature reduces the turnaround time, leading to a greater conversion rate. For example, Verdin can use RightSignature to send a document stored in Box to a contact stored in SalesForce. No need to deal with slow faxing, expensive shipping, or insecure email delivery. Said Verdin, “My administrator has everything set up so I just need to open the document, sign here, and it goes straight to the client.”
He gave a recent example, to further illustrate the point, “Just this morning, we had a potential client that is ready to hire counsel. My assistant drafted a document, and emailed it to me to review and sign on RightSignature. I signed it, and it was sent off to the client right away. In a matter of minutes, the client executed the agreement online and paid their retainer. It’s just incredible. A process that used to take days, and it’s over in less than one hour.”
Less time spent onboarding a single client allows Verdin to service more clients, more effectively, which has done wonders for the bottom line. “We’ve noticeably increased our profitability just because of that one tool,” he said.
Isaul Verdin’s secret is paper because his practice is flooded with it, and he wanted a better way to manage and product. Doing the unorthodox thing, at the time, in 2010, by adopting cloud-based tools like Box and RightSignature has made that possible. With solid processes in place, streamlined client onboarding and information accessible for clients and his firm alike, Verdin Law is poised for another unorthodox move.
Verdin Law is looking to establish a presence in Toronto and Mexico City, which would allow Verdin to see clients outside of the US directly. “Going international used to be solely the domain of top-100 law firms—you know, these giant, mega-firms,” said Verdin. “With the latest tech tools, though, small boutique firms like ours can play in the international arena. We’re obviously very happy about that.” With the technology Verdin Law already has in place, it will be possible to service clients internationally and still manage operations internally.
Featured image: “Close-up Of Hand With Red Pen Marking A Check Box” from Shutterstock.