About Our Guest
Jump ahead to the bonus interview GNGF Youtube Channel
Chad Burton is a pioneer in the legal industry, CEO of CuroLegal, and co-founder of Modern Law Practice.
A former litigator who developed one of the nation’s first “new model” law firms (leveraging cloud-based technology & modern business practices to develop a lean virtual law firm), Chad has an obsession with experimenting with the latest legal and productivity technologies. If there’s a possibility it can be leveraged to better practice and serve clients, chances are he’s tested it out.
This extended interview covers: – Rapid changes to the legal industry as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns – The future of physical office space and how firms are adapting – How to plan for implementing new technology – Thoughts on practice areas hit most by stay at home orders and shutdowns
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– Thanks for joining us. This is our extended interview with Chad Burton, the CEO at CuroLegal. The first part of this video is from our GNGF Live, which happens every other Wednesday on our Facebook page. The second part here is this bonus extended interview, where we dive into things like what practice areas would need to change the way they operate among other things. If you already saw the live, I’ll put the timestamp to the exclusive extended interview below. And be sure to like and subscribe the follow along with all of our great conversations on legal marketing and the business side of running a law firm. And to watch this video on your platform of choice, you can find everywhere we stream at gngf.tv. Welcome to GNGF Live, your biweekly. Ask the experts about all things, all for marketing and business growth. I’m Mark Homer, author of Online Law Practice Strategies and founder of Get Noticed Get Found. On this show we focus on the business side of growing and running your law firm. So I’m excited to have today’s guest Chad Burton of CuroLegal. Chad helps law firms, bar associations, law schools, and more innovate using strategy, design thinking and technology. As always be sure to like and subscribe to our page, not just the video so you can get updated when our next episode goes live. Of course, it never hurts for you to show a little love and crush that like button on the video too. It really helps us with the Facebook and YouTube algorithms. We’ve got moderators in the chat, so please question and interacted during the premiere, if you’re watching this in the future after we’ve premiered, we do monitor our comments on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and we’ll work to reach out to our guests and answer any follow-up questions you have. That’s because we love you all. And we love getting to meet you online and in person. So you can find a list of all of our upcoming webinars and events We’re gonna be speaking at gngf.com/events. And on weeks when we’re not premiering an interview, we drop a video as part of our GNGF tip series. And these are in depth videos focusing on one topic at a time. Check it out on our YouTube page, or by heading the gngf.tv. You can watch our latest video, well, after this interview, of course, at that link in the chat, check them out. Like I said, we drop a new GNGF tips video every other Friday. Okay, let’s get to the interview. Chad, thanks for joining me today.
– Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.
– Awesome, so before we get started, tell everybody a little about yourself, what you’ve been up to in CuroLegal and things going on lately.
– Yeah, just like everyone else, weathering the pandemic world and figuring out what the future of law firms look like and at Curo and modern law practice, we’re working with organizations around the country to optimize businesses, and tech, intake, all things that are relevant to running strong, small law firms.
– Awesome, so you’re out there talking to law firms and I mean also like you’ve worked with bar associations and so you’re all over the legal industry. How do you see law firms evolving in light of, or how’re you seeing them already starting to evolve in light of the pandemic?
– We’ve seen over the past couple of months, a lot of forced change. And I think Jack Newton from CEO of Clio I’m gonna butcher his quote, but he came up with something that basically we’ve had five to 10 years of change occur in five to 10 days effectively. ‘Cause went back in March when the world was shutting down firms of all shapes and sizes and trying to figure out what does it mean to work remote. And so things that an issues that firms have struggled with for years with technology or remote work, all just were forced upon everyone. And I think with the exception, obviously there were some struggles and oftentimes, individuals who are not used to working remote have struggled in some ways, but I think most firms have found that remote work isn’t as scary and evil as it sounds, because once you’re forced into something and realize that you can really function from anywhere with minimal effort, if you have the right systems and processes in place, then if it’s not a bad thing. So people were forced to move quickly and I think most firms adapted quickly.
– Yeah, I think I saw like the same quote you saw from Jack and that’s so Clio, I think Zoom, Slack, they all said that they had these project like a five year projection on user growth and something that, and it all happened within like a month. So yeah, they just did a massive change really fast. But you’re seeing like people are adapting, you’re seeing law firms actually kind of saying, “Oh, this isn’t bad.” In fact, I think they see study recently that a lot of the law people that work at law firms were kind of saying, “Hey, we actually kinda maybe prefer working from home instead of going back to an office.” So that was interesting.
– Right, I know folks who are ditching at least some of their office space, maybe not all of it, but changing the way going forward things are going to work. Some had been contemplating it for a period of time and this just helped push them over the edge. So I think we’re still early enough in the overall crisis that I don’t think everybody knows exactly what it’s gonna look like coming out. And, I mean, I know that I’ve cut back my Apple news reading of the end of the world articles at this point, but I still read enough that we’re supposed to see, ebbs and flows of when the pandemic kind of causes more issues. So we’re gonna have more times when people have to work at home perhaps, it may be next fall on winter. And if that occurs, people will be much more prepared, but they’re also thinking ahead of what if this keeps perpetuating it and what do we do and how do we make sure that we’re prepared going forward? And that in part means maybe having at least a partially remote work environment.
– Yeah, it’s interesting you mentioned even like the offices, they’re collapsing, the office to be smaller or not having as big of actual officer, which also reduces your lease costs, right? You’re paying less for your practice to be run. And I think we have Laura O’Bryan coming up and she does like about virtual law firms and stuff. And she always talks about how that like that’s a big part of theirs is like we have 0% of our money goes to lease space and stuff. And she goes, the amount of savings we can pass on also, buffering your margins at the same time. It’d be interesting to see law firms coming in kind of realizing that, that’s a decent chunk of many law firms budgets, is their office space.
– Right, and I think part of this also is helping people realize that you can think a little bit more creatively as to how you operate your workspace. So this is a great opportunity to think about, maybe it’s not, maybe you don’t need that full suite of offices, but something like a Regus or a Davinci or a WeWork will be a better fit for your firm where you need space to go meet with clients, to meet with colleagues, but maybe you just don’t need as much space or as permanent space. So it’s an opportunity to think differently about how you actually use that space or find it.
– Right, So thinking about these things and people being first virtual looking at technology changes, what are some of the maybe longterm effects that you think we’re gonna see and then the delivery of legal services.
– Good question, and I think we’re probably still too early to see real trilling, I mean, I know through Twitter and different social media platforms, you can see all kinds of thoughts on what that looks like. But at this point, I don’t think we really know exactly what the effect will be. Obviously there’s the aspect of how people engage with their law firms, so for example, if law firms are working remote, that means their clients are also likely working remote, and they’re gonna be more apt to engage in Zoom and phone versus that need for in person. I think one of the main things that’s gonna have to come out of this is just a change in how courts operate. We’re seeing that already where hearings. And I read an article yesterday, I think at Texas where jurors were being interviewed over Zoom. So I think that infrastructure is going to be the part that the court infrastructure is gonna be one of the main issues that has to change over time, because we’re just being forced into working differently.
– Yeah, it’s interesting we say that, ’cause I almost wonder if there’s trend that maybe were happening, that this is accelerating rather than a lot of people saying it’s the new normal. I think it was already starting to become a normal, legal was just very like behind, especially maybe with courts, they couldn’t even do things because of the court, right? So I would argue that a lot of consumers, were not preferring to drive downtown, pay for parking and go into their law firm to meet with somebody in person, right? It’s just something that that’s just the way you did things, so you did it and, or courts and jurors and like, Oh, all these to ruin wet signatures, all these things that just the state’s required, I think now that that starts opening, there’s a whole set of like trends that I think are been pushing this way. So, like what are your thoughts on that?
– Yeah, and I think you identified as kind of the key issue is that those underlying rules when we’re talking about future of legal services, we’re often talking about things like non-lawyer ownership and big picture rule changes. But what we’re seeing as a result, I think is that the local rules and the local operations are perhaps even more important to that change because if local courts aren’t changing the way they operate, then we can have all the major, your number, your ownership type issues, change at the highest levels but if those look state and local, rules are changing and evolving, then the ability for the consumer to have a different way of engaging with legal services. So for example, like, I think I’m actually a great example hello divorce, Aaron Levine, as in the Bay area, and it’s got this great concept for how to streamline the divorce process. Well, as long as the local rules and procedures remained the same, she streamlining the cost of it on the preparation of it, but you still have to go through the process. And so the opportunity to change that underlying process will make concepts like hers thrive even more than they already have.
– Right, and it’s interesting, right? ‘Cause it seems that changing those processes is kind of catching up to the way everybody does every other part of their life, other than legal, like we’ve been docs and like all the medical technology to have portals and stuff. I mean, like that’s been there for a while and that’s always pointed to as one of the dinosaurs, for consumers to deal with, So yeah, I mean, we had a client that had to go to extremes in order to put on mass and have pens and clipboards that they gave to people as they drove through to do, because they had to have the wet signature on the documents for estate plans, right? And a lot of people were, when this all started, like that became an area where people were like, huh, if I do need my station state worked on a little bit, I haven’t touched that in a while. And so but like to have to like put everybody at risk and that situation because of, like you said, like a local law, state level law or something like that. And I think we saw some of those change pretty quickly, but there’s probably a lot more that that can be chipped away, so-
– Right, absolutely, I mean ever, like, I mean, almost goes to county by county depending upon how the state operates.
– Yeah, true. So switching gears a little bit talking about technology, right? ‘Cause you guys help a lot of firms and like said bar associations, all kinds of people like with naming design, thinking strategy and implementation of technology. One of the things we’ve always talked about I just lost your video chat, but we’ll get it back here.
– I’m back.
– So one of the things that we’ve talked about is like, it’s always good to like plan before you just throw some technology up or whatever, right? But we’ve had a whole bunch of people who had to just throw technology up is now still a good time to be adopting new technology?
– It depends and it requires a lawyer answer depending upon the firm. I think what we have found with a lot of firms that they actually already have the technology that they need, that they just weren’t using it to its full potential. So I know a lot of firms are looking at what they already have and saying, “Okay, is it going to solve the problems that we have either before the pandemic or in light of being remote?” And so that’s the best starting point is what you already have. But at the same time, yeah, firms are adopting new tech. And whether it’s something that was in the pipeline already, or they’re seeing the warts and their systems as a result of being remote and having to be more efficient with processes. And it’s been a great time, especially during the beginning of this, when firms were slower and the phone wasn’t ringing as much with leads, it was a great time. And it still was a great time for firms to be working on their operational infrastructure to to make it stronger. So that’s been, especially when firms have had less work or because the courts shut down, all of a sudden everything that they had in the pipeline just was halted. They’ve used this time to build a strong infrastructure so that when things become normal or whatever, that means when they’re operating at a higher capacity than they’re ready to go. And these are checking things off of people’s to do lists that have been there for months or even years at this point. So it’s been a great reset opportunity for folks.
– That’s awesome, Yeah I think I’ve seen similar where it’s, “Hey, I have time now, what should I be working on?” So a lot of those conversations, but your point about if you already have some technology in place, like look there first just because somebody on Twitter said, “This is the best new shiny object.” Sometimes like I’ve talked to him, it’s like, “Well, should I be implementing Slack? I hear all about Slack.” And then you find out that they’re with Office 365 already. They use it really well, It’s like, well, you already have a solution you’re paying for? So like stepping back and looking at and taking inventory of what you have, I think is great advice. Because a lot of people get caught up in that kind of shiny object,
– Right, yeah I mean, Office 365, or if you’re a G Suite or Google user, I mean, that’s a great place to start because one, they’ve got the tools that people aren’t using it to its full potential. And don’t think about Microsoft teams or, I mean, more of using Zoom like everyone else in the world, including my 12 year old who wanted a Zoom account and but if you have 365 and you can use Skype, Google, I feel like they change the name every other week. I think it’s Google Meet currently, has been trying to catch up with Zoom on some features recently, so that’s a great tool it’s already built into your infrastructure. And so using those tools that are there are huge, you don’t have to always go outside of what you already have.
– So on the tech side let’s think about If someone gets to you to talk about like what you’re seeing in terms of like leads and stuff in a second, but let’s start with we’ve gone through like the technology and we talked about practice management, some of those kinds of things, right? You’ve talked about Clio in the past and let’s talk the intake, right? That’s an area that I’ve said that there’s a lot of issues we see, we see issues with that’s one area where people spend a lot on marketing, spend a lot on this technology, but then they kind of miss this middle piece that actually is the intersection of all of it, right? So what are any recommendations do you have on how to best optimize intake?
– Oh, we have what, three hours on the rest of this?
– In the next three minutes Chad, just help people with intake.
– The best thing to do would be to start again with your systems that are there and figure out how you’re going to measure and track data related to intake. It’s one of the things that from an intake perspective is if you can optimize intake, you’re going to fix your phone. You are going to be able to make sure that you’re getting the right types of leads and the right types of clients in the door, which is especially important. Now, when you are figuring out what does your firm look like going forward? So intake is one of those key areas where you give it the attention that it needs both from the tech side to figure out, okay, what do I need to measure? What data do I need to gather? So we can really make intelligent decisions about how we spend our marketing dollars, but it’s also got a human component too, to make sure that your team is properly dedicated to it. One of the things that often happens with firms is that you have a person who is your intake person and they’re also doing 5,000 other jobs. So when they’re trying to talk with a potential client, then they’re also trying to answer emails and greet people coming in the door. I know it’s a little different now, but the phone keeps ringing. And so they see like, they just aren’t able to kind of really focus on that. So focusing on one, the human component to it, as well as kind of the structural systems and processes in that tech, those are the things you need to look at from optimizing your intake system.
– Yeah, and that human element, I think that’s so critical. I mean, you can’t just point to the one paralegal or like that admin that you have, who you have doing other work for your firm and say, you’re in charge of answering every single phone and getting our clients converted or marketing dollars converted, right? So like knowing that somebody gets all this investment in training, and then they’re like dealing with client issues for half the day, they can’t even answer the phone. Like that’s an issue so these are, these are like the human process things. Right, and I liked that idea of getting everybody on board for here’s what our process is gonna be for our intake, because it’s so critical and like maybe I just having fail overs and other people who know that, Oh, when the phone rings, it’s important to answer it, or when when a lead comes in, it’s important to follow up with it in any way.
– Yeah, I mean a lot of firms and I think this is, well, it’s still happening with firms but now it’s getting worse or you’ve got the person who is in charge of intake. They’ve gotten a piece of paper it’s often like blue or red or it’s got a special color it’s they have some significance. They write down the information and when everybody’s in the office, it would go in filing cabinet. Now it’s sitting on somebody’s kitchen table, effectively, the intake person at their house and that data and that information just doesn’t get shared in an effective way so making sure that you’ve got that centralized system is huge.
– Awesome, so we are running out of time on our Facebook show here, but I got more questions and that I didn’t get to, if you’d stick around, we can actually I asked you for more questions, we could put it on our YouTube channel on Friday, if you’re cool with that.
– Cool, sounds good.
– Awesome, okay, but before I cut here, how can people get ahold of you?
– One way is on Twitter @chadeburton is one way to do it. Email is email@example.com. So those are two easy ways to get ahold of me.
– Awesome, and then we’ll make sure we get that in the notes here. Alright, thanks Chad just hold on one second and I’ll be right back. Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to like, and subscribe to our page. So you’ll get notified when our next episode goes live. We’re gonna keep going here in the GNGF studios. So be sure to check out the extended interview with Chad that’ll drop on Friday, where we dive into maybe like what practice areas will need to change the way they operate, and we’ll get into some more information about leads. Alright, thanks for sticking with us Chad. So I did wanna dive into the, we talked about intake, I want to talk about the lead side. Are you seeing any progress on increase in new leads or anything with clients? I know we’re like, that’s something we saw for our clients across the board, kind of like, leads dropping down. But what are we on increasing leads and getting new clients?
– Yeah, I think they’re definitely trending up. I think March was pretty abysmal for a lot of firms, but April and May I’m sorry. I’m gonna get what month is it? Let me get that right, that’s a great sign. It’s year 2050 at this point, is that where we are? I think part of April get that right. Yeah, part of April people were struggling, but especially second half of April and first part of May, people have been seeing increased, if they’re increased leads, if they’re putting that effort out, a lot of what we’ve seen in firms that are doing well now or at least maintaining where they were as if they’ve really stepped back and recalibrated how they are reaching potential clients. And so we’ve seen lots of interesting and creative ways that firms haven’t acted before. Engaging in social media, we’re doing the Facebook live aspect of things here where we’ve got clients who have never even thought about it, but are now hosting, shows every night at seven o’clock that are on their practice area topic and is driving insane amounts of work because it’s creative and different, and they’re going to where everyone is living in this pandemic world, which is on social media. People are looking at making sure that they’re still spending marketing dollars on paid Google to drive that traffic. So I think those who are really engaging with us and thinking through it and not just leveraging this time for some time off are seeing increased leads and doing well.
– Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the idea of like, if your marketing is an investment, if you continue investing, it will be a payoff, but if you stop, right, it’s like that much longer to kind of get started, so but I would, let say like, our data matches very similar, it’s interesting you mentioned the social media. We saw that we had an increase in traffic, too law firm websites from social media and stuff by like 70%, not 70% of other traffic, but like an increase of 70% from normal, from kind of normal times, right? And actually a decrease in Google Search by like, like 15, 18% or something. So yeah, I mean, it’s moving that stuff social media. I’ll be curious and we’ll move on to talk about this maybe in about six, seven months looking back, but does that come back down or did Facebook win out of this a little bit in terms of like Mindshare and traffic? So that’ll be interesting, so-
– Yeah, and the key is just that people are trying different things. I mean, at this point I’m trying to be creative and not just sitting back and hoping that the phone starts ringing again, or people start reaching out.
– Yeah, and I think the ones that are trying to be creative and stuff are seeing some leads, like well, our clients still have leads. It’s just less than maybe it was before, beginning of March but they’re coming back, we’re seeing a trend in the right direction now as well. But I still get on, I mean, you get online of those same webinars and stuff where I talked to people that said, “I haven’t had the phone ring in five weeks.” And it’s like, “What are you doing?” And it’s like, “What do you mean, what am I doing? I’m not doing anything different than I used to do.” But what they used to do was go to networking events in person and that’s about it, so-
– Right, and that is and I mean, even with that aspect of it, yeah, you can’t go to the networking events, but you gotta think about different ways of reaching those same people, because they’re still gonna have referrals and you need to remain top of mind for them. And so that’s where you see people doing absurd amounts of Zoom, happy hours and coffees and things to keep that networking peace going. So you just have to do it differently now.
– Yeah, I agree, I mean, like pick up the email list again, and that you haven’t sent a newsletter to in a while and maybe reach out to that referral network again. Right, yeah, there’s all kinds of ways. So, but yeah just be creative, I think. So have you thought about like what are there any practice areas you think that out of this are gonna really need to change the way they operate?
– Criminal offense seems one that’s top of mind where the the way that with the courts shutting down and that just grounded a lot of people’s practices to a halt because all of a sudden, if you’re used to doing, DUIs, DWIs and all of a sudden the courts aren’t open and police aren’t arresting people because they’re not driving, that’s your ballgame there. So that’s where we’ve seen firms be able to step back and say, “Okay, what is it that is the best way to approach this and reach people?” Because if the court shut down then, and that was your bread and butter, you’re gonna have to expand out elsewhere. So I think criminal defense is one where people just have to be ready for the ebbs and flows. Of course, now going back to our conversation during the live portion of this where the infrastructure of courts changing so that they can still process cases will be helpful, especially for those cases that already exist pre shutdown times, so I think that’s one area that’s gonna be real interesting to figure out how to thrive on that. Especially as, if we have situations where the country shuts down again, because of spikes and a pandemic. That’s very possible to happen. So people have to be prepared for it.
– Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, right? ‘Cause in the specific to that one, I mean, between like traffic tickets and maybe DUI is another one, like those tend to be volume kind of practices, right? Like it’s low margin, very high volume, you’re getting somebody and you’re going to the court, you’re taking care of a bunch of things at once. If the courts hold you up, then you’ve reduced your volume. And if you’re not getting the inbound, I mean, that is one area I would agree that I from our data had probably the biggest hits. Criminal was by far the biggest practice area hit in terms of like reduction in leads. But they got, like you said, the double whammy, I mean, both sides, less leads and courts impacting them. So now are you suggesting that people look at new ways to approach or literally look and say, what am I really good at in DUI? How do I apply that to other practice areas?
– It’s probably gonna be both. I mean, I know some criminal defense lawyers are looking at effectively like a legal coaching model where especially if for family members that need help, help with guiding maybe it’s the person that’s been charged is struggling with, pick an issue, that family want to help out and need some coaching on that. So I’ve seen that but yeah, I think you’re gonna have to think about one new ways to approach it, but also, are there other areas that you need to dive into that are more pandemic proof? That will keep going throughout even if the court shut down.
– Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of a good thought to leave things on here ’cause it basically apply kind of like what you like and what you’re good at and look at maybe new new models of doing things just in case nothing else, right? As a thought exercise. And it’s not a bad thing that think about it ’cause especially cause we’ve got real world, a real world situation where it, I mean, granted, different people prepared in different ways, but a lot of states shut down quickly and the immediate impact wasn’t going to be obvious for folks out of the gate. So this concept of being able to be flexible, but also now having that knowledge, we can think ahead and plan better, now is a time to think, okay, what do I want my practice to look like? One, when things kind of become relatively normal and cases pick up, but two, what do I need to do now from a practice area and infrastructure perspective to prep my firm when things hit the fan again. And I think it’s fair that that’s probably going to happen in some, maybe not as big of a splash, but it’s gonna be something that we have to be prepared for.
– Kind of sounds like my elementary school teachers. Now you can call me back in, it’s like prepare for the worst but hope for the best kind of thing, but that’s where we’re at, so thanks so much Chad.
– We’re gonna leave it on that and thanks for joining us again and again, well, for those who maybe skip the live portion for the extended interview again, where can people find you?
– I’m on Twitter @chadeburton or email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Awesome, thanks, well, have a great day, Chad.
– Thanks, thanks for having me.
– Hey, what’s up? I’m Josh, thanks so much for joining us. If you feel like you learned something today, think of how beneficial it would be to chat with myself or another one of our marketing consultants, one-on-one. Go ahead and visit our website to schedule your free consultation. It only takes a minute.