Sam Mollaei: The Virtual Lawyer
“Everything changes . . . Albert Einstein says ‘the only constant is change.’ It’s so true, especially when it comes to the generation we live in. Things are changing faster and faster every day.”
Today we’re asking: “Can you be a successful lawyer if you refuse to meet your clients?” Sam Mollaei says the answer is yes.
Sam’s a business lawyer for entrepreneurs and he has dedicated his work to making his practice automated, scalable, and virtual. His clients are so pleased with his streamlined process that they have left him over 1,000 5-star reviews on Google.
Sam sat down with the Filevine Fireside to share his thoughts on using funnels to build business, automating and delegating work, and just how you can get all those stellar online reviews.
In 2013, I took the leap to start a virtual law firm right after law school so I could help entrepreneurs start their business and so that I could work online from anywhere in the world at the same time. Since then I’ve served 3,000 entrepreneurs start their business and I’m the only lawyer with more than 1,000 Google reviews.
I’m also the lawyer recipient of the ClickFunnels 2CommaClub ($1 million generated with a funnel as a lawyer). I founded LegalFunnel which builds and manages automated and scalable funnels to generate legal clients so that other lawyers can find the same success with their own law firm.
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Katie: Welcome to the Filevine Fireside. I’m Katie Wolf.
Today, we’re asking, can you be a successful lawyer if you refuse to meet your clients? Sam Molleai says the answer is yes. Sam’s a business lawyer for entrepreneurs, and he has dedicated his work to making his practice automated, scalable and virtual. And his clients were so pleased with his streamlined process that they’ve left him over 1000 Five Star reviews on Google. Sam’s here to share his thoughts on using funnels to build business, automating and delegating work, and just how to get all those stellar online reviews.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Sam.
Sam: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me Katie.
Katie: Will you first sort of set the scene a little bit for us? How did you come to be a business lawyer for entrepreneurs?
Sam: Sure. So I first started off in employment law until I read a book called Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, where I got exposed to a couple of key principles, I like to call them, like automation, scalable and virtual.
And those principles were really attractive to me. So I decided to go on my own and create a virtual law firm, pretty much a law firm that would run entirely from my laptop, that would hopefully be automated and scalable.
Fast forward, five years into it, I’ve been able to serve 2000 clients and gathered more than 1000 Google reviews from my clients.
Katie: I want to ask you about those reviews here in a bit because they are pretty amazing.
But just rewinding, when you were going to law school, when you’d just barely started out doing employment law, did you have a feeling that maybe you weren’t going to be kind of the conventional traditional lawyer? Or did it seem like that was your future?
Sam: I felt like I was confined to a very specific structure, where I was told to kind of what to do and what not to do. I needed that control, that power, to be able to create my own path, and just pretty much be creative, to be a builder, to let my imagination flow and just see what I could build. And it was literally just being inspired by that, being feeling empowered that I can do that, and actually getting some results early on, and just going based on that,
Katie: Did it raise any eyebrows among some of your colleagues when you when you started your virtual law firm?
Sam: Yeah, definitely. And it was It was the aspect of me refusing to meet clients in person. And for the most part, even refusing to talk to people on the phone, which sounds absurd. Like, how could you close clients, how could you convince somebody to buy your service or engage with you without them meeting you in person or even talking to on the phone?
But I was persistent with it. I’m like, no, I’m going to create a scalable of a way for me to communicate to as many people as I can through email. And I’m going to make my copy, and my words, and pretty much what I put out there to the online world, to show that, yes, I could offer the service that I am offering and that I’m the right person for it, and yes, you could trust me to pay me for the service and I could do it correctly for you, and you have nothing to worry about.
Katie: So not meeting your clients in person. That’s like a sacred cow for lawyers, right? Like that’s a huge change from the traditional way that lawyers market themselves. They usually say — we’ll we’ll sit down with you, take a lot of one on one time.
Do you find that clients ever balk at that idea? Or are they on board?
Sam: I think, actually, we’re transitioning into probably less in-person meetings and more virtual meetings, either through phone calls or through video calls. So I definitely see people are more comfortable making transactions, building relationships over those mediums.
There was probably a struggle in the beginning, but I could tell you that it is completely possible. People are definitely willing to engage you, and you’re able to retain clients over the phone.
Katie: It’s true, so much of the work we do already is through some of this, these virtual interactions, that extending that tow lot isn’t as big of a leap is it might have been in the past.
Sam: No, definitely not. I think Zoom video call conference is like the best tool for this. It makes it really easy. You get to meet the person face to face, and it really helps with the engagement.
Katie: Are there any challenges that are unique to that form of practicing law?
Sam: The big challenge that comes when you’re doing transactions over email and through a phone call is, you need to have enough of a reason for them to engage you and to trust you. So the best way to do that is usually through reviews and social proof and through that kind of form of stuff to convince your prospects to engage with you. So reviews help the most, and I would say second is videos, videos where people get to see you, hear your story, and you provide more proof that you are the person for the job.
Katie: So at the point that they talk to you, they feel like they already have this social proof of who you are and that you follow through on what you’re saying. They don’t need that kind of analog sort of face to face body language tools that we often use to make those decisions
Sam: Absolutely. Video really does the job. And the big benefit of using video is that it’s a very scalable action. So instead of me needing to meet people in person, that’s a one-to-one kind of interaction where — you’re trading your time for one result. However, if you make one video that scales out to hundreds and hundreds of potential clients they could put in front of. So it’s very scalable action.
Katie: So every time a client needs exactly the same piece of information, you’ve already got that ready to go, and it’s ready for them?
Sam: Exactly. Yes. The first thing you always want to do, for whatever type of law firm that you have, just is to write down your top 10 FAQ questions, the questions that people ask over and over. And more or less it’s like, literally, it should not be more than five questions, but I say ten just to be comprehensive, but more or less, it’s just the same questions over and over. So take those questions, write them out, and create videos for those. And anytime people ask you for discussions, you just basically send the video — hey, here’s your answer.
Katie: Does it feel, Sam, like you’re commoditizing legal service? Like you’re turning it from this sort of bespoke tailored, nuanced engagement into something that can be almost fungible?
Sam: Absolutely, yes, that’s a necessity. You do need to kind of standardize and create a template of a service. That way you will be able to automate the service, and it also helps scale it out. So yeah, avoid the personalization as much as you can.
Katie: I want to ask you about the videos that you make since you mentioned those. Do you make them yourself? Do you have any techniques that you’d recommend for lawyers who might want to do this?
Sam: Yeah, absolutely. I think the lawyers are, because we’re all so analytical, we like to overthink things, and we like to — we’re also perfectionists — so we like to get everything set up properly before we do it. I’ve done different types of videos, and I could tell you the best videos, the ones that convert the best, and the one that people engage with the most is the real, just nonchalant, pull out your phone, just record yourself kind of things. It makes you a lot more human. It makes it more real. Mistakes are totally okay. There’s a lot of videos that I put out to answer my clients questions, and I have mistakes in there; I have things that don’t make sense. Whatever it is, I’ll leave it in there on purpose to show that I’m human and that it’s fine. You can engage with me.
But yeah, usually the best videos are the ones that you’re comfortable just making, making them as soon as you can.
Katie: This feels like a general trend that I’ve been hearing more of, and I’m really interested in it. I feel like the traditional lawyer creates kind of a wall with their persona where they are the ultimate — they have all of the wisdom, and they’re kind of holding onto it, others can’t have it, and they portray their status through an imposing building and a fancy suit.
And I’m hearing more and more young lawyers talking about doing exactly the opposite, wearing a tee-shirt, doing things virtually, doing things in a much more informal, flexible way.
Sam: Absolutely. Yes. I definitely see a revolution of exactly what you’re explaining. It’s more nonchalant, more informal, a little more personal.
Katie: But you don’t feel like you lose any of the authority that the traditional lawyers are trying to hold on to?
Sam: No, I do not, and I definitely see it going towards more to this side more than anything. No, I strongly believe in this more informal kind of videos.
Katie: You’ve called going to a virtual law practice as the best decision you’ve ever made. If there’s other attorneys who might be considering taking that step, what would be your advice for them?
Sam: Pretty much, you need to understand the value of your time. It starts off with that. Knowing the value of your time, and then building. Once you know that, then you have to build, make sure you have the correct systems in place to be able to delegate as many of those tasks that you’re currently doing, out as much as you can. Like literally, your goal, 2020, should be to delegate 80% of the tasks that you are going doing. Either by hiring whoever you have to hire, delegate out as much as you can.
And all you do, is you’re pretty much, you’re trading your valuable things that you’re doing for somebody else’s time. And just delegate it out as much as you can. And then after you delegate it out, you want to somehow be able to track that person’s results. So whatever their end result is and make a goal for them, hold them accountable on a monthly basis, see how they’re doing. And, you know, just adjust it accordingly based on that.
Katie: I want to ask you about your billing philosophy. When you first started doing employment law right out of school, were you doing hourly billing?
Sam: I was pretty much working for a contingency law firm. But when I read the Four Hour Work Week, I got exposed to those principles of scale. So I realized that I did not want to trade my time on a one-to-one interaction. My actions have to align with those actions that would scale out. So I basically refuse to meet clients in person. Because again, that interaction would be one-to-one.
Instead, I’m focused on actions on those scalable things that would allow me to kind of multiply my time, versus just getting that one-to-one.
Katie: Tell me a little bit about your clientele. What kind of clients are seeking you out?
Sam: My law firm is a business law firm. I offer business service to help entrepreneurs start their US business.
Katie: And how do you bill for things?
Sam: You have to create an offer, kind of like a packaged offer of everything that somebody needs. And you add on as many things as you can, all the things that they possibly need. And basically, that’s my offer. Pretty much like a package service.
Katie: Was it difficult for you to figure out the right prices to make it financially sustainable for you? Was there any research that you had to do to figure out kind of what would work just right for you?
Sam: Price is a very intriguing subject. I’ve done a lot of research, I’ve tested some different things. The answer is, usually you don’t want to price your services or whatever you do based on other people. Instead, you want a price it based on the value that you’re offering. So focus on that. And usually you want to charge a little bit more than you think. You want to start off there and see how it goes.
But it’s very tricky. Price is very subjective. So, play around with it. Try to have multiple offers. Add some urgency behind it. All those factors help.
Katie: And when you’re using automation and you’re scaling and you’re creating more efficiencies, I imagine that that allows you to provide some pretty affordable service to people.
Sam: Yeah, absolutely. But at the same time, pricing, if you out-price yourself, if you price too low, then you won’t be able to stand out from everybody else. So, just know where your market is and try to do something different.
Katie: Sam. Okay, we’ve got to talk about your ratings. You have over 1000 Five Star reviews. You google your name and you see over 1000 Five Star reviews. On every review site I could find, you had a Five Star rating.
Do you have any tips that you can share for other lawyers who might be interested in improving their own online profile like that?
Sam: Absolutely. And the reason why more lawyers don’t have reviews is because the lawyers are not asking the correct way.
I think I’ve figured out that secret sauce of how to ask for reviews, and I’m willing to share this with the audience, feel free to use this copy. It works really well. This is the reason why I have so many reviews. And the reason why this works is, one, because of the actual script. And second is the system behind it, and I’ll explain the system behind it as well.
So here’s the script. Word by word.
First is I personalize their first names. So it say, first name, I like to ask you for a favor. Would you please mind taking a few moments to write a review for me? Your comments will help others know what to expect when they’re looking for the service I offer.
And here’s the call to action. This is like the million dollar line for me, and here it is.
It’s — may I please send you a link to leave a review if that’s okay with you?
And that’s very subtle. I don’t know if you noticed that, Kate. You’re not giving somebody a link to… You don’t… After you finish off the service, I don’t give them a link and be like — hey, can you leave me a review? Here’s the link.
Don’t do that. That’s what most will do. And that’s the reason why most lawyers don’t get reviews. Instead, you want to ask for permission for you to send the link. So first you want to ask for a yes, get them pre-committed. Once they say yes, then you send them the link.
It’s a very subtle difference, but that’s the reason why it works. And you could actually apply this technique to a lot of different things.
Let’s just say, If you’re trying to get a booking with somebody, usually the first question you want to ask is, hey, are you free to talk? Get them to say yes. And then when they are completed, then you sent him the link that you’re currently booking.
And it works with a lot of other different things. I’ll let your imagination play with it, but just, that little technique works really well.
Katie: So you start sort of further up the funnel, if you will. You just…
Sam: Yeah, you get them pre-committed. It’s a micro-commitment, basically, on their part. Once they’re pre-committed, then they’re way more likely to actually go out and leave the review. Versus, kind of going for too much of an ask, just by sending a link.
And in the second reason why it works is you need to attach some kind of sequence to it. So you need to use some kind of software tool to automatically send these emails repeatedly to get them to do this.
So I have two different sequences, and I use this tool called Mixmax — M-i-x-m-a-x — inside of my Gmail. And I have two sequences. One sequences this exact script that I just gave. And the second sequence is, once they say yes, then I sent them a second sequence that says — okay, thank you so much, here’s the link, I’ll be sure to return the favor in the future.
So make sure to have a follow up sequence behind your requests.
Katie: I really appreciate you sharing in detail how you’ve managed to do this. That’s super useful information for people.
Sam: Sure. Super powerful. Definitely use it, whoever’s listening.
Katie: So, I also just want to ask you, you’re so open with your ideas. Once again, it’s the opposite of the sort of gate-keeping lawyer mentality. What is your thinking behind that kind of openness and generosity?
Sam: I see the world. I don’t see the world is a zero sum game. I feel like by me adding on to somebody else’s life, they benefit from it and ultimately I’ll benefit from it. Obviously, I’m not sharing any of this for my ultimate benefit. I just really believe in just giving us much as possible.
I feel, either you’re probably going to hear from me, or you’re going to end up learning it from somebody else, or something else, so I might as well, let me be that source of the giving source to you guys
And then the other thing I also believe in is mentorship. I get mentored. I see the value of being mentored. So I do the same thing to others. I’m very open to kind of share my knowledge, helping other people grow. And ultimately, I know, ultimately they will do it also, benefiting me down the line as well.
Katie: Do you feel like it allows this space where people can come to think of you and see you as a thought leader? And know your name and know what you’re doing?
Sam: Yeah, definitely. I feel like the last 4 or 5 years was kind of, I was in the trenches, where was kind of proving all these concepts that I’m sharing. And I feel like I’ve learned and applied a lot of that. And now I’m comfortable sharing all those things that I’ve been able to go through myself.
Katie: Yeah. Step into that more public mentorship role.
All of this makes me want to ask you about the Facebook group that you founded. Will you tell us about Legal Funnel?
Sam: Legal Funnel is a community that I built for entrepreneur lawyers, lawyers who are creative-minded, that are looking to, they’re kind of intrigued by this whole virtual law model, or intrigued about how to generate clients online.
And I just started a couple months ago and I already have about 400 people inside of that group? I add on as much value as I can. Whatever findings, and anything interesting that I have learned and that I’ve been applying for myself I share in that group. So if you’re one of those lawyers who is intrigued on these concepts — virtual law firm, lead generation, using online methods to grow your practice — definitely search for it on Facebook. Legal Funnel Members. See you inside.
Katie: Legal Funnel Members
Are there other ways that you use funnels in your practice?
Sam: I’m having multiple funnels for different services. I’ve just learned, I see everything as a funnel. So anything that I’m doing. It’s just basically, it’s a series of steps of getting to the ultimate goal. And the trick is not asking for too much too early, kind of adding value, building that trust early, so that it sets you up, properly for the ultimate goal.
Katie: So are these funnels the primary way that you automate your practice and create efficiency?
Sam: Absolutely. And basically, I see also a shift of revolution when it comes to online business — that it’s all about funnels. The concept of funnels is not anything new. It’s been in the online marketing world for the last ten years, but I don’t see it applied for lawyers. And I want to be that front runner exposing these funnels, these concepts to lawyers.
Websites do not sell people, do not convince people to call you or to retain you. So instead, you need to think of it a system — what system can I build to be able to convince somebody who doesn’t know me to come and retain me?
And that’s what a funnel is — a series of pages, series of contents that are structured in a very specific certain way, to be able to take the person, and bring into the end of the line.
Katie: Bring people sort of on a journey.
Sam: Exactly on path, journey, in the most proper way, in the most convincing way, to get them to the finish line.
Katie: So more standard legal marketing is, the first thing you see is — call today; let me take your case.
What would be something that’s more thinking about the system as a funnel?
Sam: So I explain a legal funnel in four parts. The first part is traffic. Basically where your people who don’t know you, how they’re going to find you. I’ll just cut to the chase and I’ll just tell you that Google AdWords is basically the best source for that.
Behind the Google AdWords, once you know what converts, what’s working out for you, then that’s when you could do content marketing, which is basically videos, writing blog articles and stuff like that. That’s element number one.
Once you have traffic, you want to drive them to the second part, which is the landing page. Want to drop them to a very optimized page, a page that’s very straightforward, that has one call to action, to get to capture the leads, to basically capture their contact information.
The third part is you want to nurture these people who, that you have captured their contact information. That’s usually done through an automated email series, it’s done through videos, however way you can to increase those touch points, to basically your prospects.
And the fourth part, if you can add this on, it works out really great. It’s retargeting. Now that they’ve entered your funnel, basically, once they landed on your landing page, you want to bring them back. You want to re-engage them to increase your touch points with them by doing the re-targeting on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube, whatever, to convince them that, hey, now’s the time to proceed forward with me.
Usually when somebody enters a funnel, there’s a zero percent chance that they would just enter your phone number and just by your service or retain you right then. Usually takes a couple of weeks, sometimes couple months, until basically, they’re retained and they’re closed.
Katie: I’m thinking of those you know, those machines that you put a quarter into at arcades and it goes around and round and round and round the funnel and then, like, eventually drops right in. So you’re just there for sort of the long term for that whole sort of cycling.
Sam: Yeah. And if you haven’t built the system to retain them and nurture them over time, then they’re going to fall through, and basically not come back.
Katie: How do you nurture those relationships without coming off as pushy or tiresome?
Sam: Keep it very simple. I see a lot of lawyers kind of overthinking this part. It’s like — should I get a copywriter to write my emails or the copy? — you basically want to write in a tone that, the same way you would talk to your friend — very simple, no legalese, straight to the point, short, just straight to it. So don’t overthink it. Just write it been a very normal, even sometimes informal language.
Katie: Why do you think lawyers were so slow to incorporate some of these marketing tactics that are very common in other professions?
Sam: Because lawyers are lawyers. Lawyers are busy, they’re too busy pretty much running a law firm. So I think as a lawyer you have to understand these concepts, but you don’t necessarily, you should probably not be the one to actually implement and execute these things that I’m sharing. You just have to understand it and know what it takes, and then hire the right people to build it for you.
But one thing that lawyers can do and should do is be that content creator. That’s something that you cannot delegate out. The lawyer has to do that. So you’re the top of the funnel. You’re the one that’s creating the videos, ideally writing blog articles. And then you have somebody who can execute based on that, to take those videos and content and do something with that.
Katie: So you can’t turn to someone else and say, hey, do my expertise for me. You’ve got to be the expert,
Sam: You got to be the expert, yes.
Katie: I feel like legal practice in some ways is kind of bifurcating. You’ve got kind of the old guard, and then you’ve got a bit of this sort of new guard and new energy that’s utilizing some of the tactics that you’re talking about.
What do you think the future of the legal industry is? Do you think that the traditional practices will wither away? Do you think they’ll adapt? What are your thoughts?
Sam: Either the older guard will have to adapt, or I feel it will kind of die out.
It’s going to shift. Everything changes. Albert Einstein says the only constant is change. It’s so true when especially it comes to the generation we live in, and things are changing even faster and faster every day. You have to adapt. You kind of have to understand these concepts.
Let’s just say, for me, I try to explain the power and the value of YouTube videos. And really the best way that I could explain it is — if I came to you, Kate, in the 1990s, and I told you to invest and buy as much real estate as you can, in the 1990s, just go and do whatever it takes. That’s what YouTube is right now. If you’re able to understand these concepts, and understand the value behind it, and realize that, hey, if I have this number one position as a YouTube video for this key word, and if I do have that number one position in YouTube, that’s worth potentially $50 to $150,000 for me. Wouldn’t you just go and do whatever it takes to make that 10 minute video?
And that’s what it is. That’s what YouTube is right now for me. So I understand that. Whoever really understands it is taking advantage. So don’t wait. It’s going to happen. You can’t fight it. As much as you don’t like it, it’s going to happen. So either join the forces or you’re going to be left behind.
Katie: Sam, I appreciate so much all of the information and ideas that you’ve shared with us. I just think it’s very exciting.
Sam: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, Kate. If you guys are interested in these topics, feel free to reach me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you could just google my name, Sam Molleai. You’ll be able to see my website, see my reviews, see what I do. If you’re intrigued about these concepts, definitely contact me. I’ll be happy to talk to you guys about this.
Katie: This has been the Filevine Fireside, and I’m Katie Wolf.