Meet Eric Coffman, founder and CEO of Lead Docket. Lead Docket is a robust lead management platform designed from the ground up to help law firms manage their intake processes. Learn about Eric's military background, his time as an attorney, and the can-do-attitude he brings to his team at Lead Docket.
Eric Bermudez: Hello, welcome to today's show and today's podcast. We are very, very excited for today's interview and discussion with Eric Coffman. So Eric, thank you so much for dedicating some time out of your busy, busy day to spend a few minutes with us and share some of these insights. Really appreciate you being on the show today. Eric Coffman: Glad to be here. Eric Bermudez: Good. And obviously Logan, thanks for being with us, my co-host on the show. So why don't we just go ahead and dive into an introduction and like I mentioned, it's a pleasure to have Eric with us. Let me go through a little bit of his background. So currently, Eric is the Director of Intake Technology at Filevine, and most recently was the CEO and founder of Lead Docket. He's also alongside that the COO at Colombo Law and previously, he was the Assistant Director of Application and Web Services at West Virginia University. And probably the thing that I found most interestingly, I didn't know this about you, Eric, but you were a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corp for five years. And how did you come about getting into the military service? Eric Coffman: My dad was in the Marine Corps and I thought I was going to get in the Marine Corps or get in the military at all, it would be the Marine Corps and just seemed like the right thing to do when high school was over. And yeah, it was a good experience, but it's been a long time. So it seems like a movie I've watched rather than something I really experienced. Eric Bermudez: Well, look, thank you. And we all of us really appreciate your service in the military. Thank you. So that's quite the background. It's a pleasure to have you with us on the show and again, thank you for dedicating some of your day to spend some time with us and share some insights about you. Logan McCloud: Awesome, Eric. Well, I have to say my dad, he's a Marine as well, and he had about five years in the Marine Corps too. And he says the same thing. He's like, "It's such a short period of my life, it seems like a movie." But for me, I felt like I had a drill Sergeant for a dad a couple of times. So I don't know if your kids feel the same way or not. Eric Coffman: At this point in my life, I think I'm pretty relaxed. Logan McCloud: Yeah, yeah. At this point in life, dad's relaxed too. So awesome. I just want to reiterate what Eric said. We're super grateful to have you on the show today. Honestly, you and I, we've worked a little bit in the past and definitely excited to have you on the team now and working more together with you. And as we've gotten to know you a little bit, one thing has become apparent. You've got a real knack and genius for problem solving. I think that was a key foundation in the formation of Lead Docket. Could you tell us a little bit about that? How problem solving has been important to you and what role that played when getting Lead Docket off the ground? Eric Coffman: Yeah. In terms of Lead Docket, it really just comes down to there being a problem that needs to be solved and nobody else really had a good answer to it. And that's just been my approach to things is to figure out what we can do to make, whether it be the business process or just, I think my expertise is in process. And I just happened to use programming as an outlet for that. And so, the firm that Eric mentioned at Colombo Law, we were doing intake and managing intake, like many firms just on sheets of paper and trying to keep track of things. As you're spending six figures, seven figures on marketing, there has to be a little better way to keep track of what's going on. And I looked at everything out there and really there was nothing that did what I wanted and I had a vision of what I thought it should be. And so I just put pen to paper per se, and started building. Logan McCloud: That's awesome. It definitely reminds me, I don't know if you've ever seen the movie, The Truman Show? Where he's sitting in the classroom and he says he wants to be an explorer. And the teacher says, "Well, everything's been explored. You can't be that." I think sometimes in our own lives, at least for me, I think, "Man, every problem has already been solved. There's no solutions out there still for me to capture." But clearly in your case, that was absolutely not true. There was a problem that you identified and you came to a solution for it. Eric Coffman: Right. And I think that's been something I've done for the last 20 some years. And I think that it was a hobby. I, for a lot of years, built Legos and built models and things like that because I enjoy the process of building. And so, yeah, I've applied that throughout my career. Logan McCloud: We'll, tell us a little more about that. So other than Lead Docket, how have you applied that to other aspects? Eric Coffman: Yeah. Maybe I think one concrete example was about 12 years ago, we were looking to buy a house and I live in the part of the country where there was not a lot of people moving. I live in south of Pittsburgh. And so the people that are in this town have been here forever. And so there's not a lot of housing coming available. And so, I wanted something specific and I looked and really that didn't exist, the house that I wanted. We went and talked to some builders. I got the idea that none of them really were going to do what I wanted. So I just bought some books and figured out what it would take to build a house. So I drew plans. I had zero background in construction or construction project management, but I drew the plans and I hired all the contractors. Eric Coffman: I was the general contractor on the project and the person next to me in the lot next to me started building a house pretty much the same week. And he had a regular commercial builder. My house was done in five and a half months and his took eight and a half months. Logan McCloud: Wow. Eric Coffman: Yeah. Because it's really just about taking a problem and breaking it down into smaller pieces to figure out what is the path forward. So in the context of construction management, it's about, you're trying to manage all these different personalities and understanding what the subcontractors want. Some of them want to get paid immediately so they can go out for their drinking or whatever they want to do. Or some of them are wanting to just have everything be ready for them when they get there. So understanding what the subcontractor's needs were and to make sure that I was on top of that days and weeks ahead, so that people would show up on time and do their part of the process. But it was a great, fun learning project for me. Eric Bermudez: Yeah. Eric, I would love to drill into that a little bit more. That is really, really interesting to me. Super fascinating. And something that I personally admire about you. I think it all comes down to confidence and I would love to ask you, where did this confidence come from? And what I mean by that is, I think a lot of people see these things, right? And see, "Hey, you know what? Well, I could probably do this for maybe it's cheaper, or I could do this quicker, or I could do this in a better way." And I think if you have the confidence to, in yourself, that you could actually do it better, then I think people don't have a problem actually doing it. Like you. You have the certain confidence that, "Hey, I think I could do this." Where did that come from? Eric Coffman: I think it's just when you do something the first time and it turns out, okay, you just start to build confidence. My first go out on a limb, wasn't a massive construction project. It started out something for a smaller, and what got me into programming to begin with was I was actually a systems administrator many years ago. And the person on the team that I worked with, that was a programmer. And this is in the late nineties. So, the sophistication of programming was pretty low in that era. And he just wasn't someone that was interested in sharing knowledge. And so if you wanted a link to show up on a page at a certain time, he would do it, but he wasn't willing to give anyone else the information. Eric Coffman: And so I just bought a book and figured out how to do it. And so once I figured out, "Okay, I can do this small thing on my own without needing help." And it just sort of grew, and so over time, you just build more confidence in the process and being able to jump to another level of complexity and solve a bigger problem. And thankfully, I was able to get started in this way, in the, maybe the early days of web programming. And so, the barrier to entry was lower. It's certainly far more complex today than it was then. Eric Bermudez: So, a follow up question to that, I guess, would be what advice would you give to people that want to acquire that trait that you have, and that we've been discussing in terms of crossing that chasm. Many people see problems. I think all of us do, multiple times a day, but very few actually make that jump to start working towards and executing on a plan towards a solution. And that seems to be something that comes very natural to you. So what advice would you give? Eric Coffman: Yeah. I think it's, you have to understand that it's not always going to be easy. And so if you go into the project and realize that there's not a guarantee for success, but if you put real effort into it and are willing to grind it out, I found that it almost always turns out in a positive way. There's certainly things that I've thought were going to be simple, and it ended up being far harder than they were, but it's really just to have the personal drive to see it through to completion. And I think people just maybe don't have the confidence to actually jump into that and think that they can really complete it. And I think you'd be surprised if you really put your effort toward it, you'd be surprised when you can accomplish. Logan McCloud: I think a lot of times seeing it through to completion is probably the hardest part of it. Every time I'm sure building your house, you either had something that was out of stock or a contractor that didn't do it right. Or you had to redo it or something like that. When approaching or tackling other problems, what do you do when you hit that roadblock where there is no clear path? Eric Coffman: Yeah, sometimes you actually do it wrong and it's okay. When you're going through, in terms of Lead Docket, I had ideas of what I thought it should do and for my specific needs. And as we got involved with other firms and more clients and people have different use cases, a lot of times I would have a call with somebody and have them explain to me what they wanted. And my initial reaction is, "That doesn't make any sense, I wouldn't do it that way." But, you can't really say that out loud. You have to take a day and think about it and understand what their use case is and think through what the actual right resolution is. It may not tell you, sometimes I would get on a path and think I have an idea of how I can solve this person's problem and code all night and email them the next morning and say, "Okay, here, I have this idea. Let's try this out." Eric Coffman: And sometimes it would be spot on and they would be ecstatic. And other times, it wasn't anything close to what they wanted, but the thing is over time, you get better at that. So that the percentage time that I would build something and have it be an absolute failure, that goes down over time, because you get a little better at reading what people want. Because you know that the customer doesn't necessarily know exactly what they want. They have a problem, and they can describe what they think the output should be. But, people always said if you asked a hundred years ago, "What would you want?" They would say, "A faster horse." They didn't ask for a car. They wanted a faster horse because they didn't have the imagination to know what the next step would be. So it's really just gathering that information of what their problem really is and how we can solve that problem. Because a lot of times the client doesn't necessarily give you useful information to what they want. They can just describe to you what the problem actually they're having is. Logan McCloud: Right, right. No, I couldn't agree more. I think my role at Filevine is similar to that. Lots of times people would come together and ask specifically, "I want it to do X." And in my mind it's like, "Why do you want it to do X?" And you have to really internalize the data and figure out the best process forward. And lots of times it really was opening them up their eyes to a faster horse, or not necessarily a fast horse, but that there's a car instead of just a faster horse. And I think innovation and changing processes and an adaptation requires those kinds of things. So fantastic thoughts. Well, I wanted to change gears here and jump into a rapid fire question. I think that's one of our favorites to do, and it gives us a flavor for you. So I've got some questions. You tell us, some of them are this or that, some of them are favorites this or that kind of thing, but let us know, so we can gain an insight as to a little bit more on you. So favorite book? Eric Coffman: Oh, Harry Potter. Logan McCloud: Okay. One through seven? Eric Coffman: Order of a Phoenix. Logan McCloud: Okay. Order of the Phoenix is very good. I enjoyed that one as well. Okay. Best piece of career advice you've ever received? Eric Coffman: That's a tough one. I guess it would be, don't be afraid to take a leadership role. I've always been comfortable being a developer and my boss many years ago tried to convince me to get into a leadership role and then manage a team and I was reluctant to do so, but I actually turned out great because it allowed my ideas to go faster. Logan McCloud: Good, good. Well, so in turn, what piece of career advice would you give? Eric Coffman: To not stay complacent, to not just be comfortable in the job that you have to be figuring out what is the next thing of how you can grow your skills and keep yourself interested. Yeah. Logan McCloud: Yeah, no, I agree. I think a lot of times people have that mentality of this is where the glass ceilings at, but we don't realize that we can extend above that if we don't really stretch ourselves. Okay. What's the one thing that you most look forward to in retirement? Eric Coffman: In what? Logan McCloud: In retirement. Let me rephrase that question real quick. Let me just say that stuff. So what is the one thing that you most look forward to in retirement? Eric Coffman: It's definitely warmer climate. I live south of Pittsburgh. Eric Bermudez: Southern states are calling your name, huh? Eric Coffman: Yeah, it is always cold here and always raining. So yeah, my retirement goal is to be somewhere south of North Carolina where it's warmer. Logan McCloud: Sandy beaches or maybe a lake cabin? Eric Coffman: Not particularly beaches, I'm not a beach person. Just somewhere where there's generally 60 degrees or warmer all the time. Logan McCloud: Come down to Atlanta. It's great. Eric Coffman: Yeah, Atlanta is great, I like Atlanta a lot. Logan McCloud: All right. What celebrity or maybe public figure do you admire most? Eric Coffman: Tom Brady. That's an easy one. Logan McCloud: Okay. That means you have to go to Florida then. Eric Coffman: Yeah. Yeah. It's big. And the reason is it's just excellence, right? Because the guy is not, I think anyone that's into sports will tell you, he's not particularly gifted as an athlete. He's not the strongest. He's not the fastest. He wasn't the best, didn't have the best arm, but it was just the drive to be better. And just imagine if you took one of these guys that had the pure athletic ability and put Tom's brain into that. Logan McCloud: No, I agree. It's amazing to see these guys who are elite in the pathway that they've got there and lots of times they have a story just like Tom's, where he wasn't the first round draft pick. He wasn't the top guy, but he's absolutely best at it. Well, fantastic. Eric, it's been a pleasure chatting with you today. Really, really grateful for you being on the show with us. Eric Bermudez: Yeah, thank you, Eric. Appreciate it and appreciate everyone attending today's show. We hope everyone has a wonderful day.