By: Scott Nishimura
By: Samantha Calimbahin
Jeff Rattikin had long planned to fool with this Internet thing to advance his legal practice, but being a young dad and attorney got in the way. He’s “dusted off” the idea and is moving to use the web to capture a next generation – Millennials – of customers who have legal needs and want immediate access to information, but don’t want to pay for it.
“Lawyers used to feel they were the gatekeepers of information and people need to go to them to find out what the law is,” says Rattikin, 52, whose grandfather and father were lawyers. “That’s no longer the case. Lawyers can’t be the gatekeepers of information. It’s out there; it’s available for free. But the lawyer still plays a pivotal role in analyzing and evaluating a specific situation and applying the law to that situation.”
Rattikin, a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization who’s built his Fort Worth law practice off of title and traditional civil transactional law services and a specialty in 10-31 tax exchanges, is working off of three platforms: his Rattikin “bricks and mortar” law firm and website, the texaslegaldocs.com site he launched in 2009 and is simplifying, and getlegal.com, a national site he owns with the Fort Worth attorney Phillip Galyen. He’s converting the three to a uniform process that will enable staff to extract information from potential clients and serve them the same way, regardless of how they contact him.
Secret recipe: The secret is to merge the reputation and experience of a qualified award-winning attorney with the visibility and access that today’s consumers are demanding. The access is the key. If I’m doing it online, people have got to find me, my website has got to be intuitive, and it’s got to be efficient.
Services: My practice is all transactional in nature. If I can do real estate, business and estate planning online at a great price point, we’re going to be very successful. Texas real estate law is the same all over the state.
Competitors: There are so many free forms out there right now. The problem with the free forms, they are generally multistate, generic forms. People who go online to get those forms don’t know how to fill out the questionnaires. A computer generates these forms, which are bad forms to begin with. My texaslegaldocs.com was never a computer-generated form. It extracted information from the clients so we could recommend and deliver the proper forms.
Upcoming changes to the site, which has charged a flat fee per document: We’re not going to sell documents anymore. We’ll give the documents for free. I’m creating these packages, where online, (clients) can tell us what their need is, and we will evaluate, analyze, and recommend, and we then execute the documents they need. Clients (will be paying) for the expertise and experience and knowledge of Texas law we have.
Getting the word out: I’m talking to some advertising agencies right now about all levels of advertising and marketing. Social media, obviously, is going to be a key part of it. And of course, SEO and making sure we’re visible on Google is very important.
Billings, online vs. brick and mortar today: It’s probably 20-25 percent. It could go to 75 percent if it performs like I think it could.
How getlegal.com, founded in 2009 by Galyen and joined by Rattikin in 2014, works: That service does not practice law. It’s educating the consumer to various topics of law. Once they educate themselves, then they can make the decision: Do I need a form, or do I want to contact an attorney? We put attorneys and consumers together. We allow attorneys to be attorneys in residence on particular subject matter. We also have plans for physical marketplaces for legal services.
Potential markets: There’s a huge untapped market for legal services for Hispanics in the United States. Getlegal also plans on being the market leader on video content.
When do the first brick-and-mortar locations come along: We’re probably talking 2018. The goal would be to establish getlegal as a known brand name in various markets. We don’t need to go national all at once, but certainly in the top five states.
How many lawyers do you have? I have three, but I anticipate probably two more by the end of the year. We have a staff of eight, but that’s going to be increasing rapidly as well.
By: Scott Nishimura
By: Samantha Calimbahin