Allowing clients to perform self-help legal triage means attorneys can focus on building relationships. Sophie Alcorn shares how she uses automations at her award-winning immigration law firm.
Utilizing technology to streamline the technical aspects of our work allows us more time to act as counselors and advisors to our clients, which is truly an invaluable resource
Please introduce yourself
I'm Sophie Alcorn, the founding attorney of Alcorn Immigration Law, PC. We recently won awards for the top immigration law firm for startups in California and top 10 immigration lawyers in California. I'm a second generation immigration attorney, so it's in my blood.
I'm a contributor to TechCrunch. I write a weekly immigration advice column called Dear Sophie, where people write in their questions about immigration. I also have a podcast called Immigration Law for Tech Startups.
Why are you building legal practice automations?
One of the motivating factors is the billing model for immigration legal services. Immigration law has been for many decades typically offered as a flat-fee service. If you sell legal services at an hourly rate (as most lawyers do), you're not incentivized to automate because every hour you can bill improves your bottom line. However, this is not the case for immigration where the margin matters.
Another motivating factor is that building our own automations is finally sustainable. Before Afterpattern, we cobbled together our own automation system with Zapier. This led to doing some research into how much it would cost to build custom software, and we realized that we would have to be a much bigger business for that to make financial sense (Alcorn Immigration Law, PC has 16 team members).
We found Afterpattern and realized we could take a different approach. We could hire developers and be hands-on in the development process, but because we're not building custom code it would be far less expensive.
That partnership allowed us to launch the intake quiz automation on our website.
What is the intake quiz for?
Between the TechCrunch column, speaking at events, and the podcast, we do a lot of marketing. From that, we get a lot of valuable leads. Now, US immigration law is strict about who does and does have a chance to navigate it legally. With a lot of leads and a strict qualification process, our cost of acquisition (the time spent qualifying new leads) was high. The intake quiz makes this process more efficient and streamlines the entire process.
We hear this described as 'self help legal triage'
This was a natural extension of the fact that we were already using these elaborate intake questionnaires that would send data to our CRM. What we were missing with these questionnaires was a way to "score" a lead and automate the decision about what to offer this person (Free consultation? Paid consultation? Schedule call? Self-help tool?).
What has been the impact of the intake quiz?
What we're seeing is that people are not only completing the quiz but they're qualifying themselves for extraordinary ability visas. For these kinds of visas, the quiz offers the ability to schedule a free consultation which they accept. Then, during our initial conversation, because we know what type of visa they qualify for, we can focus on building a relationship which is a great way to build rapport with potential new clients.
This shows us that tech can facilitate more human-centered attorney-client relationships.
There are two aspects to being a good attorney. One is technical; it's applying the law to your client's situation. The other is interpersonal; it's acting as a counselor. Being a good counselor is becoming more valuable as the legal industry is becoming more competitive. Utilizing technology to streamline the technical aspects of our work allows us more time to act as counselors and advisors to our clients, which is truly an invaluable resource that we should aim to emulate every chance we get!