Interview With Richard Jacobs of Speakeasy Marketing About Legal Retainer Loan Financing
Below is an interview with Jason Brown, President of iQualify Lending and Richard Jacobs, President of SpeakEasy Marketing. Although some of the content has changed, the heart of the matter still stands. Financing is an incredible way to bolster your business. It allows you to make more money from your existing clients. And after almost 2 years, we have helped hundreds of Attorneys receive millions of dollars in offers to finance their cases.
Richard Jacobs: This is Richard Jacobs with Speakeasy Marketing. Today, I’m with Jason Brown of iQualify Lending. The point is if you are an attorney and you have clients that are not hiring you because they cannot afford your fee or the amount of money you charge and it is just too much for them to pay and they are going to your competitors or they are not hiring you, then you want to listen to this because Jason’s company has the financing solution. I have talked with people like him before but Jason is the only one in recent years that is actually doing it and is living up to his word. He has some great financing that you can get for your customers. It looks like 36 or more months of payment terms and is going to help you retain far more clients and not lose them to competitors and low-ballers. . Jason, how are you doing?
Jason Brown: I’m better than most, Sir. Thank you for having me today.
Richard Jacobs: All right, great. Thanks for being here. So I want to make sure I didn’t miscommunicate or I communicate everything clearly enough. Tell me your short bio of your background and about I Qualify Lending.
Jason Brown: I have been a top financial professional entrepreneur and consultant in this industry almost my entire life. For 10 years, I have heard people talking about wanting to put something like this together but never doing it. We launched it and iQualify Lending was launched as a way to offer consumer lending products into industries like criminal defense that currently do not offer financial products.
Richard Jacobs: All right. So tell me a typical scenario for a loan. What would be the amount, the interest rate, the payments, what’s the ballpark sketch of a typical loan?
Jason Brown: You should understand that legal loans are still something that are taking shape in this industry. We have opened up the parameters and the flood gates pretty wide to really try and get a broad spectrum of who these clients are in the market and their likelihoods to repay against the standard consumer lending company. Our rates mimic credit card rates as we are governed by the same usury laws. Due to the size of the loans and our desire to offer low monthly payments, we did some things that were really unique.
We extended our financing terms to up to 5 years and we offer loans with no money down and as an example, a payment of a $4,000 loan could be as little as $120 to the month for your client. We are really happy with what we have come up with; we go down to a 560 credit score so we are being pretty liberal but understand, it’s still a financial product. It’s not going to work for people who don’t have credit, who don’t have a job and who don’t have the ability to repay.
Richard Jacobs: Those same people wouldn’t be able to pay an attorney. So if an attorney takes on someone like that, they’re just asking for payments to stop and attorneys in many criminal cases I know and other cases, that judge won’t let them withdraw, so they’re stuck representing the person even if that person stops paying. So this would be a good way to make sure that they don’t get into a situation that they’re going to be wasting their money and time right off the bat. Lending has gotten tight for everybody since 2008, so how hard is it to qualify for the loans? You mentioned some parameters quickly but tell me how hard is it to qualify for a loan if I’m a client?
Jason Brown: We have tried to be as lenient as we can. We have gone down to a 560 credit score, the industry standard is closer to 700. We also take into consideration income, debt, credit, negative items into the account, and debt to income ratio. You are still going to have a client that can be qualified but the option here is that we are trying to make it easy for those who do have a job. One of the genesis for launching this was a good friend of mine who is a single father with 3 children.
He makes $70,000 a year and pays child support. He got a DUI celebrating a friend of ours’ 40th birthday and he didn’t have $5,000 to pay an attorney. He is a licensed professional so it’s going to be $5,000 just to start but he is the kind of guy who has the ability to repay this loan. He has the money and he can afford it. He just did not have money laying around that wasn’t allocated to something else. That is a perfect customer for us and it is the kind of customer that you want telling their friends that you offer financing because that is really going to grow your customer base for the right kind of client.
Richard Jacobs: Literally, how does someone apply? Do they have to fill out papers, do they go on the internet, does the attorney has to sit there with them and do the application? How does someone do it?
Jason Brown: I designed this process with the attorney and the client in mind, not with us. So it’s very simple. They can apply from any device connected to the internet. It takes about 2 minutes and it’s a half page application. The beauty of it is that we don’t pull credit; it’s a soft pull so you can literally try financing for any applicant and it won’t affect their credit. Once they have applied, they will get an instant response from us with an approval or denial. If they are approved, you literally can pick your payments right there on the spot and there is no paperwork, there are no phone calls.
We don’t involve the attorney in any way, shape or form in that process, and then we provide the attorney with an online dashboard so that they can track all of their applications, who’s approved, who’s denied, where they’re on the process, and ultimately we fund the attorney directly, the customer never sees the information so they can’t pay those funds and go hire another attorney. If they are approved with you, they are only approved for financing with your firm.
Richard Jacobs: So even an initial phone call and someone’s calling to do an initial consult on the phone, the attorney can say to them right then and there “I might be able to get you qualified for financing. Let’s do that right now”, and before that phone call even ends, the person will know if they are qualified with that particular attorney, is that right?
Jason Brown: Yes, it’s instantaneous. We give the attorneys web banners that the clients can click on and it does happen. We have instances where attorneys say, “I had a client, go online and get approved for financing for $4,500 and then call me the next morning and say, ‘I got approved for $4,500.’ After a conversation they had with an attorney, they went home, applied online at night by themselves and the attorney had a new client that they thought they had lost.
Richard Jacobs: So what are the fees involved in offering this financing to the attorney or to the person — to the attorney, how much are they going to net out of the transaction?
Jason Brown: So for a $3,000 fee, the attorney would receive $3,000 directly from the client upfront. Most attorneys find that this allows them to raise their prices overtime resulting in higher revenues despite the fee because the clients aren’t buying fees; they’re buying payments at this point in time. We know every dollar counts to the attorney. In our industry, it’s pretty common to charge 15%-20% in fees to take the risk of financing your clients but understanding the industry, I specifically built a small fee platform. Our standard fees are 5.99% of the loan value.
Richard Jacobs: Yes, I bet you there’s not an attorney that you’ll speak to that won’t say they’re being driven crazy by low-ballers in their metro, people that are saying $1,500 for a DUI, start your case with $500 and that kind of thing, so this would be a great countermeasure.
Jason Brown: Yes, I agree completely. I have attorneys that are making $30,000 or $40,000 a month in extra income because they offer financing. They are charging full fees and getting paid in advance. You don’t need to discount your fees when you have the most competitive payment on the market.
Richard Jacobs: Okay. So once the borrower is approved, how long does it take for that whole retainer fee to get paid to the attorney?
Jason Brown: It’s within 24 to 72 hours. Once a client is approved, our customer service team will reach out to your client and verify their identity. As long as everything is in line, they can prove they are who they say they are, the money is released, within 24 hours. If they have recently moved and there is some further verification, it could take up to 72 hours.
Richard Jacobs: Okay. What happens if the borrower, the attorney’s client, they stop making payments while the attorney is representing them? Who is going to pursue the person to the payments?
Jason Brown: We have our own in-house customer service and collections team. We knew we had to build this program with a no recourse clause built in. I know attorneys that are listening to this call are going to love that is there is no recourse to them, the attorneys. They are paid in full upfront and if the buyer or the client never pays us a dime, no worries to you. If we have approved the loan, you are off-the-hook completely and we will work with the client to come to payment terms and collect money over time.
Richard Jacobs: All right, that’s great. Tell me some case studies. What kind of attorneys are using this, what’s been their experience with it?
Jason Brown: We are a relatively young division of the arm of this $4 billion hedge fund that we are a part of. But we have found is there are two different types of attorneys. There are attorneys who tell every client that walks in their door, every potential client that calls on the phone that’s looking for representation because I know that attorneys don’t like to quote cost on the phone because they don’t want to scare a client away. But if they say, “I can handle your case for a payment as low as $142 a month, let’s schedule an appointment”, the clients really respond to that and they tell their friends. I tell attorneys to consider the mouthpiece that they want spreading the message that they have financing.
People with jobs, people with incomes, stable customers are the people that we really want to promote and the attorneys that are doing that are seeing significant growth. I have heard numbers 38, 42, 27 percent growth just by offering financial product. I have guys that are making $50,000 and $60,000 a month in additional income because of this product. Now to put the caveat in there, if you are going to use this product as a way to find money for people who don’t have jobs and don’t have incomes and don’t have options, I am the wrong choice. We are offering financial loans.
Richard Jacobs: Yes. And again, if an attorney takes on such a poorly qualified person like that that they’re not going to make a good client regardless. They’re going to complain more and I know the attorneys know this. The clients that have no money, truly if you take them, they’re nightmares. So I am sure they understand that.
Jason Brown: Sure, absolutely.
Richard Jacobs: All right. So, for attorneys that are interested to get started, how much is the cost to start and is there a monthly payment due on the accounts and do you have minimum amounts of business you have to write to stay in the program?
Jason Brown: Now that we have proof of concept behind us, we charge a fee of $2,499 to get set up and a $299 per month technology fee for the rights to the dashboard and things like the ongoing customer service. We give you web banners that you can put on your landing page. We are offering, through this webinar, to reduce that fee down to $1,499 to get set up because we understand that the types of attorneys that are listening to this call are probably the types of attorneys that we want to partner with.
They have had practices for a long time and get a lot of clients that come through the door. Higher traffic firms that are looking for alternative financial options to make their customers’ lives easier. Our top attorneys are running 15 to 30 financed deals a month through our system; our mid-range attorneys are running between 8 and 12. We also have other people that are just showing up in the system and are trying to learn how to use it but there is no minimum. This product is designed to help you make money. If you fund one loan or you fund hundred loans a month, it’s irrelevant to us.
Richard Jacobs: All right, great. So for listeners and people on my list, you’re going to be offering a $1,000 off the starting fee, $2,499 down to $1,499. That’s great, okay. Well, I appreciate that very much.
Jason Brown: Sure, absolutely.
Richard Jacobs: Okay. So, what you talked about criminal DUI, what practice areas are you funding; any others you’re considering funding or have a little bit different terms? I work with DUI, criminal defense, family law, immigration, real estate, injury, bankruptcy and disability and those kinds of people. What areas will you finance, which ones you can’t?
Jason Brown: We can lend on almost every type of legal case out there. Everything you just named, we cover. (No bankruptcy or contingency cases)
Richard Jacobs: Okay. What about let’s say someone has a legal problem, you finance them, the attorney completes the case, let’s say it takes 9 months but now their payments are continuing. Have you seen people become resentful because they still have to keep paying even though their legal situation is resolved?
Jason Brown: Not that I’ve seen so far. I assume that at some point in time, that could happen but most people are just relieved to have some kind of financial relief there, to have an option to make payments. We are in the business of lending, we take calculated risks. Most of our clients are people with steady jobs and good credits, so they tend to pay on time. Many of these people have the cash to pay upfront but would rather give or rather pay overtime to cover any upcoming court fines, fees, costs, things like that, and that’s something that most clients don’t think about when they are hiring an attorney is there could be additional cost down the road, most of our clients really appreciate that aspect.
Richard Jacobs: Okay. And the only people listening to this call will be attorneys but just so I know, you work just with attorneys and how large of a firm can you handle?
Jason Brown: I have sole practitioners with 5 cases a month, and firms with 15+ offices.
Richard Jacobs: All right, anything else that I should have asked you that I didn’t before we wrap and give people a chance to contact you and give you their info?
Jason Brown: After running the numbers and looking over all of the data that we have had so far, attorneys are telling us, especially our successful attorneys, that this is the single most effective lead capture conversion and magnet tool that they have ever seen in addition to their current marketing. Their current marketing is driving clients in but by being able to offer a financial product, that doesn’t exist for 99 percent of attorneys in the marketplace right now, they have a significant leg up on every other attorney whether it’s on their street or in their area of representation because they can literally have a fractional payment relative to any in-house payment plan or cash payment.
We have already heard the results. People are spreading the word and clients are coming and calling attorneys specifically because they have the financing, I would really recommend connecting with your marketing partner and promoting the fact that you have financing, clients will call you. The results are really significant.
Richard Jacobs: That’s great, okay. So, for attorneys that heard this call, they’re interested and want to call you and get started to find out more, what’s the best phone number and email and way for them to reach you?
Jason Brown: You can call our office at (404) 369 -3126. I pick up the phone just as much as everyone else here. I like to really be involved in the business and keeping my finger on the pulse of what is working and what’s not. The responses that we are getting from attorneys, or you could email me directly. It’s email@example.com and mention the discount code “Speakeasy” because if you don’t, whether I or someone else answers the phone, they’re going to try and set you up at the $1,499 fee and as we mentioned earlier, this code will provide you with a one-time reduced fee discount on your sign up cost with I Qualify Lending.
Richard Jacobs: Got you, okay. Well, I think offering financing is going to be a big-time game changer for a lot of attorneys who are battling low price, price killers out there and losing clients that can’t afford them, so I’m glad you came on the call. I appreciate it and one question that we got to ask you is how about the state bar, is there going to be any conflict there? Is this considered fee splitting? Tell me a little bit about that.
Jason Brown: It’s a great question that I get asked often. I live here in Atlanta and so I went to the Atlanta State Bar before we presented this product out to the market and got an opinion from them in writing but we clearly explained what we are doing. There is no conflict, there’s no fee splitting, there’s no fee for service because it’s truly just the financial product. Previously, we had a sliding scale of fees that we charge based on credit risk. We decided to go ahead and move that to a flat fee so that there would be no misconception on fee for service.
You’re paying a flat 4.99% on every case that gets funded from us, just like a credit card. For the state bars in all states, we are compliant. But if you have any question, feel free to reach out.
Richard Jacobs: So, this is similar. If I’m going to pay for your legal bill with my Amex versus a loan from you, the card charges me a certain rate, you charge me a different rate but still a charged rate, there’s no fee splitting.
Jason Brown: Yes, it’s 2 percent for visa, it’s 3.5 for Amex, and it’s 4.99% for us. The difference is we find money the client didn’t have access to, and use those funds to pay the attorney in full, upfront.
iQualify Lending is the most powerful program an attorney can offer. Our ‘Easy Retainer Financing’ platform has helped clients receive millions of dollars in loan offer to pay for their legal cases.
*Parts of this interview were corrected to reflect current information.