Prominent Virginia-based personal injury and disability firm Kalfus & Nachman, PC knows business, helping thousands of clients achieve justice since 1979. We chatted with Partner Paul Hernandez to understand what the firm is doing to manage the current environment and prepare for a fruitful tomorrow.
In addition to learning how Kalfus & Nachman shifted approximately 80% of the firm to a remote work environment, we also heard how the firm is using this slower time wisely, shifting business priorities, practicing the importance of communication and preparing for a post-pandemic world.
Investing in staff and laying a foundation for the future
Personal injury firms are seeing a decline in new work right now and Kalfus & Nachman is no different. To ensure stability for the firm, the partners have utilized funds from the Paycheck Protection Plan while putting a halt to non-essential spending. “New cases in April and May have decreased,” said Hernandez. “I’m not going to feel that until the end of the year when I really want to make sure we have money in the office.”
Making changes now, such as cutting back on overtime, could put firms in a better position tomorrow when they feel the impact of fewer cases. Even the smaller things can help. “I have a sign I’d like to replace outside of my building,” Hernandez offered as an example. “But I’m not going to spend money in that way because I care about my staff. I want everybody to be employed. I want to make sure they’re employees not only today but six months from now.”
This kind of careful decision-making has put Kalfus & Nachman in a good position to get through what could be tough times for many businesses. However, investments in people is a top priority for the firm. Now more than ever, it’s important to show staff appreciation and support. “We already stashed money away for Administrative Professionals’ Day gift cards,” said Hernandez. “We want to continue to give to the staff and keep morale up as best as we can.”
Rethinking ad spend based on the current business landscape
To be prudent about what matters now, Kalfus & Nachman is re-allocating their marketing and advertising budget. Paul Hernandez is a familiar personality in many areas of Virginia, typically appearing local news stations, home shows and commercials.
Right now, however, Hernandez has to examine ad spend for value. “I look at it as cost per case,” said Hernandez. “Because there is a point of diminishing returns. If I double my ad spend right now, I’m not going to double my cases.” With fewer people driving and needing the services of personal injury firms, it’s unlikely for ad spend to scale up efficiently with increased investment.
At the same time, media vendors are looking for advertisers. “The TV stations are dying,” said Hernandez. “They lost all their sports. I talked to a station that lost hundreds of thousands in advertising spend because they couldn’t do the end of the NCAA.”
When Hernendez told media vendors he was decreasing his spend, he was able to re-negotiate advertising and marketing packages. “They’ve got inventory. Why? Because the guy that does the windows isn’t advertising, the furniture companies are not advertising. Does the toilet paper company need to advertise? I don’t think so. You can’t even find them in the store,” said Hernandez.
“So, they’re giving me all these extra spots even though I’ve decreased my spend. I’ve gotten so much extra stuff. It’s a no-brainer.”
Using pay-per-click advertising and affinity marketing to stay top of mind
What’s important now, according to Hernandez, is to stay top of mind in preparation for a time when more people need their services.
He approaches this through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and affinity marketing. For the former, it’s a way for a firm to reveal its services to those actively searching the internet for personal injury attorneys. “I increased my PPC budget because, for those who are looking, I want to be in the top three,” said Hernandez. With competitor spend decreasing in many areas, it doesn’t necessarily require more spend to remain in those premium positions.
As for affinity marketing, Hernandez shared that it’s a good way to serve the community during a challenging time as well as build relationships for when people need legal services later down the road. “We have lots of people going to our food bank right now because they’re not working. Donate to your food bank or donate your time now,” said Hernandez.
Effective and frequent communication has never been so important
Hernandez stressed the value of communication as a way for firms to thrive during this time. At Kalfus & Nachman, both internal communication and client communication are clear priorities right now.
“Communicating with staff during this time to reassure them and listen to them is key,” said Hernandez, who uses part of his virtual meeting time to check in on the emotional well-being of staff and help quell anxieties. “You’d be surprised how much traction you’re going to get through helping your staff.”
Clients, who were already going through hardships before the pandemic, still need similar reassurance. “I think the key is communicating with your clients,” said Hernandez. “Assuring them that regardless of what’s going on, you’re still working for them and doing what’s best for them.”
Hernandez emphasized that the current pandemic didn’t change the fundamentals of operating a healthy law firm. Maintaining communication with your past clients and future prospects is an effective way to stay foremost in one’s thoughts.
When speaking about his client base, Hernandez reminds us that “they hire you and if you did a good job, they love you now. If you continue to reach out to them, they can be voices for you when their family members, co-workers, friends, and people they go to church with need you.”
Kalfus & Nachman seeks to maintain those relationships by sharing relevant tips such as a video of Hernandez explaining what you can do with auto insurance premiums right now. They also use Needles’ case management software mail merge features to easily send birthday and anniversary cards, providing a personal touch in a difficult time for many clients.
Anticipating ‘the next thing’ in a changing market
While traditional personal injury firm cases have decreased in recent months, Hernandez has observed fluctuations in various case types, including an increase in Social Security disability and workers’ compensation cases. He is using the extra time he has now to assess ways to diversify the business and prepare for the future.
Hernandez noted filing suit against insurance companies for denied business interruption insurance claims and long-term care as trends to look out for. “Businesses are saying that their business has been interrupted because they’re closed because of this virus and then they’re saying, ‘wait a minute, is this an exclusion or not?’ And you’ve got to read the policy and know it. This is a big deal,” said Hernandez.
His advice? “Keep your ear to the ground,” advised Hernandez. “Belong to as many legal and marketing organizations as you can. Belong to the American Association of Justice and listen to the listservs to find out what’s going on.”
“You’ve got to have your fishing rod out there at all points in time.”
Case management software keeps Kalfus & Nachman running
Consistent communication and prioritizing employees have always made Kalfus & Nachman successful. Another thing that’s stayed a constant for the firm is the daily use of their case management software.
Staff members like paralegals and legal assistants don’t feel much of a difference even when working remotely because they spend so much of their day using case management software. “Case management software is the backbone of a firm,” said Hernandez. “That’s what makes your firm run and we use Needles.”
If your firm needs assistance setting up remote work, using web-based case management software to streamline processes or setting up new case types (such as social security or workers’ comp), contact us today.