Part of a series of interviews with movers and shakers in the legal media world, held at the Legal Marketing Association conference in Las Vegas in March-April 2017.
LP: Can you introduce yourself?
NH: I’m Iranian, born and raised. Came to the US when I was 18. Studied engineering. Have worked as an engineer most of my life. And have also been involved in online marketing for the last 10-15 years. I started a marketing business to help connect clients with attorneys based on their culture and language – say a Chinese person seeking a Chinese attorney, or a Hispanic person looking for a Hispanic attorney. Muslim, Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, you name it. The idea is that people look for attorneys that understand their culture, their language, their roots. These qualities are especially important for first and second-generation immigrants when seeking an attorney. That’s the premise behind the business.
LP: When did you start the business?
NH: I built the first website in 2005, but the LLC was established in 2011. I quit my job a few months ago to run it full time and have a great team now.
LP: So you started it as a side project alongside your regular job, but you’ve now devoted yourself to it full-time?
NH: That’s right.
LP: To make a jump like that, you’re quite confident you have a strong business idea?
NH: We’ve done a lot of market studies. We have a lot of data from censuses and other sources. So, for example, we know how many Korean attorneys live in every US state. We know how many Hispanics that don’t speak English well live in every zipcode.
LP: Where do you find that?
NH: Censuses. Other public data sources, and industry analysis you can purchase.
LP: So the philosophy is that an immigrant from the United States will feel more comfortable sharing their legal problems with someone from the same culture? Is that the thinking behind the business?
NH: Yes, we have a lot of Hispanics. Many don’t even speak English, even after living here for 10, 20, 30 years. The language part is the obvious one. But even culture, as they come from different backgrounds, cultural issues affect legal issues, and whether you make certain decisions. That varies depending on whether you’re from Asia, Africa, the Middle East.
People want an attorney who understand their culture and speak their language for a number of reasons. Immigration is a tough transition. The US legal system is complex to navigate. For example, an attorney who has represented 30 Iranian family law clients in the past can really put a new Iranian divorce client at ease by being able to draw comparisons and better explaining the process. The language nuances and “lost in translation” are important too. Imagine even the immigrants that speak good English. Do they know the difference between Shall, Should, Must in a language terms?
LP: So I’m a Vietnamese person living in Los Angeles, and looking for some help with a landlord issue? How do I end up arriving in your legal directory?
NH: Most people find us through search engines, so you would have probably typed “Vietnamese lawyer real estate LA” and we would come number one or two, and you would click and find us. You see the phone number and you dial the attorney right there. We’re also active on social media and each of our websites have their own social media pages. Vietnameselawyers.com has Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all that. We promote those to the specific demographics via social media too.
LP: In terms of how the money flows, the Vietnamese person looking for a lawyer doesn’t pay, but you make your revenue from advertising from the Vietnamese lawyer?
NH: I don’t really call it advertising. The client doesn’t pay anything, they just deal with the attorney. Our model is a bit different to some of the others out there. We don’t charge per lead. We charge a flat monthly fee for the attorneys to have membership. The prices are low. It’s a flat fee, and the fee results in clients. Attorneys also get conversion tracking information, so the attorneys can see how many phone calls they got, how long each call lasted, how many people visited his profile, what countries were they from. When someone sends the attorneys a message through the platform, they receive a text message alerting them to the lead. They can see a record of the email conversation. So, the attorneys get fewer clients leads and with higher conversions.
LP: You don’t rank lawyers. Going back to our Vietnamese lawyer example, say you have 10 choices. Do you steer people to a particular attorney?
NH: Right now, we don’t. But we are working on a new algorithm which will differentiate them as we want to be able to push clients to the lawyers most suited for them and their needs. We haven’t rolled this out yet, although we are looking at this.
LP: You were saying earlier that the Polish one is the biggest?
NH: Losabogados.com is large, as is jewishlawyers.net in terms of traffic. Blacklawyers.com, arablawyers.com, and iranianlawyers.com are all good sizes. Some have fewer traffic for the time being because they don’t rank high on search engines yet, for example chineselawyers.com
LP: How many are there overall?
NH: 36 – everything from religion, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, to LGBT to country based.
LP: Have you had any criticism for this approach, slicing and dicing the population into these narrow identity-based groups?
NH: Only from people who are not part of the transaction. There is a real non-racist need for attorneys who better understand their clients whether it be their culture or language or specific point of reference and it comes down to trust. The reason for the higher level of trust is mainly the environment we’re raised in and the people we’re surrounded with throughout our life. It just so happens that race and country of origin are the most common denominator for people growing up in the same environment but the same logic applies to other affiliations too. For example, one of our websites is womenattorneys.com. To answer your question, yes, we have had concerns from attorneys not wanting to be picked based on their religion or race. But I think they miss the fact that speaking the language and having a thorough understanding of the culture are characteristics that clients are looking for.
LP: What are your future plans?
We recently completed our beta program and released our production software with all the sales and analytics tools. We’re going to continue to develop our software but shift our focus to promoting our websites and our members to the respective communities.
LP: How can people get in touch?
NH: Our main website is heritagelawmarketing.com, and through that you can find all the directories. You can also reach me directly at email@example.com
Nima Heydarian says
Thank you Lloyd and thank you for keeping an active blog for many years. I’ve been reading your articles since I started our first directory six years ago.
Lloyd Pearson says
Thanks, Nima – I know readers of the site will be eager to learn about your unique legal directory offering.
Michael Heron says
A very interesting interview Lloyd. I really enjoyed reading Nima’s insights. Thank you both for sharing.
Nima, it sounds like your model is targeting consumers. I presume that like myself, Lloyd mainly works with law firms that have corporate clients rather than individuals. Do you think the model can be replicated into the B2B space?
Nima Heydarian says
Hi Michael, thank you for the kind words. You’re correct about our focus being on consumers – and mainly in the US for the time being. I think diversity initiatives and recruiting are definitely areas we will work with corporate legal firms. I can see this model working in some international B2B transactions too but I’m doubtful about its effectiveness in domestic B2B market.
The B2B referrals and relationships are typically built through shared long term history. For example I don’t believe cultural understanding plays as big of a role in a typical contract written between two corporate clients in Texas. If the end clients are American and Egyptian businesses, would that change at all? If the law firm representing the Egyptian corporation doesn’t have a history of working with a firm in the US, they would look for referrals or browse Legal500 to find one. I can imagine it also be valuable to have an Egyptian-American attorney and not just an agent in their US team and vice versa for the other client. That being said, if this was the case it would include only a small subset of overall B2B transactions.
How do you think this model does or doesn’t work in the B2B space?