EP 69 – David Miller – Expanding Your Practice to Incorporate Niches Your Competition is Overlooking

David Miller started his career in finance and investment banking and he worked very heavily on collateralized debt obligations. When the financial collapse occurred in 2008, David was just finishing up law school and with his previous background and experiences, he transitioned into a securities litigation practice that he has been in now since 2010. He teamed up with his current partner, Tom McCulloch, who has been doing estate planning for the past 30 years. They are trying to focus now on Complex Estate and Elder Law – what that means is having a plan not only for divesting your assets after you pass, but having a continuing care plan during your retirement and making sure that the right people are empowered to help you. If you would like to learn more or get in contact with David, email him at david@mcmfirm.com or reach out to Crystal Collins at crystal@mcmfirm.com

Using Your Background and Experiences to Help Your Clients

In David’s litigation practice, having a financial background helped him with his clients from a legal standpoint. He was a registered representative and very familiar with the sales practices and rules and regulations going into it. David developed a knack for how securities work, how they don’t work, who is making money, how that money is being made, and the real risks that were out there. Translating all of that into his litigation practice put himself and his firm at a higher competitive edge because they could act as their own experts. Being able to do this is helpful for the clients because you understand the concepts from the beginning and it also reduces the cost of litigation and expert fees if you can keep a lot of the work in-house. 

One of the main things that David and his team talked about is that a majority of the attorneys had a financial background and had been in the industry previously and knew the ins and outs and the pitfalls and that resonates with clients. Clients respond to attorneys who specialize in one, two, or three things rather than whoever comes in the door. They were able to establish themselves because of their specialty, which is good and bad. On one hand, you are out there in a very niche market and you can put yourself at the top of that market, but on the other hand, you are also very dependent on that small niche market. That is why they began to diversify into the estate planning field and determine how to distinguish themselves. 

How to Expand Into Other Niches and Why It Is Beneficial

The background facts need to be out there to understand the Medicaid practice. The number one fact is that the world and the United States are getting older and there are advances in medicine and medical technology, medical practices have expanded, and the life expectancy has increased exponentially and that number is supposed to double in the next 40 years. With that, there are ever-increasing costs. The reality is that costs are going up during retirement instead of down and that is due to the medical advances. Medicine is expensive and aging is expensive. Declined health comes with increasing costs in care. David’s firm is looking at and focusing on less how you pass things on after you die and more about having a plan in place while you are still alive and dealing with capacity issues and end-of-life costs. They are focused on ensuring that the right people are empowered to help someone as their mental and physical capacity declines and they have the mechanisms to pass control and they have instructions for agents and caregivers as to how they want to age and how they want to be cared for and making sure that there is a plan in place to fund it. 

David and his team were introduced to this practice and it is not a very common practice out there. They are dealing with Medicaid and two sets of rules, both the federal and state government rules. A lot of attorneys do not want to mess with it because it is complex, it is labor-intensive, and it does take a lot of investment. It is an under-served market. The system of retirement that we have set up in the US does not support the costs of long-term care. You have 4 different options for payment – you private pay because you are wealthy, insurance will pay, a family member of yours pays, or the government pays. What they are trying to do is find the best combination of private pay and the government pays so that you can protect assets and still have a cushion to supplement care and cost of living.

Fostering Relationships and Tactics to Bring in New Business

Once a client understands the cost, understands the numbers, and understands the investment, the plans almost sell themselves and it becomes a no-brainer. Selling that value proposition to a client is not that difficult because the ROI’s are pretty apparent. The problem that they have is getting clients past mental roadblocks. To get past the mental roadblocks, you need education – educating clients and educating their financial advisors as well. A couple of ways to do this is through workshops, web-based Zoom meetings or webinars, and through financial advisors. They want to get clients thinking about these things before they even come in and meet with them so that when they do meet, they are already primed for these types of topics. 

To get clients, David’s firm relies heavily on other professionals and other personnel. They work with the care providers and care managers directly at skilled nursing facilities. Care providers and care managers are in the industry and dealing with those particular clients on a day in and day out basis. Once they have developed a good relationship with the firm, they are comfortable referring clients to them. They are comfortable with the referral because it is helpful for the client and they are getting paid by the government, so the faster that they can get an application through or someone approved for Medicaid is the faster that they are going to get paid. David and his team foster those relationships, they meet on a regular basis, figure out what is going on in their business, talk to them about their challenges and try to help them out regularly without charge so that they are comfortable referring clients over to them. The other main referral source is financial advisors and they are a little trickier to deal with because they are more transactional. They have to sell them on a different type of value other than just referring new clients. What they try to do for them and sell them on is how they are going to help them maximize their assets under management. They do a lot of trust planning which is complicated – trusts have to be funded and they have to be administered correctly. That helps an advisor pick up orphan IRAs or other brokerage accounts and get all of the clients’ assets in one place which makes their job easier and they are getting more revenue off of that. Once the referral relationship has been developed, down the road it makes it a lot easier for them and their clients when they have to start funding trusts or administering trust because they include those other professionals in those conversations.

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