How Christie Arkovich pivoted from a shrinking bankruptcy market to a booming market for student loan lawyers

In this episode of Bankruptcy Law Success, I interview Christie Arkovich, a bankruptcy lawyer in Tampa who has grown her student loan law practice to over 75% of her practice. Christie tells us exactly how she’s been able to pivot from the shrinking bankruptcy market to the booming market for student loan lawyers.

Some of the highlights in this interview include:

  • How she’s grown her student loan work–in and out of bankruptcy–to 75% of her practice.
  • Why bankruptcy creates ticking time bombs for clients with student loans (and exactly how to defuse those bombs).
  • How to make money setting up income-based repayment plans for federal loans, even if your clients are destitute.
  • The exact legal approach that lets you discharge private student loan debt when your clients have attended “unqualified” institutions.
  • And a whole lot more, including how her student loans clients are “beyond ecstatic” and “the happiest I’ve ever seen.”

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above, or read a full transcript below.

You can also subscribe to get an email when we release new episodes of the Bankruptcy Law Success podcast.

Bob:  Hi, this is Bob Hiler of the Bankruptcy Law Success podcast, where we introduce you to successful bankruptcy lawyers, as well as powerful ideas that can transform your bankruptcy practice. Today, I’m speaking with Christie Arkovich, a bankruptcy attorney in Tampa, Florida for over 20 years. Christie, welcome to the podcast.

Christie:  Thank you Bob. I appreciate the opportunity.

Bob:  Yeah, so Dave Danielson introduced us, I think because he thought you were doing really cool things with private student loans. So I guess that’s my first question… I met Dave Danielson through the podcast, how did you get to know Dave?

Christie:  Well we have been a Best Case customer for probably 15, 20 years now with our bankruptcy practice. And so we’ve noticed the software that they have regarding student loans, and I haven’t really had a lot of experience with that yet. But we noticed that Austin Smith had like a spotlight on some blogs that were highlighted there and Austin does a lot with private student loans. He’s out in New York but he has a class action case in Texas. So we reached out to him and we said we were having the same successes here in Florida. We’ve had some very nice judgments getting rid of private student loans for non-qualified educational loans.

Specifically, in these cases, it’s been Caribbean Medical School and we’ve gotten rid of several hundred thousand in one case over in Orlando, and we just got rid of about $80,000 about a week or two ago here in Tampa. So we’re having excellent success with that. And I wanted to share that because it looked like he was collecting up some cases.

This is a new trend around the nation. It first started with the case up north In re Decena. And in Florida, as far as I know, my two were the only cited cases. So hopefully it will be the beginning of a lot more to follow. And it deals with these oddball-type schools. So that’s how I ended up meeting you.

Bob:  OK, awesome. So I don’t want to go too far back in time, but one question I do like to ask is: what got you started in bankruptcy? I know you hung your own shingle in 1995. Was your focus always on bankruptcy from day one?

Christie:  No, actually we were doing a lot of employment law in the beginning. Plaintiff’s employment cases. And I don’t know if you know much about that, but those cases are generally long-term. They’re contingency fee, which means the attorneys fees are paid at the end based on results. And it also involves a lot of attorney time. Whereas, bankruptcy was really good combined with my practice to keep it diversified. And it also was a shorter term cases, more cash upfront and a lot of staff time instead of attorney time.

So it was really to balance my practice. And I also had a very close friend in Jacksonville, I could use him as a mentor. I did know bankruptcy from law school a little bit, but I didn’t have any practical experience. So those factors ended up to be almost 50% of my practice for a few years, and then it became a very large part of my practice before the bankruptcy code BAPCPA came out. I think in 2005 or 2006, something around there, we were doing a lot of it then, yeah. But it’s always been a good diversifier for my practice.

Bob:  Now I’m in the New York City area, but even here we heard about what happened in Tampa and the Florida market in general, being hit so hard by the mortgage meltdown. So you were working pretty hard up to I guess the last year, so 2005, 2006, and then you just dove straight into the mortgage meltdown. What was that like for you?

Christie:  Well, like you said, there was a lot of mortgage foreclosure here in Florida. I think we were one of the top two in the nation that was hit by that, and so we dropped the employment law entirely in 2008. And we still did bankruptcy but we started to do a lot of foreclosure defense. And around the same time, I did try to start doing some more student loan work, but our clients didn’t have jobs. And so they just decided to put it on the back burner, not deal with it right now. They needed to figure out how to live right now.

So we didn’t do a lot of student loan work then, but we did a ton of foreclosure defense and that lasted probably until about two years ago. And lately, my practice has been mostly probably about a quarter bankruptcy and three quarters or more student loan work now. I used to do a lot of student loan work for the other side, actually working for Sallie Mae and ECMC and TERI and USA Funds. They were all the big servicers and guarantors for federal student loans, and I used to run around the state of Florida and we had trials in pretty much all the major cities where we would argue against the discharge of student loans.

And fortunately, at that time, our side was the winning side, because I represented the other side–it was very hard to discharge student loans–but I’ve since switched sides. So now I only do consumer work, and our student loan practices both in and out of bankruptcy.

Bob:  So this is when everything was under the “undue hardship” student loan standard. Is that right?

Christie:  Yes. And that standard is getting kind of ancient now. I think the case dates back from 1987. And there’s all kinds of reasons why it’s obsolete. I haven’t reviewed what those reasons are recently, so I couldn’t really lay them all out now, but it’s just a bad test.

But it is what it is, and it was brought into fruition, I think, by the Second Circuit, so it’s not a U.S. Supreme Court case. But our 11th Circuit, as well as the majority of the circuits, do follow it and it’s basically a three pronged test that you have to show to get an undue hardship. It’s very difficult. And so we’re not really trying to file those cases.

Instead we’re looking at, if we’re in bankruptcy, we’re looking at ways to discharge the loans as a non-qualified educational loan or be able to require the bankruptcy court to permit an income driven plan, maybe separately classify the student loans.

Because I don’t know if you know this, but when you file a bankruptcy, say it’s a Chapter 13… You walk in there with $100,000 of federal student loans. If you’ve got a 9 percent interest rate, those loans are $150k when you come out five years later. And so you might use the bankruptcy to get rid of a house problem, get a foreclosure, short sale, get a deficiency, you might fix a car and so forth, but you’ve created a really large student loan problem for them if you just put it on automatic pilot and let the Department of Ed put everything in forbearance for five years, which is their normal practice.

And so one of the things that we’ve been successful in doing–and we just had a confirmation hearing on this yesterday, as a matter of fact–where we filed a memo of law arguing why it is not unfair discrimination to separately classify a federal student loan and allow for our client to participate in an income-driven plan. In this case, for instance, he qualified for 200-and-some dollar payments and after 10 years his loans would be forgiven under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program because he’s a teacher. Whereas if we didn’t do any of that work, and he just was in forbearance, he would have came back out with a much larger loan and in no time, he’d be halfway done with the public service, where if we hadn’t done this, he wouldn’t have even started. He would still owe now twice as much or maybe 50 percent more than what he did.

So I think that those are the kinds of things that we find working in bankruptcy now. They are new, a lot of them are new trends around the nation, and they’re not necessarily attacking Brunner head on, because that doesn’t seem to be working very well.

Bob:  And by Brunner, you’re referring to the undue hardship test, the three pronged test, right?

Christie:  Yes.

Bob:  OK. So I want to get into the private student loan stuff, but before we do… You’re talking about, kind of, building a practice at least in part on doing some income-based repayment plans for federal student loans and/or doing some of the public service kind of loopholes, like for teachers and stuff where they make 10 years of payments. One of the big pieces of feedback I’ve heard from bankruptcy attorneys out there who are trying to get into the student loan business is that business certainly helps clients but it’s not a profitable practice area because there’s no money in it.

Christie:  Sure.

Bob:  Because by definition, you’re either dealing with a poor public servant, or you’re dealing with someone who is overburdened with a zillion dollars in student loans. They’re in trouble on their student loans because they’re not making much money. So have you been able to turn that into a profitable area? And here I’m really focused on the federal student loan piece of it, not that the private student loan.

Christie:  I believe so. Like I mentioned, it’s at least 75–if not more– percent of my practice right now. The vast majority of the people I see are student loans and we have a small practice. I have one other attorney that works for me as well as four, five full-time staff, a couple part-time.

But what we do is with the federal loans, it’s just like a bankruptcy practice. If you just did bankruptcy and you didn’t sue creditors for FDCPA type violations or do other things then you’re probably not making much money either. Our bankruptcy practice is not the most lucrative. It’s not the most profitable by itself. But if you add in the foreclosures and suing creditors for different violations, that’s where your money is.

So I think you do have to do those adversaries and do those FDCPA. And in Florida, we have a law called Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. There’s also the Cell Phone Act, we use that a lot. And that’s how we make that bankruptcy practice more profitable without having to become a mill to try to limit the numbers of times we touch our file and file thousands of them because we really don’t want to be that kind of a firm either. So we handle a pretty normal amount and we try to do just consumer violations.

So with the federal student loans, it’s not that much different. I mean, if you’re just doing an analysis and putting someone into the correct income-based plan, for one, your clients are extremely ecstatic because they’re not getting that kind of advice from their servicer. They don’t know what to do. It’s sort of a deer in the headlights so you’re really helping them out. They’ll send you other referrals and get your name out there. But if they’re being collected in a way that is in violation of any of these consumer statutes, that leads into lawsuits.

One of the very first student loan cases I took is kind of a good example of this. I kind of forgot about this, it’s probably about four or five years ago. An elderly lady came to me and she had tried to get a disability discharge. She had no money but she paid me like a few hundred dollars or something, whatever it was. And we sued her creditor for the illegal collection calls that she was receiving. We received a settlement and from that then we babysat… We had our fees paid from that and then we had a portion of the money that went to her given to us to then babysit and get her disability application through.

And so the first case took about three months and then it took about six months to get a disability approved. So she came to us with a problem and about six, seven months later we had a little bit of money in her pocket plus her phone calls all stopped immediately and her disability was finally approved by the Department of Ed. And we only did that because we sued the creditor for the collection violations that they were committing.

So that’s one of the reasons that we can make it profitable. But most people, when they come to you, they don’t always have just federal loans. Half the time they don’t know what they have. But they usually will have some private ones as well. And the private ones are where we can really negotiate very good settlements. We can do those consumer violation cases like I mentioned. A lot more of that with those kinds of private loans. So we do a little bit of everything.

I think if you just tried to do one part of student loans, you wouldn’t find it profitable because when the client comes to see you, they want you to do all of it. So you’d want to farm out the stuff you didn’t so that you were a solution for the client. But if you do all of it, I think it would be profitable because you have stuff that makes you money plus stuff that would pay the bills.

Bob:  So that’s really cool. You’re saying that at least on the federal student loans side, even if those cases aren’t particularly profitable, they’re a great lead source for FDCPA violations and those sorts of things which are profitable.

Christie:  Exactly. Yes.

Bob:  Great. So one of the questions that I always have is–you have an attorney on staff and you yourself are talking to these clients–what questions do you ask to kind of uncover these FDCPA violations?

Christie:  Oh, sure. Well, first of all, we find out what type of loans they have. Some of it’s federal, some of it’s private. We don’t typically go after the federal loans for violations. I understand that you probably can, because many of the violations are being committed by a private collector that’s been hired by the federal government. But because there was an amendment to the TCPA while back, we haven’t really looked into doing a lot of that. So we’re focusing on the private violations.

And most people, they might have an 80:20 ratio where 80 percent is federal, 20 is private. It’s all over the place. We have some that they have more private than they do federal loans. And then with those, the first thing that we see is that either they can’t make payments and they’re receiving collection calls and they’re simply blocking them, or they are making payments and they’re not making a dent. So the loan is either staying the same or is going up.

We had a client earlier this morning, for instance, that I spoke with and he owes $101,000 and his average interest rate is probably around 9 percent. He has three loans. And so his loans are accruing 900 or 750 or something in interest per month. And he’s making a payment of 650 and that’s the absolute most that he can pay. So his loans going up a little, never going down. And so he’s come to us saying, “What can I do? I need to get rid of this in some fashion. I can’t qualify for a home. I have too big of a installment debt that we’re making and too big of a loan to income ratio.”

So those kinds of cases, we actually recommend a strategic default and we warn them it will hurt their credit, it’ll hurt the credit of their co-borrower if they have a co-borrower. So we go through that analysis. Sometimes we bring the co-borrower in and we’ll talk with them as well. And then after a few months of default, we generally will have a posture where the other side will be interested in settling with us maybe we’ve collected some consumer violations.

So for the violations that we looked for, I particularly like the TCPA, Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It’s a federal law and it governs cell phones. And one of the larger servicers in the nation, Navient, has a policy where they just continue to call even if you’d asked them not to. And I suppose that this law is not enough of a deterrent because they still make money by making those calls and they still have that policy even though they’ve been sued a number of times around the nation for TCPA violations. So that’s one of the ones that we look for and the reason we look for that one is because it’s a per call damage.

So the damages–statutory for my client–is potentially $500-$1,500 per call and it’s $1,500 if it’s willful. And we’re starting to try to trend more to the $1,500 per call, rather than the minimal $500, because these are willful. You know, our clients will usually give many revocations of permission to call their cell phone. They’ll ask them several times. They’ll note down the date and time of each time. Sometimes they’ll do it in writing.

You’ve got companies on the other side that will constantly do this. They’re sued all the time but they still do it anyway. So why wouldn’t that be willful? And so I think that $1,500 per call is a more fair assessment of what they’re worth, rather than perhaps the minimal $500 for an occasional phone call with one revocation and they’ve never been involved in lawsuits before. Sure, that may not be willful.

So we focus on the TCPA. We also like the FDCPA and the FCCPA, which we have here in Florida. It’s very much like the federal counterpart. The one advantage of the FCCPA that we have in Florida is that it applies to all persons, so it’s not just debt collectors, it’s also original creditors.

Bob:  That’s great.

Christie:  Yeah. And it also has a statute of limitations, it’s two years instead of one, so it’s double the time. TCPA is four years. So we like those and the nice thing about the FDCPA and the Florida counterpart is that it allows for attorney’s fees. So if we combine violations of both laws–because the TCPA does not allow for separate statutory attorney’s fee–if we add them both together, we’re more likely to settle that case because of the other side’s exposure to our attorney’s fees. So we’re looking at multiple violations.

When we file a lawsuit, we want multiple revocations of consent if possible, with specifics as to the date and time of when that was done. Copies of any letters and then we have screenshots of phone calls after that. We have our clients keeping track of any calls that are before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.. A lot of times these private loan servicers, they don’t properly educate their people to know who to call and when to call.

So the law about not being able to call a third party except for one time in an effort to locate them, that’s violated a fair amount. I mean, I’ll have a servicer talk to my client who’s not able to make a payment. First thing they’ll do 10 minutes later is to call the person’s mother. They call their mom on basically, and you can’t do that. They obviously know how to reach my client, they just talked to him. So that would be a violation, I believe, of the FDCPA.

So those are the kinds of things that we look for. And I think that’s the way to make this type of a practice profitable. If we just filed income-based applications, we might make a little bit of a living but it really wouldn’t be that much.

Bob:  OK.

Christie:  Yeah.

Bob:  So in this kind of example you talked about someone coming in this morning–I don’t want to talk about his particular case–but in a hypothetical version of that case, you’re making a recommendation to do a strategic default and then settle with the student loan provider or servicer to a lesser amount. It sounds like that would be outside of the bankruptcy process. Can you talk a little bit about when you recommend people go into bankruptcy or not?

Christie:  Sure.

Bob:  Go ahead.

Christie:  Sure. Yeah, that process is outside the bankruptcy. That’s true. The bankruptcy solutions that we have found for student loans… Again, they involve that non-qualified educational loan. We’re really starting to, I think, see more of that because of that trend going around the nation now. We’re also seeking to give people an income-based [repayment plan], so they’re not adding up their loans during that forgiveness or forbearance period during the five years. So those two things are working really well.

We do see some private student loan settlements in bankruptcy. One of the advantages of settling if you’re in bankruptcy is there’s a waiver of the debt forgiveness taxable event because it’s now discharged in bankruptcy. So we are a fan of that. We had a case that we filed last spring where our client was a friend of someone who was deceased and the deceased borrower that he co-signed for has filed for… Actually, I don’t know if they filed bankruptcy. I don’t remember that. Anyway, they weren’t paying it obviously they had passed away. And so my client, the friend, had cosigned and he had filed the bankruptcy but hadn’t done anything to discharge the loan.

So what we did is we reopened the bankruptcy and we argued that it was not a qualified educational loan. It wasn’t a dependent relationship, this was a friend. Sibling would be the same. And we did agree on a very low settlement. I don’t believe it was confidential but without remembering whether it is or not I won’t get into any specifics. But we agreed to a very low settlement because it was sort of an area of first impression for the court and I felt that there’s a possibility it could go either way and my client wanted the closure and he got a very very nice offer and so we accepted it.

So that was another good opportunity in bankruptcy and it was no “forgiveness of debt” taxable event, so that was nice. So you can always file an undue hardship case and many of the collectors, debt collectors, debt buyers or original creditors, on these private student loan cases will settle them and not all but many of them will.

And if you get a settlement of say 20 to 50 cents on the dollar, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all at one time. It could be spread out over many years. Most of our settlements have no interest going forward. And so it becomes a very affordable payment, probably the only payment that our client could actually make on the loan so it’s a value to the other side as well. But then you have a discharge of the remainder, 40 to 60 cents on the dollar basically with no taxable event.

Bob:  That’s in the bankruptcy process but…

Christie:  Yes, it would be in the bankruptcy.

Bob:  In the strategic default example that you gave earlier–my understanding–if that’s outside of the bankruptcy process, there would be a forgiveness of let’s say 60 cents on the dollar and that would be a taxable event. Or are you suggesting that the amount discharged would be like instead of say $60,000 right now, it would be $10,000 a year, something like that or I don’t know. How would that work?

Christie:  I believe that they would be receiving the 1099 at at the end because until the payments are made, the entire debt is still listed as a debt. And I’ve never had a client who’s received a 1099 as soon as the agreement was signed.

Bob:  Oh, OK.

Christie:  It’s generally later. Yeah, later when they forgive it. So we describe the process. We tell them that they may want to consult with a tax adviser as to the impact of that. They may be insolvent where the IRS may give them the waiver for that. I don’t deal with tax law. So we pretty much have a couple of people locally that we refer them to that but to date, I don’t think we’ve had hardly anyone that’s been that concerned on a taxable event because the student loan itself is much more immediate to them. It’s a problem that they have to deal with right now. Maybe they’re afraid of being garnished with their wages. Maybe they’re afraid of other things happening but it’s more immediate. So taxes is not their first consideration.

Bob:  But just to give a sense of the magnitude of the problem, if we’re dealing with $100,000 in student loans and you negotiate a settlement with a discount of 60 cents of the dollar, then we’re talking about receiving a 1099 with $60,000 in income. But that’s occurring like 10, 15 years from now and you’re only paying a portion of that. So you’re not dealing with the full $100,000, you’re dealing with $60,000 and then let’s say 20 percent of $60,000 [in taxes]…

Christie:  Yeah, maybe like a 20% [tax rate], right.

Bob:  So now you’re paying $12,000 in 10, 15 years and you can kind of get on top of your… OK. I could see that being a viable strategy.

Christie:  Yeah.

Bob:  I suppose that’s for what you might call a qualified private student loan. And then if they do have kind of an unqualified private student loan scenario–like some of the ones that you’ve described or someone co-signed for a friend, or maybe someone took an educational loan at Caribbean Medical School–you could try the bankruptcy process and get that private student loan discharged as an unqualified student loan. Is that right?

Christie:  That’s right. And then you wouldn’t have to worry about the tax issue for that.

Bob:  Well, I love this. I know that you are connected with Austin Smith.

Christie:  Sure.

Bob:  But how did you really learn the ins and outs of asserting this claim in an adversarial court procedure?

Christie:  Well with the undue hardship, I had prior experience representing the other side, like I mentioned. For student loans as a whole, I did attend a workshop by an attorney by the name of Josh Cohen that’s up north up in Connecticut and Rhode Island. He’s very experienced with all the different programs and such, and that was something that I didn’t know at the time. So that kind of filled that hole for me.

As for the qualified educational loan, how did I run across that? You know, I actually have no idea. Maybe I read that In re Decena case because I do try to keep up on recent student loan events. I might have read it and then I ran across a client who went to Caribbean Medical School and his loan… He was never able to pass the boards and so he could never get a medical job. He was working like $10 or $11 an hour when I first met him.

Bob:  Oh no.

Christie:  Yeah, and he owed several hundred thousand dollars of debt of both private and federal, and he was a mess. He didn’t know what to do. He was relatively young, too, and he couldn’t pass the boards. He tried. He took the test, I think, a number of times but was never able to pass it. So we took a stab at doing that and received that discharge. And now, we’ve recently done it again here in Tampa. So I think I just read the case and decided, “Hey, I can do this. I can try this.”

We’ve now shared our complaints a few times for other folks in the nation who might also be interested in it. I’m always available by e-mail if anyone would like a copy of anything. We have some complaints for that, like I mentioned. We’ve just filed some class actions on the public service loan forgiveness. So I’ve had someone asked for our complaints on that as well.

We’re always willing to work with other attorneys. I understand that a lot of attorneys out there, they’d like to keep their hands in a more complicated student loan matter but they don’t really want to handle it on their own, not having prior experience in it. So we’re willing to co-counsel and get involved for that aspect regardless of where it is. It doesn’t have to be in Florida for that. But that’s probably how I got involved on it.

Bob:  Awesome. One of the great things about getting involved in the student loan market is we’re dealing with an addressable market that’s growing every year and it’s a boom market. You contrast to bankruptcy where filings are down over 50 percent since the peak and this is a great, kind of, related market to go into. Are you experiencing that?

Christie:  Yeah, definitely. In Florida, filings are down for bankruptcy. Foreclosure filings are very down. So student loans has been a perfect response for keeping our practice at the same level. We haven’t had to lay any staff off or anything like that.

And student loans now–I don’t know if you knew this–but they total $1.4 trillion and that number doesn’t mean a lot to me. I mean, I don’t think of it as that. What I look at it is: student loan debt exceeds vehicle and credit card debt combined. And so that’s a really big market.

And the Wall Street Journal, they report that one out of six borrowers are in default. The New York Times had a slightly different way of saying it. They said that 65 percent were in repayment. So that to me means that 35, 40 percent are not paying when maybe they are expected to pay or should be paying.

And a lot of them are on forbearance. And forbearance, it’s fine for a temporary bandaid. It’s a zero-payment, basically. But you have capitalizing interest. So when a client has a few years of forbearance, at the tail end of that, they’re going to have a loan that might be twice as much as what they did when they first graduated. And it’s a much larger problem for them. And what happens is if then they get a job and then they see what their payments are because they no longer need forbearance, their payments are huge because they owe so much more at that time.

So it is a growing area. The income-based programs are complicated. There’s a half dozen of them. Half the time when I see a client, they’re in the wrong one. They don’t know why they’re in it, the servicer told them to get in it. They’ll consolidate all their loans together. And when you combine a Parent Plus loan with other loans, you’ve tainted them all. So now you’re only eligible for the worst of the half dozen plans. And they need advice as to not to do that. For one thing, it would save them several hundred dollars a month. So we see it as…

And right now, we have President Trump and Secretary DeVos. We don’t see any legislative help out there for student loans in the immediate future. There’s always been talk about expanding the bankruptcy code. There’s always a pending bill about it but it’s never really gone anywhere. And in today’s environment, I don’t expect any relief from that for several years.

So what we’re doing is we’re using these consumer violations and our knowledge of these programs and different things to reduce student loan debt in a way that works now and really is the only relief out there that we see for a few years. But I think that student loans as a whole are going to be a problem for a long time. Matthew Taibbi, he just wrote an article for The Rolling Stone Magazine a couple of weeks ago and I think he titled it The Great College Swindle or something like that.

Bob:  Yeah.

Christie:  Yeah, and he was going into stuff like, “How do we get to this point?” And originally, we basically had folks that… Like when I went to school, you were encouraged to get as high of a degree as you can, go to the best school that you can, and none of us really you did an analysis of what’s the job going to pay at the other end, what’s the total cost of education going to be? There were really no disclosure requirements. Colleges didn’t tell people what was really going to cost, especially some of fhese for-profit schools, and so you have everyone going to college.

So if you are the parent, you want to make sure that your child has everything that they need in life to be the best that they can be. So you’re going to help them get those loans. You’re going to encourage it. You’re going to get Parent PLUS loans if you can.

And then on the other end… Then you’ve got everybody has a college degree. So the bachelor’s degree is just like a high school diploma. It’s sort of like, “50 is the new 40,” I think. Same concept. And so everybody’s got a bachelor’s degree and there’s no way to set yourself apart to make yourself marketable for that higher wage job. And that’s kind of how we ended up in this.

And we also have loans that were just like the mortgage industry, they were securitized. A lot of these private loans are all put into a trust. And so you don’t have responsibility by the lenders to ensure that those loans will ultimately be paid back. For private loans, they didn’t do that. They were all securitized for the most part and for Parent PLUS loans, they didn’t even care how long the parent might still be working.

A lot of these loans went to grandparents who might have one year left until they retire. Why did you just grant them $40,000 of loans? You know they have no assets and they’re going to retire in a year.

So you didn’t have accountability and you really still don’t have that. So I don’t think that if anyone who were getting into the student loan business now, then it’s going to end tomorrow. It’s got several years in front of it.

Even if they do find solutions for some problems, there’s still going to be probably new unintended consequences or there’s going to be other problems that can’t be fixed. So I think it’s got many years left to go.

Bob:  Absolutely. So there’s kind of a paved path when it comes to getting new clients on the bankruptcy side. On the student loan side, this concept of hiring a bankruptcy lawyer or just an attorney to help you through the student loan maze is… That’s not an established path. Can you give a few tips on how to get customers?

Christie:  Yeah, that was one of our very first problems. No one has heard of a student loan attorney. It’s a phrase that most legal directories, they don’t have it as a category. No individual have ever really heard of that.

I do seminars every now and again. The last one I did was for a group of about 300 veterinarians. I asked, if anyone would raise their hands if they’d ever heard of “student loan attorney,” nobody raised their hands. So the field isn’t really recognized yet.

So what we did with our practice here in Tampa was we made sure that the bankruptcy attorneys who normally would say, if someone asked about student loans: “There’s nothing you can do with that.”

That was their response and that was my response, too, years ago because I was only thinking in context to Brunner. So I was like every other bankruptcy attorney in basically telling our clients, “No, we can’t discharge them.” And that was the end of the discussion. I didn’t go into any better options because I didn’t know any of these options existed

 So what we do now is we have held a couple of local CLEs for our local bankruptcy group, as well as we were a panelist for the ABI talking about student loans and FDCPA issues. American Bankruptcy Institute is what ABI stands for.

And in addition to the CLE seminars, we also now publish a column in our local bankruptcy newsletter. It’s a quarterly nice newsletter that goes out to attorneys and judges and it’s one of the few things that all of us seem to read. I mean, I don’t read a lot of marketing material but I always look at this thing called the Cramdown because it’s very local. It has local tips that I can use right now and I really enjoy it. So hopefully everyone else reads it too. And so we write a column in there, we talk about some student loan successes of ours as well as other folks, programs and such. We write it in a more friendly way. I don’t have a lot of case law cited. I mean, I might do one brief case cite but I invite folks to contact me if they want any backup material. I’m happy to send it to them. That way, it’s not a lot of legal jargon. It’s just a friendly, “Here’s what you can do” kind-of-thing. And we also…

One of the funnier things we did is every bankrupt debtor has to go to a 341 creditors meeting. And when you’re in that room, there’s like 30 people or so, the only thing to read in the entire room is an FBI notice that’s above the trustee’s head. And it’s scary and it’s the only thing to read. And so I have a nice little tote bag that we had VistaPrint print up with us. It has our logo with a drowning student in debt and it has our contact information. It’s really brightly colored.

And so we sit at the front of the room and we face our bag with usually books or folders in it and we face it out to the audience. So you have an audience full of debtor attorneys and debtors–who are bored out of their mind because there’s nothing to do in this room–maybe looking at our bag. And so the more time someone hears about you or maybe they’ll write your name down and they’ll search you later and I have a lot of information on my website.

We try to make it as transparent as possible. One of the things about the student loan system–and I’ve done employment law, bankruptcy and foreclosure–student loan is got to be the most complicated system and least transparent of all of them. And you have an educated person as a client but their education doesn’t go to the point of they know anything about their student loans. And so, many times, they’re taken advantage of. And so…

Anyway, with this bag, I think that it lets people know that we’re out there. If they search the website, they might get a lot more information. We try to put information on there about our successes as well as some of the different programs, how they work and so forth and so on. So now instead of a bankruptcy attorney locally, hopefully, after a year or two of us really hitting that, hopefully, they now no longer say, “There’s nothing you can do.” Hopefully, they say, “Call Christie Arkovich. She’ll be able to help you.

Bob:  OK.

Christie:  Yeah. And I think that’s working. And our clients are just beyond ecstatic. Of all the areas of law that I’ve ever practiced, these student loan clients are the happiest I’ve ever seen. They’re so happy that someone’s listening to them, finally, about their student loans because it’s really harmful. You know, a lot of folks are very much stressed out over their loans.

There’s a lot of folks that have had problems with their family members especially if they co-signed on loans. And it is causing a lot of friction there. And they haven’t felt like they can really talk to anyone. All they can do is complain about it and it’s something that they’re willing to talk about.

So unlike bankruptcy where your client might not run around and say, “Oh, I know a great bankruptcy attorney,” they will tell you about a great student loan attorney and so word-of-mouth is fantastic to get your name out there. And ask them to share it on Twitter and Facebook. And I still have to figure out Instagram, I can’t seem to figure out how to post on Instagram.

But there is a way to change it. And I think one of the first ways to start is tell other bankruptcy attorneys what you do and spread around the word. A lot of folks don’t want to do student loan work. Great. That’s more for you. Let them know that you do. And it also didn’t hurt that I think we had a CLE that was put on by a trustee– don’t know if it was a U.S. Trustee. I think it was–one year that basically said that if you weren’t doing something about your client’s student loans that you could be you basically creating malpractice or committing malpractice.

And I’m not surprised that they would say that because I run into a lot of folks that have filed bankruptcy and they erroneously think that their student loans were discharged in that bankruptcy. No one has told them otherwise. So they’ve never answered student loan calls. They thought they’re all scams. They thought that that was discharged, they didn’t have to deal with it. It got worse and worse and worse and finally they get sued or they get garnished. So I don’t know if that’s malpractice or not but there’s definitely been a disconnect of information where people think that it’s been discharged, it really hasn’t.

So I think helping a debtor get rid of that student loan or at least getting answers to “There was this, here’s what you can do about it,” is a way to basically protect yourself as well.

Bob:  One of the exciting things for me as a consultant that helps bankruptcy attorneys grow their business is that if you advertise on Google AdWords for a keyword like “bankruptcy lawyer” or “bankruptcy attorney,” it’s such a profitable thing to do if you do it well that pretty soon, you’re kind of buying all the inventory out there in (say) the Tampa, Florida area. Do you know what I’m saying?

Christie:  Sure, I think I do.

Bob:  Well, there’s only like so many people in Tampa, so that you’re going to get X number, like let’s say it’s a thousand searches for “bankruptcy lawyer” or “bankruptcy attorney” or something like that in the Tampa area. But you’re also going to get a ton of searches for “student loan lawyer,” “student loan consolidation,” “student loan debt consolidation.” Keywords like that that would be a perfect fit to advertise to acquire customers. Is that something that you’ve tried or you’ve thought about doing?

Christie:  I haven’t done any AdWords. I actually did do it for a short time when I was taking BP oil spill cases in Florida. We had that oil spill in the Gulf and there was about a two-year period that there was a lot of people that were trying to handle those cases for their clients. And my clients were all financially distressed, so it worked pretty good. But we did AdSense for those…

Bob:  Or AdWords.

Christie:  Or AdWords, I’m sorry. I haven’t even done it for student loans or for bankruptcy so I don’t have any knowledge for that. It’s something that maybe I should think about doing here in Florida. I don’t know what the cost is. We have boosted some things with Facebook and unfortunately, I keep a pretty lousy track of my Return On Investment for different marketing efforts. I just throw everything against the wall, basically.

Bob:  Sure. Sure. Sure.

Christie:  It’s probably not the best way to do it but… So I don’t know exactly what would be good. You would be much more of an expert on that.

Bob:  Well, if you just look at the keyword for “bankruptcy lawyer” in the Tampa area, I’m just doing a search on AdWords right now.

Christie:  OK.

Bob:  The suggested bid is something like $33. Now, only a crazy person would pay $33. On average, I pay like $8 for a keyword for a click on a search like “bankruptcy lawyer.” But the suggested bid is $33 and that’s really expensive.

Now one of the cool things about a keyword like “student loan bankruptcy” is that the suggested bid is not $33. It’s $2.88. So we’re talking less than 10 percent of what you’d pay for “bankruptcy lawyer,” you’re paying for “student loan bankruptcy.”

Christie:  Sure, sure.

Bob:  Would you be interested in talking to people that had just searched for “student loan bankruptcy”?

Christie:  Absolutely, yes. And that’s something it sounds like I should look into because there’s only a few people with student loans that we can’t help. You know, every once in a while, we’ll run across someone who makes too much money or variety of things where there’s really nothing else we can do for them.

Or we check and see they’re already on the best plan. There’s nothing available for them.

9 out of 10, there’s absolutely something we can do for them and it usually saves them quite a bit of money. So I would say that our return would probably be pretty decent on that.

Bob:  Yeah, the cool thing for “student loan bankruptcy” is that if you’re one of the very few people that’s actually doing something to help people who have student loans and are considering bankruptcy, then that’s why it’s so cheap because no one else is out there trying to bid against you.

Christie:  OK.

Bob:  Like as a counterexample, if you look at just straight up “student loan refinancing,” something like that… I’ll do the search right now. Student loan refinancing… And again, this is in Tampa. “Student loan consolidation,” the click is $25.70.

Christie:  Sure.

Bob:  And then there was another one, “student loan refinances,” $63.53.

Christie:  Wow. Wow.

Bob:  So there’s a lot of competition in those areas. Like, you’re not going to end up paying $63 if you know what you’re doing. But it is a relative indication of how expensive that click is…

Christie:  Yeah, I would imagine this because there’s a lot of companies out there that are not attorneys that do refinances and consolidations and that’s why it’s probably a lot more competitive. But even then, an attorney can offer a lot of advice as to the pitfalls of those things–which they definitely have some–that these companies don’t offer. But I wouldn’t pay 60-some dollars for a click on it. Right.

Bob:  Yeah, but I mean, if most of them are refinancing $500,000 in loans and I could see how that would be profitable for them. But those are the same people… I don’t have a tremendous amount of respect for debt consolidation people and those are the, I think, tend to be the kinds of idiots that are giving terrible advice to some of your future clients.

Christie:  Yeah and there’s a lot of times that a different option would have been better. And nobody ever discussed the other options with the clients. So I think anyone with student loans would be very much benefited by an attorney. But it doesn’t mean that there’s not competition out there from non-attorney firms that try to push refinances and consolidations.

We’re always fearful of people refinancing a federal student loan because the federal interest rates, they’re not great. I mean, the average is 6.8 percent–so some’s higher and some’s lower–and that’s pretty high when you can get a second mortgage for 3%, 3.25%, 3.5%, pull out some equity of your house or whatnot. But there’s a lot of pitfalls with that. You lose a lot of government protections for disability and income-based and debt forgiveness.

And now you might be putting your spouse on the loan, especially if it’s a note mortgage type deal with the mortgage company. And you’ve got collateral that can be taken if you don’t make the payment. So we are very afraid of people doing refinancing when they shouldn’t. People with Parent PLUS loans, for instance. They have no idea they qualify for a payment that’s like between $0 and $50 based on their income. But, yet they’re going and taking all this home equity that they might need for retirement and they’re throwing it away by paying a student loan that there is an excellent income-based program if they just knew about it.

That’s one of the ones we have to change your loan type to be eligible. And unfortunately, a lot of servicers don’t explain how you can make it better, they’ll just simply say, “Well, your options for this loan are this.” But they won’t go into, “Well if you do this, you can have this option.”

So, yeah, I might need to check out some of those Google AdWords, “student loan bankruptcy,” because I don’t think those companies would throw the word bankruptcy in there. You know, they know that they can’t practice bankruptcy and that’s not where the market is anyway. So that could be interesting.

Bob:  Yeah. I did want to circle back to two things that you mentioned briefly that I thought were really interesting. One thing that you mentioned in passing is that, I think in 2008, you stopped practicing employment law. You mentioned that like it was no big deal but I could see that being a really hard thing to do. It’s like… I could easily see myself if I were in your shoes as having an identity as an employment attorney and it being kind of hard to shed that identity and becoming a bankruptcy attorney. Was that hard for you, or was it as easy as you made it sound?

Christie:  It was easy for me, but I can understand why it would be hard for a lot of people because a lot of people, especially attorneys in some cases, don’t like change. It’s a very new area of practice. You’re right, in then I had an identity in that. I had a large referral base. I was on many lists. I had a lot of defense attorneys that would refer us cases and it was 90 percent of my practice at one point.

But I was just getting a little burned out with employment law. And I could see some changes where there were some sanctioned cases out of South Florida that were becoming newsworthy and I didn’t want to be on the wrong end in one of those where, perhaps, my plaintiff wasn’t truthful from the beginning type-of-thing.

And I was just looking for something a little different, too. And I consider myself sort of an entrepreneur. So even though I didn’t have any business classes per se in law school, like, I come from a entrepreneurial family. My in-laws are the same, they’ve always owned their business. And I don’t have an issue with pivoting and practicing something next to what I’m used to. In other words, I’m not going to go into family law or criminal, I don’t know anything about those.

But the areas that I have practiced are sort of adjacent to one another. And I think to take advantage of opportunities, you have to realize, if you keep your ears open–or eyes open, whatever it is–and recognize opportunities when they come in front of you and be able to take that chance. And then when I do go into a new area of law, I try my best to know everything about it. I try to read everything I possibly can about it.

I don’t want to dabble. If it’s a case where it’s just once in a while, I have no interest in that. I don’t want to dabble at all, I think you can get in trouble that way. But I once read a quote–and if I can find it while we’re talking–I’ll tell you what it was. Yeah, here we go. There’s a quote that I like to kind of keep in front of me and it says: “Those who continuously reinvent themselves find the most opportunities for success in life.”

And that’s essentially what I did, was reinvent myself as an employment attorney to a foreclosure defense attorney. And I did it at a time where the market was huge. Hardly anyone really recognized how big it was going to be, and there wasn’t hardly anyone out there had any good websites on foreclosure defense, and so it was easy to jump in. Now, if it was an established area of law, it may have been much more difficult. Fortunately, it was not.

And the same with student loans. If there were already good established student loan attorneys and there wasn’t much business, then it would probably be a fail. But it’s not. There is a lack of student loan attorneys out there and there is a ton of people who need our help. So it’s a good area to reinvent yourself and find those opportunities for success especially if your current practice areas are in decline.

Bob:  Yeah. I’ve noticed two things that are kind of relevant here. The first is that when I… You know, I’m interviewing bankruptcy attorneys for this podcast. And the first thing is the successful ones are keeping an eye out for that adjacent practice area.

Christie:  Yeah.

Bob:  And they’re moving into that as they naturally see success in that and I think that’s really interesting. The other thing that I see is that you don’t really tie yourself up in an identity like “I’m an employment lawyer,” or “I’m a foreclosure lawyer” or “bankruptcy lawyer.” You just kind of flow with things and then you are kind of the sum of what you do. It’s really interesting to me. So when you said that about switching from being an employment lawyer, I was really impressed by that.

Christie:  Sure.

Bob:  And I think that set a pattern for you that you kind of repeated in the student loan thing.

Christie:  Yeah. If I hadn’t have changed out of employment to do foreclosure, I may not have been more as open minded as I am about doing student loan work. So right now, my website… The title of my website is called “Reboot Your Life” and I have a subheading under it called “Tampa Student Loan and Bankruptcy Attorney blog.”

And the reason I’ve changed that recently is because we don’t have a lot of foreclosure defense cases going on in Florida anymore. We have some that are trickling through, older cases but not many new ones. But my website just gravitates over time to where now, in the blog, I’m generally talking about student loans and bankruptcy.

There’s not that many foreclosure issues that come up that I find interesting enough to write about. So it just sort of changes as the market changes.

But the BP oil spills, we recognized that, yes, I could maybe get a 10 percent referral fee from someone who did that, or I could market within my own practice for those that had a business that met that test, that standard V test or modified V test, where they had a drop in income after the oil spill. And I could learn everything I could about it. We purchased some software that would do the calculations for us. And we didn’t do a lot of marketing outside the practice but we marketed to our own clients and we picked up an awful lot of them and that was a very financially lucrative decision for about two years.

Bob:  Wow.

Christie:  It’s always been a relatively small part of my practice but it was a very lucrative decision and it’s gone through its own pitfalls. I mean, when we first started taking those cases, they were over in 90 days. You know, they would start paying out in 90 days.

Then you had a bunch of appeals to where it took ultimately three years. At one point, I even offered to sell my BP oil spill claims to a plaintiffs firm here in town. It was very large. And they weren’t interested because they also were not that happy with how the cases were going and the appeal process and everything. And within one month, they started to settle.

And so I’m really glad that they didn’t take me up on my offer to buy my portfolio because as it turns out, they were very lucrative for me and for my clients that I’m very happy to have taken them on.

Bob:  Awesome.

Christie:  But, yeah, and I wouldn’t have recognized that opportunity if I didn’t realize, “Well, hey, I’m collecting tax returns anyway. I’m collecting pretty much all the data that you need to present a BP oil spill claim. Why don’t I do it? Why do I need someone else to do it?”

Bob:  Sure.

Christie:  And I just need to learn everything I can about it, buy some software that helps me do it. And that worked out great. But it wasn’t family law or criminal or something way outside of my area of expertise. It was adjacent. And right now, I think TCPA cases, I think they’re adjacent. You know, they’re basically a consumer violation.

We’ve always done creditor harassment work. But it can potentially be very lucrative. I think it has a window. In other words, maybe the laws might change or the FCC administrative orders might come down less favorably in the future. So I think it may have a lifespan of a couple years or so. Who knows? But why not take advantage of that now while it’s an avenue to drastically reduce student loan debt? Private debt, that is.

Bob:  So the second observation that I had is–it’s a smaller observation I suppose–but on the foreclosure defense side, I was wondering, do you do a lot of foreclosure defense work outside of the bankruptcy process or was that kind of…

Christie:  A lot of it was outside. Yeah. With our foreclosure work, we did loan mods in the bankruptcy court. But other than that, most of our defense work was in state court. And I had done a lot of civil litigation throughout my career so that didn’t bother me at all. I know a lot of bankruptcy attorneys, sometimes they’ll shy away from litigation.

Bob:  Yes.

Christie:  They’re more used to an administrative-type form-based practice. But if you maybe get into it gradually or have someone help you, it might be OK. I’ve always done it so it’s never been a problem. So we did thousands of foreclosure defense cases. And ultimately, we were looking for a goal of a short sale or a loan modification or something to fit our client’s needs–and everything is a little different–but it was mostly outside of bankruptcy.

Bob:  OK. I know at least one bankruptcy attorney who told me recently that if you’re not a good foreclosure defense attorney, then you’re kind of getting two bites at the apple. You’re going to fail on the foreclosure defense side and then he’s going to come in on the bankruptcy side and then stop the foreclosure. But it sounds like you had a lot more success than this attorney had seen for foreclosure defense attorneys, you had a higher win rate.

Christie:  Right. We never ever tried to steer our foreclosure cases into like a mandatory bankruptcy. We were offering it as an alternative to bankruptcy. And so for the clients who wanted to keep homes, if they didn’t have any other problems, why put them in a bankruptcy? Just do a loan modification. For clients who didn’t have any other debt but they just had this house that was hugely underwater, do a short sale, get a deficiency waiver. Why do a bankruptcy for them?

So it was just another tool in our toolbox. Some become bankruptcies, of course. But I think if you looked back at the average–I mean, we never kept track of this–but I think a small percentage of them probably ultimately became bankruptcies. Maybe a little more lately because loan mods aren’t working that well and… I mean, the market’s pretty much… There’s not much of a market anymore.

Those that are foreclosure now are usually on the tail end where we might be filing a bankruptcy because they just contacted us, they’re just about to lose the house. It’s not at their early stages any longer. It’s pretty much late in the game. Yeah, it was just another tool in our toolbox.

Bob:  Do you use direct mail for foreclosure notices? Because I know that’s like… I’m sorry, you get the foreclosure notices from the state, maybe from a website and then you send them direct mail to solicit for bankruptcy.

Christie:  We did not. We did not do any direct mail for bankruptcy or for foreclosure defense. We focused on putting a lot of information on our website. We had a lot of client referrals. There was just so much foreclosure demand. I don’t know how they found us.

We do do some direct mail for student loans. And the reason I do that is because with foreclosures, they’ll get 20 or 30 letters from attorneys, or more. How will my letter be differentiated from theirs? With student loans, if they get sued by a student loan company, they probably will get some generic letters, you know, “We defend debt. We file bankruptcy. We consolidate debt.” Just some generic letters.

But do they get a letter specifically about student loans? I doubt it. I really doubt it because there’s really no one that does direct mail for student loans locally that I’m aware of. So our letter’s the only one that’s like that and hopefully, it stands out.

And defending a private student loan case, we often can achieve a dismissal or a very low settlement amount. So the results are very good and they’re very lucrative for us so we do send direct mail for private student loan cases.

Bob:  That’s genius. So what you’re saying is that you just look at the general civil court notices or whatever it’s called in the state of Florida and you’ll look for where the plaintiff is someone like Navient or Sallie Mae or something…

Christie:  Exactly.

Bob:  And then you send them a custom… Well, a form letter. That’s genius. That’s great. I love that.

Christie:  Yes. And we have testimonials that were approved by the Florida bar before the letters are sent. And our letter, I guarantee, will stand out from any other generic debt collector type letter that they would get. And one of the first things that we say in our letter is, “Don’t let them get a default judgment.”

90 percent–when I did my survey back then when I first created the letter–90 percent of the people who were sued for a private student loan didn’t do anything about it. And here’s why. They’d already tried to work out something with the lender, and the lender said no. They have already maybe talked to a bankruptcy attorney, and bankruptcy attorney said, “There’s nothing you can do.” So they think, “Well, it’s not like I owe $2,000, and I can’t make payments on this. It’s huge. Why do I even want to call an attorney?”

And they just let them get a default judgment.

Bob:  Yep.

Christie:  Well, you know, default judgments last 20 some years depending if they renew. And they also can garnish 25 percent of someone’s wages. And it’s very hard to negotiate post-judgment if there’s a garnishment wage order in place. The other side says, “No, I’m already getting paid. I don’t even talk to you.” So those clients become bankruptcy clients, not to get rid of the student loans but to simply lift the wage garnishment order and try to get back on a platform that we can talk with the other side.

Bob:  Sure.

Christie:  So I think our… I hope our letters are effective. I’ve never really… Once again, I don’t track things like I should. So I’ve never known what the Return On Investment is on those but at least they’re not getting 30 letters that look the same.

Bob:  Well, then let me give a tip to you and the world, in general, on how you would track the Return On Investment.

Christie:  Okay.

Bob:  Sign up for a service like a call tracking service. I use a company called CallRail, It doesn’t matter. You could literally type in “phone call tracking service.” You set up a telephone number that’s just associated with this letter.

Christie:  Oh yeah.

Bob:  And so let’s say that your normal number is 111-1111, you set up a number like 222-2222 that every time they call it, it redirects to 111-1111.

Christie:  OK.

Bob:  And if you’re not in a two-party consent state–I think Florida is a one-party consent state–you can actually record the calls. Even if you don’t, you could at least log that you’re getting these phone calls and you can see any call that’s longer than a minute is probably a good lead. So then you can track, “Hey, I’m spending a $1,000 a month mailing out these letters and with the time for my administrative assistant to put these letters together.”

Christie:  Sure.

Bob:  “But I’m getting 30 calls a month.” And so you know that that’s really effective. Something like that.

Christie:  What about in our case, we invite them in the letter to read our blog, to read our reviews on our website? And so if I were reading that letter, I probably would look at that first before I made the phone call. And then they go onto our website or blog. And then they would submit maybe an online form where we say, “For free consult, click this button and whatnot.” So then it would come to our website. So I like your idea but I’m not sure it would be that accurate.

Bob:  OK. Well, there’s a very easy workaround there which is that you don’t just say go to my blog and give them your regular “”

Christie:  A separate landing page.

Bob:  You don’t even have to create a separate landing page. What you can do is you can talk to your webmaster, or somebody like me, and you can be like set up a special URL that’s like a kind of link counter.

Christie:  OK.

Bob:  Have you ever clicked on a link?

Christie:  I think so but I don’t know what it is.

Bob:  Well, it’s just like slash and then it’s like some special text or you know.

Christie:  OK.

Bob:  And every time you click it, you can count it and you can do analytics. You don’t have to use This is just a… That’s an easy and free kind of thing. And then you can create “” and you can buy that URL, and then you can redirect it to that link so that every time someone clicks on it, you can see that, “Oh, I sent this out. I got 15 phone calls from this letter last month, and I got 30 people who checked out the blog.”

Christie:  That would work.

Bob:  So then you kind of get both things but the other piece of unsolicited advice I’d give you is don’t send people to check out your blog. Just tell them to call you and to set up an appointment. It’s always… People underestimate the power of giving a single call to action and educating people… Getting people into your sales funnel.

So what I would rather do, as a marketing kind of person, is I’d rather get someone to call me and then when they call, I’d set up an appointment and then put them on an e-mail autoresponder so that they’re getting 10 short emails from me over the next two weeks and I’m setting up an appointment for them to come in and that’s probably how I would swing it. I would probably focus on that single call to action and I would probably focus on the telephone call.

Christie:  OK, good point. The single call to action, yeah, I do like that.

Bob:  OK, well, this is awesome. Christie, I’ve learned a lot. And I want to thank you for joining us on the podcast.

Christie:  Absolutely. I hope that maybe some attorneys listening to this might want to try to delve into student loan practice because I have found it to be very… It’s not the most lucrative practice on the planet but it has a lot of feeders that means other work like consumer-oriented work and so forth. So I do think it’s very worthwhile. It really helps complement a bankruptcy practice and there’s a great need for it. People just don’t have enough advice and knowledge as to what to do with their student loans.

Bob:  Yeah.

Christie:  So thanks for the opportunity.

Bob:  Awesome. Thank you. Bye bye.