How this bankruptcy lawyer got 50+ phone calls a week using judgment notices, his kids, and a few stamps
In this episode of Bankruptcy Law Success, I interview Errin Stowell, a bankruptcy attorney in Overland Park, Kansas.
Some of the highlights in this interview include:
- Exactly how he got 50 phone calls a week using online foreclosure notices, a one-page letter, and a Brother printer.
- How he got even more phone calls using judgment notices, his kids, and a few stamps.
- Why being consistent with his marketing helped him beat other bankruptcy lawyers to the punch.
- A way to reduce student loan balances through bankruptcy, even when income-based repayment programs set such a high standard that “it’s ridiculous to try to meet it.”
- Why being a solo helped him get more referrals, and prevented the embarrassing “are you my lawyer?” problem.
- How being a part-time writer helped him market his bankruptcy practice.
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.
Full Transcript of Interview:
Bob: [00:00:04] 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 will transform your bankruptcy practice. Today, I’m talking to Errin Stowell, an attorney who works primarily as a consumer advocate. He’s based in Overland Park, Kansas and he practices in bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, real estate, business and entertainment law. Hi, Errin, welcome to the podcast.
Errin: [00:00:30] Hi, Bob, thanks a lot.
Bob: [00:00:31] Now, did I get that all right? Because that was five different practice areas.
Errin: [00:00:35] Sure. Yeah, absolutely. I don’t practice as much in some of the ones you mentioned at the very end but, you know, always looking for new types of business.
Bob: [00:00:42] Yeah, I was wondering about that. I could see how bankruptcy foreclosure defense and real estate tie together. Business and entertainment law was kind of the odd one out.
Errin: [00:00:50] Well, I’ve found, though, that a lot of my clients especially clients that’s small businesses sometimes need some consulting in different areas, and so I’ve tried to branch out into that a little bit. Also, because I am somewhat of a part-time writer, I guess, entertainment law kind of interested me and I’ve been trying to branch out into that a little bit too.
Bob: [00:01:12] OK. So the business side… I guess Chapter 11 totally makes sense. I didn’t… I was thinking more of contract law or something like that.
Errin: [00:01:19] Well, actually, I have done a lot of stuff with contracts but I have many clients that were in like Chapter 13s or even Chapter 7s who were small business owners and they just needed advice on maybe how to pump up their business a little bit; maybe do some marketing, maybe how to cut back on some costs, things like that so I’ve tried to add that as part of my practice.
Bob: [00:01:41] That’s great, and that actually brings me to my next question which was, it looks like you worked after graduating and then you got a Master’s Degree in e-commerce and that’s… It looked like a joint degree with a business school so I can see where you started to get your business expertise. Then you work some more and then you went back to law school. So that was my first question, what made you go back to law school?
Errin: [00:02:02] Well, it was one of those things. My wife always said it’s because I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, right? So it’s one of those type of things, but, yeah, my timing was impeccable, I think, because when I’d gone back to graduate school back in the late 90s, early 2000s, of course at that time what happened… You know, the dotcom bust and whatnot and there were just wasn’t a lot of stuff going on. So after I graduated at Carnegie Mellon, there was a sort of a joint program between the business school and the school of computer science. I started working for a big oil firm, Exxon Mobil, and did some strategic planning and things like that. Basically, it’s kind of a glorified bean counter, if you will, but learned a lot of stuff there about big organizations and how all of that works together. But after three years there, I decided that I wanted to kind of move the family back to the Midwest because I was located on the East Coast, at that time around the D.C. area. So I started thinking, “Well, what could I get into that might allow me to utilize some of my background a little bit; business, technology, other things like that?” I decided that, you know, going into the law might be a good area. I also kind of wanted to work for myself for quite some time so that kind of played into that as well. So we kind of moved back to the Midwest. I went to law school. Of course, my timing was perfect to get in there, during that time I graduated, because that’s when the mortgage meltdown happened.
Bob: [00:03:34] Well, the first time, you’re being a little facetious perhaps but, you know, the second time, the mortgage crisis… I guess it started in 2008 but it really peaked at 2010. So you did have a number of years where… I mean, those are boom years for bankruptcy.
Errin: [00:03:48] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, basically, when I got out of law school, there really wasn’t anybody hiring lawyers at that time and so… You know, I did want to work for myself anyways and so, well, I’m just going to do what I can and see where the need is and there were so many people that were going through foreclosures at that time. I just said, “All right, I’m going to just plow into this.” I actually have started doing foreclosure defense first but then started segueing into bankruptcies because, well, there was a big need for it. You could make some good money at it. Plus, it just seemed to fit naturally with a lot of folks who were facing foreclosure and kind of needed that help anyway.
Bob: [00:04:25] That is pretty unusual, though, for someone to hang their own shingle right away. How was that experience for you?
Errin: [00:04:31] Trial by fire. You know, there were times where I kind of wondered, “What the heck am I doing here?” But, you know, I just kept pushing through, developed kind of a marketing plan for myself and started building my practice, started doing what I needed to do; get more clients, get referrals, just anything and everything, basically. I tried a lot of different stuff and whatever was working, if that’s what I kind of stuck with and just kept going until it built up to where I was really able to support myself and family and whatnot. Initially, I did take like some part-time jobs in the evenings to kind of make ends meet but, you know, you do what you have to when you’re solo.
Bob: [00:05:12] Yeah. I definitely want to drill down on that but before we started the interview, you told me a funny story about your first bankruptcy case. I was wondering if you could tell that for our audience.
Errin: [00:05:22] Sure, absolutely. So my very first case, I was still a complete rookie, probably didn’t ask as many questions as I should have. I had some clients so we went to the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee and we were sitting there. Trustee’s asking the 20 to 25 different questions that they typically ask and they get to the one about, “Have you made any transfers in the past two years?” Of course, my client started talking about, “Well, yes, we had this boat and we transferred it to my dad.” And I’m sitting there like, “Oh, my gosh.” The trustee’s like leering at me and looking, “Did you know about this?” I’m like, “No, this is the first time I’m hearing about it.” So, you know, he was really drilling my clients. One of my clients was about to faint. I get her some water. She started to be OK, you know. Anyway, we finally finished up. We get out on the hallway and there’s this older attorney, he’s very well-known attorney. Anyway, he’s filed thousands of bankruptcy cases and was getting toward the end of his retirement at that time, and, you know, I was just devastated out there in the hallway and he comes up to me and he said, “Don’t worry about it. It happens to all of us.” I was just like, “Oh, man.” So I felt so much better.
Bob: [00:06:36] Now, be honest. You said that your client was about to faint, but this was your first bankruptcy case. Were you about to faint as well? Did you get some water for yourself?
Errin: [00:06:44] Well, I probably could have used some. Although, if you had seen me afterwards it looked like I may have been doused with water with all the sweating I was doing. So, yeah, it was definitely a learning experience, though.
Bob: [00:06:57] That’s a hilarious story. I’d like to return back to what you did in those early days to get started. I’ve actually learned some amazing things that people did to get started, particularly, in bankruptcy.
Errin: [00:07:09] Sure.
Bob: [00:07:10] What were some of the things that worked and maybe some of the things that you tried that were complete failures, if you have any stories for us on those lines?
Errin: [00:07:18] You know, initially, I tried doing like the Google route but I was finding that unless you’ve got like a ton of money and then pour that into there and you’ve got like a really good strategy and whatnot, which I thought I did but obviously didn’t, you’re probably not going to be able to compete with the big boys in the bankruptcy arena. You know, every city’s got maybe four or five bigger firms and they just spend a lot of money on Google AdWords and whatnot. So smaller guys really don’t have a lot of ability there. So what I was thinking was that, “OK, I have to be more nimble. I have to use, you know, what I can.” I was pretty good with technology and whatnot and so I was finding a lot of foreclosure notices online. So my idea was, “I’m just going to scrape these off the websites, create my database, send out a mailer, you know, offering my services for help.” So that’s what I did, and I was able to send stuff out regularly. You know, I got fairly good response and just started building it in there. You know, that was for, basically, a foreclosure defense stuff. Many of those clients also needed bankruptcy services so that kind of played in a little bit later, but once I started getting good on the bankruptcies, getting those rolling in, I started just buying some names for people who had judgments against them.
Bob: [00:08:41] Yes.
Errin: [00:08:42] I was able to do that. You know, again, I was creating databases, doing on my own mailers. All that type of stuff.
Bob: [00:08:49] OK, well, let’s stop for a moment, Errin.
Errin: [00:08:51] Yeah.
Bob: [00:08:52] I’d like to unpack a little bit of what you’re saying.
Errin: [00:08:54] OK.
Bob: [00:08:55] You’re talking about building a database and then you’re just saying doing a mailing, but in order to do that, you need to write a direct response sales letter.
Errin: [00:09:02] Yes.
Bob: [00:09:03] And you need to know a little bit about copywriting, at least.
Errin: [00:09:06] That’s right.
Bob: [00:09:07] So, did you know anything about copywriting? Did you know anything about direct response in those days?
Errin: [00:09:11] Well, in a previous lifetime, I had done a little bit of marketing stuff and plus I’d done some writing in law school. Actually, I’d done like some rewrites on screenplays and stuff for some Hollywood producers, so I felt like I at least knew how to write fairly well. It was just a matter of figuring out what’s the right tone, what’s the right message and I did put together sort of a one-pager, kept it short and simple. I liked a different strong point that I thought would be appealing to individuals that had just gotten a judgment against them, for example, or were facing a foreclosure. Actually, I had different letters for those facing foreclosure versus those who had a judgment against them. Timing was a big part of this, as well, because I would get the judgment, the notices of those names and addresses and whatnot. I would get those like soon after those judgments have been granted and I would mail them out. Like every week, I would do a mailing. I was finding that I was getting a lot of phone calls off of that and people were basically like, “I just got notice of this judgment, and I got your letter the same day.” I was like, “Well, that’s fantastic.”
Bob: [00:10:22] Were a lot of them default judgments, so they didn’t even know that they had a case against them?
Errin: [00:10:27] Yes, actually. Yep, there were many of them that were just default judgments, credit card companies, whoever it may have been. Once I got that rolling, I got that going pretty much every week. I mean, it was going pretty good at that point.
Bob: [00:10:41] Yeah.
Errin: [00:10:42] You know, you’d be surprised. People call up and they’re panicking and whatnot because a lot of times, people had no idea, like you say, that they even had a judgment out there or there may be times where people knew they had one but they just didn’t want to face it. So they got my letter and then they said, “OK. Well, hey, it doesn’t hurt to give a call, right? Find out what my options are.”
Bob: [00:11:01] Absolutely.
Errin: [00:11:03] Honestly, I was finding that most people just didn’t have any idea of what bankruptcy could do for them. They just had either not thought about it or had written it off or were afraid or had misinformation. So that’s part of what I did with my letter to them was trying to identify what it could or couldn’t do for you and that, really, when you come to look at it, it’s often the most affordable, the least time consuming and the most effective way to deal with that.
Bob: [00:11:30] Yeah, that’s the biggest marketing mistake I see bankruptcy lawyers make, which is, they don’t explain the general benefits of bankruptcy to their prospect. They don’t explain that it’s the only legal way to eliminate that, even things like… Yeah, you have to pay taxes on unforgiving debt. I mean, these things are…
Errin: [00:11:46] Right.
Bob: [00:11:47] It’s old hat to a bankruptcy lawyer but it’s mind blowing to someone who doesn’t know anything about bankruptcy.
Errin: [00:11:53] Yep, absolutely and, you know, neither should they know anything about it.
Bob: [00:11:57] Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, it’s your responsibility to explain, yeah. That’s what a great sales letter can do. So did you actually measure response rate?
Errin: [00:12:07] I did.
Bob: [00:12:08] How did you… Do you remember any of those results?
Errin: [00:12:11] I was averaging about 5% response rate, so five percent calls and I would close probably at least half of those.
Bob: [00:12:21] That is amazing. That’s fantastic.
Errin: [00:12:24] Yeah, you know, if I could get them in the door, that was the key. I mean, they were going to come in and sign up, you know. Usually, I would spend some time with them on the phone. That’s one thing maybe a lot of other attorneys didn’t do. I would probably spend a lot more time on the phone with a client, initially, kind of explaining the process, explaining what it all involves, kind of getting a feel for whether they were even a good candidate for bankruptcy before I would even have them come in.
Bob: [00:12:50] Oh, okay.
Errin: [00:12:50] And, I would be blunt with them. If it didn’t sound like they were a good candidate, I would just tell them. You know, I’m not going to waste your time. If it’s not going to work for you, then there’s other things that you can do. I had a lot of people that appreciated that and I got a lot of referrals from people that didn’t end up filing bankruptcy.
Bob: [00:13:08] That’s great.
Errin: [00:13:10] Yeah.
Bob: [00:13:10] So there are benefits to honesty in life. That’s good to hear.
Errin: [00:13:12] Yeah.
Bob: [00:13:12] You know, you talk about just mailing, but how many letters were you sending out a week? Because… I mean, I’m presuming that you’re doing this with paper that you buy from Office Depot and your HP laser printer and you’re folding and all this.
Errin: [00:13:27] Absolutely.
Bob: [00:13:28] So how many letters, and how long did you take every week banging out these letters?
Errin: [00:13:34] Well, I mean, that’s the part that would take a little bit of time. The kids are really good at folding paper and putting them in envelopes, I found. Sometimes you have some little helpers there to help you out a little bit but, yeah, I mean, it depended on how many judgments there were. Sometimes, I would kind of cherry-pick the judgments, too. If there was something that I could tell was something that probably wouldn’t be somebody who was likely to respond and then maybe I wouldn’t bother with it. But for the most part, I would just send mail out to whoever who had a judgment against them and just go with it from there. But, yeah, there were times where maybe I would send 500 to a thousand a week.
Bob: [00:14:13] Wow.
Errin: [00:14:14] So, yeah.
Bob: [00:14:15] But with a 5 percent response rate, I mean, you’re getting 50 calls a week. That’s… That’s every week.
Errin: [00:14:20] Not too bad, right?
Bob: [00:14:24] Yeah. Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah, direct mail is often underused and it has a very attractive return on advertising investment so I’m very impressed by what you did there.
Errin: [00:14:34] Thank you. Honestly, it took a while for me to just kind of get the process down and figure out what it was that I needed to do. But once I did, it was just cranking out the sausage machine. You know, just grind it out and doing it every time. That was really the key for me. It was just being consistent and doing it like every week. There were other people that I knew, other attorneys, that would send stuff out and maybe they would send stuff out like, you know, once a month or every two months or whatever. Well, in my view, that was too late.
Bob: [00:15:06] Yeah.
Errin: [00:15:06] Because I already beat you to the punch.
Bob: [00:15:08] But you wouldn’t do it the day of the judgment, or the day after the judgment was filed, you do it, maybe, every Friday or whatever your day was. You do it once a week.
Errin: [00:15:17] Yeah. Yeah, once a week and it wasn’t an everyday thing. It was a once a week thing.
Bob: [00:15:22] Oh, and this is where your technology background comes into play because you were able to… Did you just do a mail merge inside Microsoft Word?
Errin: [00:15:30] Yes, exactly. I had an Excel spreadsheet where I get all the names and everything in a database. Then I just did a mail merge into Word and, like you said, I just had like the… I actually had a Brother printer which are not bad printers.
Bob: [00:15:44] OK.
Errin: [00:15:45] And just crank them out and did it like that. They work.
Bob: [00:15:50] And do you still do that?
Errin: [00:15:52] I do, not as much as I used to ’cause I’ve gotten some other things going that produce same income as well.
Bob: [00:15:59] Sure.
Errin: [00:16:00] But, yeah, it is something that I still do.
Bob: [00:16:02] So does your practice now still kind of lean towards the real estate, the chapter 13 side where you’re protecting assets or you do a lot of chapter 7s?
Errin: [00:16:11] Well, it’s funny that when I first started off, I was doing mostly Chapter 7 and it was just… You know, there was a big need for it. There were a lot of people that just… They didn’t have much on assets and if they were losing their home, if they always lost their home or whatever, there was not much there anyway so there are a lot of Chapter 7s but I have been transitioning more into Chapter 13s. And, if you can get those going, then it’s more of a steady income stream coming down as long as you just keep generating chapter 13s. You get those revenue streams coming in every month. I’m a trustee which is not bad.
Bob: [00:16:47] But I guess Chapter 7s is a good way to start. You get that cash upfront which is…
Errin: [00:16:52] Yeah.
Bob: [00:16:53] As an attorney just starting out, you want that cash upfront, right?
Errin: [00:16:57] Exactly. Of course, if I could get cash upfront on the 13, I’ll do it too but, you know, those aren’t quite as easy to get.
Bob: [00:17:07] Yeah, absolutely. We talked about the Great Recession. You know, you started practicing in 2006. So you were banging out these letters. I guess the number of foreclosure notices must have been just order of magnitude larger back then, you know.
Errin: [00:17:21] Oh yeah, absolutely.
Bob: [00:17:22] What were those years like? I mean, do you even remember 2010 or were you so…
Errin: [00:17:29] Yeah, because it’s still fresh in my mind like… You know, I talked to hundreds and hundreds of people that were facing foreclosures. The thing that kind of struck me during that time was that people were trying. They really were trying to get modifications. They were trying to figure out some way to do something. In many cases, maybe they weren’t able to even do a Chapter 13. They just couldn’t make a plan work, right? They had lost their job or something had happened, you know? Maybe they were just too far behind or too far underwater on their home and it didn’t make sense to keep it anymore. I counseled hundreds of people and stuff like that. I had a guy that, you know… He had a home and the mortgage, the first mortgage was like $750,000 and he had a second on there which was like about $250,000, and the thing was only worth like maybe $500,000.
Bob: [00:18:19] Oh, wow.
Errin: [00:18:19] I’m like, “You shouldn’t keep this. You shouldn’t try to keep it. I mean, right now ,you’re just a renter and you’re going to be that way for a long time, you know? You’re never going to get any equity in this thing.” He finally saw the light and said, “You’re right.” It’s like, “Why am I continually trying to save this place that I’m never going to get any equity at?” It’s like, “I don’t know. Why don’t you just let it go and then we’ll do a chapter 7? We’ll get this, you know… This second [mortgage], it’s going to be out there as an unsecured debt at that point.” You know, a lot of people say they saw it so…
Bob: [00:18:53] How did you survive all that work? Did you hire up, or did you just work really hard, or…
Errin: [00:18:59] Well, that’s the thing. I am kind of a workhorse, I guess… I was a one-man band. Some people call me the “one-man band aid.” It was one of those situations where I just felt like as if I could handle the workload and do what I needed to do and I had a process down and I handled everything. I really, I didn’t have any staff and no secretaries or paralegals. It was really just me and, you know, I learned a tremendous amount doing that. It’s just what works for me. You know, I didn’t get so large where I would have needed to get like two or three extra people or that because I knew that there was going to be… Things were not going to continue the way they were in the heyday where everybody got to file as many cases that they wanted, eventually. There were a lot of firms, actually, that ended up hiring a bunch of people to handle that workload and then ended up having to fire people later when the filing started tailing off, which I didn’t want to get in that position.
Bob: [00:20:00] Oh that’s smart because filings are down about half in the peak in 2010.
Errin: [00:20:05] Yeah, exactly.
Bob: [00:20:05] Has that been an adjustment for you, just with the retainers being down in general?
Errin: [00:20:10] I think so. You know, it’s made me also want to branch out into a few other things but also kind of the transition there into Chapter 13; doing more of those ’cause you get paid more for those over the long haul and where you don’t have to do quite as many of them as you would Chapter 7.
Bob: [00:20:27] Absolutely. You know, I’m a marketing guy so I’m always interested in other interesting marketing ideas that bankruptcy lawyers are willing to share. You do a lot of bankruptcy-related real estate works. Do you have any kind of cool tactics to maybe get referrals from real estate agents or anyone like that in the real estate field? Does that work for you?
Errin: [00:20:46] Oh absolutely. You know, anybody that was a real estate agent back then, I filed bankruptcies for a lot of them. So it just made sense to me to kind of keep in good contact with them and kind of utilize that resource and I’ve gotten referrals from many of them. So it’s one of those things, “Hey, I’m helping you out. You can help me out, you know. This is how I feed my family, that’s how you feed yours. I’ll help you when I can.” That type of thing. You know, personal relationships are good, and that was another thing that I kind of liked about sort of being a solo. Invariably, when I would go to these trustee meetings, there would be somebody come up to me and say, “Are you my attorney?” I would say, “If I was your attorney, you would know it.” You know? It was true. I mean… And so having that personal relationship with my client, knowing who they are outside and them knowing me, I think, it’s helped with getting a lot of referrals, actually, because I’m still getting lots of referrals from people that I filed like, you know, 7, 8 years ago and whatnot.
Bob: [00:21:49] That’s kind of funny that your referral source for real estate agents are all the real estate agents that filed for bankruptcy and then they could refer their clients, but you didn’t even have to do anything special to build up that referral source. It just happened naturally.
Errin: [00:22:05] Not really. I mean, yeah, it’s kind of a self-supplying source, I guess.
Bob: [00:22:11] That’s amazing. That’s amazing, actually. So a new mega trend looking today… Well, it’s been building up for a long time. I graduated from college in ‘96 and people were talking about the explosion of student loans back then and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger. Of course, student loans aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy in the main.
Errin: [00:22:29] Right.
Bob: [00:22:30] You know, are you seeing this in your practice? How do you help all those clients that are burdened with student loans that they can’t discharge?
Errin: [00:22:36] Well, that’s become a, like you said, major issue and there are some people that I just feel so bad for them because there really isn’t anything you can do to get those student loans other than try to show that you’re, basically, completely incapacitated. You know, it’s such a high standard. It’s ridiculous to try to meet it. You know, there are some attorneys who kind of specialize in that area. So if I’ve got a special case where it looks like maybe they’re on the border there, I’ll kind of throw them over to some of those guys. But I think right now, a lot of folks if they can get on an income-based repayment plan, that may be about the best bet for them in many cases. I kind of heard something new just the other day, which I’m not sure if it’s true or not. I had a couple that had come in for consultation and they make, between them, almost $200,000 a year, which is not bad, right?
Bob: [00:23:35] Yeah, it’s not peanuts.
Errin: [00:23:37] So they filed their taxes separately and the wife is making about 85 or so and she’s on an income-based repayment plan. I’m like, “Really?” She says, “Yeah.” She said, “We just filed our taxes separately and I submitted it to the, you know, whoever looks at it.” It’s one of those things where I guess you have to submit it every year and it kind of gets, recast, if, you know, your income goes up or down. But, yeah, that kind of surprised me. I’m not sure if that’s something that really works but it’s certainly an interesting idea.
Bob: [00:24:18] Did you hear… When you heard the story, did you hear whether she has a $3 million student loan from five PhD’s or something that would…
Errin: [00:24:26] Well, she did have a fairly significant amount, over a hundred thousand. I think it was.
Bob: [00:24:31] OK.
Errin: [00:24:31] So yeah. But, you know, it’s one of those things where if I’ve got a client that comes in and they’ve got a lot of student loans and maybe a little bit of unsecured debt, little bit meaning like maybe like ten or fifteen thousand in credit cards, medical bills, that type of stuff but they’ve got like a hundred thousand in student loans, then I’ll try to push them into a 13 because they’ll pay off… Most of the money that they’re going to be paying in is probably going to be going to the student loans anyway. To me, it kind of just makes more sense or we might try to do a chapter 7 first and then put them into 13 to kind of keep the student loan folks off their back if they’re way way behind.
Bob: [00:25:12] Sure. Now, I work mainly with bankruptcy lawyers but I’m not a bankruptcy lawyer. Are you suggesting that someone in a Chapter 13 with student loans that the student loan companies will accept the haircut or a discount?
Errin: [00:25:26] Well, what happens is, if this got a chapter 13 and you’re going to say it’s like a five-year repayment plan and there’s a certain amount that goes toward the unsecured creditors which the student loans are one of those. If the student loan is like the biggest part of it, they’re going to get the majority of the money. So the other stuff isn’t going to get very much and would be discharged at the end but the student loans, you’re not paying them enough. The interest and stuff accrues while you’re on a 13. That’s something that people don’t always realize but they should think about that.
Bob: [00:26:03] So after the three to five year payment plan ends, their Chapter 13 ends, they’re kind of…
Errin: [00:26:09] Well, they’re… At least they’ve got the majority, though, of the debt that was being paid during that time. At least it was to the student loan, as opposed to credit cards or somebody like that.
Bob: [00:26:22] That’s a good point. We’ve been talking about some heavy topics here. You told me another funny story that I don’t know if I have to describe. I don’t want to describe it because I don’t want to give away the punchline but I thought maybe you could tell me about the trustee meeting where the well-known attorney…
Errin: [00:26:35] Yeah.
Bob: [00:26:35] You could tell that story because it was so funny.
Errin: [00:26:39] Yeah, so you learn a lot by just sitting in the audience at these trustee meetings and you get to see other attorneys with their clients and get to see the issues and how the trustee reacts to different things. So I was sitting there one time with my client and there was another attorney there. She’s very well-known and she was kind of had a little grin on her face and so I was kind of intrigued by what was going on. You know, her and her client, they go to the table to meet with the trustee, and trustee goes through the standard questions and gets to the one about, you know, “What do you do for a living?” The client says, “I’m a dominatrix.” And brings out a whip and kind of slams it on the table. The trustee’s just turned beet red and, you know, quickly like kind of closes that meeting out, goes on to the next one. But I mean, all of us there were just like, “Oh my gosh, this is fantastic.” You know, it couldn’t have been a better ending to the meeting right there.
Bob: [00:27:39] You know, you told me that story just a little bit ago but I’m laughing all over again.
Errin: [00:27:45] Yes.
Bob: [00:27:45] That’s a good one.
Errin: [00:27:46] Crazy stuff you see in these meetings and just overall clients, they can be real funny.
Bob: [00:27:55] Yeah, I know you’re also an author. In fact… Well, I read #Defendant, which I think is a short novel. Is that fair to say?
Errin: [00:28:02] Yes.
Bob: [00:28:02] Novella. What do you say? Short novel?
Errin: [00:28:07] Novella or you can just say it’s a short story.
Bob: [00:28:10] Short story? So I have to ask, what made you start writing?
Errin: [00:28:14] Well, you know, I had gotten interested in it back when I was actually in law school and you know my brother-in-law used to do rewrites on screenplays and he kind of got me interested in it. So I had entered a contest and I won. The prize was that you got to be the screenplay rewriter for a Hollywood producer, not a big name producer, but it was something, anyway, and it kind of helped to pay the bills when I was in law school. So I became interested in writing at that time, and, you know, the screenplay game is… It’s tough. You can’t really get a big score in that but once Amazon started coming around with the self-publishing stuff, I started becoming interested in that and I kind of turned some of my screenplays into short stories. One of which was the one you read, #Defendant. I’ve got a couple of others out there but I’ve got a series that kind of working on and I’m going to wait until I have two or three of the books ready to go so I can kind of make the most bang for my buck, so to speak, when I get it out there on the website. Yeah, it’s going to be a series about, guess what, a bankruptcy attorney. So some of the interesting stories that I’ve come across to, you know, the whole scenario and whatnot will be worked in there so we’ll change the names to protect the guilty but it will be fun.
Bob: [00:29:36] That’s awesome. I’m curious. Is there a whip in the new series?
Errin: [00:29:42] You just never know. There might be.
Bob: [00:29:45] You have to read it to find out.
Errin: [00:29:47] Right.
Bob: [00:29:47] I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I went back to the book, and this isn’t a spoiler but a plot element in your novel involves a technology-enabled justice system that kind of routinely makes plaintiffs settle or face a prohibited fee if they lose in court.
Errin: [00:30:04] Exactly.
Bob: [00:30:05] I have to ask, is that inspired by real life or is that out of your fertile imagination?
Errin: [00:30:10] Yeah, fortunately, that hasn’t come about yet. I would hate to think of what might become of our society if something like that would happen but I just… It’s one of those things where I read 1984 or any of these other dystopian future type of book and you start thinking, “Hmm, how could I work the law into that?”
Bob: [00:30:30] Yeah.
Errin: [00:30:30] Yeah, let’s make this society where, you know, like you said, the computers basically decide, you know, who wins and loses at cases. Yeah, that’s kind of where I came from.
Bob: [00:30:43] It’s like Judge Siri, right?
Errin: [00:30:46] Right.
Bob: [00:30:49] So looking ahead, what are the goals for your practice? I mean, you’ve built your practice up to support yourself and your family and, you know, what are your goals looking at over the next 10 years?
Errin: [00:30:58] Well, I want to just keep maintaining and doing what I’ve got to do there, keep things rolling. If there’s new ways of marketing, I’m certainly open to looking at anything else that’s new out there. I like to read a lot. I read news articles about different things that are happening and try to keep up on what other people are doing, not just in bankruptcy but in general. You know, somebody’s got some clever new idea for marketing something, you know. Maybe I’ll try it out and see what happens. I’ve always been willing to at least try something and see what the possibilities are. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but sometimes it does and you don’t know until you try.
Bob: [00:31:34] So you can take the man out of technology but you can’t take the technology out of the man, or the desire for new and fun things.
Errin: [00:31:42] Exactly. I’m a perpetual nerd.
Bob: [00:31:46] That’s OK. I am too. I read your #Defendant book on my Kindle where I have 500 to a thousand of books purchased so I’m right there with you. I’m not trying throwing stones.
Errin: [00:32:01] Yeah, absolutely. My goal for my writing would be to get onto the BookBub deal at one point in time and see if I can get something going with that but I have to wait until I’ve got the series ready.
Bob: [00:32:16] Yeah, I read a lot of series. If the first one is any good, I’ll just buy the second and third one without even reading the description. In fact, I don’t like to spoil it by reading the description so I like your marketing strategy there.
Errin: [00:32:27] Excellent, excellent.
Bob: [00:32:29] Well, Errin, thanks so much for joining us today.
Errin: [00:32:32] Thank you. I really appreciated it, and good luck with all the stuff you’re doing too.
Bob: [00:32:36] Thanks. I’ll see you all on the next episode.
Errin: [00:32:38] Thank you.