How to prospect lawyers and build impactful referral relationships in the estate planning space: Ask The Expert with Attorney Sylvana Rosende
Sylvana Rosende, Miami probate and estate planning attorney, guests this probate Ask The Expert episode to share how putting people first allowed her to build a referral-based business, start her own law firm, and align with real estate professionals to deliver more impactful results for clients.
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/kOa87jAYRNs
0:00 Finding a professional niche and pursuing a career you love
3:13 The power of being passionate about your niche: Winning referral-based business
7:01 What are the best and worst ways real estate professionals can pitch attorneys?
8:22 Why comarketing with attorneys is a win for you and for shared clients.
8:47 SCRIPT: How to pitch co-marketing to probate attorneys/estate planning attorneys
10:56 SCRIPT: How to become an estate planning referral yourself
11:26 SCRIPT: Sample marketing copy/prospecting script for estate planning referral campaign
11:56 SCRIPT: Quick script for approaching attorneys with estate planning referrals
14:38 SCRIPT: How to invite a probate attorney to cohost a Facebook community and educational content
16:08 How a real estate investor really impressed me with his probate service
19:10 How NOT to ask attorneys for real estate referrals
20:04 Is it worth it to send emails and direct mail to probate attorneys?
24:56 Should you bring cookies, gifts to introduce yourself to B2B prospects?
26:30 What impact do you want to make as a probate attorney?
Welcome everybody. My name is Chad Corbett. I'm the founder of Magnum Opus project and probate mastery. And this is another of our ask the expert series. And I'm really excited to bring another probate attorney to the table. We've had a few in the last couple of months in the Estate Professionals Mastermind community. Sylvana is somebody who we connected with just recently and super excited about this relationship because she is obviously in the legal field, but I think we are a 100% match on values and that empathy value first approach. You hear us talk about it all the time from the standpoint of a real estate practitioner, and I was really excited to see how her values in probate law are very similar to what we teach in probate real estate. So I think, I don't think you're already a valuable part of our community and I'm really excited to give you guys access to a probate attorney who actually believes in the approach that we use that empathetic approach. So tell us how you got here. Why did you choose the path into law? You're in the south Florida market. Why there? Help, will help everyone understand what brought you here today? Thank you for having me. And I agree with everything you said. I'm based in Miami. I've been a Miami girl, my whole life. I was five years old and I said, I wanted to go to law school. And for some reason it stuck. I went to law school in St. Thomas university. Also in south Florida. I decided to intern in probate court when I was in law school and I was shocked. I was like, wow, this is such a nice field of law. It's actually rewarding. I actually enjoyed what I was doing prior to law school. I was a trial paralegal, so doing a lot of litigation and everything of that nature. I decided I wanted to explore different options. See what else this field could provide for me. I started with probate and I, after I graduated law school, I worked at various different probate firms. Starting January. I launched my own firm and it's been the best thing I could've done for myself. I focus on probate, guardianship, probate real estate now, and just everything within the scope of probate, I'm always happy to help. And I really do love what I do. So we've been talking a lot lately. It's interesting how trends pop up in our conversations in the community, but we've, there's been a lot of talk about you don't find your niche, your niche finds you typically, if you're the master of your craft, you didn't go looking for that. It actually came to you. And I think that's the hallmark, when somebody is playing at the top of their game. Like when they're really an expert in the industry, it seems to happen that way. Like, at five years old, you, weren't saying I'm going to be a probate attorney! But you knew that you wanted to serve in that capacity. And then within that industry, probate found you, which is what happened to most of us in real estate. I certainly didn't set out to say I'm going to be a probate expert. I didn't even know what it was when I first transitioned into residential real estate. But, when I tell a lot of folks I got into real estatefor the wrong reasons:
Money. And I stayed for the right reasons, people. And I think that's probably similar to a lot of attorneys who find themselves in the probate space. They get eaten alive by public defense or litigation or other, areas of practice. And it's not that great of a job, but being able to see the gratitude and the actual change you can make in a family's life, it's fuel to keep going. So you started your own firm just this year or was it last January? I started just this year and I haven't even done much marketing or anything. All my referrals have been through word of mouth and I am so lucky to have a good clientele as of just a few months ago. So like I said, I enjoy probate and everyone just knows that whenever you need someone regarding probate, you reach out to Sylvana. That's who my colleagues and actually a lot of the law students that I went to school with, they have all reached out and I had so much support. So I'm super happy for that Yeah, so you guys have heard me be critical of other probate attorneys on this channel. I tend to think that Pareto's principle may be even too generous, like more than 80% of probate attorneys probably don't deserve the position they're in. In my experience. But the 20% or so that, that really do this with compassion, like with being the fiduciary front of mind and trying to minimize stress and maximize equity. I found that to be kind of rare, the same as the probate real estate space. So it's always exciting to me when I'm meeting an attorney that is attracting this business and actually sitting down and taking more of a consultative approach with the family, not just saying, "here's a list, go do this stuff. And I want to be paid in five months!" Where you actually approach it as we would, where you focus on people in situation and then bring in the solution that best fits that family. That was the vision for my law firm. I wanted to make sure I was approachable and that I had an approachable offer. I don't have an issue with people reaching out to me. I won't tell you to schedule a call for two weeks later, right? I like to be approachable and just help these families, because some of them are really going through the worst times in their lives. So losing someone is never easy and no matter how much time passes and everything, it's good to have someone who understands and who's approachable in a situation. Yeah I've, I've cautioned people like we get, obviously in our industry, you know, in real estate, aggressiveness tends to pay off in the industry as a whole. However, as you transition into probate, a lot of folks will aggressively pick up the phone and directly solicit, " I buy houses for cash close, fast!" Or "I can list houses! We did 600 deals last year!" And it's I-I-I. And what a lot of people fail to realize is: just stop and recognize this have empathy, right. Um, be empathetic for their position. Like you've known about their situation for maybe a day, maybe a week. They've known about their situation for months before the death occurred and months after it occurred. And then they finally went to see the clerk. They finally gained enough strength and through the grieving process, they finally reached a point, had the courage and the strength to go to the clerk and petition for probate. They don't know what to expect. They're scared to death. Most people for most PR I've worked with it's the first time they've dealt with it. And they're, they're tasked with being a fiduciary. The business end of this, but they're still wrestling with the emotional side of it. So for the people who jump in with their aggressive tactics that have worked in other parts of the real estate market, this tends to chew them up and spit them out. Just because they'd never get any traction because it's that selfish offer. And that's, what's really cool about watching this community come together and we're at more and more attorneys like you or are finding the community. We're collecting these benevolent attorneys and merging you guys into the conversation. And ultimately you've got a brand new firm, that takes a lot of courage. You stepped out on your own. You haven't even got to a marketing budget because you don't need to. So I think there's a lot we can learn from you guys. From a different perspective about how we can provide more value and kind of bridge that gap between the real estate community and the legal community. If our hearts are in the right place, we're all doing this to help the consumer, right? This is not about our small business growth. It's about consumer impact. And if we're good at that, then our small business will naturally grow. In the beginning is the toughest time. And you've already got momentum. So all that said we've got, we've asked several different attorneys, this question what is the worst thing a real estate professional can do if they're trying to connect with you and actually earn your trust. What's the best approach that you've seen from a real estate professional to actually earn your trust and referrals, and what's the worst? So I'm very particular about who I work with. I do not like people who come in with a transactional approach to this, like " I'm just getting a sale out of this and I don't care what happens. I don't care how long this property is listed for without anything." I think it's important We all, we're all trying to succeed in our business, but also to put other people's best interests too, as well. So come into this with the thought that some people may need this money for other situations, and don't let a listing sit for so long and then we're expending more funds in probate. And they are, these people are just waiting around. So I think it's important to be diligent. And it's all about approach, really how you come into this situation.And you tell me:
"Hey Silvana I, maybe I saw your podcast episode. I'd be interested in connecting. I have this...." and just be approachable. And I like to see what people do. Tell me stories about who you work with. Like success you've had with probate properties and more or less how you operate. I think that's really important. Yep. So there's a couple of approaches that I've found to be very effective and attorneys tend to love it. So, how We as real estate professionals have a pretty big advantage because we don't have direct marketing anti solicitation law. So we can actually pull a list of probate leads, a list of, of whatever that might be a even a pre probate or, obituaries. I don't suggest that, but we can pull a probate list and market directly to the families. Where, in your side of the industry you can't. So one of the least threatening way that I coach people to get out of their comfort zone and make those first couple of attorney connections is to actually go visit, find out who has a respectable firm and in their market go into the firm and say, listen, we have a team of people here locally that help families going through probate. We handle all the non-legal aspects and we're just really looking to partner with the right attorneys. And I'd like to discuss today about sitting down designing a hyper-local. Probate checklist or a probate timeline. And we'll include, obviously include your firm branding on that. And it'll go in every mail piece that we send out. So just as a value piece and that first touch, when you first reach out to the family they cause a lot of people don't know what they don't know. And even if they have a probate attorney, I think a good number of people are disappointed in my experience, they end up switching probate attorneys mid-process but also in my experience, owning a probate lead company. We found is nationwide about 20% upon filing a petition or I guess upon getting a letters of testamentary around 20% of families are pro se or pro per. So they think we don't need an attorney. And so there's an opportunity to comarket through. Certified probate experts who are direct marketing through email, through direct mail, through outbound phone campaigns. I found that it's a really good kind of non-threatening way to approach an attorney with an offer of value where our people are out there marketing for you, and oftentimes that's at their costs. They're paying for it anyways. It doesn't hurt to throw another page in there. So that's one of the less intimidating ways. What I prefer and what really, I believe really starts relationships off quickly with a strong bond is you do estate planning, right? Yes, I do. Yeah. And that's easier business than probate, right? Yeah. So what I usually encourage folks to do, go through your sphere of influence anyone in your past client. If if they have a net worth of, I would, in my opinion, more than a hundred thousand, but let's say if they have a net worth of more than 500,000, they should have a living trust and there's about a 95% chance on the east coast they don't have a living trust. So one of the best ways I've coached people to connect with attorneys is, and if they don't have a living trust, they can be the first referral, but come through Sylvana's door and say, "hi, I work with a lot of families in probate and I've realized how painful that is. I don't have a living trust myself, and I want to take care of that. And I'm looking for the right partner to handle my estate, but also one that I can confidently refer the families that don't have legal representation or who are looking to replace legal representation that we're working with." So you walk in the door with a referral and if it's not you, it can be, you send out an email, do a call campaign, direct mail and say, "Hey, listen, 2022 is, the year that I'm going to raise my standard of service, I realized I helped you buy a home or sell a home. And we didn't even talk about how I can use my knowledge and my network to actually protect you and your family. So I'd like to offer you an hour of time with my trusted estate planning attorney, just so you can see what the options are to have the proper protections and estate plan in place." And then if they get five hands to raise, they come to your office and say, "Hey, Savannah, I have got five people that need estate plans. Like, I've really been excited to meet you. It looks like you're in probate. That's how I got into this. Can let's start with you helping these five people?" Like what kind of reception does that get in your office? If somebody walks in with a qualified, ready to talk, estate planning referral. I think that given the nature of, like you said, marketing, the fact that I can't go out and solicit clients, a referral is the best gift and the best way to approach me. For sure, and I've had this conversation too. When I do my speeches and I tell them, okay, you have this family in probate. Let this be a lesson. And let this also be a lesson for you to look into your own personal finances and make sure that you don't ever have to go through this and your family doesn't have to go through this. Setting up the trust, setting up an estate plan is not a terrible. And if you have proper guidance and everything, it can be done very efficiently and in a manner that will operate and it'll keep you out of probate. So I think it's important and I appreciate all referrals. If you not just for, like you said, probate, but for estate planning in any way I can help and just have a conversation with anyone I'm happy to do. Yeah, one more idea that we found to be effective, but very few people get off the ground is actually building a community resource and bringing your vendor team into that. So easiest way to do that is to build a Facebook group. So in your case it may be, Miami life transitions, Facebook group. And it could be you as the pro the probate attorney. It could be one of our certified probate experts like Eleanor, Ele Martinez. She's a Colombian very proudly works probate. Putting together the probate attorney, the real estate professional, the social worker, the grief counselor, the nursing home point, you know, the, the director of marketing and the nursing home, the CPAs, registered investment advisors, all of these people that we commonly use to help these families, giving them a public stage to do what I just said to grow their business, like to get exposure to the people we're prospecting to. But create a really valuable Facebook group. So we have a funeral director next Wednesday talking about how to actually get the $9,000 COVID reimbursement from FEMA, things like that, where it becomes evergreen content. It gets posted. And over time, people find this, people in the community, you can actually target them by uploading your probate list and then running, join our group ads to them, not buy our stuff, or let me buy your house. But. Come find this group. It's something valuable, no matter who you are, what you own, if you're in trust, if you're in probate. So that's one of the newer ideas that a few people have done really well with is actually partnering with inviting the probate attorney. So I come to you and say, "Sylvana listen I'm really looking to create more inbound business and referrals that I don't have to go hammer the phones and do all this. So I need a probate attorney that I can really trust that have the same values that we do. And I need you to be present no less than one Wednesday night per month for one hour, I need you to have some something to say to the community. And the benefit to you is your firm is going to build a reputation and you'll have evergreen content that's always there. So if there's no solicitation laws or restrictions that we have to worry about. It's a broadcast effort to provide value in the community." So have you ever been part of anything like that or have you done that on your own? Like I mentioned, I haven't done much marketing. I haven't gotten into that yet, but I think that's an excellent idea because at the end of the day, we're all a community. We all need to work together. I can't do my job if whoever's trying to sell the probate properties isn't doing their job. So we can all come together and somehow inform the community about these issues. I think this is great. I think it's a great idea. And I want to look into it for sure. So that's a few ways that we can get our foot in the door with people like Sylvana and connect with the right attorney, the ones that will, we know we can trust that when we refer a family, whether it's a family and probate that doesn't have representation, or whether it's one of our clients, our friends and family, or our buyers or sellers who don't have proper estate plans. I'd kinda like to borrow from your experience now and on here, let's tell the members a story about a real estate professional that you've had experience with in probate that really just went above and beyond. And that stood out like as an attorney, you're like, wow. If only I had more people that did this, like what is one of those? What is an example or examples of where real estate professionals have really added a ton of value to the process for you either by taking stress away from the family or from you, like what stands out in your mind is man, I wish every real estate professional knew that. This was actually one story that comes to mind. And then this was actually an investor. And he took on such a hands-on approach. This was an elderly lady living in her mother's home. She was very physically ill. She had the proper mental capacity for everything, but she was physically ill. She wasn't very.... She was unable to move and the house had was not in the best shape. He was offering to purchase the property because she needed resources for her medical care. And he just was very hands-on with her very patient and very diligent in the sense that he offered to help clean up the house. He offered to help move her out. He offered to help her find temporary housing while the transaction took place. And that's someone that I now want to continue to work. I will work with them and I will recommend them forever because just the fact that he cares so much in that situation that says a lot, it wasn't just a transaction for him. He has a heart. So there you have it. Got it. She just explained exactly what we teach in probate mastery. Offer a solution for anything that can possibly be needed and in the estate and you will earn the real estate business through trust by providing value. And that's, you're new to this community, but what you'll find is we have thousands of people who do that. In every state across the country. And that's something that makes me so proud because I was terrified to come out of production and real estate to do this, just this, because I thought I'm going to lose credibility. I won't have, I won't have sharp skills. What has been really amazing about that is I took my impact in one market where I could affect 50 families a year. And I took that out to where I'd now, like this message and this methodology that I developed in one little market in Virginia is now reaching thousands of families every week. Like we have so many success stories and that's a really cool thing to see. And it's nice to hear that validation from an attorney that wow, if everyone could just do this, there's several thousand of us in this community that are doing that. Over time that starts to become more and more noticeable. I've been doing this, teaching this for gosh, over eight years now. Some of the things that we've taught that were very progressive eight years ago are now kind of like, well, yeah, that's just how you do it the right way. And I'm like, yes, because we can begin to influence the way professionals deal with the families. And so that's what we're here for. So that's really great to hear that's a great validation. That's the most valuable thing. Now I'm curious as a contrast, like what is the most reckless or foolish, or just oh, I'll get this person out of my office. Will that approach, have you ever been approached by a real estate professional? That was just like, oh, get away from me. Just so people know how what behavior to avoid, like what really turns you off and says, I'll never work with that. So I'm very mindful of people's time because my time is very important. And throughout the day I schedule everything in accordance with my time. And sometimes there are real estate professionals who just expect, and they are a little entitled. And I think it's such a turnoff when someone's just emailing five, six times a day, like trying to get in for a response. Like I don't just sit around, waiting for someone's email all day and like, I have other matters to attend to. So, asking for favors without really providing anything or being mindful or anything. I don't like that. I think that it's important to be persistent in business, but do it in a mindful way. So not somebody who's just spamming you with emails. And I don't like that. I know that it's the nature of unfortunately, of real estate sometimes. That's not how I operate and I don't like that. Yep. So I'm going to assume you're like every other probate attorney. When a petition is filed with your name on it, do you start getting letters in the mail, calls on the phone, emails and how do you handle those? Like it does it, has it ever worked like where you're like, oh, this person's email is amazing I'm going to send them a referral! I have a fiduciary duty to tell my clients about any offers that I get or any sort of interest in property and things like that. So I comply with that component, but I think that I did receive one email the other day where the person was still respectful and they were interested in the probate property, but they were also like, Hey, maybe let's connect and do coffee sometime and see how we can work together. And I thought, okay, wow. It's not just another cookie cutter letter email asking to purchase the property. You actually want to like, get to know me and get to know my business. And I appreciate that. That's a good approach to take. Now, what about direct mail? Cause a lot of the attorney that I've interviewed in this space, like they, they opened mail over the trash can and all of those realtor letters are just directly filed in the round bin Is that something that you see often? Cause some attorneys I think it was John Fraker, that's saying for every case, like that records with his name on it, he'll get like 20 inbound solicitation letters that they're not about a specific property or it's just they got the probate, firm name, address, attorney name, and just mailed it. So is that something I do get direct mail and I, I don't give much weight to it. I think that a personalized email goes further. Wasting resources to put a letter in the mail. I think that, I don't know. It's just, we're all busy and you've got the same cookie cutter letter from everyone you're not interested. So you, it sounds like you would agree with me that the kind of rank of effectiveness and impact and importancewould be:
if you really want to build a firm relationship and our referrals, show up in person with something of value, next would be a personalized email with a request for an in-person meeting, like something that's personal. And then mail and phone solicitation interrupting your clearly blocked out day is probably the least effective way to get through to an attorney. Like you. I agree 100%, yes. So my real world experience and coaching, thousands of people has been just that if I can get somebody out of their comfort zone to approach an attorney in person, even if it's interrupting a scheduled time block, if they come in and say certain things like we've talked about already, The attorney is like, hold on, just get him in the conference room. And they're there for the next 90 minutes. And it's because they don't perceive them as wasting their time. They're like, holy crap. How have I not met this person? And they're, the law firm is excited to finally meet a real estate professional who's saying something other than looking at look at these business cards and the little, like I'm the best, I'm the best I can do this. But they're actually coming in and saying, help me learn about your small business and see how my small business can help yours grow and vice versa. And let's see if we can build a reciprocal referral agreement. And it's such a rare thing that it's really, that's why it's really effective because most attorney they've never encountered someone who's that proactive and saying, Hey, how can I help you first? Obviously with that, the interest of earning your respect and referrals in the future. And it's a rare thing. That's why it's so effective, no matter where you are. We've had, we've got tons of stories from rural markets, all the way to Midtown Manhattan, where you have to get past, a guard, an armed guard to get to an office, but with the right level of tenacity, if you can be nice enough and earn your way up that elevator, where you can be standing in that law firm in Midtown Manhattan. It's the same there as it is in de Moines, Iowa, where you can just walk right into, oh, strip mall office or whatever. So I just wanted to under your score that, so it's, we have this conversation a lot, but it's scattered across weekly calls and different things. And there's some in the course, but guys pay attention to the, this, you're pulling from someone whose time is very valuable and sharing that in that with us. So if you really want to get this right. What we teach is a two-pronged approach. One is marketing, so direct marketing to the personal representatives to start the conversation the longer term, and arguably more, more, most important part of this is building a strong referral network of professionals. So starting with probate attorneys, nursing, home employees, social workers, senior moving companies anyone who has contact with families in transition or in that end of life, they even elder care attorneys. We teach show up in person. If you can't do that, make a phone call and try to set an appointment. If you must send an email as a last resort, direct mail, but just know you're probably you're probably, you're better off buying pizza and randomly showing up, handing out pizzas at lunchtime than you are buying directly. And we've actually had, or Italian Christmas cookies. One of the, one of the little girls, I coach a lady I coached in Richmond, Virginia, and Virginia. It's not that common though, to use probate attorneys typically families all go at it alone. It's very rare that you use an attorney in Southwest Virginia, and it's only from Richmond over to Wytheville like that. Southwest Virginia, the rest of the state from there out to the coast and up to Northern routine. It's almost a hundred percent of cases have attorneys. But it's not exactly easy to get referrals from attorneys in that market and that Southwest Virginia market, because they don't really help a lot of families. They do a lot of estate planning. But Sam went to a little Italian. And she would buy fresh baked goods and then door knock and just dropped by law firms. And she built a considerable business, a referral business of probates and divorces. What she uncovered in that if they know they can trust you to not muddy the water and all the mediation work they've had to do to keep this moving forward, you'll eventually get that business too. That's what we've taught here is, show up in person as a priority or find a way to get in person with something of value as fast as you can. And you'll almost always impress that attorney and are in that business. Always welcome for cookies. So I'm happy to take cookies, from everybody in the, everybody in the Miami-Dade market! So what do you, what I'll this is a personal question, but I'm putting you on the spot. We didn't have an agenda for this. Guy's what's the impact you want to make? What is the what's the print that you want to leave in your career as a probate attorney? What change do you want to see and what are you doing? So I want people to know that, like I said, approach and just sympathy in this fields, I feel many of the attorneys that are in the field and not to say anything bad, but they're in it for oh, a case is a case. But I think that we need to take in a different approach. I've I'm starting also to take on pro bono cases and to just be able to help and realize how much of a difference it makes in someone's life to have an attorney who actually cares about you. And to understand that this is not just a case, it's not the estate of so-and-so -these are real people's lives. And I, the difference I want to make is I, first of all, I planted myself different. I'm a woman owned business. I am just, in a male dominated field. And I want to approach my law firm with a different vision. That probate. Isn't just a case. It's not just a civil matter. It's not just like that. I want people to know that I'm an attorney who actually cares. And I came into this field for the actual right purposes and to actually help. So that's the impact I hope to make. And I hope that it'll rub off maybe on other attorneys and make a change in the field. Maybe. That's it. Oh please play a role in our Facebook group estate professional mastermind. We have some attorneys in there now, not enough. My vision for that, in coming up out of the real estate space to reach more people was to invite more people, more attorneys like you to this conversation, because there's so much consistency in how your mindset and your approach into this as exactly what we've been doing. We're very excited to have you as part of the community, but let us like let's help each other. Find more let's get more of these benevolent minded attorneys to come in because the rising tide lifts all boats. So if we have attorneys and real estate professionals, co-mingling in the same community, just constantly challenging each other and holding each other accountable to provide a higher level of service, a more valuable service, then ultimately what happened 20 years think of the impact we make, think of the. The community can make where we collaboratively do this. Instead of attorneys judging real estate agents and thinking they're all idiots and real estate agents thinking attorneys are all, all just wasting time and taking a bunch of money from the family in a government process. Let's get together, have an honest conversation, help each other as we've, the stories I tell at the local level, we're trying to do that at a national level. So thank you for being part of this. And I look forward to having you in the community and. More people like you, let's find a way to, everybody can benefit from this. Thank you. I appreciate it. And I'd just like to say, I've taken a look at your materials. I think they're great. And continue what you're doing. Okay. Listen, I'll let you go. I know your time is very valuable, really appreciate you allowing us to borrow from your expertise, tell everybody where they can find you what's the best way to connect with you. So I'm actually located in. My office is mid Miami. I'm. Ha I don't know if you'll be, there's a way we can post maybe my business card or something. Yeah. So we'll put your links to any social or website, anything you would like. We can post that. Look in the show notes guys. Call me, text me, email me. I'm on social media. I've been active on Instagram lately too. So any type of way you wish to contact me, I'll always answer. Okay listen, thanks so much for being here today. And we look forward to hearing more from you in the future and having you as part of the community Bye!