Hugo Gomez is Founder and President of Abogados NOW, a national bilingual digital marketing consultancy exclusively exclusive to attorneys. The company was founded in Los Angeles in 2018 and has since expanded nationally to help law firms reach Spanish-speaking markets throughout the U.S.
Spanish speakers in the U.S. need lawyers, and lawyers need new clients—but these two groups often fail to connect due to barriers in language and culture. Hugo Gomez set out to solve this problem by founding Abogados NOW, a legal marketing firm that specializes in the bilingual market. Hugo joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast to talk about why Spanish digital media presents a cost-effective opportunity for growth; how to choose the best website and brand strategy to reach bilingual clients; and how you can reach Spanish speakers, even if you don’t speak Spanish yourself. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Welcome to the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. Today, my guest is Hugo Gomez, founder of Abogados NOW. The firm specializes in legal marketing, working with their client law firms to help them maximize their share of the bilingual market. Today, we’ll hear all about Hugo’s path and how the firm works with clients. Hugo, welcome to the program.
Hugo: Thank you so much for having me, Sharon. I’m super excited to be here.
Sharon: I’m so glad to have you. Tell us about your career path. Did you want to go into law?
Hugo: No, I was actually working in personal and commercial finance for most of my early career, doing a lot of high-volume lead generation. Those are great organizations I worked with. They were super fun, but having done most of what I could do in the financial sector, I wanted a new challenge. I was fortunate enough to get a role as a director at one of the nation’s largest lead generators for attorneys. What I learned very quickly was that there’s an opening in the market to advertise in Spanish on behalf of attorneys. After learning about the legal industry a little more, I decided to start Abogados NOW to empower smaller firms, sole practitioners and medium-size firms to own their marketing, to grow on their own terms, essentially to have their own lead generation sources in Spanish that most attorneys simply do not have.
Sharon: Do they not have it because they think it’s going to cost too much, they’re too small, they don’t know how to do it? What is the opening you saw?
Hugo: Yeah, most attorneys largely advertise in English because digital marketing agencies, all they know is advertising in English. The opening we saw was that the fastest-growing audience segment is Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, and there wasn’t anyone really giving attorneys specific strategies to connect with these consumers authentically. And I say authentically because a lot of attorneys, when they attempt to advertise in Spanish, they’ll simply translate their marketing into Spanish. We all know what works in Spanish won’t work in English, and vice versa. The opening we saw, the opportunity we saw, was the ability to connect attorneys to these communities the right way, the authentic way, so that attorneys who don’t have that footprint in these communities can be trusted authorities.
Sharon: I can imagine people might hand off website copy to somebody who can translate it and say, “Translate it into Spanish.” You don’t know what’s actually happening or whether they’re doing it right, or whether I need to get out my high school Spanish book.
Sharon: I would assume all attorneys today know that digital marketing is important, that online marketing is important, so I assume they have some sort of program in place when they call you in. Is that true? What’s your first step in terms of O.K., let’s take a look at this?
Hugo: Typically speaking, when we onboard a new member, we onboard them after discussing a few qualifying questions. We want to know if they are on a growth path. If an attorney or a firm wants steady business, we’re probably not the right fit. We’re more equipped for hypergrowth strategies. We want that solo practice to grow, to find new revenue, so we reverse engineer their business goals. As much as we are a digital marketing partner, I think we are a great business partner as well. It all comes down to what the end goal is. Are you pointing yourself to an exit? Are you trying to increase the valuation of your company? Are you simply trying to grow for growth’s sake? There are many different goals attorneys have, so we try to determine what that goal is.
More often than not, the low-hanging fruit is Spanish media online, because Spanish media online is competitively priced. Online marketing for attorneys in English is quite competitive. We hear the horror stories from attorneys who don’t do well on Google search for this very reason. We’re able to hedge against that reality by owning Spanish-speaking consumers when they’re looking for an attorney.
Sharon: Is that mostly when they’re looking for a plaintiff attorney? Do you work with defense attorneys, intellectual property attorneys? What kind of practices do you work with?
Hugo: That’s a great question. We work with a variety of practices areas. We’re most popular in personal injury, workers’ comp, immigration, bankruptcy and criminal defense. Anything that hits a large mass of the population, we’re able to generate qualified calls, forums, chats, etc. for attorneys looking to grow their practice.
Sharon: How do you measure that? Do you help them? Do you work with them on lead intake, or do you just get the phone to ring and they’re on their own after that?
Hugo: It’s pretty inclusive. We don’t consider ourselves an agency. We believe we have way more value than most agencies do in that the marketing, the lead generation aspect, that’s standard. That’s something everybody gets in our program, and we’re very proud to do that quite well and competitively priced. Now, what happens when those calls are generated? A variety of things. A firm may have an intake center that’s bilingual already on site, which is amazing. We love to hear that. Sometimes they only have a receptionist, which is fine if they’re a low-volume player in the beginning, but if they’re confused or they’re not really familiar with intake operations, we connect them to the right partners for intake.
There are amazing answering services for attorneys. We work directly with LEX Reception—they are our official service partner—so for any attorney who is worried about answering calls in Spanish, we have a high degree of confidence saying, “Hey, we already have a solution for you; they are Abogados NOW’s certified answering service partner.” They’ll answer your calls 24/7. They’ll walk you through the script. They already know the best practices in getting personal and sensitive information from these markets. We’re proud to say that as much as we are a digital marketing partner, we are a great business operations partner.
Sharon: You would come in and say, “Let’s see what we would do in terms of your strategy, your positioning.” You’re working from the ground up.
Hugo: Absolutely. More often than not attorneys don’t have a Spanish strategy, and if they do, 99 percent of the time we have to break it down and build it from scratch again. It’s because the market’s changing quite fast. The census data that was released I believe a month ago, the 2020 census data, shows that this market has a very high purchase power. They make a lot of life decision on their mobile phones. Even the Pew Research Center confirmed that the vast majority of Spanish speakers use their phones as a primary source for the web, at a higher rate than the general English-speaking population. That surprises a lot of people, but the data supports that you really have to understand the market and build a strategy for them in that particular metro market, because the strategies that work in California will oftentimes not work in San Antonio and Miami and Newark, New Jersey. They’re very different markets, and you have to have a deep understanding of the value systems in these metro areas to build the right marketing program for them.
Sharon: So, you work across the county.
Hugo: Yeah, we’re national now. We started in California. That’s where our headquarters are, here in Los Angeles County. We knew the demand was there. Sometime late last year, we did a soft launch nationally. Just a few months ago, we announced our official national rollout. Right now we’re in nine or 10 states.
Sharon: Do you have people in San Antonio and Miami, or somebody that understands that market as opposed to Long Beach?
Hugo: Yeah, absolutely. We are fundamentally a post-Covid organization.
Sharon: I’m sorry; I didn’t hear that.
Hugo: We are fundamentally a post-Covid organization.
Hugo: Yeah, we’re nearly fully remote. Most of our team members work from the comfort of their own home offices or at libraries, wherever they feel most comfortable. We’ve made it work. We have a great culture that’s virtual. Our team loves the flexibility of working on their terms, but with strict standards and deadlines.
Because of that, we’re able to say, “We’re not that familiar with the Spanish-speaking market in Louisiana. Maybe we should reach out to some copywriters or designers out there who are part of the community and get a sense of what the market’s like.” Again, the Spanish-speaking market is not a monolith. What we do is not a translation exercise; it’s a brand positioning exercise within your local community. To answer your question, we’re able to find great talent based on our infrastructure.
Sharon: That’s very interesting. I know markets vary, but I hadn’t thought that the Hispanic market in Miami might be very different from the market here.
Hugo: It is. Just by definition, if you look at the numbers, there are more Dominicans and Cuban-Americans per capita in South Florida than there are in Southern California, where it’s largely Mexican, Central American and, to various degrees, South American as well. Those value systems are very different because of how relatives, your immigrant roots, immigrated to the United States. They all came through various channels and have different political systems. The way in which you land in this country will set the tone for your values and potentially the values of future generations after you.
Sharon: It’s very interesting and I’m sure very, very true. I’m thinking about people like me, whose ancestors came over at the turn of the century from Eastern Europe, and it still echoes today. Are your clients ever bilingual? Do they ever call in and say, “Hey, this is just too much for me”?
Hugo: The majority of our members do not speak Spanish. I think that’s why they choose us as their digital marketing and business partner, because they realize that in order to scale, you have to find other markets. You have to find lead generation sources. You have to find other media channels that your competition has not figured out yet, and because marketing in Spanish isn’t a translation exercise, the bar is quite high to do it the right way. We often tell attorneys at the very beginning, “It’s O.K. if you don’t speak Spanish; however, someone on your staff should.” That is a requirement. Whether you have a partner who comes to every Zoom or in-person meeting with you, or you have a paralegal who might be bilingual, that is a requirement in our program. Otherwise, there’s no way the Spanish-speaking market is going to be able to communicate effectively with your practice. We do make that a requirement, to have bilingual staff, but it is certainly not a requirement for attorneys to speak Spanish.
Sharon: We’ve worked with quite a few law firms, and they’ve been great law firms, but they’re like, “We should go after this ethnic market. Nobody here speaks anything but English, so who can find someone who knows something?” What do you do? Do you say, “We’ll assign somebody”? How do you handle that?
Hugo: If the attorney is at the point that their firm does not have a Spanish-speaking resource, that’s when we immediately default to our answering service partners. What we’ve learned is—and this is a really interesting phenomenon—that a Spanish speaker will handle the call wonderfully. They’ll establish trust. They’ll get the personal information. They’ll set up the engagement. What our answering service partner is very effective at doing is telling that person, “Hey, you might want to bring a relative who speaks English,” and more often than not, they will. The consumer will bring someone who speaks English, whether it’s a loved one, a neighbor, a friend. So, there’s always a way to market effectively in these languages, but it really does start with the strategy. If you don’t have a credible website, credible advertising, a credible message, you’re never going to be able to establish that communication they’re after.
Sharon: If the firm already has their website, will you then build—I’m not saying translate directly—but will you build a parallel site in Spanish for them?
Hugo: There are a few options. Depending on how well their website is built, we may be able to add what we call a “translation switch.” It’s a deceiving name because there are no translations happening. You’ll see the “en Español” button on the website, and when you click it, you’ll see the interpretations, not direct translations, of the English copy throughout the site. It’s almost like you have two websites in one. That is a popular option; however, this also depends on the market.
We oftentimes recommend a sister website because of the state bar Rules of Professional Conduct as they relate to advertising, because some states do not allow different trade names. If trade names are allowed, like separate trade names where an attorney can incorporate or use a DBA or do something legally to file that name, we absolutely recommend that. I’ll give you an example. Javaheri & Yahoudai, they’re two personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles. They’ve been with us for over three years now, and their name—we had an honest discussion—is kind of difficult to say quickly, difficult to memorize. So, we pared it down to J&Y, and that’s their English strategy; J&Y, Javaheri & Yahoudai. They’re known as J&Y Law, and they’re very successful in arguably the most competitive PI market in the country.
However, in Spanish, we don’t use the J&Y name, because in California we could use separate trade names. So, we created Abogados Campeones, which means “Champion Attorneys.” This separate trade name has a completely different marketing angle, branding, website, video strategy, ad strategy. The way we describe it to potential members is we’re not just building this marketing program; we’re effectively building a new business that’s tacking onto your existing infrastructure.
Abogados Campeones does extraordinarily well. Some months, it outperforms their English marketing. That name came about after many discussions with the brand team, many discussions with development, many discussions with the firm to find the values we want to evoke. In Southern California, we’ve done a lot of polling. The immigrant population likes to win, win at all costs, so we knew this name was going to be a homerun. When we acquired it, it essentially established the model for how we operate today. We try to find out that value system, the right branding. We know that if we pump some ad dollars behind all that research, you’re going to have a successful launch in Spanish.
Sharon: I can see how a name like that would be compelling. Do your clients call you in when they feel like, “O.K., I’m spending a fortune on Google. I’ve maxed it out. I have been effective at competing with everybody and his brother, but I’ve been spending millions every month on paperwork. I want to find a different way. I think there’s more here.” What are they saying to you?
Hugo: The majority of clients that are members who sign up for an employment with us, I would say four out of five times they are very unhappy with the way things are going in their current marketing. The feedback we hear—and we’re very glad to hear—is that attorneys see the value in working with a consultancy that only works with attorneys, that essentially doubles the value of your marketing reach because of English and Spanish. Attorneys see that we’re all native English speakers, but we also come from Latin American countries; we all come from Spanish-speaking families and we’re all fully bilingual. I think the logic with attorneys, what they oftentimes tell us is, “We’re not happy with the way things are going, and we see a lot of value in being fully bilingual rather than focusing on this one area of the market that’s super-crowded.”
Sharon: You mentioned several times that you have members. I’m trying to think of some of the other legal membership groups. They escape me, but is this something where you’re calling your clients members, or is this a membership program?
Hugo: The reason we don’t use clients is because the nomenclature gets confusing, because we generate clients for our clients. We just established that if you’re a part of Abogados NOW, you are a member of our program. There’s no network referral opportunity. There is a community of sorts, an unofficial one, but generally speaking, there’s no formal discussion board or anything of the like. We are working towards that. We do anticipate having our first in-person event in Q2 next year to further establish our reach in person, just because we’ve been so virtual the last four years. Our members are members mainly because of the nomenclature, but also we do feel they’re part of something new. They’re part of something that’s original that hasn’t been established anywhere else in the country.
Sharon: Do you track your success by whether they’re increasing the number of leads? Everybody’s going to ask that—“How do I measure success with you?”
Hugo: I think this is why we don’t sign everybody, because we like to ask these questions day one. What are you looking for? Then, how do you and I agree on the metrics or key performance indicators that are going to tell us whether we’re winning or losing? Oftentimes attorneys say, “I don’t know. I don’t know how many more clients I want,” and then we’ll schedule another call, but I love it when an attorney is ready with their game plan for the next quarter, the next year, the next five years.
We do focus on what we call the frontend metrics. Yes, there are costs per lead; there are costs per click. Ultimately, we never really get into these discussions with attorneys. What they’re most interested in is, “How much have I invested in advertising and what was my direct output?” I think attorneys appreciate that because they know we’re not just celebrating cost-per-lead goals. Cost per lead is all relative. All that matters is how many are you converting, how many are you signing and what value each signed client has for your firm.
Sharon: That’s very true. What’s the value? If you’re not getting quality people calling in, quality meaning—it sounds awful, but a serious brain injury, that’s what every personal injury attorney wants. Not to make fun of anybody, but there’s a lot of money in that. Hugo, thank you so much. This is very, very interesting.
Hugo: Thank you so much. For any attorneys listening who are serious about scale, who are serious about making that trusted connection with your Spanish-speaking community, please make an appointment with us on our website. We’re at AbogadosNow.com. You can create a meeting invite per your availability and we can discuss your goals. That’s what we want to talk about. We want to talk about how to grow your business and then work backwards from there. Thank you so much, Sharon. I appreciate your time.
Sharon: I greatly appreciate yours. Thank you so much.
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