THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 140
Interview on 11.16.2021

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Carlos Davila



Managing Partner of
Davila Law Firm, P.A.

About Carlos Davila

Carlos Davila is the Managing Partner at Davila Law Firm, P.A. in Miami, Florida.

Carlos is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin School of Law, and holds a European Law certificate from the University College London. He is also a member of the United States Marine Corps Reserve, where he has served as Judge Advocate worldwide for more than 22 years.

Learn from his expertise and what trends are helping grow his firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcript

Eric J. Olson:
Hey, everybody. It’s Eric J. Olson, and I am coming at you live for another episode of The Managing Partners podcast, where we interview America’s top managing partners to find out what they’re doing to grow their law firms and to keep their case pipeline full. And today from Miami, Florida, Carlos Davila. Hey, Carlos.

Carlos Davila:
Hi, Eric. How are you?

Eric J. Olson:
I’m doing great. Did I nail it?

Carlos Davila:
Yup. You nailed it. Yeah. Thanks [inaudible 00:01:42]

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah, we had to practice that last name, but I wanted to make sure I got it so good. Well… Hey Carlos. Hey man. I appreciate you being on and making the time for us. So Carlos is an attorney in Miami, Florida. He has 22 years in family, criminal, civil rights and general litigation and law. So hey, Carlos. Thanks again, man. Tell us a little bit about yourself and more about your firm.

Carlos Davila:
So I started my legal career actually in the Marine Corp back in 1996. And so I did three and a half years, almost four years of active duty. I was a judge advocate. What people commonly refer to as a JAG all over the place. My first assignment was Okinawa, Japan, which was a great place to go as a brand new Marine Lieutenant in the late nineties. I had a really interesting job. I was something they called a Japanese Jurisdiction officer. So every time a Marine would get arrested by the Japanese out in town or was facing charges, we would work with the Japanese ministry of justice to try to get the cases transferred to us so that we could prosecute them if we could, or at least get them dismissed. The idea was that we wanted the Marines prosecuted under the US law and not foreign law.

Carlos Davila:
That’s that’s the policy of the US government. So very busy job. After that I served some time in North Carolina. One of my jobs there was as a prosecutor where I handled some misconduct cases pending against Marines. And then I left active duty 2003 and came to Miami to start a civilian legal career. I worked for a big law firm here in downtown handling a huge class action lawsuit where I was part of a big team of lawyers. And then in 2003 I got called up for a year and a half of mobilization in the middle east. So it took some time to prepare for that. I actually spent seven months on the ground in Iraq, in a place called camp Falluja in Al Anbar province in Iraq. When I came back, I… You still with me?

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah. Oh yeah. I’m here I’m sorry.

Carlos Davila:
So when, when I came back I basically started my own practice and I’ve been doing that ever since 2006. I continue in serving in the Marine Corp reserve. And now I think I’m at 24 years or something like that time in the Marine Corp reserve. So I do that. I balance that with what I do here in the law firm. So the law firm initially started with a focus on real estate and that lasted till about 2008 when the market changed. And then we shifted our focus. And since then, for the most part, I’ve been working in commercial litigation cases where I represent business clients on both ends of lawsuits, defending or suing. And we also have a pretty busy family law practice that is sometimes kind of related to what we do with our business clients. They kind of bring us their personal issues and we handle those. So anything from divorces to adoptions, to guardianship type cases, probate administering estate and things like that.

Eric J. Olson:
Well first thank you for your service.

Carlos Davila:
Oh, thank you.

Speaker 3:
That is quite impressive. You’ve been all over the world representing the United States. So it’s very admirable. It really is. And then also continuing to serve in the reserves. That’s a big commitment, definitely time wise and mental capacity. So it’s not… I applaud you so very nice.

Carlos Davila:
Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 3:
What made you move to Miami?

Carlos Davila:
My brother was living here in the late nineties. He went to school at the university of Miami and I went to school in the Midwest where it’s very cold. So I would come down here for spring break to visit my brother. I’d be like “What? This is great. Why don’t I just move here?”. So I did, when I graduated ’97, I moved down here.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah. Smart. Very smart.That’s interesting. That’s cool. Great. Hey so a lot of… couple different practice areas that you have, what are some different ways that you go about getting new clients?

Carlos Davila:
So we try to network in the legal community with other attorneys that maybe don’t do the things that we do. And a lot of the times we get calls from those attorneys and say, Hey, I have this, this particular client that needs help in some that you do. We also use social media, like Facebook and Instagram and some attorney referral services where people go online and they type up what their problem is and then we contact them and then try to help them with their problems.

Eric J. Olson:
So a lot of referrals, it sounds like online aggregators, where they get the lead and then they’ll either resell it or provide it to you. Like ABOS is that one?

Carlos Davila:
Yep. Yep.

Eric J. Olson:
Okay.

Carlos Davila:
That’s right.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah. How do you feel like those work for you?

Carlos Davila:
I think then most of the people that do that, that go to a website to try to find a lawyer, they’re not the optimal sort of place to look for clients. It’s been much better when another attorney refers it to you, because they’re already known entities. They can provide a reference as to how they behaved cause that attorney client relationship is very smart, I mean very important. It has to work, it’s like any other relationship. And so when it’s already been done with somebody that does what you do and they understand how we operate it works much better. A lot of the times when you just use some kind of search engine or some kind of website set up by somebody, you get a lot of people that either don’t have their resources to hire an attorney, or have not dealt with an attorney before. And so there’s some sort of… There’s a bit of a learning curve.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah.

Carlos Davila:
We reject a lot of cases just come off the street basically, or through social media.

Eric J. Olson:
I agree with you referrals… We hear that a lot here on this podcast, that they’re a great source and nobody loves referrals more than I do for my business and it’s the same for any business. They’re the best right. High trust.

Carlos Davila:
Yes.

Eric J. Olson:
When it comes to those internet leads it could be hit or miss one of the things that we found is that if you really narrow in the messaging that goes out to the world and things like the articles and blog posts that you put on your website and Google picks up on those and then you can start to fine tune the leads that come in versus like you said the random ones where you have to educate them a lot.

Carlos Davila:
Yeah.

Eric J. Olson:
Interesting. So when you get a perspective client coming to you and one way or another…

Carlos Davila:
Yes.

Eric J. Olson:
What is your process and what tools do you use for taking them from that perspective client all the way to when they become a client?

Carlos Davila:
So we normally schedule a consultation where we talk to people about their problem, and we do it in a very informal way. Now we’re doing it over these kind of tools. The internet, zoom or Hangouts or WhatsApp or whatever they have. Before we used to meet people in person, that’s not so popular anymore. And honestly, I think this is a much better tool sometimes because it’s very efficient, it’s cheaper for most people also to do it from anywhere, they don’t have to come to you, park, come off the elevator. All that time saved. And so we talk to people about their problems, and then we tell them whether we can actually help them. Sometimes we can’t, or we tell them, we’re very honest about your case, given the… What you tell me, assuming it’s… Everything is true and what can be proven not so great for you.

Carlos Davila:
And sometimes we’ll take a case even though the case might not be the best case in terms of the likelihood of success, but the person needs legal representation. So we don’t, not only take good cases, we also take bad cases sometimes.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah.

Carlos Davila:
You know, bad meaning that you might not prevail, but at least you have legal representation because maybe the facts are not on your side, but you still need to kind of navigate the procedural aspect. Maybe you can negotiate a better deal than you otherwise would get. So we talk about fees and costs and we try to do that at the end, after we hear a person’s situation. And that’s the harder part of the conversation…talking money. Unlike doctors, for example, they typically have insurance that backs them up. Clients come with insurance, so there’s a third party that’s going to pay. But in our case, for the most part, the clients pay out of pocket. We have to be very careful in the way in which we discuss that in a friendly and courteous way that doesn’t turn off potential clients.

Eric J. Olson:
That is interesting that the analogy or the comparison to doctors. They don’t have to worry about that when it comes to talking to clients, it’s just they’re clients are patients, but they just do the work and then they don’t worry about that nasty stuff money.

Carlos Davila:
Right. Right.

Eric J. Olson:
But yeah. In the legal profession, clearly there needs to be a discussion. And if there’s not, then someone’s going to be surprised and it’s usually the client.

Carlos Davila:
Yes.

Eric J. Olson:
So yeah. Things like rates, expected number of hours. I’m sure that comes up a lot. Right. Have you… Do you bill by the hour always, do you ever do fixed costs, anything like that?

Carlos Davila:
It depends on the case. When sometimes like for example, I have a case right now that is one of these employment discrimination cases that is going through the ELC and then have a state claim against the actual perpetrator. And it’s a pretty ugly case where a supervisor sexually harasses a female subordinate and at some point puts a knife through her throat and crazy stuff like a belt on her neck, it’s in a construction site. So those kinds of cases you typically will take on a contingency basis because the client is either a minimum wage earner or doesn’t have a lot of resources. And when the facts are on your side and you’re in a good position, it’s worth accepting that risk. But there’s other cases like I was saying that where the odds are not so great for that particular client so we cannot accept the risk of loss in those cases.

Carlos Davila:
But we actually have a pretty proven method for calculating what somebody’s fees would be to get through at least the mediation process, which is where 99% of the cases that we handle typically are resolved at. Now very few cases actually go to trial. So we’ll charge them an upfront fee. That’s equivalent to what we think, given our billable rates and the people who are involved and the work involved will take to get us through mediation. And if we don’t get it done, then, then we have to have another conversation with a client about how much more it’ll cost. And it’s kind of unfortunate in a sense, because after seeing the legal system having legal representation is a very expensive thing. It’s not something that anybody really ever saves for. Nobody keeps a legal fund just in case I need to hire a lawyer to sue or defend from a lawsuit, so when these things come up people are mostly surprised, unless you have a very wealthy client that has deep pockets. Most people that live on a salary have to really struggle to cover legal expenses.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah. Yeah. It can certainly get expensive. And one of the things that I learned once I started to engage my business lawyer when I opened up this business is ask for estimate, right?

Carlos Davila:
Yes.

Eric J. Olson:
Because if it’s open ended, I’ll probably be surprised. But also I will say completely worth it. I know as a client when I speak to my lawyer I feel at ease, everything’s going to be fine. That’s the way that it should be and I’m sure you make your clients feel like that as well.

Carlos Davila:
Yes. We take ownership of their problem.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah.

Carlos Davila:
And we manage it for them and we try to insulate them as much as possible from the whole… the stress associated with not knowing what I don’t… What they don’t know, because they don’t do this every day.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah.

Carlos Davila:
And even with that insulation that we provide is still stressful for the client because the outcome is never really guaranteed for anything.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah. Agreed. What are your business, or what are your growth plans? I should say your growth plans for the next couple of years, say the next two to five years.

Carlos Davila:
So we plan to increase our networking efforts in the community. So things as simple as attending more social gatherings with other lawyers in the community, and also maybe building our social media presence by creating a bigger website and maybe optimizing our social media marketing plans so that more people are attracted to the firm.

Eric J. Olson:
Nice.

Carlos Davila:
We’re not located in a street level type office. We are on the 16th floor of an office building. Nobody sees us. Right. We’re kind of like in this little cubby hole, so we have to kind of reach out to the world for them to know that we actually even exist and that we can be… We could help them with their problems.

Eric J. Olson:
Yeah. That’s great. Well, that’s awesome. And I think you’re going to get there. You have a very impressive story. So if someone would like to get in touch with you and either pick your brain on how you’ve done, what you’ve done, or maybe they have a referral for you, what is a good way to get in touch with you?

Carlos Davila:
So there’s three good ways you can just call us over the phone. I can… The number is 3 0 5 2 8 5 5 8 9 9. You can go to our website at dlf-pa.com or facebook.com/davilalawfirm.

Eric J. Olson:
Fantastic. Appreciate your time. All right, everybody, if you would like to watch more excellent episodes like this one, you can check out our entire backlog at raylaw.com/podcast. We have 130, maybe more podcasts there organized by where the law firm is located their state and also their practice areas. So you can find exactly what you’re looking for. And if you’re interested in digital marketing for your law firm, check out my company, Array digital at arraylaw.com. We focus on websites, search engine optimization, online advertising and social media. Carlos, thanks so much.

Carlos Davila:
Thanks for having me.

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