I have represented Atlanta area residents in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings for over 20 years. An Atlanta native, I attended Morningside Elementary School, the Epstein School and Northside High School before enrolling at Tulane University in New Orleans for college. New Orleans is a unique place to attend college and after I graduated, I remained there for law school – I attended Tulane College of Law. I did not stay because of the weather, but I will admit that I am a fan of the spicy food and laissez les bons temps rouler atmosphere of the Crescent City.
In any case, I always planned to return to Atlanta after law school and after a harrowing 10 hour drive in a rented truck with very loose steering, I made it back in the spring of 1986. I took the bar exam that summer and when I got the thick envelope saying I had passed, I quickly got sworn in and found a job working for a, shall we say, interesting, personal injury lawyer. After a truly unforgettable year, I opened my own firm with an old friend and started my legal career in earnest handling car accident, workers compensation and criminal defense cases.
Around 1990, I noticed that a number of my clients were asking me about bankruptcy. At that time, I knew nothing about it but when I started investigating, I decided that Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 were rewarding areas of law practice with a good bit of growth potential. I started visiting bankruptcy court and I watched dozens of hearings and court proceedings, including 341 meetings, confirmation hearings, motions for relief from stay hearings and trustee motion to dismiss hearings.
More importantly I started meeting more experienced bankruptcy lawyers as well as paralegals from creditor firms and trustees. The bankruptcy bar in Atlanta happens to include a lot of very pleasant, knowledgeable and helpful bankruptcy professionals and I soon developed a network of contacts that could answer my questions. I won't tell you that the first few cases I prepared were works of art – especially since the bankruptcy petition preparation software was pretty basic in 1990 – but I managed to get my first few cases prepared, filed, amended and ultimately discharged.
As I became more comfortable with preparing and handling Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 petitions, I was able to develop a network of referral sources for new cases. Within a year or two my partner and I decided to advertise our bankruptcy practice on the radio and we quickly saw a dramatic increase in our case volume. I also discovered that I could write and record radio ads about as well as some of the high-priced advertising agencies and voice talent we had been using – I later leveraged my radio marketing experience into my web site and blog publishing efforts, although the Internet was still a few years in the future.
By the mid-1990's my firm was preparing and filing 80 to 100 cases per month. We had four attorneys on staff and a staff of around 10 to handle bankruptcy matters and our case volume put us in the top 5 largest consumer bankruptcy law firms in the state of Georgia. My then partner and I had several very good years in the 1990's but we also discovered a couple of tough lessons about the personal bankruptcy world. First, we learned that bankruptcy filing patterns are cyclical – the demand for bankruptcy lawyers goes up and it goes down. Overhead, however, tends to go in one direction only. Secondly, the first 15 to 20 cases we opened were relatively easy to get, but in order to file enough cases to cover our overhead – 60 or more – we had to be much less selective than I would have liked when it came to accepting new clients. Next, as bankruptcy became more well known, more and more attorneys jumped into the market, making it that much more difficult to sustain our volume. Finally, I came to the realization that it was not particularly rewarding to file 100 cases per month. I had very little time to get to know my clients and my firm's growing overhead made me nervous.
By 1997, my then partner and I came to the realization that we had very different visions for our respective practices of law and we decided to go our separate ways. In April, 1997 I opened the doors to Ginsberg Law Offices in a 750 square foot office and one paralegal. At that point I had been in practice for just over 10 years and I saw this new firm as an opportunity to use my experiences – both good and bad – to create a law firm that reflected my personality and strengths. In addition to bankruptcy, I also handled Social Security disability cases and thanks to my existing client database in both of those areas, as well as a significant number of pending bankruptcy and disability cases I brought with me, I was able to hit the ground running with my new firm.
A year or so later, my wife Jodi, merged her existing solo practice with me and the current ownership structure of Ginsberg Law Offices was set. Jodi handles workers compensation claimants work, personal injury matters and medical malpractice cases so together we offer our clients a wide range of services.
The Internet Becomes a Viable Marketing Channel
When I started my second year of law school in 1984, I had an opportunity to purchase my first computer at a substantial student discount from the Zenith Corporation. For around $2,000 I became the proud owner of a dual floppy "8088" processor machine with a monochrome (orange typeface) monitor. I completed my system with a Qume LetterPro 20 dot flywheel printer and a word processing program called Samna III. There was, of course, no commercial Internet at that time but when I booted up that first computer, I knew with certainty that we were entering a very different world.
I first encountered the Internet around 1994 – I connected through CompuServe at 9600 baud – and it was obvious to me that there would be immense commercial opportunity. I created my first website on the Compuserve platform in 1995 and watched the Internet explode over the next few years.
In 2002, I decided that it was time for a real web site and on the recommendation of an old friend of mine who was running a live chat based stock market advisory service, I hired a web development company to create my first site on the domain glolaw.com (GLO stands for Ginsberg Law Offices). This site was created in a program called Net Objects Fusion and it included information about all of our practice areas. There was no Google AsWords at the time, nor had I heard about search engine optimization but I did put the glolaw.com address on my business cards and stationary and lo and behold a few new client inquiries began trickling in.
I quickly decided that I did not want to have to pay a web site developer each time I wanted to update my site, so I purchased a copy of Net Objects Fusion, learned it and started tweaking my site. Around that time, I was introduced to the concept of search engine optimization, where both the content and some internal codes called tags could be used to improve my positioning on the search engines for various search terms. From my readings I learned that it made more sense to create separate sites for each of my firm's practice areas and I was capable enough with NetObjects to do this. I purchased a few more domain names and I put up sites.
Also in 2002, I heard about an Internet Marketing seminar called The System, which was a three day conference held in Cincinnati, and I decided to attend. In retrospect, making the decision to attend this seminar was probably one of the best business decisions I have ever made. At this seminar I learned about paid Internet advertising, fundamental principles of search engine optimization, direct marketing, email marketing, downloads and a host of other concepts that I use to this day.
Upon my return from Cincinnati, I made web marketing the cornerstone of my law firm's marketing efforts. I canceled all of the radio ads we had running as well as the yellow pages. I have subsequently developed and published dozens of web sites for my firm and as an occasional consultant for other lawyers in non-competing markets. In 2010, I began porting my sites to WordPress, which is a web based publishing and blogging platform.
We have also added social media to our client communication channels, including Twitter, Facebook and, more recently Google+
I continue to represent men and women in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases, and in claims before the Social Security Administration. In 2010, attorney Susan Blum joined my firm as an of counsel attorney in my bankruptcy practice. Susan has quickly become a very accomplished and capable bankruptcy lawyer and together we continue to offer the personalized, responsive service to our clients that I had envisioned when I started Ginsberg Law Offices.