Steve Talk: Investing in Mass Torts

Steve Nober: (00:04)
Here’s some mass torts, here’s everybody likes to see. What are we seeing quarter to quarter on… this is just by popularity. This is not what we think are the best torts, this is really just objective data. And so this is what our last two quarters look like. Right?

Steve Nober: (00:20)
Number one is Paraquat and the comments in green are the movement from the previous quarter. Paraquat’s moved from number two to number one. So Paraquat absolutely is on a trend right now as the most popular mass tort that we’re working on.

Steve Nober: (00:35)
Lung Cancer/Meso. Again, we do a fair amount. So for us that shows up, it was number one, number two, we do a lot of it all over the country.

Steve Nober: (00:43)
Hernia mesh, CPAP, Zantac. Those are also… by the way, Paraquat the case costs we see them starting to rise. I don’t think it’s because the holidays or the end of Q4 I just think it’s popularity. It’s not an inexpensive litigation to go get cases already. And so we’re seeing pricing move.

Steve Nober: (01:00)
After this conference there might be even more marketing. It’s just something to think about, it’s a great litigation, but just watch the costs. And if someone’s talking to you about pricing, they need to predict even how it’s going to look over the next few weeks or months if you’re going to get into that litigation.

Steve Nober: (01:14)
Hernia mesh, CPAP, Zantac, a lot more popular. And so you’ll see the rest of them on there. And so let me go through, so the cycle of the mass tort, Early/Emerging, Mid-Stage, Late. Different firms have different investment philosophies, right? You might want to get in early where the costs are less, but the risks are higher because litigation is brand new.

Steve Nober: (01:39)
Some like to say, what are the late, more mature ones? That’s the only ones we want to get into. There might be a shorter timeframe between it’s settling or there being some kind of ROI and we can talk to you about those. And so that’s just something to consider. A lot of people come to us and say, is it too late to get cases? And my answer usually is it’s only too late, if there’s a settlement, right? And there’s a file date that you cannot file after, then it’s too late.

Steve Nober: (02:03)
Until then, it’s more of a question about costs. And so that’s the decision is the cost higher than you think it’s worth to invest in that litigation. And when you have the cases, co-counsel I’ll tell you there, it’s never been more important than what we’ve seen happen this last year with Roundup as an example and even Talc, that the firm you pick to co-counsel with is more important than ever before. And that’s because of the range in values that we saw Roundup get settled by different firms. Right?

Steve Nober: (02:37)
There used to be a global MDL. There still is. But I think we’re seeing a lot more settlements that are more boutique by firm, by firm, by docket, by inventory. And so I think it’s never been more important to take that into consideration in who you’re going to co-counsel with. Which is why Levin Papp and Mike came here. I mean, talk about a great firm to do that with. Those guys showed everybody what you can do with litigations like Roundup. I mean all the litigations they’re involved in.

Steve Nober: (03:05)
But it’s a super important, more critical than ever decision I would argue. And so there’s two ways to acquire cases and I’ll wrap this up quickly, but really media buying versus buying cases and there’s pros and cons to both, you’re going to hear about firms that want to sell you cases. And you’ll talk to firms like us. We do both, but we do a lot more media buying than we do selling.

Steve Nober: (03:26)
And so I’ll tell you that in the buying cases, there are marketing companies that want to take a backend fee and I’ll tell you, you’re going to end up if most of you in the room are going to get cases and then find a partner. You’re already going to split that up in some percentage, right? Call it 50/50, whatever it ends up being. And so I just think that to acquire cases and have to pay your marketing company a piece of that just dilutes your equity by a lot. And the cost of that at the end of the day is actually significant.

Steve Nober: (03:54)
There are plenty of really good marketing companies. You can get cases at a cost that makes sense without paying a backend fee. And so I just think it’s important. I do the math on this, it’s probably hard to read, but you know, a case that costs you a thousand bucks to get ends up really costing you I think almost nine or 10 grand, if it settles and it does okay.

Steve Nober: (04:15)
It’s a big difference, it’s a lot of money. It’s not a lot of money today, but it’s a lot that you’re giving up. And so the pros of buying cases, you get a fixed price. Some people like to know, I want this price. That’s what it’s going to be. I want a hundred of them, right? The cons are what I talked about earlier. There’s referral fees, but there’s no transparency to the origination. So go back to what I talked about earlier and the risks of how was the marketing conducted? How were the cases aggregated? How did they get signed?

Steve Nober: (04:44)
All of that is this monstrous little black hole, this question. And not to say a lot of firms selling cases aren’t doing it right, but it opens up that question. And so I would just go back to my slide that says, ask more questions, make sure you really see all those different pieces before you go buy cases so you understand how they’re getting originated.

Steve Nober: (05:02)
There’s also what I call cherry picking, which is if I had a hundred cases and I can sell a few firms them, how do I decide who gets which ones? And so that always gives me a stomach ache because I don’t want to have to decide who gets which ones. And so our media buying service doesn’t do that. Right? We set up a campaign, the calls get answered, qualified sign for one firm. There’s no one picking and choosing who gets which ones it’s all very transparent.

Steve Nober: (05:25)
And so I’m a fan of media buying but the market this last few years have really introduced more firms selling cases. So we do both, it just depends on the appetite and how a firm is comfortable getting cases. I would tell you explore both. A media buying you’re going to see what the real price is. I think your ethics risks are reduced because of the origination issues. And there’s a little more flexibility on criteria. So depending on the partner you pick, you might find they have a unique criteria or one that’s more stringent than others. And so when you get cases, you have to make sure that those cases actually follow the criteria of the co-counsel partner you’re going to work with. Right? That’s super important.

Steve Nober: (06:06)
And so there’s three differences with your local market. For those of you that haven’t done a lot of national or even local mass tort marketing, you’re here to figure out what you want to do and how to do it. There’s some really big differences that you might not be used to. And one is even the national versus local, right? Most of these mass torts we’re talking about your co-counsel partners can take cases from anywhere in the country.

Steve Nober: (06:30)
And so if you say, “Yeah, but I just want to get them from my market.” Maybe you put some ads in your rotation and you get them in your local market, which I’m a big fan of, but if you want to go get a hundred cases or 200, or spend 300 grand or a hundred grand, you really want to get some cases, there’s nothing better than the efficiencies of national marketing than in a local market.

Steve Nober: (06:48)
Your costs to get cases are going to be less. I mean, almost just 99 times out of a hundred, it’s very predictable. It’s just going to be a lot less. That’s something to think about when you hear people talking about national versus local, it really depends on what your co-counsel partner wants to do. My guess is they’re going to say they can come in from just about anywhere in the country.

Steve Nober: (07:07)
There might be a handful of states that have statutes or laws they don’t want to get them from. I call those “No, No States,” but those are easy to weed out with marketing as a response comes in. And then the brand, so everyone I’m guessing as a firm you work hard at your brand and your local market. Believe it or not when you do a national ad, the brand and we’ve tested this a million times, it’s just mind boggling to me.

Steve Nober: (07:30)
But if your firm is not well known nationally, and there are some firms that are really known nationally, right? Where having the name on the ad national would actually carry a lot of weight, but that’s really the exception. Most it’s not going to help your results. In fact, it might even not help the results, but raise the costs. Because someone sees an ad with your brand on it and they don’t know who you are. And so we test both.

Steve Nober: (07:54)
We really go by whatever the firm wants. If they don’t care, we just keep it fairly generic, but very compliant. And so it’s something to think about if you’re in your local market, your brand matters. We know that if in national, it’s just funny people respond to ads that often don’t say what law firm, they just talk about the injury, the litigation, what you should do and a response.

Steve Nober: (08:13)
And so it’s unexplainable to me because I think people really would connect more with a brand, but there’s not a lot of law firms that are getting mass tort cases that have national brand. And so that’s just something to think about. If you’re going to go out and do a national campaign, you might say, “Hey, I want my brand on there. I want people to search me out and look me up at Google.” That branding’s going to start and there’s value to that.

Steve Nober: (08:33)
It’s something to think about and then handling and contracting you heard me talk earlier, answering calls and doing the contracting on a national mass tort is different than the intake you’ve built on your local single event business. It just is. And it’s going to come in at odd hours of the day and the night. And so I would just tell you it’s worth, it’s really not expensive, but it’s worth looking at how can you bring in best practices so those calls get handled the right way.

Steve Nober: (09:00)
We set up a abuse center. We call it our Victim Abuse Call Center, Victim Intake Center. A couple of years ago…. so we do a lot of sex abuse litigation and we realized the average agent shouldn’t really be answering calls from a sex abuse responder who’s been a victim. And so we have a call center now that has agents with at least five or six years of experience in abuse training before they ever get on the phone.

Steve Nober: (09:27)
And firms all over the country they use that and they send us those calls just to help do the screening and make it appropriate in answering and helping sort of do that first intake for the law firm.

Steve Nober: (09:37)
And so the handling and contracting matters. Asbestos and lung cancer, same thing. You don’t want to put them on hold. You don’t want to let them go to a voicemail. It just won’t convert. Timing for mass torts is critical on being able to answer and help that person calling very quickly, at least vet out. Do they seem like they’re qualified? What do you want to do next steps and try and get some kind of fee agreement in front of them.

Steve Nober: (09:58)
I think I’m out of time so I’m going to end it on this note. I have a lot more slides, but I’m going to end it here. And thank you guys. I hope this was helpful. There’s a lot more to talk about. So come find us. We’re here for a couple of days and we have a big data book we publish called the LMI. I’ll just leave you with that.

Steve Nober: (10:13)
Every mass tort that you hear people talk about we publish a ton of data about the tort, the response, the calls, the demographics, we update it every month. It’s called the Legal Marketing Index. Come by our booth and get it. There’s some over there on the table as well. And thank you guys very much.

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