Inc. 5000 Applicant of the Week, Mathew Higbee reveals why he built a traditional law firm around new technologies.
One of Higbee & Associates’ most successful divisions is RecordGone.com, which has a powerful IT and attorney team (Higbee center).
As applications for the 2012 Inc. 500|5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, click here). One that caught our eye was Santa Ana, California-based Higbee & Associates.
In 1993, Mathew Higbee started a small political consulting company called Starboard Response. From managing campaign activities to creating targeted ads, the California-based company handled state and federal campaigns across the nation.
But, after 10 years in business, Higbee hit a wall.
“[It] gets to a point where you need to be really committed to get up to the next level or you [should] do something different,” Higbee says.
So he got out. In 2003, Starboard Response was dissolved, and Higbee decided to go to law school and, eventually, start his own firm.
This was the birth of Higbee & Associates. Today, the national law firm is a multi-million dollar company that has served over 12,000 clients. Higbee oversees 10 attorneys and 44 overall employees. The firm specializes in bankruptcy, immigration, civil litigation, and expungement services. In 2011, the company raked in over $3 million in revenue. The firm’s average increase in sales revenue is 36 percent over the past three years—making Higbee & Associates’ projections reach $4.2 million for 2012.
But when Higbee launched his firm in 2006, he only had $140 in his bank account.
However, Higbee did have a plan. He’d integrate technology into every aspect of his firm, making it customer-friendly, quick, and targeted, which allowed the firm to help a lot of clients in less time than by traditional means.
The result? "Month one was profitable," Higbee says.
While at his first start-up, Higbee developed a software database that analyzed data, which was then used to create targeted and custom messages to voters. He evolved this software tool for the law firm, and this cut down on the costs of labor. Potential clients can use the firm's website to see what services they are eligible for, as well as get a cost quote. Clients can also sign up and manage their case online.
Higbee also created three distinct divisions under Higbee & Associates—RecordGone.com, First Source Law, and H&A Law.
"We really compartmentalize our marketing and it’s easier for us to go out and acquire clients when we have specific websites optimized and marketed toward specific purposes,” Higbee says. RecordGone.com, for example, which focuses on expungement brings in 75 percent of the firm’s income.
Because of Higbee’s emphasis on technology, only about 2 percent of the firm’s clients actually come into the office. The rest handle their cases online or over the phone.
Now, seven years after launching his law firm, Higbee & Associates has grown to have 16 offices across 13 states.
And Higbee still loves what he does.
“No day is ever the same,” Higbee says, “and it sounds cliché, but when it’s your own business and you get to choose who you work with you end up with a team of people that you’re really excited to work with.”
CAITLIN BERENS writes about business innovation and entrepreneurs. Before Inc., she worked at Billboard, SELF, and Better Homes and Gardens. She attended Drake University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York. @CaitlinBerens