Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Our Relationship Sours

For those of you who wondered how my situation turned out with the legal counsel in Phoenix, I thought I would share some of the highlights before I jump into ‘hard-line’ collections talk.

When I left off, I had sent the attorney an email requesting a meeting to discuss where I was and how we could resolve this issue. After asking to meet during his/her off-time/non-billable time, he/she basically through it back in my face.


I am not sure if I set the appointment or my secretary set the appointment. However, we are usually very clear about the charge for consultations with our office. We have very few categories of cases where we don’t charge and yours was not in that category so I would be surprised that you were not told.

It sound like you will not being paying the bill. Best of luck in the future.

Sincerely yours,

There it is, in the matter of a few words the attorney told me ‘what-for’. It was basically said, neither the firm’s appointment team nor the attorney could not have made the mistake. The firm was right and I was wrong and that was it! However, in closing, the attorney admits fault and nullifies the billing; yet, has no desire to build a relationship.

As I sit here thinking about the entire thing, I feel cheapened by the experience. I met with the attorney because of a pressing issue, I was allowed to vent. We spoke, briefly, and I was told to come back with the situation materialized. The situation never gelled, and therefore I didn’t return. To this day, I feel the meeting was worth something, but not $250.00! I shouldn’t feel bad, but I do. Probably because of the severed relationship, probably because the attorney could have better client relationships – I am not sure. I am left wondering how many relationships are shunned upon by this firm.

However, this event is one of those that I must label as classical. It is classical in that it has been well documented by many. I refer to it as the FAR syndrome, ‘Fire, Aim Ready’. I, as the attorney, am so excited about the work that I don’t take the time to: Listen to the client, understand their needs, act in accordance with their needs, and foster a strong relationship. Instead, I begin working the engagement only to find that engagement isn’t isolated – its origin is with another human being.

Regardless of your vocation, you are there to serve and be served by people, whether directly or indirectly. The secret is to work with people to get what you need, while helping them get what they need. This situation reminds me of something Ed Poll says in his book “Collecting your Fee”.

“The client is not a necessary evil in the legal process. The client is the font of all you hope to achieve in your career. Without the client there are no court actions, no matters, and no victories… and no revenue”

Until next time, do good work, docket good time, bill good time, collect good time, and foster great relationships !

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My experience with the legal system.

If you have ever participated in one of my lecture series you would know that the one resounding theme is –“relationships”. I thought I would kick off the blog with an incident that is a little personal that screams – “relationship break-down”. Several weeks ago I found myself in a bit of a quandary regarding a personal legal issue. You would think that being in this business for close to 20 years I would know legal counsel – NOT! However, I got a referral from our legal counsel and made contact with the attorney via email. After a few emails I made the trek to central Phoenix.

Our meeting, filled with idle chat, and a brief discussion of my thoughts on the issue; which took the better part of 40 minutes. We left the meeting on the basis that if I should choose to enjoin the issue I should contact the firm and open the case. Much to my surprise, 6 weeks later I get a bill! Obviously this attorney has never participated in my lecture sessions!

I am amazed at the audacity this person had to send me a bill, without actually providing more than a few cups of coffee and taking ½ of a page of notes. Clearly the relationship began all wrong! If I was to be a charge for the consultation, it should have been said during our email dialogue. Better yet, send me a consultation agreement outlining the cost of the meeting. Instead, the desire to make face-to-face contact far outweighed properly establishing the relationship!

In hopes to resolve this, I made contact with the attorney expressing my position regarding the issue and offered to meet during their off hours to come to a resolution. I am still awaiting a response…

Although I believe this person is a very competent attorney, and based on what I have read, this person is recognized in their area of specialty. However, the simple things were over looked: Clearly explaining the fee structure, getting a consultation agreement to me and explaining that the meeting would be billable.

I cannot stress it enough; firms create their own relationship/receivable issues! Hey firms, treat me like my Chrysler dealership does! Tell me IN ADVANCE the fee for diagnostics (initial consultation), tell me the cost of getting the work done (engagement), tell me the payment methods accepted (engagement/consultation letter) and most of all, make sure I understand – make me sign off!