Will you be one of the 400,000 lawyers retiring in the next 10 years? Today, Ed discusses what can be done when it’s time to move on.
A customer challenge and how to create customer ill will:
I sent two framed pieces of art, one of them a print by Salvador Dali, to my son in New York. I’m in Los Angeles. The representative at the counter of the Marina del Rey FedEx store assured me that FedEx packaging the prints would guarantee a) that they would be packaged well, b) if there were any damage, FedEx would not assert a claim of improper packaging. I paid extra for this service and was given a $1,000 insurance policy at no extra charge.
The prints arrived in New York … with the cover glass broken and the outside packaging ripped. I filed a claim with the company as requested, with photos and a claim estimate from a frame company. After what seemed like more time than it should have taken, I received a letter denying the claim…. because the prints were improperly packaged. I called to inquire further but was told that the person who denied the claim, the person whose name is on the letter of denial, had to be the person to talk with me. I called several times, leaving my name and number, requesting a return call. Still …. no response.
I called the local (point of shipment) office. They again assured me that they were responsible for packaging … and proof of FedEx packaging is both in the pictures (they used blue packaging tape) and on the invoice issued by FedEx. But, I was told, they have no authority to settle a claim. Apparently, neither does the New York (locus of delivery) office.
Several calls to the claims department of FedEx in the East have not been returned. Yet, another department of the company is now threatening me with a collection letter.
This denial and silence breeds ill-will among customers/clients. I read a marketing statistic that suggests that for every good service experience, you tell one person; for every bad service experience, you tell 20 people. This amplification is not what any responsible company wants to experience.
Moral to my audience: Make it easy to reach you; don’t hide behind complex web site walls. Return calls and resolve disputes … that’s how you create goodwill.
Ed discusses how to estimate future costs by listing your assumptions.
Most clients don’t complain about hourly rates; they complain about the totality of their legal costs. In order to control legal costs, one help is budgets.
How to estimate future costs: List your assumptions and make sure the client understands these and also provide for change-orders if any of these assumptions prove to be erroneous. That’s how you keep the costs down and that’s how you keep the client satisfied.
Ed reveals how to define your target market and the tactics necessary to reach it.
Gary Kinder, founder and CEO of WordRake® writes the following:
“…Each of us has three vocabularies:
- our reading or comprehension vocabulary – by far the largest;
- our writing vocabulary – in the middle; and
- our speaking vocabulary – the smallest and least grammatical.
When speaking, we use, and tolerate (to a point) others using, ers and uhs and sos and wells and likes, and confusing who with whom and lay with lie because most of us can’t think fast enough when we speak to get it all grammatically correct; plus we have tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language to help us communicate. Our writing must be more precise than our speech because we have only words to convey meaning.
Email is a weird hybrid existing between speaking and writing. In that gap, our email mindset might be loose and informal, but our business recipients do not forgive our typos, grammatical slips, and bloated, unnecessary, abstract, sometimes nonsensical phrasing. That’s where the tension lies: we write it as though the message is impermanent; they judge it and us as though it’s permanent….”
When in business, we know the validity of “dress for success.” So, too, when communicating even in e-mail, write/speak commensurate with your market, the recipients of your communication. “Talking” with personal friends is a different matter.31 minutes, 23 seconds
Listen to my podcast discussion with Gary Kinder.
As in football, lawyers must bring their best game to court and to the office every day if they want to succeed and satisfy client needs …
Recently, a lawyer sent a collection letter to his client. The letter allegedly included implied threats to sue. The court said that, despite the lawyer’s right to sue, the manner in which the letter was written might have confused the debtor as to the statutory right to dispute the debt. The court further stated that the FDCPA was not intended to protect lawyers, but rather to protect “regular people.”
The defendant-lawyer said that if he has the right to sue (which he does); how does his mentioning that fact violate the Act by saying so? Reading the opinion does not give a clear answer to this question.
However, the moral of the saga, is that a lawyer’s writing must be very clear. The underlying message of the case, it seems to me, supports my lifelong premise: do not threaten. Mean what you say and say what you mean. In other words, if you are not sure whether you are going to sue, do not say so. And when you say you will sue, mean it and follow through by filing an action.
This becomes particularly important in dealing with clients and former clients, and especially those that are governed by a federal act such as the FDCPA.
In this month’s issue of the American Bar Journal, an article was written about the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, and his efforts to prove that Lance Armstrong “cheated” in his bike racing. In the article, reference was made to his being a Christian and Lance Armstrong to being an atheist.
Such reference was gratuitous and does not make one a good person and the other a bad person. Religion does not make the accused guilty or the accuser innocent. Religion detracts from the message of the article.
Also, two issues of significant importance were not addressed. One was why a U.S. agency was so “hot to trot” over a French event, the Tour de France? It devolved into what was seemingly a personal vendetta between two opinionated and arrogant personalities.
What was not mentioned is more important to the issue. Technology has improved the performance on the bike by make the bike lighter and more aerodynamic; nutrition has improved the performance of the athletes by making them healthier; and psychology has improved the focus of athletes. Why should not science also be able to improve the performance of the athlete by using his own blood? We allow training at high elevation. How different is this?
“Doping” has been an element of racing in the Tour for decades. Just check out wikipedia for details.
In the free speech movement in the 1960s, in prison reform and in civil rights, we have made many changes over the years. If one were arrested before such changes, were they considered unethical? They were chastised and even arrested, and some killed.
Perhaps the more important issue in this case should be whether the rule should be changed, whether people ought to
use the latest and best technology for both their equipment and their bodies? In this discussion, that the rule may wrong does not get reviewed.
Should lawyers care about this issue? Isn’t it “old hat” at this point? We are being urged to be creative, to use new technologies and new or at least not previously test modalities of management and client services. At what point will the Bar say lawyers overstepped the boundaries of propriety? While being created and assertive (perhaps “aggressive” or “uncivil”), some might say we/you have crossed the line of propriety.
A good banker can be a lawyer’s best friend. Ed teaches how to select the right one in order to establish a reliable line of credit.
When I first heard the news, I was surprised that Baker Hostleter accepted the assignment from the Republican Party to sue President Obama for allegedly overstepping the boundaries of Executive Power. Why? The first reason that came to mind was that such a high profile assignment would identify them as a Republican oriented law firm. This likely would alienate half the population. Why would one willingly toss away one-half of your prospective market?
Of course, some believe that any publicity is good publicity. For example, Baker Hostetler was lampooned earlier this month when Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show ran a fake commercial for the law firm. “At Baker Hostetler, we specialize in one thing: suing the president,” the parody ad said. “For instance, have you ever been forced to pass Obamacare, even though you didn’t like it? We can help you waste thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to fight for what you sort of believe in.” For their target market, the business world, I do not think this is the image they want.
The second reason is that, at least in my mind, the case to limit Executive Power is likely not to be won despite a Republican-oriented Court. This essentially is a political issue that can be addressed in the political arena of electioneering. Elections will be held in the near future. Executive Power has expanded with each President, including Republicans. Any curtailment would apply to future Presidents, including Republicans. Why, as a Party, would they want to do this?
Of course, this is a suit against the Executive being brought by the Congress … and therein may lie the answer for the suit. That does not answer the question, though, as to why a law firm would want to be so identified. Baker understood its business base and perhaps had second thoughts. Quinn Emanuel, having recently won some big lawsuits, may be feeling its oats and believe they are impervious to such considerations … or perhaps they want to be so identified.