LawBiz® Blog

LawBiz® Blog

Your Practical Guide to Profit ™.

You know what “… hits the fan”

Posted in In The News, Personal Thoughts

When an organization is arrogant and ignores the best interests of its members or customers, there will be no support for the organization in challenging times. The State Bar of California finds itself, once again, in a time of challenge with little support from its members, the attorneys of the state pay dues to keep the organization afloat. This time around, however, should there be a move by the State legislature to abolish the State Bar and convert it to a licensing agency only, there will be little or no opposition from members of the bar.

In what is the scandal of all time, the Board of Trustees summarily fired its executive director, Joe Dunn. This followed an internal personnel complaint filed by the bar’s chief trial counsel, Jayne Kim. The exact nature of the charges and counter-charges are yet to be disclosed, though the Board said they were reacting to “… serious, wide-ranging allegations … ” of mis-deeds.

Dunn, a former state senator, was hired four years ago to shepherd the transition from a bar governing board comprising mainly of lawyers elected by other lawyers to one with members primarily appointed by the Supreme Court of the state and state officials. While a primary goal of the bar was to protect the public, a secondary goal of earlier boards was to help lawyers become more effective and more efficient in relating to clients. The bar never achieved this secondary goal because 75 to 80 percent of the State Bar’s budget was and still is directed to the disciplinary system.

The current scandal is now not only an internal matter within the bar, it is in the court system, Dunn having sued on being terminated. High-powered lawyers have been retained by all principles involved. It is clear we have not seen the last of this. It is also clear, however, that lawyers should expect no help, education or sympathy from the governing body they must join on entry to the bar.

The Law Suffers and Benefits as Do Other Economic Endeavors

Posted in In The News, Management, Personal Thoughts

Jeffrey Toobin, legal writer for the New Yorker Magazine, notes in this week’s edition the following:

“… As with law firms, the top law schools are doing fine. Graduates of the most highly regarded institutions may not have the cornucopia of options that their predecessors enjoyed a few years ago, but few, if any, will go jobless. These students have large loans, too, but they’ll be able to repay them. As in days past, they will migrate to the big firms, where, by and large, their prospects are bright. And the cycle will continue: the rich (in credentials, at least initially) prospering, and the poor struggling. So it goes for lawyers—and, it seems, for everyone else…”

But even the top law schools are reporting that their graduates are not getting placed as quickly or as high on the totem pole as in past years. Yet, the law school still seems to be a mecca for many students. Perhaps it is the image of being a law school graduate (a lawyer); perhaps it’s the Socratic method of learning that enhances performance in even non-legal endeavors.

But, the economics of legal education, its ups and downs with the rest of the economy, suggests one more piece of evidence that The Business of Law® is no different than other areas of economic endeavor.

Open letter to Fred Smith, Chmn & CEO of FedEx

Posted in Management, Marketing, Personal Thoughts

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.

LawBiz® Legal Pad: Controlling Clients’ Legal Costs

Posted in Videos

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.

Speak and Write for Success

Posted in Audio & Podcasts, Management, Marketing, Technology, Uncategorized

Gary Kinder, founder and CEO of WordRake® writes the following:

“…Each of us has three vocabularies:

  1. our reading or comprehension vocabulary – by far the largest;
  2. our writing vocabulary – in the middle; and
  3. 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
4.6MB

Listen discussion with Gary Kinder below.

Click here to download the MP3 file.

 

The Fair Debt Act and collection efforts for lawyers

Posted in Management, Personal Thoughts

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 threatenMean 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.