Choosing The Right Lawyer
Posted on Tuesday March 2, 2010 | by Mark A. Kahrs
Choosing the right lawyer is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. But since choosing a lawyer isn’t something any of us do very often, it’s difficult to know how to go about making the right decision. Here are a few suggestions to get your search off to a good start and help make sure your final choice a wise choice.
1. Look for Competency
A lawyer who has passed the bar in the state where he or she practices can represent clients on any number of issues – including debt collection. However, most lawyers gravitate to specific areas of law. If you’re searching for a lawyer to represent you as you attempt to collect money owed to you, you will want to seek out someone with experience in that area. Although collection/creditor law may not appear to be an overly complicated area on the surface, there is an overwhelming amount of information to know an implement. Ethical guidelines prevent lawyers from advertising they specialize, so ask these questions:
- Does the lawyer practice in the area of legal collections on a regular basis, or has he just handled a few accounts as a favor for a client or friend?
- Is the lawyer fluent in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act -- the federal law that regulates third-party consumer collections?
- Is the lawyer familiar with state laws that may or may not complement federal laws in the area of third-party collections?
- Is the lawyer familiar with the many legal pleadings related to securing a judgment and satisfying that judgment?
2. Look for Staffing
If the lawyer appears to have the experience to handle collection cases, take a look at his or her staff. The legal process can be work-intensive, so make sure your lawyer has the backing it takes to handle every detail in a precise and timely manner. In addition to asking questions of the lawyer, it’s a good idea to visit the office and meet the staff for yourself.
- What type of staff does the lawyer have supporting his collection practice? How large is the staff, and what roles are assigned to that staff?
- What type of training does staff receive before becoming involved in your company’s legal collections ?
- Is there sufficient staff to handle all the calls from debtors?
- Are there resources in place to effectively skip trace?
- Will the lawyer assign a client contact that you can communicate with on a regular basis?
3. Look for Systems that Work
Just as with staff, having dependable systems in place to facilitate legal debt collection is a sign that the lawyer is dedicated to legal debt collection. Depending on the volume of accounts you are turning over to your lawyer, the type of program they use to manage your accounts is critical.
- Ask if the lawyer’s or firm’s system is computerized and automated.
- If a computerized system isn’t in place to handle collection accounts this may be a red flag.
- If a computerized program is being used, find out what type of reports can it provide. Can it track interest? Does it prepare all legal pleadings?
Remember - a collection lawyer is only as good in part as the reports he can provide his client.
4. Look for Long-Term Commitment
Of course the lawyers you visit will want your business. The question is, do they really want your legal collections business - now and for a long time to come? Debt law is no place for part-timers. The complexity of the process has increased significantly since the enactment of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Given the potential liability for violating this act, most experienced collection lawyers devote full-time to this area of law.
Choosing the right lawyer is an important first step in the process of collecting your delinquent accounts. Up front due diligence will save you wasted time and disappointment. Make sure that the lawyer you choose has the legal background and focus to handle your files. Ask for references, and for lawyer ratings. Find out what percentage of his or her practice is dedicated to legal collections. Verify that the lawyer has the resources, staff, and office systems to handle whatever caseload your company may present. Look for a demonstrated, long-term commitment in the area of legal collections. Finally, make sure that the lawyer you choose shares your values and your commitment to excellence.