Is it possible to collect the money owed to your firm and avoid negative feedback?
The other day, an attorney who owns her own firm, shared that she had been advised to not try to collect money owed to her due to concerns about negative reviews/feedback/bar complaints.
I get it:
· Collecting money owed seems adversarial at its core.
· We are in a once in a century pandemic.
· “I know the client and they are ‘bad’ with their money.”
The prevention for a negative reaction is creating a strategy and tactics per client, not a one-size fit all approach which will undoubtedly offend many and not produce the result you want.
· Include All Stakeholders for:
o Information gathering
· Remain a Caring Professional
It is Critical to Engage Stakeholders
When we talk about stakeholders, I mean the broadest definition, smartly done. For example, at one stage of this process, it is important to get all staff together and to discuss each client and what is known of their situation. Your receptionist may be aware that it was the grandparents who helped out with everything related to the custody issue. That information should be added to the tactics/strategy plan. The billing clerk may be aware that all of the emailed invoices are ‘bouncing.’ Have they lost internet? Often, these disparate pieces of information are not pooled together, leading to approaches out of touch with the reality on the ground. Meet, find out all that you can from everyone. Then build your approach using care.
The Client is also a Stakeholder
When was the last time you spoke with this client? Are they O.K.? One attorney I am working with knew that a client was most likely in serious trouble during this pandemic because of the kind of work they do. In fact, they had become less stable than imagined, with housing insecurity added to their list of woe. The attorney could decide to write off that debt, honestly.
Another client had changed industries and was actually doing pretty well, to the attorney’s surprise. They agreed to set up a modest payment plan that was feasible.
When you contact the client, approach them in the spirit of inquiry. Do not assume you know what is going on with them. Most people do not want to owe money and feel embarrassed about doing so. By providing them with a way forward, together, you are helping them feel good.
Consistently Caring Professional
When you started working with this client, you established yourself as a caring professional. How do I know? Who wants to hire someone who obviously does not care about their case? You are the same caring professional who wants to work with the client to arrange payment. You do not need to turn into someone else.
I recognize that some working relationships can go bad. That happens to everyone in business. You will have differing approaches for those clients. Let us start with those where you have good relationships and need to have a strategy and tactics to proceed. I would love to work with you to make real progress on improving your accounts receivable, contact me today for a Discovery Session, firstname.lastname@example.org.