|Dos and Don’ts|
Last month, Kevin Quinley, of MEDMARC Insurance Group, in Fairfax, Virginia, a frequent writer on insurance and risk management topics and contributor to the RISKMail Internet discussion group, responded to an inquiry about how best to manage defense counsel. His comments, which stressed complete communication, were so on target that I repeat them here, with Kevin’s kind permission.
"1. Don't ignore my letters, calls, voice mail or e-mail because you think ‘there's nothing new to report.’ Tell me that and whether we should make things happen.
2. If you need an answer or decision from me, don't bury this on page four of a ten-page single spaced report. DO put ‘REPLY REQUESTED’ on the top sheet. Flag needed responses.
3. Do provide an executive summary as a top sheet to lengthy reports.
4. Don't leave me a voice-mail message and omit your return phone number. Say it slowly. Twice, please. Spell unusual names.
5. Don't call me with a 15-minute verbal FYI report, only to close by saying, ‘I'm going to send this to you in a report.’
6. Don't expect a fast decision from me on something that you've known about for weeks. Don't treat me like the drive-through lane at McDonald's.
7. Don't hit me up for a 10% hourly rate increase without being prepared to tell me how you're going to notch up your service by 10%. My fixed costs are going up too, but I can't pass the costs along.
8. Don't tell me during a trial how stressed out you are. I hired you because this is your line of work. If the case blows, it's my money that goes. You'll move on to the next case. ‘If you can't stand the heat . . . .’
9. Don't tell me it's ‘too early to tell’ what a case is worth without telling me what exactly you need to plug the information gaps and a target date by which point you expect to be able to answer this key question.
10. Don't tell me the case is worth ‘between $5,000 to $500,000.’ Thanks a lot!
11. Don't surprise me. If the case is turning sour or your evaluation is rising, tell me ASAP and explain why. NO SURPRISES!!!
12. Don't ask me to ‘Please advise,’ without itemizing my options and telling me which one you recommend. I don't pay $150 per hour for a glorified messenger boy/girl.
13. Don't write to
me asking me to phone you. If I'm paying you, you chase me.
14. Don't assume I can drop everything to chew the fat with you. Get to the point, then move on. I'm as busy - if not more so - than you are. Try asking, ‘Is this a good time to talk?’
15. If my only contact with your firm is a good lawyer who just left, don't call me all of the sudden to tell me how much my business means to your firm. By then, it's too late.
16. Don't FAX or overnight me stuff that is clearly not time-sensitive. It doesn't impress me; it impresses me . . . negatively.
17. Don't be afraid to ask, ‘How could I go about getting your business? ‘ or ‘How could we do a better job for you?’ It's amazing to me the poor salesmanship skills of attorneys who will never come right out and ASK FOR THE ORDER!!!
18. If your evaluation of case value or defense cost has changed, don't wait for me to ask you this. Volunteer it up front.
19. DO show me that you keep up with my business, my industry and that you're a Big Picture guy.
20. DO have a sense of humor and fun. Even clients gravitate to attorneys who are fun to work with.
21. Don't agree to my service guidelines unless you really mean it. Talk is cheap - actions are dear.
22. Don't make me your quality control unit to catch billing and reporting snafus which are clearly set forth in our guidelines.
23. Don't be defensive if there is a screw-up. Take accountability and tell me how you will set things right.
24. DON'T ask me to pay full price if I'm not getting full service. If I don't get full service, offer to discount the price."
These suggestions are as applicable to brokers (investment and insurance), consultants, accountants, engineers, and architects as to attorneys - all those who offer services that are time-sensitive. As Kevin so clearly summarized his comments:
"You rarely go wrong in striving to over-communicate with your client."
. . . an electric prod to the hide of my complacence . . . .
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