Choosing the right lawyer is a very individual process. Most of my colleagues are skilled, able professionals, but we’re not interchangeable.
Finding the right fit for you requires what I call 3 C’s – balancing Competence, Charges, and Personal Comfort.
Competence – What Skills to look For
Obviously, competence is crucial – you want to win. Competence refers to the attorney’s knowledge, skills, and experience in a particular area.
To excel in collections, your lawyer needs litigation skills and a working knowledge of contract, corporate, and some bankruptcy law.
An experienced collection lawyer should also have a trained eye for collection issues, knowing what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to find assets when there’s a judgment to enforce. This includes an eye for various schemes that sophisticated debtors employ to frustrate their creditors.
Most collection issues aren’t industry-specific, and a good collection lawyer can transfer his skills from one product or service to the next. Generally speaking, the right skill set is more important to collections than knowing the specific industry.
However, there are some exceptions. A few areas (like employment agencies and construction) have unique issues or laws which, if unrecognized, can greatly impact your collection case. In those instances, your lawyer should be familiar with those industry-specific collection issues.
Charges – Different Fee Models
Charges refer to legal fees. Common fee models include hourly, contingency, and flat billing.
Hourly means you pay for the amount of time the lawyer works on your case, based on an hourly rate. Contingency means you pay a percentage of any recovery. And flat means you pay a fixed amount, which doesn’t depend on time or results.
In collections, lawyers commonly accept cases on a contingency basis, though you need a clear agreement which states what services this includes. The advantage to you is that you only pay a fee if there’s a recovery.
But not all clients want a contingency fee. For example, I’ve handled large commercial loans where, frankly, the clients didn’t want to pay a percentage of the recovery. Therefore, under New Jersey’s ethics rules, an attorney who offers you contingency billing must also offer hourly.
In addition, your lawyer may offer a blended (hybrid) model, which combines a lower hourly rate with a lower percentage of the recovery.
Though some cases may vary, when I accept a collection case, I usually offer contingency, hourly, and blended fee options.
In the end, if all things were equal, you’d go with whoever charges the least. But things aren’t always equal. Losing is expensive, and competence is still key. Therefore, you’ll want to balance fees with expertise and experience.
Comfort – Trusting Your Attorney
Having said that, personal comfort with your lawyer is also important. Comfort refers to the level of confidence, trust, and rapport in your relationship. For example, consider there are thousands of accountants in New Jersey, and I’m sure most know their business. Yet for 20 years, I’ve gone to the same person because of the relationship we’ve developed.
Like other professions, the law is a service industry. While your rapport may depend on chemistry, confidence and trust come when you feel your lawyer’s accessible, transparent, and working hard for you.
The simplest way to build this trust is through communication, like responding to your calls and updating you proactively. My policy is to copy you on every item in your case: every document filed, every correspondence sent, every correspondence received. When your file looks like my file, you know what’s happening and what I’m doing to win the case.
Why Hire Me?
Please take a moment to review my Testimonials page.
I’ve been getting results for satisfied clients for more than 20 years. From a variety of industries – sellers of goods, providers of services, commercial lending — these clients all describe success stories and portray me as results-driven, tenacious and savvy to sophisticated debtor schemes.
Moreover, if you’re an employment agency or construction supplier, you’ll need more than just a skilled collection lawyer. You’ll need someone who knows the unique collection issues affecting your industry. I’ve written about them on these pages and elsewhere.
Finally, you can expect regular updates from me throughout the collection process, along with prompt responses and open communication.
While many of my clients have become long-term relationships, I can’t promise the same rapport in every case. I can promise, however, that I’ll continuously strive to earn your trust and confidence.
I practice throughout New Jersey (all counties), and also accept cases in Southeastern Pennsylvania.