Some Time Saving, Profit Making Tips for Bankruptcy Law Firms

BEFORE OPENING YOUR PRACTICE

1.  If you have been practicing law in a civil or state court, make sure you comply with all the requirements in your jurisdiction to practice in front of a federal judge.

2.   Call your local bankruptcy court and find out the procedures for obtaining your ECF (electronic court filing) number. The procedures are different in every state.

3.  Download a free set of (1) Client Intake Forms; and the (2) Bankruptcy Attorney Retainer Agreement at:
http://www.bankruptcylinks.info/about/free-supplies

4.   Read and purchase the highly recommended Nolo book (written by attorneys) titled: “Consumer Bankruptcy Law and Practice” at: http://shop.consumerlaw.org/forlawyers.aspx

SEPARATING FOOT TRAFFIC

The perfect scenario would be to have a dedicated area for your bankruptcy practice if you practice other areas of law.  The main reason for doing this is to separate the consumer clients from your business clients.  The average family filing bankruptcy has a completely different focus compared to the company president who is negotiating terms with an overseas supplier. If you do not separate the groups, meaning that the reception areas and interview rooms are not in the same area with your business clients, a tension will develop and harm your relationship with both client groups.

It is almost like going to the garage to have your car worked on and the mechanics also cooked your meals and had a full service restaurant while you waited. The two worlds do not go together and clients become uncomfortable; resulting in loss of profits for your law firm.

Establishing Private Interview Rooms

It is essential that the clients who are hiring your law firm to handle their bankruptcy (one of the most life changing events in their life) that they feel comfortable and respected. The only way to accomplish this is to talk to the clients in a private setting.  Some attorneys use their office for the meeting but it may be intimidating for clients to sit across from and attorney and talk to them. This scenario places the attorney in the controlling position and makes the client feel intimidated.  However, placing the clients in a private room, allowing them 5 or 10 minutes to become comfortable and having the attorney enter and sit down to talk with them on a friendly basis, places the client in the superior position and creates more openness and willingness to cooperate and answer the questions in more detail.

One idea that worked really well

In 2005 and 2006, I helped attorneys establish 72 different law firms throughout the United States. This experience gave me the ability to watch a variety of different scenarios play out and determine which set-ups were the most successful.  The set of operational procedures that consistency worked every time was the following:

1.  Clients initially calls the office.  The person answering the phone would determine if the clients was in an emergency situation (such as a foreclosure, etc.)  If so, they were asked to set up an appointment immediately.  But if the client was not in an emergency situation and was indecisive, the person answering the phone emailed them a set of Initial Intake Forms (4 pages) which you can purchase at:
http://www.bankruptcytrainingproducts.com/home/initial-intake

2. Once the forms were returned to the attorney, the attorney uses the answers to determine if he or she is going to take the case. If so, the clients were called and an appointment was set.

3. When the clients come to the law firm for their appointment, they meet the attorney in person for at least 5 minutes. This establishes trust, plus the attorney needs to be present to explain the Retainer Agreement and collect the retainer fee.  Many attorneys ask for $500 initially to start the case with $299 or $274 paying the filing fee.

Note: During this consultation is where attorneys must learn how to market and sell their services. This is an area where I personally work with attorneys because they are not taught marketing skills in law school.  If you are an attorney interested in this service, call me (Victoria Ring) at 719-659-0743 and we will schedule an appointment. The training can easily be done by telephone and normally takes less than 1 hour (a cost of only about $125.)

4. Once the Retainer Agreement is signed and the down payment collected, the clients are placed in an area where they will watch all the Bankruptcy Basics Video Set provided free from the US Courts website at:
http://www.uscourts.gov/video/bankruptcybasics/bankruptcyBasics.html

These videos can be downloaded (copy and paste the link to your law firm web page) and played on a laptop for your clients to watch in the office or from the clients home computer.  It is essential that the clients watch these videos before filling out the 30-page Client Intake Form package that you downloaded at http://www.bankruptcylinks.info/about/free-supplies because it cuts your interview time by 70% or more.  This is due to the fact that by watching the Bankruptcy Basics Video Set, all their initial questions are answered and you do not need to spend time repeating yourself and answering the same questions over and over.

5. Next, give your clients the 30-page set of Client Intake Forms to fill out. Make sure they understand the importance of reading the instructions that are provided so they will understand how to properly complete the forms; also saving you preparation time as well as accuracy of information.

Some attorneys prefer that their clients complete the forms in their office. They provide their clients with a private room, offer them snacks and something to drink, then leave them for 30-45 minutes to fill out the forms.  This accelerates the process and prevents the downtime of waiting on clients to go home, complete the forms and return them to the office.

After the forms are completed and before the clients leave the office, the attorney (or a staff member who is knowledgeable of petition preparation and the reason why specific information is needed) will sit down with the clients. They will go through each page of the forms and when a blank area is encountered, they can obtain the information right at that time from the clients while the information is fresh on their minds. This also helps to save time and money for the law firm.  In addition this procedure also save preparation time as well as accuracy of information.

VERY IMPORTANT: AVOID THIS

Due to the rapid growth of the bankruptcy industry, many new attorneys have entered this field of practice who have not been properly trained. Some of them have been told by attorneys (from previous generations) that debtor bankruptcy is nothing more than filling out forms. But when the attorneys get their first case, they encounter many problems and some are actually sanctioned for the poor quality of service they provide.

Rather than risk all this drama, doesnt it make more logical sense to take a moment now and obtain the training you need so that your law firm is more financially stable and the services you provide are worth the money the clients pay you?  If you agree, then I strongly urge you to always:

1.  Meet with your client the first day they come in for an appointment;
2.  Send them periodic emails to let them know you are working on their case; and
3.  ALWAYS make sure you attend the 341 Meeting and DO NOT use a substitute.

One of the biggest mistakes a law firm can make is to hire another attorney to attend the 341 Meeting to represent their clients.  The only acceptable method of doing so would be if the clients are introduced to the alternate attorney and they actually hold a conversation with him or her. After the conversation, the clients should be the only people who give their permission to accept the alternate. Anything less is not being respectful to your clients who paid their hard earned money to have you represent them.

Attorneys who simply collect the money and have other attorneys attend their 341 Meetings creates havoc for the client.  Imagine this: The clients are embarrassed about their financial situation. They are terrified and very nervous when they go to court.  When they arrive, they do not see their attorney. The client’s panic.  Suddenly, an attorney they have never met, taps them on the shoulder and tells them he or she is representing them at the hearing. The clients are totally confused. They have never met this person and the confidentiality they thought they shared with the attorney they hired has been breached from their point of view.

HELP FOR YOUR LAW FIRM

Are you an attorney who needs to reduce the drama in your law firm and increase your profits? My fee is only $125 per hour; so for about $125, we can have a phone consultation and I will help to prepare a set of procedures for your specific law firm based upon your needs and goals. In fact, after our conversation, I will put together a Procedures Manual (based upon our discussion) at your request.

Other consultants charge thousands for this service, but due to my low overhead you can save money and receive the same services I used to provide to law firms when I was traveling around the country. Still skeptical? Call some of our attorney references at:  http://www.bankruptcylinks.info/about/attorney-references

To set up your consulting appointment call 719-659-0743 or email victoriaring1958@gmail.com

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