The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success

Essential Tips to Power Your Practice
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Archive for the ‘Fraud prevention’

Provincial, Territorial and State Lawyer Licensing Databases

May 26, 2010 By: Dan Category: Fraud prevention

I have had calls from lawyers in the midst of handling apparent fraud attempts that were wanting to verify whether the lawyers named as the drafter of the collaborative family law agreements presented to them by the fraudsters were in fact real lawyers. There were names and signatures in the agreements – but nothing else. No firm names, telephone numbers, addresses etc. Red flag!! Searches of the internet failed to turn up anything.

So where can you go to attempt to establish if you are dealing with a real lawyer that is in good standing?
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Unbillable Hour Podcast Highlights Our 2010 Success Resolutions on Legal Talk Network

January 22, 2010 By: Reid and Dan Category: Announcements, Client Service, Ethics & Professionalism, Firm Management & Operations, Fraud prevention, Making (more) Money, Marketing and Client Development, Wellness and balance

We are big fans of the UnBillable Hour podcast on the Legal Talk Network so we were really pleased that podcast host Rodney Dowell, director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, asked us to be his guests this month to expound on our Top Ten Tips for a Successful 2010 we blogged on New Year’s Day.

Take a listen to the podcast, that also features Judd Kessler of AbacusLaw, and take in our tips in a whole new way.

The Busy Lawyer’s Top Ten Tips for a Successful 2010

January 01, 2010 By: Reid and Dan Category: Client Service, Coping with E-mail, Ethics & Professionalism, Fraud prevention, Making (more) Money, Marketing and Client Development, Strategy & Planning, Technology, Wellness and balance

The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and renewal-out with the bad and in with the good. In our book, we highlight several resolutions every lawyer should make for a safe and profitable new year. We have updated those resolutions for 2010 to include several more tips specifically to shake off the blues of 2009 and make the coming year your most successful ever!

1. Lawyers are being targeted on bad check frauds in record numbers – be alert and don’t be duped: Fraudsters posing as clients on collection matters, business finance or mortgage loans are targeting lawyers. The ruse is simple: trick lawyers into running counterfeit certified checks or bank drafts through their trust accounts. The fraudster gets legitimate funds and the lawyer is left with a shortfall-often six figures! Take 20 minutes to learn more about these scams and what you need to know to prevent them from happening to you.

2. Spend time learning LinkedIn. Facebook and other social media tools. These social networks are fast emerging as sources of new business. Create a profile, search for connections/friends, and post regularly about your practice and your professional life. If you are familiar with these networks, spend time to learn their power in more detail, or expand to other networks, such a Martindale-Hubbell Connected (Beta) or LegalOnRamp. The December 2009 issue of LAWPRO Magazine is a good social media primer as it has articles on the different social networking tools, how to use them to market yourself, and the dangers you need to be aware of when using them.

3. Book a vacation now! Everyone needs some downtime. Grab your calendar and block off two weeks together or two one week blocks. (Health experts say a 2-week vacation is best.) Get your spouse, partner or significant other to block the same dates off in his or her calendar. Those dates are sacred – don’t book anything in them. If you don’t block them off now and keep them clear you will never get the holiday your mind and body needs.

4. Resolve to improve client service and don’t do any of the eleven things that annoy clients the most: How many can you name? Don’t read the next paragraph – close your eyes and see how many you can come up with.

OK, how did you do? Here’s our list:

* Not returning phone calls.
* Not replying to e-mails.
* Making clients wait in reception.
* Ignoring client/staff incivility.
* Dropping names to impress others.
* Not clarifying for the client.
* Not delivering on promises of performance.
* Not delivering on a promised outcome.
* Not communicating during long periods of inactivity.
* Failing to be prepared.
* Sending a very large bill without warning or explanation.

See an excerpt from our book for more on the 11 biggest client annoyances, and more importantly, what you can to do avoid them. Applying the tips featured in this excerpt will help you have happier clients, and even better, reduce the likelihood you will face discipline complaints and malpractice claims.

5. Recognize the growing need for bi-lingual legal services. Consider language classes at a community college or consider popular software just to start. The world is changing, those that greet the changes will be the most successful.

6. Connect with your peers: Join the ABA Law Practice Management Section or the ABA GPSolo Division to get the best information on developing or fine-tuning your law practice. Also, join your state bar Solo and Small Firm Section to increase your networking opportunities. If your state bar does not have one, start one!

7. Don’t just say you will start a marketing plan this year–do it! For yourself and for you firm. While marketing efforts are always welcome, shotgun efforts really are inefficient. We recommend the practical and realistic plan outlined in our book as a great place to start. To keep your marketing momentum, make appointments for yourself each week throughout the year–written on your calendar now–to implement all parts of your plan.

8. Evaluate your fee structure and retainer requirements. Are you asking clients to pay for value or results? Is your message “We’ll do your last will and testament, trust, power of attorney, and medical directive for X dollars, rather than “We can protect you, your family and estate from government intervention, taxes, and most family squabbles for X dollars? Turning the discussion from “price for paper” into a discussion of “price for value” is more effective in convincing clients to hire you. Analyze, revise, and practice incorporating this new approach into your discussions with clients.

9. What is the one thing you would like to change about yourself? We all have our personal shortcomings and foibles. Some of them are small, some of them are big. Pick one things that you would like to change or improve in your personal or professional life. Write it down on a piece of paper – and then write out the steps you need to take to make the changes you want to make. This is your path to make one significant change to improve yourself over the next twelve months.

10. Buy our book – The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice. If you like the short tips format and content of the above tips, you will love our book. It contains more of the same – almost 75 collections of ten or so tips on client service, marketing, strategic planning, business process improvement, technology-all targeted to help busy lawyers be even more successful. We guarantee it will contain at least one tip that earns back your purchase price.

We wish you a happy and successful 2010!

Dan and Reid

Keep Your Guard Up: Bogus Cheque Fraudsters Continue To Target Lawyers

December 03, 2009 By: Dan Category: Fraud prevention

Almost every day lawyers send me copies of emails they have received that attempt to dupe them into acting on a matter involving a bad cheque or bank draft. Some of these messages are clearly attempts at fraud; others can look very legitimate. We have seen some one in which a lawyer is contacted and asked to refer the matter to another lawyer, presumably to fool the lawyer getting the referral.

Thankfully, most lawyers seem to recognize when they are being targeted. But we are still seeing some lawyers that are getting fooled – including one just this week on a collection matter.

The fraudsters continue to come up with new scenarios. One we have seen a few times recently involves the collection of outstanding support arrears. Indeed, several lawyers in Oklahoma were targeted over the American Thanksgiving holiday weekend by this exact type of fraud. The fraudsters pose as a potential client seeking to collect outstanding child or spousal support. They usually say that they have already worked out an agreement with their ex-spouses, but want the lawyer to be involved with finalizing the agreement and handling the payment (for a very healthy share of the proceeds of course). If someone wants to pay you five figures to serve as a cheque-cashing service, your internal “too good to be true” alarm should go off.

Keep your guard up. Make sure your client intake and identification processes are on
high alert. Be on the look-out for frauds involving collections, small business loans and real estate or mortgage transactions loans for commercial purposes. Typically, both the client and the lender institution are new to the firm, and the deals and certified cheques will look legitimate. But they will turn out to be counterfeit, leaving a shortfall in the lawyer’s trust account.

Watch for the common red flags on frauds:

  • Client will be new to your firm (or may have retained you previously on a small matter)
  • Source of referral is unknown or not recognized
  • Client will provide only a cell number
  • Client is in a rush to complete the deal
  • You will be instructed to disburse the funds to a third party

How to protect yourself: Check out these and other free fraud prevention resources on the practicePRO fraud page (www.practicepro.ca/fraud)

Call your insurer if you suspect you have completed or are acting on a matter that appears like it might be a fraud. They can talk you through the fraud common scenarios they are seeing to help you spot red flags and ask the appropriate questions of your client to determine if the matter is legitimate.

Cross posted on Slaw and Avoid A Claim