I got a call last week from a potential client. We spent about 30 minutes on the phone, and at the end of the conversation he asked if it would be ok if his attorney contacted me. I’ve never had a problem with such a request. In fact, I welcome inquiries like this because it allows me to separate myself from others who preach unscrupulous tactics, or have questionable records.
The attorney called me, and I could tell from the start that he was skeptical about what I could do for his client. Finally he asked the “million dollar” question: “What can you do for my client that I can’t do myself?”
“Well” I said, “do you have any experience with the modification or settlement of SBA debt?”
His response: “No.”
“Do you routinely work with tax returns and personal financial statements?”
Once again, “No”.
So really, it seemed to me that the real question here was this: what made this attorney think he was qualified to represent his client in a negotiation? Attorneys specialize in many areas, so it’s ludicrous to assume that just because someone passed their state bar exam, that makes them an expert in every aspect of the law. To go a step further, settlement negotiations usually have NOTHING to do with the law (although the resulting paperwork does). Settlements have to do with coming to reasonable terms so that the bank never has to take legal action.
Of course, not every attorney was as arrogant as the one I described above. In fact, I often get calls from attorneys who looked me up because their client needs help with an SBA settlement, and the attorney knew that he was not well-versed enough to add value to the process. In my opinion, the smartest people are the ones who know when to say “I don’t know”. I get questions all the time about tax and bankruptcy issues that I honestly don’t know the answer to, and that’s exactly what I say. In a similar light, a smart attorney who realizes debt settlement is not his area of expertise should not “winging it”. Instead, they should tell their client that they need an expert in the area of debt settlement. Otherwise, your attorney will simply be learning the process as he goes….which doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success.