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Best Practices

Plaintiff Finance

8 Tips to Nurture Your Existing Attorney Relationships

November 12, 2016
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5min read

Case referrals from law firms are often the most sought after origination source for deal flow.

They provide funders:

  1. Consistency - You can expect to routinely receive deals from the attorney
  2. Quality - You can expect the cases be better when compared to PPC or brokers
  3. Defensibility - Your personal relationship with the attorney is not easy for other funders to "steal"

Those referral relationships are hard to win but easy to lose. At its core, legal funding is a service business. You're servicing the plaintiff by providing a much needed lifeline,  as well as the staff at the plaintiff's law firm by facilitating the transaction with as little interference as possible. 

Providing excellent service and outstanding customer experiences is the cornerstone of any retention strategy. If you want to improve your attorney relationships, focus on:

  • Improving Communication
  • Reducing Touchpoints

In this article, we break down eight best practices and strategies to use when working with law firms to preserve those relationships and keep that business flowing.  

Improving Communication

1. Assign Law Firms 1 Consistent Account Manager

A new relationship with an attorney requires that you build two primary dimensions:

  • Trust
  • Procedure

A prerequisite for building both is having the same person at your company interface with theirs on every funding request.

By assigning a single representative to a law firm, you're ensuring that intake procedures, document collection, payment management-and everything in between-is smooth, without surprise, and personalized. It's impossible to build relationships and a good rapport when the phone is answered by a different person every time.

And while the only thing law firms like to talk about with respect to legal funding is how to reduce the time talking about legal funding, paralegals and attorneys often do relish the opportunity to talk about other things. Whether it's the local sports team or yesterday's The Bachelor episode, relationship building is Sales 101, and it is often overlooked.    

2. Don't Assume - Always Check With The Attorney

You provided a plaintiff with an advance one month ago, and now they're looking for another.  Based on what you know about the case, there's still plenty of room for funding, so it's okay to approve them immediately, right?

Wrong.

If you're contacting the attorney for the first time to ask for the signature on the agreement, it's already too late. Make sure you reach out to the attorney before you approve the plaintiff for more funding so they can let you know if case circumstances have changed or if they think there's not enough room left to warrant another lien.

By the way, important note:

The fastest way to lose a relationship with an attorney is to turn their own clients against them. There are many opportunities to do this as a legal funder. For example, telling the plaintiff that the attorney is slow in sending underwriting documents or that the attorney said that it's a bad case and that you shouldn't fund it. It is a best practice to take the blame and tell plaintiffs that they didn't qualify due to your underwriting standards, for example, which is still very much the truth.

Since the attorney is an advocate for the plaintiff, this explanation is probably best for the plaintiff anyway, and it has the added benefit of preserving your relationship with the attorney.  

3. Shield Attorneys from their Own Clients

Plaintiffs are often aggressive when wanting to get fast funding. They may offer to help you get documents, run down answers to questions, check on document requests, help push attorneys, and so on.

When you don't have a relationship with a law firm, this often makes for a very effective way to get law firms to move more quickly.

But if a law firm is referring a client to you, it is probably because they trust you to handle it yourself. Remember, you're a service provider. Clients don't have a lot of experience in this regard. Usually law firms would rather deal with you when it comes to funding rather than deal with the plaintiff. The more you shield them from having to do more work for the plaintiff, the better.  

4. Confirm Liens Today to Save Relationships Tomorrow

Law firms are not typically the epitome of organization. If you are organized and structured, you can leverage that to provide additional value to a law firm, even if it means adding a few more touch points.

Case in point: We've previously talked about the importance of getting the law firm to confirm that they have your lien on file. Be sure to send the attorney and case manager, or paralegal, the fully executed agreement, and ask that they respond to your email confirming receipt.

This is a win-win. It's helpful to you because it confirms investments are secure, and it's helpful for them to keep track of the various liens on a particular file.  

Reducing Touchpoints

1. Establish Deep Trust

Easier said than done, but once it happens, the law firm tends to avoid jumping through all the usual hoops associated with a funding. If the attorney says there is an offer on the case for $100,000, some legal funders require proof, while others take the word of the attorney. Who do you think an attorney would rather work with?

Of course, this can extend to its logical conclusion, and some law firms can simply pick up the phone and, with enough credibility, tell a funder the facts of a case without having to send over a shred of proof.

Regardless of the details of each situation, trust is important to building long-term relationships with every law firm. Savvy funders don't ask for the same documentation from a new attorney as they do from an attorney they've worked closely with successfully for years.  

2. Know The Roles Within Each Firm

Some law firms have complex and convoluted management structures. This is especially true for larger firms, where paralegals, case managers, and other law firm staff can have drastically different responsibilities from one firm to the next.

Account managers at legal funding companies need the dexterity to be able to navigate these internal structures and know the right person to talk to regard document requests, case updates, and managing payments. Make sure you keep a record of these internal structures-or at least know them by heart-so you know who to contact, and when to do so.  

3. Batch Your Work

Another tactic is to batch as much work together as possible. By definition, having a relationship means you have multiple points of contact going on at the same time. Save yourself and the law firm time by batching case status, new funding, and document requests together to tackle them all at once.  

4. Give Special Relationships Special Treatment

An extreme approach is to arm your law firms with every resource they need to circumvent you in the funding process.

For example, some funders will go so far as to provide white-glove services such as leaving blank agreements and blank checks with attorneys. These attorneys will "auto-fund" clients at their discretion, so after the plaintiff signs the agreement, the attorney can immediately hand over a check and simply notify the funder of their amazing new investment.

Risky business.

There are a lots of ways to create processes to streamline operations for everyone. Attorneys will appreciate you taking the lead in doing so, and they will reward you with long-lasting, lucrative relationships.

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