Part 4: What Communication Should the Client Expect?
The short answer is that once you turn a debt over for legal collection, as the client, you should expect to be kept adequately informed of steps and progress, as well as risks. The longer answer depends on the agreement with the agency as to frequency and method of reporting.
Generally speaking, the client wants the agency to be the agent or the buffer for information from the lawyers. Agencies prefer that lawyers communicate with the agency so they can make sure the information is appropriate and meaningful for the client.
One of the many benefits collection agencies can provide is help in the management of account portfolios. If the agency has a large number of accounts for the client, there may be economies that can be achieved by setting up reporting and authorization systems in advance. As to reporting, perhaps the client wants an extensive report each month on all accounts. Otherwise, the client may want an individual report on each account monthly. It may be better to have individual reports when important activity occurs, trusting the agency to move the maters along. Some clients may provide settlement and suit authority in advance, allowing the agency to really manage the accounts. Some agencies will provide clients with real time access the agency’s database to allow the client to monitor accounts without the need for the agency to generate any reports. Technology has created complete flexibility to fit any organizational needs.
On the other hand, the agency and the lawyers should have an understanding as to what communication is expected (and necessary) to meet the needs of the client. Reports from lawyers may need to be more detailed so the agency can manage that information into its communication system with the client. Whether the agency prefers that report to come by mail, fax, email or on-line is a matter of preference and agreement. Most creditors’ rights firm these days can provide whatever method and form is needed by the agency.
At certain times, the telephone trumps all other methods of communication. While email may reach the account manager at the beach, live discussions may be better when there are trial preparations or detailed settlement issues that need to be reviewed.
Unless the account has been legally sold (assigned) to the agency, the creditor is the client of the lawyer and the lawyer is always free to communicate with the client (rather than its agency). However, this direct communication often short-circuits the established communication patterns and care should be taken (by the client or the lawyer) to bring the agency up to date.