The view from both sides – guest blog by Shoosmiths
04 July 2019
Before taking a role in client service management, I worked at the sharp end of a legal collections team for five years.
In my former life as a Litigation Manager, nothing made my heart sink lower and deeper than the regular circulation (usually on a Monday) of the accounts receivables report. Any client outside of their payment terms usually received a sweaty-palmed phone call from me ‘just wondering’ when we could expect the invoice to be paid.
The irony is, nine of out ten times, the client contact I was speaking to was a bit like me, with absolutely no influence over whether payment would be made or not, so they took no offence at all in being asked! But, because I was phoning from a law firm, it could feel highly uncomfortable that I was coming on a bit heavy.
Fast forward ten years, and I’m now happily ensconced in the area of client services, and at this distance the sensitivity and emotion some people still feel in the debt collection dance is still an area that can be baffling to outsiders looking in.
For lawyers, client relationships rely on a level of mutual comfort and honesty between both parties, so that it can seem bizarre that we still find it so awkward to ‘talk turkey’ with them. Certainly, in any other transaction you carry out within daily life, it’s a fairly reasonable expectation to be paid for the goods or services you are providing. I haven’t been into one shop yet where the cashier has been too embarrassed to ask me to pay!
Where it could get sticky sometimes for lawyers, was when we have to ensure we then got paid for the recovery…….
One particular client was so terrible in paying his invoices, I was eventually instructed to stop taking his instructions. If I thought ‘wondering when invoices were going to be paid’ was a sweaty palm moment, it was nothing compared to that phone call! Luckily, times have moved on sufficiently and this particular scenario is a total rarity these days. Whilst I don’t miss that particular aspect of the job, I do miss the lovely relationship I had with many of my clients – daily interaction with them meant we built up a fairly close relationship fairly quickly and it was a lovely period of my career to be the ‘safe pair of hands’ they wanted to put their debt recovery needs into.
However, is the awkwardness about talking about money still a thing? Or was it just the case that I wasn’t really cut out for a front line role in credit management?
Answers and anecdotes gratefully received!