Got off the phone yesterday afternoon with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee here in New York. He was unhappy with my actions.
For the life of me, I have no idea why.
Allow me to share: About two weeks ago I asked my assistant to contact every Chapter 7 trustee in New York to obtain from them a list of documents they require to be produced in every Chapter 7 case. Given the fact that some trustees have nuanced lists and deviate from one another, this was a pretty good idea. The goal was to provide a separate section of one of my blogs and allow lawyers and consumers to search it as needed.
A complete list would reduce the number of confused calls to trustee offices, increase the efficiency of document delivery to trustees in Chapter 7 cases, and overall make the process smoother. Win-win, as they say.
This particular Chapter 7 trustee’s office provided the information and I posted it on my site. He called me this afternoon and advised that he didn’t want the information on my site, and didn’t want it disseminated to the public. He asked that I remove the content from my site, and I intend to do so in the next day or so.
He locked the doors.
What’s the upshot? This trustee will continue to get haphazard documents from consumer debtors and their lawyers. His frustration level will remain high as his office staff keeps chasing people down for information. His files will be less organized than would otherwise be the case, with papers coming in dribs and drabs.
Consumer debtors will remain inefficient. Their lawyers will remain harried. And he will lose time and money, all in the name of locking the doors.
This interchange made me think about the true cost/benefit analysis of transparency in legal marketing, especially in marketing a bankruptcy practice or consumer protection practice. By locking the doors to our audience, by holding information close to the vest, we think we’re doing the world some sort of favor. If we don’t give out all the information, our prospective clients can’t hurt themselves by mucking up a case pro se.
We tell prospective clients what documents we need, but not why – and we get bent out of shape when they don’t comply with our requests. We tell them to be at an appointment, but give no real reason aside from, “because I said so.” And we all know how well that works with parents and children.
How can we increase our office efficiency and legal marketing effectiveness by being more transparent?
When we open the doors wide to clients and prospective clients, we not only provide more information. We start to explain the thinking underneath the information, and educate the world about the why in addition to the what, where, when, why and how. By removing the uncertainty in the process, we create safety. Oh, says the recipient of the information, I understand now. I need to provide 6 months worth of paystubs so the lawyer can calculate my current monthly income. That’s the only way we can know for sure if I qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The unknown becomes known. The flow of information increases. We no longer need to chase clients around for documents, we no longer beg for compliance. They are more likely to realize that our interests are aligned and, therefore, to rebel less frequently.
What do you think? Do you think unlocking the doors in your practice is a good idea? Share your thoughts below.