The Christmas Bye Bye

I’ll never forget the phone call.

December 17, 2014. George Nersherman, a five year client was on the phone explaining why this month’s television advertising payment was going to be late, very late. Here I was sitting in my very worn leather chair, holding the phone to my ear while signing year-end bonuses. Our TV advertising for lawyers was growing steadily but so was the payroll. Everyone counted on their bonus to carry the extraordinary expenses that December brings. Now comes one of our biggest Lawyer TV Advertising clients at a time when we needed the most cash to tell me, “no payment”.

George had been steady and prompt. Together we had set the Bar High for other Advertising Lawyers to try to compete. The Attorney TV Ads were bringing more clients each month, 20% MORE, yet here he was saying “no money”. I couldn’t drink my coffee listening to the excuses. My coffee was now cold. The snow outside was cold. But despite what he was saying, I just couldn’t be “cold hearted”.

It was time for me to jump in and help George. As I listened to his tale of woe, I began to ask telling questions –

Was there a big increase in costs? No.

Did someone steal from the accounts? No.

Did you lose a case you had a big cost in? No. Well sort of.

“Sort of?” It seems that Attorney Bill Bigsbain was having a string of bad luck. Bill had been with the firm for 8 years. Bill was a pretty steady producer. His fees always covered. In the last three months his litigation files went “South”. The clients were hard to reach. The Judges were on vacation. The opponents were filing repeated continuances. Scheduling conflicts abounded. A few small cases were settling but the bulk were stalled. It was killing the cash flow that the Tv Advertising and Marketing depended upon.

It was now December 19th. Christmas party time and I was there. George had me in and out of the office the last few days reviewing staff in order to advise him how to right the ship. We knew from 30 years of experience getting the Lawyer TV Advertising to produce cases was only the beginning. We had to advise and direct the firm on monetizing the intake.

So there I was, at his Christmas Party, about to whisper in George’s ear the bad news – Bill Bigsbain was holding up settlements so that he could walk with a nest egg and start his own firm. It was the only conclusion. Denial, Denial, Denial was George’s response. “Look,” he said, as Bill opened his gift from George, keys to a brand new Mercedes. “He’s not going anywhere,” declared George with a great big smile. And with that George and family headed to Colorado for his traditional ski weekend.

Of course my phone rings Christmas day. Its George -- in tears. It's NOT a Merry Christmas. Bill had not only walked with his portfolio, he had taken some others as well. He had opened directly across the street with phone number and office equipment in place along with his trusted paralegal. In the driveway sat a brand new Mercedes.

Our management systems had revealed it was going to happen. We digitized it, predicted it, warned about it and had systems to stop or minimize its damage. But “Denial” ruled the day.  What rules the day in your law office? Maybe you should call us, before you go on your Christmas vacation.

Richard Sackett / CEO / Group Matrix

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