By Michael G. Charapp
Charapp & Weiss LLP
A Lawyer is Paid More for a Letter than a Phone Call
We sometimes get a call from a client claiming that a customer’s lawyer called the dealership looking to discuss the client’s deal (or most often to discuss terminating the deal). The first question to our client is how the dealership knows the caller is really an attorney.
A call on behalf of a customer may be from a lawyer. However, the customer may have consulted with a non-attorney from a “legal service” or an “organization affiliated with lawyers” looking for a quick payday. It may even be a non-attorney friend of the customer trying to help the customer out of a deal because of buyer’s remorse. How can you tell? The first indication that the caller is not really an attorney and you have to make more inquiries is the fact of the phone call. As the title to this article says, a lawyer is paid more for a letter than a phone call. A lawyer actually representing a client will generally want to start with a letter.
Your dealership should have a policy for dealing with contacts by people implying or claiming that they are attorneys in phone calls.
- Ask directly whether a caller implying or claiming to be a lawyer is an attorney. In the conversation, take down information about the caller including full name, address, and phone number so the dealership’s file reflects the information. Most important, make notes of what the caller says is their occupation. Did the person claim to be a lawyer? Or did the person use some other word or phrase to mislead the call recipient into believing it?
- Advise the caller that the company does not respond to attorneys without written verification of representation. Advise the caller to contact the dealership in writing on the attorney’s letterhead specifically stating that the attorney represents the client. It is important, however, that the attorney provide proof of who they are and whom they claim to represent.
- Inquiries from attorneys should be directed to specific senior personnel at the dealership. Operators, sales people and others who are likely to take calls should be trained that they are not to deal with callers claiming to be attorneys. When they receive a call from anyone who implies or states they are an attorney, the call should be forwarded to a responsible senior person trained to deal with such callers.
- A dealer should consult with its own attorney whenever contacted by an attorney if there is any concern about how to proceed. The dealer’s attorney can assist dealership personnel through the process and can become involved if necessary.
- Do not expect to resolve a problem, or for your attorney to help you work through a problem, without the documents. Too often, dealership personnel can be mistaken about important deal information. Always review the documentation in a deal before working on a resolution. Make sure your attorney has a copy of the deal file. Nothing is worse than negotiating with an attorney for a customer who knows more about the deal than you do.