I was reading one of those booklets that get sent out by indemnity insurers to remind us how to avoid claims. Most of them are very good. They are readable and clear and will not give you too many nightmares. No one likes waking up in the middle of court one day screaming after a bad dream. It upsets the judge.
This edition included an article on initial interviews - six key objectives. It is so helpful that I am going to shamelessly use the ideas in some in-house training. It is one the rare things in life which are equally appropriate for any firm. Whether it's a builder suing for a non-paid bill of £400 or someone buying a jumbo jet for millions the same principles apply. Basically - do I know what to do, will the client pay me and do I really want to do this? (Yes I know that is not six key objectives but you know where I am going).
It is only with experience you can tell the answers to these questions. If you work in a high street firm you often get people with different problems phoning or calling for advice. They always end the message, 'I don’t mind if I have to pay'. Presumably this is some added incentive for me. I do not understand it. If I go to a shop to buy a television i do not say to the youth selling the things, 'Please I would like a television... Oh and I don’t mind paying'.
Hopefully as our careers progress we develop a sixth sense about prospective clients. The builder could probably go to the small claims’ court. He will not want to get a bill from me for £400 or even £40. We then find that he has been to the small claims’ court, and lost because the only evidence in writing was the telephone number of the customer written in biro on his shirt sleeve.
I must stop writing now. A client has come in wanting to buy a jumbo jet. How much shall I charge, I wonder?
David Pickup is a partner in Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott