Attorney and LNC conflicts may arise because of miscommunications and misunderstandings.
The phone rings. You can almost see the steam coming out of the attorney’s ears as he emphatically tells you how upset he is with you. Why?
- One of the experts you supplied did not meet the attorney’s expectations.
- Your report was late.
- The attorney was dismayed by the size of your invoice.
How to handle attorney and LNC conflicts
How you handle an angry client will determine if he stays your client, leaves your business or tells his colleagues not to do business with you.
Oh yes, angry attorneys talk to spread the word about their unhappiness.
I have found the first step in handling an angry attorney’s phone call is to stop talking and let him talk. Don’t interrupt. Let him fully air his concerns and grievances. If necessary, put your hand over your mouth so you throttle the desire to respond. It is so tempting to slip into apologies, explanations, rationalizations and arguments. Don’t do that is this stage.
Often just being able to express his anger will result in the attorney calming down.
Acknowledge the angry attorney’s concerns. This shows that you have heard him.
Empathize with him. We all learned this in nursing school – to rephrase what a patient says to show we are listening.
Attorney and LNC conflicts – next steps
Once the attorney has calmed down enough to listen, say something like, “Let’s talk about how we can solve this problem.” By saying this you are sending a message that you want to fix a problem. You shift the emphasis away from the attorney being the problem, or you being the problem. The situation is the problem; solving it is a shared challenge. Framing the attorney’s unhappiness in this way reduces the adversarial nature of the discussion.
Now that you know what has upset the attorney, determine if his concern is something you can address on the spot or requires further research. You may be able to clear up a misunderstanding, but other issues require you to investigate or collect data.
If the attorney is upset with one of your experts, consider calling that person to obtain his or her side. Sometimes attorneys are upset about things that are simple to fix, like an expert not returning a phone call. Sometimes they are upset about more difficult issues like how the expert performed at a deposition. You’ll need to dig deeper to address this problem.
There is a lot at stake in litigation. The attorney has invested time and money in a case before sending it to you. He is understandable anxious when your report is late. He may be facing a court imposed deadline or a client who is calling him asking for an answer that only you can give.
If your report is late because of a misunderstanding, determine what you can do to get the project completed. This is where LNCs have to cross from the employee mindset to the entrepreneurial mindset and do whatever it takes to complete the work, even if that means staying up late or working on weekends.
When the attorney is upset with the number of hours you spent on a case, take a look at your invoice. What factors led to a large invoice? Were there a lot of medical records? Was it difficult to extract information from the records? Were the records unorganized? Was there a mismatch between what the attorney asked you to do and what he thought he asked you to do?
One attorney asked me to create a detailed chronology of all of the events associated with a specific time frame. When he got a 30 page report and an invoice for $3000, he said he thought he would get a summary 5-6 pages long.
As hard as it is to do, you may need to write off some hours. That is what I had to do with this attorney, who eventually paid the bill but never returned with more work.
The key point in resolving attorney and LNC conflicts is finding out what is causing the upset and taking action to frame the issue as a shared problem you want to resolve.
You will not win all of the battles, but if you are skilled in handling angry attorneys, you will keep more clients and use the complaints as an opportunity to strengthen your business.
Add a comment below – what have you found to be effective in handling a conflict with an attorney?
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC has handled more attorney conflicts than she wants to remember. She created and ran a large independent LNC business for over 25 years. Pat is a past president of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.