Are you an ethical LNC? You say, “Of course I am.” Do you do the right thing whether someone is looking – or not?
Here’s the definition: “Ethics is defined as a moral philosophy or code of morals practiced by a person or group of people. An example of ethics is the code of conduct set by a business.”
Sometimes ethical challenges are obvious.
- You pay what you owe people.
- You return unused portions of retainers.
- You don’t misrepresent the truth.
- You don’t go around the back of an LNC who hired you.
Let’s look at these.
Collections: A Losing Proposition
A man in another state halfway across the country hired me to ghostwrite his book. He paid two thirds of what he owed me and then said he would not pay the rest because he was not done with the book (a year past his deadline to be done.) Nothing I did to offer to help him finish budged him.
After my usual collection methods did not work this summer, I wrote him a demand letter and sent it simultaneously first class and also by certified mail return receipt. He did not pick up the certified letter. Next, the attorney I hired wrote him a demand letter.
When I spoke to him this weekend, he agreed to pay half of what he owed me.
Here is the sad reality: It is not affordable to hire an attorney to collect $2000, nor is it affordable to fly to the state to file a small claim and then fly back to appear in court.
Attorneys know this when they hire you. The ethical ones who are unhappy with your work give you a chance to fix it. Or they pay the bill and don’t contact you again. The unethical ones know you have very little leverage when you are out of state. They don’t pay their bills.
I’m restructuring my agreements so I don’t end up in this situation again. I strongly recommend LNCs get retainers and replenish the retainer when it is mostly used up.
Don’t keep racking up hours without getting money to cover your work. Please.
The savvy LNCs keep the retainer in a separate account such as a money market account, so that he or she does not spend the money before earning it. When the case is resolved or the LNC need not do any additional work, the LNC returns the unused portion of the retainer.
Periodically the ethical LNC reviews the money sitting in the retainer account and contacts the law firm to find out the disposition of the case.
I usually made these calls at Christmas, and found this was one message that always delighted the law firm. “You mean you are sending us money back? Physician experts don’t do that.”
A legal vendor I know told me once, “We only send back the unused portion if the law firm asks for it.”
No, that’s not right. It is not your money.
Being honest, ethical and trustworthy with the attorney’s money is essential and gets you even more business.
Last month I discovered an LNC had signed up for our LNCEU membership site twice. She made this error 3 years ago. Our software charged her card twice three years in a row. The only way I could refund her for the duplicate payment was to write her a check, which I mailed to her with an explanation. Being ethical is doing the right thing, even if no one is looking.
Misrepresenting the truth
Earlier this month I went to a National Speakers Association chapter meeting presented by a former accountant. When he started his talk, he was in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. He reenacted walking into federal prison to serve an 18-month sentence for embezzlement and not paying taxes on the stolen money.
After he got out of prison, he got a job selling graves, and eventually became a speaker on the topic of business ethics. Now he is transitioning to helping speakers create videos. He rents an empty auditorium, has the speaker give a talk, and then combines the footage with other video of enthusiastic audiences.
He smiled at us as he said, “Other speakers’ audiences smiling and clapping for other speakers.”
Of course, his video gives the impression the audience is clapping for his client. Ethical or not?
Ethical LNCs are clear about their credentials, experience, and areas of expertise. They don’t allow the attorney to believe something that is not true.
“Dance with the one who brung you”
One of Ronald Reagan’s favorite political sayings came from a song popular in his youth: “Dance with the one that brung ya.” Reagan’s point was simple: in politics, as in life, you support those who support you.
The LNC who subcontracts work should be able to expect that the subcontractor will not attempt to get work directly from the attorney. Savvy LNCs have agreements with both the LNC and the attorney, separately, keeping the LNC in the middle of the agreement.
One day one of my clients called me up to ask me, “I know you bill for the services of the expert witness. I want to know how much you pay her.”
“Because I want to pay her directly and not go through you”, he told me.
I explained that he signed an agreement to use her through my company and she signed an agreement to not work directly for him. “Then I won’t use your company any longer”, he told me.
Fine. He stopped giving me cases and that was OK. It was always a hassle to collect on invoices I’d sent him.
I’ve heard of subcontractors who approached the client of the LNC and offered their services at a lesser rate. The ethical LNC does not do this.
I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I am living with integrity, being honest and ethical. There is no other way to live.
Pat Iyer is president of The Pat Iyer Group, which develops resources to assist LNCs obtain more clients, make more money and achieve their business goals and dreams.
Pat’s related websites include the LNC business coaching services she offers through LNCAcademy.com, the continuing education provided on LNCEU.com, the podcasts broadcast at podcast.legalnursebusiness.com, and writing tips supplied at patiyer.com.
Get all of Pat’s content in one place by downloading the mobile app, Biz Edu at www.legalnursebusiness.com/bizedu. Watch videos, listen to podcasts, read blogs, watch online courses and training and more.