I apologize in advance to those who wish for all messages on this list serve to be dedicated to analytical discussions of statutes and cases in family law, a position which I generally support myself. In defense of my decision to post this email on the list serve, it occurred to me that I could make an argument that this relates to the collection of receivables. So, forgive me if this does not sound very collection-of-receivables focused.
Although the following may well violate the rules of this list serve, the devastating earthquake in Haiti which killed and maimed so many hundreds of thousands of people and continues to subject millions of men, women, and children to the horrors of a slow death from lack of clean water, food, medicine, and medical assistance compels me to suggest to the members of this list serve, many of whom have done so much for others in need for so many years [Harriet Bruhai, Levitt and Quinn, etc. not to mention the families they may assist on a daily basis], the possibility of sending a letter to clients and former clients who have not yet paid their bills in full as follows:
In an effort to assist the people in Haiti who have become the victims of the recent devastating earthquake which killed and maimed so many and which continues to subject millions of men, women, and children to the horrors of a slow death from lack of clean water, food, medicine, and medical assistance, our office has decided to credit your account with $_______ for any contribution you may choose to make to the relief effort in Haiti. If you have made any contribution since the earthquake, or choose to make one at this time, please simply send a note to my office confirming that you have done so, and your next billing statement will reflect a credit for the amount you have donated up to a maximum credit of $________.
As in any crisis such as this, there are always individuals who attempt to take advantage of the circumstances and seek to obtain donations without intending to actually spend the donations on the rescue of the people of Haiti, or they may have perfectly good intentions, but lack the resources to insure that the funds they try to dedicate to those purposes actually benefit the people to the same extent those same contributions would make if made to an established charity with sufficient resources and personnel in the United States and in Haiti to minimize the risk of the donation not actually reaching the intended beneficiaries. Thus, our office is suggesting that you consider making a donation through The Red Cross or through Artists for Peace and Justice, Project Haiti. To donate to the Red Cross for Haiti relief, go to RedCross.org, hit "donate now" button at top, and then select Haiti Relief and Development. The money will go directly to relief efforts in Haiti. Or call 1-800-Red-Cross. According to the Red Cross, a $100 contribution can provide 10 families with 20 water cans with clean water, a blanket, or other supplies to permit people to survive. Artists for Peace and Justice claims to be able to send 100% of the amounts donated directly to doctor and community organizer, Father Rick Frechette, who runs two pediatric hospitals, street schools in the slums, and other facilities for those in need. You can donate on line or send checks to Artists For Peace & Justice, 206 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, California, 91204. Of course, there are a number of charitable organizations providing benefits and you are free to choose any such entity if you wish to take advantage of this proposal.
You may wish to consult your tax advisor with regard to the deductibility of any contribution you may wish to make as it is possible that you may have tax benefits from such a contribution which may not be available to you without making such a contribution.
For those of you who wish to consider sending such a letter and can afford to do so, when deciding whether you can afford to do so and what amount to include in your letter, you may wish to consider the fact that overhead for most of us is a significant portion of collections, and then income taxes consumes another significant portion. Even if you allocate the overhead to the fees previously collected and consider the amount of the credit you are willing to offer to your clients as only subject to income taxes, the net amount you are giving up by making the proposal does not need to be very significant while the impact on the lives of people in great need will be very dramatic. Somewhat analogous to The Gates Foundation analysis of where they send $20 million every week by deciding where the money will have the greatest impact on the lives of the recipients of the benefits. At this point in time in Haiti, modest contributions are sufficient to save people from dying of dehydration, starvation, and injuries which would not be life-threatening if they received even the most rudimentary of medical care.
Undoubtedly, many of you have already made great contributions in varying ways to various charities, including those dedicated to the people of Haiti, and many of you may have other suggestions which are superior to what I am doing in my office, but it did occur to me that many of you may wish to do this or something like this.
With regard to my claim that this memo is "arguably" related to a family law issue of significance to members of the list, one could certainly argue that the public perception of members of the family law bar is a matter of concern to all of us as is the collection of receivables. I respectfully suggest that sending such a letter to clients and former clients who have not yet paid their bills in full will tend to positively impact the public image of the family law attorneys (and all other attorneys, accountants, mental health professionals, etc.) who elect to send such a letter. Further, sending such a letter may also assist the lawyer or accountant or other professional in collecting the balance of the bill which remains unpaid. OK, no empirical evidence to support this speculation, but I can virtually guarantee you with some empirical support, that you will feel good when you get those notes from clients and former client who tell you that they have made the contribution. You may even inspire them to make larger contributions and to pass along that spirit to others who have the ability to do so. Without Bill Gates making the decision he made would Warren Buffet have made the 44 billion contribution to his foundation? Would Branson have made his enormous contribution to charity?
Now, go out there and send those "collection letters." You will not be paid what your clients contractually agreed to pay you, but you just may regard the benefits as superior to those you would have received if you had been paid in full.
Friday, January 22, 2010
As an attorney, I hear a lot of lawyer jokes.
Yeah, yeah, I know . . . we're always jockeying with used car salesmen for who is lowest in popularity. And then there are t-shirts that say, "Lawyers have feelings, too . . . allegedly."
I belong to a list serve through the Los Angeles County Bar, and I want to share an idea that one lawyer came up with and posted on the lsit serve. The forum is meant to share legal discussion among us lawyers and is generally not open to the public - unless they are a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association - but I think the public needs to hear this: