Attorney Roger Glovsky, a business lawyer in Massachusetts, is in the guest blogger’s chair today. Thanks, Roger!
Legal services can be expensive! The average hourly billing rate for lawyers set new records this year at $352 for senior partners and $227 for senior associates.
Sometimes, it is hard to justify high billing rates unless the lawyer agrees to cap his fees at some fixed amount. So, what should you do when you hire a painter and he leaves the job half-done, or you buy an air conditioner that is damaged during installation, or a small business takes your deposit but fails to deliver the services you ordered?
If the dollar amounts are significant or if there are potential liability claims, you should consult a lawyer. Look for a specialist who is already familiar with a particular matter (e.g. Sergei Lemberg, who practices Lemon Law). A specialist, even with a high billing rate, is often less expensive and provides better results. Ask for an initial free consultation to evaluate the nature of your claim and an estimate of the time and costs involved. If the lawyer doesn’t offer an initial free consultation or provide an estimate, then look for another lawyer.
If the matter is too small, or just not cost effective for a lawyer to handle, then what can you do? You could go to law school yourself, but that would take a lot of time and money. Alternatively, there are other ways to take action. One way is what I use to call waging the “fax campaign.” Today, it is really the “fax/email campaign.”
First, you should just write a letter and send it to the person with whom you have a complaint. But, you say you have already complained? Was it in writing? If you don’t put it in writing, many businesses won’t take you seriously (or may not even be aware there is a problem). When you put it in writing be sure to stick to the facts (i.e., who, what, when, where, and how). Be reasonable in your letter and avoid insulting or demeaning statements. If what you write it reasonable, you are more likely to get a reasonable response.
Second, if the recipient of the letter is not reasonable, be persistent. Let the person know that you are serious about your concerns and that you expect action. If there is no response to your letter, follow up with a simple note enclosing a copy of the original letter and asking why you have not received a response.
Third, if it is a business-related matter, fax your letter to the business. Most businesses have only one fax, which is received by an office administrator who then hand-delivers the message to the person responsible. Don’t include a cover letter; that way, the person receiving it has to read the letter in order to deliver it. If your letter explains your complaint, now everyone in the business knows about your complaint (assuming the person who receives the fax is likely to gab about it).
Fourth, don’t be afraid to move up the chain of command. If the contact person or representative is not responding to your complaints, send a copy of your letter to their supervisor. If they don’t have a supervisor, look for the head of the department or the president of the company. Ask for their phone number or email address.
Fifth, don’t let up after you get an initial response. Make sure the company delivers on its promises. As you move up the chain of command, send emails to the supervisor, the department head, and the president, keeping them informed of the situation. Let them know whether or not the problem has been fully corrected, what the status is, and what you are waiting for them to do. Be sure to number the emails in the subject line so that they know how many emails you have sent.
One note of caution: stick to the facts; do not misrepresent anything; do not mislead anyone; and do not make any false accusations. Any misstatements could create counter claims against you. If you do get a satisfactory result, be sure to send another letter thanking the company for doing the right thing. Maybe, that will make it easier for the next customer.
Roger Glovsky is the founder of Indigo Venture Law Offices, a business law firm based in Massachusetts, which provides legal counsel to entrepreneurs and high-tech businesses. Mr. Glovsky is also the founder of LEXpertise.com, a collaboration and networking site for lawyers, and writes a blog called The Virtual Lawyer.
The above content is provided for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Do not act upon this information without seeking professional advice or rely on this website or use the content as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.