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Anatomy Of The Collections Process:  An Overview With Efficiency Tips From A Seasoned Collections Lawyer

The Texas Collections Manual published by the State Bar provides a good starting place for forms.  The forms were developed by a committee of attorneys with l00 years of collections experience.  But, as with all forms, the forms should be tailored to the particular case and, just as importantly, to the venue in which they are used.  As one develops a collections practice, forms will develop that are also particular to a client.  Organizing the forms in a form directory in a meaningful order will make access and use of the forms most efficient.  

B.

Systems.

As file volume increases, systems to manage intake of the files, processing the work and managing the calendar become increasingly important. While it takes time and energy to reduce those systems and procedures to writing, a written office manual insures a source of reference for consistent quality of work.  The systems typically used include:

1.

Time and Billing / Accounting System.  Integrated time and billing systems provide a basis for conflicts checks, management of file fees and expenses for reporting and billing, trust accounting for handling client and debtor funds, and financial reporting for purposes of taxation. Even if a practice is based on contingent fee collections, it will be important to account for time expended on the contingent fee files so that an analysis can be done for profitability.  

2.

Calendar, Docket Control and Client Reporting.  

Some time and billing systems have the calendar and docket controls fully integrated.  If not, the practice should have a calendar system that insures that deadlines are met and the practice of court appearances and other appointments and schedules are successfully monitored.  These are items that are often part of the malpractice insurance application, and for good reason.  Further, monthly reporting of client dockets can be a useful tool for client communication as well as a backup of the docket control so that files do not ‘slip through the cracks’.

3.

File Management and Work Flow.  

An office procedures manual that addresses issues beginning with conflicts checks, file opening, standard searches, demand letters, follow-up procedures, preparation of suits for filing, service of process, docketing for court deadlines, preparation of discovery, drafting of judgments, preparation of all pre-judgment and post-judgment discovery and enforcement, post-judgment remedies, bankruptcy procedures and a variety of other procedures that are used in connection with the forms files is a good means to provide a go-to place for preferred practice

methods.  It is also an invaluable training tool as new personnel are brought into the practice.  This manual, like the form files, must be kept up to date as processes and procedures for a successful practice keep up with the law and up with the times.

C.

Highly Trained Legal Assistants.

Great forms and a detailed procedures manual provide a great start for the process of training and developing a great collections practice staff.  However, one on one and in-house seminars and training meetings are a must if you want to get the most out of your staff of professionals.  Taking the time to train will reap great dividends.  It will enrich their knowledge, raise their confidence levels and allow the most complete delegation of tasks and duties possible.  This is not to say that supervision is no longer needed, but it certainly frees up the attorney’s time for business development, oversight of the practice, and practicing law. Oh, and golf!

XXIII. MORTGAGE DEFICIENCY SUITS.

A. Consumer Debt Mortgage Deficiency.

Some foreclosure experts take the position that foreclosures are not an attempt to collect a debt and therefore do not comply with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act at the posting stage.  See IV, supra.  When action is instituted to collect deficiencies for consumer debt mortgages, one should comply with the Act.

B. Other Deficiency Suit Considerations.

Property Code Sections 51.003 – 51.005 contain special provisions for actions to recover deficiencies after judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, including fair market value determination.  

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