I’m going to share something: I don’t like doing potential client conflict checks on the phone. The universe of conflict checks on people who call in and make appointments is so wide it’s bound to create problems.

On the phone your intake specialist (or, more accurately for most law firms, your receptionist/phone screener/paralegal/office manager/gopher) has to, within a matter of seconds, run a conflict check to ensure you haven’t talked or met with the opposing party to whomever is calling in.

Depending on how easy it is to search names in your system and how many people you meet with per month, getting these conflict checks right can be a real problem.

Example of Impact of Incorrectly Done Conflict Checks

Here’s a situation we’ve dealt with in the past (not often, thankfully). Person 1 calls and meets with us and doesn’t hire during the consult.

Months later, Person 2 (Person 1’s soon-to-be ex) calls. We run a conflict check, and because of a spelling error (or some other simple error) while taking information during the phone call, our intake specialist doesn’t catch that we met with Person 1. We meet with Person 2.

Months later, Person 1 calls back and hires us. We take the case, only to be informed when we file our Notice of Appearance that we had met with Person 2.

Now, Person 2 could simply wave any potential conflict, but Person 2 never waives conflict. They see this as a chance to get one over on their soon-to-be ex by not allowing them to hire the attorney of their choice. It’s mean and vindictive, but it is what it is, and it’s our fault.

At this point, we have to refund Person 1’s money and refer them to another trusted attorney to help them. In the end, we lose out on time and money and the opportunity to help.

This situation’s lame, and totally preventable.

Ask Everyone to Spell Every Name

The one near universal I’ve found with these missed conflict situations is someone misspelled a name somewhere in the potential client conflict check process.

This misspelled name makes it impossible to find a correctly spelled name in most systems, which means conflicts get missed.

(Note: You might think you can search by last name, but when you have a good volume of people calling every month, you end up having multiple records of almost every name in the English language in short order. Besides, searching by last name, then doing a manual search through first names, all while your receptionist is trying to hold a phone conversation, simply doesn’t work.)

Our solution to this problem is this: we ask everyone to spell every single name. Theirs. Their soon-to-be-ex’s. Everyone’s.

Then, we have our intake specialist spell them back to the potential new client.

This one thing decreases conflict check errors almost to zero.

Trust me, asking everyone to spell every name is a simple fix that will save you money and time in the future.

P.S.: If you think it’s overkill to ask how to spell “Bob Smith,” it’s not. If you live in a place (read: Utah) where is cool to add three silent Qs to the end of normal names, or a place where apostrophes are used like letters, then you can’t be sure how to spell any name. Just ask.

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