By Dorothy Bunce
Even though I provide professional services as an attorney, I have had my own problems when I needed to hire a doctor, an accountant and even another attorney. People providing professional services usually charge by the hour, and their hourly rate can be mind-boggling. Here are some tips to cope with working with someone when you need professional services.
Most professionals need specific information when they meet someone for the first time, and many need specific information every time they meet with a client. Find out what that information is and bring it with you to your meeting with the professional.
Many professionals specialize in a narrow field in which they have a lot of expertise. Don’t consult a neurologist that specializes in Alzheimer’s disease, as I once did, for advice about a seizure disorder or a brain injury. No matter how smart the professional is, outside of their field, they are just another person.
Use the Internet to research the qualifications of the professional. Nothing will make you appear to be a bigger idiot than asking someone who has handled thousands of a particular kind of case than the question, “How many cases have you handled like mine?” Professionals with lots of experience don’t keep count of the number of cases they have handled, but someone with nearly no experience always does.
Make a list of your questions, but let the professional control the conversation. I can’t give someone an answer to a specific question without first knowing more about the particulars of their circumstances. But it is a fairly common occurrence for someone to interrupt me as I try to obtain background information with an urgent question that I cannot answer until I have completed a full review of the client’s information. Once I have obtained that information, it isn’t very difficult for me to predict the questions and concerns that the client may have and to answer them without the client needing to ask.
Professionals often rely on what you tell them, especially during your first meeting. If you only provide part of the story or fudge some of the facts, it will catch up with you sooner or later. After all, the accountant will get your financial records, your attorney can pull your police report or other “due diligence” records, and your doctor will order more tests. Once the professional notices that you are less than truthful about your circumstances, one of two things will probably happen – you will either be dropped as a client or the fees will go up and up and up as the professional searches for the answers that you failed to truthfully provide. Don’t worry that the truth will turn off the professional from helping you. Professional service providers are usually accustomed to unpleasant facts since people with no problems seldom consult professional service providers.
It’s okay to walk away. Sometimes the rapport is just not there. If you are not comfortable with a professional, trust your gut instincts and find someone else. Both you and the professional service provider will be better off if you follow your instincts and work with someone you can trust with your secrets. It doesn’t mean that the professional is bad and it doesn’t mean that you are bad. Everyone has different needs and expectations.
Adapt to the Professional’s Way of Doing Business.
Doctors often only communicate by having you come in for an office visit. That sort of makes sense. You may need to have a face to face conversation when receiving important medical news. Other professionals may prefer to communicate with you by phone, by email or by text. Find out early on in the relationship how the professional chooses to manage their business. Some professionals are terrible at returning phone calls but promptly respond to emails or text messages. Frankly, it sort of freaked me out when my husband’s doctor told me he had Alzheimer’s disease via a text message, but when I responded to his text with questions, he responded almost instantaneously. I had to accept his communication style because I never could reach him by phone.
Lose any attitude!
It makes no sense to argue with the accountant, attorney or doctor. They are the professional, and you are not going to change their mind. If they are any good at what they do, they have plenty of other clients waiting to use and appreciate their services. A professional service provider won’t be impressed with someone who already thinks that they know it all, is irritable, or doesn’t exercise emotional control. Most professionals find it difficult to work with someone who can’t answer questions because they are more concerned about the unfairness of their situation or can’t stop sobbing.
Expect to pay.
While your problem may be very interesting to you, your family and your friends, it is work to a professional service provider. No one goes to work without expecting and needing to be paid. Talking and having a conversation with a professional service provider is called a consultation and you have to pay for all the time you use with a professional service provider, whether or not you see the results you want. It is very rare for a free initial consultation to provide you with anything more than an outline of what the professional proposes to do for you and a quote of the possible costs of the services. So it should go without saying that it can be expensive to treat a professional service provider like your bff or family.