Prompt Full Disclosure from Bankruptcy Clients

interview trickIf the price of a bankruptcy discharge is full disclosure, some clients still want to underpay.

No matter how carefully you script your initial interview with a client in quest of everything you need to know to advise them on bankruptcy, there will be some tidbit, relevant to your quest, that isn’t evoked with your questions.

But, never fear, you have another trick up your sleeve:  the open ended question!

It never ceases to amaze me how often clients have something else to tell me that never came up.  Sometimes, they offer it up when you allow a pause in the conversation; other times, you have to set the stage.

  • Is there anything else I should know?
  • Have we covered everything?
  • Anything else on your mind?
  • Do you have questions?

With married couples, I often find that if I leave the room to make a copy or fetch a bankruptcy code, the conversation between the two, in my absence,  yields more information.  One says to another something they wouldn’t say in front of me.

Upon my return, I harvest some more information.

I remember a difficult interview with a client who had been in business for himself with investors.  He was less than forthcoming and insisted, despite my repeated questions, that the end result of a failed business funded with other people’s money was six creditors.  It just didn’t hang together.

In exasperation, I asked him, “is there anyone out there who’d like to sue you?”  The floodgates opened and I heard about all those former partners who wanted a piece of his hide.

Bingo!  But somehow, they weren’t “creditors” in his mind.

My friend Susanne Robiscek recounts asking clients if they have a sofa: no.  A davenport? No.  A couch? YES!  So, words matter.  Use all the ones you know.

Ask the open ended question and penetrate the little boxes that clients use to squirrel away information you need.  You’ll get what you need to do a good job for the client.

Image courtesy stevendepolo

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