Teamwork and Training, part 2

Ms. Coon is a shareholder in the Michigan-based law firm of Trott & Trott. This viewpoint is the second part of an article she wrote about the foreclosure process. The first part ran in the April edition.

Increasing case loads, while welcome, have also tested our people skills over the years. For many years, our industry followed an "assembly" approach, where one person or team did each part, or step, of the foreclosure process. Some firms have moved to a client-based team structure, which has proven to be extremely successful. For example, Trott & Trott has 11 presale teams of four to eight people, each led by a foreclosure attorney and a staff supervisor. For our largest clients, the working relationship may be "one client-one team." Each team becomes an expert regarding its clients, creating outstanding client rapport with servicers (first name basis!) and optimum efficiency. The client has one team phone number, one team fax number and one team e-mail address. Upon receipt of a foreclosure referral, we understand the sense of urgency, that "first legal action date" clock is ticking fast. Through the years, we have also put a premium on "growing from within" by encouraging staff continuing education, both in-house and attendance at nationally sponsored seminars, conferences and courses, as well as offering in-house training for our servicing clients.

In some cases, staying abreast of local procedures and legal reforms can help us. In Michigan, a non-judicial foreclosure state, a significant change in state law now allows us to start publication without a recorded assignment into the name that we are foreclosing on. This has greatly sped up the process of obtaining that all-important first legal action date, as we race against ourselves to get the proper assignment before the foreclosed property goes to sale.

Technology to the Rescue

Technology is our great ally in meeting the interrelated goals of speed, security, accuracy, cost efficiency and client communications.

As another example, just over a year ago our firm launched Veritas, a custom case management software program, that we believe to be one of the best in the industry. Just a few of the criteria that Veritas has successfully met include:

* Process workflow management and tracking of exception files.

* Reducing all feature sets of the application to their simplest form that can support our assignments and client requirements.

* Being able to routinely make and test changes to Veritas daily. Such changes are made almost every night. This has given us an ability to react to the changing business environment almost real time. If client requirements change during the day, we can roll the changes into Veritas that evening and have them effective by morning.

* Building servicer and investor specific requirements into the specific workflow procedures.

Restructuring the various procedures' task models into sets of steps that actually represent units of work being performed.

From a business perspective, Veritas' relational data model has shown to be of exceptional value. We are routinely asked to provide statistical breakdowns on data "situations." Questions like how many bankruptcies were filed after the sale, or how many mobile homes do you show we have in a certain county, can be answered painlessly. Furthermore, we have extremely high confidence in the integrity of our data and the integrity of our answers. Other routine situations such as mass transfers of servicing are no longer a headache but require a few minutes to accomplish.

Veritas 2 is already in development. We are beta testing automated report delivery, which we expect to be a huge growth area within the system. Also, within the next year, we are planning to roll out full-scale client and third-party integration mechanisms, further reducing duplicate, or even triplicate, entry procedures. Overall, Veritas has proven a timesaver, mistake-saver, cost-saver and staff-saver, and it promises much more. We look forward to greater integration between what our servicing clients need and what we can provide.

The Philosophy of Foreclosure

Yes, foreclosure practice can have a philosophical bent. That is, if we mean by philosophy the way in which we approach our profession, our constant search for better ways of doing things, and how we choose to interact with people.

Our philosophy is to do things quickly and efficiently while being fair, respectful and professional to individuals being foreclosed upon. We pride ourselves on providing impeccable customer service on every level. We understand the importance of serving as our clients' strategic partner, especially in an age where more sensitive information, including business strategies, are shared between financial institutions and counsel. We attempt to add value by offering seminars and training programs for client staff, distributing our bankruptcy and mortgage foreclosure newsletter, and providing expert counsel on legislative, regulatory or administrative rule changes, including fair lending and fair debt collection issues.

Our overall achievement is to reduce unnecessary delays during the foreclosure process and streamline the foreclosure, eviction, and REO process to the benefit of servicers and the lenders they represent while providing exemplary customer service to our clients and their investors. Nothing less will do.

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