Sunday, November 18, 2007

Per Diem Agencies

There are a few per diem "agencies" in New York. They offer court coverage in all the courts. By necessity they sub-contract out all the work. I've got nothing against them, some of them sub-contract their Queens work to me. I give them a discount in exchange for volume. They know I won't solicit their clients (One exception....if one of my clients uses an agency and I end up covering, I will call and point out that if they call me directly it's cheaper). I don't view my per diem practice as an agency. There are a few major differences:

1. We cover only one County, so we get some "expertise" in that County.
2. I am in the Jamaica Courthouse personally, so even though I am not on every appearance, I am there if a problem arises. I will also handle certain things personally, on request for most clients.
3. I have associates and steady per diem attorneys, and it never gets further removed than that. I may have a "per diem to the per diem", but when I get agency work, we often get a "per diem to the per diem to the per diem". I can't imagine this is what the client had in mind when they called. Incidentally, the record for degrees of removal on an appearance is FIVE.
4. An agency HAS to be more expensive. They are subbing it out and have to make a profit too.
5. We can trouble shoot the work when it comes in......and we often do. If someone faxes me an unreasonable request, and I know it's unreasonable because I am in Jamaica every day, I call the attorney and try to make a better plan. Agencies can't do that, and often end up with their per diems walking into the doo doo (I can't believe I called it that).

So, if agencies offer lower quality work and are more expensive, WHY are attorneys calling these agencies? There can be only one reason.....for the simple convenience of having the calendar clerk make only one call. Instead of calling the best per diem office in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Suffolk, they make one call to the agency. This may be more convenient for the calendar clerk, but I submit it is a poor practice. Any office with a volume of appearances should NOT be using agencies, and I suspect that after trying it, they often leave. Spare yourself, call the best per diems in each County.

People have asked me why I don't expand to other Counties, and essentially become an agency. Simple....I don't believe in the business concept. If someone calls me for a non-Queens appearance, I will give them someone in another County who does what I do. I don't share in the fees on those, cuz if I did, those firms would have to charge what the agencies charge. What I try to do though, is encourage the people who use my business model in the other counties, to refer me, as I refer them, and SHUN the agencies. This is a networking technique that has worked well.

So, to sum up....per diem agencies bad....per diem specialists by County....GOOD

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