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Legal Training: What You Absolutely Must Know

  • Written by Harry A. Strausser III

strausser harryThe early days of the FDCPA brought with it enormous changes in the way third party debt collectors did business. Members of the ARM industry had to interpret the new mandates of the FTC in 1978 and coordinate substantial operational changes to adjust to the new regulatory environment. We focused on what the Act “told us” we had to do. As the years unfolded, we turned our attention away from the narratives in the FDCPA content to decisions that were made in courts based on suits filed against collection firms by consumer lawyers. Case law paved the way for change as new opinions flooded the courts.

Today, we continue to make changes and adaptions to our collection cultures based on the steady flow of case law. The CFPB’s new Rules, however, will take us back to a time of foundational change in the way we do business. It brings with it new challenges as well as enhanced opportunities to communicate using contemporary technologies. With this change, we will have to educate our team players on all levels. What is your plan?

Much of the training we offer staff members is compliance related. Although there is much good that comes out of collection techniques training, we tend to focus more on the rules than on the polishing of approaches. With the impending compliance changes, we want to be sure that we train our team on the items that pertain to their daily work role. They don’t need to know everything. In fact, sometimes we overload our team with information they just don’t need.

My good friend, Debra Ciskey, industry training expert and Receivables Advisor columnist, has often commented in her programs about how trainers frequently make the mistake of trying to educate staff on everything instead of focusing on key issues. We need to segment training topics into:

• Absolutely must know
• Good to know
• Know where to find the answer

Absolutely Must Know

If you plan to change collector talk offs and approaches based on the new rules, then we need to be very clear about those expectations. Anything that impacts the collector directly with their consumer interactions would be a very high level of importance. These are dynamics that are present in most if not all communications.

Good to Know

On the next level would be topics that might not impact what the front- line staff member does every day but it is good background information for reference. If your collection system is going to limit consumer communications to a given number per week, the collector should know that and why. If there is a change in the content of written communications, sharing that content may be enlightening. If you plan to leverage email and text communications, the execution of those communications may be a good topic to share with your staff.

Know Where to Find the Answer

Often, there are scores of topics related to successful, compliant and legal collections that are in the background and not necessarily required to be part of training updates. Many firms have developed robust intranet access to a variety of documents that provide answers to common questions or direction where to go to obtain the right answer internally. Much content can fall into this area. Make it easy for staff to find these answers on their own!

Start thinking about how the legal and regulatory front will be altered and begin the formation of outlines for educational programs. As final rules and opinions become clear you will be ready to hit “GO” on your training and ensure success with your team!

We continually welcome thoughts and best practices from our readers. Feel free to send us your feedback for possible inclusion in a future column. Until next time, I’m at my ACA Office waiting to hear from you!


Harry A. Strausser III is the Director of Education and Membership Development at ACA International and can be reached at Harry can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..