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Leading edge litigation Featured

6:16am EDT June 28, 2002
Robert Weltman is used to breaking new ground.

The senior partner of Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co. LPA is credited with heading one of the first collections/creditor's rights law firms in the nation to adopt the use of computers, develop the untapped probate field, represent buyers of bad debt and recognize and capitalize on the importance of the credit union movement.

Weltman overcame three key challenges to expand the law firm founded in 1930 as Gardner & Spilka. The first was adopting a corporate structure rather than the structure of a traditional law firm.

"Applying good, sound business principles is something lawyers have very little training to do out of law school," Weltman says, adding that he hired several department managers, including an executive director, marketing director, CFO and IS manager, to build a management staff. "We're unusual because we have a ratio of 10-to-1 laypeople to lawyers because of the debt collectors and clerical support."

The second challenge was integrating technology.

"Technology is a must," he says. "We need information at our fingertips. When I started here 40 years ago, we worked off collection cards. Today, everything is computerized, and in 45 minutes, the firm processes an amount of claims equal to a month's work of processed claims in 1962."

That connectivity has allowed Weltman to expand into four cities and employ more than 725 people.

The third challenge is continuous -- dealing with marketing and advertising regulations by bar associations. The problem, Weltman says, arises because the firm must compete with collection agencies that are not law firms and not bound by the same guidelines.

"Attorneys are governed by the professional code of ethics," Weltman says. "Collection agencies and collection agencies that are law firms are governed by the fair debt collections practices act, so there's an ongoing battle to keep abreast of all those regulations. We have to make sure we're in total compliance to do our job right."

The same regulations restrict the firm's marketing abilities.

"Most of our marketing is from the public relations standpoint," Weltman says. "Most of our clients are referral business. We can advertise but we cannot market or solicit business by, say, knocking on doors. Luckily, our reputation is such that people recognize our name." How to reach: Weltman, Weinberg & Reis, (216) 685-1040