Plan providers need to walk the walk if they talk the talk

I talk about my 2 year sentence at a semi-prestigious law firm (sorry, Lois) more than I should, but I do because it was probably the most frustrating experience in my life and I went to law school and passed 3 different state bar examinations.

What was frustrating was trying to create a national ERISA practice at this law firm and I got ignored for my ambition. I tried to make introductions of financial advisors to the law firm partners, gave some of them U.S. Open tickets, and got some of them free meals in order to allow me to get retirement plan clients and cross selling our legal services to financial advisors around the country. It’s frustrating when you know that you can be successful, but they try to impede that potential success. I am the type of person to brag, but I enjoy rubbing my success over the past couple of years in their face. I know it’s wrong, but it’s a validation over something I knew I could do 5 years ago.

One of the sticks in the wheels of progress at the firm was the law firm administrator. He tried to pawn himself as some sort of Chief Operating Officer, but all I ever found to be was a spy for the managing attorney. I remember him asking me to not bother with sending a draft letter to my old third party administration clients to the managing attorney, that he would work on it with me so it would be presentable to the managing attorney. Of course, he betrayed that trust by just submitting that draft to the managing attorney. I had to hear from the managing attorney how awful my engagement letter was. What was the point of what he did? 5 years later, I still wonder.

Instead of helping grow the law firm’s practice and not following up on the promise to help my practice, this law firm administrator would use law firm resources to draft articles on law firm administration. It would take my articles 3-6 months to be published by our marketing department because they were clogged with his articles that would never draw a dime for the law firm, but were use to boost his ego and standing among other law firm administrators. The articles were about how law firms can help with billing, associate development, flat fee billing, and all bunch of other theories that law firm administrators would salivate over.

It’s funny that ever since I pointed out this misuse of law firm resources a few years ago, the nonsensical article output of this law firm administrator has declined to about zero.  Sorry, Fred.

The problem was that this law firm administrator would write about these topics, but did very little in implementing these ideas. It’s great to talk about how to improve a law firm’s efficiency and bottom line, but it’s worth nothing if you don’t actually implement on your end. It’s great to talk about developing your associates, but it doesn’t mean anything when you ignore them after you claim you will help them.

The same goes with retirement plan providers. It’s great to talk about fiduciary responsibility and how you help plan sponsor clients manage their plan, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t actually help them out.

Who can forget that famous fiduciary who testified in Congress and on Frontline about fiduciary responsibility, but was convicted of embezzling retirement plan assets of plan participants he was hired to protect? Plan providers can create an image for themselves about their professionalism and effectiveness in helping plan sponsors, but they need to actually implement that image in their work and their deeds.

Talking about how you help manage the fiduciary process or help facilitate plan administration means nothing if you don’t do the job. If you’re hired to be a plan provider based on your talk, you are going to have to walk the walk because failing to live up to the promises you made will make you lose clients and increase your liability exposure whether you serve in a fiduciary role or not.

Heck, I wrote lots of blogs and lots of articles, what would my practice be if I overcharged clients for legal services I didn’t provide?

Whether you are a financial advisor, third party administrator, auditor, or even a law firm administrator, you need to walk the walk if you talk the talk.

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