On Sept. 6th, most of the collection industry received an email or read a press release about the newly formed National Board of Collection Attorneys and their Attorney/Collector Certification Program. Cyberspace has been buzzing with questions ever since. We were fortunate to have a long conversation with Mark Matz, the marketing expert on the NBCA Advisory Board.
NL: Whose idea was it to create the NBCA? Who is funding it?
Matz: Collection Attorney Martin Greenbaum first had the idea. It’s a corporation funded by investors.
NL: Why do the members of the Board support this venture? What’s in it for you?
Matz: We knew each other before we started working on this idea earlier this year. I have the marketing expertise, and Martin, Claudio Koren and Jeffrey Needle have the legal background. Our motivation came from asking ourselves, “Where are there gaps where we could really help collection attorneys, legal collectors and collection agencies to market themselves?”
NL: Why would a collection attorney/collector want/need to become NBCA certified? Matz: We offer a bigger mix, more services than traditional certification boards. We primarily promote something new and different to help with marketing. We’ll have an online directory. We’ll have vendor partners and recommend industry-related products and services, in some cases at a discount. We’ll offer sales and motivational training by Christine Corelli to help companies attract and keep customers. We’ll even have creative promotional products.
NL: Are there advantages to certification that go beyond self-marketing?
Matz: Research shows that prospects have to hear from you five times. With what social media has done to marketing, people have to try new things. We offer an equivalent to “The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” if you will. We will create leads for members. We will rotate the leads through our membership base so everyone gets equal consideration.
NL: Does the NBCA have unique criteria for becoming certified, other than the minimum requirements listed on your website?
Matz: We’ve created our own test, and we have different layers of moral and educational responsibility for certification. Applicants have an opportunity to state their experience, and where they have passed the bar. We are most parallel to the American Board of Certification. But we are not at all like most of the others. For example, we don’t do bonding like the law lists do.
NL: How can an attorney know he/she will be certified after paying the $100 application fee and going through the certification process?
Matz: The application fee is to verify and process information; the annual fee is to supply other marketing advantages like being listed on our website and in our directory, the certification seals, the pins, etc. The online forms reveal most of our requirements, other than the test.
NL: What kinds of questions/subject matter do you cover in the test? Are you going to try to keep the test questions confidential?
Matz: The test will show the applicant’s level of education and knowledge of the collection rules and regulations for the state they practice in, as well as FDCPA regulations. It will test their basic knowledge of business. There will be multiple tests for different states, based on regional rules and regulations. The tests will be rotated to protect confidentiality. Each will contain the same body of material, but ask different questions. If a member is in good standing with their own state, they already have a foot up.
NL: Do you certify for both commercial and retail legal collections?
Matz: We are appealing to both Commercial and Retail collections. Commercial and Retail are sometimes hard to differentiate between. Often an organization crosses the line from one to the other.
NL: How does NBCA criteria for certification differ between a collector and an attorney? Matz: What we offer for collectors is totally new and especially different from other certifications for collectors or collection agencies. The variation between attorneys and collectors is passing the bar and being in good standing with the state where they practice. Collectors working for law firms need to be as proficient in knowledge about collections law. They need to know the information on the test, too. Our certification exceeds the expectations of other certifiers, where collectors are concerned.
NL: What response have you had to your press releases?
Matz: We sent an email to 9962 people: 34 unsubscribed, and we had a 3098 (31%) open rate. Before the press releases, we sent the same information to all the industry associations.
NL: How many members do you think you will need to become a credible organization? Matz: It’s our understanding that there are 4000 collection attorneys in the U.S. We need 20 percent of them to be certified in order to be successful. That number mimics the numbers you see in other certifications organizations. (The NL did the math: 20% of 4000 = 800)
NL: If you don’t go public with more of your certification criteria, e.g., test questions, what will give value to having your seal on a website, etc.?
Matz: Marketers want to go forward and try new things. Attorneys sometimes don’t. As marketers, we are willing to break with precedent for the benefit of our attorney clients. It will take time for people to see the value and want to change.
NL: Are you trying to compete with any existing organizations or certification programs? Matz: We’re not a law list. We’re not in competition with them. We’re not an association. We don’t have members and voting boards. We’re not involved in SEO. We are something entirely new.
NL: You seem to include several disclaimers about what you don’t guarantee. Why is that? Matz: People are trying to peg us into a certain category. We said what we are Not in order to help people see that we Are something totally different. We mentioned law lists and association names in our press release, but we are not like them. We are not trying to imply that we are endorsed by them. We want people to know that there is value in all of these types of organizations. We fill in the gaps.
NL: How will you ensure that an attorney is “of good moral character as prescribed by the NBCA Advisory Board”? Will you revoke membership? On what conditions?
Matz: If terms are violated, certification could be withdrawn. We will periodically review the member’s qualifications, relying on all of the terms and conditions.
Position Statement: The National List of Attorneys
Neither the National Board of Collection Attorneys nor its Board Certification Program is affiliated with or endorsed by The National List of Attorneys. As with any new solicitation, the NL strongly encourages its members to carefully research the products and services offered and to become fully informed prior to making a decision.
The NL posts the following with permission:
NARCA Special Issue
The National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys (NARCA) has received numerous inquiries from members regarding a solicitation they received from the National Board of Collection Attorneys advertising its Board Certification Program for collection attorneys. Neither the National Board of Collection Attorneys nor its Board Certification Program is affiliated with or endorsed by NARCA. As with any solicitation, NARCA strongly encourages its members to carefully research the products and services offered and become fully informed prior to making any decision.
Beau Hays, CLLA President: Message to Members Regarding Collection Attorney Certification
Commercial Law League of America members have been receiving a solicitation from an entity called National Board of Collection Attorneys advertising NBCA’s Board Certification Program for collection attorneys. Notwithstanding any reference in their materials, NBCA is not affiliated with the CLLA or any of its constituent sections. The Board Certification Program is not affiliated with or endorsed by CLLA. CLLA has long recognized and supported certification of its members by the American Board of Certification, which offers certification in the fields of creditors’ rights, business bankruptcy and consumer bankruptcy. ABC’s certifications have been accredited by the American Bar Association and approved in many jurisdictions for use in advertising by members.