Neil Sherman is the Vice President and Managing Attorney of Detroit-based law firm Schneiderman & Sherman. He was recently named one of DBusiness Magazine's 30 in Their Thirties for 2014. He is currently serving a four-year term as one of eight Advisory Board Members for the Legal League 100. Sherman recently talked with DS News about the constantly evolving default servicing industry and what his firm is doing to adapt.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing you in the default servicing industry?
The biggest challenge that we face in 2015 is the need to continue to evolve what it is we do for our clients. That evolution involves continued increase as far as compliance along with heightened expectations in terms of what falls under the umbrella of providing default legal services.
How tough is it going to be to evolve?
I think for every firm it's going to be different. I think that is an industry challenge. From our perspective, we're positioned because of our size and breadth of clients that we've been going through this evolution for some time now, and so for us that's become a bit of a science, and we're comfortable in the way that we're evolving and see no issues in terms of continuing success. But I do think that as an industry it is a challenging time because there is a significant reduction in the overall volume that exists across the nation, and we are a volume-based business, so that presents a set of challenges that needs to be worked through.
You mentioned the evolution is ongoing. What are some things that your firm has done in the last year in order to evolve?
We refer to it as our intelligent efficiency plan. We have to become more efficient in the way that we operate. I think sometimes we make the mistake of looking at efficiency as only being completed for technology, because we're such a technology-happy society today. That's where we get into the concept of intelligent efficiency. What we mean by that is it is about the people, it is about the education, and it is about the use of technology. It's multi-pronged. So what we've done is we've heightened our educational programs. We have an internal education program, and we've increased that program to help employees evolve from maybe a single purpose to multi-purpose, or multi-streams of cross-trained job functions so that people have greater qualifications as we see potentially changes in our overall staffing. In addition to that, we have taken advantage of different technology options in our own case management system and invested back into the company with that system. We've built technical efficiencies as well that streamline our process, allowing us to maintain the same level of service but at a faster pace.
What is your firm doing to adjust to the decline in volume?
In a down market, one philosophy is the first thing to go is your marketing budget. That is not our philosophy. We have aggressively pursued new clients and new areas for our firm as well. At the same time, we've seen some reduction in our numbers and overall expenses. As you go through and see that you're working in a declining market, you have to find that point of intelligent efficiency to where you are still able to provide the best possible service to your client but still be in a position to where your company is stable.
Is that a tough balance to find?
It's a challenging balance. Every company's philosophy is different and the way every company works through those challenges is different. We've been in a declining volume market now for approximately 36 months. We'd like to think we're at the bottom of that declining market. We believe we're at the bottom of that declining market. We think we've done very well in terms of prioritizing that balance between the two.
Do you think that decline has hit its valley?
I think it's going to fluctuate, and it's going to fluctuate for a long time. I'm not sure that we're going to see our peak levels that we saw anytime soon. But we see stability over the last period of time to the point where we're comfortable where we are.