It’s not a new dilemma: after putting in all the time an effort to get a client in the door and to resolve their legal issue, you still need to get paid. And a client may not always see the bill the same way the lawyer does.
Here are a few ways to approach a situation where a client is apprehensive about a bill.
Solidify Respect and the Relationship through Communication
If a client keeps their bill up to date, a lawyer can focus almost exclusively on getting the legal work done. Having to direct the client to billing before proceeding with certain aspects of the case can be awkward and less than productive. More often than not, this is due to a poor line of communication with respect to the work being done and what the client is paying for.
As a lawyer, if you will be asking for money, make sure you have the work product to back it up. Thus, focusing your attention on the work, and producing work product in a timely manner, and then producing that product to your client is probably the best first step to help ensure prompt payments.
Pick Your Battles
However, even the best lawyers will encounter clients that are sketchy with respect to paying the bill. The reality is that not every delinquent account is worth pursuing. Thus, knowing which clients to go after with respect to collection policies.
Establish Collection Policies
If your practice does not have established collections policies, then you really have no one but yourself to blame if you cannot collect on a bill. These policies should focus on:
- When to initiate the firm’s collection process
- Terms of the fee arrangement
- Credit terms (e.g., when credit may be extended, how much, and when to cut it off.)
Don’t be inattentive to payment problems. If a client is behind on their bill, have someone ask why. If they refuse to pay for services performed, depending on the rules of your state, you may have a legitimate reason to terminate the attorney-client relationship.