Tips on Getting Paid

You deserve to get paid for your work. End of story. Unfortunately, getting paid may not always be such an easy feat. Here are a number of tips to help ensure that you get paid for the work that you do:

Select Your Clients with Care.

  • Clients not only select you, but you should select your clients. Don't take just anyone who walks through your doors. Do your due diligence. Collect information before determining whether to take the matter. Was this potential client referred to you? If not a referral, where did this person find you? Do you trust the source?

Use Your Fee Agreements.

  • Include language in your fee agreements such as your rates and costs, your billing process and the consequences of the failure to pay (including withdrawal to the extent permitted by the rules, interest charges on late payments and your collections policy).

Collect Money Up Front.

  • Use a retainer to collect fees up front. This serves as a test. By requiring a retainer, you will eliminate clients who cannot pay.

Bill Early and Often.

  • The more time that passes without payment from a client, the less likely you are to get paid. Bill on a regular schedule (i.e. at least monthly) or after a good result when the client is more likely to pay. Send your client a professional invoice that is clearly and conspicuously labeled as such, and includes a due date for payment. It goes without saying that you must track and record your time in order to get paid.

Keep in Touch with Your Clients.

  • Keep in regular contact with your clients. Keep them apprised of what is happening in their case and the good work you are doing. This may take the form of phone calls or written status reports between billing cycles.

Don't be Afraid to Get Out.

  • Be proactive about getting out of cases when you are not getting paid, and when allowed by the Professional Rules of Conduct and court rules. If your client is insolvent and refuses to pay, it is unlikely that you will ever get paid. An insolvent client likely has other creditors also after him/her. Again, this stresses the importance of selecting good clients initially.

Collections as a Last Resort.

  • Have a collections policy for tracking client payments and handling situations in which the client is delinquent with payments. As a last resort, you can hire a collections agency to help you collect your fees owed. And, if all else fails, you can sue your client to recover your fees. When embarking upon these measures of last resort, be sure to weigh all the costs and risks associated.

Tip courtesy of Heidi Alexander, Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Published March 21, 2013


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