Billable Hours Only Pay Off When You Actually Get Paid
One of the most frustrating experiences as an attorney is when your client refuses to pay. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears (or at least a significant amount of brain power) into their work, and now you’re not going to reap the reward. While there’s no way to 100% ensure that you get paid for the work you do as an attorney, there are ways to improve your billing efficiency and make your clients feel more inclined to pay their bills, so you don’t end up getting stiffed.
#1 Set expectations ahead of time
It’s in everyone’s best interest to discuss the fee arrangement with the client before you start the case, and especially before you send any bills. Make sure your client has a complete understanding of what you will charge for your services, and put the fee agreement in writing, even if your jurisdiction does not require a written engagement agreement. You and the client both can refer to the document if there are ever misunderstandings about the bill.
#2 Provide clear & detailed invoices
Provide detail, but make it simple. The bill should be easy for the client to understand, but it should also adequately convey the legal services you performed. Don’t use shorthand or abbreviations that the client may not know or understand.
And the description areas for time entries exist for a reason – use them! Let the client know specifically what tasks were performed on their behalf. It may even be a good idea to walk your client through the first bill, so they fully understand what they are charged for. Explain each individual charge and the work that was completed, and make sure to answer any questions that arise.
#3 Keep fees reasonable
If your hourly fee is considered appropriate, but a lack of legal experience results in your spending an excessive amount of time on a routine task, the amount you ultimately bill will not be appropriate after all. Or if you worked on a document and then had to revise it because you discovered a fundamental error, clients won’t want to pay for that extra time.
Clients are paying for you to get it right, efficiently, the first time. With that in mind, include all of your work in the invoice (so that the client knows exactly what you have worked on), but make a note by any excessive time to let the client know that they won’t be charged for that time.
#4 Make getting paid easy with legal technology
As always (or at least, almost always), technology is your friend. Software specifically designed for lawyers will help streamline billing processes and make your life – and your clients’ lives – a lot easier.
We can’t strong-arm your clients into paying their bills, but we can provide you with simple and effective software for billing those clients. Start with a free trial of JurisDOC’s document automation and client invoicing software and start reaping the rewards today. Find your free trial at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.