Have you ever wonder why some clients default in paying lawyers? Or ever come across clients who signed a contract with you as their lawyer, paid consultation fees and some part-payment of professional fees, but subsequently began to defer other payments?
While some of these clients fulfill their promises, most times, a lot of clients don’t.
There’s a great number of clients out there who are defaulting in paying lawyers.
Have you worked for clients who default often or fell for someone who enticed you with some mouth-watering fees they don’t end up paying?
This kind of attitude of some clients can throw you off -balance and make you second guess your career as a lawyer.
And lawyers often owe a lot of money for student loans. Running a business means having a lot of expenses, so many practitioners do rely on every single client payment, says Ephrat livni, Esq – a lawyer and a legal writer.
So what are the reasons why clients default in paying lawyers? Here are a few things to bear mind.
1. Clients Don’t Often Have Budget for Their Lawyers
Do you know that about ninety per cent of clients who hire lawyers to handle their legal matters don’t have budgets for lawyers? They are looking for lawyers because they simply can’t get over their legal problems without the services of lawyers.
Most clients see paying lawyers and other legal fees as unproductive expenditures that add no value to their lives. In fact, if they can handle their legal problems themselves, they will do it without engaging lawyers.
That’s why if you’re working for this class of clients, you should be extremely clever and smart. Because they will devise means of preying on you and at the end debriefing you with a pile of unpaid fees which you may not be able to recover.
2. Clients Do Not Trust Lawyers
Many clients out there do not trust lawyers. So, lawyers, be wise. Clients may come up with enticing promises like
- Once I’m granted bail I will clear my bills.
- Do the work, compile the invoice, and I will pay.
But to get them to pay your professional fee, appearance fees or other related fees, you’ll have to send several invoices. Once they begin to turn off your calls, emails and invoices, you will have a hard time collecting unpaid fees.
3. Most Clients are Not Financially Viable.
No lawyer will ever want to work for a poor client – unless he has made up his mind to render pro bono services. Yet, every day more impoverished clients show up in lawyers’ offices and firms, even when they have no money to pay for lawyers’ services.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The rules of professional conduct enjoin lawyers to do pro bono works, to help indigent litigants having legal challenges. But, clients who agreed to pay you for your services must abide by the terms of the contract. That’s ideal, that’s legal.
You can’t make a lawyer to sweat with his fingers almost bleeding while working sleepless nights preparing for your case, and when it is time to pay bills you begin to renege. That’s inhuman.
4. Clients Unaware of Fees Expectations of Lawyers
A lot of clients approach lawyers for legal services without a fair idea of the fees expectations of lawyers.
These clients are not properly informed about the fees arrangement of lawyers, how lawyers collect their fees and their billing method.
The idea of these clients is that you do the work, and if they are satisfied they pay. But, if the job you do is below their expectation, they withhold payment.
That’s why lawyers shouldn’t just hand their clients fee agreement to sign without taking time to explain and clarify the clauses. Not only explaining the clients’ duty to them but also enlightening them about the consequences of any default in payment as contained in the agreement.
5. Clients Assume Lawyers are Financially Balance
Because of the way most lawyers packaged themselves, some clients presume they’re financially okay, and that they are paid by the government.
Again, most clients assume lawyers are financially balanced. Friends and relatives of lawyers are good in this false assumption. That does not mean that every lawyer’s friend or relative sees him that way.
But there are quite some clients out there with this ugly notion about lawyers. You’ll even found this type of client among companies if you’re a corporate lawyer.
You’ll never know your clients’ financial opinion about you until they begin to default in paying their bills.
6. Clients Unsatisfied With Their Lawyers Services
This is the commonest and famous reasons why clients default in paying lawyers’ bills.
It’s annoying when you have worked for a client and he refused to pay your bills on the ground that he wasn’t satisfied with your services or that of your firm. It’s even more annoying when they confront you and tell you that.
The problem is that you’re wasting time working for somebody who does not value your services. Typically, you’ll lose everything. Your clients just use you and dump you with so many unpaid bills.
And if you’re fortunate at times all you’ll have at the end of the contract is the initial part-payment which every wise lawyer insists on.
My Counsel for Lawyers:
- Always be bold to ask a potential client about his budget for the legal work he hires you to do. If you’re going to file a claim in court for your client, go the extra step to inquire from him how much he has saved for the work. If there’s no budge, you should clearly explain to him your fees arrangement and billing method. Having problem billing your clients, here are few billing and invoicing tips that can help you.
- Don’t ever trust a potential client to the extent of taking steps in his work without first signing an agreement with him. Unless you want to do the work pro bono. That’s because you might trust a prospect, but a lot of potential clients don’t trust you.
- Take time to know the financial status of your clients, so you’ll condition your mind how you’re going to work for them. It’s a worthless venture to keep sending invoices or reminding your clients of their bills when they are not financially viable.
- Any serious lawyer who doesn’t want to get into fees dispute with his client will always take time to explain his billing arrangement to his clients. If you didn’t sign contracts with your client (which normally bears your billing method or your law firm billing arrangement), you should be able to know when to stop work and when to continue.
- Always listen carefully to your clients whenever you discuss your bills with him. If he thinks you are financially balanced to do the work for him free of charge you’ll dictate it from his words.
- When you fell into the hands of dead beats (clients who don’t pay their bills because they’re unsatisfied with your services) try to exhaust other avenues of collecting your fees before filing a claim in court.
Have other reasons why clients default in paying lawyers bill? Share it in the comment below.