Last Updated on by
Do you struggle to get paid your professional fees as a lawyer? Have you been sued before a disciplinary body in your region by a client who felt you ripped him off? Even where it is obvious he never paid all his fees.
Clients dribbling you at all times can lower your motivation as a lawyer and make you think law practice as fools’ game.
Every lawyer wants to get all the agreed fees in any job. And one of the things that bothers lawyers most is how to get commensurate fees for every completed legal job.
But many lawyers get underpaid for virtually every legal work they do. While some don’t even get paid sometimes. Few who get full professional fees struggle.
Because of obvious lapses in collecting profession fees, most lawyer slave away their life with little and nothing to show. They have practised for years without meaningful accomplishments.
There are simple things you will need to do as a lawyer to save your energy from serving dead beats. Clients who only want to use you and dump you…
Thinking of how to get a better client, here is my post: 7 Crazy Ways Young lawyers can Attract clients
1. Start with a Fee Agreement.
It is a common habit among some lawyers to rush into clients’ assignment without written fee agreement. They start without a binding agreement on what should be their fee in every step of the way.
And most of the young lawyers don’t think is necessary so long the client will pay a lump sum as initial payment. So, they hurriedly collect their first fee (popularly called part-payment of professional fee) without a written fee agreement.
In their effort to deliver, they work sheepishly not sure of how and when subsequent fees will be paid.
Sadly, after the have worked for some time, they start pestering their clients for more fees – which usually bring their contract to an abrupt end.
Several occasions, the drive to accumulate many briefs pushes lawyers to take up briefs without agreement on professional fees.
But, the only smooth way you can guide against clients terminating your contract hurriedly with unpaid fees is to sign a fee agreement.
In the fee agreement, you should state the terms and conditions that will be binding on you and your client; your billing plan and method of billing – depending on what is obtainable in your region.
2. Keep Proper Fees Record
It is of no use signing a fee agreement with a client if you cannot maintain proper fees records. And if you start collecting your professional fee without a systemic record, you will still, after a while, have issues of fees with your client.
Clients don’t want to overpay lawyers – sometimes they don’t even want to pay all professional fees. Consequently, lawyers frown at clients who underpay them including those who argue because of legal fees.
There are occasions where clients will come claiming they have settled all legal fees. They brag and threatening violence. In a situation like this, the only thing that can bail you out is the fees record you kept.
If you don’t have the time or the skill to keep and maintain proper fee records. Or you employ non legal staffs who don’t have the knowledge of proper fee record keeping. You will always have fees trouble with your clients.
And if you are handling a Court case for your client, ensure you have collected all your professional fees before you file and submit your final address
Here are Billing Strategies to Help You Get Your Professional Fees
- Use legal billing softwares. . There are various case management tools out there to help you manage enormous workflows including the recording of fees and billing.
- Send invoice every time you have taken any reasonable step. Everything depends on the fees plan you have or your firm’s fees arrangement. This is ideal if you charge flat rate or hourly rate. But not applicable where you charge contingent fee.
3. Talk About Your Professional Fees
Clients don’t usually want lawyers to talk about their professional fees. They will devise every means to ensure they get all they want and disappear with their lawyers’ unpaid fees.
Funny enough, most lawyers don’t talk about their fees — not until they have completed all their tasks. They will demand for their professional fees after clients have benefited from their services. And they never get it most times.
Often, lawyers who talk about their professional fees are valued by clients and preferred to those who are naïve and afraid. The former are the richer ones with larger clientèle than their counterparts who fret losing clients because of demand for professional fees
If you think asking a client to pay his professional fees will derive him away, you need to think again. So you don’t fall in among lawyers who go about complaining about the downturn in their clientèle and non-payment of their professional fees.
Again, if you’re afraid to talk about your professional fees, you are not going to get them. Nature don’t give you what you don’t ask for or work to get
It’s of no need you signing fee agreement with a client if you are not going to be bold to talk about it. Because signing alone won’t compel your client to pay you.
4. Stop Making Unnecessary Professional Fees Demands
There are some fee demands lawyers make that are not necessary. They belittle lawyers and make them look like hungry people, desperately looking for how to make earns meet.
Most lawyers, desperate to make more profit, make unnecessary fee demands from clients. And instead of making more profit, as they hoped, they end up losing more of their professional fees
You don’t be in a hurry to collect professional fees in a brief you’re sure will last for some time.
And you don’t need to bombard your clients with phone calls demanding payment of professional fees. Also, you can refrain from sending emails and invoices that makes your client think you a desperate. It is better you employ other profitable means of compelling your clients to pay their fees
It is important you put all your cards in the table at the time of signing of fee agreement so your client will know your fee plan and billing arrangements.
If you are charging an hourly rate it is profitable to pause and consider another option whenever your clients refuse to pay your professional fees. You can withhold the next assignment pending when your clients clear their accumulated bills.
There is no amount of pressure or force you will use to get your fee from a client working on tight budgets. The more you make demands for payment, the greater he gets upset. And if you don’t stop further demands, your contract can be terminated.
Clients will never come your way or refer potential clients to you if they discover that you make desperate demands for professional feels.
5. Understand Your Clients’ Financial Capacity
Financial capacity of clients is not the same. And this must be considered to know the percentage of fees each client can afford to pay at any particular time.
You should understand the financial capacity of every client before making any demand for professional fees.
For instance, if you charge a roadside mechanic, who hired you for his legal matters, the same rate you bill start-ups or a civil servant. Apparently, he won’t be able to pay. And he might disappear with unpaid bills.
From experience, I have discovered that some clients delay payment of professional fees because they have tight budgets. While others deliberately withhold lawyers’ professional fees. The first group of clients obviously won’t pay professional fees when they have tight budgets. But whenever their budgets loosen a bit they quickly run to their lawyers and clear their bills. The second group of clients won’t pay even if they are financially buoyant.
So, the consideration shouldn’t be the same. Clients who have a larger capital base should be billed stricter though not higher than others.
You have been informed about how best to ensure you collect all your professional fees from your clients and stress-free tips to get proper fees for all legal services you render to your clients. These brief insights will help you make a maximum profit as a solo practitioner or as a law firm.
You will definitely move up and earn more if you apply these invaluable tips in your craft as a lawyer. Let me hear your response. Comment below