Collecting Fees

With law firm revenues taking a hit from COVID-19, effective billing and collection procedures have never been more important. Follow the best practices outlined below to minimize hiccups.

Bill smarter

  • Review pre-bills carefully. Misspelled names and billing errors are irksome to clients.
  • Correct any mistakes that slip by quickly and accurately – the first time.
  • Issue statements before clients receive their paychecks – before the 15th and again at month end. If you serve corporate clients, send bills in a manner and format that works for the accounts payable department. When cash flow is challenging – for you or your client – weekly billing may be an option.
  • Always include a due date on statements. Most clients prioritize payment based on due date.
  • Offer incentives. In lieu of late fees or interest, offer clients a discount if payment is received within 10 days of the billing date.
  • Give clients the 411. Your bill should tell a story – the who, what, and why of the work performed.
  • Stick to your agreed upon billing interval. Monthly, quarterly, weekly – whatever it may be. Inconsistent billings disrupt firm cash flow, infuriate clients, and make collection more difficult.
  • Be flexible in how you accept payment – Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, ApplePay, credit card. Absorbing processing fees may not be fun but it’s better than not getting paid.

Head off problems

  1. Always take the time to discuss fees, costs, and billing procedures. Most nonpaying clients who file retaliation suits or malpractice counterclaims do so because they never understood what the lawyer’s services would cost.
  2. Never leave home without a written fee agreement. Be specific and complete. Your agreement should: (a) specify the scope and timing of services; (b) describe what the client is expected to pay for and when; (c) explain billing practices; (d) identify what will occur if payment is not timely made. Losing a potential client who refuses to negotiate and agree to a comprehensive fee and engagement agreement is a small price to pay compared to defending yourself in a malpractice claim or disciplinary proceeding.
  3. Consider alternative fee arrangements – flat fees, fixed fees, unbundled fees, evergreen retainers, or “last month’s rent.” Clients cooperate more fully when they are financially invested in their case. If the client is unwilling to commit financially, the matter quickly becomes your problem rather than the client’s.
  4. Don’t allow outstanding fees to accumulate during the course of representation. As soon as a payment is missed, call the client. Get to the root of the nonpayment. Is the client dissatisfied? If a client becomes seriously delinquent, terminate the attorney-client relationship and withdraw from representation if possible.
  5. Offer to resolve disputes through the Oregon State Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Program.

Before you sue

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will a judgment be collectible if obtained?
  • Do you stand to gain or lose a substantial amount of money?
  • Are there any grounds upon which the client can credibly dispute the debt or any part of it?
  • Have you really listened to your client’s side of the dispute?
  • Was a good result obtained in the underlying case?
  • Has an uninvolved, experienced lawyer reviewed the file for possible malpractice?
  • Will a law suit result in bad publicity reflecting negatively on you or your law firm?
  • Have you offered to arbitrate, compromise or meet the client part way on the amount due?

Remember

Most collection problems can be averted at the outset of representation. A frank discussion of fees, finances, and billing procedures will greatly reduce the possibility of disputes.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

20 Apps for Lawyers

It’s been a while since we talked apps. From the first iPhone/iPad educational tracks at the ABA TECHSHOW, iOS apps for lawyers have only grown. We’re an attractive market with money to spend, even if our profession tends to be slow in adopting new technology.

This begs the question: which new (or newer) apps are among the best? Which of the tried and true are still worth using? Check out my curated list of the top 20 most-mentioned apps for lawyers:

Calendaring and Docketing

SmartDockets, DocketLaw, and CourtDaysPro promise to help users quickly and easily calculate deadlines using federal and state automated court rules. Choose the court, the trigger, the date and time, hit “Calculate” to get the result, and post to your calendar.

Courtroom Presentations

Looking for courtroom presentation software? TrialPad is the most popular kid on the block. The developer, LitSoftware, boasts “Whether you need to display a document in an evidentiary hearing, annotate a photo during a deposition, or compare, highlight, and call out two documents for a jury, TrialPad makes it easy. And while you can plug and play in the courtroom or the boardroom, you can also present wirelessly with AppleTV.” TrialDirector is free, and a good alternative if you have limited exhibits and no need to display video.

Credit Card Processing

SquareRegister lands high on the popularity list, but isn’t the best when it comes to trust accounting compliance. Honestly, you’d be better off with LawPay or Headnote.

Digital Signing Apps

Jeff Richardson of iPhoneJD favors SignMyPad Pro for digital signature capture. I’m a fan of DocuSign and HelloSign, which integrate with some of the more popular cloud-based practice management programs.

Encrypted Messaging for Lawyers

If you care about secure client communications (and you should), eielegal is for you. It offers “encrypted information exchange,” thus the name, and also creates an archive of conversations. As you’ll recall from a post two years ago, texts are part of the client file and should be preserved. The eielegal app solves that problem, as does Zipwhip.

File Sharing, Storage, Markup, and Management

Dropbox remains the most popular app for file sharing and storage. While the standard version will get you far, the advanced version at $20/month is a great price point for unlimited file storage. Advanced data protection is available for both.

Want to read, markup, sign, and share docs? Consider iAnnotate.

Readdle Docs and GoodReader are the kings of file management – superior to iOS’ “Files” app. Both allow users to open, access, and work with files regardless of where they are stored.

Legal Research

Everyone loves the Fastcase app but if you’re looking for an alternative, consider Westlaw or LexisAdvance.

Reminders

Sometimes free is best. The built-in iOS Reminders app does a stellar job of creating time- and location-based reminders. Tell your iPhone: “Remind me to call John Doe when I get to my office.” When you return, your iPhone will notice you’re in the office and remind you to make the call. Doesn’t get better than that!

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Last Call for Getting Paid – October 2 CLE Event

Don’t miss out on the chance to attend “Getting Paid” on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  Learn how to talk to clients about money, incentivize clients to pay, collect accounts receivable, and modernize billing and payment practices. Designed for lawyers, legal staff, and office administrators – anyone interested in improving billing and collection practices.

When and Where

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

How to Register

Click herechoose the image above, or visit the Upcoming CLE page. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the $25 registration price. Group discounts available to firms who wish to register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for more information.

Topics include

  • Identifying your fee strategy
  • Ensuring the client is invested in the case
  • Documenting and reinforcing fee discussions
  • Exploring the advantages of automated billing systems
  • Using billing descriptions clients understand
  • Making it easy for clients to pay
  • Sourcing the latest options in credit card processing and click-to-pay invoicing
  • Unbundling services to meet marketplace demands
  • Offering hybrid fee agreements
  • Getting practical about collection

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program event.  Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

Don’t Miss Out!

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Getting Paid October 2, 2019 – CLE Event

Learn how to talk to clients about money, incentivize clients to pay, collect accounts receivable, and modernize billing and payment practices. Join me on Wednesday, October 2 for “Getting Paid.” 1.25 OSB MCLE Practical Skills credits approved. Designed for lawyers, legal staff, and office administrators – anyone interested in  improving billing and collection practices.

Topics include

  • Identifying your fee strategy
  • Ensuring the client is invested in the case
  • Documenting and reinforcing fee discussions
  • Exploring the advantages of automated billing systems
  • Using billing descriptions clients understand
  • Making it easy for clients to pay
  • Sourcing the latest options in credit card processing and click-to-pay invoicing
  • Unbundling services to meet marketplace demands
  • Offering hybrid fee agreements
  • Getting practical about collection

When & Where: Wednesday, October 2 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

Group Discounts: Available to firms who wish to register 5 or more attendees. Contact me for more information.

Participate in Polling & Ask Questions: Questions are welcome during the live event. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

How to Register

Click herechoose the image above, or visit the Upcoming CLE page. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the $25 registration price.

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings will be available to download along with the program materials shortly after the live program event.  Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store to place an order.

Register Now!

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis