The Oregon Judicial Department is launching a new service in all three Central Oregon counties to provide case parties with the opportunity to receive text message reminders for court hearings and changes.
The goal is to improve communication with parties directly involved in the case – including defendants, petitioners, respondents, and others – and reduce instances of “failure to appear.”
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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our final installment on marketing during COVID-19 comes courtesy of Nifty Marketing. Review these suggestions and choose three that appeal to you. Set aside times in your calendar to implement each idea. Copy and paste the details or link from the original post to refresh your memory when the appointment day arrives.
Committing to a calendar date increases the chance you will actually follow through. This is critical because our first instinct in a crisis is to ignore marketing altogether. Unfortunately this isn’t a realistic long-term strategy. Eventually you will run out of work. Better to jump start the process now of reaching out to potential new clients.
Speaking of taking action – if you haven’t embraced specifics from any prior post this month, then schedule time to do so. Make time on your calendar to skim through the ideas again. Pick three that make sense for your practice and schedule out implementation dates.
By committing to six marketing ideas – three from today’s post and three from prior posts – you are taking back the future of your practice. Action produces results. It spurs on more action, and we feel better for it.
Figure out ways to give back
Serve when possible
Learn how to be a storyteller and share via videos
Utilize your Google posts feed
Localize your Google My Business (GMB) page
Update your GMB hours of operation
Help other attorneys
Create a Facebook ad
Read about the details here. Don’t forget to copy and paste the relevant text (or the link) into your calendar when you create an implementation appointment.
Today’s marketing tips come courtesy of the ABA Journal. Here are the highlights:
1. Call current and past clients to check in on how they are coping.
2. Turn your attorneys into visible experts online.
3. Spend four hours per week on business development.
4. Beef up your website to get new clients.
5. The more you blog, the more clients you will get.
6. Build good word of mouth with online reviews.
7. Out-market your competition—figure out how much to spend and where to spend.
8. Market with millennials in mind.
9. Make sure your website is easily accessible for mobile users.
10. Set up a video studio.
11. Your attorney bio should not be a dead end.
12. For social media, focus on Facebook and forget the rest.
I encourage you to read the full article. The author, Larry Bodine, has excellent insights and marketing data to back up each of his recommendations. He also shares specific action steps you can take now.
Have we heard some of these ideas before? Yes. Reminders never hurt. There are also plenty of new suggestions. If you implement even one or two of Larry’s suggestions you will be ahead of the game.