Seven Essential Billing Tips
Many lawyers approach billing with all the enthusiasm reserved for the semi-annual visit to the dentist. After marketing their services, winning the client’s confidence, performing the work, they still dread that final step—asking for the money. The days of a grateful client discreetly slipping payment into a lawyer’s pocket without encouragement are long passed.
1. Bill while the iron’s still hot. That means billing as soon as you’ve done the work or obtained a minor success or milestone. There’s no law that requires you to wait until the next billing cycle. If the results were obtained on the 2nd of the month, and your usual statements go out on the 1st, nearly a month’s time has passed before you’ve sent out that bill. If you’re on monthly billing cycle and the client pays at the end of the month, you may find yourself waiting almost two months for your money. Clients are more willing to pay while the memory of your hard work is still fresh.
2. Instead of billing in a once-a-month marathon, bill one-fourth of the accounts every week. That breaks the job down into smaller, more manageable bites.
3. There is no law that requires that statements go out on the same day of each month. If you bill every 28 days instead of once a month, you’ll give yourself an extra billing cycle each year. Or you could opt to bill every 21 days, serving up 17 billing cycles in a year’s time.
4. Send out the “No Bill” bill when you’ve given away your time and counsel for free. That’s a way of letting the client know that your time is valuable and that you’ve given the client something beyond simply lip service. And it’s another way to get your name and contact information before the client’s eyes once again. Otherwise, you’re easily forgotten.
5. Offer up a discount for prompt payment. Ten percent off for payment within 10 days provides some clients with the incentive to pay up promptly.
6. Get rid of those glassine-windowed envelope that shout “This is a bill.” Who doesn’t dread opening an envelope that bears tidings of a demand for payment, often delaying open¬ing it for that very reason? Use the same envelopes that you use for client correspondence.
7. Include a personal touch with your statement. It can be a simple handwritten note or a client newsletter. And don’t forget the pre-addressed envelope so the client can quickly and easily send that check back to you.
jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo magazine, receives her e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.