As part of any attorney’s practice, collection of outstanding invoices is part of the territory. Having some basic procedures in place can enable an attorney to expeditiously address the monthly billing process that many of us dread.
1. Have Clear Communication With Clients
As part of any Retainer Agreement in a family law matter, the amount of the initial retainer, hourly rate for attorney of primary responsibility and all team members, and costs should be clearly spelled out for the client to review, understand, and accept. Similarly, attorneys should inform clients about billing procedures, including due dates, any late fees that are assessed, and payment options offered by the firm. It is not only ethical but also professional to be transparent and upfront with a client regarding how an initial retainer has been billed each month, what amount is remaining on the initial retainer, if any, what amount is now due and outstanding, and how any outstanding balance may be paid to the firm. A client should have a clear understanding of the expectations by the firm regarding payment of the bill.
2. Send Regular Invoices
Invoices should be sent on a monthly basis via the client’s preferred method of communication, which they have made known to you at the initial engagement, whether by regular mail or email. Being consistent with your billings will allow your client to be informed and to plan for and budget their payment to you.
3. Send Clear Invoices
Invoices should be clear and concise; an attorney should break down the services performed by date, description of services, time spent, and fee incurred. Invoices should be easy to read and “user friendly” so that clients do not become frustrated with “legalese” or difficult calculations. It is logical that if a client understands an invoice, it is likely to be paid.
4. Stay Current With Payment-Option Technology
In addition to accepting checks, offer an online payment portal for credit cards (available through third parties) or send a credit card authorization form with each billing statement. If an attorney offers thoughtful and convenient payment options, a client will likely be appreciative and take advantage of such offerings. Letting clients know that you accept credit cards from the outset of your representation allows them flexibility and the ability to anticipate payments and budget accordingly.
Rita M. Aquilio practices at Lawrence Law, LLC, in Watchung, New Jersey.