Sometimes the best lessons for practicing law are learned in the trenches, in the court room, and unfortunately on your balance sheet.  A recent survey by LexisNexis reports law firms consistently have over 40% of clients past due at any given time. 1  Fortunately, we’ve compiled five key tips to help master the art of getting paid.

By Amy Porter, Certified Payment Specialist

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Family law clients are often in stressful or emotional situations, and do not take time to fully review the details of your agreements.  It is imperative you not only explain and detail your billing practices, but set expectations for when and how clients should pay you.  If you accept credit card payments, it is highly recommended you include “payment guarantee” language in your engagement letters.  This language should directly state the client will guarantee any payment paid by their credit card to your firm.

2. Offer Payment Options

When two law firms are equally qualified, clients may choose to use the firm that offers a more convenient payment plan.  A firm that works with clients to create an agreed-upon payment plan will increase the likelihood of getting paid, and on time.  This can be beneficial in a divorce situation where funds may be closely monitored or the client is on a fixed monthly budget.  Some firms even offer on-time payment discounts.  For example, if your client pays within 5 business days, they receive 10% off their bill.  You will need to find the right combination to motivate your particular clients.

3. Break Up with Your Postman

Consider how you pay your own bills, and which obligations you prioritize.  In 2014, most of us tend to pay bills either online or automatically. With the percentage of payments made by check decreasing at a staggering rate, it is estimated that 55% of all bills will be paid online or through mobile payment solutions by 2016.2 Does your firm make it convenient to pay, or are your clients still expected to dig up a stamp and send in a check?  A secure link on your website provides an obvious place for clients to pay. Better yet, send invoices electronically and include an online payment link so clients can pay immediately.  There are several options available that provide secure online payments, designed specifically for law firms.

4. Lead By Example

If you consistently bill on time, clients are more likely to reciprocate.  If one month you send out invoices on the 10th, and the next month on the 20th, you are sending a message to your clients that they can also be flexible on sending their payment.

5. Communicate Even More

Hopefully, your excellent communication during the new-client phase has set up the appropriate channels for you to follow up on payments.  A friendly reminder to clients regarding the agreed upon work and payment schedule goes a long way.  Keep past due clients on your radar and communicate frequently so they consider your payment a priority.  Never be afraid to ask for compensation on work you have done.

Reference:

  1. “LexisNexis Survey: The Discomfort of Collections in Law Firm Billing.”PRWeb. LexisNexis, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
  2. “Aite Group: Online, Mobile Bill Payments to Account for 55% of All Bills Paid by US Consumers by 2016.” Thepaypers.com. The Paypers, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.

Amy Porter is the founder and CEO of AffiniPay. AffiniPay was started in 2005 as a boutique style payments company. AffiniPay provides a very specialized, hands-on customer service, and industry focused approach to payment processing. www.affinipay.com