A Q&A with family lawyer Jordan Turk, who offers tips and best practices to streamline your client intake process.
By Jordan Turk, Family Lawyer
What is a common mistake you see family lawyers make regarding client intake?
Not taking the consultation fee upfront. We’ve all been in that awkward situation where we try to collect the fee after the meeting, and the potential client suddenly has amnesia about whether he was supposed to pay a fee or not (he was).
What’s the best way to collect the consultation fee?
Usually, when we send the email to the client confirming their appointment, we will also insert our LawPay link and remind the client that payment is due prior to the meeting. Make sure to reiterate that, unless payment has been received, the consultation will not take place.
A client wants to bring a third party to their initial consultation. Should you allow this?
I would let the client make that call, but I will absolutely inform the client of the potential waiver of attorney-client privilege that comes with allowing a third party to attend the meeting.
Speaking of third parties, what if someone wants to pay your client’s legal fees?
Have the third party execute a Third Party Payor Addendum. This will eliminate headaches down the road as to who gets leftover trust funds, etc. If they pay by credit card, have them execute a Credit Card Authorization form, available for free to anyone on LawPay’s website.
What are some tips for retainer payments?
Offer options! Studies show that 80% of consumers prefer to pay for goods or services with a credit or debit card, and that was before the pandemic. It really does behoove you to give clients the option to pay for their retainer (and invoices) online. I never want a potential new client to leave my office prior to (1) signing a fee agreement; and (2) paying their retainer. That’s where credit cards are vital – clients don’t need to bring a money order or physical check. I can get paid and get started on their case quickly when they pay via a card.
How can lawyers streamline the intake process?
An easy change that you can implement immediately would be to have the client fill out their intake paperwork online prior to the consultation. Warn them not to email sensitive information to you, such as social security numbers.
What are some strategies to improve collections?
Shockingly, family law clients sometimes do not want to pay their bills. Many times, we have to be de facto bill collectors. The number one tip I could give would be to utilize evergreen retainers. This is typically a clause in the fee agreement wherein when the client’s retainer dips below a certain percentage, they must replenish the funds up to the original retainer amount. This way, you are always billing against funds already collected (as opposed to chasing them down after the fact).
Any other advice on getting paid quickly?
I have a link to my LawPay account in my signature block, so there is never a question from a client about how to pay a bill. The link is integrated into my invoices, and when I follow up on unpaid invoices, typically a week after we send out the original bill, I will paste my link into the email so that they just have to click and pay.
Jordan Turk is the Law Practice Advisor at LawPay. To learn more about how LawPay can help you get paid, visit: lp.lawpay.com/family-lawyer-magazine.
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