Anatomy of an Effective Legal Bill
Here’s how to set your firm up for success and ensure that your legal bills get paid.
One of the top struggles for solo and small firm lawyers is getting paid. You’ve performed the work for your client and you did a good job – getting paid for your time and effort seems like it would be a slam dunk. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your law firm’s billing processes and ensure that you get paid promptly for legal services rendered – and it all starts when you send that first legal bill to your client. Here’s how to set your firm up for success and ensure that your legal bills get paid.
Keep it simple
When you draft an invoice, describe the work performed using clear, simply language. Avoid using legalese. The clearer your description of your work, the more likely your client is to understand it and be willing to pay for it.
Avoid perfunctory descriptions that are devoid of information and use simple terms that explain what you did and why. So, instead of charging a client for a “meeting,” provide a clear description of what happened during the meeting. Don’t charge a client for “revising a draft of a memorandum.” Instead, explain that you updated the document to include newly discovered information. The more specific and detailed your descriptions are, the more likely your clients will understand what you’re charging them for – and will be willing to pay promptly.
Personalize the bill
Everyone wants to feel special, and your clients are no different. Use you legal bills as an opportunity to do just that: show your clients that they matter. One way to do that is to personalize the invoice.
As explained in this post, personalizing your legal bills is a great strategy that moves you one step closer to getting paid:
Allow your clients to feel like they’re a part of a team with a more personalized experience, and satisfaction rates will grow. Especially as the legal world begins to meld with the internet, clients crave personalization and personality in a professional landscape where they might not even enter your firm’s office once throughout the course of representation. E-introducing them to the attorneys and paralegals working for them is a great way to bridge that gap!
Make sure the bill explains which team member performed the work – perhaps even including a photo of the person or a link to their firm bio. Also, consider soliciting feedback from clients at the end of the bill. Let them know that you care and that their opinions matter to you.
Make it easy for clients to pay
Another way to show clients that you care – and to get paid more quickly – is to make it easy for your clients to pay your firm’s legal bills by providing your clients with flexibility and payment options. The days of accepting only cash or checks are long gone. These days clients expect to have choices when it comes to payment and seek out firms that accept multiple forms of payment.
As explained in this blog post, if you don’t offer payment flexibility, potential clients will find another firm that will:
It’s hard to imagine a law firm that doesn’t accept credit cards, but I know you’re out there. If you’re part of this group, and you’re also experiencing collection problems, start taking credit cards…
Not convinced? Statistics reveal that 43% of consumers prefer to pay by debit card, 35% with a credit card. Granted, legal fees are not a typical consumer purchase, but still: why would you disregard what many consider a preferable payment method?
Simply put, but offering the ability for your clients to pay online, using a debit or credit card of their choice, you’re more likely to get paid. And the easier you make it for your clients to pay that online invoice, the better. For example, consider including a payment link right in the invoice, in an email, or even in a text.
Let them know you appreciate their business
Tell your clients that you appreciate their business, whether in the email, cover letter, or other correspondence that accompanies the invoice. Make sure that they know that you don’t take them for granted and that you consider it a privilege to handle their case.
Your clients are paying you a lot of money to represent their interests and they had a choice when they hired you; it’s important to acknowledge that fact each and every time that you bill them. A little bit of appreciation will go a long way toward ensuring that you receive prompt payment.
Build a relationship with your clients from the start
And last, but certainly not least, communicate often with your clients and let them know that you care about them and the outcome of their case from your very first contact until the last. Studies indicate that showing that you care is important to clients. In fact, it’s one of the top 4 things that clients expect from their lawyers:
- Honesty and ethics
So, establish a solid relationship with your clients from the get go by ensuring that you consistently communicate with your clients about the status of their case. Use technology like secure client portals that make it easy for clients to reach you and obtain case-related information on their schedule, at any time, day or night. Access to information results in happier clients. And, happier clients are more likely to pay their bills. You do the math!