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Greedy Tip of the Week: Collect Overdue Client Bills

Do any former clients owe you money? What have you done to collect lately?

If you're like most lawyers, that answer is, sadly: nothing. For some reason, while we lawyers can talk a big game, when it comes to collecting money from our own clients, we put on the kid gloves and hold back our punches. Sure, there's good reason for doing so, but there's also good reason to at least try to collect past-due bills.

Below are several tips on collecting on past due client bills.

1. Send Another Bill

While you know the client hasn't forgotten, maybe give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they did. So just go ahead and send another bill, with a "friendly reminder" note. Also, send it using some sort of delivery confirmation.

2. Call to Follow Up

After you sent the bill and received confirmation that it was received, call to follow up. Find out if anything has changed, or if there's something wrong? You know, normal follow up conversation. Be polite, but firmly assert that you expect to be paid.

3. Offer a Payment Plan or Discount

It may pain you to offer a discount on your fees, but if the client is giving you some line about how they "can't afford to pay it all," try to find out what they can manage. With all the payment services tech out there, you might actually be able to set up a payment plan rather easily and provide an incentive for using automated payments.

4. Assign an Enforcer

It is never fun to be the one that tells a former client that they have to pay an overdue bill. If you have a staff, you can assign the task out to someone you trust won't do something stupid, like threaten legal action. The last thing you want is to deal with a massive time suck like that. Your enforcer should be polite, but firm and incredibly persistent.

5. Don't Just Forgive

Since filing a lawsuit could just be a massive waste of time, an easier way to at least get some benefit out of a deadbeat client's unpaid bill involves forgiving the debt (the right way). You get a bit of a benefit, and the client has to face the wrath of the IRS.

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