I basically had to start from scratch when establishing billing practices after I launched my own practice, and I learned quickly which methods worked best to ensure that clients paid their invoices on time. One of the most important facts that I discovered about the collections process is that the easier it is for clients to pay, the more likely it is that the lawyer will be timely paid. Although that may seem self-evident, many lawyers allow clients to pay legal fees in only one or two burdensome ways, and that can impact how quickly bills are paid.
I retained a few lawyers in the past for various legal matters that I needed help with in my life. These lawyers worked at small shops, and most law firms that handle real estate closings, traffic tickets, and other matters during which individuals need to engage counsel are smaller operations. Every time I retained a lawyer in my personal life, the only way I could pay them was to mail a check to their office.
This presented problems. Before I operated my own law practice, I did not mail anything on a regular basis and, thus, rarely had stamps. Moreover, I also inconsistently had checks. I pay for pretty much everything online, and I used one checkbook for almost a decade. When I ran out of checks, it took me a very long time to order new ones because I did not really need them.
As a result, I was not the best client when it came time to pay my lawyer. It took me time to get my act together to secure the stamps and checks to pay my attorney, since there was no way that I could pay my lawyer in a quicker fashion. As a lawyer myself, I understand how important it is to pay lawyers (and others) on time, and I couldn’t help but think that run-of-the-mill clients would face more challenges paying on time if the law firm only allowed clients to pay by check.
When I started my own law firm, I resolved that I would make it as easy as possible for clients to pay their bills. My firm offers clients several ways to send payments. Clients can drop a check in the mail for us, and some of our clients do this on a regular basis. However, most of our clients pay their bills by credit card. Our invoices have a link and a QR code that let clients pay their invoices by credit card in just a few clicks. Clients who have their credit card information saved on their computers might only require a few seconds to pay their bills. Usually, the bills that are paid soon after they are issued are the ones paid by credit card since clients can easily take care of the invoices.
Credit card companies charge relatively high fees, which my firm eats for the sake of convenience to the client. Sometimes, if clients are paying a larger bill, we wish that the bills would not be paid by credit card since credit card fees may take away hundreds of dollars that would otherwise end up in our pockets. However, the convenience more than makes up for it. Some of our more savvy clients pay by bank transfer, which is also preferable, since this usually does not come with the same amount of fees as credit cards.
In any case, providing convenient payment methods will not solve all of a firm’s problems when it comes to collections from clients. However, the easier law firms make it for clients to pay them, the more likely it is clients will pay their bills as soon as possible.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at email@example.com.