Before you begin your practice, make sure you have a procedure in place to get paid.
Here are 3 tips to stay on top of your billings.
Get a Retainer.
If possible have part of the fee in your escrow account as a retainer. Clients are much more responsive if they have paid part of your fee.
A retainer letter or fee agreement outlines what the client should expect so there are no surprises or areas for dispute, especially regarding fee payment and retainers. You should highlight how your fees are calculated, either by an hourly rate or a flat fee. You should also request that your client maintain a minimum balance in their escrow account so you don’t have to keep asking for money. Make sure it is in line with the scope of the representation.
Communicate with Client.
Keep your client updated on the status of their matter as well as your time spent and fee earned. Clients are more receptive to paying when they have been kept informed about the work you have done. If possible, send monthly billings. Avoid surprising your client with a large billing statement that may cause the client to mistrust you. Again, putting your time into a clear fee agreement on the front end will cause less trouble when it comes time to be paid.
Follow up with a Collection Letter.
Even if you do the first two steps, you may run across clients that simply don’t pay. First you should send your invoice, then a statement and then a collection letter. You should have a collection letter drafted on your laptop and ready to go. Keep in mind your time is your inventory. You can find sample collection letters in our resource manual: Law Office on A Laptop: How to Set Up Your Own Successful Mobile Law Practice
Again, it is always better to get paid a retainer or paid upfront and hold the money in your escrow account rather than having to track down clients and demand collections.