Deadbeat Legal Clients? What to Do When They Won’t Pay
Lawsuit? Collection Action? Try these tips first!
As an attorney, you likely chose this profession because you wanted to help people. But even those lawyers who offer the most reasonable fees need to get paid—after all, this career does need to support you. And while it may be an unwritten industry rule to get your fees upfront, many solo attorneys or smaller law firms offer payment plans to clients who need such an arrangement. Because while they do need your help, a lot of working class people can’t afford to fork out a large amount of cash upfront. But what happens when a client who’s making payments stops paying their bills? Take a look:
Why would a client stop paying?
If you’ve taken on a case and allowed your client to make monthly payments (or some other arrangement), in most circumstances, something unexpected has probably happened. Either your client has experienced an unforeseen expenditure (like a hefty car or home repair) or they’ve been laid off or had their hours cut at work. Whatever the reason, people generally have good intentions and will make payments again as soon as possible while you work with them.
But when the situation begins to get out of control and your client has just stopped paying altogether—it may be necessary to take action. Some clients stop paying because they feel like they are not going to win their case. The mindset is that if they’re not going to have a favorable result, why bother to paying? In these situations, there are some things you can do to remedy the problem.
Stay on top of their case
When a client is unhappy or feeling like their case is a not a priority, it is much easier for them to neglect payment. But if they are receiving consistent updates from you as well as monthly statements, it’s much more difficult for them to ignore you. Make sure you provide progress reports on a regular basis, even if there’s been no dramatic events. It just makes sense that a client who is satisfied with your service will be more likely to pay your bill.
Pull back on the empathy
It’s not easy—but sometimes you have to be a bit tougher than you’d like to. Just as your client needs you to represent them, you also need to be able to pay your bills. And while it may be your first inclination to cut clients some slack, you might have to alter your policy and get more money upfront. Think about it this way—if you don’t pay rent, your landlord won’t wait too long before evicting you—it’s just business.
Withdraw from their case
A last resort of course, but if a client continually refuses to pay, you may have no choice but to withdraw your representation. Before you go that route, you could speak with the client and explain that without regular payments, you will either have to limit the time you’re spending on their case (thus reducing billable hours) or withdraw all together. Sometimes this is all it takes for them to come up with the money they owe you.
No attorney wants to deal with the issue of overdue or uncollectible payments. It’s not fun, nor is it why you got into this industry in the first place. And while most folks have truly good intentions, bad things do happen that force them to be unable to pay you. As a solo practitioner or a small firm, these situations are often more. But sometimes it’s best to just write it off as a loss. It’s not worth your time and effort to go after them for a settlement, especially since this would cost you and could result in a judgment that never gets paid.
Check out our blog for more useful information. At Boss Reporting, we strive to not only provide you with real-time court reporting services, but also to be your partner by offering valuable industry resources. If you need a court reporter, fill out on our quote request form or give us a call at 954-467-6867.