Immediately your hairs stand up thinking that my message is all about cutting fees to attract more clients – well this is not the message here – it is all about getting the customer to believe and trust that your bill reflects your firm’s hard work and has their best interests in mind.
What has this got to do with marketing a law firm? Very simply it is all about the Word of Mouth onions or orchids that will be included when your clients talk about your firm.
95% of your clients have never dealt with attorney firms and do not know the billing process – so they don’t know what to expect and going by the stigma worldwide about lawyers being expensive, are expecting a bill larger than they would like.
Just about any price can be justified if the person selling does a good enough job of it and is convincing. Now is the time to remove the lawyer cap and replace it with that of a salesperson.
The process starts with the introduction letter, even if the client comes into your office and you explain everything to them verbally – the introduction letter will outline the way your firm does the billing and hopefully they will read this and it will prevent a situation later where they claim something was not mentioned to them.
Rather have the client turn down your terms at the very beginning of the matter, than get through all the work and find out they cannot or don’t want to pay.
Make sure you process the client’s invoice at least once a month, if you are doing a high volume of work, make it every fortnight. Rather have the client query a bill that is two weeks old than a couple of months, where not only are the details hazy, but the size of the bill maybe too high for the client to pay. At least if the bill is frequent, the client can stop you before the bill gets out of control for them.
Use any type of electronic billing system to record the work you do for the clients. My favourite is Chrometa, as it records what you do on your computer and when you are not busy on your computer, it prompts you to give details of what you were doing. An excel sheet can be produced in a mouse click, if you want somebody else to go through and allocate billing. But the best thing is that nothing will fall through the cracks.
Detailed billing, not only helps the client know exactly what they are paying for, but keeps the detail you will need if there is a dispute at a later stage.
To change a person’s mind that they have been ripped off is extremely difficult – they normally pay the bill but dislike the firm intensely, no matter how you justify the expenses after the fact. Let’s not forget that at the late stage of collecting, you start double discounting the fees to get payment.
I would imagine an email to your client with the attached PDF of the bill would be easiest for both you and the client, but the correct way would be in any way your client would like to receive the invoice. They are the ones you want to impress.
A client who is well informed, receives evenly paced and frequent bills that detail everything you do for them, should never have an issue in paying the bill and will speak highly of your firm. Plus, it makes business sense.