Business Tips » Law Firm Billing: How to Collect Payments in a Timely Manner

Law Firm Billing: How to Collect Payments in a Timely Manner

Billing can be a huge pain point for lawyers. In the 2023 Trends Report by Clio, it was found that 14% of billable hours never get invoiced and, from those that get invoiced, 11% never get paid by clients. This means a significant portion of most law firms’ profits never reach their bank account.

How can you, as a solo practitioner or law firm owner change this? Read on to discover one actionable tip to get paid in full, on time.

Timing Is Essential

In his book How to Start & Build a Law Practice, author Jay G. Foonberg talks about an essential concept that impacts billing: The Gratitude Curve.

Essentially, in most people approach lawyers when they are in a desperate situation. If there is a fit and they become clients, their immediate sentiment is relief. They’re glad to have a lawyer by their side.

As time passes, the client’s perception of the value reaches its peak. They couldn’t be more grateful for having their lawyer. And then, depending on the nature of the case and the duration of the trial, the “gratitude curve” starts to fall down.

Image credits: Clio Legal Trends Report

The longer the case moves away from a significant milestone, the more a client will feel like they no longer need their lawyer. It is the same with doctors, accountants, advertising agencies, and most professional service providers. If there is not a frequent demonstration of value, clients start to feel like ‘this is just another bill to pay’ and that they can solve the problem on their own (or with cheaper assistance).

So is there a solution? Here 3 strategic moves to make the most out of Foonberg’s Gratitude Curve.

Strategy #1: Bill up front and at the points of maximum perceived value

Needless to say, a client is more likely to pay their bill and see it as an investment when their perception of value is high. This means that bills should be sent up front, as soon as an important milestone is reached, or just before the clients need their lawyer to make the next strategic move.

While this may be common sense, Clio’s study found that 15% of clients never received a bill from their lawyer, and 28% of bills are sent weeks or even months after the work is done, reducing their chances of getting paid.

The solution is to bill clients right when their perceived value is at its highest, and always invoice all billable hours.

Strategy #2: Constantly Overdeliver

There is a concept in customer experience called the “wow” moment. This is when you enter a hotel and see that they left free water or a welcome letter in your room. By integrating these “micro experiences” into your engagements, the perception of value not only increases but can be preserved much longer.

Strategy #3: Simple Payments

Most clients want to pay their lawyer. However, a large portion of law firms are still sending bills by mail, only accepting checks, and not setting clear deadlines.

A bill should be easy to pay. And it pays to do so. In Clio’s 2023 Trends Report, it was found that firms using online payments on average collect 50% of their bills within 7 days of issuing them, while those not using online payments get paid in 15 days or more. This is twice the time it takes for a law firm to receive new funds and be able to reinvest for growth or pay the owner.

At the end of the day, work doesn’t finish until the invoice is fully paid and received. By billing up in a timely manner, keeping the perception of value high, and making it easy for clients to pay their bills, law firms can avoid cash flow problems and get compensated for all their hard work.

If you are having trouble keeping up with invoices and billing clients in a timely manner, a virtual assistant can help. Amata’s administrative assistants are trained in the legal industry and can support in any of these areas:

  • Email Management
  • Payroll, Billing, and Accounting
  • Database Management
  • Document Conversion and Management
  • Appointment Reminders and Scheduling
  • Legal Correspondence and Transcription
  • Legal Research
  • Live Virtual Receptionist

Our flexible plans allow you to pay for only the hours that you need, so that keeping your firm’s operations running smoothly doesn’t come with unnecessary overhead costs.

Click here to discover how our Virtual Assistants can assist with billing (and a whole lot more!)