Tips for How to Bill Smarter (The First One Will Have You Smacking Your Head)
Well, he’s done it again. Lee Rosen over at Divorce Discourse has written a blog post today that is a must-read on a subject that makes both attorneys and their clients cringe: billing. He provides 13 tips that he says will improve your relationships with your clients and I want to call out just a few and add my two cents.
This first tip is really priceless:
Include “No Charge” line items on your bills. Just about every lawyer does stuff for his or her clients that aren’t billed. Keep a list of those freebies as you go through your month and then include them as line items on your bill with the notation, “No Charge”. Instant added value! Genius!
Some of Lee’s other tips that I know really get under a client’s skin and most every lawyer is guilty of:
Eliminate surprises. No one likes a billing surprise so if you are constantly getting pushback on charges clients did not expect, then you need to do a better job of managing their expectations. Give them fair warning on big ticket line items. If the bill is going to be particularly high, call them to explain.
Cut out nickel and dime charges. Roll up all your miscellaneous charges for postage, copies and other small stuff into your hourly rate. Clients hate to see that stuff on a bill.
Be open to change. Ask your clients how they want to be billed. Most will probably say monthly, the way most of you do it now, but there could be some who want you to bill more or less often. If it’s more, that’s good for your cash flow.
Design your system around client needs. How do you think your clients would respond to a billing system that allowed them to see charges in real time? When is the last time you updated your billing system, or even checked to see that it was working the way you want it to work? Do the math -- you could be losing money due to poor billing and collection practices.