Having Problems Getting Paid? Collecting Your Fees Within The Line Of Ethics
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Having Problems Getting Paid? Collecting Your Fees Within The Line Of Ethics

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Having Problems Getting Paid? Collecting Your Fees Within The Line Of Ethics Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Having Problems Getting Paid? Collecting Your Fees Within The Line Of Ethics
  • 2. About MyCase MyCase is the premier web-based legal practice management software. Built as a complete platform, MyCase offers features that seamlessly cover all the daily functions that a modern, small law firm requires in one place at an affordable price. AboutMyCase Just $39/month per attorney $29/month per paralegal or staff
  • 3. About LawBiz® Increase revenue, improve efficiency, and decrease stress with coaching and consulting from the award-winning law practice management expert Ed Poll. LawBiz® offers three coaching options on a 6-month cycle to learn new habits and sustain them. Coaching Programs • Mentoring • Coaching • Immersion Program The BusinessOf Law®:How To BuildYour Practice
  • 4. About Ed Poll Edward Poll is the nation’s foremost expert on law practice management, focused on helping attorneys and law firms effectively manage The Business of Law®. With over four decades of professional experience, Ed’s extensive background in business and law have made him one of the nation’s most sought-after experts in law practice management. He is the first recipient of the California State Bar (LPMT Section) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. EdPoll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC
  • 5. Law Is Both A Business & A Profession “Law is not a profession at all, but rather a business services station and repair shop.” - Adlai E. Stevenson, Senator
  • 6. Law Is Both Profession & Business “Law is subject to the same laws of economics as any other business. Having a great product is not enough.” Tower Snow, Chairman (2001) Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison San Francisco Corporate Law Firm
  • 7. The Work Cycle Doing the work Getting the work Collecting your billings
  • 8. Overview Collecting your fee – from the start Dealing with slow payers When non-payment becomes serious • Withdraw • Alternatives tosecure payment • Suit or arbitration
  • 9. Collection BeginsAt Intake • Understand what client wants • Seek that result for that client • Want vs. Need • “Competent” to handle the matter • Want this client / matter Written engagement Letter • Consequences Credit Check SelectingClients
  • 10. Poll #1 Do you discusstimely payments with clientsduring engagementsessions?
  • 11. Fees • Excessive (ABA) • Unconscionable (CA) “Reasonable”underRule 1.5 Types of fees • Time-based (usually hourly) fees • Fixed • Contingent • Value
  • 12. Budgets • Estimate future costs and expenses • Manage client expectations • Document likely outcomes • Memorialize course of action client selects • Makes client part of team
  • 13. Bills Influence Collections • Can the client understand the bill?1 • Value provided?2 • Does the bill make the services sound meaningful and reasonably priced? 3 • (If billing cycles are relevant) Has the firm sent the bill when client is likely able to pay? 4
  • 14. Poll #2 Do you have a collectionpolicy?
  • 15. Who Handles Collections? • Lawyer involvement • Staff involvement - Obligation to supervise • Need for joint plan and staying informed
  • 16. Poll #3 Duringthe course of your representation,how often do you connectwith your client?
  • 17. Bills Not Paid Timely • Did client receive the bill? • Did client understand what was done and what was billed? • Does client have any questions or problems with the bill or the services? • When will the client pay? Follow up – “Dial & Smile”
  • 18. Interest On DelinquentAccounts • Must disclose possibility of interest fees at outset of representation • Some jurisdictions require written client consent to arrangement Generallypermitted but . . .
  • 19. Stopping Work • See engagement / fee agreement • Impact on client and matter • Impact on lawyer-client relationship
  • 20. Withdrawal When Non-Payment Permitted under Rule 1.16 Willnot cause materially adverse effect on interest of clients Time sensitivity
  • 21. Alternatives To Non-Payment • Payment plans • Revisit when client’s finances improve Avoid an arrangement that the client will almost certainly fail to satisfy.
  • 22. Lien On Client FilesAnd Property • Can’t withhold client’s file for nonpayment • Can withhold much or part of a file to obtain payment • Can withhold only work product • Can withhold only opinion work product • May withhold file even if client prejudiced Checkyour jurisdiction
  • 23. Reporting Client To Credit Agency States that reporting is not permitted because the disclosure is not reasonably necessary to collect the fee. NYSBAOpinion 684 (1996)
  • 24. Promissory Note To Secure Payment • Fair and reasonable • Terms fully disclosed to client in (understandable) writing • Advised in writing to seek independent counsel • Signed agreement documenting informed consent Complywith Rule 1.8(a)
  • 25. MandatoryArbitration Clause For Fee Disputes • Generally permitted under ethical rules - DC Bar Opinion 218: Arbitration is consistent with Rule 1.5 • Generally may not require arbitration of all disputes between lawyer and client - Rule 1.8(h) limits when lawyer may make an agreement prospectively limiting liability
  • 26. Filing Lawsuit • Check jurisdiction regulations • Review E & O insurance policy - Carrier may want / require notice • Use outside counsel - Objectivity - Better protection for confidences
  • 27. Risk Of Cross-Complaints For Legal Malpractice • Only 10-15% of suits for fees result in cross-complaint • First loss is best loss • Need to make sure case is one worth sending to suit • Peer review of file before suit is filed
  • 28. SellingAccounts Receivables? • DC Bar Opinion 298: Outright sale not permitted • Must use alternative means of dispute resolution when possible under Rule 1.5 • Must retain sufficient control over disclosure of information to satisfy Rule 1.6
  • 29. Taking Stock In A Client • Fee must be reasonable • Comply with Rule 1.8(a) • Be mindful of potential conflicts ABAOpinion00-418permits a lawyerto acquirestock in a client.
  • 30. Settlement / Compromise Of Claims • Agreement should be confirmed in writing • Release of claims – beware Rule 1.8(h) • Implications for future billing
  • 31. Poll #4 What do you do whenyour client doesn’tpay you in accordancewith your payment agreement?
  • 32. Process Summary • First meeting • Engagement letter • Budget • Internal collection procedure • Peer review of file • Arbitration if required • Write-off • Lawsuit
  • 33. Contact Us Ed Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC LawBiz Management Co. www.lawbiz.com www.lawbiztips.com www.lawbizblog.com (800) 837-5880 Get 10% off your first 6 months with MyCase for attending. Use promo code: FEES13 MyCase www.MyCase.com www.MyCase.com/blog (800) 571-8062 support@mycase.com sales@mycase.com
  • 34. Thank You