OSB Professional Liability Fund

5 Tips to Better Billing

February 23, 2018
by Sheila Blackford

If your billing rate isn’t matched by your collection rate, you may have a problem with your billing. Here are five tips that can help you send out bills that get paid promptly in full.
 

  1. Offer your client the choice of when to receive your bill. Some clients prefer the beginning of the month, others prefer the middle. Nothing says you care like asking your client for what works best for your client’s budget.
 
  1. Use your bill’s physical space to convey how much effort you have expended on your client’s behalf. If you have only a few items listed with an amount owed on a big 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper, your efforts appear minimal. For example, “revocable living trust -- $3,200.” Consider using a smaller piece of paper, such as 5 ½ by 7.
 
  1. Use action verbs to convey you have expended effort. For example, “Telephone call” conveys little whereas “conducted conference call with client to review deposition procedures and recommended attire to wear” refreshes your client’s memory and conveys your effort to ensure the client was prepared for the deposition.
 
  1. Adopt a billing narrative in a large block using semi-colons between entries, followed by the amount owed, followed by a personal note.  For example,
 
Reviewed conference notes after estate planning meeting with client 1/4/18; prepared draft of revocable living trust; sent request for updated financial statement from accountant Mary Wagoner 1/5/18; reviewed email from client asking about pet trust provision 1/9/18; conducted telephone conference with client regarding recommended care needs for parrot 1/10/18; prepared second draft of revocable living trust to incorporate client’s decision regarding providing a bequest to the Oregon Humane Society 1/19/18;  prepared final version of revocable living trust 1/24/18; prepared letter of instruction to client regarding safeguarding estate planning documents 1/25/18; confirmed appearance of client and two document witnesses at appointment for signing revocable living trust 1/26/18; led client through signing revocable living trust and instructed two witness in formalities of properly witnessing the document 1/30/18.
 
Client funds held in lawyer’s trust account                     $3,500.00
Amount due for legal services                                       $3,200.00
Refunded to client                                                        $   300.00
 
“Thank you for entrusting your estate planning needs with me. I know you must feel confident that your beloved parrot will be cared for properly. Molly”
 
  1. A handwritten note at the end of your bill tells your client that you have personally reviewed the bill and appreciate your client. For example, “Thank you for allowing me to help set up your business structure. I wish you success in opening Canby Garden Center, LLC for business! Jim”