Legal Billing Language to Help Reduce Payment Delays
Use this Legal Billing Language to Reduce Payment Delays
This article originally appeared on the LawPay blog.
Clearly defining all expectations and responsibilities related to fees, billing, and payments during client intake can go a long way toward preventing payment delays and chargebacks.
In this article, we’ll share valuable examples of sample legal billing language that can help you reduce late and non-payments to make sure you get paid for your hard work.
Updating Your Attorney Fee Agreement
To be confident that you and your new clients are on the same page from the initial conversation, start by updating your attorney fee agreement to contain discussions of all essential payments-related topics.
At minimum, this includes the following:
A summary of your firm’s base fees, including descriptions of specific costs associated with referrals (e.g., the referring attorney’s fee), new matters, work performed by others (such as legal assistants and clerks), and appeals. Be sure to clarify when fees will be calculated as a percentage of the amount recovered on behalf of the client or a set hourly rate.
A description of your out-of-pocket expenses for which the client is responsible (for example, court costs, filing fees, deposition fee, and transcript fees), how those costs will be deducted, and how expenses will be recalculated in the event there is zero or insufficient recovery of funds on behalf of the client.
Calculation of Attorney’s Fees
An explanation of how your fees will be collected and the factors that will be taken into account, such as expenses paid on behalf of your client and any fees owed to a referring attorney.
(Download a free sample attorney fee contract here.)
Once you’ve made these updates, your next step should be expanding your client intake paperwork to include details about responsibilities related to invoices and payments—both in terms of what you expect from the client and what they can expect from you.
3 Examples of Essential Billing Language for Client Intake Paperwork
In addition to your fee basis, expenses, and fee calculations, there are a few other topics you should consider covering either in your attorney fee agreement or elsewhere in your client intake paperwork.
Attorney’s Billing Obligations
Let your clients know when they can expect invoices and what information will be included on those invoices.
Attorney will provide Client, at monthly intervals, an itemized statement setting forth in reasonable detail all services by Attorney on behalf of Client, and any costs that have been incurred and/or advanced by Attorney on behalf of Client in the above-referenced matter. The invoice will also show the application of prepaid fees to the monthly invoice, and any resulting balances of prepaid fees and/or unpaid fees.
Client’s Payment Obligations
Outline the expectations regarding when the client is required to submit payment as well as the forms of payment your firm accepts.
Your legal fees are due and payable [ex: upon receipt of the billing] to be paid no later than [ex: the last day of the month] and may be satisfied with any of the following payment options:
- a) By the application of funds held in the firm’s trust account for prepayment of fees, which the firm shall be entitled to transfer upon invoicing
- b) By paying by paper check or ACH/eCheck (automated deduction from Client’s designated checking account)
- c) By the use of a credit card in person or online via the firm’s payment portal, provided that Client understands that by clicking “Submit Payment” the Client agrees to pay the entire payment amount for the bill selected, and authorizes the firm to charge Client’s designated payment method for the payment amount
- d) By paying in cash at the offices of the firm
Promise to Pay Provision
A Promise to Pay clause helps guarantee the client understands and agrees to their contractual obligation to pay your firm for the services performed.
Once services are engaged, Client recognizes that they are contractually bound to Attorney for their entire fee. All fees paid are nonrefundable and must be paid in full. Client understands that fees paid through the use of a debit card, credit card, or other electronic means cannot be revoked or reversed in any manner by the client after legal services are performed. Refunds, when appropriate, shall be paid by check or other electronic funds transfer from Attorney to Client.
Payment Authorization Forms
Along with taking advantage of this sample language, one of the most effective ways to avoid the headaches of chargebacks and payment disputes is by including payment authorization forms as part of your client intake process.
Payment authorization forms allow you to secure from your client not only an agreement to pay now and in the future but also confirmation that your client understands and agrees to your charge and refund policies.
You can draft two versions of your payment authorization forms: one to be completed by the client, and one to be completed by a third party on behalf of the client. Payment authorization forms can be for credit and debit card payments, eCheck payments, or both.
The key to maximizing your accounts receivable at the end of the year is making a commitment to take these steps at the start of every engagement. Don’t put yourself into a position where you’re forced to write off hours upon hours of work.
Start by discussing all expectations related to fees, billing, and payments during client intake. Then use a secure legal payment solution like LawPay to make it easy for clients to pay. With LawPay, you can offer a convenient payment experience that helps you get paid faster.