How you bill your clients determines how successful you’ll be as a lawyer. Avoid going broke and learn tips on charging the proper legal fees.
While knowledge of the law is good, knowing how to charge and collect the proper fees from your clients is even better.
Some lawyers have been bold enough to say that while lawyers should strive to grasp the law, without the corresponding legal fees, no lawyer can make a decent living.
As professionals, lawyers charge fees for the legal services they render. The rules and laws of various jurisdictions provide the ways lawyers should charge fees.
In Nigeria, although there are rules regulating lawyers’ fees, the precise amount lawyers should charge is not clear.
Not charging the proper legal fees has become an enormous problem in the legal profession as many lawyers now find it difficult to make ends meet. The result is a sharp drop in the quality of legal services rendered by these lawyers.
Some lawyers handle more than two matters in court every day. But when you calculate all the money they got from those cases, it will be less than what another lawyer charged on one matter in a week.
One of the tips for building a successful legal career is to always charge the proper legal fees for your work. The following are some suggestions for charging the correct bills.
Charge According to the Amount Involved.
Clients differ, and so do their briefs. It does not make sense for a lawyer to charge the same fee for clients with different financial abilities and briefs.
It is not difficult to see lawyers charging a few thousand for a transaction worth millions.
The caliber of clients represented should determine the billing, which is the standard practice for other professionals. One wonders why lawyers should accept peanuts for their services.
Never Appear Poor.
It is true what they say, ‘Packaging is everything.’ This is basic psychology. We all are judged and evaluated by how we look, dress, and carry ourselves.
Many clients will be reluctant to give you a million bucks when you do not dress well, have a car, or have a well-decorated office.
Clients will always price you the way you appear. Therefore always dress well. Get a car, borrow if you must, especially when you want to meet potential big clients.
Never Collect Your Fees in Court.
It is an eyesore to see lawyers arguing with their clients over fees in court. Most clients will lure lawyers to court with a promise to pay the agreed fees immediately after the court sitting only to renege on their promise.
The best way to avoid this kind of scenario is to insist that clients pay the required fees at least a day to the hearing of the matter.
Use Billing software.
Successful lawyers are now making use of bill management software to help them in the effective running of their offices and also in charging their clients correctly.
Consider Your Time And Effort.
Lawyers should always remember that legal services require brainwork, which can be exhausting. If you do not have the luxury to relax, unwind, and recover, you will produce and deliver a shoddy job.
Therefore while charging your fees, bear in mind that you need to be in a state of comfort to work effectively. Without proper payments for your services, you cannot afford the luxury required for such leisure and relaxation.
Charge for Miscellaneous.
Many lawyers fail to take into consideration unforeseen circumstances while charging fees. In the end, it is the lawyers that will end up paying for them where the client refuses to pay.
Some clients do not see the lawyers’ work as requiring much expense. According to them, all a lawyer does is to sit in his office and prepare documents.
But the processes that go into the production of those final processes require time, effort, and money. Some of these processes include telephone calls, data, photocopying charges, courier, postage, delivery charges, and transportation charges.
Charge for Quality, not Quantity.
When some clients approach lawyers for a legal letter and are billed, they complain and remind the lawyers that it’s only a letter.
Some lawyers charge more fees for a single legal letter of one or two pages than other lawyers charge to represent clients in court.
Remember that a lawyer’s words are powerful. A client who has a problem worth millions can have that problem resolved through a single letter from a lawyer.
So do not be cowed by the usual – ‘Is it not an ordinary letter?’ There is nothing ordinary about a lawyer’s letter.
Don’t Work for Credit.
Working on credit is one of the common mistakes young lawyers should avoid. Unless you are doing a pro bono job, never start any work without collecting at least 50% of the flat rate.
Many young lawyers fall into the trap of starting a job based on nothing but a client’s promise. Big mistake!
Some lawyers’ offices are full of matters and documents of clients who asked them to start the job while they look for the fees. After spending effort, time, and resources in preparing the suit or documents, the client disappears, leaving the lawyer full of regret.
Don’t Lower Your Standard.
Many lawyers lower their standards and accept meager fees because they are afraid to lose a Client.
There is a psychology in charging proper fees and sticking to it. The client may go to another lawyer but will always think that there must be something you have, which the other lawyer doesn’t.
Experience has consistently shown that in the future, whenever that client has a more serious matter, he will look for you because he does not want to take chances.
Lawyers should know the value of their work. Instead of lowering your standard, learn to communicate the value of your services to your clients.
Believe it or not, clients judge you from the way you charge. If you lower your standard and is willing to accept meager fees, the client will become suspicious of your ability to deliver.
Remember Your Expenses.
Most lawyers forget they have bills to pay when charging for their fees. But the truth is that for any lawyer to make money and break-even, your expenses must not be higher than your revenue.
Wrapping it Up.
According to Herodotus:
” knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give luster, and many more people see than weigh.”
If you have sown the seeds of graduating from law school, it is time to reap the fruits of your labor.
The only way society evaluates people is through their accomplishments. If you know all the laws and rules, and have thousands of clients, and do not know how to charge proper fees, you are simply a failure.
Do you know of other ways of charging proper fees that work, please tell us in the comment section below. We want to learn.