Let’s take a minute here and talk about the clients that stiff you on the bill. I’ve talked about this stuff tangentially in the past, but then it was always sort of in the vein of “how to avoid getting stiffed when picking your client.” Now? Now I want to talk about it in a little different of a light. I want to talk about what you do when a client is stiffing your ass on the invoices, and what options you may have.
First, though, let me say this post was supposed to go up last week. However, I used a hypothetical in the first version of all of this shit that greatly resembled a situation that arose when a client tried to fucking stiff me on my bill. So, discretion being the better part of valor, and realizing that people may take a hypothetical as being about them, I took that post out of the fucking rotation on the site. Better to keep my license and lose a post, you know?
That’s all resolved now, though, so I feel free to go on my mini-rampage about the assholes who come to you in tears begging you to help, and then afterwards decide that your effort was, for some fucking reason, sub-par and not deserving of compensation despite the fact you hit them a home run on a case that was based around shit like “My dog drank soapy water and shit out bubbles, therefore I am entitled to $1,000,000,000 and a new car.”
So, buckle the fuck in buddy, cause over the next two days we’re gonna go full bore on the bastards that think they can steal from me. Today is part 1, which should help you shitty motherfuckers understand why a lawyer stiffed on their bill has a goddamn right to take it personally.
Clients That Don’t Pay Are Thieves.
First and fucking foremost, let me tell all the non-lawyer assholes out there a simple fucking fact: I went to school to be a fucking lawyer. It’s a dedicated track of study that fucks with your entire life, takes everything nice and compassionate about you and tells you it’s wrong, demands you look at shit objectively and not with any fucking emotion, and wrecks your goddamn life. Even after school, lawyers spend a lot of fucking time honing their goddamn craft. We read cases, appear in court, argue matters, and attend annual training to stay abreast of developments in law. This is not just a fucking job, I’m not clocking in to make burgers and going home, this is a goddamn profession.
That means that I get to be paid for my fucking time no matter what the outcome of your goddamn case is, or whether you think I fucking did something or not. Recently I talked about this with Dad on one of our regular phone calls, and he told me a story of the contingency client that came in, retained him for a case, and when Dad, with a couple phone calls and a letter, got a good settlement immediately began fighting over Dad’s contingency percentage.
“In this matter,” Dad had told them, “You’re paying for my name, reputation, and the fact that I got you a settlement with a couple phone calls and a letter rather than a trial.”
But as calm as Dad was, and as calm as I am, when a client tries to negotiate a bill for services I’ve already provided, I call it one fucking thing: theft. That motherfucker has used my time and expertise, and now they’re trying to fuck me over by getting me to write down my bill or by walking the fuck away from my last couple invoices. That’s stealing from me. You have stolen my goddamn services. You are taking money out of my pocket, and out of the pockets of everyone my office supports, because you’re the type of shitheel who thinks “Oh, it’s okay, he’s just a lawyer.”
That’s a stupid fucking line of thought, buddy. It’s a stupid line of thought because lawyers are hated because we’re thoroughgoing assholes. My job is literally to legally rain hell down upon those who have offended the sensibilities of the delicate goddamn flowers I represent. Why the fuck do people think they’re going to pick my goddamn pocket and I’m gonna sit the fuck around with a thumb up my ass merrily spinning in a circle?
I mean, I may. Fuck you. You don’t know what I do at night.
And to everyone out there going “Oh boo hoo hoo, the lawyer isn’t getting paid”: Fuck you. Let me break this down. I don’t get paid, the office doesn’t get paid. The office doesn’t get paid, the staff doesn’t get paid. The staff doesn’t get paid, their bills don’t get paid. You’re not fucking with just the lawyer. You’re fucking with everyone whose livelihood depends on my getting paid for my fucking work, and you’re doing it after getting the benefit of my work. You’re a fucking thief.
No, You Didn’t “Pay Enough.”
I love how some dipshits think they’ve “paid enough” at the end of the fucking case. “I paid you $25,000 over the whole thing,” they said, “and I only got $75,000 back! You’ve been paid enough, I’m not paying the extra $3,000 from your last billing.” And for some of you out there, maybe this shit sounds reasonable. I got a third of what the fuck they brought in by bringing the case. I should just go the fuck away.
No. And you know why not? Because these assholes signed a fee agreement with me, they knew the costs, and they made the decision to fucking settle. Plus, they seem to forget that, before they brought me into the case, the offer from the other side was “Go pound sand hard enough to turn it into glass, you ain’t getting shit.” I didn’t “just” get them $75,000. I brought the offer from $0.00 and a hearty “fuck you” up to $75,000. You’re paying me at that point for the fact that I got you anything other than a firm handshake and a chocolate covered pretzel.
And you know when you’ve paid “enough?” You’ve paid “enough” when you’ve paid me every fucking penny due under the engagement/representation agreement we signed, which I’ve already written down a couple times so as not to be an incredible asshole. We had a contract, dipshit.
Clients Who Don’t Want to Pay Insult Their Attorneys.
I’m not a sensitive fucking Sally. I don’t get worked up at being called nasty names. I’m a fucking lawyer. If I spent time getting bothered about people calling me things, I’d never leave the “crying closet” in the office where we go to let out all of the frustration. You don’t survive in the practice of law unless you have a thick goddamn skin, because people will not separate your professional identity from you as a person when they talk to you.
Clients are the fucking worst about this. They’re just fine talking about you like the best goddamn person in the world…right up until it’s time to pay the fucking bill. Then they start calling you a “thief” or an “extortionist.” They call you “greedy” or a “slimebag” or a “con artist,” despite the fact they’re holding the settlement check and you’re holding a pile of unpaid invoices. Seriously, presenting a bill to one of these massive assholes makes you a horrible human being.
I’m used to this…but the moment you imply I’m doing something illegal or unethical in trying to get you to pay your goddamn bill, we’ve stepped over the fucking line. We’re no longer in a business relationship. Now that shit is personal, because I’m not the asshole trying to fuck someone out of thousands of dollars. Trust me, you don’t want this shit to be personal with me. As I’ve covered in the past, I am not a gentlemanly fighter. I’m a fucking brawler, that’s why my clients hire me, and I have absolutely no problem gouging a motherfucker’s eyes out in order to get my goddamn money.
So, all this shit in mind, keeping track of the three big reasons I hate clients that decide they get to skip merrily back to dipshit land the moment the case is over and leave a pile of unpaid bills behind them as they go back to fucking their lives up, let’s get ready for Wednesday.
Because Wednesday? Oh boy, brothers and sisters, my fellow small law shitheads, we’re gonna talk about how you can approach a client who refuses to pay you. More than that, we’re gonna talk about how you can completely fuck their shit up.