Involuntary Pro Bono: When Clients Ignore Invoices

Here’s a rule of thumb to keep in the front of your mind during every client interaction:

Clients are scum that will take every opportunity to screw you over.

Clients will walk off with your invoices unpaid, taunting you to come after them. If you do come after them, clients will file unfounded bar complaints that you have to defend. If you sue a client for past-due fees, you’ll draw the ire of the local bar association because you didn’t submit to their fee-dispute mediation program. If you try to retain a client’s file to try and force the payment, they file a bar complaint. At the end of the day, trying to collect from a client who wants to avoid paying you is a nightmare for the lawyer, to the point that many of us look at how much is owed, figure it’s the cost of doing business, and write it off.

By the way, those written off fees?  They don’t count towards your pro bono requirements if you have one.  Ain’t that some shit.

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I Charge for Consults: My Hatred for the Free Consultation

The other day in a super-secret lawyer chat room, I announced that I engage in a very specific perversion among lawyers.  I admitted to charging for consultations.

In the words of one attorney in the chat, charging for consultations draws clients in just as well as “having a man with a machine gun outside my door taking shots at prospective clients.”  Fair play on him for painting a vivid mental picture.  Now let me explain why I think he’s wrong.

But first, a story:

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Don’t Take The Case: Problem Client Identification

I got to thinking yesterday about problem clients.

Maybe it was just on my mind, maybe it was the client who sent a four page diatribe about the status of their cases with me, maybe it was the fact that we were out of coffee that morning and I couldn’t find my cigarettes.  Whatever the case may be, I found myself mid-morning with my head in my hands as I furiously chewed on pen caps and muttered things about fleeing to Mexico and joining a less stressful and more profitable profession.

Like running drugs for a cartel.

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“The Customer is an Idiot”: Not being a client’s employee

There was a time when an attorney was a respected professional whose wisdom and advice was sought after by the members of the community.  We were more than sharks in suits who went after the highest dollar amount, we were learned men of an honorable profession.  Neighbors would come to our offices for not only legal advice, but life advice.  Our opinions were held in high regard, and we were viewed as trusted mediators and advocates for our clients.

Abraham Lincoln once said the following about lawyers:

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

First, WHAT THE HELL …Mr. President?  “Discourage litigation” is the worst business advice ever!  How on God’s green earth am I supposed to hit my billables if everyone is being reasonable about easily resolved legal issue?

Seriously, though, the very fact that quote exists tells you something about how lawyers used to be viewed.  We weren’t “legal services providers,” we were the educated men who solved problems in a fair manner and ensured justice was carried out.

I’m going to let you in on a secret of modern legal practice:

Our clients don’t respect us. At. Fucking. All.

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