What’s the best way to ensure that I get paid when I take on a new client?
The rules of professional conduct require that lawyers have a signed engagement letter for a new client, stating each party’s responsibilities for making the engagement a success. You will have an easier time meeting your client’s expectations and collecting your fee if you incorporate all essentials in the engagement letter.
Make sure clients understand that they’re entering a two-way relationship. The lawyer agrees to perform to the best of his or her ability in accord with professional standards, and the client agrees to communicate and cooperate fully – which includes paying the bill. At minimum, both lawyer and client should stipulate and agree in the engagement letter about the scope of the work to be performed, what fee will be charged, how it will be calculated, when the fee should be paid, and the consequences of non-payment – including the lawyer’s right to withdraw from the matter if payment is not made. When you get agreement on things like this up front, your chances of collecting your fee go up significantly because the client understands what to expect. The time to make it clear is right at the start – as documented in the engagement letter.
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