Working from home orders and quarantine mandates mean that attorneys have had to adapt their practices to a new normal. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States around March of this year, law practices in many areas of the country were forced to go remote. This (sometimes bumpy) transition raised many concerns for lawyers, top among them being how to get paid by their clients.
What’s more, they needed to figure out how they could ethically and efficiently accept online payments in a manner that was secure and effortless for both the attorney and the client. Above all, attorneys have had to be hyper cognizant of their receivables as well as their billing practices as they streamline their practice and navigate the waters of Corona.
Below we will discuss some tips and best practices for getting paid in the era of COVID-19, as well as what you can do to increase receivables in your firm.
- Potential New Client (“PNC”) Consultations
Generally, a PNC consultation is when a client meets with an attorney for the first time, with the likely outcome being the retaining of said attorney. Some attorneys waive their consultation fee, while others will charge for it (typically the equivalent of an hour of their billable time). Problems begin to arise when the attorney and/or their staff are not clear about how or when this consultation fee gets paid.
Imagine this—a PNC calls a firm and requests a consultation with an attorney. The receptionist does the normal conflict check and schedules the meeting. She also informs the PNC that a consultation fee of $250.00 will be due prior to the meeting, to which the PNC agrees. Fast forward to the day of the consultation—the receptionist forgets to confirm the payment was received, and the attorney takes the meeting without knowing this.
The attorney counsels the PNC for an hour, at the end of which they say goodbye. The receptionist, having realized the fee issue, asks the PNC for payment after the meeting. The PNC claims he was told the consultation was free (not true), or that he only had to pay if he retained the attorney (also not true).
This is a familiar refrain in the legal industry. So, how can an attorney avoid this awkward situation altogether and get paid for the meeting?
Always, always, always take the consultation payment up front, prior to the meeting. It should be made clear to the PNC, in writing, that the consultation will not take place unless and until the payment has been confirmed by the firm. Make sure everyone in the firm is made aware of this policy.
Many people are limiting their contact with others and are opting for consultations over Zoom, rather than in-person. So, how does the attorney get paid for an initial meeting when the PNC doesn’t want to leave his or her house? The solution would be for the firm to utilize online payments. Prior to the consultation, the firm can simply send an email to the PNC reminding them of the appointment, that the consult fee is due prior to the meeting, and they can click the link below to pay. LawPay gives a firm the ability to copy/paste a link to send to clients that routes them directly to the firm’s payment page.
This gives the client the flexibility to pay without leaving their home, and it lets the attorney confirm payment immediately.
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