BEST PRACTICES IN BILLING #4
What is the billing process? The billing process is more than just a way to compile information and invoice a client. The billing process is actually a communication system and consequently an often missed opportunity for you to market to the client. It is only appropriate that your first consideration should be compliance with the rules of professional conduct for any jurisdiction in which you are licensed, and in particular the rules on fees, fee agreements, communication, advertising (marketing), confidentiality and handling money.
All communication you do with the public and prospective clients should be primarily focused on marketing to or communicating about the problem you solve rather than talking about yourself. You make yourself much more relevant and attractive to a prospective client when your marketing is all about the problem that the client has. By doing this you are matching your value with the client’s need. Marketing about the problem you solve is a credibility-builder that works much better than talking about yourself.
So assuming that you have attracted the prospective client you want who can and will pay for your problem solving ability, the next essential element of the billing process is the fee agreement. At its essence, the fee agreement clearly defines the problem you are going to solve (scope provision), it sets out the fee and basis for payment, and it covers how expenses will be handled.
Include in your fee agreement - and never miss an opportunity to explain - how the fee agreement works and how services will be provided; how money will be handled; how explanations will be given; how questions will be answered; how invoices will be issued and what, precisely, is expected of the client. Put it in writing.Talk it out in detail. The client needs to know how you work, how you charge, how invoicing occurs, and how the client pays.
Be mindful, it is absolutely essential that you precisely follow the oral and written description of how your billing system operates.
Next: Make the Entry Now, Not Later.
The PMAS is a multifaceted Bar program designed to help Bar members improve and enhance management skills in the practice of law. Daniel Mills, assistant director for PMAS, Regulation Counsel, and Rochelle Washington, senior staff attorney, PMAS, can be reached at 202-737-4700, ext. 3212 and 3217, respectively, or at [email protected]
 Scope, fee and expenses are the mandatory elements of Rule 1.5 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.