Clients often deny that they owe any fees whatsoever, arguing, rightly or wrongly, that there has been professional malpractice. Fees are therefore a source of major conflicts between lawyers and their clients.
A lawsuit for the recovery of fees is therefore not without risks. Given the growing number of complaints about lawyers’ fees, a preventive approach should be adopted in accordance with your professional and ethical obligations, in order to avoid that the client becomes an ex-client.
Here are some suggestions:
- Learn to identify and decline potential clients who do not have the capacity to pay for your professional services;
- Provide clients with a realistic estimate of the approximate cost of services;
- Before and during a mandate, make sure that the client has all the useful information about the nature of the services to be provided and the financial arrangements relating to the mandate;
- Detail the mandate in writing;
- Have a fee agreement signed and request an advance based on your cost estimate;
- Notify the client immediately in the event of a marked discrepancy between the initial assessment and the actual cost of services;
- Communicate regularly with the client, ideally in writing;
- Send your bill to the client periodically;
- Establish a system by which you will be quickly notified of accounts receivable;
- When an account is unpaid, contact the client promptly to find out why he/she refuses or neglects to pay;
- After communicating with the client: act! If the client is not satisfied with the services provided or does not have the capacity to pay, consider ceasing to represent him/her, making sure you respect the relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Ethics;
- Being aware of the risk that you might be subject to a counterclaim, ask yourself if it is worth taking a lawsuit for the recovery of fees.