Client Connection

Client Connection

Friday, January 1, 2016

AR Management - Start 2016 Strong

The business environment has evolved. Mindsets have changed, as have business practices. Because law firms are doing business in a different world, it also requires that they routinely communicate with their clients about unpaid bills to ensure timely payment or resolve problem issues. Although some clients have set rules of when payments will be made, firms must institute regular, steady, professional follow-up of unpaid bills to secure dates of when payment can be expected to help guide future follow-up. By showing clients that the firm is regularly contacting them and monitoring their payment status, they will learn that you are well-aware of their bills and that you expect payment.

At this time of year, frequent questions we hear include:

How do we make our collection efforts a priority throughout the year instead of waiting until the last couple of months?

Throughout the year, stop tolerating “good clients” who don’t pay their bills. Although waiting until year-end may work for some institutional clients, many clients require effort throughout the year. Be realistic about whether the firm is underachieving in its collections goals and has developed bad collection habits.

How should we evaluate administrative staff dedicated to managing and collecting our A/R?

Do not evaluate your staff on how well they keep the attorneys happy by getting them copies of bills and reports; anybody can do such administrative work. Instead, determine:

  • What age group of receivables are they working?
  • Are they successful with good-paying clients that just need reminding, or are they making collecting older, difficult accounts the focus of their efforts?
  • How many direct contacts are they making daily with clients?
  • How many accounts are they handling?

And, most important:

  • How many actual dollars are they collecting (especially the older, difficult accounts that continue to age)?

How can we overcome the backlog of our older, difficult A/R?

There must be dedicated, consistent efforts, with status reports going to the leadership of the firm to ensure progress is being made. Typically, firms focus their efforts on those clients that pay timely and avoid working with older accounts because they take time and are often not pleasant to deal with. Consistent follow-up efforts are the key to making progress with these types of accounts. Law firms are making a big mistake if they think these types of receivables will be paid without working closely with clients and letting clients know their account is being monitored.

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