Client Connection

Client Connection

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

False Assumptions Law Firms Make in Managing A/R at Year End -- And How to Avoid Them

Let's be honest. Among the tasks that take lawyers away from practicing law, is there anything they want to do less than managing accounts receivable? Then why do we think they are going to enjoy it any more at year end? Yes, it is crunch time, time for all hands on deck. But let's face it -- many attorneys don't like it, many are not good at it, and many just want to avoid it altogether. 
The following are four common assumptions law firms make at year end in managing receivables -- and how to avoid them:

Assumption #1 -- Lawyers collect their bills timely and efficiently.  Actually, lawyers are concerned about servicing their clients, and not about when they are going to get paid. They have so many hours in the day and they prefer to spend it practicing law. Although managing accounts receivable should be among their year-end priorities, similar to the rest of the year, it's not. Keep the communication to the lawyers about what they should be doing constant but simple, and don't underestimate the need to provide them with ideas, techniques and strategies that will help their efforts.

Assumption #2 -- Clients understand year-end payment obligations, and all you need to do is remind them.  Seriously, you don't think it's that simple, do you? Collecting accounts is a process that must be followed very methodically and diligently if firms expect consistent results. Although waiting until the last few weeks of the year may work for a few clients that have a regular December payment history, most clients require much more vigilant efforts. If you don't spend the time routinely following up with them -- why do you think they will just pay?

Assumption #3 -- Client will call if they have a problem with your bills.  This often proves untrue. Some clients will, in fact, be quick to call if they perceive a problem. Most, however, will not -- for many reasons: they are uncomfortable talking about money, or they are confused by the bill and don't know where to begin. The most prevalent reason is -- they are either unprepared or unable to pay. So remember, the phone works both ways -- the problem will only escalate into next year if you don't have a conversation now and put it behind you.

Assumption #4 -- The most effective way to communicate with those who have not paid is through e-mail. E-mails can be erased and ignored, especially when it involves making payment. A brief telephone conversation can communicate to clients a sense of urgency concerning your need for payment, and allow you to learn quickly if there are any problems or concerns -- and what it will take to get the bill paid by December 31.

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