Hit a '3-pointer'

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Ed Poll
Daily Record Newswire

Every law firm is a business, and every business has three common elements: get the work (sales), do the work (production), and get paid (finance).

Where these three elements intersect for attorneys is the location of what I call "The 3-Dimensional Lawyer." When you arrive at that intersection, you'll find your practice and yourself in harmony.

In this balanced state of effective communications between lawyer and client, the client is well served and truly values the lawyer's efforts, the lawyer both enjoys the client and is challenged by the matter, and the client promptly pays the bill.

To achieve the balance, attorneys need to understand their own business operations better than they typically do. That understanding centers on the interaction among three factors: what the firm charges for service, how effectively it collects fees, and how the lawyers are compensated. The goal of that understanding should be to create an effective way of measuring, billing and collecting the value of services provided.

Ensuring any firm's business success requires an integrated approach to the issues of fees, billing, collection and compensation. The key elements include the following:

- a written engagement letter that sets forth the clients' obligations and responsibilities, including the paying of their bills;

- a budget for events, time and money, so that clients are not surprised by what is billed, but instead buy into and accept it;

- billing methods that are easy to understand and clearly listed actions taken on the client's behalf, relating the actions to the time it took to realize value and thus making the bill more meaningful to the client;

- clear delineation of value;

- frequent communication to ensure that an actual or perceived problem does not result in a client deciding not to pay a bill;

- collection processes that create a formal system to secure client payment without delay or contention; and

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Edward Poll is the principal of LawBiz Management. He coaches lawyers and is the creator of "Life After Law," a program that helps attorneys plan for profitable exits. He can be contacted at edpoll@lawbiz.com.

Published: Thu, Jun 18, 2015

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