Attorney Robert A. Skipworth has no qualms asking clients to pay for legal services rendered, a task some attorneys say they’d prefer to avoid altogether. According to Mr. Skipworth, who runs his own solo law practice in El Paso, Texas, approaching legal bills with clients shouldn’t be a stressful experience, especially if you have the right tools in place.
Recently, he recalls a situation where a client called complaining about some charges she received on a legal bill, yet she couldn’t recall the context. Rather than panicking, he simply pulled all the information he needed with the LexisNexis® PCLaw® software, his firm’s legal practice management software. Within a matter of minutes, he was able to provide clarity on the charges and a potential client crisis was averted:
“I was able to re-create the bills with PCLaw and within minutes I said, ‘Here you go.’ The client was satisfied and that was the end of the matter because I was able to show her exactly what was done and which expenses I paid.”
Transparency Builds Trust
As an insurance-defense and litigation attorney, Mr. Skipworth says providing clients with transparency about legal expenses is something both, he and his clients, value a great deal. For him, it builds trust with his clients. For his clients, they feel more in control because they have greater clarity about their legal expenses.
This transparency also comes in handy, he says, for proving himself in court when he has to testify about his time on a matter:
“I can print out a ledger and give every time and expense entry that’s been entered on a file, and that’s what I use when I have to testify on time for a trial. Otherwise I would have to go back and re-create each bill sent to a client and print the re-created bill.”
Today, Mr. Skipworth runs a lean law practice with the support of only one other staff member. His two-person firm uses the PClaw application to stay on top of the firm’s billing and financial matters. He credits the tool’s Trust Ledger for helping him transfer from one matter to another and then onto the bank. He does this simply pulling up the software’s Billing Fee Journal to get a quick summary of how much he’s billed and how much someone has paid.
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Practice Management Case Study: Robert Skipworth
Attorney at Law
Too Busy to Bill is Never an Option
He remembers a stint at a previous firm, when billing didn’t run quite so smoothly. He says the billing process at his former firm was such a time drain that one of the attorneys he worked with, never actually got around to billing clients:
“Billing was a chore. One partner thought he was so busy and invoicing took so long that he never got around to actually billing.”
For Mr. Skipworth not getting around to billing clients is never an option. In fact, Mr. Skipworth prides himself of proactively managing his firm’s outstanding legal invoices to ensure he avoids that type of situation at all costs:
“When things are going slow toward the end of the month in terms of receivables, I’ll look at the accounts receivable report and see who owes me money so I can start beating on some doors and get paid.”
Perhaps Mr. Skipworth is onto something. He believes attorneys shouldn’t fear billing conversations with clients — after all there’s no harm in asking to be paid for a job well done.
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