You’ve been on a case for a year.
Your clients always been a bit of a pill, but you can handle it. It’s not that bad, really.
Over the past couple months, though, you’ve had trouble getting paid on time.
You follow up with your client, and there’s always a promise to get you money.
Those promises had been fulfilled.
Then, your client missed one of those promised payment deadlines.
You’re now not getting paid at all.
You want to stop, but you feel obligated to continue.
You rationalize, thinking, “I’m sure he’ll pay. It’ll just take some time. He’s good for it.”
As you continue doing work, you start to feel resentful toward your client.
That’s natural. After all, you’re doing the work, you’re helping, you’re not spending time with your family, and your client is getting all the benefit without any of the responsibility.
Now, you start not communicating like you usually do. Phone calls are more about getting paid than getting the information you need to complete that motion you’re working on.
It’s not only you, though. Your client is embarrassed about being behind on his bill, so he shuts down and doesn’t want to talk.
The relationship worsens over time, all the while you’re still not getting paid.
Finally, you just can’t take it anymore. You have to end the relationship, so you do.
You don’t care how far behind your client is on the bill. You just want out.
After you fire the client, you finally find enough courage to look at how much is owed.
Your heart sinks. You say to yourself, “I’ll never let that happen again.”
And then, another client quits paying . . . .
Get Paid Like a Casino Boss
I recently wrote down my commandments for getting paid 100% for the work you do as an attorney.
Commandment #5 — if your client doesn’t pay or have money in trust, stop work; stop now; stop right now — is all about the situation described above.
Sometimes, though, commandments are easy to pronounce, yet hard to conceptualize and put in to practice.
A great analogy that teaches how to implement the “stop work commandment” is this: get paid like a casino boss.
Casino bosses are great examples of customer service done right.
Casino bosses will do anything for you if you have money. They will do it quickly, and they will do it exceptionally well.
From the smallest thing to the weirdest request, they will fulfill it if you pay.
If you don’t pay, however, service stops. It stops completely and immediately.
You don’t get back in your hotel room. You don’t get on the casino floor. You get nothing.
We as attorneys need to start thinking like casino bosses.
If your clients don’t pay or don’t have money in trust, you need to have systems and triggers in place to:
- Tell you payment hasn’t been made or trust money has been depleted.
- Stop work and immediately inform the client that work has stopped, and payment is required before work will start up again.
We also need to have the courage to follow through and stop work.
This is difficult, no doubt about it. But, as you exercise this courage muscle, it becomes easier.
Effects of Getting Paid Like a Casino Boss
Attorneys get scared about getting paid like a casino boss because they catastrophize and believe they’ll lose all their clients.
This won’t happen.
(Well, it will a little bit, but that’s okay because you should welcome clients leaving who aren’t honest enough to pay for your services.)
What will happen is your clients will pay you. They want you to continue helping them, so they will find the money. In fact, it usually only takes a few days, and then you can get back to work.
The other big effect of getting paid like a casino boss is you will do better work and serve your clients better.
No more resentment about unpaid bills. No more shying away from communication. No more, “I’m not spending any more time on this; he isn’t even paying me.”
Get paid like a boss. Do exceptional work. Enjoy your job.
P.S.: Hat tip to Lee Rosen for this casino boss analogy. It really helped me concretize and systemize my do-exceptional-work-get-paid ethos. Thank you, Lee.
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