Question of the Week

What do you do when a client doesn’t pay the bill?


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In a story from the July issue of the ABA Journal, Miami criminal defense solo Scott Saul shares why he often doesn’t chase down unpaid legal bills.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time when people don’t pay me, it’s because they don’t have the money. It’s not because they don’t want to pay me,” Saul said. “I can come down hard on somebody, but I’m trying to get blood out of a stone. If I come down hard on them, I’ve lost them as a referral base forever.” But Saul tries to “make it so that the retainer is the money you’d like to get on the case, and the payments are icing on the cake,” in order to protect himself.

Clients of firms both large and small skip out on their legal bills for a number of reasons, and firms must consider the cost-benefit analysis in each case. So this week we’d like to ask you: What do you do when a client doesn’t pay the bill?

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: How do you respond to family and friends who ask for legal help outside your area of expertise?

Featured answer:

Posted by Not Litigious: “I’m a litigator and mostly work on large commercial matters. My mom and sister are the types of people who believe you should be able to sue people for any slight—real or imagined. Intentional infliction of emotional distress for being made to wait more than 15 minutes at a doctor’s office? Oh yes. That kind of stuff. And they want to win those damages without paying anyone for it, of course. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time telling them not to sue anyone. And even though I’m a litigator, I tell them I don’t have any experience in this field. The frivolous lawsuits field, that is. They’re not entirely satisfied with my advice—I can tell by how angry they get—but at the same time, they haven’t managed to sue anyone so far.”

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