The pandemic has caused far reaching economic downturn. How we navigate the changes will be the measure of our success. If we are in denial or have our heads in the sand it will be a difficult journey. I know from experience, because in 2008 I tried doing business as I had before the crisis—I was in denial. I caution you—do not repeat my mistake.
To give you some ideas, I asked several of my clients to share what they have learned during the shut-down that could be taken into the post Covid-19 world as we create our new normal.
Were there any lessons learned around billing and collecting your fees?
1. “I took ownership of speaking with my clients and being proactive with sending the bills rather than having the accounting department send them. I then prefaced each email with the invitation to discuss any questions etc. I think clients are more likely to pay timely and willingly when they feel a personal connection with the attorney working for them.” —Marianne Curtis, Commercial Litigator
2. “Yes. We lost clients in April because their businesses were decimated. Our clients who are personal trainers, event planners, wine importers, and cruise ship gangway builders found themselves with nothing overnight. So we had some difficult calls because clients could not pay. We are working with those groups. Collecting fees takes longer because people need more time to pay. Everything takes more time.” —Clarissa Rodriguez, International Law
3. “Not much has changed during this time, other than it appears that more clients want to pay with a credit card versus a check.” —Stefanie Deters, Trust and Estate Law
4. “I learned it was easier to fall out of the regular routine of collecting the fees. I had to remind myself to record my billing.” —Sheena Benjamin-Wise, Family Law
5. “Yes. Because most people are under financial strain due to the pandemic, it became all the more important to get your bills out and follow through on collection. Somebody is likely not getting paid – I want to do everything I can for that somebody to not to be my firm.”—Jeffrey Lapin, Commercial Litigator
6. “I have one client in particular that hasn’t been able to pay his invoice due to the slowdown in the economy and the shutdown. I think it’s a lesson in trying to be patient and understanding.” —James A. Peterson, Employment Law
Will you be reconsidering your need to rent office space?
7. “That was the first overhead expense we cut. We both have children who are not in school. As far as we’re concerned we are on lockdown until the children are back at school fulltime. As such, we cannot justify the cost of renting a physical space we can’t use. We’ve decided to give up a physical space for now. We will look into renting this fall if the children go back to school. I should note that we can do this because our work does not require clients to come to the office. Most of the clients are not local or do not require a physical presence.” —Clarissa Rodriguez, International Law
8. “ Yes, I am considering reducing the need for so much formal office space.” —Sheena Benjamin-Wise, Family Law
9. “I have never had formal office space, and I’m very thankful for that right now. My low overhead is one less thing to worry about during an economic downturn.” —James A. Peterson, Employment Law
Don’t bury your head in the sand. Keep your overhead low and your cash flow as consistent as possible. And you can’t do that if you are not keeping your time accurately and billing on a regular basis.
P.S. You might be wondering about the photo I used. Well, I’m a passionate amateur photographer. And have found an outlet for my passion. I hope you like the photo I took in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.