Some years ago I went off on a cruise and took the opportunity to have some renovations done at my house while I was away. George did a great job on the drywall, but when he sent me the invoice, he made one tiny little mistake. Instead of giving me the invoice for the construction work, he sent me an invoice for his “other business” which, unbeknownst to me, was producing racy videos. He was quite embarrassed when I asked him what a “panty teaser” was and what it had to do with my ceiling. I never did find out whether my house was the setting for his cinematographic masterpiece.
Now that I live in the country, I pay a company to put my dock in the water in the spring and take it out in the fall. I just got the bill which was $50.00 higher than I was told it that it would be. Apparently, the price of fuel and labour has gone up and that has become my problem. I would not have blinked at the increase had I not been quoted a lower amount. But annoyed as I was, I took the time to calculate the percentage increase and complain about it.
An older and wiser lawyer once taught me that clients may not read the documents that you send them in detail, but that there are two things that they will always notice. One is whether you spelled their name correctly. The other are the dollar amounts. Both of those appear in invoices.
There is nothing that you can do to aggravate your clients more than to neglect to read and think about your bills before you send them out.
If you’re going to charge your clients for assembling precedents, don’t docket it as, “asked associate for precedent for rollover agreement.” For God’s sake lump it into “drafting agreement” in your account.
If you are going to charge for meeting with another lawyer, don’t describe it as “office conference with Partner”. Doesn’t “consulting with Partner to obtain input on application of the election under Section 24(3) of the Business Corporations Act to rollover transaction” sound better?
And of course it goes without saying that you have to check the estimate that you gave before sending out an account and think about whether the bill represents value to the client.
New lawyers are often confused about business development. Job one is not ticking off the clients that you already have.