Getting over the guilt of getting paid

Lawyers and getting paidIn almost any industry out there, companies and professionals get paid for the work they do. Whether it be doctors, dentists, accountants, engineers, therapists, chiropractors or any other professional industry, the professional is paid for the work they do. Most do not feel guilt about getting paid for their services, either.

If the professionals were not paid for the work that they did, they could not keep the doors open. They would not be able to pay their employees. The families of the employees would not eat.  They could not pay their student loans.  They would not be able to meet their other obligations.

In most professional industries, professionals do not experience guilt over getting paid. For example:

  • If a doctor performs a surgery, they get paid compensated for their work.
  • If a dentist performs a root cannel, they get compensated for their work.
  • If an accountant does the taxes for somebody, they get compensated for their work.
  •  If a chiropractor works on a patient’s back, they get compensated for doing so.
  • If a therapist does a counseling session, they expect a payment for the session.

But, for whatever reason, there is often a lot of guilt on the part of some lawyers and law firms over getting paid for the work that they do. Some lawyers may charge lower rates than the market really demands for them. Some lawyers might charge lower retainers or deposits than what they could charge. Some lawyers might even give away a lot of their time by not billing for what they do.

Certainly, lawyers should bill their clients in fair manner. It is true as well that lawyers should put together fee agreements that clearly explain to the client what they are being billed for, the rates and  the terms of the representation.

It is also true that once engaged, a lawyers and law firms should take great pride in the work that they do. The work they perform should be competent, communicative and diligent. They should also be zealous advocates for their client.

However, guilt on the part of some lawyers and law firms can result in many lawyers and law firms not doing well. It can result in lawyers spending lots of time on cases in which they are not getting paid. It can result in accounts receivables getting out of hand.

In some instances, it can result in a lawyer or law firm struggling financially. It can result in a lawyer never being able to retire.  But, in other instances, it might result in a lawyer or law firm not being able to meet their financial obligations at all. It can result in lawyer and law firms not being able to pay their bills or keep their doors open. It can also result in law suits or liens related to unpaid debts.

At the end of the day, lawyers and law firms need to bill their clients fairly. They also need to provide zealous representation to their clients. But lawyers and law firms should not feel guilty for billing their clients for the work that they perform. Lawyers and their personnel do need to be compensated for the professional services they provide.

Thus, it is vital to setup a system in a law firm where your firm is paid for the work they perform. Exactly how you do this can vary based on the area of law in which you firm practices and your jurisdiction. It might mean getting deposits and asking that your client maintain the deposit while the case is taking place.

It might mean doing away with the free consultations. Many lawyers and law firms spend countless hours meeting potential clients without any compensation. And most other professional industries, like the medical field, free consultations do not exist.

Regular billing to clients (whether it be monthly or bi-monthly) is often necessary as well. Of course, you also should ensure attorneys know where client balances stand and that they take appropriate action to ensure they are being compensated.

If you setup systems where your law firm is fairly compensated for the work that you do, you can then relieve a lot of the stress and anxiety that comes with running a law firm. You can also then do great things, like contribute to charity, consider some pro bono work for those truly in need or donate your time to teach a legal education seminar (CLE).

But one mentality you need to ensure does not exist within your firm is “guilt” for getting compensated for the good work your lawyers and law firm provides. There is no reason to feel bad about being compensated for the professional services provided.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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