There isn’t any way around money conversations. The only question is whether it’s a good one or a bad one.
Good doesn’t mean clients like your fees.
They rarely do. Good simply means you’ve explained the fees proposition in a way that doesn’t unrealistically scare them off. They have a choice.
Bad conversations nearly always happen after accounts are received well above estimate and without prior warning.
The feelings are usually anger, betrayal, and (a sometimes disproportionate) lust for retaliation. Bad conversations destroy referrals, demotivate everyone, and usually result in hefty discounts.
Dual conversations greatly reduce bad conversations.
How? Start with opening the practice system prior to a matter-related phone call and see where the WIP, bills, debtors and scope changes are prior to making the call. Develop the habit.
Armed with this information, calmly update the client on matter AND money. This is where we are; this is where we need to go; these are your choices; this is what has been unusual; these are the costs… Look for positive explanations. OF COURSE clients won’t welcome bad news – but they will usually deal with it if thoughtfully presented by someone they trust. And your accounts will be paid…
So when you are talking matter, talk money as well.
It mightn’t be your dream conversation, but it’ll be ten times better than the one you have when the client sees the problem for the first time in the final bill.
Published: Queensland Law Society – Proctor, January 2013 (p.49)