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How To Make An Attorney Pay Up...


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19 replies to this topic

#1 Say Yebo

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 02:17 PM

A client who is an attorney is 180 days overdue in paying for an 'urgent' web project I had to squeeze in for him last year.

 

I've sent him both email and snail mail reminders to no avail.

 

I'm tempted to replace his home page with a 'temporarily unavailable' notice till he coughs up. But I'm afarid he'll come back with some venomous lawsuit!

 

Anyone had this problem before?

 

Thanks,

Caro



#2 copywriter

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 02:22 PM

I've got a coupon book company right now that owes me almost $2,000 that's 90 days past due, but not a lawyer.  If these guys don't pay soon, I'll send them to collection.  Maybe you could hire a collection company to write a nasty letter. Many of them will do that for a reasonable fee.


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#3 Alan Perkins

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 02:28 PM

Try talking to him first.  Letters and emails are a bit impersonal when you're asking people for money.

 

Following that, it depends what your contract says.  Does your contract state in any way that you may not withdraw the service?

 

Assuming you can withdraw the service, then you still need to follow a legally valid credit control procedure.  Our own credit control procedure contains:

  • Send a letter giving seven further days to pay up or the service will be withdrawn
  • If after seven days payment has not been received, withdraw the service

We're fine with that here in the UK.  You'd need to check your position in the US, especially as the offender is an attorney.  It's highly unlikely that you'd be OK to simply withdraw the service without giving fair written warning that you were going to do so.



#4 Say Yebo

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 03:34 PM

Thanks Alan,

 

Unfortunately we don't have a contract (I know...bad mistake) because the company was owned by a friend of mine when I first did their website 8 years ago. But he's moved on and now I'm dealing with the partner who is avoiding my calls.

 

I figured that if I warned him first that I was taking down his site he might contact his hosting company and block my FTP access, thereby removing any leverage I have.

 

It's not a lot of money...$860. Probably not worth sending to collections, but just enough to annoy me though :)



#5 Alan Perkins

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 04:11 PM

I still think you should try talking to him.  If the call doesn't go well, you can decide how to proceed from there.

 

One thing that could work in your favour ... if he's an attorney, then he may not want his non-payment of your bill to be dragged through the legal system.


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#6 Mikl

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 05:34 AM

I'm tempted to replace his home page with a 'temporarily unavailable' notice till he coughs up.

 

That is one thing  you should definitely not do. It is highly unprofessional, and you risk alienating other clients who might hear about it.

 

In any situation like this, the first thing you should do is to find out why they are not paying. It might be because they are unhappy with the work, in which case you definitely want to about it so that you can put things right. Or it might be that they are simply inefficient. Either way, you need to know before you can decide what action to take.

 

Mike



#7 chrishirst

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:43 AM

That is one thing  you should definitely not do. It is highly unprofessional, and you risk alienating other clients who might hear about it.

 

Why not?????

 

If you don't pay for your hosting on time a "Suspended Account" notice goes up pretty damned quickly. (14 days for our servers)

 

As an 'attorney' the client should KNOW that non-payment of final account IS cause for legal action and/or removal of service, whether contracted or not.

Allowing clients to bully you into simply accepting non-payment is probably MORE damaging to your business, and clients like this one you can very well do without.

 

Unless they have a legitimate reason for not making a final payment, which you should have been informed of BEFORE payment was witheld the client is in the wrong.



#8 Mikl

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:32 PM

Chris, I couldn't agree less. There might be any number of genuine reasons for the client not to have paid. They might have a genuine grievance; it might be a case of poor communication; it might even be a cheque that's gone astray. Taking retaliatory action in those cases is highly unprofessional, and might well rebound on you. At the very least, the client might pay up, but then you will lose them forever as a client, and it won't do your reputation any good either.

 

Much better to talk to the client, and find out why they haven't paid.

 

Mike



#9 Say Yebo

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 02:19 PM

I do know why they haven't paid. They're in a dispute with the partner who left about who is responsible for costs incurred by the split.

 

They feel he should contribute to their website revisions (to remove him from the site), and the cost of printing new stationery etc.

 

The partner who left feels that as he 'lost custody' of a valuable website with a very mature URL, they are responsible for the site now.

 

And I'm the collateral damage.



#10 chrishirst

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 05:14 AM

There might be any number of genuine reasons for the client not to have paid. They might have a genuine grievance; it might be a case of poor communication; it might even be a cheque that's gone astray

Sure if it is a GENUINE grievance with the designer/developer as I said in the last paragraph,  or there are mitigating circumstances that the developer is aware of, fine, and a cheque getting "lost in the post" (which nine times out of ten is bull [img]http://www.highrankings.com/forum/style_images/poo.gif[/img] anyway) is dealt with by cancelling the missing cheque with the bank and re-issuing the payment.

 

But, in light of the additional post, to withold payment because of internal politics is ABSOLUTELY NOT a genuine reason.


Edited by chrishirst, 06 March 2013 - 05:15 AM.

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#11 Mikl

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 06:42 AM

They're in a dispute with the partner who left about who is responsible for costs incurred by the split.

 

Obviously, that's not your problem. Your contract is with the firm, not the individual partners. It's up to the firm to pay you (being attorneys, they surely understand that).

 

Mike


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#12 mcsweer

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:13 AM

I may have unique insight to this problem.  My company works solely with Attorneys and Law Firms we have 200+ clients across the country.  On occasion a client may get in arrears with their billing.  Based on the fact that you have no contract and therefore no enforceable licensing on your work product collecting will be difficult.  Your only strong position is, you can prove payment for services over the past 8 years and if they gave you no formal notice of stopping your services and you can demonstrate that you continued to provide services for the period in question then you should be able to make a case for payment.  

 

Since you are not hosting the site, have only FTP access, and have no end user license agreement you cannot sabotage the site by putting up a blank or coming soon page.  Your only recourse is to cease providing support services.  If they send further support requests, change notices, or updates make them aware that unless the account is brought current they will sit in the queue.  However, these requests then become acknowledgment of their professional support relationship with you and need to be documented.  Also, all work performed directly requested by the client during the period of non-payment needs to be documented.

 

All attorneys and law firms are bound by law to a strict code of ethics that are stridently enforced by their state bar association and in some cases the state supreme court.  They may not fear you taking them to small claims court for $860 but they are extremely afraid of being in violation of the Bar Rules or having a complaint lodged against them with the Bar Association.   

 

If I were in your place I would send the Partner the following:

 

For the past 8 years I have worked diligently to maintain and support your website at www.XXXX.com.  During this period we, as partners in the effort, met our commitments to each other.  Six months ago, without notice, you ceased paying the agreed upon rate for the services provided.  As not notice to cease the services continued to be provided.  Our regular services along with requests from your company to make the changes and/or updates were the following:

  • XXXXXX
  • XXXXXX
  • XXXXXX

The request were executed and the site updated. 

 

I value your business and certainly want to continue providing the best professional services possible, which is why, effective immediately until the account is brought current I will cease all support, and take no action, until the outstanding balance is brought current.  If further refusal to pay occurs I will be force to take action to collect.  Action may include but is not limited to seeking a judgment in small claims court to notifying and lodging a  complaint with the State Bar Association.

 

Unfortunately and only after repeated unanswered attempts contact you about this am I forced to take this action.  Please contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX to resolve this matter today.

 

Regards,

 

XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX

 

 

Get a contract that licenses your work so if payment is not made you can deactivate your work.  If you are fee for service get a guaranteed term and guaranteed form of payment, direct bill to CC or ACH.  If you are a month to month provider stop servicing immediately on the 5 day after billing if payment is not received.  

 

Final Comment,  If you stopped paying this attorney or your retainer was exhausted do you think they would do any free legal work for you, of course not.  Why would you extend more courtesy to them then they would to you?


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#13 torka

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 10:19 AM

You may wish to contact the applicable bar association and see about the possibility of filing a formal complaint. Strange as it may seem, attorneys do have ethical standards they're required to follow, and I'm pretty sure stiffing a service vendor doesn't qualify.

 

You don't have to actually file one -- but be sure to let the attorneys in question know you're planning to do so unless they pay you. They can sort out who owes what to whom on their end at their leisure, but somebody needs to pay YOU now.

 

You could also take them (or at least threaten to take them) to small claims court. It's low-cost and specifically designed for use by non-attorneys, so you wouldn't necessarily be at a disadvantage if it comes to that.

 

--Torka :propeller:



#14 Say Yebo

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:01 PM

Thanks for this great info everyone :)  I'll keep you posted.



#15 Say Yebo

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 11:19 AM

Update on the status of this saga:

 

I sent the attorney a certified letter similar to the one suggested by mcsweer above. I gave him the option of paying immdediately or we would replace his home page with the previous version, leaving it in the state it was prior to the 'unpaid for' project.  We assumed this might encourage him to pay as the old version of the home page has some info on it that I know to be uncomfortable for him.

 

The letter also stated we'd make the problem known to the state bar association, which we have not yet done.

 

He ignored the letter completely, and we've not been paid yet.






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