Editor’s note: Jeff Allen has heard every employer excuse you can imagine for not paying up — and dozens more that defy imagination. A few years ago he began documenting them in a weekly collections column. Because of the importance of collections, Fordyce will periodically reprise the most common situations he addressed. The complete collection is here.
What Client Says:
The fee schedule wasn’t received.
How Client Pays:
You’ve probably wondered where all those undelivered emails and letters with fee schedules went.
They’re safely preserved in the employer lawyer’s office. And they’re cloaked (protected) with the attorney-client privilege. (I used to say, “There are more unsigned fee schedules in the dead-letter office than letters to Santa Claus.” Now it’s the spam file. Either way, it’s DOA!)
The variations on denying receipt of a fee schedule are infinite. There is simply no way to prove receipt of the actual document or electronic transmission without either:
- A signature from the client, or
- A reply that unequivocally, unconditionally, and unambiguously agrees to the terms.
Don’t tell me (or any judge) that “acceptance of referrals” renders the client liable. What client? Can you prove this “client” knew of that term?
If the search is worth doing, it’s worth a documented fee agreement. Agreement, not disputed transmission.
Get it, and you’ll get paid!