Your Total Fee Is Totally Due (If Your Fee Schedule Is Totally Clear)

Article main image
Apr 28, 2014

Dear Jeff,

Love your column, Jeff’s on Call! Really benefited from the advice and your column!

Our company is a headhunting company based in the Netherlands, which works globally in placing lawyers with high end firms. I am the owner; been doing this for seven years.

My candidate received an offer by my client. She has accepted it and will start with company within two months. Now, she will be working 36 hours per week in the beginning, and that may elope to 40 hours as is stipulated in the contract.

Discussion with client: They only want to pay fee based on 36 hrs because she will be working that. The GT&C, to which they agreed by email, clearly states that the fee is based on the gross income of candidate on a full-time basis. So I am in my right, and told them so. They will study the GT&C. However I think they will stick to their point of view. The discussion if I follow their point of view will cost me 1500 euro. Legally I know I am right, but do not want to lose client. Can you advise?

Kind regards,

Name Withheld


Jeff Responds


. . . and we love helping you!  In the Netherlands and everyland.

 (Note:  By GT&C, our writer means general terms and conditions – the fee schedule.)

In the United States, employers are now avoiding the Obamacare employer mandate [The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 26 USC 4980H(4)(A), et seq.], by hiring candidates to work under 30 hours per week. Therefore, downward fee pressure is being felt by recruiters throughout the world.

If your fee schedule is unambiguous as to liability for a full fee, there’s no contractual basis whatsoever to reduce the fee.

Is there a “practical basis”?  No. Compromising your fee compromises more than just the amount.

It also:

  1. Compromises Y-O-U.  It exudes weakness, indecisiveness and helplessness.
  2. Compromises that precious “client relationship” you’ve been kidding yourself that you had. The employer knows it can bully you effectively again.
  3. Compromises any other recruiter who deals with that employer  The power of “practicing” a skilled profession is gone.
  4. Compromises the entire industry. Bullies love to brag.

Totally Don’t Compromise

You need to eat. I totally get that. I totally got that when I was a new grad struggling to support a new family, still trying to totally understand how the phone system worked. But I totally understood how the cash register worked, too. Because I totally got that, totally giving my total meant totally totaling anyone who tried to total loved ones who totally depended on me for support. “Reputation,” “professional relationship,” and “keeping the client”? Totally ignored. Hand-wringing? I don’t think so.

I wasn’t obnoxious about it, and I didn’t have to say or do anything. It was just the way it was, because I cleared the fee up front, cleared the air up front, and cleared who was doing what up front — totally at my expense until payday.

So I totally got paid. When payday arrived.

My only mantra – totally from search assignment to placement — was some written variation of:


Or conversely:


The best way to get over this inferiority complex is to have two items blocking your view of the skyline:

  1. Your favorite photos of you and your loved ones (including pets). One of you alone doesn’t usually work.
  2. A reprint of “Why High Billers Are ‘Why’ Billers.”

It originally appeared on the front page of the August 2011 issue of The Fordyce Letter, and has become the most popular non-legal article I’ve ever written.

Get ‘Why Billers”

We’ve received tons of requests for reprints of that article, and you deserve to have it as a reminder of your calling.

To get a reprint:

  • Say, “Sky-High Billings!”
  • Go to
  • Click the red JEFF’S ON CALL! button.
  • Type “Reprint of Why Biller Article” in the subject field.
  • Click Send.
  • Return here.

I’ll reply with the article.

Once you’re a “why biller,” you won’t have many fee collection problems. Employers will be grateful clients who’ll pay you because they know you’re the best. You won’t say, you’ll convey.

But if you’re not there yet,

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Placement Fee Collection Quiz button in the middle of the bottom row.
  3. Take the PFCQ.
  4. Click the Placement Law Language Quiz button next on the bottom row.
  5. Take the PLLQ.
  6. Click the Answers to Placement Law Quizzes at the end of the bottom row.
  7. Grade yourself on the PFCQ and PLLQ.
  8. Return here.

When I passed the bar exam, I asked my very-wise lawyer-father how everyone would know I was a lawyer. He said, “They’ll know, son. They’ll know. They’ll know by the way you look, walk and talk.” They did. No games.  That’s you.

Phil Ross, the first finders’ funnyman, instructed us a half-century ago to, “Strut like a peacock!” What a wonderful trainer who totally got it. I’d run up to him with some complicated employer fee avoidance, and he’d quip “Doncha just love it!”

May you NEVER compromise a well-earned, full, total fee.

Thanks for the inquiry!

Best always.


Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!