One area that always seems to be a hotbed for malpractice suits is client billing. It’s difficult enough when the client is within your jurisdiction – and it only becomes more complex when you bill clients across the globe. For instance, if the client speaks a foreign language, then your bill should have a foreign language translation that clearly outlines all services, fees and charges. You should also become familiar with customary billing practice of the country your client lives in – which may require a foreign language translation of local laws and codes of ethics. For example, in many countries hourly billing is viewed as highly suspect.
The solution is often a mixture of creative billing strategies tailored to keep your international clients satisfied. Here are some ideas:
- Contingent Fees: Although very popular in the US, often times they are illegal, or highly restricted, in foreign jurisdictions. The key here is to understand the local rules and regulations and to ensure the client comprehends the contingency fee terms. To do this, you should suggest the client obtain an independent foreign language translation.
- Sharing Risk of Future Income Streams: This system means the attorney shares some risk, with the bulk of their fees coming from a positive result for the client. This is popular in corporate transactions where the attorney works on a project that – if successful – will serve as an income stream for the company. If the company succeeds, the attorney gets a share of the profits.
- Fixed Fees: If using fixed fees, the services to be provided should be clearly agreed to prior to entering into a contract.