12.12 Effective Billing Practices
As mentioned above, you should explain your fee structure and billing requirements to your client at the outset. These terms should be confirmed in writing, preferably in a comprehensive retainer agreement made before you begin work on the file. You should provide to the client in writing, before or shortly after the retainer commences, as much information as is reasonable and practical in the circumstances, including information on the basis on which fees will be charged, disbursements, and interest: see Code of Conduct Rule 3.6-1, Commentary 2.
Statements of Account should be clear and easy for the client to understand. Rule 10.2(3) of the Alberta Rules of Court states that a lawyer’s statement of account must contain a reasonable description of the services performed, show the fee for that service, and set out separately the details of any other charges, including disbursements.
Bill promptly and regularly. Do not let overdue bills slide. Billing regularly keeps the client apprised of the work you are doing and what that work costs, in addition to preventing the client from being surprised by a large bill further down the road. It also allows you to keep track of how often and when they are or are not paying their bills, and helps to prevent a situation in which you are not paid for a large amount of work on the file.
Subject to the rules regarding withdrawing services, if required, suspend further work on files when fees are not being paid. Before doing so, ensure you are not prejudicing the client, for example with respect to an impending court date. Be certain to explain to the client that you are suspending work and the reason for doing so. Document these communications.
If you would like more information on this topic, here are a few additional resources: