Do you include a cover letter when you send out your monthly legal bills? Most of you do, I suspect. In my previous life as an in-house lawyer for more than a dozen years, I reviewed more outside legal bills than I care to remember. Certain things stick out.
The more important portion of legal bills, of course, are the page with the "almighty" time entries and descriptions. However, I also clearly remember the attached cover letter. They all said the same thing: "Enclosed, please find." What a waste of a valuable opportunity.
Personalize Your Cover Letter
Consider sending out your legal bills with a personalized cover letter. Now, before you start whining about yet another "soft skill" client service suggestion that seems on its surface to be a complete waste of time, please hear me out. You will soon see that this is time well spent.
Communicate Your Value in Your Cover Letter
The first reason for a personalized cover letter is to communicate to your client the value that you have provided during the past 30 days.
Clients don't open bills thinking, "I can't wait to pay my lawyers for all of the hard work they have done this past month." In reality, a client perusing the time entries is more likely to think, "They spent five hours doing that? What's that all about?"
In isolation, time entries/descriptions never scream value. Instead, they communicate tasks, usually with very little context. Sure, you spent two hours reviewing discovery documents or six hours preparing for the deposition of the plaintiff or four hours drafting and revising the purchase agreement — but what did you accomplish? Mere numbers show that you spent time working on behalf of your client, but nothing about how that time furthered the client's objectives. Why not directly tell them in a cover letter?
Make It Easy
Yes, I know that some of your clients can connect the dots from the entries and understand what you are trying to accomplish. But if your time-entry sheets run multiple pages, the way that some of the litigation files that I used to manage did, I know that I would have appreciated a concise summary of what was done — and why it was done.
Drafting a cover letter should not be a time consuming exercise. We are talking about a paragraph, two at most. You've just enclosed a bill asking to be paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for your hard work. You can spare five minutes per client each month to explain why your work was worth it. If you are fortunate enough to be mailing dozens of bills per month, you can provide the cover letter for your top 5-10 clients. Surely, you have time for that.
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