Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Contract Attorneys Not Getting Paid

My practice has been incredibly slow the last 3-4 months, so aca0409az03/03/17
Sorry to hear about this. Contract work has developed a bad mrtor03/03/17
Contract work is very dangerous. If you do it for even as mu andyrobny05/04/17
Yes, this stuff happens all the time in small firms. My b patenttrollnj03/03/17
Take a look at your agreement and see if you have a provisio isthisit03/03/17
http://jdunderground.com/all/thread .php?threadId=126163 C triplesix03/03/17
Make sure to include a petty letter to the client. isthisit03/03/17
absolutely not! that's sanctionable dingbat03/03/17
Only a demand for payment in full, it is just business. triplesix03/03/17
Take them to court, then send a copy of the summons to the d dingbat03/03/17
Happens often. Get paid every $1,500 or walk. Don't bother s agentdalecooper03/03/17
I don't see why he/she would need a clearly worded contract; therewillbeblood03/06/17
Welcome to Trump's America. If he does not pay contractors, johnyquest03/03/17
We have a fee arbitration mechanism for fee disputes between jd4hire03/03/17
A prior boss of mine had an arrangement like this with a Ten qdllc03/03/17
I used to work in an office that had contract attorneys that elle30103/03/17
I had an oral agreement with a solo about a year ago and the schopenhauerx9903/04/17
So why not go after them aggressively? Bar complaint, 1099, blinx7703/05/17
im surprised more people arent afraid to stiff contractors. defensivelawyer03/05/17
Why do people keep talking about issuing 1099's? It is the s garfieldfan03/05/17
Because it's the law, that's why. If you pay outside counsel parlance03/05/17
And....if a debt is "forgiven" it is seen as taxable income qdllc03/06/17
But you did it for experience and connections, not for lucre sanka05/04/17

aca0409az (Mar 3, 2017 - 2:06 am)

My practice has been incredibly slow the last 3-4 months, so I started picking up contract work from two solos who happen to be friends (one recommended me to the other). The first month was great. My rate was $125/hr and work was coming in. The work started really pouring in the second month. I billed around 135 hrs. Both guys stiffed me. Flat-out stiffed me. The work was solid and right up my alley. I did not overbill. I even asked if they took issue with my billing. Both answered no. This was all about 6 months ago. Today I received a check from one for $1,500 (out of around $8k). I called the guy and he flat-out told me that's all he could afford. Not even an apology. Anyway, I'm not telling this little story in hopes of sympathy. What I'm really curious about is how often this happens to everyone...

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mrtor (Mar 3, 2017 - 10:07 am)

Sorry to hear about this. Contract work has developed a bad reputation for this very reason. If the hiring attorney has too much business to handle himself, and hasn't brought on additional staff, there is often an underlying financial reason. Furthermore, the perception of contract work is difficult to explain to many clients. The client hired one attorney, but now has to pay another attorney for work they thought "their" attorney was going to do. For those who are not attuned to this side of the practice, it can look a little shady.

In the future, ensure you have an ironclad written contractual agreement before initiating any work for other attorneys. It's not easy to sue another lawyer -- and litigation costs alone will often erase the benefit of any recovery. However, you may be able to resolve future disputes easier if you can demonstrate a clear breach of a written contract and attach a complaint that's ready to be filed.

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andyrobny (May 4, 2017 - 2:32 am)

Contract work is very dangerous. If you do it for even as much as 6 months, you can ruin career prospects, as it isn't viewed by attorneys very well. If you do it for a short period, it probably won't harm you much, but if you did it for a year, you can kiss a legal career goodbye if you limited or no experience elsewhere.

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patenttrollnj (Mar 3, 2017 - 4:32 am)

Yes, this stuff happens all the time in small firms.

My boss stiffs people constantly. He hires a contractor to do some work for him, but then he runs out of money to pay them. So what he does is make-up some artificial provision in the contract, which conveniently was all oral, and says that he won't pay them until he gets paid by the client first. Sadly, they're left with very little recourse at that point.

Incidentally, my boss is the type that never wants anything in writing. Go figure :P

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isthisit (Mar 3, 2017 - 7:00 am)

Take a look at your agreement and see if you have a provision saying something like "you get paid when I get paid" or something along those lines. If not, I imagine you'd sue for breach of contract in civil.

Never done contract work myself but I wouldn't be surprised that this happens.

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triplesix (Mar 3, 2017 - 8:15 am)

http://jdunderground.com/all/thread.php?threadId=126163

Consider 1099ing that deadbeat haha.

The reputation crowd... Start working this thread.

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isthisit (Mar 3, 2017 - 8:39 am)

Make sure to include a petty letter to the client.

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dingbat (Mar 3, 2017 - 8:42 am)

absolutely not! that's sanctionable

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triplesix (Mar 3, 2017 - 9:59 am)

Only a demand for payment in full, it is just business.

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dingbat (Mar 3, 2017 - 8:41 am)

Take them to court, then send a copy of the summons to the disciplinary committee

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agentdalecooper (Mar 3, 2017 - 9:04 am)

Happens often. Get paid every $1,500 or walk. Don't bother suing them unless you have a clearly worded contract and can show you itemized the bill correctly and gave them notice. Otherwise your top 5 Google results will include the order dismiss your case or granting the scumbags SJ.

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therewillbeblood (Mar 6, 2017 - 9:20 am)

I don't see why he/she would need a clearly worded contract; producing the work and sending it without receiving any response objecting to it should be enough, for quantum meruit at least. I am going to presume this guy billed his client for the work, and that is discoverable.

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johnyquest (Mar 3, 2017 - 9:47 am)

Welcome to Trump's America. If he does not pay contractors, why should anyone else?

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jd4hire (Mar 3, 2017 - 10:16 am)

We have a fee arbitration mechanism for fee disputes between attorneys. Maybe your jurisdiction has something similar?

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qdllc (Mar 3, 2017 - 1:10 pm)

A prior boss of mine had an arrangement like this with a Tennessee firm that didn't have Virginia-licensed counsel. We'd bill them and they marked up the bill and passed it to the client. For the most part, it worked, but we did have to wait for the client to pay first.

Now, in one case, we didn't bother with incremental billing and just final billed the file when it closed. The client made their own determination of what the work was worth and cut a check for only that amount...not even covering our original invoice. The contracting firm did right by us and gave us 100% of the fee as we did all of the work.

The lesson we carried from that experience was this....When dealing with a new client, bill no later than once per quarter. If they give any flack about paying the bill...drop them as a client for nonpayment.

It wasn't a huge sum of money in this case, and that's why we just waited for the file to close before we billed on it.

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elle301 (Mar 3, 2017 - 9:13 pm)

I used to work in an office that had contract attorneys that got paid for their time when the client for which they were doing work paid the firm. So, if the client didn't pay (and you know, that NEVER happens...) the contract attorney didn't get paid. Not surprisingly, my boss had the same approach to paying his regular employees, and when I hadn't gotten a paycheck in 2 months I decided it was time to move on.

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schopenhauerx99 (Mar 4, 2017 - 9:46 am)

I had an oral agreement with a solo about a year ago and they never paid up (they owe over a thousand dollars). I was going to take them to court, but I probably would only have recovered a fraction of what I earned. Only do K work for people you know and trust.

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blinx77 (Mar 5, 2017 - 3:29 pm)

So why not go after them aggressively? Bar complaint, 1099, bad yelp reviews, whatever. Is there a reputational risk for a lawyer to not put up with getting stiffed by another lawyer?

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defensivelawyer (Mar 5, 2017 - 3:50 pm)

im surprised more people arent afraid to stiff contractors. ive seen some truly scary things happen in some criminal cases from guys getting stiffed. i would never stiff anyone for that reason.

thankfully youre sane. but how do these guys know for sure you will not turn their lives into a living hell?

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garfieldfan (Mar 5, 2017 - 4:08 pm)

Why do people keep talking about issuing 1099's? It is the stupidest thing ever.

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parlance (Mar 5, 2017 - 8:56 pm)

Because it's the law, that's why. If you pay outside counsel $600 or more over the course of a year, you are required to issue him or her a 1099. It's not an option. It's not a nicety. It's the law.

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qdllc (Mar 6, 2017 - 7:40 am)

And....if a debt is "forgiven" it is seen as taxable income by the IRS.

So, if you don't get paid and "write off" the bill, it's income to the party who didn't pay.

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sanka (May 4, 2017 - 6:24 pm)

But you did it for experience and connections, not for lucre, right?

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