Locums – get paid promptly or else
in Careers Advice, Legal Profession

Locums – get paid promptly or else

When economic circumstances change and markets start to show signs of uncertainty, unease and stunted growth moving forwards, it is really important that locums make a point of being paid on time by the firms they are providing assistance to. This advice also applies to consultants in the same position.

A small minority of solicitors’ firms have a predilection of not paying bills on time and if at all possible getting out of paying anybody, ever. We know this because we have been working with and within the profession for over 20 years. Other businesses we have in other sectors rarely see any need for us to issue letters before action, copious statements, reminders, and eventually (and reluctantly) court proceedings. However, our work with solicitors’ firms can at times end up with all of the above.

Locums take note

This is why when times get hard, it is incredibly important for locums to insist on immediate payment. There are a very small minority of firms out there using locums because they know there is a high chance they can get away without actually paying them at all as they head towards administration, and you don’t know, and neither do we, which firms have future plans to go down that route, cancel all their debts to suppliers, and walk away with just their files to move on to pastures new without any overheads from before.

Prompt invoices

Our advice to locums who are undertaking assignments is to make sure at the end of each week you are paid within three working days of issuing your invoice. Firstly, make sure you actually issue your invoice on time, and do not leave it for weeks or months on end. Our anecdotal evidence is that if you do this, some firms will immediately take the opportunity to question your bills and avoid paying you the full amount. If you submit a weekly bill, you can instantly see whether or not they are going to pay, and if there is an issue you only lose one week’s pay at the absolute maximum.

Secondly, once you have issued your bill properly, make sure it is paid promptly. Do not take any excuse at all under any circumstances for non-payment. The firm who have employed you know exactly what the bill is going to be from the outset, and if they choose not to pay you, then it is highly likely they are going to do it again and again as they will see you as an easy target. So, if you are not paid within three working days, simply stop work for that particular client.

Thirdly, make sure that you take action to recover the money, and when you do threaten action, make sure you go through with it so they know you’re serious. If someone is not paying within the allotted time (which for us is 21 days), then we simply issue a letter before action, give them 14 days to pay if they are a limited company or partnership, and then immediately issue proceedings to recover our money, or a statutory demand depending on our preference with that particular client.

Finally, if a client is not paying, stop work. We have had incidences of locums carrying on working after non-payment because they feel sorry for the firm.. Not recommended, although its perfectly natural to want to help.

Help is at hand

We always give all our locums assistance with their issues with firms and if you are having problems getting paid, please do not hesitate to contact us, as we would be delighted to assist where we can with providing templates for letters before action, assistance with completing any necessary court forms, and also negotiating with firms to encourage swift payment where possible.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.ten-percent.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk