Practice Tools

Fee Collection and IOLTA - Practice Resource Center


Bryan Sims' guides show you step by step how to maintain client trust accounts using QuickBooks 2012 Professional and GnuCash. They are free to ISBA members.


Five reasons to collect a retainer up front in lieu of getting paid at the closing
By Colleen L. Sahlas, Real Estate Law, April 2011
Avoid risks and take the simple step of collecting a retainer up front.

Look before you leap: A primer on fees allowed when taking over a contingent fee case
By Ronald Kalish, Tort Law, March 2011
Depending on how much time and effort the original attorney has put into the case, you may not receive a sufficient percentage to justify the time and risk of working on the case.

Attorney fees: Avoiding pitfalls to preserve the right of contribution
By Douglas B. Warlick, Family Law, August 2010
Warning: An attorney's bad business decisions may affect his or her ability to recover fees from the opposing party.

The DOs and DON'Ts when seeking fees in probate
By Martin W. Siemer, Elder Law, June 2010
A recent decision handed down by the First District Appellate Court, In re Estate of Bitoy, provides a good review of fee issues in probate estates.

Why it pays to accept credit cards
By Amy Porter, Law Office Management and Economics, June 2010
Why turn away a prospective client who wants to use your law firm's services and has the means to pay promptly?

Awarding attorney fees in fiduciary duty cases
By Lawrence E. Varsek and Roman R. Okrei, Trusts and Estates, March 2010
Illinois courts have made clear that they will enter an award against a person who breaches his fiduciary duty when that person benefits from the breach and causes harm to the party or parties to which they owe a fiduciary duty.

The ethics of fee sharing in tort law cases
By Albert E. Durkin, Tort Law, October 2009

In the field of plaintiff personal injury litigation, a substantial amount of business is received on a referral basis. Tort practitioners commonly are referred cases from fellow lawyers who do not practice in that chosen field.

Don't Be Afraid to Be Paid
By Helen Gunnarsson, Illinois Bar Journal, November 2008
You do good work, after all. But are you sending clients the message you don't really care when - or if - they pay you? Wouldn't you like to create a bill-paying culture among your clientele?

Engagement Letters, Fees and the Dowling Case
By David A. Berek and Fred R. McMorris, Illinois Bar Journal, Estate Planning column, May 2008
The Dowling case discusses fee arrangements and how to describe them in an engagement letter consistent with ethical requirements.

From Here to Retainer Fees
By Helen Gunnarsson, Illinois Bar Journal, December 2007
Learn how to craft retainer agreements to define and clarify the scope of your engagement, why it's important to collect fees up front, and more.

Pure Heart, Commingled Funds
By Karen J. Dilibert, Illinois Bar Journal, April 2005
Commingling your money with your clients' is strictly verboten, even if you never withdraw a penny that isn't yours.

Accepting fee payments by credit card; priceless?
By Helen W. Gunnarsson, Illinois Bar Journal, May 2004
Charging interest on late accounts and accepting fee payments by credit card are a carrot-and-stick approach to getting paid on time.

More Bread, Fewer Claims
By Karen J. Dilibert, Illinois Bar Journal, June 2002
Want to increase your chances of collecting fees while sending clients away happy; or at least not fighting mad?

Taking an Equity Interest in a Client; Is it Worth the Risk?
By Anne E. Thar, Illinois Bar Journal, February 2001
Should you take your fee in the form of stock options in a client company? Before you say "yes," read on.

ISBA Advisory Opinions on Professional Conduct

  • 94-06 Interest charged to client
  • 93-17, 88-15 Payment from client trust account
  • 92-13 Suit to collect
  • 92-09 Securing loan for client
  • 88-04 Deduction of fee from settlement
  • 87-10 Charging interest on delinquent accounts
  • 86-08 Collection of delinquent accounts/using letterhead
  • 722 Non-refundable fees for legal services

Other Resources

Have a suggestion for a practice resource? Please email Mark Mathewson.

These resources are presented as educational resources for for ISBA members. They should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual legal research, and the ISBA does not warrant the accuracy of the information that appears in them.