Ask The Get Out of Debt Experts Business Debts

Attorney Wants to Know How to Make Ends Meet as a Patent and Trademark Lawyer. – Lillibet

“Dear Steve,

I am temporarily unlicensed attorney (due to health matters), but have about 30 years experience in patent and trademark law. Throughout my career, I have noticed that few clients are ever willing to pay me for my work, yet are amazed at the results I get. In truth, I don’t bill clients for every billable nanosecond, unlike many of my peers.

Recently, due to being unable to afford the CLE courses, and the fees for licensing in light of health insurance and medicine costs being twice my monthly rent, I have continued to work, and am doing so at the very limits that I am physically able to do so.

I have writing clients that expect their projects to be completed on time, but when they don’t pay me, can’t seem to grasp the fact that when I am unpaid at one task, I must do others that do pay.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

What is the best advice to give clients to have them pay me? I have tried the pre-payment route, and get less than half of what I ask. Then, on completion, I get less than 15% of the remainder.

I have tried working with other attorneys and basically clerking for them, but again they are unwilling to pay anything close to full rate. In fact, attorneys are the worst payers in the business.

Why is it that I am worth so little? And, facing that low value that the world places on my work, how does a person overcome the depression that comes with the low valuation resulting in low self esteem?


Dear Lillibet,

I went and asked a patent and trademark attorney friend your questions. Who better than to get advice on these issue than from a peer.

Here is what he wanted me to share with you.

I would require pre-payment. If they do not pre-pay you, do not do the work. It does you no good to do work that you are not being paid for.

Again, make your terms clear up front and get money up front. Clerking for other attorneys on a consulting basis may not be the best business model for you.

People typically are reluctant to pay attorneys. It is still a profession dominated by pedigree, i.e., which law school you went to, what was your class rank, which Firm do you work for.

You have been practicing long enough that I am sure you have experienced this. My best advice is to articulate the value that you bring to the table and demand payment on the front end. Good luck.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top