Avoiding Behaviors That Irritate Clients


Satisfied clients are a critical source of repeat business and referrals for lawyers in private practice.  Sometimes lawyers inadvertently engage in behaviors that irritate clients.  Following these guidelines will help you avoid those behaviors.

Listen.  Highly effective lawyers really listen to their clients.  During the initial interview and throughout the attorney-client relationship, take the time to listen and understand what your client wants to achieve and what your client wants to avoid.

Tailor your advice.  Each client is unique.  An approach that worked well for one client may not be the best approach for another client facing a similar legal problem.  By tailoring your advice to a client’s unique situation, you will build trust with your client and represent the client more effectively.

Be creative.  Avoid using a “cookie cutter” approach in your representation of a client.  Look for creative ways to solve the client’s problem and help achieve the client’s goals.

Communicate.  Keeping your client informed is essential.  Clients are annoyed if they haven’t heard from their lawyer in a while and have to ask how their legal matter is progressing.  Check in with your clients periodically to let them know you’re mindful of their legal matter even when not much is happening.  And always communicate bad news promptly, without being defensive.

Explain legal fees.  Make sure each client understands how legal fees and reimbursable costs will be calculated. Clients will also appreciate having at least a rough idea of how much their legal matter is likely to cost.  As the matter progresses let the client know when developments may cause the total cost to be significantly higher than the original estimate.  Clients like to know how they are spending their money.  They hate surprises.

Manage expectations.  In addition to having a candid discussion about legal fees at the beginning of the attorney-client relationship, it is important to manage your client’s expectations about your availability after business hours and while on vacation.  Also avoid creating unrealistic expectations about the outcome of the client’s legal matter.  While clients like to feel they are being represented by a lawyer who is self-confident, they will quickly become disgruntled with a lawyer who achieves a result far less favorable than what they were led to expect.

By following these guidelines consistently you will be more likely to satisfy your clients.