Client Choice Can Make or Break Your Day – Choose Wisely
Before you begin implementing client based efficiencies, you need to seriously consider which matters your firm chooses to accept. There is a correlation between job satisfaction and client choice. Your clients contribute greatly to your job satisfaction, or lack thereof. Generally speaking, satisfaction comes from the clients you DON’T represent, not from those you do.
The Size of Their Wallet is NOT a Determining Factor
Yes, you want to choose clients that can pay their bill, but that’s why you collect a retainer in the first place. Beyond that, a key benefit of small firm practice is the ability to choose your clients. It should be part of your firm’s culture to accept clients based on the quality of their character rather than the size of their wallet. You and your staff are going to spend a great deal of time with this person throughout the course of their representation, and it should be time well spent.
Consider your current clients – certainly there are some that you enjoy meeting with, and perhaps even look forward to seeing. It’s much more satisfying to help these folks than those clients that make your blood run cold when you hear their name. You know the ones we’re talking about. You see their name flash across caller ID on the phone and you’re reaching for your ready-made list of excuses why you’re unavailable to speak with them.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle is also called the 80/20 rule and it can be applied particularly to client-service based businesses. This economic principle gives you a window into whom to reward or what to fix. For example, if 20% of your clients lead to 80% of the dissatisfaction in your firm, you can identify what constitutes a “problem” client and avoid accepting those clients in the future. If your bright-line criteria is accepting a client based on the money they’re waving under your nose, we’re here to tell you this is not a strategic plan.
In litigation, every client is in distress. Their case is the last thing they think of at night and the first thing they think of in the morning. This isn’t the case for you because you have other clients and cases that require your attention. But, from the client’s perspective, their case is the only case and this leads to them calling during off hours, texting every thought that comes to mind, and generally not understanding that you have a caseload to prioritize. While most clients are understanding, some don’t understand why they aren’t at the top of your list and they become angry when they feel their case isn’t prioritized.
Take off your lawyer hat for a moment. Would you let someone abuse you for an hour every day for $300? Of course not! You’re not a professional punching bag.It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and the desire to defend your client’s rights, but it’s important to step back and evaluate if you’re being treated right. No amount of money validates enduring abuse from a client. These clients bring down your overall enthusiasm for work, which can have negatively effect on your professional and personal life. It’s not worth it to put up with an abusive client, no matter how much money they offer. If you find yourself in a situation where a client is being a drain on the firm, it’s best to walk away. You’re worth more than that.
Put it to the test! Right now, think of your biggest problem client (you know who it is). Call them in, hand them their file, the balance of their retainer, wish them the best of luck, and never look back. You won’t regret it.
Once you’ve honed your client base to those who mesh with your corporate culture, you’ll reignite your passion for practicing law and be ready to implement strategies that nurture and retain those clients by providing the highest quality service that they expect, and deserve.