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The Top 10 lessons I’ve learned about managing client expectations

When I started my practice, I focused the majority of my time and effort on learning about law firm management and how to run a small business. I neglected and thought very little about client management. But, just like a business has to be managed, clients also have to be managed.

I believe that many of my problematic clients would not have been so problematic if I implemented a number of client-management strategies throughout the duration of the case. Here are the ten biggest lessons I have learned about managing client expectations that hopefully will help you in your practice.

10. Understand your client’s goals and sought outcomes. Make sure that you and your clients are on the same page about what your client is hoping to accomplish and obtain through your representation.

9. Manage client expectations about likely outcomes. It is tempting to over-promise a client in order to get them to retain your services. You are very likely to have a problematic or unsatisfied client when you are unable to deliver on unlikely results.

8. Educate clients on the process. It is important for clients to understand the process so that they have an idea of where they are in the process as the case proceeds.

7. Manage client expectations about time. Clients often do not know how long their case will take or how long different parts of the process will last. It’s difficult enough for attorneys to know how long a case will take, but providing your best guess so your client has a frame of reference will avoid repeated calls inquiring about why the process is taking so long.

6. Manage client expectations about providing updates. I find it is helpful for clients if they know when to expect to hear from me about an update to their case. Sometimes, a quick call or message that there are no developments and a brief explanation of what you believe the reason is for the delay can ease a client’s concerns.

5. Manage client expectations about returning calls or messages. I let my clients know that I have a 24-hour answering policy. Clients who know my response time are less likely to call repeatedly the same day.

4. Manage client definition of what constitutes an emergency. Many clients have no reservations about contacting their attorney during the evening, weekends and holidays.  To some clients, everything seems like an emergency, even though they are just calling to tell you something that could have waited until the next business day.

3. Manage client expectations about costs. It is important to try to estimate the total cost of how much the client should expect to pay for your services.  I also like to inform my clients when they are close to depleting their retainer.

2. Manage client expectations regarding representation. I have learned to make clear to my clients the scope of the representation and the grounds for which I would terminate the agreement.

1. Make clear your expectations of the client. I expect clients to be honest with me and to cooperate, provide me with the requested discovery and keep their contact information updated.

Generally, the less surprises, the better for both lawyer and client. The more certainties I can provide to my client, the more confident and comfortable they are with my representation.

Do you have any tips that are helpful for client management?