There is no admonition more important than “choose your clients wisely."
Good clients make good law practices. Bad clients will bring you down – both literally and figuratively.
Typically we are lectured – by our malpractice carriers and others – on what sorts of clients to avoid. We are given a profile of high-risk clients and red flags that signal their approach.
Less often are we given positive instruction on what types of clients will bring a smile to our face. Following, these are some indicators of clients you would love to represent.
- They show up for their appointment. Even better, they arrive ten minutes early and have time to complete your Client Intake Form and other preliminary paperwork.
- They call if they can’t make it. They have a good excuse for not being able to come in as scheduled, and they want to set a new appointment without delay.
- They don’t bring lunch and eat it in the waiting room. If they do, it isn’t food that contains onions, garlic or vinegar.
- They don’t come with pets. Unless the pet has something to do with the case.
- They are unarmed. Meaning firearms or other weapons.
- They don’t bring a tape recorder to tape the interview. Although you encourage them to take notes, and you have handouts for them to take home.
- They listen. You will encourage them to explain why they are there and what they want you to do, and then they will listen while you let them know if you can help them.
- They ask questions. If unclear on anything you have said, they do not hesitate to seek clarification. They understand that the only dumb question is the one not asked.
- They say please and thank you. Manners make a difference.
- They are interested in your opinion as to the merits of their case and the best strategy. They do not arrive with fixed views and closed minds.
- They pay their fee. And they don’t ask you to wait a week before depositing the check.
- They stay in touch. After the initial interview they remain in contact with you as the case progresses. They do not vanish without a trace. But not so much contact that they become stalkers.
- They have done their homework. But they have not done your legal research for you, and do not come in with reams of printouts of Internet cases just like theirs where people won millions of dollars.
- They come prepared. They bring in the necessary documents and information. They might come with photographs or medical records. They work with you on their case. They understand the nature of teamwork.
- They are agreeable. They do not argue with you. If disagreements do arise, they are discussed and resolved, and then you move on with the case.
- They are open to alternatives. When you discuss the possibility of mediation, arbitration or settlement, they listen with interest. They want to know the advantages and disadvantages of each option. They value your opinion on how to proceed.
- They understand Rome was not built in a day. They would rather have their case handled competently than quickly. They know the definition of words like deliberate, caution and prudence.
- They are forgiving. Not everything goes right in every case. Good clients expect honest effort and candor, not perfection.
- They come back for more. Repeat business is the best evidence of satisfied customers.
- They refer you to friends and neighbors. They value your service and are appreciative. They have no hesitation in recommending you to others.
Ernest (Jay) Reeves Jr. is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. He has practiced in both states and was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He writes the Risk Man column of practice pointers and risk management tips. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 919-619-2441.