The human element of lawyering means that sometimes we will encounter clients that are not right for us and our practices. Working with the wrong client makes everything more difficult; though you still provide excellent service and work quality, the case itself becomes draining.
The wrong clients tax resources. The story is the same every time:frustration, stress, and a constant feeling of “I’m not getting paid enough for this.” Our jobs already require high levels of emotional resources to cope with the sad and difficult stories we hear on a regular basis and the wrong client forces us to expel our emotions in ways that are unnecessary.
How do you manage the wrong clients? The secret is to figure out who the wrong client is before he ever steps foot in your office.
Though ideally we would notice in the consultation that the client simply isn't right for us, that usually does not happen. Once we start the consult the human element comes into play. As an advocate deeply committed to the cause, an unlikeable client with a compelling case makes it hard to say “no.” Other times financial pressure or concerns cause us to take a case we wouldn't otherwise accept.
This is why it is important to have a plan before the consultation starts. You need to take a hard look at your current caseload and determine if there are any “pain spots,” meaning clients or case types that drain you and/or your firm of resources.
Let me explain:
I was recently reviewing my caseload and planning for the new year when I realized that there was a small fraction of clients who qualify for a certain type of case who were causing me the greatest amount of stress and distress. Almost every client in this small fraction of cases was difficult. These were the clients who were constantly questioning case my work and whether I was doing the job properly. They were also disproportionately less forthcoming with evidence and more difficult to get the right documents from in order to make a strong case. Every step felt like a battle.
When I looked at my cases neutrally, I realized that this certain type of client comprised less than 5% of my business yet caused about 90% of the stress. The extreme disproportion made me realize that it wasn't worth it to take those cases anymore.
I called a team meeting to discuss it. Every member of the firm agreed that our resources were being drained by this particular type of client. We all agreed that it would be best not to accept cases which would involve those particular clients. Now we have processes in place to screen for those wrong cases.
(If you have already accepted the wrong case, don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Check out our article called “Dealing with Difficult Clients.”)
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help identify what types of clients and cases are wrong for you and your practice:
- is there a type of case that stresses you out more than any other case?
- What is it about that case type that you don't like? Is it the legal issue? The type of client that is involved? The way that the opposing party handles that type of case?
- What percentage of your case load involves case types you don't like?
- What type of case typically attracts difficult clients? What percentage of your case load involves those cases?
Getting honest about your case load allows you to provide the best service and experience to the right clients for you and your firm.
Need more help determining who is the right client for you? Check out our Amiga Doc, the Ideal Client Profile, which will help you make more money and make your practice more meaningful.
What tips do you have to prevent taking on the wrong cases?
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.