No one likes a difficult legal client, but we’ve all had to work with one at some point or another. Maybe they’re extra demanding or have unrealistic expectations of what your firm can do for them. Or maybe they don’t provide you with the time or information you need to complete your work. But before throw in the towel on a client relationship or let it ruin your workdays for the foreseeable future, it’s in your firm’s best interest to try making it work. The client may never be your favorite, but a few simple actions can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your professional relationship:
Explain how and why you’re taking a specific course of action
Sometimes legal clients feel overwhelmed by jargon and details they don’t understand. In these cases, a simple effort to help the client understand the logic and legal foundation behind your work can transform the attorney-client relationship. Avoid talking down to your client, but take the time to offer a clear explanation of why you are approaching their case the way you are. If the client has feedback, listen attentively and respond to their concerns. A lot of the time clients are stressed by being involved in legal matters, and not understanding the process or having no control over the situation can lead to a short temper. Truly listening to your client’s concerns and making them feel heard can pacify them enough to help ease the tension.
Offer to meet in person or over the phone instead of talking via email
Often, an in-person meeting can diffuse some tension, especially if a client is confused by your actions or feels that you are not giving them enough attention. An in-person meeting is also a great time to go over complicated paperwork and make sure the client feels that they have a secure grasp on what is happening and why, as well as the timeline of their matter.
Acknowledge why they’re feeling frustrated and offer what you can to fix the situation
A cranky client’s frustration may not have anything to do with you, but you are still there to help them through a complex legal matter. Let the client know that you understand they are unhappy and ask what you can do to help. The simple act of acknowledging their problems and making an effort to contribute to the solution may make a difference in how the client thinks of your firm, even if some problems remain.
Managing client relationships can be a difficult part of your job, but they’re incredibly important to the reputation of your small law firm. Before communication goes sour, make sure to address client needs, explain your processes and give them enough face time. Taking these steps can likely patch up any problems you may have and help prevent any further ones from forming.