Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Reality check- Are your clients on their best behavior?

Client selection is one of the most important drivers of practice profitability. The obvious connection is with a client's ability and willingness to pay, but there are also behavioral factors that can make a client less attractive. These relate to the amount of time a client can consume, and the amount of your energy. If you've ever seen a client's name come up on caller ID and reacted with something like "not again, do I have to answer this?", you know what I mean.

Lawyers work with clients who are going through emotional issues; some of them are bound to be on their worst behavior. Here are some things to look out for:
  • Clients who seem to see you as their new best friend, someone to confide in, complain to, and connect with constantly

  • Clients who don't respond to your requests timely or completely, who require a lot of monitoring and follow-up

  • Clients who create "stories" or excuses, and don't acknowledge responsibility

  • Clients who are just plain stubborn or unpleasant to deal with, ones that "push your buttons" in some way

  • Clients who are rude to your staff
Even if your practice is not full, get into the habit of evaluating prospects based not only on their situation and ability to pay, but on their behavior. Once you accept a problem client, it is difficult to disengage.

Pre-screening is the most effective way to ensure that all of your clients are ones you enjoy working with. Block time on your calendar this month and review your client base. Can you learn anything that will help you avoid problems going forward? Are there clients you want to plan to let go?

Life is short. Working with clients you don't like, or clients that use up more time and energy than they warrant, is optional. Start work to optimize your client base and soon, you'll have more time and energy for the kinds of clients you love to serve.