How can you avoid taking a bad client into your practice? The first place to look for warning signs is in your intake process. Warning signs that the prospect might be trouble from a financial point of view are the easiest to spot. Here are some red flags:
- His first question is "how much is this going to cost me?"
- He tells you that he knows another lawyer who is cheaper.
- He protests about paying the consultation fee or a retainer, or he wants you to discount your fees.
- He's switching from another attorney who has been working on the same matter.
- He was referred by a client who is a "bad" client, or a referral source that has a habit of "dumping" clients on you.
Then there's the personality side of the equation:
- He's unreasonable, demanding your immediate attention from the first interaction.
- He wants you to guarantee a result.
- He isn't taking any responsibility for the situation, although it seems clear he should.
- He just doesn't seem to like lawyers.
- His goal seems to be revenge.
- He can't agree to the facts, even though they are not in question.
And, some behaviors to notice:
- He is late and often unprepared.
- His voicemail or email box is full.
- He doesn't return messages.
- He calls constantly.
All of these are observations that you can add to the bottom line- which is that when your gut says a prospect is trouble, listen to your gut! I can't tell you how many "horrible client" stories start or end with- "I KNEW I shouldn't take him."
Use an intake process and make notes. If you are someone who has a list full of clients you wish you could get rid of- well, that's a different story, about how to fire a client. However, what you CAN do is keep your process up to date and pay attention to the signs that a prospect might not make a good client.
Because life is too dang short to put up with lousy clients.