Clients can be demanding and will sometimes have expectations that will be unreasonable. Unmet expectations, even if they are totally unreasonable, are a recipe for unhappy clients. Setting and controlling client expectations is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you have a happy and satisfied client at each stage and the conclusion of a matter. Follow these resolutions to better set and control your clients’ expectations:
- I will carefully explain how the matter will proceed: While you may have handled a particular type of matter hundreds of times before, remember that your client is going through it for the first time. Make sure the client understands the process and steps that will occur as the matter proceeds.
- I will avoid legal jargon when explaining things to my clients: Don’t use legal jargon when explaining things to clients as it may confuse them.
- I will give the client a realistic indication of how long the matter will take: Clients will want their matter resolved as quickly as possible. Give them a true indication of how long the matter will take, and highlight any issues that might arise and delay a resolution of the matter.
- I will provide the client with a full picture of all costs and disbursements: Clients don’t want to spend money on legal fees and they will want to keep fees as low as possible. If you quote a range of fees they will remember the lower number. Give your clients a clear explanation of all fees and disbursements that they will or might incur. Be honest here – don’t quote a lower cost to please them. In the litigation context you should include a warning that they could be responsible for paying the fees of the opposing party.
- I will clearly explain to the client all possible outcomes or results: Clients always want a positive outcome to their matter. Unfortunately, not every client will get what they want. Make sure your clients have a clear appreciation of all possible outcomes, including negative or unpleasant ones.
- I will answer all my clients’ questions to their satisfaction: Carefully listen to and address any questions your clients ask. Do the questions indicate that they don’t understand something or that there could be another relevant issue you need to give advice on? Confirm the above information and advice in writing: In a personal meeting or phone call, unsophisticated and stressed clients who have worries and financial concerns may struggle to listen and understand what you are telling them. To avoid any possible confusion, confirm important discussions and advice in writing.
- I will immediately highlight for clients any unexpected changes that arise: Unexpected things can happen through the course of handling any matter. If something happens that will change the process, timing, costs or outcome of a matter, make sure the client is immediately made aware of the change and why it happened. Confirm this advice in writing.
These resolutions were taken from "New Year's resolutions for a better practice and a new you" which can be found in the December edition of LAWPRO Magazine.