How to Annoy (Or Lose) a Client in 7 Easy Steps

Should you find yourself with a surplus of clients, the following tips may be of some assistance.

  1. Speak only in legalese. Make a point of using Latin terms and providing complex answers to simple questions from clients. Above all, avoid plain language and clarity in your communications.
  2. Keep your clients in the dark. Don’t send regular updates or otherwise inform them of what you are doing on their behalf.
  3. Never focus your attention on what your clients are saying to you. Take calls, read emails on your Blackberry and check your watch during face-to-face client meetings.
  4. Raise your rates without explanation and always charge for every second. Be sure to express outrage if questioned about a bill.
  5. Don’t return calls or respond to emails within a reasonable period of time. They’ll call again; may as well wait for the next message.
  6. Ignore your clients’ priorities and deadlines. Give preference to what will work best for you.
  7. Resist implementing technological advances that would save your clients time and money. Boast about your “Luddite” status.

Strict application of these tips will ensure that you never have too many clients.

On the other hand, you may still be quite busy defending yourself against disciplinary charges or professional negligence claims. (Bonus Tip! When dealing with your insurance defence counsel or law society discipline counsel, try to avoid tips #3, 5 and 6 in particular.)

Adapted from the article of the same title, originally published in the Winter 2010 issue of Loss Prevention Bulletin published by Canadian Lawyers Insurance Association.


  1. You can’t be serious.

  2. Dave,
    Yes, this is posted with tongue-in-cheek. Sadly, however, these are just the sort of issues that often result in client complaints to law societies and lead to professional negligence claims.

  3. Ms. Dyck,

    I’ll take your word that you meant your post tongue-in-cheek. After all, that approach would explain at least some of the other posts in the marketing and practice of law sections that I, mistakenly, assumed were meant as advice to be followed because the indications otherwise were too subtle for my aging senses. I am, after all, more than 36.


  4. I didn’t read this as tongue-in-cheek, but one does have to look at both the title (how to lose clients – not the usual lawyer’s goal) and the conclusion of the article (if you follow this advice, you won’t have too many clients). That seems pretty clear to me. One could debate whether the points are right – most of them seem plausible.

  5. Karen:

    Thanks for the laugh, Karen.

  6. I must take significant issue with point number 7. Far too much time and effort is spent by marketers trying to persuade lawyers that they must have the shiniest new toys and technology so that clients can always be in touch with them via e-mail or skype or social media, ignoring the fact that a great deal of communication by these means may be much less secure or private than face-to-face or ordinary telephone conversation. I don’t care if it is cheaper or more convenient for a client to send me critically-important documents via Dropbox or as e-mail attachments which could, through simple human error, end up in the hands of someone who might be willing to publicize or hand this information to opposing counsel. Even with ethics rules that suggest that a party cannot use privileged information accidentally disclosed to them, some documents might be so damning that, once read, the damage to a case cannot be undone. It is far easier to inadvertently tell everyone on your e-mail contact list the state of a client’s financial affairs, say, than it is to accidentally publicly disclose this information when dealing with said client face-to-face. Some information should be shared only in person or by secure mail. If a client wants sensitive information transmitted by unsecure means, they are not likely to remain clients. My yellow legal pad filled with notes has never had its battery run out, been unable to connect to the internet or inadvertently arrested itself in court. As a client, I would be willing to pay a few dollars more to ensure that I don’t end up in a courtroom with a hapless lawyer plaintively pleading with the judge to stop trial halfway through because his iProduct stopped working. Trust me: neither your client your His or Her Honour is likely to be impressed when you try to explain this away as the cost of saving a few pennies in the name of not being a “Luddite”.

    Dedication and quality of work determine whether technology use serves clients or distracts lawyers from doing their job properly. A “Luddite” with a good reputation beats the heck out of a hack with the first generation of every new gadget and 17 different ways to contact him or her on social media. Any client who won’t hire me because I won’t discuss trial strategy on Facebook is one less potential future malpractice claim for me to deal with.

  7. @Nigel – we get it – you’re a proud luddite. But its a bit of a stretch to say that because a lawyer makes themselves accessible via technology that they’re looking down the barrel of a malpractice suit. Yes I agree that if you run a trial based purely on the battery life of your Ipad you would be an idiot of the same calibre as turning up without your notepad. It’s been known to happen! The key word here is idiot not technology. I’m sure Her Honour will be pleased with the efficiency of counsel finding their precedents in a few nanoseconds rather than waiting for them to flip through a dozen hand scrawled pages. Technology, in the right hands, drives efficiency. Restricting legal advice to in-person meetings and registered post is not only unrealistic and uneconomic, it perpetuates client fears that (some) lawyers want to remain gatekeepers of the law and don’t need to embrace new efficiencies or the accompanying obligation to charge less.