CHOOSING CLIENTS WISELY
Most client problems can be avoided by taking the time to choose
clients more carefully. Despite what you may think, it is okay to say
"No" to a potential client.
Client Selection Procedures
Regardless of the size of your practice, there should be client
acceptance procedures. (Anyone walking upright is not a criteria for
accepting a client.)
Being a more positive person than most, I suggest that you start with a
description of the type of clients that you do want. Look at your current
client base and determine which clients you enjoyed working with and which
treated you with respect. While clients who pay their bills on time are
important there are other considerations when evaluating the client.
Some clients should be avoided and everyone in your office needs to
know what type of clients to avoid. If you have associates or partners or
even staff who bring in clients, it is important to discuss the types of
clients that should be avoided. If you are a solo, then you alone should
have the final say about who is and who is not accepted as a client of the
firm. If you have partner(s) you should have some criteria for clients and
there should be an approval process for clients.
You should have a checklist of characteristics that list your ideal
client and characteristics of clients that should be avoided. When
evaluating whether to take a client, go through the list to help you make
In the book, How to Build a Personal Injury Practice, ABA, 1997,
K. William Gibson lists some types of clients that should be avoided:
Late comers - Clients who show up right before the deadline. Don’t be
Revenge Seekers - Beware of clients who are looking for a pound of
flesh. They may not be happy until they have some of yours.
Cash Cows - Do not trust a relationship if a potential client promises
you future lucrative business.
Shoppers - These clients can probably never be pleased. Their last
attorneys could not please them so there is no reason to think you will.
Commanders - There can only be one attorney directing the case - YOU
Dreamers - These are clients who have unrealistic expectations about
the value or outcome of their case. It is your job to explain what the law
can and cannot do. If they still have unrealistic expectations, this is
not your client.
Bargain hunters - Be wary of clients who dicker over all fees and
Poison Apples - Unless your client can get along with all your staff,
you may not want to spend a lot of time working with this person.
No Shows - If a client misses the first meeting, do not consider a
second meeting. This person will not value your time.
If you choose to not accept a client, then you should send a
non-engagement letter and keep copies of these letters in a separate file
on your computer in a file called "non-engagement". If you are
uncomfortable with the client or if there are statute of limitations
concerns, you should send the letter "return receipt requested."