Tales about clients from hell abound. Visit any lawyer listserve and you’ll encounter weekly threads populated with complaints about crazy clients or advice on how to fire them. Bad clients aren’t exclusive to the legal profession either – doctors deal with them and one designer even set up a Clients from Hell website dedicated to them.
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the horror stories, not to mention the shared sense of camaraderie that they breed, as much as anyone. But aside from the cathartic benefit for the lawyer, client-from-hell stories aren’t all that useful in changing behavior. After all, many clients from hell either don’t recognize themselves in the story – or don’t understand why certain conduct may be counter-productive.
So I’m posing the question to all of you: what makes a great client? Naturally, we all agree that timely payment ranks high – but what are other characteristics? Is it someone who compliments your work and refers others to you? Follows your instructions? Does tech savvy matter? Some of the characteristics are subjective – I like clients who are engaged, have done their own research and come with questions, while other lawyers would prefer those without preconceived ideas who simply listen. Are there some characteristics that are so important that you’d be willing to sacrifice others – for example, a client who pays generously and on time, but treats staff rudely? And finally this – do service providers – like lawyers or doctors – make better or worse clients? Share your thoughts below.