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Solo & Small Law Firms

What Makes A Great Client?

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shutterstock_117278152Tales 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.

Good and Evil photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
  • My best clients are those that listen but do so actively. I often learn something from the client when I am discussing a particular case and they are engaged.

    I also like those that speak well of me when they have the opportunity. Those that do so tend to stay clients and try to stay out of trouble with my help. I would rather have several long term clients than several huge litigation cases.

  • The best client says “thank-you” often and pays your fees promptly. 🙂

  • Mary Neal

    I practice immigration law. The best clients take a responsible role in their case. When I ask for documentation, affidavits, witnesses, they get these in a timely manner. When they have a notion to do something that may affect their case, like leave the country, change jobs, divorce, move, they call before they act so we can discuss the impact this may have.

  • Bob Jessup

    The best client takes responsibility for its own decisions. That client understands there are no sure things, and that your legal advice is only part of the picture they’re looking at. The client takes the information into account, then makes its decision, and won’t blame you if things don’t work out for the best.

  • I practice personal injury law in Texas. I take great time to communicate with my clients and provide the best legal advise possible. The best clients are the ones who listen, ask reasonable questions, and follow my legal advice. The clients who do so almost always succeed with their case. The worst clients are the ones who think their case is worth millions of dollars when I explain why their case is worth xxx amount of dollars.

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