The Primacy of the Client

The client is number one. When a client’s matter is accepted you accept the client, for better or worse. This includes loosing money, other opportunities, and even family time. It’s a contract of trust.

There is a difference between following through on a client’s matter regardless of what the time/cost, and accepting additional matters from a client. One you are honor bound to undertake, the other is incumbent upon you to make a judgment. When there are no deep pockets of time and/or money and you keep accepting matters from a client who you know from experience will harm your business or personal time, then you are not going to be able to be effective in that matter or for the client.

When a client matter is concluded and there are no other matters or obligations pending, pause and evaluate the experience. It is prudent for your business and prudent for the client. Not every client is good for business. Taking a client’s matter on when it is not a good fit for you is irresponsible even when well meaning. Consider that it deprives the client from the opportunity to obtain the legal services from a place where they are a fit for the business strategy, both profit and nonprofit. One lawyer may have deep pockets of capital and time and enjoy serving the client and issues inherent in the matter at hand. Meanwhile, another lawyer may be under pressure and not be able to invest in the client as much.

In essence, your bad client experience is another attorney’s good client experience. And the same is true from the client side. Clients need your attention and steady flow of communication. When clients don’t receive both, they will tend to rate the experience bad - no matter if it is done pro-bono or for pay.

If you find yourself in the “evaluation window”: pause. If you conclude that the client is not a good fit, there is always the option of referral. Well-worded disengagements will assure the client that, although you are not in a position to meet their future needs, there are other lawyers who are.