Having worked in a law office for several years, I have found that managing a clients expectations can be one of the most difficult parts of the process. Whether your client is filing for divorce, fighting a criminal charge or was injured in a motor vehicle accident they all expect the same thing….to WIN! Of course you know that “winning” doesn’t alway look the same. You know every case is different and that even the exact same circumstances, you can have very different outcomes. So, how do you overcome thousands of hours of television and movies telling your clients you are wrong, well it’s not easy or foolproof but you might be able to take some of the bite out.
By far this the best way to maintain and manage client expectations is being transparent from the very beginning. At the start ask them what their expectations are. Finding out up front can really give you a snapshot of what the client is actually looking for. Once they have told you what they are expecting you can now help them understand how the legal process works in a way that will make sense to them without giving them legal advice.
Each client will be different and may not understand a scripted explanation, so being able to adapt is best. Explain to them the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an attorney for that area of law, give them general examples of what they can expect. If you can’t guarantee something then tell them. How they respond gives you a good look into what the attorney client relationship might look like.
EXPLAIN YOUR FEES
If the consultation is going well it may be time to talk about money. Now nobody likes to have this conversation but it has to happen. I have found that just giving your potential clients your retainer agreement and hoping they read and understand before signing is a fools game. I’ve spent countless hours explaining their bill, “why am I being charged so much?”, “why did the amount change?”, “why am I being charged for filing fees?”. Whether you comb through line by line or just give brief descriptions of each section just taking that five or ten minutes to go over the retainer cuts down on so much wasted time and money. You also have the added benefit of knowing without a shadow of a doubt your client knows what they signed.
Explaining how a client is going to pay for legal services helps the client understand and make an informed decision on whether or not it makes financial sense. This can apply to hourly, flat fee and even contingency fee cases. Always be prepared to answer questions, with hourly cases explaining what a retainer is, how it works and what happens when it needs to be replenished is important for your client to understand. Is your client on a flat fee, are expenses included, if additional works need to be done how will that be charged? Contingency fee probably has the most questions and also deserves the most transparency to keep the client up to date, but having your answer ready for the questions a client will ask is key to building trust with them.
Like any good relationship, communication is the most important key to success. Having a client that understands the process can be an underrated advantage and can make the whole process smoother for both of you. Being upfront and honest as an estate planning lawyer, like from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, helps you develop trust and confidence with them that once you have will last a lifetime and keep them coming back.