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Shaping Client Expectations

Shaping Client Expectations

Many lawyers say what they think a potential client wants to hear to get the retainer.  They figure they can ‘control’ the client after they get retained.  This practice, however, is risky and can come back to haunt you.  When you cannot deliver the result as promised, your client becomes dissatisfied; even if the result you obtain is actually a very good result.  Importantly, even if the client stays with you and you earn the retainer, his view of you will still be negative and will make it unlikely that he will refer others to you.

Instead, manage the client’s expectations right from the start.  Listen to what they want.  Sympathize with them and express your appreciation for their goals.  Then, explain why their view of the case and their expectations are not reasonable (impossible, unlikely, not cost-effective, etc.).  Give them a realistic range of potential outcomes right from the start where possible.  Most clients will accept your opinion; which in the final analysis is why they came to you.

Anecdotally, those potential clients who refuse to accept reason more likely than not will turn into nightmare clients who are not worth the retainer paid and are best avoided.

Encourage your clients to see their case rationally and accept reasonable expectations as to potential case outcomes.  When the case resolves as expected, or better, the client walks away with a good feeling about you and your abilities.  A client satisfied with the result will be more likely to refer other clients to you.