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Attorney Tips: Understanding Unhappy Clients

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Attorney Tips: Understanding Unhappy Clients

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Have you ever been confident that you performed your job as an attorney to the best of your ability, and yet your client still leaves unhappy regardless of the successful result? Unhappy clients can be disconcerting since this often means bad reviews and no referrals. If you are receiving more negative reviews than positive and don’t understand why, it could be time to look at your customer service approach. While performing excellently at your job is certainly important to making happy clients, it’s only half of the equation.

It’s important to remember that clients do not know nor understand everything that you do behind the scenes for their case; it’s not their job to know. What they will remember is how they were treated while they worked with you. Were their emails/phone calls answered in a timely manner? Did the attorney take time to explain some of the more pertinent legal jargon to them? Did the firm treat them like a real person with individual problems rather than another case to work? The answers to these questions could shine a light on the reason some clients leave unhappy even when an attorney is certain they did their best.

The client doesn’t know if you’re being a good lawyer or not.

Aside from receiving a successful verdict or settlement, clients without experience in the legal industry have little way of knowing whether or not an attorney is doing their job correctly or not. Clients typically won’t understand the legal processes, paperwork, deadlines, and procedures that a lawyer has to abide by for any particular case. Additionally, clients are unlikely to understand the complexity and application of various laws that may be relevant to their case; this is why they hired you—an educated lawyer with the experience they believe will benefit their case. This means that as far as actual job performance goes, clients don’t really have a way to judge.

Clients do understand customer service.

While clients might not have the know-how to judge how good you are at your job, they will remember how they were treated. Unfortunately in the legal industry, the customer’s experience can often fall by the wayside. It’s easy to bury your head in paperwork and know you’re taking all of the technical, practical steps it takes to win a case, and neglect to care for your client’s emotional wellbeing. While lawyers certainly don’t need to play the role of a therapist, it’s important for lawyers to let their clients know that they see the person—not just the problem.

Something as simple as checking in once or twice a week to see how your client is doing and if there are any questions you can answer, as well as expressing sympathy for the stress they are likely experiencing, can solidify the impression that you truly care about the client and not just the case. This builds a personal connection and assurance of compassion between an attorney and their client and may even make them more forgiving if mistakes do happen or if the outcome isn’t what they were hoping for. If a client feels cared for they are more likely to leave happy or at least content with their experience, regardless of the outcome of their case.

Case outcome is an important factor, but not the only factor.

While the outcome of their case can certainly play a role in whether or not a client leaves happy, it is possible for a client to lose their case and yet still appreciate their experience with an attorney or law firm, and vice versa. That said, there are times when a client is determined to be unhappy; in these scenarios as long as the attorney takes stock of their own actions/reactions and judges their customer service to be top-notch, it’s time to wash your hands and let the unhappy client go. People seeking legal help are often experiencing one of the most stressful periods of their life, and stress can bring out the worst in everybody. It’s important to keep this in mind, avoid taking anything too personally, and simply know that you have done your best both in your job as a lawyer and as an advocate for your client and their wellbeing.

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