Learning from Your Worst Client Experiences in the Best Possible Way

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” – Oprah Winfrey


We’ve all had them. No matter how much we might love what we do, we can all usually think of one or two clients that made our job feel like a nightmare—far more trouble than they were worth. A bad experience with a client can steal time, revenue and many hours of productivity from your law firm. That said, I believe every situation, good or bad, presents an opportunity for growth. Let’s talk about some ways you can turn your worst client experiences into learning opportunities that will result in greater success for your firm.


Look at Things from the Client’s Perspective

For the moment, forget about who was “right” or “wrong” in this interaction and try to envision what happened from the perspective of the client. (Yes, that client.) Did your office fail to communicate with the client at any point? Did you do anything to convey unclear expectations? Did your staff follow up properly? Was anything said that could have been misconstrued? Regardless of whether the client overreacted, take a hard look at any area where you might have aggravated the issue and use this opportunity to correct those issues.


What Were the Warning Signs?

Now take a look again retrospectively from your own perspective. When this client first approached you, were there any “red flags” you overlooked—anything in the client’s words or actions that suggested that maybe he wasn’t a good fit for your law firm? Did the client express unfair expectations that you couldn’t properly manage? Was the client inordinately demanding or contentious? Recognizing these red flags, even in hindsight, might help you think twice if a future lead sends you similar signals.


Why Did You Accept the Case?

Finally, explore your own motives for taking on this client. Did you have any misgivings that you ignored? Was this case outside your target market? Many times, bad client experiences happen not because the client was truly terrible, but because we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Often, we find we took the client against our better judgment, most likely because we needed the money. In the end, the money is almost never worth the conflict involved. Learning to trust your gut and say no to the wrong clients can be scary, but it actually creates more room in your schedule for your ideal clients—the ones you’ll actually enjoy working with and whom will result in long-term growth for your firm.

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