The Wisdom of Saying Goodbye to Problem Clients

Provocative thought of the day: You’ve got some clients you don’t need. It’s okay to say goodbye to them. In fact, it very well may be necessary to your success.

What? you might be thinking. Clients mean money! Why should I say goodbye to money?

Ever hear of the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the “80-20 rule?” It says that in almost every situation (especially in business), 80 percent of your results stem from 20 percent of the causes.

You’ll find this to be true in your law firm: 80 percent of your revenue is almost assuredly coming from 20 percent of your clients. However, this rule applies conversely—meaning 20 percent of your clients are also causing 80 percent of your problems!

Building a successful law firm involves not just attracting more clients like your top 20 percent, but also identifying the bottom 20 percent or so—those who are “dead weight” for your law firm—letting them go.

Benefits of Cutting the Slack

What happens when you identify and release clients your firm doesn’t really need? Let’s look at just a few of the benefits:

  • You make room in your schedule for ideal clients. We all want more of the type of client that matches our top 20 percent, but we don’t have time or energy to assimilate them. Dropping “dead weight” clients makes room for more customers who will ultimately bring more revenue.
  • Financial benefits. Stop worrying that these dropped clients will result in lost revenue. If you do a financial assessment, you’ll probably discover these clients, at best, contribute only a negligible amount to your company, and, at worst, actually cost you money. Most attorneys who say goodbye to these clients see reduced expenses and higher revenues fairly quickly.
  • Greater peace of mind. Even if these “problem clients” do bring in money, what is the cost to your emotional health? Focus more time and energy on clients who make you happy, and you’ll be happier in your business—not to mention emotionally healthier.

Obviously, I’m not recommending you rudely give these clients the boot. However, there are methods by which you can part ways amicably and diplomatically. You can refer them to other attorneys, for example, or cite a change in direction if it’s appropriate. Lastly, stop fighting to keep them the next time a problem arises; let them walk away.

Whatever the situation, don’t be afraid to let problem clients go. Your firm will honestly fare much better without them.

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