How to Avoid Bad Clients
Bad clients can make you question your skills, destroy your reputation, and result in the worst money you have ever made. Learning how to spot and avoid them can be the best decision you ever make.
All Clients Are Created Equal, Right?
Bad clients have an amazing way of sapping time and energy in ways you cannot bill for. Remember you cannot bill for stress. You cannot bill for screaming when you get off the phone. You cannot bill for not sleeping well. You cannot bill for spending an hour talking about why you already wrote off a third of your time and why your bill is reasonable.
Bad Clients Chase Away Good Ones
Bad clients can cause you to turn down good clients for two reasons:
- Bad clients have an amazing way of sucking up more time than they should. That means you will probably turn down good clients because you are so busy dealing with your problem client.
- The mental fatigue is greater than you realize. When you are in the middle of dealing with a bad client, it can make otherwise good clients seem like bad clients.
It Doesn’t Get Better
You are doing yourself a disservice if you tell yourself “it can only get better” or “it has to get better from here.” Sure, you can cross your fingers and hope they suddenly start responding to phone calls or emails, but that probably won’t be the case. Hopefully your retainer has a provision for these scenarios, and you should not be afraid to invoke it and terminate your representation.
Check the Warning Signs
Now that you understand all money is not created equal, you can sharpen your intake skills to avoid bad clients. Someone might call with what sounds like the greatest case in the world, but your intuition may make you question the case or the client. Instead of talking yourself into cases, trust your instincts and turn them away.
If you are not ready to live and die by your gut, here are some other warning signs that trouble could be brewing down the road:
- Your client calls with a legal emergency, but then doesn’t return your call for days.
- Your client doesn’t know who you are because they have called so many different attorneys.
- He leaves a message without any specific details, other than he knows “it’s a great case” and you need to call back immediately.
- She sends multiple emails with documents before ever talking to you.
- Makes an appointment and then no-shows or reschedules repeatedly.
- The client tries to bargain on your rate or explains why you are too expensive.
- Explains they previously hired another attorney but want to give you a shot.
- Tells one story over the phone and a completely different one in your office.
That is not an exhaustive list by any means. Those are just some of the red alerts that should warn you about potential issues looming. This is also the perfect opportunity to bounce the case off another attorney and get some feedback. But never try and convince yourself that any client is a good client. It’s not that simple.