Most business relationships begin on a high note; you’ve found someone you can help and they seem to understand the value you provide. However, those relationships can quickly sour if you don’t set the right expectations from the get-go.
The very best way to prevent client breakdowns in the future is to ensure you’re on the same page from day one. Here are the top 3 things you should discuss with your new client and on which you need their explicit approval.
1. Costs, Fees, & Reimbursements
However you structure your pricing, you will benefit greatly from confirming it with your client upfront. For example, if you work on a contingency basis, tell them exactly what percentage of their award you will collect if you win. If you perform services on an hourly basis, communicate your time units and whether or not different services incur a different hourly rate.
If you offer any sort of reimbursement for a claim of inadequate services or disputes, these need to be on the table and clear. Some firms charge a fee for breaking a contract before its assumed conclusion. Again, make sure your client knows this.
2. Work Performed
This might seem like an easy one, but it is exceedingly common for attorneys and clients to enter an agreement without truly understanding what exactly will be handled by whom. Services expected and services rendered can vary greatly. For example, you may think your client understands that you will prepare all needed documents, but not understand that you haven’t agreed to submit or defend them. Neither of you can afford to begin without fully comprehending who’s responsible for what.
3. Timing & Participation
Have you ever brought on a client who promises to respond promptly, then goes weeks without returning a phone call? Have you had clients that expect you to answer the phone or emails at all hours of every day? These disagreements often result in bad reviews and frustration for everyone involved. We cannot stress enough how valuable it is for both parties to be honest about how they expect to communicate. This is especially pertinent in the legal industry when timelines and signatures are so vital to a case’s eventual outcome.
When to Say ‘No’
You’ve likely fine-tuned your services and practice to optimize your time, money, and capacity. If a potential client refuses to respect the boundaries you’ve set for your firm, you are at-risk of investing in something that will drain your resources. Additionally, prospects who want to haggle and hound you into adjusting your guidelines could very well be headaches in the future. It’s often best to pass these people onto another attorney you trust who can better meet their demands.