The process of obtaining clients can be a source of stress for many lawyers, especially for small firms or firms that are just starting out. While it pains many lawyers to turn away business, it is important to properly pre-screen clients to avoid the headaches that come with clients who are not a good fit for your firm. Seasoned lawyers will tell you that you should not accept certain clients, no matter the fee.
A person with unreasonable expectations, unstable finances, or excessive demands on your time can have a negative effect on your practice, your professional reputation, and your personal life. That is why it is essential to establish a dependable process for pre-screening clients to make sure they are the right fit for you.
The following are some “best practices” for pre-screening that may be able to help you quickly identify clients who are not a fit for you and how to find ones who will be pleasant to work with:
1) Does the client have a reasonable expectation about results and how long the process might take?
It is important to note that most people have a limited understanding of the law and the legal process. Much of what people know comes from movies and TV shows, which causes problems when they expect their case to yield massive returns in a very short time frame!
During the pre-screening process, make sure to set the proper expectations and pay attention to how the individual processes this information. If they seem pushy or insistent that you meet unreasonable timelines, you may want to turn them away.
2) Has the client consulted other lawyers about this case? If so, how many, and why did they not take on the case?
While some level of research and discussion is reasonable for any individual, it is a good idea to pay attention to how many lawyers the potential client consulted about this particular case. You may consider contacting the other lawyers to find out the reason they turned this person away. Was it because of the merits (or lack thereof) of the case, or was it a personality red flag with the client in particular? Before accepting the case, it is important to find out the reason why your peers did not want to tackle it.
3) Does the client seem overly “price-conscious”?
Some level of concern is reasonable and normal when discussing the fees for your services. It is important to note that a large percentage of malpractice claims and grievances arise from fee disputes and attempts to collect on unpaid fees. For many lawyers, avoiding such negativity is paramount, and properly vetting client’s ability to pay is one of the most important pre-screening steps. If the client cannot afford to hire you, you may never be able to convince them the work you performed was worth the cost, and then you may have to deal with an aggressively unhappy client for a long time afterward.
4) Do you feel you have to question the client’s character or the facts of the case?
During every initial evaluation, you must consider the question of moral character and personal motivation. It is up to you to “trust your instincts” when deciding if you agree with your potential client’s legal position and feel you can represent them to the best of your ability. There is no practical method for this judgment. Rather, it is up to you to decide if you believe in this person and their case. If you find yourself uneasy about the client or if you are unsure if you want the case, it might be a good idea to pass.
5) Does the case fit the size and scope of your practice?
Simply put, you need to be honest with yourself about your ability to handle the case. While no one wants to be stuck handling the same type of case over and over again, you need to evaluate whether or not you have the expertise, resources, and time to handle this particular matter. Would it be smarter to associate with others who have more experience in this particular area of law? Is it worth the risk of large malpractice claims and the damage to your firm’s reputation if you do not successfully handle it? You should ask yourself these questions first and foremost to avoid potential disaster.
The more information you obtain about a potential client and their case before making your final decision, the better. If you approach each initial consultation with an optimistic-yet-measured attitude, you can better evaluate whether or not the matter is right for you and your practice. Some lawyers think they cannot afford to be so picky and decide to take a chance. One way around this is by utilizing Ngage Live Chat. With Ngage Live Chat, highly trained operators interact with website visitors and gather information about their legal situation. They then send you a transcript of the conversation which allows you to quickly assess if the case is worth your time or not. Once you determine a proper fit, you can proceed with a case with confidence and deliver the best results possible for all parties involved.
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