Best Practices

Why Making Your Clients Feel Good Is As Important As Winning Their Case

Russell Knight
May 20, 2020

The client’s perspective is very important to understand in any type of lawsuit. As a family law attorney, I wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, shower, and divorce people. I’ve had hundreds throughout my legal career, and while their cases are always different, in the end they’re just all cases that result in a (hopefully) satisfactory agreement or judgment.

Whether it’s a divorce, a real estate closing, or a personal injury settlement, the inevitable end result is a piece of paper saying what something is now under the law. So what else matters besides that piece of paper? The client experience matters, because let’s face it, attorneys are in the people business.

Although you have dozens of cases and numerous clients, for each one of those clients, you are their only lawyer.

Most of our clients have not even hired a lawyer before. For them, you’re the be-all-end-all of their experience with the legal system. So, while it might be easy to forget about bedside manner and treat clients as nothing more than their cases, it is important to keep the client’s psychology and satisfaction in mind.

Everyone wants to win, but beyond the win there are many reasons to care about your client’s well-being, including: 1) you obtain the emotional benefit of making them feel good during a negative time in their lives; 2) you (sometimes) can help remove some of the negativity they might feel against the opposing party; 3) you can help the clients strategically position themselves for more productive settlement negotiations; 4) happier clients mean referrals; and 5) happier clients make getting paid easier.

Making The Client Feel Good During A Negative Time In The Client’s Life

First and foremost, making someone feel good isn’t about getting results; it’s about knowing that someone is listening to them and that someone cares. The client needs to know that there is an external locus of control and that locus is listening to the client. Just listening to the client and allowing the client to talk and express their feelings goes a long way. Whether the attorney agrees with what the client is saying or not, listening is therapeutic and helps the client feel good, which then helps the client process the changes they are going through.

Help Remove Some of the Negativity the Client Might Feel Towards the Opposing Party

Making your client feel good helps the client cope with the difficulty of the lawsuit they are going through and helps dissipate some of the negativity they feel towards the other party. Knowing they have staunch advocate on their side means that the client doesn’t need to be focusing on the opposing party, but on the final result.

Strategically Position the Client For Settlement Negotiations

Making clients feel good will improve the client’s rational thought process. Litigation or contract negotiations can be a time when a client is driven by emotion. Oftentimes when evaluating settlement agreements or discussing strategy for hearings, clients allow themselves to be driven by emotion. Depending on the case, it’s possible that the client’s sheer hatred or distaste for the opposing party can drive their thought and cloud their judgment.

Although the client’s enmity towards the opposing party is not always completely resolved by making clients feel good, making the client feel good throughout the process does allow the client to know and understand that someone is in their corner. This can subsequently allow the client to think more rationally in a settlement negotiation. This helps the client listen to proposals with a clear head, think about the difference between long and short term goals, and advance their position.

Empathizing with the client also helps ensure that the client won’t have buyer’s remorse after the proverbial dust settles. This in turn lessens the likelihood of the attorney being blamed for an unfavorable or unexpected result.

Referrals

Someone who has had a good experience in a really bad time in their lives will be more likely to rave about the attorney who took them through that experience. It is actually surprising how far word travels, especially over time. The goal of any family law attorney is to one day be able to live off of their referrals, and become a rainmaker.

By making your clients feel good, they associate you as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dark time in their lives. As a result, the clients are much more likely to refer your name to anyone who needs a lawyer or otherwise someone who finds themselves in a difficult situation.

Regardless of whether you are able to help this referral or not, the client feels good that they are able to add value to their friend’s life by giving them your name, and if it is a case you can help them with, that’s one more client for you to build your business.

Getting these referrals doesn’t take anything extra. It’s incredible how many people retain your contact information years down the road, and this is an investment without any added financial cost to you.

Getting paid

In addition to being lawyers we are business people. Our goal is to make money. Having a client feel good has a positive impact on their willingness and eagerness to ensure their bills and invoices are paid. If someone is feeling bad, they are less inclined to pay.

This failure to pay their lawyer in a timely manner might be an affirmative action of them physically refusing to pay, or it might be an emotional block where the client wants to put the payment off until a future time. Regardless, it’s a distinction without a difference to the lawyer who is owed money. Someone who feels good is more likely to pay than someone who doesn’t.

While we have plenty of stories about difficult clients, difficult cases, and difficult situations, the client has just the one story, and it’s crucial to them, and to you, that you play the protagonist. And while playing this role is impactful and positive for the client, it is also advantageous to you, the attorney.

The author, Russell D. Knight, is a divorce attorney in Chicago, Illinois

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