I’ve got some bad news


It’s usually best to deliver bad news to a client by phone or in person, not by email or letter.

As I said in a previous post, “You can explain what happened, answer the client’s questions, discuss the options, and work together to find the path forward.”

Your tone of voice tells the client how you feel about the issue. He’ll hear your concern and appreciate that you personally called.

They may still be upset, but being able to talk to you will help.

Especially if you are responsible for the bad news.

Not only that, according to science, delivering bad news by email can make things worse because the words tend to linger long after you send them.

Sometimes, however, it’s okay to deliver bad news via email or letter. Announcing an across the board fee-increase would be an example.

But when it comes to managing your client’s experience, it isn’t necessarily the news that’s the issue, it’s what you say when you deliver the news.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Don’t delay. You don’t want the client to find out from someone else or, in the case of a fee increase, when they receive their next bill. You don’t want to have to explain why you didn’t tell them right away.
  2. Be direct. Get to the point and tell them plainly what happened or what you’re doing. Don’t try to sugarcoat it.
  3. Put things in perspective. “Here’s what happened/will happen, here’s why, and here’s what this means going forward”
  4. Apologize (if it was your fault), explain (if it wasn’t).
  5. Empathize. Let them know that you feel bad or you understand how they must feel.
  6. Say thank you for their understanding, patience, cooperation and/or their allegiance.
  7. Let them know you are available if they have questions or want to talk.

And that’s it. Simple, direct, and personable. The way you’d like to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot.

Good client relations is the key to client referrals


What could possibly go wrong?


Last week, I reminded you to do something you already know you need to do: anticipate problems and nip them in the bud.

A checklist can help.

Make a list of all of the “points of interaction” your clients have with your office. This would include things like

  • What they see when they visit the home page of your website
  • What happens when they fill out a form
  • What happens when they call your office for the first time, e.g., what are they asked, what are they told
  • What happens at their first appointment, e.g., parking, in the waiting room, being shown to your office, questions asked, information supplied, forms to fill out, etc.
  • Emails, letters, and documents they get from you (and anything that accompanies it)
  • What happens when they call your office for an update or to ask a question
  • The process for delivering work product/final appointment
  • Follow-up calls and letters from you, e.g., reminders re updates, requests (referrals, reviews, Likes and Shares, etc.)

And so on.

Chart these and then, for each interaction, look for

  1. Things that could go wrong, and how you can fix them, and
  2. Ways to improve the client experience

You don’t have to go crazy with every detail; look for big things–the kinds of things that usually win hearts and minds or, conversely, result in complaints.

Things like

  • How long they have to wait (on hold, at an appointment, to receive something you promised
  • Being kept informed
  • How they are treated, e.g., you know their name/their case, they are shown respect and patience, etc.
  • What to expect, e.g., outcomes, fees/billing

Don’t rely on your own observations and sensibilities. Ask your employees to weigh in, and also ask your clients, through exit surveys and by continually asking for feedback.

What could possibly go wrong? Find out and nip it in the bud.

Good client relations brings repeat business and referrals


Nip it in the bud


I went to the dentist yesterday for a cleaning and exam but my dentist wasn’t there. He was on vacation in Hawaii.

“Didn’t they tell you?” my hygienist asked.

They (whoever that was) hadn’t, so no. And no exam.

Strike one: Not telling patients you’ll be out of town and giving them the option to re-schedule.

Strike two: I’d already paid for the exam, so now what? Go without it? Make another appointment and come back? What if something’s wrong and I won’t find out until the next exam in six months?

Strike three: No dentist in the office means the hygienists aren’t working “under the supervision of. . .” which may be a problem for the DDS but also for the patients because he’s not there to check their work.

Which leads to strike four:

My appointment was right after lunch and. . . the hygienist’s hands smelled like pot. Once I noticed this I also noticed she wasn’t as sharp as usual.

Did she do a good cleaning? Who knows? Nobody there to check her work.

I wondered if she does this all the time or just when the boss is out of town. I also wrestled with telling her, so she could clean up her act before someone reported her.

Okay. This wasn’t a typical experience and I didn’t make a fuss but the next patient might, which could cause problems for the dentist.

On the other hand, he needs to know what’s going on.

As a professional, you have to stay on top of everything that’s going on in your office.


You have to anticipate problems and do something about them before they occur. You have to train and re-train your staff.

And, when you see a problem brewing, you need to step in and nip it in the bud (pot reference intended).

After my appointment, I got a text inviting me to fill out a survey about my appointment. It’s not anonymous so I hesitated.

Should I fill it out? Wait until the dentist gets back and talk to him privately? Or should I let it go because it’s not typical?

What would you do? What would you want your clients to do?

How to get more repeat business and referrals


How do I know I can trust you?


My wife and I visited a doctor once but our visit didn’t last long. The doctor came with all the right credentials and was highly recommended by peers and patients, but as soon as we met him, we didn’t trust him and left.


Because he wouldn’t look either of us in the eye.

He talked to the wall, to the bookcase, to the office door, but (it seemed), not to us. It was probably his way of coping with life-and-death situations but it was creepy, not the sort of thing you want in a professional.

Princeton researchers have found that people often decide on the trustworthiness of someone in as little as a tenth of a second, just by looking at their face. They draw similar conclusions about their likeability, attractiveness, competence, and other traits.

Much of these assessments are based on things you can’t change. For example, other studies have found that having more feminine facial features makes you appear more trustworthy.

You can’t change your face (without surgery) but you can change your behavior.

You can increase trust (and likeability) by shaking hands, smiling, listening without interrupting, and mirroring the other person’s body language.

And by looking at people when you talk to them.

So, here’s your assignment. For the next few days, pay attention to how you greet your clients. Take note of what you say and what you do.

You may find you’re doing something you’re not aware you’re doing and can correct it. No surgery required.

More ways to build trust


Getting new clients started right


When a client is unhappy with you, the odds are they won’t tell you about it. They’ll just leave, or leave and complain to everyone they know.

That’s not what you want.

You want clients who are unhappy–with your work or your “customer service,” or anything else–to tell you about it so you can fix it and make amends.

The best time to tell them about this is when you’re bringing them on board as a new client.

Tell them what to do if they have any issues, unanswered questions, or don’t know how to do something they’re supposed to do. Give them detailed instructions about what you’re going to do for them, about potential problems and delays, and about possible outcomes.

I’m sure you do this to some extent but there’s always room to improve. Sit down with your team and brainstorm what you can do to make the client experience better.

What else could you tell new clients? What could you say or do to instill confidence in you and empower your clients to help you do a better job for them?

A few ideas to get you started:

  • Answers to FAQs on a hidden page on your website
  • Periodic courtesy calls, to update the client, find out if they’re satisfied with everything so far, and answer questions
  • Instructions on how to reach you “after hours,” what to do if they have a question or concern, and how and where to provide a review
  • A video tour of the firm website, guiding the client to resources they might otherwise not know about
  • A time line or checklist about their case or matter: what happens next, what happens after that
  • Providing a sample billing statement with detailed explanations of the different elements
  • Providing a glossary of legal terms

New clients are often scared, confused, and not sure they can trust you. Do what you can to calm their fears, inform them about what to expect and what to do if they have any issues.

Show them that “you’ve done this before” and that you make keeping your clients happy a top priority.

You’ll both be glad that you did.

If you want help with brainstorming ideas or implementing them, let me know and we’ll schedule a consultation


Thank you


A prospective client hires you. You send them a welcome letter, thanking them for choosing you and assuring them you’ll do a good job for them.

Well done.

What about prospective clients who don’t hire you? Or who meet with you and haven’t yet decided to go forward? Do you send them anything, a thank you note for meeting with you and considering you?

You should.

Not only is it good manners, it is an easy way to show people your character and professionalism, and convey to the would-be client that you want to work with them.

Smart job candidates send a thank you note after their interview with a recruiter or hiring manager. When a prospective client meets with you, they’re interviewing you for the job, aren’t they?

Send a letter, an email, or both. Tell them you appreciate being considered, say something positive about something they said or about their case or company, showing that you understand their situation and believe you can help them.

You might consider a hand-written thank you note because few people do that anymore.

Actually, few lawyers send a thank you note of any kind after their first meeting with a prospective client. That’s another reason you should. It is a simple but effective way to get prospective clients to put you on their short list.

Thank you for reading this message. I appreciate that you took a few minutes from your busy day to read my words. I look forward to hearing from you and working with you.


RIP Grumpy Cat


Grumpy Cat died. You know, the cat with the down-turned mouth who looked like he was perpetually in a bad mood. The cat who inspired hundreds of Internet memes?

Yeah, that Grumpy Cat.

Question: when you’re a grumpy cat, what do you do about it?

You shouldn’t be around clients when you’re in a bad mood. It’s bad for business. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer.

Your employees might give you a little slack (because they have to), but they’d rather not have you in the office when you’re wearing the weight of the world on your shoulders.

When you have a sad or you’re feeling mad, what do you do?

Put on some music? Actually, that’s a good idea. Listen to some tunes that lift your spirits, or listen to some music that makes you sad–for some reason, that works, too.

If music doesn’t fix you up, if you’re still feeling like Lucy took your football, you’ve got to fake it. Pretend you’re in a good mood. Act as if.

Put on a (fake) smile and soon you’ll be smiling for realz.

If music and fake smiles don’t help, if you’re really bad off, leave. Flee the scene. Go home, go to a movie, go do some retail therapy.

Get out of the office for a few hours and get your head right.

Grumpy Cat was cute. Grumpy Lawyer, not so much.

How to get your clients to send you more referrals


Who stole my client?


You know how some clients just stop calling? One day they’re here, the next day they’re gone, and you don’t know why?

Sometimes, another lawyer lures them away. More often, the client wanders away on their own.

They were unhappy about something. They had a problem–with you or your staff–and decided it was time to go.

If only they had told you about the problem–you could have fixed it. You could have prevented a small issue from becoming a big one. Made amends. Made them happy.

But they usually don’t tell you. They just leave.

What can do about that?

How about this:

When you sign up a new client, tell them their happiness is important to you and that if they ever have any problems with you or your staff, any issues or complaints or unanswered questions, you want them to tell you about it.

If they will do that, you promise to fix it. No ifs, ands or buts.

And ask them to agree that they will do that.

Good, right?

Hold on. One more thing. Put this in your retainer agreement and get the client to initial it.

Your new clients will be glad they chose you as their attorney. They will see that you are serious about “customer service”.

And if they ever do have any issues, they’ll be more likely to talk to you instead of leaving without saying a word.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula


Danger, Will Robinson


I have two Dell computers. The other day, I dutifully updated some of the bits and pieces Dell’s “Support Assist” app told me I needed.

Today, I saw an article telling me that the older version of the SupportAssist Client contains “a remote code execution vulnerability” and should be updated immediately.

Yikes. I don’t how serious that is but I realized I’m not sure what version of the app I have, so I checked.

The desktop (my newer machine) tells me I’m up to date. The older laptop wasn’t. I downloaded the current version and now, all is well.

Why didn’t Dell automatically update the app on the laptop? Why didn’t they notify registered users to watch out for this issue? Why did I have to “get lucky” and find out about it from PC Magazine?

I don’t know. But now I know about the issue and so do you.

Even if you don’t own a Dell, many of your clients do and you may want to give them a heads up. They’ll be glad you did.

If they don’t own a Dell, they’ll like the fact that their attorney cares enough about them to tell them about this.

When it comes to client relations, little things are big things. 

How’s your website?


Ask your clients this ‘million-dollar’ question


Years ago, New York Mayor Ed Koch used to walk up to people on the street and ask, “How am I doing?”


He learned what his constituents thought about the job he was doing and was able to use some of that feedback to make improvements.

He also scored points for being open to feedback, something most politicians usually run from.

Anyway, you can do something similar in your practice, but instead of asking your clients, “How am I doing?” ask them this question:

“On a scale of zero to ten, what is the likelihood you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?”

You could ask this at the end of the case, before they leave your office. You could email a survey question. Or you could have someone call them on your behalf.

However you do it, follow up (by phone or email) and ask,  “Why did you give us that score?”

You’ll get some interesting feedback, I’m sure. You’ll also plant a seed in your client’s mind about recommending you. If they give you a high score, i.e., a high likelihood that they will recommend you, they will be psychologically more likely to do that.


A simple, one-question survey (plus follow-up question) is easy to implement and could bring you a lot more business.

You could instead ask, “On a scale of zero to ten, how would you rate the quality of our legal services?” Or, “The next time you have a legal issue, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, what is the likelihood that you would choose us as your attorney?”

So tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the quality of this post?

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula.