Clients can be a pain with their urgent demands

Have you ever been caught out by a client wanting their matters dealt with urgently. So much so that you’ve had to drop something else? I know several lawyers in small firms that have been.

I guess, like the ones I know, you’ve muttered under your breath, been unhappy about it and got on with it? So the question is, whose fault is it - yours or the clients?

From what I see this is quite common for some small firms, causing chaos with the schedule (or stress for the owners).

Whose fault is it?

So, they spent ages procrastinating or not sending you information – their fault?

You assumed they wanted it back at a certain time, they assumed non urgent meant one week – you assumed it meant 4 weeks – your fault or theirs?

I could give several more examples…

The trouble is when this all happens one, or both, parties are unhappy.

Clarity upfront.

What I’ve seen work well for some is simple, obviously simple, but often not done.

Agree the dates upfront: You do this by xx, I do this by yy, you get final papers by xx. The downside is you’re now committed to something, assuming they carry out their part of the bargain. The upside is less opportunity for those difficult conversations after the event, when somebody is unhappy.

And then there’s the price….

Do you remember when digital cameras didn't exist and Kodak were still dominant? When we all brought “35mm”, or even 126 Instamatic film cartridges?

We would take your pictures (with little idea of the quality)  and rush off to the chemist to get them developed.

Then there was a whole menu of choices, from 1 hour, 4 hours, 24 hours, two days and a week – all at different prices, for the same work being done. That model is still around today, and works!

How could you link the clarity about turnaround time discussion with price? Some small practices I know have gladly used this mechanism to help some clients pay less, but set a date well into the future. Other lawyers I know have used it to increase prices for urgent work (at least then it’s worth the hassle of reorganising your schedule).

In summary.

Linking sales process (including questions about time) with pricing and scheduling makes sense. What do you think

If you’re looking to develop a sales process to help your small practice, click here to download our free guide to building a process.

Written by Jon Baker, of venture-Now. The 5-50 Coach, who helps professionals to grow their practice from 5 to 50 employees, profitably, sustainably and while they still have a life.

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Comment by Sarah Fox on January 24, 2014 at 10:24

Interesting post Jon.

It has always astounded me that lawyers who so carefully draft contracts for others in great detail can be 'slapdash' about their own contracts with clients for particular tasks.

There are more factors at play though, than simply not being clear at the start.

  • There may be a reticence or gentle discouragement from superiors to ask for a reasonable amount of time at the start. One thing any consultant or adviser should remember is that it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way round!
  • There may be a temptation to prove how good the firm is by agreeing short timescales on the (false) premise that a fast turn around is the same as great client service.
  • There may be a lack of real business understanding by lawyers in private practice who do not think through what role their task plays in their client's business aims and needs. This means they may make false assumptions about when they should be delivering their service.

But one thing is definitely true. Each client should be given a menu of choices with different prices to cover not just different delivery dates, but also the 'rolls royce' service or the 'morris minor'.

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