Forget your suit, Newt
I’m not a hack, Jack
Just drop off the fee, Lee
And get yourself free
There must be 50 ways to leave your client.
At least I thought so and I thought I was going to see some fun ways of doing it when I spotted this headline at JDSupra.com: “What To Say When a Client Lets You Go.”
This was going to be fun.
I shouldn’t get my hopes up like that. It wasn’t fun.
It was mainly about writing a letter confirming the end of the relationship and offering to return stuff.
We don’t need a website to tell us this stuff.
What we do need are creative ways to officially end lawyer-client relationships so that you’ll be emotionally fulfilled while ensuring that the deadbeat never comes back.
For example, why not pick up that old rarely used guitar and record a tune for YouTube?
Something like the one above. You can add verses to personalize your message.
Another more subtle method for dealing with a departing and possibly dissatisfied client is to request a written review of your services.
This may sound counterproductive if the former client is unhappy, but consider the benefits. The client gets to vent his or her spleen in troll-like fashion and get all that anger out before considering whether to sue you.
A little catharsis can go a long way.
And you don’t have to publish the review anywhere.
Or you can simply inform the client that you’ve decided to see other clients. It’s not him, it’s you.
Do this in a public place to avoid embarrassment.
This will confuse a client who is trying to leave you (rather than you leaving him/her) and understands that lawyers see lots of clients, but a confused former client is much better than an angry one and the confusion may actually convince the client to rehire you.
If they weren’t already confused, they wouldn’t be trying to leave you anyway.
Matters of the client heart are never simple.
Keeping the Romance Alive: Breakup advice wouldn’t be necessary if only lawyers and clients worked on their relationships.
I don’t have statistics for lawyer-client divorces but if JDSupra is offering counsel, the rate must be astronomical. I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it.
The obvious recommendation is not to begin a lawyer-client marriage unless you’re sure you’ve found someone you think you never want to leave. Will both of you be equally committed once the contracts have been born, the estates have been planned, and the meager evidence has been examined?
What if the law and the facts are not on your side? Can your marriage withstand hard times? Will you stand by each other in jail and appeals courts?
Times change and no one can predict the future, so there are other techniques to keep in mind.
Make the client feel that you are really listening.
This doesn’t require actual listening. Eye contact and the occasional head nod will suffice when the client is in the office.
For written communications, have a selection of pre-written sincere-sounding replies on hand.
The occasional “yes, dear” couldn’t hurt either.
Don’t forget special occasions. Flowers, chocolate or a prompt filing just before a statute of limitations expires can make your relationship last a very long time.
Finally, it’s important to keep a straight face no matter what may have happened to your client.
With that in mind, this week’s Straight Face Award goes to the lawyer who last week had to sue Nintendo of America in Los Angeles Superior on behalf of a client who (allegedly) was injured after being hired to wear a Donkey Kong costume at a mall.
It seems the costume “was poorly ventilated and unreasonably and dangerously hot.”
There’s nothing about it in the complaint, but I’m picturing a mob of screaming children pouncing on a downed Kong.
Oh, the humanity …
Forget your suit, Newt