This week in Things I Wish I Knew…Joleena Louis advises solo attorneys on how to deal with clients that think that every issue is a big issue.
I know I missed my article last week. But, it was for a good reason.
My husband and I were in Vegas. I may have been a visitor to Las Vegas, but I certainly was not a visitor to Lost Vegas.
My gambling style is a bit like my lawyering style; optimistically cautious. Therefore, the trip was a win/win. Meaning, I didn’t have to pawn my wedding ring.
We all have those clients…ones who love to cry wolf!
A few weeks back, I wrote about how to manage client expectations. But, even when you try to manage your client’s expectations – there are just some clients who just don’t “get it”. An example of this is a client archetype I recently discovered: The clients who cry wolf.
Everyone has this type of client. It is the client who calls 6 times in a row but only leaves one second voice mail messages, each with the exact same audible sound of the phone hanging up. Then, immediately after, they shoot off 6 emails. Everything is an emergency, even if it’s not an emergency. (Well to be fair – it is an emergency to the client.)
SOME emergencies are real.
In family law, as in many consumer-based practices areas, such as immigration law and criminal law, there are many legitimate client emergencies that I have to deal with on a regular basis.
Such emergency things include: Client’s getting unexpectedly arrested, children being kidnapped by the other party, or emergency orders of protections. You know, real emergencies…
Because of the real possibility of these events taking place, I have to be extra diligent about my response time. If a client calls, texts and emails me repeatedly in a short time frame I will contact them immediately, even if I am in court (or on vacation). Sometimes you have be cautious, like my gambling style.
Setting boundaries is key!
Unfortunately, as is the case with human nature, some clients take advantage of my diligence. I’ve learned very quickly that I need to set boundaries for clients who cry wolf. Cause sometimes, it is only a cry for attention.
In response to this, going forward, I am going to explain to my clients, in a clear, calm way, what actually constitutes a legal emergency. I understand that when any client is going through a divorce or custody battle everything that happens seems really important. And like I said above, it is important. They are the main character in their own movie, and so therefore, every little nuance is the most important thing in the world.
I have also thought about hiring a live reception service. I’ve avoided doing this because I want to be accessible to my clients and be the first voice they hear when they call my law office.
However, I’ve been seriously thinking about live reception service because it may be useful to have that buffer of having the receptionist find out what the call is about and I can determine if it requires an immediate call back. In addition, I don’t necessarily always have to be the bad guy.
And finally, once I learn it is not an actual emergency, I will not answer their question or discuss the issue. Instead I will schedule a more appropriate time to talk about the issue.
I think, in an effort to provide great legal service, I’ve been encouraging these clients who cry wolf by responding immediately to these false emergencies.
If I stop responding right away, they may stop crying wolf.
What do you think? Any strategies to mitigate this problem?
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.