Five Things to Consider When Firing a Law Firm Client

You often see articles talking about firing a law firm client, but I don’t recall seeing an article telling you how to go about it. Many law firms have a few clients where the principals would be much happier if that client would choose to make their competitors life a misery, instead of theirs.  Here are 5 things to take into account when you need to fire a law firm client of this type.

1)    People don’t blame themselves

Have you ever had a sack an employee?

Even if you haven’t, do you think that in most cases the employee blamed themselves, or do you think they blamed you for the issue that led to the termination?

You guessed it, for better or worse, it is human nature to look for someone to blame, other than yourself.

If you simply write to a client and tell them to go elsewhere, do you really think that the client will communicate the termination of the relationship that way?

Of course they won’t. In fact you will have potentially created a life- long enemy, who will do their best to undermine you and your practice at every opportunity.

2)    Leave your client in control of the relationship

If you instigate the severing of the relationship, you run the real risk of the scenario in 1) above being played out.  The best way to sever the relationship is to let the client leave you.

Perhaps you miss the satisfaction of sending them a nasty letter, but ultimately you achieve your goal, which was to get rid of them from your practice and make your life more enjoyable.

3)    People with a bad experience tell many more people than those with a good experience.

If you instigate the firing of the client, the chances are, that it will be interpreted very differently by your client when they tell other people ; and they will tell them.  In fact most likely they will tell a lot of people and you may not like what they say.

Most likely they will tell all and sundry, how they had to leave because you were the most hopeless lawyer that they had every had the misfortune to meet, or a variation of that. In any event, it will hardly be good advertising for your practice.

4)    Up your fees till they leave or change the commercial arrangement in some other way

The best way in my opinion to fire a law firm client you don’t want, is by way of price. Simply jack up your fee significantly. An alternative, if they are a slow payer, may be to require payment up front, or of course you can do both.

Of course you can’t necessarily do this mid matter, where there is already a fee agreement in place, but if they come back for a new matter, this is your opportunity.

By changing the commercial arrangement in this way, if the client does leave, it merely becomes a commercial decision for the client to leave, rather than the personal attack that they may well have perceived, by you instigating the termination.

As a commercial decision, the animosity is taken out of the termination. In fact, if they tell someone that they have left, it will now most likely simply be a comment that you had gotten too expensive.

I suggest that you never want to be considered the cheapest in town anyhow, so this is not such a bad outcome, especially when compared to the alternative.

5)    What happens if you double the fee and they stay?

If you double the fee and they choose to stay, you have two choices:

– You can still hate dealing with them, but console yourself that you are now making a fantastic profit to compensate you for the pain of dealing with them; or

– If the pain of dealing with them is too great, you can double the fee again at the very next opportunity and maybe they will finally get the message and quietly leave

Firing a law firm client that you hate dealing with, can be a liberating experience and let you start to enjoy your practice again, but think about how you do it, to minimise the inevitable fallout from the decision.

This report contains general information, it is not advice tailored for your specific circumstances. Before you act on anything contained in the following information, you should consider any legal consequences of firing a client and consult your financial adviser before doing so.