Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 8

PRACTICE MANAGEMENT

HOW TO CHOOSE
THE RIGHT CLIENTS
By Rochelle Washington

W

hat is the best way to select the best clients?
If you don't choose judiciously, certain cases
will take up more of your time than anticipated, and
the clients or cases will become extremely difficult
to manage. The result? A negative impact on your
practice, staff, and bottom line.

Wise client selection is one of the most important aspects of building a successful small law firm. Knowing when to say no to a potential attorney-client
relationship is crucial. In fact, declining a case is just as important as accepting
one. You may have the pressures of overhead expenses looming and find
yourself anxiously waiting for the next client to call or walk through the door.
Never let this anxiety and pressure cause you to make a less than prudent
decision about client selection.

How can you choose clients and cases wisely? First, create an initial intake form.
The initial screening of a potential client usually takes place over the phone, so
tailor your questions accordingly. It is best practice to have a short intake form
for your law firm to help facilitate productive and limited conversations with
potential clients. Include questions that can help you screen and quickly determine the viability of a case without having to engage in a long conversation
that ends with the realization that you cannot help.
Next, meet with the potential client for an initial consultation. This is typically
a formal in-person interview that allows both you and the potential client to
determine if you are a good fit for solving the problem presented as well as to
gather additional facts and information. Meeting a potential client for an initial
consultation does not mean you have to take on his or her case.
So, who should you consider avoiding?
The Serial Litigant. Always involved in litigation, this person may have even
fired his or her previous lawyer or lawyers and is often good at hiding important
facts from you.
The Chronically Angry Client. If a potential client expresses frustration in
explaining his or her issue, this is to be expected. However, with a person exhibiting heightened signs of anger or hostility, you will eventually be a target of
that anger.
The Rude Client. Clients who are rude can make the attorney-client relationship difficult. The rude client is often a big consumer of your time and attention.
The Deceptive Client. This person will intentionally misstate or withhold information, which makes representing him or her very difficult. Even experienced
lawyers get fooled.
The Unrealistic Client. This client wants an outcome that is unobtainable. If he
or she cannot accept your guidance during the consultation, you may end up
with an unsatisfied and possibly angry client looking to file a complaint.
The Undercutting Client. This type of client expects a lot of free information,
does not value your services, and demands reduced fees and expenses. When
potential clients complain or hesitate about your fees at the onset of representation, you will most likely have difficulty getting them to pay their bills.
The time and effort you invest in assessing whether you should take on a client
or matter is well worth the future headaches your diligence may help to avoid.

iStock

The D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory Service has helped thousands of
Bar members launch, grow, and manage firms. Its services are free and confidential
under Rule 1.6(j). Assistant Director Dan Mills can be reached at 202-780-2762
or dmills@dcbar.org; Senior Staff Attorney Rochelle Washington is available at
202-780-2764 or rwashington@dcbar.org.

8

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Washington Lawyer - May 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - May 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar Of Events
Cybersecurity Rules & Risks For The International Lawyer
Borders, Refugees & A Global Crisis
Climate Change: Turning To Law In Race Against Time
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Special Coverage: Youth Law Fair @ 20
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Calendar Of Events
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cybersecurity Rules & Risks For The International Lawyer
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Borders, Refugees & A Global Crisis
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Climate Change: Turning To Law In Race Against Time
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 37
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 42
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Special Coverage: Youth Law Fair @ 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover4
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