We’ve all had clients we would like to fire, but may not have had the nerve or want to lose the revenue. I remember a story told at a conference I attended about the small law firm that spent hours at its weekend retreat discussing firing a client that provided 25% of their revenues. Many of the firm lawyers were frustrated in dealing with this client’s people, who could be very unpleasant, demanding or just plain obnoxious. Once the partners agreed on ridding themselves of the client, they spent, according to the story, two hours arguing over who would have the privilege of actually firing the client.

There may be a better way to deal with problematic clients.

According to an article by my colleague at LegalBizDev, Gary Richards, which appeared in the May issue of the UK Law Society’s “Managing for Success,” he suggests three options in dealing with an annoying or slow paying client:

  1. Change the situation.  Either internally without involving the client or, if necessary to do so, then negotiate at the appropriate level to avoid offending your contacts and exasperating the problem. The five steps he mentions should help you with this option.
  2. Accept the situation.  If your firm needs or wants the work irrespective of the feelings toward the client contacts, consider one of four reasons mentioned by Richards as “sufficient reasons to accept things as they stand.”
  3. Leave the situation.  If neither of the efforts above prove fruitful, then let the client know that you will not be in a position to take on additional work, “if the issue occurs again.” Richards agrees this one is a tough choice, but may be the best one under the circumstances.

So, if you have difficult clients, Richards’ article is a must read.