As the saying goes you can’t win ‘em all. Some cases or transactions are not going to end well. Don’t beat yourself up over it. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned over a disappointed, or worse, angry client over the outcome of a matter.

A post by Ryan Sullivan on Attorney at Law addresses those situations “When Clients Get Upset Over The Result.”  She provides five tips on how to avoid and/or deal with “a client’s anger over a not-so-happy ending.” They include:

  1. Don’t over promise or under deliver.  Lawyers know that it is unethical to create unrealistic expectations or guarantee results. Most lawyers also understand that while trying to land a client you do not want to overemphasize “doom or gloom” either. So, it is very important to minimize promises and to explain realistic options;
  2. Keep the client involved during the process.  Sullivan suggest that you want to let the client know how hard you are working for them, and how things are proceeding.  But, don’t only communicate the good things that are happening.  A client needs to know about the good, the bad and the ugly as things proceed.  Surprises is what angers clients the most;
  3. Prepare in advance an explanation, regardless of the outcome.  Planning is always a good thing.  So, plan to explain, which ever way things turn out, as part of your normal routine, especially in the case where it doesn’t turn out so well.  During that session, listen to the client, execute your prepared plan, and schedule a follow up meeting after the adrenaline has subsided, and “there’s been a time for cooler heads to prevail;”
  4. Keep your cool. As a professional, it is important to maintain the emotional high road.  Since you know that you can’t control what a judge or jury will do, or an opposing counsel’s tactics, it is your responsibility to remain calm, be sympathetic and show concern.  But, you need to focus on your professionalism, no matter how unhappy you are on a personal level; and
  5. Keep the big picture in mind.  Remember that you can never win them all (even though they told us in law school otherwise).  Don’t forget that the most important person to you is you, and to your family.  You need to move on no matter how angry the client or the outcome.  Don’t let the situation, as Sullivan puts it, “define who you are or how you practice law” going forward (except to correct your screw up of course, if applicable).

How you conduct yourself in these situation will impact your reputation, and how and what the client says about you.  It is a marketing issue.