In the majority of cases, if a law firm has a disgruntled client, it is the firm’s fault. As I have written about in the past, if the client is the problem, fire them. But in the 99% of cases where it is the lawyers who forgot the basics of client relations, there are ways to turn an unhappy client into a happy one.

By way of refresher, the basics include treating a client properly by having empathy, charging fairly, doing quality work, and respecting the client at all times, according to Nancy Byerly Jones in an article on LawyersUSA Online. (unfortunately subscription required)

Again, overcoming my usual aversion to linking to articles that my readers can’t read without subscribing, I’ll paraphrase Jones’ five helpful tips on reconnecting with disgruntled clients:

  1. Deal with any client problem issues or concerns ASAP (as in yesterday);
  2. Give client your full attention, and sufficient time to “tell their story,” without being defensive;
  3. Listen with an open mind and compassion to comprehend client’s viewpoint;
  4. Apologize for any miscommunication, mistakes, disrespect, or poor service;
  5. Show by your actions – not just promises – that the errors of the past will not be repeated, then exceed client’s expectations going forward.

Not all situations can be turned around, of course. But if the client is an important client to your firm, and there is some unhappiness in the relationship, it’s a pretty good idea to turn things around. Jones’ tips can help.