There could be a number of reasons that clients might bad mouth your firm. As the saying goes, an unhappy client/customer will tell up to 10 people how dissatisfied they are with a product or service. For a lawyer, that can be the kiss of death, since anywhere from 71% to 80% of new matters come from referrals. The reasons may have nothing to do with the ultimate outcome of their legal matter.

In a recent blog post Jamie Field points out the need for creating realistic expectations to avoid negative word-of-mouth damage from clients. Her suggestions include better communication (asking the client by what manner, how often, and when they would like communication during their matter); what the lawyer will realistically do for the client; and what outcome options – “both good and bad” – can be expected.

Actually, there are more concerns to be considered in order to avoid unhappy clients, who may “bad mouth” you or the firm. They include:

  • Amount of the fee, irrespective of the result;
  • How they were treated by the lawyer and staff;
  • Whether there were any unpleasant surprises of any kind;
  • Failure to keep client informed of the status of their matter; and
  • Shown a lack of respect as a person.

It is the lawyer’s fault if a client has unrealistic expectations, or is treated poorly. Accordingly, it is critical to have a meaningful discussion upfront as to what the scope and objectives of the representation will be, as well as what they can realistically expect. That includes not only the possible outcomes, but how they will be treated, and what the matter is likely to cost. In today’s world that is increasingly important in managing a legal project. It also can help avoid bad mouthing by disgruntled clients.

Getting referrals from happy clients – better still raving fans – is a much more effective business development strategy.