Keeping a client your staff can’t stand? There are times when you can’t see the forest for the trees. The staff realizes the client is always a problem. There’ s no denying it, complaining, slow paying, whiney, demanding, unfriendly, and unpleasant people sometimes sneak into your client base. Then there is the question of what to do about it.
Obviously, the ideal answer is to be so alert during the intake process for new clients that you decline to bring them into your practice. However, ideal scenarios are not always in sync with reality. You might find Dr. Mengele is no problem when dealing with you, but treats your staff poorly. Or, perhaps he simply didn’t show his true colors when you agreed to take his case on. Worst of all, you have to cover your firm’s payroll; you might have been seduced by the size of the fee to be charged.
Regardless of the circumstance that allowed the reprobate in, you have to determine how to deal with the situation once he’s there. First, you should recognize the problem and ask your staff what issues are causing their aversion to the client. Second, you should consider your obligation to continue representation of Dr. Mengele. Third, determine how close you are to completing the services you were engaged to provide. Finally, is the fee worth the disruption in your firm?
Although the staff may keep it to themselves, recognizing the staff dislike for Dr. Mengele is usually the easiest step. You can foster an open firm culture that encourages staff to communicate problems in dealing with certain clients. As long as they realize that you care about how they are treated and that they will suffer no repercussions for voicing their concerns, they will relate their experiences with clients. If the problem is simply a personality clash, it may be as simple as changing the staff person who deals with that client.
The truly difficult client will be difficult with any staff person. Then it’s time to determine if you have an obligation to complete the matter you were engaged to represent. If so, you need to discuss the situation with the staff. It’s up to you to sell them on the reasons you need to continue representation.
If you can see that you are near the end of the engagement, you might decide that services to Dr. Mengele will not be extended beyond the current engagement. If the fee is not paid as agreed you may have the opportunity to withdraw without completing the case.
The final consideration concerning the size of the fee should be the easiest for you to handle. If you have elected to retain the client despite his bad behavior the staff should respect your decision as it has been made for the good of the firm. Nonetheless, it is your position to earn their buy-in to this decision.
Notice that I did not mention clients that you can’t stand. some of the same considerations are in order. And, a further caution to be observant in your interview process to be sure you want the client. You should determine if they qualify as clients of your firm. Very few practitioners do what you do and even less do it competently and honorably. Being your client should be a privilege and not taken for granted. Just because Dr. Mengele responds to you marketing does not mean he can become a client.
You will find that most of the Dr. Mengele clients are not worth suffering with and that referring them elsewhere is best. As long as there are no ethical violations, you should avoid spending your talents on people who are difficult and disruptive to your practice. Perhaps a referral to your competition is the solution.