Managing and Exceeding Clients’ Expectations

I received a lot of great advice from wise mentors as a young lawyer. For example, case selection is key, they said, “you do not regret the case you let walk out the door.  You regret the case you took that you should have let walk out the door.”  And perhaps most importantly:  communicate, communicate, communicate with your client.  Communicating with your client is an idea that can be broken down into many subparts. This article will focus on one subpart, using communication to manage and hopefully exceed a client’s expectation.

In my experience, managing expectations really starts with, first, seeing the legal representation from the client’s standpoint; in other words, from a nonlawyer perspective.  Always keep in mind that clients are not experienced in legal process.  They often need to be taught what is expected.  This can and does take time — a lawyer’s only true commodity.  Given that time is a lawyer’s only currency, we are reluctant to invest this type of currency (time) in a case that at least on its outset doesn’t appear to be worth that needed time investment.

It is important to remember the old saying “penny wise is pound foolish” when it comes to doing what is needed at the beginning of a case to frame client expectations. Regardless of the amount of time needed upfront to frame expectations, this is time well spent.  And hopefully such investment positions the attorney to not just meet expectations but exceed expectations

Key points to remember when managing client expectations:

  1. Build relationships and trust.

This is best accomplished by getting to know the client by asking personal questions, dealing with where the clients from, what is their family situation, what do they do for work;  taking time to ask these kinds of questions helps establish a rapport and trust with the client, which is key if at some point down the road they have to rely on your advice in making a tough decision. In other words, try to reach the client on a personal level; don’t just see them as the next case.

  1. Explain the legal landscape.

This step involves explaining the legal process.  Explain, in direct non-legalese, the unpredictable and complicated nature of the legal world.  This also helps to bring the client into the process. One way to help the client feel invested in the case is to give the client homework to help on the case.

  1. Explain immediate and long-term steps.

Walk the client through the legal issues, what the immediate steps you are going to take as the attorney, what information they need to provide to advance the case forward. This is be accomplished as part of the initial consultation and then confirmed in writing to the client.

  1. Discuss the risks and possible outcomes moving forward.

This step is critical because once the process has been explained then the client needs to understand the risks associated and potential outcomes moving forward.  Of course, risks and outcomes can change as the case progresses; however, the client still needs to be educated on what is at stake for them personally and financially.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!  Based on my experience, managing and or exceeding a client’s expectations comes down to communication. Once a relationship of trust has been established, clients are generally receptive to whatever the ultimate outcome is with their case because they trust the attorney has done what the attorney was going to do; they understood the risks involved, the potential outcomes, and perhaps most importantly, they feel like they were genuinely part of the process.  And if they experience first-hand their part of the process they can accept more easily whatever the outcome.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding any type of injury, or other personal injury matters, call 480-461-5300 to speak to an attorney or email for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options. Udall Shumway PLC is in Mesa, Arizona and is a full-service law firm.  We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.