Would You Advertise a Client Expectations Manifesto on Your Website?

(H/T) to Slaw for directing us to a find by Jim Calloway. The Pincus Family Law Firm has posted a Client Expectations Manifesto on their website.  The assumption is this was done to ward off clients who would be unrealistic about the lawyer’s time or the lawyer’s infallibility before the client even consults with the lawyer.

I have some thoughts on this.  I commend the effort and especially putting it up on the internet.  It is a manifesto we should all consider.  However, when I read it initially, the writing was off-putting to me because it read like a rebuke, as if the lawyer was exhausted from not having controlled his clients’ expectations or his time in such a way that s/he was just plain fed up.  I also sensed the paralegals and support staff were complaining and this was the response out of frustration. Again, this is just my impression, but aren’t I like the potential client considering consulting with these lawyer?  I don’t want to be rebuked before I’ve ever opened my mouth.

I would recommend this manifesto be worded in a way which – while gaining what we want , control over our time and not seen as perfect -  makes us even more attractive to the potential client by showing why the client achieves a tremendous value for ‘playing by the rules.’

Here is my hypothetical client expectations manifesto (just the first portion) with just some rewording of Pincus’ manifesto:

ATTORNEY/CLIENT EXPECTATIONS

What You Can Expect From Us

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. Unless absolutely necessary, we reserve our weekends for our families and private pursuits.  Therefore, it is not our policy to work on Saturday, Sunday or legal holidays and we do not provide emergency numbers for these times. Periodically, and truly for our own convenience, we may look at and answer your email over the weekend, but this is generally the exception and should not to be relied upon by you that we are accessible on weekends.

We’ve Never Met A Perfect Person. Have You? We’re great, but please do not think we are perfect.  We are very competent attorneys and paralegals, but occasionally we may make a mistake.  We will correct a mistake if we find it or if you point it out. Just as you would not want to be yelled at or accused of not doing your job or insulted because of the mistake, please give us the same respect.

Don’t Call Us.  We’ll Call You. We always return phone calls, generally in the order they are received and based on the ‘legal’ urgency of the situation.  If you leave a message, trust your message will be passed on to the attorney and returned within one business day, either by the attorney or our support staff.  Knowing this, we ask you to please not call multiple times in a day. During working hours, e-mail is the quickest way to express yourself and get the response you need from an attorney.

Don’t Come A Knockin’. In this law firm, our attorneys primarily work by appointment.  Please do not show up at our offices to speak with an attorney without an appointment as we may not be as welcoming as you would like or expect.  You’re entitled to our full attention and this is why we’ll gladly schedule an appointment as appropriate.

Want To Save Money? Please utilize our paralegals to answer your questions and give you status reports.  Our paralegals are very experienced and can, most of the time, respond to your request.  Our paralegals are billed at less than than 50% of what the attorneys charge so take advantage of their experience and knowledge.  If you are not satisfied with the response or we  determine your request requires a response by the attorney we’ll certainly handle accordingly. It’s  not that we don’t like talking with you or wouldn’t love to bill you more attorney time, but do you really want to give us more money than necessary?

Please read the full original manifesto here.  And be free to copy this, make changes, share it!  Would love to know your thoughts after you’ve read the original.  And…would you be willing to put a Client Expectations Manifesto on your website? If so, how would yours read and why?

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10 comments on “Would You Advertise a Client Expectations Manifesto on Your Website?

  • Susan, I agree wholeheartedly that the original is offputting. It didn’t make me feel “welcome.” I think that manifestos are a good thing. I’m considering using and/or adapting your version for the website that I am developing.

    I’m a firm believer that in life, as well as in practice, we teach people how to treat us. By letting prospective clients know up front how you will treat them and how you expect to be treated, you are setting a tone for your entire professional relationship.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Betty, of course this was just my quick modification. When you write one it should reflect your policies and expectations and worded in a way which also reflects your personality and is consistent with the image you wish to project. I believe in being welcoming and setting reasonable boundaries while injecting a little humor, too. Would love to see yours when it’s available.

  • What an interesting page to include on a website … I’d be very curious to hear their motivation behind the language they used, because you’re right Susan, there are at least a dozen ways to “soften the punch” and be less abrasive, but still get the message across … yet they opted not to.

    Websites are often times a business’s “first impression”, so I’m intrigued to know what effect upon their client enrollment (if any), it has had.

    I’d be reluctant to put such an abrasive foot forward … thanks for the thought provoking post!

  • Jennifer,

    Others across the net have lambasted this law firm for not being client-centric. I chose not to because there can be merit in creating a client manifesto of sorts which lays out the parameters of the relationship beyond the Rules of Professional Conduct and obvious professionalism when dealing with a client. This can also be put in your client ‘handbook’ or (if you have guts) the web. But it needs to be more friendly if not humorous while sending the message intended.

    Having been a family lawyer I know first hand what they are talking about. But I do believe this was reactionary to frustration rather than as thought out as it could have been. Again, I’m discussing the first portion of the manifesto, not the latter.

  • Susan, thanks for sharing this manifesto, it is a great find and excellent point to discuss. i recognize the frustration that motivated this policy. Early on in my solo business, I experienced it enough to realize that I had to improve not only my targeting but management. It wasn’t that the clients needed a manifesto, I did. I think policies are wonderful and can actually draw clients in by showcasing your commitment and personality. I have received great response and new clients to my social media and writing policies.Thanks again for sharing the original and your modifications.

  • Thanks, Karen. I agree with your statement the lawyers’ needed the manifesto more than the clients. My manifesto is a bit ‘tongue and cheek’ but it provides the groundwork for someone to create one of their own and they are free to use what I’ve written as is or as a launch pad for their own if they believe they need to publish one.

  • I am new to SPU, and I have been reading the blogs and posts for several hours! What a wealth of useful information! In connection with the above as it relates to managing clients’ expectations, I think lawyers might take some tips from therapists. I am in NYC and as we have no shortage of lawyers, we certainly have no shortage of therapists, either. Nevertheless, it seems most therapists are very good at minding their time, and managing their patients. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the majority of patients bother their therapists at night and on weekends with all the ups-and-downs in their life between sessions, and at the end of the session, patients expect to leave without a fuss. Maybe it is knowing that there will always be “next session” to discuss, I’m not sure, but it may be worthwhile to take a closer look to see if we can learn something :-) Any therapists here?

    • What a great observation. I think it’s part and parcel of the overall attitude towards each respective profession. In addition there is generally insurance covering therapy sessions which brings in the ‘investment’ and ‘ownership’ angle we have on each professional’s time. We are taking a lot of money out of pocket for lawyers and usually on an isolated basis. Therapy is mostly ongoing and usually voluntary. I’m sure these factors play into expectations. Yes?

  • While I do believe this particular client manifesto is harshly worded and a little too condescending, I can appreciate that they wrote it in plain language and without any typical disclaimer wording and legalese.

    I have a statement in the registration for my virtual law office about social media that tells prospective clients how I will and will not respond to them using online methods of communication. It might come off as a little strict as well, but it’s not in my About Me section or up front where it might deter the prospective client from thinking that I want to start off a working relationship with them “on the defensive.”

    I’m also reading this manifesto and thinking of it in terms of unbundling legal services. For that type of practice, I need to clearly define the lines with prospective clients before I enter into working with them and sometimes it’s tempting to say exactly the things they have written down here. Because I unbundle my services I have to be very specific about how we will communicate and work together so that there are no misunderstandings or false expectations from the very beginning. A well-crafted manifesto for the unbundling client that lays this out is not a bad idea.

    • Stephanie – the key is communication. The tone is up to the individual attorney. If it’s written expressing frustration or humor which doesn’t translate well, that can be at turnoff. I think it’s a great idea to do it in many situations – including that which you described. The language is key!

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