How to Manage an Impatient Personal Injury Client
It’s natural to have impatient clients on occasion, especially if they’re going to be waiting months or years for a personal injury settlement. They may contact you frequently, interrupting you to ask questions you still don’t have the answer to. They may become irate with you if you tell them something they don’t want to hear. They may even threaten to leave you a bad review or bad mouth your name if they’re unhappy with their circumstances.
Fortunately, there are some tools that can help you manage this type of client.
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is one of the most important communication skills to master – and it’s one of your best tools in managing an impatient client. The idea is simple; you’ll focus your attention on listening to the client and demonstrating that you’re paying close attention. Active listening is quiet, patient, neutral, and non-judgmental. Over the course of the conversation, you’ll work to summarize what the client is saying, ask follow-up questions, and provide strong non-verbal signals of listening (such as mirroring body language and making eye contact).
Oftentimes, people become impatient and/or frustrated only when they feel like they’re being dismissed, unheard, or not taken seriously. Active listening can dissipate these feelings, leading to more understanding and patience from the client. Additionally, active listening gives you a chance to figure out exactly what has this client upset – and possibly, a path to resolve that issue.
Understand and Sympathize With Their Impatience
Next, try to understand and sympathize with your clients’ impatience. If the waiting is not your fault, express how you feel about the situation; for example, you might tell a client, “I understand how frustrating it is that you can’t get a settlement right away. I promise I’ll do everything I can to expedite the process.” If the waiting is your fault, like if you failed to respond to an email in a reasonable timeframe, offer your sympathy with an apology.
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s important to set realistic expectations with an impatient client. Clients understandably become impatient when they’re left in the dark, unsure of what to expect, or when their expectations keep changing; for example, if the projected settlement date keeps getting pushed back, it’s reasonable for a client to grow impatient over time.
To start, set expectations for when and how often you’re going to communicate. For example, you can explain that you’re going to have weekly phone call meetings and that you’ll email if you have any updates in the meantime. If your client becomes irate that you’re not meeting frequently enough, you can refer back to your original agreement or work out a new arrangement.
You should also set realistic expectations for things like timeline, settlement amount, and key challenges to come in the future. Estimate conservatively when you can, but do try to provide some kind of framework, even if many of the variables are uncertain. For example, saying “It could be anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks” is a better answer than, “I don’t know how long it’s going to be.”
Reach Out to Impatient Clients Proactively
If you know a client has a history of being impatient, you can try to reach out to them proactively. Feelings of impatience tend to fester and grow stronger when a client feels forced to reach out with questions. Instead, send your impatient clients messages periodically. Even short, simple updates like “I reached out to the opposing counsel 2 days ago, but haven’t heard a response – I expect to hear back by the weekend” can be valuable.
Don’t Ignore Them
We realize it may be tempting to screen phone calls or ignore clients that are overly needy, but this can actually make it worse and reduce client trust. Instead make certain you are answering all calls and properly explaining the timeline to your clients. Although impatient clients may not hear everything you are saying, over time it will sink in and they will be more likely to trust you and the advice that you are giving them.
Delegate Some Communication
Managing client relationships is an important part of being a lawyer, but it shouldn’t dominate your professional time. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your impatient clients, or if you’re becoming impatient yourself, feel free to delegate some of your communication. Work with your team members, such as other lawyers, paralegals, assistants, and secretaries, to handle some of the conversations.
Keep Clients Occupied Somehow
People are much more patient when they have something to do. For example, if you’re in a waiting room, you won’t notice how much time is passing if you’re filling out paperwork or reading a magazine. You don’t have to give your impatient clients homework assignments (nor could you), but giving them responsibilities or objectives can help them manage their own impatience. For example, you might encourage them to gather specific kinds of evidence or add new features to your waiting room if you frequently meet with clients in person (such as TVs).
Help However You Can
Finally, make it a point to help your client however you can. Many of your clients will be struggling with a complex assortment of problems; they may be out of work, recovering from extensive injuries, and dealing with relationship issues all at once. You can’t solve all their problems, but you can help them feel more confident and cared for.
- Recommend pre-settlement funding. You could, for example, recommend pre-settlement funding. Pre-settlement funding provides clients with cash immediately, mitigating their financial stress in the process. When the settlement arrives, they’ll pay back the money (plus a fee) – and if they don’t win a settlement, they’ll owe nothing.
- Help provide context for key issues. If your client is struggling with something specific about the case, such as how long the negotiation is taking, provide them with context. Help them understand the circumstances that shape this situation, and what’s “normal” for these parameters.
- Refer clients to other professionals. You can’t help your client with everything, but you can refer them to qualified professionals in other areas. For example, you can recommend a different doctor or a therapist who can give them further assistance.
Pre-settlement funding has the power to build client trust, provide financial relief, and reduce stress for your clients all at the same time. The trick is to find the right provider. To learn more about how Capital Now Funding can help your clients, impatient and patient alike, contact us today!