Problem clients don’t simply come with the territory when you are a lawyer. You select them.

When the rent and payroll are due and you aren’t certain where your next client is coming from it is super easy to take on a bad client to pay the bills Completely understandable, but so unwise.

Kristen Tyler thinks that a crystal ball and truth serum would be a great way to avoid problem clients. That would help, but I have an even easier way to avoid bringing unsuitable clients into your law firm.

Your Ideal Best Client

One of the first questions I ask a client when we are automating their workflow is: who is an ideal best client for you? They laugh and say a paying one. Funny, I get that.

Your ideal client is the client who meets the business criteria of your law practice. Meaning, they have the legal problem you solve in the market you desire and have the ability to pay on time. But go a little further.

Your best client meets your personal criteria for the people you like to work with the most. These are the clients who inspire you to do your best work because of their attitudes and behaviors.

For instance, I fall in love with clients who have a vision for growing their law practice and the commitment to carry it out. That floats my boat. I get so excited to be part of their process that I’m constantly sending them things, even when they are no longer an active client.

Same thing for self-aware clients who know where they get stuck and want an accountability partner to move them past that point. I love that because it means this person is good at self-reflection and wants to pay for their personal development, which makes my job easier.

Think about the clients you’ve gotten the very best outcomes for. I bet they share commonalities. Those traits, attitudes, behaviors will become part of your client yardstick.

client yardstick eliminates problem clients
Do your clients measure up?

What is a Client Yardstick?

A yardstick is defined as ‘a standard used for comparison’. Not all clients have equal value, and yet, most lawyers work on the premise that any client is a good client. Not true. Bad clients are worst than no clients at all.

Your Client Yardstick measures the 5-10 qualities, traits, behaviors that you want to see in a client in order to work with them. Also add 5 red flags that warn you away from a client.

When a client says get back to me in six months what they don’t realize is that is a red flag for me. Those words tell me that either this person isn’t committed to making a change or doesn’t know how to say no tactfully. Neither is a good look for working with me.

What are your problem client red flag words or senteneces?

Definitely write down your client yardstick. Why? Because if it only exists in your head then it’s easier to ignore it. Humans like to follow rules, especially lawyer types. You’re more likely to use your yardstick if it is a written policy that you share with your intake staff.

Want help writing your yardstick?


Dina Lynch Eisenberg, JD, is the CEO of, an outsourcing training/consulting firm for successful lawyers and entrepreneurs based in Oakland, CA.

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