How do you screen potential law clients?  That is an important question when most solo and small firm lawyers spend half their time trying to get new clients.

Unfortunately, many lawyers are tempted to accept anyone who knocks on the door of their law practice, but the reality is that when you accept clients without screening them, you are accepting their bad behavior and have no one to blame but yourself.

Do you screen your potential law clients based on personality or attitude?

This question appeared in one of the lawyer groups I belong to on Facebook.   I love this question because I have been preaching about the need to be selective before accepting a client. Your new client needs to fit into your niche and be part of your target market.  He or she also needs to be a ‘best’ client for you.

Think of your law practice as your home.   You designed it yourself and it is where you feel safe and comfortable to do your thing.  When you invite clients into your legal practice, your goal is to serve them well and solve their legal woes. Would you open the door to just anybody to enter?

Would you invite in rogues who want to use your legal knowledge as a shield to do wrong-doing?

Would you invite in bad actors who want to use you as a stepping stone to get whatever they want without regard for you?

Are you willing to invite in trifling clients who use a sad story to take advantage of your good nature and don’t pay you?

Have you invited in tire-kickers who were only interested in filling up on your free offerings with no intention of ever staying for the full meal?

You work way too hard (and studied too long) to put up with clients who are bad.  You don’t deserve clients who won’t accept your boundaries, waste your time or simply don’t respect your abilities.  And, you don’t have to when you know who your best clients are and commit to working with them only.

Your best client is the one who seeks you out to work with because s/he:

  • appreciates your expertise
  • recognizes your leadership
  • shares your view of working together
  • respects your boundaries
  • values your knowledge & is willing to pay for it
  • understands that you are the right person to solve their legal issue

Where do you find your Best Client

Ok, I bet you are making that skeptical-lawyer-face.  Best clients are not unicorns. They surround you if you are willing to open your eyes and look.  The same way you’d look for gold..with effort and intention because Best clients are gold.

In fact, you have met your Best client already.  Look for the person who inspires you to do your best work.  The person who you ‘click’ with such that everything is easy.  The person who makes you feel like you are living in your purpose.


Emotional clients aren’t necessarily bad clients

There is a temptation to think that clients who get emotional are bad clients.  That’s not necessarily true.  Did you know that 87% of legal consumers feel stuck and frustrated which causes on-going stress? (In the Hot Seat: How Understanding Client Stress Can Help You Grow your Business, Nika Kabari)

Or that 89% of legal consumers worry about the cost of paying for your legal services?  Those stresses cause people to act out and make poor decisions that look like bad clients.  That’s why it is important for you to generate your own measuring tool, your client yardstick.

Use your Yardstick

woman with dropped ice cream coneAs a result of creating your client yardstick, you’ll be able to tell the difference between someone who is generally a jerk and someone who is caught up in the frustration of being stuck in a problem and not knowing how to solve it.  You can coach your clients to better manage their emotions and give them options. A jerk is just a jerk.


How do you make your yardstick to screen clients?

You can design your own yardstick to screen clients so they measure up to working with you.  It just takes a bit of dedicated time, planning and honesty.  Of course, you first have to know your niche market, the folks who need the legal solution you provide. That’s the first step.

The second step is understanding what I like to call the ‘Sovereign Nation of You’.  John Donne said, No man is an island.  Turns out that he hadn’t met enough entrepreneurs.  As a lawyer-entrepreneur, you are like your own Nation with rules, values, customs, and traditions.  It becomes a lot easier to bring on the right clients (and teammates) when you understand your Nation.

Get to Work to Identify your Best Clients

If you like the idea of working with clients who truly value you but don’t quite have time to create your Client Yardstick on your own, I invite you to join me for FOCUS480.

For the next 4 Fridays, starting Sept 14th, we are focusing on dealing with difficult clients and building your client yardstick. 

Specifically, during each session we will address one particular issue:

Sept 14- How to Set Boundaries

Sept 21 – How to Deal with Unrealistic Expectations

Sept 28- How to Deal with Payment Problems

Oct 5th- How to Write your Client Yardstick

To learn more and register, click here



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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