You can’t always get what you want but, if you try sometimes, you find you get what you need. – Rolling Stones

Legal consumer today have a very different relationship with their lawyer than in days past.

What Legal Clients Want

Consumers expect their lawyer to be understanding, fit their personality, show empathy, offer support, and provide great customer service, according to a recent Martindale-Avvo study.

That’s a tall order for a profession that’s not known for being nurturing. Yet, becoming what I call #EQStrong is the path to success for future lawyers.

Clients want connection. They want someone (hello, you) to be on their side.

Clients want comfort and reassurance. They need you, as their interpreter in the legal world, to calm their fears and offer hope when possible.

Clients want to be respected. Clients don’t know the law but they are the definitive expert on their own lives. They want your help to make the right decision, not to feel dumb.

I know. Probably not what you want to read or do. But, here’s the thing.

Lawyers with high EQ earn more and enjoy a higher degree of satisfaction at work. Happier at work. Yes, please.

And, if you want to read more about client experience I recommend reading, Outside In and studying the 4 questions.

What do lawyers expect from clients?

Forgive the slight detour to set the context. Clients have plenty of expectations. You are entitled to have some of you own expectations when it comes to clients and paralegals (bet you wondered how I’d tie that in, hmmm)

Every new client looks like a gift from heaven when you start your own law practice. I remember thanking G-d for sending along a new client at just at the right moment (car needed repairs, school fees due, etc)

Over twenty years, I wised up about rouge clients and I bet you have, too. Not all money is good money. Not every client is for you.

Some lawyers struggle with the idea that they can be choosy. They don’t know that they can, and should be, selective about who you allow into your practice, whether it’s a new client or a new paralegal.

Your Client Avatar

You need a yardstick to make sure your law firm clients measure up to your standards. No tolerating poor behavior.

Close your eyes (just for a second) and imagine your favorite client. What do you notice about that person? Why do you like them? What made that person a great client?

Now, when I ask students this question during TYPP someone always says the most important quality in a client is their ability to pay! We all laugh but that’s a serious consideration. On my yardstick, clients easily have the ability to pay and are happy to do so because they see the value. Pay should be part of your yardstick, too.

Also consider:

  • The nature of their work
  • How profitable the type of work is
  • How much you like doing that type of work
  • Temperament (one student told me she likes ‘can do’ clients)

What is included on your client yardstick is up to you. Be a little selfish. You work hard and deserve to spend your time with clients and paralegals who are compatible with you.

I asked my FB mastermind group, The Intentional Lawyer Club, to share their must-haves with you. Here are the qualities they are looking for. I hope these suggestions trigger new ideas about what clients are the ideal, best for your law firm.

The List (in no order)

  • Trustworthiness
  • Cooperation
  • Honest
  • Polite
  • Engaged
  • Values legal services
  • Kindness
  • Patience
  • Good listener
  • Appreciative
  • Follows directions
  • Open minded
  • Accountable

What if they don’t measure up?

I get this question indirectly from clients. It’s almost as if they don’t want to share a preference because they are don’t know what to say if someone doesn’t measure up. They feel guilty.

I get that. I was raised like you with messaging like ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ and who do you think you are’? Eventually though, I realized that being nice was killing me. Being overly accommodating is stressful.

I’d rather be clear about my needs so I can do my best job. That’s what you’re doing when you create your own client yardstick. SHARE the qualities you want in a client in the comments. I’d love to hear!!

Want the Employee Avatar worksheet?


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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