Strategies for Managing Client Expectations |

Strategies for Managing Client Expectations

Paula Puddy, HBA LLB MBA

Obviously, managing client expectations is absolutely essential to be an effective advocate or advisor.

Managing expectations is also important as it remains the #1 reason clients sue lawyers – inadequate communication. In fact, a 2019 article from LawPRO states that 4 of every 5 lawyers can expect to be the subject of a claim during their career. So, how do we improve our communication and reduce this risk?

This video features a panel discussing effective ways to manage expectations. Since the panel includes a LawPRO representative, a government lawyer, a family law lawyer and an insurance defence lawyer, it offers a variety of different strategies and perspectives.

Ian Hu (of LawPRO) mentions that lawyers must be careful of the "first number" that clients hear! This number will have a significant impact on their expectations as it sticks in their head! This phenomenon is called the anchoring effect!

The anchoring effect is a form of cognitive bias that causes people to focus on the first available piece of information given to them.

Ian refers to a study entitled "Inside the Judicial Mind by Chris Guthrie, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski and Andrew J. Wistrich.

The study involved 100 judges in a personal injury case. They were broken into two groups of 50 and asked to assess the case. The control group valued the case at $800,000. The experimental group valued the case at $1.2 million. The only difference between the groups was that the experimental group was told that the plaintiff wanted $5 million in damages. The study concluded that the anchoring effect resulted in a significantly higher assessment. Read the full study.

As such, Ian recommends that you proceed cautiously. Consider giving clients a range of numbers, or tell them that "you don’t know – it is unpredictable" or "it depends".

The other panellists provide helpful advice. Beverly Johnson says:

  • Be honest
  • Communicate
  • Anticipate client needs
  • Report early and report often
  • Be transparent

Sara Sherhols provides some insight into being a government lawyer and the hurdles she faces including red tape, timeliness, getting access to the decision maker for instructions and dealing with several departments.

Karen Borovay discusses the challenges of managing expectations of institutional clients, particularly with respect to costs. She also offers candid advice on providing experienced, knowledgeable clients with solutions. Also, get to know the clients and their preferences.

Watch the Video

What is your take?

Having watched the video, have you had any "anchoring effect" experiences? What is your best advice no managing client expectations? How do you deliver bad news to a client? Feel free to contact me and let me know your opinion.

What would you like to see more of?

At CPDonline we serve your learning needs. Is there a topic you would like to learn more about? Please contact me and if we have your topic in our library, I will send you a direct link. If not, we’ll add it to our training wishlist.

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