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The Marketing Lawcast: How to Deal with Difficult Clients in Estate Planning and Elder Law

Posted On: October 11, 2023

By: Jennifer Goddard

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Written by: Jennifer Goddard

Jennifer Goddard is CEO and co-founder of IMS. She has been at the helm of the agency since its start-up in 1995. Jennifer specializes in helping estate planning and elder lawyers grow 7-figure firms with digital marketing. Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in business administration from Michigan State University.
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How to deal with difficult clients Marketing Lawcast episode

with Guest John B. Henry, III

Have you ever had to deal with a difficult client?  Navigating the intricate world of estate planning and elder law is no small feat. Every attorney grapples with the challenges posed by difficult clients and the delicate balance required to manage these complex relationships.  Even though most client interactions go well, every attorney (actually every person in business) has dealt with a client who is just difficult or challenging.  That's why our latest episode of The Marketing Lawcast Podcast is an absolute must-listen!

My guest is John B. Henry, III managing attorney of the Law Office of John B. Henry, III, PLLC in Bellaire and Rockwall, Texas. In this episode, he lays out your game plan for managing difficult clients in your estate planning or elder law practice.

John is a lawyer with a heart of gold and a moral compass that's unshakeable.  He understands that people are people, and he ensures that his work resonates with his values and genuinely connects with the community. He's also savvy in cultivating a capable team and using tools like email marketing and Canva to communicate effectively with clients.

Adhering to Set Policies for Your Firm

Dealing with difficult clients can be a daunting aspect of the legal profession. But according to John, the key lies in understanding the mindset of the client and adhering strictly to set policies. Underscoring importance of having a plan of action for those inevitable moments of crisis, he stresses clear communication and using pressure points to monitor client relationships.

Five Pressure Points in Estate and Elder Planning Client Relationships

Estate and elder law can indeed be a challenging battlefield with a client-lawyer relationship that can often hit pressure points.  Johns stresses that understanding these pressure points is vital for lawyers to navigate and manage client relationships effectively.

  • Client Status plays a pivotal role, emphasizing the importance of continuous evaluation of whether someone should remain a client, ensuring alignment with core values.
  • Effective Communication forms the backbone of any professional relationship. Attorneys need to define their communication strategies, giving clients clarity on how interactions will occur.
  • Scope of the Representation pertains to how the estate planning or elder law client needs might evolve over time. It’s essential to document changes in representation and set clear expectations accordingly.
  • Payment differs from the agreed fee; it's what the firm intends to collect.
  • Participation underscores the critical role clients play in the relationship. As attorneys, setting clear expectations about client involvement, be it reviewing emails or accessing client portals, ensures a smooth partnership.

Steps to Redirect Client Relationships

When problems arise with clients, John underscores the importance of returning to the pressure points and your mindset.

  1. Determine your mindset by deciding how you will share about your processes, procedures, and firm. 
  2. Examine the pressure points and decide whether the client is alignment with your policies and procedures for each one, status, communication, scope, payment, and participation.

Wrapping it up, if there's one thing I’ve taken away, it's this: To truly thrive in the world of estate and elder law, it's about understanding the hearts and minds of your clients, being crystal clear in your communications, and most importantly, staying true to yourself and the values you hold dear. Because in the end, we're not just representing clients; we're advocating for their very essence.


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Disclaimer: Growing a small law firm to six or seven figures (or more) is not easy. The journey is both challenging and exhilarating. At every step you may be tempted to quit. Those who succeed are committed, coach-able and resourceful. If that’s you, let’s talk.