how to say no to law firm clients

How to say no to law firm clients without making them feel frustrated or offended? Even with overfilled plates, many lawyers have the tendency to take on more work, to make promises all over the board and to stretch themselves as thin as they can to go above and beyond to make their clients happy. What usually ends up happening, however, is that they fall short on promises, sacrifice their quality of work, and ultimately burn themselves out. Being successful isn’t about being as busy as you can be, it’s about being the right kind of busy and it all starts with learning how to say no to law firm clients requests.

Why aren’t you saying no to your clients?

a woman thinking about how to say no to law firm clientsBefore you can learn how to say no to law firm client requests, you first need to think about why you aren’t already doing this in the first place.  Usually, the reasons for not saying no to clients are three-fold:

  1. The fear of losing a client
  2. Afraid of gaining a bad reputation
  3. Fear of damaging the relationship

Contrary to popular belief, saying “no” won’t necessarily lose you business. In fact, if you do it in the right way, it will actually result in clients respecting you as a professional giving both your opinion and work more value. 

How to say no to law firm clients requests in just 6 steps

So, you are overworked and staying late again in the office and a client emails you asking for some additional work that is of low value.  Instead of responding immediately, take some time to think about your response and how you can say no to law firm client requests whilst still keeping them happy.  Many lawyers have done so successfully with these 6 essential steps:

Step 1: Thank them before responding

a note saying thanks

You should always thank your clients for wanting to do business with you so express how grateful you are that they trust your business over others. A genuine show of gratitude will show your client that you care about them and appreciate their business. Always try to communicate positively when you’re saying no to clients.

Step 2: Be honest with your explanation about why you can’t fulfil their request

The client may take this well or they may not, but being as transparent as possible puts you in the best position for maintaining this working relationship.

Step 3: Give them alternative options

Follow up your explanation of the refusal with a counteroffer or other close alternative solutions. If you have to, look internally or even externally to see if you can help them achieve their goals. Even though you are saying no to your client, by making the effort to find them another credible option to get their work completed, you are showing your client that you care about them which results in them being extremely happy.

Step 4: Provide them with helpful content or other resources

a support beam holding up a tree branchSend your client relevant blog posts, research, news articles, etc, that will benefit them. Not only will this show your client that you are willing to go above and beyond for them, but it keeps you front of mind too.

Step 5: Follow up to make sure that they got what they needed

If you referred them to someone else, follow up with them every once in a while to check in. Regular communication and showing your client that you care will always keep your foot in the door.

Step 6: Stay connected with them and reach out to them when you can fulfil their request

You may want to know how to say no to client requests because you have to not because you want to. Whatever your reason for the refusal this time around, if circumstances change, send them a friendly email and let them know that you can now fulfil their request.

Always keep your clients as happy as you can

happy client if you no how to say no to law firm clientsSaying “yes” to everything doesn’t always keep your clients happy, especially if you have over-committed to all of your clients and you are starting to under-deliver. That’s why, like many other lawyers, you need to start learning how to say no to client requests. By using these 6 simple steps above, start saying no to unreasonable or low-value requests and start being the right kind of busy moving forward.

We have a great course in our subscriber-only site Progress to Partner called “How to give negative feedback to people who matter, without it being a career-limiting move.”. It’s a great course that will give you the confidence and tools to give negative, constructive or developmental feedback to clients, partners, team members and people working on your jobs.

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