Establishing Boundaries: Serving Client Needs While Protecting Your Team’s Wellbeing

Credit: Andrey_Popov/
Credit: Andrey_Popov/

The old adage “the client is always right” clashes with the modern law firm’s refrain that “people are our most valuable asset, and we need to protect their well-being.” It’s a challenge that Rachael Bosch, founder of Fringe Professional Development, often observes law firms trying to navigate with new culture initiatives that keep both employees and clients satisfied.

According to Bosch, the answer isn’t to blindly accommodate every client’s demand but to establish a balanced approach with solid leadership. Partners are required to make strategic decisions and handle implications of each decision. Choosing to overwork your team can lead to mistakes, burnout and low team morale in an industry notorious for long hours and good work ethic. So the goal for partners can be knowing when to set expectations and limits for themselves and their teams when it comes to clients. Setting limits on the team’s workload can lead to employees who are happier, which can help ensure the firm’s long-term success.

Bosch also recommends creating actionable strategies for day-to-day client interactions by using strategies used by actors doing improv. Using the “yes, and…” improv method allows the attorney to agree to a client’s request while also diplomatically adding input afterwards. This is a good way to avoid flat-out refusing a client’s request, but also being able to compromise.

While clients may come to a firm for its expertise in a certain legal field, the firm’s partners should communicate constraints directly, and explore alternatives if a firm cannot meet a client’s demands. 

If a practice can’t meet a client’s deadline, ask more questions about why the deadline is that particular date – if it’s an arbitrary internal deadline, it’s possible to be moved. If it’s a deadline that can’t be moved due to the involvement of the courts or opposing counsel, communicate the needs of resources to the client clearly for the team to meet the deadline. 

Are you interested in learning more tips about establishing boundaries while maintaining a positive relationship with clients? Read more in this article.

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