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If we don’t know a lot about something that we need to make an important decision about, we tend to second-guess that decision at various points along the way. Put another way, we get buyer’s remorse. Especially if we just spent a lot of money or the outcome of our decision could have a potentially disastrous effect on our lives.

It’s not unusual for law firm clients to get buyer’s remorse. We’ve all experienced it — the client who signs but later calls because he’s second-guessing himself. There are at least two times in the client relationship where the client is likely to feel buyer’s remorse:

  1. Right after the client hires you.

You’ve had a great consult, said all the right things and the client is feeling comfortable enough to sign the agreement. Then they go home and start second-guessing themselves. Maybe they’re not ready to proceed. Maybe they think they hired the wrong lawyer. Whatever the reason for their discomfort, you can potentially head off their buyer’s remorse by:

Affirming their decision. When they hire you, affirm that they’ve made the right decision. Tell them why hiring you was the right thing to do and reiterate how you are going to help them solve their problem.

Giving them something to do. Have them gather any documents you need for the case, fill out forms, or whatever else you can think of to get them engaged in working on their case. When they feel things are moving forward, they will be less likely to spend time nursing their anxieties.

Calling them the next day. The day after they hire you, give them a call and reaffirm their decision to hire you. Tell them they made the right decision to address their problem, that bad things can happen when you ignore legal issues. Tell them you’ve been thinking about their case and you’re confident they are doing the right thing. Reassure them that you will always be there for them through the entire process.

  1. At the settlement.

Most cases settle before ever seeing the light of a courtroom. But however a case is resolved, once it’s over, clients can experience another bout of buyer’s remorse. Maybe they think the settlement wasn’t all it should be. Maybe they made a strategy call during negotiations that they now regret. For whatever reason, there are some nagging doubts clouding their minds.

Just like you did after the client hired you, you need to head this case of buyer’s remorse off at the pass. Once a decision is made that ends the case, affirm that it’s the right one. Call them the next morning and make them feel comfortable that the settlement was the right move.

This time, instead of sending them busywork, send them a small congratulatory gift to celebrate the outcome of their case. Include a note that congratulates them on making the correct decision. Affirm that they achieved the best possible outcome for their case — they did the right thing.

Why you need to avoid buyer’s remorse

If left to fester, buyer’s remorse can negatively impact your bottom line in two key ways:

You lose this client. If you allow them to change their minds, they will likely hire another attorney.

You lose future clients. If your client feels he or she has achieved a great outcome, they will be more likely to refer you to friends, family and associates. They won’t make a referral if they regret their decision. They may even actively discourage others from hiring you or leave a negative review online. You can prevent this by actively working to stamp out any buyer’s remorse.

More tips to avoid buyer’s remorse

To address the three emotional factors that make up buyer’s remorse — fear, uncertainty, and doubt — you should:

Make sure you’ve established a solid foundation for your relationship. Be sure your new client understands the value you bring to the table and the benefits they’ll see by engaging you.

Manage expectations. Explain verbally, and follow up in writing, exactly what the client can expect. Detail your communications process with contact phone and email information. Outline your billing practices. Describe the steps that will be taken during the course of the case and what you need from them to achieve the best possible outcome.

Send a thank you note. Send a handwritten thank-you note expressing your gratitude and affirming they’ve made the right decision by hiring you. Explain that you will be working to achieve the best possible outcome for their case.

Send contact information. Provide direct contact information for each person in the firm that will be interacting with the client. Tell them that you will always be available for them and that when you are not immediately available, you will be returning their call within a specified amount of time.

You won’t always be able to avoid buyer’s remorse, but by anticipating and managing it, you will be able to cut down on the current and future potential clients you may lose to this all-too-human reaction to the stress of dealing with legal issues.