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#297: What Clients Think About You

Do you worry about what clients think about you?

Even if you think, “Not really,” what you’ll learn today about what your brain thinks about them may surprise you.

In this episode of Be a Better Lawyer, you’ll learn how your brain’s thoughts about your clients could be negatively impacting how much money you make in your practice and how you feel every day.

You’ll also learn what to do about it.

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What Clients Think About You

Do you worry about what your clients think of you?

Even if you think, “Not really,” what you’ll learn today about what your brain thinks about them may surprise you.

In this episode of Be a Better Lawyer, you’ll learn how your brain’s thoughts about your clients could be negatively impacting how much money you make in your practice and how you feel every day. You’ll also learn what to do about it.

Here are a few questions I want you to ask yourself right now:

  • Have you ever felt annoyed with a client asking you questions?
  • Have you ever thought your client should just do what you tell them and stop asking questions?
  • Have you ever put off doing client work because you didn’t like a client?
  • Have you ever received an email from a client asking you when the work was going to be done, then you became angry or felt pressured to get things done?
  • Have you ever done work beyond the scope of your client agreement, then you didn’t tell them?
  • Have you ever given a client a discount?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep listening because these episode will change how you think about your clients and yourself.

Because what’s happening in these situations is that your brain is making judgements.

We all make judgments. That’s what our brains do. We make a judgement about whether we should speed through the yellow light or slow down. Or whether we should get the pizza or the salad. Or both.

But when our brain makes judgments without us having awareness of them, we can make really bad decisions. Decisions that can have repercussions to yourself, your practice, and maybe even the client relationship.

Judgment all happens in your brain. Judgments are simply thoughts. That means we need to look at what’s going on inside of YOUR brain instead of what you THINK is going on in your clients’ brains.

In fact, getting to know your brain intimately is the only way you’ll ever feel better and more confident in your interactions and less angry and annoyed.

It will improve your performance including reducing procrastination, making faster decisions saving you loads of time since our judgments can waste time creating a LOT of rumination, it will improve your confidence in everything you do, and it will improve your relationship with your clients.

In this episode, you’ll uncover what your subconscious thinks about your clients — or more accurately: what you THINK they think about you, and then help you clean up any problematic symptoms that may be showing up and negatively impacting your performance or the future of your practice.

When your subconscious thoughts are made conscious, THEN you have the ability to make change.

Before we dive in today, I want to ask you another question. Do you ever think, “It should be happening faster?” Your practice should be growing faster? Your life should be getting easier faster? You should be changing faster?

If you said “yes,” then I want to invite you to book a Strategy Session with me to learn more about working with me 1:1.

We accelerate the process of change when we work together. So if you want to change your life and your practice faster, book a call with me.

We’ll talk about how we’ll work together to achieve your goals, and by this Time next week you can get started making the change you’re looking for. You can book a Strategy Session with me at dinacataldo.com/strategysession

There’s no pressure on these calls. We talk to help you get clarity on exactly what you want and whether or not us working together is a good fit for both of us.

No matter whether we decide to work together or not, you’ll get something you needed to hear on the call.

You can book a Strategy Session at dinacataldo.com/strategysession

Okay, let’s get into this episode.

When I was thinking about this episode, I discovered 4 common beliefs that lawyers have that negatively impact how they show up for their clients and their law practices. 3 of these beliefs come directly from what they’re thinking about their clients, and one of them is a belief that they think about almost everything in their lives daily.

As we go through these beliefs, I want you to make a promise to me.

This is important.

If you see yourself in any of these, if you know you’re thinking these thoughts, if you know you’re behaving in any of the ways I’m describing, do NOT judge yourself.

You are a normal human being who has a brain.

All we’re doing in this episode is bringing hidden thoughts to light.

But when we do that, we can feel shame.

We can tell ourselves, “we should know better,” or “I can’t believe I do that,” or “OMG, I’m a horrible person.”

None of that is allowed, my friend.

So if you notice these thoughts and feelings come up for you as we go through this training, remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re learning about your brain. You’re learning about what your brain does automatically. And now that you know, you can start practicing doing better.

And it is a practice. We may return to the same old habits, and that’s okay. Just remind yourself of what you learned here or come back to this episode if you want a refresher.

Because the impact of doing this work on yourself is massive. You’ll have:

  • better relationships
  • You’ll be paid commensurate with the value of your work because you’ll ask for that value
  • You’ll feel more confident saying no when you want to say no and asking for the value of your work when you say yes
  • You’ll stop avoiding contacting clients
  • You’ll stop procrastinating on client work
  • And you will plain feel better daily
  • Oh, and you’ll save a lot of time because you won’t be ruminating on how you “should” have behaved or how your client “should” have behaved.

Ready? Okay, here’s…

Four beliefs hurting your relationships with your clients:

Belief Number 1: “They don’t think I’m a good attorney.”

How you know this may be you:

  • you do work outside the scope of contract then don’t ask for more money to compensate you for that work – you over-work to prove them wrong and gain their favor
  • Or, instead of over-working, you actually find yourself procrastinating
  • If you think a bill is “too old” you don’t send the bill out because you’re afraid they’re going to think you’re incompetent or disorganized
  • You become upset when clients don’t do what you tell them to like get you a document for their work
  • You consider firing a client because they’re not behaving the way you want them to. For example they mark up a document that you wrote for them or have questions about it, but rather than patiently answering questions you get annoyed with them.
  • If you get an email or call from a client asking you when their work will be done, you become annoyed. Then you put off doing the work or getting back to them about it. You may even snap off an email that’s a bit shorter with them than you’d meant it to be.

Here’s why that’s happening:

You over-work — exceed the scope of the contract — because your brain thinks working proves your worth.

You’re focused on you and how you feel and not focused on problem-solving.

Your brain is hyper focused on what you think they think about you instead of zooming out to problem-solve what’

“They don’t respect me.”

“I should have done the work sooner.”

“They’re going to think I’m disorganized.”

“I am disorganized. I deserve to get paid less because I was disorganized.”

All of these thoughts come down to what you think about yourself: that you’re not enough or not good enough. And they have nothing to do with what your client may actually think about you.

Here’s how your client experiences it:

  • When they don’t get documents to you, they don’t understand why you’re in a rush. They’re not in a rush and don’t understand why you are.
  • When you do work outside the scope of contract, they have no clue what work is done or what you needed to do to make their case solid. They just assume you did what you’re supposed to do as their attorney.
  • When they have suggestions, they figure that’s what they’re supposed to do.
  • When you don’t bill them, your client has no closure to the case. They may even think you still represent them.
  • When you put off communicating to the client about when work will be done, they feel confused and don’t know where they stand.

The FIX:

Focus on your mindset and on problem-solving in your practice.

When you do, you can lead from service. You’re focused not hem and what they’re experiencing versus what you’re experiencing.

Problem-solve the expectations you set out at the beginning of your relationship with your client.

You fill yourself up in the relationship by reminding yourself of the reason they hired you: you know what you’re doing. They feel comfortable with you.

Belief #2: I need to make sure they’re happy at all costs.

It’s also kind of, “I need to be perfect.” And it’s very much the good little girl syndrome. That people-pleasing coming through.

How you know this is you:

  • you do work outside the scope of contract
  • You discount your rate without telling them in the bill
  • You discount your rate in the consult even before they’ve said anything to you about their ability to pay
  • You say “yes” to client requests before looking at your calendar to see if agreeing to their request makes sense to you.
  • You say “yes” to requests without charging for the work you’ll be doing.
  • You say “yes” to client requests even if it means totally upending your life

Here’s why it’s happening:

  • you may be worried that your client will be angry with you and is going to leave you a bad review, leave you, or not give you referrals.
  • You may think that if you go above and beyond then they’ll like you

This basically boils down to, if I do X they’ll like me and if I don’t do X they’ll hate me.

Here’s how your client experiences it:

When you do work outside the scope, they may assume that was part of the work you were supposed to do. They assume it’s part of what you talked about, so don’t expect extra kudos.

When you say “yes” to getting something done in a timeframe that doesn’t work for you, they think they can ask for this all the time. That’s because they assume what they asked is reasonable because you said, “YES.” So if you have clients who have continuous relationships with you, expect that they’ll always ask you to pull a rabbit out of your hat because you’ve trained them to believe it’s normal. Take note that it’ll become harder for you to say “no” in the future because you’ve trained them to think you’ll say yes eventually even if you say no at first.

When you discount your rate, they may not value your services. But even if they do, they’ll also tell their friends the rate you gave them, and their friends will expect the discounted rate in the future. So you’re setting up a problem for your future self.

The FIX:

First, Recognize that your client didn’t hire you, so you can feel good about yourself. They hired you because they believed you could help them with their problem.

Second, and this is the opposite of what you need to do for limiting belief #1: You actually need to focus more on what you want and recognize that what you want matters.

A couple tips:

– when you use a calendar, you can easily say no to new commitments when it doesn’t make sense for your schedule.

– when you have set rates that make sense for the work that you do, you can state them simply.

One thing this limiting belief has in common with limiting belief #1: Part of the fix is to feel uncomfortable emotions and do the hard things anyway. For example, you say no or “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” when your reaction is usually to say yes.

Or when you notice yourself wanting to discount your rate to ask yourself why and if you truly like your reasons. I find that most of the time my clients discount because they think they “should have done the work faster,” so ask yourself this: think of an attorney you respect. Would that attorney discount their rate for the same reason you’re giving? Why or why not?

Belief #3: “They’re wasting my time.”

This is such a fascinating one because you’ve literally decided how much your time and expertise is worth then contracted with your clients around how much of that time and expertise you’ll devote to their case.

But your brain says that THEY are the ones wasting it.

How you know this is you:

  • You feel agitated when your client writes you an email or calls you about their case
  • You put off doing client work for a client who asks you about case work deadlines
  • You find yourself complaining that your clients expect a lot from you even if they just sent you an email simply asking when they should expect the work should be done.

Why is this happening:

You’re thinking, “I don’t have enough time,” or “they’re wasting my time.”

If you think these, of course you’re going to feel pressure or overwhelm, which is going to cause you to be unfocused. It’ll also cause you to procrastinate on work. If you’re feeling agitation around a certain client, you’re not going to want to do work for that client.

How your client experiences it:

They have no clue you’re experiencing all this angst about their case. They just haven’t received clear communication or they didn’t understand something, and they’re trying to clear it up.

The FIX:

There’s lots of fixes but I’ll suggest a few questions to ask yourself as as starting point.

  1. Change your perspective for a moment and ask yourself why your client may be asking a question. What about your interaction may have led them to have this question?

This is a beautiful opportunity to ask yourself where you may not have set adequate expectations in your relationship. I did an entire episode on this in Be a Better Lawyer #292. You can find the link in the show notes.

  1. Is there a better way to manage your time? Are you using a calendar? Are you following through with what you place on the calendar? Are you training your employees to properly route matters away from you?

This is something I work in depth with my clients on because calendars seem like they’d be simple enough, but they’re just not. We have a lot of limiting beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities that get in the way of using them effectively.

Belief #4: “They don’t value my work.”

How you know this is you:

  • you feel obligated to discount your rate when someone asks you to
  • You may feel obligated to discount your rate because you think that they think the work shouldn’t cost as much as you charge
  • You don’t communicate to the client or potential client why your rate is what it is – in other words, you don’t communicate the value of your work
  • You don’t ask for what you want because you think it’s pointless

Here’s why it’s happening:

Your brain assumes that when the client asks for certain work or says they thinks the rate you quote is “a lot” that it means they don’t value your work. Which could be true, but your brain subconsciously agrees with them. So you don’t lay out the value of your work.

For example — and this comes up pretty commonly with the lawyers I work with — a potential client may come in and say they “just want to make a couple changes to an estate plan.” And the brain says, “They think it’s just a quick change and won’t valley work.” Then you may discount your work instead of showing the value of your work.

What Your Client Experiences:

They assume they’re going to pay for any work you ask them to do. Most clients — and I say most — don’t think you’re going to work for free. And if they do, you don’t want to do work for them anyway.

But let’s also make clear that people generally don’t understand the value of your work until you show them the value of your work. They don’t know the importance of doing the job right.

So if you know that a “quick fix” isn’t going to be a “quick fix” because you need to review the entirety of the document because you make any changes because you’re putting your name on it, don’t pretend to the client that it is.

The FIX:

Manage your mind and manage their expectations up front. No need to discount. Make clear what you do and why you do it.

We covered a lot in this episode, so let’s wrap it up with a nice bow, shall we?

First, our fear of client judgment is never about the client. It’s always about what we think about ourselves.

Those thoughts can often be limiting beliefs around our capabilities, pleasing clients or how much time we have.

Second, when we notice which limiting belief is taking hold when it comes to a particular client or working on a particular client matter, we can figure out what we need to work on.

If you lack belief in your capabilities, then the work is learning to notice when you’re thinking about yourself over serving your clients.

If you recognize that you serve your clients too much and are in people-pleasing territory, then you want to remind yourself that what you want matters.

And if you don’t believe that you have enough time to handle client matters, then the solution is to 1) look at client questions from their perspective – is it simply a question that needs an answer? 2) Examine your ability to manage time effectively and seek help if you need it, and 3) consider whether it’s time to raise your rates.

When you begin  to recognize that fearing client judgment is more about what you’re thinking about yourself, it becomes easier not to take interactions with clients personally. You can become more client service focused, and you’ll just plain feel better.

Finally, if you notice that you’re assuming your client undervalues your work, make sure you’re not agreeing with them and undervaluing your work too. Communicate clearly why you do what you do, and charge the rate that makes sense for the services you’re completing.

If you noticed yourself nodding your head throughout this episode, book a Strategy Session with me. We can start uncovering the beliefs that are preventing you from accelerating your progress in your firm and in your life while taking away the stress and overwhelm.

You can book a call with me at dinacataldo.com/strategysession

That’s all for today, my friend, and remember: what you want matters, and it’s 100% within your power to make it happen.

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