Client Empowerment 4: Great Expectations
I had breakfast this morning with a successful entrepreneur who recently sold his business. We spoke briefly about what life is like for him now that he never has to worry about money, what it was like building the business and his ideas for new business ventures. Then, quite to my surprise, he asked me “How long does it typically take for you in time and money to close a multi-million dollar deal?” I was curious as to why he asked.
He shared that he had no idea that the sale of his business would cost almost $500,000 in legal fees and took over 6 months to close. Because he was unprepared for the cost and process, he ended up frustrated with his lawyer.
I shared with him that the amount of fees was not out of line for a transaction of the magnitude of his sale (although I did tell him that it would have been much less had he used a small or mid-size firm) and given the few unexpected hiccups, six months was also reasonable. He was comforted by that information but told me he would not use his firm again. Why? All because he felt they did not properly set his expectations at the outset or throughout the process. So here is a major law firm who will lose out on his next big piece of business not because they did a bad job, rather because they did not effectively communicate expectations.
As much as it’s a firm’s responsibility to set expectations, and as easy and tempting it would be to bash this law firm, the main focus of this series of blog posts is “Client Empowerment.” Many lawyers are quite skilled but not great at setting expectations. If you want the benefit of such a lawyer, then it’s imperative that you as client make sure you take the lead in getting your lawyer to set clear expectations. Obtaining this critically important information up front will enable you to potentially influence the process and decide if it’s the right firm for you.