Is the Squeaky Wheel Running Your Practice?

A client hires your firm. You open the file and take some action. Usually the first action is the drafting of a document – maybe a letter, maybe a pleading. You send the document off to the client, opposing counsel or opposing party. Then you wait.

In many instances there isn’t a plan for the next action. The next step in the process will occur when someone responds. Many times the file sits untouched until something happens to stimulate some action. If there’s no response to your document then, usually, something will happen when the client starts calling about the lack of response.

The client that calls first, and makes the most noise (lets call this client the “squeaky wheel”), gets the next action. The client that sits quietly, waiting for something to happen, gets nothing – until they explode from pent up frustration and become the new squeaky wheel.

If that’s how you run your practice you’re destined to have unhappy clients and receive few referrals.

The key is to stay ahead of the client – to always have a next action planned for each case and to put yourself in the role of initiator of action so you aren’t always responding. Be proactive – not reactive.

In our firm we hold weekly “case status meetings.” These meetings involve each attorney – one on one – with the managing attorney running through the list of clients and the “next actions.” The meeting can run anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on how proactive the attorney is about having a next action. Attorneys that come to the weekly meeting with a list of next actions are in and out in a flash. The “re-active” need a longer meeting and spend time during the session developing a plan for their next step. Each attorney leaves the meeting (and ideally comes into the meeting) with a list that comprises their plan of action for the upcoming week.

What if you don’t have a “managing attorney?” If you’re a solo can you adapt this approach to your practice? Sure, just play both parts. Set a meeting with yourself (put it on the calendar), prepare your list and then double check it at the designated time. The objective is for you, rather than the squeaky wheel, to start running your practice.


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