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Bearer of Bad News

1 min read

Sure, we wish that every day would result in good news delivered to a happy client. And we also know that just isn’t realistic. Delivering that good news is rewarding for both you and your client. Reporting bad news can be devastating for your client and absolutely deflating to you as the attorney. However, there is a right way to tell your client the bad news tactfully and professionally. Guest Blogger Karen Thalacker covers 3 ways to make the best of a bad situation.



We all love getting a positive ruling from the court and then sharing that news with a client.  However, on those occasions when you are the bearer of bad news, here are 3 suggestions for how to handle it.

  1. Unless you are incapacitated or on a desert island without phone service, you should be the one to deliver the bad news. Not your paralegal.  Not the attorney in the office next to you.
  2. Deliver the news promptly. You want your client to hear it from you and not the opposing party. If at all possible, do it by telephone first and then follow up with an email.
  3. Carefully read the ruling. You want to deliver the information promptly but you also need to take the time to make sure you accurately describe what happened and can answer your client’s questions.

Bad news is no fun to deliver but it’s not quite as painful if you’ve been managing your client’s expectations from your very first meeting.  Throughout the case, keep reminding your client of the range of possible outcomes from the worst case scenario to the best case scenario.  Whatever the outcome, you will be glad you did.

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Authored by:

Karen is a graduate of Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, and Drake University Law School in Des Moines, IA. She began her legal career as a prosecutor before entering private practice. For over 20 years, her practice has focused on family law and general practice. Karen is trained in Collaborative Law and also acts as a parenting coordinator for high conflict parents. Since 2009, Karen has served as a judicial magistrate in Iowa. She is also the Chief Compliance Officer and pre-law advisor at Wartburg College. Karen is the author of “The New Lawyer’s Handbook: 101 Things They Don’t Teach You in Law School” and also two knitting books for children. Her commentaries and guest opinions have appeared in the Huffington Post and the Des Moines Register. She and her husband Pete have 4 children.

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