Expectation Management Is Key to Practicing Law

I just sold my house.

Before we listed the house, we made all of the improvements suggested by the real estate agent. We replaced pretty much everything: hardwood floors, carpet, cabinets, countertops, paint, plumbing, and light fixtures—everything. It was like a brand new house.

The agent called on Wednesday night as she finalized the info required to put the house on the Multiple Listing Service. She planned to activate the listing on Thursday.

“It’ll be sold by the end of the weekend,” she said.

I was excited by that possibility while being stunned by the poor expectation management.

She already had a contract with us: there was no need to blow smoke up my ass. She had the listing tied up for six months.

“What is she thinking?” I wondered to myself. My head nearly exploded at what seemed like expectation malpractice to me.

We’re in the business of expectation management. We’ve got to manage clients on every issue. We need to help clients understand how quickly we will respond when they call. We need to help them understand how much this is going to cost and how long it’s going to take. We manage their expectations about court outcomes and settlement possibilities.

We manage expectations all day long, and we know better than to ever tell a client to expect the best possible outcome. We’re experts at this sort of thing.

On Friday afternoon, fifteen hours after the house first went on the M.L.S., we signed the acceptance of the offer at the asking price. The house sold. The agent was exactly right.

What do I know?