Effective communication is crucial to the success of the attorney-client relationship. In fact, poor communication is one of the most frequent causes of bar grievances. The best way to improve communication is to be proactive and set the groundwork at the outset.
- Discuss what method and how often you will communicate. It’s important to keep clients updated, but you also may need to manage expectations. Do they expect to hear from you weekly? Want phone calls rather than emails? Establish parameters regarding how and when you will update them. Also, if they need to reach you, tell them what the best way is to do that.
- Designate the contact people on both sides. If there are multiple people in your office working on a matter or there are several contacts for the client, clarify who will be the key people.
- Talk to your clients about their concerns and goals. Maybe they are more interested in a quick resolution versus more money or they want to have their day in court. Ask them what they are looking for and why. It helps you understand their reactions and how to best advise them.
- Be a good listener. This goes with understanding clients concerns and goals. Really pay attention to what clients say. Ask questions but avoid interrupting and don’t jump to conclusions.
- Don’t use legalese. As much as possible use plain English. Don’t assume clients understand legal terms and processes. Encourage them to ask questions if they don’t understand.
- When you give them information, explain it. When providing information, explain if and how it affects their case. Tell them if they need to do anything. Be proactive rather than making them call and ask.
- Use a client portal. Online portals provide a more secure way to communicate with clients than traditional email and can provide them with 24/7 access to their case information, so they don’t need to call you.
- Include your clients in the decision-making process and discussions of various solutions. You don’t want to just tell clients what to do. Explain what your recommendation is and why and be prepared to answer questions.
Remember that your client may have never dealt with an attorney before or been involved in a lawsuit. They may be fearful. By communicating clearly and regularly, you can provide them with the assurance that you are actively handling their matter and are responsive to their needs. That will leave you with a happier client no matter how the case ends.
As former personal injury lawyers, we understand the difficulties attorneys face in managing their day to day practice. It can be hard to keep clients updated when many cases can take years to settle and pay out. RapidFunds helps law firms with some of the financial burdens of running a practice by providing post-settlement funding.