Nine tips for managing your clients’ expectations so you can maintain the best relationship possible in a forever changing and busy work environment.

By Danielle Easton

Manage Client ExpectationsAs a lawyer, you already know it can be hard juggling all the aspects of your job, from new business meetings to preparing for court cases and briefings, as well as lots of paperwork and clients to keep happy. It can be a lot of hard work. So we’ve pulled a list together about the best ways to manage your clients’ expectations so you can maintain the best relationship possible in a forever changing and busy work environment.

Here are some tips you can use to keep your clients happy and help them have a realistic expectation of what will happen as you represent their case.

1. Explain The Overall Process

When you begin working with your client, firstly explain the process of what will happen during their case so there are no hidden surprises. If you fail to do this at the beginning, this can leave them feeling disappointed and unprepared, and potentially put a strain on your relationship. Obviously, some things can’t be helped but the more open and honest you are, the better the end result.

2. Be Clear When Outlining Goals

It is always important to be understanding but firm with your client when outlining realistic goals. When a client is in a stressful phase of their life, they could be feeling like nothing is going to plan and react in a way they wouldn’t normally. Be fair and stress the fact that it is often a long process but you are handling the case and are on top of things. Once you have all the relevant information from them, there’s nothing you need from their end except for patience.

3. Be Honest With Costs

In your introduction meeting it can be helpful for your client if you share ideas of the cost and specify your charges for meetings going forward. With this information, the client can decide if this is something they can afford and that they are happy with the charges before any of the  work is done.

4. Explain the Timescales

It’s beneficial to be honest with timescales from the start. It can be hard to judge but if you can give your client a good idea of how long it will take for their case to be heard this can help them prepare themselves for the wait. Quite often, some clients will chase their attorneys for updates and this can be frustrating for both sides. Give your client a clear idea of how long it will take for their case to be carried out so they know from the beginning what to expect.

5. Keep Your Client Updated

Throughout the process, it is a good idea to keep the client in the loop as much as possible, whether it be by email or on the phone. Share important dates with them and discuss any worries they have as this can help build trust and reduce frustration.  By being honest and regularly communicating with your client, there will be no surprises for either side and it will be a much smoother process.

6. When the Plan Changes, Tell Your Client

Things occasionally change and go in a different direction which can’t be helped. It’s just the nature of the business. If this does happen just be upfront and explain why it has happened and what you’re next steps are going to be. Reassure them that you have the same goals as they do and that you will do your best to meet these as efficiently as possible.

7. Don’t Offer High Expectations

I recently saw in a Forbes article that it’s best to under-promise but actually over deliver. I believe that this is a great attitude to have and it’s an amazing feeling to offer great customer service and get the outcome both parties want. The worry with over-promising is there’s a lot of room for error and not everything can be guaranteed when it comes to law. It’s important to share what we can’t control but explain the options available depending on the outcome.

8. Make Sure They Understand The Process

Some clients may have never dealt with lawyers before so explaining the process to them is beneficial. The client is going to be 100% focused on their case but it’s important to mention how every lawyer works on multiple cases at one time so it’s the norm if you cannot be available for them everyday, but you will reply to their calls and emails as soon as possible. This will set a reasonable expectation and lower anxiety if the client doesn’t receive an immediate response.

9. Always Be Respectful

The last one goes without saying, treat every client with the utmost respect, listen to their queries and work with them to successfully solve their problem. Lawyers are social beings who have a passion for helping people and I believe putting in place these simple actions can improve your own sense of well-being as well as deliver a fantastic service to the community.

If a great relationship is built throughout the process it’s more likely that your clients will work with you again in the future and refer your services to friends and family. Word of mouth is a powerful tool for lawyers and can go a long way to helping your business grow in the future.

Danielle Easton is with Coxwell & Associates a law firm based in Jackson, Mississippi. Established for 35 years and dedicated to helping people. 

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