Three lawyers and two financial professionals offer tips and tools to help improve attorney-client relationships through better communication.
Keeping the Client Informed Will Keep the Client Happy
Good practice management includes keeping the client informed about his case. Most client complaints arise out of the lawyer’s failure to return calls or emails; the client feels ignored or thinks you are not working on his case. With a busy schedule, it is important to develop and maintain a system of returning calls and emails that permits an efficient workflow.
Here are four tips to help your communicate more efficiently:
- Turn off all email notifications that pop-up or ding. Every notification is a distraction that leads to a very inefficient workflow.
- Schedule a couple of times a day to review and answer emails or calls. You don’t have to take every call that comes in as it comes in; have the receptionist take messages for you when you are in the middle of a project that requires your full attention, or have your paralegal inquire about what the client needs so you can be prepared when you return the call.
- Manage your client’s expectations by informing them well in advance of when you’ll be out of town or in trial. Don’t forget to use your out-of-office message.
- Keep personal and business email separate, and set up a strong filter for junk email. This will limit the number of emails you go through at the appointed time.
– Brandy Baxter-Thompson is a Probate, Trust & Fiduciary Litigation Lawyer at Calloway, Norris, Burdette & Weber. www.dallasprobatelawfirm.com
Incorporate New Tools and Techniques into Your Client Interactions
The failure to adequately communicate with clients is one of the top state bar complaints made by clients against lawyers. Take steps to address this issue by incorporating a few new tools and techniques into your client interactions.
Here are three ideas to get you started:
- Improve your listening skills. One way to do this is to always repeat, in your own words, the key points and emotions you think the client is trying to convey. By making a conscious effort to confirm your understanding, you can reduce miscommunications while improving client satisfaction.
- Set clear expectations at the outset. Improve the quality of communications with clients by clearly discussing fee and cost estimates at the start of a case – including attorney hours required, court costs, and expert witness fees.
- Consider using web-based portals for communication. As web-based portals become increasingly common in other industries, it’s not surprising that many legal clients now expect instant access to case-related information. Practice-management software with built-in, secure web portals can improve client communication by providing your clients with 24/7, convenient, and secure access to their case information.
– Nicole Black is a Lawyer and Legal Technology Evangelist at My Case. www.mycase.com
Manage Your Practice with Your Clients’ Needs in Mind
In any matter of law, the key to effective representation is communication – not only between attorney and client, but also within the firm. This is nowhere more critical than in family law. During your initial meeting, make a point of clearly explaining the legal process to your clients, as well as their options regarding dispute-resolution processes.
If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail, so make sure you have a number of tools in your belt to offer a divorcing client. Find the right professionals with a broad base of experience, and try to offer more than one approach to dispute resolution – including traditional divorce and family law litigation, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce.
Recently, our firm expanded our services to include collaborative divorce: a team approach in which each party is represented by a specially-trained attorney. When appropriate, we bring in collaboratively-trained financial advisors, child psychologists, family therapists, and other experts in their respective fields to assist with the process. Collaborative clients appreciate the facts that their private information is kept out of the public record, their children are better protected, and they maintain greater control over the end result.
Finally, make a point of listening to your clients with compassion, and always put their best interests first.
– Judith Charny is a Partner at Charny, Charny & Karpousis. www.charnylaw.com
Use Online Outreach to Make In-Person Connections
Developing an online presence is a key step to take when trying to market your firm. Gone are the days of relying on word-of-mouth and in-person meetings to gain new clients. Although many attorneys are updating their websites and social media pages, they aren’t building personal connections with potential clients. A good way to promote yourself while also connecting with individuals who may need your services is by organizing workshops on the legal, financial, and/or emotional aspects of divorce.
Begin your online outreach by creating website listings and a Facebook page. Facebook offers the option to boost your page: for $15, you can reach thousands of people in your firm’s surrounding area. Websites like Craigslist and Meetup allow you create free ads and also give you the opportunity to reach individuals in your area.
Online tools make planning and promoting workshops easier today than it was 25 years ago. Use the Internet to not only spread information to a wide audience, but also to begin building in-person connections and showing potential clients that you are the right person to handle their divorce case.
– By Ginita Wall and Candace Bahr, Second Saturday Founders. www.secondsaturday.com
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