LegalMasters

How lawyers can improve client communication

How lawyers can improve client communication

For lawyers, good client communications can make or break your reputation. Whether you’re taking on a new client, emailing or calling someone with an update, or sending out a bill, every time you communicate with your client you shape their idea of what it’s like working with your firm, and a positive experience can mean the difference between a new business referral and a poor review online.

Recommendations and reviews are important, since, according to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, positive reviews or personal recommendations are the most important factors when considering the hireability of a lawyer. Below, there is some advice from your professional legal coach on how to improve your client communications. 

The main points

Communicate clearly, and often

Good client communication is about being proactive so that clients feel truly cared for and informed. Make a deliberate effort to ensure your client understands what’s going on, and you’ll avoid unnecessary communication breakdowns.

Wherever possible, avoid legal jargon in law firm client communication. Default to plain language instead, and leave an opening for your clients to ask questions about anything they don’t understand (a simple “please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions” at the end of a lengthy email will do).

Tip: make your clients feel truly informed and cared for by getting in the habit of answering your clients’ questions preemptively. After client calls or meetings, send a secure message that summarizes what was discussed and provides supplemental info for the next steps.

Always truly listen 

As a professional coach, I truly believe that good listening skills are crucial for effective legal communication. When clients are listened to, they feel understood and are more trusting of you. To connect with your clients and others and to have the experience you as an effective lawyer, polish your listening skills.

Since lawyers are smart, we often anticipate what is going to be said, and don’t feel the need to listen carefully. But when we really listen to a client, we can hear levels of communication that may deepen our understanding of the client’s problem. To improve on listening skills, attorneys should avoid interrupting or rehearsing answers while their client is talking and instead make sure they pay attention to non-verbal cues like emotions to best communicate with clients.

Communication throughout the whole client journey and keep it on the safe side

Your client begins their experience with you long before they sign their engagement agreement. Ensure your website and marketing materials are clear and engaging so that potential clients don’t get frustrated trying to find your contact information.

At the end of your client’s journey, add detailed notes so that your clients understand what they’re being billed for—especially if they haven’t worked with a lawyer before—and clearly illustrate services you’ve written off so that clients see the full extent of the value you’re providing, even if they’re not being charged for it.

Don’t forget to ask for feedback from your client throughout their time with your firm. 😉

Know when to automate communications (and when not to)

In today’s legal market, the skills lawyers need for effective client communication are adapting to the digital age. Automating tedious or repetitive processes can be a big win for law firms. However, when it comes to communication, it’s important to be thoughtful and ensure that automated communication is convenient for both you and your client. 

In general, simple and transactional communications are fine to automate, but more personal and specific communications are best left to humans. For example, lawyers can always set an automatic welcoming mail for their clients to set expectations and keep your client informed on how to access case information. However, if an anxious client calls or emails the office looking for reassurance or an update on their case, they need that empathetic, timely response that can help calm your client’s worries. 

The attorney-client relationship is something that the lawyer creates by managing every step of the client experience. As a general rule of thumb, put your client at the centre of everything, and you’ll be that much better positioned to communicate intentionally, provide great experiences throughout the whole experience, and build a strong reputation for your firm.

Clients have expectations and our job as a lawyer is to understand, manage, and respond in an appropriate and timely fashion to address them. It’s all about good communication. If you find that your skills as an attorney might benefit from a coaching program, do not hesitate to reach out to my professional coaching program. 

How lawyers can improve client communication Read More »

5 ways to maintain your work-life balance as a lawyer

5 ways to maintain your work-life balance as a lawyer

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is important for all professionals, but for solo practitioners, it can be challenging. When you’re climbing the rungs of the legal ladder, figuring out how to have both a career in the legal business and a social life can be tricky. Over the years I have set myself small targets for professional and private equilibrium, and here I share some professional coach tips for success.

The following considerations are essential to assist you in meeting the expectations of your new role as an attorney while keeping a healthy balance outside of the office.

The main points

Set yourself limits for working hours

One of the greatest tips for a better work-life balance as an attorney is to keep track of the number of hours you spend working, such as My Hours or Clockify. You could consider how many hours you’re willing to work in a single day or week and stick to it. By asking yourself what amount of time you’d be happy to dedicate to work, you will know that anything above that will be detrimental to your personal life and happiness. 

Throughout your day, set aside adequate time to engage in leisure activities such as taking 5 minutes to walk outside. This will provide you with a much-needed break to minimise stress at work. Allocate these into your work schedule as you would other tasks and you may find this makes a noticeable impact on not only your stress levels, but your work-life balance and overall productivity. 

Prioritize your workload

Learning to prioritize your workload is key. Ask yourself whether you need to respond to, or action, a request straight away. If you have a long list of tasks, spend time establishing their order of importance. Which are urgent and which are neither urgent nor important?

Look for easy ways to implement time-saving tools for your office. One of the top reasons why people don’t take time for themselves is because they feel like they honestly don’t have it to take. One way to help you feel more comfortable taking time for yourself and your family is to use tools like legal document automation solutions or online firm management programs. Technology was designed to make your life easier. Explore some of the modern legal office software programs that are revolutionizing workflows for lawyers.

Choose carefully

As a whole, legal professionals are intelligent, ambitious, assertive, and creative types who understand the importance of working hard. They don’t sit around waiting for an opportunity to knock—they chase it. Many in the legal field strive to earn the best assignments and hustle to land the best cases. Most lawyers have a competitive streak.

Before accepting any role, ensure you research the firm thoroughly – consider everything that comes with the position. A specialist recruiter will also have a good understanding of the different cultures across firms and can be a useful source of guidance when choosing a firm that’s right for you.

Unplug for a Little While Each Day

Although many lawyers keep a traditional schedule, being your own boss gives you a degree of flexibility. When it comes to spending more time with your friends and family (or even participating in your favourite activities), take advantage of being the boss. Go to that book fair with your child; go with your spouse or friends for a long lunch. You can always work a little later in the day or even come in a little earlier the next day. Learning to embrace flexibility will help improve your work-life balance.

Here’s the key to making this work: you must actually treat those items as appointments. That’s not to say that you must be inflexible with your life. It’s more to make sure that you are taking time away from your work. Your mental health, your relationships, and your business are all worth it.

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

This malady is common among lawyers committed to becoming partners. They feel the need to be constantly available, throwing off work-life balance. Their concern was that by not being seen in the office, at all hours, they would miss out on opportunities to work on important cases. Ironically, their fear of not missing out at the office can often lead to them missing out on their personal lives. The constant need to stay on top of case developments and respond to clients’ calls and emails is exhausting. It can quickly destroy the balance between the office and your private life—especially when this is done after hours or on weekends.

In order to cope effectively, remember to set yourself boundaries when managing tasks. Whenever possible, ensure that you can delegate certain tasks to your juniors – allowing more time to focus on the key deliverables at hand. Becoming too involved is a common complaint with lawyers. Learning to let go of emotionally intense situations. Mentors can be a great sounding board to help put things into perspective. When constant work and business is ingrained in us, it can be hard to take time for ourselves. The day in the life of a lawyer can get stressful, but don’t give up. You can always reach out to a performance coach to get a better hold of legal practice and achieve all your goals.

5 ways to maintain your work-life balance as a lawyer Read More »

WHY DIGITAL MARKETING IS AN ESSENTIAL SKILL FOR ANY LAWYER’S SUCCESS?

WHY DIGITAL MARKETING IS AN ESSENTIAL SKILL FOR ANY LAWYER’S SUCCESS?

That’s right! I assert it’s a digital marketing skill, not just a tool! Let me elaborate on this distinction:

A tool is an instrument that you use to perform a specific task. Say, if you want to promote yourself in the digital space, then you use certain tools, which are specific to digital marketing, such as Social Media, Email Marketing, Podcasts etc. You set certain targets, you create a budget, and you hire someone to use specific tools for your legal business to be successful i.e. achieve the results you want.

However, I cannot stress enough the importance of Being a Digital Marketing Expert. Not as an instrument that you pass on or delegate to others to handle for you, but as a way of being for your own success as a Legal Professional. When you are a Digital Marketing Expert yourself, then beyond understanding the tools and what you can do with them, you become extremely Powerful with:

  • (i) what is Important to you in practising your profession, your Expertise;
  • (ii) where you want to Make a Difference through being a lawyer;
  • (iii) the way you communicate – what is important to you, your projects, the results you produced with your clients, your peers, and other stakeholders;
  • (iv) building a community around you, far beyond your immediate contacts, of like-minded people. 

Promoting ourselves as lawyers and our legal business is not something we learned in Law School. And that is a fact. We’re all “illiterate” in this respect, coming out of Law School. So, we have to acquire this through our own experience or by learning from others.

When my father started practising as an attorney-at-law in Romania back in the late seventies, there was no social media, internet, or even mobile phones! He had a landline at home, he met his clients in our living room in the afternoons, in our two-interconnected-bedroom apartment (meanwhile, we would have to sit quietly in our bedroom or kitchen and not interrupt). The only channel available for promotion for lawyers back in the day was a room within the courthouse where people would come and… smoke. It was there where he met potential clients, typically upset or disgruntled people who would come to complain at the courthouse. The onboarding was done there and then. Later, being successful with a client’s case would attract more clients and in time he would build his reputation and so on. It took years of hard work, commitment, relentlessness in the fight for human rights in Romanian society.

But those days are gone, and we now live in a Digital World, where anything is possible. And that is why I am sharing this story with you; to make you aware of how far we have come in the promotion of our legal practice. And even though in some ways or forms the “fumoir” experience may still take place, there is so much more out there available for us to meet our clients, promote ourselves and build a reputation. 

Provided always that our Core Principles of practising the legal profession are observed, the information we provide to the public is accurate and not misleading, with Integrity, Authenticity and Alacrity. I strongly believe that we, as legal professionals, have come a long way in promoting ourselves and our legal business. In fact, I see Digital Legal Marketing as an Essential Skill to Promote and Ensure Civil Society’s Access to Justice.

If you want to learn how You can Make a Difference through your Legal Practice, by becoming a Digital Marketing Expert yourself, contact me for a free 45-minute coaching session!

WHY DIGITAL MARKETING IS AN ESSENTIAL SKILL FOR ANY LAWYER’S SUCCESS? Read More »

7 TIPS ON HOW TO HANDLE TOUGH LEGAL QUESTIONS. ON THE SPOT.

I asked myself how to handle tough legal questions several times and I know it’s on your mind too because it’s one of the questions which came up from the participants in my workshops. In fact, their question sounded more like this: “why don’t clients get that, as a lawyer, you cannot have an answer to everything, all the time, especially in that specific moment when they are calling you?”

Before taking the personal growth path, in my profession, I was confronted with this type of situation on a regular basis. In fact, if I look closely, I can say that most of my clients’ questions were about stuff I DID NOT know or, better said, did not have an answer to on the spot. I would, typically, do one or more of the following things:

  • be nice and helpful;
  • try to look smart;
  • take any request out of fear of closing the door on future requests and eventually end up swamped with work.

In school, if we didn’t know the answer, we wouldn’t pass the test or we’d get a poor mark. In practising our profession as lawyers, if we don’t know the answer i.e. cannot express a legal opinion on the spot, what do we do?

Here are a few tips about what you could do, right there on the spot, with your client:

1. Summarize

Summarize your client’s question to make sure you’ve captured correctly and entirely the facts and dilemma. You don’t need to repeat everything like a parrot, but you do need to make sure you’ve gotten their question fully. You can also (and I strongly advise you do this!) write the summary in an email, after your initial conversation, to confirm the agreement on your mandate and what it is that you need to address in your legal opinion.

2. Clarify

Clarify the context! Ask questions: factual questions, detail-oriented questions, but also open-ended questions. These are essential! You can also revert via email with more clarification questions, or schedule a further clarification call, or meeting.

3. Define

Define the framework! e.g. “this is a question of corporate law, specifically about limited liability companies’ formation”, or “… director’s mandate”, or “… in principle…”/ “the rule of thumb is…”. State the framework and inform them about what you would have to review or look into, in order to have the specific answer they’re looking for. It gives your client a clear sense of “you know what you’re doing”, and “they’re in good hands”.

4. Identify

Identify any stakeholders – is the opinion or answer your client’s looking for a mere question of law or is it something that depends on or might be impacted by stakeholders: business partners, public authorities, various departments within their company etc.? While your client may want to know what the law says, it is important to consider all other (decision) factors. In other words, how does the law apply in their case?

5. Be straight!

Be straight! If it’s not your field or expertise, be straight about it. It’s gonna cost your client time and money for you to look into it. Instead, you could be straight with them about it and propose you take the lead (after all, it is you whom they called, and, thus, trust), and partner up with a colleague who does already know and have experience in the field.

6. Don’t be afraid

Don’t be afraid to just say “I Don’t’ Know”. Nobody expects you to know everything on the spot. In fact, look at their question with an inquisitive and truly interested mindset, curiously. This is an opportunity to train and develop yourself professionally, your business acumen, which is essential to understanding your clients and their needs and getting what it is they want to achieve. Let them know how much time you need to look into it and by when you’ll get back to them.

7. Laugh

Finally, my favorite one: have a laugh about what you don’t know! – I always say we get too serious sometimes. Not to diminish the importance of the client’s case, or be inappropriate in a business meeting or call, but I can see how declaring that I need a software upgrade 😊 to deal with all the ideas storming through my brain, can take the pressure away from the whole situation I find myself in.  

Try these on, and let me know how it went, what you discovered?
What are some techniques you are using to handle tough legal questions on the spot?

7 TIPS ON HOW TO HANDLE TOUGH LEGAL QUESTIONS. ON THE SPOT. Read More »