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.