August 13, 2014
As an attorney, one of the most enjoyable aspects of your job can also be one of the hardest: communicating with your clients. Law school effectively teaches you many aspects of the law and develops your research and writing skills. But, what it leaves off the curriculum is how to be a great communicator in addition to an effective attorney.
Through your years of practice, you've most likely learned a few tricks for keeping in touch with clients and effectively delivering case updates (both good and bad). Here are some additional ways you may be able to improve the communication and thus the relationships with your clients:
When working with new and existing clients, one of the first goals you should have is to manage their expectations regarding when and how you're available as well as how often you expect to be in touch with them. Depending on your area of law and the client, he or she may feel it's appropriate to have your personal number or call you daily.
Each client's circumstances will be different, but explain to your clients when you're available and how often you expect to update them on their matters. And whatever you tell them, whether you'll contact them weekly or when a specific event occurs, stick with it.
Lose the legalease
As an attorney, you're surrounded by legalease. It's common vocabulary for you, but never forget that jargon can be confusing to clients who have little experience with the law. Always strive to explain the law and the client's situation clearly. After a meeting or call, you should send a follow up email or letter to ensure the client has all the information he or she needs.
Also, no matter how complex the matter, always invite the client to contact you with questions. It's important your clients feel comfortable asking for more information or clarity on a topic.
Listen to your clients
Being a great communicator has less to do with what you say and more to do with actively listening to your clients' thoughts and concerns. Not only should you strive to be available to your clients, but give them your full attention when they call or email you. To demonstrate that you're listening to them, paraphrase and repeat their thoughts to confirm you understand them correctly, then respond.
You're not just an attorney, you're a person, and in times of a crisis, it's important for your clients to see that. If you have to deliver bad news to a client, do so politely and professionally, but don't lose the human touch. Sometimes your client just needs someone who cares to listen.
Experienced and novice practitioners alike know client communications is one of the most important aspects of the legal profession and can make or break a career. It can be tough to keep up with many cases and clients, but communication can be handled effectively as long as you devote specific time in your day to reading emails and returning phones calls. You won't let a client slip through the cracks if you remember to set aside time specifically for checking in.