Did you know that a large portion of ethics complaints filed against lawyers is because of poor client communication? While it can be scary to think something that may seem basic can cause you to face serious penalties, this is actually good news. Client communication is totally within your control. It’s important to remember that what may seem like a run of the mill legal matter to you is something that worries or scares your client. Hearing from you, the professional they hired and paid to take care of it, is very soothing even if you have very little change to report. It gives them peace to know that you’re on top of the matter. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions.
Client communication is an important concept. Because of this, Zavieh Law presents 5 easy ways you can improve your client relationships just by making small changes to how you communicate.
Answer or Return Phone Calls
Yes, it really is that simple. Clients are usually glad to talk with support staff, but sometimes, they really want to hear from their attorney. They also want return phone calls. If you’re using something like your cell phone number of Google Voice as your main number, it can be easy to send people straight to voicemail, but it sends the wrong message to clients. Answer the phone when you can and return calls in a timely manner.
Educate Clients About When to Expect a Return Phone Call
There are legitimate times when you can’t answer the phone. Your receptionist, paralegal, and your voicemail should explain that you can’t answer the call and when the client may expect a return phone call. At Zavieh Law, we strive to return any messages within an hour and that’s reflected in our outgoing message if people must leave a message. If there’s an all day court hearing, the outgoing message is updated that calls won’t be returned until much later in the day or the following day.
Educating clients on when they may expect a return call is easy and can greatly improve client communication…as long as you follow through and return the calls. If you’re scheduled time to return calls should be used for other pressing matters, call the client and set up a time to speak in-depth over the phone. The client isn’t waiting or wondering if you forgot about them. It lets them know that you’re aware they’re waiting to hear from you.
Don’t Wait to Tell Clients Bad News
As a lawyer, you were hired to protect your clients and do what is in their best interest. Yet, we’re not always going to have good news to share. The longer you keep bad news from clients, the more stress you’re creating for them. When you find out bad news, tell clients as soon as you can.
Don’t Let Your Email get Out of Control
Email is supposed to be a great tool that helps us stay in contact with others. Yet, it doesn’t take much for it to quickly get out of control. When your email gets out of control, it can be difficult to find necessary or important information. Even if you don’t think the client needs to hear back right away since they sent you an email, society has set the standard of instant gratification. Your clients do want to hear from you via email, and they want to hear from you as soon as possible.
If you don’t have time to answer a client’s email in detail, at least send them a quick response to confirm you received their message. Give them a time (and a date, if necessary) that you’ll get back to them. Make sure and follow through.
You can use your auto-responder to help set client communication expectations for emails. If you know you’re going to be in court all day, turn on your auto-responder and tell clients you’ll be out of the office and unable to respond to emails until the following day. Let them know what they can do if they have a matter that’s urgent (such as reaching out to your legal assistant or another lawyer in your office). Setting these expectations helps calm the nerves of clients since they’re more informed.
Choose the Right Technology for Client Communication
All clients are different. Not everyone likes social media. Not everyone likes email. Not everyone likes phone calls. You must take the time to get to know your clients so that you can adjust your client communication style and choose the right technology for them. Keep in mind that their communication preferences won’t always match yours. It is good, standard practice to adapt to suit their needs.
Creating good client communication can take work, but it also helps protect you from an ethical complaint. If you’re involved in an ethics investigation because of a complaint filed against you by a client, consider scheduling a consultation with Zavieh Law. We offer both full and limited scope representation.