From a client’s perspective, interacting with anyone in a law firm or working in the legal profession can be very intimidating. The traditional image of a law firm is one that involves lots of well-dressed people walking around very quickly talking in hushed tones.
While this image is misguided, it’s one that is perpetuated by television and movies. And now it’s up to you to adjust these perceptions, changing how clients relate to and think about the legal profession.
When you first interact with a client, it can be very helpful to answer all of their questions including those about the law, their case, and the roles of the different people involved in the case or deposition. For example, your client wants an answer to a simple question: what is legal transcription or what do court reporters do or what is a deposition. It’s up to you as the legal professional to clearly answer these questions in ways that your client can relate to and understand.
In this article we take a look at some of the ways you can improve your client communications – making things easier for everyone involved.
Technology for Improved Client Communication
It used to be that we had long telephone calls with our friends, family members, and used the phone as a primary means of business. We didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and contact a law firm, accountant, doctor, or other professional to ask questions. Now, though, these same phone conversations simply don’t happen.
There has been a shift in the way people feel comfortable communicating with strangers or those they view to be leaders or experts. Now, instead of picking up the phone, your clients are more likely to text you, send an email, or even connect through social media.
This means you need to adapt to the way your clients feel most-at-ease communicating. While the phone might still be the easiest for you, if it doesn’t work for your client, it’s up to you to make adjustments.
Consider integrating digital communication tools such as website chat, video conferencing, apps, and online portals into your client communication suite. Give your clients the option to choose the communication method that works best for them. Remember, depending on the age of your client, some might still prefer the phone or an in-person meeting – in the end, you have to do what is best for your client.
Communication Best Practices for Legal Professionals
Recent research into what clients want from their lawyers, reveals how much clients value clear and open communications best practices. Consider integrating these key client communication best practices into your day-to-day.
- Let your clients speak. Give your clients the time and space to communicate with you. Cultivate a relationship that removes intimidation or barriers to access.
- Use plain English. This means dropping the legalese and talking to clients in plain language that they can understand.
- Answer their questions. From the outset of your relationship, make it clear that you want questions and are more than willing to clearly answer and explain your answers. Know that your clients feel comfortable to ask questions such as: what is legal transcription or what is legal research or what happens during a deposition.
- Respond promptly. Remember that your client might be intimidated to contact you, so when your client does send you a text, email, or direct message – do your best to respond promptly. Make sure your client knows he or she is your priority.
Effective client communications all comes down to thinking about the client. Don’t assume the client knows how the legal system works. Don’t expect the client to be able to meet you during your office hours. Don’t expect the client to have the means to take time off from work to attend meetings. Don’t expect your client to pick up the phone to ask you questions.
Talk to your client, get to know him or her, and ask them how they prefer to communicate and interact with you. What tips do you have for your legal colleagues on how best to communicate with clients?