Client Management For A Legal Practice
Welcome to my Blog! This is the first installment in the series of tips, tricks and other useful information to help keep your legal practice humming. I'd love to hear your idea's on what matters to you most, so I can write about it in an upcoming article. E-mail at Sandro@Separate.Pro To learn more about automating your financial disclosures - get on my calendar here.
We all have busy practices and it oftentimes can seem like a scramble to meet deadlines and to stay on top of cases. Yet, having your clients cooperate with helping you to move their case forward is absolutely critical. As hectic as managing the practice can be, it’s important to remember that our client’s need quality time and attention- so it’s important to take a human approach and take the time to get to know them and how they work whenever you have an opportunity.
Just as adopting the right tone with your client is important, it is also critical to communicate with clients early and often and to help them to break down their case into smaller, more manageable, tasks.
Here’s what we’ve learned from our work with clients who use our platform to gather a large amount of financial information for their disclosures. If you want to learn more about automating your financial disclosures - get on my calendar here.
Break Down the Process for Them
Break down their case into smaller goals. They are totally overwhelmed by the entire process and they need your help to understand how/when they can expect to see progress being made on their case. Breaking the case into logical pieces can serve two goals, first is to get the case organized substantively and second is to keep your client up to date and able to communicate the supporting facts needed to present their case.
Describe the legal process in "layman’s" terms. Let’s face it, the legal system is not intuitive because it is filled with legalese. Make this simpler for them by using more general terms and by explaining the purpose of each step. For example, for the financial disclosures, we like to say "exchange of financial information" and that they should think of the purpose of this step as if they were trying to sort out who gets what of the contents of a storage unit. The "disclosures" are sort of like turning the lights on in the unit so that you can see everything that is in there-which is the critical first step in deciding who gets what.
Don’t over communicate, but be proactive when you do.
Communicate early and often! Let’s be honest, lawyers are famous procrastinators. Clients hate this and they want to know what to expect well in advance so communicate early and often! It doesn’t take that much time and it reaps tremendous benefits. Here are some tips that can help:
Be transparent early. Think through when you need certain information well in advance and then provide this to your client. They really appreciate knowing what is expected of them in advance and this will often lead to them being more compliant with deadlines than they otherwise would. Plus, they hate feeling surprised-as do we all.
Be transparent. Tell them when you will be doing what work on their case. This helps them to plan ahead and also it reassures them that you will not let their case fall to the bottom of their pile- a common fear of most clients.
Try different strategies of communication. Different clients respond better to phone calls, others prefer emails or even text messages. Ask them if they have a preference and experiment to see whether it’s true. Sometimes, clients would rather be contacted by a particular member of your office, so use that to your advantage.
Do weekly check-ins. This seems obvious, but most lawyers do not do this. Quickly checking in with clients once a week not only keeps your work with them on the top of their (and your) mind, but it often leads to them taking the initiative on work that they know they need to do. Again, it doesn’t take that much time and reaps huge benefits.
When things don’t go as planned... Sometimes things don’t go as planned during the case. Also, the courtroom speaks their own language and often times those legal terms can be confusing to your client. Make sure you connect with your client after important events like hearings, mediations, depositions etc. and explain the impact of those events and discuss any next steps in the process or change in circumstance. The key here is to make sure you both have the same shared understanding of events and the way forward. This is especially important if things do not go as planned. It’s best to carve dedicated time out for these conversations and to have those tough conversations face to face or on a voice call to avoid any misunderstandings that can happen in other forms of communications such as e-mails. Being proactive and making sure everyone is on the same page and understands the path forward goes a long way in maintaining a positive relationship, even when you get hit with unexpected delays or other bad news.
I hope these tips help to guide you in building the best relationship you can with your clients. I would love to hear from you on what works in your practice. Shoot me an e-mail at Sandro@separate.Pro - I read every e-mail. We'd love to hear your suggestions for upcoming topics!