Communicating with Clients: Tips for Attorneys
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Attorneys are responsible for completing a wide assortment of tasks, many of which can be extremely demanding. However, one of the most important tasks an attorney has that can unfortunately be the first to fall by the wayside is communication with clients. This can be particularly harmful to the attorney-client relationship, as people seeking legal representation are often uncertain and desire detailed, informative, and kind communication. While communicating with clients and keeping them up-to-date with the state of their current legal proceedings is only one part of an attorney’s practice, it is extremely important to the client’s comfort and the attorney’s reputation.
It is important for attorneys to remember the following advice for communicating with clients:
- Be timely: It is important to respond to any client inquiries as soon as possible after receiving them. Some law firms have a 24 hour rule, in which they promise potential and current clients that any inquiries will be responded to within 24 hours of receipt. While this may or may not be a feasible commitment for your practice, it is important that your clients feel like you are available to listen and respond to their questions and concerns. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure you respond to any client questions with speed and efficiency.
- Be willing: Another important aspect of the attorney-client relationship is that clients feel your willingness to help them understand their situation and next steps. If an attorney comes across as too-busy, annoyed, or otherwise unwilling to engage in communication with the client, this can hurt the relationship and reduce the client’s trust. This can also result in a client hesitating to ask questions they feel the attorney would be unwilling to answer, or to provide information they feel the attorney is unwilling to hear, which could be important to a case.
- Be understandable: This is an important tip to remember, both for attorneys and anyone who works in a highly specialized field. Legal terms and jargon can feel like another language to those who have not undergone any legal training, so it is important to communicate in a way that your clients can understand. Avoid words and terminology that the average person is unlikely to be familiar with, but avoid talking down to or otherwise speaking in a way that could make your clients feel patronized.
- Be relatable: A common problem in language is that when someone attempts to alter the way they speak to become more understandable to those without the same expertise, they instead come across as too simplistic and even condescending. One of the best ways to balance between too technical and condescendingly simple is to think of how you would want the matter expressed to you, a friend, or a family member if you did not have the education you do. Better yet, put yourself in the client’s shoes and think of a way to communicate the same message in a way that feels relatable; considering the client on the same plane as yourself is a good way to avoid accidentally talking down to them.
- Be professional but friendly: The boundary between friendliness and professionalism can be hard to navigate, but is paramount to the impression an attorney makes on current and potential clients, and can go a long way in building trust. It is important to conduct yourself with enough professionalism that a client knows they can trust your authority in the field, but to also be friendly enough that they know you care about them and their situation on a personal level.
- Answer the questions they didn’t ask: An experienced attorney is far more likely to know what kind of questions a client will or should be asking than the client themselves. Answering relevant questions before the client asks them is a great way to express understanding of the client, their situation, and a genuine care for them as a person. This can also help with the overall impression an attorney gives as a thorough and compassionate professional.
To learn more about client communication tips, reach out to a legal marketing expert.