Communicate With Clients on Their Own Terms

Clients generally like to know how their cases are progressing and what the next steps are. Across the board, the level of interest and involvement varies quite a bit. Keeping a client up to date seems like it can never be a bad thing—or can it?

No matter what, you have to keep the client informed

Lawyers have a duty to keep clients apprised of their cases and what is going on. But that can range from weekly letters, to phone calls, to emails.

How often does the client want to communicate?

Did your client walk into your office and say “here’s a check; your problem now?” Or did they say something more like “I want to be involved as much as possible?” That is a good place to start.

In some cases, thinking about the situation is exactly why your clients hired you in the first place. They want to think about it as little as possible because the stress of the situation can be difficult to handle. In those cases, daily phone calls or emails are probably not what the client wants, and usually are not necessary. That said, some decisions that have to come from the clients themselves, not the attorney, and the client should know that up front.

How does your client prefer to be contacted?

When you first meet a new client, always ask if they prefer to communicate by email or by phone, or even by exchanging letters. You might be surprised that although email is easy for attorneys, some clients do not use email, or do not want to communicate with you that way.

For others, phone calls are annoyance because they cannot talk on the phone during the day. Or perhaps they prefer talking on the phone but only at a certain time of day. If you have not already done so, ask your clients about their communication preferences to help maintain strong client relationships.


Get Lawyerist in Your Inbox, Daily

Current Articles
Current Lab Discussions
  • It makes sense, as a matter of client service, to tune in to how often and in what manner a client prefers to be communicated with. That said, I’ve rarely ever heard of a lawyer getting in trouble for communicating too frequently, unless it is a fee dispute and there is evidence the lawyer was trying to run up the bill.

    Another point to consider is that the duty to communicate is often an affirmative duty. Some clients have to be forced to pay attention to their own cases.

  • Randall Ryder

    Eric, you have an uncanny ability to explain my thoughts better than I can. Along those lines, my point was what you mentioned—some clients have to be forced to pay attention to their cases—and not all of them appreciate that.