Good communication is essential to establishing trust, which is the foundation of any successful attorney-client relationship. But no matter how well you explain your services to your client during your intake and initial consultation, there is only so much your clients can absorb during that initial meeting. A good welcome package can help build trust with new clients by providing them with a tangible guide to your services and a ready reference for those inevitable follow up questions that occur after the initial consultation. It is an excellent tool to add to your client service arsenal.

Your welcome package can be sent as a hard copy through the mail or electronically via email or as a secure part of your website. A welcome package in the form of a folder or binder may also provide a place for clients to keep important documents or information in a central location throughout the engagement.

What to include in a new client welcome package

A good welcome package should include three categories of materials: information about the client’s issue or matter, tools to aid your client throughout the engagement, and information about who you are and what you do. Much of this material is designed to answer client questions for you even when you are not available.

Information about the client’s issue or matter

First and foremost, the welcome package should include a copy of your signed engagement agreement, which governs your relationship. This is a document both you and the client may need to refer back to from time to time during the engagement.

Good client service means ensuring clients understand your policies and procedures, and you make it easy for them to pay your bills. In addition to the formal engagement agreement, provide your clients with a copy of your billing policies and guidelines. If you accept credit cards, include a credit card authorization form.

Provide new clients with a ‘roadmap’ to their case in the form of a timeline, process outline or flow chart that details the stages the client’s case must go through in order to reach its conclusion.

Many clients have similar questions and concerns during their matter. Provide them with answers to frequently asked questions and a glossary of terms they may encounter during the engagement.

If you have written blog posts or articles that explain the client’s issue or concern, give the client copies of those articles as well. These materials will not only help your new client to be more comfortable with the issue, but they will reinforce your status as an expert, and they may answer questions new clients are afraid to ask.

Tools to aid your client (and you)

If the client will need to gather information for you, provide them with a list of documents or develop forms to help them give you necessary information, such as a chart to record complaints and doctor’s visits in a personal injury case, a log to track contacts or problems with a difficult spouse in a matrimonial proceeding, or a spreadsheet to record account information for estate planning.

Your welcome package could also include a list of helpful resources and information, or links to websites  where clients can seek information or related services.

A good gauge of client service is the client survey. Include one in your welcome package so clients can give you feedback before the engagement is over.

Who you are and what you do

Make it easy for your clients to contact you during the engagement and in the future. Provide them with the names and contact information for all those with whom the client will be working in your office, and let them know whom to contact if they have a problem. Include your billing department or office manager in this list for client billing questions.

Your welcome package should also include information about your office hours and policies and procedures that affect clients.

In this age of multi-media, many lawyers have begun providing additional materials to clients in the form of audio or video on CD or DVD explaining more about their practice or particular issues of interest to clients.

Don’t forget to cross-sell the other areas of practice to your new clients by providing them with information on all of your practice areas.

Finally, you may want to include other marketing or promotional items in your welcome package as well, such as extra business cards or a copy of your firm newsletter to generate referrals.

(photo: http://flic.kr/p/71D9ex)