Improve Client Correspondence

Well-written client correspondence is a great way to improve client communication. With the increased use of email, many client communications are in writing, rather than in person or over the phone. The ease of email sometimes leads lawyers to forget important details, like punctuation or spelling.

Remember your audience. You are not talking to a judge or opposing counsel, you are talking to the client. Long-winded paragraphs about the law are usually not wanted or helpful. If you are dealing with a sensitive issue, show some compassion.

Proofread. Clients might be paying for your brilliant legal mind, but that does not excuse sloppy correspondence. Use your spellcheck, check for missing words, etc. Make sure your letters to your client are as brilliant as you are.

Be definitive about follow up and contacting you. If you indicate some issue that needs follow up on your end, give your client a time frame, “next week, Monday, by the end of the month, etc.” That should eliminate confusion on the client’s end. In case it does not, be sure to express a willingness to speak with them if anything is unclear.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Doug Stern says:

    Very nice!

    Here are my three sets of better-writing guidelines:

    In a nutshell, they tone down business writing. And, tighten it up…particularly for lawyers.

    Remember that you’re not always writing a brief. Converse and empathize. Don’t try to impress.

    #1: Be thematic

    This is the framework for everything. It’s a discipline that transcends conciseness or clarity. Being thematic demands that every document, paragraph, sentence and word serve a purpose. Find it.

    When you do, what you write will be better organized. It will also be more forceful and better received. And, that’s ultimately what you want.

    How do I write thematically?

    Several questions help me get rolling. I ask myself…

    * Why am I writing this letter (or whatever)?
    * Who’s reading it?
    * What’s my objective?
    * What purpose does it serve?
    * Why does this sentence or paragraph need to exist?

    Let me give you a simple example.

    Dear Alyssa:
    I’m writing about the article and what we can do to make it

    I’ve highlighted a couple of words. “About” and “what” tell the reader that I’m getting right to the point, signaling the reason I’m writing…and why they should take the time to read it.

    Here’s another tip. Readers are busy people. So, be conservative with their time and attention span. How? Go back to basics. Use topic sentences. They’re thematic!

    #2: Be engaging

    The thematic appeals to the left, cognitive side of the brain. It speaks to that part of us that weighs, measures and evaluates. But one size (or side) does not fit all.

    It’s a cluttered, competitive world out there. Given the choices readers have, they’re more likely to read and retain something memorable, witty and intelligent…something engaging.

    Engaging through the right side of the brain

    Remember you’re writing to readers who’ll respond to emotional triggers as well as to the more cognitive. They like and remember copy that shows they’re dealing with another person.

    What touches the emotions? Consider…

    * Using humor
    * Being literary
    * Showing empathy

    These devices – and others like them – will connect with your readers, making what you write more memorable. They’ll help you earn the right to be read.

    Here’s an example of using humor (from my Web site’s client page):

    “As Mark Twain (not a client) said, ‘There are no great writers, only great re-writers.’”

    Once again, I’ve highlighted the key phrase. When I’m being literary, I’m aware of writing with cadence and variety. I use imagery and metaphors. I use expressive language.

    I write as if I were a poet…or, a stand-up comedian. For example, I’ll use call-backs, referring at the bottom of a letter to something from the top. In other words, I’m looking for ways to be remembered, including being less linear and more asymmetrical.

    I empathize. I have less of me and more of you in my writing.

    #3: Be whole-brained

    We’re all different. I allow that my readers use both sides of their brains to varying degrees to process what I’m offering.

    I strive, therefore, to be…

    * Less linear
    * More visual
    * Less monolithic

    Is there any reason why a law firm’s proposals or statements of capabilities don’t look more like magazines and less like briefs? Why can’t your business development documents look more like this newsletter?

    Lessons from politics

    Politicians spend a lot of time planning where they want their name on the ballot. The only thing better than being first on the ballot is being last. It’s called primacy and recency.

    CEOs read a B2B document the way voters read a ballot. Business people seldom start in the upper left-hand corner of a document and read every character of every word and every sentence and every paragraph until they end up in the lower right-hand corner.

    Very few business readers are as linear as most attorneys. Most readers graze.

    Here’s the rest: “The KILLER BEs: Sharpening your business development writing,” in, .


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