One of the toughest parts about running a solo practice is juggling everything, which can make client intake and client communication a tricky task during busy periods.
One way I manage expectations about client communication is explaining my procedures and standards upfront, making it clear how fast I will respond to e-mails and phone calls.
Put it on your website and contact form
If someone contacts me through my website they get a message that tells them “I will respond as soon as I can, and you can expect to hear from me within one business day, at most.” Hopefully most potential clients read this message and it creates the correct expectation that I will contact them in that time frame.
Granted, most potential clients expect that you will contact them as soon as possible. That said, having a message like hopefully helps client understand that you will get back to them. I am always surprised at how many potential clients tell me “I tried calling someone else, but they never got back to me.”
That is a not reputation that you want. Giving potential clients a timeframe should hopefully make wait for your call before calling someone else. Depending on your practice area, you may to want a much shorter timeframe than the one that I provide. If your practice area is highly competitive, you may need a virtual receptionist to handle intake.
When clients sign a retainer, tell them what to expect
Like many retainers, mine say that I may withdraw from representation if my client refuses to communicate with me. When I meet with clients, however, I am very explicit about what I expect from them. I explain that if I call or e-mail them, I expect them to get back to me that same day, or within a business day, at worst. I let them know that if I rarely call to talk about the weather—if I am trying to contact them, it is important.
I also tell them to expect the same from me—that I almost always respond the same day. I also explain that if they have not heard back from me within a day, they should contact me again. Thankfully, this has never happened.
Regardless of whether a client has worked with another attorney, they need to know what to expect from you. Responding to clients and updating them on their case is part of lawyer’s professional responsibility, but providing hard deadlines and expectations will make your clients feel more comfortable and lead to a stronger attorney-client relationship.