Mastering Law Firm Client Communication
Law Firm Clients
8 min read
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So, with all the ways to communicate, how do you start creating a connection with your client? You can build trust with your client by letting your personality shine on your website and social media profiles, but creating a lasting connection begins and ends with giving your personalized client attention.
When you meet with your client, ask them questions, be patient, and listen to what they say. Treat them with respect, and don’t be afraid to engage with them emotionally or talk about yourself to relate to their situation. When you genuinely care about your clients, you’ll naturally want to do your best to help them out.
People will feel this sincerity and respond in kind. Be sure to communicate securely with your clients, whether it be by email, phone, or social media. Keeping your clients in the loop and communicating with them regularly helps build trust and a connection with your clients. Without communication from you, your clients will get frustrated, confused, and upset that they don’t know their case’s status.
Communicating well with clients is a foundational skill for law firms. From the first phone call to the final deliverable, each interaction you have with your clients is an opportunity to create client-centered experiences while you move matters forward. Keep in mind that a large majority of clients—around 82%—have ended a business relationship because of poor law firm communication with clients.
Moreover, the loss of one client often leads to the loss of many. Around 13% of clients will tell 15 people or more if they have a negative experience. In an industry where referrals matter and great client service must be the focus, communicating with clients is paramount. In nearly every industry, the advice is to communicate early and often.
You can turn your firm into a client communication powerhouse by understanding the importance of client communication, properly managing relationships, and using technology tools. As a result, you’ll create a client experience that generates growth for your firm.
Two of the most common customer service complaints in every industry include tedious communications and companies taking too long to respond. Specifically, the number one bar complaint is law firms’ failure to communicate with clients.
Client communication is a crucial aspect of your practice, as it:
Builds your business. Businesses that deliver better client experiences obtain revenues between 4% and 8% above their market. Plus, you’ll easily retain your current clients while attracting others, helping you reach your firm’s growth goals.
Enhances your reputation. In the legal industry, your reputation is everything. While 89% of businesses compete through the level of experience they deliver, you’ll stand out from other law firms in your niche.
Protects you and your client. Ongoing communication protects you from ethics violations and malpractice claims. It also protects the client from making decisions based on a lack of information from you. For example, client portals are secure and simple methods of communication between you and your clients.
While we are all aware of how important communication is, many attorneys still fail at it. Overly complex communication methods, improper relationship management, and lack of time are all to blame. The good news is that there are tools and methods to bridge the gap.
The trick to building great client relationships is to make the most out of every moment you communicate with a client.
Here are several tried-and-true methods of accomplishing this:
Practice active listening. Instead of listening to respond, listen to understand. Listen closely to your client’s thoughts and concerns until they’re finished. Then, ask questions to gain a better understanding.
Remain positive. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the truth about a client’s case or legal concerns. Instead, during communication, try to keep a positive attitude and atmosphere. It will help your clients feel at ease during stressful situations—a highly valuable deed to accomplish.
Share information and knowledge. Your clients don’t understand legal jargon and industry talk. Instead, break down challenging dialogue and share the knowledge you have. The more they understand, the better connected they feel.
Be open and honest. Gain client trust by remaining open and honest in your opinions and expertise. Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, your clients should feel they can rely on you to do what’s best for them.
Once you build the relationship, you must manage it.
To properly manage the relationship:
Set goals alongside your client. Involve your client in the goal-setting process. Understand what your client wants from you and set expectations. This way, your client knows what to expect from the very beginning.
Address the small things. Return the phone call or email, and don’t miss client meetings. It’s important to remember that what seems minor to you is probably huge to your clients.
Use a CRM tool. Customer relationship management tools can help you stay current on your firm’s information and interactions with your clients.
In the very first meeting, set communication expectations with your client. Outline what your client can expect from you.
Answer questions such as:
Which communication channels will they receive communication?
How often will you communicate?
If a client has a question, what do they need to do to get an answer?
What are your office hours?
Remind clients that your number one priority is to provide them with amazing legal services. That often means you need heads down, uninterrupted time to research their matter, write pleadings or motions, and draft deal documents. Explain that you will not be checking your email throughout the day because it is disruptive to the legal work you must do on their behalf. This doesn’t mean you won’t answer them within a reasonable time (24 hours), but they should not expect answers within minutes.
It’s estimated that billions of client data records are stolen or lost each year. In the past few years, law firms around the globe have experienced more cybersecurity concerns than ever before. When it comes to communication, security is key to protect you and your clients.
A client portal is a safe and secure place for you and your clients to share files, organize and manage tasks and events, chat, brainstorm, and plan. These portals keep all communications in one place and are easy for clients to access. Above all, they increase your availability to your clients to enhance the client experience.
There are many types of client and communication portals you can use for your law firm, including some built into practice management software.
Client portals are more secure than traditional methods of communication such as law firm email. They can also be more efficient than phone and text conversations as they rely on instant messaging and document sharing in one place, reducing ethical lapses.
When using email as a communication channel, it’s important to:
Double check the recipient. The worst thing that could happen is sending an email to the wrong client. Double check each email recipient before you hit send.
Keep email communication concise. Schedule a phone, video, or in-person meeting if you need to discuss a situation at length.
Be positive and polite. Clients often perceive tone differently in emails. Be sure to keep it positive and polite.
Avoid sending confidential information. Hand deliver sensitive information or place it into your secure client portal. Email isn’t 100% secure, especially if clients don’t protect their personal information properly.
Check your grammar and spelling. Professionalism is vital in all methods of communication—double-check your spelling and grammar before you send your email.
Attorneys often find that phone calls take up a lot of their time. To help protect yourself from too many phone calls to handle, follow these best practices:
Update your clients often. One of the most common reasons for a phone call is to check the status of a case or concern. If you update your clients on your progress often, they won’t feel the need to call.
Train staff to handle phone calls. If fielded correctly, your staff can handle some of the phone calls for you. For example, your staff can answer questions about the status of a case. Train your staff to know where to find the information clients need and what to do when they can’t answer a question.
Return your phone calls. Unreturned phone calls simply turn into more phone calls. If you receive a call you cannot take at the moment, make a note to return it as soon as possible.
Keep calls short. This is a part of setting expectations with your clients beforehand. Take control of the call as soon as it begins. If the client needs to discuss a lengthy matter, schedule an appointment. Stick to the details and be concise.
Around 6 billion text messages are sent each day in the U.S. To most of your clients, texting is probably the norm. Although convenient, only use a text for small communication needs such as quick scheduling or letting a client know you’re about to arrive at a meeting. Never use them to give legal advice or update your client on a case.
In all things, remember you should never be too busy to provide excellent client communication. Without it, you risk providing a bad client experience, resulting in client loss and stagnant firm growth. By establishing a culture of communication and emphasizing being client-focused, you’ll deliver an experience they won’t forget.