As Richard Ferguson, a lawyer friend of ours says on his email message:
“People may forget what you said….
People may forget what you did….
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Despite the fact that we lawyers make our living communicating, many of us don’t take steps to optimize client communications. This is a shame, because highly effective client communications leads to both great case outcomes that satisfy the client’s legal goals and a great lawyer-client relationship that can result in higher work satisfaction and repeat business and referrals. Accordingly, here are our suggested steps to improve client communications:
Find out the client’s preferred means of communication, and use it whenever possible. If you have teenaged kids, you’ve probably learned by now that a short text message will elicit a response much more quickly than an attempt to call or leave a voicemail message. Clients also have preferred means of communication and when you take the time to determine that method and then make it as easy as possible for the client to initiate communication or respond to your request for information, you make your client happy and make it easier to do your job.
Give your clients a structure within which to communicate. Everyone likes to know what to expect, and your clients are no different when it comes to communicating with you. While it’s great to use the client’s preferred means of communicating, you can’t always respond as quickly as the client would like. Prepare a written communications plan that lets your clients know how soon to expect to receive a response from various types of communications and who to contact if you are unable to respond within the stated time due to a trial or other cause.
Have someone in your office return all calls the day they were received. Study after study has shown that not returning phone calls promptly is a major factor in client dissatisfaction. Accordingly, make it a policy in your office that someone will return all calls they day they were received – even if it is to say that you are in court and won’t be able to get back to them that day. This demonstrates concern for the client – they understand that you are busy – we all are!! – but the act of simply acknowledging their call is an important one. Make your clients feel good about having selected you as their lawyer.