The majority of client complaints about lawyers are not about the lawyer’s technical skill or competence. Instead, clients complain about the quality of the service they receive, particularly inaccessibility, lack of communication, lack of empathy and understanding, and lack of respect. Take heed of those complaints and look critically at how you treat clients in your office.
Some keys to helping clients feel respected:
Be accessible. Lawyers are busy people. But being busy is no excuse for leaving your clients high and dry. Make sure that your clients can get the answers they want when they want them. Educate and empower employees to assist clients as much as possible. Provide clients with additional avenues for information online or through informational materials you provide them throughout the engagement. Return telephone calls promptly. Make sure clients know when you will be available to meet or speak with them by telephone.
Make no assumptions. Don’t assume that just because you’ve seen the client’s problem before, you know what the client wants or what the client is willing to do to solve it. No two clients are exactly alike. Clients have unique biases, backgrounds, goals and financial circumstances. Find out what they are before you barrel ahead with a solution.
Give the client some control. Even when you think you know the best course of action that a client should take in a particular matter, you need not only your client’s consent, but their support as well. Where possible, give the client options over the course of action to take or how to approach a particular problem.
Communicate often. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to let communication slide when there’s so much happening on any given day – particularly when a client’s matter has stagnated or you’re waiting for a response from the court or another party. Communicate even when there’s nothing to communicate. Don’t worry about over-communicating – if you do that, your client is sure to let you know.
Be a good listener. Clients may come to you for your expertise, but they want to be involved and to understand their matter, the steps being taken on their behalf, and how those actions affect or may affect the outcome of the case. They want to know that you are listening to them, not just waiting your turn to speak so that you can tell them what they should do. Before you give your suggestions, make sure you understand their position by repeating it back to them.
Be a hand-holder. I’ve heard many lawyers complain over the years that their clients require too much “hand-holding” or that their questions and constant need to know what is happening or to have events repeated to them is actually impeding the representation. What those lawyers fail to realize is that to the client the ‘hand-holding’ *is* the representation.