Lawyer Development

Guide to Effective Lawyer-Client Communication

Lawyers can communicate more effectively with their clients by seeking to listen, empathize, and connect on a personal level.

The quality of communication you and your team maintain with clients is either a competitive advantage or a missed opportunity for your law firm. Empathic and transparent legal communication fosters trust between client and lawyer, which is critical to achieving the best case outcomes.

Realize the benefits of solid client communication practices with this guide, designed for lawyers who are ready to take their firms to the next level.

Why Is Effective Client Communication Important for Lawyers?

Effective communication is the foundation for a functional client-lawyer relationship. Fostering positive relationships with clients comes with a range of benefits, including:

  • Better case outcomes. Communication enables information sharing between you and your clients. To achieve the best results, your clients must trust you enough to share and discuss potentially sensitive details.
  • Higher client satisfaction. Clients who feel heard are more likely to be pleased with your services versus those who don't.
  • More realistic client expectations. Poor attorney-client communication can lead to misunderstandings about the timeline, cost, or likely outcome of a case.
  • Reduced likelihood of malpractice claims. The American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct outline the tenets of good attorney-client communication. Failing to comply can result in a malpractice suit.

Each of these benefits contributes to your reputation as a lawyer and the firm's ability to retain existing clients and secure new ones.

How to Improve Lawyer-Client Communication

Given the benefits noted, hopefully you are motivated to learn how to improve client communication. Below are 11 lawyer communication strategies that can set your firm apart from the rest.

Set Clear Expectations at the Start

Outlining your communication practices early on will encourage reasonable expectations about how you'll touch base with your clients. Consider defining these communication details:

  • The days and hours you're available to interact
  • How often clients should hear from you or your team
  • Whether you'll text your clients, email them, or contact them by phone

You can put this information in your engagement letters, but it's also smart to review your communication parameters verbally at the start of the relationship.

Make Yourself Available

Your day is likely too short for the number of items on your to-do list. In that scenario, it's easy to let communication slip. You may need to block time on your daily calendar specifically for client and lead follow-up. That way, you can return messages within one business day. If you wait longer, you risk losing the lead or frustrating your client.

Your clients will also appreciate having more than one way to contact you. The best practice is to provide at least two communication channels. Note that case management software CASEpeer has a built-in text messaging feature that allows you to message clients without divulging your personal cell phone number.

Regularly Update Your Clients

Every client on your roster should receive periodic updates, even when the case has not progressed. If you stay silent long enough for the client to request an update, you may have already fostered some negative feelings.

Also, if you did specify the cadence of case updates in your engagement letter, it's critical to adhere to that schedule.

Connect Personally With Your Clients

Clients hire you to realize an outcome, but they don't want you to be a machine. Let your professional guard down to connect with them on a personal level. Learn who they are and try to anticipate their needs before they have to ask. Doing so fosters trust in you and confidence in your professional abilities.

Put Yourself in Clients' Shoes

Take the time to understand your clients' feelings and perspectives. This begins with having the right mindset heading into client conversations. An open mind and kind heart prepare you to listen, to note any verbal and non-verbal cues, to acknowledge client concerns, and to ask clarifying questions. The goal is to see the situation from your client's point of view.

Your efforts to empathize with clients will be rewarded in multiple ways:

  • Your case strategy will be more aligned with the client's needs.
  • Clients will feel more confident that you're looking out for them.
  • You'll earn a reputation for being trustworthy and approachable.

Listen to Understand, Not Reply

It's easy to view conversation as a series of traded responses. But focusing too much on your next response can prevent you from learning and understanding what clients are telling you.

Take note of your thought process when clients are speaking. Are you thinking about the next point you'll make? Or are you carefully evaluating your understanding of what they're saying? Take the latter approach, and you'll be a better lawyer for it.

Be Curious

Communication is a two-way exercise, and you may be more skilled at it than your clients. In those situations, gentle persuasion methods can facilitate a more productive conversation.

Persuasion involves positioning a message so it resonates with the audience. If you start with understanding your client's perspective, you can phrase sensitive topics so they're more likely to be well-received. You can use this tactic to avoid conflicts, resolve conflicts, and present new ideas.

Automate Communication When Appropriate

It's appropriate to automate communications when the message content is a simple confirmation, like "payment received" or "document uploaded." You can also automate generic messages, such as an email explaining your online payment process. These automations enhance the client experience by delivering quick confirmations or sharing useful information.

Messages that are personalized or case-specific should be handled by your team members.

Invest in Communications Training

The legal communication strategies outlined here are helpful to anyone on your team—whether they're client-facing or not. An office-wide dedication to positive, productive communication will improve interactions with clients and among team members. You can encourage that dedication by offering periodic communications training for the whole team.

Create Value in Your Clients' Eyes

Being focused on ways to create added value with clients makes you a better listener and communicator. Some clients may be receptive to educational resources about their case, while others may prefer to discuss risk management strategies for the future. When you deeply understand your client's priorities, you'll know what type of value-add strategy will resonate most.

Client Communication for Personal Injury Lawyers

Personal injury lawyers often have an extra communication consideration: Clients may be managing through devastating injuries or the unexpected death of a family member. They will have some level of emotional or psychological response, such as anger, denial, shock, or depression. These responses often impair the client's ability to communicate effectively.

In those scenarios, you have less room for communication mistakes, so it's critical to adhere to the lawyer communication practices described above. Your empathy and understanding can promote client confidence and a sense of safety. Your acknowledgement of their emotional and/or physical pain can be comforting. And, your persuasion skills can enable conversations about triggering topics.

You might also consider developing a network of support resources you can recommend to clients. Examples include therapists, support groups, physical therapists, and other medical professionals. Having those referrals available is another way to acknowledge you understand the stress of their situation.

Technology That Improves Lawyer Communication

Interpersonal skills often dominate any conversation about improving client communication. But technology plays a role, too. Four application types designed for managing client relationships include legal communications software, legal intake software, legal client portals, and legal client relationship management software.

1. Legal Communications Software

Legal communication applications generally support secure text and email messaging that's automatically linked to the case file. This type of software gives you the option to text your clients without sharing your personal phone number. It also gives your clients a private communication channel that can't be accessed by anyone else.

Case management software CASEpeer includes built-in text messaging. Messages are secure, encrypted, and documented within the case file.

2. Legal Intake Software

An efficient onboarding process is an early opportunity to establish your firm's clear communication practices. Unfortunately, it's also an opportunity to lose documents, confuse clients, and risk your firm's reputation.

Intake management software eliminates onboarding missteps by automating contract requests, e-signatures, and the filing of executed documents.

CASEpeer's intake feature, for example, sends and receives all contracts and onboarding paperwork. The application also facilitates e-signatures, tracks the status of pending contracts, and sends notifications when documents are executed. The activity also gets logged automatically to the appropriate case file.

3. Legal Client Portals

A legal client portal is a secure online destination that consolidates case information, including status updates for your clients. Clients can access the portal any time they're wondering what's happening with their case.

The legal portal within CASEpeer is a popular client experience feature, particularly among tech-savvy clients. Use the portal to share status updates, new case files, and lawyer contact information. It also stores communication dates, emails, and text messages so you can ensure your team is engaging with clients regularly.

4. Legal Client Relationship Management Software

Client relationship management software streamlines, organizes, and documents various client-related activities, from managing new client leads to tracking communication.

Robust case management applications like CASEpeer usually function as law firm client relationship management tools. CASEpeer securely manages case and client data, documents client communications, tracks deadlines, manages tasks across your team, and supports customized workflows to trigger tasks and due dates. The application also includes a KPI dashboard with accountability and productivity reports.

Excel at Client Service Through Communication

Make superior communication a cornerstone of your practice. Listen, ask questions, practice empathy, and connect personally with your clients. Your firm will enjoy a stronger reputation, better case outcomes, and improved client satisfaction as a result.

To learn CASEpeer's role in efficiently managing client relationships and supporting superior client service, schedule a demo today.

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