As a personal injury lawyer, you speak with clients, staff, insurance adjusters, other lawyers, and vendors. Effective communication is essential to operating a successful law firm – or any business for that matter. Here are five key communication tips for lawyers to master:
Listen to Understand, Not Reply
Quieting our thoughts while listening to another person is not easy. However, when we do this, we can really listen and understand what the other person is trying to say. Take a step back and stop yourself when you find yourself solely thinking of a response while the other person is talking.
- Pay Attention: When talking to someone, notice their eye contact and body language. Absorb what they are saying and pay attention to their tone.
- Don’t Interrupt: Make people feel like they are being heard when talking with you. Wait until they are done speaking to ask questions and add comments.
- Repeat: To show you have understood what the other person has said, repeat back a summary of what you heard. Afterward, feel to add your own opinions.
Less Is More
Your time, your team’s, your clients’ time are valuable. More often than not, a long memo can be shortened. Be to the point and don’t beat around the bush when communicating information to a client or a colleague.
- Overexplaining: Many lawyers tend to overexplain. Trim away excess detail that is not essential to a conversation. Keep the information brief and be strategic with what you are trying to say.
- Prepare: Know your key points before going into a conversation. Organize your thoughts by creating bullet points or a mental mind map of what you want to say. Assembling your thoughts in advance will help prepare you to communicate confidently.
For new lawyers, communicating properly is vital to building a successful law practice. The American Bar Association does a great job at explaining the art of communication for young lawyers.
Questions convey interest. Asking questions is key in delivering sound legal advice. Curiosity leads to improved engagement, innovation, and productivity.
- When employees are more open to asking questions, they develop critical skills like emotional intelligence which leads to better communication and collaboration.
- Ask powerful questions to further awareness. Powerful questions are thought-provoking and usually start with “what” or “how,” rather than “why.”
- Ask open-ended questions. They require more thought and lead to real communication. The person asking the questions receives more information to act on and thus is more likely to make a better decision. And the person answering gets to really voice their opinion and feels more listened to.
Document what you learn about your clients, adjusters, defense counsel, and other people. CASEpeer legal software helps personal injury law firms track notes on contacts, so you can pick up every new conversation where the other left off. Your ability to recall facts from past conversations makes people feel heard and can change the dynamic of even the most contentious negotiation.
Mastering the Art of Persuasion
If you want to come across as an expert in your field, you need to be able to persuade others to trust in your expertise. This is essential for any successful trial attorney. Together with the points we’ve already covered above, consider the following steps in mastering the art of persuasion:
- Relationship building with your clients: Make sure you are speaking the language of your audience. Doing your research on the audience you are speaking to will help you better connect with them in a relevant way. Be to the point and start the conversation off with your thesis and the big idea.
- Understanding your client’s needs and desires: In order to persuade your audience to take some kind of action, you need to know their wants and needs. Ask yourself who the client is, what they do, why they need your services, and what they expect from you. Tailor your conversation to show how you or your service fulfills your client’s needs.
Your time spent communicating must be valuable, since most lawyers bill for their time.
- Your message should be clear, succinct, and valuable to the listener. Think about what you want to get out of a conversation before going into it, and plan what you are going to say accordingly. It may be helpful to create a script for yourself and rehearse it out loud.
- Conversations do not always go as planned. Come into a conversation prepared to anticipate possible issues and how you want to address them.
Connect with your clients, colleagues, and adversaries in a more meaningful way by coming into conversations prepared. Listening to understand, rather than to reply, is a hallmark of effective communication. Be sure not to overexplain and know your key points for a conversation. Curiosity will get you a long way in communicating productively. Speak the language of your audience and build strong relationships to better persuade them. Understanding their needs and desires is key. Lastly, make sure your message is clear and valuable to your listener.
Practicing these communication methods will improve collaboration and productivity for your law firm as a whole. For more tips on how to lead a productive personal injury law firm, check out our article on essential leadership skills for lawyers.