If you asked any state bar association to name the most frequent complaint received about attorneys, the odds are great that it would involve communication. Failure to return phone calls, failure to adequately communicate during representation, failure to keep the client informed, or a host of other communication failures are the reasons for a great number of the calls received by bar associations across the country.
Research has shown that 60% of attorneys are actually introverts. Conversation is not their strong suit. Being an introvert is all about — well, the introvert. Communicating with clients is all about the clients. When you can learn to truly put your client first in all things, you’ll enjoy much more satisfying relationships with those who hire you, and you’ll probably develop happier clients.
How to open up the communication lines
Not sure how to start? Try asking yourself:
- What are my client’s expectations of the outcome of this matter? Of me?
- What does my client need right now?
- How is my client feeling about her case? About me?
- What can I do to help reduce my client’s stress?
- When did I last send my client an update on her case?
- What update can I provide my client today?
- When is the last time I called my client just to say “Hi”?
- When is the last time I spoke with my client?
- When is the last time I communicated in any form with my client?
- What is my client’s biggest fear?
“So, I’m an introvert. How am I supposed to handle all of this client communication stuff? I’m feeling uncomfortable already.” Relax — you’re already doing a lot of things right. Are there more things you could be doing? Probably.
- Set the right tone in the initial consultation. Make your clients feel important with your attentiveness and good listening skills. Smile, make eye contact.
- Communicate during representation by returning phone calls promptly. Set a goal of returning every client call within, say, two hours — and then do it. Get known for your prompt responses.
- Call your clients from time to time during representation. Pass along updates, check in, ask about their child’s Little League team. Keep them involved — and keep yourself involved with them.
- After representation, continue to maintain contact. Stay connected through newsletters, holiday greeting cards, personal notes, or interesting information on your website.
- Become a resource for your clients. Let them know all of the other ways you can help them. Do they need a financial planner? You happen to know a couple. Are they looking for a new house? Give them the phone number for a good real estate agent. Do they need a speaker for their Rotary Club meeting? Hey, you happen to do public speaking.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to another person is to make him feel important. What can you do today to make each of your clients feel like your #1 VIP?
Reprinted with permission from Minding Your Own Business: The Solo and Small Firm Lawyer’s Guide to Profitable Practice, by Ann Guinn. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
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