Lawyers have an ethical obligation to keep clients informed about their cases, and this is particularly true when significant developments occur. It is imperative that law firms inform their clients quickly and completely regarding events that could directly affect case outcomes.
Sometimes, when the news is negative, attorneys put off informing the client or use an inappropriate platform for communication. These tactics can lead to miscommunications, leaving clients dissatisfied with the legal services you provide.
So, to keep your clients adequately informed about the progress of their cases, try implementing some of these 7 valuable communication tips.
Tip #1 Communicate Early
When case developments occur, don’t put off informing your clients. Whether the news is positive or negative, they deserve to know what’s happening expeditiously. Put yourself in the client’s place. Their case is extremely important to them. They likely think about it daily, anticipating developments and progress. Why make them wait any longer than they have to?
Delayed communication can breed distrust, leaving your client to wonder if you have something to hide. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, even one day can lead to dissatisfaction. So, don’t delay in communicating with your clients. Inform them of important developments quickly.
Tip #2 Communicate Clearly
When you make that call to your client, be sure to use language that is clear and understandable. Avoid legal jargon that your client may not understand. Instead, choose words and phrases that most clients would understand.
Also, welcome questions from the client. Let them know that their comprehension is important to you and ask if they have any questions often. Listen to the questions they ask, so you can identify their concerns and address them thoughtfully.
Remember, when things get lost in translation, it can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and conflict down the line. Take the effort now to ensure that your clients completely understand what is happening with their cases to avoid problems later.
Tip #3 Recognize when Automated Communications are not Appropriate
Technology has made it easier for law firms to quickly communicate with clients through automation. While these tools are extremely valuable when handling transactional communications or less significant case developments, they may not be appropriate for more serious communications. Be thoughtful about what you are communicating and what method you use.
For example, while an automated communication may be suitable for an engagement letter, an invoice, or a payment reminder, it is likely inappropriate for informing a client about a judge’s ruling – especially one that negatively affects their interest in the case. Your client will likely have questions, so make yourself available to respond.
Tip #4 Email vs. Phone Call
While an email may be appropriate for most communications, some circumstances require the personalization of a phone call or in-person meeting. Even if the communication is commenced with a client email to the office, think about your response and whether a return email would be as effective as a call.
If you’ve found yourself in front of the computer for an unreasonable amount of time, trying to find the right words for an email, it’s probably best to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the client. With a verbal conversation, you can better ensure that the client understands what you are saying. You are also available to answer questions or offer some comfort if needed. Remember, your client is going through a trying time and the sound of your voice may provide the reassurance they need.
Tip #5 Consistently Communicate
While big developments require quick and comprehensive communication, you should be communicating with clients on a regular basis throughout the entire process of your legal representation. From your marketing content to your engagement letter, and everything that happens until you close the case, your firm should establish a culture of communicating regularly with clients. That way, when major developments occur, your client will already be used to hearing from your office consistently.
Tip #6 Email Follow-Ups
Get in the habit of sending an email follow-up after verbal communications. This is extremely useful for adding something you may have initially forgotten or reiterating key points that you made during the conversation. Use language like this to craft a follow-up email:
- Here’s a link to the article I mentioned
- I thought this resource may be of assistance to you
- To recap our conversation from earlier today…
- Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
It typically only takes a couple of sentences to craft follow-up emails that your clients will appreciate.
Tip # 7 Client Portals
Client portals can also assist in making client communications more timely and efficient. These secure online tools provide clients with a secure space for receiving information, documents, and invoices. While client portals are effective when it comes to delivering less serious matter updates, they are likely not the best option for more serious updates and developments. However, with a client portal, your law firm can help your clients feel empowered and consistently in the loop.
TimeSolv legal billing system offers a client portal tool that is easy to set up and maintain. By logging into their accounts, clients can quickly see details about their legal matters, including invoices, account balances, and information you share.
Take a Client-Centered Approach to Law Firm Communication
Consumers expect a high level of customer service. By implementing these tips and adopting a client-centered approach to your law firm communications, you can ensure that clients are kept informed about important developments in their cases.
Click here to learn more about all the ways TImeSolv can assist your law firm, including their convenient client portal.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a freelance writer with a passion for law. Through her business, Personal Touch Edits, she helps legal professionals deliver effective written messages. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.