Whenever law firms interact with clients, they’re representing their law firm. Law firm staff are shaping the clients’ impression of the firm and its reputation, so staff must take a lot of care in enhancing the client experience and making sure that communications are clear, effective, and empathetic.
While law firms tend to believe that they generally communicate effectively with their clients and even their prospects, sometimes lawyers don’t exactly communicate the way that their clients want. This creates a disconnect and means that the clients don’t get the most they can out of the relationship.
So let’s go through the best practices that a law firm can have for effective client communication to navigate lessening the gap between what lawyers think their clients want and what their clients really want.
1. Make sure that communications are clear and frequent
Clients should feel that firms are proactive in their communications. This effort means that they can feel that firms truly care and are making genuine efforts to try and help them. When firms really try to help them understand what is going on in proceedings and what they can expect, firms can avoid unnecessary miscommunication and build a better relationship. Law firms can even brush up on different ways to communicate with people to help them understand a point they’re trying to get across, like telling stories, previous examples, or if that doesn’t work, simply being concise (without seeming rude).
2. Set clear expectations
It’s our job to ensure that clients know what they can expect from us in terms of communication. They should not be disappointed with any developments because they expected more. Firms can do this by clearly stating the times and frequency that they will be contacting clients, what channels they will be using, and when the firm is available.
Practices like this ensure that we have a good work/life balance and also that we provide for our clients. This sets clear boundaries and ensures that the relationship remains healthy, respectful, and clear, but still personal.
3. Listen to what goes unsaid
Many lawyers have what it takes to do the job in technical terms, but a lot of us can work on doing our jobs in personal terms. Interpersonal skills can always be honed. Some ways that lawyers can be better at interacting with clients is watching for tells when they’re speaking with them. Staff can watch for signs that signal discomfort, hesitance, lack of understanding, and more. Firms have to go above and beyond to hear what clients are sometimes unable to say.
When staff senses that there’s more that needs to be told, then they can ask.
4. Always listen actively
When clients speak to us, it’s easy to just hear what they’re saying and prepare a response for when they’re finished. This isn’t what they need, however. Clients need law firms to listen, and not just hear them. Active listening means taking whatever they’re saying to heart, which allows us to really understand what they need. This often goes beyond what they’re asking for. Don’t interrupt your clients, and always tune in to their emotions when they’re speaking to you.
5. Make certain communication automated
Some legal processes are tedious, time-consuming, and most of all, boring and repetitive. While automating these processes can make a big difference to us, it can mean that clients’ needs aren’t being met.
For simple communications like welcome letters, automation is totally fine and acceptable. However, for communications that are more personal and specific, the human touch is necessary. No one wants to receive disappointing or bad news delivered by a robot, and clients who are anxious deserve to be able to speak with a human, not simply be faced with an automated message.
6. Use the right medium
Different situations will need different mediums. Some mediums won’t be as appropriate as others, examples being texting isn’t appropriate to deliver bad news.
The right medium also depends on what the clients prefer and have access to. There is obviously no point trying to reach their landline if they don’t have one.
7. Consider the client’s whole journey
Ensuring that clients have a satisfying journey from start to finish helps firms give them the best service possible, but it also means firms grow and help even more clients. From the very first point of contact in the clients’ journey, they must feel listened to, cared for, and supported.
Client intake should be seamless and easy
The website and any other marketing materials must be well-written so that they give clear and information-rich content
Add detailed notes to bills so that clients know exactly what value we’re providing them
Always ask for feedback. This way we can continue to improve and grow even more.
In the end, the key to keeping clients happy is being authentic. These are just tips to help us do that. Whether experimenting with technology, working on our people skills, or practicing telling our clients we’re not available outside office hours, we must be genuinely interested in helping our clients and giving them the best overall experience that they can have with us. If we can do this, then even our small shortcomings, if we have them, will be forgiven because our clients know we mean well and that we’re there for them.
A strong base of satisfied customers will take a firm further than any marketing could ever do.
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