6 Ways to Better Communicate with Clients
Clients hire lawyers for their legal expertise, but they stick with them because of their quality of service. A large part of that perceived quality depends on your ability to communicate effectively with clients. Communication is just as important as your “real” work. You could even argue that communication is more important because if you don’t understand your clients’ needs, you can’t represent them successfully.
Yet client communication doesn’t come easily for every lawyer, and even communication experts need to brush up on their techniques occasionally. Here are six helpful tips to give your communication methods a boost:
- Know who your clients are
First, you have to understand who you’re communicating with — and many communication preferences are drawn on generational lines. Older clients might be used to traditional phone calls and snail mail, but younger clients prefer quicker, digital forms of communication. According to the Clio 2017 Legal Trends Report, nearly 20 percent of millennials expect to communicate with their lawyer through email or text messages. Having grown up with the instant gratification of the internet, clients in their 20s and 30s may expect to get a response from their lawyer within the hour or even minutes. You don’t have to respond instantly or be as tech-savvy as a millennial, but you can still adapt to their preferences with techniques like automatic “your message has been received” email replies or text message meeting reminders.
- Tell your clients what to expect
A client facing a complicated legal matter will feel assured by regular contact from you. But being at their every beck and call is unrealistic (not to mention it can be expensive for them). Setting clear expectations about when and how you will stay in touch from the outset will help prevent clients from checking in more frequently than necessary, and clear your inbox of messages waiting for a response. At the end of every letter or phone call, tell clients when the two of you will connect again, or at least offer an estimate if you’re waiting to hear from a judge, an attorney or another party. Or, set up a standing weekly phone call to review any case developments. Clients will know the status of everything and you won’t feel as pressured to get back to clients ASAP.
- Take advantage of follow-up emails
Follow-up emails are a great way to stay in touch with clients and keep a record of phone calls and meetings. No matter how much something is discussed verbally, it’s helpful to send a written note to ensure that both you and the client are on the same page. You can also use follow-up emails to provide links to relevant information and tell clients about any additional ideas or insights. Even when you don’t have anything new to share, a quick email of appreciation for your client’s time is a nice touch and can help set the groundwork for a long-term relationship.
- Send a good, old-fashioned note
Sending a handwritten note to clients is an easy way to maintain your relationship with them and earn their business for life. Cards are a given at Christmas and New Year’s, but they can also be sent to clients at other important milestones, like a trial win, a successful negotiation or the anniversary of when you started working together. Or, pick one client each week to send a note as a token of appreciation for their business. Be sure to hand-sign each card rather than use a stamp or a general “from the firm” signature — personalizing the note makes it feel more genuine.
- Pick the best form of communication for the job
Every form of communication has its pros and cons, and it’s important to know which one to use in every situation. Simple yes or no answers, quick updates and court appearance reminders can all be easily sent via email or text message (plus, sending this type of information via written communication helps prevent it from being forgotten). But if your message is detailed and could be misinterpreted in an email, it’s best to just pick up the phone. Phone calls also work best if your client needs to make a decision or provide input — it’s faster and more direct than an email back-and-forth.
- Find creative ways to stay in touch
Don’t think you should only contact a client when you have news about their case. If you want to build real relationships with clients, find ways to communicate with them even when it’s not billable. Use your common interests to spark conversation — for example, if you and a client are both fans of the same football team, a win is a great excuse to send them a triumphant email. Ask about their work and families so you can send congratulatory notes about happy news, like a child’s graduation or a big development at their company.
Communication isn’t just a tool for sharing information; it’s a way to connect with your clients and provide them with the best service possible.