You Have to Hold Hands With Your Client Once in Awhile

Client Satisfaction matters for the simple reason that people don't hire attorneys that they don't "connect with" from the start. And they don't continue to use an attorney who neglects them during their relationship. And, of course, clients don't return to an attorney with a new case if they are dissatisfied with the way they were treated during their last case.

How does an attorney keep his clients satisfied with the attorney's work on their case? During a recent coaching session that issue came up - maintaining a high level of client satisfaction and avoiding client dissatisfaction. It's a recurring question as the profession continues to have an influx of new attorneys - especially with less mentoring going on than ever.

A good attorney client relationship is the very reason that some attorneys get new clients and why old clients return to them when they need legal help.

Here are 4 tips that can help maximize the satisfaction your clients get in the attorney-client relationship with you.

Talk to your client. Both on the phone and in the office, wherever possible. When contacting a client, the phone should be the first choice. A letter (where time allows) should be the second choice. And email should be your last choice - one to be avoide whenever possible. Case status discussions and strategy sessions with the client need to occur so that the client can see and feel and understand that you are doing your work. Clients need to know that you are mounting your prosecution effort to not just win their case but to also undermine their opponant's side of the case. They need to know that you are on their side from the start and all the way through to the end. You may think they know it (after all, that's what they hired you for), but long passages of time with no communication from you will undermine the confidence they had at the start. Find an excuse to telephone every client at least once every few weeks.

Give them updates. Clients get busy in their daily life and so do we. The difference is that the attorney needs to make sure that the client knows (and sees) that it is their case that is making us busy - that we are working for them constantly. That means periodic updates throughout the handling of their case. You can send letters, emails, case documents, etc. That helps the client see that you have not forgotten their case (even if they haven't gotten a call or a letter from you in a few weeks) and it helps to move their case along through the legal process too. Both of those are exactly what you were hired to do. Working on the client's case, without the client hearing from you, leaves your client in the dark and clients who are left in the dark become upset. An upset client soon feels excluded from their own case and its process. That, in turn, breeds distrust and fear. That can result in the client feeling that you, their own attorney, is just a part of the same legal process that is "getting me nowhere" and "only costing me more money."

Make the client part of your team. Involve your client in every aspect of the case that you can. Give them a role in the case besides being a party to it. They can do internet investigations for you of all the players in the case - the witnesses and parties and experts, etc. It saves you time and saves the client money, both of which benefit the client and the client's case. More importantly, it can help you make sure that you understand what is the most important evidence in the client's case and why. Including the client in your brainstorming and decision-making processes helps them understand what is going on, how they can fit into servicing the case, and what each member of your team is doing to win their case. The client is often the attorney's most important witness. No one knows better what happened to them and what the perceived social wrong is that they want addressed. It is their case and the client needs to have a voice in it and the attorney needs to listen to that voice.

Empathize with your client. No one likes being neglected, left alone, or being misunderstood. Clients, especially. Every once in awhile, when it has nothing to do with the case, ask your client how they are doing and what's going on. A client is a human being with the normal concerns, life, and feelings that you and everyone else has. They need to know that you care about their case, sure, but also that you care about them and their family and how the case is impacting their family. You don't have to always have the answer to the emotional side of their dispute, but just listening to a client can go a very, very long way to cementing a good attorney-client relationship. Most important, knowing what your client is going through is a terrific way to understand the effect that the dispute itself has caused on your client and their family. There is an emotional componant to every civil case, no matter what it is about. An attorney can not understand their case and present it with maximum impact on a Jury, until they understand what the emotional impact has been on their own client. Some clients don't like to talk about it or even think about it. But the attorney needs to know what it is. Jury render decisions based on feelings as much, if nor more, as they do on cold logic and reasoning.

You can see that good client communication is the key an attorney's success. With it, your clients value your work for them, appreciate your talent and skill, and recommend you to their friends and family. Without it, failure is nearly guaranteed.

Ron Burdge
Helping lawyers win cases for more than 30 years.