Simple habits go a long way
As a lawyer starting out in your own practice there is a lot you have to manage, one of the most important being client relationships.
To give you and your legal practice the best chance of success you need to start with some basic habits that can foster good relationships with your clients and reduce the likelihood of receiving complaints. Here are three ways you can maintain good relationships and avoid complaints from your clients:
1. Respond to them quickly
Waiting on a response can be extremely frustrating, so it's no wonder that this is one of the biggest points of contention between lawyers and their clients. Running a small firm or being a sole practitioner requires a lot of work and most of the time it can seem like there aren't enough hours in the day. But your clients don't know that, to them it can come across their matter being lower on your priority list.
Responding quickly to clients can make a huge difference in the long run. Whether they've left a message on your phone or sent you an email, even if it's for the fifth time that week, it's important to take the time to return those messages promptly. Clients need to know that you care about their problems and concerns, and that you're going to do what's needed on their matter.
Sometimes, it's as simple as firing off a few lines in response. Other times, you may need to take a few minutes to listen to what your clients have to say over the phone, offering reassurance and advice. When time permits, respond within five minutes of hearing from them and put their mind at ease. When you take the time to communicate with your clients, especially if they've already reached out to you, you let them know that they're important, and that their needs matter to you.
2. Give updates periodically
Legal proceedings can drag out indefinitely, leaving both you and your clients feeling as though you're spinning your wheels. No matter how well you explain this to clients, it can leave them feeling deflated and in the dark. Sometimes, you need to wait for other parties to return documents. Other times, you need to wait for a court date or for a judge to return your call. These things take time and you may not have anything new to report to your clients for days or weeks at a time.
Check in anyway.
One of the most frequent complaints from clients in the legal profession is lawyers failing to communicate throughout the process. It's not uncommon for clients to worry that things are happening without their knowledge. Others just want someone to check in with them, give some reassurance and let them know how things are going.
When you have clients waiting for news, make sure you check in with them regularly, even if the only thing you have to report is, 'things are still moving forward, and I have nothing new to update you on.' This simple step can go a long way to increase your clients' opinion of you and your practice and this little bit of reassurance can help keep them more patient even when things aren't going according to plan.
3. Bill reasonably, responsibly and on time
Your clients expect to get a bill from you, they know your services aren't free, and they expect to get it on time. But it's your responsibility, to ensure that the bill arrives when it's supposed to and that it reflects your clients' actual expenses. If you over-charge, you leave clients feeling ripped off and dissatisfied with your services. On the other hand, if you under-charge, you leave you and your practice vulnerable to commercial pressures.
With the right billing and time management options, like the ones offered by mattero, you can reduce the odds that you will accidentally over or under-charge a client. The time recording functionality helps you monitor the exact time you spend working for each client, which will make your bills more accurate and your client interactions easier to manage. A happy client makes a happy legal practice. Don't be afraid to ask for testimonials from of these clients as they can help you attract more business in the future.
Using these three simple tips can greatly improve your interactions with clients. Remember, the legal process can be stressful to those who aren't well versed in it. Keep them up to date, check in regularly and bill fairly and you'll likely have a much better relationship for it.