It's not uncommon to hear people make jokes and rueful comments about how their lawyer never returns phone calls, or sends a bill for a thirty-second conversation, or talks condescendingly as if he alone can understand the mysteries of the law.
It would be tempting to dismiss these gripes as hyperbolic. But, the truth is that lawyers are not immune to making unforced errors when it comes to communicating with and managing the expectations of, their current and prospective clients.
At LawMaster, we have over thirty years of experience helping lawyers make the most of their existing and new client relationships, and we build our integrated practice management solutions with healthy client relationships as a primary goal. Here are a few of the lessons we've learned over time about how lawyers can avoid unforced client relationship errors, and how we can help:
Return Phone Calls and Emails Promptly
It's not entirely fair, but the stereotype of the unresponsive lawyer is, unfortunately, rooted in some amount of reality. Lawyers are busy people, and sometimes it feels unreasonable, if not downright impossible, to be expected to set aside one matter to deal with another. But, successful lawyers understand that responding promptly (preferably within minutes, and an hour or two at most) to an enquiry from an existing or prospective client -- even if it's just to say "I received your message and am tied up, but I (or a colleague) will be contacting you shortly" -- keeps their clients feeling heard and respected. Indeed, nothing communicates a lawyer's commitment to their clients more effectively than showing that even in the midst of a trial or high-stakes negotiation for one client, they will take the time to be available for another.
You can ease this burden with New Client Enquiry functionality in your Practice Management Technology to ensure that you will receive important messages from prospective clients, and be able to track and follow them up to ensure that they've received the prompt attention that demonstrates your dedication to serving their interests.
Communicate Periodically, Even If There's Nothing Going On
Legal matters do not necessarily move on a predictable timetable, much less an efficient one. Sometimes, months can pass without anything happening. But, that doesn't mean the matter isn't at the front of your client's mind. In fact, often the more time that passes without activity, the more frustrated and anxious your client can become. Your client may wonder if you've forgotten about them, and though you haven't of course, a diligent lawyer knows that a client doesn't necessarily understand that long periods of inactivity can be routine. To mitigate client stress and improve the relationship, a responsible lawyer will check in with the client periodically to offer reassurance that all is well and proceeding as expected, or not, as the case may be.
At LawMaster, our Client Portal tool feature supports your client relationships by allowing you to engage with them anytime, anywhere. Clients can access real-time matter status information, and documents you've uploaded for their review. Our matter management tools and report dashboards also help you track matter progress and client contacts, to visualise when there have been periods of inactivity, and to set reminders to follow up with clients before they start getting anxious.
Bill Reasonably and Responsibly
In law practices, it's the norm to track time in six-minute (1/10th of an hour) increments. This level of precision is a boon to firm managers because it can provide detailed insight into how lawyer time is spent. But, unfortunately, even when lawyers make clear to clients that billings will be tracked in those increments, their client relationships can suffer when clients receive bill for six minutes (or less) of their lawyer's time, particularly if the time was spent on something relatively administrative, such as leaving a phone message for someone, or scheduling a meeting. Sometimes, discounting billings to exclude time that -- to a client at least -- appears trivial, can return multiples of the value of that time in client goodwill.
At LawMaster, our time-sheeting and billing software help lawyers capture and track precise increments of their work day, and also review bills generated from time-sheets to determine whether certain time should be written off in the interest of client relationships.
To learn more about how LawMaster's integrated practice solutions can help you avoid client relationship mistakes, and enhance relationships for the long-term, contact us today.