Have you ever wondered how your firm could really stand out to clients? Sure, clients want a lawyer who will easily win their case—hopefully, without a high price tag—but results and cost aren’t the only things that matter to clients.
According to ResearchGate, the main factors influencing client retention are the quality of service, satisfaction, trust, and commitment. While the quality of service and client satisfaction may be tied to results, it’s only through strong communication skills that you demonstrate commitment to your client and start to build a trusting relationship with them. Hiring a lawyer is often an intimidating experience for clients, but a lawyer that develops a relationship with clients will make them feel comfortable, heard, and supported.
Unfortunately, prioritizing attorney/client communication isn’t easy when you’re carrying a full caseload—but the truth is, boosting your communication skills doesn’t need to be an inconvenience. Here are some simple tips for lawyers and law firms to improve client communication without cutting into billable hours.
Communication tips: for lawyers
Every attorney has experienced the all-too-familiar pit in their stomach when they return to the office after a long day at court to see an urgently blinking voicemail light. Clients call their attorneys for all sorts of reasons—to check in on the status of their case, to request clarification on charges billed, or to share new information, for example—but it’s difficult for busy attorneys to be readily available for phone calls, especially when they’re in and out of court and meetings all day.
The good news is that with some simple strategies and tools, attorneys can improve client communication without spending evenings trading voicemail messages. Here are a few helpful client communication tips for lawyers.
Tip #1: Use a secure client portal
Successfully communicating information over phone calls requires you—and your client—to be available. Unfortunately, when you’re managing cases for dozens of clients, guaranteeing availability at any particular instance is challenging.
On the other hand, secure client portals within your legal practice management software allow attorneys and clients to communicate effectively without requiring a simultaneous connection. This gives attorneys the flexibility to send, receive, and respond to messages throughout the day as able, and provides clients with a summary of what was discussed in case future questions arise. Attorneys can use a client portal to share case notes, pre-emptively provide status updates, and securely send or receive case documents. Best of all, all messages are securely stored in the client’s file, ensuring the record of matter documentation is always maintained.
Tip #2: Put your calendar online
Some clients prefer to speak on the phone or in person rather than chatting online. For these individuals, you can save time—and avoid playing phone tag—by ensuring they contact you when you’re available.
Using an online calendar for clients can help them see your hours of availability. You could even invite clients to schedule brief meetings on your calendar when they’d like to discuss their case. Not only does this ensure you’ll be available, but also that you’ll be prepared when it’s time to discuss their case.
Tip #3: Use your client’s preferred communication method
While older adults may prefer to discuss their case over the phone or in person, younger clients may feel more comfortable conversing with you via email or text. At the beginning of your relationship with your client, discuss their preferred communication method, and save this information in their file.
Contacting clients how they prefer to be contacted will help prevent missed messages. Additionally, it can improve the attorney/client relationship by showing your commitment to making them feel comfortable and heard.
Tip #4: Respond to questions promptly
No matter how hard you try to stay on top of your phone or email, the occasional missed message is inevitable. It’s less important to catch every incoming call and more important to return them as soon as possible. And if you fail to respond to client questions promptly, your client is likely to call again. As voicemails, emails, and messages start to pile up, this will lead to you feeling overwhelmed—and your client feeling frustrated.
To avoid escalating tension, try to respond to all client inquiries by the end of the day, or the end of the week at the latest. When you are scheduled to be away from the office, whether it’s for a vacation or a lengthy court appearance, set a clear out-of-office message to help protect the attorney/client relationship.
Communication tips: for law firms
Clients don’t just have regular communication touch points with their assigned attorney. They also communicate regularly with the law firm. Every interaction—from mailing bills to sending marketing emails—is a chance to show off your strong communication skills.
Effective communication at the law firm level involves anticipating questions before they’re asked, being available and responsive, and providing clear directions for clients as they move through their cases.
Keep these strategies in mind to pre-emptively prevent communication lapses and improve the client experience.
Tip #1: Update your law firm website
Your law firm website is the first point of contact most prospective clients will have with your firm. Keep it clear, accessible, and up-to-date so clients can easily identify your practice areas, get in touch with you, and ultimately, set your relationship off on the right foot.
Additionally, providing a live chat option to allow leads to ask questions, provide intake information, or complete the next steps can help move clients along the sales pipeline.
Tip #2: Use a legal CRM for follow up
Legal client relationship management software, or CRM, automates client communication. A legal CRM allows attorneys to:
- Store relevant client information and preferences
- Automatically send intake forms and information to clients
- Follow up with clients via phone, email, or text
…all without lifting a finger. In short, legal CRM helps clients feel top of mind, even when their attorney is busy working on other cases.
Your legal CRM does more than just improve the attorney/client relationship—it also improves law firm efficiency by automatically populating matter documents with client information, reducing the administrative burden on attorneys and law firms.
Tip #3: Use bills as communication tools
Let’s be honest—no one likes receiving bills. But bills that are unclear, confusing, or inaccurate can give clients the impression your firm is untrustworthy or unreliable. From the start, billing for legal services should be as transparent as possible. Ensure clients understand what their legal fees may be before starting to work on a case, including their attorney’s hourly fees and anticipated expenses.
Clearly itemized bills can help clients feel confident in the accuracy of their invoice. While manually entering task descriptions into each billable unit of an invoice can be time-consuming for most attorneys, comprehensive legal billing software can automatically itemize invoices in one click, saving firms administrative time and making more space for billable tasks.
Improve the attorney/client relationship with CosmoLex
Keeping clients in the loop doesn’t have to be a burden. With CosmoLex, you can automate email follow-up, easily itemize billing statements, and streamline the client intake process—all while increasing client loyalty. To see for yourself how CosmoLex can boost your client retention rates, register for a free trial or schedule a demo.
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