With 9 in 10 Americans under stay-at-home orders for the foreseeable future, in-person business activities have come to a screeching halt. That doesn’t mean that a lawyer’s work has to, though. Much of the legal profession continues to chug along remotely.
Yet remote work has its challenges when it comes to maintaining relationships. A huge amount of the legal profession relies on in-person contact. Networking with clients and colleagues at an industry conference. Meeting with a prospect for a consultation at your office. Lunches, dinners, cups of coffee – they’re all part of the social fabric of lawyer’s lives.
So what do you do to keep relationships strong when face time has turned into FaceTime?
Correct your onboarding process
Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and shelter-in-place orders were out in place, you had office procedures and practices to facilitate your client relationships. But do they work for a remote law firm? Now is the time to loop back around to this. If you have new clients coming in, you’ll want to be sure that this process is as seamless as possible.
And even if you’re working primarily with existing clients, consider reviewing your onboarding with them again. After all, this is a big shift in your relationship! Reviewing your onboarding with them will build (or reinforce) trust, keep you organized, and create a clarity of expectations…on both your parts.
Develop a communication schedule
Call or email your client. Check in to see how they’re doing and how you might be able to help them. Can you help connect them with any resources to mitigate any difficulty they’re experiencing?
Once you’ve checked in with them, discuss what your next steps are for keeping a channel of communication open with them. Scheduling a weekly phone call, video chat, or email will give your client confidence in your commitment to their needs during this uncertain time. Make sure to share your available hours and the best ways to connect with you if they have questions.
Figure out your technology
At a minimum, you’ll want to make sure you have a system in place that works remotely for:
- File sharing
- Video conferencing
- Sending bills
- Collecting signatures
However, successfully navigating remote client relationships is more than just installing a few programs and resuming business. It’s about making sure that everyone is comfortable and capable.
How is your client going to use the software? Consider the impact that this shift has on their end of your relationship. How well your client can manage the shift depends entirely on who they are. Corporate and business clients may have resources that some individual clients might not.
Do they have the necessary access to technology? Will they need guidance in using it? Are there security concerns they need to be aware of? Consider all the questions so you can make sure they’re able to fully participate.
Respect your clients’ time
When you’re working remotely, it’s frighteningly easy to start letting little things slip. An incomplete to-do list. A few emails unanswered. A deadline. And to be fair, with the state of the world in flux right now, many things are out of our control.
However, when it comes to your client relationships, show them that you can be counted on even in times of crisis by showing up for them. (Virtually, of course.) Call promptly and email when you say you’re going to. Keep agendas focused. Send follow-ups to make sure you’re on the same page. And double down on clear, concise communication.
Everyone is in a period of adjustment right now. It’s expected that there will be a learning curve as we all adjust to new working situations during an immensely difficult time in our world. However, your relationship with your clients doesn’t need to suffer. When you focus on delivering clear expectations, thoughtful organization, and respect for their time, you’ll be investing in strong, long-term relationships.