When it comes to working with clients, the outcome of any legal services a law firm provides is only part of the relationship. Clients also care deeply about communication—even those who may not be communication-oriented in other aspects of their lives.
So it’s a good idea for law firms to occasionally take stock of their communications practices and see if there’s room for improvement.
Establish the primary means of communication
There’s no denying that different forms of communication convey different levels of formality and seriousness.
Emails tend to be more formal, phone calls can convey highly individualized information, and some lawyers now regularly employ texting to connect quickly and efficiently with clients. Law firms that use modern practice management systems should also be able to take advantage of the secure chat option through their online client portal.
If you’re using email, a matter-based practice management tool can help you keep all your information tied directly to the case, making it easy for everyone to see what’s happening with a case.
Everyone has preferences for how they like to communicate with others. But if you’re running a law firm, it can be helpful to establish some consistency for appropriate means of communication. For instance, you may be comfortable with your team texting with clients—but want to set clear boundaries when it comes to engaging on social media.
Establish how your firm will communicate with clients in various scenarios—such as billing, updates, or responding to inquiries—and who will handle what.
If a client calls with a concern, you want your team to have a clear understanding of who has the knowledge and relationship to respond. Not only does it speed up the process, but it also creates less stress among staff members since they aren’t left wondering if someone else should reply instead.
Use secure tools
As communications—and legal offices—become increasingly location-independent, the whole legal industry has become very reliant on remote communications. While this more flexible work culture comes with a host of benefits, it’s important to remember your responsibilities as a lawyer.
The American Bar Association and several state bars now specifically address concerns of client information being hacked when lawyers don’t use secure technology.
Many law firms have embraced sending information electronically, but attaching sensitive documents to an email is often not responsible and can open private information to unnecessary hacking risks.
Instead, look to your practice management system’s secure online portal when you need to send or receive documents remotely. Not only do client portals help reduce the likelihood of cybersecurity threats, but they also come with e-signatures and other features that can significantly expedite the back-and-forth around paperwork.
Respond in a timely manner
The legal world can feel opaque to many people, even if they are used to routinely incorporating legal processes in their work. Don’t make your clients guess. That won’t keep them coming back.
If a client calls with a question, respond promptly. With a system in place that determines who’s responsible for which communications, the process should be straightforward.
But it also pays to be proactive about communications. Share updates as you have them. And even when you don’t have any news to report, it can be helpful to reach out with an email every once and a while, so clients aren’t left wondering if you’ve forgotten about them.
Forward-thinking communication also protects you from malpractice and ethics violations.
Build relationships with clear communications
Whatever your firm’s practice area, clear communication with clients is essential.
Make sure your firm’s communications policy feels current and effective to you and your staff—and that the chain of response to client questions is clear. Take advantage of your secure client portal, respond to inquiries in a timely manner, and be proactive about reaching out to clients with check-ins and updates.