Let me start off by saying that I am fresh out of law school and have yet to have my own legal client. I’m drawing on my own background in sales and my experience managing numerous sale reps. Although lawyers likely would not call clients “customers”, there’s one parallel that is valuable to use for your clients: managing expectations. Customers usually want updated information or at least some knowledge in regard to their business transactions - something that keeps them happy.
Whatever the label, clients will want to know particular information and updates about their case. They may call every day, every other day, or once a week and you likely don’t have the time to get back to them. It happens and they’re likely not your only client. A common bar complaint from clients is failing to return phone calls, but if they stopped calling so much, bar complaints would decline. So how can you reduce phone calls and potentially bar complaints? One method is to get rid of your phone. I’m kidding, but really if you’re not going to return phone calls, why have one?
Manage expectations right from the start and explain your work process. If possible, lay out your communication practices in your new client paperwork for clients to acknowledge your policies. Then have clients sign off that they were informed. You’re not attempting to take away their right to bring a bar complaint, just that they were told what to expect.
Here are some policy suggestions to help manage client expectations:
- Tell your clients that you’ll keep them apprised of important information such as court dates, case updates, etc. If you explain that they’ll always be up to date with the latest information, clients will be less likely to track you down for the latest.
- You won’t be available whenever they have a question so state that your return phone call policy is 24 to 48 hours. You may also choose to communicate via email instead so your email reply policy can also mirror the 24 to 48 hour window.
- Explain that periods of silence are normal and to be expected because you’re handling their case in a timely and professional fashion. Most clients likely don’t have an in-depth understanding of the legal process so walk them through a typical time line and mention the milestones (make sure to explain that things can change based on different circumstances).
- If you have staff in your office, make sure they are up to speed on your policy. They are your “gatekeepers” meaning that if your employees keep your clients informed, you can offload a lot of the client communication and free up time to focus on the cases themselves.
If you create a policy that works for you, it should make your job a lot easier and it should relieve clients’ worries. By doing this, your clients will tailor their needs and wants according to your policy. Instead of a client calling to ask every little question, they might wait until they have a few things before they attempt to speak to you. This can save both you and your client a lot of time. Creating this policy is entirely within your control, so tailor one that works to fit your work schedule and routine.
For more helpful tips and information read what to do when your client calls too much.