One important — and often disregarded — aspect of growing a successful legal practice is building engaged and trusting relationships with clients.
Successful litigators develop relationships with their clients that have a number of positive consequences: 1) your client will provide more information and will be an easier partner throughout the litigation process, and 2) your client is more likely to refer others to your firm.
If you’d like to keep your existing clients and gain new ones, you have to focus on making your clients happy with the service you’re providing. This starts with building and strengthening the attorney-client bond of trust.
No client wants to feel helpless, and legal cases can bring out strong emotions — especially fear and anxiety. Your clients want to believe that they can trust you at every phase of the litigation process, from beginning to end.
Prioritizing your attorney-client relationships will help you develop a reputation for client-centered advocacy, excellent communication, and favorable results.
So what can you do to improve the attorney-client relationship? Let’s take a look.
1. Communicate frequently and consistently.
Communicating frequently and consistently is an effective way to build trust with clients. This is especially important when differentiating your practice from those of other attorneys — after all, litigators are famously allergic to communicating with their clients directly.
Clients have lots of questions and want to feel supported through the litigation process. They don’t know about the legal system and they expect you to have the answers. Keep those lines of communication open by offering multiple ways to get in touch with you – including phone, email, text, or even client portals.
Bear in mind that you should be an active communicator, too. You’ll want to reach out to your client to let them know about the status of their case — and make sure to do so in simple language, not legalese.
Finally, practice patience with your clients, as emotions may be running high. You are acting as their advocate and need to acknowledge and allay their fears along the way.
2. Be an active listener.
Don’t just talk — listen.
Part of building an effective attorney-client relationship is to actively assess what your client is saying, beyond their emotional concerns or scattered thoughts. Be open to hearing your client’s opinions and ideas, and make sure to answer their questions thoroughly.
Don’t underestimate the power of acknowledging feelings and emotions. Explicitly recognize the emotional content of your client’s communications so that they know you are actively listening to them. This is an excellent way to ensure that your client feels respected and understood.
3. Respond in a timely manner.
It’s important to respond to your client’s needs in a timely manner.
Respond to their calls, emails, and texts quickly, and be sure to answer all their questions. At the end of each day, check to make sure that you’ve answered all queries and have handled any urgent business.
Report back to clients on the progress of their case, and do so on a consistent basis. If you don’t have the answers that they’re seeking, let them know that you’ll get back to them as soon as you do. Be specific about dates and times so they don’t feel that they are stuck in a legal limbo about their case.
The speed and regularity of your communications will demonstrate that you are making the client – and their case – a priority. Invest in a law practice management software package if you don’t have one already. This will make it easy to access your client’s information and files at any time so that you can promptly respond to specific questions. You can also send communications to your client through a secure client portal, or create a task or calendar event to remind you to contact them later.
4. Manage your client’s expectations.
Be direct with your clients regarding the facts of their case — explain the issues clearly and comprehensively.
Every case has both positive and negative aspects – don’t sugarcoat outcomes or raise expectations unrealistically.
You can’t expect every case to be favorable for your client. If a client’s case isn’t particularly strong, it’s important to relay that concern early on so as to keep expectations in check. If the case results in a better-than-expected outcome, then your client will be that much more satisfied with the outcome — and with your legal services.
5. Get to know your clients.
Get to know who your client truly is – their thoughts, goals, and concerns. Get personal. Learn more about their personal lives and, when relevant, refer to those details.
Taking a personal interest in your client helps to grow trust.
Anticipate your client’s needs and be proactive in educating them about potential legal issues that could arise. By educating your client, you’ll ensure that they never feel like they don’t have control over the situation. Your client will feel supported and confident.
6. Stay ahead of the curve.
Look ahead to assess any potential pitfalls or challenges to your client’s case. Stay on top of the latest legal challenges and industry developments and discuss the ramifications of these developments with your client, when relevant.
A willingness to investigate potential issues will set you apart from the competition and give you an advantage when reacting to the changing demands of the case.
7. Offer additional benefits.
For tech-savvy clients, offering a digital service that allows them to access their legal documents in real-time (at any time) can be valuable. The legal industry is notoriously conservative and cautious in its approach to tech adoption, so this can be a differentiating factor that sets you apart from the competition. Industry observers predict that this trend will become standard practice in the not-so-distant future, so now is your chance to stand out from the crowd and be an innovator.
Paying close attention to the needs of your clients can go a long way in building effective attorney-client relationships. Nurturing trust with clients isn’t just a feel-good sentiment — it’s an excellent way to build your legal practice, as it can lead to more referrals.
Contact Walker Advertising for Further Guidance
If you’d like to grow your law firm business and expand your client base, we encourage you to get in touch with our team here at Walker Advertising. We operate a number of sub-brands through which we acquire valuable leads in a range of practice areas, including personal injury and employment law. Contact us to learn more about how you can join our network and get access to fresh leads.