HELPING LAWYERS MANAGE CLIENT EXPECTATIONS

LAWYERS TELL ME ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS THEY HAVE IS MANAGING CLIENTS’ EXPECTATIONS.

For example, the client might give them a job that they expect will take two weeks but the lawyer knows it will take six months.

Much of it comes down to communication. This is where I help my clients.

This is crucial because poor communication can often result in malpractice claims.

One of the most common complaints about lawyers is poor communication. When people are unhappy with lawyers, there has usually been a breakdown in communication. One problem is the frequency of the communication. People often complain that they only hear from their lawyer when there is a positive update. This leaves long periods without communication which makes some clients anxious. What they want is an update with no update, if you know what I mean. The client just wants a chance to be listened to and to catch up.

This is why it is important that the firm’s engagement letters set how often communications can be expected, what they will entail, and which channels the lawyer is available on (phone, email, text, social media etc. The engagement letter sets out the terms of engagement and that helps manage the client’s expectations. It is important we keep the communication secure to ensure it remain confidential.

An engagement letter is essential because a 2018 legal trends report found that 68% of clients expect their lawyers to be available outside of the office, and 59% expect them to be available outside of business hours So we need to make sure the lawyer and client negotiate how often that communication will be coming and we need to find creative solutions to try and meet expectations.

One answer is technology. We can use that to balance service with cost. These days, remote access and task automation can ensure the lawyer is available without sacrificing their time. So project notifications and communications can be automated.  Doing that helps manage clients’ expectations.

To ensure the client understands what’s going on, which goes a long way towards avoiding unnecessary back-and-forth or misunderstandings, I make sure the lawyer’s communication with the client is in plain language. We can’t use jargon or language that’s difficult to understand. I make sure I leave scope for clients to ask questions about anything they don’t understand. I use a simple “please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions” at the end of a lengthy email.

According to the Queensland Legal Services Commission, there needs to be regular communication at appropriate intervals as the matter progresses. The objective of regular client communication should ensure the client:

  • Receives essential information
  • Is able to follow and understand the progress being made with their matter
  • Is aware of and agrees to potential costs associated with the legal services being provided.

I can also help the lawyer can communicate with the client more broadly through blogs and I can also provide communications directly with that client through newsletters and podcasts.

Of course, the blogs, newsletter and podcast will have the lawyer’s voice.

If you’re a law firm needing to manage clients’ expectations, you can contact me on 0411 745 193 or at [email protected].

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