Build Strong Lawyer and Client Management Skills
By Mary Elizabeth Hammond
Caring for a client and solving their issues is at the heart of practicing law. A strong lawyer-client relationship is essential to building a successful, client-centered law firm. Even if you win the case and help a client achieve their desired outcome, a poor relationship with them can have negative repercussions when the relationship is over.
In this article, we’ll cover why the lawyer and client relationship is so important to the success of your firm, what a healthy lawyer-client relationship looks like, and simple ways to build stronger relationships with clients from the beginning of the intake process.
Why Client Management Skills Are Important for Law Firms
When clients feel that they aren’t being represented by someone who cares, they’re not likely to return for additional legal services or recommend you to others. Worse yet, they may share negative feedback publicly and damage your firm’s reputation.
On the other hand, having a strong relationship with your clients can lead to positive online reviews, more referrals, and client loyalty. When you have a loyal client base, your firm has more potential to grow.
8 Tips for Improving Lawyer and Client Relationships
1. Make It Simple for Your Clients
The legal process can be complicated and overwhelming, but it should be as smooth as possible for your client—that’s why they hired you. There are several ways you can simplify your client’s matter and ensure a pleasant experience from start to finish.
First off, provide a seamless client intake process. When a client wants to reach you, make it an easy step. You can accomplish this task by embedding an intake form into your site and automating responses to ensure that they receive a prompt response.
Secondly, communicate your firm’s legal process, the services that you’ll provide, the fees associated with those services, and how the client can pay those fees. Also, consider offering credit card and ACH online payment options for added convenience.
According to 2021 data from MyCase users, those who accepted online payments received invoice charges 32% faster than those who didn’t accept online payments.
Communication is vital in any good relationship—a lawyer and client relationship is no exception. Problems can arise from a lack of communication, including accidental malpractice. Check your local state bar rulings on this matter. For example, the rules of professional conduct for the Missouri Bar and Judiciary rule 1.4 states the necessity of lawyers to provide “reasonable” and timely client communication.
Therefore, in a strong lawyer-client relationship, communication needs to go beyond the bare minimum. Check in with your clients unprompted to update them on their case as much as possible. This shows your investment in their situation. Through legal case management software, you can text clients (without giving out your personal information). This option allows lawyers to easily and securely communicate with clients in a way that is convenient for them.
3. Be Personable
Get to know your client on a personal level. A client is more than a case—show them that you care about more than the money you’re making.
Depending on the situation or area of practice, you may be working with people who are going through some of the most difficult and stressful times of their life. Viewing their situation with empathy can help a client feel seen, while also improving your chances of positive reviews and referrals.
Plus, practicing empathy can help lawyers to better understand their clients and even analyze their cases more clearly. According to an article published by Duke Law, “Empathy and compassion must go hand in hand with thinking like a lawyer.”
4. Manage and Track Your Time Efficiently
When a lawyer fails to effectively manage their time or takes on more cases than they can handle, they often experience major setbacks. This includes showing up late to meetings, letting issues slip through the cracks, and not giving clients the personal attention they need. These behaviors can damage your firm’s productivity and relationship with your client.
Utilizing legal case management software allows lawyers to automate time-consuming tasks like document management, invoicing, and expense tracking. It can give your firm more time to focus on clients and cases. You’ll also gain a greater insight into the workings of your firms with comprehensive case analytics. This provides the data you need to make better time management decisions and maximize productivity.
5. Be Consistent
Showing consistency with your clients establishes trust and promotes satisfaction. Rule 1.3 of the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct states that “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” In an attorney-client relationship, being consistent may look like:
- Always arriving on time for appointments
- Regularly communicating with clients
- Sending out accurate and on-time invoices
Running late to meetings or missing important deadlines will cause a client to doubt your ability to represent them. Additionally, even if there are not necessarily pressing updates in their case, keeping a client in the dark for long may cause needless anxiety.
Case management software can make this process easier. For example, lawyers can rely on calendaring tools to set up appointment reminders and even integrate Google or Outlook calendars for automated reminders. This ensures that no meetings or deadlines fall through the cracks. Invoices can even be generated and sent out automatically to ensure accuracy and consistency.
6. Improve Your Listening Skills
From the start of the client intake process, effective listening sets the tone for the client-lawyer relationship. Don’t simply ask routine questions in the interview, as each client and case will be different.
Actively listening to your leads and potential clients will help you decide whether or not they are a good fit for your firm. After all, according to Rule 1.18 of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer has ethical duties to prospective clients.
Once a relationship is established, clients will grow to trust your expertise and recommendations if they feel that you have taken the time to truly listen and show genuine commitment to helping them.
7. Seek Feedback
Your relationship with a client should always be a two-way street. Seek feedback on their experience and implement it into action. This can help improve any trouble areas regarding your firm’s client service.
As client needs and expectations change, you’ll be able to adjust your client experience processes.
8. Always Be Professional
Professional conduct is vital to an attorney-client relationship. You are their lawyer, not their friend. As previously mentioned, the ABA has outlined Model Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers to follow. Additionally, state bar associations have their own Rules of Professional Conduct. According to the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct, these rules establish boundaries of permissible and impermissible lawyer conduct.
Building Better Relationships With Your Clients
Follow these tips and adopt legal client relationship management software to implement them. This can help you build stronger relationships with clients, increase client referral opportunities, and ultimately grow your firm’s revenue.
Through MyCase, you can automate time-consuming tasks and shift your focus onto clients, optimize your calendaring and busy schedule, and easily manage client communications with a cloud based client portal.
Try a risk-free 10-day free trial today to see firsthand how MyCase can help you build stronger client relationships.