Establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with the client you helping in any civil or criminal litigation is essential for any practicing lawyer. Develop and hone your interpersonal skills through daily interactions with clients to increase the likelihood of referrals and repeat business. Grow your business by leaving a good impression on your clients and enhance the reputation of your practice.
5 ways to strengthening any attorney-client relationship:
Gaining trust organically starts from the first consultation meeting with the client and is earned over time. Create a comfortable atmosphere by emphasizing confidentiality for your client to feel safe sharing their legal issues sets the right impression for the rest of the attorney-client relationship. Regardless of other circumstances or the predicated outcome of the case, let your client know you are there to focus on advocating for them. Be open, honest, and straightforward when answering questions as clients may be under distress already having to deal with a lawsuit.
Remind clients they need to be truthful as well since any detail they know may help or hinder the case. Omissions of crucial details can derail a case and lead to unexpected turns, increasing frustrations and tensions between clients and attorneys. Leave no surprises and better represent your clients by having a mutual agreement for honestly from the beginning.
An effective way to building trust is by practicing active listening. Withhold immediate judgment, pay attention, and ask clarifying questions to show your respect to the speaker. Opening the conversation by asking “how can I help you,” is power in positioning yourself on the side of your client. Let them take control of their narrative and share the details they deem the most important. It also gives an idea of your client’s mindset and characteristics that are helpful for navigating a relationship. Ask open-ended questions and summarize the conversation to ensure you understand their side of the story correctly.
Foster trust authentically through the accumulation of little actions that highlight how much you care about your client. Noticing your body language and expressing open language like uncrossing your arms and mimicking hand gestures can subconsciously indicate friendliness to your clients. Other actions like meeting deadlines, preparing for meetings, and completing tasks early not only boost your reputation but also indicates the prioritization of your client.
Many attorney-client relationships break down due to conflicting expectations that were often not clearly expressed at the beginning. Avoid making promises you cannot keep. It is unrealistic to determine with confidence the full details of how the case will progress, especially during the first meeting. Share potential scenarios and outcomes, whether they are favorable or not, to give clients the full picture of the litigation. Telling clients what they want to hear helps no one and will be detrimental in the long run.
Set expectations by being transparent and realistic about your strategy, the procedure, and the possible outcomes based on the facts presented. Ask the client what their goal is in seeking legal representation is a chance to gain insight into what clients are looking for or hoping to achieve. Based on their response, you can manage expectations and adjust to more realistic outcomes at different stages of the process. Knowing their goal early on can also help determine whether the case should be taken on in the first place. Formulate frameworks or guidelines about your strategy going forward to ensure your client is on board with the process. Reiterate the amount of risk and uncertainty involved to lower expectations.
Less talked about are the costs associated with a lawsuit. Clarify the cost structure and present a realistic litigation budget to clients so they are aware of the situation. Strive the complete the case efficiently, although some cases do take time and need clients to be patient. When billing clients, include a detailed legal service breakdown, to increase the belief that they are getting value out of the service by knowing exactly what they are paying for. This also opens the dialogue to resolving payment and service dissatisfaction before the issue becomes irreversible.
See clients as people, not another case or paycheck. Connect with them on an emotional level and build rapport while keeping a professional relationship. Understand that they are coming to you under high-stress situations and may feel lost and anxious. Practice patience in dealing with these clients as the case you take on may have a very important impact on their life. Take the time to walk them through the process and answer questions to ease their anxiety and trepidation at facing litigation.
Empathize with the clients’ situations by withholding judgment, acknowledging their concerns, and supporting them through the legal process. Regardless of your personal stance on who is right or wrong, advocate for your client based on the case facts. Stand on your client’s side and get to know them better to help their case. Ask for their life history as details from their story may be crucial to the case later on. The legal procedure can be convoluted and intimidating, so ensure clear communication with your client to help them through the process.
“Communication is your ticket to success, if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively.” — Theo Gold
As simple as it sounds, communication is a skill that everyone is constantly working on improving as it permeates every aspect of life. Effective communication with clients cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach as each individual has their own unique preferences. Through experience and trial-and-error, you will understand how to best navigate and approach different personalities. Even so, there are some best-practice methods to spark ideas and prevent miscommunication between you and your clients.
Agree on communication methods.
From emails to in-person visits, the range of methods to keep in touch make it possible to reach nearly anyone. Although email seems to be the default, there is a rise in video calls while others prefer in-person visits. Select which methods your clients prefer to ensure you can reach them and keep communication lines open. Planning meeting times also gives them something to look forward to and further reinforces your efforts in making headway on their case.
Establish contact frequency.
To give an idea of when they should expect updates to prevent them from wondering what the case progress is when activities seem to be stalled. Respond in a timely manner to all their queries so they will not be left wondering what is happening. Send periodic updates to keep clients informed and reduce confusion as some cases can take months or years to wrap up.
Keep clients in the loop.
Keep them informed of the case progress or key events and share relevant case files. Do not make the mistake of assuming they will not understand and share nothing. Encourage them to ask questions and learn about the statutory authority or case law relevant to their scenarios. You can support their education by sending court documents or meeting details so they know what is going on, eliminating guesswork, and building their confidence in your legal capabilities.
Communicate in plain English.
The legal world is complex and filled with specific terminology not everyone understands. Take the time to simplify it for your clients so they can understand the details of what is going on. Explain confusing concepts in layman’s terms and use examples to articulate the meaning of certain scenarios.
Celebrate the outcome of a case with a gift thanking your client for their patience throughout the entire process. Give the gift of gratitude to let them know how invested you are in their case. For instance, the small act of handwritten notecards to congratulate them on a successful outcome or for their business goes a long way in ensuring repeat clients.
If you are stuck on what gift to give, then take a look at corporate gifting services specializing in the gifting process. These services take care of the entire gifting journey from generating ideas to delivery so you can focus on your cases while maintaining your client relationships. Giftpack AI is an easy-to-use corporate gifting platform that can help you figure out what to give with its powerful AI technology.
As an attorney, you are there to advocate for clients. They may be lost and looking for guidance when you first meet, but it is during this time that you can support them the most. Form a long-lasting attorney-client relationship by establishing trust, setting expectations, demonstrating empathy, communicating consistently, and sending a gift. Being on good terms and fostering an effective relationship is the key to successful representation.
Disclaimer: This article does not intend to provide legal advice. Please seek a qualified attorney for legal advice.