Your Worst Client Interaction Habits Revealed
Our greatest challenge when hiring new legal assistants, paralegals, or associate attorneys is ensuring they understand the importance of treating clients as equals. However, as you likely know, the legal industry and many law firms are filled to the brim with people who have developed terrible habits related to how they interact and speak to clients. Putting aside for a moment that your clients are the lifeblood of your law firm, would you ever hire a company that treated you poorly? I hope not!
As such, here are some bad habits that you and your team may have related to how you interact with your clients or potential clients:
You’ve spent years studying and practicing the law, and just like most other professions, the legal field has its own set of jargon that lawyers may speak fluently. However, you can bet that your clients have no idea what you are talking about when you launch into an eloquent narration of their case in legal jargon. Save that for the judge or other lawyers and simply speak in laymen’s terms to your client. They may not be as educated as you, and obviously not in this field, but treat them as intelligent individuals deserving of respect. Also, keep in mind that while speaking legalese may impress some clients, most will either feel belittled, confused or assured of the fact that you don’t know what you are talking about since you couldn’t say it in plain-and-simple terms.
Talking At, Over or Down to Clients
In tangent with the idea of speaking legal jargon to your clients is the idea of talking at, over or down to them. Be wary of your tone and vocabulary as you talk with clients. Speaking legal jargon may make them feel like you are talking down to them. Additionally, an abrasive or condescending tone may make them feel as though you are talking at or down to them, while the obvious technique of a raised voice and cutting off your clients makes them feel as though you are talking over them. You are absolutely the expert here and while some clients can make retaining diplomacy and patience difficult, remember that they need to have their voices heard and that they need to understand and feel a part of the process.
Not Following Up
As busy as your day gets, it becomes far too easy to walk away from a client meeting and forget about it until the next time. Unfortunately, this may result in clients bombarding your phone and email looking for reassurance in the interim, which eats away at your productivity in the long run. Not following up with your clients with a simple phone call or email of the notes taken during the meeting can not only result in needy clients harassing you daily, but also in miscommunication and clients who feel neglected. The simple fix to these potential issues, therefore, is to make sure your clients get a copy of the notes from your meeting or to make a quick call between meetings to make sure they feel included and apprised of what’s going on.
Not Saying “No”
While your practice literally revolves around your clients, you need to remember that in order to help them, you need time to help them. This means saying “no” to those clients that we all have who are constantly calling to set up meetings. These meetings, which you swear will only be ten or fifteen minutes, inevitably end up lasting at least an hour. And once you’ve started catering to the demands of your more needy clients, you may find that your entire day is gone with nothing more than repetitive meetings to show for it. While you certainly want to show respect to and accommodate your clients, remember that it is more than O.K. to say “No.” Take control of client meetings and your time in a day by sticking to the original plans you made for meeting with each clients and using the rest of your time to build their case.
Breaking these four habits is essential to not only building a successful and respectful client-attorney relationship, but to also increasing your productivity and efficiency as a their lawyer. So next time you go into a meeting, walk out of one or receive yet another request for an impromptu client meeting, monitor yourself for how you are talking to clients, how you are providing feedback from meetings, and how you are establishing the necessary control to building a healthy client-attorney relationship.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h