I continued to be impressed (and not in a good way) with lawyers who fail to prioritize effective and timely communication with clients. They are so busy with the seeming urgency of managing their caseloads that they aren’t doing the important work of maintaining their relationships with their clients.
When clients feel neglected, even if the reality is that you are competently doing their work, they’re eventually going to either start openly looking for another lawyer or be receptive to someone else’s advances. And make no mistake, there are always other lawyers waiting to move in on your clients.
Timely Communication Is Important
Recently on Twitter, an in-house lawyer made these comments:
While certainly not all, there is a large portion of firm lawyers that don’t seem to realize how many other firms exist out there, doing the same work they do. Lawyers that don’t make an effort, don’t try to learn about my business, don’t respond timely, etc., are putting themselves at a significant disadvantage for repeat business. Making me feel stupid or acting like I’m not worth your time is….not going to end well.
This is emphatically not a subtweet of anyone on here, but something I think about whenever I have to use certain counsel for reasons beyond my control.
And conversely, the counsel that I go back to again and again are the ones that have taken the time to learn about my business, the politics at play, and make an effort to always respond (even if the response is just “I’m slammed but will get back to you”).
My Experience with Client Communication
A new business client called me a few weeks ago. They had an urgent problem. We needed to get all their things in order and prepare to have suit filed within the next two weeks. We were exchanging emails and phone calls at all hours. The client and I went from total strangers to pretty well acquainted within a short span of time.
One of the things they said to me early in the process was this: “We really appreciate how responsive you’ve been. That … hasn’t been our experience with other firms in your state.”
At some point it will no longer surprise me that so many lawyers don’t prioritize providing timely communication with and for clients. But today is not that day.
I think part of the problems is that we do not see ourselves as a service industry. But we absolutely are. We exchange our time and expertise for our client’s money. But if we don’t meet their needs, of which communication is one of the primary components, they will find someone else to handle their problems.
Recognize that your clients need to hear from you. When they call or email, you should make a point to respond in a timely fashion, even when things are crazy. I was trained to respond within 24 hours, even if that’s just to say, “I got your message. I’ll get back to you soon.” That affirmation, even though not a substantive response, tells the client that you have heard them and allows them to infer their value.
When your clients believe that you value them and when they receive regular, timely communication from you, they will remain loyal to you and continue to send you work. Assuming of course that your work product is equally good.