The following points are intended to facilitate a discussion about the importance of client communication and how to maintain good on-going communication, including the use of retention and fee agreements, keeping clients informed about matters, confirming matters in writing, and being on time.
- Share with the new lawyer a personal example of how failing to communicate clearly with a client can cause problems in a relationship. Conversely, share with the new lawyer an example of how communication with a client can prevent or resolve problems that could have ended the attorney-client relationship.
- Provide tips to the new lawyer on effective communication. Read and discuss the article: Stewart Levine, Essentials of Effective Communication, Law Practice Today, Feb. 2006, http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mba03071.shtml.
- Share best practices for communicating with clients, including practices like the following:
- Sending copies of pleadings and correspondence to your clients;
- Keeping clients involved in making decisions in their cases;
- Returning calls personally and promptly; handling email effectively;
- Utilizing staff to provide exceptional customer service;
- Confirming instructions and/or advice in writing;
- Clarifying reasonable expectations about the representation;
- Clarifying your role and scope of the representation from the outset and as it changes;
- Explaining clearly the fee arrangement;
- Promptly providing detailed billing records to your clients;
- Being respectful to your clients in all communications;
- Respecting clients’ time; and
- Making sure your client understands the steps of the process, including what will happen next and the appropriate way to respond.
- Discuss ways that a new lawyer can improve his or her client relations skills.
- Discuss professional and ethical ways to thank a client and receive thanks/gifts from a client. Discuss the article: Wendy Werner, How to Thank a Client, Law Practice Today, June 2005, http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mkt06051.html.
- Discuss different types of client relationships (e.g., individual clients, government clients, and corporate clients) and provide tips for the best and most professional communication practices with the type of clients that the new lawyer may have.
- Discuss how a lawyer clearly defines the scope of representation in a retainer or engagement letter.
- Discuss how to talk about fees with a client. Discuss how to set a fee with a client. Share with the new lawyer samples of fee agreements and engagement letters. Or, if mentoring in-house, share with the new lawyer the fee agreements and engagement letters which are used in your firm. Explain to the new lawyer why certain provisions are either included in your fee agreement or excluded from your fee agreement.
- Discuss when terminating the lawyer-client relationship is appropriate and suggest the best ways to proceed and document doing so.
Managing the Lawyer/Client Relationship, PRACTICEPRO (Provides suggestions and checklists for communicating with your client) http://www.practicepro.ca/practice/pdf/Lawyer_Client.pdf.
Betty Adams, Client Communication and Contact, ABA GPSOLO Magazine,