Major advances in technology combined with a global pandemic have dramatically transformed all matters of industries, forcing many of them to embrace a virtual model.
Here, legal firms have been no exception. What once was a job that was primarily conducted in person, face-to-face has moved, at least partially, into the realms of the digital world. And if you’re a legal firm still struggling to adapt to this new normal, you’d better hurry.
To help with that, today, we’ll discuss some strategies you can employ to improve lawyer client communication and how working with a legal call center can help.
What Does Successful Virtual Lawyer Client Communication Look Like?
For legal professionals, few attributes are more important to clients than your willingness and ability to communicate. It’s essential for establishing trust, building a healthy rapport, and fully educating the client.
When a lawyer communicates fantastically or poorly, clients notice. In fact, poor communication is often the number one complaint made by clients to the state bar. But on the flip side, positive reviews or personal recommendations tend to be the primary factor clients consider when finding a lawyer. According to National Law Review:
A recent survey asked legal consumers what their steps were after searching for a lawyer on Google. Almost 30% replied that they would google lawyer reviews and read the reviews on a business’s Google profile while just under 20% said that they would read a review on another website.
While some people are just naturally better communicators than others, with effort, practice, and the right tools, it still is an interpersonal skill that can be refined over time.
Below are some of the ways you can drive virtual attorney client communication success.
#1 Don’t Be Overly Reliant on Email
Email shouldn’t be your primary source of confidential communication, especially if you want to make sure that your clients receive all of the necessary information and understand it.
Text-based communications are quick and convenient, but it’s much too easy for information to get garbled or for something to be lost in translation. Email tends to be impersonal, which makes it an ideal medium for sending complex information or legal documents; however, they’re not effective tools for building trust and developing relationships.
Even if you must communicate virtually, it’s much better to pick up a phone or schedule a video conference. And when you do, be sure to treat your client as a person. That means going beyond the primary purpose of the call. It involves getting to know them and vice versa.
#2 Be an Active Listener
One of the most overlooked aspects of communication is the importance of listening to the other party. Chances are, almost everyone can be guilty of being so anxious to say their piece that they end up not hearing what others have to say.
From a general perspective, that’s a bad quality to have. But it’s even worse if you’re a lawyer. Put simply, when people get a sense that you’re listening, they’re more likely to feel understood and trust you.
But hearing what a client is saying isn’t enough. As Pearce Center for Professional Communication notes:
Hearing is simply registering the words being said, while listening is paying close attention to what is being said and processing it. This type of listening is often referred to as “active listening,” which means you are listening with the intent to understand, not to respond. If you are only paying attention to what someone is saying to jump in with your own “bigger and better” ideas, you are not fostering good and effective communication.
So, how do you improve your listening skills, even when interacting virtually?
- Intentionally engage by asking questions or paraphrasing to confirm that you understand.
- Make eye contact when speaking or being spoken to in order to demonstrate that you’re interested and listening.
- Don’t interrupt. By letting your client say their piece, you show that you’re invested in what they have to say and in understanding their perspective.
- Try and go deeper in your understanding—it’s not just what they’re saying but how they’re saying it. What are their feelings?
- It’s okay to let silence be a part of a conversation. Learn to be comfortable with it, rather than feeling the urge to fill every void with noise.
#3 Communicate Regularly
It takes time and multiple conversations for two individuals to get a strong sense of one another and establish any kind of rapport.
For your clients, it’s important to remind them that you’re thinking about them and working tirelessly on their behalf. Having regular conversations and updates demonstrates that you value the relationship and want them to know exactly what services you’re providing.
#4 Set Realistic Expectations
As the old client wisdom goes, you should never promise the moon unless you’re capable of actually delivering it.
From the initial touchpoint, you must establish an achievable outlook for your service provisions. The vast majority of clients lack the legal expertise or know-how to establish reasonable timelines or expectations about the results of the case. But you also need to manage expectations about your business relationship. For instance, you should share:
- How frequently you’ll be communicating
- Which communication channels you’ll use
- Your availability
Although it may be natural to want to impress a potential client and alleviate concerns surrounding their case, a lawyer client relationship built on the shoddy foundations of empty promises and unrealistic expectations will quickly collapse. If you say you’re always available but never are, they’ll be much more disappointed than if you’d simply told them that you’re extremely busy, so back and forth will be limited.
For attorneys that want to build a foundation of positive attorney client communication, it’s important to convey an objective forecast of what clients should expect, whether it’s ideal outcomes or potential roadblocks. According to Advocate Magazine:
Failing to maintain an effective and sustainable lawyer client relationship [due to improper client expectation setting] can lead to clients demanding unattainable goals, failing to agree to settle the case after you receive a favorable offer, and general dissatisfaction with your representation of them – which ultimately results in you being subbed out of their case or threatened with a malpractice action.
#5 Keep Communication Between Lawyer and Client Secure
As an attorney, it’s your duty to ensure that all of your client’s private information is kept secure. This is especially important if you’re legally considered to be a business associate under HIPAA, which would then require that you follow law firm HIPAA compliance requirements. Legal firms that need to be extra wary include those that:
- Provide legal services to covered entities
- Represent covered entities accused of malpractice
- Represent clients in a personal injury suit
Regardless, securing your client’s private data is just a good business practice. All it takes is a single data breach for clients to lose trust in your firm.
So, how can you protect your client’s private information?
- Work with HIPAA compliant SaaS providers
- Encrypt all communications and channels
- Establish a BYOD policy
- Don’t connect to public WiFi
- Require all members of the firm to use strong passwords and two-factor identification
- Use a secure client portal
#6 Plan Meetings
When you meet virtually, it’s essential that you’re prepared and operate as efficiently as if you were meeting in your offices. If clients are being billed for your time, it’s important that you establish a model where they feel as if their time (and money) has been well spent.
By planning in advance, you can ensure that clients have already received and read the documentation you’ll be discussing, and ensure that each meeting has a clear purpose. Additionally, creating a detailed meeting agenda can help spur the conversation forward.
#7 Streamline Your Law Firm Client Communication Channels
There are several different means through which you can communicate with clients virtually. This includes call, text, live chat, and email, and client portals – all of which can be managed through legal answering services, professional legal intake services, and more.
On their own, each one of these tools can be leveraged to facilitate an open channel of communication. However, it’s easy for these services to get fractured. If you use different platforms, you lose visibility over messages. For lawyers texting clients, a client may see a text but not an email or a message on the client portal.
That’s why it’s important to centralize all aspects of virtual client communication into one bundle that includes:
- Legal answering services – Maximize every call that comes into your firm, with:
- 24/7/365 phone coverage or overflow support
- Live transfer and call routing
- Appointment Scheduling
- Spanish language support
- CRM/CMS integration
- Reporting & Analytics
- Legal intake services – Enjoy potential client screening according to your consumer personas, with:
- Round the clock new client intake
- Large-scale advertising and marketing campaigns
- Outbound calling
- Web forms and online leads
- Offline media tort response
- Contract and retainer services – Drive revenue by converting inquiries into paying clients, with:
- Customized approach
- Smart lead tracking for improved lead generation for lawyers
- Personalized welcome email
- HIPAA compliant & secure
- Scheduled call-backs
- Lost lead resurrection
- Live chat and text services – Live chat for law firms help facilitate effective communication no matter where you or your clients may be, with:
- 24/7 people-powered live chat for law firms
- LIve phone transfer
- A customizable customer experience
Alert: The Communication Tool Legal Firms Need
Do you want to capture more leads? Are you looking for ways to improve client retention?
Then start improving your client communication skills and embracing digital tools that help make it possible.
Here, Alert Communications is the solution, empowering your team to better handle the influx of cross-platform communications. Whether it’s live chat & text, call, intake, or retainer services, our virtual communication solution can help you maximize every lead and drive revenues.
Want to learn more? Contact us today!
National Law Review. 2021 Guide: The Importance of Online Reviews for Law Firms. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/2021-guide-importance-online-reviews-law-firms
Pearce. Active Listening is Key to Good Communication. http://pearce.caah.clemson.edu/active-listening-is-key-to-good-communication/
Advocate. Managing Client Expectations: Don’t Promise Them The Moon. https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2016-january/managing-client-expectations-don-t-promise-them-the-moon