Communication is good for love and lawyering

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People make relationships a lot harder than they should be, and client relationships are no exception. A recent survey found that only 29% of in-house counsel are “very satisfied” with their outside law firms, with the rest being somewhat satisfied or outright dissatisfied.  Most of the reasons for dissatisfaction boiled down to communication issues.  The good news is that effective communication — while rare to find — isn’t that hard!  If you want to be a client communication rockstar and overall relationship pro, try these two simple things.

Respond
You’d probably be less than thrilled if you texted your date and he/she ghosted on you.  Turns out that clients aren’t thrilled with that approach, either.  More than once, I’ve actually gained business because another lawyer didn’t answer client emails. The problem pervades the legal field so much that there are countless articles on how to deal with an unresponsive lawyer.  Want to impress your clients?  Get back to them in a timely fashion!  This *should* be the bare minimum expectation of a lawyer, but the truth is it’ll make you stand out in a sea of unresponsive attorneys.  Having trouble staying on top of it?  An easy time management trick is to set aside specific time(s) during the day to deal with the phone and email.

Listen
As you’re pouring your heart out, you look up and see that your date is mesmerized — with his/her phone.  Again, you are not thrilled.  Similarly, clients aren’t happy when their painstaking attempts to outline project requirements fall on deaf lawyer ears.  How can attorneys overcome the stereotype of being terrible listeners?  1. Stop interrupting people.  Yes, you sound lovely when you talk, but sometimes other people have important things to say.  2. Don’t formulate answers until your client is done formulating his/her question.  (How can you really listen if you’re busy thinking about what you’re going to say?)  3. Don’t only listen for legal issues, also listen for practical constraints.  Clients aren’t fans of fancy legal advice devoid of actual, pragmatic recommendations.

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