Communication is the cornerstone of a successful legal practice. However, far too many law firms lack the tools they need to effectively handle important interactions with their existing clients and manage legal client intake communications with prospects and leads. From inconsistent correspondence to unclear messages, the potential for mistakes is high.
This post lays out six crucial client communication errors commonly made by law firms. Review the list and take a good look at your practice to ensure that your firm ends 2022 by providing top-notch communications.
Error #1 Irregular Communications
Every legal client wants to be kept informed on the status of their case. They want to know that progress is being made and feel assured that their legal representatives are diligently working in their interest. Therefore, firms need to provide regular updates in a consistent and comprehensive manner. Here are some simple ways to make that happen:
- Set expectations from the start – Your firm can greatly influence the cadence of communications by influencing client expectations early in the relationship. Engagement letters should clearly explain what communications clients will receive, how often, and through which channels.
- Answering questions proactively – As a practicing attorney, you can probably anticipate client questions and concerns before you even receive them. Pre-emptively address these questions in your firm communications. That might look like a FAQ or automated updates delivered on a regular basis.
- Summarize verbal communications – Verbal communications are extremely effective, but they can sometimes be confusing for clients, especially if they feel hesitant to ask questions. Your firm can prevent any confusion by following up on verbal interactions with written communications that summarize the important details of the conversation.
- Give bills double duty – Your firm’s billing statement offers a valuable opportunity for communication with clients. Instead of using vague billing language, include details about services completed, so clients have a clear understanding of what they are being billed for, which cuts down on inquiries to the firm.
Error #2 Lack of Lead Engagement
The client experience starts way before the conversion stage. It begins with a prospect’s initial call to the firm or the completion of a website contact form. In response, firm communications should also begin early. Your firm’s website and marketing materials should be clear, concise, and packed with value. If prospects find your content informative, it builds trust and influences their decision-making process.
Communication also plays a role in this stage of the process through follow-up emails and phone calls. If a lead reaches out to your firm and receives nothing in response, they are more likely to look elsewhere for representation. A strong legal client intake process leads to high conversion rates. That requires effective lead nurturing and regular communications early in the sales funnel.
Error #3 Confusing Communications
Legal arguments and analysis can be difficult for the average person to understand, so it’s important to be cognizant of the language and wording being used in your firm’s client communications. Stay away from legalese, which can be confusing and intimidating to clients. Plain language is more effective at communicating the valuable information clients need.
Error #4 Lack of Emotional Intelligence
Never forget that the person on the other end of your conversation is a human being with feelings and emotions. Your firm’s clients are facing extremely stressful situations, and they want to feel that their legal representative is showing some level of empathy. This is commonly referred to as emotional intelligence, and here are a few ways to exhibit that within your legal client communications:
- Acknowledge and put aside any negative feelings you may be experiencing when communicating with a lead or client. Misplaced emotions can prove detrimental to the relationship.
- Observe nonverbal cues, like facial expressions and body language. Communication is often about much more than spoken words, so pay attention.
- Especially when communicating with leads, ask probing questions. The information learned could help you qualify the lead and determine whether they are a good fit for your firm.
Error #5 All Talk and No Listening
To provide truly effective legal representation, listening must be a central part of your communication style. As tempting as it may be to jump in with your legal expertise and advice, you run the risk of making clients feel unheard if you fail to pause and listen. Here are some tips to help incorporate active listening into your firm communications:
- Only interrupt when absolutely necessary.
- Don’t think ahead to your response instead of actively listening.
- Reiterate what the person stated to provide assurance that they were heard.
- Accept feedback gracefully.
Error #6 Lack of Automation
With the automation of communications, your firm can have more available time and resources for profitable tasks. Automated client communication tools help you streamline these processes. For instance, a chatbot can be programmed to automatically notify clients about upcoming court appearances or filing due dates. Every automated communication equals more available time for driving firm profits.
As amazing and useful as automation has become within the legal industry, it is also important to understand which circumstances are appropriate for automated communications and which are not. For instance, some clients may not be comfortable with automated communications, or the subject matter of the communication is sensitive and requires a human touch.
Address Communication Errors Before the New Year Begins
Effective communication is a must for law firms to successfully attract new clients and keep current clients happy. Take a critical look at the communication processes of your practice to ensure that your firm isn’t making these critical errors.