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Communication Is Key: 4 Steps to Better Client Communication

Most attorneys are aware of the frequent client complaint about lack of communication from attorneys. Some say it’s the top client complaint about attorneys. So how do you make sure that those complaints are never about you? Here are 4 steps to help you keep those lines of communication open.

The standards and rules of professional conduct require that an attorney keep his or her client “reasonably informed about significant developments” in the case and to promptly comply with the client’s “reasonable requests for information and copies of significant documents when necessary to keep the client so informed.” Bus & Prof C §6068(m); Cal Rules of Prof Cond 3-500. This means that a client needs enough information to be able to participate meaningfully in his or her case, which clearly benefits both sides of the relationship.

The following 4 steps will help you ensure that you keep up with regular client communications:

  1. Respond. When a client requests information or copies of documents, you need to satisfy that request promptly. Also, promptly return the client’s telephone calls, or if you can’t, have a staff member let the client know when you’ll call back.
  2. Be Proactive. Even better than waiting for the client to request a status update or copies, you should routinely provide the client with a copy of all correspondence sent or received and all documents filed in the case.
  3. Get Your Team Involved. Make sure that, at the outset of representation, you’ve introduced your client to any secretaries, paralegals, or associates who will be assisting with the case, so that the client can comfortably communicate with them if you’re unavailable. These individuals also may be contacting the client as time-sensitive matters arise.
  4. Have a Policy and Procedures. An attorney’s internal office policies and procedures can be influential in the success or failure of communicating with clients. Some standard office procedures to facilitate communication include:
    • A calendaring system for case management;
    • An office policy on when to return client phone calls;
    • An e-mail policy; and
    • A procedure for providing the client with regular case status updates.

Don’t be one of those attorneys that clients complain about. Keep the lines of communication open and well-used.

CEB has you covered with excellent sample client notices and status reports in our new book, California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms, chap 5. Check out the excellent YouTube video on this book with author Micha Liberty.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

7 replies on “Communication Is Key: 4 Steps to Better Client Communication”

I have found these things to be the key to keeping clients satisfied when their case is taking a long time to resolve and even when the results are not what they had hoped for. The single biggest complaint that clients have reported to me about other attorneys is that they won’t respond to calls and/or emails.

That’s a good point. I understand the complaint the State Bar hears most frequently is that an attorney has failed to respond to his or her client’s repeated phone calls and emails. This is a complaint that can be readily avoided by having the proper procedures in place!

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