Communicating with Clients for Rainmaking Effectiveness

Image courtesy of stock images/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stock images/freedigitalphotos.net

 

I recently came across a blog post written by John Camson, an attorney in Pennsylvania, for Lawyerist entitled:  Why Won’t Lawyers Communicate With Their Clients?

A well written blog from almost a year ago, it details some of the “reasons” that attorneys do not communicate with their clients during their representation:

  1. They have nothing to report,
  2. There is bad news, and
  3. They are too busy.

Mr. Camson also discusses the fact that a majority of ethics complaints filed against attorneys do relate to lack of communication with clients (see ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4)

I want to discuss how communication with your clients will increase your Rainmaking effectiveness.

Successful communication with your clients starts from the moment they contact your firm (and I will write about how client service initiatives have to change in your firm to ensure you receive all of the clients you want).  However, this is going to be about communications with your clients once you have been retained.

A client retains you because they have issues with which they believe you can assist. But the key word here is issue.  This means problem.  And when someone has a problem, they want to know that they are being helped.  So while excuse number one, “ you have nothing to report” may be true, your clients still want to know that you are taking care of them.   If you keep in constant contact with your clients, even when you have nothing to report, you will keep them satisfied that you care about them personally – not just their billable dollars.  Take a moment, and I mean a moment, to send an email to your client saying:  “Just checking in.  The legal system moves slowly and I do not have anything in particular to report.”  Your clients will appreciate the fact that you are keeping them up-to-date.

How often should you do this?  It will depend upon the expectations each client has with respect to the work being done for them.

If you have bad news, reason #2 above, you still have to tell your clients.  It is better to tell your clients immediately.  Waiting to break bad news will only make it harder to do so in the future.

Prior to calling them with bad news, you need to find a way to couch the news so that you can come up with a solution.  For example, should if you are a matrimonial attorney and your client’s ex will not agree to some terms which you have devised for the dissolution of the marriage, prior to contacting them with that news, determine some alternatives so that when you break the bad news you can also leave the conversation on a more positive note.

My rainmaking coaching clients all know that they are not allowed to use excuse #3:  “I’m too busy.”

I can prove, using the number of hours in a day, a week and a month, that you are not too busy for at least an hour of Rainmaking activities per day.  And one of the activities that I consider to be part of rainmaking is keeping in touch with your clients.    In not following up with your clients because you are “too busy”, you are losing an opportunity to connect with the best referral sources you have in your practice.  These are people who know what it is like to work with you, and, if you have done well by keeping in contact with them during and after the representation, you can utilize them as referral sources.     By the way, notice I didn’t say WIN.  Many of your clients who can become referral sources did not necessarily have cases you won for them.  If you have done everything you possibly could for a client, if you have kept in touch faithfully throughout their case, you will find regardless of the outcome of the case, they will still refer you to others because they trust that you had their best interests in mind.

Additionally, if you clients feel that you are “too busy,” they will not refer business to you.  They want to know that if they do refer a client to you, that you will not embarrass them by not being the attentive attorney they suggested you are to their friends and colleagues.

Keeping in touch with clients is not that difficult.  From the moment they retain their services, you should schedule on your task list or on your calendar a couple of minutes as often as THEY need to be contacted – for some clients this will be once a week, for others it will be once per month.   Will this take some time?  Yes, but it will be well worth it when these clients become your biggest supporters and referral sources.

Help me spread the word!

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