Lawyer appreciation 101

  • Subtitle: Soul and Small Practice
Written by  Posted Date: January 11, 2016
Lawyer appreciation 101There are poorly represented clients who think they have received the best service, and there are those that receive excellent service but believe they were poorly served.

While the first scenario is shameful, the latter is simply tragic.

In the second scenario, the praiseworthy lawyer has not taught his or her client to appreciate efforts on his or her behalf. Teaching appreciation is part of client management. We all acknowledge its importance, but sometimes fail to implement it.

But failing to foster an appreciative relationship can jeopardize a file. The client may lose trust in you, and become less motivated to co-operate or pay your invoice.

The following are some avoidable pitfalls that create dissatisfied clients:

Promising the world

Creating unrealistic expectations as to fees, results, and timelines to appease your client: Lawyers set themselves up for failure and unnecessary stress when they do not properly manage these expectations. Well-defined and reasonable expectations are also vital in that they are a reference point for when you exceed them.

Instant service

Responding immediately to every e-mail or phone call (especially after hours) may appear, at first glance, to be good service. So would allowing frequent unannounced drop-ins. However, this only creates a constant expectation of immediate availability in the client. It also sets a standard that cannot be consistently met and interferes with your productivity.

Similarly, condoning a client’s habitual failure to attend appointments will foster a disrespect for your time. Remember, you control your time and how to use it, not your client.

Information, information, information

Failing to report to clients keeps them in the dark. Unless you inform clients of the challenges faced and overcome, they will be unaware of your efforts on their behalf. They will presume that nothing is being done on their file or that you’ve not faced any difficulties.

Reporting could be a letter, engaging them face to face, or a phone call. The key is that the client stays informed in a timely manner. They should never have to wait a week to hear what happened in their motion or whether a transaction closed successfully.

In addition to helping clients stay informed on the progress of their matter, regular reporting helps them fully understand their case — risks and all.

A satisfied client comes down to setting expectations that you can meet and regular, timely reporting to the client. Appreciative clients are vital to business and reputation growth. A happy client will tell two people about you while an unhappy client will tell 10.

With the new year upon us, let’s resolve to create an environment of appreciation for the work we do. 

This article was written in collaboration with Kevin Cheung.

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Pascale Daigneault

Pascale Daigneault is a former president of the Ontario Bar Association and former partner at Fleck Law, a small firm near Sarnia, Ont. She will be tackling issues facing small and sole firms.

Column: Soul and Small Practice

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