Amenities Of The Attorney-Client Relationship, Part Two
Attorneys must remember certain rules of thumb when interacting with people publicly and professionally. They must behave as if anyone is a prospective client while never forgetting former clients. Of course, current clients must be treated no less exceptionally. The following are some useful rules of thumb for any client interaction.
*When talking to clients, give full attention to the client, especially during telephone conversations.
*It is important to understand the client’s dilemma as the client understands it. Perhaps more importantly, it is important to know the client’s expectations.
*Over the course of any conversation with a client, intermittently repeat and summarize what the client is saying. Clients are often in a distressed state when speaking with an attorney, especially during the first meeting and may not be in the best frame of mind to recount their situation accurately.
*All telephone calls should be returned on the same day or within 24 hours.
*Always speak candidly with a client. Attorneys are typically hired to be frank and to the point. Communicate with clients simply, directly, and honestly with a client, especially when the substance of the conversation may not be what the client wants to hear.
*When having an office visit with a client, the only items on an attorney’s desk should be the client’s file and any items pertaining to it. Make the client feel like he or she is important and the focus of your attention.
*Never forget that clients, like you, are people. Their legal problem is just one aspect of their lives. Putting this in perspective will help you relate to them better as a human and as an attorney.
*Formulate a “Client Bill of Rights” that list and explains both parties’ rights and responsibilities during the course of any legal representation.
*Maintain regular contact with clients. Whenever a case is moving slowly or in an inactive period, send the client a letter explaining that this is the case and why. Always make sure the client knows that he or she is not forgotten. Always send clients copies of anything relevant to their case promptly.
*Never make promises to clients that cannot be kept. Set realistic deadlines to complete their work and allow for any unanticipated delay.
*Show clients that you are accessible and that no wall exists between you and contact by telephone. Answer your phone whenever possible.
*Monitor the quality of your office’s communication with clients and other professional or business offices. Ensure that anything leaving the office looks consistently professional regardless of what it is.
*If the client is a business entity, visit the business location as soon as possible once the attorney-client relationship commences. Clients will appreciate the “housecall” and it will provide an informative, perspective of the client. Do not bill for this time unless the necessity is frequent and necessary.
*Stay current with the law, world events, recent court decisions, and any other information that may affect a client’s legal matter. Send clients a copy of the case or article of note with an explanation of its relevance to the client’s legal matter.
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