Three Tips For Avoiding Common Client Complaints

Lawyers the world over know the frustrations of enduring some unfortunate stereotypes about their chosen profession. It’s not uncommon to hear business people make jokes and rueful comments about how their lawyer never returns phone calls, or sends a bill for a thirty-second conversation, or talks condescendingly as if he alone can understand the mysteries of the law.

At LawMaster, we have nearly thirty years of experience helping lawyers make the most of their existing and new client relationships, and we build our integrated practice management solutions with healthy client relationships as a primary goal. Here are a few of the lessons we’ve learned over time about how lawyers can avoid unforced client relationship errors, and how we can help:

Communicate Periodically, Even If There’s Nothing Going On

Legal matters do not necessarily move on a predictable timetable, much less an efficient one. Sometimes, months can pass without anything happening. But, that doesn’t mean the matter isn’t at the front of your client’s mind. In fact, often the more time that passes without activity, the more frustrated and anxious your client can become. Your client may wonder if you’ve forgotten about him, and though you haven’t of course, and he shouldn’t, a diligent lawyer knows that a client doesn’t necessarily understand that long periods of inactivity can be routine. To mitigate client stress and improve the relationship, a responsible lawyer will check in with the client periodically to offer reassurance that all is well and proceeding as expected, or not, as the case may be.

Bill Reasonably and Responsibly

In many law practices, it has become common to track time in six-minute (1/10th of an hour) increments. This level of precision is a boon to firm managers because it can provide detailed insight into how lawyer time is spent. But, unfortunately, even when lawyers make clear to clients that billings will be tracked in those increments, their client relationships can suffer when clients receive bill for six minutes (or less) of their lawyer’s time, particularly if the time was spent on something relatively administrative, such as leaving a phone message for someone, or scheduling a meeting. Sometimes, discounting billings to exclude time that — to a client at least — appears trivial, can return multiples of the value of that time in client goodwill.