No matter the areas of law in which your law firm practices, communication is key. Lawyers have a duty to communicate with clients such as they can make informed decisions about the representation.
Communication ensures as well that clients are updated as to the status of their case. Communication also involves explaining the legal process, the law, and a range of possibilities from the best case, middle case, and worse case scenarios. Effective communication also explains what the lawyer needs the client to do to advance the representation.
Most lawyers and law firms fulfill their duties and understand their importance. However, where law firms and lawyers can sometimes go wrong is not communicating regularly in writing.
In other words, lawyers might communicate with their clients well in-person, on the phone, or when they are in court. But many lawyers don’t have documentation in their file to show that this communication has actually taken place.
For many clients, they need this written communication (whether it be on paper or through email) because they may be able to understand it better when they see it on paper or in an email versus verbally hearing it. Many clients may also go back and reference this written communication versus picking up the phone to ask the same or similar questions repeatedly. This can save a lot of time and money for clients.
Without this written communication, some clients might complain that their attorney is not adequately communicating with them — even when they are communicating in verbal conversations. There can also be issues where the lawyer and client are not on the same page without written communication.
This is why lawyers really need to make a habit of communicating in writing. Again, this communication can be through letters or by email or other electronic means. Lots of practice management software can even help with drafting and documenting written electronic communication.
The Missouri Bar in their Client Keeper Packet for example recommends that lawyers write a monthly status letter to their clients that updates them. Other state bars recommend this as well, including Ohio and New Hampshire.
Whether you do a monthly status letter or not, law firms and lawyers must implement some policies within their firm to ensure that written communication is regularly taking place. Lawyers have a duty to make sure they are doing it. And most clients appreciate greatly knowing the status of their case without having to call the attorney to ask.
For most law firms, they ought to think long and hard about a monthly status letter. It ensures that there is written communication occurring in all cases on a regular interval.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.