What Kind of Client are You? 4 tips for working with attorneys
I know what it’s like to be a client. And I know what it’s like to be a lawyer. One of the things that I think has helped me throughout my practice is that I have been on all sides of everything.
For example, I’ve been a witness, I’ve defended witnesses, I’ve questioned witnesses, and I’ve even gotten to watch witnesses be questioned while sitting at the Bench.
I have represented and helped represent thousands of clients, and I have been a client on more than one occasion. I have had to hire lawyers to represent me or other family members in Probate matters, Personal Injury matters, and more.
I have even hired lawyers to represent me in Family Law matters.
In 1997, when I found myself in a Divorce, I did not try to represent myself. I hired a lawyer.
One of the things that I found out about myself – at least for that matter – was that I did not want to hear from my lawyer. I didn’t like it when my lawyer contacted me.
I didn’t want an email from him, and I didn’t want phone calls. Every time I heard from him, I knew that it would be about something that I didn’t want to talk about or hear about.
On the other hand, when I was injured in a motorcycle accident in law school, I didn’t mind hearing from my attorney. I didn’t need to hear from him all the time, but when he did contact me, it was regarding things that I wanted to hear about.
The news may have been good, great, or not so good, but regardless, the case was not so emotionally charged that talking about it upset me.
We, lawyers, are often told by “Experts” that “all of our clients want to hear from us all the time.” Well, maybe not in those exact words, but that is the gist of what we are told by people we look to for advice about better representing our clients.
I know for a fact that that is not true. I lived it. I didn’t want to hear from my divorce lawyer, and you may not either. That’s okay. There is no right or wrong.
Here are the tips I have for working with your lawyer regarding communication:
1. Determine what kind of person you are
You will know pretty soon into the representation whether you are the kind of person that likes to hear from your lawyer or not. Does hearing news about your case make you happy that you are informed or upset that you’re having to think about it? Only you know the answer.
Do you want to hear from your lawyer all the time? Would you rather hear from his or her less expensive staff, when possible? Hearing from your lawyer and hearing from the law firm may be two very different things.
2. Let your attorney know which type of client you are
It will be much easier for your lawyer to work with you the way you want to be worked with if you are upfront about how much you like being contacted. If being contacted by your attorney or his office raises your blood pressure, let them know. Advise the lawyer that you really only want to hear from them when it is absolutely necessary.
3. Use the tools in your lawyer’s practice management system
These days, there is a good chance that your attorney uses some sort of practice management system. Many of those have Client Portals. These portals allow messaging back and forth so that a record is kept, and it’s easy to look back and see what has been said by each of you.
Utilizing the Client Portal and Client Management System to its fullest may save you money.
4. It’s okay to change your mind
There is nothing wrong with a client changing their mind. You may have thought that you wanted to hear from your attorney all of the time, but now you don’t. Or, vice versa.
You may go through phases in the case. Maybe during the Temporary Orders portion of your case, you wanted to hear from your lawyer regularly. Now that things have calmed down, though, you only want to know if something significant has happened or is on the horizon.
All of that is fine. Just make sure your lawyer knows.
The best way to have the best working relationship with your attorney is to let them know what you need. And communication – while always needed to some extent – can come in several varieties and strengths.
Let your lawyer know how they can give you the kind of communication that will make you the happiest. Doing so will help you to be the most satisfied client possible.