Keeping clients happy. It is not only what we want to accomplish, but is a total necessity in order to succeed in the practice of law.
We have all heard this type of complaint from a disgruntled client. This kind of complaint is directed at lawyers who are not keeping clients happy. Even worse, the complaint can have been made about us. It goes something like this:
When I hired my lawyer, they seemed interested in taking on my case. Once I retained them, it seems like they completely lost interest. They vanished. I am now again left alone with my problem when I thought that if I hired a lawyer, I would have them in my corner. Now I am just left alone once again, only, this time, I have legal fees to boot. I do not even know what my lawyer is doing to help my case other than bill me.
As lawyers, we have all been guilty of avoiding a client's file. We have those files where we just have not gotten to the work. These files might sit on the corner of our desk howling at us for attention. We do everything possible to ignore them. It might be because we are stuck on what to do next. It might be because we are unsure as to how to help the client. It might be because we dread doing the legal research. It might be that we just have not had the time to sit down to get the next task done. There are always so many other urgent and pressing matters that distract our attention.
As a junior lawyer, this was a significant ongoing problem for me. As the years went on, it became less so, but it still happened. Now it does not. Almost not at all.
Is this because I am smarter than I used to be? No, that is not it. Am I more disciplined? No, that is not it either. Is it because I am so savvy with the law that I do not get stuck on my client’s legal problems anymore? No, that is not it either.
It is simply this. At Hemminger Law Group we have a system for all of our client files. This system is beyond simple because it has a total of one step. That step is to set the next client appointment each time we meet with a client.
That way, we have no choice but to deal with the next thing that moves our client’s case forward. This is so even if we dread the task. It gets done, and it gets done without much ado.
So, if we have to ask someone else, do the research, or even admit that we are struggling, the file moves forward. It moves forward no matter what.
Remember what it was like when we wrote an exam in school? The exam time came and we had to write it whether we felt ready or not. It is exactly this that we apply to the practice of law. Enforce a deadline to get things done.
In our firm we make sure that we (almost) never have a soft deadline about anything. “I will give you a call within the next week” is a soft deadline. "I will talk to you next Tuesday at 10 am" is a hard deadline. It is what we need to avoid procrastination. It is what our clients need to feel that their cases are moving forward.
When clients see their cases moving forward it is a sure fire way of keeping clients happy.
What we have found is that the more we use hard deadlines, we have less and less work that we dread doing. It means that things cannot sit on our list of things to do for an inordinate amount of time.
If we do find that a case or task on a case languishes for even a small bit, it is because we have forgotten to follow our rule about always setting the next appointment. We need to do that one thing. That is, set the next appointment.
If we stay steadfast to this rule, we will make great strides in keeping clients happy. We will also be happier ourselves.
It is so simple and so effective.
By Val Hemminger, Divorce lawyer and recovering procrastinator
Val has created this website to share with her colleagues. She is not suggesting, by any means, that she is the best divorce lawyer out there. She is, however, suggesting that she is the best divorce lawyer that she herself can be. Feel free to share anything you find useful.