How to Build A Strong Lawyer-Client Relationship

As a lawyer, you’re 100 percent committed to helping your clients. But do your clients know this?

You might be working late nights and 12-hour days for your clients, but if you’re not consciously building strong lawyer-client relationships, your clients could feel neglected. Remember: While you may have many clients, most of your clients will only have one lawyer. You’ll need to account for that mismatch.

Building strong lawyer-client relationships is key for the success of your law firm. Why? If your clients don’t feel that they’re getting instant, diligent representation, they may not refer future business, and they may even post negative feedback publicly.

Phrases like, “[insert lawyer’s name] didn’t fight for me” litter malpractice grievances and negative Yelp reviews across the web.

Here are a few tips for creating a strong lawyer-client relationship:

Listen

As with any relationship, listening is key when building new relationships with your clients. This doesn’t mean simply asking a token list of client intake questions either—take time to listen to your clients’ problems and make an effort to truly understand what they’re seeking from you.

Only then will you be able to demonstrate a genuine commitment to helping your clients.

Start all of your client relationships off on the right foot. Watch our free webinar, Honoring Commitments in Lawyer-Client Relationships, hosted by Clio’s Joshua Lenon and Alli Gerkman, Director of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.

Watch webinar now

Dan Pinnington suggests a good place to start: He asks all of his clients “What’s your greatest concern?” This forces his clients into a moment of clarity, and helps him identify how best to reassure them that he can help with their current situation.

Communicate clearly (and often)

How many problems are caused by a lack of clear communication? It’s your duty to promptly and clearly communicate with your clients in a manner that is convenient for them. But in terms of building a strong lawyer-client relationship, communication needs to go beyond the bare minimum.

For example, reaching out to clients unprompted can help them feel that you’re truly focused on their issue.

As Joshua Lenon, Clio’s lawyer in residence, says:

Unprompted communication is something that I think is really easy for lawyers to do, but so few actually do it. Reaching out to a client with an update—whether it’s significant or not—is a great way to show involvement in a matter.

Arrive on time

This may seem minor, but doing little things like arriving on time for appointments and meetings can make all the difference in a lawyer-client relationship. If you’re punctual, that shows your clients that you respect their time and are committed to working with them on the matter at hand.

Manage expectations

On top of communicating clearly, you’ve got to ensure your client understands exactly what you can do for them. Managing expectations is key for avoiding disappointment down the road.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep, as this can erode your clients’ trust. Just look at this parallel example from the business world: According to the Harvard Business Review, when a company consistently fails to meet lofty expectations, employees lose trust in the organization and start to spend time planning their next move.

In short, it’s better to set realistic expectations and inform your clients about what lies behind them.

Success does not guarantee a strong lawyer-client relationship

You may win your clients’ cases, but do you win their hearts? Whether you’re fighting for your clients in court or staying up late doing paperwork, your client needs to understand what you’re doing in order for you to be truly successful.

Remember, to build a strong client relationship, you’ll need to:

  • Take time to listen and understand their problems
  • Communicate clearly and often
  • Arrive on time
  • Set realistic expectations about what you can achieve

If you’ve got those down, you’ll be well on your way to creating more client referral opportunities and helping your firm succeed.

These are just a few initial tips for building strong lawyer-client relationships. To truly set yourself up for success, watch our free webinar, Honoring Commitments in Lawyer-Client Relationships, hosted by Clio’s Joshua Lenon and Alli Gerkman, Director of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.

Watch webinar now

This session is part of our series, The Whole Lawyer: Skills Every Lawyer Needs, presented together with IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

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