How to create solid client relationships

Satisfied clients are the key to success as a lawyer. They are an important source of repeat business and referrals for lawyers in private practice. Lawyers working in-house for an organization will be most effective if they are highly valued by the people they serve.   

To set the tone for a solid client relationship maintain a professional yet friendly demeanor throughout the relationship. We usually enjoy doing business with people we like, and clients are no exception. Inspire trust by demonstrating a genuine interest in helping the client and looking out for the client’s best interests. Lawyers in private practice should also have a candid discussion with the client about legal fees and costs at the outset of the attorney-client relationship.

Listen to the client and ask open-ended questions in order to fully appreciate the impact a legal matter is having on the client.  Legal matters arise in the context of a client’s business or personal relationships, and may pose a challenge to the client’s values and strategic goals.  By understanding how a legal matter is affecting a client you will be able to develop a plan for handling the matter that serves the overall best interests of the client. 

Clients expect their lawyer to be loyal to them.  They want to feel their lawyer is wholeheartedly committed to representing them as effectively as possible.  They do not want to feel their representation is being compromised by the lawyer’s own agenda or by the agenda of the lawyer’s firm.  Clients also do not like their lawyer’s firm representing another client adverse to them, even though the adverse representation may be permitted by the ethical rules.  Once a lawyer’s loyalty to a client seems compromised, the foundation of trust on which a solid attorney-client relationship is necessarily based begins to erode.

Clients appreciate lawyers who are creative problem solvers.  As lawyers we are trained to recognize and address the legal issues involved in a client’s situation.  From a client’s perspective the legal issues are merely tools, at best.  Clients are focused on the problem they are experiencing.  They want their lawyer to help them solve the problem as effectively and efficiently as possible.  Clients also like to be kept informed as their legal matter progresses.

By following these guidelines you will lay a foundation for solid client relationships.