How to communicate with clients effectively — this is perhaps the most important skill a lawyer can develop. Almost everything you do as a lawyer depends on communication skills, spoken or unspoken through body language.
Here are some of the important things you can do to learn and practice effective communication for lawyers.
Less is more. Communication is important but you don’t have to be long-winded to accomplish this goal. Get to your point verbally and in written form. Write briefs that are short but to the point. When you talk to a client, don’t give a speech! Just talk to them.
Role models. Observe the good communication habits of your fellow lawyers or your boss. Sit in on their client meetings and observe their client interactions and communication style. Listen to their choice of words. Read their briefs. If they edit your drafts, pay attention to their comments.
Positive Language. Try to use positive language whenever possible. An example would be to use the work “challenges” instead of “setbacks” or “problems”.
Be Kind. If you’re a country music fan, then you know Tim McGraw’s song “Always Stay Humble and Kind”. McGraw gives good advice. You’re a lawyer but you don’t have to have a big head about it. Extend courtesy to every client. Make sure it comes across in all of your communications — verbal and written. While you’re at it, don’t forget to be courteous to everyone who helps you in your office, too!
Speak clearly. Clearer is always better. Don’t try to impress clients with your law school prowess by sprinkling your language with Latin phrases. Certainly these phrases are sometimes needed in your written, but no one speaks Latin anymore. You may think you’re impressing people with your vast knowledge, but instead you’re coming across as — well, you know!
Clarifying instructions. Miscommunication is just as much of a problem as lack of communication or poor communication. Clearly articulate client instructions and your instructions as well, and then confirm your understanding of what you will do and what the client will do. Don’t be condescending. Clearly articulate both of your equal roles in a successful case.
Be courteous. Promptly return all client communications in a timely manner. If you can’t do it yourself, have your assistants do it. A return within one business day is an acceptable rule. Timeliness of communications is one of the main complaints that clients have about their lawyers!