At WILMIC, we certainly see our share of clients complaining about communication with their lawyer. Even in so-called “normal” times, over 20 percent of the claims reported to us are a result of poor client communications.
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping most of us working at home, it is even more important that you keep your clients informed.
With clients just as stressed as the rest of us, and feeling the same uncertainty, timely communication is the key. If you have staff to help you with that, all the better. If you are a solo practitioner and have been the one in control of most of your office procedures, make sure you’re taking the right steps and most of all, informing your clients of those changes!
Let’s start with Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 20:1.4
(a) A lawyer shall:
(1) Promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in SCR 20:1.0(f), is required by these rules;
(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished;
(3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;
(4) promptly comply with reasonable requests by the client for information; and
(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
With that in mind, and striving to maintain the appropriate standard of care during these unusual times as your office procedure (and in many cases, location) changes, here are some ways to do that:
Reach Out to Clients Proactively
Don’t leave clients guessing as to how you will be working and communicating with them during this stressful time. Clients are much happier when their lawyer takes out the guesswork and lets them know what’s happening.
Keep Up with Your Emails
Working at home, it’s easy for small things to get lost. If you’re now working at home, keep up with emails the way you would at your office.
Stay Connected Working from Home
Again, if you’re staying at home at not getting into the office because of the current public health crisis, be sure you can get client calls and voicemail messages at home. Nothing irritates clients more than unanswered phone calls.
Tell Them Where You Are
Make sure your clients know what arrangements you have made during this pandemic. If you have changed your office status, put out an email to your clients, send a regular letter if you must, put it on your voicemail messages, your website and social media if you use that. They should know where you are and where they can find you.
Your new working procedures. Let your clients know how you will be working during this pandemic:
- Will any meeting dates change?
- Court dates?
- Do you want them to do video conferencing with you?
If video conferencing or by speaker phone, make sure your client is the only one in the room. Confidentiality still applies!
Don’t Forget Office Mail
You may be working from home, but your mail probably hasn’t stop coming to the office. Don’t forget about that. Make sure you have a strategy to get the mail, sort it and process it appropriately.
Putting a message on your voicemail greeting and in your emails and letting clients know your response time may be slightly longer or that you are doing things a little differently during this pandemic may help manage their expectations.
In the best of times, clients want immediate answers. In uncertain times, they may want to know even more about when they can expect to hear back from you.