The Personable Side of Lawyering
When you study medicine part of your coursework includes the development of a good “bedside manner.” Unfortunately, studying the law has no “bedside manner” equivalent coursework, which might be why so many lawyers have a difficult time retaining individual clients and making places for themselves within the companies that have hired them. If you want to eschew the “cold” stereotype often associated with lawyers, here are some things you can do.
Find Someone to Emulate
Believe it or not, there are lawyers out there who are beloved by their clients—and not just for their legal savvy. There are some lawyers, like attorney Morgan Chu, who can make a great balance of sharp legal skills while being approachable and making their clients feel cared about as people at the same time. Study these lawyers, watch them as they work with their clients and then copy the things they do. Ask them what they do to put their clients at ease. Then take what you see and what they tell you to heart and apply it to your own client base.
Learn to Actively Listen
There is more to listening than just drilling down to the core of whatever legal issue your clients need help with. Everything from body language to offhanded quips can tell you volumes about the people you are working with. Instead of rushing them through their stories to get to the legal issues, let them vent to you about their problems. Clients who feel like you are genuinely listening to them instead of forcing them to be all business all the time are more likely to hire you again in the future.
Remember the Details
Your clients have birthdays. They celebrate holidays. They have families. If you are actively listening to them, you will learn these details. Commit them to memory—put them on your calendar. A card sent for a birthday or holiday (with a short but personal handwritten note) can go a long way toward endearing you to your clients and coworkers. Remembering to ask about a child’s play or recital, a relative’s health, etc—they all seem like small details but remembering them shows that you care about your clients and that you are more than just a suit who wants to bill them for something.
When in Doubt, More Communication is the Way to Go
Keep your clients in the loop. If you haven’t touched base with them about their case in a while, do so—even if nothing has happened. Let them know where things are, process-wise. If the case is over, do at least a couple of follow up calls or visits to see how the client is handling the aftermath of their lawsuit. Most importantly: do not bill your clients for these follow ups or check-ins. Calling them and then billing them for accepting the call is the exact opposite of being a personable and relatable lawyer.
There are lots of ways to improve your attorney bedside manner. Each client is different so different techniques are going to work for different people. Still, the tips here are a good place from which to start with each client and coworker.