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Ten Innovative Ways for Lawyers to Better Serve Their Clients

Lawrence S Pascoe


  • Lawyers can provide client manuals, first consultation slideshows, checklists, meeting notes, and follow-up reminders to set and manage client expectations throughout the legal process.
  • Client monitors and word-processing features can facilitate document reviews.
  • A client-useful website can provide forms, questionnaires, and informational articles to prepare clients for the first consultation and reduce potential stress.
Ten Innovative Ways for Lawyers to Better Serve Their Clients
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There are numerous innovative legal service applications that lawyers currently have at their disposal. By application, I mean any physical item or activity used to process a client’s file. Here are ten of my favorites.

1. The Client Manual

For each practice area, lawyers can provide their clients with a three-ring binder to act as their client manual. The manual will start with various memoranda and articles. Then, as the client’s file progresses, the client would insert all correspondence, pleadings, reports, accounts, notes, and checklists in their designated sections of the manual.

The types of memoranda are endless, but I suggest starting with a new client memorandum that, among other things, explains the firm’s policies regarding communications, storage of files, and complimentary services offered to clients. In addition, this memorandum should give information about other members of the firm who might be working on the file, such as the lawyer’s legal assistant. A lawyer will often orally tell the client this information. Still, there should be a written record as clients are given so much information to absorb, and the memoranda can go into greater detail. Manuals may even have a map of the courthouse area showing the location of nearby parking lots.

I suggest client manuals include several short articles on the common legal and process issues of that practice area, a definition list of legal terms for that practice area, and articles about the lawyers’ fees, the client-lawyer relationship, and client expectations.

Instead of the client having their copy of the file in many envelopes from their lawyer, the manual will develop into an organized file of all their documentation and letters. I provided my matrimonial clients a free three-hole puncher to help insert their documents into their client manual. Having the complete file organized gives clients a record of the file and makes it easier to find things to discuss, especially if they keep their client manual’s table of contents up to date.

2. The Client Monitor

Lawyers can have a separate large computer monitor on the lawyer’s desk facing clients. It would mirror the lawyer’s computer screen. The client monitor is very useful when reviewing and changing any court documents the client will be signing. In addition, having the monitor makes it easier to explain the calculation of numbers such as fees, disbursement estimates, and financial support scenarios. After completion of these calculations, hard copies would be printed for clients to put in their client manual.

The lawyer’s notes and the first consultation slideshow (see below) could be displayed on the monitors for clients to follow along. The monitor allows the client to feel and actually be more a part of the process.

3. First Consultation Slideshow

The first consultation for any practice area is probably the most important, longest, and most stressful meeting between the client and the lawyer. Clients do not know beforehand everything that will be discussed and are often nervous about dealing with the lawyer for the first time. Providing clients in advance with a slideshow outlining the many issues and sub-issues that will be discussed will reduce the clients’ stress. It will also better prepare them for the consultation. The slideshow would be similar to a PowerPoint presentation but would be a PDF or a word-processing file, as not every client has the PowerPoint program. As the consultation proceeds, the slideshow is shown on both the lawyer’s and the client’s monitors to ensure every topic is covered.

4. A Client-Useful Website

My observation is that many law firm websites add little value to the servicing of clients. Instead, they are generally glorified firm brochures that mostly just say how great the law firm is and how the firm cares and will fight hard for its clients. There is some, but usually not a lot of, information about the lawyers and very superficial information about the law, with generally little written about the court process and the steps the client will go through.

The law firm’s website can provide numerous opportunities to serve clients better. Here are just some applications. To prepare the clients for the first consultation, lawyers can post their client information and preference questionnaire and post the first consultation slideshow. Clients will then know what information is needed well in advance of the first consultation; this will reduce stress, allow them time to obtain information, and know what information and documentation are required. These questionnaires can be filled out more easily by clients on a computer than by hand. They can be sent directly from the website to the lawyer to allow the lawyer to review them before the consultation.

The website has an unlimited capacity for lawyers to provide informational articles about the law and process to clients, which may or may not be found elsewhere (especially process articles that are often not written for clients). In addition, the website can provide the lawyer with the opportunity to provide after-the-file-is-closed service, such as discussing issues that may arise later. On my website, I also offered refills of forms found in my client manual for wills and powers of attorney, keeping clients’ relevant information and instructions up-to-date.

5. Word-Processing Features

We generally do not use the full capacity of computer software programs. There are many features in the standard word-processing software, some more complicated than others. There were three simple ones that I used to better serve my clients.

When sending out draft wills, I used the line-numbering feature to show the line number for every fifth line. This feature made it easier for clients to refer to the place where they had a question. It also clarified that this was a draft document, not the final product.

I also used word-processing software to create an index and a table of contents. They proved very helpful for clients to find a subject in a longer agreement.

6. Notes, Client Checklists, and Detailed Reporting Letters

In every type of legal case, from the simple to the complex, there is a lot of information for clients to take in. It is a mistake to believe that clients will remember everything that the lawyer told them if they were given information, advice, or instructions orally. It bothers me that, generally, the medical profession hardly ever provides handout information, including instructions on the vital prescription medicine to take after a procedure.

Lawyers can make notes of a consultation on their computer as clients follow along on their client monitor. The notes should include what advice the lawyer gave and the next steps for every party involved. At the end of the consultation, the lawyer can print an extra copy of these notes for the client.

A client to-do checklist could also separately be given to the client. It would be a prepared list of standard to-do items for that type of case, with check marks beside the ones applicable to that particular file, a column to put a date to do by, and a column to mark when completed.

As not everything needing to be discussed at a first consultation will likely be fully completed, it is a good idea to have a comprehensive reporting letter after that first meeting. Besides again reviewing the advice given based on the facts presented, the reporting letter will discuss minor matters that were not addressed in the consultation and perhaps provide greater detail on some discussed issues.

7. Videos

I do not think lawyers have taken advantage of making videos, which besides appearing on a lawyer’s website can be posted to YouTube.

Although these videos could be an audiovisual version of an article about the law, I suggest they are most useful for showing the client how to fill out forms requested by the lawyer or the court. In family law, there is a long, complicated financial statement in which clients fill in their income, expenses, and assets (at different periods). It took me a long time to complete, but I made a six-part, hour-long video on financial statements.

8. Follow-Up Reminders

Once a file is complete, the clients do not generally hear from their lawyer again. However, for most practice areas, there are follow-ups that lawyers can remind their clients about, which may or may not require more legal work but simply be something the client needs to do. Reminding the client to do the follow-up is of service to the client and, even if legal work is not required, keeps the lawyer’s name in the minds of clients.

9. Lawyer Performance Questionnaires

My questioning of lawyers showed that few asked their clients what they thought of the lawyer and the staff’s performance on the file. And if the lawyer did ask, it was done when the file was completed. Perhaps something useful for future files results from such end-of-file questioning, but a current client’s problem still might be rectified if discovered earlier.

I don’t suggest, as some companies do, questioning clients after every interaction. Instead, requests for client feedback should be made formally after every significant step in the file’s process has been completed. I also do not suggest, as many businesses do now, simply asking whether the client would recommend the lawyer to others. This provides no helpful information from the clients. Clients may still have some valid concerns about the lawyer, but these concerns might not be severe enough to not recommend the lawyer. And if a client would not recommend the lawyer, the lawyer does not know why.

10. Client Survey Contest

Consumers are inundated with requests for feedback. Some of these requests are overly complicated, take time to complete, and offer nothing of value to the consumer. I had simple surveys and a survey contest. I asked in what way I could improve my service to clients. My prize for best suggestion varied, ending with tickets to a game (and parking) of our NHL Ottawa Senators. Even if clients did not enter the contest, the fact that I asked this question showed I valued their opinion. Not many clients gave suggestions, but the contest’s first winner in 1994 made up for that lack of response. That winning client suggested I check out this new medium I admitted I had never heard about. It was called the “Internet.” Because of his suggestion, I was one of the first law firms (and even businesses) in Ottawa to have a website. As Ottawa has a lot of high-tech companies and had one of the first “freenets,” there were a lot of Ottawans using the Internet.


Clients will be happier when lawyers provide innovative applications to serve them. Lawyers using these applications can differentiate themselves and reap the benefits of better marketing as other lawyers will not have the same types and levels of service. Negligence claims and complaints against lawyers will decrease. These claims are caused much more by substandard delivery of a lawyer’s service than the lawyer’s lack of law knowledge.


For a variety of reasons—lack of education and time as well as the lawyer culture—the legal profession, unlike other businesses, has not evolved its products very much or tried hard enough to better serve clients. The applications provided in this article will give lawyers a head start in addressing these issues.