How to Enhance Client Service Practices: Four Tips for New Attorneys

Lawrence G. Almeda

Finding ways to enhance client relationships early in one’s career not only increases personal satisfaction between client and attorney, but it also positively affects the bottom line. In addition to providing a premium work product, it behooves newer attorneys to focus on ways to add value through enhanced client service.

Below are four actions new attorneys can incorporate into their client service approach right now.

Exercise High Responsiveness

Be highly responsive, even if it's not for work to be performed, but an inquiry about the status of a matter. Your clients will appreciate that you showed attentiveness and interest in their requests.

This is not to say drop everything you are doing at that immediate moment, but don't wait too long to respond to a client or prospective client. If the matter is time sensitive and you are unresponsive, some clients will move on to the next person on their list to discuss the work to be completed. In many situations, clients (consciously or unconsciously) strive for the feeling of progress by merely having the project assigned. If it takes more than twenty-four hours to respond to a communication (which is far longer than ideal), acknowledge the delay and explain what the hold-up was. It is important to assure the client you are concerned with their matter and were not being unresponsive without cause; it also shows respect and appreciation for their business.

Make Their Lives Easier

Your clients receive a vast amount of diverse communications every day. Make their lives easier by being crystal clear and simple, spelling out each task you need them to perform. For example, when presenting a document for their review, where applicable:

  • Provide a filtered-down version. Email prescreened background material to the client. This material is a filtered-down version of the voluminous information that could have otherwise been sent. Prescreened material should be just long enough to adequately bring the client up to speed on a matter.
  • Have a comprehensive version handy. Have handy a ready-to-send comprehensive version of the filtered-down document in the event it is subsequently needed and inform the client it is available.
  • Provide a summary. In the email message that includes the prescreened material and document for review, provide a brief summary of what is needed of the client within the first couple sentences.
  • Give a heads-up call. In situations where a content-packed email is unavoidable, give the client a heads-up phone call to inform him or her that such a communication is on its way and the high level of content is necessary for an adequate review of the document.
  • Provide a layman's translation with your advice. When delivering suggestions, advice or opinions during a client meeting, speak in industry terms and then follow through with a simplified layman's version.

Follow Up

It can't be stressed enough: keep your main client contact in the loop at all times. With the speed of email and texting, keeping clients in the loop is easy to do on a consistent basis, yet many clients still complain their former service providers were lacking in this area. Even when there is no news to report, use a quick status update to keep the lines of communication open by letting the client know there is no news yet. This shows the client they are top of mind, and you’re still working on the project. It also shows respect and appreciation for their business and assures them you have their best interests at heart.

Make Them Look Great

As a service provider, one aspect of the job is to help your client look impressive, particularly the point person. The point person ultimately has a boss who will be evaluating his or her job performance. Find out what affects performance evaluations and then find ways to help your point person improve in those areas. This task coincides with the goal of providing a high quality work product.

Know and understand a client's business model, seek ways to add value to the relationship, be highly responsive to time-sensitive matters assigned to your point person, provide practical suggestions that are consistent with the business model, be clear and concise with advice, and provide detailed options with a simplified breakdown of steps. By incorporating these best practices into one’s work habits, new attorneys can gain an advantage in advancing their career and take on increasing levels of responsibility for prestige clients. Moreover, outstanding client service often results in longstanding personal relationships with clients, not just business relationships.

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Lawrence G. Almeda

Lawrence G. (L.G.) Almeda is a shareholder at Brinks Gilson & Lione, one of the largest intellectual property law firms in the United States.