Here are a few of the rules that I keep in mind for my clients:
1) START By Doing High Quality, Professional Work
What the Client Says : "I expect my attorney to do a competent, high quality job. But, I'm not an expert. So, show me the results that you have produced for me. Tell me why the work you have done solves my problem."
Common Attorney Mistakes : Assuming that top notch work speaks for itself and clients care most about the work product .
My Approach : Follow the "Golden Rule."
2. TREAT ME RIGHT As We Work Together
What the Client Says: "I care about how you treat me and my people in the process of working with us. Lots of attorneys can do the basic work. It's the attorney who builds personal relationships in the course of an engagement who succeeds in the long run. These attorneys pay attention to the inter-personal and management aspects of doing the job: no surprises, clear communication, work done on time, staying in touch, being accessible, explaining status, and justifying outputs."
Common Attorney Mistakes: Doing and delivering work in a manner that is based on their own preference and failing to manage the "human" side of working with clients.
My Approach : I have loyal and open working relationships with people.
3. LISTEN to Me
What the Client Says: "I find that the best attorney is the one who ASKS the most questions and LISTENS intently to our situation, our view of the problem, and how it is impacting both our business and our people. The true experts are the ones who ask the most insightful questions. Otherwise I tend to get boilerplate type legal solutions."
Common Attorney Mistakes: Assuming they understand the full scope and impact of the client's problem. Spending too much time talking about themselves and their expertise.
My Approach : I try to place myself in the client's shoes so I can be most effective and empathetic.
4. Feel MY PAIN & Solve It:
What the Client Says: "I am hiring a legal expert because I have a problem that I want to go away. Just like a doctor, an attorney can do the best job possible by fully diagnosing the exact nature and source of the problem that is hurting the business and how it is hurting my family. At the end of the matter, make sure that we know how the results of the work solved the pain. And what we have to do in order to avoid similar pain in the future."
Common Attorney Mistakes: Focusing only on the legal issue rather than the trauma causing the legal issue.
My Approach : I try to see a problem from all possible angles: the legal, the factual, the short-term, the long-term, the individual, and the collective perspectives.
5. Speak MY Language
What the Client Says: "I spend a lot of time translating what our lawyers have done for us into terms that my family/colleagues understand and value. Like me, others in my family or at my company care about the results we produce. Over the years, the attorneys I work with the most are the ones with whom I communicate best. So, my advice is to keep the legal jargon to a minimum and communicate with us on a business level."
Common Attorney Mistakes: Using legal language when communicating with a client rather than business terms they understand and value.
My Approach : I try to use common English rather than confusing legalese whenever possible.
6. KNOW My Business
What the Client Says: "The number one characteristic that distinguishes the best attorneys is the depth of their understanding of our business. I consider these attorneys as business advisors rather than legal advisors . Their insights are sharper. I value their advice and counsel rather than hiring them to solve a narrow legal issue."
Common Attorney Mistakes: Failing to become experts or specialists in their client's business.
My Approach : My being a versatile general practitioner has helped me to understand the specific problems facing my clients, be it in Family Law, Criminal Law, Entertainment Law, Business Law, or General Litigation scenarios.
7. BRING ME Relevant and Actionable Ideas
What the Client Says: "Many of my attorneys are either too passive and wait for me to call them. Or they tell me about other generic capabilities they have in broad terms. Instead, anticipate my needs and make a business case for me to take action. Tell me what others in my business are doing. I'm available to listen."
Common Attorney Mistakes: Missing opportunities or waiting for a client to self-diagnose their problem and call.
My Approach : I try to be proactive without being intrusive: just touching base every so often without being a mercenary looking to create new legal work.
8. BE THERE (Even When There Is No Current Work Going On)
What the Client Says: "Sometimes I have to be psychic to know what is going on with my attorney. I don't see them. I get only paper or e-mails. After the work is over, I may see them once or twice. I like it better when they follow through, see how the problem was solved, and see what else is on my place"
Common Attorney Mistakes: Doing all of the work in the office, losing touch with the client after the engagement is over, only contacting the client when you want something
My Approach : I pride myself on being accessible without being overbearing; it's a fine line that differs from client to client.
The ABC's of Client Services
Always know the law and be prepared; your reputation and livelihood are at stake
Be accessible to your clients; they need to be able to count on you and your expertise
Copy your clients on every important document/pleading/correspondence/order
Draft specific (and keep current) client fee agreements defining both your duties
Economic disputes with clients should never affect your service; your "rep" is at stake
First impression is key to earning a good reputation; be punctual and dress for success
Golden Rule: Treat others fairly, as you would want to be shown same respect by them
Hold confidential all those communications that clients expect/deserve to be privileged
I enjoy my practice; thus I do not resent going the extra mile to help clients in need
Jot short status notes, birthday cards, etc. to keep your clients informed and in touch
Keep open, cordial lines of communication with your client and opposing counsel
Let your clients assist in their own cases; they want to feel involved and not powerless
Mind your manners regarding clients, counsel, Judges, court staff, and your secretary
Never curse/yell; you never know whom you may offend as to your reputation/referrals
Often attending CLE increases expertise, boosts networking, keeps your library current
Promise-keeping and pursuit of excellence are hallmarks of quality in any career
Quiet confidence in and genuine empathy for your client's case enhance professionalism
Return all phone calls by sundown of the day received or at least within 24 hours
Stake out the high road; do not be dragged down to the "Rambo Litigator's" level
Tell the truth always to keep your reputation intact; honesty defines one's eminence
Use every opportunity to solve problems without trial & get client's permission to settle
Vigorous advocacy with civility ensures zealous representation without offending others
When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas; don't stoop to a lower conduct level
Xactly the right answer later is better than bluffing the wrong answer now
Your personal integrity/ethical standards should be evident/consistent in office & home
Zero typographical errors is a good indicator of diligent time, effort, and dedication