What Clients Want; What Lawyers want.
How many of us have heard or harbored the thought: Lawyers only care about my money" What is it that is so different in what really motivates a client to pick one lawyer over another? Why is the lawyer I am trying to hire turning down my case?
I have a couple of thoughts and beliefs about those considerations you might find helpful in your own lawyer search or individual practice to share. These thoughts and beliefs are not regional or geographic in nature. They are not limited by the type of practice or the size of the client's wallet. They may be subject to the sound mindedness of either the client or the attorney or some rigid office client policy or a stringent mistrust of lawyers in general, but for the most part and in my experience apply in most instances.
Let's start first with what clients want from a lawyer. To begin with clients want and need someone with whom they can talk openly. Clients need to be led into a mental place where confidence can grow enough to engage in verbal exchanges that need to take place. The "ice" can be very thick in an austere law office full of powerful images and items unfamiliar to people outside the field. "Breaking the ice" is an absolute must if real communication is to be had for either lawyer or client. Taking the time to ask about and to share personal interests, family, hobbies and goals can be enormously effective in getting things started down that road to good communication. Gaining that information will be great for both when analogy and comparisons need to be made as they invariably do in most interviews. Hmm, I wonder if lawyers want that too?
Next, I think clients want to feel like the lawyer is listening to them when they speak. Clients are often questioned by several people before they actually speak to the lawyer. They may also fill out forms and provide personal information and details as requested. Being asked to repeat previously provided written information is a dead giveaway that the lawyer has not taken the time to even read the file before the interview. Clients need and want eye contact with the lawyer as they have learned that the eyes are the best indicators of understanding. Reading the file by the lawyer in the middle of a sentence provides distraction and causes the speaker to wonder if the listening lawyer really heard what was said. Does anyone think lawyers feel the same way when speaking to a client who fiddles with paper or shuffling through a purse during an interview?
Clients want to know that the lawyer they hire and entrust their freedom and fortunes to are loyal to them. All indicators seem primed and flashing prior to and during the hiring process. Maybe a week or month later when the client wants to hear how things are going or the status of the case and too many clients find themselves being "put off" or begin to feel neglected, most because of the inability to make direct contact or not understanding the right process to make the contact effective in reinforcing that feeling of loyalty at work in the lawyer. The feeling of being "let-down" begin to creep in and doubts arise about issues that are important to them But then sometimes, lawyers find some clients unavailable for payment, follow-up or document provision as promised. Similar feelings may erupt.
Clients do not mind waiting for a few minutes when they arrive at the lawyer's office. They typically understand and some are actually acquainted with the idea that visits to professional office sometimes, well actually, nearly ALWAYS involve waiting. After 10- 15 minutes, of flipping magazine and glancing at the clock however, the squirming can be expected to begin. Clients begin to think about what is supposed to happen after this appointment, whether it be other appointment or picking up children or other personally important matters. Clients want and need to know: will it ten minutes or an hour? It does make a difference. We all appreciate punctuality. Some of us more than others. Would a call, if things were running behind, make a difference? Would it be appreciated? What if it was the client who was running behind? What if the lawyer had a tight schedule for that day? Could it be that courtesy would run in both directions?
When it is all said and done it all comes down to this: client or lawyer, we are just people who have needs to tend. We want pretty much the same from each other. We all want and need to have trust and loyalty from those we hire and those who hire us. We seek to be listened to and hopefully heard as we struggle to communicate. None of us want to be ignored or made feel unimportant and for each of us a little common courtesy goes a long way to improve our relationships.