When you ask a lawyer to list what they’re good at, nine times out of ten they will include “the ability to communicate”; and they’re not wrong. When it comes to communicating legal ideas, lawyers are top notch. However, when it comes to client communication and particularly the marketing of legal services there is — more often then you might expect — a total communication breakdown.
Which begs the question: why do these otherwise expert communicators so often fail when it comes to client communication?
Clients Don’t Like Your Legalese
When asked to arrange data on the complaints that they regularly receive about lawyers, the BC Law Society found that 85% of complaints were service related and that the vast majority of these complaints revolved around communication issues between the lawyer and the client.
Obviously this data points towards some sort of a communication issue common to lawyers and – based on our experience – it is very likely one of obfuscation. Consider the now infamous tweet of Bram Cohen, the inventor of BitTorrent, who vented his frustration with his lawyers online by stating, “Lawyers are like phone companies. Their bread and butter is in tricking you into racking up minutes.” Unfortunately this sentiment isn’t uncommon. Too often clients – particularly retail clients i.e. family law clients, wills and estates clients, and personal injury plaintiffs – feel like they are being left in the dark regarding the progression of their case and the lawyer’s billing structure. A lot of the time this problem is further exasperated by the over-use of legal jargon in client communications.
In order to amend this issue, make sure that all of your marketing material – particularly the content discussing your fees – is straightforward and easy to understand. Further, when you’re developing promotional material keep in mind your client’s aversion to legalese.
Keep Things Civil
In a BC Law Society article discussing communication complaints among lawyers, it was acknowledged that many of the lawyers censored by the law society could have avoided professional conduct concerns altogether by simply being polite in their communication with clients and other lawyers. Litigators in particular seem uniquely prone to creating client communications that read as curt and argumentative (which isn’t surprising considering the nature of their profession).
Although arguing might be your area of expertise, remember to tone it down in client communications.
For more information on how to improve your client communications, feel free to contact Skunkworks creative group.