Updated: Dec 20, 2021
“You are going to feel a little poke and then you’ll have a numbing sensation in your mouth...” Can you imagine getting a filling and your dentist not telling you that? Imagine if they just sat you down and started working on your mouth. You’d probably jump out of your chair and walk out of the office. People hate going into anything blind. They like to be told what is going to happen so they can have proper expectations. This is especially true with legal matters. Although there is no physical pain like a dentist, emotions are high. People have almost always been through some type of stress or trauma to hire a lawyer. It’s important to prep your client so they know what to expect in their case. Here are some tips on educating them:
1. Have a Plan
The most important tip, and the core of educating your clients is to have a plan. Educating your clients isn’t something that you can throw together on a whim. Be calculated about how you approach this. Coming up with a process will help you keep things organized. Map out when, where and how you will educate your clients. The attorneys that are the most successful with this prepare documents that outline the client experience. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a simple bulleted word document will do. This is not only important so that you don’t forget it, but it is important for your staff as well.
2. Take A Step Back
I don’t blame any business for this issue, but sometimes we talk right over our client’s heads. After working in an industry for a significant sum of time, we forget how little people understand what we do. We end up using jargon and legalese to explain, and people don’t understand. While preparing your plan to educate your clients, take a step back and realize that the lay man has no idea what is going to happen with their case. Analogies, stories and real world examples are crucial for educating clients with no legal experience. Make sure you account for this while making your plan.
3. Use Staff
Educating is not the sole responsibility of the attorney! As part of your plan, you should involve others on your legal team. It is always helpful to write out as if you were giving a speech. Just like listening to a speech, no one wants to hear something that is scripted. They want to hear genuine talkings points, not something they would read in a textbook. Once again, examples, analogies and stories help the client relate to normal life and retain the information.
4. Lay a Strong Foundation
In your initial meeting with your client, make sure to give them a healthy dose of education. The way you approach this is going to vary from firm to firm. Although it is helpful if the attorney gives them the run down, many successful firms have staff members give the initial education. It is important to remember that the lay man has no idea how a personal injury case works. Consider this teaching session the main lecture on your case. They will supplement their education throughout their experience, this is a good chance to give them a broad understanding. One of the best things about laying a good foundation is that when clients actually understand a case, they contact the lawyer less frequently throughout the course of a case. Putting in the time and effort early on, pays off for the entirety of the case. That isn’t to say that you won’t have to spend additional time later, because you absolutely will.
5. Use Technology
Technology isn’t meant to replace personal touch or legal acumen, it is meant to supplement it. In this day and age, it’s pretty tough to get away without using it. Technology is a good tool for re-educating your clients. They will almost always forget what you have already taught them but technology can help jog their memory. It’s also helpful to get into the details at each stage of the case. Technology is ever-evolving and yesterday's tools aren’t going to cut it (Yes, that means sending email updates don’t work)
With TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Youtube Shorts, our society has told the world that we don’t want long explanations. People want short snippets that get the point across. People don’t read news articles, they read headlines and summary bullet points. Short Youtube videos are a great way to educate you clients each step of the way (90 seconds or less).
Client portals and applications update clients seamlessly with no/little effort by the staff. They can include links to videos and give short descriptions of the current phase. Client portals are helpful to the client because they are a one-stop shop for all the case information. In the past, clients would endlessly search through emails to find information on the case, now all it takes is a click into an application. Law firms and attorneys also benefit because applications deflect clients from calling the firm. Instead of calls and emails, they look to the application for the information they need.
Educating clients takes a lot of time and preparation, but there is a massive payoff. When a client feels engaged throughout the entire process of the case, they are much more likely to refer their friends and leave a great review online. Almost any lawyer is capable of achieving a good result, but the great lawyers educate their clients.