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The "Why" of Client Updates

Every job has its fair share of mundane tasks. For lawyers, updating clients can be as repetitive as it gets. When starting out with your first few clients, it is a joy. It feels good to tell them the work you have done and what progress has been made. You love to see the excitement in their faces when they know a settlement is coming and reparation is around the corner. But after a while, it starts to feel like the same thing over and over. You might continue to do some of it, but more and more of it gets shuffled to your staff. Not too far down the line, you start avoiding it all together. There are many reasons to update your clients, here are a few:

Let’s start with the most important: It’s the right thing to do. Your clients, almost every one of them, has gone through a traumatic experience and you are helping them get some sort of indemnification and closure from it. Lawyers have great power in what they do. Your patients are victims and they look to you with great confidence. These clients have a child-like trust in you. What a great opportunity to help someone in need. Giving clients updates makes them feel like you are truly their advocate.

It’s good for business. I don’t have any sort of eye popping statistic for this, but almost every law firm review on Google is regarding communication. Whether that is a 5-star review or a 1-star review. What makes or breaks clients' experience is the communication. I think more so than other business reviews matter for law firms. They matter more because the product of lawyers is communication. Use client communication and updates to get glowing reviews and referrals.

More than ever, clients expect it. Businesses are constantly putting out content and connecting with their clients. Your email address is probably on a hundred marketing lists. Not only are businesses emailing their clients, but they are posting on their social media several times a day. If businesses can put out that much communication, why can’t their law firm contact them once a month regarding their status?

They could fire you. If society’s dating habits and career moves are any indication of loyalty, then we have none. Our culture has moved away from shaming those who don’t have loyalty. Being disloyal is almost looked at as empowering. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, it is just a lot different than how people used to behave a few decades ago. The internet has shown consumers that there are endless options. Other law firms are more than happy to take your client. The professional landscape has become significantly more competitive. Be aware that clients could fire you at any given time.

It’s required by law. This is one reason that people forget about, but almost all bar associations require lawyers to update their clients. Take a look at your state bar discipline incidents, you’d be shocked at how many complaints are due to communication issues. When taking a case, you never intend to ignore a client, but sometimes they get overlooked with the busyness of your work. And sometimes, you just get annoyed with clients. Some clients can’t seem to grasp the concepts you have taught them, or they didn’t listen the last time you updated them. Regardless of the reasons, it is required to update them.

The Milestones Advantage

I would never advocate for firms to solely rely on technology to update their clients. It just flat out wouldn’t work, the communication wouldn’t be effective and clients would hate it. Client portals are a great way to provide periodic updates. Some of them will be automatically triggered, some of them you will send on a “one-off” basis. In this field of work, there is no such thing as too much communication, so every additional update helps. The other hidden gem of client portal updates is the education aspect. The more opportunity you have to teach your clients, the more they will understand and grasp concepts. Simply understanding how a case works will calm their fears.

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