How to Run a Law Firm, Part III: Improving Communications

Streamline Your Firm’s Communications to Improve Efficiency and Client Satisfaction

Many factors determine the success of a law firm: the hard work and dedication of the attorneys and staff, the intellect and talent of team members, and the ability to bring in more clients and keep them happy by providing exceptional results.

But you can take the smartest, most talented, hard-working firm in the world, and they’ll fail miserably if they lack communication skills. Communication might sound like a broad, complicated topic for law firms, but it doesn’t need to be.

By looking at three essential types of law firm communications—internal, client, and third party—a clearer picture emerges of how essential communication is and, more importantly, steps you can take to improve it.

Get on the Same Page (And Stay There)

Internal communication within a law firm is one of the biggest pain points team members face. In many cases, team members are so mired in work and outdated processes, they don’t realize how much time and energy they’re wasting.

Why does internal communication suffer? There are several reasons:

  • Information isn’t centralized. Even if team members collect thorough data, it’s inaccessible to other team members.
  • Important messages don’t reach their destination. A client’s question or an approved records request is recorded by a team member, but the intended recipient never sees it.
  • When time is scarce, important tasks get lost in the shuffle. A firm gets swamped by “urgent” matters, and less time sensitive but equally important tasks gather dust.
  • Old, outdated processes refuse to die. Just like in any other field, legal professionals sometimes become comfortable doing things a certain way, even when those processes have outlived their utility or have been superseded by more efficient methods and tools.

Five tips to fix these problems:

  • Purge paper and go online. One of the biggest culprits causing roadblocks is the use of paper-based systems to communicate. Whether you’re distributing a memo or relaying a phone message to a team member, always do so electronically. This provides a record of interactions, accountability, and accessibility.
  • Always confirm receipt. Create a policy of confirming when you receive a message from a team member. Even a simple email stating “got it” will suffice.
  • Encourage follow-ups. If confirmation of receipt isn’t given, the person sending the message should follow up with the recipient until they get confirmation.
  • Cut out unnecessary communications. Sometimes less communication is more, especially in a busy law firm. Look for ways to eliminate unnecessary meetings, email chains, or other communications that distract team members from more important work.
  • Give all team members a voice. All team members, from managing partners to newly hired legal assistants, should have an anonymous platform to speak freely, whether that’s about problems the firm is facing or suggestions for improved communication.

Stay Connected with Your Clients

Communicating effectively with your clients is the most important part of your law firm’s services. The more attention you devote to client interactions, the more faith they’ll have in your abilities.

To show clients you’re on top of things, keep these five tips in mind:

  • Always know a prospect’s status. Prospects represent the future of your business, so it’s vital you prioritize how your firm interacts with them. Make sure you and your team always know whether a prospect is considering your firm, completely disengaged, or somewhere in between. Then, you know where to place your resources.
  • Perfect your intake processes. The intake process provides your firm with valuable information from your client. It should be finely tuned and repeatable. Create brainstorming sessions with all your intake team members so you can discuss what works, what doesn’t work, and how to make your intake better. 
  • Never let a client’s question gather dust. There’s no such thing as a bad question, especially when it comes from your client. Create a policy to always return your client’s calls within 24 hours, if not sooner.
  • Update clients frequently, even when there aren’t updates. Clients hate feeling like they need to call a firm to get an update. Preempt them by giving them updates anytime you receive one. If there are no updates, simply touching base can alleviate their uncertainty about whether their case is receiving the attention it deserves.
  • Touch base with former clients. Your past clients will be some of your firm’s best ambassadors. Check in with your former clients regularly to see how they’re doing. When someone asks them if they know a good lawyer, you want to be the first name on their lips.

Lead the Conversation with Third Parties

The more proactive you are with third parties (other attorneys, police departments, doctors, and others related to your business), the more effective you’ll manage a case. In other words, reaching out is better than waiting for a response.

These tips will help you get what you need from third parties.

  • Create a list of contact information for each case you’re handling. Hopefully you have a centralized, easily accessible, online document or software you use to track each case. In that document, keep a list of all contacts you’ll need to move things forward.
  • Get direct contact information when possible. If you always need to speak to an intermediary (a receptionist, call center, or secretary) when you reach out to a contact, consider asking your contact for a direct line of communication instead.
  • Devote an hour each day to check on outstanding requests. Instead of sporadically touching base with third parties throughout your day, set aside one hour to make calls or send emails.
  • Use different forms of communication. If you’re a phone person, consider branching out to text, email, or whatever form of communication your contact is most responsive to.
  • When possible, automate. Many of the emails or reminders you send to third parties can be automated with the right software. The more you automate communications, the more time and energy you can devote to other parts of your practice.

How backdocket Helps Law Firms Communicate

Backdocket is a practice management software that dramatically improves how team members within a law firm communicate with each other. But our software’s features enable firms to improve client relations and quickly move cases forward through third-party interactions.

We also prioritize communication, which is why we always make ourselves available to our customers. It’s our goal to ensure you understand how to use our software even before the first day you implement it at your firm, and we can adjust our platform to accommodate the way you want to work.

With backdocket, your firm will be more organized, proactive, and efficient. Contact us today to schedule a free demonstration.

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