This first part will teach you some easy ways you can automate your client communication – you can do this with the email provider and practice management software you’re currently using.
Lawyers are feeling the pressure to do more with less. Effective client communication is crucial for any lawyer in a client-facing role. Although law might be a business or a job to lawyers, it’s also something that significantly affects the course of our clients’ lives and livelihoods. Most lawyers know the importance of client communication, but so many struggle to find the time to answer emails, return calls and keep clients in the loop as quickly as they’d like. And on the rare occasion when a client complains, there’s a good chance it’s the result of poor communication rather than sloppy drafting or bad advice. We know that many lawyers would like to improve the frequency and quality of their client communication – can automation assist?
Tame Your Inbox
Although tools to manage your inbox are nothing new, many lawyers fail to use them. Most email providers provide tools to help you keep your inbox under control, such as by automatically categorising and labelling incoming emails. Although these are split second tasks, they can interrupt your flow and, put to one side, quickly amount to a time-consuming chore.
To set up rules to tame your inbox in Outlook see the instructions here. To set this up in Gmail see the instructions here.
Drafting Routine Emails
Some of the emails lawyers send are bespoke – they’re less formal than a letter, but they show that the lawyer took the time to engage with their client’s problem and respond with a personalised response. On the other hand, lawyers send routine emails throughout a matter’s lifecycle. An introductory email to a potential client, an email setting on the engagement process, a quick update to let your client know a document has been filed in court – these emails are quick to send, but collectively they’re a major time sink.
Routine emails are ripe for automation. Most email providers provide for template responses, allowing you to call up a precedent email in seconds. Some tools can even fill in the blanks with client details or use a logic tree to customise a template.
To set up template emails in Outlook see the instructions here. To set this up in Gmail see the instructions here.
Time and Event Driven Communications
Many email providers allow you to schedule emails to be sent at a given time – allowing you to draft sensitive emails at a time that suits you, knowing that they will be automatically sent when appropriate. This can also be useful for reminder emails. For example, an immigration lawyer might set up an email to remind a client to make a visa application several months before their current visa or travel conditions expire. If your email is integrated with your client management software, events (such as a document being filed or signed) can trigger an update email or a reminder for you call the client.
To get this set up you’ll need to speak to your IT person to get some assistance – don’t let this put you off as this isn’t difficult to set up.
Ensure Customer Satisfaction
We all understand the need to ensure our clients are satisfied by and have confidence in their lawyers. Many firms see value in calling clients to seek feedback, but it can be difficult for busy partners to find time in their busy diaries. Customer feedback surveys are a next best option – shortly after a matter has been completed, your practice management software can send out an email thanking the client for their business and inviting them to provide feedback.
You can set up a client satisfaction survey for free using SurveyMonkey. Then a link to the survey can be included in the email sent out to clients. To set up customer survey emails being sent automatically by your practice management software you’ll need to speak to your IT person – again, this isn’t difficult to set up so don’t be put off that you can’t do this yourself.
Once it is set up it will work automatically so you won’t forget to ask your clients for feedback. Someone will need to be given the responsibility to report regularly about the client feedback being received, and put action plans into place based on the feedback received. A good way to do this is to have “client feedback” as an agenda item for your regular team meeting so the team can discuss the feedback received, and your team can collectively come up with an action plan to address any constructive feedback. This is also a good way for your team members to contribute to improving the firm.
So why don’t more lawyers set communication automation up?
It’s because lawyers have done pretty well out of being inefficient – the billable hour made sure of that. Plus lawyers think they’re not “techie” enough to do this, and they’re too busy. The time for ignoring inefficient work practices is at an end, with survival being the key reason why lawyers are finally starting to look for ways to be more efficient. With online legal service providers like LawPath and LegalZoom, automation, legaltech startups and AI chatbots taking more and more work from lawyers, using basic automation as outlined in this article is a no brainer.
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