In 2021, I started a series called Ask Lloyd to answer questions and take some of the mystery out of the law. Over the decades of work with clients, I have learned a lot about the common hopes, fears and questions that come up in family law. I’ve also learned about the best ways to have a successful relationship with my clients, which is all about the counselor part of being legal counsel. Whether it’s a divorce or some other legal matter, here are some of the lessons I have learned about best practices all clients should look for in an attorney.
An Attorney Needs to be Approachable
Lawyers provide services to clients that depend on a relationship of trust and communication. When it’s called for, I may be a champion in the courtroom, but if I behave that way with my clients, I am doing us both a disservice. I need my clients to connect with me to share their priorities, information and developments that could be critical to effective representation. Being aloof, hard to reach, or condescending will only intimidate or alienate a client. When looking for an attorney, make sure you feel comfortable working with them.
A Lawyer Who Listens
As a lawyer, it’s my job to know the law, understand the ins and outs of the courtroom and other legal procedures, and have excellent advocacy skills like persuasive writing or witness examination. But none of my skills can be effective if I don’t know the facts of the case, or if I work towards achieving an outcome that isn’t my client’s ideal. A good attorney knows how to listen, ask questions, and listen some more. This is a critical skill for working with clients, interviewing witnesses and gauging the judge’s priorities in court. If you find yourself repeating information or correcting your lawyer about a fact or priority, you may want to consider different representation.
You’ll Have Questions; You Deserve Answers
When it comes to the law, there is a reason lawyers are required to be licensed to practice: it’s complex, confusing and sometimes contradictory. And there’s more than the law involved – fees, timelines, and even how to dress for a hearing can cause concern. I encourage my clients to raise anything they want with me, and I take the time to answer. Honestly, sometimes the answer isn’t what my client is hoping for, and many issues come with an immediate answer of “it depends.” But even in these situations, a follow-up answer or some clarity about alternatives can help make the process less mysterious. A highly experienced attorney will be able to provide real, useful information clearly and transparently to their clients.
Respond If You Please
Beyond good manners, a lawyer should be in regular contact with their clients. It’s not only required by the rules of ethics and professional conduct in some situations, it’s just good business. I make a point to tell my clients the best way to reach me, and I set expectations about how soon they can expect to hear back. If I am in trial, my email and telephone provide that information, and I still make a point to follow up as soon as I can. Most people work with lawyers to handle major changes, and my family law practice is no exception. Clients deserve to hear back from their attorney promptly and courteously with updates, answers, and information.
There’s no question that experience, success, and in-depth knowledge are critical traits in a good attorney. However, the relationship established with clients must be one of trust and genuine care and concern. I strive with each of my clients to treat them as I would want to be treated if I had a major issue like a divorce affecting my life. To learn more about my approach to client satisfaction, call or submit a question to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.