A few years ago, I met a lawyer who sat on the grievance committee (Committee on Professional Standards, Appellate Divsion, New York State Supreme Court). She informed me that 80% of the grievances filed against lawyers in the state were due to inattention to a client’s matter and for failure to communicate, generally. It seems that I read a similar number in an ABA article somewhere. Moreover, she said that some of the grievances result in malpractice claims, when no actual malpractice took place.

In my speeches, I often point out that a failure to communicate often (as in constantly, frequently, persistently, regularly, all the time…… okay, okay, I agree, enough already) is not only foolish from a professional standpoint (as in discipline by the bar, keeping professional insurance premiums reasonable, and so forth), BUT it is just dumb marketing.  One could even say it is marketing malpractice.

So, why don’t lawyers communicate more often with clients? Their busy, don’t have the answer from the other side, from the court, or haven’t had a chance to work on that memo, or whatever. It matters not what the excuse may be, the fact is that the lawyer should communicate such information to the client nonetheless. The more communication that occurs, even if it is not always what the client wants to hear, the better the client will feel. Knowledge truly is power, and clients do not like being kept in the dark.

At least one solution might be to provide clients with a regular status report. Ed Poll offers to share a status report form he came across that might do the trick. E-mail him at edpoll@lawbiz.com for a copy. As Ed says, unhappy clients often don’t complain, they just don’t use the lawyer again.

What are your means of keeping clients informed?

  • Tom, in every jurisdiction in which I’ve spoken, Bar ethics folks tell me that the #1 complaint is the failure of lawyers to return phone calls. Despite the web, the telephone is still the most effective, least expensive marketing tool available. And we abuse (or don’t use) it. Also, more than 50% of all complaints against lawyers before Bar disciplinary boards relate to management (or lack thereof) … If lawyers would pay more attention, they could reduce the complaints, and perhaps state Bar dues.