Having the opportunity to sit with old and new clients, as well as meeting with business owners, employers, and employees who have been consulting lawyers for the majority of their professional lives, I have received ample chance to ask and understand what clients really look for.
“What makes you choose your lawyer? How can you differentiate between a lawyer you would want to retain versus one that you wouldn’t consult for legal advice?”
I would have thought that people look for credentials, track record, or those lawyers working at Big Law firms when getting their legal needs addressed. Instead, and almost always, the answer is the same:
I want a lawyer who listens to me, not a bossy lawyer who treats me as if I’m just another client. I want to feel respected and understood. I want a lawyer that takes the time to explain and repeat until I fully understand.
Lawyers should not be dismissive. If they don’t carefully listen to your concerns, they run the risk of displeasing the very people they are supposed to be helping.
Respecting your instructions is of utmost importance and lawyers should refrain from pretentiously ordering clients to conduct their business in any certain fashion.
Special attention should be paid to the clients’ body language as well as their stated and implied needs. For example, if they rolled their eyes in discontent, or if they seem not to fully comprehend the legal advice being given, lawyers should repeat their advice, as well as use simpler language and should do so slowly. Putting clients’ minds at ease is probably the most single important feeling clients’ want to feel when concluding your interactions.
Trust between a lawyer and client should never be compromised. Lawyers should make sure that you are always content with the services and treatment being rendered. This allows for an open environment where you can speak openly about your issues without fear of not being heard or belittled. This would allow you to speak openly about your concerns, which in return helps lawyers build your case comprehensively and address all the issues that you are concerned about, without missing any potentially dangerous issue that could make or break your case.
When you are able to speak your mind, lawyers will be able to narrow down the issues and find the real factors at play, making the legal advice and services being given considerably stronger. Remember, all communication between you and a lawyer that you are retained is privileged, which means it can not be repeated without your consent (with very few exceptions).
That means the lawyer’s office is a safe space, and you should not hold back on speaking and understanding everything surrounding your case. The same applies if you don’t understand fee structures or payment arrangements. If you don’t understand where every dollar goes, you may feel at a loss as though the lawyer is not on your side.
When you feel you don’t understand everything, or you couldn’t say something you feel is important, ask and speak, until you have no questions left and nothing else that you feel should have been said.
After all, you are the boss.