Legal Professional Content | 4 min
June 26, 2023
As many attorneys learn early in their practice, good lawyering is not just about winning cases. In private practice especially, the most successful legal professionals are not only expert writers, negotiators, and litigators, but they are also skilled businesspeople. There are several important factors to consider in building a successful business, but to quote American business writer, Professor Michael LeBoeuf, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of them all.”
Even more so than a client who has achieved their desired outcome from a case, a client who trusts and feels valued by their attorney is a powerful tool for getting referrals and building clientele. The most successful small law firms understand the importance of becoming experts in customer service and the unique challenges the legal environment poses. As people often come to law firms to deal with sensitive and emotional matters, legal professionals must also become experts in empathy. This article will explore how trauma affects how clients relate to their attorneys and offer practical tips to make your law firm a safe space.
The hallmarks of good customer service are largely the same across every field—courtesy, efficiency, and empathy. However, in many practice areas, legal professionals are tasked with exhibiting these qualities while navigating a professional relationship with someone who has just gone through—or is currently amid—a personal crisis. For example, clients of a family law practice may be dealing with intimate partner violence or facing threats to their children’s welfare. These delicate situations pose several challenges for the legal staff hoping to provide the most positive experience with their firm. Legal professionals must be able to discuss the circumstances and events relevant to the case, which can be very upsetting for clients who are understandably reluctant to revisit those memories. Communicating with those clients also requires being prepared to accommodate difficulties with the person’s memory, concentration, and mood—all of which may be adversely affected by acutely distressing life experiences. These situations call for a trauma-informed approach that fosters a safe environment where clients can tell their stories in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
A trauma-informed approach to legal customer service involves all client-facing staff learning to recognize when someone has suffered a trauma. From there, that awareness should guide them in every interaction when interacting with that person. This does not mean that attorneys should act like therapists or social workers. On the contrary, it is important to be clear about the scope of a law firm's services for the sake of both the client and the staff. For example, if someone needs therapeutic or social welfare support, they should be directed toward resources and organizations that are prepared and qualified. Additionally, attorneys must protect their mental health and engage in self-care by drawing professional boundaries with clients. Examples of appropriate ways to account for trauma in the provision of legal customer service include:
Practice patience: Fatigue, difficulties with concentration and memory retention, and/or emotional distress can impact a client’s ability to recount information. Multiple interviews and breaks might be required to communicate all the relevant case information.
Spot negative emotions: If a legal professional can identify when a client may feel uncomfortable, they can provide them with the opportunity to share their concerns and validate any feelings they express verbally.
Be transparent: Set clear expectations with the client of what to expect at each step of the process. They can then prepare for any triggers and voice any questions or concerns ahead of time.
Trauma-informed lawyering aims to place humanity at the forefront of the process, so it may seem counter-intuitive for technology to play a significant role. However, software can be a powerful tool for empowering clients and fostering better attorney-client relationships. Clients can access more ways to communicate with the law firm and share information in a way and at a time they feel most comfortable through a digital portal. It also provides more ways for the attorney to share information that customers can access when they are prepared to receive it without getting overwhelmed.
Additionally, embracing billing, document management , and time-tracking technology can make those processes more efficient and less time-consuming. In turn, this frees up legal staff to devote more time to the human elements of their practice—more time to listen, answer questions, and focus on developing trust and rapport with clients who may be nervous or feeling vulnerable.
Good customer service lies at the center of every successful business. However, providing positive experiences for clientele who have experienced difficult circumstances poses unique challenges for the legal industry. It requires law firms to develop a trauma-informed approach to their practice. Law firms that operate manually are disadvantaged by not utilizing the tools that allow them to provide clients with flexible communication and collaboration options. Additionally, technology can eliminate the inefficiencies that take away from the time they can spend building the trust needed for a strong customer relationship.
LEAP Legal Software provides everything a law firm needs to run a productive practice while servicing its clients empathetically. As running a law firm becomes easier, legal professionals that use LEAP can improve client satisfaction with trauma-informed lawyering by facilitating better communication and making bureaucratic processes easier to navigate.
Humanize how your firm practices law with LEAP.