To say that the last few months have been unsettling, unusual and unpredictable is, at the very least, a gross understatement. COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact upon the world from a health standpoint and has resulted in a world-wide economic crisis that has no immediate end in sight. That being said, as WILMIC’s Senior Claims Attorney, I have been impressed with how well our policyholders are carrying on with their practices during this pandemic. So far, we have not had any pandemic related claim or grievance matters reported to WILMIC.
Nonetheless, we are into the second full month of the “safer at home” order in Wisconsin and it is certainly a good time to reach out to your clients to see how things are going for them, their families, their businesses and to update them on the status of their legal matters. This communication is also a good opportunity for you to make sure your clients know that you remain fully operational and can continue to service their legal needs.
Last year over 14% of the claims reported to WILMIC involved client relations errors. These types of claims generally fall into three broad categories:
- Failing to follow client instructions;
- Failing to obtain the clients consent or inform the client; and,
- Poor communication with the client.
All three of the above categories leading to claims against an attorney represent situations where the lawyer is accused of not adequately communicating with their clients about important aspects of their case. Proactive written communication with your client about all of the developments in their case is not just designed to cover your tracks, it is vital to make sure that you and your client remain on the same page going forward. For your client to make an informed decision regarding the legal matter that you have been retained to handle, they need to be advised of and understand the pros and cons of the different options that are available, as well as the costs involved in pursuing the same. To reach this level of understanding with your client, it requires frequent communication that covers any changes that may have developed during the process. These changes could involve developments in the legal matter that you are handling or, may be the result of changes that have impacted your clients personally, that were not anticipated at the time you were retained or drafted the letter of engagement defining the scope of the representation.
Take a moment to check in with your clients to update them on their case and to see how they are doing. It is not just good customer service to do so, there very well may be things going on in your client’s life as a result of the ongoing pandemic, that neither of you were expecting when you were retained. Major life changes or stresses going on in your client’s lives right now are inevitable and could impact their appetite to continue the strategy that you collectively agreed to pursue at the outset.
Make sure that you have had recent contacts with your clients to establish that you are truly communicating with your clients, you have obtained their consent, are following their instructions and that you are here for them. If it has been a few months since you have done this, now is a good time to contact each client. In the end, both you and your clients will be glad that you took the time to do so.
Stay safe and well!