Updated: Aug 20, 2020
When I was the Office Manager for a Houston Law Firm, I helped with the incoming phone calls on really heavy days. I was able to witness the way clients can drive a law firm crazy. Between the phone, emails, and texts, there were days it was almost impossible to get any work completed because of the constant interruptions.
This is not just the legal field issue, but any field that works with clients on helping them solve their pain points. This can also be CPAs, Doctors, Counselors, Consultants, and Coaches, just to name a few. In today's world and marketplace, people have very short attention spans, short patience, and they tend to communicate every time they have a new thought or question. These repeated requests will distract you from important tasks at hand, as well as take a considerable amount of time from you and/or your staff just to sort through the many phone calls, emails and texts just from one client.
Did you know that each distraction or interruption from your day can take you up to 23 minutes to regain your flow of concentration? Let's look at that in dollars if you are billing at $300 per hour. That one interruption has cost you $115.00. Now if you work an 8 hour day and you had one interruption an hour that has cost you $920.00, and that is only one day with one interruption an hour. How many times an hour are you distracted by client calls, emails, or texts?
Now, I understand that you can bill that time to the client and charge their retainer fee, but you are still losing time. If you are not losing this time you will have more time to free up for additional clients, or how about being able to leave the office and have dinner with your family? When is the last time you were able to do that? The time spent jumping on phone calls or answering emails still leaves you with the time you have to get back on track of the work you were doing when first interrupted. Will you now have to work on the weekend because the work you needed to complete didn't get completed by Friday evening? Wouldn't you rather play golf, spend time with your kids, or do whatever relaxing hobby you love?
So, what can you do?
1) Decide on what you need and when It is best for you to have the different types of communications from your clients. Pull out your calendar and block off two times a week with 2-hour slots and schedule return phone calls with those people in 15-minute increments. This doesn't just let them know when to expect your call but it gives you a chance to look up any pertinent information ahead of the call.
2) When answering emails let clients know they need to save their questions up and submit just one email. Again, set aside some time once a day, or every other day to respond to these emails. Be consistent in the time you set aside and you will manage your weekly time more effectively.
3) Do not respond to emails as soon as they come in. Let your clients know that if they send the office an email they can expect a response within 24-48 hours. We had clients that would email the office and then call 5-minutes later asking why they had not heard a reply. Same with their texts.
4) If there is an emergency, see if the paralegal can speak to the client first. They are often more up to date on the cases and client status.
5) Most client questions do not need to be answered by the attorney. They can be answered by the paralegals working the case. Pass them on.
6)Do not spend a considerable amount of time scanning through all of the emails received daily to find the ones you need to reply to. Have an office worker trained to go through and delete the spam and forward all emails from to clients the paralegals who work the case. That will leave the urgent and important emails for you. Any of the people emailing that are not clients yet, should go to your intake to schedule a consultation. Now your inbox is more manageable and does not take an hour of your day to sort through.
If you are a solo practitioner you may want to look into a virtual assistant to handle the email sorting, and they can even take the new inquiries and help schedule consultation appointments for you. If you look at how much your time is worth, $125-$300 per hour, wouldn't it make sense to hire a VA at a much lower rate to handle these simple yet time-consuming tasks for you?
Create a communication contract that is presented to people when they have their first consultation. You want to set your communication expectations at the very beginning. Do not wait for them to hire the firm. People that have had a consultation can also call and email repeatedly with questions.
If you are not sure how to create this communication contract with your clients that I will be happy to assist you. We will have a one-hour communication to discuss your individual needs and requirements and I will prepare a draft of what you will want to present and have signed by each person. You will receive an editable copy and this can be set as an e-sign document through various programs such as MyCase and other legal systems.
It is very important that the client reviews this document with a staff member before signing. This way your office is sure that the client or possible client understands the office's communication policy and that they will be expected to adhere to it. It will save you a lot of grief and lost time later.
Contact me today to save you time and money with your client communications.