James E. Brill 2015-04-25 06:13:30
Solo/Small Firm Forging a meaningful relationship with clients. Can’t you just hear Aretha Franklin as she belts out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me”? Her recording is an enduring classic that reminds me so much of the practice of law. What does respect mean to you and what does it mean to our clients? What do they expect and what must we do to show our respect for them as we work to gain their respect? R to the lawyer might stand for resourceful and realistic, while to our clients, responsive and reliable quickly come to mind. The lawyer who is responsive to calls from clients is the one who avoids their number one complaint. E summons the lawyer to maintain expertise by continuing education but since all lawyers must do this, it is nothing special to our clients who assume expertise and hope for enthusiasm while at the same time expect empathy. S represents the systems the lawyer has developed to provide service to our clients, all of whom are looking for sincerity, simplification, and support. P calls for planning, procedures, and preparation by the lawyer whose clients yearn for practicality, kept promises, and the absence of pompousness. Here again is a gap between the expectations of the lawyer and the expectations of our clients. E is a constant reminder to the lawyer to maintain the highest ethical standards and not just the minimum required to avoid grievances. Clients expect the lawyer not only to adhere to those ethical standards but also for the lawyer to set the moral tone to ensure that our clients don’t cross the line. C above all else stands for confidentiality, a trait that lawyers regard as a given, and although clients expect it, they want the lawyer to confirm their privacy. C also hearkens the lawyer to focus on exuding confidence and demonstrating competency to clients who expect courtesy and who also are looking for someone who cares. T stands for the immutable characteristic— the sine qua non—that forms the basis of the professional relationship between lawyers and clients: trust. Well, now you have one lawyer’s perspective. I considered lots of other descriptions, such as relationships, satisfaction, comfort, and client-centered. I suppose a thesaurus would have improved my list. No doubt, you will think of other words that have more meaning to you. The real point is to consider what more you can do to enhance your client’s experience with you and your services. The lesson from all of this is that when we lawyers concentrate solely on ourselves and what is important to us, we miss opportunities to focus outwardly and to identify and provide the service that our clients desperately want and deserve. Remember, clients don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. JAMES E. BRILL is a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate and a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has been the principal author of every edition of Texas Probate System and is a recipient of the Presidents’ Award from the State Bar of Texas.
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