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Lawyers - Managing your risk by building great client relationships
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Lawyers - Managing your risk by building great client relationships


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Giving you ideas and tools to help you be proactive about avoiding a malpractice claim and to help you grow your practice by creating habits focused on building great client relationships. The …

Giving you ideas and tools to help you be proactive about avoiding a malpractice claim and to help you grow your practice by creating habits focused on building great client relationships. The presentation includes:
- Client Intake and Selection
- Conflict Checks
- Fee Agreement Contracts
- Non-Engagement, Disengagement and Thank You Letters
- Managing Client Documents

Published in: Business, Economy & Finance

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  • You want to be in control – don’t let them manage youFace to face meetings important to further determine what kind of client they will beAre they nervous, honest, good eye contact, calm, relatively intelligent, do they listen, take notes
  • Transcript

    • 1. Managing Your Risk byBuilding Great ClientRelationshipsPresented 07/20/12 by Peggy E. GruenkeLawBizCOO
    • 2. Goals for TodayGive you ideas and tools to helpyou be proactive about avoiding amalpractice claim and to help yougrow your practice by creatinghabits focused on building greatclient relationships.Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 2
    • 3. Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 3Get it inWritingClearlyidentifyterms ofengagementAsk howyou aredoingAsk forfeedbackas matterprogressesDon’tannoyyourclientsReturnphone callsand emailsSend themcopies ofimportantdocumentsDocument,Document,DocumentRecord adviceor instructionsthat involvesignificantissues oroutcomesMemorializedcommunications helpconfirm whatwas said ordoneCommunication
    • 4. Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 4ManageExpectationsNot just at startbut throughoutmatter:Discussoutcomes, howlong, fees,expensesMeet or BeatDeadlinesSet realisticdeadlines;Under promise,over deliver;Don’tprocrastinateGet the $ UpFrontGet a retainerand replenishit.Stop Work ifNo PaymentsManagement
    • 5. Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 5InadequateInvestigationDig a littleDeeper;Identify allissues andConcerns;Make sure clienthas disclosed allinformationConflicts ofInterestMore costly todefend andindemnify;Conflictbetween currentor past clients;Conflict whenattorney haspersonalinterest.Failure to Knowor Apply theLawDon’t dabblein areas oflawUse yourreferralnetworkOther Areas
    • 6. Added Benefits Gain access to better malpracticeinsurance◦ Insurance companies can identify a firm withgood policies and procedures in place Happy clients give more referrals Happy clients are less time consuming Happy clients pay their bills= You’ll be more profitable____________________________________Side note:Client surveys – do them and follow-up with both thegood and the bad (ask for Google Reviews)Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 6
    • 7. The Ball is in Your Court It’s a process you will continue todevelop and perfect. You’ll get more for your riskmanagement efforts by focusing onimproving client communication andgetting things done on time.Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 7
    • 8. Communi-cateManageGrowEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 8
    • 9. Create a Process that’s Habit Forming1. Client Intake and Selection2. Conflict Checks3. Fee Agreement Contracts◦ Get them & get them signed before youstart4. Non-Engagement, DisEngagement andThank You Letters5. Managing Client Documents◦ Your ResponsibilitiesEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 9
    • 10. Client Intake & Selection1. Develop a Potential Client Info Sheet◦ Use staff to screen initial calls◦ Form contains: Name, address, phone number, email Nature of call or legal need being sought Who referred the caller Have you already worked with an attorney Disclose initial consultation fee how much and how will they pay In Outlook Contacts, set-up a Folder called“Prospective Clients” and enter all info hereEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 10
    • 11. Client Intake & Selection (con’t) If prospect will not give you this info Client Screening Goals◦ Will they be a good client Background check for any prior/pendinglawsuits Ask for a initial consult fee to test thewaters◦ First step in risk managementEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 11
    • 12. Client Intake & Selection (con’t)◦ Did not pass the Gut Check Follow-up with a phone call or letter2. Set-Up Initial Client Meeting Passed Screening Process◦ Goals: Set expectations Clarifies financial obligations Time spent here will save you and your staff timein the future Second step in managing your riskEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 12
    • 13. Client Intake & Selection (con’t)2. Set-Up Initial Client Meeting◦ First step to establishing a great clientrelationship◦ Set a comfortable atmosphere for thisexchange of info How did you hear about us Did you have trouble finding the office Focus on casual questions to get a feel forpersonalityEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 13
    • 14. Client Intake & Selection (con’t) Start with a Client Packet (review packetsample)◦ Client Intake Form◦ Firm information sheet for client◦ Sample Invoice◦ Sample or real fee agreement contract◦ Firm BrochureEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 14
    • 15. Client Intake & Selection (con’t) Discuss the type of case Course of action Possible Outcomes How long things take Type of documents needed Show a visual flowchart of case steps MindMeister Walk thru fee agreement contract◦ Have the financial discussion What fees will be chargedEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 15
    • 16. Client Intake & Selection (con’t)◦ Types of charges which may appearwithout client involvement: Indirect Expenses Direct Expenses◦ How the retainer works◦ How they will be billed◦ Who to call for questions on bill◦ What happens when account goes pastdueEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 16
    • 17. Client Intake & Selection (con’t) Benefits of this initial meeting:◦ Sets context of the working relationshipand reduces client stress◦ Saves attorney and staff hours answeringcalls and questions◦ Reduces client frustration and willencourage clients to speak to others in theoffice◦ Clarifies financial obligations andconsequences◦ Provides written standards which can bereferred to when neededEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 17
    • 18. Fee Agreement Contracts First piece of written communicationbetween you and the client◦ Types: Pro Bono, Flat Fee, Hourly, Contingent Use as a Tool for:◦ Client service◦ Financial Management◦ Risk ManagementEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 18
    • 19. Fee Agreement Contracts Client Service◦ Gives you the opportunity at the outset tocommunicate effectively with your client◦ Instills client confidence◦ An informed client is a more satisfiedclient◦ More likely to pay on timeEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 19
    • 20. Fee Agreement Contracts Finance Management◦ Clients who understand billing process aremore likely to pay on time◦ A well crafted fee agreement contractallows you to terminate relationship whenclient does not payEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 20
    • 21. Fee Agreement Contracts Risk Management◦ A signed fee agreement contract is a legalcontract with your client◦ Reduces possibility of misunderstandingsthat can lead to malpractice claim◦ A client who does not sign and returnpromptly, with requested retainer, is a signof a high risk clientShow Client Tracker SpreadsheetEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 21
    • 22. Communication, Communication,CommunicationLack of communication is most common bargrievance complaint Every communication contains 3 elements:◦ Information – Managing Your Services◦ Service – Client Development◦ Growing Your PracticeEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 22
    • 23. Non-Engagement vs. Disengagement vs.End of Representation LettersNon-Engagement:◦ Lawyer never actually undertakesrepresentation of clientDisengagement:◦ Officially ends a representation which hasbeen undertakenEnd of Representation or Thank YouLetters:◦ A marketing toolEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 23
    • 24. Non-Engagement vs. Disengagement vs.End of Representation Letters Non-Engagement Letters◦ Avoids the problem of the “unintended client” andpotential malpractice claims◦ What to include in the letter Must clearly state that the lawyer has not beenengaged by and does not represent the clientin the matter Notify the would-be client that there may betime limitations that apply to their matter andthey should seek legal advice from anotherattorneyEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 24
    • 25. Non-Engagement vs. Disengagement vs.End of Representation Letters Non-Engagement Letters (con’t):◦ When to use a non-engagement letter Anytime you have had contact with apotential client and either the lawyer or theprospective client determines that the lawyerwill not be moving forward withrepresentation. When a client has not responded to thelawyer’s request to return the signed feeagreement contract or pay initial retainerEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 25
    • 26. Non-Engagement vs. Disengagement vs.End of Representation Letters End of Representation or Thank YouLetters◦ Officially ends representation which has beenundertaken by the attorney◦ Writing a thank you letter - a routine part ofyour file closing procedure◦ A thank you letter at the end ofrepresentation is the ideal way to: Assign an end date to your representation Remind clients of any remaining actions they need totake List the original documents you have enclosedEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 26
    • 27. Non-Engagement vs. Disengagement vs.End of Representation Letters A thank you letter at the end ofrepresentation is the ideal way to: Remind clients of your file retention Invite clients to comment on their experiencewith your firm - Survey Offer to be of service in the future Express your gratitude for the confidence theclient has placed in youEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 27
    • 28. Non-Engagement vs. Disengagement vs.End of Representation Letters Disengagement Letters◦ Sent when relationship has deteriorated◦ Client does not pay bills◦ Lawyer has withdrawn from caseEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 28
    • 29. Managing Client Documents When clients drop off documents◦ Do not keep◦ Scan and return to client while they are inthe office◦ Document what and when they droppedoff and that you returned originals to them Filing systems – electronic andphysical Document management policiesInclude retention policy in feeagreement and any end ofrepresentation letters Eastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 29
    • 30. Where to get moreinformation◦ Law Practice Management Section◦ Solo/Small Firm Division Subscribe to blogs◦◦ "Avoid A Claim" Blog◦ Know your Ohio Professional Rules ofConductEastside Lawyers - July 20, 2012 30
    • 31. Eastside LawyersManaging Your Risk byBuilding Great ClientRelationshipsPRESENTED JULY 20, 2012BY: PEGGY E. GRUENKELAWBIZCOO